Class, Race, and Social Issues
Issues such as race and social class can rub peoples’ nerves the wrong way, especially if one uses poor wording or an inappropriate tone during discussion. For this reason, I will try to generate discourse regarding the aforementioned topics with the utmost tact and sensitivity.
When considering a career in nursing, some people ask interesting questions where race and gender ultimately intersect. “Can I make it in nursing as an African-American male?” “Since I’m a young female nurse who belongs to a racial-ethnic minority, how will I be treated?” “Will my nursing instructors view me differently because of my race?”
For some, the knee-jerk reaction to these inquiries would be, “Of course you’ll make it if you try! Why would anyone treat you differently?”
Americans can sometimes get wrapped up in issues revolving around one’s race while denying the powerful influence that social class can have on scholastic achievement. One of the best predictors of educational success and attainment is socioeconomic status (Mooney, Knox, and Schacht 273). It is true that success is within reach if a person puts in the effort, but one’s values and upbringing can foster hidden advantages (or disadvantages) when navigating the red tape involved with institutions of higher learning.
Social class is one of those taboo subjects that greatly offends some people. However, I feel that social class plays a far more significant role than racial-ethnic background in whether a minority succeeds in the educational system. For instance, the children of the Mexican-American physician (upper middle class) are much more likely to gain admission to college, graduate, and become members of the professional middle class than the children of the Mexican-American maid (working poor).
I am an African-American female who was raised in a lower working-class household where neither parent had attended college. My mother and father were so alienated from the realm of higher education that they did not know what a college credit was or how many of them you‘d need to earn a bachelors degree. They were unaware that all colleges have general education course requirements that students must complete. For example, my parents wondered why I took courses in math, sciences, English, and humanities if I wasn’t majoring in any of these things.
Minority children who grow up in middle-class households where one or both parents are college-educated tend to have a smoother transition to higher education because Mom and Dad can give precious information about how the process works. These types of parents are also more likely to encourage college attendance, afford tutors and after-school programs, and introduce particular values in the minority child that make educational attainment more likely.
The children of the poor farm worker often has to work ten times as hard to navigate the maze of the educational system than the child of the attorney. Even though the child of the farm worker might be highly intelligent and perhaps qualify for a minority-based scholarship, it is the kid of the attorney who usually has the upbringing, money, inside connections, information, and other largely hidden privileges that help to ensure educational success.