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Impact of social status on perceptions and behaviors

Social status in society is the extent of honor and prestige to the position one’s class and race shares in society and is an aspect which determines the manner in which people perceive and are perceived by the other members of the same society (Harold, 1983). For instance, a teacher or a professor would belong to a different class in society as compared to a politician. This paper aims to analyze the effects of perception of social class and status on the lives of people, with the help of two interviews conducted on two distinct personalities sharing two different statuses.

The two people interviewed are a 10th grade African American female student, Sara, and a 10th grade American (white) male student, Raymond. During the interview it was revealed that the 10th grade African American student, Sara, is a hard working female student, and leads a comfortable upper middle class life with both parents working as attorneys. However, she faces pressure in the form of teasing for working hard and obtaining good grades, not only from her African American peers, but also the ‘white’ students of her class and sometimes even from teachers.

She is also sometimes accused of “acting as a white” and not one belonging to her race. When the “white” male student, Raymond, from the same class was interviewed, he stated that there were strict prejudices regarding the hard working African American, Sara, and his “white” peers believed that since she was not a ‘white’ her parents probably sold drugs to maintain a good lifestyle. So much so, that on one instance, when her paper was very well written, her teacher had intimidated that her paper may have been plagiarized.

This interview reveals the social stratification which impacts the manner in which the components of culture are taught and learned in society. Society acts as an agent to transfer the rules through their thoughts, behaviors, actions and deeds and stratifies the ability of individuals from different cultures and communities to adhere to and live in accordance with certain principles and ideals, which are common to a particular set of culture or race (Harold, 1983).

The components of culture including symbols, language, values and beliefs and norms of a society are learned and acquired through the process of socialization. The act of “acting as a white” implies the culture and behavior of ‘whites’ which relates to hard work and perseverance in education. It also implies that the African American students as well as the ‘white’ students perceive the behavior of ‘not working hard’ to be consistent with the African American group and culture.

In the above case, both the interviewees have acquired their knowledge regarding the specific “white’ and “African American” cultures and react according to their prejudices. The ‘White’ student Raymond believes that ‘African American’ children are not capable of good academic work. This perception regarding African Americans has been fundamental in shaping the beliefs of Raymond as well as the teacher, who plays a vital role in endorsing Raymond’s views by expressing doubts over Sara’s exceptional paper and judging that it could be plagiarized.

It can be concluded that culture plays a crucial role in shaping the perceptions and prejudices of individuals and this directly relates to the thoughts, actions and deeds of individuals. Culture has played a crucial role in shaping Raymond’s beliefs that African American students are not hard working and do not share a comfortable position in life. References Harold Kerbo, Social Stratification and Inequality: Class Conflict in the United States, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. , 1983), 113.

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