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I found the “Off the Charts� about 21-year-olds fascinating (September 2003), because of the impact this group has on my career and because I have a 20-year-old at home.

He is like the 47 percent of the group who owns a mobile phone, the 93 percent with a credit card, and the 41 percent who live with mom or dad.

But even though he spends an awful lot of time surfing the Web, downloading music and e-mailing friends, he will have a lot of catching up to do to be an average 21-year-old and spend “31 hours per day� (emphasis mine) on those activities.

Was that supposed to read “31 hours per week� or “‥per month?� That seems a more likely weekly figure for an average — in which case my son is at the high-end of the curve.


Chandler, Ariz.

Note from the editors:

Oddly enough, our factoid does not contain a typo. The tidbit, explained on page 31 in the To Be About To Be story in the same issue, is from MTV research which indicates that, thanks to multitasking, this age group actually spends more time than there are hours in the day doing all three of those activities. Perhaps your son will fess up to being in that category as well.


Many people across America were celebrating, remembering and in some circles ignoring the 40th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King's legendary “I have a dream speech.�

Those in the national black media have been lamenting and posturing about the lack of black interest in the anniversary of one of America's greatest moments in modern times as well as black American history.

Instead of seeking excuses or reasons why black people did not, as a collective, celebrate the dual anniversary, I thought I would take this opportunity to evaluate the present day reality of black life in America's suburbs.

America has made remarkable strides with regards to race relations. Forty years ago America was ripe with contempt for its black citizens. The few blacks that lived in the suburbs still confronted daily bouts of second-class citizenship. Life in the ‘burbs today provides many black people with manicured lawns, two-car garages and plenty of soccer mom activities.

One of the most remarkable aspects about living in the suburbs these days as a black person is that racial diversity is the standard, not the exception.

The notion of suburbs being lily white enclaves with token black residents is clearly an outdated concept.

Today, our suburbs are enclaves of Arabs, Asians and Euros who, unlike the classic WASPS of the past, bring a set of values and prejudices against blacks that is as vicious and virulent as white racism used to be. The ugly and often hidden secret of today's suburbs is that many of the nonwhite residents display a contempt for blacks that is often class driven as well as race based.

It is not unusual for black suburbanites to have to deal with an act of racism from a foreign voice with an immigrant face attached to it.

Living black in the suburbs still means ugly episodes of good old garden-variety racism, but the volume and severity of white racism has diminished. What is really ironic is now blacks and whites have more in common with each other, primarily because of the new ethnic makeup of our suburbs and the recent global events of terrorism and homeland security overkill which makes us more patriotic yet also a bit paranoid about our new nonwhite neighbors.

Black folks in some instances are still compelled to display three degrees of documentation when cashing a check or seeking a new mortgage or home improvement loan.

Blacks who shop at high-end stores are often queried about product knowledge and faced with “was-this-your-first-time� type of qualifying questions.

Black migration to the suburbs often occurs after the attractiveness of the area has peaked and property values have matured. Whites, in an effort to be good citizens, still engage in gratuitous and worthless chatter during supermarket encounters. Elections for local public offices frequently reflect racial loyalties. Service organizations and civic volunteerism still have largely white membership. Blacks in the suburbs are often more conservative, and demonstrate a healthly dose of Republican sentiments.

Racial profiling, despite the denial of our public officials, continues to exist but now blacks are more willing to accept that the risky driving habits of their city visitors is more significant than the race of the driver and that is the more likely the reason why the police stop and ticket bad black drivers in the suburbs.

There is still an unspoken sense of spatial fear between blacks and whites in our suburbs. The black families which were the pioneers in the traditional white suburbs also display a sense of unease toward the new wave and increased volume of black suburbanites. Many of the oldline blacks resent the newer black residents because they now displace their mascot role.

Blacks, just like their white suburban neighbors, do complain and rant about the waste of our tax dollars and the high cost of property taxes. We also join in the suburban chorus. Our Sundays however still remain very segregated despite the same religious beliefs.

In our schools we continue to witness black student/athletes dominating the traditional sports. We remained concerned and disturbed about the racial discrepancies in school disciplinary sanctions. Some of our students despite having economic parity with their white and ethnic peers still score lower than their counterparts on the ACT/SAT tests.

Living black in the suburbs despite all of its challenges is still a worthy lifestyle. I look forward to substantive grocery store conversations and more sincere interaction with my fellow suburbanites as the 50th anniversary of the MLK's speech is celebrated.


Plane Ideas

Bloomfield, Mich.

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