• Rich Barlow

    Senior Writer

    Rich Barlow

    Rich Barlow is a senior writer at BU Today and Bostonia magazine. Perhaps the only native of Trenton, N.J., who will volunteer his birthplace without police interrogation, he graduated from Dartmouth College, spent 20 years as a small-town newspaper reporter, and is a former Boston Globe religion columnist, book reviewer, and occasional op-ed contributor. Profile

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There are 21 comments on Does Diversity Breed Intolerance?

  1. Intolerance is often an umbrella on a “chance of rain” day. It is a buffer or sheild from the mere chance of discomfort. Intolerance is evident even on campus where we are so fortunate to have diverse faculty, staff, and students. I have always believed that intolerance stems from ignorance. The ignorance, more often than not, is a result of people who have not had many experiences with diverse populations. Many people have a fear of the unknown or a desire to not be uncomfortable. This fear is often identified by some and used as a tool to pull people apart. We have the opportunity to foster unification through education and experiences. I think as an academic institution it is imperative these conversations take place and events are managed to help everyone gain positive experiences with diverse groups. It would expand peoples horizons, break down barriers and prepare all for the diverse world we live in.

    1. Okay so, let me get this off my chest. Being a minority or a majority breeds intolerance. I live in El Paso, grew up here. White is less than 10 percent of the population. The majority of our city council, mayors, judges, lawyers, police, business owners are Hispanic. So from my perspective white privilege as I have known it, is BS. Let me list some of the things I have encountered as a white male in this environment.

      – Learning how to fight because I was jumped all the time for being white.

      – Not getting jobs because I am white

      – Sitting alone because everyone speaks Spanish

      – Being in company meetings and hearing leadership brag about how the company is like a company from Mexico and not the US(aka white)

      – Dating women who are into “white guys” because the majority want to remain racially pure and their parents would be upset.

      – Sitting through classes where classmates and teachers talked about “evil Anglos” while my dad flips burgers and my mom is a waitress.

      – Being criticized for “acting” white.

      – Being called guerro or white boy on a regular basis.

      – Getting into fist fights with Hispanic guys who got drunk and are angry I am taking their women

      – Having everyone stare at me where ever I go, like I don’t belong because I am the only white person present.

      Everyone thinks bigotry is a “white problem”. Let me tell you its a human problem. You might not believe me and spin “white privilege”. That is fine, these experiences have made me tough as nails. I just wonder how the rest of the country will respond when their children grow up and experience what I did. Will it still be a “white problem”? or are we going to deal with it as a “human problem” as one becomes the majority over the other?

  2. You want to see racial prejudice, go to Asia. This so called “white privilege” is simply based on being in the majority. The United States with all of its frailties at least has minorities in positions of leadership and responsibility. Take any other NON WESTERN EUROPEAN nation and ask yourself: “Where are the minorities?” For example, what are the chances that a White, African American, Hispanic, rising to a position of power in… . ZERO. This is not to say the “WE ARE BETTER THAN THEY ARE”, this is to say that most of these people need to stop looking at every social issue from the PRISM of the United States. That is racist and in some respects claiming the same “White Man’s Burden” of Victorian England. Let me give you a pointer: Take China (I lived there many years- in native housing, not expat housing). I did see “Academics” there with their studies. But most were to busy driving from their 5 star hotels to the restaurants to the “government buildings” accompanied by their “handler”. They have no clue. Some of the Chinese views on race, sexuality, and ethnicity would label them “haters”. But before you limousine liberals say too much, remember they had a writing paper, an economic system, and a civilized society 8000 years ago, while most Europeans were living in trees and eating each other. Who are WE to say THEY are wrong. Because we are WHITE, AMERICAN, and ENLIGHTENED? Who is to say that we are enlightened? Most of you speak in the same ABSOLUTE STRAINS as Christian Fundamentalists – your “FUNDAMENTALS” and “RELIGION” is simply extreme progressivism.

    1. Cranky man,
      It’s really ironic but your views on race are very American. In other parts of the world, the words white, hispanic and african american have very different meanings or no meaning whatsoever. In South America, the word hispanic/latino has very little meaning, in fact people there identify mostly as “mestizo” or mixed and some as white, black, asian, and native. I’ve seen diverse groups of people in positions of leadership. However, every region and every country has their own views and issues. In some parts of the world, its more about money than race. No one is enlightened but we all strive for tolerance and respect.

      1. I live near the Latin American world. I can throw a rock and hit it from where I live. Race and class are tied up. The more guerro or guerra you are the more you are associated with being part of the upper class. However if you look very dark, or Native American looking, you are delegated to the peasant class essentially. If you Native American, it worse. Those places are ALOT worse then the US because skin color is not even debated or recognized, it is an acceptable side effect of the class system in those parts of the Americas.

    2. you seem kinda cranky bro
      i’d get that checked out

      (and maybe consider the fact that there are a lot less white/black/latino people in China than there are in the US)

  3. HARDLY the results I read from the information, and agree more with the anon comment above about fear of the unknown. What I see is that with the pending minority status white people — like any people — are cautious with their new surroundings. That does not automatically equate to discrimination or intolerance. There is a bubble that bursts in this process once the individual is immersed in the diversity long enough. At that point people see what they already knew to be true, that people are people no matter where you go.

  4. We need to think about this in the context of generations. The train experiment is limited in scope and what it can capture in terms of real life experience. I wonder if intolerance would be snuffed out because of a new generation coming forth at a time when intolerance would peak. Instead an old generation would be dying off, when a new more tolerant generation would be coming forth. #FFT (food for thought)

  5. ‘The other reported that whites who were aware of their future minority status became more negative towards nonwhites and preferred hanging out with their own race.’

    Anyone who does this is not doing so because of impending minority status. It is simply a manifestation of their learn racist and indoctrinated behavior. Racism is rampant in America. America is a coward for not dealing with it.

    The frame of reference of many of these studies cause more harm that good and only serves to fuel hatred.

    So intolerance appears to be coming from whites only. Where is the evidence that whites have reasons to fear minorities? Where is the country that has whites in minority and where these whites are experiencing persecution? Do minorities become more tolerant when they are better integrated? Where is the evidence that progressive minorities are harming whites?

    Racist and intolerance are learnt behavior. It is time to un learn them and treat people on the merit of their actions and not on stereotypes or negative, racist and indoctrinated view points.

    Americas problem is not simply one of race, although this is dominant. Spare a thought for the poor whites. Their ranks are increasing as class divides strengthens in a country centered on Darwinist ideals. America is becoming more uncaring! The change can begin with you and I in our small corner.

  6. Another, more simplified reason why whites might prefer hanging out with other whites is because often you look for people who share similar experiences to their own to befriend. I’m white and I’ve been a “minority” since HIGH SCHOOL. Where I went to school, the population was about 72% hispanic, 22% white, and 6% everything else. And one thing I’ve always noticed, at school dances, in the hallways, in classes, in LIFE is that people of EVERY COLOR tend to hang out with people of THE SAME COLOR more often than they do with people of any OTHER color. I would often have to be the one to approach someone new, regardless of what color their skin was if I wanted to be friends with them. And often would have to go to them and their group of similarly-colored friends if I wanted to talk to them rather than them coming to me. So yeah. It’s not just a “white” thing. Everyone needs to get out of their heads and stop putting it all on whites that it’s ONLY us who do this. If you’re a person of color and have an attitute of “I hate white people b/c of what they’ve done to my people hundreds of years ago” no white person’s going to want to be your friend b/c no one’s going to want to put up with you’re “it’s because I’m [black]” or “How would you know? You’re WHITE!” attitude.

    1. Sir/Ms/whatever gender identity you prefer. Literally, no one asked for your white tears to enter the equation. Please exit the conversation if you can’t understand that a person of color that frequently thinks they’ve been treated unfairly due to the color of their skin has more to do with the injustices they’ve faced in today’s societies than the ‘chip on your shoulder’ theory you’ve suggested above.

    2. Hi. I’m the assistant director of the Howard Thurman Center. I’d love to speak with you more about your experiences.

      Yes, people tend to spend time with those of similar cultures and culture is absolutely related to race and ethnicity. However, we are actively trying to break these barriers at the Howard Thurman Center.

      I do want to point out one thing you said. While I understand that you may be frustrated with people who are not white supposedly hating white people for things that have happened historically, please understand that centuries of oppression and policies aimed to keep certain groups economically and politically disenfranchised do not just disappear without leaving a lasting legacy.

      As a person of color (East Asian descent) myself, I know that my place in our society is largely shaped by decades of immigration quotas and xenophobia, but I want to make it clear that it doesn’t make me hate white people. So I don’t hate you nor do I discourage you to examine and understand racism from your perspective.

      I’m available for conversation. Please consider reaching out.

      1. This is hard to take seriously. I mean no offense but everyone is a victim (I am minority btw). If this were 1940 I would agree with you. But the American Asian community has been among the most prosperous groups in out country for decades.

        There is more tension between African Americans and Asians in America than there are between whites and Asians. It is frankly a soft racism to dump everyone who is from Europe into the “white and therefore not victims of the oppression” category you seem to think only happened to non-“whites”. Tell that to generations of Irish and Italians who were institutionally oppressed for generations. And did anyone not hate and victimize the Jews?

        Sorry but being Asian in America is not like being black or even Arab in America. Ironically Middle Easterners are considered white by our census bureau.

        I have experienced racist comments and attitudes numerous times. But this “whites are the oppressors and can never understand” is politically correct nonsense. It is ironic that judging people by the color of their skin is still acceptable as long as you are judging the “right” people.

        It is time for people to grow up and stop trying to impose guilt to make themselves feel special by having a victim mentality.

        Your perceived place in society is a false perception. You are shaped by your choices in this society. If you were born here you have only ever known freedom – which I guess is what allows people the luxury of wallowing in perceived victimhood.

        Again I speak as a bi-racial person whose family has suffered unspeakable horrors because of our race. Does it inform me? Yes. Was I a victim? No. My relatives were.

  7. One can only pray for and dream of a time when the human race is the only conversation about race that is necessary. The realities about race relations that have been noted are most unfortunate. We are born “color blind” and become the products of a racist environment (among other things). The truth of the matter is that racism is a choice. Once we reach an age where we can make decisions on our own, it’s up to each and every one of us to choose not to allow racism to be an option. Unfortunately, we will continue to have such conversations, play the blame game and poison the minds of our children with such foolishness about other groups until that time comes. Research may indicate that some whites fear impending minority status, but again… it’s about choices. We need to choose not to be afraid, but rather embrace our differences. We should all try harder to look beyond race and accept one another as members of one colorless human race. Stop judging others. Step outside the box. Ignore stereotypes. Get to know people one person at a time, and surround yourself with people who demonstrate love.

  8. Some thoughts & resources:

    – Well into the 20th Century, the United States grappled with what it meant to be an American. Court cases, laws, and “science” all contributed to the idea that being American (a citizen) required being white. This often included including and excluding specific ethnic groups such as the Irish and Italians in order to continue policing the lines of race. The xenophobia underlying the loss of an American idea is inherited from this time period.
    — For more info, watch “Race: the Power of an Illusion – Part III”

    – People tend to focus too much on separation. People belonging to a certain cultural group are naturally going to stay within groups that share similar cultures. Separation by choice (not forced by law) is an individual’s prerogative and should not be used to evaluate whether we’ve made social progress on the grandest scale.
    — For more info, read “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria” by Beverly Tatum

    – Universalizing American race history and concepts and then making statements about being a white minority abroad is quite ethnocentric. While there may be similarities like feelings of isolation or outright discrimination, we must examine how individuals fit into the system. It takes much more time and energy to do this than to simply dismiss controversial ideas like the ones proposed in this article, so at least acknowledge your true feelings about the matter than to pass your personal experiences off as expert opinion. The other problem with this is the assumption that a white person’s experiences in East Asia somehow is the most important evidence for why everyone is racist and therefore we should all just stop being so sensitive. To people who use this argument, I say what I’ve heard many times in my life, “You’re just being sensitive.”
    — To read about a black person’s experience in China, read http://www.tealeafnation.com/2013/07/chinese-raciality-and-black-reality-in-china/

  9. Fear: a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is REAL or IMAGINED. Can any of the BU scholars who have assessed the research “suggesting” that some whites fear minority status share exactly what it is that they fear? I was often the only black student in the classroom and I was never afraid. Often the only black person in many other settings (work place, a restaurant, the list is endless) but I was never afraid. Other emotions have come to mind, but fear was never one of them. There was that one time in South Boston many years ago… but that was an isolated incident.

  10. We need to choose not to be afraid, but rather embrace our differences. We should all try harder to look beyond race and accept one another as members of one colorless human race. Stop judging others. Step outside the box. Ignore stereotypes. Get to know people one person at a time, and surround yourself with people who demonstrate love.

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