The Effects of Appearances

Race: a divide of power between people based on their beliefs or traits. Looks/appearances and the labels we place on people and groups affect how we view and treat them as well as their mental states. Throughout human history we have separated and categorized ourselves based on appearances. Someone always must run the top of the food chain, must lead the pack and carry all the power. The ability to lead has been chosen by ancestry and physical concepts such as wealth. The leader is the person decorated in certain attire which separates them from others.  

According to the Heng Inventions: Reinventions, Race Studies, Modernity, and the Middle Ages article by Geraldine Heng that we read in class, those who celebrated the Jewish traditions were made to wear badges identifying their religion during 1218-1275. Appearance was used to separate people based on their belief system and when these people were set apart, they were discriminated. The article called this act “Political imagery…”  (Heng, 2013). Skin color is another visual indication, representing ancestry, that people have specifically used as a social divider in United States history. Those with darker complexions were considered black and used as physical laborers while those with pale complexions were deemed white and took a role of power. In the Heng Inventions article, the word race is continually revisited. On page nineteen the article states, “race is a structural relationship for the articulation and management of human differences, rather than a substantive content.” Additionally, I thought that when race was again mentioned on page twenty that the idea of race and class relating was a good point. It reflects the idea that appearance can be used as a tool to group people and classify them, although, this is not an accurate depiction of people in most cases.

In Clay’s Ark by Octavia E. Butler, the community is not based on appearance like most. It is typical for humans to label others based on appearances. Depending on where you reside on this globe your perspective on what outsiders and/or immigrants look like and your idea of beauty changes. Clothing can be used to indicate certain qualities about a person according to society. Cliques are a popular way for people to separate themselves based on appearances. Often, these small groups of people look and dress very similarly. The movie Mean Girls is an excellent representation of cliques.

Different cultures have different ideas about what constitutes beauty or acceptance. Some traditions merit wearing specific outfits for activities. For example, Native American groups still wear traditional outfits when performing a traditional dance during ritual ceremonies. Tribes from rainforest regions are another group that look similar but, can be identified within the larger groups based on their appearances. Another example of society valuing conformity is the military who are forced to wear the same outfits and cut their hair into the same style. Convicts also are forced to wear the same jumpsuit outfits. Firemen, police officers, EMT, doctors and nurses all wear the same outfits as well. There are so many examples of these similarities in dress within groups that can be spotted in our daily lives. Sometimes certain clothing items and accessories are indicators of wealth and power.

Our government is predominantly white males. Our nation tries to represent diversity within the government but is still largely run by old white males. Looking back on the Presidential history of the United States it is obvious.

The effects of these labels could be negative or positive. Negatively, groups could be excluded, harmed, or ridiculed. Conversely, they could also be honored or viewed as role models. Labels can also affect how a person thinks of themselves and will most likely change their behaviors overtime to accommodate the label. For example, if a person was called the class clown they may begin to believe the label and become more confident in making jokes around their classmates. However, if someone was to be called fat repetitively that could also impact their self-image or mental health and drive them into having an eating disorder.

Appearance is surface level, but an individual’s character is beneath the surface. Characteristics and personality make someone who they are not what color their skin is, what religion they celebrate, or what clothing they wear.

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