4 May 2022


The Significance of Race and Ethnicity in the Contemporary Society

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Contemporary and modern American society has been dominated by the debate about race and ethnicity that continues to create divisions in different socioeconomic settings. As much as a person believes in intellectual plan, evolution, or Deific Conception, there is a certain thing. Since the start of history, humans have constantly been conflicting with one another, under the alleged reason of religious conviction, philosophy, ethnicity among others. And no evolution has ever enthusiastically given away its most dominant weapons. Racial stratification, which refers to a system of inequality where rank and rewards are based on the criterion of race, has been known historically to favor the whites in respect to access to better education, occupational opportunities, and income. Arguments have been advanced of race being a social invention as a race per se, does not exist, but such arguments do little to prevent racial grouping of populations that continue to elicit skepticism (Darity, 2016). As a result, the concept of minority and majority groups has been advanced creating racial and ethnic inequalities in power, resources, social status, and wealth distribution. The power differences created by racial and ethnic inequalities play a critical role in defining the position of minority groups as socially inferior with lowly represented economic, political, and social interests in societal institutions. The inequalities have been perpetuated through racial formation through progressive creation and transformation of how racial categories are defined. For instance, in the US, groups that were initially self-defined such as Mexican and Japanese Americans are now categories as ‘Hispanics’ and ‘Asian Americans’ respectively. However, racial formations have done little to reduce the negative effects of racial segregation.

Despite the role of racial stratifications in distorting social realities, Prewitt (2016) argues that without such classes, a country is incapable of producing data needed to inform conventional racial conversation, however, distorted. It is a key aspect that cannot be wished away. In the “Pew Research Center report on demographic trends shaping the US and the world” by Cohn and Caumont (2016), it was posited that the racial and ethnic diversity in the US is quite not like what was observed in preceding years, and is projected to increase in the coming years that by 2055, no single group will be a racial or ethnic majority. According to Cohn and Caumont (2016), the trend largely owes to the growth of Asia as the largest source of immigrants to the US, replacing Latin America. As such, immigration acts a s a means of demystifying the notions regarding ethnicity and race. The current American population comprises of 14% foreign born compared to 1965 when they were only 5%. The trend has continued to cause dynamic shifts in the society with Americans, to a larger extent, being supportive of immigration and diversity. However, reservations also remain among a significant number of Americans who do not share in the ideology.

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The reservations shared by some of the Americans, according to Prewitt (2016), are behind the current movement demanding for restrictive immigration policies sought to slow and reverse the trend. The xenophobic and anti-immigrant drive is founded on the flawed premise that the trend will soon make America ‘majority-minority’ nation, underlying the fears harbored by those seeking to hold on to the status quo. It is such thinking and philosophy that encourages negative aspects of ethnicity and race. However, Darity (2016) posited that concerns about a new American racial majority of color are justified by empirical evidence on the impacts of Hispanics intermarriages. Prewitt (2016) argues that if the American future lies in restrictive immigrant policies, it is inevitable that history will repeat itself because by the time it becomes apparent that anxieties were misplaced, it would be too late as the negative effects of such policies would have taken their toll. For this reason, critics of restrictive immigrant polices advocate for a paradigm shift in reframing race.

The trend highlighted in Cohn and Caumont (2016) and concerns raised in Darity (2016) and Prewitt (2016) are what Pegler-Gordon (2017) terms as a racial turn in the debate about the US ethnic and immigration history. Emphasis is placed on a new discourse aimed at creating tolerance to prevent imminent progress towards what Darity (2016) terms as the “illusion of majority-minority America” (Darity, 2016). However, the war between races rages on over one and a half centuries since the civil war ended. Racial biases are deeply entrenched in most aspects of Americans’ lives, for instance, party, and political affiliations have a significant number of Americans in the South still embracing the confederate flag, while the same is viewed as a symbol of hate among members of the African-American community. It such perceptions and practice that Nesbit argues to be a big racial problem in America, assertions corroborated by evidence showing that 90% of whites taking the implicit association test show inherent racial bias for whites against blacks. According to Nesbit (2016), there is need to be alarmed about the casual approach with which race instigated incidences are treated by authorities. The common shootings of black teenage men by white police that attract intense social commentary, the shootings incidents that are racially motivated, are just examples of a deep lying problem that is yet to be solved.

The continuing racial tension was at play recently in a police shooting incident in Minneapolis. According to Goyette (2017), the lack of activism prompted those of the far right of the political spectrum to ask why the shooting of Justine Damond did not attract intense protests as other incidents involving blacks. The claim being made was founded on the premise that African-American far left groups such as “Black Live Matter” are quick to call for police reforms where blacks are concerned and are reluctant to express similar sentiments where the victim is white. The double standards reflect the depth of racial problems in the American society, which despite efforts to mitigate or eliminate negative impacts of the vice, remains unaddressed. In addition, the skewed handling of the racially different citizens by the police does not help the matter. These sentiments are shared in Carter, Skiba, Arredondo et al. (2017) where affirmative action is advocated for racial and ethnic problems cannot be solved through selective approaches. Therefore, it is vital that this issue be handled from a wider perspective bringing on board all the aspects contributing to it.

Americans continue to reel in racial and ethnic biases that are eminently affecting tolerance for each other. Going by Prewitt’s (2016) assertions about the role of the US immigration policies by the current administration, the trend is unlikely to be reversed any time soon. The US faces a dilemma as racial formations undergo paradigm shifts with Asia playing a crucial role in influencing the current racial groupings. Restrictive policies may be justifiable, but there is a consensus that they are far from solving the historical problem of the race the Americans continue to grapple with. As a pertinent issue that is concerned with the social structure and welfare, it is vital for it to be addressed. The American dream is not based on religion, nationality or ethnicity but is a philosophy anchored on fairness and hard work which promotes unity and prosperity. Therefore, the authority and the society at large is responsible for this issue and need to come up with probable solutions.


Carter, P. L., Skiba, R., Arredondo, M. I., & Pollock, M. (2017). You can’t fix what you don’t look at: Acknowledging race in addressing racial discipline disparities.  Urban Education 52 (2), 207-235.

Cohn, D., & Caumont, A. (2016, Mar). 10 demographic trends that are shaping the U.S. and the world. Pew Research Center. Retrieved 24/07/2017 from: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/03/31/10-demographic-trends-that-are-shaping-the-u-s-and-the-world/.

Darity, W. (2016, Feb). The Latino flight to whiteness. The American Prospect. Retrieved 24/07/2017 from: http://prospect.org/article/latino-flight-whiteness.

Goyette, J. (2017, Jul). 'Never been about race': black activists on how Minneapolis reacted to Damond shooting. The Gurdian. Retrieved 24/07/2017 from: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jul/22/black-activists-minneapolis-race-reacted-justine-damond-shooting.

Nesbit, J. (2016, Mar). America has a big race problem. U.S. News. Retrieved 24/07/2017 from: https://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-03-28/america-has-a-big-race-problem.

Pegler-Gordon, A. (2017). Debating the Racial Turn in US Ethnic and Immigration History.  Journal of American Ethnic History 36 (2), 40-53.

Prewitt, K. (2016, Feb). Reframing race in the census. The American Prospect. Retrieved 24/07/2017 from: http://prospect.org/article/reframing-race-census.

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