Category: Sociology

The US society is extremely diverse, and this system of co-existing races, cultures, religions, ethnicities and genders has been formulated for centuries. Regardless the fact that such diversity allowed the country to strive for an advanced global development pace and, finally, its achievement, to a great extent, is flawed from within because of the inequity between its citizens. Undoubtedly, without the cooperation between people from various backgrounds, America could not be as strong and powerful as it is today. However, the US society has a well-established historical hierarchy that strictly determines white patriarchy as a dominant feature of an individual’s superior social position as compared to other characteristics. Hence, perception of others by Americans is driven by color of one’s skin in a stronger degree than gender and culture-related characteristics. 

My Struggle

First and foremost, skin color appeared to be the most important trait for developing attitudes to foreigners based on my experience as an international student and immigrant in the US. I was born and grew up in Taiwan, which is a country with a totally different historic background, culture, and language in contrast to America. Since English is my second language, I am easily recognized among locals by my accent and speaking skills, as well as writing that is not highly proficient. Moreover, my Asian but not Asian-American roots made me face sufficient obstacles in my daily life and in the classroom that made me feel embarrassed and isolated. For instance, a group discussion task in one of the courses is among such examples. Practically no one wished to make a group with me, unless the students of the similar skin color. At the same time, domestic students easily engaged with internationals of European origin, especially males. Due to many such unpleasant moments in the American part of my life, I felt that, although popular media and literature describe male dominance, this phenomenon concerns only whites rather than young adults of my ethnic group.

Moreover, gender versus culture has become another challenge for my adaptation to the US lifestyle since being a male did not grant me any additional opportunities in light of my non-white cultural basis. In particular, the friends I have managed to find here told me that Chinese males are underweight and weak because they do not have muscles. I do not know where the prejudices came from as Taiwan is perceived as a part of China, though it is an independent state. I believe this perception is rooted in social media, movies, or any other sources of information. However, this stereotype of a Chinese male for Americans was one more barrier to my assimilation with the general population. On the one hand, this prejudiced attribute did not allow me to participate in sports and extracurricular activities initially, and white students even joked that I might be probably blown with the wind in case I ran fast. On the other hand, in addition to the prejudices regarding the appearance of Chinese males, my native culture seems somehow weird to Americans. Namely, they tend to understand my home country as an exotic place of wild Indigenous Asians. No one even cared to discover that current Taiwan is sufficiently West-oriented, with an array of Western traditions been incorporated into the flow of unique national culture.   

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Article Critique

Peggy McIntosh’s insight into the dominance of white culture in the US shows a clear picture of a thoroughly prejudiced nature of the American reality where white males have invisible knapsacks of all-embracing power in society. The author of “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” carefully considers the core of racial hierarchy within the USA, where white men have obtained a central position. McIntosh explains the fact that the latter do not even recognize this distinct superiority in light of taking such a factor for granted. It has become an integral part of male mindset due to being constantly promoted by patriarchal society. Moreover, it is not even solely gender that matters but skin color. Based on the author’s individual example, who realizes her inborn strength of being white and offers numerous illustrations in this respect, it is easy to convince a reader that such a statement is valid and credible. In light of the discussion of the provided evidence, the researcher stresses on the fact that the whole American society is guided by misbelief that all people within its borders have equal opportunities. In fact, only all white people have a privilege of equal opportunities, and these are mostly male whites, who do not even recognize that inequality exists. 

First, the scholar distinguishes the key features of white dominance that show not the positioning of this group as privileged but rather a comprehension of a white-related status and its outcomes as a given. This aspect is evident from different perspectives. To illustrate, McIntosh aptly emphasizes that, while “my racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, other groups were likely being made unconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated”. In accordance with the information that the author highlights, white-related activities and experiences are smoother and indiscriminated as compared to those of people belonging to other races. For instance, while listing her own life events, McIntosh emphasizes that she can cope well with a challenging situation without her race being credited. In case an African-American does the same, one will definitely be abused or discriminated on the racial grounds at least by being called either black or neeger. Similar consequences may be experienced by Asian-Americans, or Chinamen, Latin Americans, or Latinos among others. Therefore, I support this author’s argument since the line between whiteness and non-whiteness is clearly traceable within the American society, and it impacts every aspect of human life in the country.

Second, instead of taking whiteness for granted, this category of the US residents is simply taught not to recognize this phenomenon at all. To be more precise, “they do not see whiteness as a racial identity”. Following the author’s illustrations from her own life and commentaries on these situations, such an argument also seems too self-explanatory. Drawing upon this position, whites are unconsciously oppressive. For instance, they tend to believe that racism is a phenomenon that does not concern them directly because they are not individuals of color. However, their opinions are always in the majority, which entices them to convince minorities that the dominant beliefs are righteous and just, though developed from this superior perspective. Moreover, McIntosh’s vision of the problem positions contemporary whites as unwilling or rather unconscious victims of the all-embracing white-dominant ideology. They blindly follow the generally accepted principles that racism is manifested through individual cases. Nonetheless, the dominant position of one race over the other is an embodiment of racism itself, regardless of that how large the main race is. Collective consciousness should be a mutually developed and mutually beneficial set of norms and standards. Since the discussed viewpoint is a subject of imagination and individual vision that has been developed by whites for others, it is not even close to justice and equality. Given the fact that this worldview has been created long ago and is applied until now, white Americans are indeed blind followers of long-term prejudiced traditions as proposed by McIntosh.   

Discussion and Conclusion

Summarizing both aspects of the discussion, it is evident that the perception of others by Americans is indeed more driven by the color of one’s skin than gender and culture-related characteristics of a person. However, the latter factors can be regarded as additional aspects of potential discrimination and disrespect. An in-depth reading of the article by McIntosh allowed a better understanding of the key reasons for a for-life free-visa regime for white Americans as compared to the minorities in the country. Undoubtedly, whites are dominant in all, though they, probably, do not even comprehend the whole significance of their inborn privilege of being white, thus, superior in contrast to people with different skin color. 

In this regard, stereotypes and misbeliefs are primary sources of any non-white human’s perception by white masters, while one’s individual features mostly do not matter, especially at the initial stages of communication. My personal experience clearly showed this trend. Moreover, the article I chose as a centerpiece of the discussion provided me with the evidence in support of this standpoint. Whites have developed their own rules that distinguish such concepts as race, racism and discrimination, and they are the only ones who classify people in light of these notions. In addition to the skin color, gender- and culture-related stereotypes, which were also created by whites, they contribute to deepening of the harmful effects on people of color. Probably, the white youth I have encountered does not understand this unconscious strength of belonging to a higher race. By means of reading such self-explanatory works, it may be possible to obtain a clearer understanding of the problem and a necessity of change in mindset. In any case, the long-term inequality and white-to-non-white division exists, and it is not a subject of history but rather ethics, mutual respect, and an overlooked sphere of potential collaboration and cultural enrichment that can be win-win for either side.  

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