What is a social lens? Do things like racial or cultural identity count as social lenses?

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A social lens refers to how a person views a given situation. There are many factors that go into developing a person’s social lens or perception of the world. Race, culture, religion, and economic status are just some of the factors that influence a person’s view of the world.

The experiences that people have had influence their views of the world. These experiences explain why two people from different backgrounds may see the same event very differently. If a person has experienced discrimination of some sort, whether it is racial, religious, or gender, that person will view situations differently than people who haven’t experienced this discrimination. We are seeing this play out in terms of how some people view the actions of the police. If a person has had negative experiences with the police, they will view them in a negative light. On the other hand, people who have family members who are police officers, or people who have had positive experiences with them, will see the police in a very positive manner.

If a political party has helped a group of people, those people will likely support that party. After the Civil War, African-Americans viewed the Republican Party very favorably. They viewed the Republican Party as being responsible for ending slavery and helping African-Americans get more rights and more freedoms. As a result, they tended to vote for Republican candidates for many years. White southerners were angry with the Republican Party, as they felt this party destroyed the southern way of life. As a result, they voted for Democratic candidates for many years. Members of different political parties often see the same event very differently because of the different experiences of their members.

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Both racial and cultural identity, as well as many other things, could count as things that affect our social lenses.  Social lenses are the preconceptions and prejudices that we bring to our observation of the world.  Different people can look at the same social situation and understand it in different ways.  This is because they see it through different social lenses.

Our social lenses are built through our socialization.  As we grow up, we are being taught (implicitly or explicitly) what sorts of things "people like us" believe in and what sorts of attitudes we have.  These will influence how we see the world around us.

Racial or cultural identity can certainly help to create the lens through which we see the world.  Our race is not, in itself, the lens, but our race does help to determine how we are socialized and, thereby, it helps to create our social lens. 

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