Pecan Pie

Social Anxiety from the South

Posts Tagged ‘inequality

MAGA: Sociology is Magic

Okay I want to explain something.

I’m GRATEFUL for #MAGA Hat student in class today. He is the literal embodiment of why I teach.

We are politically socialized by our families and our religion. We don’t even begin to develop a political ideology apart from our parents until we start to develop our lives apart from them.

(Insert #notall)

This is my Every Student™. My student who came in thinking sociology is an offshoot of psychology. My student who is only there because it fulfills Area E.

We discussed Marx Friday and this student probably talked to his parents about his first week of college. College. Not class.

We start with Marx.

“We should all be Marxist in the sense that…”

Their fears come true.

So, this hat.

Yeah, it was distracting. For me it represents so much.

Hate. Fear. Intimidation. Violence.

But this is a child whose world until now has been small. That’s what college is for, a world expanding experience.

This is LITERALLY #whitefolkswork.

It’s also literally my job.

I don’t demand political agreement. Some of my most conservative students have and are my best students and they take all my courses. They are my favorite. They push back against me and keep me always standing on the data and not shifting sand.

What they do have to do, is learn and engage with the material.

I think sociology is fucking magic.

It is the imagination of the object and subject. The special glasses that never again allow us to see the world and be pacified.

I believe in its power to open eyes, hearts, intellect.

It isn’t perfect. Fraught with racism, sexism, queerphobia, classism, ableism…white supremacy.

But my classroom is constantly arching toward inclusivity, toward justice, toward an equitable world, toward a revolutionary pedagogy.

I believe in what I do

I’m grateful for MAGA Hat.

I have this opportunity. I have this small precious chance to open the door to seeing the world a little more compassionately for this student.

I have this chance to show him what it is like when students of color’s voices are centered. When we talk about disability rather than ability. When we queer the neutral and “normal”.

In a world of measuring how “woke” we all are, maybe I can ring the alarm clock and maybe he will stop hitting snooze by December.

Race and Privilege: A Reaction to Wilson’s “More Than Just Race”

In an American society where White Male is default and access to opportunity is taken for granted, Wilson rightfully asserts in More than Just Race that People of Color must take precautions whites do not take and indeed rarely recognize that these efforts to maintain societal comfort in their favor are even occurring (p. 1).  Because special status and ease of opportunity usually go unrecognized by the privileged, it makes it easy to come up with a myriad of unsystematic reasons why persons of color, unskilled laborers and women in poverty remain unable to climb the class ladder.

There is an intrinsic and quite basic neglect to recognize the value in statistics on social problems when they contain roads to solutions and the opposite problem when they point out glaring inequalities (p. 2). Privilege suggests that 47% of people (low-skilled, low or no income earners, Black men and single women) do not contribute to society and therefor are not eligible for the benefits of a communal society.  It does not suggest inequality of income, of resources, of opportunity OR maybe most importantly, it does not suggest equity in societal contributions which is actually the case for the bracket spoken about in Romney’s suggestive quote.

Wilson also points out that, as a society, if we can judge a people by the actions it takes rather than the speeches it makes, we have continually determined that systematic denial of opportunity is in the best interest of those with power.  As our workforce and the jobs it contains has become more and more technologically advanced, where internet access is a necessity, a cell phone is the communication utility of need, and even McDonald’s drive-thru employees must have a working knowledge of touch screen applications, our education system continues to deny the poor and persons of color access to skills necessary for even the lowest skilled and lowest paying jobs.  By allowing our poor schools to lag in computer and technology education, we begin a course of systematic racism/classism by denying even the lowest ladders to be unqualified for the lowest skilled jobs.  This winds up favoring middle and upper class/Caucasian applicants (often summer and part-time student workers with more than adequate other opportunities) who may not have families or other responsibilities to support in the same way that low-skilled persons of color do (p. 8).

Due to such limited opportunities, communities and neighborhoods neglected by government and society must create and engage in underground economies and societal norms that create opportunities in the situation dealt them.  These adopted codes of street and shady dealings are required for residents where they are adopted, but these reactions to limited economic and social opportunities wind up being circular, self-perpetuating limitations to upward mobility in the society right outside these communities.  Because of this, the privileged outside the community can with clear conscience deny the causes of codes and any society hand in them by victim blaming and repudiation of any personal responsibility on the part of the people who live in disadvantaged communities (p. 21).

The privileged make assumptions based on this victim blaming mentality because they have never 1. Been without adequate transportation or access to it except in rare circumstances that were easily rectified; 2. Been without emergency or discretionary income, even a very small amount, where poor persons of color live paycheck to paycheck and have little opportunity to save.  When these opportunities arise, they may be denied access to banking, or find their savings obliterated by even a small emergency; 3. Been without an opportunity to relocate should economy or lack of public services necessitate a move and finally,;4. Been in a situation where attachment to space and place became a real and obvious burden to spatial mobility when moving became necessary (p. 26).

Society focuses on micro causes of poverty and lack of economic and class mobility, exposing the normalcy of privileged thinking.  It is only when a macro cause fundamentally changes the life or money situation of the privileged that this class acknowledges as a whole that government, culture or policy may profoundly affect individual lives.  Unfortunately, even when this happens (taxes increase, the public demands more economic equity) a disconnect remains between how these changes can affect a micro situation and how huge system norms affect real individual lives of those born without inherent privilege (p. 27).

Written by thelittlepecan

October 1, 2012 at 9:42 am

class matters: bell hooks and the entitlement of those at the top

One of the many reasons that I love reading hooks is her attention to personal, lived experiences.  She applies sociological concepts to her life and uses her own life to explain and explore concepts of race, gender and equality.  For me, it was interesting reading this book while the news of Mitt Romney’s “47%” remarks was making headlines.  We are the 47% and yet, I feel as if I give back as much as I can to my community and to my society…and always ask myself where I can give more.

One of the major points that hooks makes I find particularly poignant is about happiness, necessity and what makes a person successful.  Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen my personal lot in life improve significantly.  I’m now part of a two income household and we even have a little bit of discretionary income.  Yet, when some new expense comes up, we struggle to figure out how to pay for it.  We never talk about being rich…we talk about having enough.  The American Dream has always been this weird dichotomy of wants verses outright greed.  It is touted as this ideal, having enough to support your needs and many of your wants; and yet we encourage this thinking of “the one who dies with the most toys, wins.”  There’s never been a balance of helping yourself and helping others because the marketing of the ideal has always been contradictory.

It is so unfortunate that class has become the basis of loyalty.  It is better to gain a step up on the ladder of social class than it is to dismantle the ladder and level the playing field.  That is the basis of the inequality crisis.  We have enough, we have enough to go around…and around and around and around, but the fear of losing and the fear of being taken advantage of supersede our ability to give a hand up to those in need.  As Michelle Obama so succinctly explained in her DNC speech, we run through the door of opportunity and hurry as fast as we can to slam it in the face of the person behind us.

I think the #Occupy movement has done so much to bring the issue of class to the forefront of American public discourse.  Whether we are running away from “class warfare” and acting as if that is some sort of horrible concept or if we are speaking clearly about the lack of adequacy in the lives of most of Americans, #Occupy put these ideas on cable news, in graduate classrooms and in the vocabulary of my middle school age children.

We have to talk about class.  It won’t just go away.  We can ignore the rungs of the ladder…or we can name the problem in order to fix it.  The privileged call it class warfare but as the idiom goes, that only seems to happen when the poor fight back.  We as a society have to stop acting as if some people by the very nature of their privilege deserve an overabundance of the Earth’s resources.  We have to stop acting as if “America is the greatest nation on Earth” and that this somehow entitles us to 80% of the world’s food, energy and natural gifts.

The poor and middle classes are not the ones who feel entitled.    It is not the younger generation of educated, indebted workers.  It is those who have rarely, if ever, wanted for anything in their lives who feel and act as if they are entitled to the labor of those chasing the carrot known as the “pursuit” of happiness.

Hooks reminds us that there is blessing in hard work, value in traditional ways, there is perspective in come from a background of femaleness or of color.  There is perspective to be gained by those who do not have those experiences, who have never felt the rage of being discounted due to skin shade or exasperated at being called sexist for pointing out the privilege of whiteness or maleness.  Hooks hopes for the egalitarian society we have the potential to be.  I hope one day my children will see that society.

Written by thelittlepecan

September 24, 2012 at 9:57 am