June 26, 2007, - 3:29 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
What price would you put on being Black? On varying degrees of likely or possible racism? How much would you demand in compensation to undergo the experience? How much would you ask to be paid if you also knew that you would be part of an elite group that receives all sorts of preferential treatment, even if you experienced little harm?
A study co-authored by Harvard and Ohio State University professors said that White Americans generally said they’d charge less than $10,000 to live the rest of their lives as Blacks.
But Mahzarin Banaji, a Harvard social ethics professor, and Philip Mazzoco, an Ohio State assistant professor of psychology–who conducted the study–are upset at these findings. I wondered why they would conduct such a study, the results of which appear in the current issue of Harvard’s Du Bois Review, published by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, Harvard University.
And they’ve given insight in press interviews. They believe that this offers insight as to why about 90% of White Americans object to reparations. They also say that there really are higher costs associated with being Black, like lower income and wealth, higher poverty levels, and shorter lifespans than Blacks. In a press release, they say Whites “underestimate the cost of being Black.”
On the other hand, the study does not examine the “pay” Blacks and minorities already get for being members of their ethnic groups: affirmative action admissions in college and graduate schools, affirmative action in hiring, minority set asides in government contracting. All of these are forms of compensation that exert racism and costs on non-minorities (ie., Whites). Maybe that’s why Whites would ask for less than $10,000 to live out their lives as Blacks. Those things don’t exist in a vacuum, and they’re part of the price . . . or rather, the “business transaction.”
Obviously skin color is different from ethnicity, and it’s generally difficult to hide from. And no-one should have to hide from that identity. As a known Jew, however, I endure more than my fair share of anti-Semitism. Death threats from several Muslims have let to huge impingements on my lifestyle, which I’ve had to take as security precautions, and which–for that reason–I can’t go into here.
Yet, as readers of this site know, I’m very proud of my heritage, and I’d never demand pay for it. It’s not a negative or something I’d ever describe as “the cost of being Jewish.” Only self-haters and bigots describe it that way. It’s part of my identity that is a positive influence on who I am. That White Americans also would see being Black in the same way, and therefore, wouldn’t ask for a lot of money to live out their lives as Blacks, should be greeted as a very positive result. It shows the respondents don’t see being Black as a bad thing–that they aren’t racist.
Those who would demand large pay are the ones we should be worried about. And it’s good news that there aren’t many of those in White America, according to this study. If only there were similar results in Black America.
It’s sad that academics, including those from the over-rated Harvard, don’t see it from that point of view. And they are the ones teaching America’s future leaders and civic-minded citizens.
They’re bummed that, unlike Bill Clinton, most Americans don’t feign the “I feel your pain” biz and don’t value race-based shakedowns the way the titans of the industry–Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton–do.
Those Blacks who speak of “the cost of being Black” are really no different than those in the Klan who have similar feelings about them. And it’s very disturbing.
Tags: Al Sharpton, America, assistant professor, Bill Clinton, Bois Review, Debbie Schlussel What, Harvard, Harvard University, Jesse Jackson, Ku Klux Klan, Mahzarin Banaji, Ohio State University, pain, Philip Mazzoco, professor of psychology, social ethics professor, USD, W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research