Monthly Archives: May 2013

Dual Income Family

Growing up, I always thought that I had a normal family living the American dream.  I had two parents who worked full time, a white house in the suburbs, a baby brother to look after and a golden retriever to play fetch with in our back yard.  I owned decent clothes, went to a decent school and ate a decent diet.  We went on vacations to places like Disney World, Universal Studios and Discovery Cove for breaks during the school year and camping in the summer.  Now we didn’t own a pool, have the biggest flat screen on the block or the nicest cars in the neighborhood.  We hardly went out to eat and if we did it was only on special occasions like birthdays or some other kind of celebration.  I didn’t get my license until I was 17 years old because of the cost of the insurance rates.  I wasn’t given a car for my 16th, 17th, or even 18th birthday.  I had to get a job and save up for two years to afford the vehicle I have now and the phone I now own.  My parents have been married for 30 years and have had the same jobs for the past 20.  My mom works at MSU and my dad AAA Car Insurance.  They tell me that we are considered a dual income middle class family. Everything I had ever experienced I assumed that everyone else did too with their families and it was considered normal.  So that got me thinking, what if your parents aren’t married?  Is marriage really necessary these days to have a dual income?  And if not, what is considered normal?

Over 50% of married couples have a dual income with a wife and husband in the labor force.  Because women now have the chance to pursue job opportunities that had been closed to them for several years, women are now able to help support the household.  With most couples finding it hard to live off of one income, this is, I believe, one of the major reasons why people get married.  People marry so that they have the financial stability amongst each other.  Being married has its pros and cons.  You have your medical and financial benefits, your choice of luxury material goods, and for religious purposes the bond between a man and woman for life.  Of course you have your legal obligations as a spouse.  You made vows to one another to only be with one another.  Your finances should be discussed with each other on how you’re going to distribute the money because you now share each other’s income.  You have to decide what should be spent and what should be saved.   Some couples find this to be too difficult or strenuous for whatever reason and break the marital bond and get a divorce.

With divorce becoming more common since the mid- 70’s, many couples find it easier to split.    In some cases, I feel that divorce is necessary.  If it’s something as serious as your spouse cheating on you it creates a negative atmosphere for the children, a broken trust and a problem within the household and you as a spouse have to make the decision of what to do and what the outcomes will be.    With getting a divorce come’s the split of the family assets, financial and medical benefits, and the possibility of having to move and the stability of the family unit.  You might have to limit your material goods, focus on the necessities with the fact of becoming a single-parent family.  Even though it’s a big change within a household, it could be very beneficial to the children and to the spouse in the long run.  With the media frequently reporting that 1 out of every 2 marriages will end in divorce, many people are questioning the  idea of why we should get married at all if we only have a 50% chance of making it work?

Recently, couples living together without holding that marital status is becoming more and more common.  Statistics show that more than 75 percent of opposite-sex couples are unmarried and cohabitating.  For me this is the case for most of my friends.  They live with their boyfriends/girlfriends in an apartment and share a sexual relationship.  I don’t judge my friends or others for making this choice because it is their own.  I personally don’t think that this is a good idea but I don’t view them any differently.  I view it more as a personal preference.  With my religious beliefs, I think that you should wait until you get married to move in with one another.  Living together should be one of the first journeys you take on as husband and wife and should be a positive one.   Some say you should test the relationship to see if you can handle living with each other before you make that commitment.  I see it more as something to work on with each other so you can find that balance between one another.  I find that trying to figure out where the peanut butter should go is petty, and something like this shouldn’t be the reason why a couple shouldn’t move in with each other; though most of my friends tell me things like this are some of the main reasons.  I find this to be quite funny.

As I ask more and more people about the matter and their views on marriage and what it means they all have their own views.  Some say its old fashioned and expensive and there’s no real need to walk down the aisle.  Others say marriage isn’t really necessary, that if you truly love the person you don’t need a piece of paper to prove it.  The remaining say that marriage is a legal commitment to the person you want to spend the rest of your life with.  Even though they all have different views on the matter their answers are all driven by love.  The stigma once attached to cohabitation is much diminished from the past.  Couples living together can now have that dual income without the pressure of being married.  Nowadays society doesn’t judge as harshly as it once did.  Families who have married parents, divorced parents, or unmarried parents living together it’s all socially acceptable.  It’s all now considered normal.

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Sacred and Profane

Religion has had a major impact on our global society. We would not be where we are without it. In this world, some people cling to religion like a life vest in the middle of the ocean, while others pay little or no attention at all. We cannot deny, however, that it has affected our lives. Religion causes people to do things they might not normally do. Some kill and destroy in the name of religion and others give everything they have to the needy in the name of religion. Either way, we are changed by the things people do in the name of religion. One thing many people seem to argue about, regarding religion, is what is defined as sacred and what is defined as profane.

Sociologically, things that are sacred are “elements beyond everyday life that inspire respect, awe, and even fear” (Witt 192). Simply put, things that are sacred need to be taken seriously because they are holy. Sacred things, however, all depend on what religion you adhere to. Praying 5 times a day is sacred to Muslims, but not necessarily to Christians. Bread becomes sacred to Christians when taking communion, but to most people, bread is just bread. Most times, people interact with the sacred through rituals. Rituals are “practices required or expected of members of a faith” (Witt 195). Every religion has numerous rituals for many different things. Christians have the ritual of communion, water baptism, confession, prayer, and many others. Muslims have the ritual of prayer, different holidays, a hajj, and many more, I’m sure. Each group has sacred rituals that, essentially, make up their religion.

Each person defines what is sacred to them based on their religious beliefs. Religious beliefs are, “statements to which members of a particular religion adhere” (Witt 194). There are hundreds of religions around the world and each one has its own set of widely varying beliefs. Some believe in a God, some believe in no God, some believe in many Gods, and some even believe aliens will come and take us to our next lives. For many people, what religion you are depends on how you grew up as a child. Some religions are very strict about their beliefs. This refers to the term fundamentalism. It’s when people “rigidly adhere to core religious doctrines” (Witt 194). When I think of fundamentalists, I think of the people who never cut their hair and only eat certain things because they take what’s in the Bible literally. In the Bible, women weren’t supposed to cut their hair, so they adhere to that standard because they view it as sacred. It seems like a very legalistic approach to religion, but they only do these things because they believe it is sacred.

On the flip side of this coin are things defined as profane. The profane are simply things that are “ordinary and commonplace” (Witt 193). As with things that are sacred, things that are profane vary between religions as well. A menorah might be sacred to Jews, but to others it’s just a fancy candle holder. As we grow up we learn, through our parents, what things are sacred and what things are profane. I think we can apply these words, not only in religion, but in other situations as well. If parents believe than drinking is wrong and show that to their kids, their kids will pick up on that and believe it as well. The parents have, in a way, placed not drinking in the sacred category and told their kids they need to uphold these standards. This is just one example, but there are many different applications for things that are sacred or profane, even if you’re not religious.

I grew up in the Pentecostal church, so I understand Christianity better than other religions. In my experience, I’ve found that some things can transform from profane to sacred. For example, I think the order of service has become sacred to the church. No one told us this is the way a service is held; it’s just always been that way. If that, somehow, changes, people will get upset because we are messing with what they believe to be sacred. When you mess with things that are perceived as sacred, you better watch out. People guard what is sacred to them with everything they’ve got and don’t want to give it up. I think the church needs to evaluate what is truly sacred and what is, in actuality, profane. People in the church always seem to be arguing about the carpet color or how to run the nurseries, or something of the sort. Are these really things worth arguing about? Are these things truly sacred to the church, or are they just profane? These are the questions, I believe, the church needs to ask themselves.

Not only does the church need to ask these questions, but I think each person, individually, needs to ask these questions. People need to find out what things are truly worth fighting for and what things are inconsequential. Everyone seems to be fighting for every little detail of life, when they should be compromising on the little things and choosing their battles wisely. Don’t waver on what is truly sacred to you, but if something is profane, normal and not holy, allow the possibility that it could be changed. For example, I firmly believe that there is a God and that he loves me. I’m not going to let anyone tell me otherwise. I also believe that Captain Crunch is delicious. Captain Crunch is profane, while my belief in God is sacred to me. Just because I think that cereal is good doesn’t mean I’m going to put it on a pedestal and fight for it. This is a dramatic example, but the concept still applies. Don’t let all the profane things in life become more than they really are. Find for yourself what you truly believe to be sacred and fight for it.

Works Cited

Witt, Jon. Soc. Ed. Gina Boedeker. 2011th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2011. N. pag. Print.

 

Racism

Merriam-Webster dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race.” One might add, of course, that the idea of a race that is “inherently superior” would imply that another race, or races, is in fact inferior. Herein starts the problem, but neither is it the ending point, or even a cursory explanation of the reasons for racism. This explains that there is a belief in the inherent superiority of one race over another.  So, what are the origins of racism?

There is a popular belief that racism is as old as the human race itself, and that from time immemorial distinctions have been made among people based on their racial characteristics. While this may be true, racism as we understand it in the modern era may have find its origin in the economic arena. While racism may be as “old as the hills” as the old expression goes, modern racism may have more readily identifiable historical origins which have framed sociologically identifiable present.

If we look back upon pre-revolutionary America (during the early and mid-1600’s), we will find that black indentured servants often bought their freedom and in some cases became relatively prosperous landowners. They were seen has having the same rights as whites, having achieved their freedom, and were given the same treatment across the board. However, as black slavery became more common in North America, and social castes began to harden within the growing North American British colonies, black freedmen were often disenfranchised and in some cases actually had their hard-won property confiscated from them. The question is, why?

In colonial America, as a budding new national identity began to sprout amongst colonists, new found economic prosperity led to a sense that anyone could make a living off of the land and, since there was much land for the clearing and planting in the interior of the colonies, it attracted many young people from the British Isles who could not own land in their nation of origin. Since the primary source of wealth in the colonies was land, and a certain prestige also was associated with landowning among people of European origins stemming from class distinctions in the old world, there was that as a factor. However, the lands also had to be profitable and that meant that a labor source was necessary. Black slaves fit the bill in terms of a labor source that was readily available. But how, in a colonial America that was already embracing a spirit of independence based on ideas about the value of the individual and the equality of man, embrace without a sense of injustice such an onerous institution as human slavery? By ascribing inferior status to blacks as a whole, the system of slavery was justified and even a slave culture and mindset developed to meet the role of the black slave as not just a social and economic inferior, but a genetic inferior. The idea that emerged was that, by virtue of their race, people of African origin were held to be inferior to persons of European origin. The cognitive dissonance that stemmed from people who embraced the ideas of freedom and equality owning other human beings was (at least on the surface) removed and slavery could be justified. Thus, through the desire for economic gain, slavery could be justified.

We see a similar pattern emergent among European during the Age of Imperialism. Extraordinary and elaborate belief systems were created to justify the essential ownership of other people’s lands and the essential enslavement—or at least the exploitation—of those people. In the British colonial experience in India and Africa, for example, Africans and Indians were considered to be “uncivilized” and “not Christian” and therefore needed the guidance and superintendent ship of European whites. Rudyard Kipling’s “The White Man’s Burden” sums up in a few short lines the idea that European colonialism was not only justified, but necessary, for the advancement of “inferior peoples”:

 “Take up the White Man’s burden—

Send forth the best ye breed

Go send your sons to exile

To serve your captives’ need

To wait in heavy harness

On fluttered folk and wild—

Your new-caught, sullen peoples,

Half devil and half child.”

–From “White Man’s Burden” by Rudyard Kipling

Here we see Kipling capture the justification of the exploitation of other people’s based on the idea that subject folk were little more than “devils” and “children” in need of a civilizing influence. And of course this influence must necessarily come from “civilized” European whites.

So, how do these historical origins explain racism today? With the end of actual slavery in the United States after the Civil War, and the end of Imperialism due to Europe’s incapacity to sustain it after two devastating world wars, we see that old patterns of behavior and belief—especially when it aggrandizes one group over another—does not die easily. In the American south immediately after the Civil War’s end, the social system adjusted to new Federal legal restraints by institutionalizing racism legally at the state level maintaining the inferior status of black Americans there through apparently legal means. Even after “Jim Crow” laws were struck down at the national level, the institutionalized need to hold black Americans down socio-economically was maintained as a holdover from pre-Civil War ideas about race. Unfortunately, many of the same attitudes were maintained all over the United States, not just in the American South.

The problems associated with racism, this onerous holdover from an archaic past, are that it hurts everyone—and still does to this day. As Professor Kenneth Clark of Howard University, social psychologist, pointed in his testimony in Briggs v. Elliott school children were psychologically damaged—made to feel inferior and as second class citizens—by the practice of segregation by race in public schools, he was asked by counsel for the plaintiffs if the practice of segregation had any negative impact on white school children. Clark said that it definitely did—that it created moral confusion: the same adults who taught them love of their fellow man and the equality of all people also taught them to segregate and discriminate. The cognitive dissonance created meant that whites, for a lifetime, had to live with a nagging feeling of revulsion not only those who were among the segregated group, but also with an irreconcilable moral dilemma deep in their collective psyche.

So, it is very possible that the economic desires of people during the colonial/imperial period of world history had saddled all of us with a specter of racism that could be eradicated if all people would simply let go of a devastating past. Unfortunately, it does not appear to be that simple. Or is it?