The way difference is constructed in the American society has a crucial effect on the lives of people that are afflicted by these conceptions. Two of the main, as well as most discussed axes of social differences, are race/ethnicity and sex/gender which are considered by social scientists as master statuses. A master status determines the position a single individual has in the society that they are part of and it has a huge effect on the formation of their identity. Besides the fact that these statuses influence the way people see themselves they also affect how they are seen and judged by others.
There are two points of view towards how difference is established in a society: essentialism and constructionism. The essentialist perspective infers that master statuses such as race, sex or disability are objective essential differences that cannot be changed and in are in a way or another meaningful. On the other hand, constructionists believe that differences are qualities that are constructed as a result of social processes. According to the author: “From this perspective, the way a society defines difference among its members tells us more about that society than the people so classified” (pg.3). For something to be socially constructed, and in our case differences, it means that various social processes such as political, religious or scientific create distinctions between people and set which differences are more important than others as well as how these differences are defined.
Society itself, as well as various social processes, promote the formation of dichotomies which is the separation into two different parts and considering them in opposition to each other. The first stage of constructing difference is by asserting names to categories of people and the two forces that are in power for naming are the government as well as the people themselves. The way the government plays a very important role in this is because of the Census in which at first people had to categorize themselves in only one group disregarding the fact that they could have had a mixed heritage. Even though in the 2010 U.S census a person had the ability to identify as being part of more than one racial group, there are many other parties in real life that are not consistent with census categorization. An example of this application is the “one drop rule” according to which even the smallest percentage of black ancestry would make one be considered black disregarding what the person might self-identify as.