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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.