Crossing the Line

Germans are known for their sense of orderliness.
Hispanics for their passion.
American for their "frontier" spirit.

In my last post, I shared that my mother advised me against marrying a Japanese man.  She actually preferred I marry an "American," meaning White, of course, over a Korean man.  This is pretty amazing for back in the day.  She believed that Americans had a more egalitarian view of women than their East Asian counterparts.

Clearly not every white American man treats their wives well.  But there is some cultural understanding and acceptance in America of what constitutes a good or bad husband. Roses on your anniversary, doing the dinner dishes, rubbing your wife's feet: Good.   Having a mistress, going out with an escort, being a couch potato: Bad.  We can name philandering politicians, and we ran to the side of Diana when we found out about Camilla.  There are other cultures whose determination of a Good Husband and Bad Husband differ from ours, right?

When you make an informed characterization of a people, considering their history, age, class, and/or ethnicity, you make generalities, right? whether you're a blogging mom or a Cultural Anthropologist.

When does a sociological characteristic of a peoples turn into prejudice?

Nobody wants to be considered liars, or adulterers, right?  But there are cultures that consider side-stepping to be the correct and appropriate behavior.  There are cultures that consider mistresses a part of male behavior, or even, a right. Is that calling a Spade a Spade, or Pot Calling the Kettle Black?

Everyone knows Asians are good at math, right?  Is that racist?  As a culture, East Asians are good at math.  There are tests of school children to prove it.  My own personal experience indicates that East Asians are much more math literate than their American peers, and this has been confirmed in a book pointing to this alarming condition called Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy & It's Consequences.

So that can't be prejudice, can it?  What's bad about being considered smart?

When does a sociological characteristic of a culture turn into prejudice?

I thinking you cross the line when you take one tendency, good or bad, and apply it to every person of that group.  Conversely, when your observation of one person (or two or three or ten,) in a certain time, a certain place, of a certain class and group and turn it into an observation about the whole ethnic group.

I'm thinking it's when you white-wash an entire group, when you can no longer see, or are no longer willing to see the individual, to consider the person in front of you.  Whether being smart or lazy, precise or dull, that individual is dehumanized, cast in plaster, and made into something of your own imagining.

1 comment:

ganbarofukushima said...

I loved your "Things my mother told me"! I was trying to think of some things my mom told me, but all I could think of was that my dad told me: "Don't work for anybody else. Be your own boss." My mom was more like: "Clean your room." lol