Study Questions

  • What is the significance of Figure 1.1? What are some of the limitations and problems with the group names used in this graph? Are the group names “social constructions”? How? In your view, does the increasing diversity of American society represent a threat or an opportunity? Should we acknowledge and celebrate our differences, or should we strive for more unity and conformity? What possible dangers and opportunities are inherent in increasing diversity? What are the advantages and disadvantages of stressing unity and conformity?

  • What groups should be considered “minorities?” The five-part definition presented in this chapter was developed with racial and ethnic minorities in mind. Does it apply to gay and lesbian Americans? How? In what ways does it apply to religious groups like Mormons or Muslims? What about left-handed people or people who are very overweight or very tall or very short? Explain your answers.

  • What is a social construction? As social constructions, how are race and gender the same and how do they differ? What does it mean to say “Gender becomes a social construction—like race—when it is treated as an unchanging, fixed difference and then used to deny opportunity and equality to women?”

  • Define and explain each of the terms in Table 1.1. Cite an example of each from your own experiences. How does “ideological racism” differ from prejudice? Which concept is more sociological? Why? How does institutional discrimination differ from discrimination? Which concept is more sociological? Why?

  • Why is it important to look beyond the United States when analyzing minority-dominant relations? What can we learn by taking a global perspective? Besides immigration, what other effects does globalization have on American dominant-minority relations?