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Old 07-11-2011, 09:50 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,630 posts, read 13,241,300 times
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This is just a generalization, I suppose, but I was always intrigued by the fact that certain specific communities - minority groups, you might say, seem to excel or even dominate in specific fields, occupations, and/or industries.

First of all, let's get one thing clear: this is meant to be a respectful and non-prejudiced inquiry. PLEASE NO BIGOTED, POLITICAL, RACIST or STEREOTYPING RANTS.

Let's honestly discuss how the myriad communities of our land contributed in a positive way, and how they came to specialize in those areas.

A few examples:

  • African Americans - professional sports, popular music, entertainment, religion, etc.
  • Irish Americans - politics, law, literature, journalism, film and television, etc.
  • Gays & Lesbians - fine arts, theater, literature, classical music, etc.
  • Jews - business and finance, medicine, higher education, film production, etc.
These few examples represent a racial minority, an ethnic minority, a sexual minority, and a religious minority.

I would like to learn more about other groups, say German-Americans (engineering?), Italian-Americans (Culinary Arts, Opera, Architecture?), etc.

Also, why do you supposed these groups gravitated to these particular fields?

Are my assumptions way off base? Are these really just stereotypes?

I'm here to learn!
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Old 07-12-2011, 12:24 AM
 
Location: Mississippi
6,715 posts, read 12,665,464 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post
This is just a generalization, I suppose, but I was always intrigued by the fact that certain specific communities - minority groups, you might say, seem to excel or even dominate in specific fields, occupations, and/or industries.

First of all, let's get one thing clear: this is meant to be a respectful and non-prejudiced inquiry. PLEASE NO BIGOTED, POLITICAL, RACIST or STEREOTYPING RANTS.

Let's honestly discuss how the myriad communities of our land contributed in a positive way, and how they came to specialize in those areas.

A few examples:

  • African Americans - professional sports, popular music, entertainment, religion, etc.
  • Irish Americans - politics, law, literature, journalism, film and television, etc.
  • Gays & Lesbians - fine arts, theater, literature, classical music, etc.
  • Jews - business and finance, medicine, higher education, film production, etc.
These few examples represent a racial minority, an ethnic minority, a sexual minority, and a religious minority.

I would like to learn more about other groups, say German-Americans (engineering?), Italian-Americans (Culinary Arts, Opera, Architecture?), etc.

Also, why do you supposed these groups gravitated to these particular fields?

Are my assumptions way off base? Are these really just stereotypes?

I'm here to learn!
I think America is unique in that it is one of the few, if not the only, countries on this planet that can be truly be defined as a real melting pot. From Native American culture to the Hispanic and Asian influences we're seeing today, America continues to blend and mix its cultures.

However, despite how the population of America is made up of such diverse groups of people, there really hasn't (and probably still isn't) the amount of "melting" going on in the pot that people assume.

When you look at the immigration waves of the 19th century and early 20th century, you see immigrants from China, Ireland, etc... coming in droves to the U.S. Sadly, the dark stain on our history - slavery - is what brought African Americans originally to this country. But, as these groups came over and worked (or were given freedom) they often remained in segregated, individualized groups. The boroughs of New York still hold this flavorful tide to this day. There's "Little Italy," "China Town," "Little Odessa," etc...

Just like a trait of diverse genetic modifications can arise within a population that remain isolated; concepts, cultures, and ideas can arise within a group of people that remain isolated. We look at the common stereotypes of today's America and might be prone to saying "Asians are good at math. African-Americans are good at sports, and Gay people like to decorate."

In reality, I think what you're actually seeing is the subculture of these various groups breaking through and showing what decades of isolation in a given population can do. All the little towns across America that were strictly "black," or "asian" or "latino" or... whatever... all developed their niches, sub-niches, and their trades and crafts in isolation of most of the rest of America. What you see is the emergence of that and I think that makes it easy to assign a stereotype.

In reality, no particular group is "better" than another at any given talent. Or, should I say, no particular group has any sort of inherent, genetic trait that makes them better at something like sports, math, etc... What they do have are decades (and centuries in some American sub-cultures) of repeated, reproducible, and beneficial influences adopted and encouraged from within these unique blends of society.

White men can jump. Black men can do astrophysics. Jews are capable of being poor. Gays can hate decorating. It's just not common that you see the "breaking" of those stereotypes because the culture from which the majority of these people come from does not impress a certain amount of importance on it.
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Old 07-12-2011, 01:01 AM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,630 posts, read 13,241,300 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GCSTroop View Post


... In reality, no particular group is "better" than another at any given talent. Or, should I say, no particular group has any sort of inherent, genetic trait that makes them better at something like sports, math, etc... What they do have are decades (and centuries in some American sub-cultures) of repeated, reproducible, and beneficial influences adopted and encouraged from within these unique blends of society.

White men can jump. Black men can do astrophysics. Jews are capable of being poor. Gays can hate decorating. It's just not common that you see the "breaking" of those stereotypes because the culture from which the majority of these people come from does not impress a certain amount of importance on it.
A very good and well thought out point! Thank you!

However, is it not somehow possible that there are some historical or cultural traditions that might contribute to a degree of excellence in a certain field by a particular group?

Here is an example: there has been a notable contribution to American literature by Irish-Americans, with such outstanding authors as John O'Hara, Eugene O'Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James T. Farrell, Margaret Mitchell, Tom Clancy, Pete Hamill, etc. Might it not have been possible then we review the history of Ireland itself with it's unbelievably rich history of folk tales, story telling, letters, poetry and literature ... there just might be some connection? I mean Ireland is the birthplace of world renowned authors like William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, etc.

I am not saying that every nation does not have a literary heritage, nor that Americans of different ethnic ancestry cannot point to some great literary figure ... an Armenian-American can certainly point with pride to William Saroyan ... but let's be candid: Ireland is a very small country and the contribution it has made to literature is impressive.

Another example: just look at how many Jews have won Nobel Prizes in the fields of Science and Medicine, and yet the the actual number of Jews in the world is really quite small.

I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not hinting that certain groups have a genetic or superior ability to excel in certain fields ... perish the thought! I am only trying to explore the possibility of why historical or cultural or even folkloric reasons exist to "push" people into certain occupations.
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Old 07-12-2011, 04:06 AM
 
Location: Mississippi
6,715 posts, read 12,665,464 times
Reputation: 4301
Quote:
Originally Posted by Clark Park View Post
A very good and well thought out point! Thank you!

However, is it not somehow possible that there are some historical or cultural traditions that might contribute to a degree of excellence in a certain field by a particular group?

Here is an example: there has been a notable contribution to American literature by Irish-Americans, with such outstanding authors as John O'Hara, Eugene O'Neill, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James T. Farrell, Margaret Mitchell, Tom Clancy, Pete Hamill, etc. Might it not have been possible then we review the history of Ireland itself with it's unbelievably rich history of folk tales, story telling, letters, poetry and literature ... there just might be some connection? I mean Ireland is the birthplace of world renowned authors like William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, etc.

I am not saying that every nation does not have a literary heritage, nor that Americans of different ethnic ancestry cannot point to some great literary figure ... an Armenian-American can certainly point with pride to William Saroyan ... but let's be candid: Ireland is a very small country and the contribution it has made to literature is impressive.

Another example: just look at how many Jews have won Nobel Prizes in the fields of Science and Medicine, and yet the the actual number of Jews in the world is really quite small.

I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not hinting that certain groups have a genetic or superior ability to excel in certain fields ... perish the thought! I am only trying to explore the possibility of why historical or cultural or even folkloric reasons exist to "push" people into certain occupations.
If there is a reason why some people are "pushed" into certain occupations by their ethnic background I would almost certainly say it is environmental rather than genetic.

There are a lot of theories as to why Asian students tend to do better in school compared to their Western counterparts. There are many who feel that agriculture, particularly the difference between growing rice (in Asia) and corn (in the West) is a big part of that. Why? Because growing rice requires an extraordinarily larger and harder amount of work, work ethic, and so on and so forth to grow. Prior to inventions like the plow rice production could be a backbreaking, very labor intensive task but it built societies grain by grain. A lot of people feel the work ethic in many Asian cultures stems from those first agricultural beginnings. I am not a cultural anthropologist so I don't know the scientific documentation to back that up but I think it is an interesting point.

To take a look at something like the skill of, say, Irish writers, you may need to go as far back as the agricultural roots of their society. You might ask yourself why a potato has anything to do with a great writer. But, from agriculture you have famines, despair, and war - all topics to create talltales, fables, and stories from. Perhaps Ireland's problem with starvation (don't forget that the English Empire raped a lot of Ireland for a very long time) led to many folktoles, stories, and so forth. Maybe, as a cultural epidemic, that was how they dealt with things and maybe it was those imaginative beginnings that spawned the early minds of great Irish writers.

Again, those are just ideas, but you have to keep in mind that cultures evolve from a long, non-linear path of numerous descendants and activities. Agriculture, I've found, can be a tremendously interesting starting point to see how a society ended up in one way or the other.
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Old 08-07-2011, 04:25 AM
 
Location: Los Angeles, Ca
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It's an interesting question.

-The Scots for example made big contributions to the US. "How the Scots invented the modern world" is an interesting book. There is a "scotch" philosophy if you will.

-Similar with asian.

-Different still with jews.

-Different still with vietnamese?

Look at the list of jewish actors or comedians, it's almost everybody.

*Nearly all of the greats, quote un quote, Marx Bros, 3 stooges, woody allen, sid caesar, joan rivers, etc. A lot of contemporary people....Seinfeld, Sandler, Sacha Baron Cohen, Lewis Black, etc.

Why isn't there a long list of asian or indian comics? I don't really know the answers. It seems like there's always going to be a subset of people that can find fun in something. There are a lot of good black comics...chris rock, cosby, chappelle, eddie murphy, richard pryor, etc.

-I think why some people excel...it goes back to childhood. What you were influenced by. Environment (i.e. strict household, or something looser). Media? I bet a lot of people in the world weren't exposed to enough media as a kid (i.e. developing countries).

-Influences are important (i.e. in acting. How often do you hear people say, oh, this guy was my idol). Many people had no influences or very little.

-In some cases, I think its about what you're allowed to do (i.e. Soviet chess players). Would you have had so many great soviet players in the 50's or 60's, if they could have done something else (like work on wall st, or computer science today).
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Old 08-29-2011, 09:04 AM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,630 posts, read 13,241,300 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John23 View Post

-In some cases, I think its about what you're allowed to do (i.e. Soviet chess players). Would you have had so many great soviet players in the 50's or 60's, if they could have done something else (like work on wall st, or computer science today).
Ah! Excellent point! A lot of it has to do with "what you are allowed to do" ...

Even after Emancipation, African Americans found a lot of discrimination and were barred from many professions. Many gravitated to fields that were open to them ... one of which was that of being a musician. It seems to me in the post Civil War era the first black celebrities were musicians and whole musical genres such as jazz and ragtime were really invented by black musicians in the beginning anyway.

It was pointed out to me the reason why Jews dominate the jewelry industry in America, and especially in the areas of diamond cutting and gem stone cutting, goes way back to Medieval Europe: that was one of the very few occupations open to Jews (Jews were not allowed to own land, farm, be part of the feudal system, hold any kind of rank, join any of the artisan or craft guilds, study at universities, etc. Occupations open to them were limited to clothes making, gold and silversmithing, money lending, and begging).

I suppose that a lot of gay men found employment in the theater, fashion design, and also in the fine arts because those were 'communities' that they found a greater degree of acceptance. There is no reason why gay men could not excel in, say, professional sports, except that in the brutally macho world of sports it would have been a very hostile environment for them. We now know that several gay men played on professional sports teams including in the NFL or won medals in the Olympics, but usually it was only 'safe' for them to 'come out' after they retired.
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Old 08-29-2011, 08:59 PM
 
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Ever notice how most ironworkers on high rises are Native American? Because they descend from tribes that hunted from trees. Why do the Greeks dominate the restaurant industry? Hispanics the lawn care is obvious.
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Old 08-29-2011, 10:38 PM
 
Location: University City, Philadelphia
22,630 posts, read 13,241,300 times
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Originally Posted by pvande55 View Post
... Why do the Greeks dominate the restaurant industry? ...
I don't know why that is, and I am 1/4 Greek (on my mother's father's father's side ... they came over in the late 19th Century from the province of Epirus in the mountains of northern Greece). I do know my own Greek forebears loved to cook. Preparing meals was a great joy to them. They had dinners and parties for no excuse, just so that they could cook, prepare meals. The women would chat and socialize while rolling out phyllo dough, making pastries like baklava; the men took great pride in roasting meat and carving meat. Just making a salad was an artistic creation for them ... the greens had to be right (never use iceberg lettuce or store bought tomatoes!), and there had to be good quality kalamata olives and anchovies and feta cheese.

Come to think of it, on my trips to Greece (been there about 3 times) I always had wonderful meals there.
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Old 08-30-2011, 12:21 AM
 
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A lot here are missing the point that talent is God-given; sure, you can nurture it, but I am here to tell you that I have students who are natural that can progresss twice as fast (without much studying/practicing) as some who try like crazy. Musical ability is in-born; It might be stifled, but you can't manufacture it out of whole-cloth.

Even then sometimes, by stifling it you produce the rebel who is going to do it even more strongly because "papa" said it was unmanly to play the violin.

To think that all races/ethnicities/nationalities ought by some "progressive" right be exactly equal in all areas is not only absurd, it hurts us in celebrating the different kinds of excellence that seem to be unevenly spread around the various segments of our world's population.

Those who have not done so ought to read The Mark of the Scot. Duncan Bruce explains a lot about this in his excellent book.

Last edited by Doctor Blues; 08-30-2011 at 12:22 AM.. Reason: typos
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Old 08-30-2011, 09:06 AM
 
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Many stereotypical occupations of various ethnic groups can be attributed to skills that were part of the social environment they came from. A tradesman normally hands down his skills to people closest to him. Many of these occupations were all that was available to immigrants. In the late 18th and early 19th century many of these occupations were not enviable and only in the 20th century provided a decent living to a person skilled in that occupation.

One of the first recognized professionals in the African American community was the musician. I am reminded of a scene in from "Gone With the Wind " where an African American violinist stands up from the all black string quartet an announces " all in line for the Virginia Reel!" This is a fairly accurate depiction of plantation social life and skilled slave musicians were highly prized and coddled selling for many times the price of a field or house slave.

Years ago some one born before the 1890 told me that Jews came to the US at a time when the conventional wisdom was that handling (touching) money was considered a lowly and dirty job. This providence gave them jobs as tellers and clerks and allowed an immigrant population a keen insight in the financial workings of the US.

The US was entering the beginning of its industrial revolution when Irish immigrants came to the US. Organized Labor goes back many generations in Ireland and they quickly brought this skill to the American. If an Irish immigrant was swindled out of all his money as soon as he got of the boat. He could be taken in by another Irish immigrant with little more than he and guaranteed a job the next day. This was accomplished by taking the guy to the work site and organizing the work gang to not work until this poor brother was also hired on the job.

These are just a few anecdotal or casual observations and have no sociological basis other than what I have read , heard or been told
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