Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I've wanted to comment on this for a while, but being a touchy subject I shied away from it. This morning while driving to work I heard a story on NPR that struck a chord with me in that it said young blacks, whites and Hispanics do not consider race a limiting factor as much as one's economic situation.

My history: I have always considered myself "color blind." Growing up I believed that racism was kind of a thing of the past. I know, many will say that is because I grew up in the bubble of Utah, even if that is true its good. Nevertheless, my wife grew up in Seattle which is fairly diverse and felt the same way. My best friend growing up was half Japanese, one of my best friends in high school was in his own words, "a wetback" and I had a couple African American friends as well. I lived in Baltimore (especially my first apartment) where I definitely was a minority.

My experience in Baltimore gave me as much of an insider's view as possible. Living by, working with, working on and associating for four years with inner city African Americans enabled me to see some rise above their situation when they tried. Most didn't because of cultural influence to the contrary. I'm not saying that the ability of a black person and a white person to live the American dream is equal, because in some instances it is not. I do think that the inner city culture is a much bigger source of inspirational inhibition. I don't want to get into the source or origins of that negative culture because to a certain extent it is irrelevant. What matters is that it changes.

To keep this short and sweet, my point is two fold. First, one's ability to live the American Dream depends more on their SES level than their race. Second, this is a sign of positive change in the rising generations that didn't live in a time when racism was so prevalent. Listen to the short clip on NPR and see if you agree.


Chapman Family said...

I would have to agree, that seems to be a "positive" change. positive because race is seeming like a non-issue these days which is how it should be. But, not so positive because I don't like limiting people because of any type of "category"- race, SES, religion or otherwise. I think it is interesting what the guy said toward the end of the clip, how kids are starting to grow up not knowing what racism is or that it existed. I know that it still does exist in many ways in this country but I don't think anyone can say that it is as bad.
I also grew up "color blind" and I would have to add pretty "SES- blind" as well. I didn't live in an inner city by any means but working with many different schools inside and outside of Baltimore I think I got a pretty good dose of just how hard it can be to "get out", and just how different those schools are (inside baltimore vs. suburbs, vs. private.) But as the NPR clip said, "some just don't want to get out", and isn't that OK?
Also, I often wonder about today's "American Dream". What is the American Dream today? Is it the white picket fence, 2.5 kids, "average" household? Or is it no kids, travel the world etc... Or is the American Dream just the ability to choose which "Dream" you want to live? I think that the change in values of society has a huge influence on defining that "American Dream". Anyway, that could be a whole other post!
OK, I'm done, maybe I should just start my own opinion blog! Sorry to hijack yours!

Carson Calderwood said...

Excellent thoughts Jodee! I would have to agree the American Dream has sadly changed to no kids and lots of lots of vacation.

I unfortunately did not grow up SES-blind. I grew up in between the uppermost and lowermost levels of the Salt Lake Valley SES spectrum.

Bennett Family said...


the narrator said...

when i'm discussing affirmative action with my students, i like to pose this question.

imagine you are a store manager and you catch a white employee stealing from your register. how much will that change the likelihood of you hiring another white employee?

now imagine that you are a store manager and you catch a black employee stealing from your register. how much will that affect the likelihood of you hiring another black employee?

most of the students suddenly realize that they are not as colorblind as they thought they were.

a few years ago several students from [illinois?] did a study where they sent out identical resumes to several business. the only difference between them was that some had typical white-sounding names (ex. john), and others had what would be typical black-sounding names (ex. jerome). the former were several times more likely to get a response than the latter - even though every other item on their resumes were exactly the same.

and your half-japanese best friend growing up was pretty much a caucasian. you can't count him.

Carson Calderwood said...

Too true about my half-Japanese friend being Caucasian. When we were in high school he said something about being brown. I did a double take and then realized, I guess you really aren't the same as me. I had thought, "how can you be brown when your white butt is just as white as mine in the winter." I became a little less colorblind that day (in the ignorance form of colorblind not the "ignernt" form)

Cody said...

I agree with much of what Carson and the Chapmans have to say. I believe that for the most part many of those who want to get out can. My biggest problem with the racism topic is twofold: one is that affirmative action is actually itself a form of racism now. The goal is to become integrated, not segregated. We want to be able to see people in todays society for who they really are, not for their skin color, religion or nationality. Unfortunately though, affirmative action has caused unity to take a back seat and the pendulum of public opinion has swung to the other side. Now, in the name of political correctness and "fairness" people are given jobs, scholarships and entrance into schools based soley on their nationality and skin color. Many candidates who are more qualified are rejected simply because they are not a minority. Why should some people be held back in order to raise others? We need a new system/program that will help the underserved without holding back others. And when I say underserved, I mean socioeconomically underserved, not racially. Because I know many caucasians living in poverty in the inner city that do not receive any of the same government help and favors as their "minority" counterparts simply because they were born with the wrong color of skin. How fair and just is that?
My second peeve with the racism issue is that race has become such a hot topic, such a politically correct tinder box, that anyone who speaks negatively about the african american conditions gets crucified in the public eye. The best example I can think of is Bill Cosby. He recently spoke to a group of African American families. He told them that as a group/culture they need to lift themselves out of the ghetto. He told them that it was up to them and that they needed to quit embracing the hip-hop culture of disrespect, slobby dress, and crude language. He said that if they wanted to receive respect from society they would have to start dressing appropriately, speaking articulately, and getting educations. What he spoke was the truth, but the reaction from the African American culture and listeners was not one of embrace. They called him a traitor to his race and cursed his very name. Why should it be inappropriate for him to try and help his peers lift themselves out of the ghetto? This is just a little bit of my annoyance, but I will spare my diatribe for now, unless someone really wants me to expound my thoughts.

the narrator said...


it is a fact that racism persists in this country. it is a fact that if two equally qualified persons, one white and one black, were to apply for a job that the white applicant has a much better chance of getting it.

barack obama said it well when questioned about his 'blackness' because he didn't grow up in the urban black ghetto. he replied others seem to recognize that he is black when he's trying to get a taxi.

i think economic issues are important to address, but we have to acknowledge that race alone plays an issue. i person can have all the education and proper 'white' personality in the world, but their being black will make it more difficult to get a job.

affirmative action only acts to prevent this. it evens the playing field and gives those who would normally be turned down solely because of their race an equal chance. is that so wrong?

Carson Calderwood said...

I don't think that anyone can argue that affirmative action is bad in theory. Although I don't have an answer I would suggest that it might not be the best solution to that problem in today's world. The fact remains that SES is more of a factor than race, although racial tendencies still exist across the country. Take 20 blacks and 20 whites. Put 10 blacks in inner city Philly, 10 whites in a trailer park in Mississippi (sorry for the stereotypes, but I'm just thinking of the lowest ses areas for each race from some sociology classes) and then put 10 of each race in a place like Sandy, Utah. Let each cohort grow up. You know that the 10 blacks in Sandy will do better than the 10 whites in Mississippi.

The 10 blacks of each case will probably not do as well as the 10 white in their similar SES classification. Therefore, since SES has a greater roll why not focus on its factors rather than race factors and do more SES based affirmative action rather than race.

I think one could argue that race based A.A. has a tendency to further racism. I think that a healing body is a could example. You obviously need to tend to it and help it heal, but if you keep touching it and working on it, it won't heal as well as if you gave it the necessary medicine and let it improve.

Cody said...

As far as Barack's comment, he initially was talking about how ironic it is that he wasn't being considered a leading candidate in african american communities simply because he wasn't "black" enough for them. That's when he came back with his retort of the taxi, hence the irony of his situation.
While many african americans are crying for equality, they themselves are being bigots. Blacks are just as guilty of racism as whites. I have seen way too much of it here in Baltimore to feel otherwise.
I am by the very definition a minority here in Baltimore. There are many days that while riding the subway I am the only white person on it. I have a very difficult time getting service at certain stores simply because I am white (and I'm not the only one either). I have had racial slurs thrown at me while walking on the streets and have been threatened because I am white, and for no other reason. I have experienced more bigotry toward me while living here in Baltimore than I ever did as a mormon missionary walking the streets of Mexico, and the Mexicans have much more reason to hate me than the Baltimorians do. They have experienced much more oppression from Americans than most of the African Americans have. But that's a whole different topic. Anyway, even after all that I still feel no ill-will toward any race, nationality or religion. I am even quite the advocate of their rights. I wish we as a society could quit perpetuating stereotypes and racism. We have come a long ways in the past 40 years, but we still have more work to do. Again, the problem with affirmative action is that it inhibits some people because of race. When programs are designed to help the oppressed by oppressing a different group, that's where I think we've gone the wrong way. It doesn't make sense. That's like making some attactive person ugly to make the ugly person feel better. There are better ways to promote equality.
Like Carson says, programs should be based on socioeconomic status, NOT RACE! His example was great. It illustrates what I have been trying to say.

Carson Calderwood said...

-or the time I was on the metro w/ three other whites and a black kid got on saying, "all the whites to the back and all the blacks to the front!"

-or when living in an apartment complex of 1000 units and being the only white family there, I was called cracker to my face

I have many more and really don't want to go through them all, but it feels good to finally get them in print.

I have no ill feelings against anyone of another race and that is not why I wrote the above sentences. I do have a problem with cultures that exist among races in certain demographics, both white, black, hispanic, etc. I have received 1000x more racism than I have doled out in my life. Therefore, I feel qualified and justified in saying that we should stop focusing on race (so much) and focus more on SES. Racism exists, but it is stressed too much and therefore self-propagates.

Cody said...

Thank you Carson for your statements. In my frustration I tend to stumble over my words and fail to explain myself well. You do a great job of explaining how I feel and I agree with you completely on this topic.

Bennett Family said...

why is race even MENTIONED on a college application?!

the narrator said...

i don't doubt at all that racism runs both ways. however, it is still a fact of this nation that a white male has a better chance of getting hired in this country over someone of a different race/sex who is equally qualified. and i largely believe that those who criticize affirmative action know little of how it actually operates.

Carson Calderwood said...

Nothing against you La-la-narrator (sorry I still can't think of your name w/o adding the La La to the start of it, curse you Nate) but,

1-So did I until I lived in Baltimore.
2-I agree wholeheartedly
3-My point about aa is not that it is a bad theory (its not) or that it isn't ever practiced correctly, but that sometimes it would be better to have society put its efforts into economic based programs rather than race based.

Good discussion.

the narrator said...

why not both?

Carson Calderwood said...

That's what the sometimes implies.