Marginality Theory Essay
Based on the study conducted by G Kathleen Grant and Jeffrey R Breese, marginality has always been targeted toward colored or minority groups in the American society. Grant and Breese are both sociologists. Grant is currently at the University of Findlay and Breese is at Saint Mary’s College under the department of sociology. They had different assumptions and categories in which they expected each individual respondent would fall under. Their categories were Affected, Emulative, Defiant, Emissarial, Withdrawn, and Balanced. We can see that these categories were conjured from four different assumptions. One is that inequalities of social resources can lead to marginality. A second is that marginality can narrow down one’s full participation within his or her social domain. Third are those social psychological reactions will occur when participation is limited. Finally, marginal behavior will proceed after social psychological reactions.
The study was conducted at a state university in a midwestern city. It took them a few approaches before the number of potential respondents was large enough to conduct the study.
There were not many responses to the first approach mainly because it was only flyers seeking for volunteered participants. Second approach was the same as the first with an additional offer of ten dollars for participating, yet the expected number was still too low to form a study. They then decided to give out flyers at the student union where the majority was African American. They were able to gather twenty-three students at this state university for interviewing on marginality issues.
The results came out to be none in both Affected and Emulative from the study. Four cases demonstrated themselves to be characterized under Defiant. These respondents all had the ability to become successful but because of their refusal to obey the system of education this category would best fit them. One respondent was under Emissarial because of her background. She was raised from a middle-class African American family as well as being exposed to Anglo-American. Similarly, one respondent was categorized under Withdrawn due to the fact that she did not want to explore the resources that were available to her as a guided aid. There were nine cases experienced Balanced category. The respondents under this category were aware of the existence of two cultures and that they knew how to negotiate between the two. Although there were six expected categories for twenty-three students, several respondents did not match any of the six. Two new categories were introduced for the remaining students, which were Paradoxical and Uninvolved. Several students were under Paradoxical because they felt that using the system could help them succeed, but at the same time, they did not want to be with the dominant culture or view as being dominant. Uninvolved ended up with six cases. These respondents had very few or no exposure to racial experience. They were mainly in the atmosphere where there were predominately African Americans.
One defines different meanings of marginality base upon his or her personal experiences and social factors.
Marginal means excluded from or existing outside the mainstream of society or a group. Many of the students in this article were referring themselves as being marginal because they felt that there was an invisible barrier between them and the society. I believed that this barrier was formed by three major components and they were family background, personal experiences, and social influence.
Family is a major influence in one’s life. The children usually obey or follow the footsteps of their parents. More often than not, successful parents mostly expose their kids to the positive view of the society and tend to stray away from the negative. Successful parents does not necessary mean that they must have some sort of college degrees as long as they have the time to educate their kids to be well rounded. I noticed in the reading that those students who were listed under Balanced had at least a family member with a bachelor’s degree or had experiences at the universities. These respondents here had a very positive attitude. One clearly stated, “I can live on both sides of the track” (8). This shows that this person had had adequate exposure to both cultures in which he or she would rather focus on achieving personal goals than involving in racial issues. Growing up in America has had a huge influence in my life. I am from a family with both parents having a bachelor’s degree. They always encourage my brother and me to work ten times harder in education because they know that we are the minority and that the language is our disadvantage. I took that as a very serious statement because it is true that if you work hard you will succeed. I never really felt marginal in that the dominant culture will always get the advantage, although I am aware that there are many different cultures comprise in our society. I view that there is a big competition between everyone and not see it through racial image. Having an educated environment does play a role of balancing the marginality theory. In my case, I do see the distinction between my culture and the dominant ones yet I believe in achievement through self-identity.
From time to time, people will start to build up an image of who they are through personal experiences. Students who seek help for resources are most likely to become successful. Those who are in denial to look for resources or are just too lazy will result in lack of confidence and find life to be uncomfortable. This type of reaction eventually leads to being marginal because the students will alienate themselves from the academic system. For instances, one of the respondents thought, “I feel I don’t really get a fair shake. Everything here is geared for the Whites…Society have high standards and it doesn’t want the minorities to really achieve” (7).
The respondent seemed to endure quite a lot of racial experiences to have stated such a strong statement. We can see that a few of the students in the article viewed education as being a choice and not a must have. As we all know, education is the key to success. I have never felt that education was a choice to me. It was a little difficult finding help when I first entered the university. The language and culture have always been a big concern. I knew school was the right choice but I felt that I was not ready to take on the competition. I struggled on my own and it was not long till I found myself the Learning Resource Center. This was an excellent place for students like myself because it provided tutors, advisors, and extra classes. I had gained a very good experience and developed a much higher confidence level. If it was not for the resources, I would have felt very marginal due to the fact that my language and culture are not the dominant. Students who are not seeking for the resources are creating themselves a margin from the society. It only takes a little commitment to spark a brighter future.
It is always better to follow a group than being alone. This is one of the major issues in social influence. Social influence can affect one’s thoughts or ideas dramatically through group presentation. These ideas can be affected if there is a strong enough influence from the social group. Most of the time social influence can easily affect the individual due to psychological effect. Marginality plays a major role because our instincts are usually based upon what others have to say. Not many of these African American students were successful because they had lack of encouragement from their own culture. Those who were successful would be viewed as “kissing up to a White person.” This type of attitude will always maintain the marginal issues between two cultures. The students should face the reality themselves and not to let others affect them mentally. Social influence is a necessity only if it benefits and not to isolate from the society.
Since we are living under the atmosphere consists of predominantly Whites, it does automatically create a margin for us. As a Vietnamese American, I do depend on the dominant culture for supports but at the same time I am trying to accomplish my educational goal.
The overall result of this study is very biased and has an inaccurate representation of marginality for the colored or minority groups. Method of selecting was very untruthful because money was taken into account to attract the students. The size for conducting a study of a culture’s reactions was very small to represent the whole group. Although the study was not able to have an adequate size for the interview, the conductors were able to prove their point that marginality exists in different forms within a culture. I feel that the study has a few holes in it in which it caused the students to buy into marginality when they were being interviewed.
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