Racial and Ethnic GroupsI'm finishing up a degree in Leadership with a minor in Sociology. Along the way I've read a myriad of books on cultural issues, ethnic issues, how Hispanics have contentions with blacks, how whites have presented prejudice which affects other groups' ability to thrive, and more. With "Racial and Ethnic Groups" by Richard T. Schaefer being in its twelfth printing (as of this 2010 edition) I thought it would be interesting to examine yet another take on this complex issue.
The book presents a great deal of fascinating statistics and information to digest. It makes sense that New Mexico has the top concentration of Hispanics by percentage, at a full 44% of the population. It makes sense that California and Arizona are hard on its heels. But would one think that Rhode Island would be the 10th state in that list?
When one looks at "enclaves of white" - Vermont tops that list at 95.2% white. That is just amazing. Can you imagine what it must be like to grow up as a minority when you're not just "a minority" but "barely ever see anybody else who looks like you"? How would that impact your mind at a young age? How would the people around you treat you?
So there's a lot of great statistics in here, which makes sense. The editing team has had twelve full editions to research them, seek them out, and hone them to the ones that bring the most information.
The chapters then tackle groups one by one. African Americans. Mexican Americans. Jewish Americans. Women. It goes into each area and examines the challenges they have had to face.
I think we can all agree up to this point. There have been less than ideal situations presented to groups of people merely because of the way they look. We can look at statistics and examine how settlement patterns and education patterns have shaped.
Where the book has issues, in my opinion, is how it then presents the information. My hope for a textbook is that it presents information fairly objectively, with a laying out of the facts, and then lets us as readers / students evaluate and discuss that information. Instead, the book seems to lean fairly heavily on how we should feel about this information. Apparently we should feel that the world is crashing down on our heads, that inter-group conflict is about to burst into the flames of anarchy, and that there is little chance of things working out.
I realize that there is still ample prejudice in the world. A glance at pretty much any web discussion board will see that. There are people who hate other groups in a knee-jerk reaction. There are people who feel "those people" (be they whites or blacks or Hispanics or anything else) have serious flaws. But that being said, the US is making great progress in a number of areas. Yes, we're not perfect. But there are numerous examples of groups working well together, achieving common goals, supporting each other, and doing far better than decades and centuries ago. We're not perfect! We have a long way to go still. But we're not teetering on the edge of desolation, either. Not all white people are diabolical devils. Not all women are hopelessly mired in the muck of being seen as inferior and weak.
The book seems to focus very heavily on the sins and traumas - and misses on the hopes, aspirations, and forward progress. As a result, it feels fairly unbalanced.
There are many other books out there which cover the same ground, and which I feel do so in a far more even-handed manner.
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