Jay MacLeod claims that “families at the top of the social structure can use their superior status and resources to stay there, while other families, low on options, languish at the bottom” (MacLeod 2009: 240). MacLeod (2009: 240) proposes the idea that not many individuals obtain the social mobility that popular American ideology promises to offer. This achievement ideology, popularly known as the “American Dream” gives citizens of American society an individualistic approach in regards to success.
Unfortunately, since this is the narrative that has been pushed for a prolonged period of time, individuals who do not meet the standards of this ideology, are looked at as societal failures. Structurally and culturally, this ideology most often affects the marginalized. Ain’t No Makin’ It challenges the manner in which society views the aspirations and expectations of poor individuals, and makes the emphasis that class and race ultimately have a huge effect on them.
Jay MacLeod presents the lives of the Hallway Hangers and the Brothers and shows us that despite the different lives that they lead, their adult lives are extremely similar, showcasing the misconception that is the achievement ideology. There is an immense amount of stigma that coincides with being poor, and this is one of the primary reasons as to why the Hallway Hangers behave the manner in which they do; “their pride in their lifestyle is pierced by the dominant culture’s negative judgments” (MacLeod 2009: 71).
On a cultural level, social inequality can continue to be perpetuated if an individual is one of few minorities in a specific group, as readers noticed with Chris and Boo-Boo; although they are full members of the Hallway Hangers, their status in the group is often tenuous because of race, and they are often referred to with racial slurs, but they tend to take it as a joke (MacLeod 2009:39).
Along with this idea, sometimes it can be easier to follow what everyone else is doing and belittle that which is different as a form of maintaining superiority, as we see in the case of Chris and Boo-Boo. The Hallway Hangers are using their own frustrations regarding their current status in society to validate some of their hatred against blacks, and use blacks as an excuse for their failure. Structurally, social inequality can arise due to the fact that as MacLeod (2009: 240) proclaims, “there are simply not enough good jobs to go around.
In our current capitalistic society, there is much competition to obtain what society deems to be a “good job” because it is not only seen as a symbol of success but also provides one with the necessary resources to make it in the capitalistic market. On a larger scale, there are issues with our current society that promote social inequality. Among these is racism. As MacLeod (2009: 42) cleverly remarks, “racism in lower-class communities stems from competition for scarce economic resources”, and one might even argue that this can be applied further beyond lower-class communities.
In addition, MacLeod (2009: 45), argues that “we must also blame the economic and social conditions of lower-class life under competitive capitalism. ” Moreover, it seems to be that this tension and racial turmoil heightens when a minority of individuals from different backgrounds are introduced into a setting that was composed of the majority population, as can be exemplified by the riots of 1971 and 1972 in response to public housing diversification (MacLeod 2009: 44).
The fact that Clarendon Heights “tends to be a cloistered, insular neighborhood, isolated from the surrounding community” (MacLeod 2009: 73) structurally shows how society tries to sector off poor individuals in order to attempt to hide the fallacy of the achievement ideology, and push the inequitable narrative revolving individualism. The events occurring at Clarendon Heights are not an isolated incident, but rather are a microcosm for the manner in which inequality is continually perpetuated in our society.
Individually, social inequality is perpetuated through the agency that one has. This agency can affect the manner in which individuals behave, what they surround themselves with, and how they view society as a whole. MacLeod (2009: 255) reaffirms the idea that “structural constraints on opportunity lead to leveled aspirations, which in turn, affect job prospects. ” This argument connects to the idea that societal structure, cultural values, and one’s individual sense of agency can all drastically alter the life that one lives.
Unfortunately, if individuals are told that they are not going to succeed, or are constantly surrounded by exemplars that lack success, individuals are more likely to perpetuate the same behavioral patterns. The Hallway Hangers are surrounded by models of violence, and their subculture is “at odds with the dominant culture” (MacLeod 2009: 119), making it easier for these individuals to have a reduced sense of agency.
Although their creation of a subculture is a respo the structural inequality they are facing, it is the decision to isolate themselves from the norms of society that place these individuals at risk, and aid in preserving the inequality that they are succumbing to. In the case of the Brothers, it is their full belief and trust in our society that continually gives rise to the oppression and inequality that they face.
These individuals choose to believe that programs such as affirmative action will positively aid them, and claim that race is not an issue that they have to think about in regards to employment and their future. The Hallway Hangers are not hopeful enough due to the manner in which society treats them and the models they have exposed to, while the Brothers are too hopeful for a better future that they forget the reality of our American society. The Hallway Hangers see their reputation as a form of success.
The manner in which they behave, as well as what they admire in regards to being in the group, coincide with their ideas of success. As MacLeod (2009: 28) explains, “good grades in school can lead to ostracism, whereas time spent in prison earns respect”, which connects to the idea that the Hallway Hangers do not believe in conforming to the dominant culture’s definition of success. On top of having their reputation be an extension of their success, the Hallway Hangers have a clear set of characteristics that they require and use to define their success as members.
One of these characteristics can be described as being the unity and uniformity of the group, as is emphasized when MacLeod (2009:35) claims that “cohesion between members of the Hallway Hangers is a striking characteristic of their subculture and one to which they constantly draw attention. ” To the Hallway Hangers, all one ever needs to evidently do well is their friends, and claim that without friends, one is essentially nothing (MacLeod 2009:35).
In accordance with their ideology of being a concise and coherent group, the Hallway Hangers focus on aiding each other in any form that they can. Within this system of support for one another is engraved the idea that if one of the members of the group succeeds, all members do. Although there is much desire for the Hallway Hangers to focus on obtaining the “fast buck on the street” (MacLeod 2009: 37), their uniformity creates a system that allows the group to attain the illusion of success.
MacLeod (2009: 45) proclaims that the “Brothers accommodate themselves to accept standards of behavior and strive to fulfill socially approved roles. ” The Brothers essentially align themselves with the dominant culture to be able to create success out of their current situation. In accordance with this idea, the Brothers focus on attending school and judging themselves by the criteria of what the dominant society deems to be successful.
Part of this criteria includes not getting in trouble or discussing times when they have been involved in such a situation, connecting to the larger idea of paying particular attention to their reputations. Their compliance with the expectations of society is what they deem to be success, because based on the achievement ideology if they perform the actions that generally result in success, they too can obtain it. The Hallway Hangers and the Brother lead very distinct lives, even though they are within the same environment. MacLeod (2009: 49) describes through the lens of Derek, that the