How is socioeconomic inequality and social injustice demonstrated throughout "The Lesson"?

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Socioeconomic inequality can be seen throughout Toni Cade Bambara’s story. Inequality distinguishes Miss Moore from the neighborhood children whom she has decided to help. Within the African American neighborhood where she has moved, Miss Moore stands out because she has a college education. Although she is black, she positions herself as superior to the other residents. This is most evident in her condescending attitude toward the children. Her class status is also evident in her familiarity with places such as the fancy toy store where she takes them. She has clearly been there before.

Miss Moore decides that the children should become aware of the vast gaps between the retail establishments in their neighborhood and the wealthy enclaves of Manhattan. She arranges for them to visit F.A.O. Schwartz, an incredibly expensive toy store—to them. The children are startled by the high price tags on many of the items and are dubious about their usefulness.

Social injustice is not stressed as much as inequality is. Miss Moore tries to instill this idea in the children, and Sugar takes it to heart. She tells Miss Moore what she knows the young woman wants to hear: “this is not much of a democracy if you ask me.” But Sugar phrases this democratic failing in terms of access to money rather than the broader, systemic issue of justice. The girl asks rhetorically if the pursuit of happiness “means an equal crack at the dough, don't it?" It is through Sylvia’s resentful, undefined contemplation of inequality that the author suggests that the girl is looking at the whole society, not just the economic aspects.

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