Study Guide

Orange Is the New Black Race

By Piper Kerman

Race

Chapter 2
Piper Kerman

[My family and friends] doubted that a "nice blond lady" like me could ever end up in prison. (2.47)

What they aren't saying here, but what they really mean, is that they doubt a "nice blond white lady" could ever end up in prison. They were wrong about Piper, and they were wrong about Martha Stewart. Well, except for the "nice" part when it comes to Martha. #sorrynotsorry

Chapter 3

If you fell into that "other" category—Native American, Asian, Middle Eastern—then you got a patchwork welcome committee of the kindest and most compassionate women from the dominate tribes. (3.189)

It's nice that even if you fall into the most minority of minorities in prison, you can still find a support group.

When a new person arrived, their tribe—white, black, Latino, or the few and far between "others"—would immediately make note of their situation, get them settled, and steer them through their arrival. (3.189)

It seems that people stick to "their own" when in prison. They have to find some way to make friends. It's not like you can get to know people by their interests while in the pen—no one is bonding over drinking wine, painting, or playing Mario Kart.

Chapter 4

About half were Latino […] about 24 percent white, 24 percent African-American and Jamaican, and then a very random smattering. (4.74)

Why are there so many Latinas in prison? They make up half the population. Is there more crime in their demographic, or are they more likely to be prosecuted and imprisoned?

[Annette] was leery of most other prisoners who were not middle class and white. (4.65)

Sure, Annette's being a little racist here. She was burned in the past by non-white people, and now she projects that experience onto any other brown person who comes her way.

Chapter 6

"Everyone in here is trying to live up to the worst cultural stereotype possible." (6.115)

Stereotypes seem to hold a lot of currency in the slammer.

Piper Kerman

I could hold my own with them, despite being white. (6.79)

Piper likes to let us know when she's the exception to the rule. She has visitors every day, she gets tons of mail, and she gets to hang with anyone she wants to, despite her race.

Chapter 10

"Those Puerto Ricans, it's like they don't even know they're in jail, they're always laughing and dancing like idiots!" sneered tall, mopey Sally, who wanted everyone to be as miserable as she was. And as ignorant—Camila was Colombian, not Puerto Rican. (10.8)

The only thing worse than stereotyping people is being so ignorant that you stereotype the wrong people. Being racist toward the wrong race is just piling ignorance on top of ignorance—a stack of ignorant pancakes, except without any of the deliciousness of pancakes.

Ghada was from Lebanon but lived had lived in South America for many years and so was fluent in Spanish. […] Because of her long resident in Latin America, Ghada was an honorary Spanish mami. (10.10)

When dividing up by race in prison, sometimes you just have to go with the closest cultural approximation.