Max Weber defines sociology as a discipline, which challenges the common perception of people’s actions. Ogburn sees it a body that deals with collective existence and its association with aspects of customs, innate atmosphere, and genetics. However, a group of people who live within a given territory where they share aspects of common interest such as traditions, cultural values, and norms constitutes a society. Societies are characterized by their different values.
Values are the elements within a society that justify people’s way of living, for instance, in aspects such as beauty or goodness of something while norms are the conventions and courses of actions that administrate the behavior of the members of a given society. Race is a classification of people who have common biological, cultural, ethnic, linguistic, social, and/or religious characteristics. Ethnicity defines a group of humans with a universal way of life such as beginning, familial land, speech, faith, and traditions.
However, gender is a male or female attribute that is assigned to an individual in relation to biological, physical, mental, or behavioral characteristics. Culture refers to a set of values, norms, knowledge, experience, beliefs, and quantifiable possessions that constitute a whole way of society’s life. Within the cultural setting is a phenomenon known as ethnocentrism, which is a belief that one culture uses to judge the standards and values of other cultures against its own values.
As the paper reveals, the existence of different societies and cultures develops into a phenomenon known as social stratification that refers to the categorization of people in unequal social hierarchies based on such factors as caste, ethnicity, race, gender, color, and origin among other parameters.
Social stratification leads to the existence of minority and dominant groups within a society. Minority groups are classifications of people within a society. They assume less powers and an ascribed lower status in relation to other members. On the other hand, a dominant group refers to the classification of people who assume more powers, rights, freedom, and a higher social status as opposed to the minority groups.
Ethnic/Minority Group: African-Americans
According to Myers, African-Americans represent a minority group within the American society, which has been in existence since the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that reigned in 1619 and 1890 (10). During the 1600s, different forms of slavery had started in the indigenous American society (Ball 16). The Trans-Atlantic slave trade saw many Africans forcefully immigrate to America. During the shipment of slaves, many of them perished along the way due to sicknesses and mistreatment.
More of them used to die soon after arrival since they were destined at different localities within America. Slave masters mainly held people for labor and trade. Merchants auctioned African slaves to settle debts. European slave traders bartered sensible goods such as textiles, ironware, and guns for captives who were detained by African monarchy kings (Ball 15). Slaves not only worked as domestic servants but also undertook tough labor in mines at the European farms.
Slave masters preferred slaves from African origin because they were resistant to diseases. Besides, most of them had skills on farm labor (Ball 18). However, some of the slaves became rebellious with time while others resisted by running away. Further rebellion and intervention by leaders from the African diaspora led to World War I, which finally terminated the slave trade. In the beginning mid 1800s, most of the slaves started to intermarry with American natives to give rise to the present-day African-American society.
Nevertheless, more problems arose as racial segregation and discrimination by Native Americans deprived African-Americans much freedom and powers. This situation led to inferiority amongst themselves. They received hardly any support from the white government. The existence of different racial individualities fueled the Native Americans to assume power over the minority groups.
With the rising racial discrimination, brutal dominance, and inequality, African-Americans experienced blatant oppression from the whites. Legalized segregation caused the minority group to face seclusion in a variety of areas. First, public housing facilities of the whites were different from those of the blacks because of racial inequality between the whites and the blacks. While the whites occupied the suburbs, blacks lived in slave houses and/or the poorest urban housing in the neighborhoods.
This condition continued up to 1968 when the Federal Fair Housing Law was passed to outlaw housing segregation. The government ordered non-discrimination in all housing facilities regardless of caste, color, race, or origin. Health facility discrimination also presented another nightmare to the African-Americans. Some of them died while seeking treatment in vain as good health facilities belonged to the Native Americans. Many blacks died from stress-related diseases such as cancer, heart diseases, diabetes, mental fatigue, and stroke.
Thirdly, the basis of color led to racial segregation in the American schools. Children from black families attended apartheid schools that were meant for African-Americans while white children attended the best schools in the urban areas. Racial segregation from public transportation, restaurants, and other public places also daunted the social contact between Africans and Native Americans (Lee and Bean 221).
Religious segregation is also a major concern in the United States. In the African-American Heritage Sourcebook (5b:2), it is noted that about sixty-two churches were torched in southern United States whereas about nine others were torched in the North from 1992 to 1995.
The establishment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 marked the end of legalized segregation, which created avenues for political and economic grounds for the African-Americans. Development of industries and urbanization deprived the powers of the Jim Crow system, which used to fuel racial segregation and oppression.
The Civil Rights Movement aimed at assimilating indigenous American values of respect for humanity. However, although the situation has quite improved since the Civil Rights Movement, racial discrimination is still evident in areas such as employment and imprisonment (African American Heritage Sourcebook 5b:1).
On a different perspective, African-Americans faced unfair ruling during judgment in courts. As Myers reveals, the possibility of an African-American criminal ending up in jail is higher than that of a Native American counterpart (12). Unfair justice is an indicator of malicious racial alignment by the court magistrates, especially if they comprise whites.
Consequently, persistent discrimination practices by the whites have led to xenophobia, which is a situation where the African-Americans have developed hatred and racial intolerance towards the Native Americans over time (Lee and Bean 251). Post slavery segregation has always been witnessed in the United States after having originated from the slavery period.
Lee and Bean (268) reveal that some African-Americans develop xenophobic reactions towards racial practices that are exhibited by the whites. In some cases, some blacks become defiant to non-justifiable racial discrimination, especially from the white police officers (Lee and Bean 269).
An Interview with HardStick Mkzolo, an African American
The interview takes place at HardStick Mkzolo’s home in South California at around 10.00AM, on 2 April 2014. HardStick Mkzolo is a 71 year-old black whose origin traces back to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
Interviewer: How would you categorize yourself in terms of African-American, a black, or a mixed race? Did this classification transform over time? Is your cultural distinctiveness imperative to you? Why?
Mkzolo: I am an African-American. This means that I am a black. My parents were blacks too.
Interviewer: What do you understand by “race”? In your opinion, do you think race is relevant in today’s world?
Mkzolo: I think race is an ascribed attribute to a person based on color and origin. Actually, it forms the basis of today’s facets of racial discrimination that we, as African Americans, face in a variety of institutions here in America. Personally, I do not see it as important although we cannot pretend that it is non-existent. It belongs to the American society since and even after the slavery era, and it will remain for years.
Interviewer: Where did your parents live initially and what did they do for a living? How wealthy were they? Were they educated? What level of education do you have? How has education contributed to your identity as a black person?
Mkzolo: My parents initially lived at my grandparents’ home in North California before they shifted to Southern California where I live today. In terms of education, they only underwent elementary schooling since their parents were not able to raise their school fees. However, by the time I enrolled for high school education, things had changed by far. Seclusion was quickly fading. Some schools enrolled any child regardless of color or origin. I later joined higher learning and pursued a degree in automotive engineering.
Interviewer: Have you ever experienced racism and how did you react? How have those events affected your life?
Mkzolo: Yes, I have experienced racism a number of times. During my mid 30s, I was employed in an American assembling firm in the Great San Diego as an electro-mechanical engineer. Cases of lost parts were a common phenomenon in the company.
At one time, the manager caught me in a theft circle together with three other white colleagues following allegations that we had stolen a very expensive part of an assembling machine that was meant for a new installation in the factory. I never knew that I would be the only person to be charged for the stolen item as the white suspects negotiated with their white counterparts. However, the manager did not terminate my employment as I continued working for the company.
Analysis of the Interview
This interview exclusively points out instances of racial discrimination and oppression in the life of HardStick Mkzolo. Mkzolo explains that his parents were not able to join school adequately because they lacked school fees. Probably, failure to attend school is an indication of inadequate employment opportunities for the blacks. Mkzolo continues to show that racial segregation had reduced during the time he enrolled for high school education.
Most likely, reduction of racial segregation happened during the Civil Rights Movement, which led to the enactment of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. However, Mkzolo mentions a case of harassment during his job tenure where he was amongst other people (his white colleagues) who faced arrest. After the charges, Mkzolo took the responsibility of paying back the lost machine part.
The case reveals the actuality of racial inequality and unfair judgment in the United States where a white fellow receives favor from his or her fellow white people. Nevertheless, the fact that Mkzolo worked for a white firm discloses that the consideration of blacks in American employment had improved. Despite the allegations, the company still accepted to continue working with him.
Shared Racial Status and the Life of African-Americans
The life history and culture of African-Americans compares with other minority groups in many aspects. However, many scholars tend to study the diversity of African-American culture based on color and origin (Lee and Bean 223). In fact, most African-Americans are not present in the United States due to the present-day immigration practices. They are the descendants of the African slaves who existed in America two to four centuries ago (Lee and Bean 225).
Being an Asian-American, I can undoubtedly say that the life of African-Americans compares a lot with that of Asian-Americans. Hatred, modern forms racial discrimination, and oppression are major concerns amongst African- Americans and Asian-Americans who live in the United States of America. Color identification of both Asian-Americans and the blacks is a common practice by the white community. It denotes them as strangers as Parrillo confirms in his work on Strangers to these Shores (4).
Both communities have passed through a dark past of issues of slavery and blatant racism, which form the basis of contemporary racial identification and discrimination (Lee and Bean 226). The American census system classifies people based on their race, which contributes to modern-day discrimination practices by the American federal system of governance.
Nevertheless, trends in racial segregation and oppression have generally changed since the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The termination of legalized social and racial discrimination improved the social, political, and economic powers of the blacks in the late 1960s (Lee and Bean 234)
The education gap between the whites and the blacks has gradually narrowed down over the years. Research discloses that African-Americans recognize the importance of education and the power of knowledge, especially in an unequal society that is faced with racism and prejudice (Lee and Bean 253). The numbers of blacks in higher institutions of learning has gradually risen year after year. The role of education in fighting for rights against racial discrimination is evident in modern-day debates.
The present-day black society is educated and exercises law to claim its rights and freedom (African American Heritage Sourcebook 5b:5). Education has also helped African-Americans to secure employment positions in both the public and the private sectors.
Surveys reveal that the rates of employment have improved. African-Americans have more positions in the employment sector as compared to the previous years, although the numbers of whites outweigh those of the blacks in most of the organizations. Nevertheless, despite the improved employment rates, African-Americans still report incidences of racial discrimination at working stations.
The 2008 election of President Barrack Obama as an African-American of an African root seemed a big step towards humanity for many blacks. However, although the situation is better, things have not yet changed completely to a nondiscriminatory society.
To preserve the rights of people in a democratic nation, the United States can resolve to enhance the affirmative action as a set of policies that help redress racial discrimination and prejudice. The affirmative action will probably become the solution to racial inequality and racism amongst the Americans.
African American Heritage Sourcebook. A Discussion of Contemporary Issues Facing African Americans. Web.
Ball, J. A Unit of Study for Grades 7 -12: The Atlantic Slave Trade. Web.
Lee, J., and Frank B. “America’s Changing color lines: Immigration, race/ethnic and Multi-racial identification.” Annual Review of Sociology 30.1(2007): 221-87. Print.
Myers, J. Dominant- Minority Relations in America. New York, NY: Pearson Education, 2003. Print.
Parrillo, V. Strangers to these Shores. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2014. Print.