Reparations activists
February 23, 2002 1:01 AM   Subscribe

Reparations activists are going after corporations who may have had ties to or profited from the slave trade to seek financial compensation. "So far, the reparations legal team has publicly identified five companies it says have slave ties: insurers Aetna, New York Life and AIG and financial giants J.P. Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank and FleetBoston Financial Group." Of course, the article (or the sidebar) doesn't cite anyone who may be against the whole notion - which is possibly bias of some sort, and seeing Johnnie Cochran on the list of people involved doesn't exactly warm one's heart either. (here are several other related "background" articles)
posted by owillis (42 comments total)
Financial compensation for WHAT? The ones who deserved a compensation are all dead. So are the slave holders. The only living victims of slavery, and living slaveholders, are blacks in Africa (where the slave trade is alive and well) and some in Europe (Asian and Eastern European sex slaves).
posted by dagny at 1:33 AM on February 23, 2002

It's a great thing that our country finally has some racial equality. Now even Black people can shake down corporations. I say God bless them. This country was founded on financial redress and litigation.

Also it's funny how both Black and White treat this is a 'special' case. It's the same ethos that is pervasive in America, just applied to different people. It's a testament to how race relations have improved in America, as well as to how both Blacks and Whites see everything as racism, or reverse-racism, or reverse-reverse-racism, or whatever makes them think white/black people are evil.
posted by chaz at 2:21 AM on February 23, 2002

Hrm, If they can figure out who the decendants of the actual slaves were, and give them the money, I say great. If they can't then I don't know if the money should just go to the lawyers or to some nebulous action group.
posted by delmoi at 3:24 AM on February 23, 2002

If these "reparations activists" are correct (I haven't exactly made a study of it), corporations that profited from the slave trade still exist. Corporate profits from that trade, compounded over many years, still exist. The families -- kidnapped, split up, shipped abroad, and made the enduring underclass of another country -- still exist, and they have not had the benefit of the work of their ancestors compounded over those many years.

Back when the former owners and former slaves were still alive, attempts to win compensation were rejected. I doubt they'll get more than token compensation now, but maybe that would be enough for them. I don't blame the descendants of slaves for trying to win a fight their ancestors should have won.
posted by pracowity at 3:39 AM on February 23, 2002

AIG? I wonder why they would single out a company founded in 1919 in Shanghai... They didn't open their first office in the US untill 1926.

I wasn't aware that the republic of china allowed slavery.
posted by delmoi at 3:55 AM on February 23, 2002

I wasn't aware that the republic of china allowed slavery

It certainly does now. It even prohibits most voluntary activities, commie style.
posted by dagny at 4:17 AM on February 23, 2002

Ohh look. People want money... just because of their skin color!

And lots of Government programs have helped lots of people, black and white, like welfare, medicare/medicaid... this are government handouts coming from people who pay taxes... and now they want to loot taxpayers for more!

I'm sure we could argue about where taxes in the US should go, but I think we could possibly agree on not giving them to people simply because they were lucky enough to born black!
posted by Keen at 4:30 AM on February 23, 2002

How about paying reparations to those denied access to the United States altogether? Certainly they've suffered from the lost opportunity.
posted by treywhit at 5:26 AM on February 23, 2002

Considering the violent history of central African countries over the past two centuries, I'd say the decendents of slaves were lucky. With mortality rates in the double digits and ethnic and tribal warfare, their great-grandparents getting shipped to the U.S. is probably the only reason these jokers are alive today to try and sue the U.S. and its corporations.

By the way, many of my ancestors were Cherokee. When do I get my cut?
posted by darren at 5:42 AM on February 23, 2002

I have to admit that while the idea of reparations appeals to my sense of fair play, I don't see any way on earth they can make it fair to everyone involved, or even fairly determine who is involved. My biggest question at this point is, assuming monetary damages are recovered, who gets the money? Is there some kind of slave descendent registry? Do you have to have your geneology certified? If there's a dispute over someone's lineage, will a self-proclaimed descendent of slaves sue the reparations legal team?
posted by RylandDotNet at 5:47 AM on February 23, 2002

I'm fairly sure my Eastern European ancestors were enslaved by the Roman Empire. Perhaps I should petition the Italian government for my share?
posted by mikewas at 6:30 AM on February 23, 2002

Poetic justice would be a "Give Back to Africa Campaign" -- a major national commitment to end AIDS in Africa and improve public health, something that lasted at least 5-10 years and involved sending lots of trained people, not just money. "In recognition of all the hard work that African people have done for our society, the US Government and the American people say it's time to demonstrate a proper appreciation and respect, and come to Africa's aid in its hour of need."
posted by sheauga at 6:56 AM on February 23, 2002

The basic problem with reparations is that they punish an entity today based on today's legal/moral standards for actions it took 150+ yrs ago that were in line with legal/moral standards of that time. Suppose 150 yrs from now cows are granted equal status to humans, should the descendent companies of today's slaughterhouses be forced to pay reparations for their past? Are you so sure your great-great-grandparents were not slave owners? If they were would you feel personally compelled to give your life savings to the next black person you meet? Slavery is so obviously immoral and wrong today that it is hard not to support an attempt to make amends for it but it is dangerous to set a precedent wherein we can be punished 'tomorrow' for something we did legally 'today.'
posted by plaino at 7:14 AM on February 23, 2002

completely agree plaino…

if someone does receive money now because of something that happened 180 years ago, that would be incredible unfair… the history of humankind is full of injustices, you must fight to overcome them when the injustice is being done, not when many years have passed. the people who are suing just want money, they don't give a damn if the companies apologize or not… they should fight for the injustices that are being commited at this very moment in many places in the world, not for money
posted by trismegisto at 7:23 AM on February 23, 2002

Without taking a position for or against reparations for blacks descended from slaves (most of who by the way have mixed blood), first in line for American generosity should be the still-neglected and screwed over Amreican Indian.
posted by Postroad at 7:37 AM on February 23, 2002

Perhaps the descendants of slaves should be billed by the US for the cost of the war it took to free them...?

I second Postroad's move. American Indians should be waaaaaaay out in front if reparations are to be given, ever, to anyone.
posted by dissent at 7:54 AM on February 23, 2002

American Natives present a more complicated case because it could be argued that our stealing their land by force was immoral and "illegal" when we did it. Of course, European powers approved but our actions took place on North American soil and, theoretically, ought to be subject to the provisions of Native American law at the time (I don't know if there was any written law at the time). Also, if such a case were actually tried, who would be the defendants? The US didn't exist yet when the crime was initiated so would it be England? or France and Spain, too?
posted by plaino at 8:17 AM on February 23, 2002

Say... my Scottish ancestors were oppressed by the British. Can I sue a British corporation? Oh, that's right, I'm WHITE....

Sorry, but show me an actual slave and I'll agree to reparation for that person. Otherwise, quit whining. This should be stopped by Congress now.
posted by hadashi at 8:58 AM on February 23, 2002

No offense to the more altruistic of the species, but this strikes me as yet another case of lawyers pursuing money for the benefit of...lawyers. While not as obvious a scam as others that have reared their head lately, this is more of the same with enough of a legal basis to keep well-heeled vultures in new Bruno Magli's for quite some time.

Slavery was awful, agreed. But digging centuries into the past for miscarriages of justice and estimating recompense at this point is going to create a whole new class of 'Queen for a Day' sob stories leading to litigation. I agree with plaino. This is reminiscent of people condemning "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" for its use of language that was acceptable when it was written. Except in this case, instead of kids not getting to read a book, lawyers get a bunch of cash. If a coalition agree to take on the case pro bono the merits might seem more debatable. But probably not.

Slavery is unforgiveable and several degrees more heinous than the use of the n-word, yes. But if in 150 years the Fundamentalist States of America decree that me looking at nude women online constitutes a violation of gender sanctity that requires my descendants to pay restitution as a result of a class-action suit brought by the descendants of hot babes or something, my argument would be, "Hey! It was legal at the time!"

I don't mean to be flip about the subject of slavery. But, sins of the father, and whatnot...
posted by umberto at 9:04 AM on February 23, 2002

And next week, it's the turn of the descendents of those unfairly dismissed from their jobs... If we start down this road, where would we stop? And to assume that the value of someones work is compoundable when quite a few people blow their wages in the nearest bar is just naive. There is no way to accurately guage how much money the ancestors of a slave would be entitled to. Some would have saved, others spent, and to pay reparations equally would reward the spenders and penalise the savers. Oh, hadashi, I suspect your ancestors were oppressed by the English.
posted by iain at 9:51 AM on February 23, 2002

black pride = good
white pride = nazi

posted by phoenix enflamed at 11:21 AM on February 23, 2002

By the way, many of my ancestors were Cherokee. When do I get my cut?

darren ... actually, I'd seriously start here if I were you ... depending upon the % of indian blood you have, there may actually be some benefits ...

I second Postroad's move. American Indians should be waaaaaaay out in front if reparations are to be given, ever, to anyone.

With Indians the situation is quite complicated. Because of the enormous size of some of the indian tribes, they were quite often treated as governments when European settlers first got here (it is estimated that there were something like 14 or 15 million indians in North America when Europe "discovered" America).

In fact, at least part of our constitution is probably modeled on the principles of the confederacy of the Iroquois (the five Iroquois nations - Mohawk, Oneida, Onandaga, Cayuga and Seneca ... and a sixth ....the Tuscarora ... that was added in the 18th century - operated as independant states that sent representatives to a kind of central governance lodge ... and this model was understood by, and probably contributed to the thinking of, folks like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson when they were formulating the federal/state system of government we live under now).

The indians were ultimately nearly destroyed - in part by delibrate actions of settlers, but also by a couple of forces that were not delibrate ... smallpox, that wiped out large numbers of indians, who had no immunity to it, having never been exposed to it, and alchohol, that proved seriously addictive to the indian physiology.

Another difficulty was that the underlying assumptions about what the world is on the part of the indians and europeans was so radically different that a collsion was inevitable. For instance, while many tribes did have traditional hunting grounds, on the whole, the concept of owning land, i.e., defining a territory with borders and assigning a title, was utterly foreign to most indian tribes.

That said, the US government did sign treaties with indians (many of which were, however, broken over the years) as nations, deeded land to them (our current indian reservations), and to this day relates to many of them as seperate nations (it is why casinos can open on indian reservations - even if the reservations are in states that prohibit gambling).

Even further, some of this land is used for grazing, or mining, and those indians living there do get checks from the government on a monthly or yearly basis. Even this, though, is bittersweet (I've been in Browning, Montana on the day the checks come ... the whole night is a massive party of drunken fighting, gambling, and pick-up trucks smashing into telephone poles).

As with most races on earth, there was tremendous nobility and honor in a lot of the tribes - and some reached nearly breathtaking spiritual sophistication (the Hopi come to mind), but there were also horrible, brutal tribes (the Blackfeet scared the living crap out of others, as they could be bloodthirsty just for the hell of it).

Bigger picture is that the case of indian tribes is quite different than that of black slaves. In this case, reperations are - to some extent - being paid, or at least land and income is still held by indian nations. And there have been, over the last decade or two, some interesting situations in which indians who have gotten law degrees have gone back to some of the initial treaties that were broken by the US, and pursued redress in the federal court system.

This difficulty is that all the reparations in the world could be paid, but it would still be too late. The cultures themselves have been nearly destroyed, and many languages (the carriers of the cultures) will be completely gone in another generation (a few elders still speak, but fewer and fewer kids want to learn).

This really is quite sad. There are some treasures that will be lost. I've been able to spend some time tromping around the wilderness with a fellow I know that is a medicene man, and have gotten to see some things I still barely believe, rain and wind brought on command, extremely strange incidents with animals ... these people were connected to something. I've been in sweat lodges (indian sweat lodges, not "urban shaman" ones - I'm not a member of the "wannabe" tribe ... as they called the white hippies ... but I'm tolerated because I'm funding a small project trying to translate one of the languages into characters, and preserve it before the last native speakers are gone) ... thing is throughout history there have been invasions ... one people moving into the territories of another and taking over ... but usually the one that dominates will adapt and integrate some of the better components of the culture it supplants. Europeans did not ... it is not the european government styles that did the mosat damage ... it was really the Christian religion that was the worst - it's utter arrogance made certain that spiritual treasures it could not even comprehend were dismissed as "heathen practices" ...

oops, have probably gonme on too long here ... the whole thing is just very sad, and there probably is no solution.
posted by MidasMulligan at 11:30 AM on February 23, 2002

white pride = nazi
Pride in your own race is fine. Denigrating other races or supporting their destruction is not. (I would lump Faarakhan's folks in this category as well)
posted by owillis at 11:40 AM on February 23, 2002

Reparations will do more to harm the race relations in this country than anything else in the last 50 years.

And besides, America already purchased the freedom of its slaves with American blood (in the form of hundreds of thousands of dead white soldiers). I know slavery was not the reason for the Civil War, but if the Civil War had not happened, slavery might still exist in the South.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:58 AM on February 23, 2002

Oh yeah, white pride = nazi. Sure, that's why there are no Irish parades, Swedish churches, Norwegian community centers (and scholarships for just Norwegians I remember distantly from high school.)

If you actually care about your heritage you probably realize that little significant is really shared by "white" people in the large. No black dude is going to give a damn about you hanging a Swedish flag out your window, so why would you care if he's a big "black pride" type and hangs one of those flags out his?

For godsakes, how can you miss the nearly constant celebration of various "white" cultures?

p.s. Insomnyuk, American didn't "purchase" the freedom of its slaves. The slaves were born free. America bought some dignity for itself and everyone in it white, black or otherwise.
posted by Wood at 12:30 PM on February 23, 2002

American didn't "purchase" the freedom of its slaves. The slaves were born free. America bought some dignity for itself and everyone in it white, black or otherwise.

I like this ... the particular way that statement had been framed rubbed me a bit wrong too ...

America did start with a fundamental contradiction - the framers approached pure brilliance with the notion of "We hold these truths to be self-evident ...", i.e., that by virtue of being born, every individual has rights that no government or religion has the right to supersede. They then characterized blacks as being 3/5's human ... and hence those rights did not hold. Jefferson, a stange man who held slaves while arguing against slavery, understood the massive contradiction in this, and close to his death actually almost predicted something like the civil war as being inevitable.

Bigger point, though, is that an individual's freedom is a foundational principle. No individual needs to make an argument for their freedom, nor should it need to be "purchased". Anyone that wants to limit that freedom has to prove a compelling case to do so. Freedom was not a gift America gave to slaves ... it is an inborn right that America finally acknowledged.
posted by MidasMulligan at 12:58 PM on February 23, 2002

The anonymous Manhattan newspaper copy editor Media Minder made a nice post to his blog last night about what Oliver mentioned in his front page post but hasn't been discussed much in the thread: It's sadly gotten to the point where the mainstream American news media has lost almost all ability to report on issues of race in a fair and balanced fashion. This USA Today thing was not a story, it was a crusade. Not only was it an unusually large "cover story" on the front page, it also took up two entire pages inside the front section. And every single word of it is pro-reparations, except for a single quote from one lawyer who works for one of the companies that's about to get shaken down. USA Today couldn't be bothered to contact a single reputable academic to ask for even one sentence on why this just might not be a great idea. Every one of you really needs to read Media Minder's post on this subject; it's not very long.

(And not to sidetrack this thread, but this is a perfect example of why so many of us are against campaign finance "reform": We now have absolute proof that USA Today, and all other newspapers owned by the media giant Gannett, are now clearly biased in favor of reparations. Under CFR, they could give as much positive coverage of this issue as they want, and either treat badly or totally ignore the anti-reparations side. If the pro-reparations side ever managed to get some sort of bill before Congress or a proposition before the public, the anti-reparations side would be largely banned from getting its message out: The mainstream media (yes, including non-Gannett properties... cf. last week's ABCNEWS edict demanding its reporters choose its sources of on-air comments by skin color alone) would refuse to cover them fairly, if at all, and it would be mostly illegal for them to run anti-reparations ads.)

Anyway, Gannett has a long, sordid history of being hyperobsessed with skin color. Not race relations, skin color alone, especially black skin color. For a number of years now, they have had all their owned local papers under a racial quota system, whereby X% of all human beings mentioned in their pages must be African-American, no matter how inappropriate, or even silly, that requirement might be in a given case. If you're writing a story about how the local city council was discussing whether or not to put up a new traffic light on the corner next to that elementary school, you'd better make damn sure at least one of the citizens you interview for your article is African-American, so that you were insured of getting "the black side of the story" ... as if not wanting your kids run over by a bus is a black vs. white issue. Needless to say, this edict has caused all sorts of hell for the newspapers located in towns with practically no black population. (And again, cf. ABCNEWS's skin-color edict to show that Gannett is merely the most blatant case; it's nowhere near the only case.)

Anyway, I have to admit this is a very smart move on the lawyers' parts. I've posted before that there are only two subjects I've ever seen make otherwise-rational people start talking about the possibility of committing widespread violent civil disobedience: nationwide gun bans and slavery reparations. But these guys have found the way to (possibly) get their reparations without the public at large even much noticing: the Jesse Jackson shakedown method. Lawyers are scum, but they ain't dumb. Even better, this way they'll get most of the cash, instead of the actual descendents of slaves. Brilliant.
posted by aaron at 1:05 PM on February 23, 2002

It's sadly gotten to the point where the mainstream American news media has lost almost all ability to report on issues of race in a fair and balanced fashion.

I'm reading a book right now called Coloring the News : How Crusading for Diversity Has Corrupted American Journalism. It's a rather disturbing account of "journalism's" inability to cover issues like race or gender in a balanced way. Too much is at stake for the elite liberals to let fairness or accuracy get in the way of a 'crusade.'
posted by alethe at 1:50 PM on February 23, 2002

[Pride in your own race is fine.]

Owillis, that is nonsense! Why would you have pride in something you had no control over? Being proud (to me) involves a personal achievement. Their is no achievement in being born from a particular bloodline.
posted by revbrian at 9:59 PM on February 23, 2002

Many of the comments here are deeply racist. Nothing to be proud of about being white -- much to be proud of about resisting and overcoming (with each inhaled breath and each quiet joy) centuries of oppression and worse.

Postroad makes an important point; Pracowity is right.
posted by sudama at 10:27 PM on February 23, 2002

Foiled. Make that Postroad; Pracowity.
posted by sudama at 10:48 PM on February 23, 2002

Gannett has a long, sordid history of being hyperobsessed with skin color.

As does America and every American living or dead. This is remarkable (and sordid) how?

Of course a strict quota system would be (and, perhaps, is) ridiculous, but given Journalism's propensity to white ownership, white editorship, white reportership, and white coverage, it's admirable that Gannett is trying to (pro?)actively address the issue. It's also good business sense. Who would ask for anything less?

You (I don't care who you are) might think it was odd if you noticed that everyone quoted for a news story was a man. Would you be more likely to notice if every person quoted was a woman? Isn't a diversity of views important? We all have layers and facets to our identities which inform our unique perspectives -- I want to hear the opinions of a wide variety of people, and yet I would not notice if I read an article (as I probably do every day) in which everyone quoted was white. Indeed, how could I possibly know? The only time race is relevant is when a person's not white. Right?
posted by sudama at 11:06 PM on February 23, 2002

I wonder how black one would have to be to receive these reparations?

For example, if someone had a great-grandmother who was, say, Cherokee Indian, and she married a man who was half-white, half-black (son of a slave owner and one of his slaves), would that hypothetical person be black enough to be entitled to a cut of the settlement?

Is there a non-arbitrary point where the line can be drawn which says "Sorry, you don't count?"

I see on the FAQ page at the Cherokee Nation site mentioned above by MidasMulligan that there is a clear-cut set of challenges to be met to prove one's Cherokee heritage. What would the requirements be for this? The Cherokee Nation page admits that some Cherokee descendents don't count due to a limited pool of qualified ancestry. Surely the records kept for slave ownership are going to be even spottier.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:14 PM on February 23, 2002

If you were not white, I'd say you were racist. Actually - scratch that, I think you're racist anyways. You always find a way to blame white people. Is this any better than people blaming Jews or Blacks or [fill in racial group or sexual orientation or nationality] for all the ills of the world? I think not.
posted by owillis at 12:12 AM on February 24, 2002

Is there a non-arbitrary point where the line can be drawn...?

Ultimately, any product of a dialogue can be deemed "arbitrary." That doesn't mean there's no sense in having the discussion. It's an important battle -- it doesn't matter if it enrages white people. We protect ourselves from ourselves by defending and reproducing an injustice? That doesn't sound like Truth, Justice, or the American Way to me.
posted by sudama at 12:13 AM on February 24, 2002

If you were not white, I'd say you were racist.

That sounds exactly backwards, friend. In fact, I think it's got more than one axis of symmetry.
posted by sudama at 12:35 AM on February 24, 2002

owillis: If you were not white, I'd say you were racist.

sudama: That sounds exactly backwards, friend.

If sudama were not racist, he'd be white? If he were white, he wouldn't be racist? If he were not white, he wouldn't be racist?

Help, my brain is spinning! I'm trying to grasp this concept, but my gyri and sulci keep slipping off it. Clue me?
posted by Slithy_Tove at 1:35 AM on February 24, 2002

All of us Americans are racist, pretty much, and a few thousand dollars per plaintiff is not going to magically erase this fact. Nor is it going to improve inner-city schools, end police brutality, or have any effect whatsoever on the myriad institutional problems that still affect historically oppressed minorities in the United States.

A tort case is simply not a good way to address injustices the immediate victims and perpetrators are all long dead, but the long-term effects are systemic and all-pervasive. In any ordinary tort, the idea is that if party A injured party B, then A pays B an amount of money equivalent to the extent of the injury, and then the matter is considered closed. In the case of American slavery, there are problems with all three of these steps.

So much time has passed with so little recordkeeping that the injuring and injured parties are, at least at the margins, impossible to discern with the kind of clarity that one would need to avoid decades of further litigation. Would Tiger Woods get a check? Would Colin Powell, or our own Oliver Willis (both sons of first-generation Jamaican immigrants)? Or Lisa Bonet, Lenny Kravitz, or Halle Berry (all of whom have at least one white parent)? This, of course, does not even touch the equally thorny question of who pays.

Secondly, how much money is enough? What sum could possibly atone for hundreds of years of oppression and forced labor, the tearing apart of families, the interruption of personal histories, the Middle Passage, the rapes, the murders, the endless daily humiliations? There is not enough money in all the world to balance such atrocity, and there is little point in pursuing a legal case to attempt to establish such a sum.

Thirdly, what happens in the political arena afterwards, as far as civil rights and ethnic politics is concerned? For better or worse, there is a white majority in this country, and the victories of the post-WWII civil rights movement depended on this majority's eventual support, and the resulting transformations not just of the legal landscape, but of culture and civil society as well. This political support would very likely be seriously eroded in the aftermath of such highly racialized, controversial, and divisive lawsuits. What would be the moral standing be of the black progressive movement then? Many, many white people would be inclined to say, "School's falling apart? Cops stopped you again this week? That's too bad, but hey - you got your check. It's a done deal." Tort cases are meant to bury an ugly history, which is the last thing that one who wishes to keep that history alive and remembered in America would want to have happen.

This is the way the ritual of the civil tort suit works, and trying to use it to right the wrongs of slavery will not result in real justice. The parties are not clearly definable, the injuries are not monetarily compensable, and a 'successful' reparations suit would only make it more difficult to right the wrongs of today.

It's been seven hours since anyone else has posted here; hopefully, someone will read this and validate my fragile ego with a response.
posted by skoosh at 8:09 AM on February 24, 2002

All of us Americans are racist, pretty much

That's the only part of your post, skoosh, that I don't agree with. Are you a racist if you believe that people of different races exist? Or are you a racist if you extend that belief in a way that you value one race more or less than another?
posted by insomnyuk at 10:43 AM on February 24, 2002

aaron, stop lying.

We now have absolute proof that USA Today, and all other newspapers owned by the media giant Gannett, are now clearly biased in favor of reparations.

Lie. You have proof that one editor at one newspaper printed a slanted story (assuming your characterization is correct, which gives you far more credit than your comment indicates you deserve).

last week's ABCNEWS edict demanding its reporters choose its sources of on-air comments by skin color alone

Lie. This lie of yours is built upon a blatant and apparently willful misrepresentation of your own support material. Never does it say that ABC is limited to using minorities as experts. Never.

And again, cf. ABCNEWS's skin-color edict to show that Gannett is merely the most blatant case; it's nowhere near the only case.

Since your sole example is a lie, your charge is wholly unsupported.

I've posted before that there are only two subjects I've ever seen make otherwise-rational people start talking about the possibility of committing widespread violent civil disobedience: nationwide gun bans and slavery reparations.

Gee, then it's a good thing we don't have any shit-stirring bomb throwers charging into topics they know are volatile and throwing lies around.
posted by NortonDC at 2:23 PM on February 24, 2002

insomnyuk: First off, thank you for the response. I spent maybe half an hour writing my response, and I'm glad that it wasn't for nothing after all.

Now to answer your question, I wish I had Ivan Hannaford's Race: The History of an Idea in the West; there's a paragraph there where he lays out the particular elements of racist ideology. Suffice it to say that I believe that most Americans believe in race as some intrinsic human characteristic that has more than a merely conventional, socially constructed reality, and are guided by this belief in their actions and responses to others. Even those (such as myself) who can intellectually dismiss these notions often have pretrained emotional responses in accordance with them, precisely because this sentiment, and the ideology based on it, is so thoroughly ingrained in American culture.

I believe it is fair to call this notion racism. Perhaps, according to K.A. Appiah, I should be calling this racialism instead. But whatever - American race ideology does not end here, and I think you all get my drift.
posted by skoosh at 4:29 PM on February 24, 2002

Are you a racist if you believe that people of different races exist?

You are a racist if you believe in white people.
posted by sudama at 10:13 AM on February 26, 2002

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