For FALL 2010's delicious offerings of books, art, food, film, and unique travel--check out the NEW ISSUE of our online magazine FEAST--you will not go away hungry-- http://www.feastofbooks.com/

Between issues, read our blog posts as we and our special guests share thoughts, ideas, and recommendations about books, art, food, film, and travel. We love to hear from our readers, so please post a comment! Thanks-- Rosemary Carstens, editor

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Snax Online is undergoing a redesign and will be moving to a new location. Check back from time to time for a link. In its new format, this blog will cover a wider range of topics but also its usual five. In the meantime, keep up with what's happening in the world of books, art, food, film, and travel at http://www.FEASTofBooks.com --

See you in 2011!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A Continued Discussion about Racism in America


My earlier blog post sparked a rich discussion about racism and discrimination on the Boulder Media Women listserv. I’d like to discuss here a few of the important issues that were raised.

A topic related to our specific locale is whether there is much racism in Boulder, Colorado. Some felt that the Boulder community was fairly homogeneous and therefore relatively free of it. Another member provided detailed history on racism in Boulder. She also confirmed what I’ve learned in various anti-racism workshops in Boulder—that many people of color have left the city because of racism. Another member said racial profiling goes on now in Boulder. And related to this, media coverage of racism, as well as anti-racist efforts in the community, remains slim, so people unaffected by it tend to think it does not happen.

Another issue is race versus class and whether race issues are really masquerading as class issues. I agree that class divisions have grown worse in the U.S. (and worldwide), but I disagree that most or all of what gets called racism or relates to race can be explained by other social divides such as class or culture. As another woman said, racism has gone underground, so those who aren’t targeted probably don’t see it. So, what is still driving person-to-person prejudice as well as institutional racism?

So-called reverse discrimination is another issue under discussion. This perspective lacks historical weight. Although some individuals in dominant groups feel that in specific situations they are discriminated against (i.e., for scholarships or a particular job), they ignore the preferential treatment many whites, males, and middle- and upper-class people have received since this country first formed.

Preferential treatment changes over time, favoring or disfavoring different groups. For example, Jews were “out” and later “in,” but, in general, European Americans dominated most social, political, geographical, economic, and religious structures during the formation of our country. Among other things, this heavily influenced our current social codes, divisions of land and resources, our language, and cultural products (books, movies, histories, etc.).

Geographically, our country, including major cities, was divided up according to racial differences. Our economy grew out of a system that relied on the slave labor of a particular group—African Americans. This legacy is rooted in our material surroundings (which relate to class), as well as all the structures mentioned above. This leads me to the conclusion that these forces of history, embedded in all of these structures—as well as our very personal habits, language, etc.—are what still drive racial discrimination today.

Although those of us who are members of a dominant group did not set these structures or systems in motion, it is important we understand the historical moment we were born into. Those of us with white skin, whether we like it or not, possess a skin color that can give us advantage in many of these systems.

For more, see Peggy McIntosh’s article called, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible knapsack.”

If anyone in Boulder wants to discuss these issues at greater length, check out the YWCA of Boulder County programs.

Thanks for the great discussion! Christine Weeber, http://www.christineweeber.net/


Anonymous said...

Christine stated that the discussion of reverse discrimination ignored "the preferential treatment many whites, males, and middle- and upper-class people have received since this country first formed." I do not ignore that fact. Anyone who knows any history is aware of that. I felt it was too obvious to state. My point was merely that replacing one form of discrimination with another only furthers the divide and continues the bad practice. Let me expand on an example I already mentioned. Reverse discrimination in college admissions. If someone of color is given added points to a test or given preferential admission just because of color, would he/she and others view him or her as worthy, or will it set that person up as one who has been treated differently (exactly what prejudice is)? Initially this was necessary for affirmative action to do its job - a jump start to correct. Now it makes some whites resent that their children are being pushed aside (due to limited enrollment) for others who may be less qualified though have a different skin color. This often fails. A higher percentage of less-qualified people of color enter the system with remedial needs and fail. This can't be good for self confidence (nor would knowing they were allowed in with lax standards)...and holds them back in the long run. Of course there will always be people of every color and socioeconomic class who will rise above their disadvantages and succeed. We need to stay aware of the past and yet move forward using today as a base. Another example: I suspect Obama was well qualified (equal or better, in fact) and didn't get added points to his SATs to get where he is. He and his family made the efforts to push education etc. (this is often cutural whether people want to admit it or not) That is the trick, excellent education from birth forward for parents and children so there is opportunity in the future that doesn't involve favoritism and continued racism. Should my bi-racial boys have race as an advantage getting into a college? In my opinion, no. Karen

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post, Karen. I think resistance on the part of whites is no reason to give up on affirmative action. I think it's the best tool we have right now. We aren't post-racist or post-affirmative action yet.
I agree with something that is implicit in your post. I don't think we should send students into situations where the only thing backing them is the law or politics. They also need social support. To not offer other types of support to counter the negative views of affirmative action (i.e, he got in only b/c he's Black or Latino), is pretty cruel. We need to continue to work on deconstructing all those things that contribute to this perspective. Part of this should be (and in many colleges and universities is) geared for them. Part of this needs to come from white students, staff, and faculty becoming more aware of our collective racial history and the reasons for affirmative action, etc. and how they covertly may be reproducing discrimination in various ways.
Some students I know face racism and prejudice that act as barriers to real academic engagement and success. It's these types of things we need to change, not affirmative action.
A final note, many of the public cases, on the part of whites, against affirmative action argue against a continued essentialism. But where were they when people of color were (and still are) essentialized?
I think the debate about affirmative action has less to do with the argument that we've overcome or gotten beyond racism and discrimation against poor individuals and is more about some whites getting a taste of what others in this country have been dealing with for a long time. There is no biological basis for race, but it still is a huge force we need to deal with.

Christine Weeber

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great post, Rosemary, why did it take me so long to look at your blog? This is a great discussion, one that has become more apparent to me as my daughter attends Creekside, one of the few semi-diverse elementary schools in Boulder. This is great! Corinne