Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture

By Michael Moffatt | Go to book overview
bedded in his black identity. On the other hand, he treats his identity and almost everything else as a big joke. His movies also have no detectable political content. In the Beverly Hills films, he is a cop; ultimately, he works for the white establishment. In Trading Places, he uses Wall Street to ruin bad WASPs and to cash in for himself and for his white friends.Whenever Murphy encounters old-fashioned racism or any other form of elitism in these movies, he immediately attacks and destroys it, excoriating the villains in the "naturally" vulgar language one ordinarily hears in adolescent busting around the dorms. Nothing in Murphy's real world is really very important, in fact; all that matters is wit, survival, the pleasures of the con in a good cause, and--above all--loyalty to one's friends. And Murphy is almost always portrayed in these movies as a black man who has very good white friends as well as very good black friends. Or, in Trading Places, he converts Bad Whites (inauthentic status-conscious racists) into Good Whites (authentic egalitarian Americans), who then become good friends of his during the course of the film.If only all American blacks were such very perfect human beings, the white adolescent fans of these movies seem to be saying, then there would be no white racism left in American culture at all.
Further Comments
A different version of part of this chapter can be found in Moffatt 1986.
1. You were "white" in the contemporary American understanding of race employed by most Rutgers students if your principal ethnic background was western, central, or eastern European, or if you were a light-skinned, assimilated Latin American or Caribbean without a strong Spanish accent. Otherwise you were black or some other "minority."

According to one college report, the 8,270 undergraduates enrolled at Rutgers College in 1984 were 79 percent "white," 7.3 percent black, 2 percent Puerto Rican, 3 percent "other Hispanic," 6 percent "Asian/Pacific Islander," and 3 percent "other/no information" ( Rutgers College 1985).

2. Most of the residents of Hasbrouck Fourth in 1984-1985 knew that Danny, the one Puerto Rican student on the floor, was a Puerto Rican; but the student racists, like other white Americans with other Puerto Ricans, tended to feel the same way about him that they did about the four blacks

-168-

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Coming of Age in New Jersey: College and American Culture
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xv
  • One / Orientation 1
  • Further Comments 20
  • Two / "What College is Really Like" 25
  • Further Comments 62
  • Three / a Year on Hasbrouck Fourth 71
  • Further Comments 125
  • Four / Race and Individualism 141
  • Further Comments 168
  • Five / Sex 181
  • Further Comments 231
  • Six / Sex in College 247
  • Further Comments 266
  • Seven / the Life of the Mind 271
  • Further Comments 310
  • Appendix One on Method 327
  • Appendix Two on Typicality 331
  • Further Comments 336
  • References Cited 341
  • Index 347
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