Research Paper: Book Analysis of Honky by Dalton Conley

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¶ … Honky" by Dalton Conley

Race and Downward Mobility in Honky by Dalton Conley

Sociological history stems from two realities that inevitably influence the individual: his personal history and his social environment. Indeed, the past and the present combine to create the unique individual -- one part created by personal history, and another part developed by the social environment (primarily, the individuals and groups comprising the society the individual lives with). History and sociology combine to help a person make sense of his self, of what he was and has become through the years.

This is the reality that author and sociologist Dalton Conley discussed in his book, Honky. His book documents not only his personal history, but he also puts this personal history in the context of sociology. In Honky, he talks about his gradual 'awakening' to the realities that marginalized groups in the society, like the African-Americans, experienced before the rise of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. As a white American who grew up in a dominantly African-American community, Conley experienced what it was like to live as the 'minority' of his community, a reversal of role where the white American becomes marginalized, and African-Americans the dominant group in the society.

This reversal of roles between white and black Americans in Conley's community and personal history illustrates the Sociological phenomenon called downward mobility. Downward mobility occurs when there is "a movement to a lower position in the stratification hierarchy" (Renzetti & Curran, 2000:209). The author's history manifests this phenomenon, as his family appeared as 'deviants' who chose to live 'below' the hierarchy than what was expected of them as a white American family. The discussion that follows delves into the phenomenon of downward mobility as it relates to Conley and his family's experiences in the Projects at New York. This paper posits that Conley, in his discussion of downward mobility, implied that this phenomenon is but a description of the social inequality and prejudice held against the marginalized African-Americans, as American society moved towards the period of eventual rise of the civil rights movement.

This thesis stems from a general observation of American social dynamics during the 1960s, wherein

Racial and ethnic minorities...have historically experienced obstacles to upward vertical mobility. Although civil rights legislation dating from the 1960s resulted in some improvement, the threat of downward mobility is still much greater for racial and ethnic minorities than for White Americans (ibid, 210).

From this passage, it becomes apparent that a dominant theme and issue in Honky, particularly its third chapter, aptly entitled, "Downward mobility," was the racial inequality between white and black Americans. In Conley's history, the status quo was that African-Americans were the minority and belonged to the lower class of the American class hierarchy. White Americans, meanwhile, were the majority group, and dominated the middle to upper classes in the society. This was, at least, the status quo in the society that existed outside of the Projects, where the author lived and spent his childhood and growing up years. In Conley's community, the status quo was poverty and inequality, where minority groups composed of African-Americans and Latin Americans carried on with their life without including white Americans as significant and integral part of their lives (Conley:2000:8).

Downward mobility in the world of Conley meant moving from being middle to lower class, living in poverty as the… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Research Paper:

APA Format

Book Analysis of Honky by Dalton Conley.  (2008, November 23).  Retrieved July 22, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Book Analysis of Honky by Dalton Conley."  23 November 2008.  Web.  22 July 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Book Analysis of Honky by Dalton Conley."  November 23, 2008.  Accessed July 22, 2019.