E. Varghese – Week Two – Systems of Difference

The difference between people, whether it is their race, their ethnicity, their color, whatever the case may be, people have the tendency to just “categorize” them into whichever group they think would fit people best. Without asking, without research, people  just assume. We all vary and we all have different backgrounds, but we have very specific backgrounds that not everyone will pay attention to or seem to care about. From the activity on PBS, they show how previously in the U.S. people were put into groups based solely on how they looked. If they looked Asian, or Black, or White, they were just put into a group if they looked like they fit into it, even if it was wrong. This really seemed illogical to me and even opened my eyes a bit. To think that people actually had no intention of finding out who a person was or is doesn’t seem right. When we look back in history, we can at least say that people have grown and have realized that this was not an ideal way to figuring out who people are.

If someone were to ask me to look at someone and figure out what race and ethnicity that person is, I could be completely wrong because people don’t look like how they should. We base on descriptions of people from the past, but what we have learned is that people are constantly changing. People are mixing, no one looks exactly the same as people from thousands of years ago. Each individual is unique and therefore have completely different looks and variations. The constant stereotyping and “grouping” that occurs today, needs to stop but it has definitely gotten better since the past. We say what we see, but sometimes what we see isn’t what it looks like. Looks do not determine who a person is, it is their culture and their roots. We see one thing, but we don’t look hard enough to see that true person.

Based on the PBS video,  genetically, we are all very identical to each other. Our genes are similar to each other, we just vary racially. Sizes of people’s heads, eye shapes, hair color, were all measured to out how we all differ. All of these studies have just shown are that everyone has a head, everyone has two ears, one nose, etc. Unfortunately, this is what people fail to see and instead they look at color and size and shape. This causes people to act socially different towards certain people and furthermore, segregation to form.  People were being compared and judged and sometimes even blamed for social problems that occurred. Even I have caught myself acting differently towards those of a color other than my own. People may feel more comfortable with people of their own kind, but they may also feel threatened by people that are not like them. This would result in the negative reactions from certain people, which we have already seen in the past.


Was Michael Brown significantly known as a person to others, or was he only recognized after the shooting?

Has the amount of shootings decreased since 2014, particularly for African Americans?

7 thoughts on “E. Varghese – Week Two – Systems of Difference

  1. Tendency to categorize people because of their skin color and their physical characteristics can lead to wrong ideas. According to the lecture, race is not a biological categorization but rather something that is culturally built. Americans who have Asian ethnic backgrounds might look different but they may have adopted an American culture in full. So are they Asian or American or both? The ‘grouping’ as you mentioned is a dangerous notion and can often lead to stereotypes. Granted, statistics plays an important role in determining what things are and should be, but when it comes to something as important as race and ethnicity, people should be wary of statistics and always try to find out for themselves. As you mentioned, people do feel threatened by others that are unlike them. Therefore, it is important to educate that every one is not alike, regardless of color or race. Even the seemingly similar people may have differences.

  2. I agree with your idea that the categorizing of people has negative effects on civilization. I, however, think that unfortunately it may an unavoidable truth of human nature. Humans seem to have a natural urge to put things in order. Despite the biology now known that race/skin color attributes no significant biological difference, this knowledge is not common sense. As evident in the PBS video “Race: The Power of Illusion”, the students think that those that look like them will be more genetically similar than their classmates of different color, despite there being hard scientific proof against that fact. Why? Because human nature drives us to continue to categorize things and ourselves, and it is inevitable that through separating humans into separate groups we then believe the groups are different in any significant way other than skin color or physique. So while we should put for the effort to educate this fact, I fear that we may be too deep in our incorrect belief that we are different from each other genetically.

  3. I agree with your points that people have many ways to identify themselves. Race, religion, ethnicity and sexual orientation are all the factors to describe a person. So I agree with you that people assume their group only based on how they look is illogical. And if people ask me other people’s group by observing their physical traits, I would get a wrong answer most of times and I also believe that is not a polite and appropriate reactions. I also agree your point that everyone is unique because everyone has their experiences and backgrounds different from others. Physical trait is the most direct factor to assume a person’s group, but also is a very superficial factor. Although today “stereotype” situation becomes much better, there are still many people judge other by only observing their appetences. And I agree with your point that those stereotypes cause many negative consequences.

  4. Dear Estelle,
    I wanted to first off by saying that your quote of, “The difference between people, whether it is their race, their ethnicity, their color, whatever the case may be, people have the tendency to just categorize them into whichever group they think would fit people best,” could not be more true. Stereotyping happens all over this country and has started to have a negative effect on the world we live in. I’ll admit that sometimes it is an easy thing to do because you notice how similar some people are in their own groups, but you still have to try and refrain from doing so. Since being apart of the MSU family I couldn’t help but notice how many people talk about other ethnic groups just because they are different from theirs. I also liked how you mentioned the PBS video saying that we are all very identical to each other because that is how we all need to be. If we all treated one another with the same equality until an individual breaks that trust, history and the world we live in today may be way different. Great job!

  5. I enjoyed that you included the PBS game, however I think it is logical. Most people judge without getting to know a person. Even on college campuses where the ‘frat guys’ and ‘sorority girls’ get placed into groups when they are not even in them simply for the way they dress. Sometimes figuring out who someone is isn’t even an option. We judge people before even talking to them and place them into groups subconsciously. I enjoyed how you said that people were mixing because there are many people that date and marry people of other ethnicities which is how you get things like mixed races from their children. Most people are incredibly similar but we have grouped off into these sub groups even when we have the same skin tone. I know from where I am from in Chicago we have people that have grouped off such as the Polish, Irish, and Ukrainian to the point where they have their own neighborhoods.

  6. It is evident that categorizing people into groups is obviously bad for the society we live in, yet I feel like this is impossible to avoid. Yes, racism is bad and yes we should all have an open mind and do our best to avoid it. Yet, when it comes down to Humans in general and how their brains work, you can observe that they have tendencies to group things or order things. We know that the color of our skin doesn’t matter. We know that just because someone looks different doesn’t mean that they are better off or worse off than you, yet humans will unintentionally do this. They tend to stick to people who are similar to themselves because they are more comfortable this way. Just like you said, the PBS video is a great example of this. We all know that we are all genetically the same, yet people still chose to believe some people who look more alike than others are more genetically similar.

  7. I do agree that the manner in which we group people together by matching characteristics is primarily a harmful activity. It only further perpetuates the “us vs. them” way of thinking, and divides people rather than unites them. In the Recognizing Cultural Diversity reading, there is a discussion of the more modern ways in which culture is discussed. While there is still an overwhelming amount of poor categorization and stereotyping of groups, there is also a recognized benefit to comparing specific aspects of cultures with one another. In the section on cultural relativism, the author talks about how anthropologists can learn about a culture by comparing some detail of it with another. This is not so that the anthropologist can make statements that name one as superior, but rather to get a better insight into the minds of those who are a part of both separate cultures. While I do agree that some form of categorization of peoples does lead to negativity, there is some positive purpose behind it that we shouldn’t overlook.

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