Human Approach vs The Institution Approach to Social Injustice essay

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Complexity of Identity" by Beverly Daniel Tatum and "Structure as the Subject of Justice" by Iris Marion Young are the articles addressed by this reaction paper. Tatum's article discusses social justice on a human-to-human level and her solutions to social injustice are personal. Young's article is more emotionally remote, dealing with unjust housing, blaming nobody but concluding that the solution must be aggressive regulatory intervention. Each article contributes an interesting perspective on social justice and a model for solving injustice.

"The Complexity of Identity" by Beverly Daniel Tatum

What are the main issues and ideas contained in the reading?

"The Complexity of Identity" addresses the multiple sources of an individual's identity, from self, family, friends, teachers, community, state, country, and so forth, all combined in a person's self-reflection and observation to form his/her identity. The author notes that members of a subordinate "class" tend to include that status in their verbalized self-definitions, while members of the dominant "class" tend to omit their status in verbalized self-definitions. This is because the internal and external worlds of someone in the dominant class tend to be harmonized and accepted as normal, whereas a subordinate's status is often pointed out as inferior and "other" than the established norm. Due to the constant barrage of the dominant group's images, the subordinate group tends to know the dominant group well while the dominant group knows relatively little about the subordinate group. The subordinate tends to react to the dominant in two ways: either being very attentive to dominant ways or ignoring them, both approaches being taxing on the subordinate.

The author states that there are at least 7 categories of "otherness" that contribute to a person's identity: race or ethnicity; gender; religion; sexual orientation; socioeconomic status; age; and physical or mental ability. Each of these 7 categories has a related form of oppression: racism; sexism; religious oppression; heterosexism; classism; ageism; and ableism. Tatum states that with so many "other" categories, most if not all of us are dominant in some categories while subordinate in others. Tatum believes that a person's subordinate status in one or more categories can help him/her better understand someone who is subordinate in another category; for example, a white woman might understand at least some aspects of the subordinate status of a black man because she is treated as a "subordinate" by white men due to her gender. Tatum obviously believes that our subordination in one or more categories can help us understand and form a meaningful bond with people who are subordinate in other categories.

ii. Can you identify the author's point-of-view?

Tatum reveals quite a bit about herself and her point-of-view in the article. Tatum speaks as an exceptionally intelligent, well-educated black woman who is well versed in psychology because she explains Erik Erikson's theory of identity very well, then broadens it to encompass domination and subordination. Tatum also speaks as an individual who believes people can reach a common ground through their subordination in different categories, transcending at least some of their differences. Tatum's approach makes her article easily readable, understandable and relatable.

iii. How did the reading broaden your knowledge?

The reading broadened my knowledge in several ways. I had not previously thought of all 7 categories of subordination and domination. Given the broader possibilities of subordination, it is possible for every person to be subordinate in some categories while dominant in others. In addition, Tatum's explanation of subordinates knowing more about dominants makes a great deal of sense. With the high number of categories and the subordinate's greater knowledge about dominants, Tatum's appeal to understanding each other through subordination makes transcending difference a viable possibility.

iv. Personal reactions to the reading?

I appreciate Tatum's perspective. It was a painless learning experience that immediately "clicked" with me and made her theory about reaching a common ground with people through our "otherness" a possible and attractive idea. As mentioned before, her revelations about herself and her personal thoughts made the article easily readable, understandable and relatable.

b. "Structure as the Subject of Justice" by Iris Marion Young

i. What are the main issues and ideas contained in the reading?

"Structure as the Subject of Justice" discusses the way in which the numerous "normal and accepted" actions of millions of people in different positions can create an unjust social structure. Young focuses on the housing situation and the fact that many are vulnerable to homelessness or housing deprived because of the myriad actions of others who are just trying to make their own way within social constructs giving them limited options. Young illustrates the problem through the example of "Sandy," who must leave her apartment due to her landlord's upcoming sale of the property, and then encounters one problem after another as she tries to adjust and find suitable, affordable housing. Young points out that Sandy's problem is common, as housing costs have risen greatly while incomes have risen very little; this leaves people in the position of paying a greater and greater percentage of income for housing until many people simply cannot afford housing because the cost is too great. For Young, the solution to the unjust social structure of housing must be "aggressive regulatory intervention." This is because this severe housing problem can logically be called "nobody's fault," as each individual and institution at least theoretically does what is normal and accepted but the result is nevertheless unjust.

ii. Can you identify the author's point-of-view?

Young's article is somewhat remote and complex but she does articulate her view. Young is clearly on the side of aggressive regulatory intervention while pointing the accusatory finger at no individual, institution or society in general. She says little else about herself but her position for strong legal intervention in the unjust housing market is obvious.

iii. How did the reading broaden your knowledge?

Young's article broadens my knowledge in a couple of areas. I had not considered the problem after problem that a person in Sandy's position encounters, though I have encountered problem after problem in other areas, merely due to each person simply doing what is normal and acceptable. Based on my own experience and Young's explanation of Sandy's housing experience, I could relate to Sandy's situation of encountering one problem after another, with no problem being anybody's deliberate "fault." In addition, Young's willingness to believe that each individual and institution is not consciously unjust is refreshing and reasonable. Young's article gave me a better understanding of the larger, more impersonal type of social injustice.

iv. Personal reactions to the reading?

I found Young's article somewhat dry, though I understood her point-of-view. Her willingness to say that unjust structures can result from millions of individuals and institutions acting normally and acceptably makes a great deal of sense to me and also should make it easier to approach others about unjust social structures. I do believe that the aggressive regulatory intervention she promotes has and will encounter a lot of resistance; people have felt and will feel that they are being prevented by intervention from making their own way by doing what is normal and acceptable. Nevertheless, I believe Young is correct in her belief that aggressive regulatory intervention is necessary to end housing injustice. I just wish she could be more specific about exactly what aggressive regulatory intervention would succeed with the least harm. Young's article gave me more information about social injustice and yet not enough information about the solution.

c. Comparison of the two articles

Tatum's article, "The Complexity of Identity," resonates with me more than Young's article, "Structure as the Subject of Justice." Tatum spoke more in terms of the psyche and human-to-human interactions, which interest me more than structures and continual practices that are oppressive but "nobody's fault." In addition, I knew more about Tatum…[continue]

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