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Melting Pot, Salad Bowl or Mosaic

The population of the United States includes a large variety of ethnic groups coming from many races, nationalities and religions. The process by which these many groups have been made a part of a common cultural life with commonly shared values is called assimilation. 

Some people describe the US as a melting pot,which emphasizes total assimilation into mainstream American society. Others are inclined to see the US as a “salad bowl' which believes it is possible to be a good American while at the same time retaining the values, customs, language, and culture of the country of the immigrant’s origin. Sdll others prefer to see the US as a “mosaic” ( a picture made up of many tiny pieces of different colors), where the individuals of different racial and ethnic groups are still distinct and recognizable, but together they crcate a picture that is uniquely American.

Since 1776, an enormous amount of racial and ethnic assimilation has taken place in the US, yet some groups continue to feel a strong sense of separateness firom the culture as a whole. Many of these groups are really bicultural. That is,they consider themselves Americans, but they also wish to retain the language and the cultural traditions of their original culture. For instance, many Hispanics, or Latinos, have taken a special pride in maintaining their cultural traditions and the use of the Spanish language.

Racism in the United States

What is Prejudice?

Prejudice literally means “prejudging” without knowledge. Thus, ethnic, racial, religious, or other social categories are stereotyped. One major purpose of prejudice is to improve one’s own position in competition for such benefits as jobs, wealth, or housing,at the expense of another group. This is done through the practice of discrimination.

Prejudice is a set of attitudes, while discrimination is the practice of treating people unequally. Both of them are individual reactions. Prejudice often leads to discriminadon, while discrimination reinforces prejudice in a vicious circle that limits opportunity and produces a seif-Hilfilling prophecy.

What is a Stereotype?

A stereotype is an image in which a sin^e set of characteristics, favorable or unfavorable, is attributed to an entire group. Stereotypes arc over-generalized; that is, behavior that may be true of some members is taken as typical of the whole group.

What is Racism?

Racism is a principle of social domination by which a group seen as inferior or diiTerent in alleged biological characteristics is exploited, controlled and oppressed socially and physically by a superordinate group ( sociologist Robert Blauner).

Sociologist Joe R. Feagin defines white racism as the socially organized set of attitudes, ideas, and practices that deny Afncan Americans and other people of color the dignity, opportunities, freedoms, and rewards that this nation offers white Americans.

Racism may serve as a variety of functions: it may provide individuals with a group to use as a scapegoat or with whom to compare themselves favorably; it is a means of limiting competition for scare resources in society; it may provide profit for some, at the expense of others.

Two Forms of Racism

Personal Racism

It refers to the fact individuals or small groups express negative feelings, hold attitudes of prejudice, and engage in discriminatory behavior, by using racial stereotyping, derogatory names and references,and threats and acts of violence, toward people of color who are alleged to be racially inferior. It can be overt or covert. Personal racism may involve actions by small groups. e.g. the Ku Klux Klan founded in 1866.

Institutional Racism

It involves actual practices of discrimination that are based on a larger structure of societal norms and behavior and that arc reinforced by both formal and informal agents of social control in areas such as housing, education, job opportunities, and leisure.

It involves the treatment accorded spediically to minority groups at the hands of the institution, an organizational structure crcated to perform certain sendees or tasks within a society. Business and industry, the political system, education, the mass media, the legal system all may be thought of as institutions.

Insdtudonal racism refers to the fact that groups such as Native Indians, African Americans, by virtue of their historical exclusion from key institutional policymaking and decision-making roles, frequently find themselves victunized by the routine workings of such organizational structure. It’s very difficult to detect without caredil investigation, because it occurs through the day-to-day and year-to-year operation of large-scale institutions. It sometimes appears to be neutral or “color-blind' or even “fair”,but it is racism so long as it involves acts or policies that directly or indirectly and intentionally discriminate against people of color.

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