As I read through Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the sun and Sudhir Venkatesh’s A Gang Leader for a Day, I began to think, why? Why are some people lower on the economic food chain than others? Is this a result of racial discrimination or something else? The different communities plagued with poverty can often not escape it. After researching the wealth and privilege of these communities I concluded that the socioeconomic status one is born into determines that of which one will live in for the remainder of his or her life.
As I research, I learn a lot about this topic. Early in one’s life a young child may learn about the situation they are currently, often and unpleasant position of lower class status. Parental figures will often worry about the future welfare of their children growing up seeing that they are starting off in a “poor” state. In A Raisin in the Sun Walter, a father to Travis, a young boy, worries about this very problem before he leaves for work. Early that morning he “was lookin in the mirror thinking about it … [He’s] thirty-five years old; [He’s] been married eleven years and got a boy who sleeps in the living room (Hansberry 16). In A Raisin in the Sun Walter reiterates the main idea in that he realizes that Travis was born into a life where he is “lower” on the economic scale and fears he may never get the opportunity to get out of it. Walter’s worries prove that this is an epidemic threatening to attack families of lower economic status; Travis is likely to live in this lower class setting for the rest of his life.
Furthermore, Walter’s frustration of his current economic state shows through as he speaks to George Murchinson. Walter decided he “know[s] aint nothing in this world as busy as … black college boys with [their] fraternity pins and white shoes” (Hansberry 64) Walter verbally shows his jealousy for George’s upper class life, he points out his nice shoes, and college education. Walter’s angrily spoken dialogue proves that the situation someone is born into is likely permanent because Walter and George were both born into their respective extremes, while being the same race, they are on opposite sides of the socioeconomic scale and through their lives, now as adults, they seem to have stayed in these respective extremes.
While Walter and George experience this first hand, Sudhir Venkatesh, a college student aspiring to be an accomplished sociologist, and writer of A Gang Leader for a Day studies people from a third party point of view. He wanders the city of Chicago feeling that the “cities are attractive because of their balkanized variety: wandering the streets of a good city, you can see all sorts of highs and lows, commerce and recreation, a multitude of ethnicities of life (Venkatesh 9). This statement from Venkatesh directly correlates to the main idea of socioeconomic setting being permanent because he refers to highs and lows, ups and downs, and the fact that it is culturally diverse. Venkatesh does not refer to races playing factor in the “highs and lows” because, simply, it doesn’t. The smaller communities of people of the same race are often grouped into the same economic setting; this is a product of bringing children up in a poor setting and them not having the ability to better themselves, not a product of racial discrimination.
While Venkatesh roams the street recording what he sees, Two Professors, Professors Raj Chetty and Nathaniel Hendren, coming from a top school in the country, Harvard, acquired information through looking at tax records for 5 million children whose families moved more often than others. This information came from Tami Luhby’s Where Poor Kids Stay Poor. These professors came to the conclusion that where children are raised “does have an impact on their chance of moving up economically” (Luhby). Also, when a child did move to a neighborhood of more opportunity, the children would have a “greater income boost”, the professors said that “where you grow up … seems to shape your education and economic success as a young adult” (Luhby). The two men do not mention race playing factor in this section of the article, only that where someone grows up, and what they are born into, does make a difference. Children being born into poverty most likely will not escape this label, but according to this article, the few who were lucky enough to move to better neighborhoods, were given more opportunities to be relieved of their previous, unfortunate state. The majority of these children, did not have the tools to better themselves, being born into certain socioeconomic settings are often the same setting they will be in when they are adults, the statistical figures give another view supporting the main idea of this paper proving that it is true with statistics.
Some will say that I am wrong, that race seperates people from getting out of poverty, or that some races are pushed to live in certain areas. In the article Discrimination in Housing Against Minorities Persists Quietly by Shaila Dewan it is thought that minorities are more poor than white people, they found that “[Black people] were presented 11 percent fewer rentals than whites, Hispanics about 12 percent fewer rentals and Asians about 10 percent” (Dewan). In this article, while these figures may be true, there is a lot that goes unsaid. These numbers are only affecting a small population; these numbers are specific to certain areas around the country. Also, from 1977 to 2012 the racial housing discrimination has slowly began to fade out, in 2012 a “vast majority of all testers were able to … make an appointment to see a … house or apartment” (Dewan). The very argument Dewan is supporting will no longer be relevant in years to come, the fading relevance of this problem, and the small of a percentage being affected by housing discrimination is too small to pin the problem of minorities lacking the ability to escape poverty.
I am certain that through the evidence listed by these sources, the epidemic slaying away at so many American families, is not a racial discriminatory act, but a product of people not being able to escape the socioeconomic setting they are born into.