Day 21  November 7, 2002


1. Names.


“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.” --F. Scott Fitzgerald


Coming attractions: WORTH Center folks, please give me journals next Thursday also, or before if you like. You’ll have three journal grades along the way, and (also) please give me all your journals along with your final paper, so that I can look back over that in considering your final grade. Again, for others, “policy options” section is due a week from today.


After Honky, we have two days for poster presentations, which we’ll do in Marbeck in two phases on Nov. 21 and 26, and then a couple of days for final discussions. WORTH Center folks will do this as well; it might be a way to plan toward your paper, as well as reflection on your tutoring experience.


For those last days, I’d like to pose this question: what are the most important and perhaps under-publicized issues in modern America? What should we be talking about, thinking about, taking to the streets about, that we haven’t, or haven’t much? How should we be framing the questions that we ask about what’s going on? Is what happened this week a grand triumph, a turning point that will lead us to ruin, or something else? Etc.


Here’s my plan, still realizing itself: ask you all to send me nominations and web sites in support. Do some combining and organizing, just to get things to a manageable level of complication, then post a list of web readings or give out some things for that last week, and have some conversations about them all.


Remember, movie 7:30 and 9:30 Monday night.

2. What is “America” anyway? Somebody growing up in the Masaryk Towers must have quite a different idea than somebody growing up in rural Ohio, I suppose . . .

On Honky. On American urban life, projects, class, poverty, race, and all that. Dalton Conley is a sociologist, as we eventually learn, but what I like about this book is that it’s informed by what he knows without being written in that heavy, abstract style we often associate with sociological writing.

The challenge the book poses for us, though, is this: can we use it as a starting point to educate ourselves on these issues? Can we in effect do some sociology, based in his account but going beyond it?

How many people here grew up in a large city? Certainly for me reading this book involves learning about another culture, one that I know mostly second-hand, though I’ve made occasional and brief forays into cities, sheltered by money and my visitor status from most of what’s really going on. Also, though, prevented by my visitor status from getting a real sense of what day-to-day life there might be like.

Kyle wrote about his experiences growing up in Lorain, a bit—want to talk about those a little?

Tell a few of my city stories, maybe. Julia’s apartment in Brooklyn, that neighborhood, people on the streets with strollers and little kids. Running in Atlanta. Canal St., most recently. And the visitor last year, who seemed to assume that all of us folks who didn’t live in the city were racist hicks. Prejudice and stereotypes run in a lot of different directions.

So where is it? Here’s a map.

Let’s consider some of his stories, and their implications.

Stealing the baby, 6 ff. Awareness of race as category

“Trajectories”: the question of choices. The Soho loft they might have bought, which would probably have made them rich, or at least well off. Property and ownership and appreciation are major paths toward upward mobility.

Interview with Conley at he comments on the book not being a horrific tale of oppression, that it emphasizes the structural advantages and choices that remained his as a white person even in this context.

“Downward Mobility”: Social distinctions and realities. The projects were tough, so were “the slums.” People watching out for each others’ kids, 22. Jewish or goy, 25, cf. Amish or English. His mother and father, artists both: she sees things that aren’t there, he’s likely not to notice things that were (34).

“Race Lessons”: learning race, like learning a language. Sister in nursery school, white and black dolls, cornrows. Conley starts school: what privileges does he learn about? They’ll put him in whichever class. In the black one he’s the only student not beaten (46, 48-9). The place is haunted by a child molester, though nobody seems much concerned. He moves to the Chinese class.

52-3 he changes schools. By then, he says, he understood race. But class is the main category at his new school.

“Fear”: his more or less constant fear of assault, 55. The real dangers, robbers breaking into their apartment, etc. 59: the sense of being safe nowhere, not even in his bed.

The game “manhunt,” which Tony and Matt both found interesting. What about his being found by his mother?

*62: it’s a natural game for them, it teaches evasion and the posse mentality.

Rahim the karate instructor, who’s killed in a drug-related robbery/assassination.

66: The question of a larger order. Is the violence patterned, or random? If the truth can’t be found, then his sense of uncertainty and powerlessness increases.

“Learning Class”: P.S. 41. Greenwich Village, mostly white and with a whole different set of structures and hierarchies. He makes friends by knowing big words, or faking it. 73: being white isn’t the marker now, he has to be “just myself.”  76-77: learning the language of class, the connections between popularity and family wealth and power.

3. Some points to consider as you read on, from online interview with Conley, :


by Dalton Conley on Friday November 16, @01:12PM EST

From the moment I conceived of doing this memoir the title HONKY lodged itself in my brain. But now, post-pub, I sort of regret the title since it gives a much more conflictual feeling to the book and to my experience as a white minority than was the case growing up. the fact is that i was remarkably well accepted into a impoverished community of color when contrasted to how a poor Puerto Rican or African American kid would have been treated had they try to live in a poor white community. And this very fact is part of race and race dynamics in America, too.


What about the future of public housing?

so much public housing has been decommisioned or even knocked down since my day. i think the best thing society could do is keep building low income housing units, but to sell them to the low income residents for a dollar each and create a new crop of homeowners like we did with suburban whites after WWII. as for how it's changed, i think some projects have gotten better, some worse and some have been bulldozed.

Why is it important to study whiteness?


I think it is important so that whites realize the power of race affects them too, that race is not just about being a minority, but that it is about being the "default" or majority category too. we are only telling half the story if we focus on minority issues. if we have depts of african-american studies and latino studies, etc, on college campuses, why not call the rest of history, english, etc. by what they really are, white studies depts... (somewhat joking here, but the organization of universities is a longer discussion...)

Do you encounter racism?


i don't encounter racism because i am white. i hear it around me sometimes. i think the best way for america to overcome its racial problems is through economic policies, making the promise of 40 acres and a mule (back from the civil war) a reality for all americans, black and white. if we correct the enormous wealth inequalities that dominate the american landscape and race in particular, the rest will take care of itself...
(currently the typical white family owns 8 times the net worth of the typical african american family, a gap that has grown since the civil rights triumphs of the 1960s)

Student Responses

Issues- Response #5                                                                                      Krissy Hoffman                                                                November 5, 2002

     Honky is a book that is easy and enjoyable to read, and very informative on how it is to grow up in a community where one who is usually a majority, is a minority.  The childhood experiences that Dalton Conley shares are quite fascinating.  He almost seems to feel that he never belongs to one certain group; perhaps he feels that he is part of each group.  The website that I found highlights this idea, saying that he “was too poor to be fully accepted into white middle-class circles and too white to be a member of the gangs that populated his neighborhood.”  Conley touches on this idea all throughout the first third of the novel.  He always seems to be torn on how he should view his situation.  He has his advantages and his disadvantages.  He is at an advantage because he is white, and escapes corporal punishment in school because it would just be “wrong” for a teacher of minority background to strike a white child.  In this situation, Conley admits that he felt left out.  He wanted to be treated the same way as all of the other kids in his class; he did not like to be singled out.  He experienced a disadvantage when he attended the school where most of the children were white.  In this situation, Conley was not able to live up to the classification of being middle-class because his parents were so poor.  He tried his best to fit in, always listening to the conversations the other children were having, and then jumping in after he felt he had heard enough to be able to talk about it.  With these two previous struggles, Conley was not able to find a “set” place to be in his life.  It seemed like he was constantly going back and forth from each of the groups, always depending on where he was.  Another aspect that I found to be interesting was also highlighted in the website that I found.  It dealt with the choices that Conley’s parents made.  It refers to “downward mobility” in which they chose a lower-class world to live in because of their dedication to art.  I have two opinions about this choice.  One is that I am impressed that they chose to live such a hard life in order to do what they loved.  From this viewpoint, doing something they love is more important than having a good class standing in society.  However, my other viewpoint concerns Conley and his sister.  Did his parents really make the right decisions on how to live when it came to their children?  Conley and his sister did not really have a good atmosphere while growing up.  However, maybe it was not so bad considering that Conley is a successful person.  He is a sociologist and of course, an author.  So maybe his background was good for him.  After all, it did make him look back on how it affected him.


Leuzzi, Tony. 2001. <>.

The first several chapters of Honky were interesting, although in a very different way that War Memorials and The Color Purple were. This is not so much a "story" like those were, but a non-fiction essay. The sociologist comes out in the writing, interestingly usually at the end of a paragraph. But that is just a random observation.

I really understood what Conley was writing about in the chapter called Race Lessons where he describes being a minority and yet privileged in the "ghetto." When I went to Chicago for my Cross Cultural experience the five of us on the trip were the only white people for what felt like miles. In actuality there were probably more whites than I realized in the area but at first we felt like we stuck out like sore thumbs. Then as the weeks progressed I started to forget I was white, of course all I had to do was open my mouth to remember again. I never learned much "ghetto" language when I was there. However, interestingly enough, as we got more comfortable it seemed that those around us got more uncomfortable with us being there. Two instances in particular stick out. Once we were walking back to the shelter we were staying in late as night when a guy in a car yelled out the window "Wrong neighborhood!" Interestingly enough, the guy was white. And one of our last days in the city we were walking to the bus stop and a white guy in a moving van rolled down the window and asked if we were lost, then he said, "You do know that your walking toward the ghetto, don't you?" We smiled and nodded and waved him on, but it was sort of disturbing that he noticed our "difference" even when we didn't.

Another thing I learned from my Chicago experience that relates to this book is that violence isn't "random." As a rural white woman, when I see violence on television news it seems "random." However, when I was in Chicago we were on the South Side notorious for it's crime, however, on most occasions I didn't really feel unsafe. Of course we didn't venture out at night alone but it wasn't really as scary as I expected it to be. I also learned that most people in those neighborhoods are just trying to live, just like everyone else. It's not as crime ridden as the news makes it seem. The news portrays it like everyone is desperate but in actuality most people are just doing there best. Most people on the bus or the train were just going to or getting back from their jobs and most of them seemed pretty normal. In fact, the scariest character I encountered was a white man on the train, downtown, where I was hardly a minority. And interestingly enough in that instance a large African American man was watching out for me and told me so later.

Well this is a bit of a ramble, but this book brings back many memories of my Cross Cultural experience because it is a very similar kind of setting.


I just realized I forgot to attach an internet site to my response. Here's one on what to call a "minority" since that is becoming a catchall word.

It's interesting that in these contexts whites as a minority are only called that because of sheer numbers. In actuality, whites will not be a minority for a long time, if ever because we still have all the power.


Laura Lehman



Poverty in the United States is measured by how much money a person makes, but this is a very inaccurate understanding of what it means to be poor.  The fact of poverty is that it isn’t a result of not having money.  A person with a millions dollars could be just as impoverished as a moneyless person if their dollars were not a currency.  In reality money is only a means by which a person is able to make choices.  A person with money has a choice of possessing, in some way, a house to live in and food to eat, but money is not the only enabling power in the world.  Many other factors contribute to a person living in poverty.  Race in itself has a large effect on what options a person has.  Though it is a sad truth, it is true that white males are offered more freedom to choose as they wish in our culture.  This is only one of thousands of factors that can determine a persons situation in life.  Every bias a person is shown effects their ability to choose life they way they want it to be.  So in the case of Conley and his family, they may have been living a in the midst of a culture that was very impoverished, but they had no right to claim in any way that they were living in poverty.  I don’t  believe this claim was ever made, but I think it is important to see the separation that was very present between the Conley family and the people they were living around.  Conley saw this to, “It was this modicum of choice, not skin color per se, that ultimately distinguished us from our neighbors.”  The Conley family could have lived in better situations, but they choose life as they wished it to be, most people living in lower class projects don’t have that choice.  The Conleys choose their situation, but they could never choose poverty.


-Alex Dugger



After reading approximately the first six chapters of this book, I can say that I am finding it harder to read than War Memorials. Overall, it has not kept my attention very well. There are a few parts, though that I have found interesting. The first part that I found interesting was the part where he kidnapped another child. Not only did he want a sister real bad, but he wanted a black sister. This really drove home a good point, racism isn’t inherited; it is taught. Little kids don’t care who is of what color until someone tells them that they can’t do this or that because they are of a certain race. Even the teacher taught him different while he was in the black class. He wanted to be treated the same, but it didn’t happen.
Another part that I found was interesting was where his sister received a white Barbie because she was white while the black kids got black dolls. Race didn’t matter to her. She just wanted a doll; any color would have served the purpose. Separation of race was taught again.
These two instances make me wonder how much of racism is actually taught this way. I made the assumption that part of racism occurs from a bad experience with someone of an opposite race, but now I am not so sure. Now that I am thinking about it more, I think people are only racist because that is the way they were taught.
This issue isn’t going away either. The website  tells of how are schools have been re-segregating. White kids are attending schools that are mostly white and black kids are attending schools that are mostly black. This is just teaching the children that the opposite race is bad. Even in the book, the author began to attend a predominately white school. Racism isn’t going to be eliminated this way.

Tony Boenker


Laura Anderson            7 November 2002

The stages of Dalton Conley’s life are drawn out as he tackles very big issues.  He describes his growth as he works through and comes to an understanding (if not at least a recognition) of poverty, then race, and then class issues.  He begins by telling the reader about his grandparents, parents, and how they ended up in the area that they are.  They seem to be like outcasts that haphazardly landed there and seem to cope well enough.  He himself is blind to just about everything (in the beginning) that divides societies and communities from the beginning, just as children are immune to prejudices and differences amongst each other. 

The school systems that he is taken through seem to be about the opposite of what my area is.  I think there were maybe 2-3 black individuals in the entire school, elementary through high school.  I don’t think there were as many issues in our schools as Conley faced, being 20+ years later may make a big difference though.  Or maybe there were issues that I didn’t see; I was part of the majority of course I could have been oblivious to any biases those individuals may have went through.      

I also thought it was interesting how Conley refers over and over to his use of the word “they” to refer to the “collective other” (p 46)  At first he separates the “they” who commit crimes from the “they” who directly interact with such as the school and the food stamp individuals.  I still use “they” collectively when I’m talking and often times “they” is always some individual or group with a higher power over “us”.  Generalizations are kind of silly, but they work.  Conley goes on to change difference in opinions of the “they’s” characters, and says that maybe they aren’t so different after all. “Beneath the surface, however, these state behemoths were no different in nature than those who stole; they were just arbitrary, random and mysterious.” (p 51)

            Conley keeps going back to how unsafe the area that they lived in really was.  There were muggings and even rapes in the stairwell of the apartment building.  There were little children within the school that were getting violated and castrated in the restroom! (This is totally crazy to me, I never would have EVER heard thought of something like that coming out of my school. Wow)  They had a double-steel door and they were on the 21st floor, and yet they were still broken into.  They were forced to install bars on the windows (p 56) which allowed him to feel some sense of security in his home then.  I don’t think that I even realized that people have to do this until I took my cross-cultural trip to Jamaica this past May.  Every place that we stayed at there had bars on the windows, and the doors had metal gates on them as well.  We actually had to lock ourselves in as well as out at all times of the day and night.  I was very afraid as they told us the reasons why this is necessary.  There are people who will rape, murder, steal and do just about anything they can if they get the chance to.  This wasn’t just a freak occurrence either, it was a regular thing!  This blew my mind! I had no idea the things that individuals would do such a thing.  My family never locks our house up or even the car when we go into town.  We are so trusting (or maybe naïve) of other people, we usually don’t even think about it.  We were probably more safe than anything else having those bars up, but I still felt very insecure.  They gave Conley felt protected (p 57) after they put the bars up, there was no chance of me feeling anything but fearful the majority of the time we were there.  Especially since there were individuals outside the buildings yelling in at us a few times.  I can’t imagine growing up in such a place that Conley did. 

            It interested me to see just what kind of information and sites I could find on home security, mainly because there’s never seemed to be an urgent need for my particular area of such precautions.  I didn’t realize the amount of different security services that are available, and actually these websites are rather convincing.  One site even had an Ohio crime statistics table showing the numbers of crime rates as well as testimonials convincing me of all the different reasons why I needed to get a security system right away.  Perhaps some simple metal bars on the windows and doors would do the same thing?  It sure would be a heck of a lot cheaper…

First of all, I feel that this book is a lot more

interesting to read and keeps my attention better than

the previous books in this class.  I would like to

comment on the part of the book found on page 8 where

he says, "I even felt culturally more similar to my

darker-hued peers than to the previous generatoins of

my own family..."  This probably was an advantage to

him as he fit in more with the people surrounding him.

 He talked like all of the other kids on the

playground and that probably helped in the other kids

accepting him.  If he had just moved to this

neighborhood and he had an accent, his being accepted

by the other kids might of been more difficult. 

It is also interesting how he states that he was

surrounded by people of all different colors, and he

realized this at such a young age.  It is funny that

young kids might recognize the difference in skin

color, but that does not matter to them at all.  As

they grow older though, sometimes this can be a

determining factor of who they like or dislike, and

that can be sad. 

I found a website


that talks about different perceptions of New York

City and other things in the city taken a couple of

years ago.  It talks about how NYC is to live in and

things like that.  It is neat to see how these

different preceptions vary.

-Derek deNero


Just about every type of community, city, and town in America is made up of a specific class that comprises its local majority.  Racial expectations and traditions have long been founded to make up the type of demographics only seen in that city.  New York City is a large city that has classes of rich, poor, black, white, hispanic, etc.  To be accepted in a firm race specific community is definitely no easy task.  I have personally seen racial and class divisions in current life, and when it is easily known, the pursuit of integration into a new class or division rarely takes place for fear of the unfamiliar as is my perception. 

I was surprised to read about the unfamiliarities that young Dalton had with race and class divisions.  Through the way he was brought up he was certainly a pilgrim in a strange land.  But yet, like the pilgrims he learned to experience the divisions first hand and not come away from it in a prejudicial manner.  He was the one that was at a disadvantage because he was the minority in a neighborhood that is used to one perception.  Personally, I've seen it all but am more familiar with the types of communities I've grown up in all my life.  Although, I do feel that it is very healthy, socially and ethically, to get away from the familiar and know what life is like somewhere else.  However, I am not a big fan of the cross cultural program...surprising huh?  Childhood for Dalton was very complicated then most childhoods because it is in your childhood that you develop the sense of where you belong.  That was his goal subconciously; to know where he belonged.  Few gave him the chance he wanted.  He could be perceived as naive because he tried to bring his own world into the world of reality, and those worlds collided with difficult feelings and emotions that shaped his life.  It is ironic that he became a sociologist.  But what he went through gives him good credentials.

Jon Lindow          

This book is very interesting.  It seems as if he is at the bottom of the barrel.  He is living in the slums because he is poor.  As he grows up, and racial differences that are held onto by his parents are taught to him, and likewise to the other kids he is growing up with, he is looked upon as different by the other kids in his neighborhood.  They seem to be almost jealous of him for him being white.  They think he gets privialages. This however does not seem to be the case in these first five chapters.  It seems more like his family is looked down upon for being white in the slums.  I don't know if I could live with bars on my windows, that would cause me some problems too I think.  The picture on this website, which sells window bars, remind me of a prison like atmosphere.  Not exactly a homey look to me.  It makes me wonder, if people growing up there don't feel like they even have any hope, or a chance of getting out of there.  I am looking forward to finishing the book, even though I already know he makes it out of the slums.


Aaron Austin


    Through out reading this first section in Dalton Conley's book, Honky,

one thought kept popping back into my mind..."This poor kid!" Through out

his life, Dalton was subjected to so many situations and issues that the

majority of us have either never been exposed to or have never even thought

about. I have really enjoyed reading this book so far and have remained

amazed how well he dealt with his fears, his insecurities, unsureness, and

new realizations at such a young age. From my experience, most of the

children I know are years behind his level at those ages (1st through 3rd

grade)and with having such a keen sense of awareness. In fact, a lot of

adults are as well! Of course this book is written completley from Dalton's

hindsight on his memories, feelings and situations from growing up...but no

matter how he describes now how he felt then, he still went through all of


    Perhaps I do not give kids enough credit though, given the situation in

how they are brought up, they learn to deal with life's day to day

situations (just like we learn to adapt).  Growing up in such a neighborhood

Dalton had to learn to survive by developing streetsmarts and other skills

such as with trying to fit in. How sad is it he developed tics in school

from stress and trying to fit in? School is suppose to be fun, a place to go

and learn. Dalton grew up in a world where he could hardly relax. At school

he was trying too hard to not stand out and fit in, on the way home he was

conscious of everything going on around him, in his building he was not even

completely safe in the elevator or stairwell, and even behind their locked

door of their apartment proved to not be completely safe until they but the

bars up on the windows. Perhaps it is just me but I don't think these are

issues such a young child should have to deal with! Sure it gives them a

degree of awareness which is really important but it also takes so much away

from their childhood! Kids can't be kids when they are constantly looking

over their shoulder.

   Aside from that issue, the racial and ethnic barriers is also such a

terrible thing for a child to deal with.  Children do not see or know

barriers, they only know what they have been taught and even the book

acknowledges that it was "they, not the students, who made my skin color an

issue.  The kids had only picked up on the adult cues and reinterpreted them


    It was this issue that led me to find a website on trying to eliminate

these racial barriers in communities.  I found a website for the National

Coalition Building Institute (NCBI) which is a non-profit

organization and has branches set up all over the world.  Their mission is

to eliminate prejudice and intergroup conflict in communities through out

the world.  They offer training programs in which they bring community

leaders and a local leadership team together to work to offer

prevention-oriented programs to deal and try to eliminate these racial

barriers and tensions.  I think this is a great program becuase you have to

start somewhere and where else is better to start than in you own community

led by people you know and respect.


Stacy Herr


This book has an interesting twist. It’s about a white boy who grew up in a predominately black and Hispanic neighborhood. But, it brought up the point that being a minority was something that wasn’t obvious to him at first. “Learning race is like learning a language. First we try mouthing all sounds. Then we learn which are not words and which have meaning to the people around is. Likewise, for my sister and me, the first step in our socialization was being taught that we weren’t black” (37). This fact was made clear in the beginning of the book when Dalton kidnapped a black baby girl, not realizing that this could never actually be his sister. It was an interesting beginning in that it brought to light the very fact that race differences and feeling inferior because of race must be learned. It is not something that we are born with. But, as time continued and school began, Dalton began to recognize these differences. He was treated differently, but, from what it! seemed like, it wasn’t necessarily in a bad, oppressing way. His teacher even chose not to hit him across the knuckles because it was believed that white parents spoil their children so they shouldn’t be hit in class. “But the time I left the Mini School I had learned what the concept of race meant. I now knew that, based on color of my skin, I would be treated a certain way, whether that entailed not getting rapped across the knuckles, not having a name like everyone else, or not having the same kind of hair as my best friend” (51). Dalton, unfortunately, still doesn’t feel like part of a group when he changes schools because of his poverty. The predominately white school that he begins to attend focuses their “hierarchy” on class and money. Dalton just never seems to be the majority in any way.
The website that I found to go along with this book describes the “white minority”:


Click on The Recessive Race by H. Millard on the site:

This book starts off with Conley stealing a black baby, from the supermarket, and yelling into the manager’s microphone, “I want a baby sister.” This struck me as funny because I can just imagine a three year old boy doing this in front of hundreds of people.
I enjoyed the first six chapters of this book. I always hear how it is hard for a black person to grow up in a white neighborhood but this book takes a white boy growing up in a black neighborhood. It was interesting to hear of the things he went through in school and how he was oblivious to race. I liked the quote in the prologue that says, “There’s an old saying that you never really know your own language until you study another. It’s the same with race and class.” That quote makes a lot of sense as I read further in this book. The fact that race never crossed his mind because he grew up with minorities. Also that he never knew he was not part of the minority. I grew up in a predominately white community and it is interesting to hear the view of someone who grew up opposite my community. I felt bad for him when he first went to school and the principal told his mother there was no class for him. There is only Black, Puerto Rican and Chinese classes so his mother ! chose the black class for him. Now that I think about it I don’t know how I would react in that situation but for him it was no big deal because he was born into that fixed community.
Even when his mother moved him to the all white school he still felt out of place because of his social class. He wasn’t high up in the social hierarchy.


-Brice Hostetler


Norma L. Flores

Response to Honky


            "I've studied whiteness the way I would a foreign language (xiii)." What a great line. Dalton Conley writes with such honestly that the reader cannot resist paying attention a bit more. Dalton's handle and understanding of what it's like to be a minority is appealing to a generation that has more often than not read about the "black man's" struggle to fit into a "white man's world." This is a refreshing new twist to an age-old race struggle of fitting in.


            I can, to a certain extent, understand and relate to Dalton's story. I myself being a Hispanic grew up in a world where I heard more English than Spanish. I was accustomed to attending an "all white school," living in a neighborhood with "white middle-class" families, being raised in a Church congregation of which we were one of a handful of Hispanic families. The closest friends that I had growing up were white, Greek, and half white half Hispanic. We didn't care about the other person's color of skin, only if they were allowed to come out and play that day. And to me, that's Dalton's reaction to his surroundings. He was born and bred in the ghetto of Manhattan, but he was accustomed to the language and life-style to a certain extent as his neighbors. He makes it a point in mentioning the "breaks" they were given based on their color of skin, such as when he was a baby in the hospital and his mother was running around trying to find a working doctor. He and his sister had a security blanket with the fact that their grandparents had some money, but they still lived in the same neighborhood with busted up windows and graffiti on the walls. He too blended in as best as he could.


            I like the comments he makes in regards to skin color. Especially using the his mentality as a child when he wrote, "In the projects people seemed to come in all colors, shapes, and sizes, and I was not yet aware which were the important ones that divided up the world (8)." I think that this is a great point. He didn't move to the projects as a teenager from the suburbs, he was at home just like everyone else how moved into the apartment complex. There was such a mix and mingle of races and cultures, that he was exposed to the idea of "melting pot" America, before most "Americans" realize that not everyone lives like the Jones'. That is such a valid point on the authors part to understand the opportunity that he had as a child and the experiences that he gains from looking in from the outside.


Web Address:


The first thing that hit me in this book was the word separatist.  I guess i'm just behind but i didn't know what it meant.  i found that it meant advocating for a separation.  i think it interesting that the author would mention this in the book.  it makes very much sense however in what i've read of the book so far to talk about someone advocating for separation between blacks and whites.

i found this site that has to do with how the american races separated.  it talks about how in the future the races will be separated and by 2090 there will be four new nations, each suited to its majority's race and culture.  i guess i'm not exactly sure how i feel about this because i feel as though there has been more inclusion between blacks and whites in the past years. 


another word i was not familiar with was the word honky.  someone saw me reading and said "a book about racism?"  i asked them how they knew.  they said by the title it's a slang word for white.  then as i read more it made sense when it was used in the book.  it's funny because i probaby wouldn't have ever questioned the title of the book, i'm sure you will say something in class and that's when i would've heard it, ha!


jen gingerich


This book turned out to be quite readable despite the fact that it has a lot of details and it jumps around quite often. The book tells us a story of a very uncommon family in America, a white family that has to live in "colored" surroundings, in the neighborhood where “both criminals and the police were deemed equivalent” (p. 60) 

First chapter talks about the perception of race and ethnicity that the young kids have (or don’t have yet). “… a young child has not yet learned the determinants of skin color, much less the fact that in America families are for the most part organized by skin color.” (p. 8) Also it shows how children of different backgrounds assimilate into one group, for example, language (or accent) spoken by them on the street might have been different from what their parents spoke. Skin color is viewed as something that can change, something “mutable”

Second chapter tells the story why they ended up living in the inner city. “… I could sense her guilt at having moved the family to an unsafe neighborhood – and perhaps for having taken an apartment slot from some more deserving family.” I think that everybody would agree with the first part of this statement, but I doubt that a lot of people would think about the second one. This is a very good point.

Third chapter gives an idea about Dalton’s family. It says a lot about Ellen, how she was a civil rights activist and what caused her to quit. In this chapter I really liked the story about William, Dalton’s grandfather, hitting a “drunken hobo” on the highway. Conley says that this was a clash of classes. And indeed, this “clash” happens in our everyday lives.

The next chapter introduces us into Alexandra’s “long-hair” world. All she needed is a doll that had a long hair so she could comb it, and she was happy no matter what color is the doll. Alexandra’s answer to her grandmother about the King Solomon story was built on her experience with a broken doll. She kept the top half of it just to stay happy by playing with hair. The changing point in this chapter is when Alexandra says that cornrows are stupid and all she wants is straight blond hair. She does not want to be like all the rest of the kids any more, she forms her very own character. The chapter goes on telling the story of Dalton’s education. He is accepting the other culture (“I was excited by the prospect of … merging into the group, of which I was the only non-ethnical … member.” p. 48) But the problem is that other culture not always accepts him (he does not get punished as other, black kids in his first class.) He says that “their laughter did not wound me the way the snaps of some of the black kids had. This, I would later realize, captured the essential difference between race and ethnicity”, widening his world views. 

The very beginning of the fifth chapter reminded me of Russian expression “My home — my fortress”. Well, later the text proves this statement wrong, even twice. “Crime and violence were not uncommon in our area, but they always seemed to happen elsewhere and, I believed, could be avoided…” This is the way that the most people think, including me.


And a couple of websites: - a lot of recourses on rasizm issues; - WHITE YOUTH ORGANIZING TO OPPOSE RACISM Integration of the University of Floridaand the Civil Rights              Struggle of the 1960s - Operation Rescue & Civil Rights Movement of the             1960s


  I don't know what it is, but I think I'm just a big fan of really cool

literary descriptions/adjectives. There was one on page eight I really

liked. He was talking about the kids of the tenant housing speaking on the

playground. He said "... our way of talking was like layered cake; it had

many distinctly rich flavors, but in our mouths they all got mixed up


  I would also tend to agree with his assessment of community in the

government housing sectors. I have personal experience that backs up exactly

what he said. When I visited my friend for the first time (before I knew his

mothers economic status) I went to a housing project near my home. There I

found his mother living in the mmidst of all these other people, and they

worked together to get things done. There really was a sense of "you watch

my back, I'll watch yours" which should not be confused with "you scratch my

back I'll scratch yours" since people wilingly worked together to get things

done and help each other out.

  One thing that he illuded to was the way in which their government housing

was run pg 23 " In it's impersonal operation, the Con Edison plant provided

a too perfect metaphor for the institutions of society that both ran our

community and demarcated it from the rest of the world." This reminded me of

the way that LBJ passed all those reforms in his time in office for kids to

get cheaper (or free) school lunches, and Medicaid for the poor, and all

these things that it seemed to me the goverment did just so they could say

"hey, look, we're working on the poverty thing", however, it's obvious to me

that LBJ (and many of the people after him, have done little in their

attempt to keep up with the problem, after all I'm almost sure LBJ never ate

my government provide lunch when I was in High School, or he may have

thought of our plight more :-)

  I found the following web site on poverty, just in the spirit of that



  It has commmon questions and answers about poverty (among other things)