Saturday, May 03, 2008

Obama and race on campus

The melting pot still has a ways to go, even on elite university campuses. I suspect most liberal whites feel better about themselves thinking that they have a black friend, or voting for a black candidate. Apparently most black students don't feel they have even a single white friend.

It's still early, but at the moment I think I'm going to vote for Obama, partially because I think he's the smartest and most effective person in the race, but also because I can't take any more of Hillary's pandering. I actually respect McCain -- the biggest problem I have with him is probably his age.

WSJ: ..."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."

Jazmyn Singleton, a black Duke senior agrees, After living in a predominantly white dorm freshman year, she lives with five African-American women in an all-black dormitory. "Both communities tend to be very judgmental," says Ms. Singleton, ruefully. "There is pressure to be black. The black community can be harsh. People will say there are 600 blacks on campus but only two-thirds are 'black' because you can't count blacks who hang out with white people."

The racial divisions among college students are striking both because of the fervor for Obama and the increasing diversity on campus. Colleges offer a unique opportunity for students to get to know each other in a relaxed atmosphere where many of the issues that often divide blacks and whites, like income and educational levels, are minimized amid the common goals of going to class, playing sports and going to parties.

About 10% of Duke students are African-American, compared to 4.5% two decades ago; they include many popular athletes as well as student leaders. The newly elected head of the graduate and professional student association is an African-American woman. Black and white students live together in the same group of dorms during freshman year, though they can join fraternities and sororities and select their roommates starting in sophomore year.

Like many colleges, Duke sponsors initiatives to address race relations on campus, an effort that gained added impetus following the widely publicized incident two years ago when white lacrosse players hired a black stripper to perform at a party and the woman then falsely accused several of the students of raping her.


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.


Anonymous said...

While I agree with you that Obama is a bright man, I do not think he has the experience or knowledge of management, economics and policy to be president. He has never managed anything where these skills needed to be demonstrated. Intelligence is necessary but insufficient for the job.

steve said...

I agree with your points about Obama's lack of experience -- just as with JFK. There is a large range of possible outcomes for an Obama presidency. However, I think he has, by far, the largest upside (best case outcome) of any of the 3 candidates. He's a combination of true charismatic leader and bright mind that comes along very rarely. (Perhaps Bill Clinton was the last one, but his presidency, while good, failed to live up to its potential.)

Anonymous said...

Let's face it, none of the candidates have the experience or knowledge of management, economics and policy that one would reasonably expect of a presidential candidate. At least Obama has the excuse of youth, which can be fixed. McCain has been in Washington for 100 years and is still clueless, I think the chances of him learning on the job are 0.

FC said...

If my college days are any indication, the elephant in the room is affirmative action. (Especially among Duke sociology undergrads.)

Ke said...

I bet you regret your decision now. Should have voted for the lesser evil or write in Ron Paul.

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