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Chapter 9: Race and Ethnicity

9.8 Test Your Knowledge

1. Race and ethnicity are seemingly simple concepts, yet the terms are often used incorrectly or are confused with one another. What’s the difference between race and ethnicity? Provide examples of racial groups and ethnic groups found in the US.

2. There are different ways to conceive of race. Historically, race was seen as rooted in biological differences between groups, while today, sociologists argue that race is socially constructed. Outline the arguments against viewing race as a biological construct and then answer the following question: what do sociologists mean by the social construction of race?

3. What’s the difference between a minority and dominant group? Explain and give examples of the four forms of contact that help to establish minority and dominant status.

4. Once minority and dominant groups are established, prejudice and discrimination arise to help justify and maintain division between these groups. What’s the difference between prejudice and discrimination, and how do they serve to maintain these minority-dominant group divisions?

5. Discuss what Merton taught us about how prejudice and discrimination may be related but don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand.

6. There are a number of theories explaining different levels of prejudice. Provide an overview and examples of the scapegoat, authoritarian personality, social learning and contact theories of prejudice. Which do you think most accurately explains prejudice? Why?

7. What’s the difference between biological racism and cultural racism? How and why has the form of racism changed over time in the U.S.?

8. Distinguish between individual and institutional discrimination. How did institutional discrimination cause unequal outcomes in COVID-19 infection and death rates?

9. There are various types of intergroup relations that occur between minority and dominant groups, including assimilation, pluralism, genocide, expulsion and segregation. Explain each and name a few groups that have famously been able to maintain pluralism in the US.

10. Compare and contrast the biological inferiority, cultural deficiencies and conflict (structural) perspectives on racial-ethnic inequality. Why do sociologists typically support the structural perspective?

11. Some researchers argue that residential segregation is at the root of many other racial-ethnic inequalities today. Explain how practices like redlining and racial covenants contribute to institutionalized racism?

12. Explain the conditions in which affirmative action developed and the goals of these policies and programs. Take a position related to affirmative action (pro or con) and discuss which Supreme Court cases support your position. Why?

13. Examining the data on immigration and crime, are the concerns that people in the U.S. have related to immigration and crime warranted? Why or why not?

14. What are the current and projected trends regarding the racial-ethnic make-up of the U.S.?


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Exploring Our Social World: The Story of Us by Jean M. Ramirez; Suzanne Latham; Rudy G. Hernandez; and Alicia E. Juskewycz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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