Tuesday, March 27, 2012

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 success emerges from the hidden advantages and multiple opportunities that his parents and grandparents received.

 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 most concerning Gladwell’s discussions of skin color and advantage (or disadvantage)? Why?

18 comments:

Jacquelene G. said...

The thing that stood out to me the most was the fact that the Thomas Thistlewood and many others like him had mistresses and treated them with love and loved their children, yet would torture the outside slaves acting like a tyrant. This made me think. The treatment of darker slaves shaped social interactions. Light skin was seen as better. Often the mulattos got better treatment. It stood out, because this became the basis of color prejudice. Also, in some areas these beliefs are still present today but on a much smaller scale.

Jac`quelene G.

Sable said...

During Gladwell's remarks on the history of race in Jamaica, I noticed the phrase "'They weren't the economical elite. But they were the cultural elite.'" He refers to the 'nation builders' here, people that work for the citizens of Jamaica.
Black and colored individuals outnumbered whites in political, religious, and professional positions. I find this point very interesting considering that at the same time in the United States the opposite was true.

Nicholas M. said...

What stood out to me the most concerning Gladwell's discussion of skin color and was how the coloreds received a lot of status, even though they were not completely white. At that time, Jamaica was still a slave society. I found it odd that Coloreds had the ability to do anything that the white man could do.

Justin S said...

The treatment of blacks in Jamaica stood out to me while reading. There were many blacks in this society, and they had social standing unlike in the United States. I thought it was quite interesting to see such a different perspective.

Candace Perkins said...

Malcolm Gladwell’s mention of the increase of accomplishments within the Jamaican culture stood out to me. Culturally, the people of Jamaica have been far more advanced than American society. By 1825, colored people in Jamaica were holding socially respectable positions such as doctors, lawyers, and even mayors. These cultural accomplishments were not achieved in American society until many years later.

However, the breakdown of two categories of Jamaican professions was most surprising. The percentage of “white and light” Jamaicans working as lawyers was almost four times the percentage of “black” Jamaicans. This gives the implication that lighter Jamaicans had an advantage over darker Jamaicans in this particular field. Although colored people in Jamaican were making steps toward social equality, “white and light” Jamaicans were seen as the superior group and “black” Jamaicans were the subordinate group.

Sean Pettiford said...

I found the treatment of the blacks in Jamaica very interesting. In thep United States the black population would never have a chance to reach such positions in society. Although Jamaica was a slave society, which makes them dependent on slavery, the black population there still held social status. It was quite interesting how the black population in Jamaica could do just about anything the white population did.

Anonymous said...

This has always been a problem in the black community. Light-skin blacks have somewhat been treated better than dark-skin blacks because their skin is more whiter. I think it goes back to slave days because a lot of times the light-skin blacks were usually mixed because of slave masters relations. Consequently I think that "theory" has just been passed from generation to generation. Glad well really just put it into a certain light because like he said and I believe is true is that light-skin got better status because they weren't completely white.


Justin Jones

Candace P said...

Malcolm Gladwell’s mention of the increase of accomplishments within the Jamaican culture stood out to me. Culturally, the people of Jamaica have been far more advanced than American society. By 1825, colored people in Jamaica were holding socially respectable positions such as doctors, lawyers, and even mayors. These cultural accomplishments were not achieved in American society until many years later.

However, the breakdown of two categories of Jamaican professions was most surprising. The percentage of “white and light” Jamaicans working as lawyers was almost four times the percentage of “black” Jamaicans. This gives the implication that lighter Jamaicans had an advantage over darker Jamaicans in this particular field. Although colored people in Jamaican were making steps toward social equality, “white and light” Jamaicans were seen as the superior group and “black” Jamaicans were the subordinate group.

Anonymous said...

The thing that stood out to me the most was how different children of a white and a black were treated in Jamaica and America. In America, they would be treated as black, though they would better jobs and work in houses instead of fields. They would not be acknowledged by their white parent and receive no inheritance. In Jamaica, they were much better off, being treated the same as a white child.
This interests me because even though the situations in America and Jamaica were nearly the same, slaves were treated so much more differently.

Marta A.

Michelle E said...

The phrase that stuck with me from the reading was "They weren't the economical elite. But they were the cultural elite." I think this extends beyond the Jamaicans. This statement relates strongly to the Africans who were ripped from homes where they had rich culture and brought to America to be slaves, and later to struggle and be poor.

shanon stofer said...

What stood out to me the most about the discussion on skin color was how different skin colors received different statuses. Some people were looked at as better than others and were treated differently.

Zachary Kadiri said...

What stood out to me most concerning Gladwell’s discussions of skin color was how "Aunt Joan" walked past her own daughters because of how dark they were. I feel that there is still the dark skin/light skin prejudice today and that light skin people have more advantages because they are closer to the white complexion.

Jamila M said...

What shood out most to me was how "equally" blacks were treated in Jamaica during the 20th century in comparison to those in the American south. But most of what Gladwell said was not surprising. Skin tone to this day is something of importance in black communities whether people want to admit it or not. There are clear advantages to be able to relate to an employer and also resemble them.

Yasmyn K. said...

What caught my attention about Gladwell's discussion of skin color (dark vs. light skin) is that the same mentality is portrayed today. During the days of slavery the masters would keep the darker slaves outside, while the lighter skin people were house-slaves. This is so because the lighter skin were seen to favor the whites (and this is so because lots of time the masters would have interactions with the slaves). I know of people who are ashamed of their darker skin and was teased for being too "dark or black". Even though the African American community has progressed significantly, we still have to instill a sense of pride and respect for our young people.

Nathan S said...

What stood out most is that this sort of advantage sticks out almost everywhere. In the media, when someone who isn't white is shown as the main character, the person tends to have a lot of European features. As Gladwell shows, light skin, or a European facial structure gives an advantage. It's not fair, but perhaps knowing about it we can help change it.

mburchett said...

How blacks were treated in Jamaica stood out to me. I jamaica colored people were treated way better than those of America, and received a higher status in society. The fact that light skinned blacks got more advantages than darker skinned ones because they were closer to looking white made the theme of light skinned versus dark skinned also interesting.

Jessica L.W. said...

The idea that stood out to me the most was Gladwell's discussion of the difference in treatment of lighter and darker skin Jamaicans. This caught my attention because I find it to be prevalent in today's society as well. While I am a light skin African American young lady, I find it disturbing to know that because one has more melanin in their skin tone, they are subject to different treatment. Very interesting point brought up by Gladwell and I believe it still exists today.

lance13 said...

I found it interesting that blacks in Jamaica could hold positions of power and prestige during slavery times. In America during slavery times, blacks could not hold any position of power and barely had any rights.