Subordinate group creation and consequences

America is the land of freedom and a land of opportunity. From the beginning of this great nation people have immigrated to America in the pursuit of freedom and happiness. However, not everyone who immigrated to America has been blessed with the same freedoms as others.

This is especially the case with African Americans. African Americans are a subordinate group that even though they migrated over to America to explore certain freedoms, was faced with segregation caused by non-subordinate groups. To really understand the reasoning behind African Americans and the segregation they faced as a subordinate group one must understand what a subordinate group is and how a group is determined to be subordinate.

At the time of the United States Census in 2000, there was approximately 34,658,190 African American’s living in the United States. This number is relatively small when compared to the total United States population of 281,421,906 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). That means that African Americans make up less than 12% of the total population. When compared to the overall population, African Americans play a minor part in the overall population. A subordinate group is another way of saying a minority group, and there are five characteristics that make a group a subordinate group (Shaefer, 2006).

The five characteristics of a subordinate group are distinguishing physical characteristics or cultural traits, unequal treatment, involuntary membership, awareness of subordination, and in-group marriage (Shaefer, 2006). African Americans usually fit into all five of those traits, with the one exception being in-group marriage as sometimes African Americans do choose to marry someone not within their subordinate group.

The three most applied characteristics of subordinate groups that relate to African Americans are the distinguishing physical characteristics or cultural traits, involuntary membership, and unequal treatment. African Americans have distinguished physical characteristics by their skin tone.

African Americans have a black skin tone which makes it very noticeable to the eye of the differences from the overwhelming white skin tone of most American citizens. African Americans are granted membership into their group involuntarily because when a child is born, they carry the distinguishing physical traits of the parents. The third most applied characteristic of subordinate groups that applies to African Americans is the unequal treatment, most notably in the form of segregation.

There are a few different ways that a group becomes a subordinate group. In the case of the African Americans it was through migration (Shaefer, 2006). When African Americans migrated to the United States, either on their own or forced to America, they immediately found themselves a minority in their new home based solely on the color of their skin.

One notable difference of African Americans and their migration to America is the fact that most original African Americans did not come to America on their own, but rather through the act of slave trading (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, n.d.) “Between the 1500’s and the 1860’s, at least 12 million Africans were sent to the Americas. About half of them arrived in the United States” (Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, n.d.)

When African Americans were sent to the United States, they tried to make a new life for them and their family. However, to this day African Americans are faced with unequal treatment. One of the most commonly known forms of unequal treatment was the act of segregation. Segregation is the act of separating two groups of people, most of the time a dominate group forces segregation on a subordinate group (Shaefer, 2006).

In the case of the African Americans, it was dark color skinned people segregated from the more dominate light color skinned people. When slavery was abolished in 1865, Southern Whites developed segregation as a way to maintain a social status of servitude, an ethnic hierarchy, and economic control over the African Americans (Segregation, 2008). Even though segregation was officially outlawed in 1968 with the Civil Rights Act (Segregation, 2008), the impact of segregation can still be seen today. Although fewer whites subscribe to the idea of ethnic hierarchy, throughout

America you can still find segregation prevalent, mostly in the form of population. There are still to this day areas that are predominately black, and areas that are predominately white, for example, Detroit, Michigan and Milwaukee, Wisconsin are two of the most segregated cities in America (Shaefer, 2006). Segregation would not be considered bad to most in today’s world, as most people choose to explain that the segregation prevalent today is a chosen segregation. African Americans choose to live together and white Americans choose to live together (Segregation, 2008).

However, if looked upon closely, one could see that segregation is still very much alive and is not always a choice. According to the 2000 census, less than half of the African American population held a high school diploma (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000). When looked further into that number we find that government funds and education funds are generally given to areas and schools that are predominately white, with the explanation of higher test scores. Many schools located in predominately African American neighborhoods receive less funding.

The lack of funding does not attract the best teachers, and therefore the education is shaky at best (Morris, 1999). It is pretty difficult for an African American to move out of their urban development when they are not given the tools in order to do so. So here we are, all as citizens of the United States of America, all of us have supposedly the same equal rights, but more than 40 years later, segregation and the effects of segregation are still prevalent.

References Morris, J.E. (1999). What is the future of predominatly black urban schools?. Questia Media America, Inc.. Retrieved from Schaefer, R.T. (2006). Racial and ethnic groups (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. (n.d.). African-American migration experience.

Retrieved from Segregation. (2008). In W. A. Darity, Jr. (Ed.)International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, (Vol. 7). (2nd ed., pp. 381-383) Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA Retrieved February 21, 2010, from Gale Virtual Reference Library via Gale: U.S. Census Bureau. (2000). American fact finder. Retrieved February 20, 2010 from