Feb 7: Differences

Is race just a box you check on a government form? If I check Native American continuously will I become Native American in the eyes of others? The Toolbox states that “race is anything but natural and eternal. It is, on the contrary, quite profoundly social and political,” (191). How do you see race as a malleable concept used in current American society to establish a social or political structure and why do you think it is used in this way? What are the possible outcomes of this type of power structure on social class?


5 thoughts on “Feb 7: Differences

  1. I was raised to view everyone the same: everyone is a human being. No matter what their skin tone is, everyone is a unique individual with different thoughts and feelings that we should understand and learn from. I have always been of the belief that checking a box to display your race is outdated, and that we should all be seen as individuals. Whether I am speaking to a black man, a white woman, or any other ethnicity or gender I see them as human beings. I feel like some people can not accept what seems foreign to them, but it is only foreign if you don’t accept them as a fellow human. As for the possible outcomes of viewing everyone as an equal, it just promotes the idea that anyone can do anything, which is something I have always firmly believed. I have a friend from high school who grew up in a rough neighborhood, but worked his tail off academically and earned a full ride to a prestigious university. I believe that power structure should be based on work ethic, so if you work hard, you get far in life. “Race is a ubiquitous feature of American social and political landscapes, and everyone seems to know what it means. Or do they?” (191) I feel like the omnipresent aspect of race was formed long ago, but with times today, I have never seen the point in viewing anyone differently then another person. We are all equal human beings, and we should come together as humans.

  2. I see race as a social construct used to separate others because of their differences. The use of this separation in society can cause a number of things such as, institutionalized racism, oppression, and overall hatred of a group of people because of the color of their skin. Race in society is used to oppress minorities in order to benefit the majority as a whole. On page 174 the authors state, “..; having brown skin does not inherently mean anything. But, as Frederick Douglas made clear, having brown skin in the American South in the 1840s certainly did carry very specific–and very deadly–signification.” Meaning that, the color of your skin nowhere indicates who you are as a person but, it can definitely show how others will treat you because of said skin color.

  3. I think race should be considered irrelevant when filling out forms. The color of anyone’s skin shouldn’t be relevant information, but unfortunately that’s how American society works. Checking Native American wont make you an actual Native American in anyone’s eyes. People determine race by what others look like and the color of their skin, not by a check box. I think race is a tool that is quietly and systematically used to benefit and uplift the majority. Page 177 says, “Attention to differences highlights the negotiation of contextual differences that is interpretation itself.” I think we pay attention to race because that’s what we were taught and America likes to keep the illusion that it’s a relevant difference. But in actuality it just creates hate and prejudice, by allowing people to attribute things they don’t like to the color of people’s skin. Because this power structure benefits the majority, it oppresses minorities at the same time. for example, African Americans have the lowest house hold income than any other race in America.

  4. Race is entirely malleable, yet this does not mean it is entirely arbitrary. In the example provided, the US government’s definition of who is “Asian” changed in the 70’s. This is not to say that they magically changed the physical characteristics of their being, or even their essence, rather it proves that the definition of “Asian” based on societal constructs. This same ideology is prevalent in American politics today. Take, for example, the recent “Muslim” Ban (which apparently is neither Muslim based or a ban), which has targetted citizens from 7 nations. Identity politics has painted all the potential refugees and immigrants as Muslim and potential extremists. This flies in the face of the discriminated minority groups seeking asylum from persecution, such as the Yazidi people, who are persecuted for their blonde hair, fairer skin and Christian beliefs. This discriminatory ban is supposed to protect western security, ideologies and by extension, the Christian religion. Steve Bannon, chief of the NSC, has publically stated that Christianity is at war with radical Islam, and are under direct threat from extremists. Yet this blanket ban on 7 nations discriminates against Christian groups, as well as sympathizers in the ME who have worked with American forces for a decade, and are constantly threatened with death. The current establishment views Islam as a political, cultural identity, rather than a religious belief. Ask anyone where Muslims come from, and most likely one will hear the middle east, despite enormous followings in both SE Asia and N. Africa. The signifier, Muslim, in the eyes of the American political sphere, signifies any Middle-easterner, rather than a follower of the teaching of Muhammad.

  5. Here something I think is interesting down this line: my grandma on my mother side is mixed as her mom was passed for white in the South of the early 20th century while my other grandmother is ethnically Jewish but chooses to never bring that up because she was born in 1936 in Greece. Wasn’t a good time to even tangentially be Jewish. Even I’ve been identified as a wide variety of races from Latino to Japanese, but I check the white box when filing my taxes (not Hispanic, whatever.) I don’t identify as white though, it just seems the easiest considering explains the above took so much space, but I do feel like even asking is a bit archaic. I still can’t see what benefit comes from organizing and categorizing people on the basis of skin tone or ethnicity, something a person has absolutely no control over and if anything leads people to hide their ethnicity in favor of the more popular one. Hence the grandparent story.

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