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.
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.
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.
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.
Segregation is legally keeping groups separate from each other. For example, if the red gumballs said that the blue and green gumballs had to go to a different gumball machine, they would be instituting segregation.
Segregation is often associated with race. For example, in the first half of the 20th century, Jim Crow laws in the American South kept blacks and whites from going to the same schools, sitting in the same train cars, and using the same restrooms and water fountains.
Sadly, some people don't stop at segregation. Genocide is the deliberate killing of a group of people. If the red gumballs decided to destroy the blue and green ones, they would be conducting genocide.
The most famous genocide of the 20th century was the Holocaust, when the Nazis gathered and killed millions of people because they were Jewish, homosexual, Roma, or members of another targeted race.
Pluralism is when two or more groups coexist in the same place. Many things can happen in a pluralistic society. Segregation is the legal separation of groups. Genocide is the deliberate killing of a group of people. Assimilation occurs when one group's language or culture begins to represent another's. Finally, miscegenation is the mixing of races through procreation.
By the end of the video, you should be able to:
- Define pluralism
- Explain assimilation
- Discuss segregation
- Identify an example of genocide