Race and Ethnic Relations


Raceand Ethnic Relations

QuestionOne: When examining the nature of racial and ethnic inequality from aMarxist perspective, describe how class approaches to racial andethnic inequality are explained by sociological theory?

Marxistperspective on racial and ethnic inequality

Mostof the social analysis done on the inequalities and injusticesrelated to race and ethnicity in the United States has been derivedfrom the Marxist perspective. Marx talks of different ethnic andracial groups that are characterized by inequality in resources,power, as well as prestige. The fundamental reason is the superiorityin power by the majority groups that originates from advancedtechnology, economic resources, property and numbers (Winant,2006). Therefore,racial and ethnic inequality denotes the disparity that existsbetween the majority and minority groups whereby the former dominatesthe latter, which is deemed as less-powerful and has inferior socialposition in the society (Winant,2006). Theinterests of the minority groups are also not well represented in theeconomic, political, as well as social institutions (Farley, 2012).

Fundamentalto Marxism is the issue of capitalism, which is defined as aneconomic system comprising two main classes the capitalist andworking classes. The capitalist class possesses and manages theproduction process, capital and constantly endeavors to boost itsprofits. On the other hand, the working class provides labor in orderto get a wage. According to Marx, much of the profits are derivedfrom exploitation of workers whereby they are paid lower wagescompared to their contribution in production (Winant,2006).

Acapitalist system is characterized by disagreements between theworking class and the capitalists. While workers attempt to enhancetheir working environments as well as wages, they also fear losingemployment, giving their employers an upper hand. Marx argues thatexploitation can only be ended by ousting capitalism. In addition,workers can form unions in order to enhance their economicconditions. When workers are united, they have a greater capabilityof challenging the employers.

Marxuses capitalism as a platform of explaining racism, wherebycapitalists segregates white and black workers. It results in classexploitation and racial oppression. In the US, racism is delineatedas a methodical subjugation of African-Americans, as well as theassociated black inferiority and white dominance. For instance,blacks are disproportionally laid off during recessions anddisproportionally unemployed. By and large, Marxist perspective ofracism indicates that the working class is principally fragmented andalienated racially both ideologically and materially.

When examining the nature ofracial and ethnic inequality from Marxist perspective, classapproaches to racial and ethnic inequality has been explained byvarious sociological theories. In this case, Edna Bonacich’s classapproach to ethnicity and race, and Reich, Gordon and Edwards’ duallabor market theory are explained.

EdnaBonacich: Class Approach to Ethnicity and Race

Inthe theory, class approach to ethnicity and race, Edna Bonacich putsforth that matters regarding to race and ethnic relations aredominated by the presupposition that the two aspects are ‘primitive’foundations of attachments and are founded on human nature (Bonacich,1985). However, the supposition has been challenged by variousauthors who argue that race and ethnicity mirror a deeper realismcalled class relations. In fact, according to Bonacich, classapproaches are effective for studying race and ethnicity.

Bonacichdefines race and ethnicity as communalistic ways of socialattachment, which shares the presupposition of a unique bond betweenindividuals from the same backgrounds and the rejection of personsfrom dissimilar backgrounds (1985). Other foundations ofcommunalistic affiliation encompass tribe, nationality. In histheory, Bonacich puts forward that racism, tribalism, ethnocentrism,and nationalism are the same forms of outlooks, which divide peoplealongside shared ancestry lines. Another form of affiliation is classlines. The author also shows how the two bases interact forcapitalist societies as demonstrated in the figure below. In thiscase, race can be replaced with for ethnicity.

Ethnicgroup 1 Ethnic group 2


Division Bourgeoisie Bourgeoisie

Proletariat proletariat


Thediagram above demonstrates that ethnic basses of attachmentcross-cuts class form of affiliation. Both illustrate competingstandards which calls on individuals to come together alongside suchdomains ((Bonacich, 1985).

Reich,Gordon and Edwards: Dual Labor Market Theory

Dual,also called segmented labor markets theory by Reich, Gordon andEdwards is a class-based framework that analyzes racial inequality.The theory finds its roots from both institutionalist and Marxist.Dual labor market is characterized by three different marketssecondary labor market, primary subordinate labor market, and primaryindependent segment (Reich, Gordon &amp Edwards, 1973).

Thesecondary labor market is characterized by low benefits and wages,short job term, high turnover rates, direct labor controls andlimited job ladders. On the other hand, the primary subordinate labormarket is distinguished by formation of unions by employees benefitsincluding pension, health and paid leave as well as better pay thatis higher than the minimum wage (Reich, Gordon &amp Edwards, 1973).Additionally, employees are promoted while the rate of turnover islow. Lastly, the primary independent segment is characterized by theability of workers to internalize employment norms, directsupervision is low, more independence, low unemployment, whileassessment, promotion and management follow bureaucratic standards.

In this theory, racial classesplay a major role in determining the labor market in which a personis employed, as well as mobility of workers from one segment to theother. Most black men and women are concentrated in the secondarylabor market. They are also underrepresented in the primary marketsegment and this is associated with lower earnings among blacks andhigh unemployment rates.

One of the key strengths of dualmarket labor theory is its capability to illuminate why blacksexperience high levels of unemployment and lower wages (Reich,Gordon &amp Edwards, 1973). Thetheory helps in comprehending the stagnation of wages among blacks ascompared to whites. This is linked with reduction in employment inthe primary subordinate labor market and low mobility into theprimary market. Combining the dual labor market theory with distinctracial dynamics evident in the US can explain racial inequality inemployment and wages in the society. It is clear that the theoryillustrates racial discrimination from Marxist viewpoint oncapitalism. The existence of two classes of employees is alsoevident. These are the minority (black) who are less privileged andthe majority (whites) classes, who are more privileged. Formingunions as a way of ending racism is downplayed, implying that thewhites endeavor to perpetuate racism in the labor market.

QuestionTwo: Self-employment practices found among immigrant workers issuggested as an alternative to &quotregular&quot labor marketemployment. Discuss theories that explain the self-employmentpractices among immigrants and discuss how immigrants are able tosurvive in the U.S.

Oneway in which immigrant workers survive in the United States is bycreating self-employment through entrepreneurship. According toWilliams (2008), entrepreneurs are either driven by opportunity ornecessity factors to start entrepreneurship. This means lack ofemployment opportunities, while the available ones may not besatisfying enough. According to studies, immigrants face majorchallenges in their host countries related to securing jobs orstarting own businesses (Williams, 2008). One of the notablechallenges facing the immigrants is language skills, thus not beingin a position to effectively carry out their businesses. The othernotable one is lack of the necessary education, as majority ofimmigrants mostly originates in countries where the governments andthe concerned parties invest little amount of money into theeducation sectors. Discrimination is the other issue which facesimmigrants. For instance, those currently migrating from the MiddleEast countries ravaged by war such as in Syria are beingdiscriminated against by some countries in the European Region likeHungary. The implication of this is that the acculturation process ina new region that has diverse cultural practices is hard forimmigrants. As a result, most of them go for self-employment as it isthe only way through which they can survive in their host nations. In fact, the levels of self-employment have been evidenced to behigher among foreigners compared to natives. By doing this, they areable to ensure their sustainability both in the short and long-term,a factor which also gives them time to learn the culture of thecountry they are based. Moreover, a number of previous researcheshave evidenced that immigrants opt to become self-employed so as toevade the jeopardy of being jobless (Williams, 2008). It has beensuggested to be an alternative to regular labor market employment.

Anumber of theories have been put forth to explain the self-employmentpractices among immigrants. In this case, two theories are discussed.They are Ivan Light’s Immigrant and Ethnic Enterprises in NorthAmerica, and Abel Valenzuela’s Day Laborers theory.

IvanLight: Immigrant and Ethnic Enterprises in North America

Duringthe twentieth century, America was characterized by highconcentration of immigrants who took part in small businesses atconsiderably greater proportions compared to native minorities(Light, 1984). Evan Light’s theory of immigrant and ethnicenterprises in North America is better placed at explaining thisphenomenon. Light puts forward that immigrants have access to ethnicresources and this is what enables them to outcompete theircounterparts’ native workers (1984). However, class resourcesdiffer from ethnic resources in that groups having ethnic resourcestend to be collectivistic whereas individuals with class resourcestend to be individualistic. Ethnic resources are generally founded onpre-modern solidarities and values, which provide an added advantageto immigrant groups. Besides, the fact that they earn considerableprofits from their enterprises signifies a higher probability ofsustaining such businesses.

Ethnicresources are defined as all characteristics of the entire group thatcoethnic enterprise owners may use in their businesses. Therefore,ethnic resources comprise relative satisfaction, sojourningorientation, orthodox cultural endowments, and reactive solidarities(Light, 1984). On the other hand, class resources are material –private property including production and human capital and cultural– attitudes, skills, values and knowledge.

AbelValenzuela: Day Laborers theory

Daylabor is defined as an occupation whereby workers gather together onthe streets, parking lots and empty lost with the aim of solicitingtemporary daily work (Valenzuela, 2002). According to Valenzuela(2002), day labor work is a mushrooming market in regionscharacterized by immigrants. In South California for instance, daylaborers range from 15,000 to 20,000, and are spread in more than 100hiring areas (Valenzuela, 2002). The market mostly consists ofimmigrant men who informally provide labor in exchange for negotiatedwages. The informal labor market is associated with internationaleconomic activities as well as massive immigration to the UnitedStates, particularly to such cities as Chicago, New York, Los Angelesand Miami. Other factors that have resulted to the expansion ofinformal occupations include growth of worldwide informal markets, aswell as the reduction of formal economic activities. Day labor workcan also be explained in terms of economic restructuring especiallythat associated with formal economic activities.

Daylabor theory demonstrates that day labor marketplace is an efficienttool for assembling prospective employers. The theory expounds on thedevastating percentage of immigrant employees in day labor – a kindof employment that is characterized by instability and low wages.

Accordingto Valenzuela’s Day Laborer’s theory, there exists a disadvantagein the labor market that explicates the participation of immigrants’workers in day labor (2002). The theory hypothesizes thatdisadvantage results in the asymmetrical participation inself-employment and entrepreneurship among diverse groups ofemployees. For instance, Latino immigrants have been evidenced tohave a weak standing in the formal labor market, low human capital,highly unauthorized status, as well as ethnic and racial background,predispose them to highly take part in day labor compared tonon-immigrants. In general, day labor theory puts forth thatdifficulties in the typical labor market is the motive behindalternative forms of generating income including day labor.

Whileday labor is useful to workers, it is also highly beneficial toemployers. Contemporary employers generally benefit by exploiting themarket, and paying highly negotiated wages. The market is mostlyattractive to homeowners, construction subcontractors, among otheremployers. In addition to the general demand and supply factors,others factors that influence the need for day laborers is theirability to perform different roles that other employees in thegeneral economy might not be willing to undertake (Valenzuela, 2002).Other employers prefer day labor as the hiring cost is low. They areable to cut on labor costs considering that they evade paying workerbenefits, employment taxes, among other associated costs, which mustbe provided to the regular work force.

Inspite of its benefits, research indicates that obtaining day labor isnot easy due to various reasons. They include, day laborers must dealwith cyclic disparities associated with seasonality and weather,daily uncertainties of getting employment and economic fluctuationsin the home improvement and construction industry (Valenzuela, 2002).In addition, day labor is linked to high competition among theworkers.

Byand large, labor theory employs the general disadvantage element toexplicate the uneven participation in self-employment amongst diverseworking groups. Nevertheless, general disadvantage does not impactall employees equally, something that has made Valenzuela todifferentiate it from labor-market and resource disadvantage.


Bonacich,D. (1985). Classapproaches to ethnicity and race.London: Allyn and Bacon.

Farley,J. E. (2012). Majority-minorityrelations. (6th Ed.) Boston: Prentice Hall.

Light,I. H. (1984), Immigrant and ethnic enterprise in North America.Ethnicand Racial Studies,7(2), 195–216.

Reich,M., Gordon, D. M. &amp Edwards, R. (1973): Dual Labor Market Theory:A theory of labour market segmentation. EconomicsDepartment Faculty Publications,Paper 3.

Valenzuela,A. Jr (2002). Workingon the margins: Immigrant day labor characteristics and prospects foremployment.The Center for Comparative Immigration Studies, University ofCalifornia, San Diego. Working Paper 22.

Williams,C.C. (2008). The motives of off-the-books entrepreneurs: necessity-oropportunity-driven?. InternationalEntrepreneurial Management Journal,5: 203-217.

Winant,H. (2006). Race and racism. Towards a global future. Ethnicand Racial Studies,29(5):986-1003.