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See I am Wonder Mike and I like to say hello
to the black, to the white, the red, and the brown,
the purple and yellow -- Rapper's Delight (1979) by Sugarhill Gang

"You may be black, you may be white, you may be Jew, or Gentile. It don't make a difference in our house." -- Mr Fingers, Can U Feel It?, 1986

Related: blaxploitation - "dead white European male" trope - race - orientalism - stereotype - "yellow peril" trope - "white slavery" trope

Stereotypical nomenclatura: white - yellow - black

Ethnic groups: European - Asian - African - Jew


While ethnicity and race are related concepts, the concept of ethnicity is rooted in the idea of societal groups, marked especially by shared nationality, tribal afilliation, religious faith, shared language, or cultural or traditional origins and backgrounds. Whereas race is rooted in the idea of biological classification of homo sapiens to subspecies according to morphological features such as skin color or facial characteristics. "Ethnicity" is sometimes used as a euphemism for "race", or as a synonym for minority group. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnicity, Feb 2004


Ethnology (greek ethnos: (non-greek, "barbarian") people) is a genre of anthropological study, involving the systematic comparison of the beliefs and practices of different societies. Among its goals are the reconstruction of human history, and the formulation of laws of culture and culture change, and the formulation of generalizations about human nature. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnology [May 2005]


Ethnocentrism (Greek ethnos ("nation" + -centrism) is the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one's own culture. Many claim that ethnocentrism occurs in every society; ironically, ethnocentrism may be something that all cultures have in common. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism [May 2005]

Ethnocentrism as selfishness
In the latter quarter of the 20th century, various forms of ethnocentrism began to be decried, largely by other groups professing either to be innocent of ethnocentrism themselves or eminently qualified to embrace it. Black Americans complained of the Eurocentrism of white America while exalting Afrocentrism. Edward Said wrote a book called Orientalism arguing that the West could not understand Arab and Islamic cultures (and should not try to).

Many wars have been fought with ethnocentricism as a major theme. World War II entailed ethnocentrism on two fronts: Nazi Germany's "master race" concept exalted the so-called "Aryan people", while Japan proposed its Greater East-Asia Co-prosperity Sphere in 1940. The Nazis succeeded in taking over much of Europe and embarked on the largest ethnic cleansing campaign in history (see the Holocaust, ironically demonizing Jews for "Jewish ethnocentrism" and using that as part of their justification).

The reasons for maintaining an ethnicity or culture are often personal, and relate to the cohesion of familiar personal and social elements; that is, attachment or custom. We all are born into a human culture, and it is the culture that shapes our self-awareness and understanding of other individuals. It also reflects, depending on the cultural teaching, customs or patterns of behaviour in relating to other cultures. This behaviour can range from universal acceptance or feelings of inferiority compared with other cultures, to racism, which many consider an aspect of xenophobia. Some examples of ethnocentric behaviours are represented by such social phenomena as economic isolationism, counter-cultures, anti-establishmentism, and widespread social patterns of interpersonal abusive behaviours as ostracization, prejudice, and discrimination.

A paradigm of the academic community in the United States, particularly among anthropologists, is that enthnocentrism adversely affects one's understanding and assessment of culture, and therefore should always be avoided. However, the extent to which education can engage enthnocentrism is debated, because education by definition is a cultural construct. Moreover, many anthropologists contend that almost every opinion and insight held by an individual is influenced by their culture, hence ethnocentrism cannot always be avoided.

In theory, however, the anthropology and sociology fields advocate a removal of the unique cultural lens of researchers studying culture and adherence to the academic tenet of cultural relativism. This theory is illustrated by anthropologist Phillippe Bourgois in his book In Search of Respect: Selling Crack in El Barrio, which states that "cultures are neither good nor bad; they simply have an internal logic" (15).

In the modern world, a global economy has resulted in a great increase in inter-cultural contact. Technological advances in communication have progressively overcome previous obstacles to communication - physical obstacles that once helped to keep ethnic distinctions distinct. Ethnic lines still exist, and co-exist, and cultures of the world often find that their central concern, that of maintaining an identity despite rapid transculturation, or a merging between cultures, is still possible. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnocentrism#Ethnocentrism_as_selfishness [May 2005]

Ethnic stereotypes

An ethnic stereotype may be either an overly-simplified representation of the typical characteristics of members of an ethnic group or a falsehood that has been repeated so many times that is accepted by many people as generally true. The use of stereotypes often leads to misunderstanding and hurt feelings.

Some stereotypes, based on unbiased observations of actual behavior, can be accurate and useful:

Ethnic stereotypes are often described as either positive or negative. Negative stereotypes present inaccurate negative generalization of a group and thus are usually viewed as offensive - in many cases, negative stereotypes are expressed in the form of jokes: Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon are the "Polish jokes" that have gained a certain level of proverbiality in American popular culture, virtually all of which characterize Poles or Polish-Americans as either being invariably deficient intellectually, possessed of poor hygenic habits, or both.

Positive stereotypes describe inaccurate positive generalizations of a group. They may also be viewed as offensive as they may be viewed as putting an unfair burden or expectation on the members of the group in question, especially those who do not fit the stereotype.

Examples of positive stereotypes:

--http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_stereotype [Jun 2005]

see also: character - stereotype - stock

Ethnic stereotypes in popular culture

Ethnic stereotypes in popular culture involve an overly-simplified, stereotypical or false representation of the typical characteristics of a members of an ethnic group in music, literature, print media, film and the performing arts.

In recent years, ethnic stereotypes in popular music have come under fire. This is often associated with Hip Hop culture, but goes back much further; Prince for example was widely criticized for his portrayals of African American women, particularly, in his music videos. Even earlier, The Rolling Stones endured some criticism for their portrayals of African American women in the songs "Brown Sugar" and "Some Girls". Also, the current hip-hop/rap portrayal of African Americans as "gangsta" has contributed to the media pool of misinformation. 50 Cent, for example, tries to live up to this racial stereotype. Also, the current portrayal of women in rap music has drawn a lot of fire recently.

For years, Hollywood's unofficial but de facto casting policy limited actors of color to character roles based on ethnic stereotypes. These roles ranged from bit parts to supporting roles or secondary leads.

One cliché in American war movies depicting United States soldiers in World War II is that they very frequently create self-consciously "diverse" teams of soldiers that end up as ethnic stereotypes themselves. Central casting will assign each featured military unit a Jewish-American, an Irish-American, an Italian-American, and a caucasian with a Southern or rural accent; in more recent films, these units will also be assigned a Latino and an African-American. This tradition lives on in more recent World War II movies such as John Woo's Windtalkers, in which the Native American characters are contrasted against the standard-issue ethnically mixed unit.

In the 1970s, a series of feature films that came to be known as blaxploitation movies brought stereotypical black American culture to the screen. Proponents argued that at least African American actors were getting work in leading roles, opponents believed the perpetuating of stereotypes was more harmful than helpful.

In the 1990s, film director Spike Lee received critism for his portrayals of African-American females based on ethnic stereotype. In the same decade, Quentin Tarantino was castigated for casting Pam Grier in a 'blaxpoitation'-type role (Jackie Brown), particularly by African American male film directors. Feminists rallied to the director's and the actress' defence, countering that the same black male directors did not themselves make a point of providing work for black actresses. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethnic_stereotypes_in_popular_culture [Jun 2005]

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