This is just a follow up to the past few week's discussion on race, mainly in regards to the racially insensitive party held by UCONN law students. My undergard friend, A Fan For All Seasons, made several comments that I felt were worth addressing:
Here's post number one, on the UCONN incident, I just posted on your race and affirmative action blog, but this is the same deal. What Maurice Headley describes is another example of what I'm learning in "white racism", it's actually how we defined the term. You comparing the party to MTV or BET is exactly the point Headley is trying to make: That this "racism" is there and yet we don't see it as racist. To go more in depth...first read what I wrote in your other post, then to take it a step further, because poverty stricken neighborhoods are mainly made up of minorities and because the school systems are so bad that there is no real hope for these kids, a culture develops where blacks may think the only way out is through drug dealing/sports/rapping/pimping. Nowadays, sports/rapping and rapping/pimping have become inter-twined. So what we see on MTV or BET are black people acting like "pimps", dancing around with "hoes" and this becomes our representation of black culture. When white law students dress as pimps and hoes, holding machine guns and 40s, they aren't imitating rappers, they're imitating their image of blacks. I think that about covers your question.
And here is post number two, on affirmative action,Currently, I am taking a class at the University of Connecticut entitled "White Racism". The Lonely Lib asked what I'd be learning in that class, and he has actually touched on one issue that has come up.
"The real problem though is not race, but poverty. Poor kids go to inferior schools and then have trouble getting into (and paying for) college."
In class, we were taught that this sort of reasoning is the basis of a "white racism" class. It's not about individual acts of racism, but covert, institutionalized privalegs "whites" recieve. White is not about color in this class, but about status. For example, when the Irish immigrated to America, they weren't "white", but now they are. Anyway, back to the issue at hand.
This class argues that race is the problem behind poverty. The reason school systems in Hartford, Bridgeport and New Haven are in such poor condition is because of "white flight" and "red lining". A neighbor in Hartford may have started out as white, with varied income. As members of a different race or ethnicity moved in, whether it were blacks, latinos or even Italians, the prominent white members of the neighborhood would move out (white flight). This would, in turn, lead to property values declining, and an even greater increase in non-whites moving in. The prominent white members of society would then "red-line" neighborhoods, which would lead to re-districting and less funding for non-white neighborhoods.
I have been known to space-out during class, but I think this is the gyst of it all. Whether you want to believe it or not, there is at least a little truth to this.
After a family trip to New York this summer, we dropped my sister off at the botanical gardens in the Bronx. While in the process of getting lost and finding the highway, we drove through pre-dominantly black/latino neighborhoods, which made my dad (born and raised in Yonkers) think back to a time when these Bronx neighborhoods were Italian and Jewish, and in much, much better shape. You could probably hear stories like this in every city in America, (even West Hartford, think Elmwood).
I just wanted to show you a differing view, and what I'm learning.
My first comment would be in regards to the word racism- I think many of the problems in debates regarding race stems from different applications of the word. Racism in terms of negative attitudes and actions taken against a certain racial group is different from racism in terms of power and privliges. People may use the same word, but they're talking about very different ideas.
I always had a problem with notions of institutionalized privliges when I took sociology classes back as an undergrad. Is there such a thing as white privlige? There certainly is, but my complaint is that such a privlige is one of any number of privliges that exist in our society. To assume that modern urban poverty actually stems from institutionlized racism is an interesting assumption, but one not based on any real facts. In fact, these sorts of race theories tend to start out with the assumption that race is the issue- the rest of such theories are built upon this foundation. But the foundation itself should be called into question and should be supported by evidence.
Our home town of West Hartford is actually a perfect example to call into question the entire notion of "white flight." If you trace white flight back, you'll find it goes back to the 60's, the exact time the government was beggining the war on poverty. (I think you'll also find a connection between such flight and the war on drugs, which began in the early 70's, but that's a subject for another day.) The war on poverty meant subsidized housing, housing projects, and the welfare boom. It was at this time that crime increased and American cities really started to decline (despite the fact that poverty had been present in cities for, well, forever.) It wasn't until this point that you saw white flight from the cities. White people didn't leave because black people moved in, white people left because the cities were becoming places people didn't want to live.
White flight was not so much white as it was green. That is, those with the money got out while the going was good. If you look at West Hartford today, the neighborhood where I grew up is now over 50% minority- many of these minorities have come from Hartford, leaving the crime and problems of the city the same way white people did decades ago. When they have the money, they leave to make a better life for themselves, and their children.
In my neighborhood by the way, housing values have increased with the increase in minority population, and crime has decreased. Part of the decrease in crime is, in all liklihood, from the destruction of the public housing projects only a 1/2 mile from where I went to elementary school. Again, it's hard to see how a theory of institutionalized racism fits with these facts. More importantly, it shows the multitude of factors that play into every social change.
Similarly, think back to my Green Power, Black Death post of a few weeks ago. There's plenty of evidence to support the racially disparate impact environemtalism has had on blacks, Africans in paticular. And in actuality, this plays right into notions of privlige and power- after all, it's the wealthy, white enviornmentalists manipulating the poor, black third world. Of course, calling environemtalists racist sounds funny to some people, because it doesn't fit many preconceived world views. When the government's handling of Katrina was a disaster, it's easy to look sinisterly upon George Bush and his administration's views on race, but somehow the same doubt isn't cast upon those who succeeded in banning DDT use in African countries for over 40 years.
Casting these sorts of issues in racial terms may be an interesting sociological exercise, but as a practical matter, looking to race provides no hint of a solution to very real problems.