And When Our Personal Reality Leads US To Facing The Inevitable Consequences, How Great Is Our Discomfort. Critical Thinking Sample
Type of paper: Critical Thinking
Topic: Racism, People, Social Issues, Community, Stereotypes, Life, Violence, Ethics
Chapter 2 Journaling
The quote mentioned by sociologist W. I. Thomas, “What is real in people’s minds is real in its consequences” struck me as particularly true and relevant. It has been clear for me in my life experiences so far, that when a person has made up his or her mind about something, it becomes very difficult to persuade them that anything other than what they believe to be true is, in fact, the truth.
This goes hand in hand with the question of expectations for me. What is it appropriate to expect of others with whom you have interpersonal relationships? At what point are my personal expectations unreasonable, and just a prelude to my being let down as a result of my expectations of others? For example, if I believe someone should act in a certain way, it is truth for me. Then when they fail to meet my expectation, as is unfortunately the case more often than not, I am unhappy with them. This unhappiness is essentially caused by the necessity of my reframing my reality as a result of their behavior. By others not living up to my idea of truth, I am forced to realize that it was not a shared truth, but a singular version of it.
I realize that I have gone off on a tangent in my response to the reading assignment, but this was an aspect of the text that really resonated with me. I have spent a quantity of time considering my perspective versus that of others’, and have come to the realization that was reinforced by Thomas’ quote, things are true for me when I believe them to be true. A great deal of evidence is required to make me rethink my opinion, and it is often an uncomfortable process. I am by no means unique in this process. Human beings are all mostly alike in this phenomena of belief system formation and maintenance.
What is even more curious, then, is the fact that we are able to agree on shared ideas at all. Considering the way we each have a very personalized interpretation of facts, of truth, it is nothing short of amazing that we are able to achieve effective communication among ourselves.
This also points towards implications in the nature versus nurture debate, which has been studied in academia. A set of twins, or other siblings, have essentially the same life experiences, and yet manage to arrive at the formation of widely variant world views as a result of those experiences. The reality of their point of view is intrinsically real for each individual, but is so different that we wonder how they might have been raised in the same household. What additional factors contribute to the ideas we hold as truth?
Cultural norms and values surely play a part in establishing the lens through which we interpret the world around us. Our education, relationships and conscious continue to refine this interpretation. It is a complex construction of reality.
Chapter Six Journaling
The issue of racism is a complicated one, as clearly demonstrated by the many different approaches to the issue that are raised in this chapter. The two ideas which are most interesting to me are the possibility that racism is a whites only phenomenon and Islamophobia.
The information contained in the research that is cited within this chapter points to the number of supporting studies concluding that people tend to be uncomfortable with differences in skin color, national origin and religion. This is most basically represented by the statement that “like attracts like”. While that seems to be true, the issue of racism is more complex.
Blacks, Asians and Hispanics are also found to hold ideas of prejudice against each of the other groups. Ideas of superiority in intelligence, physical qualities, economic and social status are maintained by all groups, preferring their own kind over the others.
Stereotypes and ethnocentrism are still wide-spread in our nation today. Riots break out in communities as a reaction to police shootings and other crimes. There seems to be an underlying fear that is driving the racism. Young, black men in America are, in fact, responsible for more crimes and represent a larger segment of the prison population than any other group. Is that fact justification for the bias against these men? Are they inherently more likely to break the law and/or be violent because they are black, or is it because of their situations of poverty, inner-city living, welfare receiving, substandard education that results in the increased crime rate?
Hispanics attack Korean businesses, Koreans think blacks are less intelligent. Whites think blacks and Latinos are drug dealing thugs, unemployed and violent. Blacks think whites are given unfair preference in job availabilities and educational opportunities. Affirmative action is attempting to deal, however unsuccessfully, with equal opportunity. Racism is alive and well among all these groups today. It remains an emotionally charged issue in our society.
Now, consider the bias against Muslims that has been dominant since the terrorist attack of 2001. We fear Arabic culture as a whole. It is so different from our own and we do not understand their customs. Americans at large can only see the irrational hatred of western society coming from the middle-east, and we react with fear and contempt of our own.
With the current political landscape including a near-daily attack from the jihadist group known as ISIS, or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, these fears are multiplying. Violent, extremist attitudes and behaviors are broadcast online through social media sites. Videos containing disturbing images of beheadings have been seen. Thousands of documented attacks only serve to convince us that our prejudice is justified.
There are those Arabs that are not affiliated with terrorist groups, but to the average American, they all look much alike. Since we are unable to determine, by sight, what any single Arabic man or woman might believe regarding this holy war, we have come to assume that all Arabs are violent extremists who wish to do harm to our nation and its people.
Headlines are filled with new developments every day that fuel the fire of Islamophobia. This issue will continue to be noteworthy, as the media reports and interprets the current events. Most recently, destruction of art and books on a widespread scale, have been reported. Many actions committed by Muslims are real atrocities and are an affront to humankind.
Chapter Seven Journaling
It seems to me that much of the author’s focus in this chapter is concerned with the definition of the labels assigned to aboriginal people residing in Canadian territories. The question is raised, “What’s in a name?” My understanding is that the importance of being able to define who fits into what group has to do with benefits regarding land ownership, education, health care and social services.
There is a somewhat negative connotation associated with the term ‘Indian’. Again, the matters of discrimination and racism appear to play their part. Negative Indian stereotypes include a vision of them as uneducated, poor, dirty, lazy, superstitious and even alcoholic. The aboriginal people have a rich history of oral traditions and customs that have been handed down from generation to generation. They are artistically talented and skilled with animals and farming. Largely, ignorance of their ways has resulted in this prejudice against them. They are often misunderstood.
The situation is different for the aboriginal women. They have been consistently marginalized and denied equal rights within their communities. Leadership of these troubled aboriginal societies has been granted exclusively to the men, despite the challenges they face. Women are left watching the men struggle to find their way, powerless to effect any changes that could be helpful for their families and communities as a whole.
What confused me, as I read this selection, was why Indians have been granted special rights under the constitution at all? The whole need for defining people as status Indians versus non-status Indians is regarding the benefits they are entitled to if they belong to the prior class. What was the historical basis for giving them special rights in the first place? Hasn’t the assimilation with society at large taken place throughout the generations of history, so that by present day it should no longer matter? Why does being defined as an aboriginal entitle a person to a special status, with different rights, responsibilities and benefits than any other non-aboriginal Canadian?
It is obvious that the situation for aboriginal people is complicated and in need of serious cultural reorganization if the communities have any hopes of creating conditions under which the population can begin to thrive. Depending on government programs to solve the issues which plague Indian society is clearly not working.
Better access to education, jobs with a living wage pay rate, quality child care, appropriate mental health therapy as well as preventative health care are all factors which need to be addressed in a timely manner. The status quo has too many problems, and a new approach to solve these problems will be required if Canada has hope of solving the socio-economic crisis facing aboriginal people.
Chapter Eight Journal
I thought that the contrast made between transnationalism and diaspora was interesting. The differences are subtle but important. Essentially, it seems the difference in the two terms has to do with the intentions of the relocated people in the foreign homeland.
Diaspora is a term that has most often been used to describe the spread of Jewish peoples from their homelands after the holocaust. They have the qualities listed by Robin Cohen in this chapter including a traumatic exit from their homeland, a collective memory about it, a return movement and strong ethnic group consciousness. The idealized return to Israel has been termed the Zionist Movement, and has garnered much international support over the years.
I thought it was an interesting observation that other diasporas have been caused by economic stressors or military ambitions. Those concepts for relocation on this type of mass-scale were new to me.
On the other hand, transnationalism refers to people who are living in a foreign land, while retaining strong ties to their original homeland. They became equally vested in the new region, while intending to return home sometimes, they expect to keep their new residences. In this way, they will come to belong to both cultures.
The example of Bollywood movies being exported from India and enjoyed by people in America and other western nations is an interesting one. I have seen such films in recent years, and have heard cultural references to Bollywood with increasing frequency.
The example made about Muslims and other Arabs who fear maintaining their ties to their countries of origin because of the possibility of being labelled terrorists is a good, contemporary example. It is a very real possibility for them, and they are probably right to be afraid in light of the current world view including near-irrational fear of Arabs. The general public has, as we have discussed in previous chapters, acted out against English-speaking Arabs since the American attacks on 9-11. Racism against this group has reached nearly epidemic proportions as a result.
These two concepts are very similar for the sociologist, and are central to any consideration about immigration, assimilation and ethnic community living. The past twenty years have produced a plethora of research pertaining to these ideas.