Standpoint Theory


Over the decades, ethics and their application are continually evolving. This is because of shifting social attitudes and which actions are considered to be in compliance with these norms. The result is that these transformations will lead to coercion directed against those who fail to abide by these guidelines. The basic idea is to encourage them to change by increasing penalties and rewards. This will automatically create a shift in perceptions and attitudes. To fully understand how this occurs requires focusing these transformations. This will be accomplished by looking at the behavior, social location and analyzing the way someone is corrupted. Together, these elements will highlight how these standards will influence the actions of the person and the way they apply these practices.

How course materials describe behavior of those with privilege who oppress others

The course materials are showing how ethical standards will change throughout the course of history. This is because specific ethnic groups will bring with them different attitudes and traditions. These areas will influence their ability to meet key objectives and it shapes how they see others. This means that certain behaviors will receive more influence at certain periods of time.

One area where this is most dominant is in the film The Color of Fear. This documentary is discussing racism and history by talking with 8 different men from various ethnic groups. During the movie, there is a focus on the way these perceptions about ethics will shape contrasting viewpoints. This occurs by showing how the Caucasians do not understand why they are the target from other ethnic groups. They are making everything appear to a minority vs. the majority situation. As it progresses, the audience will talk about how discrimination is not caused by one specific ethnic group. Instead, it is attitudes of arrogance, ignorance and passing the blame onto others. This is highlighting how these shifts have occurred throughout history. As a result, beliefs about what is ethical are constantly changing to keep up with them.

Moreover, the article Ethnic Groups in the United States is illustrating the different perspectives among various racial groups with it saying, "The history of the United States is different for each ethnic group. First, it is organized around some of the concerns and concepts of social science. In this case, it looked at the growing American population among the many ethnic groups. They accounted for the growth, focusing on the patterns of dominance and subordination among those they are around. Secondly, we concentrated on those subordinate ethnic groups by looking at the historical circumstances of the poor and powerless individuals that are often passed over in historical accounts. This is in favor of more powerful and seemingly more important historical ideas, concepts and figures. During the course of examining those subordinate ethnic groups, we observed the fundamental importance of voluntary versus involuntary entry into American society. The voluntary entry, carried with the freedom to adapt and take advantage of opportunities for advancement of those who were denied these benefits. Instead, many ethnic groups became American citizens against their will. This occurred by living in territories conquered by the US and serving as slaves for the majority over 150 years ago."

These insights are showing the way the course material will describe behavior in conjunction with privilege and oppression. In this case, they are concerned about how history is interpreted for different ethnic groups. The result is that the majority will see these events from less emotional perspectives. Whereas minorities, will automatically assume that they are simply reacting to situations. That are based upon the way they are treated by the majority. When in reality, they are attempting to lash out against these injustices.

As a result, the materials are showing how privilege was often used as a way to oppress others. This occurred along ethnic and racial lines. However, over the course of time, the sense of frustration from those who are oppressed is reflected back at the majority. This is because many of these individuals want them to feel their anger and helplessness. During the process, their behavior will reflect these frustrations about the previous system. To lash out they will have an emotional response to oppress someone on a lower level. This is showing how there are changing roles for ethics and the way they are applied. These shifting views are describing the challenges in society when it comes to race relations.

Social Location: Two ideas each from Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, Nickel and Dimed, The Color of Fear and Hotel Rwanda

In Following Jesus in a Culture of Fear, it is discussing how, fear can make it difficult to have any faith in the future. This is achieved by emphasizing it on a personal and political level. From a personal perspective, fear can make it difficult for someone to adapt and evolve with the different challenges they are facing. This hurts their relationships with others, as they have trust in them and cannot remain close to the person with these beliefs. While political factors, will look at the concerns between nation states. This fuels the process by pushing everyone to support activities they may not normally be in favor of.

Nickel and Dimed, is focusing on the long term impact of low wages and personality tests. Low wages are problematic, as they will cause someone to feel dehumanized, physically exhausted and uninteresting. This hurts the poor who will receive low enough wages which force them to pay more for food and housing. If they were paid higher wages, this could improve their standard of living and decrease long term expenses. Personality tests are troubling, by indicating a larger trend. This is occurring with employers wanting a pool of labor. They will use these and other tests to screen for applicants. In a number of instances, they have been known to be intrusive and dig into the applicant’s personal life. This will push a number of qualified candidates away from specialized positions towards those with reduced skills. Over the course of time, this hurts productivity and it makes it harder for someone to make ends meet.

The Color of Fear is focusing on the way different groups perceive with each other and what they have in common. In the case of differences, this occurs by illustrating how the two minorities will look at someone from the majority and vice versa. This offers numerous perspectives, about the way negatives associations will influence attitudes and beliefs. What they have in common, is highlighting everyone’s similarities and how these attitudes hurt relations. This is when they can see everybody from a human perspective (versus a specific category).

The Hotel Rwanda is showing these issues on racial level among Tutsi and Hutus. In this case, there are negative stereotypes and deep hatreds for one another. As the government breaks down, these differences become more pronounced during the civil war. At the same time, it is showing how everyone is human and interconnected from the struggle they endured.

Analysis utilizing How Nice People Are Corrupted

In the article, Myers is focusing on what causes someone to become corrupted. He achieved these objectives by looking at Arch’s Studies on Conformity and Milgram’s Obedience Experiments. Arch’s Studies on Conformity is focusing on how group thinking will alter the mindset and actions of the individual. In these situations, they will do things they know are wrong. Yet, they want to maintain their status within the group and will look the other way. This provides a background as to the way nice people are corrupted.

Migram’s Obedience Experiments are examining what happens with the demands of authority will clash with conscience. In these cases, they determined that most people will become desensitized and have their views slowly change. This is because those in authority will place greater amounts of pressure on everyone to conform to different standards.

After analyzing the results, Myers determined that there are several factors which have greatest impact on people. The most notable include: emotional distance, legitimacy of authority, the influence of the group, copying new behaviors / attitudes and the power of the situation. Emotional distance is when the individual will feel no sense of remorse for someone. This enables them to treat the other person badly and engage in acts of brutality directed against them. Legitimacy of authority occurs with them making it appear as if they are acting morally by supporting these actions. This will build upon their beliefs in encouraging the person to participate in activities.

The group has a major influence on individual through giving them a sense of belonging. This encourages them to do things they might not otherwise perform on their own. Copying new behaviors is when someone learns how certain actions are acceptable. They will follow this in the future, to determine if they are embracing these norms. The power of the situation places pressure on the person to act or face ridicule. To prevent this, someone will be more inclined to become involved in these activities. These areas work together, to alter the person’s mental state and how they perceive what is happening. Over the course of time, this causes them to become more distant.

A good example of this can be seen with insights from Myers who said, “One cannot but assume that the Auschwitz and Eichmann death-camp commanders were uncivilized barbarians. But after a hard day’s work, the commanders would relax by listening to Beethoven and Schubert. Eichmann himself was exteriorly undistinguishable from common people with ordinary jobs. Like the many, many others who ravaged Europe’s Jewish ghettos, operated the deportation trains, and administered the death camps they were not Nazis, SS members, or radical fanatics. They were laborers, salesmen, clerks, and artisans—family men who were too old for military service, but who, when directly ordered to kill, were unable to refuse.” These insights are showing how ordinary people can be forced to do such brutal acts of aggression. Over the course of time, this causes them to support these actions and become a part of who they are.


Clearly, ethical standards are continually evolving. They are based upon perceptions and the actions of society (i.e. the larger group). At the same time, history is associated with these issues to form the opinion of the person about the others. Once this happens, is the point they will become more focused on them over everything else.

Yet in reality, they are no different from others. The problem is that these perceptions can influence the group and lead to them lashing out. This will shape who they are by encouraging them to become involved in these activities. As time goes by, each one of these events will transform who they are and what they represent.

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