Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Race and Outliers

The epilogue at first appears to be the final presentation of a randomly selected and researched outlier. But we soon learn that the closing outlier narrative is in fact a narrative about the author, Malcolm Gladwell. We learn, perhaps not surprisingly at this point, that Gladwell’s own successes are rooted in the hidden advantages and subjective opportunities that his parents and grandparents received.

In other words, an outlier is often the product of other outliers.

Among other important issues, Gladwell explains how light skin color allowed his otherwise disadvantaged black relatives to excel in ways that their fellow dark-skinned Jamaicans did not. Having an ancestor who had “a little bit of whiteness” or having one who got a chance at meaningful work became an “extraordinary advantage.” It was an advantage not simply based on working hard but rather on arbitrary yet powerful cultural and structural factors.

What stood out to you concerning Gladwell’s discussions of race or skin color and outliers? Or, and this one might be tougher, what issues concerning race or skin color should those of us trying to think seriously about the distribution (and redistribution) of hidden advantages and subjective opportunities for students at SIUE be considering at this point?

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Teresa G.

In terms of race, providing more education in order to eliminate ignorance is essential to improving opportunities for all. Recently I volunteered in East Saint Louis with a predominantly white group. Most of the people that I talked to made jokes about the area and were afraid of being approached by someone that lived there even though we were volunteering for a community clean up. These stereotypes can lead to outsiders believing that people from that community will never amount to anything and the residents believing the same.

In the epilogue, Gladwell's Aunt Joan surprised me the most when she denied her relationship to her daughter in order to become more attractive to a man. Understanding how a mother could act in such a way is perplexing but I can understand the mother's perspective during that time period.

Chardae Gray said...

I think that Gladwells discussion on the classes based on skin color and his notion that it makes a difference two to three generations later is somewhat true.However I disagree with him on the "legacy of privilege." It may have been easier for lighter toned individuals back then to achieve success but in this day and age any skin color/ethnicity has that opportunity. Although racism does still exist, skin color,race/ ethnicity should not be used as an excuse in 2010. I think the university should implement more awareness towards programs that are offered. I receive tons of emails about events taking place on campus but rarely are the opportunities beneficial to my success such as internships/scholarships,etc.

Shawn C said...

On Gladwell's idea of race concerning light skinned African-Americans versus darker skinned individuals, I do not entirely agree with his thoughts. In today's age it is true that bigotry still affects the darker skinned community more than the lighter skinned community. However since we are in a more civil society I believe that as a whole the tone of one skin ultimately does not play a vital role in the way our society sets up it's political and social groups.

Tamika Glover said...

One thing that stood out to me from Gladwell’s discussion of skin color and outliers was the immediate difference between slaves and the mulatto children of the slaves with their slave owners. Just one generation removed from slavery, the mulatto women were prized and rarely worked in the fields. Instead, they lived the much easier life of working in the “house.”

They were also the ones most likely to be freed, compared to their mothers. Not only were they freed, they were also left substantial fortunes in the wills of white property owners. So much so, that the Jamaican legislature ended up passing a law that capped bequests at two thousand pounds.

From there, those same colored people began to have a lot of status. They received full civil liberties by 1826. I was most shocked by this fact that they could do anything a white person could do while still living in what was a slave society.

Shanee' Pryor said...

As far as Race, there really is a serious problem with the way that we view and grade all races in society. Stereotyping has truly caused an issue involving race. We stereotype every race base on the history or knowledge of that race. I know growing up being light skin was what people considered the best so; if you were dark basically people didn't too much like you.

I believe that this cycle of grading certain races will continue among society. We must teach the up and coming generations how race isn't and to accept people for whom they are.

Hayoung Yu said...

What stood out to me most in this reading was that the lighter black slaves even discriminated against the blacks. It is sad that the less black or brown people would ignore the fact that their mother, grandmother or etc. was the same color as the person that they discriminated.

I can still see a lot of differentiating between full black people and half black people in my community. I have one friend whose father is black and mother is white, and because he dresses in the "preppy", "white" clothes, many people consider him to be "pretty much white". This would not be the case if one was fully black and wore the same types of clothes.

Trenesa Atkins said...

I do believe that skin color plays a very important role in today's society. As a dark skinned African American woman, I witness firsthand the differences in the way people look at me as opposed to, lets say, a light skinned woman. As a result of this, people tend to disown their "roots" in order to alter the way people may look at them which is why I can understand, not agree with, Joan's decision to deny her daughter.

One thing people should understand is that this is not an issue that burdened blacks many years ago; it is still an issue in today's society. People are still being taught that lighter skin is better than darker skin, but where does this ignorance stop? At what point do we say enough is enough? Not only should we look for more education on such subject matters but it is our job to teach one another within our communities that there may be some setbacks due to our skin color but it is our duty to keep pushing forward.

Robin Caffey said...

The part that most appealed to me was the woman who denied her relationship to her daughter in order to become more attractive to a man. This was very shocking because the say a mother's bond with her child is the strongest in the world, but this mother sold her daughter out to become more appealing to a man.

There are so many stereotypes about minorities or people from low income areas that ,depending on the person in power, will effect the advantages or opportunities offered to those individuals. Also I recently had a few interviews for jobs that I didn't get and someone less qualified for the job was hired. I believe another variable of the advatages one may have is "Who you know".

Precious Wu said...

Something that stood out to me in the Gladwell's epilogue was the fact the "skin color" hierarchy existed within families. I think most of the time it is perceived that prejudice and racism exist only among different races. While that may be true for most cases, Gladwell shows that prejudice existed between the same race and the same family due to the shade of their skin.

He accounts of his aunt (who was light-skinned) admitting to his mother that she walked right past her two darker skinned daughters, pretending not to know them, to not embarrass herself in front of a light-skinned gentleman she was talking to. Gladwell writes, "the practices of intra-family relations lay the foundation for the public manifestation of color prejudice."

It was amazing to see that people's success is not as straight forward as sometimes it tends to be portrayed. It is usually due to the help of many people and timing. It makes a reader like myself reflect. With my college graduation just around the corner, I am asking myself what people, chances, and circumstances have helped me along the way?

Laura McCulley said...

At this point race shouldn't be an issue but it really is. I hear many students here at SIUE talk about how one group or organization doesn't get messed with because they are white and the school gives the black students and organizations a hard time. Those who didn't know any better would agree with this statement but if you look deeper into things everyone goes through something different. No one group has an advantage over another here its who works hard and play the hand that was dealt to them. Its about the person as and idividual not what race they are. I agree with Gladwell in the since that what went on in the past and his lighter skin relatives has it easier than others but thats not the case now.

Amanda Monla said...

What stood out to me in the book was the way Joan neglected her daughter just to make herself more attractive. It is very rare to hear something like that happening in today's culture so it was very shocking.

As for race in our culture, most stereotypes today are based on race. People judge others based on skin color, clothes, where they come from and so many other things. I personally have been stereotyped and judged against simply due to my ethnicity. I think it is very sad that our culture today has come to this.

justin church said...

Although racism and ignorance of skin color still exists, most people I know are relatively open-minded about others. One cannot grow and extend their reach on the world if they're not open to others letting them look at problems and giving their imput regardless of the way they look. Opportunities shouldn't be given based on race but based on ethical and morally sound judgement. Everyone who meets similar qualifications should be given equal opportunity to reach their goals.

Morris Pearson, Jr. said...

I have to disagree with Galdwell in terms of skin color and that more opportunities are given to those with lighter skin colors. I do understand that racism still goes on today but it is nothing compared to the racism that blacks faced many years ago. I think blacks are too fast to say that they didn't get an A on a test or didn't get the grade in a class that they wanted because the teacher was racist. I believe that some blacks need to get over the idea that everything in life is suppose to come easy and that they shouldn't have to work hard to get what they want in life. Life is one big game and depending on how you play it will determine how successful you will be.

Quince Zackrie said...

I believe stereotypes, regarding race, have limited opportunities for people. It effects college students who are looking for a job. Just because a person is darker, lighter, or may even be from an area with a negative reputation, people base their perception of the person from those. Being a black male, I feel as though I have prove that negative perception is false and that more is asked of me. It's impossible for every person to be treated the same, but any effort to level the playing the field will certainly go a long way.

Sydney Nulsen said...

I think that the issue of race is perpetuated by those being "held back" by those who are not disadvantaged. Just like in certain branches of feminism, women are held back by women themselves who feel like they will never amount to anything. I am a minority but I have never felt like I am disadvantaged in any way. This feeling has been instilled in me by my parents. When minorities stop spending all their time complaining about being disadvantaged and start proving themselves instead, progress will be made.

Anonymous said...

Mikhail W.

As far as racial advantages go, the obvious word that gets thrown out is affirmative action. People like to place a lot of negative press on affirmative action. Although i agree that in the big picture affirmative action may be doing the opposite of what it intends by limiting racial equalit even further, in the real world it is effective. Truly it is hard for minorities to get ahead, and in the real world creating incentives through affirmative action is a good way to create equality. Maybe in the future it will be more obvious that race does not play a part in how someone performs at a job, but until then I believe affirmative action is useful.

Dan Shields said...

In todays society, I do believe that skin color plays a huge role in getting jobs and being succesful. people want to be comfortable and if they see any other race at its deepest people tend to feel conformfortable. I alsop believe that within the black race itself skin color plays a huge role. There needs to be a change asap, because we are all in this together

Sherrie Jayne said...

Although things are much better and we have equal opportunities for things it seems that there is always someone out there that has to add difficulty to the situation. Race seems to be an issue in smaller doses even today.
I haven't really experienced or seen of any "unfairness" on campus regarding race, but I know it's a possibility that it's still there. Stereotypes are misleading and people shouldn't judge a race solely based off of one person's bad judgment. Gladwell talked about the value of judging by a person's character and not by their race.

Katie D. said...

Gladwell's discussion on how race affected his family did not shock me at all. My father always told me how in South American and West Indies there is a broad spectrum of different skin tones in families, and when the South and Central Americans come to the USA they are often classified as white or black hispanic, but often times siblings would be considered different things.
Plus, I've read before how American families back when racism was really apparent used to put more effort into their lighter skinned childrens education, than darker skinned. This was because it was easier for light skinned blacks to make it in society. They were able to go further.
Unfortunatedly, today there are people of both races that are racist, but I'd like to think that those people are few and far in between.
I tend to agree with Dr. MLK Jr. on this point, I don't actually think its a case of black or white anymore, its more of a case of the haves and have nots. If you read the speeches Dr. MLK Jr. wrote shortly before his death, he had begun to take this stance.

Ashley Jeffers said...

In the book, what really shocked me was how Joan neglected her own young to make herself appear more appealing. I could believe this, because even in todays day and age, this is something very uncommon.

Concerning race and culture in our society, I think as much as people try to say that it isn't that big of an issue, it really truly is. Races are ignored by others, mistreated by others; I have been looked at differently because of my race. It is very degrading how much race and culture have an impact of perceptions of people. Though, that should not be how it is, at all.