I think the article by Johnson makes an extremely relevant and necessary point that differences between people on the basis of race, gender, orientation, disability, and other aspects are a matter of cultural choice, what he indicates to be ‘social construction’ (9). Reading this made me think of the old adage, “children are not born racist, they learn it.” While it has been proven that children are not ‘colorblind’ blank slates and actually recognize race early on, the biases and attitudes they develop towards others that are different than them, resemble those of the adults in their lives. The question is, why in the 21st century, when we recognize that all people are virtually the same (unlike historical times when differences were viewed as some form of twisted maleficence), why are there continuing forms of discrimination and segregation, both direct and covert?
As a white male in the USA, not having felt any oppression much to anything in my life, perhaps it is naïve to ask these questions. Reading the list of privileges that I hold belonging to that penultimate privileged group as white, heterosexual, non-disabled, middle class, and educated, I was drastically taken aback by the sheer extent that the social constructs of these differences in privilege are prevalent in society.
I would argue, even if it is at the most fundamental level, that social structures and attitudes within that concept of the society construct are built in a way that demonstrates to the oppressed groups in many ways how they are oppressed, while keeping those in groups of privilege largely ignorant to the plights of their counterpart, albeit fellow human beings. Furthermore, society likely shuts down anyone who brings up these distinctions while perpetuating the status quo, because, at the end of the day, the privileged do not what to lose their privilege. However, instead of the alternative being presented as equity and harmony, it is demonstrated to be as possibly infringing on their rights. Examples of such include many whites fearing that if minorities are given opportunities in upper-income neighborhoods, they will turn the area into a crime-filled ghetto, or the belief by conservative heterosexuals that if LGBTQ is provided full rights, there would be no wholesome families. These unreasonable beliefs based on stereotypes and social constructs are essentially preventing any social change.
Johnson, Allan G. The Social Construction of Difference. 2005.