Desiree’s Baby: The Assumptions About Race


The world that we live in is one of a diversity of color. White, black, yellow and red- these all exist to paint a beautiful rainbow of humanity. However, this beauty is often obscured by the very same human beings that make up this rainbow. The subject of race is a dicey one as racial injustices have constantly plagued humanity from time immemorial. Misunderstandings and stereotypes often characterize inter- racial relations mainly as a result of fear and ignorance and regardless of how “modern” we become, these misunderstandings stubbornly persist.

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As seen in the story of Desiree’s baby, some of these stereotypes about races are so deep- rooted within some people and are heard to reverse. Fundamental to these stereotypes are the assumptions people have about other races. Like many people, I am well aware of some of these assumptions that some even claim to be factual. One such assumption is that African Americans are lazier than white Americans.

Diversity Digest (1998) confirms this negative assumption about African Americans through the findings of a survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Centre (NORC) of the University of California. The survey discovered that the respondents (who made up a cross- section of ordinary Americans) felt that African Americans are the laziest people in America and are thus the most susceptible to living off welfare. This assumption is so deep- rooted that even African Americans and other minorities also subscribe to this faulty school of thought.

Another assumption I have come across during my daily interaction with people is that African Americans are less intelligent than white Americans. White people are generally more educated than blacks and subsequently are more involved in intellectual activities. Blacks, on the other hand, mostly succeed in the arts (music especially) and sports. In addition, very few famous inventors happen to be black. As a result, there has been a widely held assumption that blacks are simply not as smart as their white counterparts.

The NORC survey confirmed this assumption and found out that it was shockingly widespread. It found that more than half of the respondents viewed African Americans as less intelligent than whites. The sad bit, however, is that a whopping 30 per cent of African Americans themselves rated African Americans as being less intelligent than whites. If African Americans themselves can have such a bad view of themselves, it is difficult to imagine that other would rate them highly either.


Since these and many other assumptions are so deeply ingrained in us, a protracted effort needs to be initiated to get rid of these prevalent stereotypes. The first step has to begin with an individual. To rid society of these assumptions, an awakening needs to be initiated on the individual level. This will cause a chain reaction whereby, slowly but surely, people will begin to change their attitudes towards other races. With time, all races will be seen as being equal and this inevitably will set the stage for the beginning of a beautiful and truly united rainbow of races.


How Do Americans View One Another? The Persistence of Racial/ Ethnic Stereotypes. 1998. Diversity Digest. Web.

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