Over time, there has been a developing construction of the differences between people. In Week 1, we are introduced to the concept of ethnocentrism; the evaluation of other cultures based on the standards found in your own culture. This is not used in modern anthropology, because we recognize that in order to truly evaluate an outside culture, we can not hold it up to our own standards. In “Anthropological Perspectives,” there is a discussion about the structural differences formed throughout time. Ethnocentrism is at the root of the current issues that deal with ethnonationalism, and how we view of other ethnicities. Trickled down to today, the previous explanations for social situations, are causes of racism. In the nineteenth century, social darwinism was an explanation for the high mortality rates of indigenous peoples and the rights of Europeans to dominate them. The Native Americans and African Americans were dying earlier on average, contracting more diseases, and living in worse neighborhoods. This was attributed to the natural evolution of people; placing whites as the superior race. While we now recognize that these conditions were forced upon these people because of segregation and little access to healthcare, the perception of these minority groups as inferior unfortunately continues to be prevalent in the United States today.
In Week 4, “Performing Gender Identity: Young Men’s Talk and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity,” the construction of gender roles is discussed. Alongside race, gender is something that creates a large structural difference between those that fall into the various categories. Author Deborah Cameron describes the theory of performativity, which explains how individuals speak to consummate an action which pertains to their assigned gender expectations. This contradicts the traditional assumption that individuals speak they way they do because of who they were born as. This theory states that people follow the socially constructed rules of gendered speech, and assimilate themselves. There is a deep-rooted expectation for men to not be gossipers, for fear or being perceived as feminine. In order to “be a man,” men are just expected to “not be a woman.” Although socially constructed and not an innate characteristic, speech is a structure that can place individuals into one gender category or another.
In Week 2, we really delve into the various structural differences that are currently present. The most common type of characterization between people is the categorization of races. In “Race: The Power of An Illusion,” they discuss the common belief that race is a real, scientific distinction between people that separates them from other races. In the past, there had not been the proper science to either prove or disprove this theory of race. However, we now know with empirical evidence that race is a socially constructed principle and has no basis in science. In fact, humans share the most genetic similarities with one another, than do all other species. The unfortunate reality is that people are so accustomed to the constructed perception of race, that it is taking a great deal of time to change that perception. Until then, the consequences of looking at race in this manner is a system of privilege and inequality.