Ch-3 Democracy and Diversity


The medal ceremony of the 200 metres race in the 1968 Olympics held at Mexico City.

The two men standing with clenched fists upraised and heads bowed, while the American national anthem was played, are the US athletes, Tommie Smith and John Carlos.


The silver medallist, white Australian athlete, Peter Norman, wore a human rights badge on his shirt during the ceremony to show his support to the two Americans.

In 2005, the San Jose State University installed a 20-foot high sculpture representing the protest by Tommie Smith and John Carlos.

The International Olympic Association held Carlos and Smith guilty of violating the Olympic spirit by making a political statement

Their medals were taken back. Back home, they were subjected to a lot of criticism. Norman too suffered for his action and was not included in the Australian team for the next Olympic.

When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral.

Origins of social differences:-

based on accident of birth

based on our choices

Social differences divide similar people from one another , but they also unite very different people.

Overlapping and cross-cutting differences

Social division takes place when some social difference overlaps with other differences.

E.g.- The difference between the Blacks and Whites becomes a social division in the US because the Blacks tend to be poor, homeless and discriminated against.

In our country Dalits tend to be poor and landless.

In Northern Ireland, class and religion overlap with each other. If you are Catholic, you are also more likely to be poor, and you may have suffered a history of discrimination.

If social differences cross cut one another, it is difficult to pit one group of people against the other.

Northern Ireland and the Netherlands both are predominantly Christian but divided between Catholics and Protestants.

E.g.- In the Netherlands, class and religion tend to cut across each other. Catholics and Protestants are about equally likely to be poor or rich. The result is that Catholics and Protestants have had conflicts in Northern Ireland, while they do not do so in the Netherlands.

Overlapping social differences create possibilities of deep social divisions and tensions. Cross-cutting social differences are easier to accommodate.

Politics of social divisions

Northern Ireland (A region of UK):- 53 per cent are Protestants, while 44 per cent are Roman Catholics.

The Catholics were represented by Nationalist parties who demanded that Northern Ireland be unified with the Republic of Ireland, a predominantly Catholic country. The Protestants were represented by Unionists who wanted to remain with the UK, which is predominantly protestant.

Hundreds of civilians, militants and security forces were killed in the fight between Unionists and Nationalists and between the security forces of the UK and the Nationalists.

It was only in 1998, that the UK government and the Nationalists reached a peace treaty after which the latter suspended their armed struggle.

Political competition along religious ending ethnic lines led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia into six independent countries.

Three determinants in deciding the outcome of politics of social divisions

the outcome depends on how people perceive their identities. If people see their identities in singular and exclusive terms, it becomes very difficult to accommodate.

it depends on how political leaders raise the demands of any community

it depends on how the government reacts to demands of different groups.

Expression of various kinds of social divisions in politics often results in their cancelling one another out and thus reducing their intensity. This leads to strengthening of a democracy.

Civil Rights Movement in the USA (1954-1968) refers to a set of events and reform movements aimed at abolishing legal racial discrimination against African-Americans. Led by Martin Luther King Jr., this movement practiced non-violent methods of civil disobedience against racially discriminatory laws and practices.

African-American, Afro-American, Black American or Black is the
terms used to refer mainly to the descendants of Africans who were
brought into America as slaves between the 17th century and early 19th

The Black Power movement emerged in 1966 and lasted till 1975, which was a more militant anti-racist movement, advocating even violence if necessary to end racism in the US.

Categories: General


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