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Is This Ad Racist?
March 7, 2001 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Is This Ad Racist? Conservative writer David Horowitz has stirred up trouble on three college campuses to date with a 10-point ad refuting demands for slavery reparations. First, UC-Berkley's student newspaper actually backed down after running the ad, as did UC-Davis, while the conservative Badger Herald in Wisconsin stood firm. I'm no conservative, but I don't think the article is racist at all. It's a reasoned argument, and one I happen to agree with. Is this a case of the PC student left run amok, or am I missing something? Via Medianews.
posted by darren (62 comments total)

 
I am not aware of a movement to make financial reparations for slavery. Is there really such a thing?
posted by amanda at 8:45 AM on March 7, 2001


I don't sense any racist slant in the article. The points are factual, and it's a good argument. I'm not going to say whether I agree or not, though.
posted by pnevares at 8:45 AM on March 7, 2001


Ah, nothing like a morning rant. Here goes!

Why the fuck does anyone worry about anything Horowitz has to say? The man is a complete crap-weasel and a tool. Is the issue even remotely to the right? He's for it! He's Michael Moore's bizarro, a complete partisan hack who seems less concerned with actually making a point for his team than scoring cheap shots off his opponents. He accomplishes the astounding feat of making mouth-breathers like Camille Paglia sound vaguely well-reasoned by comparison--no mean feat, since Paglia is similarly logic-challenged.

But hey, here's something from his stupid fucking "ad." American blacks on average enjoy per capita incomes in the range of twenty to fifty times that of blacks living in any of the African nations from which they were kidnapped.

"Hey, kidnap victims and displaced 'personnel!' You'll be happy to know that you make a LOT MORE MONEY than your brutalized and fucked-over former countrymates! So get down on your knees and say Thanks that we've subjected your people to displacement, brutalization, and discrimination for all these years, or we might take away that shiny quarter!"
posted by Skot at 8:48 AM on March 7, 2001


Wow Skot,

Why don't you tell us how you really feel.
posted by OneBallJay at 8:51 AM on March 7, 2001


And don't swear so much, it upsets me.
posted by thirteen at 8:53 AM on March 7, 2001


Damn, Skot. Couldn't agree with you more.

It's particularly insane that Horowitz is so concerned by this issue that he'd pay money to put this ad in various publications.

"The Reparations Claim Is A Separatist Idea That Sets African-Americans Against The Nation That Gave Them Freedom " WHAT? America gave African-Americans freedom?
posted by Doug at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2001


He accomplishes the astounding feat of making mouth-breathers like Camille Paglia sound vaguely well-reasoned by comparison--no mean feat, since
Paglia is similarly logic-challenged.


While I'm certainly no fan of Horowitz, I'm amazed by this statement. Logic-challenged? Examples please. I disagree with her often, but her arguments are always clear, concise, unhysterical, and use extensive examples from history, art, and literature.

Something she's said must've hit awfully close to home for you, otherwise I can't possibly imagine anyone characterizing her as a mouth-breather.
posted by MrBaliHai at 9:07 AM on March 7, 2001


Skot:

I will not argue that Horowitz is not someone who generally bears listening to. Ok, I'll go one better and say he is in general an ass. Ok, and I'll definitely give you that the 'hey, you are so much better off now that we kidnapped you!" argument is completely bullshit.

But a few of those arguments make sense. Instead of an 'all or nothing' view, lets address them individually.
what about

"Only A Tiny Minority Of White Americans Ever Owned Slaves, And Others Gave Their Lives To Free Them"?

It seems like a pretty valid argument to me. I mean, once you get past the propaganda about the civil war being exclusively over slavery, you can make a valid point out of this statement.

or how about

"What rationale would require Vietnamese boat people, Russian refuseniks, Iranian refugees, and Armenian victims of the Turkish persecution, Jews, Mexicans Greeks, or Polish, Hungarian, Cambodian and Korean ... to pay reparations to American blacks? " (propaganda deleted)

Seems like a pretty good argument.

It is a pretty commonly used technique, to place your half baked, or completely fabricated , ideas and statements that hold no water in with a handful of solid arguments.
Makes the whole thing seem 'plausible'

I guess the real point is, that you discounted everything that was said based on who said it, and your justification for doing so was that the writer generally uses faulty logic.
see the problem there? : )

I do like the Camille paglia flamebait though : )


posted by das_2099 at 9:12 AM on March 7, 2001


Actually, SKOT, that language _is_ offensive. This is a group forum, remember... respecting those of us who don't countenance such derogatory language would be appreciated.
posted by silusGROK at 9:13 AM on March 7, 2001


"Hey, kidnap victims and displaced 'personnel!' You'll be happy to know that you make a LOT MORE MONEY than your brutalized and fucked-over former countrymates! So get down on your knees and say Thanks that we've subjected your people to displacement, brutalization, and discrimination for all these years, or we might take away that shiny quarter!"

The article was explaining why slavery reparations were unnecessary, so it was fitting that he should point out that black Americans are financially better-off than they would have been.

Anyway, judging the acts committed by people a couple hundred years ago with todays morals is just plain stupid.
posted by MarkC at 9:14 AM on March 7, 2001


I find it sad that a paper should turn down an ad that may or may not be presenting an argument students might or might not accept. David's argument is not the same as, say, a Neo-nazi argument filled with race bating and hatred. There are many folks who accept the position argued in the ad; and there are many who do not.
In passing: how about reparations for the American Indian?
And Paglia? Well I dismiss her because she reminds me of my ex-wife: nothing is good enough, acceptable for her accept those things she decides are ok--and there are scant few of those too.
posted by Postroad at 9:18 AM on March 7, 2001


Horowitz is the one reason I wish that Salon used the Slashcode engine, so that I could give his pieces the same disregard as Jon Katz's. (Though Camille "as a self-obsessed media whore..." Paglia comes close.)

We ignore people who shout inanities in the street until they become a nuisance, or a risk to themselves. If only the same applied to print media.
posted by holgate at 9:20 AM on March 7, 2001


I dunno. I read Horowitz' stuff on Salon, because I think he argues points very well. He's really helped me learn how to make an argument and support it with evidence. I think he's generally a logical guy, and does his research and statistics. I don't agree with him on all issues, but I enjoy hearing his arguments, and understanding where he's coming from. I think it's important to understand both sides of an issue. That's one reason I like MeFi so much--intelligent people that explain their views, and why they have them.

Horowitz's points make logical sense to me, and I don't know that I would call any of them racist, but I do have a problem with #8. It bothers me that he writes, "Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the advent of the Great Society in 1965, trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits and racial preferences (in contracts, job placements and educational admissions) - all under the rationale of redressing historic racial grievances. "

The tone of this seems to sound like welfare is for African-Americans only, and that welfare was used to help African-Americans. It makes me think that he sees the stereotypical "welfare queen with 10 kids," and nothing more. Reality check: welfare helps the economically disadvantaged. It's a class thing, not a race thing.

We had Phyllis Schafly come to our campus and talk about her contempt for feminism, and we had our liberal protesters. It's free speech. People are allowed to say what they want to say; you just don't have to listen.
posted by gramcracker at 9:22 AM on March 7, 2001


I don't know. I don't see anything racist, most of the statements seem to make sense, if they are infact based on *real* facts and such. Anyone willing to 'de-bunk' these?
posted by tiaka at 9:25 AM on March 7, 2001


Going back to the first comment, there is a reparations movement. It's small and marginalized, for good reason. Horowitz wants to make the movement seem bigger than it is because he can use it to paint the left as a bunch of ninnies ("See? All these liberals want slavery reparations"). Horowitz uses reparations like Joe McCarthy used Communism. He doesn't care so much about the idea as he does about using the idea to tar and feather people he doesn't like (liberals, mostly).
posted by Mekon at 9:26 AM on March 7, 2001


Das, a small amount of people may have owned slaves, but the country as a whole profitted, and by many estimations would not have been as major a world power (at least as quickly) had it not been for slave labour. An argument could then be made that a system of power was established in this country from which some citizens are still benefitting.
There were also not "many" black slave owners, as Horowitz would like us to believe.
posted by Doug at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2001


"The Reparations Claim Is A Separatist Idea That Sets African-Americans Against The Nation That Gave Them Freedom " WHAT? America gave African-Americans freedom?

The slaves taken from Africa were bought from African slave traders. They were not free men.

I believe the Africans used slavery as punishment for certain crimes.
posted by MarkC at 9:27 AM on March 7, 2001


Why yes this has been in the news for some time. Chicago tribune article.
A fox news article.
The Case for Slavery Reparations Anyone see the check from the tobacco companies for the millions of smokers? Same problem here, except who do you think has the money? What's next the US sues Great Britian for back taxes and damages from the "injuries and usurpations of an absolute tyranny over the United States?" I of course would like to call the first witness or see what great debate would come from such a suit.
posted by brent at 9:30 AM on March 7, 2001


By whose morals should we judge slavery, then? Frederick Douglass'? John Brown's?
posted by sudama at 9:32 AM on March 7, 2001


Actually, SKOT, that language _is_ offensive. This is a group forum, remember... respecting those of us who don't countenance such derogatory language would be appreciated.

Vis1on, I lurked at MeFi for six months before registering, and then skulked around insecurely for another while longer before posting purely out of paranoia over offending someone with bad language, bad logic, bad teeth, or whatever. So I explored the etiquette of posting on this site somewhat keenly. I'm sorry my language offended you, but I have a hard time believing that my post was the first one you've seen that included swearing. As I mentioned, it was a rant, and certainly was not my most restrained post, but I've never seen anyone else get spanked for saying "fuck" a few times. Maybe I missed it.
posted by Skot at 9:35 AM on March 7, 2001


gramcracker: I'm more annoyed with Horovitz's style of argument than his views, to be honest. Or at least, I tend to see a parade of non sequitors.

As for this piece: the statements come to pieces after number seven, I think, where fact descends into opinion, and even statements with a vaguely factual basis have the power to offend in their sheer lack of discrimination: for instance, "America's African-American citizens are the richest and most privileged black people alive", yoking together Michael Jordan and South Central in a puff of rhetoric. It's simultaneously nationalistic, arrogant and blinkered: like saying, "what do you mean, blacks are under-represented in government? Look at Colin Powell and Condi Rice, they're black, aren't they?"

As for the issue at stake: there's no better way to pay reparations to the descendants of slavery than to deliver their freedom in everyday life. And that goes far, far deeper than a nominal payment.

(Oh, and brent: shouldn't it be Britain suing the US for 200+ years of back taxes?)
posted by holgate at 9:48 AM on March 7, 2001


(Also, I don't know what Horovitz regards as black, but there are plenty of non-whites in the Gulf with wealth and privilege. And I don't see the Sultan of Brunei heading to Ellis Island...)
posted by holgate at 9:50 AM on March 7, 2001


Come on folks, we're adults. Words are words. (And many of the phrases being strung together in this thread are far more offensive than an occasional "fuck.")
posted by sudama at 9:53 AM on March 7, 2001


With regard to the Wisconsin student paper standing firm on the issue, I picked up that very paper this morning (The Badger Herald) only to find an article conveying a sense of regret for ever allowing the ad to go to print in the first place. The editor said that normally there is normally a pre-screening of the ads to be placed in the paper, however this time the person in charge of the newspapers advertising did not run this ad by the paper's editor. I really wish that they had not done this.
posted by TractorInc at 9:54 AM on March 7, 2001


Print a "quasi-apology", that is.
posted by TractorInc at 9:55 AM on March 7, 2001


Sudama: Fuckin' A (as we used to say in the army)
posted by Postroad at 9:58 AM on March 7, 2001


The slaves taken from Africa were bought from African slave traders. They were not free men.

I believe the Africans used slavery as punishment for certain crimes.


Are you claiming that every slave taken from Africa was a prisoner in his or her own society? I find that incredible. If they were bought from African slave traders who forcibly removed them from Africa, that doesn't make them any less abductees. Besides, do you really expect me to believe that there would have been a slave trade without the demand?

Anyway, judging the acts committed by people a couple hundred years ago with todays morals is just plain stupid.

The morals to oppose slavery are not an invention of today or even of the nineteenth century. They date back at least as far as the Old Testament. (Remember "Let my people go"?) Morals do change from time to time, but I have never accepted that as an excuse for slavery. It should have been obvious to anyone that it was wrong. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." [Emphasis added, obviously.]

I don't agree with direct reparations to the descendants of former slaves. I don't think it's practicable to determine an amount. Furthermore, I just don't think they'd do any good. But Horowitz' arguments set my teeth on edge. I think there is a general tone of racism in the article. There's a subtext that blacks don't get ahead because they're lazy, an argument that he bolsters by saying, in effect, that many blacks have gotten ahead, so slavery/racism/discrimination haven't caused and aren't causing their problems. That's akin to saying that because some people smoke and don't die from it, that smoking doesn't cause all those pesky illnesses.

posted by anapestic at 10:01 AM on March 7, 2001


brent: the tobacco settlement is different for the same reasons stated in the article for the Holocaust survivor comparison. Namely, the reparations went to the actual people or immediate families of the smokers/survivors.

holgate: the point made sense to me. Its not a leap to realize that African-Americans sheerly by being in the worlds wealthiest nation are more wealthy as a group than those of similar ethnic background in other parts of the world.

Personally, I think the best point is the first one. Everyone seems to want to pin slavery on white people when, a good portion of the time, they were merely the last part of the process. this doesn't excuse them but rather makes other groups at least as guilty- Including many black Africans.
posted by srw12 at 10:03 AM on March 7, 2001


Anapestic, do you really mean to imply that demand has a direct effect on the availabity of a "product"? Ludicrous! :)
Next you'll try to convince Srw12 that cause precedes effect. Although I do agree with srw12. Those damn black africans ARE to blame! If they just would have, ya know, not been taken as slaves, well, they wouldn't have BEEN slaves, and america wouldn't have had slavery.
Oh, he means the infamous african slave traders? They are at LEAST as guilty. Like theres a chance, however slim, that they are actually MORE guilty than the Americans who bought and bred and worked the slaves.
posted by Doug at 10:20 AM on March 7, 2001


A little context for the reparations debate: Jews are still being paid reparations for the Holocaust (well, at least Jewish organizations are, it's not as if I or any other Jews are personally seeing any of this money), and Japanese Americans were paid reparations for being sent to camps during World War II. Now, the fact is that blacks, like Jews in Europe and Japanese Americans on the US West Coast were victimized as a group by *society as a whole*, German or American, regardless of what stand was taken by particular individuals in those societies. And Germany and the US government have acknowledged this. It is scarcely surprising that many black people in America are angry about not receiving a similar acknoweldgement; and I don't think they would be mollified by being told that there is some sort of statute of limitations so that racist abuse from 60 years ago merits reparations, but racist abuse from 140 years ago doesn't. -- Now, whether monetary reparations are in fact the best way to make concrete such an acknowledgement is a different question, and I can think of a number of arguments as to why it isn't. But we can't even think about this issue clearly so long as lots of (mostly white) people are in denial about the fact that there is a systematic issue of historical injustice that needs to be redressed.
posted by Rebis at 10:34 AM on March 7, 2001


Personally I think reparations are an asinine idea, why should the current generation have to pay for the f-ups of the past?

I also think a lot of the cigarette lawsuits are a boondoggle to. It's fine with me for people stricken with cancer before the nicotine/cancer connection was common knowledge to sue the asses off of the tobacco companies, but after all that info came out? Ludicrous.
posted by owillis at 10:35 AM on March 7, 2001


I don't see the ad in itself as racist, but David Horowitz is a bomb thrower by profession, and, like most bomb throwers, is an intellectual lightweight. Here he strings together some of the more credible arguments against reparations with his own "nyah, nyah" form of rhetoric, hoping some of it sticks.

I don't support reparations. My folks came here from the USSR in 1952, and never were involved in the slave trade, as they were too busy being starved/ imprisoned by the Soviets. I can, however, recognize the benefits I enjoy as a white American. I can also recognize the benefits I enjoy as a male. Should all the men of the world now pony up a few bucks to pay reparations to all the females we've oppressed for so long?
posted by Dr. Boom at 10:44 AM on March 7, 2001


I think we should pay the reparations. With Confederate war bonds.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2001


Just for clarification: the slave sellers were Arabs from North Africa. Slaves were owned not only in White America but also by some American Indians.
On reparations: What we had done to the American Indian more nearly resembles what the nazis had done to the Jews, gays, gypsies of Europe. That is, mass extinction known and accepted by the leadership of the nation.
And in passing: many slaves were offered a chance to go back to Arfica but stated a preference for staying here,sometimes even as slaves (see Paul Johnson, History of the People of America).
posted by Postroad at 10:45 AM on March 7, 2001


I wonder what the hell Horowitz's problem is. Every third article of his in Salon has something to do with Black Americans. Its like he's got some sort of weird fetish, and I, for one would turn hangsprings if he got hit by a bus.
srw12, are you FUCKING nuts?! Last part of the process?
As pointed out earlier, there wouldn't have been a supply if not for the demand. I suppose that we deserved 100 years of brutality and discrimination during the Jim Crow era as well. Were white people the end of the process there?
My Mom remembers separate bathrooms growing up and she's only in her mid-50's. We're still seeing the last vestiges of that old system today, some 37 years after blacks finally became first-class citizens.
Rebis is right on. I don't want reparations. I want a level playing field. I want justice. I want it now. Then get the hell out of my way.


posted by black8 at 10:54 AM on March 7, 2001


What's with this American idea/America's purpose fluff I've been hearing opportunistic heartstring pullers talking about lately? It's offensive. Like a combination of false nostalgia and coded ill-intentions. I feel like I can't trust anyone who brings it up.


posted by mblandi at 10:59 AM on March 7, 2001


I shouldn't have raised the language issue here... so I've started a thread over at MetaTalk.
posted by silusGROK at 11:14 AM on March 7, 2001


I wonder what the hell Horowitz's problem is. Every third article of his in Salon has something to do with Black Americans. Its like he's got some sort of weird fetish, and I, for one would turn hangsprings if he got hit by a bus.

It's called being bitter. Not that I entirely blame him. If you knew anything about Horowitz, you'd know why.
posted by dagnyscott at 12:00 PM on March 7, 2001


how about reparations for the American Indian?

Yeah, I wouldn't really consider a museum on the National Mall--even one designed by Gehry... bleh--quite enough to make up for what they went through.

Of course, the argument could be made that since many Native American cultures did not even have the concepts of money or property, that Native Americans, as a people, are much richer now than they were or would have been had Europeans not forced them from their homelands, slaughtered them in huge numbers, and relegated them to tiny plots of the most undesireable land in the country.
posted by daveadams at 12:07 PM on March 7, 2001


You could make the argument that Native American cultures had no concept of money, but you'd look awful silly, like, instantly. Care to wager $24 on that right now? Don't make somebody open up a can of wampum on ya!
posted by allaboutgeorge at 12:15 PM on March 7, 2001


I'm treading a fine line here, but it just occurred to me that I'd heard of the Holocaust Museum in DC, but not a Slavery Museum. So I googled for "slavery museum washington", and top of the list comes this link, which is on a site specifically related to the reparations question. There's also a petition, and a piece by Lance Morrow.

As for "the leap" that assumes black people in the world's wealthiest nation are the world's wealthiest black people: that's a leap off the cliff of logic.
posted by holgate at 12:16 PM on March 7, 2001


I'm all for reparations paid by White Americans to Native and African Americans for injustices of the past. So then I can have half of me write a check to the other half of me, and call myself even.

Reparations are feel good measures that serve no true purpose so far removed from the incidents that caused the initial damage. Horowitz has an uncomfortable way of expressing his objections, but for the most part, I've got to agree with him.


posted by Dreama at 12:44 PM on March 7, 2001


I think that everyone needs to recognize that Horowitz was, in essence, trolling.

He deliberately placed (or sought to place) the ads in student newspapers of several campuses with among the most aggressive and media-savvy of left wing activists -- knowing FULL WELL the tendency of student newspapers to have business / production staffs which are highly amateurish (and thus tending to enforce any pre-existing ad-content standard unevenly if at all) AND editorial boards which consistently cave at the slightest hint of left-activist pressure ... thus enabling him to get the ads out and get the 100X effect of media coverage of angry dreadlocked protestors occupying newspaper offices and kowtowing earnest kids who just want to get into law school or jobs on the Times writing earnest mea culpas and promises to censor more aggressively next time.

It ill-behooves someone trying to make a serious argument about a serious issue to try to incite this kind of predictable, and ultimately, totally irrelevant sort of tumult.

Horowitz's substantive argument is not that strong, either. Reparations are problematic for many reasons, but Horowitz's heavy reliance upon the lack of damages argument, by reference to the superior socio-economic position of US blacks vis-a-vis African blacks is quite specious. After all, Japanese-Americans are the richest single ethnic group* in the US (far richer than any cohort of non-interned citizens circa 1942-1946) and this was not an obstacle to their receiving reparations.

*I believe that the South Asian (India, Pakistan) US population may have recently overtaken Japanese-Americans as the richest ethnic group, but I'm not sure.


posted by MattD at 12:52 PM on March 7, 2001


black8: all I'm saying is that it wasn't white people who started slavery. nor was it white people who captured the people to send to the Americas. My point is not to absolve white people of wrong doing. And yes, without the demand there would not have been slaves. I'm not refering to the later discrimination either, that's a related but different can of worms. My point was merely that if it wasn't white people who captured the slaves, then they must have bought them from someone. given this, to think that reparations are do from one group for a process that involved many seems flawed. I'll say it again as I did in my original post. I do not mean that white people are innocent, rather that they were part and not the whole problem. Sorry if I offended you
posted by srw12 at 12:58 PM on March 7, 2001


Well, considering that the United States Government held that the question of slavery belonged in the hands of the individual states right up until - and after - the secession, it makes far more sense to me that if one were to proceed in search of reparations, those reparations would have to be sought from the state governments of previously slave-holding states.

Now, Nobody could possibly believe that this would further the cause of civil rights and the banishment of race hatred in the deep south. So, to seriously pursue this would be to monetarily enrich one group shallowly at the lasting cost of another.

I think we're starting to understand what 'the oughts' are going to enbody...
posted by Perigee at 1:05 PM on March 7, 2001


holgate

1. To your statement suggesting that Horowitz was lumping Michael Jordan and South Central, and your last comment:

Ridiculous. Surely you aren't suggesting that the handful of wildly successful black athletes and entertainers has a meaningful effect on the number that is the average annual income of all black Americans. For instance, if there are 1,000 black Americans making an average of $1 million per year and 60 million black Americans making an average of $10,000 per year, the average annual income for the entire group is $10,016.50. The impact of the small group of super earners effects the average income figure by just more than 1/10 of one percent. This effect is even more negligible (in per cent terms) in real life, where 60 million black Americans average more than $10,000 per year.

This 1/10 of a percent (or less) boost to average annual black income in America does not account, in any way, for the fact that most black people who live in Africa earn startlingly less money, on average, than their peers who live in America.

The stats are easy to find. In 1999, per capita purchasing power parity in the US was $33,000, give or take a few. That's more than 30-60 times per capita purchasing power parity than in Mozambique, Sudan, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Niger, Tanzania, Zambia, Liberia - get the picture? Sure, black Americans make less than white Americans, on average, but nowhere near 1/60th to 1/30th.

The ~1/10 of a percent effect of Michael Jordan and friends on the American average is laughable, and in no way explains the fact that blacks in America are, on average, better off economically than blacks in Africa.

http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/

I could go on, and will if you would like.

If you have statistics that prove me wrong, let's see them.

2. Regarding the Sultan of Brunei.

Sorry, he isn't black by the generally accepted definition, if you equate 'black' to 'Negroid'.

All:

Slavery is still alive in Africa:
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/slavery1.html


posted by syzygy at 1:08 PM on March 7, 2001


I'm going to bring up two (of the many) issues I see in this discussion, off the top of my head.

Number 1:

The slaves taken from Africa were bought from African slave traders. They were not free men. I believe the Africans used slavery as punishment for certain crimes.

African slave traders kidnapped Africans. Some of those kidnapped Africans may have happened to already be prisoners of some sort, but many/most were not.

Number 2:

"Only A Tiny Minority Of White Americans Ever Owned Slaves, And Others Gave Their Lives To Free Them"

The U.S. nation benefited financially by participating in the slave trade, which in effect removed (by force) a huge amount of people from Africa and enslaved another huge amount in the U.S. The reparations argument says that those African nations whose people were stolen and those people who became slaves (or their descendents) are due reparations by the U.S. government. That's it.

Throwing "White Americans" in there was an obvious attempt at trying to prompt a knee-jerk "hell no!" reaction out of a certain audience... and I see it worked perfectly here.
posted by go vegan at 1:31 PM on March 7, 2001


I don't know about the rest of you, but I get awfully tired of white people pretending that they know what is best for African Americans.


posted by kristin at 1:40 PM on March 7, 2001


My reaction to all this, as an interested outside who's neither white nor black, is the same as when we dealt with the Confederate flag issue: The South wanted to leave the United States, and we shoulda let 'em.

It may still not be too late! If they want to fly the flag of the enemies of the United States, let's let them. Then we can prosecute their independent nation in the UN for reparations the same way we do with other countries. And everybody wins.
posted by anildash at 1:41 PM on March 7, 2001


syzygy:

blacks in America are, on average, better off economically than blacks in Africa.

Was I making that comparison? No. There are other parts of the world with a sizable black minority. (Granted, not the size of that in the US, but still.) Horovitz's premise is that "America's African-American citizens are the richest and most privileged black people alive"; I'd like to see the statistics to prove this, in comparison with the black communities across Europe.

[I've scrabbled across the UK statistics site but can't find anything; the National Labour Survey isn't ethnically itemised -- or at least the data isn't available online -- and the only promising link is this survey from the London Research Centre (PDF file) comes up with an average weekly household income of around £250, based on 1994 numbers.]
posted by holgate at 1:53 PM on March 7, 2001


holgate:

I wished to point out that "yoking together Michael Jordan and South Central in a puff of rhetoric," as you stated, had a negligible impact on the aggregate numbers.

I would have no problem believing the "richest" statement if it's qualified as "richest large population". I don't know what the population of blacks in Europe is, but I live there and I can tell you from experience that the percentages are nowhere near what they are in the US.

Also, anecdotally, many of the blacks I have come across in Europe are recent (within the last decade) and often illegal immigrants. These people are most often not working in well paid positions. Add to that the fact that, on average, Americans earn more than Europeans, and I would hazard a guess that, on average, the European black population is less well off than the American black population.

It would be interesting to see some statistics, though.

As an aside, I get a feeling of a more pronounced, up front anti-black racism here. (I can't recall how many times I have been warned away from a certain part of town at night because, "that's where the Morroccans live and it's dangerous at night," for instance.)

My employer has 150 people working in my building. Out of those, ~145 are Western European whites, 2 are black and the rest are from Southeastern or Eastern Europe.
posted by syzygy at 2:28 PM on March 7, 2001


I wished to point out that "yoking together Michael Jordan and South Central in a puff of rhetoric," as you stated, had a negligible impact on the aggregate numbers.

Oh, of course: that's why I called it a "puff of rhetoric". Can't remember the precise term, but it's taking the part for the whole, a bait-and-switch that cites wealthy, high-profile black Americans -- Horowitz used Oprah in his original piece -- and turns them into exemplars. Which is bullshit.

Anyway, this is moot. For Horowitz to say that black Americans should be grateful for being wealthier and more privileged than black Africans is sheer condescension: like awarding prizes for slave welfare in the 1850s. Troll.
posted by holgate at 2:49 PM on March 7, 2001


holgate:

Clarification - black Americans are better off, on average, than Blacks in Africa, and they would still be better off, on average, if the tiny minority that is super rich were removed from the sample.

I interpreted your comment as a red herring and addressed it. Perhaps my interpretation was errant.
posted by syzygy at 3:03 PM on March 7, 2001


http://www.starbanner.com/articles/news/403.shtml
posted by Postroad at 8:40 PM on March 7, 2001


You could make the argument that Native American cultures had no concept of money, but you'd look awful silly, like, instantly

I said "many," not "all." Silly customer.
posted by daveadams at 8:55 AM on March 8, 2001


Doug wrote:

the country as a whole profitted, and by many estimations would not have been as major a world power (at least as quickly) had it not been for slave labour. An argument could then be made that a system of power was established in this country from which some citizens are still benefitting.

Do you have a link for either of those theories, Doug? I admit to being an ignorant Canadian, but I find both very hard to believe and would like to read some arguments in support of them.
posted by mw at 11:04 AM on March 8, 2001


In school I learned that we were not considered a world power until, and because of WWI.
posted by thirteen at 11:28 AM on March 8, 2001


the country as a whole profitted, and by many estimations would not have been as major a world power (at least as quickly) had it not been for slave labour. An argument could then be made that a system of power was established in this country from which some citizens are still benefitting.

So wait, I'm confused... then do citizens of repressed-by-the-US countries like North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and Iraq get to collect reparations from African-Americans? After all, the US wouldn't be in a position to repress them except for the slave-labor that helped propel us into world domination.

Seriously, though, I wonder if it couldn't be argued that ending slavery and thereby forcing the US to become less dependent on agriculture and more dependent on manufacturing for its economic development didn't help lead to the US's current dominant position in the world. Would we have been prepared to help win World War I if the South was still a big slave-based cotton farm?

Heck, we could have taken over the world 77 years or so sooner if we'd only abolished slavery in this country with the writing of the Constitution! :)
posted by daveadams at 11:39 AM on March 8, 2001


An argument could then be made that a system of power was established in this country from which some citizens are still benefitting.

mw, are you really questioning the existence of white racism?


posted by sudama at 7:19 PM on March 8, 2001


I used to be Editor in Chief of the California Aggie, the UCD student paper that published one of the apologies, and I know the current editor. I agree wholeheartedly with her decision to publish an apology, mostly because of one small portion of the ad: "Since the passage of the Civil Rights Acts and the advent of the Great Society in 1965, trillions of dollars in transfer payments have been made to African-Americans in the form of welfare benefits..." The author would argue that he's merely saying African Americans have used the welfare system disproportionately (though we can get into all sorts of arguments about the racism that precipitated that situation), one could easily interpret that statement as meaning that the welfare system was created exclusively for the benefit of African Americans. Either way, that line makes me draw air in through my teeth. It turns a resonable "well, that's your opinion" piece into something with a more unsavory slant.

Something like this happens every year at least once on a college newspaper. If you attended college in the last twenty years, I can almost guarantee that your college paper published a similar apology at least twice. The only thing that's surprising about this instance is that it's garnered so much attention.
posted by maggeh at 10:24 AM on March 9, 2001


sudama: No, I'm not, and I'm not sure what I said to make you think so.
posted by mw at 8:22 PM on March 12, 2001


mw, you asked for a link supporting the "theory" that there is systematic racism in the U.S., unless I have misread the discussion. You said you find it hard to believe. That's why I asked.
posted by sudama at 10:11 PM on June 18, 2001


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