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The Republican’s Dance With the Devil.

            On Tuesday November 3rd, 2020 Joseph R Biden of Scranton, Pennsylvania was elected the forty sixth President of the United States. This highly contested and emotional campaign was the culmination of more than a year of record-breaking voter registration and participation while in the context of a global pandemic, and a U. S President in Donald J Trump with a penchant for lying and misrepresentation not typically seen in a president. Despite the historic victory for Mister Biden, there were several constitutionally mandated steps that had to be completed before he could assume the office. The final step, prior to Inauguration Day, was the certification of the electoral college results by the United States Congress and that was to occur on January 6th, 2021. On that day, domestic terrorist, and insurrectionist in support of and at the encouragement of President Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol in a failed attempt to stop the certification of the results. This resulted in the deaths of civilians and capitol police and did untold damage to this particularly important and sacred government institution. In the immediate aftermath of January 6th, there was universal and bipartisan condemnation of the rioters and of the president’s actions (and inactions) that eventually led to a second impeachment of the president. Though acquitted of the charges by the Senate, it was the first time in U.S history that a United States President had been impeached twice.

            The article for this paper is from the New York Times website entitled Republicans Rewrite History of the Capitol Riot, Hampering an Inquiry by Luke Broadwater(https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/13/us/politics/republicans-capitol-riot.html?searchResultPosition=2) (Broadwater, 2021). The article details the efforts of the House of Representatives attempt to form a bipartisan committee to examine the events of the January 6th, Capitol attack. The article points out that republicans, namely Representatives Andy Biggs of Arizona, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, are simultaneously misrepresenting the events of that day and are wanting to include left leaning groups such as ANTIFA and Black Lives Matter in the investigation. It is noteworthy that the article points out that Former President Trump is still lying about the validity of the election results and that the equivalence of left wing and right-wing involvement in the January 6th attacks are false. Democrats believe the investigation should be narrowly focus on the events at the Capitol, and republican Representative Liz Cheney (recently ousted from House leadership position) is quoted as saying “That kind of intense, narrow focus threatens people in my party who may have been playing a role they should not have been playing.” The continued assertion by Ms. Cheney that Mister Trump is promoting a “Big Lie” has put her at odds with republican members of her own party.

While there are many ways to frame the issues covered in this news article, it seems to me that the paradigms of Conflict Theory and StructuraL Functionalism adequately provides two frameworks for viewing the various aspects involved. Conflict Theory, initiated by Karl Marx as a critique of capitalism, is best articulated by Lewis A. Coser. Coser, a German sociologist, views societal conflict revolving around “the withdrawal of legitimacy by subordinates in a system of inequality…with violence increasing when conflict is over nonrealistic issues such as values and morality (Turner, 2014).” I believe Conflict theory explains the precipitating event. StructuraL Functionalism, views societies as “super organisms “whose constituent parts are made up of various social institutions that functions to maintain a state of homeostasis for the collective. Along with that framing, I believe a further abstraction of Ecological Theorizing (societies face selective pressures, just as biological entities do) helps explains the republican’s response to January 6th.

            The first conceptual framework of Conflict Theory applies to the precipitating event itself. Many of the former president’s constituencies are usually White, rural, evangelical Christian that are on average less educated than those that may tend towards the democrats. In the past decade or so there have been much dialogue and progress in the areas of Civil Rights for Black people, women, the LGBTG and other marginalized people. This is particularly salient with the election of President Barack Obama. One could imagine that from the standpoint of a person of typical of conservative leanings, it may appear that other groups (Blacks, Hispanics, LBGTQ, etc.) are getting an outsized share of resources. For example, they may perceive people of color getting their jobs (via immigrants or affirmative action). They can begin to feel as though the gains of other groups is coming at the expense of their own. Added to this is the fact that there is not much upward mobility for these people at their jobs and the United States at the time was going the Great Recession. This can cause what has been described as White resentment, the feeling that they are losing the America they are used to along with the resources and perceived prestige it brings. A charismatic personality such as Donald Trump that can articulate these grievances and is also able to frame the existing administration as illegitimate (Birtherism), leads to a situation ripe for him to ascend to power.

            The four years of the Trump presidency was infused with a high state of emotion and narratives that framed national discourse in terms of values, morals and an “us against them” mentality. Fueled by the lies told by the president that the November 3rd election was fraudulent and stolen and that the final chance to right the wrongs of that election had to happen during the certification led to the January 6th riots. This is in keeping with Randall Collins discussion on how interaction rituals are used along with group symbols (Trump flags, MAGA hats, confederate symbols) are focused on the “enemy” to commit violence (Turner, 2014, p. 50).

            That is how we got to the Capitol riot itself. Contemporaneously, the framing of the incident can best be visualized within a StructuraL Functionalism framework. As described earlier functionalism views societies as analogous to living beings or “super organisms.” As such, just like biological entities, they are subjected to selection pressures (Turner, 2014, p. 31). This viewpoint can be abstracted out to any organization within a society too. These organizations will still have to face “ecological dynamics (Turner, 2014, p. 69)”. Viewed this way the U.S Congress generally and republicans and democrats specifically can be thought of as groups competing for a valuable resource(votes). Votes brings an enormous amount of power, prestige, wealth, and resources. Using Talcott Parson’s Action Theory illustration, both the Democratic and Republican National party fulfills his requisites. Adaptation (they must secure votes and turn them into power and influence), Goal Attainment (Party Platform and vision), Integration (majority leaders, committee chairs and minority whips), Pattern Maintenance and Tension management (Rallies and other means of emotional investments (Turner, 2014, p. 18). The Republican leadership’s reframing of the Capitol riots is in accordance with the selection pressures of trying not to be seen in a negative light. Former president Trump still enjoys much support from his election base, and this reality means that as a collective unit, the party must pivot away from the narrative of that day. The party is evolving in platform, practices, and values that it had not been before. People often view evolution as improving into better form. Evolution is simply adaptation to the environment over time into something that is suitable to survive that environment. This is devoid of any notions of “better” “worse” or “advanced.”

            In the final analysis, there are many ways of parsing the different issues presented in the article. I felt that the overriding dynamic, even in the context of functionalism, is conflictual in nature. In matters of politics and democracy that should come as no surprise.

 

Works Cited

Broadwater, L. (2021, May 13). The New York Times. Retrieved from (https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/13/us/politics/republicans-capitol-riot.html?searchResultPosition=2

Turner, J. H. (2014). Theoretical Sociology A Concise Introduction to Twelve Sociological Theories. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage.

 

 

American Criminal Justice System…Not For All the People.

Structural Functionalism as a concept and an analogy frames societies as “super organisms “ whose constituent parts are made up of various social institutions that functions to maintain a state of homeostasis for the collective. Implicit in this framework is the idea that these institutions work together harmoniously and to the benefit of all the members of society. This belief is also a major source of criticism and also used as justification for many extreme conservative beliefs, racists attitudes and practices, and the perpetuation of White hegemonic ideals.

History and a critical objective eye informs us that there are institutions that can be deemed “dysfunctional” and still “work” because they may work better for some people than for others. That struggle leads me to think that there is one main macro level institution that is dysfunctional because even though it works some it is absolutely FAILING others. And I believe that failing is inherent in the system itself and not in the people they are supposed to serve. That institution is the Criminal Justice system.

The Criminal Justice system is dysfunctional because it fails at its primary purpose, which is to rehabilitate people. This is evidenced by the rate of recidivism and its unfair treatment of Black Americans . According to Prisonlegalnews.org “ A U.S Sentencing Commission report on recidivism among federal prisoners, released on January 24,2019, showed that nearly 64% of prisoners who had been convicted of violent offenses were arrested within eight years…”(https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2019/may/3/long-term-recidivism-studies-show-high-arrest-rates/). It is also well documented that Black people are over represented in the federal and state penitentiary system. According to Prisonpolicy.org, Black people represent thirteen percent of the total U.S population but represent forty percent of the incarcerated population of the U.S(https://www.prisonpolicy.org/graphs/2010percent/US_Blacks_2010.html). Finally, concurrent to the over representation in the penal system is the fact that Black people are sentenced more harshly than other groups. According to an article by abcnews.go.com, “ The U.S Sentencing Commission showed that Black men serve sentences that are one average 19.1 percent longer than those for White men for similar crimes.” This is from a November 17th, 2017 article and it also stated that the disparity can’t be accounted for by the offenders history of violence.( https://abcnews.go.com/Politics/black-men-sentenced-time-white-men-crime-study/story?id=51203491)

So to say that the Criminal Justice system does not work would be inaccurate because we are a nation of laws and norms and there has to be a system of crime and punishment. However, I think it is equally obvious that if a person is poor or otherwise marginalized that the system globally does not work for them and is harmful. Failing to properly rehabilitate and to re- integrate, coupled with the fact that a criminal record hampers the ability for gaining employment shows that this particular institution is dysfunctional.

Reflections of a Black man on “Independence” Day.

When I was a little boy growing in New Orleans, Independence Day was simply known as the fourth of July. I knew that there would be fire works and barbecue involved and it was also when my family would have our family reunion. As I got older I started to learn about the historical record of America : Columbus, The Magna Carta, The Boston Tea party, The Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution were among the many items studied regarding the founding of America. What complicated these elements was the difficultly of reconciling these things with the presence of slavery in America and the treatment of Black people into the modern era. And then I learned about Juneteenth!https://www.history.com/news/what-is-juneteenth

When one considers the full context of American history, a natural question could be asked if Black people could or should celebrate Independence Day. A fair number of my Black friends would tell me that the day is not for us. As for me, I personally think that Black people can and should celebrate American Independence Day.

While I acknowledge that the orginal constitution had a 3/5 clause in it that was tacit reference to slavery, I believe that the stated ideals of America are worthy of celebration. I also believe that Black people have toiled and sacrificed too much blood sweat and tears in building the nation. That is too much of an investment to just turn away from and to forfeit our rightful inheritence. Black people struggled, fought, and were killed in an effort to grant us our full and proper place as citizens. We are Americans, even though America has not always treated us as such.

As Americans I believe that there are certain duties we carry. We must continually work to perfect our union. It’s a hard and time consuming process that oftentimes feels hopeless. It is not hopeless. We must persevere and continue the struggle, just as generations before us have. We must correct the historical narrative of America, by acknowledging the contradiction that slavery presented and the contributions that all people made to the founding of the country. We can no longer abide a white washed, sanitized, and largely mythical accound of America. We must tell the truth even if it is a painful and uncomfortable truth. Above all, we must become full participants. We must vote, serve on juries, run for office, educate ourselves, and dialouge with people in meaniful ways.

The fight for a more just and righteous America is not going to come by waiting on it. It will come when we all work to bring it about through our collective actions. So yes, I do celebrate American Independence Day because I too am an American and I will be damned if I don’t claim the full measure of my citizenship.

The Professional Socialization of Medical Students and it’s Ramifications.

Doctors are regarded as the ultimate authority in the field of medicine. They enjoy unparalleled prestige, autonomy and dominance not seen by most other professions. This authority comes from two facts, the fact that medicine is over represented by White men and the fact that medicine is a highly technical and science-based discipline. In American society today, White males are still considered the embodiment of authority and intellect, and American culture values scientific knowledge. Medical students are trained within this context.

Medical school is long, expensive and difficult process. It is rigorous, hierarchical culture requiring students to master a lot of technical information about body systems. That can naturally lead a person to think of patients less as “people” and more as a collection of parts that needs to be fixed, sort of like a car. This is referred to as a mechanistic model of the body. This model combined with the American belief that one should be emotionally detached in order to make good decisions is supported and propagated in medical school. Also, the very essence of medicine is intervention. Doctors, and by extension medical students are trained in the belief that they must take proactive action to correct maligned body functions rather than letting the body heal itself.

The benefit of this type of training is you get highly competent doctors that do a lot of good for people.

One of the more devastating consequence of this is that a lot of “upstream” problems can be overlooked because of the absolute deference given to doctors. “Emotional detachment can lead doctors to treat patients insensitively and to overlook the emotional and social sources and consequences of illness.” (Weitz, 2010 :275). Furthermore, doctors are not immune to the biases and prejudices that afflict most of humanity. Because of that you end up with situations where minority people may not be given the same treatment and respect as majority people and that can have serious life or death consequences.

                                                                    References

The Sociology of Health, Illness, and Health Care: A Critical Approach. Rose Weitz. Seventh Edition, 2010

The Perils of the Working Poor. Poverty’s Vicious Cycle

The more popular cultural narrative that is pushed in America is the notion that in a capitalist democratic society like the U.S the only thing that separates the Haves and the Have nots is a willingness to work hard and apply oneself. Within that context poverty is often viewed as a moral failure, a consequence of a lack of initiative and industry, and it is considered an indicator of some integral deficiency in a person’s character. I contend that this view obfuscates the structural and historical context of American society and its role in maintaining exploitative class structure and by extension poverty. In this paper I intend to describe the difficulties that Poor and Working-Class people face and to juxtapose that against the advantages of Middle- and Upper-Class people in similar scenarios. This paper will also briefly discuss Class structure, poverty, and the minimum wage.

In trying to understand the difficulties of Poor and Working-class people, I feel it is necessary to conceptualize the idea of class itself and how it is viewed in American society. Historically and globally, classes can be thought of as groups of people divided hierarchically in a society with limited or no movement allowed between the groups. These divisions are usually based on power, status, or wealth. This definition of class is normally viewed as antithetical to the American idea up upward mobility and opportunity. However, a cursory observation of the U.S shows different lived experiences of people that effectively (if not legally), resembles a definition of class as it is viewed in the historical sense. In the U.S, a person’s class is largely a function of their occupation, income, and wealth. These factors also introduce a level of status that is directly proportional. The more prestigious a person’s occupation in combination with a high income means a higher status. This idea is summed up in an individual’s Social Economic Status (SES).

Using this reckoning we can broadly divide the U.S in to three major classes: Upper, Middle, and Lower class. The lived experiences for people in each of these groups are fundamentally different and many of the obstacles of the Lower Class are structural and self-perpetuating.

Three things to keep in mind regarding people of Lower SES are: Sources of income, The Federal Poverty Line, and the Minimum Wage. These three factors along with social inequalities work in tandem to create a self-perpetuating climate of poverty. It is worth briefly discussing the three.

Many Americans main source of wealth is in their primary residence (their house), and the primary source of income is their job. They are in effect exchanging time for money. Among the Upper Class, who generally enjoy wealth that was inherited, much of their income comes in the form of Capital Gains. Capital Gains is money that is earned through the sale of investment products like stocks and bonds.

This is an opportunity to visualize how structurally one group is advantaged versus another and how it can be self-propagating. The United States has a progressive tax system that aims to tax Low- and Middle-Class people at a proportionately lower rate than the Upper -Class. In theory the amount that one pays in taxes is indexed to rise with income. People that must work for income often pay their taxes through payroll deductions. “ The U.S. payroll tax is often considered a flat tax because it taxes all wage earners at the same percentage. However, as of 2016, this tax is not applied on earnings over $118,500, and as a result, it is only a flat tax for people earning less than that amount. Taxpayers earning more than that amount pay a lower percentage of their total income in the payroll tax, making the tax regressive.” (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/progressivetax.asp). Lower- and Working-class people spend a greater portion of their income on necessities like food, clothing, and shelter. Even though lower SES people pay a lower percentage of their income on taxes the burden is functionally harder. For example, let’s consider two hypothetical people. If person A makes $30,000 dollars a year and is taxed at 20%, their annual take home pay will be $24,000. If Person B makes $500,000 a year and is taxed at a higher rate of 30% their after-tax income would be $350,000. Given the costs associated with housing, healthcare, and food we can see how person B is in a much better position than person A even though person A is taxed a lower rate. The absolute, raw dollar amount of $350,000 can better meet a person’s needs annually than $24,000. This is further reinforced by the fact that Capital gains income is taxed differently and at a lower rate that regular wages. This strengthens the Upper SES’s ability to save and invest more than someone in the Middle to Lower SES.

When trying to understand the challenges of affordable living it’s important to delve into the minimum wage and the Federal Poverty line. “The Federal Poverty Level (FPL), or the “poverty line” is an economic measure that is used to decide whether the income level of an individual or family qualifies them for certain federal benefits and programs. The FPL is the set minimum amount of income that a family needs for food, clothing, transportation, shelter, and other necessities.” (https://www.investopedia.com/terms/f/fpl.asp). The Minimum wage is the lowest amount that an employer can legally pay a person for their labor. Certain types of workers are exempt such as waiters and bartenders and obviously doesn’t count the work done by undocumented immigrants. In states where the State Minimum wage is absent or lower than the Federal minimum wage, the worker is entitled to the higher federal salary. Conversely if the state minimum wage exceeds to federal level then the worker is entitled to the higher state salary.

How the two work together informs us how well a person can meet their financial needs. The Federal Poverty line is a measure of income and the number of people that composes a household. The U.S Department of Health & Human Services for 2019 sets the poverty level at $12,490 a year for a single member household. (https://aspe.hhs.gov/2019-poverty-guidelines). A person making the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has a gross annual income of $13,920. This hypothetical person is above the poverty by $1,430 but has very little disposable income for emergencies, savings or educational investments. This precarious situation can be helped or hurt by increasing the number of people in the household that either can or can not work. So, if we add another member to the household that is also making minimum wage you have a combined income of $27,840. The Federal poverty line for a two-person household is $16,910. That is a difference $10,930 which is a significant increase from the $1,430 from the earlier example. If we however add non employed person instead, we have a household that is $2,990 below the Federal Poverty line.

So far, we looked at some metrics that indicates how a person’s SES correlates to their lifestyle and financial security without regard to societal influences like race, and gender. In her book Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by In America, author Barbara Ehrenreich explores the intersectionality of all these factors and some of the paradoxical effects of poverty incurring greater expenses. She accomplishes this my leaving her Upper-Class lifestyle to embark on a journey of low wage jobs in order to gain firsthand insights on the plight of the working poor. The book was first published in 2001, but the challenges outlined in the book is still applicable almost 20 years later in 2019. It is worth taking a similar look at a hypothetical single mother of two earning minimum wage, living in contemporary metropolitan Atlanta.

In Georgia the Minimum wage is $7.25 per hour (290.00 a week). One of the ways the minimum wage is calculated is by using the Consumer Price Index(CPI).”The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food, and medical care.”( https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/consumerpriceindex.asp). One the most essential expenses of a person is the cost of housing and that is not included in the CPI. For a minimum wage earner this presents the first and most challenging objective. As of 2019, in Atlanta the average price for a one-bedroom apartment is $ 1,460 per month (average square footage around 978 feet). (https://www.rentcafe.com/average-rent-market-trends/us/ga/atlanta/)

Here is how this one aspect (housing cost) can potentiate other problems. The first is by restricting where a person can live. The Buckhead Community of Atlanta is a coveted area that has access to plenty of amenities to include parks, good schools, hospitals, and stores that sell healthy foods. A low SES person making minimum wage can not afford to live there unless they either take on roommates, work an extreme amount of overtime, or sacrifice in other areas of essential spending like healthcare. The more likely and feasible solution is to simply move into a lower priced part of town. A manageable rent for this person is around $348 per month (that’s 30% of the monthly income). https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-much-rent-you-can-really-afford-renters-solutions-186462) Discounting the challenges of availability, a reasonable expectation is somewhere in the area of around $600-700 a month. An apartment at this price point is likely to be in a low-income neighborhood. Low-income neighborhoods are by nature unequal and there is a link between poor neglected areas and the likelihood of being a victim of and committing crime. In her paper Inequality And Crime, Morgan Kelly concludes” … the impact of inequality is large, even after controlling for the effects of poverty, race, and family composition.” Furthermore, low-income areas are usually in areas that are considered “food deserts”. The USDA defines Food deserts” …as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.” (http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts). Being in a designated food desert coupled with a lack of parks and open green spaces increases the risks of preventable diseases thereby raising the cost of healthcare on an already vulnerable population. This is a position that is less likely to happen to people of greater means.

To further add to the burden of affordable housing as it relates to healthcare costs, we must also consider other cascading factors. One way of coping with the stresses of low SES is by smoking. Smoking likewise raises the risks of preventable disease. Low SES people are less likely to having health insurance which means that a lot of times the primary healthcare provider is the emergency room. ER costs can run into the hundreds and thousands of dollars, placing further economic burdens on a person. Low income areas are also more likely to suffer from environmental toxin exposures than an upper income area would. Exposure to these environmental toxins also increases the risks of health problems and their associated costs. Finally, low SES individuals are less likely to participate in the political process which decreases their tendency to combat business and governments from placing polluting structures in their areas. Where a person lives determines a lot of ancillary effects that can have profound impact on a person’s health and wellbeing. All of this can be mitigated by more money and resources.

In the proceeding scenario we have not included the cost of public transportation, childcare, and utilities. These other costs only make the challenging goal of financial security more onerous. The biggest long-term affect is that outsized financial burdens inhibits a person’s ability to provide educational investments in their children thereby decreasing the likelihood of exceeding the parent’s SES. Additionally, White Cultural hegemony in the U.S propagates negative racial and gender stereotypes that can very often get internalized, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of criminal behavior and educational underachievement. This is an example of structural problems creating individual behavioral problems. These individual behavioral problems can lead to low graduation rates, criminality, subsequent incarceration leading to an inability to earn wages, marry, and do the other things helpful in achieving financial security.

In conclusion I believe that the most concrete and practical solution is an increase in the federal minimum wage to $15.00 an hour. Income and financial security are directly proportional. Less money equals less security, so it follows that more money equals more security. Next I believe that we need a national return of the prominence of Unions and their abilities in collective bargaining. Collective bargaining would shift the power imbalance of employees and employers more towards the workers. This would further help eliminate the problem of income inequality. Finally, there has to be a continued effort at eliminating the system of advantage based on race that currently operates in the United States.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

6.) https://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-much-rent-you-can-really-afford-renters-solutions-186462)

7.) (http://americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter/usda-defines-food-deserts

 

How It Was Versus How It Could Have Been. A Summary Of Two Lives.

How it was…

I suspect that my story in its broader outlines mirrors many others. I was born on October 6th,1970 in New Orleans, Louisiana to two Black parents. I was the youngest of five boys and there is a fifteen- year difference between me and my youngest brother. My mother had me at forty years old and my father was fifty-five years old when I was born.

The neighborhood I grew up in could be described as a Black Working\Middle class neighborhood. On my block there was one White family. There were seven houses on the block and five of them were owned while the remainders were rentals (We rented). Crime was relatively rare, but it was not a fabled “you could leave the doors unlocked” type of neighborhood or time. One night when I was about ten years old my mother was robbed at gunpoint on our front porch.

I went to an elementary school that was, I believe, to be average performing. In my household and in my school the importance of education was stressed to me. Being born into a middle -class lifestyle meant that I didn’t want for food, or shelter. I had no such concerns and my family had enough money so that I never qualified for free or reduced lunch. My mother was an avid reader and so the house was always filled with books. I remember she would always buy whatever book, magazine or comic book I wanted, and I remember when she once ordered me a set of encyclopedias called Childcraft.  I am a voracious reader today because of that. I struggled with math so that was and remains a challenge for me. My family could not afford private tutors and I don’t remember if my school offered after\before school tutoring. My mother had enough education to understand and help me with the math I was having trouble with. I can envision many parents not being able to do so.

Moving on to middle school some issues began to surface in my home life. The first being that my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. At the same time by next older brother moved in with us and he was addicted to cocaine. Later, my oldest brother moved in with us too and he was likewise addicted to drugs. My mother worked from 5 pm to 11 pm and so it fell to me to take care of my dad and to keep a watch out for my brothers. Middle school through high school was difficult because my dad started losing more and more cognitive function and he became progressively more difficult to care for. My brothers got worse with their addictions and their behavior became more dangerous. All the while I was expected to stay and do well in school and to stay out of trouble. I believe that(paradoxically), the fact that I had those abnormal responsibilities kept me out of trouble because I essentially had no social life. The impact though is that today I still find social situations awkward and often prefer my own company.

I was an average student in high school. Although I continued to struggle in math I managed to graduate and get accepted into the University of New Orleans. No one in my immediate family graduated from college. Two out of my four brothers dropped out of high school. I had no role models to emulate (college types). I had no support system at home to help me. I did not have good academic habits or discipline and so I ended up on academic probation a lot. People generally think I’m a very intelligent person, but I never realize my full potential. I think that is a correct assessment. Eventually I dropped out of college and join the army with getting a degree.

In the army I served 8 years. I re-enlisted and got accepted into the U.S Army’s Academy of Health Sciences program for Cardiovascular Technology. Those same bad habits I had plagued me in that program, and I end up being recycled and sent through the program again. I graduated, left the army and have enjoyed a career that has been professionally and financially rewarding as a Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist. I have since returned to school (Saint Leo) to pursue a degree in Sociology. My life to this point can be summarized as” fortune from unfortunate circumstances.” Although my life could have turn tragic, I was lucky to have good people looking out for me and to have grown up in a household where I didn’t worry about food or shelter. Overall, to this point I have been very lucky, and I feel grateful.

How it could have been…

I was born in New Orleans on October 6th,1970 to two wonderful parents. My father was a cardiac thoracic surgeon at LSU Medical Center and my mother was an attorney that came from a long line of politicians with a deep history in New Orleans. I grew up in an exclusive neighborhood off St Charles avenue with my only sibling, a sister. There are no Black people that live in my neighborhood. From everything I see on TV I don’t think they would fit in here very well anyway. This is a nice area and I wouldn’t want any trouble.

As a child I did well in school, but I had a bit a trouble with math. Luckily Dad got me a private tutor, to work with me and I finally get it and excel. Life was pretty good growing up. We often traveled out of the country once a year and I got to visit mom and watch her work in the court room from time to time. I’m fascinated with the law and think that I might want to become a lawyer someday.

Later, when I was about ten years old my dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and so he had to stop working.  We had to hire someone to care for him, it was difficult watching him like that but at least he received outstanding care until his passing. High school was great. I was the captain of the debate team and we went (but didn’t win the nationals). I graduated as valedictorian thankfully to the outstanding tutors and mentors I have had.

When it was time to go college, the choice was clear. I would attend Tulane university. I was lucky enough to get in because of legacy admissions and the enormous amount of “donations” my family made to the university. I eventually graduate Magnum Cum Laude with a degree in political science. I get accepted and graduate law school in ’96. Since passing the Bar in ’98 I’ve been a practicing attorney for close to thirty years now. I am now entertaining the idea of running for a newly vacated senate seat. We shall see. If I were to summarize my life, I would say it would have to be one of “fortunate circumstances”. I was born a White male, in America to a wealthy family. My life could have so many more obstacles, but I have been lucky, and I recognize that.

The lesson of two different and same people…

In comparing my real life to the fictionalized account, I tried to give the alternate version the same innate challenges. The differences in resources, money, and social standing has led to diametrically different outcomes. Although I consider myself accomplished, how much more could I have achieved if I wasn’t burdened with the responsibilities of a sick brother and drug addicted siblings. If I had a legacy of professional people in my family maybe I would have done better in college and never went into the military in the first place. It’s impossible to tell but I think it is reasonable to assume that the effects of race, privilege and social status has an out sized impact on a person’s life with respect to the effort the expended. I believe that, underprivileged people have a harder time with everything when compared to more privileged people even in the cases where the both work just as hard.

Social Inequality

Social inequality is a noticeable fact of life in the United States and around the world. The first time I remember noticing it was when I was a little boy around 6- or 7-years old living in New Orleans. I would notice, especially in my neighborhood, that the cars driven by White people were always nicer looking and without damage as opposed to the cars I saw being driven by Black people. I asked my mom about that fact and she said it was because Black people don’t often have the money to afford repairs or expensive cars. It was one of the first moments in my life when I started to associate Whiteness with money/status/resources.

I think the ultimate origin of all social inequality comes down to tribalism. I think that in most cases that tribalism is realized in the form of racism and ethnicism. There is a slight bit of nuance though to my feelings of social inequality. I believe that a good paradigm for understanding society combines a bit of the functionalist theory and a lot of the conflict theory of social thought. I believe that social inequality is inevitable and desired. Like Durkheim I feel that society has certain essential roles that must be fulfilled. These roles are more difficult and should be rewarded accordingly. However, applying the Conflict Theory I believe that different groups(races) unfairly monopolized resources (wealth, jobs, income) and drive the disproportionate inequalities seen in minorities.

So, when considering the United States and its history of inequality, we should first acknowledge the fact that the nation was founded predominately by White men. White men “othered” American Indians and acquired their lands for the purposes of expansion. Being the dominant culture in America also means that cultural narratives and “truths” are controlled by that culture. White men enslaved Black people to physically lay the foundations of this nation. Paying enslaved people and granting them freedom and a level playing field would have threatened the elevated status, wealth and class of White people. As in the case of the American Indians, Black people where “othered” in order to justify the inhumane and brutal treatment of those people.

The elevated status of White people in the country allowed them to pass on their status to  successive generations. At the same time the increased access to money and power led to almost universal political power and that power led to an ability and willingness to pass laws advantaging them and disadvantaging others. The power over messaging (Control of media outlets) allows the White culture to perpetuate negative and dangerous stereotypes. The stereotypes while false becomes cultural truths and are often internalized by oppressed groups. These groups will often act in accordance to these images and create a self-fulling prophecy of inequality. Practices like Jim Crow, lynching, denying the GI bill to Black veterans, Redlining, and other discriminatory practices also further depressed attempts for equality in this nation.

Over time these differences along with the White Affirmative action of government agencies, and the over representation of Whites in the Judicial, financial and housing industries, leaves a legacy of inequality and injustice that persists despite the progress made by Black people and other minorities.

I believe that in a Utopian world free from racism and discrimination that there would still be inequalities, but those inequalities would be spread out evenly among the different groups in proportion to their numbers in society. I feel that would be a more just and fair society. I think that the goal shouldn’t be equality of outcome but rather equality of opportunity. If we had equality of opportunity then the individual talents, traits and work ethics of individuals would be the differentiating factors. I believe that individual barriers are much easier to overcome than structural/societal barriers.