Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Ch. 5: A Limited Partnership

An aspect that stuck with me while reading this article was the subtlety of racism that Tim Cobb experiences in his life as a business entrepreneur. Though almost all the people that Cobb encounters in this lifestyle are not "racist" and for the most part they seem to work closely with him and accept him despite race, there is an underlying theme that I noticed that continues to separate Cobb from his lighter skinned colleagues. Every time Cobb achieves something good he is praised but still reminded over and over again that he is black. The majority of the time people will make comments that also include an aside about race along with their praise such as, "you've transcended race." Even Cobb's close friend and business partner is guilty of this subtle way of looking at Cobb differently because of color. When discussing golf he says, "Most African-Americans I know are in some way intimidated or uncomfortable with the white man's world." 

To me, this represents an underlying racial stigma that often operates without people noticing it. Though whites may not be actively biased towards color in ways such as business or friendships, and even seek to aid blacks as is the case with Levy, the attitude of their being a difference at all still persists. That in itself is still feeding the idea of racial separation, no matter how subtle it may be. The idea of many companies wanting a competent, strong black man sitting on their board, as discussed in this article, is still an act of going out of their way to separate the idea of "black" from "white," no matter how good their intentions may be. Because of this there are certain ideals that black men, like Cobb, feel they have to overcome or live up to. 

Oftentimes, no matter how open-minded people may be I think they all have an idea of this racial separation, not necessarily in a bad way, but in a way that is essentially saying "you are different than me." So is it possible to operate without a sense of racial separation at all? Or is this idea of defining differences between each other something that we, as humans, may never really be rid of? 


  1. I don't know that we'll ever stop seeing differences in ourselves and others, but I hope we do. As human beings, we like to categorize most everything, even other people. Maybe this helps us to understand our world and make it more manageable. Hopefully, we will be able to understand that skin color is just skin color, and is not tied to specific traits or actions. And since the idea of race is relatively new to human culture, we may be able to get rid of it. But for a new idea, it is really ingrained in our culture, so I don't think it will happen soon.

    1. One thing about this article that struck me is how natural and casual some of the racial issues were. For example, when Cobb and Levy would have a business meeting, the person they were talking to would address Levy even though Cobb was the real business guru of the pair. I got the sense that much of what the author of the article was trying to convey had to do with "subconscious" racial favoring. Selecting Levy to be the CEO because they knew it was safer was a move to avoid any potential investors "tendencies." So much of maintaining the status quo has to do with the little ticks people have one way or the other. If you know how to keeps those ticks from surfacing it avoids any real conflict but doesn't do anything to move things forward. It's not only about confronting the overt racists.

    2. I agree with you, John. Something that I noticed in the article was the element of friendship and partnership that is incorporated into the relationship between Levy and Cobb. Levy is often pardoned by Cobb from his racially slanted comments like, "he's smart but he doesn't have your polish." To me this signals that Levy, although not outwardly a racist (let's say), has subconsciously fallen victim to the influence of the society in which he lives.

  2. It is clear that race plays a major role in our society. It is well documented in our behavior and our actions. Kamisha’s question if it’s possible to operate without a sense of racial separation, and Suzellon’s suggestion that if humankind created the idea of race, then maybe humankind could also rid itself of it, bring to light our apparent insistence to classify everything about man. The bigger question might be why? What is the purpose for this data? Who benefits? Answers to these questions might provide clarity to the race question.

    This is an interesting article on black-white relationships. The article is more about business and what it takes to be successful than it is about black-white differences. Tim Cobb and Jeff Levy went into business together because they shared an idea. This idea netted each $25 million. To achieve this dollar success, race became an issue in raising capital because investors are not void of racial discrimination. Cobb and Levy as co-founders were forced into a decision based on race as to which one would be the face of the company. Cobb throughout his climb to success chose to push pass the racial climate in order to be successful. As the article put it, he was the black success story in a white world. This brings to mind the question: Are there degrees of racial differences in the amount of money and/or success among blacks, and among black-white relationships? Who feels more discriminated, the successful black or the non-successful black? Also, do whites discriminate more or less based on a black man’s worth?

    One of the most profound statements in the article comes from outside the business of Cobb and Levy. It comes from a famous comedian Chris Rock, whose joke expresses well the sentiment on being black…that whites would not change places with a black, no matter how much money the black has. Why is this? If the answer is simply skin color, then I propose that if we collected yes/no responses to a survey, the answer to both Kamisha and Suzellon’s questions will be “no”.

  3. Brenda, I think you brought up a lot of really relevant questions for this article, especially pertaining to the idea of discrimination against blacks in the business world. As we read about a little in the article, a lot of times it seems that whites do discriminate based on black men's worth in the business world. Many times throughout this chapter Cobb and his black friends talk about how they have all gotten praise from white colleagues at one point or another but Cobb raises a valid point when he says, "Ultimately it all comes down to relationships. I've got to be able to connect with the person, and it's harder for people to connect with me as a black man. I'm never going to remind somebody of their little brother or their cousin or their next-door neighbor. I might remind them of someone in business school who they thought was smart and wish they'd gotten to know better." To me, in saying this, Cobb is describing the reality he can become a large success and be seen as "smart" and "a good man to know" in the eyes of his white colleagues but there will always be something ultimately separating them from each other. For Cobb, he believes this separation is seen in the relationships he tries to establish with his business partners.

    As for the question of humans constantly defining differences between each other that I raised in my post, ultimately though I would like to be more positive about it, I think my answer would be no as well. As Suzellon brought up in her comment, humans are always trying to categorize themselves and the world around them, who is to say that if one day we do get rid of the idea of race we won't begin focusing on other differences found within the human population to continue to separate us amongst ourselves?

  4. When we question whether "we" or "people" can rise above racial characterizations, racist tendencies, or even the desire to categorize humans into racial groups, let'e remember that racial consciousness is not a human universal. These articles are about race in America...not race on the planet Earth. One of the most basic things that we need to keep foremost in or mind is that the ways that race is constructed in America are typically American...race looks different in other countries and at other times...the meanings of race shift over terrain and over time. There is nothing ineveitable about how we frame race in yes it can change and it indeed has changed over our history.

  5. I wanted to include this very famous quotation from WEB DuBois (anybody know who he was?) and ask if anyone can relate it to the reading...

    "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.
    The history of the American Negro is the history of this strife — this longing to attain self-conscious manhood, to merge his double self into a better and truer self. In this merging he wishes neither of the older selves to be lost. He does not wish to Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He wouldn't bleach his Negro blood in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world. He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an American without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the doors of opportunity closed roughly in his face."


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