Friday, February 11, 2011

Society's Strong Hold

In Du Bois’s Conservation of Race, he asserted that African Americans needed to have a sense of self-worth in order to overcome the boundaries of predetermined destinies. He realized that the expectations of others could and often did serve as a hindrance on the progress of his particular culture group and he sought to remedy this problem. African Americans are not the only group that must overcome the boundaries presented by social stigmas.

Research has continually supported the idea that the beliefs of individuals can affect their progress in life. In psychology a phenomenon referred to as a self-fulfilling prophesy occurs when negative expectations cause individuals to consciously or subconsciously act in accordance with these beliefs and thus cause their manifestation in reality. This has proven to be true in various cases where the performance of particular groups of people has been under scrutiny after they had been presented with the reminder of racial stereotypes during research studies. This occurrence does not merely affect the performance of minority groups. In one instance two groups of European American students were presented with a standardized test and one set was told that the purpose of the study was to determine whether it was true that Asian American students scored higher on mathematical reasoning tests while the other group was not given this motive. The outcome of this study showed that the control group scored much higher than the group that had been presented with the racial stereotype. It seems that when the European American students were presented with this social convention, they encountered stereotype threat. They did not want their performance on the test to confirm this stereotype, but due to the pressure they felt to strive for a certain outcome, their scores were negatively affected. Society has an immense power over the majority of individuals, no matter what social or racial faction they subscribe to.

Cultural, economic, and social factors affect the manner in which we think of ourselves and how we think of others. I believe that part of the issue with each separate group is that they are settled in the belief that society and social expectations hands to them. They allow themselves to hold that they cannot be greater than the unwritten laws that limit our country. It does seem to be an immeasurable task to want more than society allows and to break out of expectations, but it is impossible to break free of these social constraints when you, yourself, do not have the desire or the mental fortitude to do so. It is not true that all people are created equal, but to believe that all people are created according to the dictates of a biased society is an equally artificial claim.

1 comment:

  1. I really like your use of this testing example in relation to our topic. This definitely shows us the dangers of labels and the preconceived notions that follow. Michel Foucault examines these dangers in his work. He notes the limiting nature of labels caused by society and the self. When one is labeled, they are expected to act a certain way to fulfill their societal roles. The labeled individual is aware of these pressures as an active member in society, thus projecting them towards this idea of "self-fulfilling prophecy." If self-fulfilling prophecy is a phenomena here to stay then we need to change our associations with labels so that we do not have such negative prophecies fulfilled. This change comes in an alteration of our associations with language. We do this through openly experiencing the world and challenging the existing societal norms attached to labels.


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