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The researchers involved in the studying problems of the Jewish national identity are faced with the difficulty of determining the proper subject of this study. Jewishness does not match any of the usual categories, as the Jews were neither linguistically nor culturally, nor even racially a unity for nearly two thousand years, but they have preserved particular traditions that form their national identity. In states, where Jews are a minority and Jewish identity is created in opposition to the outside world, the preservation of authentic connection with a unique Jewish tradition is at the heart of Jewish identity. It can be considered as an understanding of oneself as a Jew or being related to Jewish culture.
While studying the inequality of the members of society, it is important that they are in a functioning society. Therefore, social mobility, i.e. individual transition from one social status to another, is taken into account. Upward mobility is the displacement of the social object from one social stratum to another. Racial segregation means a kind of discrimination, separation of the social groups that differ according to race, gender, social, religious or other grounds within the same society. There are many debates about the place of Jews in American society. Jewish history in the USA is one of the examples of racial changes that provide insight on race perception in the country. Some classifications have prescribed Jews to the whites, and others have created non-white designations for them. Karen Brodkin describes these changes in racial assignment through an examination of her family’s experience.
The anthropologist Karen Brodkin tries to dispel the myth about Jewish identity. According to this myth, Jews are considered a model of the minority. Using the literature, historical sources, legal scholarship, and critical theory, Brodkin shows the way in which the model of a minority can be applied to Jews, their functions in national imagination and culture. The nation has relied on the construction of whiteness.
Thoughtful and engaging, the author challenges conventional epistemology by putting her family and herself in the narrative. She reflects her experience of being a Jewish woman in the United States. Brodkin’s examination of the myth of upward mobility of Jews in the U.S. is fascinating due to her hard work. How Jews Became White Folks describes the reasons of how Jewish people have experienced double consciousness. The racial identity of Jews was shaped through the experience of being non-white in the dominant culture and white in relation to blacks.
Brodkin’s criticism could not be applied to some Jews, who consider the myth of the model minority central in their identities. These myths of success and resilience provide comfort to the common Jewish pain. Jewish community expresses contradictory impulses towards the society while trying to find its own place in it.
Jews can be an excellent example of race in the United States due to the fact that their assignment has shifted to about one hundred and fifty years. The author explains that before the mid-19th century, Jewish immigrants were grouped with others, who were equally white. They had the same privileges and absorbed into contemporary society. In 1880, there was a growth of immigrants’ numbers from Eastern and Southern Europe. At that time, Americans began to believe that Europeans were mostly made up of superior and inferior races. As a result, Jews, who were present in the working class, were referred to non-quite-white. Jewish immigrants became a source of repulsion and fear for Native Americans.
In the period of the postwar economic boom, there was a need for the technical, professional, managerial labor force. Jews and other representatives of non-white Europeans were hired for these positions. Thus, they joined the emerging middle class. Unlike black Americans, who were still regarded as people of the underclass, these workers were cleansed from previous racialized labels.
Brodkin describes the government programs that promoted social mobility and made whiteness possible for Jews. The author named two programs that provided the real means of broad-based upward mobility for Jews as a social group. They are the GI Bill and the Federal Housing Administration program. Brodkin considered these programs like affirmative action programs for the male children and grandchildren of immigrants.
The GI Bill of 1944 (also known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act) handed out many benefits for white Americans. Karen Brodkin emphasizes that “the GI Bill of Rights is arguably the most massive affirmative action program in American history”. This program was focused on Euro males. It helped WWII veterans to re-integrate into society. However, these benefits were prohibited for non-white men, as well as non-white and white women. The successes of non-white workers and women in the war period were retracted. De facto, the advantages of this bill included returning veterans for working for white Americans.
The benefits of GI Bill also included priority in the job, small loans that were given for starting up a business, low-interest rate of home loans and benefits for education. Thus, this program had many positive effects in reducing racial inequality towards Euro males, but it caused inequality towards non-white men and women of any race. Theoretically, the program was aimed at all veterans, but in practice, no women and African American veterans received benefits. Therefore, GI Bill provided upward mobility for many Jews, while causing segregation and discrimination of African Americans. Federal Housing Administration program also caused the increase of the discrimination towards non-white Americans. They faced social segregation in the housing market.
Brodkin made a huge contribution to studying Jewish history in the United States of America. The author offers an analysis of the way, in which Jews became white since World War II. She describes racial formation in the United States. Moreover, Brodkin reveals the socially constructed nature of race through illustrating of how class work and gender form race. Jewishness is considered gendered and classed.
Her views are related to the arguments of Dorothy Roberts, who wrote the book Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Re-create Race in the Twenty-First Century. In this book, Roberts discusses the use of the idea of ‘race’ as the biological term. Despite the general view that race is formed by genes, there is specific evidence that race is a natural product. Thus, it is not a biological, but political creation. Racial division can be explained by social inequalities. Roberts tries to deconstruct the myth about the racial difference by using scientific and historical sources.
Having deeply researched the issue of racial segregation, Karen Brodkin states that whiteness causes psychic damage. Moreover, the author calls to build multiracial democracy in the USA. Brodkin’s book has a great significance because of revealing the way, in which each generation has reacted to the changes in racial assignments in the United States of America. This book provides illuminating data, which describes racial issues in the country. It is Brodkin’s contribution to cultural studies and social analysis. The story of Jew’s assimilation into white society and culture during the era of discrimination of non-white immigrants reflects the importance of racial identity in American life.
Gender identity is one of the components of human sexuality defined as a person’s self-identification with a particular gender, as an internal sense of self as a man, woman or someone intermediate. The traditional view is that gender identity is biological in nature, inherent in every human being from birth and is not a matter of choice.
However, West and Zimmerman argue that gender is created by male and female, whose competence as members of society is the key to their efforts to create gender. Creating gender includes a set of socio-controlled actions (perception, micropolitics, and interaction), the purpose of which is the expression of male and female nature. According to West and Zimmerman, gender is a set of learned behaviors and conversational practices that people learn and repeat under the conditions of daily life during interactions with others.
At the same time, the authors pointed out that gender is understood as the definition that is defined by social approval of biological criteria. Social acceptance of a particular gender is expressed through recognition and approval of the gender features (clothes, behavior, voice, movement, etc.). Gender is also a product of a particular kind of social doing (inception).
Under the condition of problems of gender identity, a communication failure arises. If gender is known, communication will work well. This identification process takes place in everyday communication and is determined by cultural context. Thus, gender is a system of interpersonal interaction, through which understanding of male and female as basic social categories is created and confirmed.
The main thesis of the authors is that the production of gender occurs constantly at all levels and in all interactions of institutionally defined situations. The authors consider gender separation, categorization on the basis of sex and gender as methodologically important. They express the position that the condition for successful communication is the possibility of unambiguous identification of the interlocutor on gender. They propose the concept of ‘gender display’ as everyday manifestations of gender identity. The resources for gender display include all reflexive institutional structures that are refracted in everyday interaction.
Everyone constructs their own gender identity and, at the same time, understands the gender identity of another. The concepts of gender display (gender expression) and gender role perfectly reflect behavioral aspects of expectations and interpretations related to the essential division into male and female.
C.J. Pascoe published her book Dude, You're a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School in 2007. Using ethnographic research, the author studies the problem of masculinity among adolescents. Pascoe founded that masculinity is defined by control and dominance. She finds that high school can be a perfect place for studying sexuality and gender. Specifically, the author tries to examine masculinity’s role in the lives of both female and male students.
Much attention is paid to the problem of homophobia. Homophobia is an obsessive fear of the own sexuality in its true form. In the public mind, there is a rooted opinion that homophobia is one or another form of aggression towards homosexuals. This is not entirely true. Homophobia is often aggression directed at gay, gay culture, gay paraphernalia, etc., but the cause of the aggression is man's fear that his own sexuality, in its true form, has a homosexual connotation. Homophobia is more characteristic of boys, as a man by nature is a male. Men can have fear to communicate with other men in any form, which can lead even to isolation.
Male’s homophobia should be related not only to sexuality. Pascoe believes that it has a deal with the fact that boys want to act as ‘guys’ due to the fear of being gay. Because of homophobic harassments, jokes and banters, adolescents define masculinity by being hostile to gays and boys, who do not correspond to a masculine ideal. Such homophobic talks, insults, and jokes permeate males’ relationships. Various attitudes and behaviors, including manners, clothing, dancing, emotions can easily trigger “fag discourse”. Boys try to escape from the ‘fag’ label by avoiding provoking behavior or putting it to someone else. The use of the label ‘fag’ is racialized and gendered. The author found that white American boys use this word more often than African Americans. However, white boys are also more likely to be called gays because they care about their appearance. Watching homosexuality in society, a homophobic person encounters a domestic problem, from which he is trying to get through the destruction of the external stimulus. Pascoe describes how sexuality and masculinity are depicted through an individual’s manners and group actions.
It should be noted that homophobia is a factor of hindering the process of sexual relations not only between man and woman but also of normal relations between men, which are not of a sexual nature.
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