My initial or immediate reaction to the lesson on race and ethnicity through our lecture, readings, individual and group participation was slightly surprising. I discovered I didn’t consider myself the same as society classified me. This discovery was actually rather frustrating. I don’t want to be known only as a 34-year-old, Caucasian, female. I don’t want to be aggregated or perceived as someone who is lumped into the same category as everyone else. I want to be perceived as I see myself, with all of the facets I consider to be what makes me who I am. I don’t want society to tell me who I am by forcing everyone into the same limited pre-made descriptions. I feel that we as individuals are losing our individualities by conforming to these “cookie cutter” classifications.
When I look at the choices we are given with which to classify ourselves, I think it is inadequate. A classification system that limits the answers to either one or the other in a dichotomizing way is not fair in my eyes. We all have more than one characteristic that deserves recognition. In essence, my reaction to a system that only allows one major choice to identify myself, is that it is not representative of reality. I was taught as a little girl how to “live and learn, and learn to live.” I believe that while I was using this tip to live by, I grew into the complex individual I am today. I cringe at the fact that in order to fit into a social group I have to eliminate aspects of myself that I am proud of. On the same note there could be an aspect of someone’s identity that they are ashamed of but don’t want to be defined by it just because there are no other choices. Everyone is supposed to fit the standard norm or preferred agent group. If we don’t we are categorized as “other” which may not be viewed as desirable. Who is one to judge what the norm group should be and why does that make them preferable to someone in the target group? We limit our abilities and our opportunities by being placed in the target group, especially when interpreting our race and ethnicity, because of the stages needed in defining the differences. We name these differences and then we aggregate by lumping people together under one category. i.e., Caucasian. Culturally we seem to be learning that racial and ethnic diversity within the United States is even more complex, and categorizing one’s ethnicity as “other” because of having two cultural heritages is not fair because this puts one in a target category. By doing this it makes us limited in achieving goals and breaks us down as a whole making us more and more vulnerable over time. Overall my initial response to this experience made me feel somewhat saddened by the possible stereotyping that we have in social roles and groups. I felt as if I fit the standard agent group and that everyone would automatically assume I didn’t understand having negative experiences in the community. I feel that agent and target groups can negatively categorize good people, and cause prejudices that can get passed on from generation to generation only continuing a vicious cycle. Nothing good could possibly come out of stereotyping. After reflecting on my initial response to this exercise, I realized that I do in fact prejudge new individuals that I meet because I have a learned response to not trusting outsiders. This is because of a previous negative experience I had involving a group who belonged to a different socioeconomic class with different upbringing. I tend to automatically pick out traits of people in order to determine them as safe or not. I tend stereotype poor, undereducated males. I realize this is not a fair practice, because not everyone within this socioeconomic class is dangerous, like the individuals that caused me harm. So when I judge a person based primarily on social class level, I need to take a step back and realize that they are already in the target group within society and that...
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