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In bigot versus bigot, white racist is winner
January 21, 2002 10:24 AM   Subscribe

In bigot versus bigot, white racist is winner : "Hey, when you find a black bigot, feel free to censure and ostracize him or her as the circumstance warrants. I don't care. Just don't pretend the transgression is what it is not. Don't claim it represents a significant threat to the quality of life of white Americans at large." (via a2g2)
posted by owillis (41 comments total)

 
Take it from someone whose 'quality of life' was 'threatened': I lived in a neighborhood in Atlanta for awhile where I was the only white person within several miles who either rented a home or even walked down the street, and I was alternately treated like The Enemy or completely ignored, or totally stereotyped when the random conversation did occur.

Anyone can be bigoted and anyone's quality of life can be influenced by it. In day-to-day life, it doesn't necessarily matter who 'controls the system' if they can't walk down a street in their own neighborhood without having epithets (or stones) tossed at them.
posted by Karl at 10:58 AM on January 21, 2002


Wow, hey.. I'm not inviting this troll to my birthday party. But I guess I'll take the bait.

"As an aggregate, bigoted blacks have much less power to injure whites than vice versa. They also have less history of doing so."

Reminds me of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer is at the bank writing a check to PBS, and since he can't afford it, he naturally tries to stab the PBS guy with a pen. When the little chain the pen is on prevents him from puncturing flesh, he breaks down and weeps, "I can't do it.. I can't kill a man!"

The ability to inflict great harm is not a defining characteristic of racism; intent matters far more. This is because racism, as Mr. Pitts points out, is not adequately defined as only an institutional process. It's merely acting on prejudice, and anyone can do that. While whites have certainly done more damage with their racism than blacks, it does not follow from this that an individual act of racism from a black person is less meaningful than an equivalent act from a white person.

Hey, when you find a black bigot, feel free to censure and ostracize him or her as the circumstance warrants.

Actually, I think it would be a better world if people called out every racist whenever and wherever they reared their head. But of course there is that nasty double-standard that keeps people of all races from feeling free to do just that. I wonder if that is promoting equality, or a victim mentality in both blacks and whites?

"And please, spare me the anecdote about Jane, who couldn't get into school or Joe, who lost his job, because of affirmative action... Not the same. Not even close."

Gosh, I would have to argue that while the effect of choosing a black person over a white person (if it is based solely on race) may have less of a negative effect on the white person's life as it would have had on the black person's--due, certainly, to the centuries of institutional racism that have put blacks in a statistically much more difficult position--the act itself is no less racist than if it had been the other way around. If you remove the massive social re-engineering that affirmative action is trying to work towards, and start from the premise that all races should be treated fairly, the acts are, indeed, exactly equivalent.
posted by Hildago at 11:01 AM on January 21, 2002


I agree with general premise of the article, but the title is very misleading. The fact that on average whites have more power than blacks does not imply that all whites have more power than all blacks. The idea that, say, Vernon Jordan's prejudices are less harmful than some Appelachian dirt farmer is, quite frankly, racist.
posted by electro at 11:10 AM on January 21, 2002


The interesting thing about this article is that the author both affirms and denies the logic of the statement, "Blacks can't be racist." He claims to get "impatient with people who make the argument in those terms, terms that seem, frankly, calibrated to produce more confrontation than insight." Then he goes on to say that "[it's] an affront to common sense to suggest there is equivalence between black-on-white bigotry and its opposite." This, to me, is complete bullshit. Black bigotry isn't the same as white bigotry? Then why call it bigotry? If it isn't the same, call it something else. If he had stated it in terms like, "Black-on-white bigotry isn't in the same league as white-on-black bigotry," I would agree. Although I would have had more respect for his argument if he had just stuck with the "Blacks can't be racist" argument, without waffling. If you accept that the definition of racism includes the ability to affect the political or social system to benefit your race (which I don't, but I'll accept the argument) then the original premise is true and needs no defense.
posted by RylandDotNet at 11:10 AM on January 21, 2002


Heh, I can't believe Pitts screwed up with that "darkness" line -- it's not like him at all.

Anyway, I think it certainly can be said that there is such a thing as black racism, itself an overlay on top of black bigotry, just as white racism exists institutionally on top of white bigotry. But as Pitts notes, black racism and bigotry are in general not as much of a threat to whites economically. But as Karl notes translating that to one-on-one at ground level can also mean ostracization and isolation, things ol' Spike captured viscerally and memorably in Do the Right Thing. The radio DJ represented racism, the crowd represented bigotry, perhaps.

I think it's useful to separate these things, but I agree it's often impossible in most contexts to do so, and doing so may even be counterproductive depending on the situation.
posted by dhartung at 11:14 AM on January 21, 2002


If we don't maintain these double standards the terrorists will have won... (I am going to hide now)
posted by revbrian at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2002


"As an aggregate, bigoted blacks have much less power to injure whites than vice versa. They also have less history of doing so."

Certainly true.

As an aggregate, that is. And of course, the people he meant to include are a small percentage of the human race: Human Relations departments, bosses, loan officers, policemen perhaps, etc. By and large, I couldn't hurt anyone of "darker color" even if I cared to. Most of the folks I work with couldn't make a dent in anyone else's life - they're having enough troubles with their own, thanks.

Now. Lets suppose for a moment I was to go into the western area of my local fair city, and wander into a local watering hole. My reception would be at best cold - at worst hot. It may even be terminal, if I pick one of our more disputed newsworthy neighborhoods.

Would the people in that bar that denied me service, initmidated me, or perhaps even assaulted me, still be incapable of racism? Or could my pummeling be considered a racist act by a member/members of someone of "a darker color"?

Should we no longer consider the no-nothing, beer chugging bigoted redneck as racist, because he has no power to injure blacks... beyond physically?

He chose his aggregates for convenience, and he's fanning the flames of white intolerance. Maybe he's looking for attention; beats me. But he's driving a semantic truck through a crowd, and I can only guess he's intellegent enough to know that.
posted by Perigee at 11:36 AM on January 21, 2002


The issue here seems to be a mistaken belief that power in the USA is spead out in an even manner.

There are areas where a white person is the minority and the black majority has control of the power (which the article never really defines (it's like saying that a pistol is less powerfull than a bomb. While that might be true, when said pistol is pointed at your head, having a bomb 100 miles away does squat to stop the bullet)) and in such situations, racism can exist and should be called such. And I admit, Whites do have the upperhand in a majority of the land.

The other point that "...bigoted blacks have much less power to injure whites than vice versa. They also have less history of doing so...", again refuses to see that when power is exerted in an immoral manner, scale of use becomes less important that the actual use itself.

The decry for a separate term in place of "racism" depending on the user allow for a shifting of blame. Under this premise, segragation according to race in the Congo that favours people of Negriod persuasion is not racism simply because, "They also have less history of doing so...", which begs the question, hwo long must a race do such actions before they are racist?

Still, a thought provoking article. I respect him for articulating his point. I disagree with him but thanks for saying it, plainly and openly.
posted by Dagobert at 11:37 AM on January 21, 2002


Pitts frequently does columns like this. I have little respect for him, as he frequently spouts the same rhetoric using the same old tired arguments. I'm going to have to agree with Perigree's last lines. If Pitts truely cared about the black community he'd write more articles on how they could better themslves (look at Mary Sue, she organized a bake sale to keep kids off drugs), or improve race relations.

I remember one article by Pitts where he was complaining about a billboard downtown that was a PSA for "buckling up." He claimed it was racist because it showed a black family putting on their seatbelts. He thought it was like telling blacks they were too stupid to buckle up and needed to be told (somewhere along those lines). Seeing as how Pitts only wanted to fan the flames instead of putting them out, that was the last article I read of his. He has a talent for writing, if only he could use it to do good instead of as a gimmick to sell papers.
posted by geoff. at 12:17 PM on January 21, 2002


Is paying woman on average less money than the money one pays to men for doing equal work an example of racism, coupled with keeping them from top positions in most firms etc further examples of racism--that is, using the power that men have had in controlling women (note priesthood etc) all examples of using that power to keep women in lesser and therefore inferior positions, further examples of racism? Well, no. We will call it sexism but not racism.
posted by Postroad at 12:23 PM on January 21, 2002


Don't know enough to comment on Pitts but where I come from the following would be considered at best patronising at worst racist :

"If Pitts truely cared about the black community he'd write more articles on how they could better themselves..."
posted by niceness at 12:39 PM on January 21, 2002


Well said, Hildago.
posted by rushmc at 12:47 PM on January 21, 2002


He claimed it was racist because it showed a black family putting on their seatbelts. He thought it was like telling blacks they were too stupid to buckle up and needed to be told

It could be argued that the insult would be implied toward any category of person represented on the billboard. I see no argument, however, for considering a black family as a special case.
posted by rushmc at 12:48 PM on January 21, 2002


niceness, now that I read that I realize it's patronizing. I didn't intend it that way. I'm just furious with Pitts for going around and griping. I actually rewrote that sentence several times to try to make it not look like I was a KKK member, but alas my English skills were not good enough.
posted by geoff. at 12:56 PM on January 21, 2002


Agh after reading it agin, it looks really really really bad. I'm sorry, I really didn't mean anything as racist.
posted by geoff. at 1:01 PM on January 21, 2002


He claimed it was racist because it showed a black family putting on their seatbelts. He thought it was like telling blacks they were too stupid to buckle up and needed to be told

Now, if the family on the billboard had been white, would he have found it offensive because it implied that blacks were not worthy of being protected by seatbelts (or conversely that only whites were), since they weren't shown? Maybe, to be more PC, the pictured "family" should have included a white, a black, a hispanic, and oriental, etc. Some people can see racism in anything.

If you consider the population of the USA as a whole, yes, blacks are in a minority. But there are parts of this big land where the racial mix is more balanced or more weighted in the other direction. I live in an area that is nearly equally split among black, white, and hispanic. I see racism among all the groups. Doesn't matter what color you are, it's just as ugly.
posted by AstroGuy at 1:42 PM on January 21, 2002


When I initially dropped into this thread, I was on the bandwagon regarding the notion that minorities can't possibly be racist because they lack power. That's a statement I've heard before, and it never really held much water for me. It seems to me the common usage of the word considers it virtually synonymous with prejudice. The OED seems to support that view of the word: The theory that distinctive human characteristics and abilities are determined by race.

However, as I thought about it today, I couldn't help contrasting it with my views on date rape being classified as rape. I feel rape has a specific meaning and lumping in the person who didn't say no, but didn't say yes and really didn't want to do it diminishes that meaning.

So how are these related? Well, I can't help noticing a possible inconsistency. As a white male, I would be more likely to be cast in the role of predator in a case of date rape and more likely to be cast in the role of victim in a case of minority on white prejudice. Coincidentally enough, I embrace the connotative meaning of rape and racism that is most beneficial to my place within the world. Even though in the case rape I take a specific meaning that makes no room for a broader spectrum of offences, and in the case of racism I take a broad definition that doesn't acknowledge a specific meaning of the words.

I genuinely believe that both are consistent with language as I understand it, but I can't help noticing that it seems if not hypocritical, then at least very convenient. I'm left wondering: do I (and by extension others?) naturally gravitate to connotative meanings that are most advantageous to me? Is it simply coincidence? Is there something else at work here?
posted by willnot at 1:44 PM on January 21, 2002


Purely, simply, looking at the fabric of society, and viewing things in terms of a "social contract", I'm going to respect the rights of those who acknowledge mine. On the other hand, it's crazy to respect the rights of those who don't acknowledge mine. Respect in the "give weight to and care about" sense, not the merely perfunctory, "acknowledge in a legal fashion" sense... which I will extend to any fool.

Why should I give a rat's ass about the rights of someone who would deny me mine, and work contrary to my interests? On the other hand, how can I reasonably NOT care about someone who acknowledges my rights, and asks only that I respect theirs? The later demands support from any just individual; the first demands opposition of any reasonable individual.

"Millions for defense, not one penny for tribute." has been said. In this case, I would say, "Everything for those seeking justice; nothing for those seeking an injustice opposite to that which, for a time, prevailed."

If a person, or a group, does not distance his, her, or itself from views that deny my equal rights, I'm going to work against it to the very best of my ability, as the level of his, her, or its success in working contrary to my interest merits.
posted by dissent at 2:21 PM on January 21, 2002


Personally, I disagree with the article. Racism is racism. Feeds into the black victim mentality where blacks don't feel like it's bad to be racist because "hey, they did it to us".

I don't think geoff's statement was patronizing. Too many intellectuals and public figures in the black community take the easy way out of blaming white America for problems in the black community instead of looking towards ourselves.
posted by owillis at 3:28 PM on January 21, 2002


Pitts' argument is basically that there is no black racism on an institutional level, because the black institution hasn't the power for it.

But on an individual level, any one person (or small group) is equally capable of discriminating against any other person, for whatever token reason they choose. History and outside society do not infect every instance of social interaction -- a purple-skinned kid who decides he hates anyone with orange hair and goes and beats up an orange-haired kid because of it is a haircolorist -- :) -- regardless of whether orange-haired people or purple-skinned people run the world.
posted by mattpfeff at 3:51 PM on January 21, 2002


Too many intellectuals and public figures in the black community take the easy way out of blaming white America for problems in the black community instead of looking towards ourselves.

I'll mark today on the calendar, I actually agree with you on something Oliver! Seriously though, even that statement can have either color attached and still be true. I live in a predominantly white area and I don't know how many times I have to listen to people complain about things and blame minorities (although blacks do get the bulk of the flak) for all the problems in the world. It sickens me. It sickens me in the same way that rallying against firearms sickens me. Both are examples of our society's continued inability to place responsibility upon individuals for their actions. People choose to be racists, people choose to be violent, people choose to lead their lives in a manner which doesn't advance them socially. Yes, there are mitgating factors. Yes, we need to have assistance programs in place. In the end most of being equal will rely on believing and acting like you are equal...that means more than everyone else's views or opinions combined.
posted by RevGreg at 3:52 PM on January 21, 2002


The Herald fellow seems to be under the impression that America is the only place Blacks occur in nature. Ask South Asian minorities living in Africa whether Black racism exists.

The fact is it's damned hard to come up with any racial or ethnic group with clean hands. I don't offhand recall hearing about the Bushmen or the Ainu oppressing anybody, but in general people of any and all colors act like angry monkeys whenever they're not restrained from doing so. And the more people there are, the worse this is going to get.
posted by jfuller at 4:26 PM on January 21, 2002


I'll preface my comment by saying that I find bigotry nauseating, no matter who it's coming from. That said there are a number of things wrong with Pitts' theory. While it is true that whites are a majority in America, we pigmentally-impoverished folk spend so much time fighting with eachother, that I'd be amazed if we could "systematically" do anything. The blame for the oppression Mr. Pitts speaks of falls on the economic power structure which, truth be told is mostly white folk.
Also, Pitts' posits the equation, racism = bigotry + power. OK, fair enough. Then, how come most American's picture of a typical racist is that of a Southern "redneck" or baseball bat weilding blue-collar "meathead." No matter bigoted any individual of this ilk might be, they have little or no social and economic power, so technically they're not "racist," right?
I'll even go out on a limb and say that by and large working and lower-middle-class whites are by and large less bigoted than rich white folk, if for no other reason than proximity. And if they are bigoted, they are at least less hypocritical about it.
posted by jonmc at 4:46 PM on January 21, 2002


check your arguments, people. how can you denounce racism and prejudice while keeping a clearly prejudiced ideal of southerner = racist?

'racist' will do, thank you. 'beer chugging bigoted redneck' is no different than 'fried chicken eating tar baby.'
posted by aenemated at 8:26 PM on January 21, 2002


Then, how come most American's picture of a typical racist is that of a Southern "redneck" or baseball bat weilding blue-collar "meathead."

Because, instead of taking actions that will actually work to change things, it is much easier to simply project unflattering aspects of your culture/racial-group onto those members who have relatively less socio-economic power. It's called scapegoating.

The "redneck" or "meathead" stereotype is comforting to educated, white, middle-/upper-class Americans, because they can point to the stereotyped group's (supposed) actions and beliefs and say, "Well, see we're not racist because we certainly don't act like them. At the same time, and as you point out quite succinctly, jonmc, American communities remain intensely segregated (i.e., low levels of proximity between whites and blacks). This means that unless you live in a highly populated urban center, you're own personal prejudices toward non-white individuals and populations can remain untested and, for the most part hidden from view. (Perhaps even your own.)

The racial and economic segregation of American society means that relatively affluent white people can remain ignorant of the way that the organization of our society serves to oppress those with a little extra melanin in their skin.

In the end most of being equal will rely on believing and acting like you are equal.

What a crock of happy horseshit!

Let's say that life is like running a marathon. Being black in America does not mean that you can't run that marathon successfully. It does not mean that you are doomed, or that everything bad that happens to you is "whitey's" fault. And certainly, a person's own sense of ambition and positive self-worth will go a long way towards giving that person an edge in the race. But, being black in America is the equivalent of having to run that marathon uphill while the rest of the runners are taking it on the flat.

White Americans need to stop telling Black Americans that they are doing x wrong, or that if they would just think like y everything would be great. As a white male, I'm getting pretty sick and tired of white male agnst. Cry me a river, you now have to compete with blacks, women, hispanics, and all the rest of humanity on a playing field slighly less tilted in your favor.

For those white males out there preaching responsiblity and the gospel of personal choice: Start listening to your own sermons! How about taking a look at how your own personal choices effect the way the world is ordered? How about taking responsiblity for that?
posted by edlark at 8:41 PM on January 21, 2002


On the other hand, white folks who want to make everythng the fault of the whites (white guilt) without ever blaming blacks (or other minorities) for their own stupidity needs to stop as well. We're not babies, and constantly deferring to us based solely on skin color is racist in and of itself.
posted by owillis at 9:17 PM on January 21, 2002


Finally someone talking some sense in this thread. Thanks ed.
posted by sudama at 9:32 PM on January 21, 2002


"Start listening to your own sermons! How about taking a look at how your own personal choices effect the way the world is ordered? How about taking responsiblity for that?"

Edlark -- Well said, but I am unclear as to whether or not you are advocating this in a general sense (and if so what it has to do with the thread), or whether you mean how personal choices effect the way the world is ordered with respect to race relations. If it's the latter, do you have an example handy?
posted by Hildago at 9:46 PM on January 21, 2002


Finally someone talking some sense in this thread. Thanks ed.

Sudama: please see this.
posted by owillis at 11:10 PM on January 21, 2002


I find this discussion very interesting. Living in Korea (by choice, I know, and that makes a difference, perhaps) as I am, and being Caucasian, as I am, and being the only person of that ethnicity living within a 10 kilometre radius (as far as I know), I am on the receiving end of bigoted behaviour every day, every time I walk the street. Overt and otherwise. I'm not complaining, just noting.

I haven't actually read Oliver's link yet (*sorry*), but I thought I'd throw that into the pot, as it seems somehow germane.

Please carry on. I'm off to read up.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:11 PM on January 21, 2002


owillis, absolutely right. Whites should not look at themselves as "saviors" or "samaritans" in regard to our relationships with blacks and other groups of color, and to do so is, indeed, racist (and just downright rude). Preferably whites should focus on whites - advocating for change, advancing understanding of other groups, and challenging racist actions and institutions within white communities. Coalitions and outreach toward non-white communities are all good and great, (and ultimately necessary, since otherwise it's just "everybody to your corners") but these are hardly ever successful, and can be counter-productive, if all they amount to is white people "looking for applause." In other words, whites should focus on work in their own communities/social groups/etc. that complement the work being done by members within communities of color.

Also, I have never seen acknowleging certain societal biases in terms of "excusing" either destructive behaviors or personal failures. No matter what color they are, the person committing a crime should be punished, the person whose life is a mess because of bad personal decisions needs to get themselves straightened out. But, if the society is organized in such a way that certain groups or social classes are unfairly penalized or experience disproportionate hardships simply because of their membership within said group, then the only way to address the (quite predictable) societal problems that will accompany such an arrangement is to change the system.

Hildalgo,

My comment in regard to personal responsiblity is applicable in a general sense, but can be applied directly to race relations. Such choices can be simple and personal: actually getting to know the non-white people that you work with/live by/etc. (When people know and relate to each other as individuals they have a harder time stereotyping each other in regards to race). Others may be slightly more complicated: In what neighborhood will you buy a home/rent/send your kids to school? -or- Why do you buy a home/rent/send your kids to school in the particular place you do? (Studies show that both whites and blacks indicate a preference for "integrated" neighborhoods, but to whites "integrated" means 10% black or less, while to blacks "integrated" means closer to a 50/50 ratio.) If your a manager and you have a postition open in your department, are you actively looking for qualified non-white candidates?

These are just examples (and perhaps poor ones at that), but my point is that far to often white people seem to want to reliquish any responsiblity for the racist society that we all live in (or just deny that racism exists altogether) because they aren't personally engaging in stereotyped, overt forms of racist activity. "Well, I don't think like that, and I don't act like that."

The social and economic choices we all make build the world in which we live. If the system in which you exist is tilted for or against a certain racial group or a particular social class, and your personal actions encourage or acquiese to that system, you are part of that tilt. No one person's actions can affect systemic change, but even small changes in personal behavior, performed on a large enough scale, can bring about societal change. And that can be for the good or for the bad. It's our choice. It's our responsiblity.
posted by edlark at 11:56 PM on January 21, 2002


American communities remain intensely segregated

a slice of edlark out of context quoted here to make the following observation--after a life spent mostly avoiding a career and working slacker temp jobs in various offices, I've come to see that without affirmative action, my social world would nearly all white nearly all the time, that I would have no social contact with black people at all, and, I think, this country would look a lot more like the former Yugoslavia in the 90s or the post-Reconstruction South. I don't want to get into the debate here, I'm just saying...

And I have to agree with what jfuller said, everyone everywhere has to have somebody to kick--spite, malice and jealousy are part of us all to the core. But there are costs.

I recall a passage in Daniel Goleman's Vital Lies Simple Truths: The Psychology of Self-Deception
"My belief is that people in groups by and large come to share a vast number of schemas, most of which are communicated without being spoken of directly. Foremost among these shared, yet unspoken, schemas are those that designate what is worthy of attention, how it is to be attended to - and what we choose to ignore or deny... people in groups also learn together how not to see - how aspects of shared experience can be veiled by self-deceits held in common."

--this is a well researched and well written must read book--

where he cites anthropolgist John Ogbu who did cross-cultural study on low caste groups in various countries, some racial, some not, who did the menial shit work in each of four countries. Their children did poorly in school as well, in Ogbu's view due to subtle reinforcements and expectations found at every step of school that reinforced poor performance--what astonished Goleman was that one of the schools was his own grade school and how it all made sense to him in retrospect as an adult but not at the time as a child.

Not enough attention is paid to the role of the subconscious, the dark side and yet if we are to survive, we must come to grips with our malice, personal and collective, to which we turn a blind eye.

Personally, I think that there should be academic disciplines devoted towards the problems of willful ignorance, self-deception and malice, in particular, as the true social problems of our times and current events and the 'conversations' I read here only strengthen this belief.

Which is all too evident here of late--recent events have brought out a great deal of righteous anger on all sides, and much darkness as well... It is so easy to see in someone you disagree with, so hard to see in yourself.

And, jfuller, I have to apologize for that crappy MetaTalk thread way back when--while I found your phrasing then ill chosen, I regret making an issue of it and wish I could erase it all. Counting moral coup, making yourself right by making somebody else wrong, and getting riled and then stupid out of a need for self-justification are not things I admire in anyone, myself included.
posted by y2karl at 11:56 PM on January 21, 2002


actually getting to know the non-white people that you work with/live by/etc

Don't you think people (of any race) should get to know their neighbors regardless of race? Meaning I don't think someone should try to be buddies with their neighbor solely predicated on the fact that "I don't have any white friends, perhaps John can be my white friend". Then when you go to a dinner party you say "I have a white friend, those folks are sure nice". :)

American communities remain intensely segregated

And maybe sometimes if you let things organically grow this way, we're better off than having "planned, integrated" communities. I'm reminded of a case in Delray Beach, FL where the schools were integrated and bussing was implemented so that black and white kids went to school together. A few years ago, the people in the black community petitioned to put an end to it with the result being a majority black school with the kids doing better. Meaning sometimes its better to have a racial imbalance at the expensive of "cumbaya" when people may just be happier that way - it doesn't necessarily make them racially intolerant.

When I was younger I was a very staunch advocate of affirmative action, but as I've gotten older I see it as a quick fix that can cause more damage than good. Far better to improve the education problem at the beginning of the cycle than lowering the bar and instituting quotas at the top the cycle. I would prefer for a black man or woman to have a college admission or job based solely on their performance versus everyone assuming the bar had been lowered.

Yeah, I'm a bit of a contrarian with this whole "race" thing.
posted by owillis at 12:44 AM on January 22, 2002


In the end most of being equal will rely on believing and acting like you are equal.

What a crock of happy horseshit!


Too bad that "crock of happy horseshit" is 100% true edlark. It's also too bad that no matter how much time is spent debating and legislating this matter the solution is only going to occur through slow change over a long period of time. It will only change through the efforts of those who wish to be equal behaving and believing they are equal. They will in turn be supported by those who believe them to be equal. Over time their combined efforts will slowly convince those "unbelievers" to change. Yeah, it sounds hollow and hokey but it's the only way it's going to happen - legislation merely changes the dynamics of the oppression, it does NOTHING to end it. If you believe you have a "solution" to racism that will work in anything under 100 years, I have a bridge I'd like to sell you. I'm not saying I like the idea but reality isn't always pleasant.

For those white males out there preaching responsiblity and the gospel of personal choice: Start listening to your own sermons! How about taking a look at how your own personal choices effect the way the world is ordered? How about taking responsiblity for that?

Nice statement edlark. Now switch the word "white" and "black" and the statement reads just as true. Speaking in such generic terms tends to do that.
posted by RevGreg at 1:54 AM on January 22, 2002


Silly off-topic question, so feel free to ignore, but I've always wondered what greeting is appropriate for MLK Day.

Saying "happy MLK Day" seems inappropriate, but "have a thoughtful/melancholy/ introspective MLK Day" or some such seems just plain dumb. Easy answer, obviously, is "just don't say anything," but for most federal holidays there's something to say.
posted by Sinner at 7:23 AM on January 22, 2002


Talking about power is like talking about statistics.

It is situational-dependant. Also, what level of 'hurt' are we talking about? On an individual level, anyone has the ability to hurt anyone else, physically, socially and economically.

I guess I'm not sure what Pitt was trying to accomplish. Maybe I'll read it again. But it didn't sound like anything new, or anything that came from an unbiased viewpoint.
posted by rich at 7:47 AM on January 22, 2002


" 'racist' will do, thank you. 'beer chugging bigoted redneck' is no different than 'fried chicken eating tar baby.'"

But, since the author of the article has defacto discounted physical violence as a racist act, then we can't use the word racist. Which is what I find absurd in the whole article.

As for the redneck comment - agreed, and out of line; in fact, I have no iron-clad guarantee that I couldn't walk into any bar in West Philly and have a grand time. The whole thing was shot though with poor stereotyping. However, to try to put a point sussinctly, I used the bluntest possible object: The 4-word description of our hypothetical villian was easier to read and understand than a 3 paragraph demographic depiction of a similarly hypothetical racist (he! Said it! He said The Word!) villian. No true intent was meant towards southerners, nor towards the fine folks trying to live out straightfoward lives in West Philadelphia.
posted by Perigee at 9:19 AM on January 22, 2002


Stavros--

When it was the racism that was a part of their own culture and institutions, there wasn’t much conversation, except perhaps some denials and assertions that “you don’t understand our history!” One young woman looked at me sadly and asked, “Why do you hurt our feelings?” I explained to her that I didn’t intend to hurt anyone’s feelings, that my intention was to make them aware of another point of view and to make them think. Another student asks harshly, “Why do you make us think?”

You mean, like this?


posted by y2karl at 10:05 AM on January 22, 2002


actually getting to know the non-white people that you work with/live by/etc

Don't you think people (of any race) should get to know their neighbors regardless of race? Meaning I don't think someone should try to be buddies with their neighbor solely predicated on the fact that "I don't have any white friends, perhaps John can be my white friend". Then when you go to a dinner party you say "I have a white friend, those folks are sure nice". :)


Sure, but what if the reason that you haven't gotten to know John is because of the whole white thing? You don't have to force anything that isn't welcomed in return - I don't recall saying that anyone needed to be "buddies" - but stepping out of your comfort zone to simply open a door doesn't sound like a bad thing at all.

legislation merely changes the dynamics of the oppression, it does NOTHING to end it

RevGreg, please point out where I advocated legislation to address racial matters? All the suggestions I made above were about taking personal action.

For the record: I think that affirmative action based upon race has reached the end of its useful period in the U.S., but would like to see some sort of AA set up that focuses on economic class. I would not support housing distribution quotas, but would want to make sure that there are no artificial barriers (red-lining, racially biased "housing convenants," racial "herding" by real estate agents, etc.) which would prevent housing distributions from developing in the "organic" way that owillis describes. Busing, as it was conceived, was probably always a big mistake - it put the sacrifice completely upon the minority kids, no wonder their parents hated it - since it did nothing to address the underlying causes of educational disparities, i.e., school funding driven by property tax levies.

Don't assume you know where I stand on a position before you know.

I would agree with you, RevGreg, that real, fundamental change will only occurr over time. My generation is doing better on race relations that my father's, his did better than my grandfather's, and (hopefully) our children's generation will do better than all those before it. But this doesn't mean that we should sit back complacently and say, "Well, it will all work itself out eventually." I would maintain that each generation holds the responsiblity for setting things up in such a way that the generation coming after will be able to make the most progress possible. We do our part, they do theirs, their children do theirs, etc.

As to my comment on personal responsiblity, of course it works both ways. I believe I've been very clear about that. The people I have problem with are those hypocritical white males who want to cast themselves into the very victim role that they accuse others of holding. By claiming "oppression" for their "whiteness" they want to project all the reasons for whatever troubles they may be having outward, to lay blame somewhere other than their own actions, which is exactly what they supposedly are against.

The fact remains that, all other factors being equal, a white guy still holds a position of relative privilege within American society compared to his black counterpart. I don't personally think this is a good thing. If we agree on that, then we (black, white, whatever) can work together figure out how that might, eventually, be changed.
posted by edlark at 11:01 AM on January 22, 2002


You mean, like this?

Very much like that, Karl. Thanks for the link.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:13 PM on January 22, 2002


I would prefer for a black man or woman to have a college admission or job based solely on their performance versus everyone assuming the bar had been lowered.

As would I. Now, that said, it's a perverse thing to note: Everyone will assume what they want about individual blacks' college admissions or jobs, and (unless you're, say, Michael Jordan or Oliver Willis -- yes, savor it, being in the same sentence as his Airness, bro!) everyone may just go ahead and assume the bar has been lowered, an exemption made.

Another story I got a lot out of with regard to this issue was the New York Times Magazine profile on Glenn Loury. I'd only heard his name once in a while, but hadn't known about his path to college, his take on "social capital" theory or, his talent and drive aside, his experience with his colleagues' expectations of him.
... In 1982, at the age of 33, Loury became the first tenured black professor in the Harvard economics department. Despite his sterling qualifications, he immediately began worrying about what his colleagues -- his white colleagues -- really thought of him. Did they know how smart he was? Or did they think he was a token? Before long, he was on the verge of what he calls a ''psychological breakdown.'' As he remembers: ''I did not carry that burden well. One wants to feel that one is standing there on one's own. One does not want to feel one is being patronized.'' In 1984, he moved over to the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which had been assiduously courting him almost from the moment he arrived.

''Glenn had no doubt that he was smart,'' Patterson says. ''But I think he was always doubtful as to whether the economics department had hired him because of his Afro-American connections. It was that anxiety about what his colleagues really thought that led him to doubt the value of affirmative action.'' His criticisms of affirmative action reflected these insecurities, emphasizing the stigma it imposed on people like himself. ...
Reading this reminded me of a couple of my own bouts with doubt and quality-assurance. I'm with edlark on affirmative action's future: it should take into greater account candidates' social capital and economic inequity.
posted by allaboutgeorge at 12:39 PM on January 23, 2002


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