Essay: Sociology Introducing Alexa Madison

Pages: 9 (2576 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Race  ·  Buy This Paper

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[. . .] As Anderson (1994) points out, "Of all the problems besetting the poor inner-city black community, none is more pressing than that of interpersonal violence and aggression," (1). Ethics "on the street" are difficult to navigate, as issues like respect rise to the surface among a community that has been systematically subjugated and oppressed. When African-Americans continue to experience obstacles to achieving success within the structures of the dominant culture, efforts are met with frustration that too often finds its venting domestically. Domestic or spousal abuse is not the only ways that women find themselves doubly subject to persecution in the society. African-American women experience discrimination in their own community because of their gender.

Rather than bonding together, women would occasionally stab each other in the back as her best friend in school did. Once she found out that Alexa liked a boy, the friend asked him out on a date. That was the last time Alexa spoke to the friend. The animosity and competitiveness that exist between women is reminiscent of the same sociological phenomena that tear apart African-American communities when males compete for power and territory. Black-on-black violence such as that depicted in Crips and Bloods: Made in America might not seem to have much in common with the back stabbing of female friends, but in fact there are important sociological connections. In both cases, an underprivileged member of society misappropriates anger that should be directed at the oppressor and instead turns it inward on potential friends. The result of misplaced anger is a perpetuation of the status quo, including both white dominance and patriarchy.

Alexa exhibits a strong sense of self and is an empowered person, indicated by her referring to desire to be a "parent," and not a "mom." Furthermore, her willingness to distinguish parenting from the marriage relationship can be viewed as a core feminist strength, even as it represents a struggle for financial freedom as a single mother. Her strength derives from her ability to make her own choices, rather than defer to a man. An analysis of Alexa's situation is fruitful for understanding opportunities for female empowerment within the black community.

When she graduated high school, Alexa went on to study for a career as a medical assistant. She worked for several years in the field of industrial medicine before realizing that her race and gender would impede her ability to receive respect and recognition. As Epstein (2007) points out, gender divisions are "the most basic social divide," leading to irrational stratifications in society (p. 1-2). Understanding the processes by which gender divisions happen, and the consequences of such divisions, is critical to understanding related disharmonies in the community.

Issues Related to Class

Alexa is an African-American woman who is has become increasingly aware of the ways institutionalized racism impedes upward social mobility. Thus, it is virtually impossible to discuss race and class as separate issues. Lareau (2002) discusses the ways white privilege is passed on to each successive generation, enabling even poor whites to have an easier time obtaining social status and recognition. Childrearing practices evolve differently among black and white families in America, so that successive generations retain the social class status of their parents. White parents are able to pass on specific social skills sets -- collectively known as cultural capital -- to their children. African-American parents pass on social skills sets that are useful within the black community but are not recognized as legitimate by whites.

Social class has less to do with income, and more to do with the relative position of a community in the society. It's not about money, but about status and prestige. When African-Americans do earn incomes on par with their white counterparts, they might still experience systematic discrimination. Interactions with law enforcement are often the front lines of prejudice and discrimination in America. As Anderson states, "The code of the streets is actually a cultural adaptation to a profound lack of faith in the police and the judicial system," (p. 1). The low social status of the African-American community has created the need for illegitimate social constructs like gangs. The film Crips and Bloods: Made in America discusses the issue of gangs as a response to oppression.

In Alexa's case, she sought alternative means of community solidarity in church. Church became a place of solace and a means by which to belong to a sustainable and nurturing community. Rather than turn to gangs for a new "family," Alexa turns to her congregation. Churches offer the African-American community stable and nurturing environments in which to foster self-empowerment. Faith has a personal dimension, and a collective one as well. Through church, African-Americans like Alexa find solidarity and trust. There is no need to compete, as there would be with other subcultures like gangs. There is also no need to compete, as there would be in the dominant culture, against persons with white privilege.

Conclusions and Implications

Issues of race, gender, social class, and power converge in Alexa's story. Alexa has achieved upward social mobility without sacrificing her identity or her community. She has endured overt and covert forms of discrimination, related to institutionalized racism. At several of the jobs she has held, Alexa noticed that she was overburdened but underpaid; offered greater responsibility without greater respect or recognition. As both African-American and female, Alexa experiences multiple forms of subjugation and discrimination in her daily life. She has witnessed the ways domestic violence has hampered women's personal and collective health in the community.

Overcoming discrimination is an ongoing struggle for all women, and especially women of color. Individuals like Alexa can and will continue to overcome discrimination, but collectively the African-American community struggles to find ways of overcoming institutionalized racism. Alexa's story shows that it is important to use the sociological imagination to recognize the ways that race, class, gender, and power interact in personal and collective experiences.

References

Anderson, E. (1994). The code of the streets. The Atlantic. May 1994. Retrieved online: http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1994/05/the-code-of-the-streets/306601/

Crips & Bloods: Made in America (2008) (excerpt, 41 min.)

Epstein, C.F. (2007). "The Global Subordination of Women." Pp. 283-302 in The Spirit of Sociology: A Reader, 3rd ed., edited by Ron Matson. Boston: Pearson.

Lareau, A. 2010 [2002]. "Invisible Inequality: Social Class and Childrearing in Black Families and White Families." Pp. 611-626 in Mapping the Social Landscape: Readings in Sociology, 6th ed., edited by Susan J. Ferguson. New York: McGraw Hill.

Massey, D.S.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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