Social Inequality

Thanksgiving marks a time of- well- thanksgiving. We stop to reflect on the good things that have happened to us over the course of the year and thank God for the blessings and the family that surround us (then go and trample some strangers for a fifty inch TV, but I digress). At this time those who have less also come to the forefront of our consciousness. The Salvation Army bell ringers stand outside the supermarkets we frequent and we drop some spare change into their bucket to spare ourselves the guilt later on, or to get on the universe’s good side or Santa’s nice list or whatever. Rarely, I think do we stop to consider how much less those less fortunate than us really have.

The wealth/ income gap is ever widening in America with the top 5% of income earning households bringing in over 20% of total income in America and the bottom 40% of income earning households bringing in 12% of the total income in America. Income here being defined as the wages and salaries earned as measured over time, such as by hour or year (Witt 247). These numbers do not include a person’s wealth which is defined as all of a person’s material assets, including savings, land, stocks, and other types of property, minus debts at any one point in time (Witt 247).  Wealth in America is more unequally dispersed than percentage of total income. The top 5% of households own 63.5% of the nation’s wealth while the bottom 40% own -1.1% of all wealth in America. That means households in the bottom 40% of households owe more than they earn. And in 2009 14.3% of America’s population lived in poverty.

Lets take a moment to define poverty for America. According to sociologists we can define poverty in two ways, in absolutes where poverty is the minimum level of subsistence that no family should be expected to live below meaning that someone below the poverty line lacks enough resources to survive (Witt 250). People in poverty in America, although they cannot afford many of the things our society deems essential they are still better off than those in absolute poverty in poorer nations; this is relative poverty. Where does this aforementioned poverty line lie for those living in America at or below its quantified location. In 1964 a formula was created to to help fight what President Lyndon B. Johnson had deemed a War on Poverty. At the research bureau of the Social Security Administration a food economist Mollie Orshansky combined findings from a study that stated families spend about one third of their budget on food, and the cost of a minimally nutritious diet as established by the USDA to generate a poverty threshold. This threshold, or poverty line was was calculated at three times the cost of the USDA’s proposed diet. This definition or formula has come under debate since the formula is seemingly outdated as families now spend about one fourth or one fifth of their budget on food. New supplemental measures of poverty now take into account costs of shelter, utilities, work expenses, and out-of-pocket medical costs.

Many thoughts about those living in poverty are greatly flawed. Many think that those in poverty are there by means of their own doing, they refuse to work, or foolishly got themselves into a great amount of debt. Most of the time this is not the case. Many of those living in poverty are children or those who are ill or disabled and cannot work.  And many who are in poverty do not stay there for very long. “In a three year study of census data, researchers found that 28.9% of the population spent two months in poverty, and 23% were in poverty for the duration of the study” (Witt 253). Poverty can be tied to social and cultural resources as well since people in poverty lack the social connections, or culture capital to help them get good jobs.

In conclusion poverty is not always the outcome of a persons failings in society, life circumstances have a great effect on if a persons lives in poverty and for how long. And while the government has set up resources such as SNAP and Social Security to ease the burden on families living in poverty it is not only food, clothing, and shelter that these people need. They need access to networking, and educational opportunities that will help them rise out of poverty and into a standard of living.

— Danielle

Sources cited:  Witt, Jon. “Chapter 10: Social Class.” Soc 2012. S.l.: Mcgraw-Hill, 2012. Print.

Social Class

Income and wealth varies from one social class to another and you are most likely going to stay in the same economic class as when you are a growing up. I noticed this when I was very young. I happened to know a few people that were “rich” or “well off” and it seemed like their children grew up and got very good jobs and stayed in the same class as their parents. In SOC, 2012, it states that of the 36 percent of children with parents in the top wealth quintile, only 11 percent drop down into the bottom quintile. The mean income in the United States of American is just over $67,000, the median income is $49,445. Remembering that the mean is the middle of the road, from the poorest of the poor to richest of the rich, the mean income is directly in the middle. The median is all the incomes of every U.S. citizen divided by the number of people the United States. Income brackets are divided into five quintiles. In the lowest quintile the average mean household income is $11,034 per year. The second quintile’s average household mean income is $28,636, the middle quintile’s average mean income is $49,309 per year. In the fourth quintile the mean is $79,040. Now we start getting into the six digit incomes. The fourth is $169,633 and in the fifth quintile, the mean income per household is $287,686. You can plainly see the difference between the levels. In America in 2010, 15 percent of the nation’s population was living below the poverty line. Poverty involves all races, people and ages. People between the ages 18 to 65 years old make up 56.7 percent of the poor population. If you break the percentage of people living at the poverty line up by race, white people make up 42.4 percent, African Americans make up 23.1 percent, Hispanics make up 28.7 percent and Asians and pacific islanders make up 3.0 percent. Statistically, looking at the percent of people that pull themselves out of poverty and live better than their parents did, you see a very small percent of people that move up to a higher quintile. It seems that people tend to be okay with not having more then they grew up with, although it is true that others set goals and work hard to achieve more than their parents did. In some cultures it isn’t a matter of not wanting more. Some cultures look down upon those who want more. It is seen as selfish and disrespectful to outdo your ancestors. In others, the concept of working hard to move up in the world and bettering your life is respected. In general, people that want more out of life can work for it and their hard work can pay off.

— Ethan

Work Cited:  Witt, J. (2012). Ch. 10 Social Class. In SOC 2013. New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Feminism

According to Witt, feminism is the belief in social, economic, and political equality for women. In words that are more simple, feminism is the belief that women should be treated in the same ways that men are treated. Women used to be known for staying home with the children, cooking, cleaning, and pretty much taking care of everything at home, while men went out and went to work every day, making a living for his family. Now since most women decide that they want to work and help with the household income, they don’t seem to be getting paid the same as men, even if they are doing the exact same kind of work. Men will almost always be paid more than women.

As a woman going to school and working, I fully support feminism. Granted, men can be good at some things, but women can also be better at some things that men are not very good at.

Emma Watson, best known for her role in the Harry Potter series as Hermione Granger, gave a speech not too long ago about “He for She”. Even though her speech was quite lengthy, she gave some good points. I have posted the link to the video if you would like to watch it.

This is a photo of women fighting for their right for equality. Women want to be treated the same as men, we are not less than them.

— Katie

 

 

 

 

Sex and Gender

When someone says sex or gender, usually the first thing that comes to mind is “girl and boy.” Although sex and gender may sound like they are the same thing, they are actually very different. In sociology, sex is defined as the biological differences between boys and girls. Gender is defined as the social and cultural significance that we attach to the biological differences of sex. When one thinks about a male, the words that usually come up are masculine, provider, protector, and so on. When one thinks about a female, words like feminine, soft, and emotional usually come to mind. But why is this? Why do we classify different genders with different ‘labels’? The answer is simple: society.

The society we live in is almost always in control of classifying what defines males and females. Society and the people that live in it can—unwillingly—determine how a boy should behave and how a girl should behave, which begins at birth. Baby boys are usually wrapped up in blue blankets when they are born and are given dark-colored clothing to wear. Baby girls are wrapped up in pink blankets and wear light-colored clothing. This is known as gender socialization. Boys usually wear dinosaurs or trucks on their shirts, whereas girls will most likely wear butterflies and hearts. If a young boy was wearing a pink shirt, people would stop and stare at the child as if there was something wrong with him. This is because it is not normal for a boy to wear such a “girly” shirt. The parents of the boy would most likely be frowned upon as well for allowing their son to wear that shirt.

The toys we buy our children also classify them with gender. We usually buy young boys violent things—like trucks and plastic weaponry—while we buy young girls less violent things—like tea sets and dolls—because that’s the “normal” thing to do. Seeing a boy play with a Barbie is considered deviant, which means it’s not normal for that society. The same goes for girls who play with monster trucks. The normal thing to see is boys roughhousing with other boys and girls having tea parties with other girls. We never expect to see a boy in a tea party, although it does happen, but there should be nothing wrong with that. We get so caught up in what we “think” are the normal behaviors that boys and girls need to obey, we overlook a simple question: what if we’re wrong? Children should be allowed to express themselves however they want. So, if a boy wants to wear a tutu, we should let him. If a girl wants to play football, we should let her. We need to stop forcing our kids to become what we think they should be and let them be who they want to be.

Unfortunately, gender classification doesn’t stop at childhood. Teens and adults are still categorized as being either boy or girl by society. However, as people grow, they are more socially obligated to adhere to the stereotypes that society has placed on them. A boy is only classified as a “man” if he is strong, aggressive, active, and dominant. Likewise, a girl is only classified as a “woman” is she is nurturing, kind, submissive, and emotional. A man who displays any stereotype classified to women would be labeled as a “girl” or a “wussy.” A woman who displays manly aspects would be labeled as a “tomboy” or a “lesbian.” There is no escaping these stereotypes. Men must act like “men”, and women must act like “women.” If someone steps out of these boundaries, he/she will be negatively labeled for his/her deviance.

Although both genders experience stereotypes, one thing is true: gender inequality exists. It’s true that both men and women must alter their lives so that society will accept them, but it’s harder for women. Women are still treated unequally to men. Now, it’s true that women have more equality than they did decades ago, but they’re still fighting to be treated equally. One way women are still unequal to men is income. Women—to this day in the USA—only make about seventy-seven cents to a man’s dollar. This is called the gender pay gap. Woman must also face the facts that men get more opportunities in jobs and education than they do. It’s not just up to women to fight for women’s rights. Men should also reach out and try to help women become more equal. Together, they can change the world for the better.

Another aspect of our lives that classifies us as people is our sexual orientation. Although the majority of the world is known as heterosexual—liking those of the opposite—some people classify as something else. Some people classify as homosexual, which means they are attracted to the same sex. Bisexuality is another one, which means they are attracted to both sexes. There are even people who claim to be transsexual, which is when someone has the body of one sex, but they claim to have the mind and soul of the other sex. Sexual orientation has a huge impact on how others see us. Those who classify as homosexual, bisexual, transsexual, or anything else that isn’t heterosexual are usually frowned upon. This is because they aren’t considered “normal” and people believe they should be negatively sanctioned for their lifestyle choice. People should not be classified as “immoral” for being a little different from everybody else. Everyone deserves to be treated equally. Nobody should be ashamed of who they are.

Considering everything above, sex and gender plays a huge role in who we are. But why do we let our sex and gender control us? Everyone should not be afraid to be who they are. We should be able to live our lives the way we see fit without getting the “stink eye” from bystanders. We must also try to bring more equality to the world. I know that there’s been movements to try and bring equality to the world, but just because some have failed doesn’t mean that we should give up. Equality is desperately needed in this world and we have the power to bring great change.

–Aaron

The American Dream

I would say I grew up in a lower middle class household. My mother a nurse and my father a small engine mechanic. There were some birthdays and Christmases that were better than others but overall my family was pretty well off. I was not spoiled by any means but I normally got what I wanted, within reason. We lived in a four bedroom house somewhere between rural and suburban. More suburb if I had to choose one. It was home and I would not have traded it for anything else. In high school I had this dream of playing football at a private college called Albion. I visited the college and the coaches really wanted me on the team. However, financially, the money just was not there. Government financial aid did not help out enough for me to attend this college and thus my dream was shattered. I was devastated at first but soon realized it was not the end of the world. I then applied to Lansing Community College and am excelling exponentially.

Everything in our society revolves around money and what socioeconomic status you belong. Statuses can be divided into a few categories based on income. Starting from the bottom it goes like this, lower class, working lower class, lower middle class, upper middle class and upper class. This structure of socioeconomic status has been adopted by many sociologist in recent years. There are any different concepts that contribute to socioeconomic status including, race, location and family type.

Race is probably the most influential aspect of socioeconomic status. In the United States some races have huge advantages and disadvantages. My family is white, both of my parents have Dutch and Irish backgrounds. The United States is 63.2% white by population, however, only 41.5% of the poor population are white (Soc. P.255). More than half of the population in the United States is white but less than half are below the poverty line. Just being born with a white background puts me in a pretty good spot as far as socioeconomic status is concerned. So is that it, as long as you are born into a white family you will be rich? This is simply not the case, these are only averages. There are other factors that contribute, like where you live.

Location is a very interesting concept to socioeconomic status. Where you live has a direct impact on socioeconomic status. The Deep South for example is at a very high disadvantage. South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona all fall in last place with an average of 17-22.2% of the population, in those states, below the poverty line (Soc. P.255). For my family we are sitting pretty well off in this category as well. Living in the great mid-west state of Michigan we experience only 13.3-15.1% of the population below the poverty line (Soc. P.255). Much less than the southern states. What causes this? Race? Location? Family type?

Family types varies across the board, from single dad to happily married couples. The type of family has an impact on socioeconomic status. Married couples have it the best and it makes sense. Two adults, two incomes combining to make one. My family was very well off in this category. My mom makes an average of about $50,000 a year and my dad about $32,00 combining for a total of about $82,000 a year. That is a lot more money than say a single mom or single dad could. But again there are exceptions all over.

The point is there are many different aspects and concepts that make up ones socioeconomic status. They all add up to the end product which is where you stand in the greater society. My family is sitting in a fairly good place for what we need. We have food on the table every night, clothes on our backs and a roof over our heads. We have all that we could hope for. I think I got ahead of my status when looking for colleges to attend, picking a private school was not the best case scenario. As far as my football dreams go, when one door closes another shall open. I am currently an assistant coach on my hometown’s middle school football team. Teaching the game of football to younger kids is way more enjoyable than playing, in my opinion. There is a lot that money can buy but it cannot buy you everything. “Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as a driver” – Ayn Rand.

 — Dylon

 

Works cited:  Witt, Soc 3rd edition. Mcgraw Hill Education Inc. P. 236-263. New York, NY. 2014.

Homosexuality

Homosexual:  those who are attracted to members of the same sex. Homosexuality is considered a deviant act and goes against the social norms and values of our culture in the minds of heterosexuals. Sexual Orientation plays a huge part in the ways in which people judge one another based off who they are as a human. There are four different types of sexual identity:  Straight, Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian, all in which plays a part in roles we play and norms of society, relating to family, gender and marriage.

We are all obligated to pay taxes and follow the laws. But as we know, many are not living by the laws nor are we really paying taxes when we put single down on our tax return because homosexual marriage is not allowed by state law. Homosexual humans  are not given the same rights as heterosexual humans because we, as deviant people, are not granted  the same respect as those who follow the norms of the culture. However, no matter your gender, race, ethic background or sexual orientation, every U.S. citizen deserves the same opportunities as everyone one else. First we need to change the definition of what marriage stands for and end using the label of “Gay” to simply two people falling in love. Ending discrimination, homophobia, ignorance and the rejection of one’s true self.

Growing up as a homosexual has been a long, confusing road, due to the ways I grew up in the church and to the beliefs that were instilled in me. We humans are being constantly hammered with a moral code that contradicts our parents telling us to express ourselves and be who we are. I’ve known I was gay since I was in the eighth grade, however, I just came out a year ago to my family and recently to my friends and made it public on Facebook. This is one of the biggest fears that I have faced, but I finally feel free to be me and being free to be who I am and who I was created to be has been one of the greatest and sweetest joys that I’ve come to know. Living a life of secrets, lies and living in the unknown of what people may say or think about me, held me in bondage.  But now I’m finally set free! Life is too short to be something you’re not. Live life to the fullest; only you can make you happy. Fight for what you believe in, after all we do have freedom of speech.

Assimilation

An amnesiac process through which I forsake my own tradition to subscribe to another condition

 

Segregating me and my ideology although it is not just intellectual, it is the physical separation of two groups of people based on workplace, residence, and my social calendar forever imposed by the dominant group

 

Stereotype everything about me based on what you see from everything and everyone else BUT me, the individual breathing in front of you

 

Immigration was our family’s blessing but now it might as well be the curse although we have traveled far to get away from what our homeland failed to promise

 

Maybe we will never be like them; it is not as easy when you look this way

 

Intricacies that made us unique will fade away as we add color to new tapestries; ones that we did not sew though our blood will trickle in ruby splashes on the silk

 

Last week they spit in my face instead of at the spackled concrete of blackened gum and cigarette butts because the language was not there

 

American is what I want to sound like

 

Tolerance will simply not be enough because you need acceptance; acceptance of who I am, where I came from, what I speak, how I think, and how I feel.

 

In dreams I am another star in your constellation, we are needed to compose an astrological shape; a mythology that coexists fingertip to fingertip, heart to heart, synapse to synapse with beautiful embellishments

 

Oh how I seek the vision in the sandman’s hymns of sapphire tears nourishing gardens, ruby floods settling into scars, emerald waltzes dancing in time

 

Never forgetting to lend a thought that we all came from somewhere and that somewhere must never be severed

— Alek

Racial Profiling

I was enjoying time with my friends playing video games. Before I knew it, hours had passed by. The only reason I noticed how long I had been playing was because the phone rang and it was my mom. “Michael, where is the Hummer” asked my mom. “Parked outside my friend’s house,” I responded. “No it isn’t. It has been towed!” Apparently, while I was visiting my friend, who lived in a predominantly white neighborhood, a neighbor didn’t recognize who I was and called the police to complain about an unknown black guy who had parked his vehicle outside her home. Based upon that complaint, the police towed my mother’s legally parked car. Besides this particular incidence, I’ve been pulled over multiple times for no reason and my car has been searched for drugs without any record of any police report to support that I was ever pulled over. I have also been stopped and patted down while walking down the street to the corner store down from my house. For those that do not look like me, a young black man, it may be hard to believe that racial profiling occurs but because of what I have experienced at such a young age, I know that it does occur and it occurs more often than people think. One police officer even had the nerve to tell me, “I’ve seen you drive a Cutlass, a Camaro, a Hummer and now a Corvette, so I felt the need to pull you over.” There have been so many recent examples of needless deaths of young black men due to over excessive force of police officers and there is reason for concern.

Racial profiling is defined as the pattern of categorizing people and predicting behavior such as the probability of engaging in illegal activity based upon race or ethnicity. The American Civil Liberties Union’s website stated that racial profiling occurs every day, in cities and towns across the country and results in humiliating interrogations, searches and even police brutality leading to death.

Trayvon Martin in Florida and Michael Brown in Missouri are recent examples of controversy where some form of racial profiling may have been used to track or approach the now deceased. As a young black man, I am concerned that shooting to kill may be the first thought process instead of considering other alternatives. There are multiple videos on the internet that support police officers or those acting in the name of the law who have abused their authority. I am not saying that all police officers are bad or that all young black men are innocent but stealing should not equate to death and other forms of restraint such as tear gas, or wounding to prevent mobility could be used instead of blatantly killing.

My uncle was driving in Parma, MI and was pulled over by a state trooper because there was a domestic fight between a black man and white woman. The black guy left the house (by foot) running south. My uncle was driving in a car on the north side of Parma near the highway. So….why was he pulled over? The judge could not justify the state trooper’s reasoning either, which is why my uncle won a case of discrimination against the state trooper.

The problems we have when racial profiling occurs are that innocent individuals are labeled and targeted. Racial profiling isn’t constitutional or fair. No one should be pointed out of a group because of their skin tone or cultural background. Everyone should have a fair and equal opportunity to live from day to day without fear of being arrested, beat to death or killed because a cop “thought” he or she was suspicious.

The solution to ending racial profiling should start with the law leading by example and not being the primary individuals who are racial profiling. The individuals who uphold the law shouldn’t be the ones who are put above the principles of the law either. Every individual should be held accountable for their actions, no matter their position in society or what occupation they hold. Anytime something suspect occurs, authority should investigate and execute through a fair trial.

How would you feel if you were in the store with the intent to find an item that you needed and the store owner or worker was suspiciously watching your every move or attempted to secretly follow you as you made your way through the store?   Would you feel like you needed to support their business by spending your hard earned money there? Personally, I would leave the store and not patronize the store anymore. I would likely share my unpleasant experience with others as well. The same should occur with situations of racial profiling. People need to speak out and band together to hold these authority figures accountable for illegally labeling young black men or anyone for that matter. People must continue to demand that anytime this happens something be done and ultimately, even if man fails to bring resolution, justice will prevail in God’s eyes.

Below are several links to videos that identify evidence of racial profiling and police

brutality:

Racial profiling experiment

Shopping while black in Alabama

Racial profiling of black driver

Police officer beat wheelchair bound person

Cop tells driver, “you’re black.”

How did you feel as you watched the videos? Do you believe that the police were in the wrong? Do you think that the “victim” could have handled the situation better and/or prevent what happened to them?

Below is a link to a video that expresses how fed up with the injustice of racial profiling and police brutality people are. The lyrics are a little pungent but it thoroughly outlines the frustration of how mothers, fathers, siblings, family and friends feel when they lose loved ones needlessly.  

Criminals with permission song/video

I don’t necessarily agree with everything (meaning all of the lyrics and/or use of profanity) in this song but I can feel the pain and I am truly concerned with the overall situation in the world today with racial profiling and police brutality. There is a trend especially with young black men being treated unfairly and killed without rationale.

In summary, racial profiling is real. It occurs every day and sometimes leads to police brutality. Parents of color have to make their children aware of this day-to-day situation to protect them from becoming victims. I have experienced racial profiling and I know many others who have as well. The examples of videos illustrate racial profiling as well as police brutality. I encourage all to continue to be aware and to speak up to promote that those who abuse power be punished for their actions.

— Michael

Cultural Capital

According to sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, cultural capital is our tastes, knowledge, attitudes, language, and ways of thinking that we exchange in interaction with others. We adapt to our certain cultural capital when we become a part of certain social classes and cultural groups. Almost everything that a person does is because of their cultural capital. What we wear, how we talk, where we live, what grocery stores we shop at, what we consider to be entertainment, are all a part of our cultural capital.

This concept of cultural capital relates heavily to our social classes. People of the upper class have different lifestyles and tastes than people of working or lower class. For example, people of the upper class are more likely to consider the opera or “black-tie parties” as entertainment than people of the working or lower class, who may enjoy NASCAR on television. Another example of this takes place in high schools. In high schools all over the United States, there are different social classes within each of them. For some schools, most of the students belong to the same social class, usually when the school is private or in a well-off area. But in most schools there is a little bit of everything. When there are different social classes in one school, there will be groups, or “cliques” that stick together because they share the same cultural capital. There may be a group of students that all hang out together because they live in the nice part of town, shop at expensive places and have nice cars. At the same time, there will be groups of students that hang out together because they all live in the poor area of town, they get their clothes from the same stores like Good Will, and don’t have cars but ride the bus together. People tend to associate and stick together with people in their social class because they share the same cultural capital and it makes it easier for them to interact sharing the same interests and hobbies.

Often times when dealing with cultural capital, stereotypes are involved. Stereotypes are unreliable generalizations about all members of a group that do not recognize individual differences within that group. It is very common for people to stereotype social classes other than their own. For example, people of the upper class often stereotype the lower class as being lazy, talking with uneducated slang, and being obese. Stereotypes cause problems between social classes and forces a bigger gap between them with negative thoughts on each other. People of certain social classes sometimes don’t do things only because they don’t want to be judged by their peers as someone of another social class. An example would be if someone of the upper class wanted to partake in an activity called “mudding” (people drive their trucks through the mud and get stuck) but didn’t because they would be judged as someone from the lower class by their friends and feel this would be negative due to stereotypes. This is the problem that comes along with cultural capital.

There are also some problems with cultural capital when social mobility occurs. Social mobility is when someone moves from one social class to another. The problem with this is that when someone joins a new social class, the cultural capital that they had with their old class now changes and they adopt new cultural capital. If someone originally from the working class gradually becomes a part of the upper class, they no longer have the lifestyle they once had. Often times, people struggle with the new change because they feel they don’t belong or are not accepted by the people in their new social class. For example, in the movie “People Like Us,” there was a woman who felt uncomfortable going to the upper class social gatherings because she was new to that lifestyle and wasn’t used to the etiquette rules and things like that. Although the people around her in the video seemed to be accepting of her, often times that is not the case. Also when social mobility occurs, the people who are a part of the social class that the person left behind often times feel betrayed because they “forget where they came from”. The person making the change feels unaccepted in either social class.

— Mackenzie

Witt, Jon. Soc 2014. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2014. Print.