978-0-300-07072-9 / 9780300070729

Culture of Intolerance: Chauvinism, Class, and Racism in the United States


Publisher:Yale University Press



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About the book:

"Cohen brilliantly interweaves a wealth of information on belief systems that justify and help perpetuate social inequality in the United States. Culture of Intolerance is one of the most thought-provoking studies I have read on narrow-minded views in America". -- William Julius Wilson, Malcolm Wiener Professor of Social Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

"Mark Cohen has written a powerful and accessible book that puts discussions of 'race' and class before the American public in a straightforward, engaging way. He provides us with new paradigms within which to understand and talk about the differences that we see in human cultural groups. He addresses the perception that discrepancies among people of the world, especially poor people and people of color, are based on innate biological characteristics. And he challenges white middle-class America, and indeed all of America, to take off its blinders and appreciate the rich, multicultural society in which we live". -- Yolanda T. Moses, president, City College of New York

Americans increasingly blame the failures of minority individuals in our society on "racial" inferiority. Anthropologist Mark Nathan Cohen argues cogently that the problems are cultural, not "racial", and that they are rooted in the assumptions of mainstream American culture, not in the biological or cultural failings of "others".

By summarizing scientific evidence proving that "races" do not exist and that few biological traits actually correlate with the color of one's skin, Cohen shows that differences in ability cannot be linked to "race". The growing gap between rich and poor and the economic subordination of minority groups, hesays, are rooted in the arbitrary rules that govern American society. Culture constrains our ability to understand and appreciate the actions of others and often prevents us from seeing the consequences of our own actions or realizing our alternatives. American perceptions of what constitute merit, health, hygiene, freedom, progress, property, economics, justice -- and even our own history -- are distorted. Our insistence that ours is the best or only view promotes intolerance and racism. Cohen shows that definitions of intelligence, IQ tests, hiring practices, and evaluations of job performance contain many more cultural biases than we recognize and thus restrict the opportunities of minority individuals.

By breaking down American cultural assumptions, Cohen offers a strong defense of affirmative action and multi-cultural education. He concludes with some suggestions for the future -- to end the racism and indifference to one another that mark our society.

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