A brief description of the global city and the increasing diversity represented in these cities is followed by an example of interminority conflict. This is then followed by a discussion and definition of the concept of race and racism in the United States and how it has historically been studied. Theories of interminority racism are then discussed. The ways in which interminority conflict has been addressed and is understood are dealt with. This discussion includes how rapid demographic shifts have led to contests for political representation and how they have often led to violent conflict between minority groups. The idea of the model minority and resentment among different minority groups and how it has led to conflicts is discussed. Finally, this article deals with differing views of interminority conflict including the ideas of multiculturalism, hierarchy, and positionality.
Keywords Demographic Shift; Ethnicity; Gerrymandering; Hierarchy; Minority; Model Minority; Multiculturalism; Positionality; Race; Racism; Redistricting; Reify; White Flight
As the world has become increasingly globalized through increased trade and migration, people from varied backgrounds are interacting with one another more and more. This is especially true in the emerging global cities where many immigrants from all around the world settle. In these cities many different racial and ethnic groups as well as native and foreign-born residents live alongside each other (Orum & Chen, 2003). As many scholars have noted, this has meant that competition for scarce resources within these cities is becoming more diversified. In the United States especially, this has meant that historically marginalized racial and ethnic groups who occupy the urban landscape are competing amongst themselves, rather than against the historically dominant white majority, for those scarce resources (Davis, 2006; McClain, 2006, Natapoff, 1995).
This competition has manifested itself in various forms. For example, there have been nationwide and localized boycotts of Korean American–owned businesses by the African American community; these boycotts were particularly prevalent in the 1990s. Further, there was an increase in violence between African Americans and Latinos in the first decade of the twenty-first century, particularly in the Los Angeles area. While violence between the two communities has been less prevalent since then, it still exists. The increased instances of conflict between these historically socially subordinate groups has led, in turn, to an increase of investigation into what is variously known as interminority racism or interminority conflict. Because of this, scholars have begun to pay more attention to this phenomenon.
Although in the past many scientists attempted to define race as a biological category, it is now understood that race is socially constructed. Macionis (2001) explains: "a race is a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society consider important" (p. 354). So although we may consider a person to be of a particular race because they have certain physical traits, these traits are not inherently a part of some biological schema of race. Instead, racial traits are dependent upon the society in which a person lives. For example, in the United States, for a long time a person was defined as black if they had "one drop" of African ancestry. This is what is known as the "one drop rule." Some states also defined black as having one-eighth African ancestry. Today, in the United States, it is generally accepted that a person's race is defined by the racial community he or she identifies with. This means that racial constructions are fluid and are differently understood by different societies.
In the United States, racial and ethnic conflict has generally been viewed in terms of white racism toward African Americans and other people of color. This is because historically white Anglo society has dominated and marginalized other non-white groups, especially African Americans. Racism is best understood as a relationship between races, and refers to the ways in which one racial group gains social, economic, and/or political advantage in society. Racism can be overt violence against one racial group by another or it can be more subtle, as in the way that job promotions are awarded because a person shares the same race as the boss and is therefore viewed more positively. The term minority refers to social groups "who have unequal access to positions of power, prestige, and wealth in a society" (Knox, Mooney & Schacht, 2002, p. 156). The term does not specifically have to refer to a numerical minority, but instead only to a group that lacks equal access to social resources. Ethnicity, unlike race, is not characterized by phonotypical traits but rather is defined by a group’s shared sense of culture and history. For example, white Americans in the United States are considered to be a race, but within that race there are many different and distinct ethnicities. Someone may consider themselves to be racially white, but ethnically Irish American, for example.
Interminority Conflict Theory
Theories regarding interminority conflict generally view this conflict as a competition for resources. These include theories about in-group/ out-group conflict. This theory claims that groups, in this case racial/ethnic groups, see themselves as competing for scarce resources against other groups. Racial conflict is also seen as a result of proximity. Here, the theory is that groups who perceive themselves as in competition with one another for resources are more likely to perceive the other groups negatively and conflict may occur between them (Morris, 2000, pp. 80–81). Conflict, then, is a result of either real or perceived threats to a group's sense of security. In the case of interminority conflict this can be a result of contests for political power through demographic shifts or perceived power differentials in economic and social status. These conflicts will be more likely to occur, according to this theory, if groups are in closer proximity to one another.
The passage of the 1965 immigration bill, which led to a sharp increase of immigrants from Latin America and Asia, has been seen as one of the reasons for rising tensions in US cities between minority groups (Davis 2007; Kim, 2004). Kim (2004) states "the post 1965 demographic revolution generates increasingly complex racial antagonisms among historically subordinated groups…" (p. 997). Davis (2007) likewise, points out that "in 1965 the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration and Nationality Act were passed, creating at the same time a sharp increase in Black voter registration and the largest Korean community in the United States" (p. 219). These conditions of increasing African American political power and rapid demographic shifts, both through increased immigration and white flight from US cities, have created situations in which minority groups have increasingly come into conflict with one another. Indeed, it has been noted that many US cities are either majority-minority or will be soon if trends continue.
These changing demographics have led to changing political and economic power in cities, which at times has also led to violence. Many historically African American neighborhoods have seen dramatic changes because of this. For example, Davis (2007) points out that in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) from 1992 to 2006 the percentage of African American students dropped from 14.6% to 11.7%, while at the same time the Latino population increased from 65% to 73.3% (p. 222). Davis quotes a Los Angeles Times article that highlights the increasing conflict between Los Angeles' minority populations:
The acrimonious relationship between Latinos and African Americans in Los Angeles is growing hard to ignore…just last August, federal prosecutors convicted Latino gang members of engaging in a six-year conspiracy to assault and murder African Americans in Highland Park. During the trial, prosecutors demonstrated that African American residents (with no gang ties at all) were being terrorized in an effort to force them out of a neighborhood now perceived as Latino (Maddox, 2007 as cited in Davis, 2007, p. 223).
Beyond the violence that is associated with these shifts there are political factors as well. The political importance of these demographic shifts is discussed by Natapoff (1995). In her discussion of how the Supreme Court has dealt with racial politics she highlights several cases that dealt with racial politics.
Historically fights over racial politics and political districts have been very contentious. In many cases political...
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