Friday, October 26, 2007

Classism and Racism in the Small Southern College Town

I do not know because I am white but if you could assign a number to the disdain white elites feel toward blue collar whites – say 5 – the disdain those same people feel toward working class blacks would have to be 5 with some exponent. I mean like 5 squared or cubed.

One of the more subtle forms of classism/racism is attitudes of Northerners and Westerners toward the South. It plays off this disdain. At my law School, in the deep South although others would argue otherwise, we tend to recruit from all over the country and when we get upper class whites, they often hate it here. In fairness, many also blend right in, love the freedom, clean air, and having a choice between the Atlantic and Gulf.

Why don’t they like it here? Mostly, it's not enough independent coffee shops, Panini places, and quaint shops where you can buy special teas and the like. Or, more accurately, what all those things represent. We (here I mean Southern college towns) have as many cultural events as any other college town or at least more than anyone can do. If you are thinking it's an urban rural thing, you would be wrong. Most often they long for some other college town. Recently I looked at some demographic data for the most desired college towns – Chapel Hill, Ann Arbor, Boulder, Eugene. Unless I read the numbers wrong, the African-American population of these cities is 12%, 8%, 1% and 1%. In my town it's 24%. And the 24% and the 76% (including Hispanics and other minorities) frequent the same places. (I did not check the income levels of minorities in Southern college towns but I have a hunch what that would show.) There is one mall, one downtown, one strip of car lots, two movie theater complexes and one tiny airport. In other words, we actually do live together – all classes and all races.

What this makes me wonder is whether those Northerners and Westerners who thumb their noses at the South and who, more than likely, claim to crave diversity only crave diversity for others but want no part of it themselves. I have written that it seems to apply in law faculty hiring decisions. Why not in where you live?

1 comment:

eric said...

Well said. I am going to send a copy of this post to all my friends who express bewilderment over the fact that I am not heartbroken at having moved from San Francisco to Greensboro.