1. In Chapter 4, Weber denotes that race, class, gender, and sexuality are social constructs used to effectively subordinate people who are not in the majority. This is done in order to restrict some people’s access to economic political, and ideological resources. The essence of the relationship between peoples of different races, classes, genders, and sexual orientations has always been that of a power struggle. “Dominant groups have access to greater economic, political and ideological resources, and employ these resources to control subordinate groups and to maintain their power” (p. 114).
Weber’s arguments are fairly convincing, mostly because they are so universal, and do not make unfair assumptions that would leave out exceptions to the rule. Weber uses all four of these unique power relationships to show where, exactly, the current position of the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ comes from. She uses census statistics to denote shifts in racial identity and classification, showing the importance of historical and geographical context. Keeping the concepts fairly universal, Weber convinces me that the idea of race, class, gender and sexuality being a divisive issue relates to the need to subjugate people and deprive them of resources, so that they can be monopolized by a privileged few.
The understanding of the world as a place of finite resources – whether they be financial, physical, or emotional – underpins Weber’s assumptions and guides her study. In essence, these power relations all have to do with the reality that there is simply not enough for everyone; therefore, these systems are created in order to limit who gets what, in order to ensure that someone gets enough for everything. What’s more, this same discrimination and oppression is meant to lead people to believe that they should not have those resources, or that they will not get them. Weber’s understanding seems to hold that, if these resources were infinite, these power relationships would not exist. With that in mind, that same limiting presence leads to the reality that some have to go without; therefore, diminishing their rights and status as people helps to deny access to those resources.
1. What motivates members of some oppressed minorities (e.g. African-Americans) to discriminate against members of other minorities (e.g. homosexuals)?
What, in your opinion, would have to change in order to achieve a truer sense of equality between races, genders and the like?
2. Historically and geographically contextual – the relationships between different identities or groups change over time, and vary according to location.
Socially constructed – the meaning of an identity or group (race, class, gender, sexuality) comes from group struggles over respect, money and other resources.
Power relationships – The dichotomy between dominance and submission that exists between two sides of any divisive social group (races, classes, genders and sexualities).
Weber, Lynn. Understanding Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality (2nd ed.) McGraw-Hill, 2001.