Saturday, May 03, 2008

Eeny, meeny, miney moe

Hide and seek
"America is the most grandiose experiment the world has seen, but, I am afraid, it is not going to be a success." Sigmund Freud

Across the country, college campuses have become hotbeds of support for Sen. Obama. Nationally, 70% of Democrats ages 18 to 24 favor Sen. Obama compared with 30% for Hillary Clinton, according to a recent poll by Harvard's Institute of Politics. Many black and many white students wear their Obama buttons and "Got Hope?" T-shirts proudly as a sign that they are part of a post-Civil-Rights generation more welcoming of change and diversity than their parents. But after classes -- and after the occasional Obama rally -- most black and white students on college campuses go their separate ways, living in separate dormitories, joining separate fraternities and sororities and attending separate parties. "It's much harder to be a white person and go to an all black party at Duke than vote for Obama, says Jessie Weingartner, a Duke junior. "On a personal level it is harder to break those barriers down."(...) But working or voting for an African-American running for president doesn't necessarily bridge differences -- on campus or, later, in the workplace. Following a recent discussion in one of his classes about the campaign, in which most students expressed support for Sen. Obama, Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, a Duke sociologist, asked his white students how many had a black friend on campus. All the white students raised their hands. He then asked the black students how many of them had a white friend on campus. None of them raised their hands. The more he probed, Mr. Bonilla-Silva says, the more he realized that the definition of friendship was different. The white students considered a black a "friend" if they played basketball with him or shared a class. "It was more of an acquaintance," recalls Mr. Bonilla-Silva. Black students, by contrast, defined a friend as someone they would invite to their home for dinner. By that measure, none of the students had friends from the opposite race. Mr. Bonilla-Silva says when white college students were asked in series of 1998 surveys about the five people with whom they interacted most on a daily basis, about 68% said none of them were black. When asked if they had invited a black person to lunch or dinner recently, about 68% said "no." He says his own research and more recent studies show similar results.(...) When I was at Williams [in Williamstown, Mass.] I thought I had a lot of white friends," says Ashley Brown, a black graduate student at Duke. "But I look on Facebook and I see that they all go to visit each other. But none of them come down here to visit me." She pauses. "Of course, I haven't gone to see them either." Race on Campus: Beyond Obama, The Unity Stops - Wall Street Journal
David Seaton's News Links
Occasionally Americans who read this blog write me and tell me that I've been away so long and that everything has changed... But I found that reading this front page article from the Wall Street Journal filled me with all sorts of painful memories.

There were lots of people of color that I liked in high school and would have loved to have as friends. I remember the unspoken pressure that kept people apart: as solid as a brick wall. And the pressure was just as strong from the black side as the white, if not stronger.

This article confirms for me that little has changed.
To me, the surprise was, on learning Spanish, to discover with Hispanic people of African descent, Cubans, Venezuelans etc, that race wasn't the barrier. Hispanic culture isn't rigid in color, but in social class. US racism is a culture thing.

Races mix and disappear, but cultures are more resistant. Our culture is Calvinist: brittle and inflexible even in its hedonism.

What has changed is this enormous charade to pretend that things are really better.

I can imagine Marshall Tito orating, like Obama, "We are not Croatians and Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Bosnians. We are Yugoslavs!"

I bet he got a big hand too. DS


antonymous said...

The problem is not "race" here. The former slaves were not brought to the USA because of their color of skin, were they?

The problem of "race" is based in the economical: the former slaves were brought to the US to exploit their labor.

So race is only a social construct in Anglo-Saxon society. Its function is to accomodate the unreformed feudalist perspective in this society.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

"race is only a social construct in Anglo-Saxon society. Its function is to accommodate the unreformed feudalist perspective in this society."

I wish I had said that... I probably will. Thanks for the comment.

RC said...

Thanks for the information David. I am one of those that asks you if you know what is happening in the states because I have no idea and have to ask. What I do learn most of the time makes little sense to me.
But the text you cite is very useful and if that idea of the 68% and so on can be extrapolated to the larger population, then the society has changed somewhat in the last 30 years, but not very much. I will read the article.
The facts do seem depressing.

Anonymous said...

But was Tito wrong? 'Inter-cultural' marriage was common at the time.

It took an effort of will, and people making speeches that said 'we are not Yugoslavs', and weird laws about what alphabet you're allowed to use, and a fair bit of hamfisted diplomacy from outside, to become Serbs and Croats once again.

There are plenty of people in the former Yugoslavia who wish that it was not 'former'.

David Seaton's Newslinks said...

A curious thing about "former" Yugoslavia. In last year's Eurovision Song Contest all the "former" republics cast their votes for the Serbian song... which won, since each republic now has individually the number of votes that Yugoslavia would have had before... which is a massive number of votes if they vote together.
So there seems to exist a "virtual" Yugoslavia.