Social Stratification in South Africa
Social stratification is the hierarchal arrangement of individuals or people or groups of people. It is a form of social inequality. (Haralambos and Holbon: 1990). It is mostly based on aspects such as class, gender or race being classified into groups.. In this essay it is going to be discussed how social stratification was practiced in South Africa before the inception of democracy and how exactly these occurrences have changed.
It is going to be shown how social stratification has changed after the democratic era. BODY Social stratification in South Africa before independence in 1994 was mainly practiced through apartheid. Apartheid was a policy that was made especially to separate white and black South Africans, mostly this practice favoured white people over black people. It was a tool that was used to oppress, dominate and control black, coloured or Indian people at the expense of the white people. Most people of South Africa dreamt of an egalitarian society which is a society in which everyone is equal (Haralambos and Holbon: 1990).
However, after 1994, South African society has been changing. For starters, the country now has a bill of rights. This bill of rights which were put into effect in South Africa after 1994 have helped in the transformation of South Africa. In the past whites and non whites did not have equal rights. Non whites were segregated against using laws which were punishable if broken. Now there is a law against discrimination, stratification does not exist as much as it existed in the past. There is no such law such as the non mixing law between whites and non whites.
The marking of territories such as ‘whites only’ is a thing of the past, black and white people are able to mix freely and socialize in all aspects of life from recreation to formal work. This can be proved especially in labour relations because blue collar jobs are now available to non white people in South Africa. This is shown as people of different kinds of races are able to work together in the corporate world. In the past black people were made to work in poor conditions and were sent to unskilled labour market so as to let the whites dominate.
In the present day, it is noticed that both white and non whites acquire education in the same institution and are treated equally so as to achieve the same knowledge. These is proved because more black people are educated and have high paying jobs unlike the low class jobs black people had in the past. Good quality schools have been introduced to less affluent areas hence giving under privileged people a chance to get good education, this gives underprivileged black people a sense of belonging.
A good example is that since 1994 South Africa has had 3 learned African republican presidents unlike in the apartheid days when the main people in power were white. In the democratic South Africa people have more freedom, be it freedom of movement, thinking, expression, religion just to mention a few. Everyone has the right to their own opinion or belief. For instance, one is free to worship whom they want to, people are now free to express themselves in any possible way. A very significant change in South Africa are the inter racial marriages and mixed marriages which are now a norm.
In the past, inter racial marriages were punishable by law which the punishment on the black person being more. Gay marriages were legalized on 1st December, 2006. (Alexander, M: 2006). This shows that people are now free to express themselves and not suppress themselves. People have the right to make their own decisions. Other incidences of stratification that are changing are gender issues mostly on the feminine side. In the past women were looked down upon and just considered as people who just belong in the kitchen.
This type of discrimination did not just apply to black people only but to white women as well. Women were not allowed to participate in political issues such as voting and women were not given as much opportunities as men to be educated and were not really allowed to have high paying jobs. South Africa now has a lot of women who are educated are able to maintain high job positions. Women are now allowed to vote which was not possible before democracy was initiated. Now gender quotas have been introduced.
These quotas state that they should be a specific number of women in power in Parliament and a specific number of women should have high paying executive jobs. Women are no pushed down because it has been proved they are capable of doing a man’s job. The government of South Africa has tried to get rid of social stratification by emphasizing on right of citizenship, environment and human dignity. These laws basically state that people of all race and class are free to choose were they want to live as long as it is not beyond their means.
People of all races are now free to move about and not be monitored like in the past were there were laws about carrying a pass, a person can be in any environment he or she feels like being at any time without being punished. The people in authority no longer use the media and laws to oppress the Africans. All humans with dignity and respect and are treated equally they is no more inferiority complex whether socially or economically. The introduction of the quotas has really changed South Africa in one way or the other.
The land quota system has ensured that even non white possess their own land in places that they wish to unlike before 1994 when black people were displaced from their so as to accommodate the white people. Quite alright, South Africa has been recognised as one of the most unequal countries but it should be understandable that the country has not been independent for a very long time and it is really making an effort to end social stratification.
In conclusion, South Africa is slowly changing, social stratification is slowly being eradicated through many ways. People in high authorities have been trying their best since 1994 to change things from the way they were before the achievement of democracy. They have been trying to change things using various methods that make it easier to achieve the goals.