Sociology: Black Like Me

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Part A - [Structural Functionalism]
One argument made by Structural Functionalists is that society should be a meritocracy. People should be rewarded based on their abilities. (Class notes, SOCI 201, Winter 2010) An example to illustrate this argument from Black Like Me is found on page 39. The elderly owner of the Y café complained to Griffin about how unfair the economic system was to black people. Many brilliant black students graduated with great marks, but still ended up doing the most menial work or very few selected jobs. Many black people, therefore, chose not to educate themselves. As a result, the whites said they were not worthy of first-class citizenship and everything continued in a vicious circle. (Griffin, 1996: 40) This example is an illustration of the theoretical argument because it depicted how the society would lead itself to instability when the rewards were based on skin color, instead of ability. Many blacks gave up the higher education because they knew they would not be able to be what they wanted or have a job of their choice after putting all the hard work into it. They knew the lack of opportunity was not due to their intellectual level, but the color of their skin, which they had no control over. A lack of education led the blacks to poverty and they struggled every day just to survive. They were limited in the paths they could take, forcing many to hustle on the streets or worse. It was not that they chose this, but due to society’s lack of choices for them. If the society was a meritocracy, black people would not have given up the opportunity of educating themselves. The whites would not be able to justify their second-rate citizenship theory upon the blacks. The problem of the inequality would slowly disappear and the vicious circle would be broken. The society would be more stable and better place for all people. [Conflict Paradigm]

One argument made by Conflict Paradigm is that some men are privileged over other men in society (Class notes, SOCI 201, Winter 2010). An example to illustrate this argument from Black Like Me is found on page 55. Christophe, the “Valentino” type of Negro, got on the bus and started complaining about the blacks venomously. He called them dirty ignorant punks. He thought “his people” disgraced him so he hated them. For that reason it did not take much for any black man to start a fight with him, especially when he felt he was somehow privileged over them. That was what happened on the bus. This example is an illustration of the theoretical argument because Christophe, who was a victim of discrimination from whites, still felt he was somehow privileged over other black men. It was surprising that even during this age when the blacks had to struggle against a league of white supremacist, they also were forced to fight prejudices from their own people. This helped to show how the Inclusive Feminist argument was not limited to race but based on one feeling superior over another. The whites in 1950’s felt privileged because of their race, but also due to their education, occupation, language skills, and manners, which were the reasons that caused Christophe to feel he was superior to his fellow men. Another example, during these times men felt instinctively privileged over women for no particular reason except that they were women. This idea of feeling privileged over another is prejudice and discounts the belief that we should each be judged by the content of our characters.

[Symbolic Interactionism]
One argument made by Symbolic Interactionism is that understanding “roles” is the key to developing the reflexive self (Class notes, SOCI 201, Winter 2010). An example to illustrate this argument from Black Like Me is found on page 59. As Griffin traveled to Mississippi on a bus, he met a group of black fellows who tried to prepare him for the city that he was about to enter. They passed on tips about how to act, where to stay, and how to interact with...
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