Race, Class and Ethnicity Concepts
Although race, class and ethnicity concepts have a social construct, they become real based on the consequences they have on our lives. Their social world affects are evident from my personal experiences obtained from peer groups, religious and educational institutions, media representations and I have been able to perceive of my sense of identity. I am a 30 year-old female black student from Nigeria and am undertaking my second in the USA. I moved into the US some nine years ago when I was almost completing high school. I took my final year in the US and then moved to college thereafter.
Throughout my life, I have come to understand much about class, race and ethnicity as far as human interaction is concerned. I have interacted with people of different races, ethnicities and classes, and this fact has given me enough experience on how to interact with people from different backgrounds based on these three social concepts (Alexander, 2012). Coming from an African country where live is characterized by culture, class, ethnic groups and different beliefs, I was able to learn much about my identity. Our country has people who are predominantly black but the different tribes shape different ethnic backgrounds based on culture and class (Lichtenstein, 2015). This fact and the fact that different languages exist allowed me as a young growing person to be constantly aware of the fact that I am different. Through my daily interactions with peers from the elementary level of school to the college level where I am now, I have found myself struggling to fit in the bigger groups. Back in my country the problem is not only based on the aspect of ethnicity but is based on class.
Class determines the social status one’s family is whether middle, lower of high. I come from the lower class social status. As I schooled with peers of different classes and tribes I have come to realize that there are groups that are considered minority than others especially in a case where your tribe is not popular among the social elites. I found it hard to interact with peers of middle and upper class or those who felt that their tribes are bigger than others. However, I was very comfortable when amongst the peers I considered them to be in the same class and tribe as I was. We have to know that we are different from the way one group of peers will treat us when we try to socialize (Resnick, & Wolff, 2013). Those who feel themselves higher than others will try to show you that you do not fit in their group through various ways of discriminations. They normally avoided me, hurled harsh words or talked negatively about my tribe and class.
Experience of Racial and Class Discrimination
When I came to the US, the situation was worse as I tried to adapt to a completely different environment with people of different skin color. Though as a young Nigerian, I had learnt about the whites, I had never got the chance to interact with them as closely as in a classroom. I also came to realize that I was not the only different but the country had different people coming from different areas of the world. I began to understand the issue of race as I interacted with these people. Learning in a predominantly white environment also makes one see the differences among people, especially based on race (Wolff, & Resnick, 2012). I have so far noticed that blacks have a completely different hair from that of the whites. I have in many occasions tried to fit myself in the groups of people with light skin which are normally considered greater in the country. I have tried to put hair extensions which have earned me such as comments as ‘give the hair back to the horse’. To avoid such embarrassing moments I learnt to attach myself to the other minority groups as I find them to be part of my clique. Being ethnic minorities in the country, makes us feel that we belong to this clique especially when the whites excluded us for being black.
Ethnic symbols through the media also shape this aspect that we are different. Reggae and hip hop music are used to set people of different race and class apart. They shape the aspect that in the social world there are people who are quite different based on class, ethnicity and race (Alexander, 2011). These concepts define who we are in the society and one has to identify him or herself with the group where he or she fits (Kleinman, & Benson, 2006). In such groups, one will feel welcomed, accepted and develop the feeling that something common unites them. While in the classroom, an aspect or alienation is normally felt (Lorde, 2013). As I grew up, I never had the feeling that I would be able to speak up among people especially in a case where these social concepts defined what we are in the society. There has always the fear of exposing my outgoing persona for people are bound to make fun of me. I found myself different and feared doing anything that makes people focus their attention on this difference.
During group projects in the class, I normally took the roles that would make me speak out the least to avoid that much attention. This has been the case especially when I know that I am among the majority groups who considered themselves superior. So far regardless of the challenges of trying to fit in groups that are different in terms of race, ethnicity and class, I have come to find out that people were created different and that we need to accept who we are since we cannot change our identifies. The failure to accept hurts more than the aspect of being treated as minority. Accepting one’s own identity makes them develop confidence and face the others and challenge them (Bolin, & Kurtz, 2018). I came to realize that even when we are defined as being less superior, I have the same talents, abilities, strengths and weaknesses as my fellow light-skinned peers. Based on this aspect I have changed my original perceptions, stereotypes and beliefs that I belong to a minority group or not. As I do my second degree in a college from the US, I am more confident and determined than I was when I was young. I have developed the knowledge that I can comfortably live even among people of different classes, ethnicities and races as much as I respect my own and other people’s identity that defines who they are in the society. I am able to work in almost all backgrounds without the feeling that I am weak in any way.
However, sometimes there are situations when people get discriminated based on race, class and ethnic concepts even in my own country as different people find it hard to drop the traditional beliefs that they are superior to others (Gordon, 2013). In this case, I can join the world to fight against these percepts that tend to divide people and affect their social nature. I as I strive to finish my second degree, I wish to work for an international group that lobbies for unity, togetherness and oneness regardless of skin color, race, class, or ethnicity. Though this aspect may be hard to achieve, I have the feeling that trying is better than never doing anything.
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