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Americans - Accurate Essays



Question 1

Although the United States claims to be a multicultural society where diversity, inclusiveness, and liberalism thrive, the social norms are premised on the values held and the culture of the dominant group. In this case, the American social norms are associated with those underpinning the values and culture of a white, middle-class, protestant American of European ancestry. These norms are encapsulated in the so-called American dream, in which every American was assured of equal opportunity to prosperity and upward social mobility provided one puts in hard work. This ideology has been infused in the manner Americans generally and broadly view money, class, poverty, and economics. Notably, money is the path to prosperity and the attainment of the American dream. Therefore, Americans value the pursuit of money as a facilitator of a comfortable family life. In this regard, people that have much money are exalted while those with little are ostracized for not taking the available opportunities in the country to earn money. Contrastingly, poverty is viewed as a shameful state that deserves no sympathy from the average Americans, even when poverty levels keep rising (Ali et al. 2783). In the same vein, the social norm associated with the class is that the average American should be in the middle-class. This is a category of the population that works hard to earn their upkeep and accord their families a comfortable life in which the basic needs of shelter, food, education, leisure, love, and security, are met. However, the majority of Americans believe that upward social mobility from the middle-class to the upper-class is possible in the country because it has numerous opportunities to do so. The same notion is applied to the social norms associated with economics. Generally, many Americans feel that the country has numerous economic opportunities to facilitate money-making and wealth-creation, and that these opportunities are available to every American willing to work hard.

These American social norms related to money, class, poverty and economics reflect the values engendered in the American society. Americans believe that one should be able to control their environment and destiny. In addition, self-help, individualism, free enterprise, independence, competition, optimism, and privacy, are some of the values held dearly by a majority of Americans, who belong to Caucasian descent. Consequently, the segment of the American society that does not embody these values contradicts the social norms held in the United States, eliciting negative emotions, anger, and discrimination from the majority of the Americans. In other words, it is believed that the poor Americans are in that state by choice and because of their laziness. Similarly, those that display excessive dependence on others are seen to be going against the mainstream American social norms of independence, individuality, hard work, and self-help. The majority of Americans feel that this minority segment of society should be sanctioned, restricted, and isolated from the public so that they do not infect the rest of society with their negative practices.    

These values have significant influences on the lives of Americans, especially those that do not espouse the dominant American social norms. On one hand, the minority Americans view those that are poor and in the low-class are shameful to the American society and should be isolated from the rest (Kidd 291). On the other hand, the minority Americans that cannot achieve the American dream live shameful lives, experience mental anguish on realizing that the promised opportunities are not equally and equitably availed to all Americans because of designed structural and institutional disorders. This explains why the welfare program in the United States has been under continuous attack politically from those in the middle-class and upper class. Welfare was radicalized and stigmatized such that the easy access to welfare by the poor was restricted by enacting the temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), which placed stringent eligibility rules that were absent in the previous policy established by Aid to Families with Dependent Children (Whittle et al. 182). This explains why some disenfranchised and disempowered Americans resort to criminality as a livelihood (Omori 288). Unfortunately, mass incarceration is gradually becoming the norm in the United States and is eliciting open opposition from the marginalized communities in the country.  

Question 3

Three American social norms are undergoing tectonic shifts recently. The first is liberalism, in which Americans believe in an egalitarian society. The political freedom that the American society has been highly valued is undermined by nationalism, extremism, sectarianism, and political intolerance. The changes in the political social norms were evident mostly in President Trump’s regime that appeared to fuel political conflict based on radicalized ideologies (González para 3). Although racism has been part of the American society since its foundation, the social norm has been that racial sentiments are not expressed in public, despite every American being assured of the freedom of speech and association. The 2021 attack on the Capitol during President Trump’s tenure following his speech, which allegedly mobilized his supporter to overturn the presidential vote in which President Trump, as the incumbent, lost to the current President Biden (Bowser and Austin 254). The political environment in the United States is increasingly becoming toxic, which is causing sharp divisions in a nation that has aspired for unity in diversity since its inception (Bell 40). This change is unfortunate because it places the unity of the largest democracy in the world in jeopardy. The danger with this change in social norms is that it may fracture the social fabric of the country and create opportunities for external aggressors that would wish to see the United States break up.

The second social norm that is undergoing tremendous changes is that of individualism. Although Americans have embraced individual diligence as a tool for personal and familial prosperity, this norm is undergoing significant changes during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic. The coronavirus pandemic affected every segment of the American society across all races, ethnicities, and social classes. The outcomes of the pandemic have been devastating due to the massive hospitalization and deaths experienced by individuals and families of all cadres of the American society. In turn, individuals, families, and communities have experienced collective trauma and loss as a nation, considering that the pandemic has killed over 750,000 Americans while close to 50 million Americans have been infected. The attempts to manage the pandemic across the country encountered significant hardships because of fragmented efforts and resource mobilization, thus exposing some sections of the American society more than others. However, Americans are gradually realizing that they cannot keep their country together and make it prosperous without some collective action. Besides, the challenges that the United States continues to encounter, such as climate change, increased negative sentiments from external sources, and diminishing economic progress, cannot be addressed using an individualistic mindset. Therefore, the shift towards concerted indulgence and effort is a welcome change. It is positive because it can propel positive change in which all Americans are patriotic and demonstrate nationhood, while embracing diversity in their midst.

The third social norm under threat is the notion of equality. Americans are witnessing the growing inequalities in their society, which contradict the aspirations of fostering an egalitarian and equal society where every American can access equal opportunities to build a decent life. The increasing levels of poverty in a nation deemed to be the wealthiest in the world are worrisome. Many Americans are now disenfranchised by their inability to realize upward social mobility in their lifetimes, because their low socioeconomic status has precipitated poor health, thus perpetuating a vicious circle (Marsh et al. 1178). Several recent events have exposed the fractures in the American society that demonstrate the increasing inequalities in the American society. Specifically, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic ravaged minorities at a higher proportion compared to the dominant American society. This eventuality exposed the continued disempowerment that has been encountered for a protracted period by the people of color in the United States, regarding issues like access to quality healthcare, social protection, education, and housing. Moreover, this state of inequality demonstrates that the American society is still grappling with the proverbial American dream and its elusiveness to a significant and increasing segment of Americans (Marsh 1178). However, the change from individualism to collectivist ideologies regarding social welfare and societal challenges, such as healthcare and education, is a positive change that should be welcomed. This change may bridge the inconsistency and contradictions in American values, such as that between equality and individualism. These two social norms need to be reconciled because they are incompatible when related to the lives of the average American.  

Works Cited

Ali, Samira, Ozge Sensoy Bahar, Priya Gopalan, Karolina Lukasiewicz, Gary Parker, Mary McKay, and Robert Walker. ““Feeling less than a second class citizen”: Examining the emotional consequences of poverty in New York City.” Journal of Family Issues, vol. 39, no. 10, 2018, pp. 2781-2805.

Bell, Myrtle P., Daphne Berry, Joy Leopold, and Stella Nkomo. “Making Black Lives Matter in academia: A black feminist call for collective action against anti‐blackness in the academy.” Gender, Work & Organization, vol. 28, 2021, pp. 39-57.

Bowser, Benjamin P., and Duke W. Austin. “Conclusion and Reflections: Impacts of Racism in the Age of Trump.” In Impacts of Racism on White Americans in the Age of Trump. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, 2021, pp. 253-266.

González, Emma. “A young activist’s advice: Vote, shave your head and cry whenever you need to.” The New York Times, 5 October2018. Accessed 8 December 2021.

Kidd, Sean A. “Youth homelessness and social stigma.” Journal of Youth and Adolescence, vol. 36, no. 3, 2007, pp. 291-299.

Marsh, David R., Dirk G. Schroeder, Kirk A. Dearden, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin. “The power of positive deviance.” BMJ, vol. 329, no. 7475, 2004, pp. 1177-1179.

Omori, Marisa. ““Nickel and dimed” for drug crime: Unpacking the process of cumulative racial inequality.” The Sociological Quarterly, vol. 60, no. 2, 2019, pp. 287-313.

Whittle, Henry J., Kartika Palar, Nikhil A. Ranadive, Janet M. Turan, Margot Kushel, and Sheri D. Weiser. ““The land of the sick and the land of the healthy”: disability, bureaucracy, and stigma among people living with poverty and chronic illness in the United States.” Social Science & Medicine, vol. 190, 2017, pp. 181-189.

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