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Ethnic Studies Final

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1. When discussing stereotypes and race, it is important to recognize how insignificant skin color is. Racism itself if focused mainly on cultural states, and more times than not, whites are considered culturally superior to people of color. The treatment of African Americans and Native Americans in American culture perfectly demonstrate how oppositional dichotomies of race define racial stereotypes. Cultural dominance was set since the first settlers began to participate in the slave trade. While the black slaves looked very different than their white counterparts, it was the culture of these Africans that subjected them to discrimination. Slave owners believed their culture was superior, meaning they could rape, enslave, and hold their workers prisoner without punishment. Blacks continue to be mistreated by the whites in power till this day, whether it be profiling by authorities leading to massive incarceration rates or poor representation by the federal government. Whites also believed they were culturally superior to Native Americans.

Many Native Americans showed hospitality to the white settlers, but the major cultural differenced ended up destroying relations and the majority of Native peoples. Only the naïve can believe that racism and stereotypes are caused by the color of one’s skin, it is cultural differences that cause the oppositional dichotomies that define race.

2. Communities of color have shaped their own sense of racial identity in response to oppression throughout history. A more recent example is the beginning of the music genre known as “gansta rap”. In the impoverished South Central Los Angeles, black residents were very used to mistreatment by the mostly white police force. In the article, “Kickin’ Reality, Kickin’ Ballistics: “Gansta Rap” and Postindustrial Los Angeles”, the author claims, “The L.A. rebellion merely underscores the fact that a good deal of gansta rap is (aside from often very funky music to drive to) a window into, and critique of, the criminalization of black youth” (Kelly, 118). This genre of music began with the desire to show how bad the situation was for the black residents of these impoverished areas of L.A. This type of music’s greatly contrasted anything else during the early 1990s.

Groups like NWA, an abbreviation for “Niggas With Attitude”, introduced lyrics and subjects that could never be played on radio. These groups claimed they were trying to paint a picture of the discrimination against blacks that everyone could see. This new gansta rap culture angered authorities, who believed that the controversial lyrics encouraged black youths to participate in criminal activities. Residents who participated in the gansta rap movement truly believed that they were alone in the world, and that the authorities were not here to protect them as their job implies. The fear caused by this music gave the community a sense of power, as if the artists of this musical this style would offer identity and protection. Though it ultimately did not help the black residents if Los Angeles due to these rap groups beginning to enforce stereotypes of violence, the gansta rap movement is a great example of a community creating their own sense of racial identity in response to oppression.

3. The Black Power and Chicano nationalist movements of the 1960s and 1970s reinforced racial essentialism. Racial essentialism is the view that members of any race have distinct characteristics that many times give them a sense of community and gives them a specific identity. The Black Panthers are an excellent example of this, the Black Power movements of the 1970s shows the string sense of unity this group had. Since the birth of the United States, blacks had little sense of pride because of acts of discrimination. The Black Panther party urged African Americans to take pride in the color of their skin, and believed civil rights could be achieved through unity. He black panthers made a group designed to represent all black people, and made rules and demands that appealed to all. They used the terms “our people” and “the Black Community” when listing the rights they desired.

An especially powerful excerpt from the Black Panthers reads, “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and natures God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation”(4). The unity that the black panthers showed panicked the white public. This was one of the first times blacks embraced their identity and tried to promote change on a nationwide scale. These African Americans were proud to be blacks, and with other inspirational leaders, they were able to achieve civil rights.

Intersectionality is a feminist philosophy that claims that the classical models of oppression within a society, such as those based on race, gender, religion, sexuality, class, disability, and other markers of difference do not act independent of one another. Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, based on which markers apply to a given individual. This oppression is considered flexible because anything a person does in our society that does not condone to classic norms is subject to oppression. This could range from oppression based on race to oppression based on how a person acts in public. Intersectionality is flexible enough to consider large-scale, historically constructed and hierarchical power systems and the politics of personal interactions, including meanings and representations in the experience of individuals. The norms in our society today date back the birth of our nation. Religion played a major role in the lives of the first settlers.

Early Protestant ideology places men in power, only accepts heterosexuality, and places whites at the top of a racial hierarchy. This was the groundwork for a nation, a nation that would continue to see these ideals as the norm for centuries to come. The United States was founded by white heterosexual males, for white heterosexual males. This relates to the idea of white privilege, as privilege is decided by sex and sexual preference as well. Peggy McIntosh claims, “One factor seems clear about all of the interlocking oppressions they both take active forms which we can see and embedded forms which as a member of a dominant group one is not taught to see”(McIntosh, 81). This means that each new privileged generation is unaware of the mistreatment of those who do not follow classical social norms. However, it is important to realize this does not retain exclusively to the United States, the majority of the world’s nations have conservative cultures that look down upon those that intersectionality applies to. This makes it clear that social norms are historically constructed and kept up by hierarchal powers.

Now that we understand how intersecionality was constructed, it is important to realize the effect it has on those who do not conform to the set norms. Society as a whole seems to disapprove of these variations of major social groups. This is seen more with issues of religion and sexual preference. An Asian-American Christian is seen to many as normal, while an Asian-American who has converted to Islam may be looked down upon. H. Pamela’s article, “Asian American Lesbians: an Emerging voice in the Asian American community”, gives great examples regarding this issue. She claims, “A lesbian exploring her sexuality usually does not receive much support from her family, who may, in fact, discourage her “coming out.”

Most Asian families are oblivious to the lesbian and gay movement, especially the former, and may not even consider homosexuality an option” (Pamela, 248). This negative view towards intersectionality expands far past the reaches of the United States, as examples like this can be seen all over the world. However, it is important to recognize that race is just one of the variables of intersectionality. Whites are likely to be subject to oppression when they vary from their classical social group. With the United States bringing in so many different cultures and beliefs, these small sections of social groups are becoming more and more common. Intersectionailty is so interesting because it forms so many different kinds of social groups. Large groups, such as African Americans, are split up based on gender, sexual preference, religion, class, and ethnicity. How each group is portrayed in society is very beneficial for research on the matter. Though oppressed against, these groups keep growing, as society has made it more acceptable to be an individual.

Society has a way of preventing people from developing a social identity. In school we are taught about sex, but are never told about the possibility of two men or two women being together. We are conditioned to think that society is straightforward, and that you can generalize social groups. The day where intersectionality is looked at in a positive light will be the day that everyone is able to break out of the mold of society and become the person they truly want to be.

The theory of intersectionality holds that classical models of oppression within a society, such as those based on race, gender, religion, sexuality, class, disability, and other markers of difference do not act independent of one another. Instead, these forms of oppression interrelate, based on which markers apply to a given individual. Intersectionality is flexible enough to consider large-scale, historically constructed and hierarchical power systems and the politics of personal interactions, including meanings and representations in the experience of individuals. The rise of a heightened sense of individuality had greatly expanded intersectionality and it will continue to do so as more and more people break out of social norms.

Works Cited

1. Kelley, R. (1996). Kickin’ reality, kickin’ ballistics: Gansta rap and postindustrial Los Angeles. In W.E. Perkins (Ed). Droppi” science: Critical essays on rap music and hip hop culture (117-158) Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

2. McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Independent School, 49.2 (1990): 31-35.

3. Pamela, H. (1989). Asian American lesbians: An emerging voice in the Asian American community. In Asian Women United of California, eds., Making Waves: An Anthology of Writings by and about Asian American Women, pp. 282-90. Boston: Beacon Press.

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