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The Dynamics of Inequality: Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in the United States

Gagne, Patricia; Tewksbury, Richard

ISBN 10: 0130976377 / ISBN 13: 9780130976376
Published by Pearson, 2002
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Title: The Dynamics of Inequality: Race, Class, ...

Publisher: Pearson

Publication Date: 2002

Book Condition: Good

About this title


This anthology helps readers understand issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality at the individual level—by including stories by or about people who have actually experienced discrimination, prejudice, or inequality because of who they were. It then explains the historical, cultural, and institutional roots of inequality, before turning to theoretical explanations, and finally to a section on activism oriented toward social change. For United States citizens working for unity—while celebrating diversity—in the land they call home.

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What is it about the United States that makes it so unique? It may be the freedoms U.S. citizens enjoy, yet in many democracies of the world, people enjoy similar liberties. Some say the United States offers an unparalleled standard of living, but luxury is common in many nations of the world. What makes the United States different from any other nation in the world is its cultural diversity. The United States is the only nation on earth founded by immigrants and based on the premise that all who enter U.S. borders can expect to find opportunities and freedoms that, as newcomers, they would fail to find anywhere else in the world. There are differences in the amount of wealth Americans enjoy; still, each person is constitutionally entitled to the same protections as any other citizen, regardless of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, social class, sex, gender, or sexual orientation. And with very few exceptions, each person is legally entitled to the same opportunities as everyone else. Indeed, these are laudable ideals. But has the United States lived up to them?

This book suggests that U.S. society has a long way to go before equal protection under the law and equality of opportunity are realities. The articles here give voice to the Americans that freedom and opportunity have neglected. In the first section, authors talk about their personal experiences with prejudice and discrimination, demonstrating just some of the ways that inequality is perpetuated in U.S. society today. The second section offers insights into the nation's long history of inequality based on race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexuality. The authors discuss racial inequality and violence, lack of political liberties for women, distrust of new immigrants, and discrimination in official government policy against gay men and lesbians. The articles in the third section examine the impact of today's dominant culture in perpetuating inequality. The authors examine belief systems, stereotypes, and prejudices and discuss some of the ways that racist, sexist, classist, and homophobic biases are perpetuated by the media and certain social groups.

The fourth section provides articles that explain some of the ways that inequalities have been built into the very structure of U.S. society. That section is divided into four subsections, which discuss how key social institutions—the economy, education, medicine, and legal system—perpetuate prejudice, discrimination, and inequality. In the fifth section, authors discuss some of the ways that violence against women, people of color, gay men, lesbians, and others is used to intimidate individuals and perpetuate the dominance of those who perpetrate violence against them. As these articles make clear, violence affects not only individual victims, but also all those who are intimidated from exercising their rights and freedoms for fear of attack.

Since the United States was founded on principles of equality of opportunity and equal protection under the law, how is it that inequalities continue? In the sixth section, authors offer explanations for inequality based on race, class, gender, and sexuality, as well as the myriad ways in which these individual characteristics and social statures intersect with one another. Such explanations are crucial to efforts to challenge, resist, and overthrow the barriers to equality that continue to exist in U.S. society.

A number of social movements of the twentieth century focused on resisting and challenging systems of domination. These and continuing efforts are the focus of the seventh section of this book. The civil rights movement made unprecedented gains in challenging the system of social, political, and economic apartheid that was part of the fabric of U.S. society. And people of color of all races benefitted from that movement's efforts. Similarly, the women's movement challenged the oppression of women, and the gay and lesbian movement resisted prejudice and worked to change institutionalized discrimination. Yet one of the most daunting challenges of the twenty-first century will be for activists to find ways to address prejudice, discrimination, and oppression that occur at the intersections of race, ethnicity, social class, gender, and sexuality.

Specifically, the civil rights movement succeeded at improving the rights and liberties of African Americans, while the feminist movement increased the rights of women. Yet women of color find that they continue to be targets of prejudice and discrimination in ways neither movement has understood or anticipated. Furthermore, identity-based politics, through which people work together to improve their status—as people of color, as women, as gay men, as lesbians, as transgenders, as poor people, or as members of the working class—makes it increasingly difficult for individuals to reach beyond group boundaries. Even as these groups struggle for full and equal participation in society, each has a tendency to isolate itself from others who are different.

The only way that inequality will be successfully challenged in the twenty-first century is for these' groups and others to reach beyond the boundaries that have allowed each to work for its own members' rights. People of color, women, sexual minorities, the poor, and members of the working class must work together in coalition, focusing on the intersections of race, ethnicity, class, gender, and sexualities. It is only by working for unity while celebrating diversity that all people will come to enjoy the freedoms, civil liberties, and equality of opportunity that are the foundation upon which the United States claims to be founded. With this book, we hope to show some of the challenges that people in the United States have faced and continue to encounter as they strive to overcome the barriers to equality and enjoy full participation in society.

We wish to thank Nancy Roberts, Merrill Peterson, Cynthia McCloud, Deanna McGaughey, and Mark Richard for their editorial and administrative assistance in the production of this book. We could not have produced it without their valuable help. We also wish to thank the following reviewers: Susan E. Chase, University of Tulsa; Trudie Coker, Florida Atlantic University; William P. Nye, Hollins University; and Magalene Harris Taylor, University of Arkansas.

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