SOSC 1910 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority, Dominate
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Wednesday, September, 26. 2012
AP SOSC 1210 Human Rights in a Socio-Legal Context
Lecture no. 4
Key Concepts in the Creation of Minorities
In the physical world, an idea for an imaginary cause, can’t have a real affect. But
human beings aren’t holding constraint by the physical laws of nature. So things that
people imagine, if they act upon them, can have real consequences. This is the process
that social scientists call the social construction of reality - means individuals, groups
and societies, tend to place interpretations on reality, on what goes on around them.
These are interpretations that may or not be true in an absolute sense. These
interpretations and explanations, and deﬁnitions, are all instructive to help us make
sense of the things and events that we experience. And in effect, we use them as our
guidelines to respond to our experiences. So even when we are uncertain, or we have
very little truth to ground our experience, or if we have no facts to draw on, we use
these social constructions to provide us with deﬁnition, and direction, and often they
form the basis for our actions.
However these social constructions, they may very well be based on assumption,
or on value judgements that tend to be quite generally the ideas of the day. So we make
assumptions in the absence of knowledge or information. We also make assumptions in
the face of partial knowledge, and all that is okay. It is sorta just the way things work.
But where we get in trouble is when we start to get into trouble when we start to act on
those assumptions, on those constructed ideas.
So today we’re talking about the idea that we can see reality as being socially
constructed. As based in ideas about what we may believe to be true. These beliefs, we
need to remember, can be based on only the tiniest curdle of truth. Indeed, a lot of the
time, they may not have truth to them what so ever. So what is important is to
remember, that as human beings we are capable of social construction. And we use
these ideas, to socially create minority groups. Minority groups do not somehow inherit
or start out being inferior. It starts when we begin to believe that certain people are
inferior or dangerous, based on our perception on some attribute that they may have.
And the minority group starts to take shape where we proceed to treat people in a
negative way, based on those beliefs.
So I want you to remember that it is the action, it’s the treatment, it’s our activity,
based on these beliefs that constitute violations of human rights. Back to the idea, you
can think what you want you are going to think, but when you start to act on those
ideas, that’s where human rights can be violated. So what we believe, are prejudices
about a population, do not themselves constitute violations of human rights.
So as I said, under the Charter, we can believe what we like. It’s the treatment
that we accord to the less powerful in our society, that constitutes the basis for human
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So if we are going to start to understand the existence the minorities in Canada,
we have to focus on the nature of power relations. Power - what I mean is all of the
dimensions of life, where power can be exercised. So we can think about social,
political, and economic rights. The exercise of power is not exclusively the domain of
the government, although they are one of the principle of sources of it in terms of
denying or granting human rights. We can also think about how business, corporations,
the media as well as other non-governmental institutions, can also be very important
actors who can have a signiﬁcant impact on government policies, and who can
ultimately effect our every day lives.
So we are supposed to live in a democracy. In a democratic society, the exercise
of power needs to be rationalized. In the way that we do this, is we gain a certain level
of consent from the voting public. So this is a process of consensus building and its
based on dominant cultural norms. And doing this process engaging people in decisions
about what kind of powers are exercised in their lives, is the beginning for the exercise
of that power. This is an important step in terms of of what goes on in terms of our lives.
So power, and the fact that some people have power, that there is power is not
itself a problem. What we are focusing on is the way power is exercised. And when we
talk about the idea of rights, that’s how it gives us a language and a framework, to think
about how power is exercised, and to talk about idea of inequalities of power.
So we are working from the human rights perspective, so therefore, we are
addressing the issue of the extent which a group or category might be subject to the
denial of human rights. So the denial of political, economic, or social power. At both the
societal level and social context level, it is possible and common for a minority to out
number the majority. Minorities are not based on numbers.
For example: Who is the majority and minority in the lecture class?
Minority - class
Majority- professor because they have the power to give a student an “A” or “F”
It is bout the power, at the end of the day. When deﬁning minority, we are not
speaking about numbers or proportions of populations. When we are thinking about the
context of minorities, it is only meaningful in the context of the corresponding majority.
Minority is a relative notion. In order to see the minority, you must be able to see the
For example: The Occupy. The people protesting would be the minority, because they
did not have power. The power then belonged to the police men and government. They
are the minority because they are lacking political power in that moment.
So in the course, we are dealing with the minority status of groups at the societal level.
We are looking at Canada as a whole, we are seeing which groups relative to others,
have more power. We tend to point out one individual in a minority group, in a small
social context. Lets say they are the represent of the entire group.
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