The content from week 2, week 4, and week 5 serve to display different types of constructed structures of difference based on race, gender, and socioeconomic status, respectively. Common links we see between the constructions between these three systems is that there is a system of rewards and benefits for fulfilling the scripted role of one’s racial, gender or socioeconomic status. These rewards and benefits enable these systems to perpetuate.
Society necessarily meets any sort of deviance with resistance. For instance, institutions and more specifically entire states- to cite a recent example, North Carolina- vilify transgender people as possible sexual predators. This is perhaps to uphold the social order. For instance, in “Poverty at Work:Office Employment and the Crack Alternative,” we found that the market system has displaced jobs for many Puerto Ricans in the Spanish Harlem, leaving their most convenient option as the Crack trade. Because they are culturally different and lack education(because they largely relied on the steady manufacturing jobs that moved), the system puts them at a severe disadvantage and reinforces the privilege and economic position of the primarily Anglo Saxon people who dominate the service industry in the United States- or at perhaps other people who are privileged enough to access the necessary schooling to do so.
More poignantly, the ramifications of these systems of difference can infringe and justify violence against a target group by devaluing their bodies. As Smith notes in “Blackness,Citizenship, and the Transnational Vertigo of Violence in the Americas,” what’s accepted by society as a system of difference not only exists in theory but can have dire consequences:” Social psychologist Phillip Atiba Goff and his collaborators (2008:294) have found that “a Black-ape asso- ciation influences the extent to which people condone and justify violence against Black suspects.”(385).
Ultimately, systems of difference serve to blur how similar people are across constructed categories. The classic example is race, which has nothing to do with genetic variation but a lot to do with what ideas we ascribe to biology. Interestingly, it has to do with gender as well. In the reading “Performing Gender Identity: Young Men’s Talk and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity,” Cameron found that not only did young men talk about topics that were expected of them but they also delved into rapport that was decidedly “female”(or constructed as such). This goes to show that systems of difference may just work to make us forget about our commonalities and expect the (arbitrary) cultural paradigm of who should have power as the normalized self and who should be the villified other. In effect, this is a method of divide and conquer that brainwashes people to work against their own interests and serve those of the elite. While this may sound dismal and deterministic, such indoctrination about how different we are can be countered by pursuing an active understanding of our commonalities- which this course helped demonstrate. People do have the power to challenge cultural norms and structures of difference, but they must make efforts to do so. The default is what we’ve seen throughout this course: a legacy of division, misunderstanding, and discrimination.