Monday, January 16, 2012

He Who Has The Gold Makes The Rules

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day! I hope that you took a moment to reflect on the progress that our nation has made, yet also recognize the work that lies before us. I am currently enrolled in a race and ethnicity class that is VASTLY interesting. As I was reading a chapter by Yetman, I came across a few principles that resonated with me. The concept of race and ethnicity were largely constructed by white men in the 18th and 19th century.

The terms that they used were extremely derogatory and emphasized the superiority of the Western Europeans (that later bled over into America as well). Terms that they used referred to skin colors, facial features, and linguistically different groups of people as other, barbaric, inferior and stupid. I always wondered why calling someone ethnic did not include white. "Is white the default," I wondered. According to the long history of ethnocentric white male researchers, yes, white is the default. However, we should rise above the mindset of the 18th and 19th century and recognize that assuming that any color is superior in any way or 'the default' is rooted in ethnocentrism. Unless we are willing to return other scientific practices of the time such as 'bleeding' with leeches, we should also questions sociological and anthropological terminology from the same time period.

Part of me knew this occurred in blatantly inaccurate studies from the recent past as well as exposure to movies in my childhood that attempt to recreate classic stories of Tarzan and The Jungle Book. As they studied peculiar people and cultures, these discoverers always did so with the preconceived notion that they were at the apex of civilization and the subjects that they were studying were in a lesser stage that would eventually develop to their civilized state.

Although the aforementioned concept is probably not new to you, I was shocked to learn that minority and majority groups are not based on size. Instead, they are based on the power and resources that one group wields over the other. For example, even though the white population in South Africa during apartheid was much smaller than that of the black population, the black population was considered the minority because the whites had a monopoly over the government.

Furthermore, the majority group typically establishes institutions and regulations that benefit the majority group and maintain their political and economic advantage over the minority group. As a result of this political and economic advantage, the majority group prospers while the most members in the minority group fall short. Their failure to compete with the majority group is not rooted in their inferiority, although this is often claimed to be the case, it is actually rooted in the partial institutions that favor one group over another and systematically limit the opportunity of the minority group.

As is obvious in the Forbes article, If I was a Poor Black Kid, it is apparent that privileged citizens in the United States still fail to recognize that poverty, unemployment, teen pregnancy, single-parent households, and high school dropouts are not a Black or Hispanic problem, but rather a MINORITY groups problem. The odds are stacked against these populations because of a long history of discrimination that must be actively rooted out and reversed. We do our country and our fellow Americans a disservice by failing to view our laws and institutions with a critical lens that will lead us to question the status quo.

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