Assignment: Essentialist Views
This perspective thus tends to perpetuate, or at least not explicitly undermine, essentialist views of racial status (Telles and Sue 2009). It also often assumes that power relations apply more or less equally to relations between whites and other groups today and thus reinforces ideas that racial status is a given and is static. Furthermore it implies that structural differences are relatively immutable because they can change only as a result of profound shifts in power factors. It thus neglects the roles that cohort and compositional dynamics, not to mention cultural dynam- ics, can play in social change.
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In contrast with this immutability, a more boundary-oriented perspective is increasingly used by other scholars who point to the potentially fluid, porous, and ever-evolving nature of group boundaries (Alba 2009; Barth 1969; Cornell and Hartmann 2006; Foner 2000; Lamont and Molnár 2002; Lee and Bean 2004; Telles and Sue 2009; Waters 1990; Wimmer 2008). In this volume we seek to a certain extent to adjudicate between the two views, the more static power-relations framework in which racial status is seen as immutable and the more flexible boundary-shifting paradigm. We strive to ascertain which per- spective seems better to apply to racial-ethnic relations and color lines gener- ally in the twenty-first-century United States (which has seen high volumes of recent immigrants), and which view is a better fit for certain subgroups.
Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the United States in the Twenty-First Century
The incorporation of today’s nonwhite immigrants is occurring in a context where contemporary immigration is not the only factor contributing to the tex- ture of today’s ethnoracial diversity. The number of intermarriages—cross-group marriages among whites, Latinos, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, and African Americans—has soared more than twentyfold over a forty-year period, from 150,000 marriages in 1960 to 3.1 million in 2000 (Jacoby 2001; Lee and Edmonston 2005). Whereas less than 1 percent of married Americans were intermarried in 1960 (Jacoby 2001), nearly a half century later, in 2008, about 7.0 percent of married Americans had spouses of different races (Ruggles et al. 2009). This increase actually is the opposite of what one would expect if the only factor affecting intermarriage were the size of the minority group.
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