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Race Stratification in USA

Scholars have not yet come to a consensus as to the concept of stratification because it can be interpreted from various perspectives and has many manifestations. In the most general sense, this notion can be defined as a hierarchical division of the society according to certain criteria, which can divide the community into several layers or strata for example lower, middle, and upper classes. However, this can word can be also understood as any division of the society, not necessarily hierarchical (Rosenblum, Karen, 14).

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The question arises what are these markers or distinguishing features. There are two criteria: material, and non-material. Regarding material character tics, it is necessary to speak first about the level of prosperity or annual income. On its basis, society is subdivided into classes (or strata). Non-material characteristics usually include the level of education, position, status, and so forth.

Nevertheless, there are some markers, which are not supposed to affect a person’s status, at least in theory. Unfortunately, very often they become crucial ones. As a rule, sociologists emphasize race and gender. The main reason for it is that they are the most obvious characteristics, though not the most important ones. People always view with apprehension anything that is in any way different from them therefore they tend to segregate themselves from it, and social stratification is one of the ways to do it (Bergel, 66). This is the main reason why different ethnic groups in our country still cannot live in harmony. The measure, taken by the government will never be sufficient unless a considerable shift in public opinion is made.

The United States of America has always been notorious for the racial problem, which is very difficult to eradicate. In my opinion, stratification according to race still exists in our country; however, it has undergone certain changes over the last thirty years. It is quite possible to say that it disguised itself very skillfully, and at first glance, it may seem that it virtually disappeared but what we observe now is just another stage of its development. Probably, it would be better for me to trace the genesis of this process.

For instance, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, racial or ethnic belonging was closely associated with social status, namely, the level of education, social position, and level of prosperity. The situation, which has recently emerged can be mostly characterized by the phobias that US citizens still experience especially concerning race.

Naturally, one cannot say that racism in its traditional meaning still exists; however, its remnants are still very tangible. The government attempts to make it less visible, but it seems to me that racial question still manifests itself. The main problem is that people usually perceive the racial difference as a dividing factor, and not as a unifying one. Probably, they forget that at its core the United States is based on diversity, cultural, religious, and racial. This diversity is the cornerstone of our country.

It is worth mentioning that stratification, based on gender or race practically borders on discrimination; within this context, these notions become virtually interchangeable, though there may exist some slight difference. For example, discrimination implies prejudice against a certain group of people. In the overwhelming majority of cases, such prejudice results in the belief that race or gender characteristics can be viewed as a privilege or give an advantage over other people, but is a very common misconception, though it is very typical for us.

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Another form of such stratification (or division) according to race or ethnicity is that people focus on this characteristic trait (the color of skin), and overlook other qualities of a person, for example, the level of education, intelligence, industry, and many other features that are much more important than physical characteristics.

As far as I am concerned, I would like to speak about stratification based on race. My mother is of Spanish origin, a Puerto Rican to be more exact, while my father is an African-American. I grew up in a white community, and I was usually viewed as African-American. For me, it is very difficult to define my cultural identity, because different cultures are closely intertwined in me, they form a very complex entity. As regards racial identity, I am firmly convinced that there is no need for a person to define oneself from this perspective, because the color of skin does not shape a persons character, nor it influences his or her outlook or behavior.

The main problem is that people tend to focus on some distinguishing feature (gender, race, religious belief, etc), and overlook personal qualities. I cannot say that I was discriminated in any way against others students in school, though it now seems to me that people should not have attached primary importance to my nationality. They are often inclined to ask me about my nationality, and to some extent, it makes me feel alienated from them. In addition to that, I often want to ask them why it is so important for them. I believe that this is also a form of stratification or even discrimination to be more exact.

As I have already mentioned I grew up in a white community, and I went to school for the first time, it was very difficult for me to get used to being the only African-American in the classroom, just because other students used to look at me as if I was different from them. At present, I can understand, because such a form of behavior is well-known childish curiosity. Nonetheless, I can hardly explain the behavior of some teachers, who always paid special attention to my persona.

School administration attempted to make all necessary precautions against racial discrimination in school, every behavior or remark that appeared to be offensive, was prohibited. Every violation of the rules, which was aimed against African-Americans, was punished, even if the student who did it, did not offend me. Now, it occurs to me that teachers did not have to focus attention on this issue. Unintentionally, they made other white students believe that African-Americans were different from them.

In this respect, I would like to discuss stratification according to race can be observed in terms of educational prospects, offered to various ethnic groups, especially schools in inner-cities, which are poorly financed. Fortunately, it did not tell on me in any way possible, but once I was very stunned when I visited one of such schools.

Another racial stratification that I would like to discuss is the so-called “hate crimes”. Luckily, they never directly affected me as a person but the approach, taken by the American government does not appeal to me. I believe that any crime is hateful at its core, and it does not matter against whom it is committed. By adopting hate-crime laws, the government of the United States can only divide the country into two parts, the White and Black Americas, which can eventually lead only to a disaster.

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I would also like to discuss the so-called cultural diversity programs. In theory, steps, taken by several companies, aimed at supporting diversity and inclusion in the workplace are very beneficial for African-American or Hispanic communities; however, how this policy is implemented leaves much to be desired. First, I do not like the formulation that such companies use, for example, they say “groups that are historically underrepresented or discriminated”. To a certain degree, such language makes a person feel handicapped.

I am an avid supporter of such a political system as a meritocracy, which means that every person must be awarded according to his or her abilities and talents however now the government attempt to award only those who are “historically underrepresented ” at the expense of other people. Such policy can only stir up the enmity between racial groups.

In conclusion, I would like to say that stratification according to race is still present in the United States. The main problem is that measures are taken by the government to separate ethnic communities but do not unite them.

Bibliography

Bernard Barber. Social Stratification: A Comparative Analysis of Structure and Process. Harcourt, Brace, 1957.

Egon Ernest. Social Stratification. McGraw-Hill, 1962.

Rosenblum, Karen E. & Toni-Michelle C. Travis. The Meaning of Difference: American Construction of Race, Sex and Gender, Social Class, and Sexual Orientation. 5th edition. New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2008.

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