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Theories of Inequality in Race

Theories of Inequality in Race

Author: Paul Hannan

Differentiate between theories of prejudice and their influences.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain, Images from, Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on theories of inequality and race. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at four different theories of why there's racial inequality. So the first one is conflict theory. Now, in other tutorials, I've discussed conflict victory as an overarching approach to sociology. Specifically here, we're looking at the battle for resources with race as the number-one issue. So I have a different tutorial if you want to find out more about this called the "race conflict approach."

So this really sees, again, all prejudice coming from this battle for resources. And so the reason why we have prejudices is to keep power in the hands of some and limit the power of others.

Now, another theory is scapegoat theory. And this is really the idea of blaming other people. So it's when an individual blames someone else for their own difficulties. And they're blaming a minority or group of minorities for those.

So let's say I lose my job because I'm bad at my job. I don't do a good job. I don't work hard. I'm late all the time. Instead of looking at the mirror, though, and seeing the problems with myself, I find a scapegoat. I look at a different group. And I say, well, look, it's not that I'm not a good worker. It's because there are all these minorities coming in. And they're stealing our jobs.

So in the scapegoat theory, you are finding a scapegoat to blame your problems on. And generally speaking, the people you're blaming your problems on, this minority-- they're someone who has less power than you.

Now, another theory looking at prejudice is the idea of authoritarian personality. Now, in authoritarian personality, you can come up in many different realms. You can be looking at parenting or boss leadership styles. But in general, it's just a person who believes in absolute obedience. So they really want and believe in conformity. Studies have found that people with authoritarian personality-- they're much more likely to be prejudiced.

Now, there's some different theories on exactly why that is. But generally, overarchingly, it seems like people with this authoritarian personality don't really have a lot of room for understanding and empathy. And as different groups interact together, there are different cultural standards and different cultural norms. And the authoritarian person is less likely to really understand those and see them as something that is OK, just different.

Now, the fourth theory we're looking at is really this idea that our culture as a society really enforces and reinforces prejudice. So it's not because of individuals that prejudice exists. It's because of society as a whole that prejudice exists.

Now, it's very clear that our society has prejudices built into it. But there are some critiques of this theory, saying that, well, if it's not about the individual, and it exists everywhere, then we can't really do anything about it. So we shouldn't be doing anything about it.

So again, how this is different is that instead of prejudice being within the individual and the individual's thoughts and actions, it actually comes from the whole society. It comes from the outside. In fact, people even that come from minority backgrounds often have prejudice against themselves coming from these external forces.

So today's takeaway message-- we looked at four different theories today on why prejudice exists in society. The first one is based on conflict theory. So prejudice is just a part of that battle for natural resources. Then we looked at scapegoat theory, which is where individuals are blaming their own problems and difficulties on another group of people.

We also looked at the authoritarian personality, how people who believe in this absolute obedience are much more likely to be prejudiced. And then we looked at cultural theory, which flipped all this on its head and said that it exists-- which exists because we as a whole have a society which is a culture of prejudice. And so it's everywhere. And it forces everyone to be prejudiced.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know
Authoritarian Personality Theory

A theory of prejudice that sees prejudice as the result of personality development throughout the lifecourse.

Conflict Theory of Prejudice

A theory of prejudice that sees prejudice as rooted in class, and that people in power use prejudicial attitudes to justify their position and entitlements.

Culture Theory of Prejudice

A theory of prejudice that holds that we live in a culture of prejudice and that prejudicial attitudes are transmitted through generations culturally.

Scapegoat Theory

A theory that holds that people blame another person or group for their problems, typically the powerless, when they cannot direct their anger at the appropriate agent.