Race and Ethnic Conflict: Contending Views on Prejudice, Discrimination, and Ethnoviolence

By Fred L. Pincus; Howard J. Ehrlich | Go to book overview

PART 8
Toward Change

We end this book by addressing the issue of change. Social scientists often emphasize identifying a problem and analyzing its causes, but they spend much less time dealing with solutions. It is not uncommon for enthusiastic students to come up to an instructor of race and ethnic relations and say something like, "We want to do something to help. What can we do?" We think that it is important to have some answers.

Earlier in the book, we described our dual emphasis on the social psychological emphasis on attitudes (a micro-level analysis) and the sociological emphasis on structure (a macro-level analysis). We want to discuss change in the same way.

At the micro-level, attitudes must be changed. We must find ways to reduce the level of prejudice. In reducing prejudice, we reduce its behavioral manifestations of discrimination and ethnoviolence. Although there is not a simple relationship between prejudice and discrimination, reducing prejudice is certainly a step in the right direction.

At the macro-level, institutions must change. Economic, educational, political, cultural, and legal policies that have a detrimental effect on minorities or that unnecessarily exacerbate intergroup tensions should be changed. This should be done at both the public and private levels of society. Institutional discrimination should be eliminated. Structural discrimination (i.e., policies that are race-neutral in intent but that have negative effects on minorities) should be reevaluated to find acceptable alternatives.

Of course, there are interconnections between micro- and macro-level policies. Reducing prejudiced attitudes will make people more receptive to changing institutional policy. If, for example, whites believed that black poverty was caused more by institutional barriers than by cultural defects, whites would be more receptive to government programs to help the poor and to eliminate discrimination.

On the other hand, institutional change can lead to attitude change. Prior to the 1954 Brown decision outlawing school segregation, for example, it was inconceivable to think that black and white students would attend major state universities in the South. Now it is an accepted way of life. When the white South was forced to dismantle Jim Crow segregation and white southerners were forced to change their behavior, attitudes gradually changed.

Regardless of whether one is emphasizing the macro- or micro-level of analysis, the specific change strategy depends, in part, on one's political perspective.

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