How Much Money Would It Take For You To Become Black?
    By Hank Campbell | June 25th 2007 11:44 PM | 26 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    When white Americans were asked in a new study to pick a dollar amount they would have to be paid to live the rest of their lives as a black person, most requested less than $10,000. A minor thing.

    In contrast, study participants said they would have to be paid about $1 million to give up television for the rest of their lives.

    This would seem to state that white people don't think being black is such a big deal in 2007. Not the case at all, says Philip Mazzocco, co-author of a new study study and assistant professor of psychology at Ohio State University's Mansfield campus. Instead, he says the results suggest most white Americans don't truly comprehend the persisting racial disparities in our country.

    “The costs of being black in our society are very well documented,” Mazzocco said. “Blacks have significantly lower income and wealth, higher levels of poverty, and even shorter life spans, among many other disparities, compared to whites.”

    Mazzocco seems to be saying this is either something fundamental to black people or that bigotry is so pervasive black families cannot escape it.

    Yet, if either is the case, how can his study be valid? What is the margin of error if the white people taking the test are so prejudiced against blacks that they would intentionally oppress them yet will still lie on an an anonymous survey about it?

    “When whites say they would need $1 million to give up TV, but less than $10,000 to become black, that suggests they don't really understand the extent to which African Americans, as a group, are disadvantaged,” Mazzocco said.

    Or it may be that white people see blacks, Asians, Latinos, Europeans and everyone else who aren't native to this country doing just fine, depending on their individual natures, goals and drive - the very definition of equality. Is there more racism in America if you want to find it? There may be.

    9 out of 10 white Americans reject proposals to give reparations to the descendants of slaves, said study co-author Mahzarin Banaji, the Cabot Professor of Social Ethics at Harvard University. “Our data suggest that such resistance is not because white Americans are mean and uncaring, morally bankrupt, or ethically flawed,” Banaji said. “White Americans suffer from a glaring ignorance about what it means to live as a black American.”

    Note that those are the only choices - morally bankrupt, mean or ignorant. It may be that the people taking the survey know history and math better than Banaji. There were tens of thousands of black people who owned slaves in the pre-Emancipation south and even more that were not slaves at all. How does society separate their descendants from everyone else? What about the white people whose ancestors fought for the Union? Why do people who never owned slaves or whose ancestors fought to free them have to pay just because they have the wrong skin color?

    Let's see if we can find their justification for that statement together.

    In their survey, 958 whites of different ages and from different parts of the country were asked variations of the same question: “How much should you be paid to continue to live the rest of your life as a black person?”

    In some cases, the participants were told to imagine they were actually black, but had always passed for white. The imagined race change required no physical transformation, just a change in public status.

    In one study, whites were told to imagine that they were about to be born as a random white person in America, but they were being offered a cash gift to be born as a random black person. Once again, white participants requested relatively small sums to make a life-long change in their race.

    It was only after they were told about the income difference of blacks in America - the racial wealth correlation/causation that caused the researchers to go down this road - that whites requested significantly higher amounts than those in the previous studies, about $500,000. Yet the income difference between blacks and whites is only $150,000, so clearly the money was not the only hint the researchers were giving about being a minority in America.

    Finally, some participants were asked to imagine they were born into the fictional country of Atria, and were born either into the “majority” or “minority” population. They were given a list of the disadvantages that the minority population faced in Atria (which were identical to the real disadvantages faced by blacks in America). In this case, white participants in the study said they should be paid an average of $1 million to be born as a minority member in Atria.

    The missing factor in that last scenario is "America." When the racial income disparities are painted as unchanging fact, the answers are what the researchers want. People would need to be compensated less to be a minority in America than they would need to be a minority in "Atria", precisely because in Atria they assume their income and potential is limited by their minority status - while in America they know it is not. Again, that sounds like equality.

    The gist of this is not about equality, it is about paying reparations to descendants of slaves - money, not freedom. According to the conclusion of the surveyors, if you don't agree to pay reparations to black people, that's proof of the very bias the researchers wanted to establish yet couldn't find by asking the questions on race and getting low dollar values as compensation. So you can't win, even if you aren't racist, have never been a racist, moved here after 1865 or generally have white skin.

    Race relations have taken huge strides in the last 60 years. To anyone not in the advocacy business, this survey would be a ringing endorsement of the terrific achievements resulting from the many who worked, suffered and sacrificed to have the equality we all enjoy today.

    It's time to stop manipulating data in the name of racial politics and get on with being one nation for all.

    Mazzocco's study appears in the current issue of Harvard's Du Bois Review, a new publication started in 2007 by the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research.


    Oprah's bank account

    "Or it may be that white people see blacks, Asians, Latinos, Europeans and everyone else who aren't native to this country doing just fine, depending on their individual natures, goals and drive - the very definition of equality"

    blacks are as native to America as whites, and both groups are foreign.

    I completely agree, this seems to contain a huge amount of racial bias itself. And also a thought: why is this person targeting ignorance in the survey takers, when in reality they are showing a lack of racism, through expressing their indifference to race.

    We recently had the question of compensation aired very publicly here in the UK, coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the "abolition" of slavery throughout the Empire.

    I use inverted commas, because of course, slavery never was abolished. It was prohibited, and in areas where new-fanlged machines could do the work cheaper than slaves it disappeared. But in other areas it is still very much with us today. Anyone who has used a brothel may well have benefited from slavery. Anyone who buys dirt-cheap clothing from the Far East is almost certainly benefiting from slavery.

    And the twist of course is that this second group is predominantly made up of people in the lower income brackets, and both here and in the US that features a disproportionately large number of people of African descent.....

    That's an interesting point. I left out of the article the notion that Brits don't seem to have this same angst over their slavery legacy even though it was abolished in England only 25 years earlier.

    Of course, England had serfs and it isn't as big so a huge influx of slaves was never required.

    I maintain that this study should be a ringing endorsement that equal rights have taken hold. A whole lot of white people took the survey and thought 'so what?' about being black. Claiming that white people are ignorant because they didn't demand millions is just a mechanism to rationalize reparations - and a huge case of stereotyping by the authors of the study. The very thing they say people should not do.

    England should have angst because their governments were the biggest slave traders abroad. But their lack of angst mirrors the lack of concern of Americans in this study -- both are a result of ignorance. On the English side, they didn't know witness the horrors of slavery slavery because it all happened outside their country, although at the instigation of their government.

    Your "studies" you report on white and black issues of any kind are biased, whether credentials from Harvard or any other universities or laboratories are presented as some kind of rite of passage to ridicule and debase the white race. All your columns carry no merit. Show proof of research involving years of study, archives, non-selective audiences used in statistical evidence, etc. Most of your back-up comes from off the top of the heads of so-called professors and scientists who, without merit, serve universities and workshops that are obligated in some way or other in a mostly commercial sense to corporate powers who are intent on destruction of white culture. Their motives involve building a super-subclass to serve their megalomanic goals. To attain this goal, they have to remove this white obstacle. You are one of the unwitting participants in this effort. By the way, this white man carries no guilt or obligation pertaining to anyone....non-white, white, religious, atheist, corporate, community, or whatever other brands the commercial establishment has conned people into buying.

    Your "studies" you report on white and black issues of any kind are biased, whether credentials from Harvard or any other universities or laboratories are presented as some kind of rite of passage to ridicule and debase the white race. All your columns carry no merit.

    I am not sure what you're saying. Actually, I am not sure you read this article. You think 2,000 articles from top scientists in their fields have no merit?

    I disagree. Scientists writing directly to people without being filtered by the ideology of any corporate media is a terrific thing.

    I guess you don't agree with the study. I don't either. That's why I am pretty sure you didn't read the article.

    Your accusation directed at me saying I did not read the article reflects your biased attitude in that when, like others of your ilk, when faced with public humiliation by someone who knows the facts (backed by years of independent research and study) you resort to distracting the audience by attacking the speaker's credibility instead of sticking to the subject at hand. This speaker does not wander into subject matter without being informed, reading the info, and, after surmising such info in my own free mind. I did indeed read this article thoroughly before making my first comment. You have already confessed your ignorance of the matter when you replied: "I am not sure what you're saying. Actually, I am not sure you read this article. I guess you don't agree with the study. I don't either. That's why I am pretty sure you didn't read the article." Way to go, Guiliani....Guess you'll be accusing me of terrorism next. You called me a liar in a roundabout way so as to instill in your audience some doubt to my words. If you'd like to get more personal with me we'll do it face to face alone in a designated meeting place. Bring your documents with you. Otherwise, in the future, stick to the message and don't try to kill the one who brings bad tidings based on facts. Remember, Guiliani got the applause, but in reality he lost the debate to Dr. Ron Paul.

    No, really though. You didn't read the article, did you? Because from what I can tell, although you seem to be arguing for the same point the author did, you're arguing against him. Also, (don't take this as an attack) you need to use some formatting in your posts. It's just one big block of unreadable text.

    I agree with what the author said, modern racism is only a big deal if all the people involved make it out to be one. Of course not everyone will be completely color-blind, but that's simply not an achievable goal. Even the KKK are no longer an openly racist organization. And personally, I think the idea of reparations is ridiculous. Not one person who would be paid money actually suffered through slavery. The people who would be paying this money did nothing to deserve the penalty.

    Minorities have to work harder. I don't deny this. But it's not like there's no opportunity. There needs to be less whining and more actual effort.

    Statements like minorities have to work harder greatly implies that they are lazy which is not the case. We are playing against a stacked deck.. Check out this excerpt from another article....It talks about the increase in prison numbers. Tell me something isn't wrong!

    "The figures showed that 12.6% of black males in their late 20s are in prison, compared to 3.6% of Hispanics and about 1.7% of whites."

    Larry Gray

    Larry, that is exactly the point. If a member of the KKK takes your numbers and concludes that blacks are criminals 7X as often as whites so therefore more inclined to be criminals, the correlation/causation reasoning is flawed.

    Likewise, a (black) writer at the Du Bois Review taking this study and saying whites didn't demand enough money so they are ignorant and reparations are the answer is no different. Both took positions they wanted to believe and manipulated the findings to reaffirm them. Both found excuses to stereotype and show prejudice.

    I do believe the deck was stacked at one point - that's why Affirmative Action was created, to level the playing field legislatively until it became level culturally. I do not believe it is stacked today, at least in the US. Too many poor minorities come to America and get rich and successful for there to be ingrained oppression.

    Let's focus on the current situation...Can you come up with a reason as to why immigrants come to America and become successful versus the Black American that was born here does not seem to prosper? Something is not level.
    You can not define Racism like in the old days when it was blatant and open because now it is like a velvet glove. The only thing you have to work with are the numbers. Poverty, Imprisonment, education....

    Maybe the two of us can come up with a solution. Because now we sit opposite sides of the fence.

    If I may ask, where do you live in the US. The reason I ask is because my Fiance' who grew up in Boise, ID could not grasp the idea of inequality until we spent a week in my hometown in Louisiana.


    I grew up in the south and I live in California now. Where I grew up was 65% white. Now I live in a place where it is 45% white.

    On your first statement, why every other minority comes to America and does just fine is not the subject of the article - but if you're trying to tell me white people are okay with Latinos, Ukranians, Chinese, Africans, Indians and everyone except American-born black people, I don't think you will be able to demonstrate it in any meaningful way.

    Louisiana is 32% black. Idaho is 0.6%. Yet there is no racism in Idaho against a much smaller minority by a much larger majority? This fact hurts your case more than it helps.

    Poor minorities from abroad are psychologically at an advantage because they and their families do not have a historical link with the oppression that took place in the US, and none of the psychological baggage that gets handed down over the generations. Being from somewhere else, they can start 'fresh', so to speak, free of history, and more psychologically poised to prosper. Most of them, moreover, come to the US of their own choice, and the same can be said of their parents and grandparents. This cannot be said for the African slaves and their descendants. Conscious choice motivates.

    Ethnocentrism makes studies of racially loaded issues awkwardly unrealistic at best, because the individual can only grasp ideas that are not biased toward cultural extinction. If xenephobia is an example of cultural values that exceed the limits of set and setting, we cannot expect monetary values to placate any kind of displacement that would allow, or promote nonexistence. Since the idea of 'white' is in actuality a political term first and a racial term second, we are faced with the same bias that 'black' has come to mean where cultural erosion occurs --- because the media influences opinions and creates an air of mystique about the few who are able to step outside their traditional cultural boundaries and exhibit special circumstances, such as monetarily enhanced lifetstykes that have allure to the ignorant and oppressed. What exists at the core of all cultures is something sacrosant to the racial obligations of the folk from which the core culture appertends. Black Africans in America because they were brought unwillfully still creates the kind of cultural angst that makes them generally uncomfortable in settings outside the core of their heritage. Regardless of how well they succeed, most are happier in settings where they are among their own kind. That this is a fact can be documented by the same scientific datum used for this study. Most do not want to either act like whites or share their values. A study of failing students in an affluent environement concluded that part of their problem was that they didn't want to 'act too white'.

    Ethnocentrism makes studies of racially loaded issues awkwardly unrealistic at best, because the individual can only grasp ideas that are not biased toward cultural extinction.
    I think in this case there was no chance at all the findings could have gone any other way. I won't go to a Palestinian meeting and get an objective study of Israelis and I would be hard pressed to find a balanced look at racism from a group at Harvard that differentiates itself by its race - and mandates that by saying white people are biased.

    Of course, I happen to be white so they might say I am unqualified to comment on their study - especially since I am saying I think their study really means race relations are quite good and prejudice is nowhere near what it used to be.

    Ironically, I think it's true that for whites race relations are quite good and prejudice is nowhere near what it used to be. However, for blacks and browns in the US, the feelings about race relations are not nearly so benign. The subtle and overt ramifications of being black or brown in the US color our feelings about progress. Anecdotally, I see the study result in my daily life. My friends and neighbors do not treat me differently or display bigotry. Of course, my friends and neighbors are middle class, highly educated Americans of all stripes. They give up nothing by treating me fairly.

    But social institutions and some individuals still have problems with racism. Pulling one's self up with one's bootstraps is thus made considerably more difficult. If more blacks and browns are poor and more poor people live in neighborhoods with failing schools, how easy is it to succeed? It's irrelevant if this is a race issue or a class issue

    Ask the study question about "Atria" and include failing schools, racial profiling, negative stereotypes within and without the minority community, male incarceration rates, blahblahblah. Tell the participants that they can change their circumstance if they just study hard with outdated books in crumbling school.. or if they play basketball. Then we'll have a more valid answer.

    Crys, the issue is we would have to keep stacking the deck with bad things in order to make people want more money to be black. Right now, just based on skin color, it means nothing to most white people. And if we stacked the deck with negatives for white people in Atria they would demand more money to be what they already are.

    You say you experience little racism but still feel it's pervasive in institutions. That's anecdotal proof but let's examine it for a moment. Do just minorities experience being treated differently? No, it applies to poor people of all colors, for example, and at some companies it applies to people who went to the wrong school. In some fields it applies to women and good luck being a man and getting hired at N.O.W. For that matter, good luck being white and getting published in Harvard's Du Bois Review.

    That's not pervasive racism, it's the nature of people and we can't legislate it out of society.

    Taking an ideological position and creating data to match it, which is what the authors of this study did, is using science to espouse a personal social cause. That simply makes people look at all science suspiciously and that is a very bad thing.

    Of course it's true that society has a variety of biases. I've experienced much more sexism in my educational and professional life than I have as a black person. No one in my engineering department cared that I was black, but girls certainly didn't belong in upper division physics and engineering.

    However, one of the points of my comments was perception on "both sides of the aisle". While many white Americans may feel like race is no longer such a big deal, black and brown Americans (I like to include Latinos because they face many similar hurdles) do not feel the same. I admit this could be a class issue disguised as a race issue. But that's not the pervading community opinion. My friends always ask me why black people play the race card... as if I knew. (lol) To many blacks and browns, race is the only explanation. That viewpoint is myopic in the face of economics.

    The study authors are similarly short sighted because they don't see that for many, the study question doesn't ask the right questions. On a humorous side, I'd like to recommend "Black No More" by George Schuyler.

    For the authors information, when I read the title I was instantly thinking of $1,000,000 PLUS then STOPPED to pause for a moment to wonder if $1,000,000 was anywhere NEAR enough, I quickly doubled that amount, then that amount then came to the conclusion that I didn't think there would be enough wealth in the world to make me become black.

    It's not because I particulary feel that blacks have it tough or that equality for all man is starting to prevail but because I see my color, race, eye color etc as being the man that I AM and that any change to this would confuse what I know myself to be.

    No amount of money would comfort if I felt awkward with myself.

    Where is the research in regards to men and women that feel the same as I?

    Your article is thoroughly boring, I'm truly sorry I invested my time towards it.

    Your article is thoroughly boring, I'm truly sorry I invested my time towards it.
    Thank you. Insightful commentary like this makes it all worthwhile.

    I, for one (being white), feel that requesting a larger sum of money would make me more of a 'bigot'. It's as if I would be saying "Changing my race? Psh, you'd have to pay me *millions*."

    That being said, the studies cited in this article seem to prove more that racism IS still a big issue (thus income inequality, life expectancy disparity, etc), and that the (presumably white) people studied just do not ACKNOWLEDGE this fact.

    Also, being of a minority (LGBT) myself , I have to add that one of the biggest challenges facing the oppressed these days is the idea that minority issues are a thing of the past. I hear all the time that minorities shouldn't be complaining now because "things are a lot better than they used to be". However, just because things are 'better' doesn't mean they're best. If people still feel oppressed, downtrodden, or otherwise mistreated, let them continue to speak out. As a society, we don't need scientific studies to prove whether or not minority issues are still pertinent. And furthermore, we don't need people telling us to move on.

    Whites derived from england and other parts of Europe....... they are just as foreign as us.... We derived from Africa, Latinos mostly originated from Puerto Rico when the spaniards raped the Blacks and Taino indians. thus. creating Latinos.....

    would do it for nothing if they give me a sex change first. Want to be a good looking black woman.

    I think we should forget about all this I know it sounds bad but white people today are not the ones who owned slaves and they should not have to pay for it, and the black people in this generation have never been slaves so I don't understand why white people have to pay for it.