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Interactions Between Social Majorities and Minorities

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  • 0:01 Pluralism
  • 0:50 Assimilation
  • 2:46 Segregation
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

The world is a diverse place full of all sorts of people. In this lesson, we'll examine the effects of pluralism and what happens when people from different backgrounds interact, including segregation, genocide, assimilation, and miscegenation.

Pluralism

Imagine that you are a blue gumball and you're in a big gumball machine with lots of other gumballs. There are red ones and green ones and other blue ones. And you're all mixed in there together. Pluralism is when two or more groups coexist in the same place. So when you and the other blue gumballs are in the same gumball machine as red and green gumballs, that's pluralism.

Of course, when sociologists talk about pluralism, they're not usually talking about gumballs. We live in a world that is incredibly diverse, full of people from all different backgrounds. In America, we have so many different types of people that we are often called a 'melting pot,' as people of different backgrounds come together and influence each other.

Social groups can interact in both positive and negative ways. Let's examine some of the major interactions between social groups.

Assimilation

As we mentioned before, pluralism can lead to a melting pot, where groups come together and merge into a larger group. This can happen in a few different ways.

Assimilation is the way one group's language and culture comes to reflect another's. To understand this, think about being in the gumball machine, a blue gumball surrounded by red gumballs. Imagine that some of the flavor of the red gumballs rubs off on you. You're still a blue gumball, but you kind of taste like a red gumball now.

As a real-life example, let's say that you really need to talk to a friend of yours privately. You might ask him for a tête-á-tête, which is a common phrase used in English, meaning a 'one-on-one meeting.' This phrase is French for 'head to head,' but it's used in English as much as it is used in French. It has been assimilated into the English language.

Another common example of assimilation happens with food. Years ago, Mexicans and cowboys from Texas began cooking side by side. Their foods gradually merged, and the category of food known as 'Tex-Mex' was born.

Assimilation is not the only way that different groups blend together over time. Miscegenation is the mixing of races through procreation. For example, if you (the blue gumball) and a red gumball had a baby together, that would be miscegenation.

In real life, people can and should be able to fall in love and start a family with anyone they choose. But this wasn't always the case. In America, there were anti-miscegenation laws until the late 1960s. These laws kept people from different races from getting married and having children. So if a white woman and a black man fell in love, they could be arrested for expressing that love physically.

Luckily, the Supreme Court found that anti-miscegenation laws were unconstitutional in 1967. Today, people are free to marry and procreate with the person they love, regardless of that person's race.

Segregation

Okay, so you're a blue gumball in the machine with lots of other colored gumballs. But what happens when the red gumballs decide that you don't belong with them? What happens when they decide that the gumball machine should only have red gumballs?

Sometimes, when power is held by a single social group, the powerful group fights to keep other groups from being part of society. This can happen in a few different ways.

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