Defining the Concepts of Class, Race, Gender, and Intersectionality

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Sociology 4373: Take Home Exam
Fall 2008

Section 1: Defining the concepts of Class, Race, Gender, and Intersectionality

Every society known to man has used either race, class, ethnicity, gender or all of the above to determine placement in civilization. Sometimes one or more of these categories comingle and we characterize this as: intersectionality. Finding the words, however, to define class, race, gender, or intersectionality is not an easy feat. Throughout the past few weeks we have read many articles that allowed us many clear descriptions. Prior to this course I would have described class as being a way in which society groups individuals based on economic positions or social status. In my opinion, sometimes political beliefs can attribute towards class placement as well. However, since reading the required texts and watching films based on class, we now know that there are other factors associated with class divisions. For example, we read in Brenda J. Allen’s “Social Class Matters” article that not only are these two viewpoints large contributors (economic & political alliances) towards classes, but also geographic locations. This can be seen when visiting a typical trailer park, where many of its residents are presumably called “white trash”, or as depicted with lower income families who live in the projects or ghetto. Their locale most likely reflects their social status or class. Moreover, we have learned that these factors also define what class is to the general public: education, occupational position, and power. “Women without class” by Julie Bettie examines class theory by understanding the ways in which class identity is constructed. It has many illustrations of social class by way of education and occupational positions. The upper crust students of Waretown were typically children of white collar employees. The preps generally outperformed the las chicas, hard living, and often settled living students of this documentary, as exemplified in the titles placed on the over and under achievers. For example, “preps” is an abbreviation for “college preparatory” which was the type of advanced class the children of white collar workers of Waretown enrolled in to prepare for life after high school. While these courses allowed some students endless opportunities, other students in the exact same school attended seminars with lowered educational expectations. Instead these students were encouraged to attend expensive certification courses that upon graduation held them captive in low paying positions with debt remaining after completion. “The Death of the Social Class” by Pakulsky and Waters believes social class is no longer relevant in the United States. A principal reason for this message states that because slavery is now obsolete, we have the legal upholding of the United States Constitution, and we expect education to be attained by all races. As a result resources have become more prevalent among all races. Race, in the past, was a word that I identified as being someone’s skin color, however as I matured (both mentally and physically) and met individuals from other cultures I soon realized that race is a culmination of many things. Culture and ethnicity are quite influential in determining a person’s race as well. For example, not everyone with dark skin is African American, just as not ever fair skinned person is Caucasian. As exhibited in Cruz-Janzen’s For example in the article Racial formation in the United States written by Michael Omi and Howard Winant, we learn of the Louisiana law that states that if a person has 1/32nd “Negro blood, they are automatically considered Black or African American. Although Susie Guillory Phipps tells us she is majority Caucasian this law still classifies her as being Black and she unsuccessfully attempted to sue the state to change her vital records. There are many reasons why the government still requires race on legal paperwork. Some argue...
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