To live in a country known as the “land of equal opportunity” is a dream for many people worldwide. However, we live in a society where race, social inequality, and categorization are present in everyday life. In Steve Olson’s article “The End of Race: Hawaii and the Mixing of the People’s”, Olson points out how society fails to provide a solid foundation where all people have equal opportunity and thrive in society due to the social groupings. These categorizations cause a negative spiral on the individuals who come from unique heritages, social backgrounds, and minorities. Social categorization is seen globally in many different fundamental institutions such as the government, banks, official documents, and education platforms which is making the war on race and discrimination less likely to be distinguished.
A perfect society, where all peoples are treated, viewed, and given the same opportunities to compete, with no regard to race, gender, social class, or personal views, is to society America has been known for, for over 250 years. As the United States has developed, we have become an extremely diverse population, these categorizations are coming more universal based on the differences in physical traits that are obvious to the eye. Unfortunately, these physical differences are just what makes each individual unique rather than identical to each other. Steve Olson states “many of the harshest conflicts in the world today are between people who are physically indistinguishable”. Olson is exposing that in today’s world, all people come from unique backgrounds which makes each person physically indistinguishable, however, the harshest racial conflicts are between those who are the most alike. Society today needs to capitalize on what makes each individual unique and stand out rather than what makes each person more identical. As the United States develops further, the desire is for racial conflicts to fully diminish should be a major focus, since each person is equal to all others. However, since there are those people who live and die to have power over the weak and poor, achieving equality universally will be a immense challenge. Categorizing individuals and groups results in inequality due to the different views society will have towards your differences. For example, if there were a group of people who all support the same sports team and one individual who supports the opposing team, then that group will discriminate against the opposing individual.
I believe that categorizing individuals based on their differences in a natural process for all humans. When you first meet somebody, you naturally notice how they are physically different than yourself. Throughout Olson’s article, his uses Hawaii as a point of reference, since their population is limited while also being diverse. Olson describes how the interbreeding of Hawaii population has been occurring for many generations but racial conflicts and discrimination is still a massive social disturbance. “When everyone is marrying everyone else, when the ethic affiliation of most people can no longer be ascertained at a glance, one imagines the ethic and racial tensions would diminish”.
Olson continues to describe how the racial conflicts in Hawaii’s society are noticeably high for there being that many interbreeding of different ethnicities. For Hawaii having such a limited population, you would think that the large institutions would not socially categorize individuals, however, Olson’s studies showed that these institutions have numerous amounts of discrimination and categorization within. “Integrated neighborhoods, integrated schools, high rates of intermarriage – the island sounds as if they should be a racial paradise. But there’s actually a fair amount of prejudice here”.
In the past, society discriminated and categorized groups based on race, ethnicity, and gender. However, in today’s society, numerous social categorizations are becoming more present. The major institutions such as the government, banks, education platforms, and standardized tests all require you to identify your ethnicity and gender in order to register. This is the exact same categorization that happened in the past, just covered by these institutions. If all people are equal and stand a chance at the desired position, then why are these institutions requiring you to identify with this specific information. For example, to take the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) you must register and identify your race, gender, and family history, which should not be needed if all people stand a equal chance to receive a fair score. Another example is the United States Census, which requires you to identify your gender, race, ethnicity, religion, and the language you speak. The Census is only used to count the number of people who are citizens in the United States every 10 years, therefore, the information about race, gender, and religion should not be needed for any reason. I believe that the government is requiring this information to categorize America into race, religion, gender, and ethnicity rather than being proud of having such a diverse population and treating all people equally. The term race is a man made term that refers to a group of people who share a common culture, language, origin, or history. These differences within the population should be embraced within society and represented respectively. However, in society, these differences between each individual such as culture, language, religion, gender, and social class are viewed as negative traits because they make you stand out in society.
In a perfect society, being able to stand out would be praised upon but in today’s society it is viewed negatively. Each person throughout life experiences different situations which shaped your outlook on the world in a special way. Generally, it would be very hard for two people to have the exact same experiences, views, and beliefs. Personal tragedy, which can lead to depression, low self esteem, and even personal harm is another personal experience that is unique too each individual. In Sarah Stillman’s article “Hiroshima and the Inheritance of Trauma”, she emphasizes how previous life experiences affect the way that you view the world, and how society may categorize you. Stillman discusses how a woman named Shoji, who was a Hiroshima bomb survivor, became a source of shame and dishonor in the Japanese society after the bombing. Stillman states,“I’d always assumed, in ignorance, that to survive the atomic bomb — to be a hibakusha, or ‘“explosion-affected person”’ — was to have conferred upon you a certain esteem or deference, not unlike that afforded to the bearer of a Purple Heart. Shoji’s family wasted no time correcting me. To be a hibakusha, they explained, was not an honorific but a source of shame, a secret to be closely held”
. Stillman discusses how society changed their views of her before compared to after the bombing and how surviving the bombing changed society view on her family forever. I imagine, that in a perfect society, any individual who survives an atomic bombing, that society would come together to praise them and make sure they recover to the full extent. The Japanese society after the bombing brought out this categorization by labeling people such as Shoji as a bomb survivor rather than respecting her for her differences. In this society, the Japanese people discriminated against those who survived due to the fact that they believed the bomb survivors were radiation contagious.
Although there are numerous negative consequences for social racial categorization, there are also various benefits for this categorization on all social classes. Being able to have pride in your ethnic background will lead to higher self-esteem and better social interaction. Additionally, for minorities, there are more scholarships and rewards for achieving what most minorities do not. Additionally, having pride in your ethnic background will lead to higher self-esteem and better social interaction. Categorizing people in this manner does enable various benefits which are helpful in many circumstances, but there are more negative affects of this categorization on the population.
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