Detailed analysis of race-related issues in Alexa's life
Racial identity in a multicultural society: the factors that help create an individual's racial identity and membership in a specific social group based on race or ethnicity.
Implications for social status; in particular, the self-perception of African-Americans vs. The expectations placed on African-Americans
Link to external sources to present Alexa's life in the broader context of African-American culture, life, and history.
The 2008 film Crips and Bloods: Made in America is about gang warfare and violence in Los Angeles, but the underlying message is that problems impacting black communities in the 21st century have their roots in institutionalized racism.
(a) Alexa might not have had any interaction with gang members, but her experiences reflect an ongoing struggle for African-Americans to create and sustain their own social networks and political systems.
(b) Those systems are often deemed illegitimate by the dominant culture.
2. Anderson (1994) states, "a desperate search for respect governs social relations among many African-American young men," but the same may be said for African-American young women.
III. Issues related to class
A. First, it is important to mention that race and class are inextricably linked in the United States.
1. Massey's (2008) book Categorically Unequal addresses race, class, and social hierarchy in America.
2. Lareau (2002) discusses the importance of entitlement and privilege, themes that are evident in Alexa's life.
B. Alexa's example is inspiring because she instinctually understood how to follow her dreams even when it meant going against the grain.
1. She was the first person she knew to attend college, even though she had no specific career goals.
2. When she realized her interest in healthcare, she did not simply accept unfulfilling roles but fought to obtain a higher degree of freedom, independence, and respect.
3. Alexa has achieved upward social mobility without sacrificing her identity or her community.
IV. Issues related to gender
A. Alexa exhibits a strong sense of self and is an empowered person, indicated by her referring to desire to be a "parent," and not a "mom."
B. Alexa's willingness to distinguish parenting from the marriage relationship can be viewed as a core feminist strength, even as it represents a struggle for financial freedom.
C. Analysis of Alexa's situation, especially given the prevalence of single parent households in African-American communities.
V. Conclusions and Implications
A. Institutionalized racism, sexism, and class disparities continue to plague the society, but individuals can overcome.
B. It is important to recognize the ways race, class, gender, and power interact to inform personal and collective identities.
Alexa Madison was born in Germany while her father was stationed on an American army base. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Alexa spent the first few years of her life in North Carolina. She moved to Detroit at the age of six, and her earliest memories are of elementary school and playing with her toys.
Her early childhood was happy, in spite of the fact that her parents did not always get along and divorced when Alexa was ten years old. Alexa does not have many memories of her father from early childhood, as he was away on duty much of the time. After her parents divorced, Alexa's father was not much of a presence in her life. Alexa's mother encouraged her to call him, but it seems like her father might not have phoned her otherwise. Alexa's father eventually got remarried and had a new family, further estranging himself from Alexa.
In spite of her parents being divorced, Alexa notes that hers was among the most stable families in the neighborhood. She had one friend who verbally expressed envy at her situation, even though Alexa knew that her life was hardly one of privilege. Alexa graduated from high school, even when many of her friends had dropped out. She entered college with a program for underprivileged youth, but recalls having little direction and no career mentors. As a result, Alexa dropped out but soon realized that she was interested in a career as a medical assistant. She found herself working in industrial medicine.
During Alexa's young adulthood, she established herself in her career but found it hard to earn respect for her hard work. Feeling taken advantage of, she quit her job and found a new career path in a research institution. At this job, she was challenged to push beyond her comfort zone. Her supervisors believed in her, empowering her to learn new things. Yet at times, Alexa still recalls specific incidents that highlighted unconscious and institutionalized racism lurking in the culture. Alexa recently received another degree in graphic design, which will open new doors for her. She has one daughter, but was never married to the father.
At the time of the interview, Alexa is an active member of her church and describes it as her "new family." She has moved on, made new friends, and does not associate much at all with the friends she had in high school. Alexa's career has had a strong bearing on her life, and has shaped both her identity and her relationship to social structures and hierarchies in America. Alexa continues to experience impediments to advancement due to her race, but refuses to let the issue impede her happiness or peace of mind. Alexa's life story evolves, revealing core sociological themes related to race, class, gender, and power.
Issues Related to Race
Detroit was where Alexa came of age, and where she still lives. Growing up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood, and attending mostly black schools, Alexa became aware of the importance of race at a young age because she did not have the opportunity to interact with persons from different cultural backgrounds at school. She chuckles at the question of whether her school was multicultural, because for her, there was no such thing as integrated public schools. Although the United States is an incredibly culturally diverse landscape, in some parts of the country, segregation remains standard. By keeping segregation in place at the earliest point of contact with social institutions like schools, the society encourages the development of community-specific norms. Thus, African-American culture evolves differently from white American culture. The media rarely depicts African-American culture in a realistic manner, instead focusing on extreme elements like violence, drug dealing, and other illicit activities. The lives of working class, ordinary African-Americans is not dealt with, to offer the impression that African-Americans are deviant members of American society. Segregated public schools foster the sense that African-Americans are qualitatively different from any other ethnic group in the country.
Her experiences at her current place of employment indicate a continued racial divide in America. When a secretary at her work was leaving the job, Alexa noticed that she was selected among eight coworkers to assume the duties of the secretary without any extra financial compensation. She quickly noticed that the seven other coworkers were white. The decision to choose Alexa might not have been consciously based on race, but there was no consultation among the employees to find out who might be willing to take on the extra work duties. Instead, it was assumed that the black girl should be the one to work harder than everyone else. This is how inequality is solidified and perpetuated in American society, as Massey (2008) also suggests.
Alexa recognizes that she was privileged relative to some of her friends in school, even though all families in the neighborhood would be considered to be low income. Her position of privilege relative to her peers is ironic, given that by all accounts Alexa's family was located within the same social status category. She entered college as a low-income student, and she did not have any tangible means. The fact that Alexa was the only person she knew to go to college tells more about her own spirit than it does about being in a position of power. She was the subject of envy because her family was more stable than those of some of her friends, not because they were wealthier. However, it wasn't until she was an adult that the implications of race and racism in America became painfully apparent.
Race also has a strong bearing on personal identity. Alexa is conscious of her African-American heritage and proud of it. It infuses her personal life, and allows her to have a strong sense of self. She can pass these positive traits on to her daughter. Self-empowerment is the best way to overcome oppression.
Issues Related to Gender
In addition to issues of race, gender has been an important theme in Alexa's life. She witnessed acts of domestic violence in her family. In particular, her uncle assaulted her aunt repeatedly. Alexa's father was occasionally rough with her mother prior to their divorce. Many of her friends…