This essay highlights three recent cases (2013) of racial tension in the US. Racism has deep roots in the US history. One can trace it from the period of slavery. Despite efforts to eradicate it, racism persists until now in the US.
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Students at Hopkins High School have claimed that there are racial issues between members of the staff and the school administrators (Blume, 2013). More than 100 students protested against racial inequality at the school. The protest was because of previous events, which have “left minority students feeling mistreated” (Blume, 2013). The tension was between white and black students.
In Minneapolis, some Somali students have claimed that the school was not doing enough to ease the racial tension at South High School. As a result, several students engaged in a brawl to protest (Post, 2013). The brawl resulted from a tension, which had built up for several months. Students and a staff member sustained minor injuries during the brawl. Most students of the Somali origin have claimed that they were unsafe and insecure at the school due to discrimination.
Meanwhile, another brawl fuelled by racial tension erupted at Chula Vista in South Bay Detention Facility. The brawl involved more than 15 inmates of white origins and Asian or Pacific Islanders prisoners (Repard, 2013). This was a case of racial hatred among inmates.
All these brawls and protests have resulted from racial tension between two races. Racism is still rife in most public schools and correctional facilities. The common themes in these stories are racial discrimination, prejudice, and racial hate. The case of Hopkins School is racial inequality. The case of South Bay Correctional Facility reflects racial hate among inmates whereas, Somali students experience racial discrimination at the school.
Racial Tensions and theoretical concepts
There are many sociological theoretical concepts, which can help in explaining causes of racial crimes, prejudice, discrimination, and racism between individuals of different races. We have identified institutional racism from the above stories. Different theories present various views about the existence of racism in society (Anderson and Taylor, 2009).
Symbolic interaction theorists
These theorists focus on two fundamental aspects of racism. They focus on influences of social interaction and its roles on reducing racial tension. Second, these theorists also look at how people construct race within a social context.
In other words, the theory might help us to understand what may take place when Somalis and Whites encounter one another, for instance. Proponents also aim to show how such races can reduce racial hostility between them.
This theoretical concept also looks at subjective meanings and behaviours, which members of other race may attribute to people from another race. For instance, some Somali students claimed that an officer who responded to the fight referred to them as “animals” (Post, 2013).
This is a form of discrimination, which is also subjective and assumes primacy. Sociologists assert that people base their behaviours on beliefs rather than objective values. In this regard, human interpretation is responsible for social construction of society. Interpretation of one’s behaviour results in the formation of a social bond.
According to this school of thought, racial minorities should assimilate in the mainstream society for functional and harmonious relationship. In this case, the dominant white students at the school should absorb Somali students.
Several conflicts at South High School indicate that the dominant race has not assimilated Somali students. As a result, there is no functional and harmonious coexistence. The same is also evident at Hopkins School where minority students feel mistreated. Whites continue to ridicule the Black culture of the ‘rapper’ or ‘ghetto spirit day’ due to a lack of assimilation. As a result, minority Black students took offense and fought administrators over the issue.
Conflict theory posits that inequality exists “because those in control of a disproportionate share of society’s resources actively defend their advantages” (Anderson and Taylor, 2009). People in power tend to coerce the minority groups. The White inmates believe that they are in power and control the correctional facility.
This is a form of social control, which lacks consensus. They want to promote their own interests and resources like talk time, telephones, and television within the prison. Thus, power struggle within the correctional facility has led to racial tension as race politics dominates such facilities. In the jail, minorities are just ‘others’ because they are not White, Black, or Latino.
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Evaluation of the relevance and explanatory value of various sociological concepts and theories in helping us understand real life issues concerning race and racism
Different sociological concepts and theories aim to show why race and racism exist in society. These theories present diverse views on causes of racial tension in society.
Today, many theorists have used conflict theory to explain causes of racial conflict in a society in which there is inequality. Inequality has different forms, which may be gender, racial, political, and religious among others. People tend to have different values, which result into conflicts and competition against among them. As a result, competition has been responsible for changes in society.
This explains why there is racial politics in correctional facilities as members of different racial groups aim to control jail facilities in the community hall. This theory tends to identify negative aspects of racial tension in society, and it links them with all concepts, which focus on how to gain control of the masses. Overall, it helps us to understand causes of racial tension and fights in correctional facilities.
Symbolic interaction theorists have focused on subjective approaches to racial issues in society. Thus, tension results from the subjective interpretation of others’ behaviours and actions rather than what is real.
According to these theorists, subjective interpretations have acquired primacy status because many people tend to base their behaviours on what they believe and not what is real. This theory shows how subjective interpretations of Somalis students have led to miseries. The dominant race still believes that they are ‘animals’ and refer to them as such.
Such interpretations and beliefs are subjective because the Whites have failed to act objectively and construct the true meaning of the situation. The interpretation of behaviour is responsible for social bond in the society. However, if the interpretation is subjective and lacks facts, then conflicts arise between the races. In this regard, people have failed to know what others expect from them and have failed to behave in an appropriate manner.
According to functionalism, every part of a society should contribute to its stability. In this context, a society is larger than a single unit is, and each part of the society must play its part for the overall stability of the entire society. Different races in society have different roles to play. In addition, every role, which an individual member of the society plays, has a given consequence with regard to formation of the society.
Thus, all races should depend on one another for a functional and harmonious coexistence. In this regard, people should apply consensus in order to resolve racial tension for social stability and enhance shared interests. Somali students want consensus, other students to listen to them, and protect them.
The same case applies to Hopkins School in which the school community wants to bring all races together through a cultural tolerance programme. However, we have noted that deviant behaviours in these institutions have led to racial tension as members respond to changes. Thus, society is dynamic as it strives to achieve stability. A dysfunctional race usually leads to chaos and instability, which it manifests through racial brawls and conflicts as it strives for stability.
Conclusive remarks and personal reflections
Racism is rife in the US. However, it is not as bad as it was during the civil rights movements. Thus, society has changed as the major race struggles to assimilate the minority. Sociological perspectives highlight that racial tensions result from different factors. Thus, members of the society resort to conflicts as they strive to form, shape, or assimilate themselves with the dominant race. Nevertheless, these perspectives help us to comprehend various causes of racism.
One must recognise that racism is still common in public institutions, which has led to racial conflicts. Thus, it is fundamental for people to understand racial differences and embrace others’ cultures as they nurture cultural competency. This would eliminate cases of discrimination, prejudice, and racial hate, which are prominent in the three news stories.
Anderson, M.L. and Taylor, H.F. (2009). Sociology: The Essentials. Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.
Blume, P. (2013). Hopkins High School students walk out over racial tensions. Web.
Post, T. (2013). After South High brawl, Somali students say they don’t feel safe. Web.
Repard, P. (2013). Jail brawl said sparked by racial tension. Web.