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Cultural conformity expectations, as well as the general public pressure for people to act in a certain manner based on their race, are a social phenomenon that can lead to stress, confrontation, and personal dissatisfaction. This is due to ethnic stereotyping, which is still prevalent in many American communities today. As a result, well-known figures and writers such as Martin Luther King Jr., John Hope Franklin, Gary Soto, and Mark Twain, among others, have displayed literary works such as poetry, fiction, and non-fiction to add their voices to the debate on racially stereotyped societal expectations and their effects. In their works, the effects of racial social expectations are brought out and their influence on arousing conflict with individuals who are denied the opportunity to be identified as themselves but to conform to certain societal racial doctrines (Glaeser, Edward and Jacob 24).
In Mr. King's letter from the Birmingham jail, for example, he expresses discontent with the society's expectation of him to act in a manner that preserves peace and status quo in the face of racial segregation and prejudice. The white majority seems not to recognize the need for king's defiance to discrimination practices since they are not the victims and, therefore, seek to impose on the minority a code of conduct that is separatist and laden with conflict. The fellow clergymen and moderate whites precipitate disappointment in King due to their unreasonable expectations of him. The racial differences drive tension between the societal majority and individuals like King who are bent on pursuing certain virtuous ends, since they are understood through racial stereotypes instead of impartial perceptions. This is replicated in the socially accepted segregation and non-representation of Blacks in democratic elections, which King terms to have hatched hatred and bitterness and could spiral into a bloody conflict. Also, the brutalization of “dirty nigger-lovers” by Birmingham police is a blatant example of how racial stereotypes can place an individual at odds with the social expectations (King Jr. 179).
In America today, several racial stereotypes have led to tension and conflict in the society. The evident discrimination by state police in shootings has in the recent past sparked out outrage in the African-American community and consequently led to mass protests and publicity movements such as the “Black Lives Matter”. The violence related stereotype against Blacks creates a social expectation of Black suspects to brutally resist an arrest which in response accustoms police to use gunfire even under minimal or no provocation. The suspects are thus not perceived through individual conduct but racial stereotypes (White, Joseph and James 17). On the flip side, disappointment has been raised on the leniency of judicial processes to white offenders on account of the racial and societal expectation of Whites not to behave in a manner related to mass shootings or terrorism. Asians have been severely victimized on this regard due to their race with no respect to individual conduct or evidence.
Additionally, in John Hope Franklin's “The Train from Hate”, he documents his childhood experience of disappointing racial segregation that brought him to odds with the prevailing racist societal expectations. He and his mother were thrown out of the train for sitting in a “White only” coach. He documents crying and feeling disappointed at the meanness of the White conductor, who in this case represented the general racist society. The societal expectation of a Black passenger to quickly find the respective 'Colored' coach to sit in a moving train led to the conflict that resulted in being kicked out. Although Franklin found solace in how he would tackle such racial issues, it is evident that such conducts of societal members can breed conflict and discontent in individuals (White, Joseph and James 21).
Evidently, before the Obama presidency, it was inconceivable for society that any other race except White could produce an American president. Such bias was played out even during the Obama campaigns of 2008 when his opponents used racial attacks and Kenyan heritage to discredit him. The social expectation of minority groups not to take up high-ranking leadership roles was used as a campaign tool in the election. It took ardent campaigns to discredit the white supremacists to win votes for the Democrats. Additionally, it is important to note that such racial and social expectations have driven wedges between many minority group individuals and their pursuit of not only political leadership but also other influential capacities in America (White, Joseph and James 23).
The instant personal profiling and generalization of personalities by their race are further exemplified by 1981 poem Mexicans Begin Jogging by Gary Soto. In his experience as a Hispanic-American rubber factory worker, Soto is stereotyped as an illegal immigrant even by his boss and pushed to hide from the border patrol police because of his race. Despite having necessary citizenship documents, Soto runs across the streets amid a gazing audience and laments that amid mass stereotyping the truth is inconsequential and useless. The fact that he equates the running Mexican immigrants to a tail shows the low regard that they received from the society. To survive, he has to run despite his legal status due to his niched ethnic identity. This shows the disappointment that racial profiling can put in an individual due to the prevailing social expectations.
The plight of Hispanic immigrants has to this day born the sentiments of Gary Soto. The Trump's administration crackdown and deportation of illegal immigrants have exercised less regard for the legal immigrants who are prone to mistreatment and racially stereotyped as illegal immigrants. The recent plans to build a wall between America and Mexico is a testament to the gravity of the matter. It is therefore important to regulate societal expectations and views on races to prevent potential tension, disappointment, and conflict upon individuals towards the society (Dowdy 48).
In conclusion, the members of any society must recognize the need to rid themselves of conventional expectations of members of a particular race. As depicted in Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, an individual must break off from established societal ideas and find the truth for themselves through avoiding blind societal conformation. In this way, the society can move away from unfounded stereotypes and expectations which can facilitate conflict and disappointment, especially in the member of the minority stereotyped ethnicities.
Dowdy, Michael. "Reinventing Ecopoetics: Chicano Poetry's Undocumentary Turn." Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, vol.41, no.1, 2016, pp.21-53.
Glaeser, Edward, and Jacob Vigdor. The End of the Segregated Century: Racial Separation in America's Neighborhoods, 1890-2010. New York: Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, 2012.
King Jr., Martin Luther. "Letter from Birmingham Jail." Liberating faith: Religious voices for justice, peace, & ecological wisdom , 2012, pp.177-187.
White, Joseph, and James Cones. Black Man Emerging: Facing the Past and Seizing a Future in America. New York: Routledge, 2013.
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