At the end of our second year of graduate school, we begin to see who is going to make it (get a PhD) and who is going to leave with a masters. My program is not like all programs in all fields. You enter either with a bachelors or a masters degree and you basically have the same coursework and qualifiers either way. Some of my colleagues who started with a masters degree had an easy time with coursework (because they had seen so much of it before.) But many of us came in with only a BS set on a 4 to 5 year plan to get a PhD, or at least we said that so we could get financial support. (Masters students coming in must pay their own way, while PhD students are fully supported.)
The interesting thing is that all of the black girls (except one) in my entering class are leaving with masters. (Black people : Entering class my year, 6:50) And the one token black boy in the first year class is going to leave with a masters as well. (Black people : Entering class 1st years, 1:45)
The one black girl in my year who is still in the game is a year behind because she didn't pass the literature exams the first time. They all were a year behind because of lit exams, but only one has decided to stick with it.
As for token black boy, he made a C in his boss's class this semester. I think he made alot of other Cs in his classes as well so he doesn't have many options. (A,B = okay, C = fail)
And token black boy's boss is the token black male professor.
So what is going on here? I asked my boss about this, and about the statistics in general, and he said that African Americans usually have lower GRE scores than their peers because the GRE is racist. I believe that. It is easy to see that the GRE could reference some upper-class-white things (like going to see Cats or Phantom on Broadway) that is not as popular in the black culture. But this cannot be the whole story. I know some white people who had low GRE scores and are not smart at all, but they are doing okay because they work their asses off. Their lab-mates are pissed at them because they spend zero time in the lab because they are always working on classwork or lit exams but they know they need to pass this shit.
Here are the facts:
1. Black people are just as smart as white people. Sure, there is a continuum in all people, but the race is not a factor in determining if you are going to be smart or not.
2. Most black people drop out of my PhD program, even when they have black same-sex advisers.
So what the fuck is going on?
Obviously it is sociological. Most white protestants in this country come from the "work hard" puritanical mind set. This goes for the blue collars who start their own car mechanic shops and the countless business people. We as Americans are work-a-holics. Immigrating to America was hard, and a great number of people died. Hard-working people had an advantage, and they survived.
Now, Black people. There are two types: The descendants of slaves, and the recently immigrated. Slavery was a horrible thing. To give an intelligent being zero power over his or her fate is (under most circumstances) emotionally crushing. Slavery is not natural, it is brutal in all forms. If you are a kind white person who has one black slave nanny to take care of your children, you are still participating in a horribly brutal act. I had never experienced such an imbalance of power before I came to graduate school, and previously I was unable to begin to understand how horrible slavery is. I know that slavery is ten thousand times worse than graduate school.
Let us examine this situation. You are a slave on a plantation. If you work extra hard you get a backache and you still have to work the next day. If you work just enough to not get noticed, you have more time to have sex with your wife and you live longer. In slavery, working hard is not advantageous to your situation, but working just enough is. These people survived.
After the abolishment of slavery, the descendants of slaves were/are still treated like second class citizens by white people. Black people learn through experience that maybe they shouldn't trust white people, or maybe it is just that they feel more comfortable with other black people.
Fast forward to graduate school. All of the black girls that are leaving ONLY TALK TO OTHER BLACK GIRLS. And one of them sat on her phone sending text messages during the entirety of a course. Sure, it was boring as hell, and sometimes I graded a few lab reports, but text messaging? I saw a sign up on a black woman's office that said "Attitude is EVERYTHING." And I think that statement is esteemed in the black community, because if the white man is getting you down you still have your 'tude. But having an attitude is not going to help you pass an exam that you just didn't study for.
I think the problem is that post-slavery American blacks have a mix of a social thing and they lack the "you must work extra hard to be worth anything" when they were growing up. Now, the idea that you must work extra hard to be worth anything is not healthy, but it might get you a PhD.
Earlier I mentioned the distinction between recently immigrated black people who were not the descendants of slaves. All of these immigrants were extremely hard workers and totally lacked the social constructs prevalent in black America.
Black American's are less susceptible to the body-image issues that white girls struggle with. But maybe that same society makes it easier for white people to be aggressive and deny themselves in order to get what they want.