Volume 16, 2000
Race, Social Identity, and Human Dignity
Ambivalence and Identity in Black Culture
For decades American sociologists maintained that due to the elimination of their ancestral heritage under slavery, African-American shad no ethnic culture. Social segregation was due to poverty rather than racial prejudice. Social theorist Robert Blauner contests this view. The theory that black culture is only a lower class life-style is flawed because it ignores the culture-producing effects of racism which is the basis for a distinctive African-American culture. Following Blauner, this paper argues that racism is a more complex phenomenon than discrimination because it asserts a type of inferiority that is not diminished by economic participation in the dominant culture. Racism encourages recurring social separations that set limits to assimilation. This paper also draws upon the work of Davis, Hacker and Winant to demonstrate how the bipolar construction of racial identity characteristic of racial relations in the United States precludes full social assimilation.