Social Identity and Issue of White Privilege

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Despite how far we have come as a society, race still manages to create many disconnects in communication. Privilege, stereotyping, and our self-identity all play into the racial divide we often see in communication. The “us-against-them” mentality recurs in each of these differences, showcasing the inherent feeling of separation between people of different races, or even groups.

Privilege greatly affects how people interact with each other and view each other. It tends to separate those who are privileged and, well, everyone else – thus creating a barrier of prejudice based upon privilege between people. This can lead to many misunderstandings, conflicts, resentments, and various disconnects. The two main distinctions seen in privilege are race and gender. With race, white people are the ones privileged to be more present in media, and, in their own culture, aren’t even shown how drastically privileged they are compared to other races.

In “Teaching About Race and Ethnicity: Trying to Uncover White Privilege for a White Audience,” the author mentions that in schools “it is particularly difficult to teach many white students about privileges and advantages of their membership in a dominant cultural group.” Not only that, but in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack,” author McIntosh mentions that “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege.” Each of these sources talk about how obvious privilege isn’t recognized, but rather avoided in general for many cases. This ultimately fuels the ever recurring “us against them” theme many take to heart, although do not quite recognize it on their own.

One major influence on communication lies within an individual. Their own self-image, how they believe what their place is in a group, what they believe others are supposed to do, and even pre-constructed notions based on race affects how one communicates with others. Social Identity theory is a person’s self-image that emerges from being in a group or social setting. A major part of how social identity theory works relies on self-categorization and how a person defines oneself, becoming a big factor for how it plays into actual social interactions.

While it does affect communication regardless of race in some cases – a lot of the problems caused by this do become apparent in the differences between races and culture. Because of social norms and preset standards, a person can have predetermined expectations based upon their own race, as well as others, that dictates part of their social identity. Social Identity theory plays into the “us-against-them” mentality; it can affect group culture and communication that can range from a small to even a global scale. This mentality has been a cause for long-lasting resentment and disputes that many people have struggled with throughout time. Self-Identity is how we mold ourselves to be a certain type of person, and how that very image of ourselves can change within a group – thus leading to effects beyond our own person that can change the identities of others.

This specifically impacts communication since a person’s “initial knowledge of cultures may be based on stereotypical information or images,” according to the article “Identity management theory: Facework in intercultural relationships.” These “face challenges,” as the author calls them, can result in one thinking that the cultural differences are too big to bother with. This automatically creates a barrier in communication – most of the time before a conversation takes place, since they are founded on self-conceived identity and assumptions.

One big factor in what affects communication between races, social identity theory, and privilege, is stereotyping. Stereotyping changes people’s immediate ideas and prejudices of others, and that affects their own self-image – thus playing into the aforementioned social identity theory. Everyone has heard of all the stereotypes that have been familiarized with through portrayal in media. The common racial and gender-biased stereotypes, for the majority of the time, are most prevalent in movies and TV shows – and the demographic who consumes this media the most is none other than young, impressionable children. From a very young age, kids are exposed to these stereotypes through the media they consume.

The repetitive nature of such stereotypes is portrayed in all types of media over and over again, affecting kids to the point where it becomes ingrained in what they believe to be truth. According to ‘Perceptions of Asian American Students: Stereotypes and Effects,” stereotypes – specifically those of Asian-American students – affect them to the point that psychological, emotional, and social life damage starts to develop, and tends to follow them throughout their time in school – and can even continue to haunt them even into their career. Again, these stereotypes, normally not directed towards white people, play into the “us-against-them” mentality. By making assumptions of people of another race, and making them the butt of a joke, it creates more dissonance between the two – thus making communication even harder.

All of these previously mentioned ideas become tied together in the overarching and ever-present issue of communication. Probably one of the hardest things to master, communication is already difficult on its own, but due to these various problems and grudges people form, race has become a dividing factor in successful communication over the years. Social Identity theory, privilege, stereotyping – all of it affects communication in one form or another.

It all ties together at the root of who a person is, and what they’ve learned or what they’ve grown up with. Not to say that because of this communication between races is not possible, but it’s what makes that communication so difficult for some people, and why things may be the way they are today. With all the distrust in the past between African Americans and whites especially, and how the media portrays it as if it was “them against us” – we unknowingly are forming a barrier, or burning a bridge between “us and them.” Even the mindset of “us” and “them” is a basis for conflict, since it would be setting oneself up to already be against someone else.

All because of hiding and avoiding white privilege, white people do not see, and sometimes choose not to see, that they are given a head start in life, through media portrayal and even in school. All because of self-identity, we differentiate ourselves from people due to previous encounters in groups, media, or even within our own head. All because of stereotyping, we make assumptions and point our fingers at people we don’t even try to understand, because we think we already know who they are. This all amounts to a closed-off communication, divided and pushed to the side. However, if people can put aside their assumptions, stop grouping based on race or status, and make themselves an identity that is without a barrier to communication with others, things might start getting a little more conversational.

Cite this paper

Social Identity and Issue of White Privilege. (2022, Feb 10). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/social-identity-and-issue-of-white-privilege/

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