How Is Racism Explained From A Symbolic Interactionist Perspective?

The symbolic interactionist perspective views reality as being socially constructive and a negotiated process. One symbol of interactionist perspective is the labelling theory which explains why some people are seen as being deviant and those engaging in the same activity are not seen as deviant(Reichers,1987).

An example is youths behaving in a bad behavior might be seen as being delinquent as long as they come from poor background while those originating from upper class families might be seen as good kids who are just exploring their lives. This stereotype also shows itself in race and ethnicity.

The symbolic interaction theory basically addresses two issues. The first issue is what role social interaction plays in the reduction ethnic and racial hostility. The second one is how ethnicity and race are socially constructed. Symbolic interactionism asks the question, what might happen when two people of different ethnic or racial backgrounds come into contact and how this interracial contact can reduce hostility(Trevino, Daft, & Lengel, 1990).The contact theory argues that the contact should be between two people of the same status and the interaction should be on equal grounds.

Symbolic interactionists see race and ethnicity as providing strong symbols as their sources of identity. Some of the interactionists argue that race is not a cause of racism but symbols of race. They argue that racial prejudice comes up as a result of interaction between the dominant groups. Without this interactions, the individuals belonging to a dominant group would not hold any racial views (Trevino et al1990). The interactions contribute to the abstract picture of some subordinate groups which gives the dominant group a mandate to support its views of the given subordinate group. This helps to maintain a status quo.

Interactionists thus view ethnicity and race as being the important sources of social symbolism and individual identity.

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