What Did You Learn About Race, Class, And Gender This Semester?

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Societies across the globe grapple with the issue of socially constructed differences, and some of these differences are in the line of gender, race, and class. The issues are a constant source of societal debate because a person’s race, gender, or class has a direct implication on their life chances, shapes their opportunities, and this ultimately affects their quality of life. I have learned that the social constructs of gender, race, and class produce social inequalities. Social inequalities are the direct result of people’s social behaviors through sexist or racist practices and other discriminatory tendencies whose ripple effects effect affects other people’s opportunities. For example, the different understandings of the society of issues such as racial characteristics and what constitutes appropriate gender roles result in social stereotyping. Such stereotypes have far-reaching effects, including disproportionately disadvantaging already vulnerable minority groups in the U.S.

Stereotypes predispose people to discriminate against others that they feel or perceive as being different. I have learned that discrimination results in social stratification because the perpetrators almost always benefit while their victims are disadvantaged. For example, minority groups in the United States are systemically disadvantaged by discrimination, resulting in chronic underprivilege and vulnerability in the communities. The textbook American ethnicity by Adalberto Aguirre and Jonathan Turner puts this point into perspective through their elaborate discussion of the various minority groups in the U.S and the issues that affect them. The discussion of the incomes of various groups indicates why poverty continues to stem in some communities despite attempts by these communities to better themselves. For example, an African American might be well educated and qualify for a job, but their pay would be significantly lower than that of their white colleagues in a similar position. Ultimately, these individuals might not afford the same amenities as their white peers resulting in stratification.  

Another important lesson from the course is that biracial people struggle with determining and finding an authentic identity. Many such people will tend to ignore identifying with either of their biracial identities and assimilate identities they deem will enable them to fit in with their peers. However, I have learned that such amorphous identities can be dangerous because one cannot form a self-identity. Having a self-identity is an important motivator and driver of one’s actions, which can explain why Mary Crow Dog, the author of Lakota Woman, falls into self-destructive tendencies. Crow manages to emancipate herself when she finds the Indian culture that she feels comfortable practicing. I learned that mixed-race individuals cannot fully identify with either of their races as loyalty to one is seen as a betrayal and shunning of the other, which causes challenges as they journey through forming and developing a self-identity. 

How Has Your Life Been Influenced and Shaped by Race, Class, And Gender?
Like many other minority groups, aspects of race, gender, and class are evident in my life. As a female of Hispanic descent living in the U.S has its opportunities and a fair share of challenges. First, I have grown up with an awareness of the stereotypes directed toward the Hispanic community. Some of the stereotypes include being uneducated, violent, criminals and drug dealers, illegal aliens, hard labor workers, and job stealers, among others. Time and again, I have encountered people that consciously or unconsciously make stereotypical comments about the Hispanic community in general and me. Such views and labels can shape and influence and shape a person’s life by making them believe the misinformed ideas as being true. Influential works of writers such as Suarez-Orozco posit that a consistent subjection to stigmatized identities by Hispanics causes internalization of these identities causing self-defeating behaviors and resigned helplessness. I have learned not to let the negative things that people say about being female, my race, and class not inform how I perceive myself. Being a Hispanic female, I have had people, including those of my race, tell me that I might get an education but fail to achieve a higher social class. I do not let such negativity influence my thoughts and actions but constantly draw from the strengths of my race and gender, which include hardworking, passionate, focused, and determined. 

Second, my life has been influenced by gender, race, and class in that I have become conscious of these issues and the implications they have on people. As such, I tread lightly when discussing matters relating to them as I have seen first-hand the disadvantage the cost they have on people’s lives. I take every opportunity I get to educate people about the Hispanic community because I have the firm belief that educating society will contribute toward lessening stereotyping and discrimination. I have learned that speaking up and defending myself from uneducated and misplaced sentiments is vital. I noted that being passive and ignoring discrimination and stereotypes encourages perpetrators to do it again; hence then need to stop them. Women are often told they cannot lead or voice their opinions to challenge authority. Hispanics and people of underprivileged households are told they cannot break the cycle of poverty, and this mindset should be challenged at every opportunity. Having experienced and seen the implications of racial, gender, and class inequalities, I can relate to the unique challenges that other minority groups face. As such, I am sensitive and empathetic to their issues and strive to ensure that my actions towards them are uplifting rather than tearing.