A Few Words on a Few Theories and the Latinx Community

Race and racial theories are essential in sociology, as we can comprehend culture and politics in a more substantial framework through history. We can understand the significance of race and racism by understanding their connections to other areas, such as gender, class, and religion. The historical and political changes in the United States help us know about the sociological theories on social stratification, especially for the Latinx community and the intersectionality between race, gender, and class.

Scholar Howard Winant explains in Race and Race Theory (2000) that the sociology of race became central by the effects of the civil rights movements, World War II and fascism, and the international mass increase in migration. Winant also notes that the limitation of current theory in race. He focuses on ethnicity-based, class-based, and nation-based theories on race: ethnicity-based theories focus on race as a collective identity. The theories suggest that assimilation or changes in policies or law would suppress prejudices, as Winant also notes how Western European countries form national culture through exclusion (179). Class-based theories focus on race as stratification and economic competition. Winant notes that class-based theories have limitations regarding affirmative actions by conflicts within marginalized racial groups and interracial working-class solidarity (179). Nation-based theories focus on race on geopolitical terms by the decolonization process after World War II. Winant describes nation-based theories evolved into “crude and retro forms of cultural nationalism informed more by mysticism than by social analysis”. (179-180). Winant’s comment on nation-based theories reminds us how theoretical approaches can fail to answer questions by their flaws. However, Winant does not mention gender theories on race, which would further clarify his argument on contemporary theories on race. Winant could have explained how gender scholars who describe race relate to gender-based theories, such as sociologist R.W. Connell’s Masculinities (1995), which clarifies that masculinity is plural and hierarchical. Connell included how race influences people’s role by hegemonic masculinity (Connell& Messerschmidt, 829-859; 2005). Winant notes the three dimensions that racial theoretical response must answer: the theoretical response must address the comparative/historical dimension of race, the macro and micro aspects of racial signification and racialized social structures, and the newly pervasive forms of politics (180-181). Winant also notes that the racial formation approach is how racial identities are unstable and politically focused since race is intersectional. The meaning of race depends on types of factors, from individual to institutional level (182). Winant’s argument helps us understand the limitation of more classic sociological theories are compared to newer theories on race and racism.

Sociologist Bob Blauner discusses the theoretical perspectives on race and ethnicity in America. He criticizes the five frameworks that dominate social science on race in America: the assimilation approach, the immigrant analogy, caste and class, prejudice and discrimination, and economic class reductionism (13). Blauner argues that the social theory should focus on and find relations with the major social forces and trends of historical periods. Blauner also argues that common social theories on race fail to predict or illuminate new racial awareness or conflict developments, such as social movements or cultural shifts (14). Blauner notes that these issues in the five common frameworks include: (1) the view that racial and ethnic groups are not central nor essential elements in society, (2) the simplification of racism, (3) presupposing that racism is merely attitudes or prejudices of white Americans and (4) that there are no long-term differences to the mainstream society between European ethnic groups and racial or third world groups (14). Blauner notes that several scholars assume that various ethnic groups, even Blacks and Indigenous, will undergo Americanization and acculturation. The error is that exclusion and dualism within the social hierarchy are part of Americanization and acculturation (20-21). Whether culturally or legally, what makes someone American requires us to determine what exactly makes someone American or not. Blauner highlights the problems with the five frameworks that enforce colorblindness, by ignoring the complexity of racial groups ad neglecting how significant race and racism are in economy, politics, and culture. However, Blauner does not explain why assimilation is more complex and political than what scholars presupposed on assimilation through historical accounts or conflicting policies. Although he mentions examples briefly to prove his argument, Blauner could have described historical records on racial groups and the complexity of assimilation to prove his case; this will help us further understand the limitation of assimilation bias. 

The pressure to assimilate, even if we are unassimilable, is hegemonic. According to philosopher Antonio Gramsci, cultural hegemony in culture and politics includes both direct force, like threats of violence, and consent, like socialization (Cole, 2020). We tend to think we consent without critical understanding why so; we follow an unquestioned ideology. An example includes the conception of femininity, as people follow the cultural customs of womanhood without realizing its history nor subjectivity. In Unequal Freedom (2002)scholar Evelyn Nakano Glenn explains how exclusions against various groups affect our notion of gender, race, and class. In chapter five Mexicans and Anglos in the Southwest, Glenn notes how Mexican Americans undergo Americanization in three ways; by setting “corrected” behavior and culture, increasing aspirations that follow the Protestant ethics, and molding Anglo ideals or manhood or womanhood (184-186). Glenn notes that the benefits for Mexican families were to learn English and American customs for broader job opportunities, rather than to actual assimilate, as they knew that their culture and beliefs are not inferior to Anglo-Saxons (185). However, Glenn could have directly acknowledged that subtle forms of domination exist even if we actively resist them. An example is Mexican Americans resisting white supremacy by celebrating holidays, without realizing how capitalism overturns their resistance by the way they celebrate holidays. People do not realize how racial capitalism occurs in forms, such as finically supporting corporations over small businesses or unfair treatment against migrant workers through low wages and labor practices. Glenn describes the history of education through segregation and changes in classifications for Mexican Americans. Although Mexicans were classified as white and racial segregation ended, they were still not allowed to attend white schools. People argue that children’s ability to speak English is critical in Americanization. At the same time, they ignore that Bohemian and German children who did not speak English were allowed to attend white schools (180-182). The classification of white requires us to define white. Mexicans classified as white were allowed to marry Blacks when interracial marriages were illegal (160). Glenn points out that social hierarchy in race, gender, and class determines our citizenship. The dominant ideology of domesticity is an example of gendered and racial citizenship, as Anglo women did not often work in physical labor jobs as Mexican women (154-156). The definition of womanhood or manhood is racialized, just as the meaning of whiteness is gendered. We must ask questions about our social reality to find answers we are seeking, such as our collective notions on identity and history, or we risk keeping the social stratification. 

Overall, we must understand how our phenomenology influences us, such as constructing our identity and morality, to improve our lives and terminate societal problems. People believe classism is the most important, or even only issue, in the United States, without considering the history of racism that intersects with classism, along with other forms of discrimination. The readings mentioned above helps us to understand why we must ask questions about our social reality in race and ethnicity. Sociological theories require us to ask why we should use them and their limitations. Otherwise, we risk not finding answers to our questions for solutions to resolve public issues.

Questions

  1. Explain why you agree or disagree with the limitations of sociological theories on race from Blauner and Winant?
  2. How does the historical discrimination, such as education and workplace, of the Latinx community help us to understand Blauner’s and Winant’s arguments?

References

Blauner, Bob. 2001. “Theoretical Perspectives” Pages 13-23 in Still the Big News: Racial

Oppression in America. Temple University Press.

Cole, Nicki Lisa, Ph.D. “Biography of Antonio Gramsci.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020,

thoughtco.com/antonio-gramsci-3026471.

Connell, R. W, and James W Messerschmidt. “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the

Concept.” Gender & Society, vol. 19, no. 6, 2005, pp. 829–859.

Glenn, Evelyn Nakano. 2002. “Mexicans and Anglos in the Southwest.” In Unequal

Freedom: How Race and Gender Shaped American Citizenship and Labor. Harvard

University Press.

Lyons, Patrick J. 2019. “Trump Wants to Abolish Birthright Citizenship. Can He Do That?” The

New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2021 (https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/22/us/birthright-citizenship-14th-amendment-trump.html).

Winant, Howard. 2000. “Race and Race Theory.” Annual Review of Sociology 26:169-85.

Transgender’s History, Eyes, and Intersex: Reflections

Transgender and Intersex under Biopolitics1

Over the years, more people identify themselves as nonbinary or trans*. A study at Williams Institute at UCLA discovered that the percentage of trans* adults increased from 0.3 to 0.6 percent (Davis, 2018). The internet and social movements for the trans* community help more people learn and accept trans*gender and/or queer, as getting information and support are crucial aspects of coming out. However, bio-citizenship is an ongoing struggle for marginalized groups, especially for the queer community. 

The intersex community struggles to gain bio-citizenship since pre-birth. In Contesting Intersex (2015), sociologist Georgiann Davis expounds her study on the medicalization of the Intersex community and the issues against the community. The book provides enriching information about social issues relating to people with intersex traits, including (1) conducting surgeries onto infants, (2) the term Disorder of Sex Development versus Intersex, (3) heteronormativity along with cisnormativity, and (4) enforcing simplification onto gender and sex. Gender Structure Theory2 applies to the intersex community by setting stratification and internalizing dualistic traditional gender identities, such as personality traits and practices (Davis, 2015; 8). The classification of disorder onto intersex, just like for the trans*gender, creates a false sense of social reality. The misrepresentation of social reality is getting people to accept a false idea, a lie, preventing them from consent. An example includes medical experts claiming surgical removals on intersex traits minimizes cancer risks without critically explaining why so (91-92). Just like for trans* individuals, the false reality for the intersex community is that they have a disorder without consenting to what is a disorder. When we think of disorder, we think of an undesirable object, like pain. The terminology relates to our cultural acceptance, such as why intersex over Disorder of Sex Development helps people accept how sex is as subjective and complex as gender itself. People who reject the medicalization of intersex embrace another aspect that rejects gender as binary, such as being part of the queer community, as terms like “opposite sex” appeal more to people identifying as DSD (104-105). The meaning of intersex creates acceptance for the community and other communities like trans*gender by understanding the complexity of people’s narratives. A person’s life is a multiplex world, as each person is intersectional by what aspects of our lives are connected, like how gender connects to ethnicity. An example is an acceptance of two spirits in North American Indigenous culture3. Before colonization, American Indians embrace gender nonbinary without setting people into dualistic roles. Another example is how gender was nonexistent for the Yorùbá culture before Western colonization4. Understanding a person’s complex narrative is part of expressing cognitive, emotional, and compassionate empathy. Understanding a person’s narrative is part of subjugated knowledge, to uncover buried knowledge that was covered by ruling forms of knowledge5. The goal of knowledge is to find out more information about our social reality, to enhance aspects of our lives. The irony is that infants cannot consent to optional surgeries that permanently affect their lives, emotionally and physically. At the same time, trans*gender adults financially and emotionally struggle to gain communal, medical, and legal acceptance for their gender.

Trans* people struggle as they must prove their gender identity by subjective notions, like what Christine Jorgensen had said, the “first” American transsexual woman who follow a transnormativity by following the cisgender reality, that it was a biological “failure” (Stryker, 2008; 5). Although Jorgensen help to spread more awareness for the trans* community by her media appearances, transnormativity leads some people to encourage transmedicalism, that an individual must be transgender by experiencing dysphoria and undergoing medical treatments. Transmedicalism’s limitation includes examples like how some people are unable to transition due to financial issues. Social movements that challenge that kind of narrative, like how activist Lou Sullivan, a gay transman, challenge against conditional acceptance and cis-normalcy by advocating that gender identity does not depend on your romantic/sexual attraction, vice versa (115-120). The medicalization and history of terminology relating to gender, sex, and sexuality, like the term homosexual, and how people like endocrinologist Harry Benjamin set cissexist values for transgender people to follow to prove their gender is valid and a “disorder”6. People who are trans*gender struggle for acceptance, internally and outwardly, as an outsider-within (Sumerau & Mathers, 2019; 67). It is by a conditional acceptance that people are accepted by hierarchical social values that leads to homonormativity, the gay and lesbian people that seeks civil rights by appealing the mainstream social norms that include whiteness, upper-middle classes, religious, domesticated and reproductive, endosex, patriotic, normatively bodied, monosexualize and cisgendering reality (54, 64).

Overall, from medical to legal experts, those in power influence the public by setting a narrative that heterosexuality and cisgender are universal, non-deviant while silencing the queer community by casting them into opposite roles as abnormal or deviant through biopower7. The simplification of gender and attractions leads to a misconstruction of gender and relationships, thus further social inequality. People must consider several actions for liberatory transformation, including working with doctors or experts on intersex and trans* community, educating the public, embracing oneself, especially with feminist ideas, social support, recognizing social constructions, and listening to marginalized groups (Davis, 2015; 157-167).

Questions

  1. How does capitalism relate to the trans* and intersex community? 
    • I think about how capitalism affects the trans*community by setting consumerist notions of genders, such as gendered practices, or assimilation to cissexist values, such as beauty standards. I also think about companies that pink-wash or queer-bait their products.
  2. How does whiteness, like Eurocentric values or imperialism, relate to the readings?
    • Scholar C. Riley Snorton’s Black in Both Sides (2018) relates to the readings by the intersection between Blackness and transness.
  3. What practices force upon children parallels with trans*gender and intersex children?
    • I ask this question because I think about how social pressure for children to assimilate. An example includes mental health. Some individuals tend to pressure themselves and their relationships into toxic positivity, to prohibit negative emotions like anger nor sadness. Toxic positivity is a form of psychological abuse since it is to deny reality, to deny the truth. Many children endure toxic positivity at home, socializing them to believe that they must not express or acknowledge their negative emotions.   
  4. What are other examples of objects or people classified as a “disorder”?
    • I think about introverts; I am known for being quiet and reserved, but several people associate with such personality traits as problematic, as the American culture values extravert traits. An example include Schizoid Personality Disorder, that I am “asocial” or people often confuse asocial with antisocial. I desire to socialize and have closer relationships so I believe I cannot have Schizoid Personality Disorder. I think about how the disorder, as a spectrum, makes it difficult for me to confirm that I do not have it. I have needs for solitude but I still crave for positive social interactions.
  1. How do other countries with firmer laws protecting trans*gender and intersex differ from countries like the United States? Examples include countries that legally and culturally recognize trans*gender and intersex before the United States.
  2. What are other examples of exclusion in spaces, within-outsider, that enforce conformity, like “doing cisgender” (Sumerau & Mathers, 2019;136)?
    • I think about how common for trans*exclusive radical feminists to endorse racism through exclusive practices. Scholar Emi Koyama’s Whose Feminism Is It Anyway? The Unspoken Racism of The Trans Inclusion Debate (2020) discusses how the universal concept of womanhood in TERFs spaces is inherently racist and classist by appealing to white middle-class women, ignoring BIPOC and lower classes.

Notes

  1. Biopolitics, coined by philosopher Michel Foucault. See Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge (Vol. 1).
  2. Risman, Barbara J. “Gender As a Social Structure.” Gender & Society 18, no. 4 (2004): 429–50. https://doi.org/10.1177/0891243204265349.
  3. Estrada, Gabriel. 2016. Two SpiritsNádleeh, and LGBTQ2 Navajo Gaze. American Indian Culture and Research Journal. 35 (4): 167–190. doi:10.17953/aicr.35.4.x500172017344j30,
  4. Oyewum, Oyeronk. The Invention of Women: Making an African Sense of Western Gender Discourses. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016.
  5. Foucault, Michel. The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Routledge, 2002.
  6. Benjamin, Harry. 1966. The Transsexual Phenomenon. The Julian Press, ISBN 9780446824262
  7. Biopower, another term coined by philosopher Michel Foucault. See Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: The Will to Knowledge (Vol. 1).

References

Davis, Georgiann. 2018. “Sex and Gender Diversity is Growing Across the US.” The

Conversation.

Davis, Georgiann. 2015. Contesting Intersex: The Dubious Diagnosis. New York: NYU Press.

Stryker, Susan. 2017. 2nd Edition. Transgender History: The Roots of Today’s Revolution. Seal

Press.

Sumerau, J.E. and Lain A.B. Mathers. 2019. America through Transgender Eyes. Rowman &

Littlefield.