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Morgan Greening

Prof. Milik

Sociology 101

24 April 2019

Social Inequalities

In history class you hear about the “founding fathers”, the white men who met across the

country to sit and build the country we see today. Yet, the term “founding mothers” is

nonexistent. You also hear how white men had the right to vote from the start, but the other races

and genders that make up this country had to fight and beg for a simple check on a ballot.

Inequality alone dates back too far to be measured, it has always been there and still is. Social

inequality is a simple term to understand, society and its members held and hold back some from

being equal, some more than others. One of the most detrimental social inequalities, I would

argue, is racism, African Americans in particular. Slavery is a heavy topic in history classes, it

was a way to use black people for a white man’s benefit, generally through work on a plantation.

Americans at the time did not like that their skin was darker, that they were sent to America to be

treated in a particular way because of their skin, and still are treated in an unequal manner. A few

ways racial inequalities can be seen today are through income, stereotypes, and education. I see

this as a problem that is urgent and action needs to be taken to fix it. By making income and

education equal opportunities for African Americans, and eliminating cruel stereotypes this

unequal treatment can be fixed, benefiting the wellbeing of all.

Sociologists have their own views on racial inequalities. Some would agree, this is an

issue, it is taking a toll on African Americans and devaluing their race. Other sociologists,

functionalist in particular, would argue that “the way racism is functional for the dominant
group, for example, suggesting that racism morally justifies a racially unequal society”

(OpenStax, 2015). Take slavery for example, they tried to argue that blacks were fundamentally

inferior to white people, therefore slavery was what they wanted, over freedom. These same

functionalist would argue that racism is a good thing because of the relationships African

Americans build with each other, and the bond over the black race will strengthen the white

Americans as well (Milik, 2019). Conflict theorists also find this as a positive system at times.

We use inequalities to find advantages and disadvantages for both races. Take segregation for

example, although the majority of advantages revolved around white people, they ultimately had

a short term scapegoat, a group of people they could make the “bad guy” in any situations. The

disadvantage of this is the attitudes that have been formed and are still present today, conflict

theory brought us stereotypes.

Even at young ages, people are taught that words and rumors hurt people and some things

are better left unsaid. Yet society finds the stereotypes and words to describe African Americans

as acceptable, when it truly is not. Mellody Hobson, the African American president of Ariel

Investments, went to dinner with another African American in New York. When she got there,

her and her colleague were taken into the back and asked where their uniforms were (Hobson,

2014). A very successful African American women, mistaken for kitchen staff, a cruel

stereotype. Believing that an African American who walks into a fancy restaurant must be

cooking a meal or washing the white man’s plate. Everyday, successful or not, African

Americans are stereotyped in awful ways, and these stereotypes shape the attitudes the rest of

America have for the black population. Early in the 19th century, white male actors portrayed

black men by covering their faces with burnt cork, throwing on black wigs and ultimately taking

the stage to mock and devalue the African American race for society, and labeled this racist act
“Jim Crow” (Engle, 1978). Mocking the devastating past of American slavery, then and now,

white Americans treat the inequalities of blacks as a joke. In my own experiences I have

witnessed these “jokes”, and it turns out to be funny for everyone except the race it is directed to.

My cousin, a 17 year old African American went to play basketball at a primarily white school.

When her team had won the game and got onto the bus to travel home, they decided to play

music and sing, a common thing for high school athletes to do. Except her ride back home was

less joyful and more emotional because she heard a group of white teenage boys shout out “they

have to sing something while they’re picking cotton.” Still today, one race uses stereotypes and

the past to keep another race down, to keep them from thinking they will ever be equal. The

behavior modeled by parents, adults, political figures, etc… creates this misunderstanding that

using stereotypes and harassing another race is okay. They neglect to think about how hard it is

for blacks to live day to day hoping to feel as unburdened and free as whites. More serious

actions need to be taken. America as a whole needs to see how awful these “jokes” are, and once

that is done, this race will not be seen as a big inconvenience to everyday life.

It does not just stop with the stereotypical attitudes, blacks live paycheck to paycheck

while white Americans stack up wealth.. One source claims that “On average, white households

have nearly 6.5 times the wealth of black households” (Mock, 2019). The United States struggles

with this racial wealth gap, but does not try to correct it enough. Even if blacks were able to find

work as easy as whites, their path toward promotions and better work opportunities is more

difficult.

The same source provides evidence to argue that “...racial differences in income drive the wealth

gap more than any other factor, including differences in financial savings practices, rates of

return on investments, or even intergenerational transfers of wealth” (Mock, 2019). The


government had started on a forgiving attitude for white people, by giving out money from

government systems and having programs for those in need, meanwhile, acting as if blacks are a

burden to this country. Governmental systems have always handed out to the whites in need.

From my own experience, my uncle, a 68 year old African American, who fought in the Vietnam

War, was never given a financial handout for his time there. He encountered many kidney and

lung issues from the war and was never contacted about his withholdings from the outrageous

hospital and medical expenses he encountered. He died 10 years ago because the bills were

becoming too much to pay for. Although this issue was fairly recent, racial income inequality has

been swept under the rug for quite some time now. Another source states that “Racial income

inequality in the U.S. has changed little in 48 years” (Manduca, 2018). Along with this claim is a

graph showing how the black population is predicted to receive far less income than the white

population, and history just proves how this issue has been around since African Americans were

allowed to join the workforce with an actual pay. This country is feeding into the income gap

between races and neglecting to take a second look at its effects. If the government would give a

little more to those who work hard or offer those of color a chance at a job to set up a successful

future, this issue would be in the past.

Public schools, the affordable way to send your child to school, are where most black

households choose to have their child/children educated. Most black households live in a

neighborhood with others who match their income, and within those neighborhoods are schools.

“Residential segregation causes a disparity in educational opportunity because it creates higher-

income communities, with predominantly white school districts that have more local tax revenue

for their schools, compared to fewer dollars and resources for school districts in low-income,

minority neighborhoods” (Jao, 2018). Neighborhoods of those neglected by society and its racial
views ultimately hurt the future of those children within. The fewer dollars coming in from taxes,

the less educated and experience staff a school has to offer for its students. The school is not to

blame for the income of taxpayers. Society has set blacks up for a future of low income, and they

are the ones who are forced to sacrifice the best learning and education they could provide.

Without a proper education and teaching staff to push students to their potential, they are

sacrificed to meet the minimum and are showed criteria but truly do not learn it. With this

statement I provide evidence from the Chair of the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, Catherine

Lhamon:“low-income students and students of color are often relegated to low-quality school

facilities that lack equitable access to teachers, instructional materials, technology and

technology support, critical facilities, and physical maintenance” (Lhamon, 2018). Take my own

school, Shepherd High School for example, we are given Chromebooks, tech labs, teachers

willing to come in early and stay late, a proper maintenance staff, a tech department to fix our

Chromebooks, etc… We are a fairly privileged school; meanwhile other schools have to fund for

their uniforms and technology and have to walk around a poorly maintenance and neglected

school. The system is setting these students up for 13 years of education in a sad school

environment, yet they do not know differently. The government is not only creating a wealth gap

for adults but an achievement gap for students as well. A strong governmental system is needed

to ensure all students will get the individual help they will need to move on to a good future.

The government and society has set up most of all African Americans for a future full of

discrimination and poverty. Through equalizing income and motions to limit the wealth gap, the

government can help stop the inequality that has been going on for too long. Proper allocation of

federal funds and equalizing the wealth and opportunities for all students will help future

generations reach their full potential. This is not only a governmental issue but a social one. The
attitudes and vocabulary society uses against those of color create a greater impact than what is

acknowledged. If society could hold onto the fact that these people fought for their rights and

this country, and see that segregation and slavery were made illegal a long time ago, this country

would fulfill its own stereotype, the American dream, the country everyone wants to live in.

Works Cited

Engle, G. D. (1978). This grotesque essence: Plays from the American minstrel stage. Baton

Rouge: Louisiana State University.


Hobson, Mellody. “Color Blind or Color Brave?” TED, 2014,

www.ted.com/talks/mellody_hobson_color_blind_or_color_brave?referrer=playlist-

talks_to_help_you_understand_r#t-268536.

Jao, Ariel. “Segregation, School Funding Inequalities Still Punishing Black, Latino Students.”

NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 2018, www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/segregation-

school-funding-inequalities-still-punishing-black-latino-students-n837186.

Lhamon, Catherine. “School Segregation Is Still an Issue in US.” AL DÍA News, 16 Jan. 2018,

www.aldianews.com/articles/culture/school-segregation-still-issue-us/51401.

Manduca, Robert. “How Rising U.S. Income Inequality Exacerbates Racial Economic

Disparities.” Equitable Growth, 9 Apr. 2019,

equitablegrowth.org/how-rising-u-s-income-inequality-exacerbates-racial-economic-disparities/.

Milik, O. 2019. Sociology 101 lecture notes. MidMichigan College, Mt. Pleasant, MI.

Mock, Brentin, and CityLab. “No One Agrees on How to Close the Racial Wealth Gap.”

CityLab, 25 Mar. 2019, www.citylab.com/equity/2019/03/racial-wealth-gap-income-inequality-

black-white-households/585325/

Keirns, Nathan J., et al. Introduction to Sociology. OpenStax, Rice University, 2016.