Image by Chris Strong
“Bling” Images Are Overtly Racist
I’m shocked by the overt racism of the photographs used to illustrate your recent cover story, “Behind the Bling” (Winter 2008). The article itself was fine, citing the research by Kerwin Charles and Erik Hurst about the differing consumption patterns of young whites and blacks. Their research indicates that these differences are largely a matter of class rather than race.
However, the photographs you used are incredibly stereotypical posed images of profligate blacks and modest, thrifty whites that are directly contradicted by the statistics accompanying the photos. “Exhibit A” shows a young black man wearing clothing and accessories tagged as costing $1,730. “Exhibit B” shows a young white man attired in an outfit costing $394. However the statistics cited next to the photos indicate the consumption expenditures on cars, jewelry, and clothing of single black men making $30,600 a year is only $367 more a year than the same consumption expenditures of a single white man making the same amount of money.
When I was a young man, I often heard the refrain from fellow whites saying of blacks, “They live in a shack and drive a Cadillac.” It is beyond belief that the editor appears to share that viewpoint. Shame, shame, shame.
Michael Mahern, AB ’72, MBA ’73
Los Angeles, California
The Price of the American Dream
Excellent article about status driven spending, especially the health care delivery policy implications for the uninsured. (I hope Senator Barack Obama reads as widely as I do! He needs some help. I digress.) Anyway, thanks for some very clear thinking and fearless writing on a highly charged, racially sensitive subject. Cadillac marketing has known these few facts about black people’s spending habits for years. But down South, where I live now, you’ll also see some fancy new and vintage American cars (sometimes several in various working conditions) at the trailer parks. Growing up in Chicago in an integrated neighborhood, it seemed to me then that “some” white people spent just as much—even more—on clothing that looked downscale but was not, like those scuffed-looking Gucci loafers worn without socks. The shiny new thing is often just fool’s gold for the lower economic groups who live with the psychologically demoralizing effects of the drab and raggedy. Tell us, what is the cost of the American dream today? I know I can’t afford it. I wonder who can.
Naima Major Berry
The True Cost of Solutions
Climate change? I thought these were smart guys (“Presidential Candidate Advisors Say Climate, Skills Gap Top Issues,” Winter 2008). They need to read a little more about the effects of the sun on climate change vs. man’s effect. And evaluate the benefits (or lack thereof) of climate change initiatives relative to their costs, and compare that to spending on other areas that actually might help the environment, economy, and standard of living.
The Influence of the Late Sidney Davidson
It was with both great sadness and gratitude that I read of the passing last fall of Sidney Davidson (In Memoriam, “Sidney Davidson, Former Dean and ‘the Nation’s Number-One Accountant,’” Winter 2008) in the latest edition of the magazine.
I had the good fortune to acquire my MBA degree in accounting and finance from the GSB in June 1967, when Mr. Davidson was already a significant force in the accounting profession. I took several of his courses, and my memories of those classes as well as my recollection of him personally remain very vivid to this day.
In fact, I built my 33-year corporate financial management career on the foundation of an accounting/CPA credential background and it always served me well. I attribute much of my success to the training and thinking that Sidney Davidson imparted to all his students.
The school and the profession lost a very special person and I offer my condolences to his family, but also my adoration for a life well served.
Howard Zuckerman, ’67
The Rewards of Limit Orders
Professor Juhani Linnainmaa suggests in his article on the negative effects of placing limit orders (“The Limit Order Effect,” Winter 2008) that users tend to be losers because they either ride out their limit orders or, at the very least, fail to react in time to changing market information. I’m sure this is true to some extent, but in current markets I find using limit orders to be very rewarding. When the market is sliding, bottom fishing with a low bid on an already undervalued stock often hits. If not, there will always be another chance; conversely, offering stocks at a higher price when the market is rising usually results in added gains. However, this strategy does require a degree of self discipline. It assumes that the underlying value of the stock is sufficiently researched and found to be sound when bidding, and that the trader has a secular view of the market.
Lee Stensaker, ’79