In my own words, I explain sociocultural theory as the theory that the things around individuals (notably social factors) influence their cognition. Lev Vygotsky, the proponent of sociocultural theory, stated that development in every individual’s culture occur in two levels: on the social and the individual level (1978). Individuals (especially children, in consonance to Vygotsky’s emphasis) such as parents, mentors, peers and the like can affect people’s cognition (Vygotsky, 1978). In highlighting the influence of society to individual development, James Lantolf reiterated Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development”, which is the variance of an individual’s achievement without help from others and achievement reached with the help of other people or several pre-developed entities (2000).
In my case, influences brought about by technological advancements fully characterize my cultural identity. Having lived through the latter parts of the 20th century and the early parts of the 21st century, the people around me are highly exposed to high-technology apparatuses, which gave more convenience in their everyday activities. Devices of advanced technological nature such as radio, television, phones and the Internet, alongside people using those things, molded the characteristics of my contemporary cultural background, which I would described as being a liberal one in terms of expression and information flow. I am attributing my successes and failures in life in the open nature of my cultural background. With better access to information and unbridled communication, I can finish my daily activities with ease, yet irresponsible use thereof led me to some failures, which I vow to rectify when appropriate situations arise.
Assuming that I am a sociologist researching on racism and prejudice, I would define prejudice as an ill-founded conviction, whether positive or not, on people based on distinct stratifications. John Farley stated that prejudice is the foundation of discrimination (2000). Racism is a form of prejudice based on race, in which there is generalization on different characteristics attributed to race (Oxford Dictionaries, n.d.). Racism has different classifications – overt and institutional.
Vernellia Randall defined overt racism as the active and intentional discrimination of people on grounds of race (2008). Many would acquaint with this kind of racism, as cases under this include express discrimination on the ground of race (Randall, 2008). An example includes a report from The Huffington Post on an electric road sign placed along a Michigan freeway modified to display the words “Trayvon A Nigger” (Demby, 2012). Such is a direct hit at deceased African-American team Trayvon Martin, who fell victim to a vigilante guard in Miami Gardens, Florida that shot him to death over allegations that he looked like a suspicious figure (Demby, 2012).
Solid Ground, a non-government organization, defines institutional racism as an institutional inclination to racial stratification; that racism, intentional or unintentional, are present within institutions (n.d.). Racism’s historical underpinnings influenced the character of past institutions, although discrimination on the grounds of race presented a lasting impact on present systems such as in workplaces, social services, entertainment industry and the like. In other words, institutional racism continues to affect the system, albeit made illegal. Considered a major problem, selectivity on the grounds of race still pervades contemporary institutions presently (Solid Ground, n.d.).
On a personal scale, I have not experienced discrimination due to racism. However, I can see that it is still prevalent in today’s society, as based on real-life scenarios that I have witnessed. For instance, some people casually call African-Americans the word “nigger” – an example of institutional racism that, while not intending to inflict grave attack on the person, is nevertheless a racist remark due to its history and institutionalization on casual milieus such as in jokes. Historical events introduced stratification on the grounds on race – mainly attributed to physical factors such as skin color, facial structure, body build and the like. It is undeniable that such label has its origins on racism and its emergence, regardless of its casual usage. Hence, avoidance of saying such remark, alongside other similar words, is favorable in the interest of promoting equality.
Dempy, G. (2012). Hacked road sign changed to include racial slur about Trayvon Martin. In The Huffington Post. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/09/road-sign-hacked-to-slur-trayvon_n_1412688.html
Farley, J. (2000). Majority-minority relations (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Racism. (n.d.). In Oxford dictionaries. Retrieved from http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/racism
Randall, V. (2008). What is Institutional Racism? Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://academic.udayton.edu/race/2008ElectionandRacism/RaceandRacism/racism02.htm
Solid Ground. (n.d.). Definition & analysis of institutional racism. Retrieved June 26, 2012, from http://www.solid-ground.org/Programs/Legal/AntiRacism/Documents/ARI_Definitions-Accountability_Standards_ONLINE_7-09.pdf
Lantolf, J. (2000). Sociocultural theory and second language learning. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press.
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.