Ethnic And Racial Politics Essay Research Paper

Ethnic And Racial Politics Essay, Research Paper

With democracy comes the idea of multi-ethnic societies

with freedoms such as civil liberties, expression, speech

and equality. This does mean though, that these

multi-ethnic societies are a utopia, existing without

conflicts and war. Ethnic differences are a major factor

for tensions among people of a common land. Kosovo is a

recent reminder to this very point. Kinship to the land is

not as strong as ethnic differences, even in a democracy.

Looking at two points of view from authors Cynthia Enloe,

and Donald Horowitz, one will learn to realize that

democracy is not always what one expects.

While not directly discussing the relationship between

democracy and ethnic conflicts or war, Cynthia Enloe goes

into detail about ethnic differences leading to conflict.

She also goes on to discuss the inferiority of ethnic groups

leading to military servitude in order to advance their

social or class status. One thing that she points out is

that groups have also been stereotyped into being ?prone to

soldiering?. These people have been labeled as ?Martial


An interesting point that she makes about Martial

races is that they have traditionally been set on the

regional peripheries of a state. This makes it seem as

though the only reason for their being allowed to

remain part of the state is to protect it from outside

invaders. With this kind of covered seclusion breeds

contempt, both from the main stream people of the state

as well as the ?martial races? forced outside the

framework of society for their differences. These

people are looked upon as expendable, not needed for

higher levels of society. The united States,

supposedly the greatest democracy in the world, has had

a long history of using ?expendable? peoples for their

protection. The African Americans during W.W.II, were

used in great numbers to fight the Nazi threat of

Germany, but when it came time to come home, they were

sent back to their segregated communities, not honored

for their great courage in battle. What was seriously

troubling for African Americans is that they served

their country in the hopes to advance their social

standing. This of course did not happen. It took a

battle of sorts called the Civil Rights Movement in

order for blacks to gain the same rights as whites.

This example only strengthens the point that Enloe

makes that democracy leads to ethnic conflicts, in that

when people are given some freedom it is inevitable

that they want more, and when one group gets more then

another turmoil is likely to follow.

Harowits moves away from the soldiering aspect of

ethnic conflicts to a more symbolic conflict. He talks

about the tensions that arise from different ethnic

classes on the bases of symbols, such as names of

towns, anthems, color of flags and the identity of

state officials. He gives some examples of places that

have had major conflicts over these types of issues.

One such example involves the election of the principle

of the University of Nairobi. The position was either

going to go to a Kikuyu or to a Luo. The ethnicity of

the principle seemed, at least to the people of

Nairobi, to signal the superiority of one group over

the other. Horowits calls this ?Symbolic Politics and

Ethnic Status.? What is meant by this is summed up

best by a man studying the temperance movement in the

United States, Joseph R. Gusfield. He states that ?The

origins of such a movement is found in the propensity

of groups to derive prestige and self-respect from the

harmony between their norms and those which achieve

dominance in the society.? It is a constant tug of war

between ethnic classes to gain an equal share of rights

and privileges. The problem is that one group always

wants more then the other to feel superior.

Horowits goes on to discuss the importance of

symbolism in a society. He states that it ?is effective

in ethnic conflict, because it clothes ethnic claims in

ideas and associations that have acknowledged moral

force beyond the particular conflict, thereby masking

something that would otherwise be controversial.? His

claim is that symbolism is a necessity in that it

allows for other groups to shield their views and goals

of superiority.

Even though these two authors do not explicitly

talk about democracy and ethnic conflict, the signs are

all there. People are used as puppets in all societies

and democracies are no exception to this. People are

more likely to take advantage of others for their own

gains when one is given some leeway to begin with. The

freedoms associated with a democracy are many times

taken as inherent rights that can not be taken away

from what is associated as the superior group. In

order for the supposed superior group to hold on to

these ?inherent rights?, the lower ethnos of the state

are manipulated in order to maintain a sense of social

dominance. Enloe used the martial state as an example,

where lower peoples are used only for the protection of

the upper class, because those people are given a sense

of false hope in that they will rise in social status.

Horowitz uses the idea that symbolic politics and

ethnic status are linked by a kind of manipulative

morality. Ideas of equality are masks for a group to

hide their true intentions of domination. When a

democracy is formed, people flood in, all trying to

gain a piece of that democracy. Even though the

intentions may be to split the democracy equally among

all, it rarely happens. One can look at a democracy as

the breeding ground for contempt all stemming from the

fight for equal say and rights.




Nick Nonnemacher

Ethnic and Racial Politics



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