Race, Class and Gender in the United States is a thought-provoking book. It is too deep and is very much enlightening. The book is quite easy to read and involves several insightful essays. The author emphasizes issues of gender and class and explains how it influences power. The book is indeed a great resource for teachers and facilitators and is highly recommended for history and sociology students. The book examines the various dynamics of power on the basis of different social divisions.
One of the drawbacks of this book is that the reader needs to refer to the date of the articles to confirm whether these essays are relevant to the present world. The authors of the essays come up with various facts related to racism. They say that race is a senseless fake classification of human beings, which does not have any scientific or biological base. The concept of race was actually developed for giving power and authority to white people and to strengthen the dominance of white group over the non-white group.
Racism can be defined as a policy of ethnic segregation and discrimination. Racism is purely a socially learned practice. It has been some thing which has been followed by people and transferred to the next generations. Race is purely a political construction. Racism springs up because of pride in one’s own race (a part of heritage). We can see in history that the powerful faction has always assumed that they are superior to others in its race and culture. These ethnic groups try to put down other inferior groups in order to strengthen their own group.
This will eventually result in extreme hatred towards the other race as well as an overall sense of bigotry. Inferior group will be denied all rights and their demands and opinion is not considered at all. The strange segregation has thus undermined the unity and cooperation prevailing in the society. The authors also explain various biological and socio-cultural distinctions that people use to classify themselves and others. They sometimes consider color of the skin (lightness or darkness) as a criterion of segregation (differentiating marker).
Some times they consider various other ethnic differences and cultural variations. These biological and socio-cultural distinctions results in systemic inequalities, and stands as a hurdle to the development of the society and personal improvement of individuals, which ultimately contributes for the widening of the socio-economic gap between superior group and the inferior group. Cultivation of racism thus resulted in the suppression or dehumanization of a particular group. The authors of these essays give different cases of discriminations that exist in American society.
Institutional racism, the reluctance of white institutions to serve people of color, is very much prevalent in United States. Institutions were historically set up to serve only white communities. These institutions function on the basis of race. They operate on the policy of segregation. Institutional racism is the concept that one race is superior to other. Organizations and institutions (both government and private) do racial discrimination, marginalizing the inferior faction. Institutions exclusively for inferior race were technically illegal in America till 1863.
These institutions offer their service only for superior faction and ill-treat people of color. Institutional discrimination is found in almost all sectors in different forms. Discrimination prevails in schools, job places, government offices and in all institutions. Educational institutions give preference to superior people in the case of admissions. In certain universities and colleges in United States, ethnicity and racial status also matters for the selection of students. Applicants belonging to inferior race are given least preference in providing jobs also.
People belonging to superior race are getting high preference in all governmental and non-governmental dealings. Inferior faction will be denied justice during court matters also. Law enforcement officers would not show much interest on the complaints given by inferior race people. Individual racism, which is the policy or attitude of discrimination practiced towards an individual belonging to an inferior race or minority faction is also not uncommon in United States. These attitudes are quite unhealthy and unjust and are extremely intolerant.
Individuals are discriminated on the basis of race, ethnicity, color and various other factors and are not allowed to exercise their constitutional rights even. In societies like that which exist in certain countries like America, people are reluctant about revealing their attitudes and expressing their opinion publicly as they are afraid that their opinion may contradict the prevailing norms. Individuals of inferior race are negatively privileged and suffer distinctions and insults wherever they go.
Examples of individual racism comprise an employer not willing to hire a person of an inferior race, an institution not willing to give admission to a person who is of a weak ethnicity, a hospital unwilling to provide necessary service to an individual of lower class. In certain work places whites rule over people of color and abuse them whenever they get a chance. The book testifies that historical racism, which is the type of racism that denies the rights of a particular race which is considered inferior historically, is also practiced in United States.
Black people are considered inferior to white people. Black people’s children are not given admission in white people’s schools and are not allowed to share anything with them. Society, becoming a playground of discrimination, treats people according to the race they belong to. Blacks were not given any privilege and are not allowed to occupy significant offices. Black employees have to suffer insult and ill-treatment from their white superiors. They are denied promotion and are not given any respect. They are given tough duties and are unnecessarily fired from the service.
Researchers (at University of Chicago) found out that there is extensive discrimination in the workplace towards applicants whose names sound ‘black’. According to the authors of Race, Class and Gender in the United States, Segregation has resulted in systemic inequalities, and stands as a barrier to the development (of the whole society) and personal improvement of individuals, which has contributed for the widening of the socio-economic gap between superior group (whites) and the minorities. This is very much true in the case of African Americans also.
Segregation affects our race in several ways. Economically, poverty gets concentrated in the poor neighborhoods (where minorities reside) thereby limiting the fiscal capacity of the minority municipalities, and resulting in poor resources and infrastructures in minority neighborhoods. This has ultimately end up in low standard schools, low quality libraries, poor public spaces, and has resulted in the unavailability of essential services like fire services, law enforcement services, improved transportation options and so forth.
All this resulted into social economic as well as political segregation in our society. Authors have also look into the issue of gender in American society. Throughout the history of all the nations of the world, women have less legal and career opportunities compared to men. However, the status of women increased right from the beginning of the twentieth century. They attained the right to vote and came up in the education and career field. In the early history of United States, men virtually owned their wives and children as mere material possessions.
However, various types of racial, ethnic, class and religious discriminations that exist in United States really slowed down the progress achieved by women (Anderson, 1996). Women never became completely relieved from discrimination and still are ill treated in colleges, schools and work places. Women belonging to certain racial groups and ethnic minorities are highly disadvantaged because of this segregation in institutions. For example, certain institutions want their female staff to wear skirts.
Segregation-discouraging legislations did not help women to a good extent and women belonging to lower class and ethnicity are still under grave discrimination. Several of the legislations were found to be multifaceted and vaguely defined and women were least benefited out of it. Racial discriminations are found to be maximum to the women belonging to inferior races. Even though it is true that more and more women are occupying high paid jobs, the number of women working as managers, officials, and other high administrators are still less compared to men.
Even recent estimates reveal that women are paid less that that of men even though there came up several legislations that demanded equal wage policy. Thus women are still under the shadow of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, class and religion even though several measures have improved their previous ill privileged condition. Race, Class, and Gender in the United States is a collection of insightful and informative writings that gives an overall view of the racial tension prevailed in United States.