Shar-Lyn Tay SSS 100 Professor Julien

Shar-Lyn Tay
SSS 100
Professor Julien
Research Paper
African-Americans have always been occupied in low-status jobs. Among the
low-status jobs they hold in the United States are private household workers, cleaning
and building service workers, health service assistants, aides, nurses, attendants,
operators, fabricators, and laborers (US Census Bureau, 2003) (Kendall, p. 332, 5th ed).
African-Americans have received less education than Euro-Americans. AfricanAmericans have a high dropout rate of 13.7% (Kendall, p. 390, 5th ed). As compared with
Euro-Americans, who have Bachelor’s Degree graduates of 18.6%, African-Americans
only have 11.5%. 9.5% of Euro-Americans have an advanced degree whereas only 5.1%
of African-Americans have one (US Census Bureau, 2003) (Kendall, p. 392, 5th ed).
Crime-infested ghettos have been the residence for many African-Americans. A
large number of African-Americans live in the central cities, mostly the ghettos, which
have a far higher crime rate comparatively (Robertson, 1989, p. 365). Around half the
population of African-Americans live in urban ghettos, where crime and drug abuse are
rampant (Robertson, 1989, p. 207).
African-Americans are more subjected to police brutality. They are treated more
harshly by the police compared to the treatment of white individuals (Kendall, p. 201, 5th
African-Americans form a large percentage of the prison population. In 1996,
African-American men had an incarceration rate of 3,096 per 100,000, 8 times the rate of
Euro-Americans, which is 370 per 100,000 (Butterfield, 1999) (Kendall, p.201, 4th ed).
African-Americans are subject to receiving less medical care. People who are
below the poverty level face difficulties in obtaining medical care (Kendall, p. 467, 5th
ed). Around 24% of African-Americans were classified as officially poor in 2002, as
opposed to 8% of non-Latinos/whites (Kendall, p. 269, 5th ed).
Hispanic-Americans have also been occupied in low-status jobs. They usually
work as private household workers, cleaning and building service workers, health service
assistants, aides, nurses, attendants, operators, fabricators, and laborers (US Census
Bureau, 2003) (Kendall, p. 332, 5th ed).
Hispanic-Americans are the recipients of less education than Euro-Americans.
They hold the highest dropout rate in the country – 21.8% (Kendall, p. 390, 5th ed). They
also rank less than Euro-Americans in every aspect of education. For example, only 7.3%
of Hispanic-Americans receive their Bachelor’s Degree, compared with 18.6% of EuroAmericans who do. At an advanced degree level, only 3.3% of Hispanic-Americans
graduate, whereas Euro-Americans have a percentage of 9.5% (US Census Bureau, 2003)
(Kendall, p. 392, 5th ed).
Hispanic-Americans tend to live in crime-infested ghettos. Over 80% live in the
ghettos (Robertson, 1989, p. 209), which usually has a far higher crime rate (Robertson,
1989, p.365).
Police brutality is more rampant among Hispanic-Americans. HispanicAmericans are treated more harshly by the police compared to the treatment of white
individuals (Kendall, p. 201, 5th ed).
Hispanic-Americans make up a big percentage of the prison population. The
incarceration rate for Hispanic-Americans were 1,276 per 100,000 whereas the ratio for
Euro-Americans was 370 per 100,000 (Butterfield, 1999) (Kendall, p. 201, 4th ed).
Hispanic-Americans receive less medical care. People who are below the poverty
level face difficulties in obtaining medical care (Kendall, p. 467, 5th ed). Around 22% of
Hispanic-Americans were classified as officially poor in 2002, as opposed to 8% of nonLatinos/whites (Kendall, p. 269, 5th ed).
Native-Americans are subject to high unemployment rates. Generally, the rate of
unemployment is 50%, but can have an average of 80% depending on the area and season
(Robertson, 1989, p. 211).
Native-Americans have high suicide rates. 21.4 of Native-Americans for every
100,000 people committed suicide in 2001 (National Center for Health Statistics, 2003)
(Kendall, p.19, 5th ed).
Native-Americans also tend to receive less education. They are still far below the
average levels of educational achievement in the United States (Kendall, p. 392, 5th ed).
As for dropout rates, the rate is nearly 60% before children even reach the eighth grade
(Robertson, 1989, p. 211).
Native-Americans are prone to high disease rates. They have the high percentages
of tuberculosis and alcoholism. Therefore, their life expectancy is very low; an average of
forty-five years for men, and forty-eight years for women (Kendall, p. 293, 5th ed).
High poverty rates are usually associated with Native-Americans. About one-third
live below the poverty line, and a study found that 70% of Navajo households lived
without running water, sewer facilities, or electricity (Benokraitis, 1999) (Kendall, p.
269, 5th ed).
Women are another group of people who hold low-status jobs. 96.2% of private
household workers are represented by women, while 89.2% of health service assistants,
aides, nurses, and attendants are also represented by women. Other low-status jobs that
women hold are cleaning and building service workers, operators, fabricators, and
laborers (US Census Bureau, 2003) (Kendall, p. 332, 5th ed).
Women have been holding the same jobs as men and performing equal work, yet
they receive unequal pay. For example, for every dollar a man makes in the same
profession, women make less. Women only receive 96 cents as secretaries, stenographers
and typists, 80 cents as restaurant servers, 75 cents as lawyers, and 67 cents as financial
managers (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2002) (Kendall, p. 335, 5th ed).
Women are often subjected to excessive physical abuse. Men are rarely the
victim, and it is stated that women are five times more exposed to violence than men
(Kendall, p. 367, 5th ed). Also, only half of the cases where women are abused are
reported to the police (US Department of Justice, 2000) (Kendall, p. 367, 5th ed).
Women are severely underrepresented in formal political positions. Less than
25% of the top positions in the federal government are held by women (US Office of
Personnel Management, 2001, 2003) (Kendall, p. 424, 5th ed). Of the 50 state governors,
only 18% are women; 14% of seats in the House of Representatives are held by women.
Women also hold 14% of the Senate’s 100 seats (Macionis, 2006, p. 264).
Women usually receive less education. In higher-level science and computer
sciences courses, boys outnumber girls. There are more male students enrolled in
computer-related programs while more females are enrolled in clerical and data-entry
classes (AAUW, 1998) (Kendall, p. 386, 5th ed).
Scientific Explanations
Sociologists have come up with a functionalist perspective as to why society is
unequal. Societies in general are made up of different roles, played by different members
of society in order for a society to run smoothly. Each position differs from each other, as
some are more important than others. The more important roles usually require more skill
and training. As people have to work harder in order to secure more important roles in
society, they are awarded much more than those with less important roles. Different
rewards lead to inequality in society. Unequal groups in turn lead to unequal statuses.
Functionalist sociologists also offer the explanation of meritocracy, which means that
every position is rewarded based on one’s ability and skills.
The conflict view of social inequality is that it occurs when there is a struggle
among groups for the same resources. The competition will lead to conflict. The group
that consists of people with economic and political power will end up as the winners and
gain control of most of the resources. In order for the losers to survive, they have to come
to an agreement with the winners. The agreement usually includes agreeing to serve the
winners in exchange for some resources. Since the losing group consists of weaker
people, they are forced to compromise. As a result of having winners and losers as an
outcome, unequal classes will exist.
African-American Inequality – Functionalist Perspective
Functionalists believe that African-Americans were unable to assimilate into
European-American culture. Assimilation is the process where a minority racial or ethnic
group adapts the dominant culture. As they were unable to adopt European-American
culture, they became segregated, which is the opposite of assimilation. The segregation of
races meant that African-Americans maintained their own culture and traditions. Doing
so kept them in the minority, and therefore not fit to secure important jobs.
African-American Inequality – Conflict Perspective
African-Americans were an unequal class because they lost the competition of
slavery with European-Americans. When the European-Americans won the fight,
African-Americans were enslaved and forced to labor for them for no wages. The
European-Americans sold cotton for a profit, but never shared any of the profits,
products, or wages with the African-Americans. After slavery ended, prejudice against
African-Americans continued in the form of racial discrimination. They were denied
access to a good education, jobs, and housing, and many were thrown in prison. This
denial of access to resources by the European-Americans eventually led to segregation.
Hispanic-American Inequality – Functionalist Perspective
The reason why Hispanic–Americans were unable to achieve the same status as
European-Americans was because of their different cultures and inability or
unwillingness to assimilate. When they kept their unique cultures and refused to conform
to Anglo-Saxon culture, it caused segregation. Therefore, being in the minority,
Hispanic-Americans were unable to play the more important roles in society.
Hispanic-American Inequality – Conflict Perspective
Hispanic-Americans became unequal as a result of the Mexican-American War,
which lasted from 1846 – 1848. This conflict between the two parties led to a huge loss
of land and the right to vote for the Latinos. This caused internal colonialism to occur.
Another explanation is that Hispanic-Americans are unable to converse in English, thus
differentiating them from European-Americans. Therefore they are unable to get good
jobs and are paid low wages.
Native-American Inequality – Functionalist Perspective
Native-Americans also faced problems with assimilating into European-American
culture. Their fight to keep their ethnicity resulted in cultural assimilation. Being unable
to assimilate caused Native-Americans, who were mostly still living on government
reservations, to be segregated. This situation prevented them from finding good jobs and
climbing the social ladder, which eventually leads to social inequality.
Native-American Inequality – Conflict Perspective
Native-Americans came over to the United States from Asia and settled on US
soil before anyone else did. The Europeans later came and fought the Native-Americans
for their land and won. The land that the Native-Americans owned now belonged to the
European-Americans. The Europeans tried to keep the peace by giving them a little
money for food and clothes. However, every treaty made with the Natives was broken
and the only promise fulfilled was the promise to take their land. Many years later,
Native-Americans are still living in poverty on government reservations due to a conflict
that happened in the distant past.
Women Inequality – Functionalist Perspective
Men and women have traditional gender roles, where the man is usually the
breadwinner of the family while the woman stays at home and nurtures the children. As
men and women have different roles, they are rewarded differently. Different rewards
lead to gender inequality. Gender segregation also occurs in the workplace. This
functionalist explanation, called the Human Capital Model, states that women receive
lower wages because of their responsibilities as a mother. When women go on maternity
leave and are out of the workforce, their human capital decreases, giving men an
advantage. Men get to improve their skills while the women are away. As a result, gender
inequality arises due to a woman’s childbearing responsibilities.
Women Inequality – Conflict Perspective
The conflict perspective for gender inequality states that men have more control
in the workplace than women. Men will then try to maintain their upper-echelon position
by denying women access to higher education, as educated women are more likely to
secure high-status jobs. Men also deal with women entering the workforce by means of
sexual harassment and physical sexual abuse.
African-American - False Folk Explanations
The explanation that regular folk have used to explain racial inequality is racism.
Racism is defined as the differential treatment of one racial or ethnic group based on a set
of attitudes, beliefs and practices. Some groups are treated superiorly, while other groups
are treated inferiorly (Kendall, p. 283, 5th ed).
People have been stereotyping African-Americans for a long time. According to
some people, African-Americans are lazy, violent, and often commit crimes; hence them
occupying a large number of inner-city schools and prison. These are informal false folk
explanations about why African-Americans are treated differently.
These unfair explanations are still being used today and passed down from
generation to generation. This ideology was used as a false folk explanation by the upper
class in order to keep the lower class folks at the bottom of the social structure. They do
not want the lower class to get wise about their situation and start improving their
Even in modern times, these false folk explanations are still believed by many, as
can be seen by the various acts of racism occurring today. They are still believed because
of a theory sociologists put forward called the self-fulfilling prophecy. An example of a
self-fulfilling prophecy is when an African-American person looks at himself and decides
that if society has made a prediction for how he must lead his life, then that is what he
should do. Years later, after he has done everything society has predicted for him, he will
see that the prophecy indeed has been fulfilled (Kendall, p. 127, 5th ed).
Hispanic-American - False Folk Explanations
Hispanic-Americans have also faced false folk explanations for decades. Like
African-Americans, racism is the reason to blame. Racism is a set of attitudes, beliefs,
and practices that is used to justify the superior treatment of one racial or ethnic group
and the inferior treatment of another racial or ethnic group (Kendall, p. 283, 5th ed).
Informal explanations for inequality among Hispanic-Americans include laziness
and excessive drug use. Hispanic-American families are also known for having many
children and having a weak grasp of the English language, thus limiting them from
finding good jobs, and being a candidate for cheap labor.
These false folk explanations for Hispanic-Americans are created mostly by the
upper class people in order to influence Hispanic-Americans into thinking that their place
in society is at the bottom. This ideology is crucial if the upper class do not want to be
overpowered and outnumbered.
False folk explanations such as these are still widely believed because of the selffulfilling prophecy. Hispanic-Americans have been told these lies numerous times until
they have come to believe it. When they believe the lies, they start acting upon it, thus
fulfilling the prophecy that has been made about them (Kendall, p. 127, 5th ed).
Native-American - False Folk Explanations
For years, Native-Americans have been faced with inequality in society. When
one racial or ethnic group treats another racial or ethnic group unfairly due to a set of
attitudes, beliefs and practices, it is known as racism. Racism is the root of most problems
Native-Americans have been facing in society (Kendall, p. 283, 5th ed).
Some falsehoods involving Native-Americans include them being savage people
and being unwilling to assimilate with society. Another popular explanation is Manifest
Destiny. It is the belief that it is God’s intentions for European-Americans to conquer
North America. Therefore, the Native-Americans had no right being there according to
this destiny.
Unfortunately, Native-Americans are still being discriminated in this day and age.
Upper class folks continue putting forward these false folk explanations because they
want to maintain their status in society. That is why such false explanations continue to
be proposed today.
Native-Americans are also afflicted with the self-fulfilling prophecy. When they
were told these lies about their heritage, they start to believe them and act upon them,
hence making the lies true. The prophecy has fulfilled itself due to their own actions
(Kendall, p. 127, 5th ed).
Women - False Folk Explanations
Women have always been regarded as the weaker sex. The reason why this is so
widely believed is due to sexism. Sexism is when the subordination of one sex based on
the assumed superiority of the other sex occurs. In this case, the superior sex is male
(Kendall, p. 318, 5th ed).
Stereotypes surrounding women usually include how women are unable to control
their emotions. Some people say that women are too weak and dumb compared to men.
These same people also say that woman are born to play the role of a mother, and nothing
further than that. These negative connotations have long been associated with women,
causing them to be treated inferiorly compared to men.
These false folk explanations continue to be brought forward by men because they
do not want to be dominated by women. If women realize that they have a right to
equality in society, men will lose their higher status. Therefore, this ideology is important
in order for women to stay at the bottom of the social ladder.
Like the other groups, women are unable to escape the self-fulfilling prophecy. As
they are fed lies from childhood about how a woman should live, they begin to believe
them and act exactly like those lies. When they act out those beliefs, the prophecy is
fulfilled (Kendall, p. 127, 5th ed).
From the research I have done on the documentation, I was able to see how
unequal these four groups were in society. We are told constantly that the United States is
the land of opportunity and equality, but these documentations suggest otherwise. If there
really was no inequality in society, these documentations would not exist. My eyes have
been opened to how bad the living situations are for these four groups, and given me an
aim to actually do something about it, and be active in striving for equality for AfricanAmericans, Hispanic-Americans, Native-Americans, and women.
The scientific explanations have been extremely enlightening as to how inequality
in society occurs. Our generation is so used to being spoon-fed all sorts of folk stories
that we do not have the chance to listen to other theories and think on our own two feet.
These scientific explanations made me learn that there are many different roles in society,
and that resources have to be fought for. It has caused me to think and form my own
Putting together a list of false folk explanations for these groups makes me see
how prejudiced people can be based on physical attributes. People are judged unfairly
due to their race, ethnicity, or gender. Dispelling these myths gives me a glimpse into
what the world is really like and not following common folklore blindly. As a whole, this
research paper made me more aware of my surroundings and not to believe everything
that is spoon-fed to me.
Kendall, Diana. Sociology in Our Times – The Essentials. Thomson Wadsworth, 5th ed,
Robertson, Ian. Sociology – A Brief Introduction. Worth Publishers, 1989.
Macionis, John. Society – The Basics. Pearson Education Inc., 2006.
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