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Sociological Concept of Races, Interracial Relations and Punishment Theories

Essay by review  •  April 21, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  1,889 Words (8 Pages)  •  739 Views

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Part One: Sociological Concept of Races, Interracial Relations and Punishment Theories

The majority of the countries in the world comprises of different racial, ethnical and minority groups. The relations between these various groups significantly influence the stability of the country. Therefore, the group interactions are to the great concern of the sociologists. To evaluate the relations properly, it is important to understand the term race, ethnicity and minority first and be able to distinguish between those terms. Some people use them interchangeably but it is wrong. The members of one race are not always the same ethnicity, and vice versa. Nonetheless, race and ethnicity have one thing in common. They are both socially constructed and so mean something only under certain social conditions, within specific society.

According to the popular belief, race is a group of people who have similar inherited physical characteristics and have distinctive appearance from others, from people who do not belong to that race. The problem with the biological categorizing is that there are no pure races and not all people fit the biological definitions. There is a variety of physical attributes among the members of the same race. This recognition of differences within the group leads to an idea that the race can not be biologically important or even precisely defined. People are not certain race because they are born with it but because they are categorized by others as that race based on the distinctive features they have. The race definition as social perception is different from one society to another and changes even within that society over time.

Ethnicity is also social construction but it is based on cultural characteristics rather than inherited bodily feature. People of certain ethnicity share unique culture that is different from the main stream of the society they are part of. The cultural characteristic can include different language, heritage, history, religion, style of clothing or even type of diet.

It is hard to draw the line between race and ethnicity because most of the time, racial and ethnics groups tend to blend. It is also easier for an outsider to categorize people based on their visible physical appearance (identify them in the race terms) rather than on their cultural background. The race naming usually dominates the ethnic recognition (Lindsey & Beach 305).

Minority refers to any group of people that are in some way subordinate to another group (groups can be both racial and ethnic). It is based on the power the group controls, not on the number of members the group has. The members of minorities usually encounter some type of prejudice or discrimination. Prejudice is the negative belief about certain minority group and about its members. The beliefs and opinions are of course not based solely on the truth. Discrimination is the act of treating a person unfairly just based on that person’s belonging to certain group. The widely established and still present discrimination is called the institutionalized discrimination. Usually it is hard to see but it is present there and built in the societal structure.

Both prejudice and discrimination have their roots in the assumption of one group to dominate another one. The notion is called racism, belief that one’s own race or ethnicity is superior to the other. The unfair treatment of minority or other racial/ethnic group is then justified by the racist ideology. The presence of racism can create the environment of hostility between the groups. And this is the problem sociologists are concern with and try to solve.

There are several types of such abusive interracial relations вЂ" expulsion, extermination, partition and segregation. Expulsion occurs when the minority members are forced to leave the place of their habitat in order to be removed from the society and so decrease the possible open contact between the groups. The removal of minority can be also permanent done by immoral collective killing of the minority members. This is called either extermination or genocide. Partition refers to separation of different groups by political boundaries that correspond with ethnic or racial boundaries. In the history, segregation has been used as a solution to the minority вЂ" dominant group relations the most often from all other methods. Through segregation, minority members are separated physically and socially from the other society: they live separately in distinctive neighborhood, their children are educated at different schools, and certain public institutions serve them only.

Fortunately, not always are the relations between the groups abusive. They can also be cohesive as in case of assimilation. The minority adapts the cultural values and behavioral patterns of the dominant group, and so is more likely to be accepted by the dominant group as equal.

Part Two: Desegregated Cells in Prisons

The article from the Wall Street Journal of March 21, 2006, California Prisons Uneasily Prepare to Desegregate Cells by Miriam Jordan, deals with the issue of cells desegregation in the United States prison system, and how it is approached in California. According to the article, the federal regulation prohibits the federal prisons to divide prisoners to the double cell based on their race and so promote the race distinction. The same was the decision of U.S. Supreme Court last year, when it said that criminals can not be separated in cells by race or ethnicity.

For a long time, it was a routine practice of many prisons and criminals of the same race always occupied the double cell; there were no multiracial cells whatsoever. The result was that convicts of the same race stacked together and did not communicate or interact with any other races or ethnics. It was an unwritten rule that should have secured the peaceful and safe environment of prison.

People in the opposition to the new policy argue that if the cell become desegregated, the hostility and racial tension will become more pronounce and the racial-based violence in prisons will increase. This position is however very arguable as the cases of prisons in Texas and Oklahoma show. The cell integrating policy was here adapted in 1990s and the violation rate connected to race or ethnicity in those prisons went down, and was less likely than in prisons with segregated cells.

The officials from Californian correctional institutions are fearful about the possible outcomes of the new policy. The racial tension has increased among the public, on street of many Californian cities, and so creates greater violence between the various groups of people. It is also closely linked with the existence of a variety

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