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Chapter 1: Democracy and Diversity
The pictures on this page de pict an important landmark in the history of the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT IN THE UNITED ST ATES . These represent 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.
They are AFRICAN-AMERICANS. They had won the gold and bronze medals respectively. They received their medals wearing black socks and no shoes to represent Black poverty. With this gesture, they tried to draw international attention to racial discrimination in the United States. The black-gloved and raised clenched fists were meant to symbolise BLACK POWER.
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. Do you think that Carlos and Smith should have raised an internal matter of American society in an international forum? Would you say that what they did was political? Why do you think Peter Norman, who was neither Black nor American, joined in the gesture of protest? If you were in Norman’s place what would you do?
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. But their action succeeded in gaining international attention for the Civil Rights Movement in the US.
Recently, the San Jose (pronounced ‘Saan Hoze’) State University, of which they were former students, honoured them and installed their statue in the University campus. When Norman died in 2006, Smith and Carlos were pallbearers at his funeral. The athletes in the example above were responding to social divisions and social inequalities. But does that happen only in societies which have racial divisions?
In the previous two chapters we have already noted some other forms of social divisions. The examples of Belgium and Sri Lanka show both regional and social divisions. In the case of Belgium we noted that people who live in different regions speak different languages. In Sri Lanka, we noted linguistic as well as religious differences. Thus social diversity can take different forms in different societies. These social differences are mostly based on accident of birth. Normally we don’t choose to belong to our community.
We belong to it simply because we were born into it. We all experience social differences based on accident of birth in our everyday lives. People around us are male or female, they are tall and short, have different kinds of complexions, or have different physical abilities or disabilities. But all kinds of social differences are not based on accident of birth. Some of the differences are based on our choices.
For example, some people are atheists. They don’t believe in God or any religion. Some people choose to follow a religion other than the one in which they were born. Most of us choose what to study, which occupation to take up and which games or cultural activities to take part in. All these lead to formation of social groups that are based on our choices.
Every social difference does not lead to social division. Social differences divide similar people from one another, but they also unite very different people. People belonging to different social groups share differences and similarities cutting across the boundaries of their groups. In the instance above, Carlos and Smith were similar in one way (both were African-American) and thus different from Norman who was white. But they were also all similar in other ways – they were all athletes who stood against racial discrimination.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 Social Science Chapter 3 Democracy and Diversity
1. Discuss three factors that determine the outcomes of politics of social divisions.
The three factors that determine the outcomes 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 is easier to accommodate demands that are within the constitutional framework and are not at the cost of another community.
- It depends on how the government reacts to the demands of different groups.
2. When does a social difference become a social division?
The social division takes place when some social difference overlaps with other differences. Situations of this kind produce social divisions when one kind of social difference becomes more important than the other and people start feeling that they belong to different communities. The differences that turn into social divisions are called overlapping differences.
3. How do social divisions affect politics? Give two examples.
Democracy involves competition among various political parties. Their competition tends to divide any society. If they start competing in terms of some existing social divisions, it can make social divisions into political divisions and lead to conflict, violence or even disintegration of a country. This has happened in many countries:
a. In North Ireland – It has faced violent and bitter ethnopolitical conflict. Two major sects of Christianity – Protestants (53 per cent) and Roman Catholics(44 per cent) are represented in the country. 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. The fight between Nationalist and Unionist led to social conflicts where hundreds of civilians died.
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