Friday, November 19, 2010

Guess Who’s Coming to Lunch?

Diverse Issues in Higher Education
by Dr. Marybeth Gasman, November 18, 2010

Last week, I sat down to have what I thought would be a pleasant lunch with someone I had talked on the phone with quite a few times. I’d never met her but we had developed a good professional rapport. Our conversation was moving along fine — we both exchanged some of our personal background and found we had quite a bit in common. All was fine until she asked how I came to do the work I do — meaning research related to race and historically Black colleges and universities. I started to explain how I came to understand the deep racial equity in the United States despite growing up in a low-income, predominantly White community in rural Michigan. I shared with her my belief that in the U.S. it is easier for individuals to overcome class inequalities but that deep prejudices around skin color in America make many situations more difficult for racial and ethnic minorities and curtail their access to opportunity. She stopped me in my tracks and said, “You don’t really think that people lack opportunity based on race, do you?” I replied, “Absolutely! I believe that opportunities in the U.S. are limited by class, gender, sexuality and most of all race.” She replied that “everyone has equal opportunity. They just need to work hard.” We were only 15 minutes into the lunch — the food hadn’t even been served.

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