Yale professor: Prejudice, discrimination persist due to idea of "iconic ghetto"
From universities to street corners, Elijah Anderson, the Sterling Professor of Sociology and of African American Studies at Yale University, has spent his life as an ethnographer speaking with and observing people across the nation.
His research and field work in Philadelphia led to his most recent book, “Black in White Space, The Enduring Impact of Color in Everyday Life,” in which he examines what he described as the “iconic ghetto” and the lingering, persistent stereotypes Blacks face daily as a result.
The Hauenstein Center of Presidential Studies and the Division of Inclusion and Equity welcomed Anderson for his virtual presentation January 20 during Grand Valley’s week of events commemorating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Anderson said the “iconic ghetto” is no longer a physical space, but rather the source of prejudice and discrimination that Black people feel everyday.
“When you walk down the street as a Black person, a lot of people associate you with that ghetto long before they associate you with a white, middle class space,” said Anderson. “This can be the policeman, the professor, the doctor in the emergency room or the employer. The Black person because of this dynamic moves about with this deficit of credibility until they can disabuse people of the idea that their ghetto stereotypes apply to him or her.”
Anderson also addressed what universities like Grand Valley can do to foster greater inclusion for people of color, reminding the audience of one of King’s most famous quotes.
“It’s important to show and teach people that they have more in common with other people who seem so different superficially,” said Anderson. “They have more in common with one another than they presuppose or know. In essence what we are talking about is education. We are all in this together. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, we must not judge based on color, but the content of a person’s character.”
Events will continue Saturday on campus as part of King Commemoration Week. More information is available online at gvsu.edu/mlk.