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Posted on July 20th, 2012, by

The problem of interracial relations is very important in the contemporary US and this problem disturbs many specialists that attempt to view it from different perspectives. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the work by Heather Dalmage “Tripping on the color line”ť, in which the author discusses the problem of multiculturalism and interracial relations from the of symbolic interactionist perspective. Basically, the author attempts to depict the problems that encounter people representing different ethnic groups and the boundaries that exist between people and prevent them from normal interaction, though the author does not always directly indicate to the boundaries but rather uncovers their existence from the context of her work often referring to the example of multicultural family and their in-between position on the borderline between white and non-white population of the US.

First of all, it should be said that the book contains very important information on the existing interracial boundaries that exist in the contemporary American society. These boundaries are clearly stated by the author in the first chapter of her book where she discusses the problems of multicultural families and the process of formation of such families. To put it more precisely, she focuses on the specific of interracial relations when people create certain boundaries, certain limits they are not supposed to cross in their relationships with representatives of other races. In such a situation, people that choose interracial relations or even attempt to create a multicultural family, based on the union of representatives of two different ethnic groups, are defined by the author as “transgressors”ť (Dalmage, 34). In actuality, this means that they overcome the existing boundaries, which may be not obvious and which are not regulated by any written law, but still they exist and the lays emphasis on the fact that these interracial boundaries are socially constructed (Dalamge, 36).

Naturally, the existence of such boundaries prevents representatives of different ethnic groups from the normal interaction and people often have to correlate their behavior to the existing social norms.

Furthermore, the author also attempt to depict other problem which indicate to the existence of serious problems in interracial interactions in the US. For instance, Dalmage indicates to serious problems multiracial families can encounter when they are searching for housing. Again the author emphasizes the fact that formally there are no limitation and all people are equal in the US, they have equal rights and opportunities and, therefore, they are supposed to have equal access to housing. However, as the case of the multicultural families reveals there are still serious problems based on the existing prejudices in relation to representative of other races and to multiracial families. In actuality, this means that there are significant barriers to the normal social interaction between representatives of different races and multiracial families turn to be victims of the existing social biases and stereotypes, which make them a kind of outcasts in the contemporary society, because the society still has rather negative attitude to the closer interaction between representatives of different races.

The existence of significant, socially constructed barriers can be traced in other spheres of the contemporary life and in other fields where representatives of different races come into interaction. However, it is important to underline that the author also attempts to highlight another side of the problem, to put it more precisely, the possible ways to the elimination of the existing barriers that will facilitate interracial interaction and, thus, will make the contemporary society more tolerant and more united. In this respect, it is possible to refer to the fourth chapter of the book where the author focuses on the functioning of organizations  that attempt to help solve the existing problems in interracial interaction and improve the position of discriminated people, including multiracial families, which are particularly susceptible to the negative influences of the existing social barriers. In such a way, the author attempts to show that, in spite of the existence of social barriers for the normal interaction between representatives of different races, there are still the ways to solve these problems and develop the normal interaction that is very important for a really democratic and tolerant society.



Question 2

In the modern society, the problem of racial inequality and interracial interactions is closely intertwined with the problem of social inequality. The position of the lower classes of American society is particularly disturbing because it affects a large number of people. At the same time, in such a situation a logical question arises: whether social inequality relates to racial inequality or probably these two issues are not interrelated with each other and what is more significant in the contemporary American society. To answer this question, it is necessary to analyze the book “Nickel and Dimed”ť by Barbara Ehrenreich.

In fact, this book depicts a bold experiment conducted by the author, who abandoned her traditional life of a middle-class, white woman and attempted to start the new life of a representative of a lower-class. Her major goal was to find out whether she could manage to improve her socio-economic position consistently leading the life of a representative of the lower-class and having the opportunities available to people that occupy the lower layer in the American social hierarchy. The results of this experiment were not very optimistic. As the matter of fact, the author has failed to overcome the existing social barriers. This is why she concludes that it is practically impossible to improve the social status of a person consistently, being a representative of the lower-class (Ehrenreich, 329).

In such a situation, it is necessary to take into consideration that this experiment did not involve racial issues, because the author, as it has been just said above, was a white woman. Naturally, it is possible to presuppose that the position of the author could be consistently worse if she was an African-American or non-white woman, who attempted to improve her position in American society. At first glance, it seems to be quite logical that a person with the lower-class background, being non-white will have fewer opportunities than a white person because of the existing biases and prejudices against non-white Americans and the dominance of white middle- and upper-class Americans. In fact, this modified experiment would involve three issues: class, race, and gender.

However, it is necessary to point out that the presupposition concerning fewer opportunities for the author, if she were a non-white woman, is not supported by any factual, empirical evidences, but, instead, it is possible to speak about the existing biases and prejudices concerning non-white people. What is meant here is the fact that such a judgment is based not on objective evidences but rather on the subjective approach to the answer to the question. In order to answer this question more objectively, it is necessary to refer to the original experiment.

On analyzing the outcomes of the experiment, it seems to be obvious that social inequality is not really dependent on the ethnic origin of a person. The current social inequality is formed in the process of historical, socio-economic development of American society as well as racial inequality. However, racial inequality cannot outweigh social inequality because the author, being a white woman, has failed to overcome social barriers. This means that one of the basic concept of racial inequality, implying that white people are in a better, advantageous position compared to non-white people, does not work here. To put it more precisely, poverty does not distinguishes the race of a person. In contrast, being poor means being deprived of any opportunity to improve the social position and, in this regard, it is possible to estimate that white and non-white Americans are as equal in their social inequality as in no other aspect of their socio-economic, political or cultural life.

Thus, it is possible to conclude that social inequality and the existing social hierarchy of American society outweighs the existing racial issues and problems such as inequality and lack of opportunities. As the matter of fact the major reason for the social marginalization of an individual in American society is his/her social status. In fact, if a person is poor, it does not really matter whether he/she is white or black, but what does matter is that he/she will hardly be able to overcome the existing social barriers and get a higher position in the social hierarchy.

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