Sociology came into existence in the 19th century to explain the enormous changes occasioned by the Industrial Revolution, urbanization, and an individualistic mind-set. Unlike agrarian communities, the emerging urban populations were large, numbering in the tens of thousands.
These city dwellers neither grew their own food nor knew each other. In characterizing individuals, they found it convenient to speak in categories or stereotypes. According to the structural-functional perspective, stereotypes served an important communication function, helping them to compare and contrast groups.
The social-conflict perspective, on the other hand, argues that stereotypes serve the needs of those groups and categories benefitting from social inequality. Stereotypes help dominant groups to contrast social categories and to justify subordinating the less powerful. Furthermore, by lumping subordinate groups into faceless statistical categories, members of the dominant group dissipate the guilt they would have felt were they dealing with the subordinate categories as individuals.
Based on your readings, the online lectures, and your understanding of the above-noted issues, prepare a response to the following question:
Is it possible to speak of ethnic groups in America in terms other than stereotypes?