- Ethnocentrism is a very important concept because we all carry around a certain amount
- Ethnocentrism is very damaging to our perceptions of the world
- If we are ethnocentric we cannot view social issues and problems realistically, or
with an open mind to attempt to understand root causes of social problems
- If we are going to look at social issues, we must leave our own constricted view
of the world and attempt to understand the cultures and views of other people
- What is ethnocentrism?
- In the most general sense, ethnocentrism is small mindedness and dismissing other
cultures and people because they differ from your own.
- But ethnocentrism can become much more than that.
- I will describe ethnocentrism as it occurs from the personal to the structural level.
- Ethnocentrism can develop from individual thoughts, to group conceptions and
finally become solidified in the social structures.
- There are five elements to ethnocentrism, but not all have to be present to constitute
- Biologically Inferior
- One group believes that they are innately superior in physical and mental
characteristics - arguments for the Bell curve (examples - Nazis)
- Morally corrupt - Thomas Malthus argued that the poor could not control they are
reproductive urges and therefore lead to over population. Many cultures and
religions are viewed as morally bankrupt.
- Dehumanization of another group
- Because one group feels that another is inferior, they are not truly human
- Treated as animals or "savages" (examples - Native Americans - Columbus)
- Allows people to justify their treatment of other groups because they are inhuman
- Manifest Destiny - no reason to feel guilt for killing and forcibly removing
people from their homelands
- The media is very proficient at dehumanizing other cultures.
- Civilizational Mission - One group takes it upon itself because it believes it is superior
to "civilize" inferior people
- Native American schools on reservations that stripped indigenous religions,
culture etc. [website on the Carlisle school http://home.epix.net/~landis/]
- Missionaries attempt to convert the heathens
- US attempts to force its economic and political system on other peoples -
- Ideological Camouflage - People justify their actions through the creation of ideologies
- Eugenics -
- Between 1911 and 1930, 24 states passed sterilization laws aimed at various
social "misfits": the mentally retarded, criminals, and the insane.
- In 1924, when a coalition of eugenicists and some big-business interests
pushed through the Johnson Act, severely limiting immigration into the U.S.
- immigrants polluted gene pool
- Eugenics movement spread in Nazi Germany
- Slave holders used religion to justify punishments
- Slave holders had to convince themselves that they were doing their slaves a
favor by punishing them.
- Since slaveowners viewed their slaves as less than human, property.
Beatings were a way of disciplining a slave.
- But the slave owners could not reconcile the contrary ideals of their
christian beliefs and the fact they were racists who enslaved and abused
fellow human beings.
- So in their journals, they would try to convince themselves that by beating
their slaves, they believed that they were bringing the slaves closer to a
- Political Denial - Government denies any involvement or responsibility to the other
- Only recently did the US government recognize the racism of placing Japanese
Americans in relocation camps during WWII.
- Still rather blasé and uncaring about the treatment of Native Americans especially
when it comes to whites desiring tribal lands when they are needed for natural
resources, waste disposal etc.
- US government denies the deaths and injuries of civilians in its military action.
- Always underestimates - Panama, Iraq, Serbia etc.
- Civilian deaths are cryptically called collateral damage. [Film: Panama
- All the elements of ethnocentrism do not have to be present for a thought or an act to be
ethnocentric, but there are various ways ethnocentrism plays out.
- Once these elements of ethnocentrism work their way into society, they become
widely accepted as normal and many times become part of the institutional
structure of society.
- Ethnocentrism also tends to lead to individual explanations of social problems and
ignores structural constraints.
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