Social divisions are described as the social differences that are experienced by individuals within a given society. These social differences can be experienced in terms of roles, cultural norms and values, social opportunities and expectations as well as in living standards (Best, 2005). While there are several factors that lead to these differences among individuals, two of the commonly known factors are gender and ethnicity i.e. people may experience social divisions just because they are not of the same gender or come from different ethnic groups. This work is determined to examine the extent to which social divisions are socially constructed with special focus on ethnicity.
Ethnicity is a term that is used to describe a group of people that belong to the same cultural background or share same traditions and cultural values. Throughout history, ethnicity has played a major role in constructing social divisions among individuals. As it is the role of every ethnic group to set some ordinary aspects such as social standard, beliefs, social roles, expectations and values so that they may be practiced commonly by the individuals belonging to these groups, rarely do these aspects totally match between two ethnicity groups (Halldén, Grand, & Hellgren, 2009).
To begin with, different individuals have different beliefs concerning the origin of man, rain and even the existence of a supernatural being that controls the world because the come from different ethnicities. These beliefs are usually passed from one generation to another by parents and grandparents through informal education. The next generations only find these beliefs being practiced and they emulate them as well (McAll, 1992). As a result, social divisions are constructed among generations that have been brought up in different ethnicities. This is the same reason why some people believe in the existence of God while others do not hence a division on the social believes.
Ethnicity also constructs social divisions in terms of opportunities depending on how resources are made availably to the different groups. For instance, people who belong to an ethnic minority that is noticeable different from the large population are more likely to be disadvantaged on the accessibility of resources than those who belong on the large group. A good example that can be used to illustrate this is the Western World (Maleševi%u0107, 2004). After the war era, immigrants from different ethic groups started to move into the United States probably due to employment while were imported as slaves. These groups were eventually secluded in smaller places since it was perceived that they could not assimilate well with the local people. As a result, their living conditions became worse since they lived in slums and they had limited access to social amenities such as schools and hospitals (Winkelmann-Gleed, 2006). Therefore they could not access quality education unlike their counterparts, the locals. Following this, there conditions deteriorated further since most of them continued to be illiterate and had the poorest health since they could not access hospitals thus earning a living was difficult in these ethnic groups. The same experience was passed on to their children and the next generations and the trend continued.
On the other hand, the local residents did not mingle with the immigrants and they had access to social amenities such as quality schools and hospitals. As a result, their children got quality education and thrived well in the society and this trend was also passed on to the next generations (Halldén, Grand & Hellgren, 2009). To date, those that belonged to the minority ethnic groups have remained to be poor while those that made the majority are still enjoying better living conditions (Maleševi%u0107, 2004). Thus there is a social division between the immigrants and the locals due to ethnicity i.e. the different ethnic groups that live in the western world are divided socially in terms of social opportunities such as access to social facilities such as better schools and hospitals among other resources. This has therefore created a social gap among these ethnic groups.
Social divisions are also constructed social through the differences in employment opportunities as experienced by different ethnicity groups. Ethnic groups that make the majority always get better job opportunities than the minorities (Maleševi%u0107, 2004). Taking the same example given above, the immigrants lived in social environments that were overcrowded and did not have an easy access to facilities such as schools and hospitals. Therefore it is obvious that they did not get quality education. Due to this, they could not secure better jobs because they could not compete with their counterparts in the majority ethnic group. They thus ended up working as manual labourers in cotton fields and mining companies and earned very little (McAll, 1992, p. 138). As a result, their living standards continued to deteriorate and slugged behind in the social ladder. Their counterparts; the local residents, who also formed the larger ethnicity group continued to become rich since most of them owned these cotton plantations and the mining companies in which the minority groups worked. Also, following the fact that the minorities did not have an active voice, most of them were exploited and their rights were violated. Therefore social divisions existed between these two groups as a result of the difference in employment opportunities among the ethnic groups (Winkelmann-Gleed, 2006p.16).
Social divisions may also arise in terms of the practice of power as experienced by different ethnic groups. In common practices, minority ethnicities have been considered weak while those that are majority have always held power over the lesser. This is due to the fact that when two ethic groups share leadership, the one with large population has higher chances to rule over the smaller society following the simple phrase that majority win (Barker, 208, p. 250). As a result, leadership becomes rooted within the majority as it is transferred from one generation to another. Consequently, the group with the majority has the powers to manipulate and they end up dominating every fundamental feature in the society as they strive for well and better living. The minorities on the other hand continue to become weak since they do not have a voice in the society. They wait to be ruled and everything is determined by the majority thus they can not develop on their own. As a result, most of the poor are found in this group while the rich are found in the groups with the majorities.
An example of social division that results due to practice of power is when leadership is succeeded from one generation to another through the first son. Customary, the first son becomes the heir of the thrown immediately the father is dead and this trend moves on to the next generation. For instance, in societies that are ruled by a king, the heir of this king is obvious the first born prince. The prince will also pass the powers to his son and eventually the sequence becomes endless. Since this king belongs to a particular ethnic group in the society, this society builds a reputation of leadership since no other ethnic group can produce leaders. In the meanwhile, the ruling ethnic group accumulates most of the wealth since it has authority over the resources and most members of the group have a chance to become rich compared to other ethnicity group where leadership is not practiced (Baker, 1983). This therefore results into two ethnicity groups with different social divisions since those that rule socially segregate those that do not rule. In addition to this, the ruling group is perceived to have a different social division not because of wealth but because the society holds that.
Ethnicity has also placed people in different social divisions in terms of roles. Different ethnic groups have set aside different roles for the young and the old, female and male, etc. These roles are usually different among ethnic groups (Best, 2005). For instance, while some ethnic groups believe that girls should remain at home and do household duties while the boys go to school and perform light tasks such as taking care of animals, others believe in equal opportunities for both boys and girls and do not distinguish roles; both perform same duties and have equal rights to education. On the other hand, there are roles that are exclusively meant for women while others are meant for men depending on the ethnic group in which one has been brought up (Best, 2005, p. 120). For instances, child caring is exclusively for women in some groups while in others the women and men share responsibilities in caring for the child. This difference in role as set by different ethnic groups has therefore resulted into social divisions. Individuals are socially divided depending on the roles as expected by the customs of their ethnicity.
In conclusion, ethnicity has greatly constructed social divisions among individuals. Different ethnic groups are socially divided in terms of roles, cultural norms and values, power, social opportunities, access to social facilities and expectations among other social aspects. People become socially divided not because they live in different social environments but because they belong to different ethnic groups; as a result, they view different aspects of life differently and eventually find themselves placed in different social divisions. Social divisions in terms of leadership and power are also a result of ethnicity. For two ethnic groups with unequal population sizes, the majority rule the minority groups whereas for a society where power is transferred from one generation to another the founding ethnic group rules up to the end.