Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Race and Outliers - epilogue

Haley Scholars Fall 2013 Reading Groups 

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?

15 comments:

Sierra Ewing said...

On page 282, Gladwell talks about the "intra-family relations". This section touches on how the lighter-colored children are more highly regarded than the darker members of the family. I found this interesting because my grandma and great aunt are twins and my aunt is much lighter in complexion. Over the years they have brought up stories of their childhoods and early adult years and some of the hardships that my grandma encountered that my great aunt was oblivious to. It is not the case that my great aunt severed relationships with those of darker complexion-as Gladwell briefly quotes- but that my aunt found greater popularity and acquired a greater social status than that of her own twin. Prejudice is all around, maybe even within the family.

Evan Townzen said...

This whole concept of lighter skinned people getting more advantages is true but it really surprised me when he began saying that they got full civil rights when darker skinned people did not. I was not aware of this at all I began to wonder how you can draw such an indistinct line.

On page 280 he said only a Jamaican could tell a "light brown" person from an olive skin person. I guess this stood out to me because although all (or very close to) black people can tell I am not full black many white people have no idea.

Q. Sanderlin said...

What stood out to me most concerning Gladwell’s discussions of skin color and advantage of lighter-skinned African Americans, is its relevance to today. Within this last year, I have seen the focus on skin color increase dramatically. Everyday in conversation and especially on social medias, I see the topic of "light-skinned v. dark-skinned" come up. The most interesting part, and disappointing part is that this division is being further created not by white society, but by many African Americans themselves.

Rodrick Robins said...

What stood out to me was the chain reaction advantage: how even someone's grandmother or grandfather being partially Caucasian or having a lighter skin tone or more education effects the third generation. That philosophy opens our eyes to the fact that we don't have complete control of our destiny, and that if we want to be successful and follow our dreams, w must work harder than people who have pre existing advantages.

Alex J. said...

The epilogue truly stuck out to me because it represented the idea of an outlier within a specific race within society. It is unfortunate to see this happening and setting a drift in between people who share the same heritage. On page 283, when Gladwell presented the story about the woman on the train ignoring her darker skinned daughter to seem more presentable stood out to me as the resistance to change.

I also was not aware of the concept of "white and light" and olive skin complexions. Seeing these numbers and job opportunities broken down in a chart and compared was incredible. The numbers spoke for themselves.

Andriana C. said...

The part of this ending that stands out to me is, of course, the skin color advantage/disadvantage. It's powerful worldwide and it still causes social issues today. Being of Dominican and European descent, I have been told my entire life that I am "too good" and "Over-privileged" for that reason alone. Honestly, I can't disagree with that. The whole "Team Light Skin vs Team Dark Skin" issue purely divides a race of people that are otherwise the same. I am aware that it is widely believed that the lighter your skin is, the more intelligent, more affluent and more socially acceptable you are. Seeing things I have been taught and have witnessed in my years in a book resonates with me. This last stitch effort to make people ,who are all still in a minority group, fight for some form of natural social power.

Deandre Howard said...

I find Gadwell's subject of intra-family relations to be oddly concerning. People often have a conception that a person like me have many benefits due to my light skin. This even raised big topic: availability of training and knowledge due to skin color.

Well... No.

This is actually the behavior of favor towards liked traits. It is like natural selection by species/social favorability; traits that are favored/liked/adored get promoted while others don't or are scorned. Really its just a cultural way of eliminating/shaming traits. It is something I am personally against...
-DeAndre H.

gabriel said...

When I read this chapter what concerned me was the affects it could have on the family. For example, the children; the lighter skinned child would have a greater chance of being successful then the darker skinned child. It would be quite challenging to make something out of yourself if everything was against you. What made it worse is that you were the slightest bit darker than your sibling. This way of thinking would have long term affects on the families and how they treat one another. It is sad to think that that was how they lived.

Rubin Logan said...

This topic is always in the back of peoples mind but no one really talks about it. I believe it to be true and that the darker your skin the harder you have to work. In todays time social media try to separate light skin vs dark skin rather than bring them together as one which will have a negative effect in the long run. So i think it should be stopped before it gets taken any further
Rubin L.

Lindsey McCall said...

Gladwell's entire discussion stood out to me. I found it ironic because there seems to be a trend on social networks where there are competition with "team light skinned" and "team dark skinned." Although, the competition is only a series of jokes, it made me realize that we've accepted this separation within our culture. I also ran across a comment on a social website where the person stated, we act as though light skinned and dark skinned are two totally different races.

Andrea R. said...

When Gladwell talks about the difference between the South and Jamaica in relation to how they treated mixed children. I found it interesting because since I'd only ever been exposed to how the South treated interracial relationships and "contaminating the gene pool", seeing how the Jamaican slave owners viewed it was new to me.

Even moreso since they'd realized after a time that producing offspring with mulatto women would give them lighter skinned children thus granting them more privilege where their parents or grandparents would have possibly had none.

Trion Taylor said...

Honestly I was a little shocked at the part about intra-family relations. Family is very important to me and the fact that someone could shun their own flesh and blood, mainly their daughter, just to seem more favorable to another person. Well that's just madness.
Also the idea that lighter skinned relatives would go so far as to break communication with their dark skinned family members just to reach a higher status is preposterous. Now I'm not completely blind to favoritism. I noticed that my grandmother favored me, the light skinned child, over my cousin who had darker skin, but she didn't disown him. I couldn't imagine something like that occurring in my family.

Anonymous said...

Mercedes Henry

On page 277, when Gladwell discusses the case of mulatto women and children were treated better than other slaves it reminded me of today's generation. There are so many people that say light skinned and dark skinned blacks are at competition and lighter skinned people have it better and easier.
Me being "mixed", I went to an all black elementary school. They always looked upon me as thinking I'm smarter, prettier, and over-all better than them. The way society perceives the light and dark issue, it will always be in existence and truthful.

Alexandra Donaldson said...

What truly surprised me was the fact that Gladwell stated that lighter skinned people received full civil rights while darker skinned people didn't. It was something that I never really knew anything about, even though I do believe that often times lighter skinned people do receive more advantages than darker skinned people because of the society we live in and we feed into the nonsense with our light skin versus dark skin war on social media sites.I think this problem is one we have to do something about in order for it to be stopped.
Alex D.

Shervonti Norman said...

Much like everyone else, the discussion of the lighter skinned people grabbed my attention. Even in today's society light skinned and dark skinned African Americans appear to be in some type of competition. It is said that lighter skinned African Americans think that they are better in many different ways, but that does not necessarily mean it is true.

Gladwell argues that lighter skinned individuals have a greater advantage and that can also be seen in today's society. That happens because dark skinned is seen as a "bad" thing at times and people with darker skin are portrayed with negative stereotypes. Society portrays darker skin as a person with a disadvantage still at this point in time. Prejudice just remains around.