March 15, 2016

Professor Discusses Inequalities in Society

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Prof. Prudence Carter, Stanford University, discussed the grave racial, educational and economic inequalities that hinder social mobility for many Americans in a lecture Monday.

Carter identified tthe presence of a profound economic gap between caucasians and people of color.

“For Hispanics and blacks, the median household income is significantly lower than the national average,” she said. “It is almost normal for black, Native American and Hispanic children to grow up in low-income families.”

Due to this growing economic divide, the U.S. needs to “recalibrate the wealth distribution,” she said.

Carter compared the lack of social mobility of students of color — as a result of economic disparity and gaps in educational opportunity — to climbing a flight of stairs.

“We’re asking the youth at the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder to be superheroes,” she said. “Some kids are on smooth-riding escalators, but most of the kids who are black and brown in this country are on broken stairwells with missing steps and no handrails … we’re asking them to get to the top at the same rate.”

She argued that social institutions like Cornell “embody social and symbolic boundaries” inherent in racial inequality.

After evaluating the racial and social dynamics of a number of high schools, Carter concluded that “not all students receive equal treatment.”

Carter advocated for an increase in awareness of the barriers that many minority students face.

“When we are inflexible about our practices and incognizant of the boundaries we create in our social institutions, we stunt our growth as a democracy,” she said.

Discrimination stems from factors at the large level, such as shared economic and political power, and the small level, such as individual bias, according to Carter.

“Multidimensional problems of racial and economic inequality demand multidimensional solutions,” she said. “We need deep social, civil and economic engagement across all races and classes if we really want to diminish inequality in our society. It requires something of each of us.”