Unfortunately I had to get out of the car between this example and the tail-end of the story, so I missed any other examples. At the end of the story, when I turned on the radio again, the director (I think) was speaking about how his own views on race were affected by the program, or "project" as the participants called it. He had always thought that "color blindness" was the appropriate goal, but now, he said, he'd realized that it's even more important to try to empathize with those of other ethnicities, because their experience isn't the same as yours, no matter what yours is.
So my question for the day is, what is the correct model in the United States? Is it the "melting pot," the "tossed salad," or - my preference - the "stew"? The melting pot analogy implies that all differences are somehow dissolved into a single homogeneous substance; the tossed salad implies that each "ingredient" remains entirely intact and can be enjoyed either separately or in combination with others; the stew implies that the "ingredients," while retaining some of their starting character, nevertheless take on some of the "flavors" of other ingredients, so that the carrot, eaten alone, tastes of the onion, and the
The reality show raised another set of questions for me too, one that comes up a whole lot on Protein Wisdom pretty much all the time under the heading of identity politics: who decides when "the problem of race" has been adequately addressed, and using what standard? I consider myself a classical liberal, which means to me that the way to address societal inequities is twofold: remove barriers in society, and change my own mind, if it needs changing, to align with the maximum in individual rights and liberties. The responsibility does not lie with society to legislate improper thought - in fact, it can't be done; attempts to do so, I believe, often just push it underground. What can be legislated - and adjudicated, when necessary - is removal of barriers, but then there arises the difficulty of determining what is a substantive barrier to equal opportunity, versus an inconvenient barrier to equal outcome.
Again, this question is not trivial, and I use the term "inconvenient" not to downplay those barriers that do stand in the way of equal outcome - for instance, the teenager in inner-city Seattle has access to Franklin High School, which is (or was, when I lived there) a great school, so he has substantive equality of opportunity for a high school education with my (not-yet-teenage) son here in suburban Pennsylvania. But my son will probably have the advantage of access to a group of peers' parents with better summer jobs available than the inner-city boy might have - maybe; let's stipulate it for the sake of argument. Let's further stipulate that the inner-city kid is African-American. Is his lack of access to better close-by summer jobs than fast food, or even more importantly, his lack of access to the people who can hook him up with better opportunities, a substantive barrier, subject to legislation, or just... one of those things?
Black/White is probably not a show I'll be able to watch; I can count the grownup television shows I've seen in the past year on one hand. But just on the face of it, it presents the case that while we've removed legal barriers to opportunity, actual equality of opportunity is still out of some people's - some groups' - grasp because of barriers no less formidable but not subject to the force of law, notably attitudes. But who determines when the attitude is finally correct? Did the teenage daughter really run up against racism in the Beverly Hills boutique, or was the saleswoman just a SoCal brat? Or were there actually no applications for employment at that boutique, just a face-to-face process with the manager? Did the teenage daughter follow up by asking when the manager might be in? Did she later call, or go back with her own face on, and ask the same questions? Or are we to conclude, as the snippet on NPR clearly wants us to, that she was denied even the opportunity to apply for the job because of her apparent race?
So. Where are we? What is racism today, as compared to racism historically? Is it a problem amenable to legislative solution (you'll have some arguing to do here), or is it a waiting game? With members of pretty much every ethnicity represented at the highest levels of government, business, academia, sports, entertainment, is proportional representation the desired outcome, or a shift in the goalposts? If porportional representation does not occur, is it a sign of racism, or of temporary coincidence in a meritocratic system? Cobra, are you out there?
UPDATE: I just found an article on the show in the Philadelphia Inquirer from last week. It's Black. White. rather than Black/White, but beyond that, the article was not especially illuminating.