The Social Significance of Race and Ethnicity

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The Social Significance of Race and Ethnicity

Race and ethnicity take on great social significance because how people act in regard to these terms drastically affects other people's lives. including what opportunities opportunities they have. how they are treated. and even how long they live. According to the sociologists Michael Omi and Howard Winant. race "permeates every institution. every relationship. and every individual" in the United States: As we •.. compare real estate prices in different neighborhoods. select a radio channel to enjoy while we drive to work. size up a potential client. customer. neighbor. or teacher. stand in line at the unemployment office. or carry out a thousand other normal tasks, we are compelled to think racially. to use the radal categories and meaning systems into which we have been socialized. (Omi and Win ant, 1994: 158)  Historically. stratification based on race and ethnicity has pervaded all aspects of political. economic. and social life. Consider sports as an example. Throughout  the early history of the game of baseball. many African Americans had outstanding skills as players but were categorically excluded from Major League teams .because of their skin color. Even after Jackie Robinson broke the "color linen to become the first African American in the Major Leagues in 1947. his experience was marred by racial slurs. hate letters, death threats against his infant son. and assaults on his wife (Ashe. 1988; Peterson, 1992). With some professional athletes from diverse racial-ethnic categories having multimillionaire-dollar contracts and lucrative endorsement deals, it is easy to assume that racism in sports is a thing of the past. However. this commercialization  f sports does not mean that racial prejudice and discrimination no longer exist (Coakley. 2004