Color dichotomy vs. the ethnoracial pentagon

Essay by JdudersUniversity, Bachelor'sA, August 2004

download word file, 3 pages 4.5

Throughout American politics, two particularly well known categorizations of race and ethnicity have arisen: "Color Dichotomy" and the later "Ethno-racial Pentagon." Each seeks to define and categorize the vast racial diversity America prides itself on. While intending to create clear and fair ethno-racial constructions, there are obvious advantages and weak spots to each for the purposes of analyzing American politics.

An "old-fashioned" and less popular method of categorization is the "Color Dichotomy." This concept distinguishes two complementing counterparts to every situation; in terms of race and ethnicity: white and nonwhite (people of color). In the US, about 75% of Americans identify as white, while about 25% of Americans identify themselves as "nonwhite." Applying this construct to other dividing barriers among people, other categories appear such as: oppressor vs oppressed, Hegemon vs. other, and dominant vs. minority. The main advantage of this concept is in its simplicity. By having only two dividing categories, everyone could conceivably fit neatly into one of these two categories.

Collapsing an incredible amount of diversity of culture into one all encompassing "colored" category, however; this framework obviously contains numerous problems. Thousands of differences between many races and culture are consequently ignored. "[...] all distinctions between various 'colored' peoples are less significant than the fact that they are nonwhite" (Hollinger 25). It could also be argued that even the "white" category collapses many different origins into a bland and stereotypical title. The outright ignorance present within this model leads to its unpopularity within American politics especially.

The ethno-racial pentagon challenges this model by supplying strong cultural content. In contrast to the two divisions within the color dichotomy, the ethno-racial pentagon provides five more specific categorizations of race/ethnicity: Euro-American, Asian American, African American, Hispanic/Latino, and Indigenous Peoples/Native American. "To be sure, a value of the pentagon...