Concept of Social Inequality
Human society is a phenomenon that has its own advantages and disadvantages, and one of the major disadvantages of it is the eternal division of people into classes, whether they are social or racial. People have always tried to find those who are lower, as they considered, than them in a social status and consequently in manner, upbringing and opportunities.
The division of human society into numerous classes which can be reduced to high, middle and low classes, has always existed in the history of mankind and was based on different factors but, nevertheless, its essence always stayed the same – some people consider themselves to be superior over others based on their financial status, belonging to a certain race or sex.
However wrong this social division may seem, it nevertheless exists in the human society and my assignment is to consider it with close attention.
This paper is the reflection of the social inequality exemplified by the experiences of mine and two other people whom I interview. This is the widely accepted truth that the basis for the whole life of a person is made in the early childhood when first impressions about the main phenomena of the world are obtained.
These impressions and experiences form the background which, in its turn, predetermines the social attitudes towards this or that person and his or her self-evaluation. Thus, the interviews with the people disclose details of their lives and growing up in the atmosphere of social inequality.
The first person that I interview in this paper is a white female who has never known what a family is and had to make her way to the upper social classes on her own. The second person interviewed is the African-American male whose family was considered to be a middle class, but it changed after his father’s death.
He suddenly faced the necessity to keep to the class he belonged to and to take care of his family. It was quite problematic for a person with no idea about hardships of social inequality, but he took this challenge with dignity. He managed to preserve a position in the middle class and became a confident breadwinner.
Section I – Dimensions of Social Inequality
Dimensions of social inequality are rather interesting topic for discussion as they are quite numerous and various. People tend to refer a person to this or that social class according to his or her financial opportunities, level of education, upbringing, manner, etc. These factors are quite relative as there arte numerous examples of mistaken perception of a person as belonging to a higher class than he or she really belongs to.
That is why to identify the class belonging of a person it is important to consider the attitude of the person him/herself. Self-esteem and confidence in one’s own abilities are much more important than social prejudice and can help people overcome them and this is the main topic of the paper (Mazur, 1994, pp. 37 – 43).
To start with myself, I am a middle class African American woman, and currently I am studying at College on the full time basis and I am also employed. However, I am studying and working exactly to be able to call myself completely successful and to achieve the major purposes of my life.
I have come across a lot of cases of inequality based on my sex, race and age and had to struggle with them so that to thank my parents for their hard attempts to raise me and my sisters and brothers. I will discuss all this further in this paper. Moreover, I aim at introducing the two other persons whom I will interview and present their life stories as the reflection of the issue of social inequality.
I had no idea growing up that my family fit into the category of poor and low-income. I didn’t know where we lived was considered “the projects” and we received government assistance. The neighborhood was extremely well kept, children had manners, received spankings and the term “It takes a village to raise a child” fit my neighborhood to a tee.
My home was full of love, me along with my brothers and sisters were well dressed, had plenty to eat, Christmas’s-we just knew we were rich-we had every toy imaginable, we honestly were the envy of the neighborhood. It wasn’t until we moved further north; reflecting, visits to my birth place, conversations with my parents and childhood friends that I realize that yes were in-deed poor.
My mother, dropped out of school in the tenth grade, was married at fourteen and had my oldest sister at fifteen; by twenty she had four children. My father had the mindset woman should be barefoot and pregnant but did not believe that for his daughters.
My mother had other ideas and dreams. Her and my biological father divorced when I was five; however he remained a prominent fixture in my life until his death when I was ten years old. My mother remarried and had a son; bringing a total of five children.
Both of my fathers, (I detest the term step) are older than my mother and both grew up doing Jim Crow. My mother and father like many other parents were extremely hard working and though both had little greatly valued education and installed that value in their children.
We all graduated high school; I am the only one attending college. Nonetheless we are all successful in our own right, all credit due to our parent’s many, many, sacrifices and hard core determination to give us a better life. When I was seven we moved to Northern VA, that move, moved us into the category of “working middle class”.
My mother received her GED and got a job with Verizon, she’s currently retired. My father worked for Washington Gas Company until he retired. My current life status I think would be “middle class”.
I guess the difference between my parents as “working middle class” and me as “middle class” would basically be income. I make more today than my parents jointly when they were working but for some reason I can not accomplish the monetary feats.
To this day, I am sure that the modern world, and the American society in particular, are full of inequality based on social factors. This statement concerns all spheres of social life, and education is not an exception: “All social institutions in U.S. society, including schools, contain inherent contradictions between the values of capitalism and democracy.
The community college illustrates this contradiction because it is an expression of the democratic ideal of education as the great social equalizer, a mission that is impeded by capitalism’s structured inequalities.
Community colleges are praised as “the open door,” “democracy’s college,” the “statue of liberty” and the “people’s college,” yet in the same breath, they are denigrated as the “middleman in higher education,” “second best,” and the “deferrer of dreams.” (Herideen, 1998, p. 1)
I faced a lot of inequality in education and in other aspects of my life and I am strongly convinced that this is a result of the widely spread stereotype about a woman as a housekeeper who has no need in career development.
Racial factor is also very significant these days despite the struggle carried out by activists of feminist movement, Civil Rights movement and others. Needless to say that this inequality is a result of the wrongful ideas about money and occupation as signs of belonging to a higher class, and the examples of the two people I will interview are sure to prove this very point of view.
Section II – Interviews
The first person whom I planned to interview was a white female of 22 years. When you see her for the first time, you would never understand that she represents the layer of the society which is considered to be the lowest. This female’s home was the asylum where she grew up and obtained basic knowledge and life principles.
When I saw her I would say that she represented the upper middle class because she was well-dressed and displayed high standards of communication skills and good upbringing. For the first several minutes of our talk she managed to make an impression on me of a young lady with completed University education and with respective knowledge.
The living principles that she disclosed to me were not typical of such a young age but the story of her life persuaded me that she knew what she talked about. Sociology was not in the sphere of her educational interests but she was very well aware of all the social processes that took place in the society and touched her this or that way.
This female was well aware of the issues of children upbringing and problem families. The issues of poverty and social inequality were also familiar to her. She told me about the difficulties one had with getting a social insurance if he or she had n o background and could not provide governmental offices with information about his/her birthplace, date and parents.
She actually never knew who her parents were as she lived all her adolescent life from birth in an asylum in Detroit, MI. The life in the asylum was not what a lot of people can imagine it to have been. The care taken of poor children who have no parents is only a slight knowledge that people have about asylums.
The reality in those places is much harsher than one can imagine – children from the youngest age have to struggle for attention and for such material things as food and clothes. And only in a small number of cases this struggle is carried out by honest means. The female had to prove her right for existence in the asylum as far as living there is always connected with juvenile crime and other social and criminal problems.
At the age of 12 she had a negative experience of being affiliated by a family that wanted to have children but was physically unable to do it. The life in that family turned out to be too difficult to her, probably to a large extent due to the adjustment of the girl to the living in an asylum.
The neighbors accused the female of a theft from their house and her family, although having justified her, had to return her to the asylum. Since that time the girl understood that she would have to reach her goals in this life only by herself and put all her energy into getting considerable basis for future education in a Medical University.
All she could afford to do was reading the respective literature and hoping to get a governmental grant for education in the University of her dream. Fortunately, her hard work, and considerable luck as well, helped her to achieve the goal of her life, as she understood that only the proper education will allow her to survive and hope for good life in future.
Nowadays, she is a top student in her group in the Medical University and is enjoying her study. Her aim is to become a successful veterinarian, and she does everything depending on her to achieve this aim.
Her example demonstrates best of all how a person from the lowest layer of the society can change his/her position and enter middle or upper middle class and dismantle all the prejudice and stereotypes. What struck me the most in the talk with this white female was that she never doubted her chance to become successful.
Her life was full of negative experiences but they did not make her angry at the world and only formulated her aims in life better. Her example is the best illustration of the idea that choice, if it is present, misleads people: “Choice will always be a recipe for inequality” (Class War, 2006, p. 11). She had no choice but to be successful and she reached this goal.
The second person whom I interviewed was the African-American male of 27 years. The story of this male differs a lot from the previous one but also possesses good examples of that how people face social inequality and do everything to overcome it.
This male grew up in the family that represented middle class of the society, but the death of his father changed the situation and the man had to enter the working middle class with the transition through the lower class of the society.
Thus, the features of the middle class representative are combined in this male with the features of lower and working class. In other words, this person displays considerable education but at the same time is not afraid of any kind of work. He had to adjust to the conditions when to feed his family he could not choose the job he liked that is why now he displays deep understanding of social inequality.
The family of this male of the African-American origin consisted of the people who worked as engineers. His mother, firstly, worked as a teacher in the elementary school but then obtained a proposition that increased the family income and took the family to the middle class of the society.
His mother took up the profession of engineer at chemical plant, while his father was working at car building factory at the position of the production engineer. The family lived and developed plans as for future when the accident happened at the car building factory where the father of my respondent worked.
It was a terrible explosion of a tank with oil and as its result 23 employees of the factory were killed. The father of the male was among the victims of the explosion. This male was finishing the tenth grade of the school in that time, but the accident made him drop his study. At first he tried to combined the study and work but it was too hard.
The attitude towards working class was not the best one, and it was impossible not to ask the question again:” A working class kid already feeling excluded from a good school? Or is it just a case of children being children?” (Kahlenberg, R. D., & Teixeira, R., 2001, p. 15) Furthermore, his mother could not afford feeding the whole family and he had to take up any work that he could find at that moment so that not to starve.
This was the moment when the sharp social inequality became a usual thing for this male. Growing up in the wealthy middle class family he had never thought about the possible ways of earning money to feed the family because he was sure that parents would do everything for him. After the accident with his father, this male had to understand that in the difficult situation a class to which one belonged did not mean anything.
No one wanted to offer high and well paid position to this male and he had to start working as a loader at various industrial companies in his city. This was not what he wanted to do but this was the only accessible job that brought enough money to feed the family.
Nevertheless, after certain period of time spent as a loader, about a year and a half, the male understood that such work has no perspective and started looking for development opportunities. As he had always had talent and desire for painting, his first ideas was to study this subject and get a diploma to receive better job with the higher salary.
Experience in his work allowed the male to save time for study and in 2 years a diploma was in his possession. The occupation he obtained was the designer of accommodation and advertising production.
In other words, his education allowed the male to get the position of a person who created ideas about the décor of a flat or a house and is busy with the practical implementation of these ideas.
Advertising production, such as printed advertisements, prospects, leaflets, as well as TV advertising design also became the sphere of his work, and nowadays he is a manager of design projects in one of the most successful companies in Northern VA.
The interview with this male of African-American origin impressed me to a great extent. The story that this male told me is the brightest example of the courage that this person had to start from the lowest level of the society and rise to the higher levels with the only aim – feeding his family and himself.
This story exemplifies also the fact that social inequality can be overcome, and people are those who decide it, not some circumstances or events. Of course, one can say that a male has advantages in the society of the present day but African-Americans are still discriminated in many spheres of social life, so the success of this male was absolutely his achievement.
The same can be said about me and the female that I interviewed. Discrimination of women together with social inequality and class-related stereotypes did not give us any advantage but we managed to succeed to some extent, and hope to develop this success.
Section III – The Future
To begin the outlook in the future, I should say that the white female whom I interviewed stated that her plans are to finish her study in the University and to become a successful veterinarian that will allow her to leave the lower class of the society and enter at least the working middle class.
The experiences of her childhood made her treat the issues of family with special attention and she will never leave her children because she experienced what it feels like to be left alone and how difficult it is to overcome social stereotypes in this case. She has plans of making a family and is currently dating with a man who does not pay attention to social inequalities and the fact that they belong to different social classes.
The Africa-American male whom I interviewed has other plans. His career can already be considered successful and he does not seek anything else but a stable work and happy family life. His experience in becoming successful after being at the very bottom of the society, as it is accepted to think, gave him so much that he will never be at a loss in any difficult or problematic situation.
As for me, in the future I want to complete my study in the college and start a life of a person who will be able to open her own boutique and travel, or not to work at all. But the greatest plan of mine is to build my own house in Florida.
As for the overall situation with the social inequality, I am strongly convinced that it will take considerable time to eliminate it. Inequality has existed from times immemorial and certain scholars even suppose that its level has increased recently: “Since the 1970s, the much-noted stagnation of most incomes (in inflation-adjusted dollars) has helped to produce substantially more inequality today than we have had for generations.
Wealth distribution–an important factor in determining the personal contribution one can make to retirement–is even more skewed.” (Leone, 2000, p. 17) But the current events in the American politics, as well as in social life, leave hope that they will continue the work started by preceding generations and remove the class borders so that people would not experience inequality.
Section IV – Final Analysis
To conclude the current paper, let me say that inequalities among people have always existed and are considered to be a norm of the capitalist society. Feminist movement and other movements for equality of rights of all people can not change the situation drastically and only create the illusion of equality. Nevertheless, there is the hope that some day people will be equal, will enjoy equal opportunities and have equal obligations.
The examples of people whom I interviewed prove that it is possible and a person is able to resist social stereotypes and break them down. This paper is the reflection of people’s experiences in the issue of social inequality and class borders that are artificially created by certain classes to reserve their dominant positions in the society (Mazur, 1994, pp. 37 – 43).
In this work I managed to find out the main reasons of social inequality and of the most effective means to resist and overcome them.
Talking with these people I came across the racial and sexual stereotypes of the society once again and their actions in the situations when they faced such stereotypes filled with inspiration and hope that social inequality and class struggle are not eternal and human beings will find certain means to eliminate them.
If not at the present moment, then in the future, but it will happen. In this paper I managed to discuss with my respondents their experiences of social and class inequality.
Class War; A Recent Report Suggests Leading Comprehensives Are Discriminating against Children from Poor Backgrounds. Education Correspondent Shahid Naqvi Looks at the Inequality of Our Education System. (2006). The Birmingham Post (England), p. 11.
Herideen, P. E. (1998). Policy, Pedagogy, and Social Inequality: Community College Student Realities in Post-Industrial America. Westport, CT: Bergin & Garvey.
Kahlenberg, R. D., & Teixeira, R. (2001). A Better Third Way : IT’S TIME FOR A LIBERAL PHILOSOPHY FOCUSING ON SOCIAL JUSTICE AND INEQUALITY. The Nation, 272, 15.
Leone, R. C. (2000). Inequality and Social Security. The American Prospect, 11, 17.
Mazur, A. (1994). 3: A Neurohormonal Model of Social Stratification among Humans: A Microsocial Perspective. In Social Stratification and Socioeconomic Inequality, Ellis, L. (Ed.) (Vol. 2, pp. 37-43). Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers.
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