Cultural Diversity in the United States

For this week’s discussion, read “Cultural Diversity in the United States: Tiger Woods: Mapping New Ethnic Terrain.” On page 265.Consider the remarkable fact that former President Barack Obama is part black, part white, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia, and with family of different religious and spiritual backgrounds. Barack Obama, like Tiger Woods, does not fit easily into our conceptualizations of race and ethnicity. Yet both represent a growing proportion of the U.S. population.Conceptualizations of race vary across societies (read the accompanying article “Down-to-Earth Sociology: Can a Plane Ride Change Your Race?” on page 266.) Even within our own society, we have classified race and ethnicity in a variety of ways throughout our history.For this week, I’d like you all to discuss how our ideas about race and ethnicity are changing – how we perceive it, its importance, and how it is meaningful or not in our everyday lives.Now, I know the tendency is to dismiss race/ethnicity as unimportant, or at least as something that should be unimportant. But as the author discusses in this chapter, race is both a reality and a myth, and while we might, in the abstract, like to think that race/ethnicity ought to play no role – in how we relate to others, how we interact with others, how we get along or do not get along with others – the reality is that it very often does, and often does significantly.This is an intentionally vague discussion topic; we’ll see where it goes. Don’t make it political; that was not my reason for mentioning President Obama. But let’s try to move beyond stereotype and the simplistic notion that race/ethnicity can be easily categorized and understood. It’s getting more complex than that.

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