Race and Class Matters at an Elite College

By js, 12 September, 2008, No Comment

Interesting book by Elizabeth Arias…. adding it to the list http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/09/12/aries

My study shows racial stereotypes to be prevalent on campus (e.g., blacks are less intelligent than whites, blacks have more athletic talent than whites, blacks are poor/whites are rich) but that the development of cross-race relationships and interactions inside and outside the classroom can make an important contribution in breaking down these stereotypes and changing students’ notions about race. The potential for learning from a racially diverse community, however, was not realized for many students.

Two other important findings about race pertain to whites’ misperception and lack of knowledge about blacks. Many whites tend to see black students to be self-segregating. When black friends eat together at tables in the dining hall, or hang out together in groups, whites take notice. Yet no one comments on the tables of whites eating together in the dining hall or on whites hanging out together on campus. The students showing the greatest degree of self-segregation are white. White students reported on average that two-thirds of their close friends were white, but only a third of black students’ close friends were black. In addition, many whites saw black students on campus as a homogeneous group, and were relatively unaware of the divides between black students: divides in social class; in the centrality of race to identity; in whether they are African American, Caribbean American, or African; in preferences for “black” forms of dress and music or “black” forms of speech; and in their experiences with racism in society. My study highlights the importance of these differences and how they are being negotiated between blacks.

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