K. Burke – Week Seven – Final Reflections

Throughout the duration of this course, I have found that one of the principal linking factors from unit to unit were the structures of difference that pervade all societies and cultures. Most notably, I have had my attention drawn to the norms of American culture that I had taken for granted as universally accepted, and now I understand American culture in a more anthropological sense where I can identify the apparent structures of difference. Specifically, the housing and job markets being skewed in favor of white peoples, the pervasiveness of drugs as an alternative to traditional work, and the fact that America leads the globalizing world and leaves ex-colonized countries behind are the systems of difference that I have targeted about America throughout the weeks of this course.

We learned in Week 2 during Video 2.2, “White: A Memoir in Color” that American society is set up unequally between different races. We know that race is culturally created and culturally specific, so it must be noted that American society sets people of the white race above all others when it comes to getting a job or getting a house. In the movie it is explained that Hispanic, Asian, and especially black families get worse rates for their houses on top of being de facto segregated. Clearly, race is a defining system of differentiation.

In Week 5 we learned from article 5.2, “Poverty at Work: Office Employment and the Crack Alternative” that America’s economic past in manufacturing has had a major impact in forcing minority workers into illegal drug selling. In short, the decline of manufacturing jobs in America has forced different employment opportunities for minority workers in office work or in drug work. Here, we can see that American society operates on a level of education for employment–something not readily available to all minority communities–and it acts as a system of difference for the work field that leads to unsavory activity within America.

Lastly, in Week 6 we learned in film 6.1, “Life and Debt” that America leads the world economy and therefore has the largest amount of votes in the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Inter-American Development Bank. This place as a global elite has made American interests one of the largest, most over-arching generators of systems of difference between the world’s economies.

Overall, it was interesting to see that systems of difference were present in all the coursework we were presented with throughout this semester.

5 thoughts on “K. Burke – Week Seven – Final Reflections

  1. Hello K.,

    I really enjoyed your post. Growing up in the U.S., especially growing up white, I am often blind to inequalities faced by different races. The more you learn about the oppression of people of color in the U.S., the more you learn that the system has been stacked against them for a very long time. Once you understand this, it is easier to see the disenfranchisement of people inside and outside the U.S. If this is a subject you are interested in I would suggest you read the book called Mass Incarceration, the New Jim Crowe. This book cover many of the things mentioned in class in-depth. All the points you make about the loss of agency of people of color is valid. The crushing system of the global market on other countries is also a very real problem. Especially since the World Bank and the IMF are funded by the U.S. and other western countries. Do you think that what they are doing is for the overall good? Thanks again for the excellent post!

  2. I found your connection of system of differences to American society and its education and employment to be very insightful. It is a sad reality that within a country that strives for equality has such systems effecting the lives of minorities. In regards to noting the difficulty or inequality observed when certain individuals attempt to get housing, I found that extremely shocking. As a Mexican American, I have never truly witnessed such an extreme form of segregation/inequality, but I have experienced slanderous, and outright inaccurate, terminology thrown at me. It is an absolute failure in American society that these ignorant beliefs still effect so many aspects of life. Not all Mexicans are illegal immigrants and not all Muslims are terrorists (and so on). These ignorant beliefs are due to a lack of education. This course taught useful methods for understanding these misconceptions. Hopefully more Americans can get an education that teaches a sociocultural anthropologist’s perspective on such issues.

  3. This was an interesting post. In my post, I focused on the other possible theme–meaning making–and how it was recurrent across the duration of the course. I think it was interesting to read a post about the other option: systems of difference. It is interesting the way you observed the differenced that imbue different cultures and peoples. I think it is generally an easy thing to look at people, or even places or objects, and identify differences. Actually, I learned in my social psychology class last year, that the brain has evolutionarily adapted to be highly efficient at outlining differences, rather than similarities. This would have helped our ancestors for many different reasons in the past, and it is an interesting phenomenon that still goes on today. I think it is important that people focus on and understand the differences that occur between people, yet there should be a strong effort to understand and seek out similarities. This is important because, as I have stated, it is easier for humans to point out differences because of the evolutionary advantages such thinking has granted. This is an important thing to understand in teaching people to overcome racist tendencies as well.

  4. I think you did a great job at showing systems of difference and specifically how they occur in the United States. I also found it very interesting, as an American, to see the ways in which our culture differs from other countries at the levels that I would consider basic – as in the ones where I would take for granted that of course we are all the same about this. Just seeing how many possible variations there are for societies is surprising. Whether it be matrilineal kinship or banana leaf and shell currency, the world is full an endless amount of cultures. And at the same time, they all have their systems of difference. They might differ from our systems here in the United States, but the fact that they exist also shows that we are all as similar as we are different. And that unfortunately, as your examples pointed out, we are all capable of arbitrarily keeping some people down so that others can rise.

  5. I also saw that the housing and job markets were havily in favor of white people in America. It is something that we all hear about but I do not think we really understand it unless we go through it or see it firsthand. American society is very unequal, we can turn on the news and see every day another atrocity happening, this is something we have grown up with and see every day and it has become almost normal for us but it should not be. Culturally, we have to be become more accepting of those who are different than us and do not look like us. I also wrote about race, it is interesting and something that we see every day. Historically it has been used to put people down, even though race has nothing to do with the performance of an individual. People perceive these difference as true because that is what they were taught. I think we have to teach people that race means nothing and cannot and should not be used to discriminate.

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