Discuss How Race and Ethnicity Perpetuate Inequality in Australia

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When groups of people see themselves, or are perceived by others, to be racially distinct from the rest of a population, the question that arises is whether members of these groups are treated equally. Politicians have long spoken of being a multicultural society, promoting tolerance and integration. Proud of a society where one can reap in financial or social status rewards through sheer hard work – where the nature of one's race or ethnicity is not a factor. Bessant (2002) said racist attitudes are alive and well today. The concepts of ‘race' and ‘ethnicity' perpetuate inequality for people who are considered different from the dominant group. This essay will show how race and ethnicity are at a disadvantage to equally accessing resources in Australia, such as education, health, employment, housing and other life chances.

The term ‘race' is usually used to refer to specific groupings of people who share certain characteristics, the combinations of which allow them to be distinguished from other such groupings. Sometimes ‘races' are defined as groups of people who are identified as different on the basis of parentage, skin colour or other physical features. At other times the defining characteristic may be nationality, language, religion or culture or a combination of all of these.

‘Ethnicity' means the national/cultural group to which one belongs. Generally race refers to easily visible differences, ethnicity to less clear differences. Often people are more able or more willing to name ‘races' to which they do not belong. In Australia, the Humans Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission (1998) defines racism as: an ideology that gives expression to myths about other racial and ethnic groups, that devalues and renders inferior those groups, that reflects and is perpetuated by deeply rooted historical, social, cultural and power inequalities in society. Racism has its roots in the belief that some people are superior because they belong to a...
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