Social Class at TU

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Social class is the term anthropologists use to describe ranked subgroups in a stratified society whose members are differentiated from one another primarily in economic terms, either on the basis of income level or, as Karl Marx (1818-1883) proposed, on the basis of the kind of property owned by members of different classes (97).

However, as I tried to look at it in a different light, I pondered of how social class affected my everyday life at Towson and my life in general. At Towson, I thought of the different types of social classes, but as I did this, I realized that universities don’t rank people based on economic class, but rather on other standards. Do the jocks and athletes have more popularity? The band people? The cheerleaders? The people involved in clubs? Well, yes and no. Of course they gain more exposure, and they go up in the ‘college social class’, but this is when I thought about something else. Is this class obtained or earned? If it is simply obtained, can’t anyone easily go up in the college social class with almost no effort? How does this ultimately affect their social class in the real world?

The last question is the one I wanted to be answered the most. I wish I had the answer, but until I go though it myself, I won’t know since everyone isn’t the same. How will networking be of help to me, if at all. Everyday I think of my future, and being in a certain certainly helps. I don’t come from a rich family, so I have had to work hard for everything I have gained. However, wealthy individuals, at least most of the time, have everything given to them. They need a job? Their parents, friends, and colleagues have connections. With this example, we can see how important being in a certain social class is always important. Being in a certain college social class garners connections, so does being wealthy, and so does putting yourself out there with hard work. Anyway that you get it, is all based upon having somebody to help you with your social arrangement in your society.

Globalization

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“Globalization is the system of interaction among the countries of the world in order to develop the global economy. Globalization refers to the integration of economics and societies all over the world. Globalization involves technological, economic, political, and cultural exchanges made possible largely by advances in communication, transportation, and infrastructure.”

The medical field cannot improve without proper education, and many of the experienced teachers in El Salvador are gone because of the horrible pay. The impact on the population is striking. Illiteracy rate hovers around 50% and most children do not finish elementary school. Those who reach university studies are indeed a privileged group, about 3% of the population, and less than 1% finish their studies and earn degrees. Without proper education, the healthcare field will never improve. Luckily, developed countries are aware of these problems facing developing countries. They are helping to provide proper education. Without globalization, these countries would almost never be able to improve. This prime example shows the importance of globalization in developing countries such as El Salvador.

Sadly, I am one of those people that had to move to another country to reach for a better education. The only possible solution we had was to move to the United States and be able to hopefully build a better future for our family. My dream is to one day go back to my country, have a family and job, and be able to better the status of my country. Like stated previously, other countries are trying to help countries such as El Salvador to be able to prosper, however this seems to never improve, at least drastically. I hope to one day increase the cultural and economical relationship of my country, because I was once affected by the lack of. The lack of teachers and workers, which undoubtedly affect many areas, including the healthcare field. My current studies are those of science and information systems, and one day I want to be able to say that I helped someone become a great computer scientist, and in this way, share what I learned and be able to share and improve not only my country, but the world.

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh

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Review by: Carlos Rodriguez

2 pages

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    In Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Venkatesh documents the life of the projects in Chicago in order to be able to understand gangs and poverty. It is the journey of how Venkatesh is able to gain entry into the world of the Black Kings, befriend the leader, and study how the community works around the gang. Throughout the book, Venkatesh accents the perplexities and problems that are caused by the community workers,  police offers, gang members, and gang leaders in order to survive and cop with everyday life in the projects.

      Venketash’s work begins after his discussion with William Julius Wilson. Wilson plans to study black youth through surveys, and asks Venkatesh and other graduate students to create questions (5). Not convinced with the books he has read, statistics, and research that his colleagues and others have gathered about the housing projects, Venkatesh decides to find out what life is truly like in the projects. He goes into the projects looking for Building Number 4040 (9), but is held hostage by Black King gang members under the impression that he is part of a rival gang. J.T., the leader of the Black Kings, comes in the building where Sudhir is held hostage, and lets Venkatesh live. J.T. tells Venkatesh that the way to approach this is not by just purely asking questions and conducting research, but by actually interacting and hanging out in the community (21). Venkatesh then relates the reader of several years that he spends with the Black Kings and various people in the Robert Taylor Homes. Venkatesh most of spends his time writing his notes in the apartment of Ms. Mae, J.T.’s mother. Here he writes about his work and also depicts to the reader about the beating of C-Note (65), violence and poverty, the drug epidemic, community meetings, being gang leader for a day (116), Ms. Bailey and the Boys & Girls Club, and dealing with the backlash attached to giving information to  J.T. about everyone’s earnings in Robert Taylor (203).

    This book is definately an interesting read that will leave the reader either wanting to read it from beginning to end in one sitting, or excited to pick it back up soon. J.T. is a multidimensional character who in my opinion is a better and more interesting character than Venkatesh himself. He is a young, smart, ambitious, eager, and loyal character that serves as the anchor of the book. I also enjoyed how Venkatesh is able to relate to the reader a story that seems authentic and gives the reader satisfaction because of this. It is great to be able to see the inner workings of a project and a gang. The gang aspect of the book is a great one because the reader sees the advantages and disadvantages that the Black Kings give the community. The Black Kings protect the community, but at the same time hurt it by selling drugs, causing violence, and taxing community members. However, this book not perfect by any means.

     One of the main weaknesses of Gang Leader for a Day are the ethics of Venkatesh. Whether it is true or not, much of the book makes Venkatesh look like all he wants is information from the residents of Robert Taylor. Even though they let him into their lives, it seems as if he had the chance to just have the information he knew now and get his answers, he would forgo this supposedly life changing experience. Venkatesh constantly lies to J.T., telling him that this is a biography of him, and near the end of the book, Venkatesh mentions that he doesn’t truly consider J.T. his friend (283).  Take for example when Venkatesh is asked to take notes on the finances of everyone in the RT projects, and Venkatesh willingly gives J.T. the information. The residents are hurt because they have to pay more to the gang and Ms. Bailey (202). Either this is Venkatesh being naïve, or just Venkatesh doing or writing this in order to make this read more interesting. Either way, it seems immoral.

      Overall, Gang Leader for a Day, while not a perfect book, is still a great read, and in the end, the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. Venkatesh is ultimately able to achieve what he set out to do, have an ethnography that shares his findings, and at the same time be able entertain the reader. We also get to peek into the life of the projects and gangs in Chicago, both positive and negative. Gang Leader for a Day is at times compassionate, sad, funny, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and ultimately an introspect about our society. It should be read by all.

Miss Represented

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     The image of women are used to sell everything, and when we start to analyze it, these images are usually not of the “normal woman”, but of an unreachable beauty. In this study called Miss Representation by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, we are able to capture the severity of the problem that the media instills in young girls and woman in general. When everyday people turn on to see any type of media, all they see are images of woman being abused or used as sexual objects, and are almost never represented as a leader or as an intellectual. When a woman does break the mold and become a leader, they are still subjected into categories of being dumb or over demanding.

      One of the great points Miss Representation makes is that everyday women are objectified and are often without a voice. Almost nothing in the media shows women in a role where they are the leader, where they are in command. In movies for example, there is often a sexy, promiscuous girl.  A girl that is just there for the way she looks, the girl that men lust over and fight for. Then once in a while, there is the strong, often independent, woman portrayal. Before this part was reached, I knew of the many women that portrayed these strong roles and wanted to yell at the injustice that this documentary was making. However, when they did dwell into the strong independent woman subject, I was shocked. “What can they say about these women? They’re strong and they fight for what they believe in!” Newsom then brought a point home that probably hasn’t crossed a lot of people’s minds. These “strong” women aren’t really the strong women we see on screen because they just end up being sexualized, even in G-Rated films. The stat saying that only 16% of females are the main protagonists is equally eye popping. Television portrayals of women seem to be very similar to the ones in movies according to this documentary. When it comes to news shows, women are seen as better news anchors if their skirts are shorter, if their hair is stylized, and if they’re overall perceived as beautiful. Rachel Maddow for example, not necessarily seen as beautiful, is constantly sent mail telling her that she is revolting. Rachel is additionally seen as bitchy, which  many powerful women, such as Hillary Clinton, are often appointed to. During this part, the documentary showed different excerpts, and one particular segment showed several men undermining Hillary Clinton and glorifying the perception of her “bitchyness.” Many awed in disagreement during the screening and I took it to ask a girl beside me what she thought. She said “I don’t agree with most of these opinions on women leaders. They (women) try to be inspirational, and all people get out of it is that they’re yelling with a high pitched voice. Maybe they should listen to the content and message instead of her looks and voice.” Sarah Palin is also brought in, as the other example of a woman leader, and is lauded as an older, good-looking, but ditzy woman.

Miss representation should hopefully be seen as a wake-up call for many women. This wake-up call should in some part show women that no one is perfect, and to inspire them to stand up and become leaders. Without someone standing up, this problem will only become worse. The underlying problem of being thin, being the right shape, and being beautiful is subjective, and women should not have to change themselves to feel like they belong. These same women that are shown what a woman should be in TV and movies are also constantly lied through advertising and told that they should look a certain way. This look that the woman wants is often put it so that they will continue to buy products and change themselves until that look is achieved. Instead of aspiring to be something great, a woman’s dreams are often cut short due to depression and lack of support. Hopefully, like mentioned above, many women see this film, or at least hear about it, and ask themselves if they want to be headed toward self-destruction, or the path of self-improvement. As one young girl was interviewed, she told the viewers of the struggles of her sister, and asked everyone, “When is it going to be enough?”

Ethnographic Research

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If I were to do an ethnographic research, I would do it on my home country El Salvador.  It would be hard to focus on anything on particular because there are so many different people, but I would try to focus on true Indios. They are a minority in El Salvador, and always a rarity when encountered.

I believe that it would take awhile to compile by “thick description” on my research of Indios. The first challenge would be finding the Indios. That in itself would take a long time. I would then have to find a way to translate their language. In order for me to do this, I would probably have to have someone to be able to translate their indigenous language. After that I would have to analyze all of my findings, and start writing about the Indios. I would try to find out how they feel about being a minority, how they feel about speaking another language, and how they feel about the struggles their people have gone through.

I would hope that the outcome would be one telling me all of their feelings that we had discussed. This would give me a chance to share with others about the tough life their people have lived, and hopefully people would accept them into society. The fact that they have always had less rights than mestizos in El Salvador, even though they have been there for a similar amount of time, and I believe if people knew, they would share my same beliefs and possibly get one step closer to acceptance.

This would would be a participant observation type of research, and would not only try to find out about the questions I had previosuly, but possibly develop an understanding on their culture, and further my findings on their history and their language. I would try to write in a style and technique similar to that of Sudhir Venkatesh’s “Gang Leader for a Day”, where I connect with the people I interact with, instead of taking a solely research based approach. They have struggled their whole life, and I believe that if people knew more about Indios, they would understand.

Sexuality

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A few years back, I had a friend who told me that he hated homosexuals. He hated that they were becoming more and more a part of our society. He brought this up after I had written a paper stating that we should allow homosexuals to marry. When I told him to read my paper for peer-review, and he asked me “are you gay?” I answered no, but that I supported LGBT people, even though I’m not gay. He countered and insisted that I must be gay if I supported such thing. I told him ‘no’ once more, and added that I have my morals set, and that everyone in this world should have equal rights. He just shook his head in disbelief, and said that he hated homosexuals, and he hated people like me, that supported them, even more.

 

This haunted me for a couple weeks, because I had never met someone that shared these feelings. Of course I saw all these things on TV and movies, but I never thought that my own friend felt this way deep inside. I decided to confront him, even though he now apparently hated me, or at least it seemed that way because he was ignoring me.

 

I tried to wait for a perfect moment, but that would probably never come, so I approached him as we where at lunch. I told him if we could talk with a “c’mon dude” expression. He stared at me for less then a second, and softly me shoved me out his way. I set it in my head that I would change my friend’s perspective, but it seemed that if I kept trying, it would become worse. I had lost this friendship because of his low tolerance of anything homosexual.

 

Like the example with my friend, you can’t change someone’s perspective, just the same as you can’t change someone’s sexuality, so why are there people that don’t give these LGBT people the same rights? Why are there still people that treat these human beings to a lower standard, just because they aren’t the same? These answers will probably never be answered, but there is always a hope that people will realize that someone’s sexuality isn’t a choice, it’s a right.

Economic Crisis

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Our country dwells upon a time of hardship. That is what the economic crisis brings. Mr. Alan Greenspan describes it as something that was “triggered by the trade in US sub-prime mortgages – home loans given to people with bad credit histories – but he added that any factor could have been the catalyst.” There have been a lot of opinions on this, but I will share what I have gathered over these last few years and expand on it a bit. I am not knowledgeable on this matter by any means. However, I do know one thing, that the US, the US government, and all other countries have to take a long hard look in the mirror and ask themselves what got them into this mess in the first place. If they are honest and identify that their greed and their desire to put one over there fellow man caused it, then we have a chance to really change things. If that is not recognized then further crisis are guaranteed.

The only way that the world can come out of this crisis is by people changing their attitude towards their fellow man. How can we change mankind’s egoism? That is a hard question to answer, but that is up for anyone to answer.

In my honest opinion, I believe that the economy cannot prosper as long as government keeps intruding with programs and projects and changes to taxes and energy costs and regulations and nationalization of financial institutions. The free market doesn’t exist when government is busy micromanaging it. So in order for the economy to get out of crisis, government must stop interfering. The government is part of the problem, not the solution, and until this is realized, nobody will ever be truly out of any type of crisis. Let the free market take over, and see it prosper once more. A sort of, let itself play out type of deal. That is how the rest of the world progresses, so this is no different.

All in all, I hope that we realize that greed is what causes problems, and if we don’t realize this as a country, how can we expect other countries to do the same?

 

 

 

America.

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Being American is a privilege to me. I enjoy having the freedom to do what I want and to be able prosper in this country.

There is a lot of diversity and you can experience many different cultures here. Here at Towson, or at almost any other university for that matter, you can find people from all over the world. I made a friend who is of Russian decent, and his culture is different, but he values being an American. He says that he wouldn’t have the same opportunities that he is receiving here in the US if he were to be at Russia. Most of my roomates are of different decent, and they value being here at Towson. We have an Italian-American, African-American, and an Hispanic-American, which is me. I value that I have a chance at a good education, and appreciate that I have a chance to progress and advance in this country. Even if you don’t have the same opportunities, you can still make a living wage here even if you were poor to start. There is also a lot of natural beauty, great places to see, and fun things to do. We have so many momuments and wonders, that where ever you live, you are bound to find something beautiful.
There are times where I don’t like the “idea” of America or being American. What I mean is the popular media and how it manipulates the minds of America. I don’t like most of what the goverment stands for, or how it handles many situations. I don’t like that there is a lot of crime and violence and I’m sometimes afraid to even go out of my house at night. I don’t like the condemnation of success, redistribution of wealth, or the concept of accountability when those that speak of it so eloquently, have such trouble with integrity. I don’t like that there is so much racism, even though we are so multicultured.

 

However, I take the good with the bad, and I think that this is what America is about, taking the good with the bad, making the most of it, and being able to prosper in the end.

Society and the minority group

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Ethnicity is the identification or affiliation to a certain group. This group will probably have different values, styles, art, music, religion, or even language. Many of these cultures revolve around the notion that they are a community, and not just population, in the sense of numbers.

I belong to a minority group, whose cultural characteristics are looked at differently than those of the bigger groups in society. Due to this, many look down upon or disregard this group. Many of the people in my minority group are still in their country, most of the time struggling. So in that spec, what do they think when they see a bigger, wealthier, and more dominant group in another society? What do they think when they see their financial stability and see nothing? They think that by joining that bigger society, it will benefit them and their family.

What happens next? They try to reach that dominant society. Some are patient and wait for years to be able to reach this dominant society. While others are patient, but are never allowed access into the society. What about those in between you ask, the ones that aren’t patient, that are desperate to get a piece of the pie, or the ones that were patient but were denied. They do it illegally, hoping for a chance, risking the little money they had, taking a chance on not only their own, but their families lives.

So if they get into the governing society, what happens after? Well, they must first assimilate. This is difficult, because alongside the rules, and the different culture, the language barrier is overwhelming. The next step is to be able to establish, and you do that by having a job and buying a house, making your nitch in this society. This becomes a horrible experience for many. Many start out working multiple minimum wage jobs just to feed their family, rent one room to share with their whole family, and on top of that are descriminated because they are from a minority group.

But imagine if you initially came illegally or don’t know the language? You have many of the same struggles, alongside a lack of communication, a fear of not being able to find a job, and ultimately having this society kick you out. Well, what is next for this individual and family?

Well, that the dream is gone.