Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Racial Relations

This spring, I have the opportunity to participate in a class called BUILD (Breakthrough Urban Institute of Leadership Development) offered by Breakthrough Urban Ministries in Chicago. A majority of the class is based on discussion of topics facing urban areas today on which we read. Obviously much of the discussion touches on the challenges of seeking racial reconciliation and looking at the systemic injustices contained within the city. One of the great things about the class is that the members are truly racially and economically very diverse and therefore the discussion is rich.

As a result of taking part in this class, my antennae have been tuned even more than usual towards interesting items covered by the media that directly or indirectly focus on these issues of social injustice. So, partly in order to help myself keep track of them, I thought I'd plan on sharing some of these as I come across them. I hope you also find them fascinating.

the story of Mary Smith: On March 10, a blaze on the north side of Chicago killed three young men and a woman who was the mother of a 4-year-old boy. It was set by Mary Smith, a homeless woman. How did her life unravel to the point she caused the deaths of these young people? Which system failed her?

Black immigrants: Which ethnic immigrant group do you think average the highest educational attainment? African-Americans.


Chairman said...

Black immigrant.

Unfortunately, Westy, I have a very strong suspicion that the immigrant part is the driver behind the number of advanced degrees, rather than the black part.

If you only have a small number of immigrants coming in, and if they tend to be coming in with the primary purpose of getting an advanced degree, then the number is meaningless.

A more interesting may be some measure after 3 generations. Then you can see if there's some sort of systematic disadvantage that black people face.


Westy said...

Oh, I totally agree Chairman. I think the 'immigrant' part is the key. What you're getting are the most dedicated and focused people from their respective native countries.
However, don't you think the fact that they're black and "still" high achieving throws some water on the whole notion that blacks are somehow incapable of achieving like this (i.e. intellectually statistically inferior to these other groups)?

Chairman said...

No, you're right about that. However, it's a different question that what youre interested in, I think. You were talking about the idea of systematic injustice toward blacks. This is certainly related to the idea that ability and race may (or may not) be linked. The latter has been used as a point to justify the first, dating back to at least the concept of a "noble savage."

However, the idea of black immigrant achievement as evidence for thoughts beyond that blacks can have ability can be tenuous. If you want to see a societal impact, something interesting would be to look at achievement after a few generations.

If there is systematic injustice toward blacks, these high achievers should be dragged down, as a whole, though the rate may not be linear (it may take longer for them to be dragged down, because of higher resistance at the starting point, but after a certain point they'll mirror the rest of black America). Or, if there is not systematic injustice, they will not have been affected.

Doing something like this would be a very Freakonomics thing, particularly if you can make the case that there are actually no visible outcomes that indicate that there is discrimination based on color. fYou'd have all sorts of people up in arms.

However, the case of black immigrants is a perfect way to explore this, if you do it over time.

Chairman said...

I just had an interesting thought. I bet that some of the black immigrants speak English with some sort of French or British accent. I wonder if the numbers could back up something based on speech accents and patterns having a significan effect on performance.