Ghangsta Culture and Sowing the Seeds of Racism in School

Bob Herbert’s column yesterday (TimesSelect only) is not new. Black intellectuals from time to time issue their regular condemnation of the state of ghetto culture. The rap music! The basketball shoes! The drugs and sex!

They’re right, though. In my experience, my black high school friends who are fans of the ghetto culture truly dig it, and my white high school friends also dig it, but for different reasons. My white friends think it’s cool and hip now, but know deep down that they’ll soon outgrow it and start listening to rock n roll. This dynamic sows the seeds of racism, as the whites think they’ll soon graduate to something more sophisticated, while blacks continue to revel in such "a dirty culture." This – along with affirmative action, which surrounds white kids in my private school with minority students who struggle way more academically, therefore affirming unborn stereotypes of innate academic inferiority – is why we still have racist adults.

It starts when you’re in school.

One Response to Ghangsta Culture and Sowing the Seeds of Racism in School

  1. Tyler Willis says:

    Ben –

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. As someone who grew up in a very diverse community I embraced some black attitudes and values. When I moved to California I noticed a much different attitude in the whites who embraced black culture. They seemed to realize they were playing a role. It shocked me to see someone who would say to you “yeah, well you know we’re kids so we are gonna experiment before we find who we really are.”

    My tastes and personality have adapted and grown as I changed friends, jobs, schools, locations, and other influences in my life; but I still retain a lot of my early likes. I don’t understand why people our age (and peope in general) will accept and embrace actions that they don’t feel represents who they are or want to be.

    I never equivilated those attitudes to the seeds of racism. I think your on to an interesting idea there. White racism is inevitably tied to our feeling of superiority. I have seen myself notice when I meet an interesting, articulate, successful black executive. There is a reason for that, there are less black executives then white executives. Less women then men, you name it — white men still have the majority. That doesn’t mean that women/minorities are less capable. We need to realize that reflects inherient inequalities in our culture, and not weakness in others different then us. The real question is how do we get to a point where the best rise to the top. Our society is getting better, but I agree that as equality gets closer, people notice inequality alot more. So as we approach equal, we seem to be getting farther away.

    I do my best to simply judge a person on there merits. I met an amazing doctor at a Christmas party I attended. We talked all night about travels and my work in New Orleans, our seperate experiences in Non-profit and management. After he left I was talking with some friends who said something similar about him being really an amazing black man. I was kind of confused as to why black would even be part of that discription. we don’t meet some amazing person and say “wow what an amazing white guy.” Black friends I have don’t say “what an amazing white guy.” White has become the norm for an intellectually stimulating person — that’s where the danger lies.

    I’m not saying we need to ignore differences in cultures, but we need to realize when we are noticing someones difference and when we are formulating a judgement about them based on imperfect information.

    We’ve come a long way from where we started, but we still have some questions that our generation will have to ask and answer before we get there. It’s a recurring question in a lot of sectors, and affects my efforts in New Orleans.

    America has a lot of racial problems, but I give us a lot of credit for dealing with it. Our press focuses on it, many smart people think about it daily, politicians work to aid racial equality (most of them). We have grown out of the repressive stage that some of our Critics in the world still inhabit. Countries in Europe and around the world who claim to not suffer from the same racial problems as America, are mostly blind to the hidden problem in their own country. Things that tend to resolve themselves violently as in both France and Austrailia.

    By putting our problems on the table, and encouraging our smart people to work on them, we are moving in the right direction. I think it’s going to be a long road to the end.

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