Stigma of otherness

Centuries after the end of slavery and decades after the civil rights movement, why is the United States, which proclaims its profound commitment to a democratic vision of life, still marked by racial inequality and stratification? This nagging question has shaped much of our national discourse.


Glenn Loury, a Boston University professor of economics, wants to shift the discussion from the issue of discrimination to the issue of racial stigma as the basis of inequality. He presents his highly theoretical justification for this shift by examining three principles that undergird the conversation about race-based disparity: that race is socially constructed and used to categorize individuals and communities through "marks on the body" such as color; that racial inequality is not based on intrinsic qualities and intellectual capabilities; and that the "otherness" of black Americans entails a stigma that warps American social consciousness.

 

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