Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Categories, Check Here

Photo by: League of Women Voters of California
I was reading one of my psychology books when the word “category” suddenly popped into my head. I considered how many categories we are put in everyday, starting at birth. Before you ever leave the hospital you’re assigned at least 2 or 3 categories: gender, race/ethnicity. You don’t have any say so in it. Boom! it’s just attached to you by someone with the authority to do so and follows you throughout life.

Fast forward to the adult years and tack on all the other categories we use to describe ourselves---mother, daughter, son, husband, father, Social Worker, entrepreneur, middle-class, poor, Latino, black. We can name more if we have affiliations to other groups. But what does it mean in relation to our self-concept and how others relate to us?

If class, for example, is by some people’s definition not correlated to race or ethnicity how is it that so many dark people of the world are grouped as “poor, underprivileged and vulnerable” while fairer skin people are often grouped as “upper-class, fortunate, and superior?” Categories are given high value in our country as well they have played significant roles in colonialism, supremacy and influence in other parts of the world. The next time you think about how you describe yourself to someone consider if those categories have limited or gained you access to some social and political positions. And if they have, reflect on how those determinants have influenced the way you and others have functioned and become actualized in society.


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