Friday, November 9, 2007

The Stats Speak for Themselves

Culture and race affect job opportunities

By: Furrah Qureshi
Posted: 11/9/07

I can't tell you how many people told me not to write about what I am about to write about. And so I just smiled at them; they had no idea they had all just given me an opening statement. But therein lies the exact problem with the problem, nobody will talk about it. I guess to some extent most of us try to ignore the problem, because it reflects on the ugliest part of the human condition, us.

American culture of today promulgates inequality. Racial roles weightily ascribe life choices to minorities.

Today, there is a notion that the only way for an African American to be successful is to become either a rapper or a sports star. Here's an example where the facts contradict the cultural perception. According to sociologist Jay Coakley there are "less than 3,500 African Americans…living as professional athletes" and "at the same time (1996) there are about 30,015 black physicians and 30,800 black lawyers." Of course, it is significantly easier to become a lawyer than a professional athlete, but that is the exact problem.

If the culture forces black students to believe they are better suited to be athletes than lawyers or doctors, doesn't that set them up for failure? Perpetuating the notion that an entire race of people should occupy one select field is ridiculous as well as detrimental because the chances for success are less likely, meaning failure is more likely, meaning, the culture is setting them up to fail.

In "Upward Mobility Through Sport?" D. Stanley Eitzen cites a survey conducted by The Study of Sport in Society showing that "two-thirds of African American males between the ages of 13 and 18 believe they can earn a living playing professional sports" (which is more than double that of white males in that age group). Furthermore, Eitzen points out that in the NFL in 1997, two-thirds of the players were black while only three head coaches were African American.

I read these facts and was deeply perturbed. There are two mediums to break down, the cycle of poverty, and the racial relation to the cycle of poverty.

With these disproportional statistics, the task seems so much more difficult. We're not just combating an economic issue; we have to combat a cultural issue.

Eitzen's point about the lack of African Americans in authoritative positions in sports is a potent one.

It reminds me of a friend of mine who's currently in high school and is an African American male with eyes for Cornell and Harvard, he totes a report card of strictly A's and frequents theater classes and all anyone ever says to him is, "way to act white." I of course know, that this is a joke, but what sort of message is this joke sending? That being intelligent and well rounded is a "white" thing? If being white is supposed to mean being smart that what does being black mean?

Here's my problem: I care about humans so much that I hate them.

I want to change things so much that I feel there is nothing I can do. I'm confronted with uselessness and futility and immense scorn of the two. None of which deters me though, I just keep writing articles, and keep hoping somebody is reading them.

I write this all thinking of one specific instance in my life. It was the first time my mind was plagued with the weight of socioeconomic inequality and the first time someone expected me to expect of them.

Last year, I was late for registering for the SATs and had to take them at another high school. I had to go to Norristown High School which has a substantial African American population and I was one of the two non-black people in the room, the other being the instructor. I felt a tap on my shoulder during the first break as a student asked me "What are you aiming for?"

"2300 I suppose."

"I'm going for a 2400" he said.

I smiled.

"Surprised?" he asked smirking.

"No, just impressed."

© Copyright 2007 The Triangle


Anonymous said...

very well written

Anonymous said...

Very well done, Furrah Baji. Incredibly impressive.

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