The essay is a critical analysis from a sociological point of view of the book ain't No Making it, third edition by Jay McLeod and published in 2008. The author divided the book into three distinct parts; part one The Hallway Hangers and the Brothers as Teenagers, part two Eight Years Later; Low income, Low income and the last part Ain't No makin' It. Through the eyes of the two groups used by McLeod, the brothers (black minority boys) and the Hallways (white boys) we are able to clearly see what transpires in an American societal setting.
The two groups lived and studied in the same conditions but each has varied expectations and aspiration, this is on the basis of their race. The Brothers viewed an open society as the way life should be lived and held the opinion that the difficulties they are going through is due to racism their ancestors underwent. For this reason, they try as much as possible to engage in socially acceptable manners. This group does have high expectation as well as aspiration. On the other hand, the Hallways do not accept the same achievement ideology held by the Brothers. The individuals in this group have lost hope, do drugs, drop from school plus engaging in a myriad of other activities deemed illegal. From the author, the two groups did not get themselves out of poverty. The reason I bet is that there are numerous barriers in the society that blocked their quest of getting themselves out of poverty. It is worth noting that a number of other concepts from sociological point of view clearly emerge. These include social conflict, poverty, gender and racial inequality, males as role model, political power, defeatism, education and society/elites and generational mobility (McLeod 17).
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From social conflict theory which argues that human beings as well as groups in a given society do at any given time have varied amount of both material and non material resources. For this reason, those deemed wealthy or rich and more powerful exploit the less privileged. Another theory that will be analyzed along the social conflict one is Bourdieu social reproductive theory which asserts that those kids born by working class parents will automatically end up finding better jobs.
It is evident that the Brothers did acknowledge that the difficulties in life they are facing at present are nothing but as a result of the serious racial discrimination their fore fathers went through. A typical example of social conflict is in the field of education in the book. Those kids from lower class families are treated in a manner by the teachers that suggest they (students) are less competent. Thus they are placed in a lower track as they lack opportunities to develop their language. In this category, these students are only trained to later in life take blue color jobs while those from affluent families are trained to take white color jobs. Additionally, the two kinds of school, public and private provide us with a clear distinction between where kids from wealthy and poor background attend school (McLeod 287). On the same note, students from less privileged families are disadvantaged by their manners, the way they talk, dress and deemed not to be fit and valued in the education systems
Social conflict also arise when the Hallways view their skin as being discriminated against by the American affirmative action which aim at providing equal opportunities to all Americans. They are of the opinion that the black are favored due to their skin color and the whit boys even curse their color. Frankie said, "Well I look today, and if anyone should had a chance to make it, it's fuckin', it's black people. They got a chance to make it. Cuz there's fucking quotas to be filled." (McLeod 187)
It is from this perspective that the two groups hold varied achievement ideology. It is apparent that despite their hardship, the Brothers see themselves as individuals who will beat all odds and make it in life through education and taking part in constructive activities. On the other hand, the Hallways have no hopes of making it in life and are under defeatism. One thing seems apparent, that structural barriers block both the Brothers and the Hallways from getting out of poverty. From a close examination of events, it is in my view that hard work do pay while other factors such as race, sex among others are just secondary or play very minimal role in future success of individuals.
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Gender and racial inequality
Gender and racial inequality is a concept that refers to unfair treatment of an individual because of his sex/gender and his/her race or skin color. In the book, the author through his well thought and painted characters bring out clearly discrimination in terms of race. From the view point of the Hallways, lacking male role model brings to their mind some aspect of gender inequality. They Lack the guidance as well as the opportunity to learn from them, and for that matter, they do not deem their mothers and elder sisters as being in a position to provide them the guidance they need in life. Lack of male role model have renders these guys (Hallways) to be hopeless in life and when asked what they will be in the next twenty, years, their response is amazing, they say they will be in jail or even dead (McLeod 341).
The issue of racism has been facing Americans from as long as human race came into being and started migrating to America. From the onset of the book, the Brothers claim that they are in their difficult situation as a result of how unfair their forefathers were treated. This resulted to them (forefathers) being denied equal employment and education opportunities. The Brothers are brave enough to come out of this narrow kind of thinking to fight very hard so as to reclaim their status thanks to numerous reforms such as affirmative actions and equal employment opportunities. On the other hand, the Hallways despite the fact that they are white which would translate to being in a better position to get better education and jobs are in more anguish just like their black counter parts. They assert that the black are favored as they have taken all jobs due to the government policies, Hallways further claim that they see their skin color as working a against them, for this reason they are practicing racism as they do not see eye to eye with the blacks. Contrary to this, the Brothers upon seeing an element of racism just work away from it (McLeod 442).
Generational mobility a concept used to describe how a given human generation finds their ways to the next social class has is evident in McLeod book. Historically, human race have struggled to make their live better by doing all things possible within their reach. One is the quest to climb the social ladder. Varied school of thought exist that try to justify how this is attained. There are those who hold that one's family background dictates how far an individual will rise in societal stratification. On the other hand, achievement ideologists strongly believe that all these societal aspects such as sex, race, family background are secondary and play no or minimal role in dictating how one generation will rise from one level to another. What is important is the desire and hard work of doing so.
Both the Brothers and the Hallways are brought from impoverished family background. One group, the Brothers, the black minority in America society despite being brought up in a disadvantaged society; they are painted as individuals who are highly optimistic and work very hard to attain their dreams and desires. They engage themselves in activities that are in line with positive living as well as in line with the country's law. They work very work very hard in school in order to attain better grades. It is worth noting that despite the fact that their parents were oppressed previously and did not get the opportunities to attend school, they against all odd support their kids in all ways possible. However, the Brothers failed to achieve their desired success and blame themselves for this failure (McLeod 271). On the other hand, the Hallways were demoralized by their self defeat and found themselves indulging in drugs, dropping from school. They blame all other individuals in the society for instance schools, parents, the community the society and every one around them but forget to see what role they have played in making their lives the way it is. It is for holding the idea of defeatism, pessimists and disregarding achievement ideology that the Hallways did not achieve any mobility that could have helped them and the coming generation to move up the ladder. From my point of view, for any future human generation to realize mobility, the present generation need not to focus on what was done wrong but to make improvement on what was done wrong.
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From my analysis, there is no one better social theory that can adequately explain sociological aspects in any societal settings. Due to the fact that all sociological concepts and perspective are closely linked to one another, ascribing one to be of more importance in my opinion is not being rational and sound enough in trying to address these effects.
The author has laid an emphasis on the issue of poverty in the society. In the book ain't no making it, excellent insights I to lives of teenage boys who live in a low income neighborhood Clarendon Heights where the reader is forced to reconsider ones notions and perceptions of poverty as well as its causes in the society. The book looks at the American ideology on achievement and puts into question its effect son the society. The book goes to justify the fact that people are not poor simply because they are lazy but rather as a result of numerous structural barriers in the society that traps them into the vicious cycle of poverty. It goes ahead to show how the social structure and the way the society is close-minded and the especially the upper and the middle class people who view that those who occupy the lesser social standing the lazy ones. The 11 year old Freddie is self-defeated despite growing in America perceived as a nation of dreams because he feels trapped in such position by the inherited poverty. The poverty handed down from earlier generations especially from their uneducated parent greatly impacted on the work, school and even shattered or limited their dreams and ambitions (MacLeod, 447).
The author mentions in his book about the hallway hangers which is predominantly whites and spend great deal of their time hanging in a specific hallway section of the housing project. This peer group is self-destructing and self defeating as its members poses a very narrow view of their futures being destined with expectations. They don't see any glimpse of hope and are very pessimistic of their future endeavors. On the other hand is the very optimistic per group the brother who despite their low income current life they detrimentally held the American dream close to their hearts. The hallway hungers have been isolated from the society and they feel bitter about it as they are the minority group. The alienation as a result of poverty has made them give up in a life and that they have dully accepted. The hallways hangers then engage themselves in criminal activities, alcoholics and become junkies who are addicted to losing. Way down the line they still don't realize any upward social mobility.
On the other hand the group of the poor black catapulted by their optimism and American dream turns their desolate situation in to a better one by struggling very hard and this later earns them a slight upward movement in the social ladder. Through this the author embedded the Marxist theory which he argues against assuming that all educated people as Marx stated. MacLeod shows another evidence that poor people stay poor because of the generational inheritance of poverty because there are numerous pressures that act against them especially when the struggle to lift themselves sup and these end as limiting their rise in the society so far ant rise in social status effort of several generations have to be considered.
The defeatism portrayed by the Hallway Hangers in the book ain't a making it making is explained by the social learning theory which argues that students are often socialized from their early ages and thus hold various values and own experiences based on their social situations. It further argues that students raised from backgrounds characterized by failure and under achievement always see their parents or preceding generations as failures and tend to often internalize such values at end up perceiving their own success also as unlikely. This theory thus justifies the action and decisions that are made by the peer group Hallways Hangers who saw their uneducated and poor parents and became self -defeated for the rest of their lives.
The author also describe the consequences that result when the poor are false defeated and do nothing if not worse by making wrong decisions in their current lives. The Hallways hungers saw falsehood in the American dream and believed that everything they ought to have done to salvage their situation as was empty ventures and turned to be absolute losers who in their future lives had crummy jobs, poor living standards and many regrets like if they had been serious in getting educated they would have bee leading better lives with better past.
Macleod proves that nothing good comes for free and one has to keep on struggling to attain it just as the way the brother never gave up on their dreams despite their poverty and alienation from the rest of the society. It proves that if one is to succeed. The author shows how the lives of the poor in a well off society are self-defeated by their poverty levels and end up worsening their situation as they are alienated from the rest of the society (MacLeod,347).The brothers stayed focused in their struggles to see their dream of progressing into the social ladder into the middles class coma true and later reaped its benefit of their optimism and handwork, their behavior is supported by the ideology of achievement called Need for Achievement theory which argues that the level of ones achievement is the product of their motivation to succeed and hence avoid failure thus individual tend to weigh their expectancy of success by the values placed on that success. The brothers despite being from poor families kept their dreams alive by motivating themselves with good thoughts of enjoying better life when they rose to the middle class. The values they placed in middle social class motivated them to keep on struggling hard and being optimistic of a better life ahead.
The Hallways hangers see falsehood in the education system and thinks that teachers no nothing and sees no values of getting educated and if they go to class they get expelled and are teachers nightmare. There parents work in low paying jobs and for them to get quick bucks they get themselves is doing drugs like selling of crack cocaine in the neighborhood. In addition to doing drugs the group engage sin alcoholism and other forma of crimes. Doing of drugs inhibits the group members from getting educated and obtain their goals as it makes them concentrate on them and as they get high they care less of their lives hence limiting their progress in life. The hallways hangers derived their name fro always found hanging in a specific hallway in the project, a place they would get drunk and high. They have given up in life and don't see any possibility of getting out of the housing projects so they opted to doing drugs hence becoming depressed and eventually hindering their motivation (MacLeod, 147).
This peer group use drugs as a shortcut to happiness and a way of avoiding the effects of poverty. Doing drugs also made them quick money which they believed could not be obtained from work. From doing drugs one could get more than twenty dollars as compared to seven dollar salary from work. Hangers saw drugs as an n easy way out of debt but this denied them an n opportunity of going to school to better their future lives and for those who attempted to school always got in problems with their teachers and administration as result of drug use.
Male Figures Role Models
Most of the male parents of the hallways hangers are either gone and brothers are dead or in jail and this denies such them a male role models in their upbringing .On the other hand the brother have more male authority figures and they therefore respect their families more than their counter parts hallways hangers (MacLeod,47).The brothers also are more optimistic in life and hope to get their families out of the housing projects by graduating from school and getting white jobs which are well paying. This shows that the male role models in the family plays a critical role in the lives of the younger siblings or their kids as they instill some values that the male figures ca not. For example the skills of appreciating family are related to the role played by the male family figures as seen from the brothers who show some love and respect towards family members and this is attributed to the numbers of male figure in their lives as compared to the Hallway hungers whose fathers were dead and big brothers dead or in jail. The male figures in the families of the hallway hungers showed a bad example influencing the members also get engaged in activities that would lead the to imprisonment or even lead to their death.
The book outplays the idea of doing away of ideologies that deny acknowledgement of ones social conditions for instance the achievement ideology which made the brothers to believe that by ignoring their impoverished conditions they can make in life by trying harder and they ended up in limited progress. Most teachers believe the ideology motivates all students but that is not true as there halfway hangers needed a support in self esteem in order to get motivated. Ina addition to that in order for students to get motivated in schools materials should be provided especially those in inner-cities where schools have deteriorated to a dangerous point.
In addition, a social change is not achieved overnight but takes sometimes and appreciation of ones social problem leads to a progressive change and through education one is able to critically understand such social problems. Finally to make any political change in the society people especially the dormant dogma should discard the long time held belief that poverty is caused by personal vices and cultural pathologies of the poor.