Angles of Vision: How to Understand Social Problems

By Leonard Beeghley | Go to book overview

student body, members of which learn about each other and become used to one another. (2) When minorities graduate, they change the occupational structure, demand better housing, and integrate society at all levels. (3) Minority graduates also tend to provide better services to minority people and neighborhoods. (4) In moral terms, this strategy helps to remedy the historical legacy of prejudice and discrimination. As for the liabilities of affirmative action: (1) Over time, preferences can become an entitlement, enforced by power, and merit-based college admissions are deemphasized. (2) Whites with higher test scores or grades are admitted in lower numbers; they are discriminated against. (3) In moral terms, treating people unequally in today's society just does not seem right.

Ultimately, there is no right answer. The issue is what kind of society do we want to have, now and in the future?


Notes
1.
This chapter is an updated and abridged version of a similar one in my Structure of Social Stratification in the United States ( Beeghley, 1996a).
2.
These categories are really bizarre. First, race is meaningless at the genetic level; skin pigmentation merely reflects long-term adaptation to climate (CavilliSforza et al., 1995). So race has been made socially significant. The "one drop rule" historically defined a person who had a single drop of "black blood" as "black" in order to enlarge the slave population with the children of slaveholders (Wright, 1997). Second, categories change over time; those used today were developed in the 1970s and differ substantially from those of the past (Lott, 1997). Third, many people grouped together do not see themselves as sharing a common culture; rather, they identify themselves by nationality -- for example, as Italian Americans, Chinese Americans, Mexican Americans, Jamaican Americans, or Navaho -- because each displays a distinct language, culture, and organizational pattern. Yet these categories remain important, not only as a way of presenting data but also as mechanisms for monitoring and enforcing civil rights laws and as markers for distributing certain government benefits.
3.
Native Americans are an exception, since a high proportion still live on reservations.
4.
Although the data presented here show that Asian Americans are relatively well-off today, they are also discriminated against ( USCCR, 1992). For example, well-trained professionals of Asian heritage often face a glass ceiling preventing advancement in management.
5.
In this section, I am simplifying a very complex situation that has developed over the past century. For more detail, see Douglas S. Massey and Nancy A. Denton , American Apartheid: Segregation and the Making of the Underclass ( 1993). This is sociology at its best.
6.
Many African slaves were like European immigrants in one sense: They had useful skills. Some were bilingual; others had agricultural expertise. For exam-

-95-

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Angles of Vision: How to Understand Social Problems
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables and Figures x
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xiii
  • 1 - The Study of Social Problems 1
  • Notes 19
  • Recommended Reading 20
  • 2 - Abortion 21
  • Notes 41
  • Recommended Reading 42
  • 3 - Gender Inequality 43
  • Notes 69
  • Recommended Reading 70
  • 4 - Racial and Ethnic Inequality 71
  • Notes 95
  • Recommended Reading 96
  • 5 - Poverty 97
  • Notes 118
  • Recommended Reading 118
  • 6 - Drugs 119
  • Notes 144
  • Recommended Reading 144
  • 7 - Homicide 145
  • Notes 163
  • Recommended Reading 164
  • 8 - An Aging Population 165
  • Notes 188
  • Recommended Reading 188
  • 9 - Health 189
  • Notes 210
  • Recommended Reading 210
  • 10 - Reflections on the Study of Social Problems 212
  • Recommended Reading 220
  • Recommended Reading 220
  • Glossary 221
  • References 225
  • Index 249
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