Amazing Grace Essay, Research Paper
Based on a year Kozol spent interviewing the poorest of New York’s poor, Amazing Grace unveils the truth about squalid living conditions, gutted educational facilities, crime, disease, and pandemic depression that plague these neighborhoods where the city effectively conceals its underclass, keeping them out of sight and out of mind. Kozol says the crucial questions we should be raising are not those that try to identify the current problems in our society, or the strategies to use in dealing with those problems. Rather, he says we must question the structure of our society – do we want to be one society? Or two? Kozol believes we must deal with the problems inherent in our current societal structure before the problems within it can be addressed or solved. Until that time, he believes that reports, charity, and pilot programs will all be nothing more than pretense. Kozol says, “I don’t think this nation will act until its conscience is shaken. Jolted.” Kozol takes the reader from the comforts of our experiences to the trials of less fortunate people – a grandmother whose neighbors’ children have been attacked by rats, disfigured by fires, humiliated as they seek medical attention. Kozol broadens this argument, asking how slums like the South Bronx could exist after three decades of affirmative action and “consciousness-raising” about racial injustice. He cites convincing statistics on culturally biased school-entrance exams and employment cutbacks that target the urban working class. Forced to turn to the state for assistance, minority families find themselves in a dead-end spiral that lands them permanently in the ghetto. “Subsidized housing” in the South Bronx invariably means a rat-infested tenement straight out of Dickens’s London, where the elderly freeze and children plunge to their deaths in elevator shafts. Venturing into the street could mean death by a stray bullet; jobs, for those lucky enough to find them, pay subsistence wages at best. AIDS has become a commonplace killer of adults and children alike: terminally ill patients at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx often lie for days on stretchers in the corridors, waiting for empty beds. When they dare to present their Medicaid cards at reputable hospitals like Mount Sinai, most of these people are flatly turned away. Kozol leads us back to first principles. He doesn’t deny that widespread drug addiction and crime haunt the South Bronx, or imply that its residents are beyond reproach. But he does demonstrate that self-medication, hunger, fear, unemployment, and poor education in urban ghettos are mere symptoms of complex, entrenched social ills for which we all bear moral responsibility. To walk into the South Bronx and simply command, “Just get a job!” would be equivalent to “walking into the intensive-care ward in a hospital and saying, `Rise!’ ”
The social identity theory predicts two possible reactions: risk a loss of self-esteem or distance yourself from those in question. Even if people don t or can t distance themselves from weak in-group members, their self-esteem may not be deflated by being members of low-status in-groups. People who are members of low status, stereotyped groups do not tend to have lower overall self-esteem than people in high status groups. This is why it is important to evaluate the structure of society and what separates it. Eliminating the stigma of the low/high status would allow individuals to associate themselves with high class and effectively use their positive self-esteem.
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