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October 2, 2008

Realizing the Truth

Since reading Roy’s Making Societies, and the movies in class, I have realized how uneducated I am about the true meaning of race, class, gender, and sexuality. It’s very ironic how true it is when we say that race, class, gender, and sexuality are socially constructed. Throughout my life I have always had certain views of race, class, gender, and sexuality-mostly what society has taught us and what my parents have passed down to me. I only saw gender as boy or girl, or race as being something that is real. Since I come from such a small town, before the University of Minnesota I had very little encounters with people who are different from me. Since coming to school here, my eyes have opened greatly, and since reading the text my eyes have opened even more. I will admit that I feel very stupid, and I think most of our population should feel uneducated as well as to the workings of our societies. We, as a whole, have created these systems and categories trying to pass them off as biological or genetic or part of life, when really, there is no evidence backing them. It really hit me hard on Tuesday when we watched the movie and they showed first the science class and everyone thought their DNA would match up to people with similar skin color and gender, people naturally put themselves with people who are “like them?, yet really we are all really alike. That is not to say our personalities and things like that are the same, but we as humans are all equal. It is truly sad however, that all humans do not get treated equally. Next in the movie whent they showed the different brains and body parts of whites vs. blacks it was disgusting to see how they distorted the images to make black people more animalistic, inferior to whites. What I do not understand is why white males, back in the 1700s felt that they needed to make themselves better than everyone else? No where in the bible, anywhere does it say that whites are better than everyone else, or that males are better than females, or that we should have rich people and poor people. In Making Societies, Roy gave great evidence proving how wrong and how socially constructed our views were even of things such as time and space. Before reading his book I never thought twice about how time was created or why it was created, I ignorantly thought that the days of the week and the months were just part of life-that they had existed since the beginning, yet once again I was proved wrong. In many other societies things such as time are different; in other societies they do not have races. It just astonishes me that we as a country and a society live by “rules? that are not necessarily accepted or expected elsewhere. I think that it is a reach to say that we could un-do what we have done, however, I definitely think hat we as citizens need to be better educated in the workings of our world, and we need to see the truth about so many things that come as second nature to us.

Race and biology (video)

I think the statement "Race is not biological" insinuates something other than its intended meaning. Its fair to say that race is biological. (Two black parents will not produce a Hispanic child) This is common sense. The fact that people have genes in common with people of other "races" does not mean race is not biological. There is a gene for skin color, just like eye color, or hair color. So saying "race isn’t biological" implies a meaning that is untrue. However, The idea that black people can run fast, or Asians can play classical music well is not biological. There is a difference. So, maybe the saying "the gene that determines our skin color has no bearing on other attributes" would be a more fair assertion. Also, I was interested by the fact that the students made decisions about genetic similarities based on race alone. My first instinct was to go with someone of the same gender. Still, I found the results of the test to be very fascinating in the fact that everyone genetic traits are everywhere! I never knew that. Another thing I never knew was that skin color maybe related to sunlight and melanin. This makes me wonder though, if skin color is based on amount of sunlight, what are our other differing characteristics based on? Why do some people have no earlobes? Is there a regional reason for this? So many questions…

Overall, I think the video was extremely informative. I learned a lot about race as an idea of boundary, when it shouldn’t be used as such. Another thing id like to point out is that I feel like the term "dismantling" or "rebuilding" society means being blind to our unique characteristics. We should observe differences, just as we notice when some is really smart, or good at cooking. Its not that we notice when someone is colored or not, its that we base our beliefs off of that observation. I say we embrace all races and ethnicities. Feel free to notice and RESPECT our differences.

October 3, 2008

Race: a product of human invention

“The explanation for racial categorization is to be found in history, not in nature" (Roy 75).

As we have heard throughout this week, race is not genetically or biologically based. We know this because there has been no evidence found to support otherwise. I don't know if I am alone, but this idea is totally new to me! I have always thought, and was probably taught to think, that race was rooted in our genes. But from the in class video "Race the Power of an Illusion", and the reading "Race" in the book Making Societies, by William G. Roy, it all began to make sense to me that race, in fact, was constructed by society. On that note, it frustrates me to think of such a world that we have constructed. Knowing that race does not, in all actuality, exist, makes me wonder what else society has made up and taught us as humans to believe; how many lies have we been taught, and is society planning on fixing the problems it has caused us? I believe Roy did a wonderful job pointing out that “racial categories can be radically transformed and perhaps eliminated…? (Roy 76) because the idea of race is socially constructed. However, since race has been built so deeply into our society, it feels almost impossible that race can be eliminated. Because whether we want to realize it or not, race is part of our everyday lives, and as Roy said, “..it pervades every aspect of politics, work, education, leisure, sports, mass media, family, religion and personal relation? (Roy 75).

Race has been around for quite some time now, and has caused many, many problems within the human species. It is the main category of difference and serves as one of the main reasons inequality exists now! As Roy points out in the reading, “There has never been a society with truly ‘separate but equal’ races…because racial categories were invented as a way of categorizing people who were already conceived as unequal? (Roy 79)…African-American’s for example! Therefore, if we eliminate race and other social categories, would we eliminate inequality? It’s something to think about…or rather dream about.

As a result of the readings, videos, and my own personal reflections on them, I can now officially and honestly say that I HATE THE CONSTRUCTION OF SOCIETY!! And until we do some reconstruction of it I will continue to feel this way. Because if we really think about it, society has influenced all our lives, and the majority of the time they are not good influences. And I guess I may or may not be more bothered by the fact that race is made up because as an African-American, it has had a dramatic impact on my life as a whole.

“Race is a product of human invention, not an objective fact about the world discovered in biology or genetics? (Roy 80).

The elimination of race and other social constructions=equality.

"United" States?

After watching “Race: the Power of Illusion? and reading “Making Societies? by Roy, I found myself kind of mad. How could our society just “make up? race, the topic that has made prejudices and inequalities for centuries? The movie and book just kept saying how race isn’t a tangible thing; it is an illusion, something society just made up to show the differences in people. But what I don’t understand is why would society do that? Yes, I can see centuries ago why they did it because back then they were just trying to find answers to things and they thought just because certain people looked the same meant that they should be put in a separate group. And then later society came up with the idea that because the people in each “race? looked the same meant that the color of their skin and the shape of their eyes or face had to do with biology and genetics. However, now with more recent research it was shown that there aren’t any genetic markers that define race. So why if so called “races? don’t differ at all genetically, meaning all humans are basically the same, why does our society continue to separate our country based on race? Especially because of all the prejudices and inequalities race has caused why wouldn’t our “united? country want to actually be united?

What I also found ironic was that in the movie it talked about human civilization starting in Africa. It talked about how humans started in Africa and then migrated around the world causing mutations in genes, which led people to begin to look different. What I found funny about that was the fact that there are so many people who are racist against African Americans, but the truth is if those very racist people could go back in history, thousands of years, they would most likely find out that they have ancestors who were black. So technically they would be hypocrites.

Overall, what baffles me is the fact that Roy and the educated people in the movie know all of these facts about race; how it is imaginary and has nothing to do with biology and is putting the facts out there to the world through books and movies and still nothing changes. So many people say they want to see a change in the world, well when is it going to happen? I think our society needs to start really listening and realizing what harm these racial groupings are doing to our society and think about what is best for nation as a whole. Our country is suppose to be known for excepting differences and treating all as equals, but what I have come to realize more and more is that our country does the exact opposite.

Relations on College Campuses

I found Ore’s analysis of race relations and symbolic ethnicities on college campuses quite compelling as it gave light to situations that I undoubtedly have experienced as well as many of the students in this class. Ore says that sometimes late at night, drunken groups of White students coming home from parties will yell at single Black students on the street. She goes on to explain that Black students do experience a tension and a feeling of being singled out and that it is unfair that this is part of their college experience and not that of White students. While reading this text, I thought to myself, yes, she is exactly right. I thought to myself, how could situations like these be so systemic within our Universities. As college students, we are afforded the opportunity to experience living, learning, and the exposure of culture from people of varying backgrounds. This type of situation may be representative of a so-called microcosm of the entire United States, as if a tiny group of students were plucked from varying regions of the US and all plopped down here at the U. Now, this may yield results in that these cultures will blend, learn from one another and coexist without any tensions or strife. Conversely, this tiny group or microcosm all plopped down here at the U, could also yield results in that, all the individuals from their differing regions also bring along their preconceived notions of race and this environment only perpetuates already established racial tensions that have been engrained, even before being exposed to different cultures. Unfortunately, for us, the latter exists. It exists because of the matrix of domination that Ore had touched on earlier. In our society, I have noticed that when wronged by someone, even something as trivial as talking too loud in a group setting, it is our immediate reaction to associate that wrongdoing with the person’s race. For example, “Freakin’ Asian cut me off,? its okay people, I am Asian. On the flip side, if a White person were to cut you off, you would just think they’re an idiot, which is due to them lacking noticeable physical characteristics. As bigoted as it sounds, I too, have caught myself participating in this unjust snapshot judgment. Which goes to say, that race is quite possibly the easiest way to attack and establish a sense of superiority.

As students, we all differ, in majors, races, age, etc. which all separate us into categories. It is these categories of difference, that superiority complexes are established. For example, in our society, one’s major is often an assessment of their intellectual capacity. In the Science Classroom Building commodes, I noticed someone had engraved “CLA Arts Major Degree Dispenser,? and it had an arrow pointing towards the toilet paper. In situations such as these, a degree say in Microbiology is seen as more “intelligible? than that of a Liberal Arts degree. Who’s to say which is more important, I am not here to judge, but I do believe that this just serves as another wedge to further complicate our matrix of domination.

Ore also explains, that you can see Black students coming together on campus as both an “ethnic? pull of wanting to be together to share common experiences and community, and a “racial? push of banding together defensively because of perceived rejection and tension from Whites. I believe that Ore is absolutely correct in these assumptions about race. Although Blacks are being singled out for some reason, this notion of assimilation and disbanding is universal to any minority. Therefore, when these groups are seen on campus, stereotypes and assumptions about them are only reinforced. For minorities, it is a constant struggle between being accepted by Whites, but not appearing to betray your ethnic roots. At the same time, we struggle with the assimilation of our race, but must not completely remove ourselves from other cultures by simply excluding anyone who is not of our race.

Skin color as a spectrum

I found it really interesting how in Roy (15), he discusses that race is treated as a bounded category instead of along a gradient. Although skin tones are quite variable, people are classified as either "black" or "white". Somehow this distinction was created along a random line. Furthermore, in different parts of the world, the classification or "breaking point" of being either "black" or "white" is different. This reinforces the fact that it is purely socially constructed.

This ties into what was talked about in the film, "Race: The Power of an Illusion." They discussed how different skin tones developed as people traveled further away from the equator. Although I have heard this before, I never thought about the fact that if someone walked from Africa to Norway, the skin tones would slowly get lighter. This clearly makes sense as we all adapt to fit our environment. I guess the thing that the entire society needed to accept, especially during the eugenics era, was that everything such as intelligence, athletic ability, etc. was already evolved before this migration of people. So really truly, we are all from the same ancestors and then just had some appearance changes later. I don't know what is so hard for society to understand about this! We continue to disregard the fact that race is socially constructed. Despite the evidence that race is NOT biological, it still has serious implications in our world today.

However, I guess I still struggle with how gender and sexuality is almost completely socially constructed. We learn things that become such a part of who we are and how we think that it is really hard to move beyond that. I hope we have another discussion regarding this issue in class; I don't feel that we gave the topic ample time.

October 4, 2008

The History of Time

Since I was a child I had always wondered how it was decided that we had 7 days in a week and 30 days in a month. I wondered why the calendar week started on Sunday and ended on Saturday when the Latin American calendar started on Monday and ended on Sunday. Until I read Roy's Making Societies, I had never considered the fact that other societies (beyond American and Latin American) might have different calendars or week schedules. It is fascinating to me to learn that the names of the days came from the planets, and that in other romantic languages they mean the same thing.
I always assumed the week was based on the Christian religion. Since the bible says that God rested on Sunday or Sabbath, it made sense to me that it would be the first day of the week. It seems however that the Greeks developed the first Angel-European week and then it was spread throughout the Mediterranean but Alexander the Great. The Romans and the Jews eventually fused their calendars through Christianity. The new calendar ended up moving throughout the globe.
I find it so interesting how basically all of our calendars and our schedules depend on the moon and sun. The tides come in the evening and go out in the morning. They are controlled by the moon and they control the rotation of the planet. But according to Making Societies , the calendars, even though they are based on the moon they do not directly correlate with the days of the month or the seconds in the day.
The Anglo-European calendar is linear and the Aztec calendar is circular which also reflects the differences in the perception of time. I must agree with the book that even after having the Aztec calendar explained to me I have yet to be able to understand it.

October 6, 2008

Progression of 'Sexuality' & 'Gender' as Terms

While reading Tracy Ore’s articles on sexuality and gender, the terms were continuously described as socially constructed yet the writers of the articles encouraged the terms when expanding an explanation on why the either do not exist or should not exist. Looking at the terms that arose, it is hard enough to see them through a social construction but when given a periodical placement, it becomes harder to state when the mentality began. The different perspectives on how sexuality and gender have changed and developed through definitions throughout the years made me wonder why do these terms need specific definitions at all? With the world becoming more accepting of things that society has repelled against, ranging over different cultures, why can these terminologies that we currently use to label someone’s sexual orientation, gender, or personality be left as an indefinite set of possibilities?
When Judith Lorber’s essay on The Social Construction of Gender, she states that gender, as part of a process, creates the social differences that determine what we now consider to fit the terms ‘man’ and ‘woman’ (Ore, 114). As she continued by describing man as being A and woman being Not-A and the many other superiority to inferiority terminologies, she came used the Freudian psychoanalytic theory and Marxist feminist explanation to prove the A and Not-A usage (Ore, 115). I made a note that through these theories have been widely used through society, for that fact, they motivate those perspectives on gender and why it exists. As a structure, gender places titles on men and women, separating them at home and in the work place and giving authority to men by devaluating women (Ore, 116). Lorber continues by finally acknowledging the complexities behind giving gender, or any term for that matter, a definition because for humans “the social is the nature? (Ore, 117). I believe that for humans, society is made because of the differences that we face every day. If it were natural, why would different cultures have a greater acceptance than Americans? It is because there is a power that wants to classify, to place boundaries, and eventually, be a ruling power over all that are ‘inferior’.
In Holly Boswell’s essay, The Transgender Paradigm Shift Toward Free Expression, she says that our society has linked the transgender community into three different arenas, transsexuals, cross-dressers, and those that participate in gay drag (Ore, 127). Yet, because of contemporary times, these three components have been “too restrictive? and now they have to be liberated as transgendered people are “redefining gender? (Ore, 130). This statement shows that this terminology has to have an ever-changing existence as it is being acknowledged and thus making Boswell’s essay show that the appearance, a notion inside of biology, does not have to be labeled as odd or abnormal. Jonathan Ned Katz wrote in The Invention of Heterosexuality that from 1820-1860, heterosexuality did not exist as a term (Ore, 151). If this is true, why was it these forty years specifically that the United States chose to void this terminology? Furthermore, why did it come back after 1860 if in these forty years the United States must have learned to live/accept it in some fashion? Katz continued his essay through different epochs ranging from 1860 to 1982 to explain the distribution of heterosexuality and the growth of the term. In comparison, Katz’s essay shows correlations of how heterosexuality is not straight-laced as only between a man and a woman because it is not determined by biology but is needed to be studied through the “social and historical? in order for it to really be understood.
The extremes of these essays contrast on many levels although their purpose is usually to reach the same goal – the goal of proving that terminologies exist but should not exist because they endanger the progression of society’s approval and acceptance. That approval paves way for more terms and more research that surpasses what the words like gender, sexuality, transgender, heterosexuality, homosexuality, and the construction of these words have made in contemporary society. Gender and sexuality in today’s society view these terms are core relations to identity and in turn shape what society will perceive them as – from adolescence until adulthood.

October 10, 2008

Perpetual Foreigners

Asian immigrants came to the United States at the same time and for the same reason as the Irish: to escape economic distress at home and take advantage of economic opportunity in America (102). While both the Asian population and the Irish arrived in the same decade, their economic trajectories later diverged. The major reason is race. Although being Irish, is considered to be “black? at the time, they were able to become “White American? citizens because of similar characteristics shared. This plays in the hands of “optional ethnicities.? White American of European ancestry can be described as having a great deal of choice in terms of their ethnic identities, whether they want to claim any specific ancestry or to just be “white (30).? As for Asian Americans, the choice to become white proves a little difficult since there are no physical attribute shared. And for that we remain perpetual foreigners. Forever linked with our ethnicity: Vietnamese American, African American, Hispanic American, etc. Optional ethnicity is a wonderful concept because it gives a person that option of who they want to be. An option to equalize themselves among other Americans, to give themselves the same opportunities. It’s only unfortunate that some won’t ever have that option, the option to equalize ourselves.

Optional ethnicity is an interesting concept only the white majority would have the luxury to take advantage of. Since I am Asian American, I don’t have that option. But it makes one wonder, if I was given the option of choosing an ethnicity, would I take it? Would it have been easier for me to identify with the majority of the population instead of being considered the minority? I see that many white Americans choose to identify with the majority instead of identifying with their ethnicity. We live in a society today that encourages individuality, yet we want to be the same as everyone else.

Class Matters

In reading Class Matters by Betsy Leondar-Wright I most appreciated the section about class and our other identities. There are responses from many different people of all walks of life. It was interesting for people to almost forget about class in order to fit in with their more obvious identities (such as race, or gender). This made me wonder if our social constructions of reality can be misused when used as an organizing principle. Which do we use when a person’s race, gender or class do not fit with their peers.

In this section there is a conversation with John Anner, from Beyond Identity Politics: Emerging Social Justice Movements in Communities of Color. He discusses how identity is often the most common factor when they work together in a political movement. This again brings out the question of what happens when one person’s identity conflicts with someone else who is of the same class? He states that it is hard to fight for the same cause when in reality everyone cannot way “we have the same problem? (p. 27). Another example in Class Matters of many people struggling to find a group identity is when white upper middle class women were working with welfare mothers. The women of the higher classes wanted to bring structure to the group and decide on a director. This was not acceptable for the rest of the group, and these women left. I first thought that the upper class women should have admitted defeat, but still worked with they group, but now that I am thinking of the situation again, I think the entire group should have resolved the situation. Perhaps the women who wanted to keep voting should have allowed the women with more education and organizing experience have some lead. I think it is unfortunate the differing identities of those women were so strong because they would have helped each other, and the cause greatly.

Now I would like to talk a little bit about the tone of the book. At first I was very excited to read this book, thinking it was aimed towards middle class people, and how they should work together to make our society better. While reading I kept thinking that this is a book by activists for activists. I suppose that is described in the tag line (cross-class alliance building for middle-class activists), but while reading I felt that it was really written for people who are full time activists (as a job). I am interested in the greater good that can come from their lifestyle, but felt that I should pursuing a career in anything else would be frivolous. I believe we can help everyone, while still being able to do other things.

October 11, 2008


The readings in the book “Class Matters? have opened my eyes of the meaning of class in the U.S. I never thought much about class until this class (Afro3251W). That’s not to say the issue of class never crossed my mind but, it is just that I have never examined class to the depths that we have in class or felt that my class standing has oppressed me in any way. I liked that Betsy Leondar-Wright had the working definitions of the different class systems because the definitions helped clarify and correct my understandings of certain classes. I wasn’t too surprised to read in the class self-identifications section that almost all Americans call themselves “middle-class? when the choices presented are lower, middle and upper class. For reasons that stem from the foundation of our society, people are embarrassed to call themselves “low class?. There are negative stigmatisms associated with the class that are usually far from the truth. People in the lower class are mostly white but compared to the population as a whole, most of them are people of color and women. And since people of color and women are already deemed inferior to the dominant characteristics of our society, this begins the negative associations with the lower class.

I found one of the articles by Betsy Leondar-Wright (“Why Do We Need Cross-Class Alliances?) very interesting in that cross-class alliances are vital for fairness and prosperity for our country. It makes sense because if people in a group want to accomplish one goal, they have to work together to get it done. The same idea can be applied to the movements our country as organized such as the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, and labor movement. These movements included different races of people getting together to fight for a common cause. There are other movements that have been started but are not successful because the issue of race gets in the way. Wright says “…the American people have historically been too divided by race and class for a movement to cross many demographic lines? (10). It is also because of this reason that class issues have been on the back burner compared to the issues of race because “in our imagination, race subsumes class? (29). Another article I found of interest was the “African American Class Dynamics? because it discussed how blacks view class is different than how whites view class. I believe this to be true because due to the history of our country between blacks and whites, blacks have had to view the world differently than the people (whites) who oppressed them, thus making blacks grow up with different meanings of value. Also discussed was how job titles don’t necessarily correspond to your relative status in the community one lived in. You could be middle class by education and status but working class by income. The reading for this week made me realize more on just how complex the issue of class is and now makes me reflect on certain instances were I might have been judged on my class that I might not have realized.

October 15, 2008

Defining class: small groups

So.....i loved todays activity. As much as i have been reading about class, i felt that my definitions were regurgitated and repetative. Now, i feel like i have a personal basis to work with. I was in the middle class division, and about six of us broke off to discuss. We started out with very basic questions like what high schools we went to, where we are from, and how many siblings we have. Then, we ventured into more treachurous territory. We discussed different loans and grants we recieved for college, when we got our first cars, and what our GPA's were in highschool. This is when we started noticing differences. Some of us went to private elementary schools, and some never did have their first car. One similarity we all agreed on was he fact that we all had decent or good grades. We also talked about ways our attributes would differ from other "classes". we talked about something extremely interesting. Does low income equal poor grades? It seemed that we all agreed initially that we would probably have better grades than someone living in poverty. But why? this seems like an extremely rude judgement to make. But then a group member mentioned how people who have to worry about money also have to worry about everything else. We also decided that one possible reason for this idea of poor grades and poverty could stem from the fact that children from low income homes often have to work to help support the family at a younger age, which in turn, leaves them neglecting their studies. I found it interesting that my "class" seems to cross three different sects. Working class, middle class, and upperclass. So , as it stands, i still dont know what class i belong too, but i learned alot about those people who feel they fit well into the middle class, and i can compare and contrast my life with theirs. Great class day! learned alot!

Deena Bistodeau

October 16, 2008

Where do I belong?

After our small group discussions in class on Tuesday, I am left wondering exactly what ‘class’ I belong to. When we were asked what class we were a part of, I uneasily raised my hand for the middle class. This sent my mind into a whirlwind of thoughts as I contemplated if I truly was a part of the middle class or if I was actually in the working class. Then we were asked, , who was in the working class? Again I slowly raised my hand no higher than my head as I continued to think about where I belonged. Honestly, I have never really known.
Once we were split into our groups, I mostly just sat and listened. Although I had gone with the middle class group, I still wondered if I really was in the right group. One student mentioned some things about salary. One statement involved the idea that about $150,000 or so was middle class or upper-middle class. If that’s the case then my family is far from being considered middle class. We aren’t bringing in that much money and we have always looked at people with that much to be in the upper class or wealthy part of society. Then another student stated that growing up in a suburb possible is what makes you middle class. Again I wondered if I was in the wrong group because I grew up in a rather average town in the middle of a farming county. As I considered these ideas I also recollected a prior idea that class was based on what job your parents had. Trade jobs, like plumbers, electricians, and carpenters were a part of the working class along with waitresses, factory workers, lunch ladies, and many other examples. Middle class jobs were those that involved ‘easier’ work, but not necessarily a much higher pay. For example, various supervisor positions, desk jobs, self-employed or business owners along with others. Higher or upper class jobs included doctors, dentists, international business persons, etc. With these examples in mind, and I’m not saying these are correct at all, I would actually be a part of the working class and far from being in the middle class. So why do I mostly consider myself to be in the middle class?
I think any answer to this question has to come from within the household or the family. Most of my life I’ve watched my dad leave in the morning for work. He gets up, puts on the dirtiest jeans and the company t-shirt and heads out to work another eight or maybe even ten hour day. People see him on the street and assume that he is struggling to provide for his family and must work hard every day to put food on the table. Unlike those people, I have a ‘better ‘look at things which results in a different opinion. I see him working hard to help me through college, to give me a clean house and nice clothes and to show me that working hard for things you want in life is important. There is always enough food and then some, we have all the ‘essentials’ to live comfortably, but we might still be considered a part of the working class. It’s true that we aren’t able to purchase a new car every year, or a new flat screen TV, or the newest gaming system, but at the end of the day we’re still a family and still living the ‘American dream’. If the way a person feels about living in their household is a reflection of what class they’re in, then I definitely think I’m a part of the middle class.
-Nick Grage

October 17, 2008

Am I "Reverse-Classist"?

Has our society lost its all of its moral fiber? Is there anything that can be said for the upper class/ wealthy in this country in regards to the basic values that our country has been predicated on? Why have we veered so far away from the concept of equity and equality that we are lost in an abyss of alternate realities for the upper class as opposed to the poor, working class? Why have so many economic institutions been set in place to benefit the very narrow upper percentage of wealthy people despite the overwhelming needs of people like me? Why has the tax burden been shifted to working class (financially poor) families like mine despite rich people’s ability to easily handle the tax burden they deserve?

It is because of the countless institutions that work hand in hand in disguising how they continue to rob the poor man of any freedoms, whether it’s financial, social, or civil. Who runs these organizations? The wealthy. Who benefits from finding loopholes to screw over those who are powerless? The wealthy. This may be an odd contrast to tradition classism, but on many levels I think I might be what you call “reverse-classist?. Being a black man from the inner city in a predominantly white institution of higher learning I am very grateful for the opportunity to get an education, but at the same time dumb-founded by the things I’ve been learning about how my family and friends are oppressed on a daily basis, while students from wealthy families enjoy many freedoms that are denied to people of lower classes. While taxes for dividends, estate, and capital gains (all taxes that affect primarily those of the upper class) have decreased 79%, 46%, and 31%, respectively, payroll taxes (which affected everyone else- middle class, working class, and poor) have increased 25% since 1980 (Ore, pp. 220-221). What does this mean? The wealthy leaders have found loopholes to maintain and intensify their greed, while the average working man/woman continue to watch himself/herself lose ground on the fundamental concepts of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

I believe that this disparity has the strongest correlation with the educational systems that deprive lower classes of even being aware that they are continuously being put in increasingly compounding situations of ignorance while all the while perpetuating this breakdown of awareness to succeeding generations. Cultural capital is rarely, if ever, gained by those who come from backgrounds that never received it in previous generations. Access to opportunity is all anyone ever needs to find their own potential, and if you never learn the value of opportunity through educational enlightenment, you are subject to many forces that you never have the opportunity to become aware of, let alone change. This is the key component to the “educational stratification? that lower class people experience. It is sad to say that my educational experience is an exception to the norm. But why can’t the poor get an equal education to those who are wealthy? I’m willing to bet that if the wealthy were forced to pay their fair proportion of taxes and for the government to properly appropriate these taxes to those who needed it the most, this problem could be resolved. But since it is the rich who ultimately decide where the money is allocated (that is, away from the poor), I doubt this shameful practice will ever change (unless we start from the top down by voting for the right president- go Obama!). This is why I could consider myself “reverse-classist?. No offense to my fellow students from wealthy backgrounds. It just sickens me to think that my family pays higher taxes than your family when I’m willing to bet they have an exponentially higher income than some of ours. And at no time will these institutions be willing to undercut themselves at the expense of helping millions of families living check to check with exorbitant expenses ranging from healthcare to coping with home foreclosure and continuous bouts with unemployment.

October 20, 2008

Transformation of Racism Post 9/11

The first reading assigned this week particularly pertained to the research I have started to do for my paper. I am discussing racism and discrimination of Arab/Muslims after the events of September 11th. The stories brought up in the first few pages made me think how interesting the transition of racism has changed post 9/11. Prior to the events, minority groups such as African Americans and Latinos were the center of racist policies and discrimination in areas such as law enforcement, and traffic stops. After the attacks, it seems as though the shift has faded, but not completely disappeared from the “usual suspects? to those of Arabic descent. There are many factors which continue the discrimination, the main form today is the War in Iraq. Many uneducated citizens see the war on television or in the paper, and view those who live there as they enemy. History has shown similar instances where different events effect the racist policies in our country. A major event, which still shapes many people’s lives is slavery. Although not present in the United States today, the after affects are still present, and there is a big divide between those seen as “Black? to those perceived as “White?. Another event which is similar to the September 11th attacks was Pearl Harbor, the only other attack on American soil, besides the civil and revolutionary war. After the attack, Japanese citizens were discriminated against and put into interment camps for to prevent another attack. Although we do not put all Arabic people in camps, the government takes steps which hinder the freedom of travel and the right to live in privacy. It seems as though there is a constant struggle for dominance and power in the United States based on one’s perceived ethnicity. When will it shift again, and whom will be the next target of this wicked cycle? Will this ever be stopped, or are we eternally trapped in an unbalanced system? I feel breaking this system will be a hard feat. As discussed in class, from birth on, we are constantly shown what is right and wrong, and how we should view the world. Nearly everything can persuade us to believe one way or another. In order to break the system, we would have to very intricately examine everything in society and establish a system of unbiased advertisements and so forth.

October 21, 2008

Blog on Media Portryals

Media Portrayals

Richard Bursch’s writing: Five Decades and Three Hundred Sitcoms About Class and Gender had me thinking about what we are watching on television. He brought up amazing points saying that character’s depicting working class men are shown to be dumb, irresponsible, messy, and unreliable. Those in the middle class are shown as sensible, intelligent, and mature. One great example that comes to mind is the show Yes Dear. It has two sets of parents living together because one of them can’t afford rent (the working class family) The dad of the working class family is overweight. His wife constantly has to tell him how to take care of the kids. His children outsmart him and are shown to be out of control at times. Where as the middle class family has a calm, brilliant child. The father is very smart and calm. He constantly has to give the working class dad guidance in his day to day decision making. The working class dad is represented as a failure at life, at supporting his family, and the main element highlighted in his role is how stupid he is. The middle class dad is always the calmer one, he takes care of everything whenever a crisis arises, he teaches his kids manners, and is shown as a loving husband. I was trying to come up with an example of a middle class or upper class dad who’s unintelligent and is portrayed the way this working class dad is…I couldn’t come up with an example.The difference laid out in this show is exactly how Bursch describes in his writing.
Bursch’s piece talks about how inferior statuses are represented by using negative stereotypes of minorities, women, old, and young. These stereotypes are placed into character roles. The problem with this is that viewers aren’t consciously thinking about the negative images they are watching and the ways in which it affects their views of other members of the depicted groups. Think of children and teens watching shows with such inaccurate representations. They start believing and connecting these made up characters with how the real world works. If they see a dumb blonde and a dumb black person on television, that’s what they’ll assume all blondes and all black people are like.
Bursch also talks about how television can devalue higher status characters by making them have opposite characteristics. He gives example like men acting feminine and adults acting childish. They often will use this strategy when showing a person with contradicting status positions and the lower status characteristic will overshadow the high status characteristic. This is greatly degrading to both sides of the matter. For instance, a man in real life that is very feminine will be thought of as a less status for acting that way and women are thought of as being a lesser status because if men act like them, it is devaluing to them, so they are obviously a less status.
The whole reading is extremely interesting because you can think of numerous examples in our day to day life. It’s frightening how completely bias and discriminating these shows are.
-Rachel Ward

October 22, 2008

Media and Socialization

Social Institutions: Media

Socialization is the heartbeat of hatred and discrimination in America. Every day we are exposed to countless displays of racism; whether they are advertisements, public figures, T.V. shows, movies, our local news broadcasts, or even teaching from parents, schools and churches, many of them utilize stereotypes and overgeneralizations to classify race groups, class groups, genders and sexualities. It is when we are exposed to this every day that the process of socialization begins to take effect. As Ore taught us in the first part of her book:

“we are not born with a sense of what it means to be male, female, or intersexual; with a disability or not; black, Latina/o, Asian, white, or Native American; gay, straight, asexual, or bisexual; or rich, working-class, poor or middle-class.? (Ore 5)

Our minds begin as a clean slate, but our beliefs depend heavily on the environment that influences us on a daily basis.

Television is one of the biggest and most effective media for social construction, stereotypes, and strategic classifications. Everyday sitcoms like the Simpsons, Will and Grace, and I Love Lucy present undeniable generalizations about race, sexuality, and gender roles. Also, the neighborhood news that we watch every morning or every night connects races with morals, and work with gender. And perhaps the most disgusting, reality television, paints a very surreal, scripted, and constructed picture of “real? life, yet people in America are eating it all up. They are absorbing all of the information and the norms ideas, prejudice, and hatred that comes along with it. In the reading from the Ore collection, Butsch rips apart sitcoms of the past and present and shows their true colors. The scary part of the situation is that most people have no idea that these underlying notions exist.

How can we escape from the trend of socialization in the United States when we are consuming such a large amount of socially constructed media, and putting out even more that we can consume?

-Sam Hankey

October 26, 2008


I didn't realize all the different ways racism was incorporated into our language before I read the chapter on language. It talked about how we see black as "the bad guys" or evil, and white as purity or the "good guys." While this is true, I don't really associate white people as the good guys or black people as the bad guys. But the fact that black has negative connotations is racist because our society labels people of African descent "black" so that can place those negative connotations on a that race. I've never really thought of this before, probably because I am white and it has never really affected me, or my "color" has never been labeled as evil. Also the use of the word slave over African people devalues the person, because the word slave makes it seem like less than human. It really devalues African people when history books say things like “Europeans immigrants moved to America, and slaves were brought to America.? I never realized how derogatory that phrase was. The book even says how “people in Western cultures do not realize the extent to which their racial attitudes have been conditioned since early childhood.? I also found the disabled part pretty interesting. I am a waitress and I work with a guy who washes dishes and everyone thinks he is crazy because he talks to himself for hours. I’ve noticed that he makes racist comments towards my customers. He says things like “they don’t know what’s going on? just because they have a different accent and aren’t white. The book says that when you put the label crazy on someone, all of their behavior becomes dismissible. When he makes comments like that or makes suggestions at work on how we should do things differently, everyone at work just kind of ignores it because we don’t see any of what he says as valid. We excuse him for his racist behavior because we think he is crazy, and we don’t listen to his arguments for change because we think he is crazy. It’s sad, but it is true.
Allie Kallman

October 29, 2008

please step forward, please step back

I would like to address the demonstration that we did in class today 10/28/08. I felt as though many people in the class felt a little confused and could not get a feel of where the discussion was going. While watching this I couldn’t help but think of the implications of the confusion. The exercise called for us to step forward or step back depending on the questions. The questions were aimed at positions of power and of oppression only examining the polices in place in American history .
While I think if our room allowed for more space the simulation could have been a great start for conversation concerning how past privilege and the power of intersectionality only leaves room for confusion with the current generation of essentially making these issue hard to deal with currently.
One reason I assume people were not sure where to step is that many of us due to the way our ancestors enter the country don’t have access to know exactly what their experience was in this country. Furthermore some people like me are not even able to trace back my official origin past migration to the united states of America.
I felt as though some were even offend by the simulation saying that the exercise did not account for the intersectionality of race and class in America. but personally I think that was the point. Without dealing with intelligence, education or any personal makings if these individuals we see a real life illustration of individual staring points would be in America. if we want to believe it or not.
I think what needs to happen is we begin examine what it means to have minorities and immigrants quietly moving towards the back of the class. While others get to take a few more step forward.

Intersections Small and Large

When thinking of my own life, I have never really realized how many things need to "come together" to make me who I am in a social context. Our society is so complex and we are such social beings that every historical event has led to my "place" on earth at this time. I feel because of how modern-day American society runs, my race, class, gender, and sexuality play a role in how I perceive the outside world and how the outside world perceives me.

Take my sexuality for example. I am "defined" as a heterosexual female. However, what does this mean? In previous readings from the Ore text, we learn that heterosexuality is socially constructed in such strict terms, but I feel that it is a part of who I am somehow. In this society, it somehow places me at an advantage in certain arenas over someone who is not heterosexual with regards to financial obligations, options for marriage and benefits, and the lack of discrimination I feel in my surroundings. I know this to be true, but I don't know why there is such emphasis on it. I have subconsciously simply "accepted" this to be true.

My sexuality also intersects with my class. I have more co-health care options as I enter into the workforce with my spouse, I will have more options for jobs because I am not discriminated against by homophobics in positions of hiring power. There have been laws to banish such ridiculous practices, but it still exists. Again, I cannot talk about my class without regards to my race and gender.

My race and gender intersect with my class. Again in this society, unfortunately race and gender still play a part in our life opportunities. Because of my gender (female) I may be paid less or discriminated against in the workplace. I will also have the perceived extra burden (as talked about in the readings) of extra housework because of my gender. My race (European-American) also plays a role, but for me it has been in a neutral, therefore positive way. I have never felt burdened because of my skin tone, so I can assume that is an advantage.

These categories play out in both small and large arenas, from within my individual self, to conversations with small groups, to my University classes, to my city, state, region, country, and even world. These intersections leave us confused and challenge the notion that everyone has a set "place" in society. If we can deconstruct these categories and have everyone understand how superficial they all are, we can promote change and simply become human beings.

October 30, 2008

Savage Inequalities and 'Reverse-classism'...Selfish disregard in consumer America

This writing comes as response both to John’s comments on being a ‘reverse-classist’ and my re-discovery of Kozol’s article “Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools? on account of studying. It also ties into the recent class discussions about the economy.

As I re-read Kozol’s work, I am stricken again by the maturity of the young
Anacostia students: “’Our teachers,’ says Octavia, ‘ shouldn’t have to eat here in the basement. I would like for them to have a dining room. A nice room with a salad bar. Serve our teachers big thick steaks to give them energy’?(Kozul 310). Even at the young age of 8, when children should remain fresh and unmarred by the tragedies of life, able to have childhoods, they are facing immensely discouraging circumstances. And they seem to confront it head on with a selflessness that much of this country (of all ages) seems to be unfamiliar with. I wonder, if you asked an 8 year old, white, middle-class child with his/her own room and x-box, what they wanted to improve in their school, would they mention their teachers well being? Not only does this strike down with any doubt any stereotypes of the morally-repugnant poor, but John, I can see where this could lead to the feelings you expressed. Not just lead to them, in fact, but legitimize them totally. Where is the missing link for economically privileged children (and lets face it, not just children)? Why do they seem to lack, almost entirely, this feeling of unselfish community?
And I’m not saying this from the outside looking in: I am undoubtedly a member of the middle class, and was undoubtedly a member of middle class schools since about the age of 10.

I suppose the answer to this question may seem somewhat obvious: we don’t need our community. Hardship undoubtedly brings people together, but must it take a plunge towards the bottom for us to see those that we trod upon daily to stay on top?

Furthermore, in connection back to the economy, I think the constant encouragement of consumerism is also to blame. There is constantly an emphasis in this country on bigger, better, and ones own. Having your own room, own toys, own books, own anything. Holding this type of individualism on a pedestal only encourages people, young and old, but most of all those who can, to pursue their own interests rather than look around to those who need it more. Having all your own things only encourages you to share less, your own room only encourages you to compromise less, and spatially separate more.
This type of consumerism is also largely to blame for the economic crisis we’re in, and those who are going to take the biggest hit. People have been spending beyond their means based upon the before-rising values of their homes. Some of those people are totally responsible for succumbing to the seduction of consumerism. Many others were coerced into ‘treating themselves’ by others who knew it would only benefit them more, regardless of how hard and fast the individual who’s financial trajectory was in question would fall when all this underhandedness came to a head, as it has now.

This total lack of collective goal is unnerving and overwhelming. How do you begin to erode the financially privileged feelings of entitlement to all the luxuries? It seems disgustingly obvious, so why doesn’t it seem to hit home?
I am lucky that I was raised by parents (both of which came from what I would call families that often breached poverty) that never let me forget my privilege, kept me aware, and did not encourage (when it was allowed) being self-indulgent. But even on top of that, I know I don’t do my part. I must not, because I’m way to comfortable.

So education has a lot of work to do. Not only do these “savage inequalities? need to be remedied, but in order to do so, it needs to become a priority to teach upper and middle class students about the benefits they receive, what they signify, what they do NOT signify (superiority, hardest workers, etc.), and the role we can each play in helping to remedy these circumstances. This education needs to exist in the home and at school. And sorry, parents, teachers, and any other adult or older role models, but this entails living by example. We’ve got to show young children that what we value in this life is them and each other as human beings, not the latest and greatest consumer luxuries. Niceties are nice, and yes, they are okay, but I’m sure we can all think of indulgences that are absolutely over the top, I can’t begin to imagine that someone really needs a gigantic house like some I’ve seen to be a happy family… Treats are treats, but nobody is entitled to them, and on the flip side, Octavia is ABSOLUTELY entitled to enjoy her school lunch without sharing it with the resident rats…

October 31, 2008

Americans Started the Race from Different Starting Line

The wealth and income disparity in thi scounty follows racial divisons. The majoritiy of the wealth is owned by whites while the majoritty of the minorites in this country are struggling.In fact,the wealth inequality gaps are the biggest in USA compared to other industrialized nations.But why the disparity?The answer to this question depends on who you ask.There are some who believe that wealth aqusition is this country is based on individual effort and hard work.But the answer is not as simple as that.There are lots of historical factors that have contributed to the economic reality of today's America.
The majority of the wealth in this country is inherited.That measn most of the individuals who own different assets such as house or piece of land today inherited it from their ancestors.And due to some obvious historical reasons it was mostly,almost always ,white people who were able to aquire wealth until a generation or so ago.So,it's those white people who were able to pass their wealth to their children or other relatives.Hene the wealth inequality .In other words,not all Americans started the race to wealth aqusition from the same lane.Some were ahead before even the race begun.So,understandably it's hard to catch up for those who started behind.

Institutions have contibuted a lot in creating and maintaining this wealth inequality.Government policies/programms such as social security,pell grants,subsidized mortgages ,and land grants were instrumental in favoring the white population.
Governmentt actions were also instrumental in disvavoring othe minority groups.Native Americans,for instance, were stripped off their lands by the white settlers.African Americans were brought from Africa as slaves and they were considered as properties themselves,let alone owning property.How are they,then, going to catch up with the whites who were making wealth off the slaves' labors and sweats?Spanish speaking people were also the subject of numerous injustices by the whites.Their lands were subjugated and then taken by the US governmetn on numerous occasions.
So,the idea that wealth aqusition has been all about individual effort and hard work doesn't hold water.Although individual effort and hard work show one aspect of it they don't tell the whole story.Instituions ,like the government should take measures to narrow the wealth inequalities in this country.At least they are responsible to make the field even to all .

Yonas W.