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Monday, September 05, 2005

Race as humor

My friends and I, white middle-class folk, often josh around about racial stereotypes. It's probably easy, given the countless advantages we've enjoyed growing up, attending good schools, and (for many of us) getting advanced degrees. So it hit me when two thoughts intersected this weekend: a friend mentioning his interest in race relations and some good journalism on race from the Daily Kos readers.

This country still has a lot of racism. It's easy sometimes to take to heart what the Bill Cosby's of the world have to say about attitudes against achievement in certain segments of the population. I think it's attractive because believing it means that it absolves me of responsibility. But I and my white counterparts could probably stand to do a little more to protest racism when it so clearly rears its head as it did in those AP picture captions.

I'm glad to find myself doing a bit these days doing research on juvenile justice and investigating what insiders call disproportionate minority contact (DMC). It's a technical term that basically means blacks, hispanics, and other racial minorities are overrepresented in arrests, incarcerations, and other aspects of the juvenile justice system in ways that clearly have nothing to do with a propensity to commit crimes.

One study I read discussed how probation officers were more likely to say black kids were "internally motivated" (by bad attitudes, disrespect for authority, etc...) to be delinquent while white kids are seen as "externally motivated" (affected by drug/alcohol addiction, mentall illness, family dysfunction...) Funny part is, white kids are the real druggies in America and black kids disproportionately live in families that put them at a higher risk for delinquency. So, as usual, things are bass ackwards.

I guess the point is that we have a long way to go, despite having constitutions, bills of rights, and laws that all support the spirit of equality.

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