Race in America

by Grace aka costofcollege

On Martin Luther King Day, 5 facts about race in America

Here’s one.

A growing share of Americans say that racism in society is a big problem. Half of Americans now say this, up from 33% five years earlier, reflecting an increase across all demographic groups. Nearly three-quarters of blacks characterized racism as a big problem, as did 58% of Hispanics. Although whites were far less likely to say racism is a big problem (44%), the share of whites expressing this view has risen 17 percentage points since 2010. There is a partisan divide too: 61% of Democrats say racism is a big problem, compared with 41% of Republicans – though the share of Republicans saying racism is a big problem has doubled since 2010, when it was just 17%.

What are your thoughts on this?  Are you surprised we have not experienced more racial healing over the last few years?  Anything else on your mind today?

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94 thoughts on “Race in America

  1. I think things are better in that I never hear racist jokes or comments directed at any ethnic group, and in my college days, while not common, it was occasional. Interracial relationships are much more commonplace and unremarkable than they once were. But I was also stunned by some very racist comments a colleague who immigrated from South America made to me one day. I shut him down and told him to never say anything like that to me again, but months later he made disparaging comments about another minority group. So there is still a segment of the population that finds it acceptable to be openly racist in polite society. For the additional percentage that felt that way but knew it wasn’t okay to verbalize it, I think Trump has opened the floodgates. This really scares me.

  2. My observation: Racism appears to be less of a problem when you are part of the vast majority (80% plus) of your community. Racism also appears to be less of a problem if you are of the race that tends to have priviledge in your community.

    Not too long ago, I read an article that used the term “indirect racism”, which according to the author’s definition, I would more clearly categorize as racial stereotypes. However, the point was that people regularly use their experience or data they have access to, which is often very limited, to make a judgment that they then expand to all people of that race. For example, they read in the local paper that as a percentage of the population, those who report as Black commit the most crimes, followed by Hispanic, followed by White. They conclude that they should be concerned about encountering Black people because they commit the most crimes. However, if you looked in more detail and found that the total number of Black people was much smaller than the total number of Hispanic or White, then it takes few Black people committing crimes to be a larger percentage of the Black population. The point was when people are doing this they don’t think about it as racism because they believe their judgment to be based on FACTS.

    In my area, I see racism when mainly Whites assume a Hispanic person is here illegally, and when they see all followers of non-Christian religions with darker skin as a threat to Christianity and/or as potential terrorists.

  3. “They conclude that they should be concerned about encountering Black people because they commit the most crimes.”

    Blacks may not commit the most crimes, but if I understood correctly, it appears I should be more concerned about encountering black people compared to whites. The black person I encounter is more likely to be a criminal than the white one. Hence, the “crossing the street to avoid a black man” attitude, reportedly even held by Jesse Jackson and other blacks, is a valid one based on facts. But is it only racist if a white person does it?

  4. My DD has told me several times over the years that she gets the “slanty eye” teasing. It kind of suprised me because the school has a large Asian population – it isn’t as if East Asian features are exotic or strange here. And the kids KNOW they aren’t supposed to say crap like that, but they do anyway. The comments bugged her quite a bit. Last year, she ended up in a class that was 50% Asian, mostly Japanese kids. It made big difference to her. She glommed onto the Japanese kids right away, and mainly socialized with them. She said she liked the Japanese kids because “they are all short like me”. At the end of the year, I wrote a teacher request letter, carefully following the rules (stay positive, don’t mention any teacher by name), asking that she be put in a class for this year with lots of Asian kids. I wrote the whole justification, saying that it is important for transracially adopted kids to be around other kids who look like them, etc. Unfortunately they totally ignored me and put her in a class with one other Japanese girl. Luckilly they were already friends, so she still parties with the Japanese crowd.

    I think it is interesting that Asian-Americans voted overwhelmingly for Obama in the last election, despite the fact that they are a demographic that one would imagine would skew Republican, the way the Cubans do. I think it is because of the history of Asians in this country, which is a story of racism and exclusion. Even more recent immigrants know that history and get racism at a pretty basic level.

  5. COC – I may not have explained in enough detail, felt like the comment was getting long. But, in the authors example, if 20% of my town’s Black individuals commit crimes, but only 100 people in the town are Black, that is 20 people, but if 5% of the White individuals commit crimes, with 2,000 White people in the town, that means 100 White people are committing crimes. If I don’t know the population (limited data/knowledge), only the percentages, I conclude I should be more wary of Blacks than Whites, when in reality more Whites than Blacks in my town commit crimes.

    MM – We had Asian exchange students for several years. One of them reported that in the home country there was a lot of racism within the Asian group. I assume this more along the lines of discrimination faced by Irish or Germans a century ago.

  6. “The black person I encounter is more likely to be a criminal than the white one. ”

    The problem with this is that it is a terrible message to the young black me who aren’t criminals. It happens constantly to my male students, who are definitely not criminals and to me at least, don’t look especially scary. It happens to the 15 year old son of one of my friends, who is black, even though her kid is the nicest, mildest mannered kid, kind of geeky like my 15 year old.

    There is also a historical ugliness to this. In the Jim Crow South, which wasn’t that long ago (I was born in the Jim Crow South), black people had to step off the sidewalk if a white person approached. It was a way to tell black people that they had no place and no respect. I think for a lot of black men, when they see whites crossing the street, it still feels like that.

    I read The Warmth of Other Suns recently, which is an oral history based book on the Great Migration. When I read the horrible stories of the South – the way the profound disrespect and institutionalized racism destroyed people’s dreams – I started to realize how hard it is to overcome this legacy.

  7. Honestly, I’m very discouraged about this issue right now. I thought things were better, but I have been reminded recently that the city I live in truly fits its longstanding “6 square miles, surrounded by reality” description. My son has been reminded of this, too. He is in college in a warmer climate, and is finding racism (among other social issues, but that tops the list) so rampant that he’s considering a transfer.

    No one could reasonably accuse me of bragging about my birthplace and droning on about how favorably it compares to the States. If anything, I am guilty of too often lauding this country over that one (never when I’m visiting family, though. :) ). But on this issue, as well as on a few other social rights issues (you can easily surmise which), there truly is no comparison–my birthplace wins, hands down.

    It gives me no joy to say that. I have always hoped things would even out. They don’t seem to be even close.

  8. I had meant to finish with this:

    My instinct now is to cross the street, or at least get worried, when anyone white black or whatever, looks dangerous. I was in a city in the midwest last spring, in a somewhat sketchy part of town a block or so from the tourist drag. I saw a white guy with long greasy hair and a druggy look walking down the street in broad daylight, with a big KNIFE in his hand. You better believe I crossed the street!!! I try my best to be equal opportunity paranoid.

  9. AustinMom said ” I assume this more along the lines of discrimination faced by Irish or Germans a century ago.”

    I disagree. The thing with being black or Asian is that you can’t change your face. I have known kids of Japanese ancestry whose great grand parents came from Japan, and yet people still assume these kids are foreign, don’t speak English, and love math.

    The experience of Asians in this country was very different from the Irish or Germans because of racism. Whites were terrified of Asians when they first started coming. The responese was to enact draconian immigration laws, and to exclude Asians who were here from any chance at power. This did not happen to the Irish. The Irish established power centers quickly and were allowed to freely come to this country.

  10. I think a lot of the lingering racism in our society had become more hidden in most of the country, but in the last few years it’s moved back into public view for various reasons, Trump being only one of them. I think that in a weird way this is actually a positive step. I think a lot of the reason it’s become more visible again is because the lingering recidivists out there are realizing that the country really has changed to the point where non-white people can hold positions of power and influence (not least president) and mixed couples are accepted to the point where household products use them in advertising, and in the face of this realization they don’t want to stay quiet. Which makes for what seems like a shocking resurgence of open racism, but really that racism was with us all along, it just wasn’t being spoken in mixed company for a long time, so for all the many many people whose friends and families don’t express such ideas in private any more than in public, it came as an unpleasant revelation. It may be a good thing for our society to actually have this conversation out in the open.

  11. I live in a town very much like Risley’s. A few years ago, the interview committee
    eliminated a candidate who had the nerve to say he would like to live here because it’s “a well-educated, mostly white town with good schools and a low crime rate.” His comment was considered racist, not because it’s not true, but because it’s simply “not said” in polite society.

    I suspect that the people who avoid young black males in certain situations are not avoiding elderly black females in similar situations, a question that lets us distinguish racism from ageism and sexism.

    As a woman who wanted to transition to part-time work when I had children, I think the question of what is “racist” needs to be viewed from multiple angles. There are women who want to continue being primary breadwinners/progressing in their careers through demanding roles and travel after they have children. Those women should have equal opportunity. But statistically, about 80% of the time, it’s the Mom who steps back in a dual professional couple so my colleagues weren’t surprised when I wanted to do so, even though they try not to make assumptions. (My industry doesn’t pay well enough for tons of childcare, so the other option to maintain dual high level careers is extended family support.)

  12. I would say racial differences are a bigger problem than class differences, but over-rated– and that class differences are quite a bit larger and under-rated in importance.

  13. WCE said “I suspect that the people who avoid young black males in certain situations are not avoiding elderly black females in similar situations, a question that lets us distinguish racism from ageism and sexism.”

    But it isn’t that stark of a division. This happens to older men of color too. I was on a panel on diversity in STEM at a conference a few years ago. One of my co panelists was a Hispanic man, who had definite Mexican/Central American features. He was also a very distinguished man, a well known CS researcher, and dean at a well known engineering university. And yet, when he spoke, he told of how he routinely gets followed suspiciously by salespeople when he is in a nice store.

  14. To Eric’s point – I think that racism and classism can be hard to separate. Would you cross the street if the young black male walking toward you was clean cut and wearing a suit jacket and tie? I suspect not. Like Mooshi, I’m leery of anyone that I deem sketchy or that seems to be looking for trouble, but that isn’t necessarily a race thing.

  15. I wonder if the fact that young, black LDS missionaries in suits and ties have better success locally at getting people to talk to them than young, white LDS missionaries in suits and ties is evidence for the classism/racism/sexism/ageism puzzle.

  16. An oldie but a goodie on this topic from Jesse Jackson: “There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps… then turn around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”

    http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/5978-there-is-nothing-more-painful-to-me-at-this-stage

    Labor economists call this “statistical discrimination”: making decisions about individuals (or moments) based on “group” information, given our sparse information and the cost of obtaining more/all info. All of us do this all of the time.

  17. Intersectionality is today’s word. I don’t think we can separate race and class. They overlap and influence each other.

  18. I should have clarified that SD is practiced across all sorts of contexts, including race. E.g., if the past four Purdue grads I’ve hired are gold/crap, then the next Purdue grad I interview will be seen differently.

  19. We can’t fully separate race and class, but we should try to distinguish as possible.

    When I lead discussions on this, I ask whether it’s easier– for example– for a college-educated white person to talk / relate to / have relationship with a college-educated black person or a high-school drop-out white person. And so on.

  20. “Labor economists call this “statistical discrimination”: making decisions about individuals (or moments) based on “group” information, given our sparse information and the cost of obtaining more/all info. All of us do this all of the time.”

    I get that, but we should also reflect on how this feels to a young black man, whose grandfather in Alabama had to always step off the sidewalk when a white person approached.

  21. Absolutely, reflect on it. But recognize the inherent limits on our decision-making and folks (hopefully) doing the best they can, from their experiences. The Jesse Jackson quote is esp. provocative in the sense of race, age, class, etc.

  22. “The problem with this is that it is a terrible message to the young black me who aren’t criminals.”

    Yes, but what’s to be done? Until the crime statistics change, I don’t believe you’ll convince the majority of potential victims to ignore the real risks.

    “Would you cross the street if the young black male walking toward you was clean cut and wearing a suit jacket and tie? I suspect not.”

    Yet Geraldo Rivera and others were roundly criticized when they suggested that young black males should consider not wearing hoodies that cover parts of their face. I wonder if most whites hearing that find it frustrating to be told they’re racist for being wary of hoodie-wearing young black males.

    I also agree that having more out in the open is mostly positive. And if Trump helped that along, maybe we should be thankful. :) Maybe it’s better to have these conversations in “polite” society. I’d like to know if most people really believe that Mexico is “sending” us its best people, for instance. Or do they mainly believe that what Trump said should not be said in public, in polite society?

    It’s painful and harmful for minorities to hear and experience these words and actions, but I don’t think we can stifle them without creating a backlash that is probably worse.

  23. COC – I may not have explained in enough detail, felt like the comment was getting long. But, in the authors example, if 20% of my town’s Black individuals commit crimes, but only 100 people in the town are Black, that is 20 people, but if 5% of the White individuals commit crimes, with 2,000 White people in the town, that means 100 White people are committing crimes. If I don’t know the population (limited data/knowledge), only the percentages, I conclude I should be more wary of Blacks than Whites, when in reality more Whites than Blacks in my town commit crimes.

    But the percentages are what matter if you encounter a random person on the street. If he’s black, there’s a 20% chance he’s a criminal, but if he’s white, there’s only a 5% chance he’s a criminal. Therefore you should be more wary of the black person.

  24. It’s rough and “not fair”, but it’s also life. Hopefully, people hold their pre-judgments lightly, seek new info, and revisit their priors with new info. But this limitation is part of the nature of life for all of us in many different contexts.

    Back to race, etc.: Raising the two of my sons who are African-American, it’s wisdom for us to tactfully discuss their public conduct, in light of general perceptions about their race, gender, age, clothes, behavior, etc.– differently than we discuss the same with our Caucasian boys.

  25. MM – Wow, maybe I shoudn’t comment today or need to re-read more carefully. Regarding my comments about Asian racism, I was speaking of my Asian’s exchange student’s experice in her home country with racism with other Asians, such as some Korean’s feelings for Japanese. My point was, from her discriptions, the non-dominant Asian group appeared to be treated similarly to the Irish and Germans when they came to the US a century ago. They did blend in, but for years they were not given the same opportunities for jobs, etc.

    I think MM’s point is that you need to think about what you are doing, saying and/or conveying about race/ethnicity especially regarding your children. I received an email the other day from an organization saying “Please don’t schedule activities on holidays.” What they were referring to was Easter weekend, which I only know from a prior conversation with a staff member. I politely pointed out that Easter is not a holiday for all of organization’s employees or members and the message might not have the intended effect. If the organization doesn’t want events on Easter weekend, it should just list the dates to avoid, the end. But, I also said they should reconsider the holidays that they are only closed on Christian holidays and it is a secular organization with a growing number of non-Christians.

  26. I was sad to learn about two separate events that happened this month in nearby towns that involved religious/racist symbols and property damage. I think that there is less overt racism, but it still exists even in a place that some presidential candidates consider to more liberal and tolerant.

    I see other kinds of racism too. It isn’t just discrimination against certain groups for crimes etc. For example, some of my faux neighborhood friends make comments about the kids that are highlighted each week in the weekly update from our school district superintendent. The overwhelming majority of the kids that win the music, and academic awards in our high school have last names that reflect at least one parent is from an Indian, Chinese or Korean family.
    They’re just jealous, but I think it promotes a different kind of racism that isn’t necessary when these kids obviously work so hard to achieve excellence in academics.

  27. One thing that I have found astonishing in recent years is how ok kids are with saying that such and such behavior or look is white, or Mexican, or American. It seems that no one is telling kids it is not ok to judge people by their skin color. One of my kids teacher’s told her classes for years that brown eyed brown haired students students wrote better papers than the blue eyed blondes? How could anyone think that was ok?

  28. Providence, how is saying that all white people share some form of collective guilt not racist?

  29. My uncharitable explanation of these sorts of poll results is that they are heavily influenced by media coverage of recent events. So, more people say that racism is a problem, because of the media focus on incidents of young black men shot by police. (There is MUCH less coverage of the (statistically) much more serious problem of young black men shot by other black men in places like Chicago.) Moreover, responders might feel that a “no, I don’t think racism is a real problem” answer is insensitive and maybe racist in itself.

    (The same thing has happened with polls on gun violence. After the terrorist attack in California, my politically liberal friends were saturating Facebook with indignant re-posts of demands for stricter gun laws. Hundreds of thousands of “Likes”. Never mind that, apart from the truly horrific increase in mass shootings (and suicides), gun violence has been declining for years, even as the number of guns floating around has increased.)

    So I pay less attention to what people SAY (in polls) and more on what they DO. I agree that racist comments are much less frequent, though it is still surprising to hear them (usually IME from less educated people). Interracial marriages are increasing, a black presidential candidate is tanking not because of his race but because of his qualifications, and a black man is President. The latter would have been unthinkable just a generation ago. I also agree that having these discussions in the open is far preferable to whispering behind closed doors. One of my concerns is the increasing racial tension on college campuses, including the ridiculous bending of objective admissions standards in the pursuit of higher black and Hispanic enrollments, regardless whether those students are graduates four years later.

  30. If you’re home alone and answering the door at night to a stranded motorist, would most of you let anyone in your house?

    I would let in some teens and most women, but except in really dire circumstances like a hurricane I would ask a man of any race under age 80 to wait outside while I called for help. It’s not fair, though.

  31. A funny/sad example from a comedian: when we see a pop singer (or actor/actress) who is not eye candy, we tend to think, “they must really be able to sing (act)”.

    All of this speaks to the general power of first impressions; the importance of a good resume, strong interviewing skills, networking, etc. in the job market; the efforts of insurance companies to assess risk; when women should get mammograms; and so on. .

    A good book on the topic: Blink by Gladwell.

  32. “Labor economists call this “statistical discrimination”: making decisions about individuals (or moments) based on “group” information, given our sparse information and the cost of obtaining more/all info. All of us do this all of the time.”

    Stereotyping is one instance of this. It’s not an unreasonable or illogical thought process, either.

    There’s a reason we used to be regularly told to “be on your best behavior; you are representing your school/town/family/race/etc.”

  33. “Raising the two of my sons who are African-American, it’s wisdom for us to tactfully discuss their public conduct, in light of general perceptions about their race, gender, age, clothes, behavior, etc.– differently than we discuss the same with our Caucasian boys.”

    It’s good to have the perspective back in this group.

  34. “My industry doesn’t pay well enough for tons of childcare, so the other option to maintain dual high level careers is extended family support.”

    Or remain DINKs.

  35. @murphy – The writer specifically asks us not to feel guilt, rather simply acknowledge our privilege.

  36. The writer specifically asks us not to feel guilt, rather simply acknowledge our privilege.

    not trying to be mean, but potato, potahto.

    Where does the reality that my eldest daughter never got to go on college tours through her school because she is Anglo fall on the privilege issue?

  37. Where does the reality that my eldest daughter never got to go on college tours through her school because she is Anglo fall on the privilege issue?

    Murphy, this is something that has popped up for me. The school can take x number of kids on an out of state college visit trip. My husband and I are both college grads, have been discussing college with our kids for years, plan to take him on college visits ourselves in addition to what the school offers. Do we let him take one of the spots? It was ultimately decided for us because he had a conflict with the trip. The school never would have excluded him from it, but I do recognize that he is not the target demographic for the trip – they are trying to expose some of the kids to a college campus who might not otherwise see one while in high school. I agree it doesn’t feel much like “privilege” to be specifically excluded from opportunities available to others, and I recognize that they never would have excluded other kids specifically because they were Hispanic. To try to put a positive spin on it, whoever came up with the idea was trying to do something helpful for kids who need it. It sounds like it wasn’t carried out in a particularly egalitarian way, but perhaps the original intention was a good one.

  38. “It’s good to have the perspective back in this group.”

    I agree. Eric, I appreciate your comments on the days you join in. I hope you’ll stick around.

  39. To try to put a positive spin on it, whoever came up with the idea was trying to do something helpful for kids who need it. It sounds like it wasn’t carried out in a particularly egalitarian way, but perhaps the original intention was a good one.

    That is a positive spin, but it isn’t reality. The reality is that the counselor is Spanish speaking and she routinely excludes/ed Anglo kids, whether or not their parents went to college, whether or not there is enough time and money is the family budget to pull kids and take them on a college tour.

    Racism exists, but ignoring that it is also practiced against everyone is one of the things that seems to attract people to Trump.

  40. Wow Murphy – that is so strange. I can’t even imagine dealing with a situation like that.

  41. Mooshi — yes, got your submission. Thanks!

    “Where does the reality that my eldest daughter never got to go on college tours through her school because she is Anglo fall on the privilege issue?”

    I assume they only had tours for minority students. Maybe they assumed Anglo families could arrange and afford tours on their own. There are many Under Represented Minority programs and scholarships to encourage college attendance. I don’t generally support them, and certainly the “reverse” discrimination against Asians has stirred a backlash. However, I did try to take advantage of them for my kid, only to be told by one administrator she didn’t think he was “authentic” enough. Reading between the lines I concluded that he was too smart and rich to be an authentic minority. Of course, nowadays, it seems that “identifying” with the desired race/gender/ethnicity seems to be enough. The whole system is so dysfunctional.

    “One of my kids teacher’s told her classes for years that brown eyed brown haired students students wrote better papers than the blue eyed blondes? ”

    Just weird. I can only imagine where that idea comes from.

  42. Oh, I saw that Murphy explained the college tour thing. And I agree that type of thing angers people enough to attract them to Trump.

  43. The Trump supporters I know, and let me just state that I know all sorts of people, are people who do not make a great deal of money, but for years have seen their kids denied opportunities because of the color of their skin.

  44. I am surprised at the open racism some of you have described that is faced by your kids in areas where one would think with high numbers of successful minorities this wouldn’t be an issue. In Lauren’s area it is probably a high degree of jealously as well.
    I would say I faced indirect slights in my early years. None of that now. All of my colleagues are surprised when they hear of time and effort it takes to complete the legal immigration process. And I am surprised that they are surprised.

  45. “Where does the reality that my eldest daughter never got to go on college tours through her school because she is Anglo fall on the privilege issue?”

    Alongside the reality of Asian kids not getting into top schools in favor of other kids with lower academic qualifications.

    When I read about this issue, I think about Mooshi’s DD and wonder how this is going to affect her. As I’ve pointed out before, if asked for ethnicity, she could honestly check the “white” box.

  46. ““One of my kids teacher’s told her classes for years that brown eyed brown haired students students wrote better papers than the blue eyed blondes? ”

    Just weird. I can only imagine where that idea comes from.”

    Too many dumb blonde jokes?

  47. One thing I don’t understand, given the overt (and apparently accepted) discrimination again Asian kids, why would anyone state that they are Asian on a college ap? How much relevance is what nationality a name actually sounds like to the process? I have nieces and nephews who have stereotypically Irish names (think Martin O’Malley), but they are of Asian and African heritage. I have know a colleague who of Indian descent who married a guy of Irish descent and she has laughed about the double takes her kids get. They don’t have Indian first names.

  48. The day my daughter came home with the story about the teacher telling the kids that brown haired and eyed kids wrote better papers, DD mentioned how odd the comment was because there were no blued eyed blondes in the class.

    I couldn’t help myself and contacted the teacher and principal. The teacher was trying to make the Spanish speaking kids feel better about themselves. Apparently she was not aware that people of Mexican descent can show any and all hair and eye color characteristics. She is such a ninny that it is even hard to get angry at her.

  49. “why would anyone state that they are Asian on a college ap?”

    Perhaps fear that not checking a box would be held against them?

    It’s been documented that at least some hapa kids with a non-Asian surname are not checking the Asian box.

    It’s also somewhat of a badge of honor to be Asian and still get accepted to a top school.

  50. What about kids that check the Hispanic box when they’re not really Hispanic? This involves my friend that was waiting for her child’s PSAT scores. I couldn’t figure out why she cared since the kid did well on two SATs. It turns out that she was hoping that she would qualify to be a Hispanic NMSF. She’s also going to check the box on college apps. Their last name is Spanish sounding, but it is because one grandparent came to the US from Spain. That’s it. Parents and the other three grandparents were born in US, and most were raised In upper middle class homes.

  51. Lauren, several of the “Hispanic” students I knew in college had even more tenuous connections – e.g., one student had a parent who spent a few years in Mexico as a child while the grandparent was an expat employee, but by blood the student was 100% Eastern European (the student had never visited Mexico, no member of the family had set foot there in 30+ years, and only the late grandfather spoke Spanish). Another German kid’s parents owned investment property in South America, and had him spend his vacations from his boarding school in Paris there (when he wasn’t at Biarritz or Aspen) so he could mark Hispanic on the application.

    Prioritizing poverty over race would limit this sort of abuse.

  52. I do not want my kids to check any box if it has a bearing on their college applications. I don’t mind checking a box if it is for information only. Quite a few kids have names (first and last) that are not indicative of their race. The name issue that Lauren describes is not uncommon. I witnessed a situation in college where the head of the diversity committee was requested to pick up two South Africans from the airport. It took him a very long time to get back and we were wondering what happenned. He was looking for two black South Africans and was confident that he would have no trouble spotting them whereas the guys who arrived were white. The South Africans were a little annoyed that the head of the diversity commitee should assume that all South Africans are black.

  53. Just had a conversation with the new Au Pair yesterday. She is indignant that everyone assumes she is Mexican (she is from South America). I was trying to relate that to the fact that she refers to all Asians as “Chinese”. As far as I know, we have very few Chinese in our community. I am not sure my point was understood/internalized.

  54. Thanks for your encouraging words! I don’t remember how I got here, but I usually look at the topic and pipe in if time permits and I have something that might be interesting/useful.

    Sky, I’m in a similar spot this semester: I have three “African-Americans” in a class, two of whom are white and (far?) more recent immigrants from Africa.

    Affirmative action in college is a tough issue, ethically and practically. One of the practices that makes it really tough for people to swallow: the higher test scores required for Asians over Caucasians.

  55. I think the way to go on college admissions is what has been proposed previously – set teh minimum requirements and then reandomly select applicants who meet the requirements.

  56. “it is because one grandparent came to the US from Spain.”

    Wouldn’t make the kid Hispanic?

    It does point out one of the problems with AA, in which kids who are not disadvantaged gain an advantage.

  57. For college admissions, I think there should be some consideration for kids that are the first in their family to go to college and come from low-income households. I don’t think it’s a level playing field for these kids compared to kids whose parents went to college and are from middle/upper income families.

  58. Curious to get totebaggers’ take on this. DD is in high school and is in 4th year Spanish. The teacher asked them to find someone whose first language is Spanish and have a brief conversation with the person. So far, so good. However, she then specified that the Spanish speaker should be someone who works at a restaurant or grocery store – and didn’t give any rationale for doing so. It felt very weird to me. I feel like It reinforces a stereotype that Spanish speakers are people working in low-income restaurant jobs. I have several colleagues (well-educated professionals) whose first language is Spanish and I could have arranged for my daughter to speak with one of my colleagues had it not been for the instruction to talk to someone who works at a restaurant. Does anyone else think this is odd?

  59. One last thought – I’ve read that the discrimination faced by Asian-Americans in getting into college is similar to that experienced by people who were Jewish in the 20th century. College quotas have generally served to make sure that whites of Christian descent remain in the majority. Some whites seem upset at the notion that African American kids might be getting a boost in their admission – but don’t question that whites may be getting a boost over Asian-Americans.

  60. SSM– that does seem odd. Perhaps the teacher is not confident that the level of Spanish she’s taught is up to snuff for conversations with well-educated native speakers.

  61. “For college admissions, I think there should be some consideration for kids that are the first in their family to go to college and come from low-income households.”

    This article seems to make the case that such preference would benefit poor whites than poor blacks and poor Hispanics (and makes no mention of poor Asians or poor Pacific Islanders, two groups who are often doubly screwed by AA policies that lump them in with all other Asians), and seems to suggest that is a bad thing:

    http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/23/pf/college/college-race-affirmative-action/

    Overall, I’m increasingly getting the feeling that a lot of students accepted into colleges primarily due to their race often fall into one of two groups: those who game the system to their advantage, e.g., the Hispanic family in Lauren’s anecdote; and those who are pawns in the colleges’ quests for diversity, often putting students into colleges that are not a good “fit” for them. I don’t think Scalia’s point was without merit.

  62. When college admissions is a competition, people who are socially advantaged will tend to win. I would be interested to know the percentage of students admitted to prestigious colleges where the age of the mother at birth was below the median. (Median age for first time mothers was just under 25 in 1997, when this year’s freshmen were born; it’s currently 26 and I suspect that for all mothers, not just first-time, median age is 29 but I can’t find any data).

    There are probably other ways besides family income and maternal age in which the attendees of prestigious college are skewed.

  63. SSM – I find it odd because my kids would pick our neighbors for a project like that – a well educated Hispanic family. In the same way should a project be on a different country, I am sure my kids would vounteer me as a resource for their friends. I have participated in several international school fairs, done presentations, have the dress, poster boards etc. (Though the international fair was very well done, it was a lot of work and in recent years none of the parents wants to run it, thereby stunting our kids’ horizons :-). This weekend there was a lot of looking at the map by my kids to find where certain countries were….

  64. SSM — The requirement to speak Spanish only with a grocery or restaurant worker seems odd to me. Maybe the teacher thought she was making it easier, or maybe she wanted students to speak “everyday” Spanish. In fact, by placing these restrictions she’s making it harder. I would be “that” parent who asks if it can be someone else.

    ‘“it is because one grandparent came to the US from Spain.”
    Wouldn’t make the kid Hispanic?’

    Yes, so I don’t necessarily blame her for trying to benefit from a goofy system. As I mentioned, these types of policies often engender frustration and resentment towards minorities.

    Btw, ‘Racial preferences mostly benefit fairly privileged students of color’.  One argument made in the Fisher vs. UT Austin Supreme Court case was that it was a good thing because upper-class minorities are needed to “help dispel stereotypical assumptions”.

    We have a COLLEGE FIT post coming up later this morning, and I suspect the discussion may turn to racial preferences!

  65. Admissions officers are looking for kids that are the first in the family to go to college. They’re looking for kids from certain high schools and zip codes. They also will give those kids a much lower threshold for admission because they know they didn’t have a pricey college counselor or test prep.

    My friend’s kid might be a Hispanic NMSF, but she knows that she can’t fool the admissions officer. As soon as they see the parents law degree, and no application for financial aid- they know. It’s just whether the school wants to plump up their statistics when they decide to include this kid in their Hispanic/Latino bucket for reports.

    I had a situation yesterday that surprised me. I received a defective sink when I renovated a bathroom. I discovered it about a month after contractors left because it is in guest bath.

  66. Lauren – I hope that this gets resolved quickly. I know how frustrated you have been with the entire process. Luckily I noticed only a couple of very minor things after my bath and kitchen renos, things that I could let slide or fix myself. OTOH, my son burst a blood vessel last night when he found out I had not gone out for bids for a new HVAC system that the guy is installing by Friday in sub freezing weather (the huge demand pricing premium is actually not so horrible if you consider that the jury rig repair that would have been necessary and was not guaranteed to get us to May would have been many thousands of dollars in addition to an off season competitive bid). He said, Mom, you could have come out here for a few weeks (of course we would have to drain the pipes, he would have to move his home office out of the in law suite, park two cars in his driveway in the dead of winter in a higher snow area, and we would insist on bringing the cats – no indefinite boarding at Petsmart for our babies.) But the contractor (next town over) asked me to give my word that I would not back out since he was going flat out to get this done. I asked to read the contract, so he probably assumed that I knew that I have the right (I think 48 hours by law) to back out of the contract without penalty. That is why I referred to the repair, somewhat ironically, as a splurge. I can afford after some deep breaths to get this fixed quickly, and I hate haggling over price.

  67. Long time reader/new poster here. I retired from banking last year and chose to be the after school caregiver for my 7 year old biracial grandson. I am white. His parents and I are already having conversations with him about things I never had to discuss with my white children, like what to do if you are holding a toy gun and someone thinks it’s real (even though in his case it would be a Nerf weapon). I know the discussion has already moved to the college realm, but in case anyone is still reading, I found this article very helpful in giving practical guidance for white people:

    http://www.amusingmaralee.com/2015/12/to-the-white-parents-of-my-black-sons-friends/

  68. @pilgrim – love that article.
    @ssm – that teacher is getting the side eye from me. I’d encourage your daughter to call her on it.
    @murphy – If you’re saying that you’re concerned about your child being at a disadvantage because she is white, I’m not sure what to say. I’m not saying it’s ok to exclude any child because of their race, but (I think?) we can all agree that it’s not a level playing field.

  69. @MBT – thank you!! I don’t know why I keep leaving!

    Sorry to come in here guns blazing on racism. :) Until recently, I didn’t give the topic much thought. Another message board I participate on has been discussing it a lot lately and it’s been very eye opening to me. “Internet friends” of mine, with boys the same age as mine, are already having to think about how to prepare their children to deal with racism. For mothers of black children, having to worry that your child’s safety might be at stake because of their skin color, racism is still very real.

  70. Thanks for the feedback about DD’s Spanish assignment. I think I’ll follow up with her teacher and see if I can learn more about why she focused it on restaurant workers and suggest that in the future, she broaden it to anyone whose first language is Spanish.

  71. Lauren, are you saying that there are no authentically Hispanic students whose parents are lawyers and don’t ask for financial aid?

  72. Catching up since I was away for the weekend.
    1. Congrats to Milo. I hope the old adage is false for you “The two happiest days of a boat-owners life are…”
    2. Agree with the sentiments expressed on racism. I think there should be more of this discussed in the public square, however uncomfortable it may be. I have a colleague who is Jamaican. Black as the day is long. He and I have had many interesting conversations about what it’s like to be black in the USA…in the minority after having lived his first 25? years as part of the majority race. He is not “African-American.” University educated…most of us would recognize his speech as “British” accent.
    3. It would be difficult for many employers (both public and private), and for college admissions offices, to be truly colorblind in their hiring/promotion/firing/admissions decisions however desirable that goal seems to many. “Best qualified” can be very amorphous, unless clear, objective measures (other than race) are established. I, for one, want the best, again objectively defined (test scores, gpa, placement test for employment, educational attainment), employees for all government jobs. I do not want people hired because of some subjective preference (i.e. I think it’s ok for cities/counties to require employees to live in that municipality and to use residency requirements as part of the hiring process) to meet some sort of “diversity” goal. I agree it’s probably good for the city/county/government workforce at all levels to look like the taxpaying population base, but the hiring goal should always be to bring on the people most likely to give good service, enforce laws equitably, etc. Trouble is, even today, in a lot, maybe most or almost all, of the cases the best objectively qualified applicant(s) are likely to be white/Asian, vs. black/Hispanic, so the situation gets perpetuated rather than improving. IMO.

  73. SSM – yeah odd. But maybe s/he was just trying to suggest places where kids can (easily) find native Spanish speakers and doesn’t care where they’re found or their education level.

  74. On white people from South Africa, I always wondered about the term “African-American” to mean black, when there are many white Americans from Africa.

  75. If you’re home alone and answering the door at night to a stranded motorist, would most of you let anyone in your house?

    I would be hesitant to let any stranger in my house, regardless of race or sex

  76. I would be hesitant to let any stranger in my house, regardless of race or sex

    Yeah, I’ve been in this situation a couple of times and I close the door, go get the portable phone, and then bring it out onto the porch and let the person call from there.

  77. no, what I am saying is based on my experience and training with alum interviews for an elite college. The alumni officers make certain assumptions about the level of help from parents in a home based on the parents level of education and income. This has nothing to do with race, and it applies to every applicant. If your parents attended college and/or graduate school, the admissions officer is going to make an assumption that at least one parent in that home is able to help the student learn to read, and do homework through the higher grades.

  78. Eh, she’s sturdy peasant stocky.

    What about tiny, frail, elderly and very very well dressed?

  79. We talk to unfamiliar people through our sturdy screen door that has a strong lock. It gives us time to decide who to let in.

  80. I would never let anyone into the house at night. We only get HS students selling stuff for their sports team, or college students trying to start a snow-shoveling business. :)

  81. I don’t let people in – day or night unless they already have an appointment. I grew up in NYC in the 70s behind a triple locked apartment door, and it’s baked into my DNA.

  82. We also get a lot of young guys selling magazines, new driveways, new roof, etc., and I only talk to them on the porch.

    Technically you need a permit for solicitation in our town and I usually tell them where they need to go at the town hall, because we have elderly neighbors who have been harassed in the past by one of the magazine guys and now call the police.

  83. I grew up along side a highway in a remote area. It was a usual occasion (several times a month) for someone to be broke down or out of gas and need help. Many times I awoke to find some stranger at the dining room table. Now, we live at the end of the road. No one happens by. Wonder what I would do now?

  84. Providence, life isn’t fair, the playing find isn’t level, and poor people always get screwed. Not sure how judging one group more harshly because of the color of their skin alleviates any of that.

  85. “Admissions officers are looking for kids that are the first in the family to go to college. They’re looking for kids from certain high schools and zip codes. They also will give those kids a much lower threshold for admission because they know they didn’t have a pricey college counselor or test prep. ”

    I’m guessing that these are people that are incentivized to treat URM kids as pawns, and to prioritize their enrollment targets over finding kids that will thrive at their schools.

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