Justice And Liberty For All? Essay, Research Paper
“Justice and Liberty for All?”
Generations of Americans have prided themselves on living in a country that promotes “justice and liberty for all.” Unfortunately for many of us, this is far from the truth. Daily people experience the misfortune and hatred that goes along with being labeled a “minority.” Today we’ll explore some of the terms and theories that define the minority status.
Let’s first start with defining the term minority. Obviously there are about as many definitions for the word as there are people that it tries to define. Minority status, as defined by Richard Schaefer in Racial and Ethnic Groups, is “a group that is a subordinate group whose members have significantly less control/power over their own lives that that held by the members of the majority/dominant group.”
Now, let’s pick apart that definition and look at the word subordinate. There are various ways that the word subordinate can be defined. The easiest way to explain it would be to say that a subordinate group is a group of people that understand the dominant group well and want to be like them. On the other hand the dominant group seems to know the subordinate well, but in reality those images are often tainted with stereotypes. There are many different types of subordinate groups, they are based on racial, ethnic, religious and gender stereotypes. Often times a dominant group will begin, sometimes unknowingly, to oppress the subordinate group. Oppression can be defined as repressing another group of people in order to inhibit them from further bettering themselves.
We’ve talked a lot about the “dominant” group. Now let’s take a moment and define exactly what it takes to belong in a dominant setting. Dominant as defined by, The New International Webster’s Pocket Dictionary of the English Language is to have supreme or masterful power or influence over. Basically stating that the dominant group controls every aspect of a minority group’s life from what kind of education they receive to what jobs they perform to whom they marry within the society.
Within the dominant groups power is the process of stigmatization. Stigmatization is the process of dehumanizing, labeling and marginalizing a group, usually a minority, of people. Dehumanization is looking at a group of people as subhuman, labeling as seeing a group of people and having instant ideas about them and marginalization as keeping that group of people to one side, or out of the way of the public eye.
All of these terms are based around different minority groups. One of the ways a group is formed is by race. A racial group is defined, by Richard Schaefer in Racial and Ethnic Groups, as being a group that is socially set apart from others because of obvious physical differences. Another way a minority group is defined in by the ethnicity/ culture of a person. An ethnic group is defined as a group set apart from others because of its national origin or distinctive cultural patterns.
One of the ways that a racial group is targeted is through the use of racism. Racism is defined as “a doctrine that one race is superior than another.” The use of prejudice is yet another way. Prejudice is defined as a negative attitude toward an entire category of people, such as a racial or ethnic minority.
All of these things are a process of discrimination. There are many types of discrimination. They are isolate, small group, institutional, and systematic. Discrimination itself is defined as the denial of opportunities and equal rights to individuals and groups because of prejudice or for other arbitrary reasons. Isolation discrimination is done by individual people and may not radiate the feelings of the rest of the people in that area. It is an “isolated” case. A few people that are in agreement to treat and hate a certain minority group do small group discrimination. For example, the KKK or anti-semantic groups are two types. Institutional discrimination is defined as a denial of opportunities and equal rights to individuals or groups resulting from the normal operations of a society. And finally systematic discrimination is a cultivated idea that a dominant group may have that is gathered over time, and may not be aware is being used.
Social Inequality is the idea that persons in a minority group have little or no place in society. This can mean that they have little participation, little want of participation, or no allowed place within society. Often times this means a lack of education, jobs, and awareness, ect. The people within this minority group are looked upon as social outcasts and are not admitted within the accepted social circles. This ranking of entire groups of people that perpetuate unequal rewards and power in a society is called stratification.
We have thrown around the words dominant group, power and privilege, but have taken little time to define them. We defined dominant group early on, but the definition of power is the right, ability or capacity to exercise control. And privilege is a special or peculiar benefit, advantage, right, or immunity. Now we can have a better understanding of all the terms we have and are about to define.
Often times we think of racism as only happening within the United States. But this isn’t actually true. In South Africa the government set up a policy that tried to keep and maintain the separation of Blacks, Coloreds, and Asians from the dominant, but minority numbered, Whites. The term that is used here is Apartheid.
There are many ways that a society has tried to correct the problem of minority discrimination. One program has been Affirmative Action. As defined by Richard Schaefer in Racial and Ethnic Groups, affirmative actions are positive efforts to recruit subordinate group members including women for jobs, promotions, and educational opportunities. Just because a person has taken advantage of affirmative action, doesn’t wholly mean that they have become part of a society, let’s take a look at just how people enter into a society.
Minorities (or anyone) who are either consciously or unconsciously trying to enter a society may do it in three different ways. The first is through Assimilation. In assimilation, the dominant group accepts the minority group or individual, and both groups become integrated into one common culture and social structure. This can also be seen as the melting pot theory. The next way would be acculturation. Acculturation is where both the dominant and minority groups share common values, lifestyles and attitudes, but the minorities are still not wholly admitted into society. And the final way to enter a society is through cultural pluralism (and this is often considered the best form). Cultural pluralism is when there is mutual respect among the various groups in a society for one another’s cultures, allowing minorities to express their own culture without experiencing prejudice or hostility.
Upon entering a society, or beginning to fight for one’s rights, there are always problems. One problem that all minorities face is segregation. Segregation is defined as the act of physically separating two groups; often imposed on a subordinate group by the dominant group. Once the fight over segregation has been won, the struggle for desegregation begins. This is the process of breaking down all the barriers that segregation put in place, and letting minorities fully function in society. Once desegregation has fully taken place, you might say that the group has been integrated. Simply put integration is the sharing of common social structures, institutions, organizations and friendships. This can be a long and difficult process for any one person or group of people to experience.
Our founding father’s had the right idea, “justice and liberty for all.” Now all our generation needs to do is take their words and put them into practice. Until we fully understand exactly how badly we treat the minority groups in this nation, we have nothing to be proud of. Once we truly become the “melting pot” of the world, then we will have a nation that we can really be proud of.
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