Blog #5 - October 5, 2016
Five years ago I was an eager (and naive) twenty-one year old beginning my search for an apartment. I remember excitedly searching the internet to find “the one.” Maybe I would live in a posh apartment in downtown Providence? Or maybe I would move into a renovated mill in Smithfield?
As you can imagine, I was very quickly reminded (and devastated) that I was a broke, full-time undergraduate student. After three months of searching, I finally found “the one.” A one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in North Providence. It definitely lacked the posh vibes but it was within my budget and in a nice complex. I immediately called the landlord to schedule a viewing. I made sure to make my voice sound as “adult-like” and professional as possible. He informed me that they had an apartment and I went to visit it the following day. After the landlord showed us the apartment, I asked when it would be available. To my dismay, he dismissively informed us that no apartments were available. Um, why did he even bother to show us the apartment? Also, this apartment is empty….
That’s when my father stepped in. He called the landlord to verify that no apartments were available. To my surprise, the landlord told him that one has been available for two months and was just recently renovated. Say what? He literally just told us that they had no apartments available! My father didn’t say anything to him about my sister and I going in. Instead he went with me to sign the lease. Needless to say, the look on the landlord’s face was priceless.
It was obvious that the landlord didn’t want to rent an apartment to me because I looked young. He discriminated against young adults in order to rent to certain ages. Young to him meant that I was a party animal. Unreliable for rent. Irresponsible. Apparently he could tell all of these things before he even showed me the apartment.
Throughout this election, we are reminded of many inequalities that exist within our social and legal systems in the United States. Racial inequality and discrimination are just some of the problems that continue to come up. Some say that presidential candidate Donald Trump is guilty of discrimination towards blacks and Latinos. In particular, Trump has been accused of discrimination in his rental properties. Nicholas Kristof describes a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump and Fred Trump (his father) for “systematically discriminating against blacks in house rentals” in his article Is Donald Trump a Racist? Kristof researched the lawsuit and found results to prove this true.
Both white people and people of color were used as “testers” to visit these properties. Both were given the same task: ask about vacancies. The white testers were informed that properties were available immediately, while the black testers were informed that there were no vacant properties. A former Trump building superintendent was told to “code any application by a black person with the letter C, for colored, apparently so the office would know to reject it. A Trump rental agent said the Trumps wanted to rent only to ‘Jews and executives,’ and discouraged renting to blacks.” The case was eventually settled however, the Trumps were sued again, a mere three years later, for continued discrimination. It is evident that Trump values “whiteness” when comparing his actions to Leslie Grinner’s ideology of S.C.W.A.A.M.P.
Some would argue that Trump’s continued discrimination could be recognized through cases such as the rape and beating of a white woman (where he wanted the death penalty for the suspects) to statements he made that were retold by his employees implying racism and prejudice beliefs. When considering the S.C.W.A.A.M.P. ideology, it is evident that Trump also values “American-ness.” Kristof points out how Trump has referred to Mexican immigrants as “criminals, drug dealers, rapists.” Trump’s statement regarding Mexican immigrants reminds me of the statement made by Beth Cirami in This American Life: The Problem We All Deal With about black students. She argued that metal detectors and drug tests should be mandatory if black students were going to be integrated into their school district. I’m sure Nikole Hannah-Jones cringed as much as I did when I heard that this is how Trump thinks of Mexicans. Trump also has been accused of suggesting that President Obama was born in Kenya and that he only got into an ivy league school because he was black. He retweeted an inaccurate graphic suggesting that 81 percent of white murder victims are killed by blacks (Kristof).
NBC Chicago posted a video and article discussing one of Trump’s recent tweets. His first tweet was posted one August morning, and contained a misspelling of a deceased black man’s name. He corrected the error a few hours later.
Some argued that this misspelling was offensive and proved that he doesn’t care about people of color. Others would argue that he was just trying to show respect and that a misspelling was just a mistake (we all make mistakes, right?). However, by writing a tweet in honor of a black man that had just died and ending it with “VOTE TRUMP!,” some would argue back to the original point - does he really care about people of color? (Again, emphasizing his values of whiteness).
Nicholas Confessore brings up an interesting point in his article in the New York Times. He acknowledges that race relations are declining and attributes this to the Trump campaign. According to Dalia Sussman, the number of Americans that said race relations were bad increased from 38% to 61% in just two months. The graph on the right shows how opinions on race relations have drastically changed over the course of one year.
While these statistics are discouraging to some Americans, others find it empowering. Some hope that this drives white Americans to realize that “race should matter as much to white people as it does to everyone else.” Lisa Delpit would agree with this and say that we need to be color insightful, recognizing race and our default assumptions. Johnson would add on by encouraging us to participate in the change. We must actively engage in these hard, uncomfortable conversations in order to eventually reach equality. If we don’t speak about it, we’re dismissing the problem.
As we approach the election, we will continue to be reminded of the many inequalities that exist within our social and legal systems in the United States. This election is teaching us that there is a serious lack of exposure for some Americans. Stereotypes of certain groups of people and/or groups are shocking to read about in 2016. Delpit stated that “it is impossible to create a model for the good teacher without taking issues of culture and community context into account.” As educators, we must consider these issues and find ways to be culturally competent within our classrooms. Achievement AND opportunity gaps exist within our society today. We can begin by reflecting on our teaching styles and classroom environments to ensure that we are ensuring success for all students, regardless of race, gender, or culture. We must strive to emphasize the importance of integration.