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SOCY 2011 Somebodies and Nobodies

SOCY 2011 Somebodies and Nobodies - >i< Social...

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Unformatted text preview: >i< Social Problems Readings with Four Questions Second Edition Joel M. Charon Minnesota State University Moorhead Lee Garth Vigilant Minnesota State University Moorhead THOMSON Wm WADSWORTH Australia . Canada 0 Mexico - Singapore 0 Spain United Kingdom ' United States PART I AN INTRODUCTEON Runes T, NS? 'Ilzc {hr-ad Down? Cancer and Part-stun}, , 1 , , , t ' I" M V » n‘ a w r > V 1“ scmxfimmmn {Autism Larrthridgt. Barnard Llnixcrs / ' ' ‘ ' _ r “i r. n the 1/1/ng l lJIryllis p1ll$11l~2,€€l& 9?». i {an Via Log: 1 n k, Marc. an: , 7 Brunswick, N} : Transaction. Of? Hardy, t c R'uvtw Richard (lid. 198?». C ‘vfé’n: flower} FBI in Amcrza’m: Popular Cuiturc. Carl-don arc , Southern Illinois Ut’riycrsity ’ r " 3 L1,! c", Rochcfort, David A and Rogcr Eli, Cobb, cds, #1))? 13,5: Politics omefiicm Dcfinizicu. Lawrcncc: Luiiycrsrty of Kansas Pres‘s. R s ll Edmurd P ill 1996.“‘Spcaking ofAnmhrltitxon: uric. , t ., V A) a, “g for War against Human and Inscct V21 Wu l9l 4—? 945? (mil offlmcrs’tan History )4 LLL L 7 V ‘ 82: £50, ‘29, “inn “ind Helen Ingram, 1993.“Social Construction EVlolnl’ Schnclder, , , I I, . . »/ 1"} n A H} oyTugct Populations! American Polztztal tarmac Rcvtcu $7 : 334~4’?. @hcrrv Ivlichacl S. 1995. In the Shadow cfl/l/Ezrfllic United 3:; I day the 19305, New Haycnfl’alc Uniycrsrty l’rcss, Sidel, Ruth. X996. Keeping Women and Children Lasts/lmcrim} Win an {ht Pow, Nchork: penguin. Sontag, Susan. I989. AIDS and It; i’vftétaplmrs. Nchork: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Stone, chorah A. 1988. Policy I’m'adox and Political Reason. Ncw York: Harpchollins. TO SOCIAL PROBLEMS Tobiasjj, 19%}? Cri’mc‘ and Industrml Society in the I9”? Century, New York: Schockcn. Trchach,firnold S and Scott Ehlcrs. 19g6;'"flic \X’ar on Our Children." Drug Polity £22m 30: l 3~l 5, W’ill, George, leZ.“l:rom MEOVV to Meow.” Newsweek ll‘? ’(Fcbruary 10}: 82. Zarcfsky, David. W86. Pr‘m‘dcmjoluzmn’s ‘Wnr‘on Poverty: _ Rlzl’torit mad I-lz'srory, Tuscaloosa: Univcrmty of Alabama Press. SISCUSSION QUESTIONS 3 \Vhit do you think is Best’s central porn: concerning tlic wars \yc make against social prohlcursr ' ’ '5'” “ > *cn Of course. Best‘s pom: is a weak on: it in tact pcopl a l\) ultimately be victorious against a social prohltm. Do yo 5‘ ‘ serious social problem that can hc sowed, helicvc thcrc is ' Explain your answer, \X/hy is the metaphor of war to charactcrrzc SOclal problems I,” used as much as it is? ' ’ W ' *' u 3 “al 4 Best makes thc understanding of and policies tomrd soci " r l ‘ ' I‘ i tsini lc‘soclal roh~ problems highly complex, Society is no p , p ’ ' * 7 's his? Do lcms are not simple; solutrons are not Siniplc,\Vhy 1. t you agree with him? t “ 3 ’ ’ ) lld 5 Consider crime or poverty as a social problctn,\X/hat Wt t you consrtlcr‘ Victory f Is this possihlc 4 Somebodies and Nobodies: Rankism and What It Means Robert W. Fuller W The Four Questions . _ I. What specifically is the problem Puller identifies.” 2. Is it inflict a social problem? 3. I/Wtat causes this problem? 4. 15 that a way to alleviate this problem? flu/Alum «‘1 Rank WW chrrintcd hy pcmiimoii. Topics Covered: Rankism Hierarchies Discrimination Power Racism Equality Moritocracy Democracy Abuse of rank W READENG 4 SOMEBODEES AND NOBODIES: RANKISM AND WHAT IT MEANS 29 THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL As a student at Oberlin College during the 19505, I was taught to be proud ofits curly advocacy of equal opportunity for women and blacks. But by the late 19603, Oberlin students, like their counterparts across America, were. in rchcllion. The few dozen black stu« dents on campus were protcsting their paltry numbers. \Vonicn students were criticizing the Status of women in tho collcgc and the country. And many students who Wore upsct over national policy on Vietnam turned their its on whatever college policies impinged on their rights as young adults, ‘thn Ohcrliu’s Board ofTrustccs appointed nic president of the college: in l970, the choice was clear: either embrace the changcs “blowing in the wind” or be blown a\>yay.\lVithin a few years, Oberlin, like most other colleges, added many African~Amcricans to its student body, faculty, and staff. Simultaneously: a ferniu inst revolution transformcd the College in a thousand subtlc ways, and student pressure brought overdue reforms to social and educational policics. Tho simultancous activities of the black, women’s, and student movements madc mc realize that there was something dccpcr going on. Something beyond differ cnccs in color, gender, and educational credentials under» pinned the racism, scxism, and disenfranchiscment of students that lay claim to our immediate attention. I scnscd that the. familiar “isms” were all manifestations 053 more fundamental cause of discrimination, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. It was not until I had left tho presidency and had become a target ofthis kind of discrimination myselfthat I was able to identify it. Lacking the protection of title and status in the yours after Obcrlin, I experienced What it’s like to bc takcn for a “nobody.” I found myself comparing thc somebody/antibody divide with the White—black polar— ity of racism, the male—female opposition of sexism, and the teacher-student dichotomy in schools, There were differences, but there were similarities as well, the most important ones being (1) indignity and humilia» rm 5ch pretty much the same to a nobody, a black, a Woman, or a student, and (2) no matter the excuse for abuse, it persists only in the proscnce of an underlying drtllcrcncc of rank signifying power. No one would dztt: to insult Queen Elizabeth I or General Colin Powcll. In the U.S,, perhaps twenty percent of us have suf- cd directly from racism. and about fifty pcrccnt from scxism, But Virtually all of us suffer from rank-bascd dhuscmwlnch I shall he calling“nmkisrn”~in one contcxt or another, at one time or anothcr. Sooner or later, everyone gets taken for a nobody. Sooner or later, most of us treat someone else as a nobody. It always hurts to he “dissed,” no matter what your status.th if it weren’t for the fact that most everyone has known the sting of rankisrn, would there ever have hccn empathy for vic— tims of racism and sexism? At first I thought that rankism was just another ism, one mots in the litany (if—isms with which we were growing weary, and I resisted thc notionThcn it dawned on me that the familiar isms could ho seen as subspecies of rankism. Racism, sexism, anti—Scniltisrn, agcisrn and others all depend for their cxistcncc on dlflcrcnccs of social rank that in turn reflect underlying power didcp cnces, so they are forms ofrankism. Overconung mnkism would therefore undermine racism, sexism, and other isms that have been fought under those names but ulti— mately derive their forcc from power diffcrcnccs woven into the social fabric. Graduafiy, I realized that the gains would go much further. For example, the reason so many student?“ regardless of color-“withhold thcir hearts and minds from learning can be traced to the fact that their top priority and constant concern is to shicld themselves from the rankism that perrncatcs education fiom kinder~ gartcn to graduate school. Rankism erodes the will to learn, distorts personal relationships, taxcs economic productivity, and stokes ethnic hatred. It is the cause of dysfunctionality, and sometimes even Violence, in families, schools, and the workplace. Like racism and so 8111, rankisrn must be named and identified and then negotiated out of all our social institutions. . . . Once you have a name for it, you see it everywhere. The outrage over self—serving corrupt executives is indignation over rankism, Sexual abuse by clergy is rankism. Elder abuse in life care facilities is rankisrn. Scientists taking credit for their assistants’ research is rankism. More generally, rank~bascd discrimination is an ever—present reality in society at large, Where it takes its greatest toll on those lacking tho protections of social rank—«the working, poor. In her book Nickel and Dimed: Or: {NM} Gating By z‘nAmcrz’ca, Barbara Ehrcnrclch argues that the working poor are unacknowledged benefactors Whose labor clfcctivcly subsidizcs everyone else. The “living wage” movement is a harbinger ofa “dignitarian” movement against social rankisrn. The casualtics of pcll-mcll gfloballzatlon-«ccouoniic and environmental are attributable to rankisni. Inter» national terrorism has cornplcx origins and inuluplc causes, but one of theme—wand one uéthin ouri control» is mnkism, both inadvertent and intentionaixbetween nations. There is no fury like that borne of chronic “‘1' i, on... ER“ Il1:1:5:rucial to get one thing straight from the start: power differences, in themselves, are not the culprit/To bemoan power differences is like bemoaning 3the fact that the sun is brighter than the moon. And rank dillen enccs merely reflect power differences, so rank differw ences are not the problem either, any more than 3010501” gender differences are innately a problem. Ditriculues arise only when these differences are used as an excuse to abuse, humiliate, exploit, and subjugate. So it is with power and rank. Power dillerences are a fact of life. Making it okay to discuss the uses of power With thipse holding positions of authority, With an eye towards is— tinrruishing between appropriate and inappropriate uses of icheir power, is what this [selection] is about. , k Typically, the abuse of the power vested in ran f holders takes the form of disrespect, inequity, discriinn nation, and exploitation. Since hierarchies are pyramids of power, rankisni is a malady to which hierarchies or all i‘ypes are susceptible. ., , 1 Let’s begin with a simple example oi interpersona rankisi’n : An executive pulls up to valet parking at a restau~ rant, late to a business lunch, and finds no one to take his car keysAnXious and fuming, he spots a teenager running toward him in the rearsrieyi’ mirror and yells,“Where the hell were your l haven’t got all day.” ‘ , He tosses the keys at the kid’s leer, Bending to pick them up, the boy says, “Sorry, sir. About how long do you expect to be?” . N 5 The executive hollers over his shoulder, You ll know when you see me, won’t you?”The valet winces, but holds his tongue. Postscript: he goes home and bullies his kid brother. . . . Further examples leap to mind: a boss harassing an employee, a cook or a customer demeaning a server, u coach bullying a player, a doctor disparaging a nurse, :1 school principal insulting a teacher, a professor explode ing a teaching assistant, a teacher humiliating a student, students ostracizing other students, a parent belittling a child, an officer abusing a suspect, a caretaker mistreat— ing an invalid. . . . ‘ K, R ankism insults the dignity of subordinates by treat~ ing them as invisible, as nobodies. Nobody is another n:word and, like the original, it is used to Justify PARTl AN lNTRODUCTlON TO SOCIAL PROBLEMS denigration and inequity. Nobodies are insultedsdisrcw spected. exploited, ignored. In contrast, somebodies arc sought after, given preference, lionized, . . . RANKlSM—«MOTHER OF "ESMS" . . .What makes it possible for one group to discrimi— nate against another? For example, whites segregating blackstentiles imposing quotas on jews: or straights harassing gays? Color, religion, gender, and sexual ori— entation are simply pretexts for constructing and cXplOlt; ing social stratifications; they are not the actual causp o ongoing injustice. Such discrimination is predicateo or; social dominance that depends on established, constructe power diflerences, fortified by customs andrlaws, As the power gap closes through the breakdown or customs and the repeal of prejudicial legislation, systemic abuse becomes harder and harder to sustain. , . . Power matters. In fact, it’s more or less all that mat» ters, and it is important for those who temporarily lack it to realize this so they can set about building a coun~ teryailing power. It is only as those subordinated by a particular consensus organize and gain power commen- surate with that of their oppressors that the prevailing consensus unravels and the pretext for explOitation is disallowed. , Although rank—based discriniinationflels the same to its targets as the more familiar kinds, there are some important differences in the way it works, Unlike rage or gender, rank is mutableYou can be taken for a nobo y one day and for a somebody the next. You can be a nobody at home and a somebody at work, or Vice versa. The mutability of rank means that‘niost of us have been both victims and perpetrators of rankisin, in different contexts, ) . . Rankism, like racism, is a source of social injustice as well as personal indignity As we’ll see, a great deal of what’s labeled social pathology has its origins in rankism. But unlike racists and sexists, who are now on (notice, rankists still go largely unchallenged. The indignity suf~ fered by those who’ve been “nobodied” fosters. lt builds to indignation and sometimes erupts in Violence.When a person or a people is nobodied, it not only does them an injustice, but also plants a time bomb in our midst. The consequences range from school shootings to reyanchisrn, even to genocide. The twentieth century has seen many demagogues who have promised to restore the pride and dignity of a people that relt nobodied, Hitler enjoyed the support of Germans humiliated by READING 4 SOMEBODEES AND NOBODIES: RANKESM AND WHAT ET MEANS punitive reparations in the aftermath ofWorld War I. The national impotence imposed on the German nation (the Fatherland) by the victors reverberated through every German family, as well. ln opting for Hitler, many Germans were not only voting to restore rank to the Fatherland, but also to overcome the sense of inade- quacy they’d experienced as the heads of German fatni~ lies. ,ii'nilarly, President Milosevic onugoslayia traded on the wounded pride oftlie Serbs in the l990s, Once war begins, people will become apologists for crimes they would otherwise condemn to get even with those they believe have nobodied them. Globally, there are few counterparts to the demo» cratic institutions that mitigate the most flagrant dis~ plays of rankism within nations. However, nowhere are rankisin’s effects more acute than in the still largely extra- legal realm of international relations; weaker states are often compelled to do the bidding otstronger ones. . . , Attacking the familiar isms, one at a time, is like lopping heads off the Hydra of discrimination and oppression; going after rankisni aims to drive a stake through the Hydra’s heart, EQUAL IN DlGNITY Dignity is not negotiable, wVIirtan Gregorian,American writer, university president, and foundation executive @934 w ) Though most of us have experienced rankism, we do not routinely protest it, at least not to the perpetrators. we limit our complaints to those who share our sta» tion. Uncle Tom’s policy of“to get along, go along” recommends itself to almost everyone when it comes to confronting rankism. As a short~terrn solution this is understandable because the power difference upon which rankistn is predicated makes resisting it danger- ous. But in the long run, appeasement fails. Uncle Torn ended up being whipped to death, Despite the fact that we may acquiesce to unequal treatment or even collude in seltlabnegation, most of us sense that there is something about human beings that is universal, absolute, and, yes, equal. Equal? We are obviously unequal in skill, talent, beauty, strength, health, or wealthwin any measurable trait for that matter. "Ci/What then? For inillennia, there have been people ofieyery faith, often in opposition to their own religious leaders, who have sensed that all human beings are oi“ equal dignitylhough this spiritual insight is routinely violated, it is grounded in (and represents an intuitive grasp of) more pragmatic reasons for opposing rankest abuses of power, . . . Rankisni is invariably an assault on dignity. If peo— ple are fundamentally equal in dignity: then discriini- nation on the basis ofpower difilerenceswexperienced as an insult to dignitymhas no legitimacy and must be disallowedlhe notion of rankisrn links ethics and poli— tics through dignity. , , . THE MYTH OF MERITOCRACY America sees itself as a nieritocracy, in contrast to arise tocratic Europe. But while opportunity is more equal here than it was in aristocracies, it is still far from merit—based. The last halfwcentury has seen an assault on race, gender, sexual orientation, and age~based bar» riers to equal opportunity, but the surface upon which we compete for recognition is still a steep hill, not a level playing; field. . . . in a true nieritocracy, rank would have to be pre~ cisely defined, and rewards would reflect current rank within a large and growing number of narrowly defined niches. High rank in one specialty, as determined on one occasion, would not signify merit in general or indefiw nitely. Because individuals’ talents, abilities, and skills nry markedly from niche to niche, composite, overall rankings that ignore variations from specialty to spe» cialty yield spurious results.We don’t simply declare the winner of the mile the best runner, because that would overlook the fact that there are sprinters and marathon— ers who, in their events, can outdo the fastest miler. Merit has no significance, and therefore should carry no weight, beyond the precise realm wherein it is assessed, From this perspective, 1Q measures not the broad amor~ phous trait “intelligence”~«now recognized to assume a myriad of specialized tonne—but rather the ability to do weH on a particular kind oftest, Similarly, ranking schools by their students’ average test scores is a measure of how a selected group of students did on a particular test, not the schools’ intrinsic educational merit. Achievers of high rank often use their position to disadvantage those who would challenge them, or to hang on to rewards they may once have earned but since ceased to merit. An aura of social rank—«n vestige ot‘aristocratic classmenyelops winners {who are seen as somebodies}, and is denied to runners~up (who are seen as nobodiesl Parents pay premiums to elite universities 32 PARTE AN INTRODUCTION TO SOClAL PROBLEMS in the belief that the prestige of these famous schools will rub off on their offspring and bring them advan— tages after graduation. . . . Meritocracy is a myth in the presence of rankisni, just as it was in the presence of racism and sexism. Until there are edective procedures that curtail rank— based discrimination in all of our social institutions, funerican ineritocracy is unworthy of the name. DEMOCRACY'S NEXT STEP During the two centuries since the American and French Revolutions, and despite woeful lapses and delays, the franchise in modern democracies has grad» ually widened to include virtually all adults. But although we’ve made significant inroads against racism and sexism, diminishing returns seem to be set~ ting inAt this stage an all~inclusive approach might do more to advance the causes of minorities, women, and other identity groups than the splintering, sometimes divisive, group—based politics of recent yearsA practical way to further justice at this point, including the rights of specific groups, is to attack the universal underlying cause of indignity, regardless of who is targeted. That cause is rankisin. Unequal opportunity and unfairness are incompat— ible with democratic idealslhe indignities of rankism, no less than those of racism and sexism, are inefficient, cruel, and self—defeating.They have no place in democ— , racy s future. . . . Like racism and sexism, rankism can‘t be eradicated overnight, but its perpetrators can be put on notice. Authority can be democratized without being under— mined. Democracies, which succeeded in circumscrib~ ing rank in national government, led the world in the last century...
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