Ethnicity theory

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Ethnicity theory says that race is a social category and is but one of several factors in determining ethnicity. Some other criteria include: “religion, language, “customs,” nationality, and political identification” (Omi & Winant 15). This theory was put forth by sociologist Robert E. Park in the 1920s. It is based on the notion of “culture”.

This theory was preceded by over a century where biological essentialism was the dominant paradigm on race. Biological essentialism is the belief that white European races are biologically superior and other non-white races are inherently inferior. This view arose as a way to justify slavery of Africans and genocide of the Native Americans in a society which was supposedly founded on freedom for all. This was a notion that developed slowly and came to be a preoccupation of scientists, theologians, and the public. Religious institutions asked questions about whether there had been multiple genesis’s (polygenesis) and whether God had created lesser races of men. Many of the foremost scientists of the time took up idea of racial difference. They would inadvertently find that white Europeans were superior. One method that was used was the measurement of cranial capacity. (Omi Winant 58)

Ethnicity theory was based on the assimilation model. Park outlined his four steps to assimilation: contact, conflict, accommodation, and assimilation. Instead of explaining the marginalized status of people of color in the United States...
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