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Social Problems in Contemporary Society

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2823 words Published: 27th May 2021

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  1. How does sociology understand social problems? Explain what makes this orientation to social problems unique?

Sociology is the study of our society, which includes patterns of social relationships, social interaction as well as our culture of everyday life. A social problem is “any condition or behavior that has negative consequences for large numbers of people and that is generally recognized as a condition or behavior that needs to be addressed” (Anonymous, 2015, p. 16) By understanding how society works in a particular way, makes it possible to make sense of the world around us. It helps us to understand the nature of our own social relationships. Sociology is also a tool for understanding culture and its effects on society. Many issues can be derived by studying the history of societies, like the Jim Crow Laws. We are all influenced one way or another by how other people in our society live and by what we see and hear. This includes the way people think, act, feel and behave and the way they interact with others. Sociology is a science that deals with these things and more in-depth than any other discipline. It is a different way of thinking, having a sociological mindset allows us a better understanding of how society works in a constructive and positive manner that is beneficial for all people.

University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing. (2015). Social problems: continuity and change. Minneapolis, MN

  1. Describe the concept of privilege. What are the key features of privilege according to McIntosh and Allen? How does this concept relate to oppression?

The concept of privilege is capturing a set of unique advantages and benefits over another

race or culture without you necessarily earning it. For example, a white person can be treated differently at a convenient store purely because of the color of their skin. Privilege is not a concept that is only used to describe a certain group of people. Every race in the world has advantages as well as disadvantages even though some people use the term “privilege” directed to a certain ethnic group. The “invisible package of unearned assets”, is a key feature of privilege according to McIntosh and Allen. McIntosh states, according to her, these are hidden benefits of privilege white people experience. An example of an unearned asset would be to grow up in a home with two working parents because some people do not have that privilege, but if you did, you may have not realized this was a privilege even though you certainly didn’t earn it.

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However, that is an advantage due to the fact that you grew up with two incomes, which    is considered to be an economic advantage, therefore having two incomes is certainly a privilege. An example where privilege and oppression intersect would be racial profiling and police encounters in America. Another example would be that I have some privileges because I am a woman, but at the same time oppressed because I am a Hispanic woman. It’s hard being a woman, but it’s harder being a Hispanic woman. This brings me to intersectionality, and how people can possess multiple identities to groups and within each of those identities, each group has its privileges and oppression. We have no control over being privileged and being privileged in society is not the problem, it’s that people are oppressed and when people are oppressed, the advantaged group becomes privileged. If there were equality in this world, I believe there would be no privilege in society.

McIntosh, Peggy. 1990. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Independent School 49 (2): 31. (Links to an external site.) 


  1. How was the indigenous body constructed as “dirty” and what are the impacts on the ongoing problem of sexual violence?

Colonizers think Indian bodies as "dirty" inherently. According to white Californians of the 1860s, indigenous women were “the dirtiest lot of human beings on earth” (Smith, 2003).

Colonizers have consistently blunted the will of Indian people to resist the colonization and always tried to crust the spirit of the Indian peoples. They have used a devastating weapon- sexual violence, to depress them in all aspects. When people are classified as “dirty”, people struggle to find the immoral values associated with sexual violence. When someone is labeled “pure” they have an advantage over someone who is labeled “dirty”, only because people believe it’s wrong to rape a girl who is clean and worth value rather than someone who is “dirty” or who has already been violated. Therefore, this stereotype has been linked to efforts to undermine the roles and responsibilities of an indigenous woman and to justify the historical and ongoing physical and sexual violence to indigenous women.

Perry, J. B. (2015). Theodore W. Allen On the Invention of the White Race, 'White Privilege,' and the Working Class. Retrieved from https://www.blackagendareport.com/ted-allen-invention-of-the-white-race

Smith, A. (2003). Not an Indian Tradition: The Sexual Colonization of Native People. Hypatia, 18(2), 70-85.

  1. What is the difference between wealth and income? Why might wealth be a better measure of someone’s economic standing than income?

Income is the money (annual earnings) that someone makes at their job, while wealth is what someone owns.  Wealth is the definition of someone’s stock of assets held by a person or household at a single point in life, minus your financial liabilities. The assets may include financial holdings and saving, but commonly also include the family home. Income is also referred to as money received by a person/household over some period of time, or wages, salaries, and cash assistance from the government.In some ways, wealth is a better measure of someone’s economic standing because wealth generates income, in other words, it includes all that you own, not just the money you make from a paycheck. Hence, income inequality depends in part on wealth inequality.

For example, two Americans could both have the same income but different wealth. One could own a home and two cars while the other rents an apartment in a suburban area. In the 1960s, real estate housing laws wouldn’t sell homes in white neighborhoods to people of color because they believed it devalued a neighborhood. Historical context can change the wealth generated by a family, even though both people generate the same wages, one is significantly more advantaged and has more assets.

  1. What are at least three of the social problems related to poverty? Do assistance programs and policies address poverty as one of the causes of the issue?

Three social problems related to poverty would be employment opportunities, lack of education, and economic inequality. Geographic locations such as urban and rural areas have a greater impact when it comes to poverty. Many assistance programs do require you to be in poverty in order to seek help. This can be an issue because if the goal is to keep people out of poverty, they shouldn’t let them slip into poverty in order to get assistance. People should be given help before even reaching the poverty level. There are many things that are out of our control when it comes to poverty.

Crossman, Ashley. (2020). Understanding Poverty and Its Various Types. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/poverty-3026458

Project, B. (2018). Rural Poverty and Urban Poverty. Retrieved from https://borgenproject.org/rural-poverty-urban-poverty/

  1. Describe how focusing on the morals and behaviors of the poor prevents Americans from seeing the social forces that create poverty.

When Americans see high crime rates and bad behaviors from low-income communities people tend to focus on the wrong issues. The belief that lack of income is the problem of extreme poverty is not correct, it’s more than that. Bad behaviors and bad choices have consequences but are not the cause of poverty. Focusing on the behaviors of low-income neighborhoods and the homeless takes the focus off of the original issue, which can be unemployment. Behaviors are expressions of living in poverty. Maintaining focus on preventing poverty, for example, employment opportunities and understanding geographic locations will keep us focused on the cause rather than the symptoms of the cause.

  1. How are racial categories socially constructed? How does this process connect to a history of racial inequality?

Race is a social construct that was created by society. Race isn’t the problem in society, racism is. Race was created to divide cultural differences. Tangible things have been associated with race such as names, hairstyles, and skin color. It has been proven that people can identify with multiple races and it’s never changing. How we constitute what’s white and what’s black is a product of social construct. The history of this social construct produces a racialized society with racial inequality. An example of racial inequality from historical social constructs would be traditional African American names that we associate with that group. A name like Chantoya belongs to African American girls. If that name appears on a resume, they are likely to be called for an interview based on how we identify people with that name. This creates oppression because African American unemployment rates are significantly less than any other race in America due to how we socially construct how people relate to groups.

Onwuachi-Willig, A. (2016). Race and Racial Identity Are Social Constructs. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/06/16/how-fluid-is-racial-identity/race-and-racial-identity-are-social-constructs

  1. Define the concept of “colorblind” racism. How does this impact the ideal of racial equality?

Colorblind racism is simply not acknowledging the racial differences between groups of people. This is essentially ignoring the issue. By ignoring the issue “racism” you are part of the problem instead of the resolution. If a white person says they don’t see race, they are ignoring the fact that they are privileged in society and if they don’t understand why they are privileged then they won’t be able to understand why people are disadvantaged. Having a sociologist mindset enables us to understand privilege and oppressed people in America. Colorblindness is a form of racism. By acknowledging race and its social constructs, you can help people who are oppressed by those social constructs.

  1. What were original Jim Crow laws? Explain the meaning of the new Jim Crow laws?

Jim Crow laws were “based on the theory of white supremacy and were a reaction to Reconstruction” (Constitutional Rights Foundation, n.d.). The laws denying African Americans basic social, economic and civil rights such as the right to vote or drink water from the same water fountains as white people. These laws mandated racial segregation in states that were formally confederate. Today, mass incarceration, metaphorically known as the new Jim Crow laws, hosts more people than slavery did. Anyone labeled a felon can be discriminated against in America. This means laws that were established to prevent discrimination is now perfectly legal against anyone labeled a felon.

Alexander, M. (2012). The New Jim Crow. New York, NY: New Press.

Constitutional Rights Foundation. (n.d.). A Brief History of Jim Crow. Retrieved from https://www.crf-usa.org/black-history-month/a-brief-history-of-jim-crow

  1. Describe one approach/action that addresses the cultural and structural factors to gender inequality. How does this approach attempt to solve a specific social problem?

Many feminist groups stand up for education reform as a way to deal with the cultural and structural factors of gender inequality. A significant reason why gender inequality has been so prominent for so long is the fact that women have been forced to be economically dependent on men, whether it be their husbands or fathers. Feminist groups push for women to pursue higher education and earn a college degree, especially in more male-dominated fields, in order to socially elevate and become self-sufficient professionals.

Addressing gender stereotypes in social media is one approach that addresses gender inequality. Women are heavily influenced by social media, including gender stereotypes. Images of men and women from social media can destroy any progress made on gender inequalities. Encouraging social media to enforce policies that promote equality amongst genders is one way to combat gender inequality. Something I have seen personally in today’s military is putting women in leadership positions. This promotes the idea that men and women are equal and that women can do what men do and men can do what women do. By strengthening social media context in gender inequalities this will make women images stronger, which will balance gender through cultural and social context.

Essay Question (worth 25 points)

  1. How is masculinity constructed as violent? What is the role of the media in contributing to this social problem? Why should mass shootings be defined through a gendered framework?

Early masculinity is constructed in American society at a very young age and emphasizes toughness, stoicism, acquisitiveness, and self-reliance attitudes and lack of emotional sensitivity. Boys learn how to be boys from the men who are already in their lives. The common norm is that most men encourage their male children to engage in sports and physical activities. With so much pressure on young men, it’s no wonder why we see so much hostility in male roles. Male youth, at times, are forced by society to conform to their ideologies which leaves no room for outsiders Along with time, aggression is shifted to power over another, especially when there is a threat to masculinity.  Media plays an essential role in contributing to this social problem. The media acts as a negotiator and regulates all the issues in public in a positive way. The media plays a part in the American culture because it gets paid millions of dollars to push their ideologies on us, all while making extreme profit margins.

 Mass shootings defined as, “Any controlling measures in a masculinity culture can be taken easily by the gendered framework” (Anderson & Umberson, 2001). According to Statista Research Department, U.S. mass shooters’ by gender state, “an astonishing 112 mass shootings have been carried out in the United States by male shooters. In contrast, only three mass shootings (defined by the source as a single attack in a public place in which four or more victims were killed) have been carried out by women” (2020). I believe mass shootings are the result of male masculinity and violence as they are taught at an early age that it is normal behavior.


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