Understanding And Assessing Communities Cultural Studies Essay

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A community is "that combination of social units and systems that perform the major social functions having locality relevance, in other words, the organization of social activities to afford people daily local access to those broad areas of activity that are necessary in day-to-day living" ( Schriver 2010). According to the book written by Netting, Kettner and McMurtry (2008), there are three different types of communities. Geographical or territorial communities are often called neighborhoods or cities and can have smaller geographical areas within them, such as California State University Fullerton (C.S.U.F.). The University has a small geographical space within the community and can function on its' own. Identification and interest bring people together due to beliefs, culture or social stature. In Fullerton, Ca. there is a small concentration of Hispanic people who have carved out a niche within the city, bringing their culture to churches, markets and schools. The final one, Netting, et al. (2008) "the community shows a collective relationship that gives meaning to one's identity" (pg. 132). People in these communities identify with each other due to profession, education and social standing. The community I have chosen to discuss is the City of Fullerton California which is a geographical community.

It is imperative that a social worker become familiar with different communities in order for them to understand and help the needs of those they are serving without regards to micro or macro practice. Social workers need to know what specific populations they will be working with and understand the undercurrents of where their clients live and how they associate with those in their neighborhood. They must be able to communicate and understand the macro approach to realize that many disciplines and professionals go beyond individual interventions. It is up to the social worker to help empower their clients so they are better able to serve them. Because respect for diversity is so central to social work values and practice and because culture is such an important tool for understanding human diversity, social workers need to understand what will work for their clients and what will not.

Of the community theories and models discussed in the book, the Human Behavior Theory is one which best suits Fullerton, Ca. The Human behavior Theory is best described by Netting. He wrote: "Parallel to the focus on space, structure, function, and relationships among systems are the issues of how people behave in communities." "There are many ways to examine these factors": interactions and values, collective identity, and needs (Netting pg. 140).

General Description of the Immersion Community

The Community which I visited during the community Immersion research project was Fullerton, Ca. The city is located in what is known as North Orange County. Fullerton is located 11 miles northeast of the Pacific Ocean with a population of 137, 624. The city is surrounded by La Habra, Brea, La Mirada, Buena Park, Anaheim and Placentia. In 1886, George and Edward Amerige, heard that California Central Railroad, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad, was looking for land. They subsequently bought 430 acres just north of Anaheim. It was then the brothers began to negotiate with George Fullerton, president of the Pacific Land and Improvement Company, also a Santa Fe subsidiary. Because they offered free right-of-way and half interest in the land to the railroad, the city was named after George H. Fullerton due to him routing the railroad through the city and on July 5th, 1887, Fullerton was established at the corners of Harbor Blvd. and Commonwealth Ave. The City became incorporated in 1904 (Morris, 2004).

Today the city boasts a culturally diverse population. The population breaks down in accordance to geographical sections of the city. According to the 2005-2007 ACS Demographic and Housing Estimates, the city's population breaks down: 48.74% white, 30.17% Hispanic, 15.98% Asian, 4% two or more, 2.12% African-American, and .71% other (factfindercensus.gov). There are three major corporate employers which operate within the city: CSU Fullerton, St. Jude heritage Center and Fullerton School district, which allow a majority of the people who live in Fullerton, to work in Fullerton. The city has given way to combining its cultures with multi-cultural parades, an annual tamale festival, 4th of July parade and celebration, and a weekly famers market in downtown, which allows residents to access foods from different cultures.

Community Structure

The city is an incorporated area within Orange County. Fullerton is a "general law" city, meaning it derives its power from acts of the state Legislature. The state Government Code is the fundamental law of the city, specifying powers and the form of government which will put these powers into service. This is different from a charter city which has more control over local municipal affairs, and charter provisions covering municipal affairs prevail over the state laws when the two conflict. Fullerton's form of government is "Council Manager." The City Council enacts policy and provides the political leadership, while the city Manager directs City departments in carrying out that policy. City Council elections are held every two years and are consolidated with the statewide general elections held in November of even numbered years (www.cifullerton.com).

As the city's legislative body, the Mayor, Mayor Pro-Tem, and three council members, they are responsible to the City's residents for all municipal programs and services. The City infrastructure has allowed for a wide and various varieties of shopping centers to help people with their food and clothing needs. There are small retail and fast food shops which are close to the University to make sure students do not have to travel far from campus to fulfill their needs, as well as, Smart & Final and Albertson's. The city also provides transportation needs to the University in the form of the Orange County Transit Authority and Metrolink. The city has gone to great lengths to help its residents with their housing needs. It offers, single family homes, multiple apartment dwellings for students and non-students and the University has just added six new dorms on the campus to help out those wishing to live on campus. Due to city being multi-cultured, I found many neighborhoods that had community centers which were set up to help those who were new to the community. The northern most part of the City has a high Hispanic population. In this section of the city, I noticed more strip malls, parks, and apartment buildings. The markets had Hispanic workers and Hispanic music playing over the speaker system. I was told by the store manager that this helps residents who are new to the neighborhood and it helps them feel like they belong. The northeastern part of the City, which has the highest concentration of Korean-Americans, has set up several churches and community centers to help those in need. When I walked into a small grocery store in the area, I noticed many of the products were geared toward the Korean culture and there were several restaurants which did the same.

Social control in the city is divided between the City Council and the Fullerton Police Department. The Department enforces all local, state, and federal laws, all the while providing around-the-clock protection for the lives and property of the public. They function both as an instrument of public service and as a tool for the distribution of information, guidance and direction. It is stated that the mission of the police Department is to facilitate and administer the laws of governing bodies, the orders of the courts, and to direct all energies and resources toward maintaining the health, wealth and system of all its citizens. The University, which has its own Police Department, investigates all crimes within their jurisdiction, which includes the campus and area within a mile of the campus. Although they are a full-fledged police department, there will be times when they cannot solve a crime and therefore, have an arrangement with the Fullerton Police Department and Orange County Sheriff's Department. Although the city has its diversity, it has set up a wealth of churches, programs and clubs to get people involved in the community. The University also offers faith-based nonprofit organizations; corporations, academic, policymakers and civic leaders are intended to provide opportunities for the campus to reach beyond its walls. The city also participates in charities of Orange County.

Community Characteristics

The campus of C.S.U.F. is the biggest employer in the city of Fullerton. The city is also home to Defense Systems, Electronic components, Aerospace and Computer Assembly. Fullerton is a known as an education city. Within the boundaries of 22.3 miles, there are 5 Universities and colleges, a combination of 25 elementary, middles and high schools, as well as, 2 catholic schools and 3 private schools. Due to their being a multitude of educational facilities, there is no shortage of opportunities for those who live in Fullerton. With the diversity of population, each school offers an array of classes to fit the needs of each group. Residents are encouraged to attend college and many programs have been implemented to ensure that each person is given the chance to attend school. The city has put into motion, programs that help with tuition and transportation. They offer classes and instruct students on how to fill out school applications, as well as, financial aid applications. Due to social services becoming more important than ever, Fullerton has set up 4 community centers to help its residents. The Fullerton Senior Center helps with diabetes class, evening dance and wealth management. The Maple Community Center has after-school programs, pool services and children's services. Richman Community Center offers mental health, low cost dental and health, legal aid and domestic violence classes. Garnet and Gilbert Community Center offers document services, translations in Spanish, youth/teen development, parenting classes and mediation services.

Due to the abundance of educational opportunities, the strength of Fullerton lies within their affiliation with Cal State Fullerton. The two have joined forces to build what they are calling, "A University without walls, where campus and city life converge." A joint city/university planning group is proposing to create a special district of livable streets, trails and walkways linking learning, living, working, shopping and dining environments. They are planning on calling it college Town @ Cal State Fullerton, a 60-acre pedestrian-friendly civic and public spaces easily accessible by bike, bus and shuttle, where campus and city life can converge (O.C. Register 2009). It is the hope of the city to bring in jobs, new businesses and income. Thus, allowing more residents to live and work with in the city. Dominant values of the community can be seen in the way the city comes together in social settings. The community as a whole comes together in a time of need. This can be seen in relation to the homeless. Although the city does not have a large homeless population, the have set up an outreach program to help those in need. The program which is located just east of downtown, provides those in need with help in looking for affordable housing, assistance to those with low to moderate income, an emergency shelter, job assistance and help in filling out mortgage paperwork.

Community Differences

As I walked through several neighborhoods throughout Fullerton, there did not seem to be any blatant signs of discrimination or oppression. But as I delved deeper into the residential areas, I noticed a large Hispanic population. Most of them located in the northeastern part of the city, I was fortunate enough to talk with several of them who had lived in the area for several years. They were incensed to hear how, in recent months, I.N.S., D.E.A. and local police had been targeting their neighborhood looking for illegal immigrants and drug traffickers. Many of them feel because of the neighborhood they live in, people always look down on them and they feel hard-pressed to change that attitude. You see, many of those I spoke with were illegal and did not want anyone to know they were undocumented. It was their contention, no one would listen to them and they were afraid to ask for help. Most of those I spoke to, said they came here because they wanted better things for their children, but knew at the same time, they and their children would have to go without due to people's negative attitude towards them. It was due to the conversations I had with several residents, there is oppression and discrimination with the city limits of Fullerton. The socio-economic differences are evident when one goes to downtown Fullerton. This is due to how downtown seems to have an imaginary line which separates the low income of the city, from the high income. There are obvious signs within the infrastructure of the city. Within the low income areas, there are more strip malls, fast food restaurants and lack of upkeep of businesses. The high income areas have, large grocery stores, shopping plazas and very few fast food places. I am not sure of the discrimination factor. A lot of the people I spoke with in the city did not have a clue that there were a large group of illegals (and I didn't tell them). Most also had no idea that the city contained the largest Korean-American population in Orange County.

Summary and Conclusion

Being able to look at the city from the inside out has given me a whole new appreciation for the city which neighbors where I live and where I grew up. The culture has changed so much and as a result, given me an appreciation for the changing diversity in Orange County. I have learned that different cultures can live together and at the same time, can have a hard time accepting each other. Sometimes during this assignment, I had to ask myself, "How do we make it all work?"