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Discrimination Towards Minorities

C. Wright Mills says, “Think ourselves away from our daily routines and look at them anew.” To use your sociological imagination you must pull yourself away from a situation and place yourself in another person’s shoes, this will enable you to open yourself up to different perspectives. Our actions are shaped by the situations in which we are placed, the people around us, the values that we are raised with, the way people around us act and how it all relates to an outcome. Sociological imagination is the ability to understand the life or biography of an individual by understanding history. As I started to receive college acceptance letters and scholarships that would enable me to pursue higher education, I didn’t receive the appraisal I expected. My achievements required a lot of hard work and dedication, but instead people assumed that I hadn’t earned these accomplishments, that they were just given to me because I am a Hispanic female. The dominant culture is astonished when a female from a minority background is accepted to top universities, and receives scholarships praising her hard work and determination. Usually the dominant culture looks to find any explanation for a Hispanic’s success other than their hard work; some of these explanations include racism, stigma, stereotypes and gender roles. In this paper, I will exemplify how stereotypes and discrimination towards Hispanics influence a larger, social issue that demonstrates how the dominant culture views Hispanic students because of their minority ethnic backgrounds

My personal trouble took place in the winter of last year, during my senior year in high school when I began to receive my acceptance letters from colleges as well as scholarships. At times I felt as if I did not truly deserve them because people around me would comment that I didn’t earn all of those achievements and they were only being given to me because I am Hispanic and a girl. All I wanted was a little praise, which I received from my loved ones, but the others who I didn’t expect anything from were the ones being very disrespectful thinking that I didn’t work hard to pursue these goals in higher education.

I worked hard in high school to maintain my high grades, play soccer, be involved in clubs and take the role of Associated Student Body President during my senior year. I did all this to be able to pursue my dreams of getting a higher education and going to a college of my choice. As I was applying to colleges and scholarships, I felt nervous of what the outcomes would be. When I started to hear back from colleges and scholarships I was thrilled and proud of myself for all of my achievements. The people who thought I didn’t deserve it for my work ethics didn’t bring me down, just made me disappointed to witness how disrespectful and closed-minded they were about my success and the idea that I only got into colleges because I am “Mexican.” This is one of my personal troubles that I had to go through.

This personal response that I had to undergo is shaped by racism. Racism is a prejudice attitude towards people and their membership in a certain group (Chiaraluce 2012). Since a small number of people from Mexico pursue higher education or even finish their lower education, one may believe that I only got into these universities because I am Hispanic. However, these people aren’t being sociologically mindful and just jump to conclusions based on stereotypes. A quote from an outside source says, “The rise pushed Hispanic college enrollment to 1.8 million, making Hispanic youths the largest minority group on college campuses in the country,” (Tavernise 2011). This quote demonstrates the rise of Hispanics in colleges, and although Hispanics aren’t the dominant culture doesn’t mean they receive automatic acceptances to colleges. They need to try just as hard or even harder than the dominant culture because they don’t have the same resources. People need to pull themselves away from the situation and put themselves in others’ shoes and see everything that they have to go through to be able to gain these achievements.

In Schwalbe’s book, The Sociologically Examined Life, he says, “One time while running through this area on a hot day, I said hello to two Latino men who were cutting grass in a front yard. They nodded to me but did not return my greeting with any enthusiasm. I thought about my own privileges,” (Schwalbe 2008: 56). This quote specifically proves the stereotypes that the dominant culture has on Hispanics. The dominant race believes that Hispanics should just have blue-collar jobs that don’t require any education such as landscaping, construction, cleaning houses and other non-skillful jobs. Stereotypes are a generalization about a group of people not taking into consideration the actual variation among the members (Chiaraluce 2012). This is the bigger public issue compared to my individual trouble because even though some Hispanics have no choice but to work these low skilled jobs, not every Hispanic lives with those same variations. One shouldn’t simply assume since I am Hispanic and not many Hispanics pursue higher education that this is the reason that I got my acceptance letters and scholarships. However, I had to put a lot of time and effort into pursuing this dream of mine.

This minority discrimination is a form of stigma because these people were being prejudice towards my Mexican background. If my skin color was white, then most likely no one would have said anything or questioned my acceptance to colleges. Stigma is an attribute, behavior or reputation, which is social discrediting, and causes an individual to be mentally classified by others in an undesirable way. (Goffman 1963) There are three forms of stigma and one of them is minority status, ethnicity, nationality and religion. Goffman says, “Finally there are the tribal stigma of race, nation and religion, these being stigma that can be transmitted through lineages and equally contaminate all members of a family.” This is the type of stigma that all minorities have to experience, and in my case, all the people that have a Mexican background. This is considered to be a discredited stigma one that people can see just because of ones skin color or because of his or her background. It is a master status that all Hispanics need to live with. This known stigma that since I am Hispanic, people look at me differently and assume things that aren’t true. When I went through my problem last year it was really disappointing that people just assumed that I got into these colleges because of my race, but I actually had put in so much effort and time to be able to accomplish these acceptances. According to the government, everyone is supposed to be treated equally, but it doesn’t seem as if they enforce this on how people should treat and act towards one another.

“Achievement also depends on others giving us opportunities to develop and display our abilities. It depends on others being able and willing to recognize the results of our efforts,” (Schwalbe 2008: 59). This inspirational quote from Schwalbe’s book The Sociologically Examined Life, demonstrates a way in which everyone should live their lives, giving one another opportunities to be able to prove their abilities through the effort they put in to getting themselves there. To get into universities nowadays, one needs to prove that they are ready for the harder workload and have something that stands out, compared to the rest of the applicants. I worked hard throughout high school and did a variety of extra curricular activities to be able to get into the colleges, which accepted me. So one shouldn’t simply be prejudice and assume inaccurate information about why I got my acceptances.

Gender roles also have a huge influence on why one may assume that if you are Hispanic then you will have automatic privileges. Gender roles are specific characteristics and behaviors that different cultures attribute to the sexes, and society expects people to fulfill these roles. In the past, Hispanic women were known to be housewives, have no education, take care of the children, and clean houses to bring in a little bit of extra money. Men are perceived to be the ones that should have the career and bring the majority of the income into the house, so when people said that I got into these colleges because of my race and my sex it wasn’t only racist, but also discriminating towards gender inequality. Since not many women in the past pursued a higher education, if you are a woman and a minority then that is why you are perceived to obtain certain privileges.

My personal issue expands to a much broader and detailed public problem that is taking place in society today, which should not happen in this country that is perceived that everyone is to be treated equally. Assumptions towards minorities and treating them as if they are inferior shouldn’t be acceptable. This racism, stigma, stereotype and gender roles that are exemplified towards minorities and more specifically Hispanics are still a major issue in society today. People are treating minorities differently simply because of their reputation from the past and because they aren’t part of the dominant culture. This major status and treatment towards Hispanics impacts one in a negative way and makes them feel like they have not accomplished anything and these advantages are just given to them because they are part of the minority group. Even if one isn’t part of this dominant culture in America shouldn’t mean that they are classified and different from the rest of society and discriminated against simply because of their race.

References

Chiaraluce, Cara. 2012. “Race/Ethnicity and Prejudice.” Lecture 11. SOC 002. Wellman 002: University of California Davis.

Goffman, Erving. 1963. “’Stigma and Social Identity.’ Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity.” Prentice Hall: 1-10.

Schwalbe, Michael. 2008. The Sociologically Examined Life. New York, NY: McGraw- Hill.

Tavernise, Sabrina. 2011. “Young Hispanics’ College Enrollment Rose 24% in Year, Study Says.” Retrieved December 1, 2012. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/26/us/26census.html?_r=1&).


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