1.Your posts should demonstrate that you have done the reading, that you can explain it, and that you can connect to the assigned readings. No credit for posts in which you say ‘colored people’, or ‘racist’. Please say, ‘people of color’ and ‘prejudice’ instead.
Copy this question into your post and then answer it: Write about Session 6.1 or 6.2; try to explain the concepts from a multicultural perspective (a perspective that takes the lived experiences of women and people of color into account).
Stereotype: A SET OF ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS about the physical, behavioral, and psychological characteristics assigned to a particular group or class of people.
- Stereotypes assigned by gender and by race and ethnicity are the ones most deeply embedded in our culture.
- We generally apply stereotypes to those who are unknown to us or different from us.
- We tend to see others as we think they should be, based on our stereotypes about them.
- Stereotypes are based on inaccurate or incomplete information about a particular group.
- Stereotypes can lead to prejudice.
Prejudice: NEGATIVE OR HOSTILE ATTITUDES toward sexual, racial ethnic or economic out-groups.
- Stereotypes provide the basis for prejudice: a collective characterization of undesirable traits or behaviors, based on incomplete and/or inaccurate information.
- Without knowledge of specific individuals or examination of how they present themselves, we make adverse judgments about them.
Discrimination: BEHAVIOR (usually institutional) that disadvantages one group in relation to another group and maintains and perpetuates conditions of inequality. Racism, sexism, classism, and heterosexism are all kinds of discrimination, a system that advantages one group and simultaneously disadvantages other groups.
- Discrimination is when those who have the power to act upon stereotypes and prejudices, use that power to affect negatively the life chances of others.
- Discrimination creates obstacles and barriers for its targets and provides unfair advantages for its beneficiaries. This implies having the institutional power to behave in this way.
Stereotypes: ASSUMPTIONS AND BELIEFS
Prejudices: NEGATIVE OR HOSTILE ATTITUDES
Discrimination: BEHAVIOR (prejudice plus the institutional power to act on prejudices in ways that negatively affect the life chances of others)
Some kinds of Discrimination:
- Racism: a system of advantage based on (White) race
- Sexism: a system of advantage based on (male) sex
- Classism: a system of advantage based on (middle) social class
- Heterosexism: a system of advantage based on (hetero) sexual orientation
And so we come to Power and Privilege at last, the central concept underlying the discipline of Multicultural Studies.
POWER AND PRIVILEGE
Cyrus says this about power: “Power: in its simplest sense, means the ability to do, act, think, and behave as we like, to have control over our own lives.”
When I speak about power, I NEVER mean this. Cyrus’ definition is one I use when I mean PERSONAL Power. I never worry about whether you have personal power, because I know you all do. It is personal power that brings you to your computer when you’d rather be sleeping. It is personal power that we mean when we say, “Everyone has a chance in America. You just have to work hard and you can succeed.”
When I speak about power, I am speaking about this:
Power: the ability to influence and control the behavior, thoughts, and beliefs of others despite their resistance
And power’s constant companion:
Privilege: the award of society’s benefits based on historically constructed concepts of race, gender, class, etc.
Let’s go back to Cyrus for a moment for an explanation of power and privilege:
US society is organized hierarchically; that is, it is structured according to rank and authority, and power is distributed unevenly within this hierarchy
Access to power and our place in the social hierarchy both depend on a number of variable factors, including, gender, race, sexual orientation, socioeconomic class, age, and religion
The intersection of these hierarchies confers the greatest social power on the group at the “top” of each scale: white heterosexual men AS A GROUP. Thus, even though individual men may be relatively powerless, AS A GROUP, white heterosexual men are better able to control their own lives, to influence and control others, and to act in their own interests.
It is often hard for White people to see power because they are unaccustomed to seeing White people AS A GROUP.
Nobody is more articulate about power and privilege than Gloria Yamato. Let’s go through this together:
Racism, — simple enough in structure, yet difficult to eliminate. Racism— pervasive in the US culture to the point that it deeply affects all the local town folk and spills over, negatively influencing the fortunes of folk all over the world. Racism is pervasive to the point that we take many of its manifestations for granted, believing that’s life. I’ve run into folks who really think that we can beat this devil, kick this habit, be healed of this disease in a snap. In a sincere blink of a well-intentioned eye, presto-poof-racism disappears. Well, fine. Go to the beach. In fact why don’t we all go to the beach and keep working on it? Cuz you can’t even shave a little piece off this thing called racism in a day, or a weekend, or a workshop.
Betsey: We can make some progress in eight or ten weeks AND, we are barely scratching the surface. There’s so much more. If you wish to know enough to really make a difference in your community, you will have to learn more. I have come to be wary of superficial one-hour or one-day or one-weekend diversity training. It’s something like learning a world language: you can get a sense of it in one quarter, but it takes more than one quarter to be proficient, for your skills to be useful.
It was my generation, in our arrogance and naiveté, who thought we could get rid of racism by riding some buses, or registering some voters. Even though people of color had been actively working to end racism for over 500 years, we thought, NOW THAT WE WERE HERE, we could fix everything, then ‘go to the beach’. Your generation can learn from our mistakes, and from our triumphs, and you won’t be so arrogant. Or so naive. You’ll know you have to learn more before you can ‘fix it’. Yamato says:
When I speak of oppression, I’m talking about the systematic, institutionalized mistreatment of one group of people for whatever reason. The flip side of oppression is internalized oppression. Members of the target group are emotionally, physically and spiritually battered to the point where they begin to actually believe that their oppression is deserved, is their lot in life, is natural and right, and that it doesn’t even exist.
Betsey: Note the words systemic, institutionalized. Some use the term ‘structural’. These are important words, because even though you and I may not mean to be prejudiced against race or against women or other-than-cisgendered-heterosexuals, we still live in a society in which racism and sexism and heterosexism are part of the deep structure of our culture. That means oppression affects each and every one of our lives, whether we are women or men, people of color or White people, gay or straight. Yamato says:
Racism is the systematic, institutionalized mistreatment of one group by another based on racial heritage.
Betsey: Remember, we’ve talked about this before. When White people and people of color use the term racism, they often mean two distinctly different concepts. When White people say the word racism, they often mean individual assumptions, attitudes or behaviors that one person does to another. ‘Since I don’t do those ‘racist’ things, I cannot be racist’ (so don’t blame me, it’s not my problem) (notice that the behavior being described by the term ‘racist’ is more like prejudice).
When people of color use the word racism, they often mean, -yes those individual assumptions, attitudes and behaviors-, but more importantly, they mostly mean the systemic, institutional processes that are in place to benefit one group while systematically penalizing another group. When people who are multiculturally competent say the term ‘racism’ they more often mean “a system of advantage based on (White) race”
Let’s take a look at how the whole thing fits together. Meet the Ism Family:
Racism Classism Sexism Heterosexism Ageism Adultism Elitism, etc.
Yamato says: “All these isms are systematic, that is not only are these parasites feeding off our lives, they are also dependent on each other for foundation. Racism is supported by classism, which is given a foothold and a boost by adultism, etc.”
This is important, because it foregrounds the systemic nature of oppression. In a capitalist society, racism, sexism and classism work together to provide a constant pool of cheap labor so that labor costs are held down, which maximizes profits.
Yamato: “Before oppression becomes a specific ism, like racism, usually all hell breaks loose. People fight attempts to enslave them, or to subvert their will, or to take what they consider is theirs, whether that is territory or dignity.”
Many of you have asked why people of color didn’t fight. Yamato makes the point that those who are oppressed have always resisted oppression. Their stories aren’t very popular. When I tell these stories, students often say, “Why are you picking on White folks? Why tell only the worst stories about White people? These students miss the important part of the story. The stories you learn in your history text about the resistance to oppression of people of color and women are NOT stories about White men. I’m not talking about ‘those bad old White people’. I’m talking about those courageous and tenacious people of color and women who survived, who endured, who slowly and surely made a difference.
It’s not always about White people.
Yamato: It’s true that the various elements of racism, while repugnant, would not do very much damage, but for one generally overlooked key piece: power/privilege. In our society, people are stratified into various classes and some of these classes have more privilege than others. The power and privilege of the owning class provides the ability to pay off enough of the working class and offer the paid off middle class just enough privilege to make it agreeable to do various and sundry oppressive things, keeping the lid on explosive inequities, just for a moment.
We also see this scenario when people of color fight against each other, or when one group is played off against all other groups (think of stereotypes of ‘model minorities’ like Asian Americans).
Yamato: People of color can be prejudiced against one another and whites, but do not have an ice ball’s chance in hell of passing laws that will get whites sent to relocation camps “for their own protection and the security of the nation”.
This is a key insight. If you’ve heard before that people of color cannot be racist, it is because of this distinction in how the word is used. Yamato says:
Yamato: People who have not thought about or do not acknowledge this imbalance of power often want to talk about the racism of people of color. This is one of the ways racism can continue to function. You look for someone to blame and you blame the victim, who will often accept the blame out of habit.
To review, White people and people of color often use the term racism to mean two different things. You can use your insight into this term to help you make informed judgments about which sense of the term people are using when they speak to you.
Finally, as you’ve been asking: So what can we do (from Yamato)?
- Acknowledge racism for a start, even though and especially when we’ve struggled to be kind and fair, or struggled to rise above it all. It is hard to acknowledge that isms circumscribe and pervade our lives. Isms must be dealt with on two levels, personal and societal, emotional and institutional.
- Find or create spaces to actually feel what we’ve been forced to repress each time we were a victim of, witness to, or perpetrator of isms, so that we do not continue, like puppets, to act out the past in the present and future.
- Challenge oppression. Take a stand against it. When you are aware of something oppressive going down, stop the show. At least call it.
Whites who want to be allies of people of color:
- Educate yourselves. Do not expect that people of color should teach you how to behave non-oppressively.
- Think, hard.
- Assume that your effort to be a good friend is appreciated but don’t expect gratitude. Work on eliminating isms for your sake, not for the sake of others.
- Know that you’ll make mistakes and commit yourself to correcting them and continuing as an ally. No matter what.
- Don’t give up.
People of color who want to end oppression:
- Educate yourself about the ways different people have resisted oppression.
- Expect and insist that whites are capable of being good allies against isms.
- Don’t give up.
- Celebrate the inevitable end of racism (and all the related, interconnected isms).
NOTICE: Read some or all of these, for more information about privilege and power:
Dr. Peggy McIntosh’s classic article (Links to an external site.) on White privilege and male privilege
IF you want to know more, seeDr. McIntosh on TED Talks
If you prefer, you can check out these stories in Shelf Life Community Story Project (Links to an external site.)
Copy this question into your post and then answer it: Explain what you learned about segregated Seattle, or Shelf Life, to a friend. See if you can connect to systemic, institutionalized racism, separate from prejudice.
Remember, prejudice hurts our feelings. Racism, a kind of discrimination, hurts our life chances, and the life chances of our children. Try to notice these distinctions in the Stories.