Class, Race, and Social Issues
When considering a career pathway in nursing, many people make inquiries where the issues of race and gender ultimately collide. However, some of these individuals are blissfully unaware of the far greater impact that social class often has on one's pursuits in the realm of higher education.
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.
My point, which might have been lost in the preceding paragraphs, is that social class is way more likely than race to help (or hinder) one's goals. Then again, nothing is an obstacle unless you allow it to become one.Last edit by Joe V on Jan 18, '13
About TheCommuter, BSN, RN Senior Moderator
TheCommuter is a moderator of allnurses.com and has varied workplace experiences upon which to draw for her articles. She was an LPN/LVN for four years prior to becoming a registered nurse.
TheCommuter has '11' year(s) of experience and specializes in 'Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych'. From 'Fort Worth, Texas, USA'; 36 Years Old; Joined Feb '05; Posts: 37,540; Likes: 67,707.Jan 18, '13I agree to a certain extent. I definately agree that socioeconomics plays a big factor in advancement. But I also feel that one's race also can influence whether or not the opportunites come. For example, look at the numerous studies done on how a person's name can affect whether or not they getor not, regardless of the amazing content in their resumes. Racially biased interviewers might be less likely to interview names that might not be eurocentric in nature. Its sad but very true. And I have heard from several people of various minority groups who say regardless of how much money they have, there is still a "innate pressure" to overachieve to receive the same respect, preference for promotions, and trust in the workplace given to their non minority colleagues.
Where do you think that "pressure" comes from? I think it comes from years of negative minority stereotypes perpetuted by the media. That many minorites feel like they have to "prove" that they aren't apart of that negative group, and strive to work harder to feel 'included'. I am a minority and speaking for myself, I know I get this feeling at times.Last edit by Trilldayz,RN BSN on Jan 18, '13 : Reason: add more contentJan 18, '13But the name thing is more so class related. Lower socioeconomic don't understand that giving their children these names may hinder them from getting a job.Its not the interviewers fault but the stereotypes that are associated with people with those names. When I have an interview I know not to wear my natural kinky hair or braids because as my mom says "it might scare them off." What she means is, they are more apt to listen to what you are saying if your hair looks like theirs because they are thinking about your hair and what it means about your personality.
As a former teacher from a Hispanic high school, the lower socioeconomic students didn't always have the parents pushing for college but more so to get a job. The students whom parents graduated high school knew they didnt have a choice but to go to college. So you are right it is not a race thing but the family's belief system of how to be successful and what success looks like.
But to get on the topic of being treated fairly in school. I attended a predominately white school and the instructors were fine but the other students weren't. While sitting at the UC having small talk with this young lady, she asked me "what sport do I play?" as if the only way I could be there was because I played a sport. It was hard for me to break into their study groups and you never really understood why.Jan 18, '13Quote from dlashon. When I have an interview I know not to wear my natural kinky hair or braids because as my mom says "it might scare them off." What she means is, they are more apt to listen to what you are saying if your hair looks like theirs because they are thinking about your hair and what it means about your personality.
. I attended a predominately white school and the instructors were fine but the other students weren't. While sitting at the UC having small talk with this young lady, she asked me "what sport do I play?" as if the only way I could be there was because I played a sport. It was hard for me to break into their study groups and you never really understood why.
Exactly! And these are just a few examples of why I believe that race can play a large factor. Why should your hair (in its natural state, mind you... i'm not talking about any radical hair styles) bar you from getting a job? Shouldn't people look past that? I shouldn't have to make my hair more "white friendly" because I might "scare them off". Even if your family was well off, and college educated, you still knew there were certain silent "expectations", that you as a minority would have to meet, that surpasses the regular non minority applicant's preparation (by having to perm, flat ironing, or add extensions to your God given hair, prior to going to ).
And about the sports comment, you wouldn't BELIEVE the number of people that asked me the same question, while I was an undrgrad RN student! (I went to a prediominately hispanic school)Last edit by Trilldayz,RN BSN on Jan 18, '13Jan 18, '13Even extremely educated immigrants who could run circles around their non immigrant colleagues, are more likely to be passed up for opportunities due to having an accent, for example. (This has happened to my aunt actually, and unfortunately a tactless manager actually told her this...needless to say she is no longer working for that employer). People, in general, should just learn to be more open minded and learn about other cultures, races, and ethnicities that aren't their own. I hate to hijack this thread, but I think this is a great topic, The Commuter! I just LOVE discussing sociology and race relations. Hopefully more people will add their own viewpoints.Jan 18, '13Thank you for writing this! I am in the process of applying to graduate programs for nursing as a minority. I am latina and have come across very few throughout my quest to obtain a professional degree. I think that socioeconomics play a large role in the opportunities that are available to individuals and you hit the nail on the head with your examples. I think that we, as Americans, can forget the power that money and status hold in this country and who is afforded certain privileges based off those factors alone.Jan 18, '13O I love discussing these things too. I just finished reading Black Like Me. Real eye opener. Also, I found out from getting my braiding certificate that wearing braids in most companies were banned in the 70s. I just read that Hampton University Business school has banned braids and dreadlocks. Yes the accent thing sucked. But is that race when it is within the race. Like when my students would degrade the students that were ESL by calling them "wetbacks" and Hampton is an HBCU. That is true that we need to be more open minded about other cultures but that only comes with bringing diversity and getting through the door. So like my mom says we have to play the part until we get hired and then we can start changing people's minds.Jan 18, '13Quote from dlashonI just read that Hampton University Business school has banned braids and dreadlocks. .
Wow, an HBCU banned these??? How crazy! Why?Jan 18, '13I can speak first hand about this. I was raised in a wealthy, predominately white area. People were so closed minded and uneducated about race, culture, religion, everything that was different from the way they were. Growing up, I never actually knew one person of another race besides white. I remember going to the store in the next town (because we only had a small grocery store) when I was little and being so intruiged by other races. It was always so weird to me that I never knew anyone of another race, yet America is so multiracial.
Finally when I went to college, I was the minority, and it was honestly a breath of fresh air. People who were different colors, sizes, cultures, everything! I loved it. I thought it wasnt fair to me that I never got to experience this in my life. After that experience I moved out of my home town to a very diverse town and love it.
I was still so gullable. I had never experienced racism, or socioeconomics until my first PCA job. I worked on a med-surg unit where all the nurses were white, and all the PCAs (besides me) were African Amerian. I didn't really even notice, or care that it was this way, and then one day I was charting and a (white) nurse came and sat by me. She asked me if I like my new job, and I said yes that i loved it. She looked very surprised and said "Really, you are the only white PCA, I figured you felt out of place." I just shook my head at her kind of puzzled. I still didn't get why it mattered.
Later on that day my preceptor found me to do vitals. She was usually very helpful and taught me a lot, but not this day. She didn't let me do anything, and barely even said a word to me. She finally let me take someones BP and as I was taking it she pushed me out of the way and mumbled under her breath "white people are so stupid." I was dumbfounded, and I am sure the look on my face was priceless. I just could not understand why these people acted the way they were. Of course I knew about racism in our countries history, but I did not know it still existed. Later on I found out that my preceptor heard the nurse talking to me about likeing my job and being the "only white PCA." I guess she misheard our conversation, or only heard the nurses comments. I tried talking to her, but she and all of the other PCAs made my life miserable after that to the point where I had to leave.
I know my story has nothing with race or socioeconomics and getting a job, but I think it is an example of some peoples attitudes about the situation. The fact is we are all human beings wether we are educated, uneducated, rich, poor, black white, or freaking purple, and no , or anything should be based on our race or social status.What does it matter as long as you are qualified for the job you are applying for? Sometimes I wish I could move to a different country, even though I am sure every country has problems, it just seems like this problem is so petty and childish.Jan 18, '13Kdrenee, I love your insight! And It's super sad that despite it's 2013, there are STILL people (of ALL ethnicites) that just won't let racism or biases die! And sadly, these people raise children to be hatefilled. smh.
My Boyfriend told me of this older engineer that he works with that is REALLY sexist. He has overheard him saying that women just don't have the "mental capability" to be competent engineers. I have no idea how he is still employed with this very large and famous company (which I won't name). Women go through the same issues, to a certain degree,i believe. We are sort of expected to not be too "loud" or demanding, because apparently being too strong minded, driven, and no nonsense equals being called a 'female dog' (you know what I mean).Jan 18, '13Thank you for writing the article. Most of what you say is true and what the comments written are true in parts. I do work really hard so that regardless of me being a black female I am always considered--when I get to that point-a nurse that really knows her stuff. That is all I am looking for. I want to understand what I am doing and save lives. And I don't know that my race, sex, or class should matter if I do that.
Good luck to all.Jan 18, '13Quote from Trilldayz,RN BSNTerrible. That's all I can say!Kdrenee, I love your insight! And It's super sad that despite it's 2013, there are STILL people (of ALL ethnicites) that just won't let racism or biases die! And sadly, these people raise children to be hatefilled. smh.
My Boyfriend told me of this older engineer that he works with that is REALLY sexist. He has overheard him saying that women just don't have the "mental capability" to be competent engineers. I have no idea how he is still employed with this very large and famous company (which I won't name). Women go through the same issues, to a certain degree,i believe. We are sort of expected to not be too "loud" or demanding, because apparently being too strong minded, driven, and no nonsense equals being called a 'female dog' (you know what I mean).
My finances father is a perfect example of "sexist." He says that women are only good for sex, cooking, and taking your money, and he believes it with every bone in his body. Which is why we have Absolutely nothing to done him.
And the female dog comment, I guess I'm a female dog PROUDLY!Jan 18, '13Quote from Trilldayz,RN BSNI wrote an article about peoples' names several months ago, if you wish to check it out by clicking on the link below. It mentions the study revealing that job applications and resumes with 'black-sounding' names are far less likely to receive callbacks.Racially biased interviewers might be less likely to interview names that might not be eurocentric in nature. Its sad but very true.
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