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The portrayal of the past culture of racism in modern american literature

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It then explores the levels at which prejudice might be manifest, finally arriving at a specific focus of prejudice—racism; however, what applies to racism may also apply to other intolerances such as sexism, heterosexism, classism, or ageism. The discussion and analysis of prejudice becomes complicated when we approach a specific topic like racism, though the tensions surrounding this phenomenon extend to other intolerances such as sexism or heterosexism.

Complications include determining the influences that might lead to individual racism or an atmosphere of racism, but also include the very definition of what racism is: Is it an individual phenomenon, or does it refer to an intolerance that is supported by a dominant social structure?

Culture, Prejudice, Racism, and Discrimination

At this writing, a major refugee problem exists from people fleeing Middle Eastern countries where a strong ISIS influence is leading to the killing of gays, Christians, and Muslims from rival belief systems. In many European countries, hate groups and right-wing politicians are gaining ground.

These statistics reveal some interesting things about intolerance. Both the international events and the statistics relevant to any specific nation prompt difficult questions about intolerance. If someone commits a hate crime based on sexual orientation, why are gay men more often the target than lesbians?

Would hate crimes in other countries reflect the same axes of difference, or might hate crimes be based differently? German hate crimes might be based more on ethnicity e. Why do people commit such acts at all? One mistake we often make is thinking of prejudice and discrimination only in extreme terms such as genocide and hate crimes.

Culture and Intolerance Re Defining Culture As we look to the cultural influence on intolerance, we must first consider the definition of culture. The study of culture has deep roots in anthropological and linguistic research, especially as seen in the work of Franz Boaz and his students Margaret Mead, Ruth Benedict, and Edward Sapir, as well as in the early work of Edward Tyler, itself based on earlier traditions of ethology Darwin and social evolution Marx.

This work influenced the work of anthropologist E.

Scholars have debated whether culture is a shared mental framework of beliefs, norms for behavior i. These are influenced and created through symbolic behavior, action, and other aspects of the environment history, geography. The definitional dimensions of culture described by Kroeber and Kluckhohn explained well many of the definitions of culture up until the 1980s. After that time, some scholars especially in communication began to treat culture more as a set of symbols and meanings.

Others framed culture as a process of constructing social meanings and systems through communication. As people sing, speak, play, tell jokes, and conduct business, they are constantly re creating their culture—both relying upon it and changing it. With this diversity of definitions in mind, one is not sure what to think culture is or should be. Baldwin, Faulkner, Hecht, and Lindsley 2006 present a series of essays on the definition the portrayal of the past culture of racism in modern american literature culture by authors from six different disciplines e.

While they are reluctant to settle on a single definition of culture, this definition embraces most trends: It is in the creation and defending of cultures—from countries to local and virtual communities—that intolerance often becomes apparent.

The Role of Culture in Prejudice Of various schools of thought about the nature and origins of intolerance, only one approach suggests that intolerance is biological or in some way inherited, and that is sociobiology, or evolutionary theory.

But even evolutionary theorists cannot explain all intolerance based on a theory of inherited impulse. Research on intolerance in 90 preindustrial societies suggests that, when there are clearly psychological causes for intergroup conflict, groups ultimately use communication to create who the enemy is and how one should demonstrate or show intolerance Ross, 1991.

In sum, there is a strong cultural component determining which intolerances are felt or expressed in a given place or time. Culture, however one defines it, can affect tolerance.

The way that we construct our identities through communication is inherently linked to how we construct the identities of those in outgroups, as we shall see; but they are also linked to behavior within our group. Social constructionist approaches to culture thus often become critical in their focus on power relations. Ethnocentrism, Xenophobia The purpose of this article is primarily to look at racism and discrimination as forms of prejudice; however, these cannot be understood without a larger understanding of prejudice in general and other forms or types of prejudice.

For Allport, prejudice is a cognitive or psychological phenomenon: Prejudice is ultimately a problem of personality formation and development; no two cases of prejudice are precisely the same. The idea is frequently applied to a mistrust or dislike rather than merely fear of outgroups or those perceived to be different, especially in national terms.

  • Genocide and ethnic cleansing At the extreme end of discrimination, we have genocide and ethnic cleansing;
  • However, the new freedom did not mean that all African Americans would benefit from the law in the same way as the white populace;
  • He applies these categories to racism, but we can apply them to any group;
  • But racism and sexism are also joined in the experiences of women of color, whose specific life situations are not fully addressed by either antiracist efforts or feminism;
  • The effect, however, was that it frightened and irritated even those Northerners who had been content with the containment of slavery in the South and who now feared not only that slavery would expand into the new western territories but also that even the free states in the North would be forced to allow slavery within their territories, if the Supreme Court would use the Dred Scott decision as a foundation for another decision in this way.

While the Greek translation suggests the psychological component of fear, recent researchers have treated the concept in behavioral or message terms. Historical research on xenophobia links it to anti-Semitism and, more recently, to Islamophobia, though it does not have as clear a historical trajectory as ethnocentrism; many more recent studies look at South Africa as a model nation in attempting to strategically reduce xenophobia.

Researchers use a variety of methods to look at xenophobia, depending on their research assumptions and background disciplines.

  • Prejudice built into language We might well say that intolerance can be embedded in every level of language;
  • Communication and behavior become central in each of these causes, highlighting the need for a communicative understanding of prejudice;
  • Genocide and ethnic cleansing At the extreme end of discrimination, we have genocide and ethnic cleansing;
  • In one classic study, men interrupted women much more than women interrupted men.

Van Dijk 1993 notes how groups can use language such as hyperbole of differences to marginalize immigrants, often through appeals to so-called democratic values. Ethnocentrism Some types of prejudice relate specifically to the larger and more traditional notion of culture i. If one sees ethnocentrism strictly as a feeling of superiority, nationalism or school spirit, or religious loyalty, etc. The Hmong-descended people of the Pacific Northwest in the United States will likely feel that their ways are superior to those of Moroccan- or Guatemalan-descended peoples, as well as to those of the dominant culture.

Auestad 2013 presented a series of essays on the rise of political discourses across the world that highlighted elements of national security and identity traditionas well as the building of cultures of fear by focusing on the negative aspects of foreigners or those of different religious groups within single countries. Some elements of the U. Within the field of intercultural communication, at least two lines of research have focused on ethnocentrism. The first is by Jim Neuliep, who, with colleagues, has revisited the measurement of ethnocentrism in the classic 1950 work by the Frankfurt School, The Authoritarian Personality, with a new measure of ethnocentrism.

After applying the measure to white Americans, Neuliep 2012 continues to test the relationship of ethnocentrism to other important intercultural variables, such as intercultural anxiety and communication satisfaction.

Law, Race and African American Literature

In this approach, a range of attitudes reflects either ethnocentrism or ethnorelativism. Ethnocentric stances include denial e. This approach has gained ground around the world and in different disciplines, from Finland to Iran, with applications from cultural sensitivity to interreligious tensions.

Prejudice One of the difficulties of discussing prejudice is the conceptual overlap between terms e. There is a danger of such appreciation, as borrowing e. We are not talking about a dominant group borrowing from subordinate or subaltern groups in a colonizing or folklorizing way, but about cultural learning and dialogue. By this definition, prejudice is an aspect of affect, or feeling toward a group, though it is closely related to cognitions, or thoughts about the group, referring to stereotypes.

Most dictionary definitions follow the attitudinal approach, though in common usage, people often use the term to refer to things like racism, which carry behavioral and even policy implications that are not strictly attitudes.

By strictest definition, prejudice is an attitude that favors one group over another, based on or related to cognitions, and both leading to and influenced by behaviors including communicationtexts e.

These include historical, sociological, situational, psychodynamic, and phenomenological i. For Althusser 1971a Marxist philosopher, prejudice would likely, in the last instance, be an issue of economic and social class considerations. A broader consideration should consider multiple causes Baldwin, 1998including evolutionary causes, psychological causes both psychodynamic and perceptualsociological causes, and rhetorical causes.

Communication and behavior become central in each of these causes, highlighting the need for a communicative understanding of prejudice. Evolutionary causes, often referred to under the rubric of sociobiology, focus on the way in which prejudice might be an inherited trait, possibly even genetic see, e. This approach includes the idea that groups seek to preserve themselves e.

Psychological explanations of prejudice fall into at least two major divisions. The first, psychodynamic, suggests that prejudice serves as a mechanism for individuals to meet psychological needs. Thus researchers have long linked it to things such as ambivalence toward parents, rigid personality structure, and a need for authority Allport, 1979 ; Adorno et al. A second aspect of the psychological approach concerns perception or cognition. This contains a range of possible influences on prejudice, including such things as selective attention, perception, and recall of the negative behavior of outgroup members, or the notion of attributional biases that impact how we give meanings to the behavior of those of our ingroup and those of outgroups.

Categorization, in social identity theory, is not a form of prejudice—it is simply the mental placing of people or things, actions, characteristics, etc. However, those boxes are closely related to the stereotypes that cling to groups. Stereotypes are overgeneralizations we make about groups that we apply to individuals in those groups Herbst, 1997. Although these stereotypes provide a mental shortcut for processing information about others, they interfere with our encoding, storage, and recall of information about members of our own group and other groups Stephan, 1985.

It is likely that if we are on auto-pilot or in a state of mindlessness, we will resort to stereotypes. But individuating people i. Group-based, or sociological, approaches, like psychological approaches, are varied.

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Other group-based factors also impact prejudice, such as perceived group competition for jobs and resources in times of economic upheaval e. It is more likely that mental structures and communicative practices co-create each other, through forms we shall examine in more detail. But, as a complete hologram provides the most faithful image, the most complete view of an intolerance will come through multiple views e.

A Case Study in Prejudice Racism as a specific type of prejudice is one of the most hotly discussed and debated sites of intolerance in contemporary times in the United States and beyond. Even though many there argue that class, not race, is the primary social distinction, as racism has become officially illegal, forms of overt racism, from social media to abuse and killing of unarmed blacks by police continue to receive recent focus in U.

Racism is a form of intolerance that is based on the supposedly biological distinction of race, but many authors today argue that race is a social construct, sometimes defined differently from country to country and even over time within a single country.

Those who see a biological component cannot agree on how many races there are and, historically, politics and rhetoric have done as much to construct who belongs in a particular race as biology e.

Who Can Be Racist? Beyond the nature of race itself, researchers and educators debate the very nature of racism. Some contend that racism is an intolerance based on the construction of race that is perpetrated and held by the support of the dominant system.

According to this argument, only whites can be racist in a white-dominated system whether that dominance is by numbers or in political and social power. By this definition, anyone who sees another race group as inferior would be racist.

  • After applying the measure to white Americans, Neuliep 2012 continues to test the relationship of ethnocentrism to other important intercultural variables, such as intercultural anxiety and communication satisfaction;
  • The law is a world in itself, and the people who practice it speak their own language and follow their own logic which, for the most part at least, appears to be far from the comprehension of common sense;
  • After that time, some scholars especially in communication began to treat culture more as a set of symbols and meanings;
  • Thus researchers have long linked it to things such as ambivalence toward parents, rigid personality structure, and a need for authority Allport, 1979 ; Adorno et al;
  • Whiteness studies call attention to areas of white privilege;
  • Race, Crime, and the Law.

The locus of racism: This distinction in racism also applies to definitions of sexism or to the delineation between homophobia as a personal dislike or fear of LGBT individuals and heterosexism as a social structure that reinforces prejudice against them Nakayama, 1998.

The debate is similar to the definitional debate of prejudice in general—is it something that is strictly an individual trait, or is it something that is socially built into the structures of society—the laws, the media, the educational system, the church, and so on? Associated with this question is the nature of what racism is: The question of where we see racism and other intolerances is vitally important.

Those who see racism and other intolerances as primarily individual-level stereotypes, personal dislikes, etc. Defined by intent or result?

A related definitional distinction regarding racism concerns whether an intent of harm or exclusion is necessary to define thoughts or actions as racist. Miles 1989 criticizes earlier notions of racism, largely in that they re-inscribe the notion of race as if it were a concrete reality rather than a social construction.