How much is it worth to be Black?

Interesting column this week from the Post's Shankar Vedantam about how whites way misperceive the negative consequences of being Black in this country.  To wit:

Imagine that you are waiting in line to be born . . . Presently, you
are scheduled to be born white. However, you are offered an alternative
arrangement. In exchange for a cash gift, to be deposited in a bank
account for you when you are born, you can choose to instead be born
black.

Social psychologists Philip Mazzocco and Mahzarin Banaji once asked
white volunteers how much money would cover the “costs” of being born
black instead of white. The volunteers guessed that about $5,000 ought
to cover the lifetime disadvantages of being an average black person
rather than an average white person, in the United States. By contrast,
when asked how much they wanted to go without television, the
volunteers demanded a million dollars.

Mazzocco and Banaji were taken aback: The average black person in
America is 447 percent more likely to be imprisoned than the average
white person, and 521 percent more likely to be murdered. Blacks earn
60 cents to the dollar compared with whites who have the same education
levels and marital status. The black poverty rate is nearly twice the
white poverty rate. Blacks tend to die five years earlier than whites;
the infant mortality rate among black babies is nearly 1 1/2 times the
rate among white babies. And because of long-standing patterns of
inheritance, blacks and whites begin life with substantial disparities
in family wealth.

“The point we were making is, whatever the cost of being black might
be, whites are vastly underestimating it,” said Mazzocco, of Ohio State
University at Mansfield. “You throw in the 5-to-1 wealth gap . . . if
you wanted to put a dollar-and-cents value on the difference, you would
come up with a number much larger than $5,000.”

I found this kind of depressing.  What amazing willful ignorance to think that the lifetime difference between Black and white in this country is only $5000.  Personally, I'm thinking closer to the value of life without TV.  Anyway, the full column has some more interesting examples of experiments looking at racism and racial attitudes. 

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