African-American Women and Inequality
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African-American refers to people of African lineage who are citizens of the United States (Veronica 5). They arrived to America as slaves working for the white in their plantations and households. Today African-Americans feel the effects of slavery such as discrimination, employment and education today. However, the African-American women experience these effects more. Despite modern advances in the United States, African-American women remain discriminated in terms of healthcare, employment and education. The employment rates for African-Americans just like other minority groups are lower than for the white population. Research findings have shown that African-American women perceive that race has a greater barrier for employment and promotion than gender. They also have limited opportunities to getting sponsors and mentors who can give them moral support. Additionally, few programs in the United States give black women the necessary assistance to form “supportive relationships” (Veronica 7).
Inequality is socially partnered or, in other words, structural. Subordination in the society is explained based on cultural or biological factors. Gender and race contribute to social inequality only because they are socially rewarded and ranked. Cultural differences are important in explaining social inequality because people of different culture may be marginalized because they deviate from the presumed standards. That is why subordination might be blamed on people’s practices and cultural values.
Social inequality is a situation where groups of a society have unequal social class, social status and social circles. Some of the areas in which social inequalities are evident include freedom of speech, voting rights, property rights, access to healthcare, education, quality of housing, quality of family, occupation and access to credit. There are three major types of social inequalities: gender inequality, racial inequality and caste inequality. Every society divided the roles of men and women in all areas of human work. In many societies women are less likely to be involved in active politics, decision-making processes and property ownership because these are viewed as male responsibilities. As a result, women continue to suffer the effects of gender inequality such as unemployment, limited access to education and opportunities.
Although both white and black women in the United States suffer gender inequality, the effects are more felt by African-American women. The issue of race complicates it further. It is almost impossible for an African-American woman to access credit from financial institutions; hence they are unable to acquire a property (Michael). On average, African-American women receive the lowest wages, hold the poorest job and are more likely than women of other races to be jobless. As a result, many indulge in prostitution to provide for themselves, and in the process they become pregnant. This explains the high number of children born out of the wedlock among African-American women. Children born out of the wedlock are sometimes left under the care of their grandparents. This shows how unstable the family life among this social group is.
The ratio of African-American women with the college level of education is very small compared to their white counterparts. The difference in education levels between the African-American and whites traces back to the slavery era. Even after emancipation some southern states passed laws enforcing racial segregation targeting African-Americans. The blacks build their own schools to comply with the laws. However, the “black schools” were of poor quality while the “white schools” enjoyed services of qualified and certified teachers, serene environment and quality facilities. As a result, the gap between the education levels of blacks and whites drifted further. The discrimination was more intense for women. Black women felt isolated in a “white academia” which contributed to feelings of confusion, shame and anger (Veronica 10).
Class is the hierarchical stratification of groups of people as they are socially defined. A society may define class based on the race, wealth, occupation and power. People of particular race or occupation may be of a higher social class than others. For example, in the United States, whites are at the top of the social structure while blacks are at the bottom. Class determines such things as treatment by police and law, health and nutrition status, job opportunities and schools to attend.
The class is deeply embedded into the government systems of the United States. State-sponsored schools in upper class neighborhood receive more funding than schools in lower class neighborhoods. As a result, schools in upper class have better facilities such as libraries and laboratories hence children in such schools are open to better education opportunities. Only people of upper and middle social classes can afford to enroll their children in these exclusive schools. On the other hand, schools in lower class neighborhoods are attended mostly by poor students, are of low quality and hence they give less education opportunities. Therefore, education is a factor that propagates class division from one generation to another.
Poor health and nutrition among the poor contributes to their shorter life expectancy. The life expectancy of African-Americans is shorter than of any race in America and just slightly higher than of Native Americans (Brink Par 3). They lack insurance and hence have a limited access to healthcare. Insurance is of great help, especially when seeking treatment for cardiovascular diseases, cancer or severe physical injuries. This explains why deaths from severe physical injuries, cancer, cardiovascular diseases and infant mortality are higher among the lower class people than middle and upper class people.
The concept of race was born about the turn of sixteenth century when the western European states were expanding their colonies. The differences in culture between the Europeans and other cultures, like Africans, Asians and Americans, and the ease with which they dominated, shaped the “European’s perception of all other non-Europeans” (Daniel 9).
One would think that after decades of fighting for civil rights of African-American people, the racism monster no longer exists. However, racism in the United States is still perpetuated. African-American neighborhoods are abandoned to an extent that community comfort, stability and vitality found in the white neighborhoods, do not exist. There are high numbers of women, teens and young adult males disconnected from “school and job market” (Street 3).
In the white suburbs, on the one hand, you will find well maintained streets, bookstores, drycleaners, studios, doctors’ offices, boutiques and coffee shops; while on the other hand, in black neighborhoods you are more likely to find dilapidated homes and businesses, poorly maintained roads, pawnshops, food-liquor stores. Occasionally prostitutes are seen at the desolate street corners. Atmosphere of intimidation, shame, defeat, hopelessness and anxiety is all over. Food stamp cards are common with the residents and as you walk along the streets, you will find food stores advertising acceptance of these food stamp cards. Many young adults turn to gang crimes and drug trafficking to earn a living. As a result, many have ended up in jails and many would soon become raw materials for the “nation’s massive prison-industrial complex” (Street 4).
Sexual exploitation of African-American women by the white men dates back to the times of slavery. In the ships black women were forced to have sex with the sailors. As they served in their masters’ households, they were more vulnerable to sexual exploitation by their masters and other men. An article by Rodreguez (Par 5) says that according to census conducted in 1860 there were 588,532 persons on the south classified as mulattoes. Even after emancipation, black and white men sexually exploited black women. Their white counterparts remained silent on the matter while some accused them of being sexually immoral. Stereotyping of black women as being immoral was rooted in courts so that it was difficult to find justice for sexual harassment in a court of law. Today many African-American women are sexually exploited but do not disclose or seek any help; maybe because they feel that nobody will believe them. Correctional guards, police officers and judges many at times treat black women more harshly than they do white women.
In conclusion, the state of African-American women in the United States is wanting. Although they have made enormous strides in trying to bridge the gap between them and their white counterparts, a lot needs to be done. Racism and social structure limit their opportunities, choices and create barriers for black women. It is unfortunate that African-American population feel insecure, oppressed and confused in the country they call home. It is not the responsibility of only the African-American women to fight the rights of women and their space in the society. Their white counterparts should join hands as well as other minority groups. This will be achieved when all women, irrespective of their race, have equal access to education, employment, health, nutrition, leadership and decision-making processes.
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