Carmen’s Corner

Race or Social Standing?

Carmen Watkins
African-American News&Issues

Just when I completed a conversation with my youngest daughter about the ability to “transcend” thought in literature and use a great real life example of President-elect Barack Obama, the latest new sociological study was released. I am often amazed that these studies are even funded. Most of them are absolutely ridiculous, but it is no doubt that after the election of Obama as president, there would be a series of studies that provided some new insight into “why” or “how” he could have been elected. 

The latest study completed by a group of sociologists from California and Oregon show change over time in both racial self-identification and the way people perceive the racial identity of others.  The sociologists collected data from 1979 through 2002. According to the study, “there is much less ‘agreement’ about what race a person is than is commonly thought. 

(What is important are the) “Fluctuations in both self-identification and how one is perceived by others happen more often than they would or should if race is something obvious or unambiguous.” And so here it goes.  If you don’t have a job, have been in jail or live in a low income community and you self-identify as Black rather than rather White, you are more likely to be seen as Black. 

A rose of any kind...

We used to call this “stereotyping” but not anymore.  Now it is social banking.  The theory is that social status more than race, will determine how you will be seen and therefore, treated.  

Surely we have all had the occurrence when a person has treated us differently because of who they thought we were or what they thought we had, but this is a bit different. What this suggests is that “social standing” could help you transcend race.

Not so fast...

Since the election, there have been a number of issues that I have called into question. Recently, I wrote about the Obama cabinet selections, or maybe the immediate discussion by many of the first lady and her wardrobe (also a senseless discussion), but now it appears that we have the baseline argument for “no more excuses.” It’s official, all African-Americans, have just one month.

 Now it’s over. It’s official. No more excuses for why your neighborhood, your relationships, your job or lack thereof, your wealth or lack thereof. That’s it. You have a Black president who was able to transcend race and now all African- Americans are out of excuses.

That is the underlining theme here. You see it is not as much about race as it is about you how you identify yourself (self-identification) and if you have any to the factors that create your identity for you. This is extremely familiar, remember when your White friend would say, “Are you from here?” 

This is the exponential reach of that discussion, because of course, if you have not been in jail and you have a job and you own a house and you are educated and of course you self-identify as American then you may not be labeled African-American. 

Right? It’s Official ... you have been served.  No More Excuses.        


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