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Acting White
December 2, 2002 5:33 PM   Subscribe

Acting White *: In 1986, Professors Signithia Fordham and John Ogbu introduced this phrase into our cultural lexicon, presenting evidence that black academic underperformance might be partially or largely attributable to a devaluation of academic success by black students themselves. Needless to say, this theory was controversial ... [*via Arts & Letters Daily] [more inside]
posted by grrarrgh00 (31 comments total)

 
... but it's hard to explain away the flood of mostly anecdotal evidence that backs up Fordham and Ogbu's findings, not to mention the fascinating corroborative study released just this year that adjusts Fordham and Ogbu's thesis; and Ogbu is back with a new book to defend his theory against its detractors. The principle offense this theory threatens to perpetrate is suggesting that black people are somehow anti-intellectual, and that the academic failures of the black community are all its own fault.

Highly relevant in this discussion of cultural self-definition is the phenomenon of West Indian and African assimilation and anti-assimilation in American society. Generally, the less West Indian immigrants assimilate, the more success they encounter in America. The extent to which they retain their perception of themselves as West Indian and not “blacks” is the extent to which they succeed above their African-American counterparts. Here, too, there are questions, ambiguities, and controversies. How much of their success is influenced by their self-perception and how much is due to an entrenched spiral of racism towards black Americans.

We must also consider whether the accusation of cultural treachery that “acting white” amounts to is entirely invalid. Isn't there something valuable about the rich African-American vernacular, developed in counterpoint to “white” English, that should not be discarded? Should we be working to broaden society's acceptance of black forms of dress and expression, rather than stifling these alternative models?

(Sorry about the FUBAR-ed link on the front page; the word processor I composed this post in automatically uses the slanted quotes, which confuses the browser)

Some related discussions: + +
posted by grrarrgh00 at 5:41 PM on December 2, 2002


I guess that would make asians (yellows?) pro-intellectual, with whites being the standard, and blacks as anti-intellectual. Actually, only certain asians, as I've observed differences between those who decide whether to "act white," or "act black," or "act stereotypically smart asian." I'm not sure if that's the appropriate term given it has to do a lot with the group of peers they associate with. In areas without an asian culture (anywhere other than the west coast), I'm guessing a good amount of asians fall into the pressure of their culture to be disciplined and excel in scholarship. Not all the time of course, I offer myself as an example.

Over the last few decades with more american-born asians propagating, this has begun to change. The pressure to succeed academically is decreasing as the culture is assimilated more into the American lifestyle. This assimilation is moving very quickly and easily, since only a small portion of asian-americans have such fierceful pride in their heritage. This will also occur with blacks I assume, but with much more difficulty since it seems they are intent on preserving and developing their culture and lifestyles as much as possible (good and bad parts: Good - The Black History Month education I had to endure, Bad - Bling Bling).
posted by Stan Chin at 6:26 PM on December 2, 2002


John Ogbu--I know that name and mentioned it here in a somewhat related thread.

And from another context, this quotation, more on topic:

Let me expand upon this observation, beginning with a quote from Reginald McKnight’s essay "Confessions of a Wannabe Negro," published in Gerald Early’s edited collection Lure and Loathing:

When whites ‘do blackface,’ people don’t so much as blink...I daresay they are looked upon by many with a kind of admiration...As for blacks who are influenced by expression that is not, as some would say ‘preponderantly black,’ the response is rather more ambiguous. Charley Pride, for example, or Richie Havens, or Jimi Hendrix, or Tracy Chapman may be praised for their talents, their virtuosity in the ‘pure’ sense, but I know of no one who lauds such artists for their mastery of art forms that could be referred to as decidedly ‘white’. . .Is blackness-as-performance somehow regarded as a free-floating entity, belonging to no one in particular, while whiteness-as-performance can, and should, only belong to whites? After all, it appears to me that black-influenced whites are very often thought to be deepened and ennobled by such processes, while white-influenced blacks are regarded as weakened, diluted, less black (McKnight 1993:104

posted by y2karl at 6:47 PM on December 2, 2002


The notion of a black acting "white" has a history going back some time, and it appears in Jean Toomer's novel, Cane, written back in the 30s or 40s. Blacks in that novel were scornful of blacks acting like middle class whites.
posted by Postroad at 7:00 PM on December 2, 2002


Here's the Google News affiliate version if you don't have a NYT registration yet.
posted by Edge100x at 7:37 PM on December 2, 2002


y2karl: Various staffers at Living Blues have been claiming for years that whites who play blues are by and large schmucks. Not everyone thinks such whites are ennobled, and often they're so on target. Otherwise, how about the constant assault on Elvis, which is just as frequently heard as the contant praise of him and, now, his apparently being made a Thanksgiving tradition? I counted three specials over the holiday. What to make of this?

Meantime, Jimi Hendrix was never praised for his talents? Hello? Yes, by a majority of all observers, sure, with the notable exception of the way-too-uptight Nelson George. It's not like there wasn't any blues influence on Jimi's music, regardless, which even the pathetic George admits.

Sure, Darius Rucker is not ennobled for sounding "white," and is the butt of constant jokes for it. But I'd say that without the black influence, and the mixing of black and white and blah blah, American music wouldn't be much worth yapping about. Consequently, Darius Rucker's almost flat-out ignoring that heritage is pretty weird, but one could've said the same of plenty of white guys associated with the collegiate circuit of the late '80s and '90s.

Now, what about Wynton Marsalis and his jones for classical? Oh, we'll figure all this out one day.
posted by raysmj at 8:02 PM on December 2, 2002


OK, Jimi could be praised for a "pure" sense. Was Jimi's music so decidedly white, or was it something that was half black and half white, or formerly black which had been coopted by whites. What? I have a recordin of a song called Driving South at home which makes me wonder. "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" is on there too. Was "Hey Joe" a white song, or a mongrel of a song? (I saw dozens of black people going through a Jimi Hendrix Museum traveling exhibition at this year's King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Ark., by the way. They were coming in faster than whites, actually.)
posted by raysmj at 8:11 PM on December 2, 2002


Think about it... what is this claiming, "In black communities, the rap stars and football players are held up as role models to imitate, while in white communities the academic achievers are the main social role models who get all the dates" ?

I don't think it is hard to argue that anti-intellectualism is race-neutral in America. Even whites get criticized for "acting white." :)

What the NYT article touches on, and I think this argument is much more compelling, is that middle class black parents are less apt to "work the system" in the local school district to get their kids into the best classes and best programs as well as monitor their child's academic progress as closely as white (or asian) parents. This may be to unfamiliarity, social networks, or (as implied in the NYT article) that "middle class" black parents reach that income level by juggling multiple jobs.

Asian communities would provide a great counter-example, as I remember from NJ, various ethnic communities (Asian and otherwise) exchanged data on the best private schools, best public school districts, etc. It could be that black families don't have these same social networks.

Oh, and the criticism against blacks for "speaking white"-- can any southern MeFi'ers comment about how they would react if their social-climbing friends in the south started "speaking Northern"?
posted by deanc at 8:26 PM on December 2, 2002


I think that discrimination on the basis of race in academia is despicable. But, why is the mere fact that there is an "academic gap between white and black students" in itself a problem? It's not like it's written in stone somewhere that every race and culture must, on average, perform equally well in the world of academia.
posted by epimorph at 8:36 PM on December 2, 2002


I'd say that without the black influence, and the mixing of black and white and blah blah, American music wouldn't be much worth yapping about.

calm down, raysmj, everyone knows that southern white guys, being immersed in the culture, can sing the blues. Dan Penn, Booby Charles, Elvis, etc. And as for Jimi, well, everyone can recognize his category transcendence. He was a law unto himself. Just ask Cynthia Plastercaster. I was linking, not endorsing the enclosed musical criticism, which was a sidebar to the topic here.

I counted three specials over the holiday. What to make of this?

God forbid it should include red nosed reindeer clay animations with voiceovers by Burl Ives. It's A Holly Jolly Christmas...
posted by y2karl at 8:56 PM on December 2, 2002


grrarrgh00 (wow, that's possibly even harder to pronounce than my user-name),

Those linked MeFi boards got ugly. At various times I was painted as a genetic determinist and a bigot with ulterior motives and dark prejudice. These characterizations were expected, but hardly fair. My views are from a school known as Cultural Realism. The evidence of history shows that identity groups (known as nations) largely control their failure and success with insular values of behavior. The bottom line is that black people are not being prevented from success in America (at least to the completely relative degree that they've failed to attain it) by prejudice or exclusion.
First, I'll make the point that blacks haven't really failed to attain success. Actually, in net worth African-Americans are the eighth richest nation on the planet. To most of the world they are some of the wealthiest people who have ever lived. So, when we say fail, what we really mean is in relative social and economic performance to American whites. I guess the next question is 'Why'? Is society holding black America back? If it is, I have yet to see a coherent explanation how. Even if we can point to particulars, can it really be fairly argued that it does in full, or even mostly?
It is often said, in issues such as intellectual performance or crime that 'It isn't race it's poverty'. The problem with this is that poverty doesn't cause a behavior. If it did then everybody who was poor would steal, cus, and get straight Ds. Of course from experience we know this isn't true. Some poor kids steal, some give what little they have to the even more destitute. Some poor blokes get Fs, and some get A pluses. Culture is more important than poverty. A people's values determine their trends of response to poverty. To illustrate, people in the lowest SES group in Japan outperform academically and underperform criminally blacks in the highest SES group in America (as a side note, one year the city of New York had more murders than the entire nation of Japan). Clearly more is at work than social circumstance. From the wise article above:

Even black students from families with $70,000 or more in annual income score lower, on average, on the SAT, than whites from families earning less than $20,000 annually; and blacks from families with $50,000 or more in annual income score lower than whites from families with $6,000 or less in annual earnings.

It has long been recognized that blacks in the highest socioeconomic bracket academically underperform whites in the lowest one (on average).

Similar is the situation with crime. AAs commit nearly %50 of murders, and %50 of rapes in the US, but are only %13 of the population. With %25 of AAs in poverty, the SES theory cannot explain why so many more blacks commit more crimes than whites at all economic levels.

Before people get nervous, a racial genetic theory won't work, because AAs have already been at the level of criminal behavior of contemporary white America. The same pattern of achievement was there (black--->white) but consider the following: the black crime and illegitimacy rate of the sixties (when the societal and economic deck was much more stacked against AA success) was the same as the white rate of today. Also, thanks to the Flynn Effect, the mysterious rising of world IQ levels, blacks of today, are also at the same average rate of mental performance as whites of the sixties (note: 40 years is not long enough for a sufficient genetic explanation for this rise). In other words there is no genetic or economic block; blacks can perform identically to whites. The genetic and the SES theories both fail to account for or even justify this gulf of behavioral difference.

There are two ways, in my opinion, that blacks can make comparable rates of intellectual and behavioral accomplishments as whites in America. A)Assimilate: If the outcomes of white society are desirable to blacks (i.e. higher paying jobs/safer neighborhoods) the best way to meet those goals is to imitate the means of attaining them. I'll admit, It's not always obvious what cultural factors lead to what outcomes. It's not always as simple as study harder=better jobs. Sometimes intangible and small patterns of action can lead to unintended macro-results. For instance (via Phelps thread), what unique combination of values caused America to have so many school shootings? Was it the celebration of violence in our entertainment? If so, then how does Japan have such lesser rates of violence and no shootings, but arguably, more violent entertainment? Canada, a similar question. So the more assimilation the better in my opinion, because the slightest and most unexpected cultural differences could also somehow be leading to undesirable results.
Assimilation is not the only way ' blacks can make comparable rates of intellectual and behavioral accomplishments as whites in America.', but it is the most plausible one. The second way, unlike the first, involves retaining a black culture and group identity. The second way blacks can succeed like or more than whites B) is to develop a more effective cultural strategy for doing so. Many minorities have already done that. Jews, as far as they are a separate ethnic identity from 'Anglo' cultured whites, don't need safer neighborhoods or more occupational opportunity than the majority population, because their cultural values already result in these things. A similar case can be made for NorthEast Asian and German immigrants and their respective descendants. I believe this to be the least likely option for AAs. The reason why, is because effective cultures just don't materialize out of thin air, they are developed over millennia by a complex mutual interaction between environment and a people- The historical school of hard knocks, circumstance, serendipity, and trial-and-error. How AAs would go about creating their own, more or equally effective way of life in the foreseeable future is dubious. It just doesn't seem possible. What does seem possible is for blacks to want to achieve like Anglos, or Jews, or Asians do, so they start increasingly imitating them in every way it takes until the tangible results are finally comparable. It also seems possible for stuck-up self-righteous whites to stop acting like this assimilation, which has already occurred, and already is responsible for much of black success, is a terrible, insulting, immoral, or *yawn* racist thing to happen or call for.
Multiculturalism can only work if the cultures who share a country (like dorm roommates) don't become a burden on one another, and that involves a balance of behavior. If assimilation is the only way to achieve this balance, then there should be an uncompromising societal demand for it. Once that balance is achieved, the cultures can differ in enjoyable and mutually enriching ways.
posted by dgaicun at 9:06 PM on December 2, 2002 [1 favorite]


Y2karl: Oh, I knew you weren't! Just felt an urge to expand upon that bit. It was an interesting sidebar, just slightly maddening. American music certainly is, however, a funhouse mirror version of much of the rest of American culture - except with much of the aforementioned collegiate music, although not with all of it. Whenever I hear the words "intellectual" and rock music used together, I pretty much expect the music to be white-sounding in the extreme, except with maybe David Byrne (whose voice is very white-sounding, but who loves poly-rhythms). In an ideal world the, um, ideal would be to have soul and be an intellectual simultaneously, in a way that meshes well. But of course that's subjective, and you can't very well discuss such matters with the regression analysis so beloved by social scientists.

Maybe the problem is with the standards of what a well-rounded or fully worthy person really is? Can music be used in any way to point out how curious our standards are here? Am I making any (censored) sense? In the meantime, the educational disparity is a huge problem for purely economic reasons, which is reason enough alone to be worried about the problem.
posted by raysmj at 9:24 PM on December 2, 2002


dgaicun -- I think you're too quick to dismiss prejudice from the picture. I'm too lazy to dig up any links, but you only need to scan a few studies to see that while overt, conscious racism has pretty much disappeared, there's still plenty of unconscious racism.
posted by Tlogmer at 9:27 PM on December 2, 2002


Tlogmer, I don't dismiss prejudice, I mainly reject its power or its relevance in its current form to significantly account for black underachievement. If the ADL is even somewhat credible there is a certain amount of anti-Semitism in America today, but what's interesting to me is the sort of cultural capital Jews have to succeed even despite it. Love and hunger for knowledge appears to be mans easiest road to success. AAs appear to have the least love of learning of any self-identified people in America, because its perceived as shameful to identify with the culture of white America. Unfortunately, I think many guilty whites miss the point and work tirelessly to encourage these notions, because the alternative appears chauvinistic.
posted by dgaicun at 9:57 PM on December 2, 2002


AAs appear to have the least love of learning of any self-identified people in America, because its perceived as shameful to identify with the culture of white America.

*choke*

I'm... sleepy. And gearing up for final exams. And frantically working on my master's thesis.

Anybody else want to take up the opposition for a while? Of course, links supporting either side would be appreciated.

(Just for the record: in the last thread my aim was not to paint you as a prejudiced bigot, dgaicun-- just as someone who, from a logical standpoint, was very, very wrong.)
posted by tyro urge at 10:24 PM on December 2, 2002


Tlogmer, I don't dismiss prejudice, I mainly reject its power or its relevance in its current form to significantly account for black underachievement.

You are blaming the victim. Perhaps you could tell us all about the historical genesis of that little idea, who some of its more vocal proponents have been, and a little about their agenda for social engineering in America.

And do let us know what you make of "Those kinds of attitudes reflect a long history of adapting to oppression and stymied opportunities, said Professor Ogbu...."

Oh, and while you're at it, give us some historical data on which other minorities in America were enslaved a few short generations ago, and which were subjected to the same levels of police German Shepherds gnawing at their legs, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, wholesale integration -- and which suffer most under rampant discrimination in education, health care, employment, and housing extending to this very day.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 11:07 PM on December 2, 2002


Just for the record: in the last thread my aim was not to paint you as a prejudiced bigot, dgaicun

I know Tyro. Boltman was the one who thought I was a bigot. You were the one who painted me as a genetic determinist. From a logical standpoint you never had a view that was even coherent during our whole unfortunate conversation. First you said the achievement gap was caused by SES differences and not AA families and (oddly) linked to an article that said the cause was white barriers not AA families. Next you did a complete 180o, and rejected the SES theory, and said the cause was AA families. Next you dropped the issue, and the burden of coming up with consistent ideas, for the funner position of arbitrarily disagreeing with whatever I said. This involved curiously rejecting the idea of a shared sense of black identity and values in America. Next you excoriated me (after a strange series of disjointed quotes) for explaining to you that for there to be a AA culture, not every AA has to share every value, telling me that this was a "change in my position", that you "weren't going to let me get away with". Next, after condemning you for attacking erroneous straw men, I challenged you on your genuine change in position from SES to familial causation. To which you said you were only theorizing on the local conditions at Muir High School; which once again saved you from actually having to form an opinion on the condition of black America, and the causes of that condition. You rejected or ignored every statistic that Ynoxas and I linked to regarding AAs, and even demanded that I "verify" data that came from your very own link. Your one concrete opinion during that entire thread was that there is no black culture (i.e. a shared sense of identity and values) in America. An idea so ill-concieved that it remains outside the borders of rational debate. Hopefully, you'll let some other people argue in your proxy, Tyro, coz' I can't really take much more of your half-formed, yet strangely dogmatic opinions.
posted by dgaicun at 11:14 PM on December 2, 2002


You are blaming the victim.

Oh, and while you're at it, give us some historical data on which other minorities in America were enslaved a few short generations ago, and which were subjected to the same levels of police German Shepherds gnawing at their legs, Jim Crow laws, lynchings, wholesale integration -- and which suffer most under rampant discrimination in education, health care, employment, and housing extending to this very day.

f&m, is this really necessary? There is a difference between explanation and justification, you understand? For instance most child molesters were molested as children themselves, but that doesn't make them exempt from critique, because that would be blaming the victim. Similarly looking for how our behavior might have contributed to the 9/11 incident doesn't mean that we are 'blaming America' for the attack does it? Surely you can express a more nuanced objection. Yes, blacks did put up with a lot of shit, to say the least, and guess what? AAs committed far less crime, and had way more stable families in times of far greater discrimination.
As for education and employment, I see Affirmative Action, but no anti-black discrimination. We live in a meritocracy, and those with the requisite skills tend to be absorbed where they're needed. Its a matter of complete economic imperative. Those AAs that score as high as whites on their SATS go on to earn an equal amount of money. As for issues such as housing, the taxi driver, and the woman in the elevator, it is unfortunate, but statistically inevitable. Like police enforcement and car insurance, demographics result in practical real-world concerns.
Back to the topic, how do you feel about black anti-intellectualism f&m? Does it even exist? If so, how influential do you think it is to the achievement gap?
posted by dgaicun at 11:49 PM on December 2, 2002 [1 favorite]


dgaicun, you're avoiding the central issue, which is the effects of racism and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow on the education gap. Nobody's going to take your "cultural realism" seriously unless you can make a credible showing that blacks rather than whites (living and dead) are responsible for the lack of progress in closing the education gap.

You focus on the flaws of relying on SES to explain black/white disparities, yet no serious person argues that the education gap between whites and blacks is completely attributable to SES. Most reasonable people believe that it is the combination of SES, various types of racism (microaggression, institutional, and overt), and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, all combined together that have resulted in lower levels of black achievement.

As for your statistics about the increase in the gap over the last few decades, increasing disparities in wealth between whites and blacks can easily explain such a phenomenon. It is well known that the level of income and wealth disparity in a society correlate very strongly with social pathology. Income inequality has been increasing since the 1960s for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with race, and since black families were at the bottom in the 1960s, nothing needed to change culturally in order for them to become more poor relative to whites over the ensuing decades. Increased disparites inevitably result in increased social pathologies, including educational problems.

So, if you want to convince anyone, you'd better explain why racism and the legecy of oppression combined with SES are less plausible causes than some sort of independently diseased "black culture."

Finally, I can't let you get away with your highly misleading assertion about black crime rates. You claim that the fact that 50% of rapes and murders are commited by blacks while only 25% of blacks are living in poverty is supposed to totally shoot down the argument that socio-economic status is the primary determinant of violent crime. Yet, what you fail to mention is that only 7.7% of whites are poor! Add in the fact that a sizeable chunk of poor whites live in rural areas far less prone to violent crime than the city and the numbers start to look even more questionable. Throw in some societal racism and it strikes me that the case for black "culture" being to blame for the high rate of crime by blacks is pretty darn sketchy.

--on preview--
I love how your calm facade deteriorates into spite-filled invective as soon as people start challenging your opinions. Unfortunately, I doubt anyone reading this thread really cares about how incisive Tyco's reasoning was in a two-month old thread. Get a grip man! It's only a website.
posted by boltman at 12:05 AM on December 3, 2002


For more on this topic, y'all might want to google the names of John McWhorter (author of "Losing the race: Self-Sabotage in Black America") and Walter Williams. They've both written extensively on the subject, and very well so.
posted by dagny at 1:05 AM on December 3, 2002


Get a grip man! It's only a website.

Come on BM, I haven't turned this into usenet yet! I'll start from the beginning:

Nobody's going to take your "cultural realism" seriously unless you can make a credible showing that blacks rather than whites (living and dead) are responsible for the lack of progress in closing the education gap.

BM, my views are not that simple. I do understand the role history had in shaping black culture. I never said it was created in some mystical white-free vacuum. Slavery, Jim Crow (i.e. whites), etc. all made blacks somewhat distrustful of and repulsed by whites, and made them cling to eachother for support (hence 'my brotha' & 'my sista'). I never denied the role of a racist past in powerfully shaping the cultural perspective of AAs today, in fact it is central to the theory.
But, my question is what attitudes can be feasibly changed to effect the relative success of blacks right now?

You focus on the flaws of relying on SES to explain black/white disparities, yet no serious person argues that the education gap between whites and blacks is completely attributable to SES. Most reasonable people believe that it is the combination of SES, various types of racism (microaggression, institutional, and overt), and the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, all combined together that have resulted in lower levels of black achievement.

BM, you listed three things to describe the achievement gap, let's break it down:

Thing that needs to be explained- why do AAs earn less than whites, and cause more trouble at all economic levels.

reason 1)SES

reason 2)various types of racism

reason 3)the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow

On inspection. reason 1 isn't a reason at all, in fact, it's the very thing we are trying to explain! Thus we end up with this pleasing tautology: Why do AAs earn less than whites? Because they earn less than whites. So reason 1 is no good. Reason 2 is unpersuasive. I don't believe whites are in any way hateful or unfairly discriminatory against blacks today in any mainstream sense. So I don't see how whites could be less prejudiced. More importantly, I don't see how whites are responsible for holding blacks back, I have already said that blacks with identical achievement test scores go on to earn commensurate wages as whites with equal scores. Blacks who are as able as whites are actually paid the same as whites. Also, even permitting that whites need to improve their acceptance of and treatment towards blacks, or that lower income increases the likelihood of crime, these things are reacted to in a unique cultural way by blacks. Koreans in Japan are far poorer and treated in a far more degrading and discriminatory manner by the Japanese than American blacks are by whites, yet the Koreans have lower crime and higher academic achievement than even American whites! Clearly conditioned response to environment is more central to behavior than just some simple formula- Poverty causes crime. Again blacks in the pre-Civil Rights era had lower rates of crime and illegitimacy than they do today, despite the greatly increased amounts of discrimination. To recap, in the past 30 some years, white prejudice, hatred, and institutionally set barriers have been greatly reduced or eliminated, black economic success has moved increasingly upward as the black middle class swelled, and yet black crime and illegitimacy has increased drastically since that time. Doesn't this strongly point to other, more important, factors at work that are unrelated to racism or poverty? Reason 3 is too undefined to comment on substantially. What is this tangible 'legacy' of Jim Crow exactly? Is it 'various types of racism'? If it is why mention it again? Maybe it's the memory of a shameful past- a persisting feeling of inferiority, or a sense of futility to act or try? If it is, then I don't see how #3 is much different from a culture of anti-intellectualism. Obviously blacks who try do succeed, so working to change defeatist or nihilistic attitudes seems the best opportunity for a narrowing of the gap to me.

. . .I can't let you get away with your highly misleading assertion about black crime rates. You claim that the fact that 50% of rapes and murders are committed by blacks while only 25% of blacks are living in poverty is supposed to totally shoot down the argument that socioeconomic status is the primary determinant of violent crime. Yet, what you fail to mention is that only 7.7% of whites are poor!

I'm not sure where your going with this. Blacks, proportionately, commit crime at about seven times the rate of whites. Are blacks seven times as poor? Furthermore, and unaddressed, is that blacks are much more likely to cause crime than whites at all socioeconomic levels.

As for your statistics about the increase in the gap over the last few decades, increasing disparities in wealth between whites and blacks can easily explain such a phenomenon. It is well known that the level of income and wealth disparity in a society correlate very strongly with social pathology. Income inequality has been increasing since the 1960s for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with race, and since black families were at the bottom in the 1960s, nothing needed to change culturally in order for them to become more poor relative to whites over the ensuing decades. Increased disparities inevitably result in increased social pathologies, including educational problems.

So, now it isn't various types of racism, its for a variety of reasons having nothing to do with race? If this is so why didn't you list these powerful non-race reasons with your other three? Whats interesting is how much more this has supported my view than it has yours. If economic disparity is a greater predictor of social pathology than even Jim Crow discrimination, which theory of behavior seems to fit with this fact better: 1)discrimination holds blacks back 2)the relative ability of black culture to earn money is less than the Anglo one, resulting in predictably harmful economic disparity. Obviously discrimination has had less importance in dictating AA social pathology (if we are to accept your facts) than things that had nothing to do with race(your phrase). I agree. One of the reasons whites earn more money than blacks isn't because they are unscrupulous, but because European intellectual and economic values have been transmitted organically through the generations. Blacks don't have this organic tradition of values. At some point after slavery, blacks had to either develop an effective intellectual and economic culture of their own (which, as discussed, doesn't happen by magic but through years of historical happenstance), or to imitate the already effective European (American) cultural model surrounding them. Something I believe they haven't imitated thoroughly enough, b/c to do so is considered to be degrading (and many whites validate this viewpoint for them). I think what isn't being communicated effectively here, is that cultures that adopt functional economic and intellectual systems, almost can't be held back by discrimination. Nazi Germans, couldn't even stop minority Jews from economically outperforming ethnic majority Germans, with the terribly prohibitive set of Nuremburg Laws. Malaysians had similar trouble, when no amount of discrimination or byzantine law structures could stop the minority Chinese from absolutely dominating that country's economy. With Turkey it was the Armenians, etc.
You have already shown that discrimination is less predictive of pathology than economic success. Meanwhile, the terrible discrimination against, and persistent success of middle-man minorities throughout history has shown that strong intellectual and economic success is related more to the economic and intellectual values of a people than to how they are treated by a host majority population.
posted by dgaicun at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2002


Again blacks in the pre-Civil Rights era had lower rates of crime and illegitimacy than they do today, despite the greatly increased amounts of discrimination.

You're assuming that accurate records were kept on such indicators for blacks, particularly those in the South. That's a giant assumption.
posted by raysmj at 11:06 AM on December 3, 2002


Dgaicun et al., first let me take a moment to appreciate y'all's contribution to this thread, because it's been quite a lively, eloquent and engaging discussion, even if there has been much rehashing.

And dgaicun, I think that you and I may agree rather well on your ultimate argument, even if I disagree with much of your supporting material. I'll state my agreement (and my interpretation of your argument) first, then I'll go back and discuss where I fall out with you. Dgaicun, if I've figured you correctly (which, as you've spoken quite clearly, I hope I have), you're arguing this:

In order for black Americans to begin achieving on a level equitable with other demographic populations, they must either 1) assimilate, or 2) adjust their cultural values to be more in line with the "successful," mainstream values of the society.

Aside from the fact that I think these two options amount to pretty much the same thing, I think the evidence I collected and linked above is all in favor of this argument. If, as Ogbu and his colleagues argue, "acting white" means exhibiting behavioral signals that have been proven to yield success in our society, and if "acting white" is then also considered cultural treachery by black folks, then to the extent that they repudiate this behavior, black folks cannot largely achieve mainstream success. In other words, in order to succeed, black people will have to abandon the AA dialect in favor of "proper" English, de-braid their hair and adopt a more typically conservative bearing, possibly even cultivate different tastes, etc.

I think this is somewhat sad, but true. The alternative is altering mainstream culture so that black dialect and braided hair become social and professional assets (or even merely socially and professionally acceptable), and I just don't think this is ever going to happen. That impossibility is where I begin to take issue with dgaicun, because I think this is partly where the racism currently resides. Mainstream culture has consistently, repeatedly defined acceptable, professional, "conservative" standards in direct opposition to the mainstream styles of the black community. Visit this link and scroll down to the bottom for how this school defines acceptable hairstyles. For men: "A neat, well-groomed style and cut is essential. No Dread Locks. Braids, waves, twists or curl styles are not appropriate." In other words, no traditionally black styles of hair are acceptable. Despite the fact that black men in braids or cornrows often appear very neat and well-groomed, these styles have inexplicably been deemed unprofessional. In order to conform to professional standards, blacks have had to "whiten" themselves. Although hair is the easiest model with which to demonstrate this phenomenon, I'm sure we can find the same pattern applied to dress, musical tastes, language, etc.

That's part of where I think the racism exists that you have so much trouble finding, dgaicun. Possibly even more damaging to the black population is the fact that as energetically as the majority population has worked to define professionalism and conservativism (a standard that has arguably become synonymous with "whiteness"), they have worked harder to define "blackness". Throughout the history of blacks in America, we find innumerable examples of offensive depictions of blacks throughout the popular culture. Today, one need only turn to the local news to see that blacks are still narrowly and disproportionately depicted as either criminals or entertainers. What Ogbu says about black youth being fed images of themselves as entertainers is perfectly true, and it's worked smashingly in getting them to define themselves this way.

Furthermore, I think these definitions of blackness have continued systematically from the time of slavery until now, and I think because of the wholly unique history of blacks in America, dgaicun, your comparisons to other geographical regions and historical periods are pretty artificial. So far from owning capital in the 17th and 18th centuries, blacks were capital. No other population in America, or in the world, can claim the dubious distinction of having been considered capital in a capitalist society as recently as 150 years ago. Although formal legislative barriers to their obtaining capital were stripped, finally, in 1865, the formal social barriers (segregation) keeping blacks from the chief locus of the capital (the hands of the majority demographic population) were not removed until about 40 years ago, in 1965. So what you and I are both prescribing is that blacks overturn cultural norms established over a period of over 200 years, norms that continue to be reinforced even in mainstream society, and quietly assimilate into the culture of those who created the massive roadblocks to their advancement in the first place. Yes, it may be the only way to achieve black "success" in American society, but I think it's a bit ridiculous to downplay the effects of slavery and racism in bringing about this situation.

Finally, where I part from you most strongly, dgaicun, is in your description of black culture as somehow fundamentally unsound in bringing about success. Functionally unsound in America, perhaps, but fundamentally so, hardly. I submit that the only reason "European intellectual and economic value systems" have triumphed over black value systems in this society is because the society is predicated on these white European systems, into which blacks were artificially injected after centuries of thriving within their own environs.

What it all comes down to is that you and I are both telling black Americans that in order to succeed, they're going to have to "act white." And I think all your detractors here foremostly want you to see the racism and tragedy in that.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 11:15 AM on December 3, 2002


A couple small points:

dgaicun, I think you're missing the core of the SES argument: SES is, to a certain extent, self-sustaining. AAs have a lower SES in part because they have had a lower SES in the past (stemming, clearly, from racism rather than inferior culture); not circular reaonsing at all, just self-reflective.

I don't believe whites are in any way hateful or unfairly discriminatory against blacks today in any mainstream sense. So I don't see how whites could be less prejudiced.

Modern prejudice is not conscious; it consists of hundreds of independent, involentary, split-second judgements of character based on hairstyle, clothing, and accent of speech (and, yes, skin pigmentation). I'm reminded of the study in which judges of applications to an NYC orchestra were presented with videos of three different applicants; a caucasian man, a caucasian woman, and an AA man. The judges uniformely declared the musical ability of the caucasian man to be highest, the caucasian woman to be second highest, and the AA man to be lowest -- but the music on the three tapes had been identical; it was a single soundtrack, synched with three different videos.

It is precisely this attitude -- that prejudice must be conscious and there is therefore no need for self-reflection on the topic -- that allows discrimination to continue at high levels.

black crime and illegitimacy has increased drastically since that time. Doesn't this strongly point to other, more important, factors at work that are unrelated to racism or poverty?

Crime and illegitimacy have increased among all races, so yes, there are other factors; black culture is probably not one of them.
posted by Tlogmer at 11:49 AM on December 3, 2002


okay, quick response. Citing SES does not create a tautology. The legecy of oppression and discrimination put blacks at an economic disadvanatge to being with, so they actually needed to progress faster than whites in order to close the gap. No one, not even you, disputes that they have progressed--they just haven't come close to overtaking whites. The increasing wealth disparities between rich and poor that began skyrocketing in the 70s and 80s (largely due to changes in the tax structure and the national economy) has served to slow down black progress and has contributed greatly to many of the pathologies we now see in many lower-income black communities (btw, wealth disparity is more important than absolute wealth because disparity is what makes people feel poor and, thus, marginalized). Since blacks were at the bottom to begin with, there is no need to attribute their failure to catch up to some inadequacy of "black culture." Also, the growing wealth disparity does not discount the continuing relevence of institutionalized racism and marginalization of blacks in exacerbating inequality, it is simply a very powerful factor that must be taken into account.

As for the rest of your assertions, rather than respond point-by-point (which I unfortunately do not have time to do), I will simply make one broader instrumental point, which is related to my problem with your arguments in the old thread. Let's assume for a minute you are right--"black culture", thanks to centuries of oppression and marginalization by whites, is flawed in that it does not adequately value many of the traits necessary to succeed in this great country of ours. What good does this conclusion do us as a society? Personally, I think your view, regardless of its merits, is quite dangerous and destructive, particularly in the way you tend to express it as a character flaw of individual black people rather than a neutral statistical generalization. Encouraging white people to view black people and their culture as flawed would serve to undo years of progress toward reducing pervasive racism among whites. In fact, similar views to yours were the very justifications used by whites to rob blacks of nearly all of their legal rights, place them in seperate schools, and generally treat them like crap in the Jim Crow era. Given this history, how exactly do you think black people are going to react to a bunch of right-wing whites telling them that they need to "assimilate" into white culture because the culture that they've grown up with is flawed.

You speak of America as being a "meritocracy", yet you are essentially encouraging white people to stereotype blacks as part of one monolithic and dangerously flawed culture. Your view, were it to become widespread, would almost certainly invite whites to use race as a proxy for determining competence, intelligence, criminality, etc. even more than they already do.

So, to sum up, your view will do nothing to help underprivileged blacks yet will encourage whites to discriminate. I ask again, How is that helpful? I would argue that in America one of our core ideals is to judge people as individuals rather than based on their race. We ought to foster that belief and the corresponding behavoir in people rather than discourage it. If you really want to promote racial equality, try preaching about that rather than making overbroad and deparaging generalizations about a race of which you are not a member
posted by boltman at 11:54 AM on December 3, 2002


Thank you grrarrgh00 for the interesting links, and the sensitively stated disagreements (where they have occurred). You have nicely articulated where our positions converge and diverge. Personally, I see us agreeing on more than you have stated.

that impossibility is where I begin to take issue with dgaicun, because I think this is partly where the racism currently resides. Mainstream culture has consistently, repeatedly defined acceptable, professional, "conservative" standards in direct opposition to the mainstream styles of the black community.

There is a larger issue here, of which race is enveloped in the melee, and that is 'What exactly defines formal values?' There is an issue of acceptable and unacceptable standards of dress, speech, and behavior in America but I'm not so sure it is racist or applies in any exceptional way to race. For instance:

In other words, no traditionally black styles of hair are acceptable. Despite the fact that black men in braids or cornrows often appear very neat and well-groomed, these styles have inexplicably been deemed unprofessional.

Yes, but long hair is also a very popular (and professionally unnexceptable) style among white men, that can also very easily be kept neat and well-groomed, esp. when placed in a pony-tail. The issue isn't race it's conformity. 'No traditional styles' is also a misnomer, the same standards for acceptable white hair-cuts also are considered for the ways it could apply to the some-what different textured hair of Africans. Short, closely-cropped hair-cuts are required from black men because those social standards have been set for people of all races. I think that is the opposite of racism. Of course, as an artist, I think the larger issue of conformity definitely needs to be reassessed. This will benefit afro-sporting blacks and metal-haired whites equally.

I'm sure we can find the same pattern applied to dress, musical tastes, language, etc.

I'm sure we can, but again the issue isn't race, it's conformity. All of those things listed effect blacks, whites, men, women, old, young, poor, rich, handsome, ugly, Northern, Southern, West Coast, East Coast, etc., in the same way. For instance, GW Bush takes a lot of hits for his Texas dialect ('ebonic' speech comes from the southern dialects btw), and many consider it reflective of his intelligence (much as people judge blacks by their standards of English). His metathesis of NOOK-ULAR isn't incomparable to the black metathesis of 'can I AX you a question'. And of course black rap is considered inferior to white classical, but so is white country and white rock. Black jazz and blues, by the way, are considered the next two most sophisticated styles of music under classical.

Furthermore, I think these definitions of blackness have continued systematically from the time of slavery until now, and I think because of the wholly unique history of blacks in America, dgaicun, your comparisons to other geographical regions and historical periods are pretty artificial.

I think you are greatly misunderstanding my position here. I do believe there is logical historical trail to explain the modern black situation. Jews succeed, even ones who were completely subjugated by Nazi oppression, because they already have the cultural capital to rebound. Blacks never did have it, and I am not saying they should, or that they are able to create it Ex Nihilo. Those analogies were used to illustrate how 'cultural assets' are more powerful methods to lift a cultural people up, than combating discrimination. I think that there is still some racism coming from whites in America, but that society spends too many resources focusing on these mostly impotent vestiges of attitudes past, than on pressuring blacks to conform in a meaningful social way. That is where I think real change could be beneficial. Also, the more blacks conform and succeed, the more entrenched stereotypes and racial suspicions will lessen, in a positive feedback loop.

Finally, where I part from you most strongly, dgaicun, is in your description of black culture as somehow fundamentally unsound in bringing about success. Functionally unsound in America, perhaps, but fundamentally so, hardly.

grrarrgh00, I totally agree! I tried to emphasize this from the very beginning. Before I set forth one idea, I wanted to clarify that point: (from above)

First, I'll make the point that blacks haven't really failed to attain success. Actually, in net worth African-Americans are the eighth richest nation on the planet. To most of the world they are some of the wealthiest people who have ever lived. So, when we say fail, what we really mean is in relative social and economic performance to American whites.

posted by dgaicun at 12:44 PM on December 3, 2002


One quick point for boltman,

Given this history, how exactly do you think black people are going to react to a bunch of right-wing whites telling them that they need to "assimilate" into white culture because the culture that they've grown up with is flawed.

I am a centrist Libertarian (Libertarians are not 'Right-wing'), Ynoxas seemed left-wing, grrarrgh00, on past MeFI review, appears mostly liberal, Phelps was definitely a liberal, Mr. Ogbu is liberal. Most of the initial posters with liberal track records seemed to agree somewhat with Ogbu. S@L and hama7 haven't said a word (not that I don't appreciate their viewpoints). Boltman, how did this become a Right-wing idea? It mostly appears to have a lot of cross-political support. Furthermore, and even more falsely, you have characterized the debate as black vs. white when it is really idea vs. idea. The cultural realist school has had its strongest intellectual support from a Libertarian black man, Thomas Sowell. AAs fill the most valuable ranks of the cultural realist school, such as John Mcwhorter and Dr. Ogbu, so the idea has a lot of cross-racial support too. In fact, AAs have contributed the most valuable research and ideas to it. Does every political issue have to be understood in such a simplistic Manichean context? If you think that assimilation, or a desire for it, is a fundamentally evil or racist idea, I'm not sure how anything I say can convince you otherwise.
posted by dgaicun at 2:58 PM on December 3, 2002


Nice post, dgaicun, and a good point-to-ponder considering the specifics of this discussion: what do we stand to gain by addressing the idea of conformity rather than the idea of race? I still have a few quibbles, but I think they're too minor to enumerate here. Now, as a Cultural Realist, what do you imagine is the most realistic pathway through which to induce black conformity with mainstream values and improve black economic performance?
posted by grrarrgh00 at 6:01 PM on December 3, 2002


I like this discussion, especially because I'm a grad student at Berkeley, home of both John Ogbu and John McWhorter. I also think everybody's done a great job in discussing issues like adults (not always something you can rely on here).

That being said, I wanted to add a few points to the discussion.

1) I am a sociologist who specializes in the sociology of culture so I am not somebody who denies the role that culture can play in explaining socioeconomic inequality. However, I do have a problem with the Thomas Sowell-style "cultural realist" arguments, because Sowell's argument depends on a false dichotomy of culture vs. socioeconomic structure. To a large extent, Sowell's reason for using this dichotomy is rhetorical. If you can claim that there are cultural reasons for inequality, then you cannot blame the socioeconomic structure for causing it. This is an incorrect inference. Culture does influence socioeconomic outcomes, but the relationship of culture and socioeconomic structure is more like an infinite feedback loop, in which culture and structure are constantly influencing each other.

2) There is also an inherent flaw in comparing African-Americans with immigrant groups. The New York Times article failed to highlight that John Ogbu is also known among social scientists for the "involuntary minority" hypothesis. According to Ogbu, African-Americans cannot be compared to immigrants to the United States, because their ancestors were forcefully transported to America rather than choosing to arrive here on their own. (Yes, some European immigrants had to flee their homeland due to persecution, but they had a choice about their final destination, whereas African slaves did not.) Stanley Lieberson, a sociologist who actually did compare African-Americans to 19th century European immigrants, concluded that much of the economic gaps that couldn't otherwise be attributed to racism were the result of restrictive immigration quotas that blocked additional immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe. At the turn of the century, white ethnics such as Poles, Slavs, Greeks etc. no longer had to worry about supporting their less assimilated "country cousins" immigrating to America. Northern blacks, by contrast, constantly had to re-adapt to new waves of their "country cousins" migrating from the Deep South. (Even today, the precarious position of middle-class blacks can be attributed to their need to provide economic support to their less well-off relatives.) Similarly, you cannot contrast Asian immigrant groups with African-Americans, because American immigrant policies select for immigrants with technical and educational skill. There is no similar "filter" on which African-Americans can reside in the U.S. so the comparison doesn't work. (If you want more info on this line of argument, you can read Stanley Lieberson's A Piece of the Pie and Stephen Steinberg's The Ethnic Myth.)

Another interesting finding from research on immigration is that the children of economically disadvantaged immigrants do better in school and get better jobs the less they assimilate into American culture. For example, the book Growing Up American showed that Vietnamese teenagers and parents viewed "growing up American" as a negative phenomenon associated with playing hooky from school and gangsta rap instead of achieving the American Dream. The problem for African-Americans is that they have no cultural traditions from the "old country" to fall back on, because all that was wiped out because of slavery.

3) Lack of conformity to "mainstream values" cannot completely explain socioeconomic differences. The problem with using values as an explanation is that surveys show more commonalities than differences between the rich and the poor. Both rich and poor alike want good educations, steady jobs, and stable marriages. The difference is that the rich and poor don't have equal cultural resources in attaining those goals. Here's a quote from another Berkeley professor, Ann Swidler:

If one asked a slum youth, why he did not take steps to pursue a middle-class path to success (or indeed asked oneself why one did not pursue a different life direction), the answer might well be not "I don't want that life," but "Who, me?" One can hardly pursue success in a world where the accepted skills, style, and informal know-how are unfamiliar.

Perhaps the secret to closing the black-white achievement gap has less to do with values than in hidden skills and know-how unequally distributed across groups.
posted by jonp72 at 8:21 PM on December 3, 2002


(Still pressed for time. I know I'm usually the one whining about links, but I'll have to forego them for the most part here; if I can think of them, the suggested search topics I would've included will be [bracketed] and placed within the text, okay? Please bear with me.)

Hmm. Still harping on the older thread, eh? Nice misrepresentation you've got going there. You had weeks to lodge your complaints back there while it was still open, but you were busy I guess. Oh well: I still stand by what I said there, and it's available for anyone's perusal.

To touch upon a couple old points you revived in here, though:

1) Yes, I retracted my stance on socioeconomic status early on in the thread. Adjusting your position based on new information? It's called open-mindedness. It's something people without axes to grind do sometimes. And how, exactly, does going from "it's not about being black, it's about low SES" to "it's not about being black, it's about a lack of parental involvement" constitute a "180"? Sounds like somebody needs a geometry refresher course.

2) To paraphrase something I said in that last thread: for someone whose main point maligns me, my family, and the bulk of my friends and associates as "anti-intellectual" by dint of our "culture" (still undefined and undescribed, I see), you sure are quick to wrap yourself in the mantle of thread martyr. Someone implied that your pronouncement was bigoted and prejudiced? Poor persecuted baby. How do you cope?

Okay. Now onto recent developments.

I freely admit that I have absolutely no foreknowledge about "cultural realism," but going strictly from your descriptions of it, it strikes me as being nothing more than a retooled version of Social Darwinism [link defining the term here]-- some sort of pseudo- "survival of the fittest" model where groups and nations rise and fall strictly because of their inherent worthiness, owing nothing to chance, circumstance, unfair bias, or random fortune. It's almost as if there is some sort of "elect" whose natural goodness is rewarded by worldly fortune and prosperity. ("Why, that's Calvinism!") You don't believe that racism plays a palpable role in education today? Well gee, then I guess it doesn't. If you haven't personally experienced it, then there's no proof of it, right? It got legislated away, just like Prohibition got rid of alcohol and the War on Drugs eradicated illegal substances! [Get Your War On link here] Nice logic. Hey, I've never died, so that must be a scam too. Whoa, I'm an immortal!

I tried reading a James McWhorter book about a year ago, but couldn't make it through the first chapter. So many implied assumptions I didn't agree with... as for Sowell, I wrote him off as a hack back when I was a teenager. The last thing of his I remember reading was an op-ed piece in the newspaper in which he attacked the "Black History" concept and urged us to forget our specific past in the drive to assimilate. As I read, I kept thinking about the Santayana quote about those forgetting their pasts being doomed to repeat them... anyway, unless he has undergone a radical philosophy change in the interim, I don't consider him worth the read. Thanks for bringing them up as if I had never heard of them, though.

One reason I don't accept your assertions is the fact that you never back them up. I remember asking you for examples of negative black culture in the last thread: a link to some sort of negative behavior lauded and welcomed by the black community. Church, politics, food: I gave you free rein to address any of the areas which you yourself defined as repositories of black "culture."

You gave me nothing.

You know what, though? The offer still stands. How about you bring some links to this thread highlighting our reverence for anti-intellectualism? Just this evening I watched that one Simpsons episode [snpp.com] where Homer gets a crayon removed from his brain, becomes smarter, and spends the rest of the show facing anti-intellectualism wherever he goes. I remember some of the criticisms of Al Gore as being too smart in a "bookworm" kind of way; I don't think it would be too hard to dig up an old op-ed piece deriding his erudition [relevant editorial link would go here]. And of course there was a recent reference to George W. Bush's condescending "You speak French? So what?" remark made to a reporter earlier this year [link to the story].

There-- three cases of anti-intellectualism in society right off the top of my head. Surely it would be no challenge for you to locate congruent events identifying a similar negative view of education in the black community? I mean, you do say it's running rampant and all. Links, proof: bring 'em on! I'm always open to new ideas, you know-- so long as they're verifiable.

(And no, I don't accept the premise of the front page post-- I could just as easily twist the posts around to imply that Ogbu's theory about American blacks' attitudes is tainted by the all-too-common biases that foreign blacks sometimes have towards naturalized and "native" ones. Much more likely, though, is the idea that it's just a matter of overgeneralization-- as was mentioned in one of the articles:

"When we asked if friends made fun of kids who do well in school, we don't find any racial difference in that," said Ronald F. Ferguson, a senior research associate at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard who analyzed a new study of 40,000 middle and high school students in 15 middle class school districts, including Shaker Heights.

Indeed, the study, which was administered by the Minority Student Achievement Network, an organization that explores ways to close the racial achievement gap, found that African-American and Latino students work as hard and care as much about school as white and Asian students do.
)

I must seem a fool for asking for solid proof instead of lunging for the big juicy generalizations you're offering up, but what the hell, old habits are hard to break.

(Tangential aside: Y'know, I'm not usually a spelling/grammar Nazi or anything, but in this case I just can't get over the fact that certain proponents of the "black people need to gain a respect for knowledge like we white folks have" view are apparently posting without bothering with spellcheck or even making a simple pre-post eye-scan. Maybe learning the differences between affect and effect [m-w.com] and cleaning up your numerous spelling errors would help sway me?)


The second problem I have with your generalization is that accepting it would require massive self-brainwashing on my part. Black people hate education? Hell, I must not be black then. Clearly, some mistake has been made.

All ambitious black kids get labeled as "acting white"? Hmm, then I suppose I have to pray for a stroke to remove my memories of the eighth grade, where all my black schoolmates supported me as I applied to Rufus King High School, Milwaukee's "school for the college-bound" that the eighth-grade guidance counselor swore I couldn't make it into. (In that counselor's defense, though, he said that to all the eighth graders, white and black: I was just the only one stubborn enough to ignore him.)

And of course, I simply must hypnotize myself into forgetting all the congratulations I got from other black students after we got the results back from the PSAT and it was discovered that my scores had placed me in the running for a National Achievement Scholarship (scholarship for African American test takers with sufficiently high scores) and the National Merit Scholarship (general scholarship fund for all high-scoring test takers). That must just be a delusion I got as an aftereffect of when they dragged me into the school showers and beat me with gym locks for being so "uppity."

Fine, yeah. My personal experience is obviously no match for other African Americans' more negative personal experiences. If they say it's an all-pervasive syndrome, then it must be! My speech is every bit as "Ebonic" as anyone I've met, but somehow I manage to get my point across, and I have yet to see how it's affected my writing. But thanks to your teachings, I now know that I cannot exist. I'm just some sort of fluke. I've just lived a sheltered life or something. Maybe I shouldn't sleep tonight: I could wink out of existence!

Ugh, I'm gonna die of sarcasm poisoning if I don't wrap this up.

To sum up, dgaicun: I'm sorry, but after careful consideration, my opinion of your assertions remains the same. They are full of crap. You seem to be well-read, but your personal evaluation of the texts you reference seem to reveal huge gaps in logic and unsupportable conclusions. And like boltman said, whenever you get challenged, you resort to insults. (You are the one who called me a "churlish bore" in the last thread, right?) You ignore anything your blanket generalizations can't explain away, you refuse to fully consider the viewpoints of others, and if you are coming to your conclusions by way of any credible logical chain of thought, I must say that it is mightily obscured from where I stand.

Believe it or not, I truly did appreciate the links presented here, along with the opportunity to hash through my own viewpoint. As I did in the previous discussions, I will now bookmark this thread and keep tabs on it until it gets archived.

Given the course of the earlier ones, though, I'd be lying if I said I was expecting very much.
posted by tyro urge at 9:37 PM on December 4, 2002


I don't believe whites are in any way hateful or unfairly discriminatory against blacks today in any mainstream sense.

dgaicun, the biggest problem I have with your presentation of your ideas is this blanket dismissal (despite the "mainstream" qualifier) of racism. Do you personally know a single African-American who agrees with you that whites no longer discriminate? And if not, don't you feel just a little uneasy telling them they're wrong? After all, they'd be a lot more likely to notice than you.
posted by languagehat at 8:47 AM on December 5, 2002


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