Reflective Essay

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Reflective essay

I came from Peru with a completely different perspective of my race and social class. Back home I was used to being part of the dominant majority, as my skin color was considered “white” to most, compare to the skin color of the Peruvian indigenous population.  Both of my last names gave me an inherited privilege and the clothes I wore, where I lived, and where I went to school made me part of the dominant class.  When I arrived at Trinity, and through my first weeks attending the Color & Money seminar, I realized that I quickly transitioned from the dominant class and race to a minority. The Color & Money seminar not only made me much more aware about race and social class, but it also helped to walk through the path of discovering the new connotations that my race had at Trinity.

As I read Tatum’s book I could identify myself with the racial identity development theory, and could see how I was going through each of those stages.  I could see my self-going through the encounter stage, as I learned to identify my self as part of the Hispanic minority, and yet, not feel part of the Hispanic community on campus.  Most of the Hispanic community at Trinity is going through their own identity process, where they are trying to figure out what being a Latino means, but I have already figured that out. Being Hispanic is part of my personality, is rooted into my soul, and because I have lived my whole life in a South American country, surrounded by the Hispanic culture, I know that being Hispanic is much more than J.Lo, reggeton music and speaking Spanish. In fact, my live back home was part of an Americanized bubble that prevented me from having the kind of Hispanic experience that makes you want to listen to Celia Cruz every day, 24/7.  This seminar made me realize that although I cannot identify my self with them, I am still haunted by the stereotypes that the Hispanic community has. Through the interviews performed, I realized that most of the interactions at Trinity are determined by first impressions, which are usually highly influenced by the stereotype and pre-concepts of a certain race or social class.  It was not until I participated in this seminar that I realized all the privileges I had back home, and how very intertwined they were with the “white American culture”.

The different material offered to us in class made me more conscious about the implications that race and social class have in America. As we read Steven’s book, I realized that education is highly linked with social class, which is also linked to race. Coming from Peru, I thought that America, “the land of opportunities”, lived up to its nickname. However, I came to realize, that while meritocracy is indeed applied, it takes much more effort and merit for minority students to triumph academically and in every aspect of life in general than it takes to white people. It was not until the role was inverted and I was part of the minority group that I came to understand that all the privileges that I had back home, were entailed with my race and social class.  With the readings that we had assigned in this seminar I understood that race and social class are highly linked, and that therefore, peer interactions are based on social class as much as they are on race.

As Abreu explained in his letter, racism is present on campus, and not necessarily or exclusively as an attack among students, but as the reaction towards the people from Hartford. From the racially constructed term, locals, to racist acts from campus security officials, Trinity is still displaying racism through its corridors. However, even the racist acts are still encapsulated to stereotypes. Abreu explain and asks for a change in the mentality of people. He says “ignorance” is what drives people to commit racial acts. After being part of this seminar, I strongly agree with him. I believe that while students may come with these pre-conceptions from home, there is no indication that they cannot change them with education at school. I believe that this school has the potential to broaden students’ horizons, in regards with racial matters; that it has the capacity to disregards the stereotypes that there are in society.  However, I do not agree with promoting more cross-cultural, diverse events is the solution, but rather having more seminars like Color & Money, which encourage open dialogue about racial matters is. I believe that peaceful, subtle actions should be taken to change this situation, instead of aggressive, forced actions like “diversity events”.

After taking part of this seminar, and after experiencing being part of the minority group, my views on race and social class has changed radically. I now believe that merit should be the main way of progressing both socially and economically, and that race should not cluster people in a specific context or be a barrier that prevents people to progress.  I have also come to understand that every person is going through their own racial identity development process, and that each person has its own insecurities, advantages and disadvantages that come with their race and social class. Therefore, I have learned to be very delicate and accurate when talking about race and social class to avoid offending anyone. Finally, this seminar has taught me that racial and socio-economic differences are not reason to separate people and that the only way to progress into a race-blind, social-class-blind society, is through education.

Interview Essay

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Interview essay

Race and social class are intertwined and affect individuals differently, depending on their demographic categories. By interviewing 18 sophomores from Trinity College, three major patterns emerged, which influenced the lives of students.  First, non-financial aid students are more concerned about how they portray their social class than financial aid students. Second, non-white students are less likely to react to racial incidents than white students. Finally, non-white students were more likely to merge their responses about social class and race, even though interviewers asked about these two topics separately.

To investigate this topic, our seminar conducted an interview-based study of students’ perceptions of race and social class at Trinity. Our interview guide posed ten open-ended questions and three demographic questions that explored topics, such as personal awareness, social interactions, and other students’ assumptions regarding racial and social class differences at Trinity. The Office of Institutional Research and Planning provided our professor with a stratified random sample of 55 sophomores from the Class of 2016, categorized by race (white or non-white) and first-year financial aid status (receiving or not receiving). Our professor sent personalized email invitations to this group, and assigned each of us to conduct an interview with all who responded and agreed to participate. The typical interview lasted about ten minutes, and was transcribed by the interviewer. The final sample consisted of 18 interviews: 10 students who received financial aid (4 white and 6 non-white), and 8 students who did not receive financial aid (4 white and 4 non-white). All names are pseudonyms and personally identifiable details have been masked, in accordance with our research ethics confidentiality agreement approved by the Trinity College Institutional Review Board.

Firstly, through the interview, it was shown that non-financial aid students were more concerned about how they presented their social class than financial aid students. Four out of six non-financial aid students were concerned about self-presentation of social class, while only four out of nine financial aid students were concerned about it. This shows how non-financial aid students were more concerned about the perception that others had of their social class.  For example Alice, a white non-financial aid student, was keen on explaining that while she did not consider herself as wealthy as her friends, she was still pretty wealthy. She expressed that her friends would often say “ ‘well you drive a Mercedes’ that must mean that you’re well off…” (Alice 42). This shows how she, and non-financial aid students in general, are focused on how they self-present their social class, ensuring that people understand that they belong to the upper class.

This finding does not support Tatum’s argument. Tatum, a social psychologist who focuses on race and its implications, explains that in an unequal situation of power, the subordinate group tries to emulate the dominant group’s actions as a mean of survival (Tatum 25). While Tatum’s argument is only based on race, the argument can also be applied to social class. It is assumed that class and race are connected, as the subordinate racial group is also the subordinate socio-economic group (Omi and Winant 55-56). Therefore, it would be expected that financial aid students were more concerned with self-presentation of social class, as that might be a way to increase their self-esteem and not feel less than those who do not receive financial aid.

The social class and organizational analysis theory explained by the sociologists Armstrong and Hamilton can clarify why non-financial aid students are conscious about how they present their social class. The social class and organizational analysis theory is the intersection between the socio-economic status of students and the organizational structure of the college, and how they both affect each other resulting in different social practices(Armstrong and Hamilton).  This theory explains that social class is the guideline that determines social structures around campus. In the interview conducted to Kaylie, she says, “If I’m not wearing that particular jacket or pair of boots, they wouldn’t assume that I am on the same level as them. They wouldn’t speak to me…” (Kaylie 36). Her answers portray how socio-economic class determines social life on campus. Kaylie and most non-financial aid students showed that they are more concerned with self-presentation of social class than financial aid students because they want to keep a certain status in order to keep benefiting from it.

Through the interviews, white students as well as non-white students reported being involved in racial incidents. Six out of ten non-white students surveyed were involved in racial incidents, whereas two out of six white students were not.  For instance, Alice, a white, non-financial aid student, mentioned that while at a dining place on campus, she asked the lady at the register to check how many Bantam bucks she had left, and the lady responded: “yeah um oh you have 15 dollars left, oh your parents came through for you” (Alice 43). Alice considered this to be an assumption based on her race and reacted with “first of all I can get you fired for that and second of all that is very rude and making a ton of assumptions about who I am and what I do and don’t work for…” (Alice 43). Tatum would support this finding, with the racial identity development theory, which is “the process of defining for oneself the personal significance and social meaning of belonging to a particular racial group” (Tatum 16). She explains that racism and racial awakening and development occurs to every individual regardless of their race (Tatum 93). Therefore, racial incidents against both white and non-white students are expected.

While these incidents involve both white and non-white students, non-white students are less likely to react and more likely to minimize the event than white students. Out of the eight people that reported having been involved in racial incidents, six were non-white individuals and three were non-financial aid. From the eight people that were involved in a racial case, only three people reacted to the scenario, and all three people were non-financial aid individuals. This leaves non-white, financial aid students, the most “vulnerable” in the social structure, as those who minimized or did not react towards the racial actions. For example, Fred, a non-white, financial aid student, undermines the fact that Campus Security has stopped him a couple of time based on his race, rather than on his actions. When asked if race has been a factor in his daily interaction he mentions “the incidents with campo and stuff like that will happen but not on daily basis, it’s usually not a factor, it’s rare” (Fred 23). The fact that he says that “it’s rare” and yet, it has happened on various occasions shows how Fred is trying to minimize the impact of the events. They may not react because they don’t feel they have the right to. For instance, Yvonne was also involved in an event of racial profiling where the manager of a dinning facility on campus asked her if she attended Trinity College, when he normally doesn’t do that. Even after the rest of the employers at the facilities supported her and told her to complain, she did not. This shows how she did not feel empowered enough to react and stand against the racist event. Tatum describes, “Survival sometimes means not responding to oppressive behavior directly” (Tatum 25). This theory explains why the non-white, financial aid students tend to avoid any reaction towards a racist act, as a way to protect themselves.

Under and over reacting to racist situations may be a consequence of racial formation.  Racial formation theory explains how one race has hegemony over the other one. This theory states, “racial projects connect what race means in a particular discursive practice and the ways in which both social structures and everyday experiences are racially organized, based upon that meaning” (Omi and Winant 56). The dominant race is the white race and the other ones are the minorities. Racial formation explains how society is built under the principles of this theory, where it is made to benefit one class exclusively. Because society is structured so that it will benefit the dominant race and thus social class, it puts non-white students in a place where they do not feel they deserve or have the right to react towards racist acts. Even if they did, because racial formation has organized society according to race and social class, non-white students would not want to recognize that they were victims of racism.

These interviews also found that non-white students are more likely to intertwine their responses about social class and race, even though interviewers asked about these two topics separately. Twelve out of eighteen students did not associate race with social class, while six out of eighteen students did. Out of the  twelve students who did not relate race with social class, five were non-white students while seven were white. Half of them were financial aid students. When answering the questions in the interview, the majority of the students focus only on social class or race rather than intertwining both.

This finding is interesting because it contradicts both Lee’s and Omi and Winant’s racial formation theory. The racial formation theory suggests that there is a dominant and a subordinate race, and that the power of the race is highly linked to socio-economic benefits (Omi and Winant 55-56). Therefore, according to this theory, white people (dominant race) are also the most privileged economically, while non-white people are not.  This theory shows that students would automatically connect their race with their social class. However, very few students did that association. For instance, Andres, a non-white, financial aid student, was of the few students who associated race with social class when he expressed that “you have all of like the racial people who are most likely lower class just because that’s how it plays out”  (Andres 11). This was not the case of most of the students. Most of them gave straightforward answers and focused exclusively on social class or race, depending on which question was being asked. This was the case of Kaylie who after being asked is she was always aware of her social class after coming to Trinity, responded only focusing on social class by saying: “I was always aware of people being wealthier than I was. It wasn’t as much of a problem. I think that social class influences who your friends are, who you want to be friends be. Also it influences with what able to do with your friends. It depends on how much you are willing to spend money. It does have effect on the social life.” (Kaylie 36) Like Kaylie, most of the students do not take race or social class as the consequence of one or the other.

It is also interesting to notice that only four non-white students out of the ten non-white students who were interviewed, associated race with social class. Overall, the majority of students who did associated race with social class were non-white students. This shows how people who relate these concepts are usually those who are most affected by it.  Even so, the students who relate race with social class and are white students, reported some racial incident. This shows how those who connect race and social class do so because they have been involved in an incident where their social class and race have been associated or a factor of an incident.

These interviews have allowed the seminar to get an insightful view on the campus regarding race and social class. They allow us to corroborate and discover new patterns. They helped prove that non-white students are less likely to react to racial incidents than white students because of the place they have in society. Furthermore they helped identify that non-financial aid students are more concerned about how they portray their social class because of society’s structure, and that non-white students are more likely to intertwine their responses about social class and race.


–    Tatum, Beverly. “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” and other conversations about race. New York: Basic Books, 2003.  Print.

–       Omi , Michael, and Howard Winant. Racial Formation in the united States: From the 1960s to the 1990s. Second . New york: Routledge, 1986. Print.

– Armstrong, Elizabeth, and Laura Hamilton. Paying for the part: how college maintains inequality. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013. Print.

Exercise E – Tammy

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How would Beverly Tatum interpret the students from Skin Deep? What stage (or stages) would she place them in?

Tammy from the film Skin Deep is a white female who has a strong position against racism. Based on Beverly Tatum’s book “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?”, Tammy would be placed in between the inmersion/emersion stage and the autonomy stage in Helms’s model because she embraces and understands her White identity and use those feelings to work against racism, while she leaves behind her feeling of guilt and embarrassment (Tatum 94-95)

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In the video she also says to the other members of the group: “I’m afraid of being judged just because of the color of my skin, she’s white, she’s probably racist” (Reid et al, 03:22) and “I’m an individual” (Reid et al, 27:44). These statements prove how she is still struggling with embracing her white identity and the privileges that it implies and thus is in the inmersion/emersion stage.

Tammy also says: “I wanted to have more contact with the African American students on campus and understand the issues they are facing and so I joined black awareness committee, one for the social thing because right now my group of friends isn’t very diverse and I felt like maybe I would take the first step and maybe they’ll take a step and join some of our organizations” (Reid et al, 20:24). This quote from Tammy shows how she is taking a step towards helping stop racism in her every day life, and this would be consider an action taken by someone in the autonomy stage. Although she acknowledges the benefits that she has based on the color of her skin, she has left behind racism and is working towards eliminating “institutional and cultural racism” (Tatum 94-95).


Reid, Frances, et al., dirs. Skin deep. Iris Film, 1996. Film.

Tatum, Beverly. Why are all the black kid sitting together in the cafeteria?. New York: Basic Books, 1997. 94-95. Print.

Persuasive essay – Merit matters

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Daniella Salazar

Professor: Jack Dougherty

FYSM Color and Money




This essay was assigned to be written from the perspective of a Merit matters advocate, and does not necessarily represent the views of the author.

1) Does the author present a clear and focused argument or thesis statement in the introduction?  Does it respond to the assignment?

2) Is the author’s reasoning persuasive and well developed?  Are the claims supported with appropriate evidence?  Are counter-arguments fully considered?

Every year the admissions and financial aid offices at The College try to admit the best and most suitable group of applicants.  To do so, they came up with a system that allowed them to give every applicant a fair and legal evaluation of their files. The College only took into consideration merit when reviewing the applicant’s files and did not quantify or acknowledge race. Therefore, every applicant was judged under the same criteria ensuring that everyone had an equal educational opportunity. However, the fact that students were admitted did not mean that they enrolled at The College, and thus, not necessarily the applicants with the best performance ended up attending. Even though the top three students did not enroll, The College ended up with the best possible class to its possibilities.  The financial aid funds available were allocated correctly to try to achieve a well-rounded class, covering the admitted student’s financial needs.

Because it is illegal to take into consideration race as an automatic plus on student’s applications, the admissions office had to come up with a system that judged the applicants with a holistic approach. The Supreme Court case “Gratz and Bollinger”, illustrates a scenario where a Caucasian female, Jennifer Gratz, suits the University of Michigan for using race as a determining criteria on the admissions process. The Supreme Court ruled that giving automatic points for race is not seeking the best interests of the whole entering class and it’s violating Title IV. Based on the Supreme Court’s decisions, the admissions office cannot give automatic extra points for ethnicity or race because that would be discrimination against those who are not minorities (“Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, Petitioners v. Lee Bollinger et al.” 257). Therefore, when going through the applications and ranking and qualifying the students, the admissions office ensured that all of those admitted to the college gain admission under the same parameter and based on their merit.

It is in the college’s best interests to accept those students who excel in both academic and extracurricular areas. These students are the ones who will help the school’s statistics to go up, and thus its position in the national ranking. If that happens, the college would theoretically receive more applications and thus more profit. In order to do so, the admissions office established a criterion that allowed them to take a holistic approach in regards to reviewing the applications. There were four main categories taken into consideration: Academics, extracurricular, legacy and diversity. Each category had a score. Academics and extracurricular were given a score from one to nine, nine being the highest score. For legacy the scores went from zero to one and for diversity from one to three (” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013″). The value of each category shows how important it was when making decisions. The first two criteria, academics and extracurricular, have more numerical value because they are the factors that matter the most in the admissions process, mainly because they show the merit, “character, leadership, and well-roundedness” (Karabel 342), of the student. The last two criteria, diversity and legacy, have less numerical value. This is because, although they are to some extent important, they do not show the students abilities and thus do not fully explain why they would be a valuable addition to the college community.

The college evaluated all their applicants based on their academic accomplishments and overall merit. This granted the applicants with a fair evaluation process because it does not favor any race, by giving it automatic points and also guaranteed that the process was legal. In contrast with the Gratz vs. Bollinger case, the college does not give 20 automatic points to minorities, or give preferences to Caucasians (“Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, Petitioners v. Lee Bollinger et al.” 257). The college operates under a color blind policy and thus offered them the opportunity to excel and stand out by their application. According to this policy, “an individual’s chance to get ahead should not be limited by social origins or by ascribed characteristics such as race or gender…”(Karabel 4). By judging them under the same criteria, and not putting any of the students at a disadvantage because of their class, The College offered them an equal educational opportunity.

Each category covered a different aspect of the application. On one hand we took into consideration grades and quantitative ways of measuring the student. On the other hand we took into consideration the extracurricular activities, recommendations and essays that give us a personal insight of the students core and personality. One of the qualitative ways of measuring the students, was seeing how much diversity they could bring to the college. The diversity category, unlike what many people think, does not measure how different a student is in terms of race, color or social background, but rather on terms of experiences and knowledge. Its purpose is to create a well-rounded class where everyone is different in a unique way so that learning does not happen only on classrooms but on campus as a whole. Considering diversity based on race would not be legal.

The financial aid budget was limited to seventy thousand dollars and it was given to the most qualified students who the college could afford. In order to determine who got the financial aid, the admissions officers ranked the students according to the average score in the categories explained before (” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013″). They also determined how much financial aid they needed and their estimated family contribution. The admissions office prioritized students with the best overall score and covered his or her full financial need, and then tried to adjust other students, well ranked, into the budget. Because the school is committed to cover every student’s full financial need, it cannot overextend its services and thus, it tries to accept those ideal students who it can afford. Therefore, the acceptance letters are sent at different times to ensure that if the students accept the offer we would be able to cover their financial need. Furthermore, every time a student accepts or declines an offer, the budget and admissions decisions have to be revised, to avoid making any mistakes in regards to the financial package.

Despite the fact that the financial aid office had to work with a limited budget in order to admit the students, the students who enrolled still came from different backgrounds. The three applicants who enrolled at The College come from very different backgrounds and have different financial aid packages. For instance, Caitlin Quinn who was ranked at the top of our applicants list needed no financial aid, Jazmine Hope-Martin (ranked sixth in our list ) who got 13,134 dollars in form of a grant, and Daniel Juberi (ranked tenth) , who got 52,477 dollars  (” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013″). Although our top three choices did not enroll at the college, the students who did were still in the top of our list proving that the decision were made based on merit. This shows that during both our admissions and financial aid rounds, merit was always the most important and determining factor, thus ensuring a colorblind approach.

The admissions process involves several variables that the college officers cannot always control. For instance, if a students accepts an admissions offer or not, or if the financial budget allows the college to afford the top applicants. In theory, the simulation of The College did not result on the best possible class because the best three students of the ranking did not enrolled in the college. However, in practice, it did result on the best possible class because the admissions office accepted the best combination of students that we could afford; that matched the school’s profile and that wanted to enroll.

The College’s admissions process prioritized each student’s abilities and development through his or her high school years, taking into consideration both academics and extracurricular activities. It tried to create the best well-rounded class, and in order to accomplish that it took a holistic and yet individualized approach to the applications. Every application was looked at separately but judged under the same criteria, offering the students equal educational opportunity. The admissions officers overlooked race when making decisions and highlighted merit following a colorblind policy. The process was legal, for no automatic points were given based on race. The college ended up with the best possible class that it could afford and it granted the students with an opportunity to tell their story in a fair environment.



Stevens, Mitchell . Creating a Class: College Admissions and education of elite : Harvard University Press, 2007. 244. Print.

Karabel, Jerome. The Chosen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 4. Print.

United States. Supreme Court of the United States . Jennifer Gratz and Patrick Hamacher, Petitioners v. Lee Bollinger et al.. 2003. Print. <>.

” Decision Day: Color & Money Admissions Simulation data 2013.” . Trinity College. Web. 1 Oct 2013. <

Stevens, Mitchell. Creating a Class. United States of America: Harvard University Press, 2009. 31-51. Print.

Killgore, Leslie . Review of Higher Education. 32. (2009): 471. Web. 1 Oct. 2013. < of Higher Education&volume=32&issue=4&date=20090601&atitle=Merit and Competition in Selective College Admissions&aulast=Killgore, Leslie&spage=469&sid=EBSCO:ERIC&pages=469-488>.

Karabel, Jerome. The Chosen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 342. Print.