As the world grows and changes, society does become more integrated. It is, inarguably, a more connected world. Division does still occur at smaller levels—especially across classes and ethnicities. Classes and ethnicities play specific divisive roles. Understanding what these roles are—as well as how and why the form—can help bring about better understanding of the groups.
Despite debates regarding immigration, it is still true that there are a myriad of ethnic groups in the United States. These groups develop their own communities, services, and organizations specific to their ethnicity. One example is the existence of Chinatowns, which occur in many major cities. A Chinatown is important because it allows for the established and incoming Chinese immigrants to have a place that is welcoming and familiar. They may seek all of the services available to Americans, but in their original language and culture. Seeking employment, medical care, and financial aid may be intimidating, but having all of these services concentrated in an area that is similar to their home country can make doing so more possible (Ember & Ember, 2007, p.215).
Positive divisive roles do not only occur within ethnic groups, but classes as well. These class divisions allow for support from like-minded individuals. Situations that arise due to class division include informal credit associations, clubs, and charity groups (Ember & Ember, 2007, p. 218). Groups are often related to occupation. While their express purpose is not to be class-divisive, they do tend to develop as such. They can offer money and occupational support. Specified military-related non-profit organizations are good examples of class divisive groups. Many veterans returning home are in similar financial situations; these organizations allow a place to seek counsel, support, and financial aid. It may be difficult, emotionally, for an individual to go to someone in a higher class and ask for aid but asking for aid from someone in a similar class may be easier to do. It also fosters a tighter feeling of cooperation and community when individuals from the same economic class are able to help one another. Class division may usually be seen as negative, but in cases such as these, it is clearly positive.
While class and ethnicity division does usually begin for good reasons, detrimental effects can often occur. To begin with, ethnic groups that are firmly divided from the mainstream society may find venturing outside of their ethnic community difficult. In the above Chinatown example, while it may be good for a Chinese immigrant to have the support and community of other Chinese-born Americans, this may cause isolation that makes traveling outside of the community too intimidating. In the case of class division, this separation often leads to classism, which may make a person attempting to work toward a higher-class feel impeded. It may also cause the higher class to view the lower class (consciously or subconsciously) as having less worth. In situations such as these, class and ethnic division is not such a positive part of our culture and society.
All in all, ethnic and class divisions do have the ability to perform positive, beneficial functions. It is when these divisions occur to the total exclusion of more integrated experiences, that they are not such a positive aspect of our culture. As much as these groups work to build their members up, they can also have a hand in their own oppression and impediment. It is important that United States’ society is aware of the influence these divisions have on US society and culture.
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