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Cycle of Socialization

Cycle of Socialization - noncommmmww mm” ‘ fire The...

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Unformatted text preview: noncommmmww mm”. ‘ fire, The Cycle of Socialization Bobbie Harro Often. when people begin to stud}r the phenomenon of oppression. they start with recog— unian lieings are different from each other in many ways based upon gen~ nizing that l] ual orientation, dcr. ethnicity. skin color. first language, age, ability stains, religion. sex and economic class. The obvious first leap that people make is the assumption that if we lost began to appreciate differences, and treat each other with respect, then everything would be all right, and there would be no oppression. rEhis View is represented beautifully by the now famous quole from Rodney King in response to the riots following his beating and the release of the police officers who were filmed beating him: ”Why can't we all just get along?" it should be that simple, but it isn’t. Instead. we are each born into a specific set of social identities, related to the categories of difference mentioned above, and these social identities predispose us to unequal roles in the dynamic system of oppression. We are then socialized by powerful sources in our worlds to play the roles prescribed by an inequitable social system (Hardiinan and Jackson 1997).?!1is socialization process is pervasive (coming from all sides and sources}. con- 8133:?“ (patterned and predictable). circular {self—supporting), sclfiperpetmuing (intra— dep'e‘ndenil and often invisible {unconscious and unnamed) (Bell 1997]. All of these Charfii‘ierisflcs will be clarified in the description of the cycle of socialization that follows. In struggling lo understand what roles we have been socialized to play, how we are “defied by issues of oppression in curlives, and how we participate in maintaining them. must begin by making an inventory of our own social identities with relationship to EEC-h issue of oppression. An excellent first. learning activity is to make a personal inven- WY of our various social identities relating to the categories listed above—gender, race. :fihsiex'uai orientation, religion. economic class, and ability/disability status. The results 11 s inventory make up the mosaic of social identities (our social identity profile} that 3 afieisl our socialization. (Harro 1936. Griffin 1997). “veil-12?: :i’siliflnfaiic training in “how to be’.’ each of our social identities throughoni our lion prose 33:31:, 0 iUCiitlilzal'ion that follows is one way oi representin g how the socmhza~ Perpelimcs “wiggle. f1 urn what sources it comes, how it affects our lives, and how it for Interim ii 15L) {.17 1c l)n eciions lor Clhange’ that. conclude this chapter suggest ways Poses of lcdl'nil? if'Lthle of soc-:alizanon and taking charge of cor own lives. For pur~ through the we: 10 fisqgttici; osteful to‘choose onl;r one of our socaal identities. and trace it ldciitlties at once, . . a ma l01‘i. hlflte it can be quite overwhelming to explore seven 15 16 Conceptual Framewarks Cycle of Socialization Socialized Taught on a Personal Level by Parents, Relatives. Teachers, People We love and Trust: Shapers of Expectations. Norms. Vaiues, Roles, Roles. Models of Ways to Be, Sources of Drea ms institutional ' and Cultural Socialization ' ' The " Beginning ' Born into World with Reinforced! Bombarded with Mechanics in Place Messages from No Blame, Na Consciousness, institutions Culture No.Gu|lt, N" Chm“ Churches Practices Limited information Schools Song Lyrics No Information Television Lan uage Misinformation Legai System M is Biases Mental Heallh Patterns of Stereotypes Medicine Thought Prejudice: Business w’y’y 0n Conscious and Treadl‘tfon Unconscious Levels .93ng Enforced confusion Sanctioned Do Nothing Insecurity Stigmatized Don't Make 1 Rewards ard Waves Punishment; Promote . ., Status Quo Powega Resulting in Persecution Dissonance, Silence, Anger. Dehumanization, Discrimination Change Raise Consciousness Guilt. Callusiofl. ignorance, Empowermem interrupt Self-Haired,‘Stress. Lack of Reality. Educate Horizontal Violence, Take a Stand inconsisterxy, Violence. Crime, W Internalizatlon of Patterns of Power Question iieframe Direction for Change Fig. 2.1. The Cycle of Socialization. he Be innin in (Circle no.1) Our socialization begins before we are born. with no choice on our part. No One brings us a survey. in the womb, inquiring into which gender, class, religion. sexual orientation, cultural group. ability status, or age we might want to be born. These identities are ascribed to us at birth through no effort or decision or choice of our own; There is. there- fore. no reason to blame each other or hold each other responsible for the identities we have. This first step in the socialization process is outside our control. In addition to hav— ing no choice. we also have no initial consciousness about who we are. We don’t ques— tion our identities at this point. We just are who we are. On top of these givens. We are born into a world where all of the mechanics. assump tions. rules. roles. and structures of oppression are already in place and functioning: we have had nothing to do with constructing them. There is no reason for any of us to feel guilty or responsible for the world into which we are born. We are innocents. fallinginto an already established system. r The Cycle of Socialization The characteristics of this system were built long before we existed. based upon histo- ry, habit. tradition. patterns of belief. prejudices. stereotypes, and myths. Dominant or agent groups are considered the "norm” around which assumptions are built. and these groups receive attention and recognition. Agents have relatively more social power, and can "name” others. They are privileged at birth. and ascribed access to options and oppor— tunities. often without realizing it. We are “lucky" to be born into these groups and rarely question it. Agent groups include men. white people. middle- and upper-class people, abled people. middle-aged people. heterosexuals, and gentiles. 0n the other hand. there are many social identity groups about which little or nothing is known because they have not been considered important enough to study. These are referred to as subordinate groups or target groups. Some target groups are virtually invisible while others are defined by misinformation or very limited informa- tion. Targets are disenfranchised. exploited. and victimized by prejudice. discrimination, and other structural obstacles. lii‘arget groups include women; racially oppressed groups ; gay. lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people; disabled people; Jews: elders; youth; and pe0ple living in poverty {Baker-Miller 1976; Hardiman and Jackson 1997). We are "unlucky" to be born into target groups and therefore devalued by the existing society. Both groups are dehumanlzed by being socialized into prescribed roles without con- sciousness or permission. . at Socialization {Arrow no. 1) Immediately upon our births We begin to be socialized by the people We love and trust the most. our families or the adults who are raising us. They shape our self-concepts and self-perceptions. the norms and rules We must: follow. the roles we are taught to play. our expectations for the future. and our dreams. These people serve as role models for us, and they teach us how to behave. This socialization happens both intrapersonally (how we think about ourselves). and interpersonally (how we relate to others). We are told things like. ”Boys don't cry": “You shouldn’t trust white people”; "They’re better than we are. Stay in your place": “Don’t worry if you break the toy. We can always buy another one"; “Christianity is the true religion": “Children should be seen and not heard": “Don’t tell anyone that your aunt is mentally retarded. It's embarrassing"; and "Don't kiss other girls. You're supposed to like boys." These messages are an automatic part of our early socialization. and we don’t initially question them. We are too dependent on our parents or those raising us. and we haven't yet developed the ability to think for ourselves. so we unconsciously conform to their views. It is important to observe that they, too. are not to be blamed. They are doing the best the? can to raise us. and they only have their own backgrounds from which to draw. They may not have thought critically about what they are teaching us, and may be uncon- 301011813' passing on what was taught to them. Some of us may have been raised by par- ents who have thought critically about the messages that they are giving us, but they are still not in the majority. This could be good or bad. as well. depending on what their views 2:: A consciously racist parent may intentionally pass on racist beliefs to his children. h a Fons‘fiOUSlY feminist parent may intentionally pass on non-stereotypical roles to 31‘ Chlldren. so it can go either way. “0385051261533 of the content of the teaching. We have been exposed, without initial‘ques- of 0:11.561 3 ”0113 set of rules. roles. and assumptions that cannot help but shape our sense our es and the world. They mflucuce what we take with us when We venture out of Aprotected family units into the larger World of other institutions. Sociaf‘i’gitfifielgay :10 check out the accuracy of these assertions is to choose one of our that idenu ' an write down at least ten examples of what we learned about being W- It 8 helpful to consider whether we chose an agent or a target identity. We 17 18 Conceptual Frameworks ‘ .J’ may find that we have thought more about our target identities. and therefore they an easier to inventory. Gender rules are sometimes the easiest. so We might start there. WI might also consider doing it for an agent group identity. like males. white people. hetero sexuals. gentiles, adults. middle-class people. able-bodied or able-minded people. Mos likely. we will find it easier to list learnings for targeted groups than for agent groups. ' izatlon (Circle no.” 2) Once we begin to attend school. go to a place of worship, visit a medical facility. pin: on a sports team. work with a social worker, seek services or products from a business. 0: learn about laws and the legal system, our socialization sources are rapidly multiplier based on how many institutions with which we have contact. Most of the messages w: receive about how to be. whom to "look up to” and “look down on." what rules to follow what roles to play, what assumptions to make. what to believe, and what to think wil probably reinforce or contradict what we have learned at home. We might learn at school that girls shouldn’t be interested in a woodworking she} class. that only white students go out for the tennis team, that kids who learn differently or think independently get put in special education. that it's okay for wealthy kids to mis: classes for a family vacation, that it's okay to harass the boy who walks and talks like a girl. that most of the kids who drop out are from the south side of town. that "jocks” don" have to do the same work that "nerds" do to pass. or that kids who belong to another reli gious group are “weird.” We learn who gets preferential treatment and who gets picket cuff/Va are exposed to rules. roles. and assumptions that are not fair to everyone. If we are-memb ersof.._the.g_roups thatib_enel_i_t__from 1h3-|FLQQS.-.‘tl’.3.¥¥3,fi¥ not notice the they aren’t than we are'nieinbers-oi‘ the groups that are-penalized by'the rulesfwe may have a constant feeling of discomfort:We learn that these rules. roles. and assumption: are part of a structure that is larger than just our families. We get consistent similar mes- sages from religion. the family doctor. the social worker. the local store. or the police offi- cer. and so it is hard to not believe what we are learning. We learn that black people are more likely to steal. so store detectives follow them in stores. Boys are expected to fighl and use violence, so they are encouraged to learn how. We shouldn't stare at or ask ques- tions about disabled people: it iSn’t polite. Gay and lesbian people are sick and perverted Kids who live in certain sections of towu are probably on welfare, talu'ng our hard-earner tax dollars. Money talks. White means good; black means bad. Girls are responsible for birth control. It's a man's world. Jews are cheap. Arabs are terrorists. And so on. We are inundated with unquestioned and stereotypical messages that shape how we think and what we believe about ourselves and others. What makes this "brainwashing" even more insidious is the fact that it is woven into every structural thread of the fabric of our culture. The media (television. the Internet. advertising. newspapers. and radio). our language patterns, the lyrics to songs. our cultural practices and holidays. and the very assumptions on which our society is built all contribute to the reinforcement of the biased messages and stereotypes We receive. Think about Howard Stern, Jerry Springer. Married with Children. beer and car advertising, talk radio. girl vs. man, Christmas vaca- tion, the Rolling Stones’ “Under My Thumb. " the "old boy's network." and Websites that foster hate. We could identify thousands of examples to illustrate the oppressive mes- sages that bombard us daily from various'ins'titutions and aspects of our culture. rein~ forcing our divisions and ""just'ii'ying" discrimination and prejudice. Enforcements (Arrow no. 2) It might seem logical to ask why people don't just begin to think independently if they don't like what they are seeing around them. Why don’t we ignore these messages if we are uncomfortable with them. or if they are hurting us? Largely, we don’t ignore the mes- sages. rules, roles. structures, and assumptions because there are enforcements in place The Cycle ofSociaflzation to maintain them. People who try to contradict the "norm" pay a price for their inde- pendent thlnking. and people who conform [consciously or unconsolonsly) minlmally receive the benefit of being left alone for not makln g waves. such as acceptance in their designated roles. being considered normal or “a team player.” or being allowed to stay in their places. Maximally. they receive rewards and privileges for maintaining the status quo such as access to higher places: attention and recognition for having "made it" or being the model member of their group; or the privilege that brings them money, con- nections. or power. People who go against the grain of conventional societal messages are accused of being troublemakers. of making waves. or of being "the cause of the problem." If they are mem- bers of target groups. they are held up as examples of why this group is inferior to the agent group. Examples of this include the significantly higher numbers of people of color who are targeted by the criminal justice system. Although the number of white people who are committing crimes is just as high, those whites are much less likely to be arrest- ed. charged. tried. convicted. or sentenced to jail than are people of color. Do different laws apply depending on a person’s skin color? Battering statistics are rising as more Women assert their equal rights with men, and the number one suspect for the murder of women in the United States is the husband or boyfriend. Should women who try to be equal with men be killed? The rationale given by some racists for the burning of black churches was that “they were getting too strong.” Does religious freedom and the freedom to assemble apply only to white citizens? Two men walking together in a southeastern U.S. city were beaten. and one died. because “they were walking so close. they must be gay." Are two men who refuse to abide by the "keep your distance” rule for men so threatening that they must be attacked and killed? These examples of differential punishment being given to members or perceived members of target groups are only half of the picture. | If members of agent groups break the rules. they too are punished. White people who support their colleagues of color may be called “in — ——- lover." Heterosexual men who take on primary child-care responsibilities, cry easily, or bug their male friends are accused of being dominated by their spouses. of being “Sissies," or being gay. Middle- class people who work as advocates on economic issues are accused of being do—gooclers or self-righteous liberals. Heterosexuals who Work for the rights of gay. lesbian. bisexual, 01' trfilmgtndcred people are immediately suspected of being "in the closet" themselves. mm It is ”013 Surprising that the resalts of this systematic learning are devastating to all involved. If we are examining our target identities. we may experience anger, a sense of being Silenced. dissonance between what the United States stands for and what we expe- rlence, low SBlf'ESleem. high levels of stress. a sense of hopelessness and disempower— Emil that can lead to crime and self-destructive behavior. frustration, mistrust. and in ouplanizaltion. By participating in our roles as targets we reinforce stereotypes. collude oft 0w" swim, and Perpetuate the system of oppression. This learned helplessness is en Calla-d internalized oppression because we have learned to become our own oppres- 50rs from within. lie; iejm examining our agent identities, we may experience guilt from unearned'priv— ' {eelive £9355“ ac“, fear of Payback. tendency to colludc in the system to be self-pro- sense ol‘ dit evels of stress. ignorance of and loss of contact with the target gmups, a limited Wflrlgrted reality about how the world is. fear of rising crime and violence levels. Dating in on ”‘61le Oblivmnsness to the damage we do. and dehumanization. By partici- ~.:;fipt the eye-121.0 es as agents, and remaining unconscious of or being unwilling to inter- These resultwe perpetuate the system of oppression. rates cri s are often cited as the problems facing our society today: high drop—out . me. poverty. drugs. and so on. Ironically. the root causes of them are inherent in 19 20 Conceptual Framewurks the very assumptions on which the society is built; dualism. hierarchy, competition, indi vidualism, domination. colonialism, and the scarcity principle. To the extent that we fal to interrupt this cycle we keep the assumptions, the problems, and the oppression alive. A way that we might personally explore this model is to take one of the societal prob lems and trace its root causes back through the cycle to the core belief systems or pat terns in US. society that feed and play host to it. It is not a coincidence that the Unite: States is suffering from these results today; rather, it is a logical outcome of our embrac ing the status quo, without thinking or challenging. Actions {Arrow no. 3} When we arrive at the results of this terrible cycle, we face the decision of what to d: next. It is easiest to do nothing. and simply to allow the perpetuation of the status out We may choose not to make waves, to stay in our familiar patterns. We may say. "Oh wel it’s been that way for hundreds of years. What can I do to change it? It is a huge phe nomenon. and my small efforts won’t count for much.” Many of us choose to do nothin because it is (for a while) easier to stay with what is familiar. Besides, it is frighteningt try to interrupt something so large. ”What does it have to do with me. anyway?" saj many agents. "This isn’t my problem. I am above this." We fail to realize that we hav become participantsjust by doing nothing. This cycle has a life of its own. It doesn’t use our active support because it has its own centrifugal force. It goes on, and unless w choose to interrupt it. it will continue to go on.- Gur silence is consent. Until our discon: fort becomes larger than our comfort. we will probably stay in this cycle. Some of us who are targets have-been so beat...
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