Courses Relating to Inequality
RAES 201: Intro to Race and Ethnic Studies- Deep dive into the social and historical construction of race. Focuses on intersectional approach to the discipline of race and ethnic studies.
ENGL 377: Representing the Past: Focused on literature pertaining to the civil rights movement and its core issues.
SOC 233: Intro to Soc Inequality: Learned about social differentiation, stratification, and the social construction of race, gender, sexual orientation and other categories.
SOC 401: Sociological Theory: We learned about the main theoretical traditions and theorists such as Marx, Weber, etc. We were tasked to understand how to apply these frameworks to contemporary issues.
COMM 380: LGTBQ+ and the Media- Specifically looked at representation in the media and how this perpetuates stereotypes. Also discussed the different spectrums of gender and sexual orientation and how experts in the field discuss these topics.
SOC 320: Sociology of Education: We covered the inequality of per pupil expenditure, and the resulting inequality of using property tax to fund public schools. We also talked about certain barriers to achievement for different demographics, as well as the historical legal means of segregation, desegregation, and resegregation of American public schools.
Writing Samples About Inequality
Discussion of Categories of Inequality
I took my first sociology course as a senior in High School. The way my teacher explained race in America was truly eye opening, and ultimately led me to eventually declare sociology as my major for my undergraduate degree. In that high school course we briefly touched on The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, and I just recently got the chance to further explore this reading in my Race and Ethnic Studies 201 class. I have been able to fully conceptualize how race has been socially and historically constructed in America. Through my college experience I have been able to truly understand the systemic, and institutional components of racism, and fully abandon the misconception that individual acts of prejudice make up the full extent of racism in our country. The idea of race has been studied by scientists in an attempt to make biological distinctions between races, however what we find is that the idea of race is truly socially constructed. Who is considered white has changed over time with certain groups being included and excluded during different periods of history. The main idea is that whiteness was constructed as a response to having to categorize and oppress free black people after slavery to maintain the existing power structure after the emancipation proclamation.
My understanding of class has developed throughout my studies at Longwood. In the world of social research we use the term socioeconomic status to discuss class and use it as a marker for race. The idea of class mobility is a concept that was new to me in college. Growing up white and middle class, I have been privileged (and naive) to think of the “American Dream” as a legitimate possibility. The reality behind class mobility is that it’s rare. More often than not, the socioeconomic status you’re born in will be the class you remain in. Upward mobility is possible typically through the acquisition of higher education, however the lower your class, the more barriers there are to obtaining a path to higher education. One particular barrier I have learned about is parental involvement. There are direct correlations between parental involvement and academic success. Simultaneously the correlation between class and reported parental involvement are apparent as well. This relationship indicates that one barrier for lower class students affecting their academic success is lower parental involvement in their education.
The majority of the new perspectives I gained on gender came from a Communications course about LGBTQ+ Representation in the media. Before this course I knew a fair amount about the world beyond the gender binary of man and woman. In this course we discussed specifically how genders are constructed largely through media and marketing. Masculinity and femininity are encouraged and imposed upon children through outside factors consistently throughout their life. The reality of gender is that it is a spectrum, and not something so completely solid. Scholars in the field explain how we all fall into different places on the gender spectrum regardless of how you identify. People who do not identify with a gender that matches their biological sex often face discrimination socially and in the work world. The number one demographic on the gender spectrum most likely to experience violence are trans black women. In terms of gender inequality and the pay gap, we know that while the education gap shows a propensity for girls to achieve more, there are still significant income disparities between men and women.
Disability is an area of inequality that was probably least covered, which is an important acknowledgment in itself. Differently abled people have a unique set of circumstances as it relates to intersectionality. Physical ability is yet another oppressor in our society that can combine and layer with others to create compounding experiences of inequality. Not all disabilities are as stigmatized as others. We do see in media representation of disabled people a tendency to lean towards tokenism with these characters included. Oftentimes disabled characters are written for sympathy and to check a box, rather than having individual and unique stories. I would say I still have a significant gap in knowledge regarding public policy relating to the rights of the disabled. This may be something worth mentioning in my exit interview regarding my experience in Sociology at Longwood.
Sexuality was a topic also largely covered in my LGBTQ+ and the Media course. We learned about the Vito Russo test, a way to determine if an LTGBQ+ character is just another example of tokenism, or if they were written to further the plot of the story. That course touched on the StoneWall Riots and other historic moments of activism for the LGBTQ+ community. The Aids Epidemic was famously ignored due to its impact on the gay community, and widespread homophobic rhetoric that stemmed from biblical misconceptions. Marriage equality is also a very knew development for the rights of LGBTQ+ people, however there are legitimate concerns with the future of these rights given the recent overturning of Roe vs Wade. The LGTBQ+ Community continues to be discriminated against and still has as a disproportionately high suicide rate. The mental health of this community is becoming a top priority in many institutions.
Understanding the deep rooted inequalities that stratify our society make me feel as though is my duty to do my part in combating these ills. If I do decide to go into a career in Public Policy, inequality can be a main area of focus for me. Recognizing that changing these disparities takes time and effort means that a career path that helps mobilize people and legislation to improve society could be a direction I head in. One thing is for certain, once you realize the faults of the systems in place, they are impossible to ignore. We each have a moral obligation to address inequalities with participation in activism and doing our part in our system of Democracy to have our voices heard.