Demography | Blog Post 4

Each of us have identities that we hold dear to our sense of self, such as race, gender, or ethnicity, among others. However, sometimes it is hard to see how any particular identity fits into our American community as a whole, especially when it is of a majority demographic group. If you are the majority, it is easy to lose sight of how your identities have a significant impact on other variables of your life, such as your income level or your education, because you are less likely to experience hardship due to that identity. This is what the study of demography is for, to take these identities and translate them into concrete, quantitative data which we can examine to learn about how our experiences compare to others of different demographic groups. Given the current tumultuous political environment in the United States, it is more important than ever for individuals to examine our own identities and reflect upon the privileges that may come with majority identities. Because my internship completely revolves around creating tools and resources to educate others about how to use and analyze demographic data, I am able to more easily and critically learn about my own place in society. By using one of the applications on our website, Webchip, I can literally check my own privilege compared to others. For example, by selecting the 2014 American Community Survey dataset in the application and selecting the variables education level and race, I know that as a white person I am more likely to have a college degree than most other racial groups. I never would have discovered this application had it not been for my internship, and I would not know as much about the influlence that my identities have on my life experiences without it.

Knowing some of the data I have read through during my job, I am more easily able to recognize that because I am white I have certain securities in this country that others may not. I am not part of any minority group and I have many privileges that come with that. With what has recently happened in the Charlottesville white nationalist rally, which on its own is a significant and staggering demonstration of hatred, each of us need to keep in mind what our racial identities mean to others around us. While I unequivocally denounce the people who marched in the rally, I cannot deny that I have something in common with them: my whiteness. I share a demographic group with these people, and therefore I need to work harder to prove that I am not like them. That being said, I cannot suddenly change the privileges that I have due to my race, but I also cannot stand idly by and let others of my race harass and hurt people of other races. I need to consciously and deliberately work harder to make the U.S. safer for individuals of other races, or else the institutionalized racism we see within our country will continue to rage on until white people are no longer the majority. And that will happen eventually: according to Diversity Explosion, a book I read as my first assignment for my internship that was written by one of the founders of my office, by 2050 the population of “minorities” in America will surpass the population of white people, based on U.S. Census Bureau projections. However, this fact does not change the current race problem at hand in the United States. As a white person, I need to use my privilege and the information I have learned from my internship to educate others of my race about how our demographic group needs to fight for those of other races, because we need to be part of the solution of racial injustice, not the problem.

Kaitlyn

I'm currently a Research Assistant for the Social Science Data Analysis Network, an office within the Population Studies Center, which is a division of the Institute for Social Research here at the University of Michigan.

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