Race and Class in America


In the cotemporary arena, the twin issues of race and social class stratification continue being existent, provoking great debate, views, perspectives, tensions and even unexpected public reactions. This paper focuses on how the aforementioned twin socially stratifying aspects relate to each other, through their consequential effects and influences on the general American society. Through relating the two, with reference to the Pew Centers report, Kings Dream Remains Elusive, the paper displays how the two provide a basis for existing race relations, public order and security within the American Union. Gilberts text, Social Class in America, will delve into the prevailing contexts under which current race relations thrive in the United States, with the influences, impacts and effects fundamentally shaping its public order and security.

Additionally, Conley provides a critical perspective of how current prevailing race relations have influenced public policy, inadvertently affecting negatively, the African American populace. Further, Bonilla-Silva gives a greater overview of how racism and racial stereotyping (profiling) continues affecting current social order and security, with respect to governance and public policy formulation. Weber provides insight of how group status and class socialization influence and hence affect the distribution of power in prevailing social contexts.


As such, the American social context is unique, educated by the fact that it does pride itself as the worlds epitome of democracy, democratic governance and the upholding of the universally acknowledged human rights and freedoms. This is inscribed within its widely respected constitution, symbolizing the evolutionary track of democratic state-hood and governance. However, while symbolically representing the rest of the global democratic arena, it continues to suffer from various contexts, which expose existent underlying differences, and at times the extremes. Although founded on a constitution embracing the equality of all its citizens populations, by way of adherence to its Bill of Rights and Freedoms, the reality is, however, not as positive, with reference to its historical outlook.

From the era of President Lincolns Emancipation Proclamation to the famed Martin Luther Kings (Jnr.) I Have a Dream Speech Americas history has continued experiencing various contexts where the aforementioned stratifying factors race and class stratification are experienced, providing avenues for much stress and negative influence on its social order and security. Currently, nothing best epitomizes these tensions than the recently concluded Trayvon Martin case. Martin was an African American teenager, who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a mixed-race Hispanic, who being the neighborhood watch coordinator for the gated community he resided in, had engaged in an altercation with the victim. His subsequent trial and acquittal, from charges of second-degree murder, in addition to manslaughter charges, infuriated the American populace, especially Black Americans.

Support was provided for the claim that Zimmerman had acted in self-defense, with this resulting in heated debate within the public arena. Moreover, that Trayvons death had potentially resulted from his profiling did not escape many of his supporters, who were of the view that Black Americans had in the past, and currently were negatively affected by such profiling and stereotyping. It does not escape public attention that Black Americans are majorly associated with crime, violence and drugs (exposure), often being linked with various social ills and negative influences. This is as such, symbolically represented in the nations judicial prison system, where a majority of its inmates is essentially from its minority populations. It is, unfortunately, such profiling, which provides a basis for existing negative class relations, racism and racial profiling.

With reference to the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington as well as the Pew Research Centers report entitled Kings Dream Remains an Elusive Goal; Many Americans See Racial Disparities, a number of issues, pertaining to the aforementioned, have been detailed. Currently, different perceptions, with regard to race relations, as perceived by the existing different race groups, display the prevailing circumstances under which disparities exist. Thus, this is not only true on the social arena, but also the prevailing economic domain, where significant inequalities do exist, especially between the White community and the African American populace. As such, this is epitomized in terms of amongst others: home ownership, general/ average family income and the wealth-base held, within family entities, as well as the overall social strata.

There is a fundamental relation between the two aforementioned stratifies race and social class stratification with existent theories of inequality providing an analysis of the existing relationship between the two. Accordingly, the findings of the aforementioned Pew Research Center study report, there is a growing disparity in terms of perceptions, ideals and views on race issues, especially in reference to the existing White and African American communities. Adding on to this is the need to delve more on the issue of why such disparities, despite their significance in current prevailing contexts, continue existing 50 years after the advent of the globally renowned civil rights movement. By comparing the aforementioned texts with reference to their main ideas, I will argue how the Pew report, majorly espouses prevailing social contexts within Americas larger society.

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Reasons why Whites and Blacks Have Differing Perceptions on Issues of Race

With reference to the aforementioned Pew Research Center report, a majority of Americans are of the view that the country has not made enough substantial progress towards addressing the prevailing thorny issue of racial inequality, with many saying that a lot remains to be addressed, with focus on enhanced social equality. Adding on to this is the finding that a majority of African Americans are as such, more downbeat, with reference to the greater progress towards a color-blind American social entity. This hence educates their perspective that Black Americans are more likely to be treated unfairly, as opposed to their White counterparts, with reference to governance and community policing. This is especially true of existent core community institutions such as the American criminal justice system, where treatment is often provided on a biased basis, with preference to the White population being cited many times.

Unfair treatment or in general, discriminatory behavior in the American setting, has been cited as being a major hindrance to greater social order and interactivity, and it is such inequality, which provides a basis for Gilberts assertions. In Social Class in America, he provides a wholesome assertion of existing social contexts, where all communities do divide themselves majorly into two distinct groups: the elite and the general masses, with this fundamentally affecting their eventual life chances. As such, Gilbert exemplifies that an individuals greater enhancement, with reference to life chances encountered, is fundamentally shaped by his/ her class position, with race being a crucial determinant. As such, Gilbert explores the existent American class system with reference to various key variables such as per capita income, power and prestige amongst others.

For instance, there is the aspect of these variables reacting to each other, as exemplified in how an individuals income affects their beliefs about general American social policy, or how a persons job may inadvertently affect his choices of social interaction. To be noted is that while society has existent class stratification, from the elite, then the middle class and finally the mass majority, there is a dynamism exhibited where individuals are able to either fall or rise amongst these classes. As Karl Marx famously epitomized, social change is a fundamental aspect of human existence, with this often resulting in a conflict between existing classes. These classes, as he alluded, are defined by way of their distinctive relationships with respect to the existent means of production, with the bourgeoisie (elite capitalist class) being the owners of the existent means of production, with their counterparts, the proletariat being the working class.

The above was educated by the fact that production encompassed the existent way of life, with individuals having to strive in their production capacity/ output in order to survive. Consequently, an individuals place in society, in addition to his/ her relationships to other people, as well as general life outlook are hence fundamentally impacted by the work relationships, which exist in their specific social contexts. Of importance to note is that the elite (bourgeoisie), occupying a similar role about production, tend to share both political and economic interests, which often unfortunately provide a basis of conflict between them and other participants in the chain of production, i.e. the proletariat/ working class.

In the current American contexts, either the above is exemplified by way of the White population being majorly in the league of the elite or middle class view race and race relations differently from the existing minority groups, as exemplified by the Black American community. As Weber further explains, the influence of social class in the lives of individuals does affect their perception of the future, with reference to social interaction. With class stratification, providing the foundation and rooting of social inequality, the elite (the wealthy, influential and prestigious) personalities are indeed treated better than the average individual, presenting various case study scenarios, where this is evident. The social stratification, the racial profile notwithstanding, is exhibited through the way groupings of families, which share similar positions in society, and hence have the same ideals and lifestyles, often interacted together.

Reasons for the Existence of Such Significant Economic Disparities

The above facts provide the basis for the existent social hierarchy where each stratum possesses similar goals and interest with other equals present, but at the same time being different from, and hence often conflictual with those of other groupings either above or below them. With respect to the above, it is one of Americas founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, who rightly observed the fact that the elite have and continue to seek for social stability as a way of preserving their inherent advantages. On the other hand, the mass majority strive for social change, as their gateway to enjoying a larger share of the existent global rewards/ benefits. With class struggles evident from the aforementioned disparity, in terms of wealth accumulation, socio-economic and political setting, and this trend is likely to end soon.

This is due to the prevailing contexts, where the global society continues splitting up into two distinct groups: the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat, with each striving to advance its own interests at the expense of the other. With these contexts existing, it is no wonder that enough progress has not been made about expanding greater social equity. Due to the advent and influences of the European Industrial revolution, a majority of the elite, based on industry, commerce, governance and policymaking, as well as science and technology, have been mainly composed of the White Caucasian population group, with very few individuals from existent minority groups being in the same category.

As Bonilla-Silva alludes that there are not only the subtle forms of discrimination, typically associated with the post-Civil Rights movement era present, with reference to the existent American social system, but also the new powerful ideal of color-blind racism/ inequality, which, unfortunately, continues to pervade through its society. Beneath the rhetorical maze of current racial debate lays a fully blown arsenal of not only stories, phrases and arguments, but also various ideals utilized by the White population. This is especially so, towards not only accounting for, but also ultimately justifying existent racial inequalities present, which are more favorable to them, with significant bias being portrayed to Americas minority groups.

While focusing on the existent white/ black dichotomy, Bonilla-Silva argues that both current and future relations in the nation are generally going to affect the overall prevalence of existing racial stratification. This is informed by the fact that with Americas development of a much more complex and apparently pluralistic racial order, in line with Latin Americas patterns of stratification, such wide disparities are only set to increase, as opposed to their reduction. Ideals held by the existing elite class are majorly founded on the aspect of dominance and power, with their strategies and ideologies being central not only to the reinforcement, but also the production of the existing biased status quo. Central to any dominant racial ideology is rooted in its framing of existent set paths, about the interpretation of information.

Consequently, Bonilla-Silva portrays the fact that while current contexts, with reference to Americas minority groups interests are better off, there are, however, hidden factors as espoused by color-blind racism. Thus, people of color (minorities), still have and continue experiencing systematic discrimination, remaining appreciably behind their white counterparts, about many important aspects of social life. Hence, their chances of gaining on existent advantages, as presented to the White community, are indeed slim. Conley adds to the aforementioned argument, citing the existence of the means of production and its control, as major contributory factors to existent tensions within Americas society. Currently, racial inequality resides within property and wealth as well as class (social status) relations, as opposed to the labor market, providing crucial and hence compelling explanations as to the reason why there exists a differential wealth gap between the White American community and their Black American counterparts.

Conley takes the discussion on inequality and race to a completely new level, by displaying that while general income disparities are shrinking, as showcased in current social contexts, there is an enduring increase with reference to wealth-gap disparities between Whites and Black Americans. Consequently, he provides crucial relations between this gap in terms of social equality, and the disparities in terms of education, job/ employment uptake and placement, in addition to family-structure systems amongst other crucial aspects of society. There is also a focus on the crucial fact that the aspect of net-worth (wealth) does in the long-term embed existent inequalities, as such wealth accumulation is difficult to reverse, even with existing forms of social change and restructuring.

In conclusion, while the Civil Rights Movement of Martin L. King Jr. did strive for greater equality amongst American populations, existent factors, inherently embedded in its social contexts, and traceable to the social stratification from the Industrial Revolution, have in the past and presently affect majorly the class relations. Consequently, as long as these differences, in terms of wealth accumulation, social status and racial profiling continue being prevalent, the issue of class stratification and race will inadvertently affect not only Americas current social order and balance, but also its security in the long-term.

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