How government policies have created unfair advantages
Select and answer one of the following questions:
The film shows how government policies have created unfair advantages for whites in the past, resulting in a substantial wealth gap between whites and nonwhites. What examples of disparity exist in your community today? Will the wealth gap go away if we ignore race?
In the early part of this century, Asian immigrants were not eligible for citizenship, no matter how long they lived in the U.S. What is the legacy of those laws in terms of how Asian Americans are viewed today? What role does race play in current U.S. policy on immigration and granting of citizenship? How is our idea of citizenship still tied to race?
Commenting on the idea that the U.S. is a melting pot, sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva says, “That melting pot never included people of color. Blacks, Chinese, Puerto Ricans, etc. could not melt into the pot.” Think about the phrase “melting pot”—what does it imply? If this does not appropriately describe the U.S., what phrase would aptly describe the relationship between its various peoples?
Central to the concept of the American Dream is the notion that anyone who works hard enough will be rewarded—that anyone can “pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” How has this been made more difficult for people not defined as white? What is the long-term impact of that denial? What difference does access to financial resources make in terms of your life opportunities?
Cartoonist Bill Griffith comments on the all-white suburb where he grew up: “It certainly doesn’t promote a feeling of a wider world to live in a place where there are only people who look like you.” Do you agree? What does your neighborhood, workplace or school look like? Should geographical integration be a goal of public policy? Why or why not?
Psychologist Beverly Daniel Tatum summarizes the impact of institutionalized racial policies like FHA loan practices: “To the child of that parent, it looks like, ‘My father worked hard, bought a house, passed his wealth on to me, made it possible for me to go to school….How come your father didn’t do that?’” How would you answer the child of that privileged parent? How would you explain the situation to the child of the parent who was disadvantaged by government policies?
Supreme Court Justice Henry Blackmun said, “To get beyond racism we must first take account of race. There is no other way.” Do you agree? Contrast Blackmun’s statement with people who strive to be “colorblind” and judge people by the “content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” Who benefits if we adopt a colorblind approach to society? How is colorblindness different from equality?
Given that race isn’t biological, should we get rid of racial categories? Why might racial classifications still be useful? If we stop tracking racial information, how will we tell if disparities still exist?
How would you respond to Beverly Daniel Tatum’s closing questions in the film:
What can I influence?
How am I making this a more equitable environment?
Who is included in this picture and who isn’t; who has had opportunities in my environment and who hasn’t?
What can I do about that?