Posts Tagged ‘ethnicity’

What problem can you think of that most people do but most people don’t do anything about? No, it’s not laughing when seniors drool. “Ill be short and sweet…lol…stereotypes!!!” was a topic suggested by a friend of mine so lets talk.

Stereotypes are used by just about everyone who doesn’t live under a rock both mentally and verbally. I say it’s one of the most talked about things but never acted upon because of the vast amount of people who use stereotypes everyday versus those who see it as deviance and doing something about it. It’s almost a new age taboo that’s become such a standard it falls shy of being an everyday commodity.

Stereotypes are harsh generalizations about an entire categorie of people. These  irrational views give people rigid views of groups of people when really there is no direct evidence that people of that categorie should share that generalized trait. Such views as white youth being prone to taking lives in retaliation to bullying or black youth being prone to stealing are so conditioned in society that it is often joked about and those who fall into the categories are exploited. This conditioning builds unwanted attention to anyone who outward appearance fits the description. This also allows for some to get away with deviance when they don’t fit the type by exploiting the idea of stereotypes.  There is also such a thing as positive stereotypes, where a particular group is seen as possessing a good trait among other groups. These stereotypes, such as people of asian descent being good at math or African Americans are better dancers, put an unwanted strain on someone who doesn’t fit the portrayal, or status quo.

Stereotypes, or prejudices, also leads to a scapegoating. Scapegoating is when people of a particular catagorie unfairly blame people of another catagorie for their own problems. Such as when people of lower middle and the working class may feel strain and notice financial change in their world, they may blame people on welfare or even immagrant workers for the strain on jobs and financial woes. It all traces back to those irrational views of a group of people.

So why do we do it so much? The answer is hierarchy (Short and sweet). Hierarchy simply is a system of rank in any society and stereotypes only help to inforce this idea. By enforcing that people in one categorie do one thing and people in another do differently creates a classification, or logical order, of everyone in society. For example, If people commonly agree that African Americans are lazy, what’s going to stop a future employer from turning someone of African descent down for a future job or referring him to a lower, more subordinating employment? If people commonly don’t see Euro-American males in business suits as thieves, what’s to stop a store owner from not watching the guy in the suit and paying attention to the working class Mexican shopping? Stereotypes form and invoke the structure of people’s standing and class in society. When some people have noticed the system, they play up or play down parts of their lives to stand apart from those who are seen as “fitting” the stereotypes.

So what can we do? I was struck recently when my uncle commented on one of blogs and said,”…What do you think of when I say the words “Apache-Indian”? Do you think Doctor, Lawyer, Businessman or Statesman? I would guess you don’t and I ask you to ask yourself why? Your answer is the key to truly understanding and fixing the problem…” It wasn’t until then that I realized the conditioning and habit society has with stereotypes. BUT I am a firm believer that habits can be broken….

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I know I am not alone on this subject. To me, what allows for some of the prejudice and slant views of groups in society from others is when groups “claim” certain things as their own. Come on, nobody likes that kid on the playground that wouldn’t share his toys. With that said lets tackle Black History Month.

Black History month was started back in  the late 20’s by Carter G. Woodson, a historian. It began as “Negro History Week” and soon became “Black History Month”. The month of February was chosen because Abraham Lincoln(Feb 12th), our 16th president, and Frederick Douglass(Feb 14th), an abolitionist amoung other things. The purpose for Black History Month was to explore the history of blacks in society because Woodson and others alike saw that blacks were misrepresented, overlooked, and neglected as a functioning part of society. Blacks were often seen as slaves with descendants on the low end of the social scale according to history books, so Black History Month was seen to combat these views and show that blacks had more contributions to society.

I can see the importance of Black History Month during those times of extreme social stratification. I almost seems necessary to show the world that looks down upon you that you  have and have contributed more to society. Times have also changed and I don’t see the importance of Black History Month anymore. I can see the people running over the hills with pitch forks and burning stakes looking for me so let me explain a little.

First, calling it “Black” history month is a politically incorrect phrase. Remember, Black is terms of race and not ethnicity, so shouldn’t Black history month include Jaimaicans, Haitians, Barbadians, Africans, ect? My point is when you say “Black” let us not only mean “Non Hispanic African Americans”

Second, I can only say off of my experiences in the schools I attended, Black History month wasn’t really taught or shown to us. You would only see a couple of the same faces highlighted every year such as Martin Luther King, Harriet Tubman, and Malcom X to name a few. We all know who Martin Luther King Jr. is and what he preached but I don’t know many people my age who can interpret his dream and tell me what it means to them. How many young people know what Malcome X stood for? The famous faces are highlighted but not taught.

Third, many people say Black History should be taught 365 days a year. So why celebrate a month? Just intigrate learning Black History into social subjects, which to my knowledge is done anyway.

My point is part of the problem with ethnicity prejudices in America is groups of people claiming or calling something their own. Though it may seem as if it’s a celebration of heritage, which I don’t deny that it is, it creates major separation in the American society. So my answer is create a “Cultural History Month” or “American History Month”. Let us celebrate all the great cultures and ethnicities that defines the United States! Puerto Rican, Vietnamese, German, Irish, African, Cuban, Japanese, Haitian, Indian, Brazilian, Native American, Mexican, Polish, ECT, and what ever ethnicities you can think of. Throw all of them in and embrace the history of all the people that make America the great country that it is.

One of my favorite socials topics of discussion is the subject of “race”. To me, race had only benefited a select few people who tried to sort out the world from a biological perspective. Everyone one else, including myself, should drop it and walk away. Most people don’t even know what race is. Do you really? Don’t second guess your thoughts now because I’m going to tell you exactly what race is. Race is a socially constructed category made up of people who share biologically transmitted traits that people of society consider important. Most of you are saying “duh”, so I’ll ask my next question. What is ethnicity? Here’s a clue, its not race.

In the nineteenth century biologists tried to “organize” the world’s diversity by constructing three distinct racial types. People with light skin were and fine hair were called Caucasoid, people with dark skin and coarse hair were called Negroid, and people with yellow or brown skin with distinctive eyelids were called Mongoloid. Categorizing can be damaging and harmful. Simply because there are no “pure” people in any society. Within the categories there are even ranges. For example a Caucasoid could range from very light, such as in Poland, to very dark, such as southern India. Same goes for Negroids and Mongoloids.

To answer “What is ethnicity?”, ethnicity is a shared cultural heritage. My religion, my cultural celebrations, my common ancestors, my language define my ethnicity. The great thing about the United States is that we are a multiethnical society. Our cultures mix and it creates an array of colorful pictures for everyone to learn from and grow together. I personally have many ethnicities in terms of distinct common ancestors, language, and cultural traditions. But I’m considered one race because of my physical  appearance that is important to society. This is why, to me, race is stupid. Over generations here in America, the genetic traits of other races have mixed in people making a big gray area. Most of us genetically classify with multiple races. So the real question is in the last part of the definition of race, the classification of physical traits that are important to society. Race is here because we put it here. It’s like Santa, if you don’t believe in him, he doesn’t exist. Though you will hear many people say race isn’t important (and it is becoming less meaningful in American society) people are still sensitive to people’s racial background. The main reason society makes race important is because it creates a hierarchy. We then classify races to be inherently “better” than another. Trust me when I tell you, there is no scientific evidence linking genetics to races being better than another.

We construct the reality of race and ethnicity. Often individuals will play up or play down cultural traits to fit in or stand out in society. I think most of us have fallen victim to that at some point or another. Martin Luther King Jr said it the best when he said to judge not by skin color, but by the content of character. The truth is we all belong to the same species no matter what color you are. I believe we will one day get to a point where race wont matter and we can all enjoy the “American” culture.

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