The Racial Divide of America's Youth: Whites Happier Than Everyone Else

MTV and the AP recently released results of a poll they conducted on America's youth, with one detail grabbing headlines: White youths happier than others. Shocking: the "others" are unhappy.

In the poll, youth identified that the two most important components of happiness were having a successful career and enjoying free time. But success isn't measured simply by the amount of sweat on an individual's brow; it's measured by opportunity and privilege, where the lives of people of color are defined by a lack.

While people of color are not blatantly dismissed (everyone knows that that would be racist), there is still resistance to eliminating the structures that apportion unequal amounts of opportunity. For example, preschool education, which is largely considered vital in the development of children, has rich (mostly white) people tripping over each other to pay $10,000 a year to enroll their toddlers in elite preschools. In contrast, programs like Head Start are only able to serve less than half of qualifying low-income kids - over 60 percent of which are children of color -- and those who do participate just have part-time schooling.

The educational inequities that begin in preschool follow kids as they grow up. Even if they're equally as qualified as their white counterparts, black people, for example, face career obstacles simply because their names are "too" black. According to a 2002 MIT study, Tamika Jackson has 50 percent less of a chance of getting an interview than her equally qualified, white-named counterpart, Anne Murphy.

Education and career opportunities aren't the only sources of stress. The families that youth of color often come from are facing far different troubles than what mainstream society portrays. The current housing crisis has mostly been couched in terms of bailing out Wall Street hustlers, and not on helping the predominantly black and Latina/o families who were the targets for risky, sub-prime mortgage loans. A Reuters poll of adults showed that people of color were more concerned about the housing crisis than white people. And what worries parents will worry their kids.

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