In 1986, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone remarked that the average American intellectual standard is lower than the average Japanese standard because of the blacks and Hispanics in the U.S. He has often said that the source of Japan's strength lies in its "racial homogeneity." Eleven years later, University of Texas Law School Professor Lino Graglia triggered a firestorm of criticism for his remarks that "Blacks and Mexican-Americans are not academically competitive with whites in selective institutions. It is the result primarily of cultural effects. They have a culture that seems not to encourage achievement. Failure is not looked upon with disgrace."

It has been said that race is the plague of civilization. In 1977, Andrew Young, at that time the chief U.S. representative to the United Nations, claimed that a race war in South Africa would inevitably precipitate racial conflict in the United States. Some countries, like Great Britain and Australia, eliminate the potential for conflict by simply denying or severely limiting entry.

However, American society has always been enriched by its waves of immigrants. John Kennedy observed how Alexis de Tocqueville saw the United States as "a society of immigrants, each of whom had begun life anew, on an equal footing. This was the secret of America: a nation of people with the fresh memory of old traditions who dared to explore new frontiers ..." In 2004, the Census Bureau predicted that in the year 2050 minority groups would comprise one-half of the total American population of 420 million.  Hispanics will comprise roughly one-quarter of the population, blacks 15%, and Asians 8%.

As the proportion of Americans increasingly becomes Hispanic, black and Asian, inequalities grow.  According to the Pew Hispanic Center's 2004 "The Wealth of Hispanic Households: 1996 to 2002" study, "the median net worth of Hispanic households in 2002 was $7,932. This was only nine percent of $88,651, the median wealth of non-Hispanic White households at the same time. The net worth of Non-Hispanic Blacks was only $5,988. Thus, the wealth of Latino and Black households is less than one-tenth the wealth of White households even though Census data show their income is two-thirds again as high."

Here we consider some of the sociological facets of race and ethnicity, and how they are interwoven with other dimensions of social stratification.


MINORITY GROUP = A group typically numerically inferior to the rest of the population of a state, in a non-dominant position, whose members--being nationals of the state-- possess ethnic, religious, or linguistic characteristics distinguishing them from the rest of the population. Typically, members of a minority group share a sense of solidarity and a desire to preserve their culture, traditions, religion, or language. A minority group can sometimes be a numerical majority in a minority group position. Minority group status is not a matter of numbers; it is determined by the presence of distinguishing features such as discrimination. Central features characterizing a minority group are: [Source, A.J. Jongman & A.P. Schmid. Monitoring Human Rights. Manual for Assessing Country Performance. Leiden, LISWO, 1994. 350 pp. + software, p.257 (from Part III:Glossary, which defines some 750 terms).]
"All of Us Are Related, Each of Us is Unique" an exhibit on the illusion of race from Syracuse University
Ethnicity-Migration-Racism links from SocioSite
Voice of the Shuttle: Minority Studies Page
American Studies Web: Race, Ethnicity & Identity
European Centre for Minority Issues [.pdf]
National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights
From the University of Washington, EServer.org: Materials on race and ethnicity in the U.S.
Allyn and Bacon's "Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality" links
The World-Wide Web Virtual Library: Migration and Ethnic Relations
International Migrations & Ethnic Relations
Interracial Voice

Proposition 209 in the News


The only group to have involuntarily immigrated to the United States, to have been forcibly stripped of its culture, African or black Americans has as a group yet to receive its fair share of the American dream. Of those surveyed in a Fall 1995 TIME/CNN poll, 56% of blacks did not believe that discrimination against them would ever diminish (compared to 27% of whites). And while near two-thirds of whites thought that race relations would eventually improve, only 44% of blacks agreed.

But it is worth remembering how much change has occurred in recent decades. Read, for instance, about the 1955 murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till or the lynching postcards of last century (see also Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America; for state lynching rates 1882-1927 click here).  As recently as the 1960s, Southern blacks could not even drive on the same road as whites, having to pull over to the side and wait until the road was again theirs. (See the National Park Service's "We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement.") In March of 1995 Mississippi lawmakers finally ratified the 13th Amendment, the one abolishing slavery--130 years after the fact. Click here to see the 1997 Gallup Poll Social Audit on Black/White Relations. Other fact-filled resources include the National Urban League's annual report on the progress of African Americans, "The State of Black America 2000: Blacks in the New Millennium" and The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.

From the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture The thirtieth anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King's death in 1998 produced considerable stocktaking. Take a look at PBS Frontline's page "The Two Nations of Black America", which features economic trends data and interviews with Eldridge Cleaver, Julian Bond, Jesse Jackson, Angela Davis, and William Julius Wilson. Also worth a look is Voices of Civil Rights, an online archive of materials from the civil rights movement.


Frederick Douglass, "What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?" (July 5, 1852)
Frederick Douglass, "Reconstruction " (Dec. 1866)
Booker T. Washington, "The Awakening of the Negro" (Sept., 1896)
W.E.B. Du Bois, "Strivings of the Negro People" (Aug., 1897)
Booker T. Washington, "The Case of the Negro" (Nov., 1899)
W.E.B. Du Bois, "The Training of Black Men" (Sept., 1902)
Ralph McGills' reflections of his 1963 interview with Du Bois (Nov. 1965)
Martin Luther King, "Letter from Birmingham Jail: The Negro is Your Brother" (Aug., 1963)
Other resources:


"History of Race in Science" (project of Evelynn Hammonds, Michelle Murphy, and Stephanie Higgs of MIT)

Brookings Institution Research on Race and Minority Politics

Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, founded in 1970, a non-profit institution that conducts research on political, economic, and social policy issues of concern to African Americans.

Congressional Black Caucus Foundation

For history of African Americans in film see Michael Mills' Midnight Ramble


African American Newspapers listings sorted by state
The Black Commentator "Commentary, analysis and investigations into issues affecting African Americans"


African-American Population Statistics
Cardiovascular disease in the Black population


Certainly one mechanism by which the American melting pot works is through the intermarriages of different racial, ethnic, and national groups.  By 1980, according to the U.S. Census, only one quarter of American-born, non-Hispanic whites was married to someone with an undivided ethnic heritage identical to his or her own. Take, for instance, the case of Italian Americans: of those born before 1920, some 8 percent had mixed ancestry, compared to over 70 percent of those born after 1970.

The melting pot has not, however, melded that many unions across racial lines. Roughly 99 percent of African American women and 97 percent of African American men marry one of their race. This is not to deny that considerable changes have occurred in recent decades. For every 100,000 married couples in the United States, in 1990 there were 396 black-white unions, compared to 126 in 1960.

Public attitudes and state laws have not historically promoted biracial marriages. Until the 1967 Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court decision, sixteen states, most of them Southern, had anti-miscegenation laws preventing such couplings. Since 1972, the NORC General Social Surveys have included the question "Do you think there should be laws against marriages between Blacks and whites?" In the 1972-75 period, some 38 percent of white Americans agreed with the statement. By the 1990s, only 18 percent agreed. Looking at levels of agreement by birth cohorts over time, observe that support for miscegenation laws consistently declines the younger the cohort and that cohort consensus remains basically constant over time.


The dust has yet to settle from Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray's The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Therein it is claimed that the social and economic advantages whites have over blacks is due to their greater intelligence. Among the many shortcomings of the authors' logic and methodology is the simple fact that there is only one species of the human race; it cannot be broken into biological units such as race. Further, in studying the variability of intelligence between those in our racial taxonomy, molecular biologists have found that more than 85 percent is among individuals within the same race.

Nevertheless, most of us hold preconceived theories about attributes of those in various groups and view others through their stereotypes. For instance, three-quarters of African-Americans believed in 1994 that whites are "insensitive to other people" and 42 percent said that Asian-Americans are "unscrupulously crafty and devious in business" (Harper's Magazine, 1994). Stereotyping is undoubtedly a natural process, used by individuals to simplify the world and to make life somewhat predictable. Nevertheless, we always need to remember the maxim of W.I. Thomas that if people believe something to be true it will be true in its consequences.

Let's examine Americans' perceptions of the intelligence of whites and blacks. In 1990, the National Opinion Research Center asked a random sample of non- institutionalized, English-speaking Americans 18 years of age and older a series of questions dealing with characteristics of various racial and ethnic groups. Included were the following: Do the people in the following groups tend to be unintelligent (1) or do they tend to be intelligent (7)? Whites? The intelligence of Blacks? Here analyzed are the differences in intelligence scores given by white and black Americans. If, for instance, a person gave an intelligence score of 4 for whites and 4 for blacks, then that person sees no racial difference; if one scores whites as 4 and blacks as 5 then that person sees blacks as generally being more intelligent than whites. Presented in the graphs below are the mean difference scores given by whites and blacks broken down by age and by education.

Click here to see

How do you interpret these correlations?  Consider framing them in terms of Derrick Bell's  ("Dr. King's Legacy: A Help or Harm in the Racial Struggle?" Trinity's Martin Luther King keynote speech presented on Jan. 17, 2000) thesis that blacks are the key societal glue, the social stabilizers, of American society as they are always perceived to be below everyone else.  Even the poorest whites still see themselves better than blacks and thus do not agitate the system for social change. And the new immigrants from Asia and Latin America have learned this mindset as well.   In sum, without racism the American melting pot does not work. 

To investigate how racism might take the fizz out of class conflict, consider the following table from the GSS:




Believe blacks smarter or as smart as whites 34% 28% 25% 16% 24%
Believe whites are smarter than blacks 38% 31% 42% 43% 37%

From the TOTAL column on the right we observe that whites believing that they are smarter than blacks are more likely to agree that national prosperity requires large differences in income--an important belief for a status quo that features one of the largest gaps between the haves and have-nots in the developed world.  


As recently as 1950, the Census counted fewer than 4 million U.S. residents who would fall under the catch-all category "Hispanic" (see Linda Robinson's Hispanics don't exist" on the supposed 17 major Latino subcultures in the U.S.).   By 2001 there was an estimated 37 million Hispanic Americans, or nearly 13% of the total population, and their numbers were growing nearly five times faster than the general public (see Census Brief, "The Hispanic Population").  According to a 2003 Census Bureau report, Hispanics surpassed blacks as America's largest minority group.  For one perspective of the implications of this demographic fact, read Samuel Huntington's controversial "The Hispanic Challenge" (Foreign Policy, March/April 2004).
Hispanics and the Future of America (2006), edited by Marta Tienda and Faith Mitchell
The World-Wide Web Virtual Library: Latin American Studies
National Council of La Raza
U of Texas Center for Mexican American Studies
UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center
Pew Hispanic Center--"to improve understanding of the diverse Hispanic population in the United States and to chronicle Latinos' growing impact on the nation"
The Tomas Rivera Center
Chicano! Home Page of PBS Series
Online Resources for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies from the University of Miami
LatinoLink Home Page
Latin American Economic Data Bank
Latino Research
Things Latino-CyberRaza from EgoWeb-Ain't I beautiful?
CLNET Home Page
The Hispanic/Latino Telaranya


Rubén Martínez and Joseph Rodríguez's "The New Americans"


Hispanic America USA


The Census Bureau reported in 1990 that the Asian population grew nearly seven times as fast as the general American population and three times as fast as the black population.  Nearly 23% of Asian-Americans are of Chinese heritage and about 19%, or 1.4 million people, trace their roots to the Philippines. Japanese-Americans, who in 1960 represented 52% of the Asian-American population, now represent 11.7%, just ahead of East Indians, at 11.2%, and Koreans, at 10.9%.



National Association of Arab Americans


`Offering to the Sun' San Ildefonso--from the Edward S. Curtis NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN collection
Native American Home Pages by Lisa Mitten, University of Pittsburgh.
NativeWeb Home Page "Resources for Indigenous Cultures around the World"
American Indian Resources from Will Karkavelas of Osaka University
The American Indian Quarterly
Native American Indian: Art, Culture, Education, History, Science
The People's Paths
Native American Links
Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Burning Feather's Native American Information Pages
NW Indian Fisheries Commission


National Museum of American Indian
Mark Hill's map of Indian Battles, 1846-90
Phil Konstantin's On This Date in North American Indian History
Troy Johnson's American Indian History and Related Issues
Historical Archive Collection of Nez Perce People, Lands & "Americana" Photos
NW Coast Indian History
American Indians of the Pacific Northwest--from American Memory/Library of Congress
Edward Curtis's The North American Indians Photographic Images--from American Memory/Library of Congress

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