Summary of "Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the United States: Inequality, Group Conflict, and Power"

Summary of

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the United States: Inequality, Group Conflict, and Power

By Joseph F. Healey

Summary written by Conflict Research Consortium Staff

Citation: Healey, Joseph F. Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the United States: Inequality, Group Conflict, and Power. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 1997.

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender in the United States: Inequality, Group Conflict, and Power is a textbook meant to contribute to the ongoing debate in the U.S. over how to resolve the ever-present dilemma of dominant-minority inequality that exists, in some way, in all aspects of public life. Written for undergraduates, this introductory text provides historical background and conceptual frameworks designed to help students think about minority group relations in an educated, sociological way. "The conceptual focus is on power, inequality, and group conflict, and the analysis is generally in the tradition of conflict theory." (xv)

The first four chapters of the work develop the conceptual framework for readers. The main concepts and analytical themes are then applied to five case studies of minority groups in the contemporary United States of America. Chapter One explains what minority groups are, as well as key concepts related to the situation of minorities in America such as prejudice, discrimination, ideological racism, and institutional discrimination. Chapter Two expands on the notion of prejudice, describing the categorization of peoples by stereotyping. In addition, this chapter explains three different theories of prejudice, describes various types of prejudice, and looks at the prevalence of prejudice in contemporary society.

Beginning with the 1600s, Chapter Three analyzes the creation of minority groups in United States under a subsistence economy, before the industrial revolution. The author discusses the positions of African Americans, Native Americans, and Mexican Americans during this era. There are two principal themes that hold the chapter together: 1) "The nature of the dominant-minority group relations at any point in time is largely a function of the characteristics of the society as a whole"; and (2) "The contact situation (the conditions under which groups first encounter each other) is the single most significant factor in the development of the relationship between dominant and minority groups" (65).

In Chapter Four, Healey's analysis of dominant-minority relations shifts forward to the industrial revolution. He states and then goes on to support a theme addressed in Chapter Three, that "dominant-minority relations change as the subsistence technology changes." (83) In this discussion, Healey hypothesizes that paternalistic systems, such as slavery, were developed in order to maintain a rigid competitive system, in which the dominant group may "preserve its advantage by handicapping the minority group's ability to compete effectively or, in some cases, by removing the minority group from competition altogether." (84)

Chapters Five through Nine discuss the history and contemporary situations of specific minority groups in the United States. Throughout the balance of the work, diversity within minority groups is considered, with a focus on gender differences within groups. Healey points out that gender inequality crosscuts ethnic and racial divisions, with these social categories (i.e. race and gender) existing independently of one another. Each chapter in this section covers the experience of a different racial/ethnic group. In the order they appear, they are: African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, Asian Americans, and European Immigrants.

Chapter Ten recaps the main themes of the book, emphasizing the integral role each minority plays in the spectrum of American society. Overall, this book is a well-outlined introduction to the sociology of minority groups in the United States. The work provides conceptual and historical background on all of the relevant topics necessary for a solid undergraduate course on dominant-minority group relations.