Main | October 2008 »

September 2, 2008

Welcome to the 1st week of class!

In order to make sure that everyone has access to this blog, please post a comment under this message letting us know that you were able to do it. Thanks!

Introduction to Blog

This blog is a forum designed to provide a "hands-on" space for students to discuss the impact of the three major forms of inequalities in the United States today: race, class, gender/sexuality. This will help us to get a good working of these social forces conceptually, institutionally and in terms of the everyday realities of life in the U.S. We will be focusing on these inequalities as relatively autonomous, as interconnected, and as deeply embedded and intertwined.

In order to grasp these concepts and get the most out of this class, we strongly encourage students to discuss these questions and issues with each other through this blog. AS always, be respectful and courteous of each others opinions and questions. Issues of race, class, and/or gender can spark passionate responses, so please remember that this blog is an extension of class, and the same rules that govern classroom etiquette are applied here. We look forward to reading your posts. Happy blogging!

September 7, 2008

Blog Instructions

Here is a copy of the Blog Instructions that was emailed to everyone for future refrence.

Download file

What is Normal? What is Privilege?

What is the definition of “normal�? According to our selected readings from Ore for this week, normal, or normativity, is defined by a set of socially defined norms and values. In the West, (and by West I mean Eurocentric societies such as the United States), our understanding of normal is centered around the normativity of the middle-class (or elite), white, heterosexual, (predominately) Christian male. This organization of the social structure places the prototypical white man at the top of the social hierarchy, and any deviation from this construction of normativity is labeled “Other� and therefore undesirable or deviant, perpetually placed in a subservient position on the social hierarchy. Establishing a set of normative values in any society creates a system of power and privilege unequally (and unfairly) distributed along an ascending/descending scale of oppression and marginalization.

In other words, this social hierarchy can be thought of as the Matrix of Domination, in which everyone is caught up in through either their position of relative privilege or oppression within society. This Matrix is a complex structure that governs the lives of everyone within society, made more powerful by its relative invisibility. This is also the way that privilege works in a social, institutional, and systemic way; through the invisibility of how privilege is parceled out along the socially constructed hierarchy. For example, many lower-class struggling white college students fail to see how they are privileged through their whiteness; how society has been created to make their ascension from “rags-to-riches� (AKA the American Dream) easier and more plausible than say your lower-class African American, or African immigrant.

As a poor, lower-class, Bi-sexual, Black, single mother in the American context, my positions within the social hierarchy are manifold and represent multiple layers of oppression and marginalization. This means that I am not just part of an oppressed group because I am “Black� (race) or because I am a “woman� (gender) or because I am “poor� (class) or “Bi� (sexuality). All of these factors work together, simultaneously, to create a constantly shifting social position of marginalization within the society that we live in. This also creates a mountain of obstacles to overcome in trying to live my own version of the so-called American dream, obstacles that some people are never able to overcome because of their peripheral status to what is considered “normative�.

One of the tricky things about privilege, power, oppression, and marginalization is that they can all manifest in different contexts within the same individual at different times. For example, let’s consider Barak Obama. His categorization as being “Black� places him in a subversive or oppressed group racially. Yet his gender (male) places him in a position of privilege, as does his upper-class, heterosexual and Christian group identity. In different contexts, his position of relative privilege places him in a higher socio-economic position on the social hierarchy than say a Black, middle-class woman, or a white lower-class woman. Yet he is simultaneously placed in a subordinate status to a white upper/middle class heterosexual male. All of these positions are based on/defined by the social construction of normativity.

What do you consider to be normal? How have these thoughts and opinions been formed through your interactions with society? Through the readings for the week, has your opinion about what you considered normal changed? Are there any commonly held beliefs that you have come to realize are based on the fabrication of normative values? Please discuss.

September 11, 2008

Invisible and Silent

To understand the text being read I was taught to circle or make note of words that are used repeatedly. While reading these stories and excerpts from different peoples personal experiences I began to see a trend in which almost all of the authors used the term silence or invisible. I believe that any person experiencing inequality has these types of feelings. Whether the issues have to deal with race, gender, class or sexuality any person feeling discriminated towards has the feeling that they are invisible or silenced by the negative attitudes that they encounter.
As it has been discussed in class we see that these issues of race, gender, class and sexuality have been both positively and negatively etched into our society, its institutions and our everyday life. Through out these stories each author has dealt with the feeling of invisibility. I think that many people who deal with any one of these issues have had this sensation at one point or another. Inevitably it is how each person chooses to respond to this inequality that makes them who they are. Whether these people choose to become activists or silent supporters each person has dealt with this feeling at some point throughout their life.
There were two issues of silence that were looked at through out these different stories. One issue is the silence of the people seeing this inequality without being directly involved. “White people know they do not want to be labeled racist; they become concerned with how to avoid that label, rather than worrying about systemic racism and how to change it�(Davis; Wildman, 617). Whether or not you are directly affected by racism people need to understand that being silent is not helping the problem, if you choose to ignore the situation you are being just as destructive. People of all colors, races and ethnicities need to not be so afraid of talking about this situation, because discussing the problem and can only help and educate. The second issue to silence is the people who are silenced by the discrimination no matter who the discriminator might be. “We didn’t spend much time in workshops conducted by the other third world people because of feeling un-welcomed at the conference and demoralized by having an invisible presence. What’s worse than being invisible among your own kind?�(Cameron, 669). As this quote suggests, discrimination doesn’t necessarily need to come from a certain group or creed, but can come from virtually anywhere or anyone.
As we see how people are affected by discrimination we need to be aware and not allow ourselves or others to become silent and invisible. With these reactions we allow these practices and beliefs to continue. To help create a more safe environment we need to help take a stance against those who do not realize that what makes people different is what makes them magnificent.

September 13, 2008

Difference and Inequality in Everyday Life

The various personal accounts in the assigned readings help unveil the discrepancies in America’s social hierarchy. They prove that Americans have a long way to go from becoming a society with equal advantage. Issues of race, class, gender, sex, appearance, size, and language are just a few points that prove to play a pivotal role in the daily lives of Americans. These subordinate groups cause friction with societal norms, which forces them to become amongst the disadvantaged. From there, these oppressed groups may experience internalized oppression, where members may come to a point of denial of their less privileged place in society. Another external factor, which may lead to this denial, involves the matter of stereotyping, which occurs through social expectations of the subordinate group. These issues become even more complex when an individual is a member of multiple disadvantaged groups and is faced with issues on numerous levels. The individual stories in the readings exemplify how multiple places in the social hierarchy can affect an individual in complex ways.

The dynamic story of a woman who experienced these societal discrepancies was given in “The Story of My Body�, where intersections of race class and gender were unveiled. In her case, Ortiz-Cofer showed the magnitude of American societies categorization of her Puerto Rican heritage. I found the contrasting racial categorizations most compelling in her story, through her illustrations of racial differences from America to Puerto Rico. In American culture, race highly depends on strict distinctions of extremities between races. Black versus White, Japanese versus Black, and Latino versus White are few examples of American categorization of race, which seldom include multiracial identities. Latin America, on the other hand, does include the same type of differences. The distinctions of color of skin aren’t as clear-cut in countries such as Puerto Rico. These ideals are shown through Ortiz-Cofer’s observations of color from region to region. She noticed that the conversation about multiracial people was a more common topic in Puerto Rico than in the U.S. Her race was recognized with a positive connotation in her native land, which was not given a positive view in America. Also in Latino culture, race is salient by phenotype, to a more extreme degree than Americans recognize phenotype. Due to this vast majority of levels of distinction of race, persons can be categorized as different races, even within families as Ortiz-Cofer noted.

This Latin American distinction of race appears to make race a less salient factor upon interactions with one another in Puerto Rico. Although American culture and Latino culture currently share the same issues of dominant and subordinate races, the terms used in Latin America present more of a term of endearment rather than negative implications. The “one drop rule� seems less apparent in Latino culture due to the fact that they recognize races based on many mixtures, where in the U.S. it is based on the extreme social categorizations of race and the multiracial identity is left out.

September 15, 2008

To be found among many...

What happens on a daily basis is only of personal concern when we, as a general public, decide to take special note of events in our mind. The minor, almost unimportant, details that people tend to look over or graze by can be the most important detail to be picked out. Where is Waldo? Why does that book cover so much interest for kids and even adults now? Simply, find Waldo in a massive crowd of events. The personal stories found in the readings are much like Waldo. How can we pick out issues on race, gender, and class if individuals are not looking for the problem? The readings bring forth this theme in my mind of those "isms" that cover the real problems about sex, gender, and class. Those that benefit from the structure that is placed in society are not interested in finding the issues. Rather, we notice that there is social injustice and do not pursue an answer.
The stories from the reading invoke a feeling of understanding and displeasure. I find that i can relate to some of the stories in minor and major ways. As a heterosexual-Asian-male, i have suffered and benefited from the system that America lives in. The stories allow me to understand some hardships that i have encountered to almost seem common among my own life experiences. For the few who have lived in a Hmong community, or even experienced the bond within my culture, my "americanized" life style to the Hmong family traditions are at contradicting pulls. To feel out of place and in place from one day to the next, I can understand such sympathy and discourse. But similar to the many stories that we read, i feel that i have placed this issue of race on a back burner of my mind to be dealt with in a later time of life. I have come to accept the fact that we are all different and that these differences are major parts in building our character and how we live our lives. This double-edge effect of race, gender, and class is just a common part of my life for now. I win and i lose from the system.
I find that i reflect best with the story of the lady from India who was finding her roots and trying to figure out what it meant to be a feminist-indian-woman in America. Her closing note about being everything all at the same time despite the many views of others around her is how my life is justified in the balancing game of our social structure. I am an American. I am a Hmong Male. I am a College Student. I am a Heterosexual. I am what has been and what will be. We shape our lives by the experience and outlook at life. I am the one next to Waldo, smiling and waiting to be found.
So i have these concerns and questions: Do you realize this social injustice? Do you think a change within the system is possible within our life time? Can another person understand another without experiencing similar events in life?

'Black is Beautiful'-So Act Like It!

It is not that people of color are defined as different from whites in the United States but that whites are viewed as superior and as the cultural standard against which all others are judged that transforms categories of race ‘differences’ into a system of racial ‘inequality’ (Ore, 2)

Reading this quote, I grew frustrated! To know and understand the people I know as my cultural sisters and brothers, as well as my self, as being people who make common practice of denouncing our African-American culture, to live up to-or so we have been mislead to think-the Caucasian-American culture. From the straightening of our natural nappy roots; to the “properness� within our voices; to the hatred towards one another, I have come to know the external aspect of my culture as being infested with conformity.

It’s a tough pill for me to swallow when I walk past a seemingly African-American person, and I receive a look of disdain. How could it be you feel I-your cultural brother-is not worthy of a courteous hello (etc), yet if a Caucasian person were to be me, you would hurriedly say hello?

I feel occurrences of the above happen, because African-Americans feel they have to let other African-Americans know whom is a more dominant person, via rejection. I believe the people of my culture strive for domination over one another, as a result of the hardships and domination bestowed upon us (African-American folk), from Caucasian America.

I once stayed in a very nice hotel with other people of the African Diaspora. We were there for a few days. Throughout our stay at the hotel, one of the women stressed how we should act a certain way, not talk too loud, etc because, “…the white people are here so act like y'all got some sense!� I disgustingly thought: “Y'all be good now, massa’ goin’ get us if we act a fool!� Why should I alter the way I truly am to adhere to the norms/values of those that oppress me, you, as well as others, as a result of their white privilege? Are you so envious of the “colorless� you will denounce who you truly are?

Why do we straighten our hair, yet exclaim ‘Black is beautiful’? How can you feel, “Black is beautiful,� when you have your “black� hair straightened-not in it’s natural state? I am curious to know if we straighten our hair, because our natural nappy hair is too painful to style, or because we are conforming to whom we see as majority?

I look at the beautiful Black women and men on our campus and ponder their reasons for straight hair. Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, Phyllis Wheatley didn’t have access/a need to/for a straightening comb, or a perm. I am guilty of straightening my hair, and ask myself: why do you feel straighter hair looks and/or feels better than your natural hair?

If we don’t start standing for one another, we are going to continue to FALL for anyone!

September 17, 2008

Conceptualizing "Race" and "Ethnicity"

The readings from Ore for this week discuss racial paradigms within the United States and how they’ve been shaped and changed throughout history. Together the readings de-essentialize notions of race and put forth multifaceted and “unstable� ways of understanding racial identities. Key themes in Michael Omi and Howard Winant’s essay “Racial Formations� include race as a social construction, race as ideology, history of racial paradigm in United States. Mary C. Waters discusses the invisibility of white ethnicity, symbolic white ethnicity privilege, and how individualism and plurualism are tied to the unequal structures of capitalism in her essay “Optional Ethnicities: For Whites Only?�. In “How Did Jews Become White Folks?�, Karen Brodkin writes about the history of anti-semitism in U.S. and Jewish ethnic identity as it has been “whitened� to match hegemonic American beliefs.

To conceptualize race as a social construction means to reject biological or essentialist understandings of race, and instead recognize race as something which exists within the cultural imaginary and is held in place by centuries of “scientific� propaganda, legal structure, and cultural norms. The authors present a cultural legacy which has helped to perpetuate essentialism and racism, Marvin Harris’ principle of hypo-descent. Hypo-descent is a concept which racially categorizes a person based on the identity of whatever parent is most socially disenfranchised (i.e. “the one-drop rule�). The authors of this section presents how these pseudo-scientific beliefs have shaped our cultural norms and have together formed a system of racial meaning which is oppressive and hierarchical. Omi and Winant talk about how racial paradigms shift based on changes in the economy. Recently, the U.S.’s turn towards neoliberalism has stereotyped Black people as “dependents� and part of an “underclass�. These stereotypes are shaped by and simultaneously perpetuate the laws which result from neoliberalism’s New Urbanism (i.e. the 100:1 policy for possession of crack vs. cocaine). Similarly, Karen Brodkin discusses how Jewish identity has “whitened� as state policy and economics have varied over time.

Mary C. Waters discusses what it means for white people to claim an ethnic background. She asserts (and I agree) that individuals who are (un)marked as white have agency to select which (if any) ethnicities with which they would like to identify. White privilege is highlighted in ability to pick and choose what and when to be marked as a “hyphenated� white American. Unlike the ways ethnicity is often assigned to people of color in ways they may not appreciate or have little control over, white people who wish to claim an ethnicity often do so symbolically. Symbolic ethnicity is individualistic, and has little social cost for the person who claims it. In this model, people can select which parts of their ethnicity to promote (i.e. cultural practices that are generally regarded as positive) and ignore/make invisible the parts of their ethnicity that are less socially well-regarded.

While reading this essay I was reminded of someone I met in my first year of college who very often identified as a German-American. Her family would serve traditional German foods during holidays, and she owned many items which pictured the German flag or other nationalist images. However, she would decide when and how her ethnicity would be deployed, and for that reason she enjoyed the privilege of not having stereotypes and racist legacies ascribed upon her.

Regardless of privilege, institutions of power ask us to rely on cultural pluralism (and/or multiculturalism) to negotiate legacies of institutional racism. This model does not require individuals to alter their beliefs but rather “be more inclusive� on the surface-level of their interactions. Like capitalism, pluralism relies on an “invisible hand� which regulates outside forces to ensure a common good. Like capitalism, this notion is flawed at its core, as it cannot account for “externalities� which occur because of unequal and invisible power structures which perpetuate inequities.

September 18, 2008

Comments on Optional Ethnicities

Ignorance is a hard thing to admit. However, the more I read and learn in this class, the more I realize that I am not even aware of the issues some people deal with on a daily basis.
One of the topics that never crossed my mind before the reading was the idea of an optional ethnicity (Ore, 29). It is so true but I have never been conscious of this concept. For example, I consider myself a “white, middle-class female�. However, my family’s heritage is deeply rooted in the German culture. Both sets of my grandparents grew up speaking German. I still have distant (2nd cousins or such) that live in Germany that I had the privilege of meeting. Yet, for the most part, I am never viewed as “German,� unless of course I am craving for the feelings of “specialness� (Ore, 33) that can be associated with having a cultural identity.
I never considered this voluntary association with my German heritage as a privilege, but it truly is an option that some people may not have. Because I do not look, speak, or act differently, I guess my ethnic heritage is not of importance and does not affect my day-to-day activities. However, if I had evident traits, perhaps I would not have the privilege of choice.
The fact that not all people are free to decide when to identify with their ethnicity became apparent in the class video, “Murder on a Sunday Morning�. Brenton was not choosing to identify himself as an African-American when he was walking to Blockbuster. However, the police force immediately discriminated against him because his ethnicity was visible to them. It is embarrassing to say this directly, but honestly, that never would have happened to me or frankly probably to anyone that is white. I am sure some who are reading this are appalled by the fact that I am saying things that are so obvious, but growing up in a small town without minorities, the reality that this really happens is something that is still shocking for me.
In addition, I still cannot grasp the fact that he did not rebel against the police. He was so calm; his family came and prayed with him at the jail. I would have been livid. My parents would have demanded my release. Perhaps someone that is more culturally knowledgeable than me can help me understand. Why did he not argue? Does this happen so often it is almost expected that the color of your skin means you could be a murder suspect at any moment? Did he think it would be a losing battle if he rebelled? Is the police force that unjust that no one would realize what is happening? (Clearly in this case it was since Brenton was even abused.)
Overall, the concept of an optional ethnicity is fascinating to me since I cannot believe it is something I have never thought about before. Those without the option seem to be targeted and discriminated against; those that can hide behind a blanket of whiteness are invisible to the ethnic-targeted discrimination. I cannot even imagine the rage and anger I would feel as a Somali person after 9/11 that was stolen from my home because I was thought to look remotely like a terrorist. I cannot imagine recovering from a situation like the one that Brenton faced with outright discrimination and disrespect. I may be 99% German, but because to the naked eye I appear “white,� I guess I have the privilege of choosing when I want to be ethnic without the negative consequences.

September 19, 2008

The Invisible Lines of Media Magic

The powerful institution that drives the cultural ideologies and mythology can almost always be derived from the media. The role that the media plays to our understanding of the American culture is immensely manipulative with an intent to reinforce believes that are concentrated on the differences between race, class, gender, sexuality...Mantsois does a very good job of explaining how the information we receive from the media is clearly distorted with many loopholes that steers the audience away from problems that the country chooses to leave in the dark. Problems of racism, and poverty are made to co exist with one another in such a way that portrays minorities in a certain light. The media chooses to show audiences this side of poverty without thoroughly explaining the institutions that brought them there and they promote the idea that the victims themselves should be able to get out of their situations, therefore creating an illusion to the public that they got themselves in it in the first place. It is also interesting to view the subtle ways in which racism plays out in such a powerful machine of information , because the media wants us to believe that their stories ring truth. But we should not forget about the audiences they are trying to reach, the purpose behind their stories, and the people that have ultimate control behind the scenes of what gets to be aired and what doesn't.
Another way to look at this can through media coverage. How many times have we heard a story of a young white girl being either kidnapped or murdered broad casted on a national scale to heighten the importance and tragedy (not in any way denying that its not) but at the same time ignoring stories in such a national level as the little black girl getting shot in North Minneapolis?
Another example would be the tragic events of hurricane Katrina, and what the people of New Orleans had to endure, the media coverage of this horrible disaster and very disorganized response to aid the people of New Orleans was minimal in the fact that it didn't spend enough time actually showing the different cases of disease, homelessness, poverty, property damage, amount of help received or given to aid in all the people of New Orleans into a somewhat smooth transition, but it had enough time to cover the looting and 'mischievous acts' going on in the area. How often do we get both sides of the story? What does that show? We need to be conscious and aware of how the media works and who they work for because sadly cases like this are intentional and they happen all the time!

The Privilege to “Pick and Choose"

After reading about “optional ethnicities� (Ore 29), things I buried in the back of my mind began to surface. I have always known that whites had privileged and in some cases people of color have privilege in other arenas, such as gender, or class. But the privilege to pick and choose what ethnicity one is from was something I have noticed but did not care to acknowledge. For people of color our ethnicity is something we cannot escape and in some cases do not want to escape. My culture (being an African American) has been altered throughout my people’s time in the United States. I do not know where my original roots started so my family embraced our history and our struggles as our culture. Because my ethnicity and culture is who I am, I cannot turn my ethnicity off. When I walk into a conference room, people will know I am African American. On the other hand if an Italian American walks in a room, his/her culture can be left at the door. The reason for this is simple: Our race. The complexion of our skin is not only a definite (in most cases) sign of our ethnicity it cannot be ignored. For example, I am African American and my culture is connected to that. When I walk in a room there is no doubt that I am African American. A white man can walk into a room and he just looks white, so therefore he is white and nothing else. The fact is that white people can turn on and off their ethnicity when they want with no consequence in their daily life (racial profiling, stereotypes, etc).
Something that was said in the reading that I really believed was that these people who pick ethnicities as options rather than something that is truly a part of their everyday life do so because they want to feel “special� (Ore 35). There is nothing wrong with claiming an ethnicity in my eyes, but if you are doing so for superficial reasons that is a problem. People of color who truly embrace their culture and ethnicity are the ones who suffer racial profiling, hurtful stereotyping, and loss of rights (example Muslims). The fact that white people can “work and reside within the mainstream of American middle class, yet retain the interesting “benefits� of ethic allegiance, without any of its drawbacks� (Ore 35) is unfair.
But ignorance is bliss and for people who claim not to know the struggles that others face because of their race and culture can go about their lives claiming something that makes them feel like a part of something unique, when in reality it does nothing but a name. Culture is something that people should hold dear and it should not be something that is convenient in making one feel “special� because in the end it takes the importance away from culture and ethnicity.

Another portion of the reading I want to touch on is college life for black students and white students. Being at a predominately white school I face challenges everyday, especially in the classroom. This college campus has so many people that one would think that there will also be a lot of students of color. Well I was wrong. Coming to this school, I found myself on a search for people that look like me. During the orientations it seemed as if everyone knew each other previously (and they did not) and would not talk to me, and some wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence. Whatever the reason for this was, I will never know for sure, (but I have an idea) it pushed me to find people I can bond with and will be on my side just in case something bad happened.
White students do not have to worry about finding people who look like them or understand them because they surround them on a daily basis. So a big part of the “black college experience� is the search for acceptance and community on a college campus that does not value your history or makes you feel out of place. Some may ask “if you feel out of place why not go to a Historically black college?� The answer is why should I limit myself because others do not want to acknowledge my presence or are run by ignorance. The only way to get rid of ignorance is to interact with different types of people. Although many times that does not work, the fact that black people are on campus is better than not having us at all.

September 24, 2008

Masculinity and Power

I’d like to discuss Michael Kimmel’s article “Masculinity as Homophobia,� especially the portion titled “Power and Powerlessness in the Lives of Men.� (144)

What caught me off guard, yet gave me that ah-ha moment, was when I read, “…the feminist critique of masculinity often falls on deaf ears with men. When confronted with the analysis that men have all the power, many men react incredulously. ‘What do you mean, men have all the power?’ they ask. ‘What are you talking about? My wife bosses me around. My kids boss me around. My boss bosses me around. I have no power at all! I’m completely powerless!’� (145)

Kimmel explains men’s disbelief in their reigning power as the essence of masculinity: men are so consistently focused on gaining power that they often feel powerless. This is what keeps them motivated to seek out power and prevent them from wanting to be seen as weak. Women’s greatest fear is rape whereas men fear being laughed at (142).

In regards to gender equality, I think we’re approaching the time in which the focus on the clear ability of women to participate as equals needs to be switched to the focus on the masculinity crisis. Women can’t go any farther until this issue is addressed. It is a roadblock for all humanity. So many people suffer for ego-stroking’s sake.

To turn the subject a bit, I have a question to which there may or may not be an answer. In thinking of the social constructions of gender roles, in that there is nothing essential to “man� or “woman� to the social scientist, are those who identify themselves as women capable of possessing masculinity as Kimmel defines it?

In the Freudian view, boys are attached and desire their mothers but eventually, they will reject this relationship and emulate their fathers (136). In order to do this, they reject anything that resembles their mothers’ activities (rejecting femininity). I suspect this process isn’t exclusively for boys, and I could easily imagine a young girl going through a similar transformation.

As a young woman, I think I have experienced masculinity. I have had strived for power, and I have had huge anxieties of appearing weak. I have shamefully put others down in order to feel powerful. Where did this come from? Perhaps these activities are merely a result of my strive to participate in a man’s world?

Social Class

The economic gap between blacks and whites has increased in such a way that blacks have less buying power,lower level of education, high infant mortality rate and joblessness. In addition, there is differences in the level of occupation, family background and personal/household. Property Insittuitions dictate the production, review and implementation of economic policies leading to unequal conditions for progress and this prevents equal oppurtunities.
The author discusses how disparities in terms of access to education, housing, financial considerations and wealth accumulation have led to economic gap. My social class has an influence on my lifesty in which I try to be as fair and colorblind as possible.
The challenge of race and class has continued being an issue in today's world and this is evidenced by the heavy economic dependence that the blacks exert on the whites. The racial differences in socioeconomic achievement that have persisted in the post-civil rights era have impacted our perceptions of the poor in that they continue being trapped in that viscious cycle of having less or no assets; living from paycheck to paycheck, being trapped in less beneficial jobs and neighbourhoods that do not offer any room for progress. In todays society, those who rank high economically, often adopt different lifestyles to emphasize their position and power, having the characteristics of a particular ethnic/racial group can also determine one's class status in today's society.

September 25, 2008

Intelligence and a Constructed Reality

I was really interested in William Roy’s writings on Intelligence and how it is not real, it was created. Roy discusses how tests were created to prove that intelligence exists. The tests were formulated in a way that would lead to a measurement of something that was later called intelligence. What is so amazing is that so much of our society now revolves around this idea. One thing that stands out in my mind is the ACT/SAT exams. These exams are supposed to measure your intelligence and give colleges and universities an idea of how well you would perform at their institution. In my mind these tests are completely ridiculous. They test a person’s book smarts over the course of four hours on one day. I do not understand how anyone would feel that is an accurate measure of how well someone performs academically.

I also really enjoyed reading about how societies construct reality. The idea that, “’things’ exist in nature and that people name them when they discover or decide to use them� (Roy 12). Roy uses colors as an example. Many societies only have one or two words that describe or name colors. For someone in an Anglo-European society, this is a difficult concept to wrap your mind around considering we have hundreds of different colors in our vocabulary. But is that because we created the idea of those colors? Do they really exist? Roy also poses an interesting question, “do categories dictate ‘what’ we see or only ‘how’ we see things?� (Roy 12). He follows by stating that the answer is probably both.

A lot of what we are discussing in class is the result of ‘reification’, which Roy defines as the process where someone’s ideas, speculations or theories are turned into facts and become integrated into the everyday. The example he gives is the construction and conception of the week. This idea of reification was something I had never heard of before, but it makes a lot of sense, especially with the subject of this class. As we have read and discussed, race, class, gender and sexuality are all essentially the result of someone’s theory slowly integrating itself into reality. Once something is given a name it feels real to us and we are able to add value to what essentially is an abstract idea. Roy writes, “Racism was developed to help legitimate North American slavery…�(Roy 21). But as we can see, once the idea of racism was placed in our vocabulary it became real, and the idea of racism is still prevalent in our society, and is acting in ways other than to justify slavery.

If anything these readings have lead me to be more critical on some of the everyday aspects of our society that I have been just accepting. These readings have opened up a lot of windows. They have answered questions for me but have also brought new questions to mind.

September 26, 2008

Social Class

Throughout all of the documentary “People Like Us� I was amazed at the lack of my own knowledge and conviction with class in the United States. I knew it existed but I never have seen it blatantly laid out before me. I guess one could say that I am an ignorant middle class individual—just like all the rest. I probably wouldn’t put up much of an argument against that. In Gregory Mantsios article “Social Class�, he talks about how the poor really do stay invisible in the United States. Also, how any portrayals of them are through the eyes of white middle class media (89). Mantsios makes a great argument about how media as an apparatus forms the social consciousness about class. Poor, lower class people are portrayed as a problem to the society—driving up taxes to pay for welfare programs, bugging people on the street for money and alcoholics/druggies. Media highly influences people and people’s views on other individuals. Which leads me to my observation of our class when we watched the documentary.
I could not help but noticed how certain comments and laughter were made when certain types of people were portrayed in the documentary. I am not talking about when there were random interviews with people giving quick judgments about other people of class—that was quite appalling and so harsh that I laughed at the people’s ignorance too. What I am talking about is when we saw the poor-working class individuals at their festival games of some sorts. There were judgments being made when we watched them being interviewed and watching them partaking in spiting contest or bobbing for pig’s feet. I do not believe anyone was mean heartedly making fun of those people—far from that. What I do think happened was a reaction that we as “middle class, educated� people are taught to do. The classes’ reaction represents a greater parallel to how class differences are socially constructed in the States.
‘We’ are taught that it is the lower class fault for being poor. That ‘they’ didn’t work hard enough to work their way up to the middle class. ‘We’ are taught to think that the poor are a burden to the society. ‘We’ are taught to think that the poor will always be with us and they will have to be, if we continue to live in a capitalist society. Marxist theory touches on this idea that says: without the exploitation of the working class, the middle to upper class would not have what they have (money). The exploitation of the many rewards the few at the top. I believe it is important to expose these systematic ways in which people are exploited for the good of a few.


Before taking this class, I had never explored race, class, gender, and sexuality so deeply. I had never considered how and why these divisions and classifications came about. As Ore talks about in her book, my assumptions were based on the principle that human behavior is "natural" or predetermined by genetic, biological, or physiological mechanisms and thus not subject to change. Being half black and half white, being a woman, and being bi-sexual is just who I am. Or is it? I considered these titles and descritptions of myself as my identity. However, Ore has helped me to understand how these titles have been a basis for unfair treatment in our society. I am classified as black and treated as such, even though my skin is only a couple shades darker than a white person's. White people look at me and don't see that I am not simply black, I am also white. A girl that lives in my building asked me if the hair on my head was all mine. I told her yes, and she said, "yeah right, black girls can't grow hair." I was completely dumbfounded. First, she had just got through talking to my mother who is clearly white, yet she still sees me as strickly black. Second, her comment was so racist. Are people in this world really that dumb? I don't like the fact that people don't see me for what I am; people see me for what society says I am.

I understand that race, class, gender, and sexuality are social constructions and therefore changeable; however, I don't see how such systems can be changed. Before these terms were coined, people in ancient society were not divided my race, gender, class, or sexuality, but they were divideded according to religion, status, and even language. It seems that it is human nature to differentiate one group of people from another. I guess the problem is not that people are categorized as different, but how the differences are used to justify unqual treatment amongst people in the same society.

Ore and the other authors in the book talk a lot about how these systems of inequality were created, but they haven't explicitly explained how they can be transformed into systems of equality. I honestly don't see how it is possible. I believe race and gender are so deeply rooted in our minds, in our institutions, and in our lives that it will take atleast couple hundred years to reverse peoples understanding of the terms. Not only that, I like being different; I don't like the unequal treatment I receive as a "black woman," but I must admit, I am very proud of who and what I am.

I know that the first step in changing such systems is acknowledging that they exist, but I feel like books like Ore's are "preaching to the choir." People who believe they are better than or more valuable than someone else stricly because of their race, class, gender or sexuality are truly ignorant. Reading a book or hearing personl testimonials is not going to change a person's thinking if they truly believe they are superior, no matter how moving the stories are.

Social class

There was one part of yesterday's video "People LIke Us" that really stood out for me, it was the segment on African Americans in the middle class. I thought it was a great segment but at the same time it really frustrated me. It was frustrating to hear some of the comments that African Americans received for being in the middle class or upper class, comments like "boogie" or "washed up." What are comments like those suppose to be saying. Are they saying that African Americans or pretending to be someone that their not? Do African Americans not belong to the middle and upper classes? Are those classes strictly reserved for whites? Our society should be at the point where we congratulate African Americans for making the advances that they have made. Instead, we criticize them for it. Comments like "Boogie" or "washed up" imply that African Americans have forgotten where they've come from or their roots. I don't think that is the case for African Americans in upper classes.

Comments like the ones from above show how race still plays a large factor in today's society and class. There is still a definite racial barrier. There are many people who have a mentality that certain classes belong to certain races. Our society shouldn't be structured like this; we shouldn't be looking at race when looking at class status. However, comments like "Boogie" and "washed up" do the exact opposite. They make African Americans who belong to upper classes question whether they have forgotten who they are or if they are acting the way they should be, whatever that means. Is it really terrible for African Americans to strive for a better life for themselves and their families? Absolutely not. So, why they continue to get comments like "Boogie" and "washed up" baffles me.

September 29, 2008

Gender as a supply and demand notion

While writing our first assignment of defining race, gender class sex, I can across several papers that dealt with the gender issues and problems on a global scales. One of the articles dealt with horrific practice of infanticide or Sex-selective abortion. In Western countries it is done when a pregnant woman does an ultrasound scan and when she finds that it’s a girls she makes an abortion.

Consider infanticide or Sex-selective abortion in China and India According to a report in 2005, 90 million girls are estimated to be killed in seven Asian countries alone due, apparently, to prenatal sex selective infanticide. The most common method of killing children over the ages has been head trauma, strangulation and drowning. These practices are especially common in places where cultural norms value male children over female children. Because male stay home and take care of parents and females marry in and require a lot of money as a dowry. Then we can see a population as a social construction in a way to emphasize that its composition, and dynamics depends on cultural aspects of society that values males more than females.

Right now China experiences a shortage in girls due to China’s one-child policies and sex-selective abortions a means of population control, so there is a huge competition for future wifes. It is estimated that by 2020 there could be more than 35 million young "surplus males" in China and 25 million in India. So those courtiers are considering relaxing some of the policies to allow more females to be born.
So my main question here is it logical to think of gender or define it as societal value similar to supply and demand notion, do you think if the trend continues and there will be less females then the boys will have less value?

Gender as a supply and demand notion

While writing our first assignment of defining race, gender class sex, I can across several papers that dealt with the gender issues and problems on a global scales. One of the articles dealt with horrific practice of infanticide or Sex-selective abortion. In Western countries it is done when a pregnant woman does an ultrasound scan and when she finds that it’s a girls she makes an abortion.

Consider infanticide or Sex-selective abortion in China and India According to a report in 2005, 90 million girls are estimated to be killed in seven Asian countries alone due, apparently, to prenatal sex selective infanticide. The most common method of killing children over the ages has been head trauma, strangulation and drowning. These practices are especially common in places where cultural norms value male children over female children. Because male stay home and take care of parents and females marry in and require a lot of money as a dowry. Then we can see a population as a social construction in a way to emphasize that its composition, and dynamics depends on cultural aspects of society that values males more than females.

Right now China experiences a shortage in girls due to China’s one-child policies and sex-selective abortions a means of population control, so there is a huge competition for future wifes. It is estimated that by 2020 there could be more than 35 million young "surplus males" in China and 25 million in India. So those courtiers are considering relaxing some of the policies to allow more females to be born.
So my main question here is it logical to think of gender or define it as societal value similar to supply and demand notion, do you think if the trend continues and there will be less females then the boys will have less value?