I found a 40 mark ethnicity essay that I wrote about four years ago for G674. Hope it helps. If you get a more general ethnicity question, spend time contrasting between Functionalism (which believes ethnic inequality is temporary e.g. Parsons, Park) and the Marxist views below (with - optionally - a bit of Weberianism and Postmodernism - and maybe even a couple of sentences on Marxist-feminism - for luck, if you like).
Outline and assess Marxist explanations of ethnic inequality 
Marxists recognise that ethnic minorities in capitalist societies experience long-term disadvantage and inequality. They claim that being an ethnic minority in a capitalist society automatically makes a group/individual working-class, because it means being subjected to the same exploitation as the broader proletariat at the hands of the bourgeoisie.
Cox (1948) claimed that capitalist societies require ethnic inequality and are therefore inherently racist. Many Marxists would agree that racism has always served the needs of capitalism, because it has encouraged the treating of some groups as ‘less than human’, which in turn has justified paying them low wages and forcing them to work in appalling conditions. It could be argued that, historically, using ethnic minorities as slave labour was essential for the development of capitalism. In the contemporary UK, slavery is obviously long-abolished, but Marxists would argue the same principles still apply. For example, Castles & Kosack (1973) claim racism is used to justify treating ethnic minorities as a reserve army of labour, supporting the capitalist system by being maintained in a semi-permanent state of unemployment, easily ‘hired and fired’ to suit the needs of the economy.
Further to this, Marxists claim that racism also helps maintain a false-class consciousness by dividing the working class, which in turn makes them easier to rule. If the ruling classes can turn the working classes against each other (e.g. by encouraging racial prejudice), they are less likely to ever unite and revolt against the unfair capitalist system. One way in which they can achieve this is through scapegoating ethnic minorities for the problems that capitalism creates e.g. lack of housing, unemployment. Policing the Crisis by Hall (1995) showed how young black males were depicted as criminals by the media during the moral panic surrounding ‘mugging’ in the 1970s. Hall argues that this was a case of society scapegoating a minority group to conceal the socio-economic problems caused by a failing capitalist system in the UK at the time.
Critics of these views claim that the Marxist perspective is reductionist, attempting to reduce all inequalities to economic factors at the expense of other issues (e.g. cultural differences). Neo-Marxists such as Miles (1980) have taken some of this criticism on board and offer slightly different explanations. For example, they disagree that all ethnic minorities are working-class. Miles used the concept of racialised class factions to show that ethnic minorities are found in all social classes, but they are still treated differently because of their ethnicity, possibly due to a cultural racism in the UK. Gilroy (1987) affirms this, pointing out that black people are still seen as culturally different even if they were born in the UK, and therefore are seen to threaten the cultural unity that has made Britain strong in the past – hence their differential treatment, leading to inequality.
A logical conclusion of the Marxist view is that ethnic inequalities are entirely created by capitalism and would therefore disappear in a communist society. This is questionable – and difficult to test, as communist societies that we have seen around the world to date have not been especially diverse. As described above, Neo-Marxists have moved away from such economically deterministic views and Weberian views have moved further still away from the traditional Marxist arguments, suggesting that inequality is better explained by ethnic differences than economic ones.
Through explaining ethnic inequality in relation to capitalism, Marxists do give some valuable insight into one key source of inequality, but by reducing their explanations to this single factor, they probably do not offer the whole picture, largely ignoring many other potential factors and issues. However, Marxism does recognise the persistence of racism. This is in contrast with Functionalist explanations, which tend to assume the racism and ethnic inequality is a temporary issue that is resolved once immigrant groups assimilate into a host culture and values and attitudes within that culture change accordingly. Racism in the UK – as in most other societies – does not seem to be temporary; it is something experienced by new immigrants to our society and every successive generation thereafter. The Marxist perspective does at least recognise this and offers an explanation for it, demonstrating that the persistence of racism serves the needs of a capitalist society.
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