Dare to Ask: An educated black man is 'threatening'?
By PHILLIP MILANO, The Times-Union
Why do white people feel threatened by a black man with an education? Because
the only black men they're familiar with are on TV and these men, such as some
rappers, are weed-smoking fornicators?
Shappelle, 23, black male, Chicago
I suspect you're picking up on our reaction to the enormous chip on your
Cal, 45, white, California
The thug image reinforces a comfortable stereotype.
Ben, Savannah, Ga.
I'd love for the pot-smoking and bitching to stop and blacks to take more
responsibility for how society treats you. The "white man" crap is getting old.
James, 35, white, Tampa
Why is it when a black ideologue promotes the black agenda, white people
think they are a problem? If Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton or others don't
promote our agenda, who will?
Bobby, 32, black, Lisle, Ill.
I have seen a lot of white people who were threatened by black men, but not
one of those black men had a degree from the University of Chicago in his hand;
it was usually a gun.
Ron, 60, white, Stockton, Calif.
I've never been threatened by someone of any color being educated; in fact,
it makes me happy and hopeful.
Sara, 27, white, Scranton, Pa.
An educated black person is viewed as a threat by some whites because they
will have to deal with you in the workforce. They will finally have to
acknowledge the existence of an educated black man.
Sherry, 24, black, Bakersfield, Calif.
I feel more threatened by a black guy who looks like Snoop Dogg. He looks
like everyone I've seen on COPS.
Ryan, 29, white, Santa Barbara, Calif.
In general, nobody likes a smarty-pants, y'know? So, no matter what race you
are, if you're intelligent and educated, there might be some generalized
resentment toward "elitist" ol' you, said American University professor Leonard
Steinhorn, an expert on culture and co-author of By the Color of Our Skin: The
Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race.
Now, mix in the "lemon-twist" of race, he said.
"A white who's a bigot doesn't like to be met with someone smarter than they
are who is black. That undermines part of the foundation of their bigotry."
Bigots who won't change end up thinking a smart black person is either a
poser, arrogant or threatening, Steinhorn said. "By not acknowledging that a
black person can be as brilliant as anybody, you are denying them their
The current presidential race may help dismiss myths about smart black men
being threatening, he added.
"Certainly nobody would say that about Barack Obama. Clearly he's wickedly
smart . . . but I don't see that people feel he would try to take away their
power. If he does get elected, that will do a great deal to dispel stereotypes."
Phillip Milano, author of I Can't Believe You Asked That! (Perigee),
moderates cross-cultural dialogue at Y? The National Forum on People's
Differences. Visit www.yforum.com to submit questions and answers. Send general
column comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also hear his
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