Cultural Diversity Assignment, English homework help

Write a 350- to 700-word summary of cultural diversity that includes responses to the following questions:

  • What is cultural diversity? Identify and briefly explain the dimensions of diversity. Use academic sources in responding to this question.
  • Why is the study of cultural diversity important?
  • With what ethnic, cultural, or other groups do you identify? Describe the members of your cultural group.
  • What is the importance of diversity training?
  • What is your experience with diversity? Is your workplace diverse? Could there be, or could there have been, more inclusion?
  • What is the definition of stereotypes and prejudice? How are they related?

I myself am a hispanic or Latina (Puerto Rican/Cuban}

Classification

Number in Thousands

Percentage of Total Population

RACIAL GROUPS

Whites (non-Hispanic)

195,371

60.3

Blacks/African Americans

37,686

12.2

Native Americans, Alaskan Natives

2,247

0.7

Asian Americans

15,553

5.0

Chinese

3,347

1.1

Asian Indians

2,843

0.9

Filipinos

2,556

0.8

Vietnamese

1,548

0.5

Koreans

1,424

0.5

Japanese

763

0.2

Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians

1,847

0.6

Other Asian Americans

1,225

0.5

Arab Americans

1,517

0.5

Two or more races

9,009

2.9

ETHNIC GROUPS

White ancestry

Germans

49,341

16.0

Irish

35,664

11.6

English

26,873

8.7

Italians

17,486

5.7

Poles

9,757

3.2

French

9,159

3.0

Scottish and Scots-Irish

9,122

3.0

Jews

5,425

1.8

Hispanics (or Latinos)

50,478

16.4

Mexican Americans

31,798

10.3

Puerto Ricans

4,624

1.5

Cubans

1,785

0.6

Salvadorans

1,648

0.5

Dominicans

1,415

0.5

Guatemalans

1,044

0.3

Other Hispanics

8,164

2.7

TOTAL (ALL GROUPS)

308,746

Note: Arab American population excluded from White total. All data are for 2010. Percentages do not total 100 percent, and when subcategories are added, they do not match totals in major categories because of overlap between groups (e.g., Polish American Jews or people of mixed ancestry such as Irish and Italian).

Source: American Community Survey 2011b: Table C04006; Asi and Beaulieu 2013; DellaPergola 2012; Ennis, Rose-Vargas and Albert 2011; Hixson, Hepler, and Kim 2012; Hoeffel, Rastogi, Kim, and Shahid 2012; Humes, Jones, and Ramirez 2011; Norris, Vines, and Hoeffel 2012.

The United States is a diverse nation and is becoming even more so, as shown in Table 1.1. In 2010, approximately 40 percent of the population were members of racial minorities or were Hispanic. This represents one out of three people in the United States, without counting White ethnic groups or foreign-born Whites.

As shown in Figure 1.1, between 2010 and 2060, the Black, Hispanic, Asian, Arab, and Native American population along with those identifying as biracial or multiracial in the United States is expected to increase to about 63 percent. Although the composition of the population is changing, problems of prejudice, discrimination, and mistrust remain. This trend toward “majority-minority” got underway noticeably in 2011 when Latino and non-White babies outnumbered White newborns for the first time in the United States (Bureau of the Census 2012d).

FIGURE 1.1 Population of the United States by Race and Ethnicity, 2010 and 2060 (Projected)

According to projections by the Census Bureau, the proportion of residents of the United States who are White and non-Hispanic will decrease significantly by the year 2060. By contrast, the proportion of both Hispanic Americans and Asian Americans will rise significantly.

Source: Bureau of the Census 2013b: Table 4, sources listed in Table 1.1, and author estimates.

Ranking Groups

1-1 Explain how groups are ranked.

In every society, not all groups are treated or viewed equally. Identifying a subordinate group or a minority in a society seems to be a simple task. In the United States, the groups readily identified as minorities—Blacks and Native Americans, for example—are outnumbered by non-Blacks and non–Native Americans. However, having minority status is not necessarily a result of being outnumbered. A social minority need not be a mathematical one. A minority group is a subordinate group whose members have significantly less control or power over their own lives than do the members of a dominant or majority group. In sociology, minority means the same as subordinate, and dominant is used interchangeably with majority.

Confronted with evidence that a particular minority in the United States is subordinate to the majority, some people respond, “Why not? After all, this is a democracy, so the majority rules.” However, the subordination of a minority involves more than its inability to rule over society. A member of a subordinate or minority group experiences a narrowing of life’s opportunities—for success, education, wealth, the pursuit of happiness—that goes beyond any personal shortcoming he or she may have. A minority group does not share in proportion to its numbers what a given society, such as the United States, defines as valuable.

Being superior in numbers does not guarantee a group has control over its destiny or ensure majority status. In 1920, the majority of people in Mississippi and South Carolina were African Americans. Yet African Americans did not have as much control over their lives as did Whites, let alone control of the states in which they lived. Throughout the United States today are counties or neighborhoods in which the majority of people are African American, Native American, or Hispanic, but White Americans are the dominant force. Nationally, 50.7 percent of the population is female, but males still dominate positions of authority and wealth well beyond their numbers.

A minority or subordinate group has five characteristics: unequal treatment, distinguishing physical or cultural traits, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group marriage (Wagley and Harris 1958):

  • 1. Members of a minority experience unequal treatment and have less power over their lives than members of a dominant group have over theirs. Prejudice, discrimination, segregation, and even extermination create this social inequality.
  • 2. Members of a minority group share physical or cultural characteristics such as skin color or language that distinguish them from the dominant group. Each society has its own arbitrary standard for determining which characteristics are most important in defining dominant and minority groups.
  • 3. Membership in a dominant or minority group is not voluntary: People are born into the group. A person does not choose to be African American or White.
  • 4. Minority-group members have a strong sense of group solidarity. William Graham Sumner, writing in 1906, noted that people make distinctions between members of their own group (the in-group) and everyone else (the out-group). When a group is the object of long-term prejudice and discrimination, the feeling of “us versus them” often becomes intense.
  • 5. Members of a minority generally marry others from the same group. A member of a dominant group often is unwilling to join a supposedly inferior minority by marrying one of its members. In addition, the minority group’s sense of solidarity encourages marriage within the group and discourages marriage to outsiders.

Although “minority” status is not about numbers, there is no denying that the White American majority is diminishing in size relative to the growing diversity of racial and ethnic groups, as illustrated in Figure 1.2.

FIGURE 1.2 Minority Population by County

In four states (California, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Texas) and the District of Columbia, as well as in about one out of every nine of counties, minorities constitute the numerical majority.

Source: Jones-Puthoff 2013: slide 5.

Using available population projects, which are heavily influenced by estimating future immigration patterns, the White population will be outnumbered by other racial groups and Hispanics somewhere between 2040 and 2045 or before the time people born now turn 30 years of age. The move to a more diverse nation—one in which no group is the numerical minority—will have social impact in everything from marriage patterns, housing, political party politics, health care delivery, and education (Bureau of the Census 2013b).

Types of Groups

1-2 Describe the different types of groups.

There are four types of minority or subordinate groups. All four, except where noted, have the five properties previously outlined. The four criteria for classifying minority groups are race, ethnicity, religion, and gender.

Racial Groups

The term racial group is reserved for minorities and the corresponding majorities that are socially set apart because of obvious physical differences. Notice the two crucial words in the definition: obvious and physical. What is obvious? Hair color? Shape of an earlobe? Presence of body hair? To whom are these differences obvious, and why? Each society defines what it finds obvious.

In the United States, skin color is one obvious difference. People in the United States have learned informally that skin color is important. In the United States, people have traditionally classified themselves as either Black or White. There is no in-between state except for people readily identified as Native Americans or Asian Americans. Later in this chapter, we explore this issue more deeply and see how such assumptions about race have complex implications.

Other societies use skin color as a standard but may have a more elaborate system of classification. In Brazil, where hostility between races is less prevalent than in the United States, numerous categories identify people on the basis of skin color or tone. In the United States, a person is Black or White. In Brazil, a variety of terms such as cafuso, mazombo, preto, and escuro are used to describe various combinations of skin color, facial features, and hair texture.

The designation of a racial group emphasizes physical differences as opposed to cultural distinctions. In the United States, minority races include Blacks, Native Americans (or American Indians), Japanese Americans, Chinese Americans, Arab Americans, Filipinos, Hawaiians, and other Asian peoples. The issue of race and racial differences has been an important one, not only in the United States but also throughout the entire sphere of European influence. Later in this chapter, we examine race and its significance more closely. We should not forget that Whites are a race, too. As we consider in Chapter 4, who is White has been subject to change over history when certain European groups were considered not worthy of being considered White. Partly to compete against a growing Black population, the “Whiting” of some European Americans has occurred. In Chapter 5, we will consider how Italians and Irish for all intents and purposes were once considered not to be White by others.

Some racial groups also may have unique cultural traditions, as we can readily see in the many Chinatowns throughout the United States. For racial groups, however, the physical distinctiveness and not the cultural differences generally prove to be the barrier to acceptance by the host society. For example, Chinese Americans who are faithful Protestants and know the names of all the members of the Baseball Hall of Fame may be bearers of American culture. Yet these Chinese Americans are still part of a minority because they are seen as physically different.

Ethnic Groups

Ethnic minority groups are differentiated from the dominant group on the basis of cultural differences such as language, attitudes toward marriage and parenting, and food habits. Ethnic groups are groups set apart from others because of their national origin or distinctive cultural patterns.

Ethnic groups in the United States include a grouping that we call Hispanics or Latinos, which, in turn, include Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, and other Latin American residents of the United States. Hispanics can be either Black or White, as in the case of a dark-skinned Puerto Rican who may be taken as Black in central Texas but may be viewed as Puerto Rican in New York City. The ethnic group category also includes White ethnics such as Irish Americans, Polish Americans, and Norwegian Americans.

The cultural traits that make groups distinctive usually originate from their homelands or, for Jews, from a long history of being segregated and prohibited from becoming a part of a host society. Once living in the United States, an immigrant group may maintain distinctive cultural practices through associations, clubs, and worship. Ethnic enclaves such as a Little Haiti or a Greektown in urban areas also perpetuate cultural distinctiveness.

Ethnicity and race has been long recognized as an important source of differentiation. More than a century ago, African American sociologist W. E. B. Du Bois, addressing an audience at a world antislavery convention in London in 1900, called attention to the overwhelming importance of the color line throughout the world. In “Listen to Our Voices,” we read the remarks of Du Bois, the first Black person to receive a doctorate from Harvard, who later helped to organize the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Du Bois’s observations give us a historic perspective on the struggle for equality. We can look ahead, knowing how far we have come and speculating on how much farther we have to go.

Speaking Out: Problem of the Color Line

In the metropolis of the modern world, in this the closing year of the nineteenth century, there has been assembled a congress of men and women of African blood, to deliberate solemnly upon the present situation and outlook of the darker races of mankind. The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line, the question as to how far differences of race—which show themselves chiefly in the color of the skin and the texture of the hair—will hereafter be made the basis of denying to over half the world the right of sharing to their utmost ability the opportunities and privileges of modern civilization.…

W. E. B. Du Bois

To be sure, the darker races are today the least advanced in culture according to European standards. This has not, however, always been the case in the past, and certainly the world’s history, both ancient and modern, has given many instances of no despicable ability and capacity among the blackest races of men.

In any case, the modern world must remember that in this age when the ends of the world are being brought so near together, the millions of black men in Africa, America, and Islands of the Sea, not to speak of the brown and yellow myriads elsewhere, are bound to have a great influence upon the world in the future, by reason of sheer numbers and physical contact. If now the world of culture bends itself towards giving Negroes and other dark men the largest and broadest opportunity for education and self-development, then this contact and influence is bound to have a beneficial effect upon the world and hasten human progress. But if, by reason of carelessness, prejudice, greed, and injustice, the black world is to be exploited and ravished and degraded, the results must be deplorable, if not fatal—not simply to them, but to the high ideals of justice, freedom and culture which a thousand years of Christian civilization have held before Europe.…

Let the world take no backward step in that slow but sure progress which has successively refused to let the spirit of class, of caste, of privilege, or of birth, debar from life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a striving human soul.

Let not color or race be a feature of distinction between White and Black men, regardless of worth or ability.…

Thus we appeal with boldness and confidence to the Great Powers of the civilized world, trusting in the wide spirit of humanity, and the deep sense of justice of our age, for a generous recognition of the righteousness of our cause.

Source: From W. E. B. Du Bois 1900 [1969a], An ABC of Color, pp. 20–21, 23. Copyright 1969 by International Publishers.

We also should appreciate the context of Du Bois’s insight. He spoke of his “color-line” prediction in light of then-contemporary U.S. occupation of the Philippines and the relationship of “darker to lighter races” worldwide. So today, he would see race matters not only in the sporadic hate crimes we hear about but also in global conflicts (Roediger 2009).

Religious Groups

Association with a religion other than the dominant faith is the third basis for minority-group status. In the United States, Protestants, as a group, outnumber members of all other religions. Roman Catholics form the largest minority religion. For people who are not a part of the Christian tradition, such as followers of Islam, allegiance to their faith often is misunderstood and stigmatizes people. This stigmatization became especially widespread and legitimated by government action in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Religious minorities include groups such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, Amish, Muslims, and Buddhists. Cults or sects associated with practices such as animal sacrifice, doomsday prophecy, demon worship, or the use of snakes in a ritualistic fashion also constitute religious minorities. Jews are excluded from this category and placed among ethnic groups. Culture is a more important defining trait for Jewish people worldwide than is religious doctrine. Jewish Americans share a cultural tradition that goes beyond theology. In this sense, it is appropriate to view them as an ethnic group rather than as members of a religious faith.

Gender Groups

Gender is another attribute that creates dominant and subordinate groups. Males are the social majority; females, although numerous, are relegated to the position of the social minority. Women are considered a minority even though they do not exhibit all the characteristics outlined earlier (e.g., there is little in-group marriage). Women encounter prejudice and discrimination and are physically distinguishable. Group membership is involuntary, and many women have developed a sense of sisterhood.

Women who are members of racial and ethnic minorities face special challenges to achieving equality. They suffer from greater inequality because they belong to two separate minority groups: a racial or ethnic group plus a subordinate gender group.

Other Subordinate Groups

1-3 Explain what is meant by race being socially constructed.

This book focuses on groups that meet a set of criteria for subordinate status. People encounter prejudice or are excluded from full participation in society for many reasons. Racial, ethnic, religious, and gender barriers are the main ones, but there are others. Age, disability status, physical appearance, and sexual orientation are among the factors that are used to subordinate groups of people.

The changing landscape of the United States is hard to miss, but not all people equally embrace it.

Does Race Matter?

We see people around us—some of whom may look quite different from us. Do these differences matter? The simple answer is no, but because so many people have for so long acted as if differences in physical characteristics as well as geographic origin and shared culture do matter, distinct groups have been created in people’s minds. Race has many meanings for many people. Often these meanings are inaccurate and based on theories scientists discarded generations ago. As we will see, race is a socially constructed concept (Young 2003).

Biological Meaning

The way the term race has been used by some people to apply to human beings lacks any scientific basis. Distinctive physical characteristics for groups of human beings cannot be identified the same way that scientists distinguish one animal species from another. The idea of biological race is based on the mistaken notion of a genetically isolated human group.

Absence of Pure Races

Even past proponents of the belief that sharp, scientific divisions exist among humans had endless debates over what the races of the world were. Given people’s frequent migration, exploration, and invasions, pure genetic types have not existed for some time, if they ever did. There are no mutually exclusive races. Skin tone among African Americans varies tremendously, as it does among White Americans. There is even an overlapping of dark-skinned Whites and light-skinned African Americans. If we grouped people by genetic resistance to malaria and by fingerprint patterns, then Norwegians and many African groups would be the same race. If we grouped people by lactose intolerance some Africans, Asians, and southern Europeans would be of one group and West Africans and northern Europeans of another (Leehotz 1995; Shanklin 1994).

Biologically, no pure, distinct races exist. Research as a part of the Human Genome Project mapping human deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) has served to confirm genetic diversity only, with differences within traditionally regarded racial groups (e.g., Black Africans) much greater than that between groups (e.g., between Black Africans and Europeans). Contemporary studies of DNA on a global basis have determined that about 90 percent of human genetic variation is within “local populations,” such as within the French or within the Afghan people. The remaining 10 percent of total human variation is what we think of today as constituting races and accounts for skin tone, hair texture, nose shape, and so forth (Feldman 2010).

Research has also been conducted to determine whether personality characteristics such as temperament and nervous habits are inherited among minority groups. It is no surprise that the question of whether races have different innate levels of intelligence has led to the most explosive controversies (Bamshad and Olson 2003; El-Haj 2007).

Intelligence Tests

Typically, intelligence is measured as an intelligence quotient (IQ), which is the ratio of a person’s mental age to his or her chronological age, multiplied by 100, with 100 representing average intelligence and higher scores representing greater intelligence. It should be noted that there is little consensus over just what intelligence is, other than as defined by such IQ tests. Intelligence tests are adjusted for a person’s age so that 10-year-olds take a different test from someone 20 years old. Although research shows that certain learning strategies can improve a person’s IQ, generally IQ remains stable as one ages.

A great deal of debate continues over the accuracy of IQ tests. Are they biased toward people who come to the tests with knowledge similar to that of the test writers? Skeptics argue that questions in IQ tests do not truly measure intellectual potential. The question of cultural bias in tests remains a concern. The most recent research shows that differences in intelligence scores between Blacks and Whites are almost eliminated when adjustments are made for social and economic characteristics (Brooks-Gunn, Klebanov, and Duncan 1996; Kagan 1971; Young 2003).

In 1994, an 845-page book unleashed another national debate on the issue of IQ. The research efforts of psychologist Richard J. Herrnstein and social scientist Charles Murray, published in The Bell Curve (1994), concluded that 60 percent of IQ is inheritable and that racial groups offer a convenient means to generalize about any differences in intelligence. Unlike most other proponents of the race–IQ link, the authors offered policy suggestions that included ending welfare to discourage births among low-IQ poor women and changing immigration laws so that the IQ pool in the United States is not diminished. Herrnstein and Murray even made generalizations about IQ levels among Asians and Hispanics in the United States, groups subject to even more intermarriage. In spite of The Bell Curve “research,” it is not possible to generalize about absolute differences between groups, such as Latinos versus Whites, when almost half of Latinos in the United States marry non-Hispanics.

More than a decade later, the mere mention of the “bell curve” still signals to many people a belief in a racial hierarchy, with Whites toward the top and Blacks near the bottom. The research present then and repeated today points to the difficulty in definitions: What is intelligence, and what constitutes a racial group, given generations (if not centuries) of intermarriage? How can we speak of definitive inherited racial differences if there has been intermarriage between people of every color? Furthermore, as people on both sides of the debate have noted, regardless of the findings, we would still want to strive to maximize the talents of each individual. All research shows that the differences within a group are much greater than any alleged differences between group averages.

Why does such IQ research reemerge if the data are subject to different interpretations? The argument that “we” are superior to “them” is appealing to the dominant group. It justifies receiving opportunities that are denied to others. We can anticipate that the debate over IQ and the allegations of significant group differences will continue. Policymakers need to acknowledge the difficulty in treating race as a biologically significant characteristic.

Social Construction of Race

If race does not distinguish humans from one another biologically, then why does it seem to be so important? It is important because of the social meaning people have attached to it. The 1950 (UNESCO) Statement on Race maintains that the scientific use of race is not a biological phenomenon (Montagu 1972:118).

Race is a social construction, and this process benefits the oppressor, who defines which groups of people are privileged and which groups are not. The acceptance of race in a society as a legitimate category allows racial hierarchies to emerge to the benefit of the dominant “races.” For example, inner-city drive-by shootings are now seen as a race-specific problem worthy of local officials cleaning up troubled neighborhoods. Yet school shootings are viewed as a societal concern and placed on the national agenda.

People could speculate that if human groups have obvious physical differences, then they could have corresponding mental or personality differences. No one disagrees that people differ in temperament, potential to learn, and sense of humor, among other characteristics. In its social sense, race implies that groups that differ physically also bear distinctive emotional and mental abilities or disabilities. These beliefs are based on the notion that humankind can be divided into distinct groups. We have already seen the difficulties associated with pigeonholing people into racial categories. Despite these difficulties, belief in the inheritance of behavior patterns and in an association between physical and cultural traits is widespread. It is called racism when this belief is coupled with the feeling that certain groups or races are inherently superior to others. Racism is a doctrine of racial supremacy that states one race is superior to another (Bash 2001; Bonilla-Silva 1996).

We questioned the biological significance of race in the previous section. In modern complex industrial societies, we find little adaptive utility in the presence or absence of prominent chins, epicanthic eye fold associated with Eastern and Central Asian peoples, or the comparative amount of melanin in the skin. It is of little importance that people are genetically different; what is important is that they approach one another with dissimilar perspectives. It is in the social setting that race is decisive. Race is significant because people have given it significance.

Race definitions are crystallized through what Michael Omi and Howard Winant (1994) called racial formation, a sociohistorical process by which racial categories are created, inhabited, transformed, and destroyed. Those in power define groups of people in a certain way that depends on a racist social structure. As in the United States, these definitions can become systematic and embedded in many aspects of society for a significant length of time. No one escapes the extent and frequency to which we are subjected to racial formation. The Native Americans and the creation of the reservation system for Native Americans in the late 1800s is an example of this racial formation. The federal American Indian policy combined previously distinctive tribes into a single group (Feagin, Cobas, and Elias 2012).

With rising immigration from Latin America in the latter part of the twentieth century, the fluid nature of racial formation is evident. As if it happened in one day, people in the United States have spoken about the Latin Americanization of the United States or stated that the biracial order of Black and White has been replaced with a triracial order. We examine this social context of the changing nature of diversity to understand how scholars have sought to generalize about intergroup relations in the United States and elsewhere (Bonilla-Silva and Dietrich 2011; Frank, Akresh, and Lu 2010).

In the southern United States, the social construction of race was known as the “one-drop rule.” This tradition stipulated that if a person had even a single drop of “Black blood,” that person was defined and viewed as Black. Today, children of biracial or multiracial marriages try to build their own identities in a country that seems intent on placing them in some single, traditional category—a topic we look at next.

Biracial and Multiracial Identity: Who Am I?

1-4 Define biracial and multiracial identity.

People are now more willing to accept and advance identities that do not fit neatly into mutually exclusive categories. Hence, increasing numbers of people are identifying themselves as biracial or multiracial or, at the very least, explicitly viewing themselves as reflecting a diverse racial and ethnic identity. Barack Obama is the most visible person with a biracial background. President Obama has explicitly stated he sees himself as a Black man, although his mother was White and he was largely raised by his White grandparents. Yet in 2010, he chose only to check the “Black, African American, or Negro) box on his household’s census form. Obviously, biracial does not mean biracial identity.

The diversity of the United States today has made it more difficult for many people to place themselves on the racial and ethnic landscape. It reminds us that racial formation continues to take place. Obviously, the racial and ethnic landscape, as we have seen, is constructed not naturally but socially and, therefore, is subject to change and different interpretations. Although our focus is on the United States, almost every nation faces the same problems.

The United States tracks people by race and ethnicity for myriad reasons, ranging from attempting to improve the status of oppressed groups to diversifying classrooms. But how can we measure the growing number of people whose ancestry is mixed by anyone’s definition? In the Research Focus, we consider how the U.S. Bureau of the Census dealt with this issue.

Besides the increasing respect for biracial identity and multiracial identity, group names undergo change as well. Within little more than a generation during the twentieth century, labels that were applied to subordinate groups changed from Negroes to Blacks to African Americans, from American Indians to Native Americans or Native Peoples. However, more Native Americans prefer the use of their tribal name, such as Seminole, instead of a collective label. The old 1950s statistical term of “people with a Spanish surname” has long been discarded, yet there is disagreement over a new term: Latino or Hispanic. Like Native Americans, Hispanic Americans avoid such global terms and prefer their native names, such as Puerto Ricans or Cubans. People of Mexican ancestry indicate preferences for a variety of names, such as Mexican American, Chicano, or simply Mexican.

Research Focus: Multiracial Identity

Approaching Census 2000, a movement was spawned by people who were frustrated by government questionnaires that forced them to indicate only one race. Take the case of Stacey Davis in New Orleans. The young woman’s mother is Thai and her father is Creole, a blend of Black, French, and German. People seeing Stacey confuse her for a Latina, Filipina, or Hawaiian. Officially, she has been “White” all her life because she looks White. The census in 2000 for the first time gave people the option to check off one or more racial groups. “Biracial” or “multiracial” was not an option because pretests showed very few people would use it. This meant that in Census 2000 the government recognized different social constructions of racial identity—that is, a person could be Asian American and White.

Most people did select one racial category in Census 2000 and again in 2010. Overall, approximately 9 million people, or 2.9 percent of the total population, selected two or more racial groups in 2010. This was a smaller proportion than many observers had anticipated. In fact, not even the majority of mixed-race couples identified their children with more than one racial classification. As shown in Figure 1.3, Whites and African Americans were the most common multiple identity, with 1.8 million people or so selecting that response. As a group, American Indians were most likely to select a second category and Whites least likely. Race is socially defined.

Complicating the situation is that, in the Census, people are asked separately whether they are Hispanic or non-Hispanic. So a Hispanic person can be any race. In the 2010 Census, 94 percent indicated they were one race, but 6 percent indicated two or more races; this proportion was twice as high than among non-Hispanics. Therefore, Latinos are more likely than non-Hispanics to indicate a multiracial ancestry.

Changes in measuring race and ethnicity is not necessarily over. Already Bureau officials are considering for 2020 adding categories for people of Middle Eastern, North African, or Asian descent. “Hispanic” may even be added as a “race category” along with White, African-American, Asian, and American Indian/Alaska Native and Pacific Islander.

Regardless of government definitions, we know that people do change their racial identity over time, choosing to self-identify as something different. This fluidity in individual actions could well be increased if the nation as a whole appears to be more accepting of biracial and multiracial categories.

The Census Bureau’s decision does not necessarily resolve the frustration of hundreds of thousands of people such as Stacey Davis, who daily face people trying to place them in some racial or ethnic category that is convenient. However, it does underscore the complexity of social construction and trying to apply arbitrary definitions to the diversity of the human population. A symbol of this social construction of race can be seen in President Barack Obama, born of a White woman and a Black immigrant from Kenya. Although he has always identified himself as a Black man, it is worthy to note he was born in Hawaii, a state in which 23.6 percent of people see themselves as more than one race, compared to the national average of 2.9 percent.

Sources: DaCosta 2007; Dade 2012a; Grieco and Cassidy 2001; Humes, Jones, and Ramirez 2011: 2–11; Jones and Smith 2001; Saperstein and Penner 2012; Saulny 2011; Welch 2011; Williams 2005.

FIGURE 1.3 Multiple-Race Choices in Census 2010

This figure shows the percentage distribution of the 9 million people who chose two or more races (out of the total population of 309 million).

Source: Humes, Jones, and Ramirez 2011:10.

In the United States and other multiracial, multiethnic societies, panethnicity, the development of solidarity between ethnic subgroups, has emerged. The coalition of tribal groups as Native Americans or American Indians to confront outside forces, notably the federal government, is one example of panethnicity. Hispanics or Latinos and Asian Americans are other examples of panethnicity. Although it is rarely recognized by the dominant society, the very term Black or African American represents the descendants of many different ethnic or tribal groups, such as Akamba, Fulani, Hausa, Malinke, and Yoruba (Lopez and Espiritu 1990).

Is panethnicity a convenient label for “outsiders” or a term that reflects a mutual identity? Certainly, many people outside the group are unable or unwilling to recognize ethnic differences and prefer umbrella terms such as Asian Americans. For some small groups, combining with others is emerging as a useful way to make them heard, but there is always a fear that their own distinctive culture will become submerged. Although many Hispanics share the Spanish language and many are united by Roman Catholicism, only one in four native-born people of Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Cuban descent prefers a panethnic label to nationality or ethnic identity. Yet the growth of a variety of panethnic associations among many groups, including Hispanics, continues into the twenty-first century (de la Garza et al. 1992; Espiritu 1992; Steinberg 2007).

Another challenge to identity is marginality: the status of being between two cultures, as in the case of a person whose mother is a Jew and father a Christian. A century ago, Du Bois (1903) spoke eloquently of the “double consciousness” that Black Americans feel—caught between being a citizen of the United States but viewed as something quite apart from the dominant social forces of society. Incomplete assimilation by immigrants also results in marginality. Although a Filipino woman migrating to the United States may take on the characteristics of her new host society, she may not be fully accepted and may, therefore, feel neither Filipino nor American. Marginalized individuals often encounter social situations in which their identities are sources of tension, especially when the expression of multiple identities is not accepted, and they find themselves being perceived differently in different environments, with varying expectations (Park 1928; Stonequist 1937; Townsend, Markos, and Bergsieker 2009).

Yet another source of marginality comes from children of biracial or multiracial parental backgrounds and children adopted by parents of a different racial or ethnic background. For these children or adolescents, developing their racial or ethnic identity says more about society’s desire to fix labels onto their own actions. (Fryer et al. 2012).

As we seek to understand diversity in the United States, we must be mindful that ethnic and racial labels are just that: labels that have been socially constructed. Yet these social constructs can have a powerful impact, whether self-applied or applied by others.

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