1. Why do we say views of different groups are socially constructed?
We say that a thing or an idea is socially constructed if it depends on relevant social factors. For example, we may say that this thing exists because we have made it; the thing exists in this form because we need it that way. Had we needed it in different way, this would have been different. We can apply this idea to everything: views, interests, social norms and other notions created by our society. Thus, we cannot say that a thing is socially constructed if it was naturally created and we had no influence on shaping it. As for the views, they are also socially constructed. For any view that we have, it is not inevitable that we should have had it. If our society had been different we could have a different view (Boghossian, n.d.).
Our views of different groups are socially constructed. For example, we view people of gender in some particular way that has been constructed by society on the basis of feminine or masculine characteristics. Gender is different from the notion of sex, since gender is more a product of social construct rather than a naturally existing phenomenon. We also view people of different social classes, ethnicity, age and other features in a way that is predetermined or shaped in some way by social construct (Ozor, 2008).
2. The United States has been described as a melting pot and a salad bowl. Which do you think it is and why? Defend your answer by comparing and contrasting these two metaphors for multiculturalism in the United States.
The melting pot metaphor is related to a process of immigrants to the US assimilating in society. The US is, by its nature, a country of immigrants, and all of the different cultures have been melting together into one distinct culture that is now American. The salad bowl metaphor also relates to immigrants that come to the US, but instead of merging with the native population, they preserve their cultural identity. Unlike in a melting pot, where all ingredients of the meal melt into a new substance, in salad bowl all the ingredients retain their distinctive features even though they are mixed within the bowl (Langeland, n.d.). Typically, the US was the melting pot. Many people were coming from different cultures, ethnical and religious backgrounds, and eventually merging with local people. However, nowadays, the US is moving towards multiculturalism rather than assimilation. Multicultural trend in the US helps immigrants take an active part in the social and cultural life of the mainstream society and even become a citizen, but preserve their unique cultural peculiarities at the same time. Thus, the current American society looks more like a salad bowl.
3. (discrimination, identifiability, resource shares, etc.) A. In your own words discuss what identifiability is, how it operates as a force, and its relationship to discrimination.
The idea of identifiability relates to the ability of people to identify the belonging of other people to different social group. For example, ethnical identifiability is the extent to which a person can be identified as the member of an ethnical group. The process of identification relates to identifying specific characteristics common to members of a particular group. For example, racial particular identifiability is performed through observing the color of skin, the shape of eyes, mouths, noses, and other body parts.
One of the ways in which we can relate identifiability to discrimination is that identifiability allows members of a majority social group identify social minorities. The greater identifiability the more minorities are different from a majority group, and the more the latter will identify the former as the others. This phenomenon contributes to discrimination against the minorities.
4. What is meant by the “sense of threat? How is it a force for discrimination? Provide an example.
Sense of threat is a feeling of anticipated danger. It is a negative feeling because experiencing this feeling, especially for a long time, leads to stress. Many people feel a sense of threat to their health and life, but even more they experience a sense of social threat. Social threat occurs when members of a social group feel that they are treated negatively because of some characteristics of their group, which are often stereotypical and generalized. Social threat is the force of discrimination, when a person knows or assumes that he or she can be negatively evaluated because of being a member of a discriminated social group. As a result, that individual can express negative emotions that reinforce the perceived negative perceptions of him or her.
5. What factors help determine how fast and how completely immigrant groups are absorbed into mainstream society?
Immigrants faster absorb into mainstream society when such society is characterized with high level of tolerance towards the cultural differences of other people. When the mainstream society is hospitable and tolerant towards cultural dissimilarities, immigrants have more chances to assimilate and take part in the social life of the country. In contrast, discrimination tends to have a strongly negative impact on this process.
One of the most influential factors for individual immigrants is marriage, or other forms of intimate relationship with a member of mainstream society. The closer this relationships are the faster the immigrant will be absorbed, because social contacts make this process occur naturally and reduce different obstacles that tend to slow down assimilation, such as hostility, negligence, language barriers and others. Marriage makes it possible for immigrants to absorb into mainstream society completely through the next generations. Therefore, the level of acceptance of intermarriage defines how quick the process of immigrant of assimilation is.
The level of education of immigrants also plays a great role in the speed of their acceptance into mainstream society. First, immigrants with better education are able to find a better job. People who have little or no education are usually occupied in service sector doing low-paid jobs. Most commonly, they have insufficient knowledge of local language and communicate largely with other immigrants of their home country. Thus, they absorb into mainstream society slower than people who work on more well-paid positions and have more social interactions with the members of the majority group (Bhatt, 2011).
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