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Published: Tuesday, 6/26/2007

Bad News, Good News

Here's a weird piece of research. It comes from Ohio State University, which sent the news release excerpted here:

WHITES UNDERESTIMATE THE COSTS OF BEING BLACK, STUDY FINDS

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- How much do white Americans think it costs to be black

in our society, given the problems associated with racial bias and

prejudice?

The answer, it appears, is not much.

When white Americans were asked to imagine how much they would have to be

paid to live the rest of their lives as a black person, most requested

relatively low amounts, generally less than $10,000.

In contrast, study participants said they would have to be paid about $1

million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

The costs of being black in our society are very well documented, said Philip Mazzocco, the study's co-author. Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of

poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared

to whites.

The study appears in the current issue of Harvard s Du Bois Review.

All right. Everyone who thinks they'd have no idea how to answer the question, how much money would you require for a race transplant, raise your hand.

It's such a weird question, I'm not sure what to make of it. I have no problem believing that white people don't think deeply about the price of being African-American in our society, but putting a price on it? I don't know. It's just too hard to think about.

I'm also amazed that people love their televisions so much it would take a million dollars for them to give it up for the rest of their lives. But then again, I'm astonished that they don't love their televisions more and that it would only take a million bucks to severe their relationship. Again, I'm just not used to thinking about the price of these things.

These questions remind me of the things we asked ourselves as kids: What would you rather be, blind or deaf? Would you rather lose your arms, or your legs? Would you rather be an orphan who never knew her parents, or know your parents for a couple years and then become an orphan?

Would you rather be black or lose your television? Apparently, most people would rather be black. You could look at this as yet another sign of white obtuseness. Or you may want to look at it as a sign of progress. How much money would the average white person have demanded for a race swap in 1930? Or 1950? Or 1970? I'll bet the number would have been a lot higher. Even in 1970, black faces on television weren't all that common. In 1950, blacks and whites were kept apart, whether through formal segregation or white flight. The idea in 1960 that we'd all agree that Michael Jordan is a good looking guy is impossible to imagine. I'd be comfortable betting that through most of those decades, a hell of a lot of white people viewed blacks as the "other" or "foreign."

So, today, what this study may be saying is that racial differences aren't the big deal we once imagined.

Does that mean white Americans "get" what it means to be black? Nah. But I do think it means that a lot more white Americans "get" that the differences between us aren't as important as we once thought. Good news, don't you think?

....

On another subject, you may notice I am no longer using links. I simply lost all patience with them. A couple weeks ago, I wrote quick little blog item and then spent the next couple hours trying to put in hot links, fixing coding mistakes, finding web addresses, etc. It was a waste of time, and I've decided to cut it out. I mean, if I'm really interested in something, I Google it. I figure you will too. You don't need me to tell you where to find it. But, if you get really stuck trying to find something, drop me a line, and I'll look it up for you. It's the least I can do.

OK, that's it for now. Talk to you later.



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