There are many characteristics that make America the most unique place on earth. Undoubtedly, one of the enduring features of American culture is the fact that we use various labels to divide ourselves into different subcategories. For example, on a daily basis you might hear someone say that they are a White American, Black American, or Asian American. When discussing religion, many of us will identify ourselves as either Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or possibly atheist. But perhaps the biggest divider in American is along socioeconomic lines. Individuals continually disseminate the idea that they are upper class, middle class, working class, or lower class. There are about 45 million Americans living under the poverty line. Unfortunately some of those individuals think that due to the fact that they were born into poverty that they too will be subjected to a life of poverty with no opportunity of upward mobility. Fortunately, that idea could not be farther from the truth because America is a class system and not a caste system.
A caste system is an extremely strict class structure that is determined by birth or in some cases race. In essence, it means that in some societies, if your parents are underprivileged, you too will live an underprivileged lifestyle as well. If an individual is born into a wealthy family, then that person will be wealthy. This system provides no opportunity for those at the bottom of the ladder to have the chance to climb the proverbial “ladder of success”. This kind of system is present in India, Japan, and Korea among other places. Fortunately, in America we have a class system. A class system is defined system of stratification based on economic position in which people are ranked based on achievements such as education and wealth. This system allows for those in the lower classes to better themselves and advance into a higher social status.
Recently, I’ve heard several individuals through social media express the idea that due to the circumstances they were born into they have no chance to be more than what their parents were. These people have made statements such as “my parents and my grandparents were janitors, that is all I am destined so there is no point of striving to do more.” Or “I’m young, black and poor and there is no chance for me to amount to anything.” I strongly disagree with those sentiments. It does not matter what circumstances you were born into, what matters is what you do with the life you are blessed with.
An individual cannot control if they were born into extreme poverty, but what they can control is how hard they work to make the best out of your situation. There are many wildly successful individuals who were the epitome of impoverished before they found success. Famed playwright Tyler Perry was homeless during the 1990’s as his plays were struggling at the box office. He is now worth over 400 million dollars. Before she had her own television network, magazine, and talk show Oprah Winfrey grew up in poverty on her grandmother’s farm in rural Mississippi. The author of the book the Pursuit of Happyness, Christopher Gardner lived in a train station bathroom with his infant son before becoming a successful stock broker. Put simply, it can be done
America was once known as the land of opportunity. It still is. America is place where individuals have found success beyond their wildest dreams, regardless of their initial place on the socioeconomic ladder. Individuals like Oprah ,Tyler Perry and Christopher Gardener are the personification of the American dream. That you can start off with little to nothing and make something of yourself if you work hard and persevere.
©Manhood, Race and Culture