Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Culture. Show all posts

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Next American Revolution


We live in a time where perception is becoming law.  You see it everywhere; in the government, on television, and in personal interactions with others.  But this to some degree can be said about all stages of humanity in its current Homo Erectus form.  Like all things, perceptions are mutable because no two people can have the exact same one.  We are greater for this, and in some ways worse for this.  In the end, different is better because it opens the doors to possibility, maybe, and the impossible. Perception accomplishes all of this.  In our age of instant information, perceptions travel faster.  At the speed of light even, which has to a large degree accelerated our rate of development, and our ability to ascertain our individual perceptions.  So we can just a quickly modify them.

Movie Poster
This thought process comes from watching a fascinating movie this weekend called Ruby's Bucket of Blood.  It was the story of a 1950s black woman in Louisiana who ran her own juke joint.  For people that don't know what a juke joint is, it's a speakeasy, a bar with musical entertainment. They were established by blacks in light of Jim Crow laws that barred blacks from white establishments.  So blacks created their own clubs.

The movie did the basic things and I was impressed by all of the stones the story and direction left unturned. They talked about segregation, homosexuality, spousal abuse, class within races, extended families. The most interesting aspect was the commentary about the different ways that people of color can discriminate against each other, and the way whites can as well.  They also dealt with a mentality and attitude that still exists to this day. They referred to it as 'slave' mentality.

Historically it has been thought of as the mental byproduct an enslaved people have to reject upon release.  The thought was it would take as many centuries to breed out as it took to breed in. But it is more than just a degree of perceived ownership, and not being able to make decisions regarding yourself or your children. It is more about a degree of perceived allowances in society.  What is acceptable and what is not acceptable as a person of color in a white world and vice versa? What is acceptable for a white person in a white world or a white person in a person of color world?

As I watched this movie I was startled to realize that most people who are not of color probably would not understand what the primary elements of this movie talked about because of context.  Meaning that if you are not a person of color who has experienced levels of discrimination you would have no idea what the underlying message was behind the movie.  In direct contrast there were aspects of being white that were confronted that most people of color would not be able to understand because they have not experienced that degree of discrimination that whites place on each other at times in regards to how to deal with people of color. And I wondered about that and the issues with not just perception, but with perspective and how these populations could ever find it with one another in such a short period of time.

Desegregation Protesters
The United States has gone through a myriad of changes in a few short centuries that other countries have taken nearly a 1000 years to sort through when you compare histories.  There are still people alive who remember Jim Crow laws and why they had to be followed.  My grandmother and mother are two of them.  This is when perspective becomes so very interesting.  The idea that I, a 34 year old woman in America, and anyone of my age group, has immediate family members that know of and willfully participated in the act of segregation and deemed it acceptable is a mind-blowing perspective if you really think about it. And while segregation was declared illegal in the 50's, then again in the 60s, with a series of subsequent laws as people searched for and found loopholes, the South was able to maintain it well into the 70's which was when I was born. Many people maintain that it is still very prevalent today.  Doubt me, check state report cards that break down academic achievement by race and note the ones that don’t have enough of a certain race to even rate it.  Schools are still segregated due to real estate markets and housing discrimination; another loophole for continued segregation that litigation is still dealing with. However, I see that despite that fact, my surroundings are a far cry from the world my mother grew up in. And even further still from the society my grandmother grew up in.  I find myself wondering at how I would've raised children in my mother's time.  Would I have raised them to fight, or would I have been fearful and raised them to survive?

Let me paint a picture for you. Some of you are mothers so this should be easy for you.  For those who are not just imagine. Try being a mother who has to deal with raising children in a world where even though the law has forbidden treating you and those like you badly, the people have made sure that they can continue with little or no penalty. On many occasions you have seen others hurt, beaten, falsely jailed. You yourself have been the victim of being denied jobs, denied good housing, and denied adequate medical care.  You don't know how you are going to keep your children alive without better pay, better food, and better medicine. Secretly you suspect that the system you have to work in would prefer that your children died. There were times when you heard people say as much. When you try to fight the injustice, on several occasions you are told that if you balk at this, your fate will be worse because people either don't want things to change or they are too weak to rock the boat.  But they all say you should be grateful for the scraps you have been given.  The ones in charge say none of you are worth it anyway. Stay in your place, and be grateful I don't take that from you too. How fearful are you as a mother with a son or daughter?  You decide that you have to train them to think and act in a certain way to insure that they survive.  You see, in a climate like this achieving is the least of your concerns.  Survival is the most important because you know that you have it better than those before you, so there is a chance that your children, their children will have it even better. But they have to manage to grow up and carry on. Just survive. So what manner of child would this raise?  What would be their goals and inclinations?  See the many, many ways that they would not coincide with the new reality they have been given that is so different from yours.

American Dream
This analogy works for all discriminated against populations and their reluctant oppressors.  Just insert the classification, race, social class, gender. The crux of all discrimination is a powerful group of people dictating what other people deserve, who deserves to give it to them, and why.  It’s bullying for adults.  Last I checked that wasn't supposed to be the American way.  Remember the American Dream; achieve and pull yourself up by your own bootstraps.  How do you manage that without boots I often wonder?  In this I mean food, shelter, medical care.  The basics. Despite that people have managed something. But how would you expect people to be who have been told that they can achieve, but only on the terms of others, and then blamed for their lack of achievement. It just becomes a fixed craps game where every roll is snake eyes because even if you somehow manage to 'do well' that was somehow given to you and not actually earned.


Even though it was called 'slave mentality' for blacks, the truth is other populations suffer and understand it so it isn't really a 'slave mentality', as it is a caste system mentality. And this caste mentality is felt by ALL in the society system. It is a series of ideas about health, lifestyle, culture, ideologies, wealth, success, meritocracy, class, race and gender that the American media and institution of government like to reinforce for population control. The importance of understanding this mentality is the key to a future America that can at least understand itself.  America right now is like an amnesiac schizophrenic.  It forgets all of its personalities as soon as it switches to another, and it can't recall the history of the one it's in.  It would be the highest of hypocrisy if the country knew what the word meant.

2010 Census Statistics
The truth is America is not equal, middle class blacks and Latinos still live in low income neighborhoods because they are barred from better ones fitting their income status.  America is not wealthy. There are wealthy people in America, about 10% to be exact.  America isn't mostly middle class; that is currently being wiped out by the greed of the wealthy.  America isn't democratic; states are currently putting in measures to prevent certain populations from voting.  America is not religiously tolerant.  Not a day goes by that someone on television isn't referring to or treating all Muslims like terrorists.  America is not peaceful. America has the most people incarcerated per capita than any country in the world (increased dramatically since the ‘war on drugs’ began in the early 80’s) and has been at war for the last 50 or so years on foreign shores.  America is not a melting pot or a salad bowl.  People are asserting their multicultural, multiracial status daily as more Americans are fitting under this distinction. Other global communities are reestablishing their communities in America. Populations are choosing to huddle together in distinct neighborhoods easily identified by their culture.

The other truth is that the only constant in life is change.  We are a country that has been divided by many issues.  Race, wealth and religion being the big three in my opinion. Race is a condition that is fixing itself if the rising production of mixed race children is any indication. Hopefully soon all children will be just what they are . . American children. No disclaimer, no classification. Wealth, another problem weeding itself out as the middle class vanishes and the opulence of the wealthy is being uncovered.  Soon they will be brought to task for the systematic stealing of money and resources from the American public. Because when the wealthy can no longer squeeze money out of us, they will turn on each other.  Their greed demands more. Someone wealthy enough to have power over this will stop them as they reach for their wealth. And religion, in light of recent events we see clearly how criminalized none Christians are in the media, while Christians are treated as 'lone gunmen' that don't represent all of Christianity.  Amazing that this isn't the case for Muslims. We define politicians citing religious right as the future of this country as lunatics. 

Human
What the media and government seems to not understand is that despite their careful cultivation of these issues to try and panic people into a frenzy, America has been giving them its own answer the entire time.  We need change, and whether they like it or not, we will have it. Even if we have to create it ourselves.




American Dream courtesy of http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-BoWTok3w1s0/TZCgx45BlPI/AAAAAAAAADg/lMsL07ezjzo/s1600/20081123_barack_obama_comic_01.gif


Human courtesy of http://www.mixedracestudies.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/MultiracialIdentityMovie.jpg

Monday, May 9, 2011

Stereotype Tree

Multicultural image
I think the importance of stereotypes and their existence become greatly undervalued.  If you ask someone why a stereotype is bad your general response would be something along the lines of 'Well it isn't polite, or nice."  Which of course opens the doorway of using them when you intentionally want to be mean or seen as bad.  It becomes a matter of opinion on civility instead of a matter of fact in regards to inequality systems.  Make no mistake about it; stereotypes have very little to do with civility and a whole lot more to do with the maintaining of inequality systems.

Inequality systems are an interesting thing.  In the current text I am reading "The Social Construction of Difference and Inequality" there is an analogy that is given by Marilyn Frye that I find to be very appropriate:

"Consider a birdcage. If you look very closely at just one wire in the cage, you cannot see the other wires.” When the cage is observed so closely, it’s unclear why a bird—eager to escape—wouldn’t just fly around the wire. It’s necessary to step back and look at the entire cage. “It is perfectly obvious that the bird is surrounded by a network of systematically related barriers, no one of which could be the least hindrance to its flight, but which, by their relations to each other, are as confining as the walls of a dungeon” (Ore, 2003)

The interesting aspect of inequality systems is that people have a tendency to deny their existence.  The common perceptions among average Americans are that if a certain sector of the population is not successful it is through their own lack of desire, initiative, and drive.  According to the most privileged Americans, the playing field is level.  This is just the idea that the inequality maintenance system needs to survive. This perception of falsified equality. Yet in language, media, and legislation inequality thrives, and has convinced some that the perceptions given are the truth of the tale. Stereotypes then become even more invasive than these other influences because stereotypes are what a person is involved with on a psychic level and it becomes condoned and supported by these things.  This causes an invalidated truth to take root and be accepted as a validated truth.

Stereotypes are formed because we as people need to isolate things; assemble patterns. That's what we do, and how we learn. Just in case no one has noticed, humanity is in a heap of trouble. We have compounding problems from our environment to our economy. The issue is that likeminded groups stick together. We form these pockets of humanity, and these pockets only like to allow other likeminded individuals in them. We all do it.  However, like minded individuals are what got us into this situation in the first place. Diversity is the only answer now. Different heads need to be thinking about our issues from different perspectives of thought. No individual group is going to come up with an adequate solution. They can't. The only people they bounce ideas off of are just like them, and they see things too similarly. If they had a viable answer we wouldn't be in such a quandary.

Stereotypes are the root of all perspective evil because they incorporate assumptions about a whole that is usually only applicable to a few. However with this assumption in place, the perspective of the person is set and fixed to find evidence of this assumption in everything. It's our ability to create patterns used against us. Even if the stereotype is obviously not true in a person, we are actively looking for it to the point that another unrelated aspect of them seems to reinforce the stereotype. It's us typecasting each other, building that pattern.

Amazing Tree
Stereotype Tree

ROOTS
Roots of stereotypes come from culture, life experiences, and media. These are the things that shape us that were in place before we are even conscious of what we are or who we are going to be. The surrounding infrastructure that facilitated your birth. We would all be different people had we been born in the early 1800s instead of now.

Culture
Culture is the thing your family instilled in you and your beliefs. This includes religion, location, racial identity, socioeconomic status, acceptable behaviors and rewarded ideas. These are all the factors that those before you put into place. My foundation was set by a mother who raised me to believe that as a general rule people considered 'white' would always look down on me, but this was should not be the case.  They are no different than us, but they will always act like they are. Already I have a cultural perspective that says this type of person is always going to look down on me, but they are foolish for it. There is no difference between them and me.  This colors all interactions I have with people that are considered 'white'.  Does this person disapprove of what I am doing because as a woman who is 'not white' I should not be doing this because it implies equality?

This is the first step, so try to really dig into this concept and formulate what was presented to you as far as ethnic, class, financial, gender, and sexuality based expectations.  What were these mostly unspoken rules of what your family and friends expected from you at the very beginning of your life?  What was fair and what was based solely on stereotypes and uninformed assumptions?

Life Experiences
With the example set by your culture you have a certain perspective of the world. You see it with lenses colored by your culture. Situations that would seem one way to one person is actually completely different for someone else. When I was accused of cheating on my aptitude test in elementary school the teacher probably noticed me looking around because I do, a lot, always have. I didn't look for answers. I was just looking at the other kids because I was new and trying to figure out my new environment. When the scores came in, she confronted my mother about this. I felt guilty because my understanding was ‘looking around was bad’. When my mother found out and the teacher tried to explain, my mother got angry just like she does when she complains about white people, and tells me that I won't be attending that school anymore. This reinforces the stereotype that my mother has ingrained in me. This is an example of a life experience that can be seen from that cultural perspective.  Now I have an instance where it can be perceived that a ‘white’ authority figure has in fact 'looked down' on me because of my 'non-white' status as she openly questioned whether I was capable of achieving this aptitude score.

Media
Media is a growing issue for stereotyping because it is so ingrained in our lives now. The messages that are being generated by advertisers and media outlets is shameful because the generation that was raised by television is now letting their children be raised by the internet. Should advertisers and content creators be more discriminating, yes, will they, no. They aren't trying to raise your kid right; they're trying to raise your kid to buy what they're selling. Question any and all media no matter what is being said and no matter who is saying it. All media can be traced to 6 corporations.  http://www.newint.org/magazine/ni333-media.pdf  With that small amount of diversity, everything is being reported from a very limited and specific social perspective.

TRUNK
The trunk is what the roots feed, it's the person you are, and how you react and respond to others in day to day activities. The areas this effects are social, professional, and private aspects of you. In some situations this branches out to virtual versions of you. So think of it as the social you, for friends and group settings; the professional you for the sake of your career or livelihood, and the private you which are the aspects that only close personal people know or no one at all including you even understand. Then there is the advent of this virtual you. The person you project yourself as in cyberspace.

Social
You choose to be in certain areas. Certain groups of people make you feel comfortable or uncomfortable. People create hives and groups based on affinity and relation. Usually these are dens of like-mindedness where ideas are identical and mirrored. These mirrored ideas reinforce stereotypes because they are never challenged.

Professional
While your job can create pockets of diversity, the understanding is that this is a ‘working you’, and not truly who you are. At work we respond sometimes as we must to fulfill the job expectations denying personal concerns. Most businesses are not expansive enough to need varying degrees of ability and talent with the exception of some high end performance and technology fields. Business autonomy sometimes makes it unnecessary for these different parts to fully interact. Working day to day while having certain stereotypes in mind causes you to see co-workers in a certain light as well. What is just playful banter can be misconstrued as an insult because of this. Stereotypes may be jarred a bit, but never disavowed because everyone is at work, and the actual face of who they are is not visible. Some fields are so devoid of diversity that even if people interacted with everyone they would see very little difference in ideologies. People who like to do certain work, or have to do certain jobs, have similar ideas and perspectives.

Private
In the deep dark parts of ourselves we know what we truly believe. We believe what we've been shown through media, culture, and life experiences. Patterns develop that lead to who we are and manifest as the decisions and actions taken in our personal time. This is where stereotypes truly fester because our time can be spent in any way we would like. We guide ourselves inside of our own heads; this manifests in habits, likes and dislikes; our dreams. Our minds are our own, and they can either be cultivated or left barren.

Virtual
The interesting thing about being virtual is the assumption that it creates anonymity. As a programmer I'm here to tell you it doesn’t. Web bots know you're IP address, with that they can find anything and everything they need to know about you. Just hope that no one wants to find you because it isn't difficult if you know how to look.

Online combines aspects of you and content creation. Media intermixes with self and amplifies self. In no other venue will you find more stereotypes being generated, accepted, and passed about freely as if they are actual facts than online. Then the issue becomes that a consensus has been formed, and together through another broader form of socialized communication, a body of evidence has been built and seems airtight. However if you apply all that came before this step, you can see why it works out like that. Now the stereotyped are accepting the labels, the typecasting, and are in fact living to make the stereotypes as real as possible, like some odd form of nihilistic approval seeking.

BRANCHES
The result of the roots and the trunk are the branches. This is the active part that the person themselves take in creating the stereotype and regenerating it over and over again. This is the truth of what you believe in habits and nuances that are influencing other people, and reinforcing a certain perspective of an issue adjusting how you respond to them in the real world. You don't have to be a politician or someone in power for this to be effective. Just another person and it's done. This is where social expectations change the course of your actions when you are placed in stereotype forming or breaking situations. Here is when your need to act or fear of acting becomes a crucial determination of your true stance on the issue and ultimately your role.  This is where the company you keep sets an example. As human beings we are either reinforcing stereotypes or we are breaking them. There is no passive in-between.  Fence sitting is just the same as reinforcing them. People can ascertain your ability to accept others by the things you do, and the things you don't. Limitations, drawbacks, and misunderstandings are created by rating things in quality by untested assumptions. 

LEAVES
The idea is that these stereotypes should become leaves if you do a thorough analysis of your thoughts, ideas, and behaviors. They should grow, be tested, and fall away so that new ones can form, because unfortunately that is part of the human experience. There will always be stereotypes. It is the individual's choice if they would like to be a stereotype rock or a tree, always growing, always changing, always adapting.

Ore, Tracy E., ed. 2003. The Social Construction of Difference and Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality. New York: McGraw-Hill.


Multicultural image courtesy of