Friday, March 10, 2006

How - and what - are we doing?

The other day I heard an NPR story about a new reality show, Black/White (I'm guessing at the punctuation). The premise is that two families, one black, one white, move into a house together. So far, it's The Real World. But once in the same digs, when the members of each family venture out into the actual Real World, they're first transformed into their own "negatives" - the white family is made up to appear black, the black family to appear white. Then they go do things that will help them experience race as The Other. The white teenage daughter, for instance, checks into a Beverly Hills boutique in search of a job. The saleswoman to whom she speaks (who sounds about eighteen and as Beverly Hills as it's possible to sound) tells her that yes, they're hiring, but the manager isn't in and there is no application she can take with her. "Got it," snaps the daughter.

Unfortunately I had to get out of the car between this example and the tail-end of the story, so I missed any other examples. At the end of the story, when I turned on the radio again, the director (I think) was speaking about how his own views on race were affected by the program, or "project" as the participants called it. He had always thought that "color blindness" was the appropriate goal, but now, he said, he'd realized that it's even more important to try to empathize with those of other ethnicities, because their experience isn't the same as yours, no matter what yours is.

So my question for the day is, what is the correct model in the United States? Is it the "melting pot," the "tossed salad," or - my preference - the "stew"? The melting pot analogy implies that all differences are somehow dissolved into a single homogeneous substance; the tossed salad implies that each "ingredient" remains entirely intact and can be enjoyed either separately or in combination with others; the stew implies that the "ingredients," while retaining some of their starting character, nevertheless take on some of the "flavors" of other ingredients, so that the carrot, eaten alone, tastes of the onion, and the potatoe (sorry, little joke there) potato tastes of the meat. I like stew. I like the ethnic "stew" I perceive in the United States; my life is richer for its exposure to other cultures and other people's stories. But what do other Americans think? This is not a trivial question. Europe appears not only to be using the tossed salad model but the composed salad model, in which the ingredients are kept separate on the plate, and the results have been played out just this year alone in riots, arsons, and murders on a frightening scale.

The reality show raised another set of questions for me too, one that comes up a whole lot on Protein Wisdom pretty much all the time under the heading of identity politics: who decides when "the problem of race" has been adequately addressed, and using what standard? I consider myself a classical liberal, which means to me that the way to address societal inequities is twofold: remove barriers in society, and change my own mind, if it needs changing, to align with the maximum in individual rights and liberties. The responsibility does not lie with society to legislate improper thought - in fact, it can't be done; attempts to do so, I believe, often just push it underground. What can be legislated - and adjudicated, when necessary - is removal of barriers, but then there arises the difficulty of determining what is a substantive barrier to equal opportunity, versus an inconvenient barrier to equal outcome.

Again, this question is not trivial, and I use the term "inconvenient" not to downplay those barriers that do stand in the way of equal outcome - for instance, the teenager in inner-city Seattle has access to Franklin High School, which is (or was, when I lived there) a great school, so he has substantive equality of opportunity for a high school education with my (not-yet-teenage) son here in suburban Pennsylvania. But my son will probably have the advantage of access to a group of peers' parents with better summer jobs available than the inner-city boy might have - maybe; let's stipulate it for the sake of argument. Let's further stipulate that the inner-city kid is African-American. Is his lack of access to better close-by summer jobs than fast food, or even more importantly, his lack of access to the people who can hook him up with better opportunities, a substantive barrier, subject to legislation, or just... one of those things?

Black/White is probably not a show I'll be able to watch; I can count the grownup television shows I've seen in the past year on one hand. But just on the face of it, it presents the case that while we've removed legal barriers to opportunity, actual equality of opportunity is still out of some people's - some groups' - grasp because of barriers no less formidable but not subject to the force of law, notably attitudes. But who determines when the attitude is finally correct? Did the teenage daughter really run up against racism in the Beverly Hills boutique, or was the saleswoman just a SoCal brat? Or were there actually no applications for employment at that boutique, just a face-to-face process with the manager? Did the teenage daughter follow up by asking when the manager might be in? Did she later call, or go back with her own face on, and ask the same questions? Or are we to conclude, as the snippet on NPR clearly wants us to, that she was denied even the opportunity to apply for the job because of her apparent race?

So. Where are we? What is racism today, as compared to racism historically? Is it a problem amenable to legislative solution (you'll have some arguing to do here), or is it a waiting game? With members of pretty much every ethnicity represented at the highest levels of government, business, academia, sports, entertainment, is proportional representation the desired outcome, or a shift in the goalposts? If porportional representation does not occur, is it a sign of racism, or of temporary coincidence in a meritocratic system? Cobra, are you out there?

UPDATE: I just found an article on the show in the Philadelphia Inquirer from last week. It's Black. White. rather than Black/White, but beyond that, the article was not especially illuminating.

20 comments:

Cobra said...

Jamie writes:

>>>"So. Where are we? What is racism today, as compared to racism historically? Is it a problem amenable to legislative solution (you'll have some arguing to do here), or is it a waiting game? With members of pretty much every ethnicity represented at the highest levels of government, business, academia, sports, entertainment, is proportional representation the desired outcome, or a shift in the goalposts? If porportional representation does not occur, is it a sign of racism, or of temporary coincidence in a meritocratic system? Cobra, are you out there?"

I'm here, Jamie! :-)

The difficulty about discussing race in America is that I truly believe that it's still about the journey, and not the "destination."
To fear that which is different is something that mankind has always struggled with, and no amount of individual success will counteract that fear en masse.

Now, I watched much of the first installment of "Black. White." My overall impression was that the rapper Ice Cube and the FX Channel probably should be commended for the effort and concept, but I was left feeling cheated. The most powerful part of the program had to be the discussion group on racism that both families attended in makeup, one entirely black and the other entirely white, and some of the unguarded thoughts and feelings that were expressed when people don't feel that need to be "politically correct." I could have done without lessons on the "black handshake" or "black walk" of the day, because they came off like Pryor and Wilder from the film "Silver Streak".
I wish Ice Cube had hooked up with PBS, and took the experiment to "Heartland" America--Lincoln, Nebraska--Boise, Idaho--Greenville, South Carolina--etc. Then we'd see something special.

Now, back to your questions. Race, IMHO is still the 800lb gorilla in the middle of the American living room. People will avoid dealing with it, until they're smacked up against it.
Do I think there has been progress? Of course. I have Civil Rights. I can vote. I can go to integrated schools and apply for the same jobs, with an OPPORTUNITY to get hired. I won't get lynched for winking at the bank teller who looks like Liv Tyler, etc.
Do I believe there is a WHOLE lot more work to be done? Absolutely.
You ask about legislation. Well, to be honest, legislation regarding race is difficult in America BECAUSE of what our two party system, post-CRA 1964 is all about. Let's face facts. The base of the Democratic party is African-American, and the base of the Republican party is primarily comprised of white males. It's not an accident. The Southern Strategy is openly admitted by GOP Chairman Ken Mehlman.
That doesn't mean every Democrat secretly wears a dashiki and every Republican a Klan robe, but at the heart of any political discussion of race, whether it's about Affirmative Action, racial profiling, voter disenfranchisment/suppression, Katrina, police brutality, etc, you can guess which party the politician represents before you even know the person's name.

Politicians from either side never pander directly to the opposition's base with race, but try to siphon off some percentage points with scritped "Sistah Souljah" moments ala Clinton in '92.

Do I believe we still need Affirmative Action? Absolutely. The fact remains that African-Americans and other minority groups just don't have equal opportunity in hiring, promotion, and government contracts. Proof?
Take noted Princeton Sociologist Devah Pager's voluminous work on the subject, where she discovered that white FELONS stood a better chance of being hired than African-Americans with no criminal record.

http://www.princeton.edu/~pager/race_at_work.pdf

You're absolutely right when you state that there are SOME African-Americans at the very top of various fields, but proportionate representation is not so much a "goal" but a thermometer on the "racial health" of the society.

Yes, Shani Davis was the first African-American to win and individual gold medal at the Winter Olympics, but he's also a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the city of Chicago for racial profiling--"walking while black."

I can understand principled opposition to racial preferences bereft of a biased taint, but in fairness, I still believe there's a large segment of American society that doesn't have altruistic motivations for that position.

--Cobra

Anonymous said...

Wait... you listen to NPR? What kind of Republican are you? (That's a joke!)

As for racism... hmmm... well, if civilization and civility continues down it's current course (and I hope it does) then I believe racism will eventually take care of itself. We'll mix and mingle and mate until we're all touched by elements of every race. It's exciting. I'm not particularly religious, but I think it's God's plan.

Unfortunately, I realize humans are inherently selfish and self-serving. I'm not sure we can ever remove the urge to divide and catagorize each other. Racism will be replaced by labelling. Take high school as a microcosm: geeks versus jocks becomes liberals versus conservatives, etc. Its sad.

Gahrie said...

Cobra:

A few questions:

1) Which party was formed to oppose slavery? Which party supported slavery?

2) Which party supported the CRA in 1964? Which party opposed it?

3) Which party supports treating people as individuals? Which party puts people in groups based on characteristics such as race?

4) Which party has the better record of appointing minorities to high positions in our government?

5) Which party fired a Senator from a leadership position for making a staement that can be construed as raciust> Which party supports a Senator who organized cells of the KKK and still uses words like nigger?

Jamie said...

Thanks, gents! (I'm assuming "Anonymous" is Robert, my favorite Mac user, who may be having issues with creating a Blogger account. Or something. That you, Robert?)

Cobra, you and I have a history on this subject; I wanted, and continue to want, to hear your comments because you come at the issue of race from that very "journey, not destination" angle. I keep asking you for your description of the destination, and you continue to emphasize the journey - which is valuable because I agree that American society is still on the road. I just believe that we're farther down it than you may believe.

My reason for that feeling is based on two, maybe three personal phenomena: my own experiences (including those inside my own head), my political and social fellow-travellers whom I know personally, and my perception of society as expressed in mainstream culture. By all these measures, race is not, to me, the 800lb gorilla any longer, but rather the lapdog. (That is, it's there, but it's not dangerous - more like irritating, esp. if you're wearing dark slacks.) But as you've pointed out in the past, I'm not necessarily the Median American Female. OTOH, while your experience of race is necessarily more immediate than mine, it's also an anecdotal experience. The study you cite is fairly dreadful in its implications - but I'd like to see the same study happen in a state with more direct experience with race. (I was born in Wisconsin; it's still not exactly Diversity Central. Milwaukee itself is pretty diverse, I note, but in Wisconsin as a whole I'd wager you'll find a higher percentage of people who have never had direct experience with people of other ethnic groups than in, say, Texas. Let me also note that I haven't lived in a place where *I* was even close to in the minority in many years.) All that said, I see that she's working to expand her research.

The problem I see with Affirmative Action in the present day is that - speaking with impunity for Americans of Little Melanin and No Epicanthic Fold - its reason for being appears to have faded so thoroughly into the background. It's now demonstrably possible for people of any gender, any ethnicity to enter any stratum of society, any career, any relationship - generically speaking. So the once-obvious injustice is no longer obvious, while the equally obvious real or perceived "preference" remains obvious because of the nature of the beast - there's no Affirmative Action for invisible traits, AFAIK. Resentment is the result, so it's difficult to separate the principled motivations for being against racial preferences from the more axe-to-grind ones.

Anonymous, if that is your real name, your position is the one closest to mine, I think. Of course, it's easy for *me* to say, "Time will take care of it - give it one more generation," because I'm minimally affected. I know that, and it makes me approach this subject with a certain degree of humility (more than I have on some other subjects).

Gahrie, your #3 is the most telling one for me, and a primary reason why I self-identify as a Republican.

Cobra said...

Jamie writes:

>>>"Cobra, you and I have a history on this subject; I wanted, and continue to want, to hear your comments because you come at the issue of race from that very "journey, not destination" angle. I keep asking you for your description of the destination, and you continue to emphasize the journey - which is valuable because I agree that American society is still on the road. I just believe that we're farther down it than you may believe."

And that's why we continue to have a friendly and constructive dialogue on the subject. Race is an incredibly complex and combustible topic, which is why it's nearly impossible to discuss without it getting personal...much like religion and politics.
I freely admit that I come to the discussion with life experience and anecdotes, however, there is plenty of data from EEOC, H.U.D., D.O.J. and learned sociologists that there's a LONG journey ahead for America.

Gahre writes:

>>>"1) Which party was formed to oppose slavery? Which party supported slavery?"

Trick question. Confederates supported slavery, yet Yankees owned slaves as well. Abraham Lincoln was indeed a Republican, and he was indeed a RACIST.
Proof?

From the Lincoln-Douglas debates:

>>>""I agree with Judge Douglas that he [a black] is not my equal in many respects, certainly not in color — perhaps not in intellectual and moral endowments; "

Some historians want to cut Lincoln a break because the vast majority of whites in 19th Century America believed that...but hey...there are 21st Century whites who believe that as well, that is if you read Murray, D'Souza, Buckley Jr. etc.

>>>"2) Which party supported the CRA in 1964? Which party opposed it?"

The CRA of 1964 was a BI-PARTISAN vote. Democrats (Dixiecrats) like Strom Thurmond opposed it, jumped ship and became Republicans. Republicans like Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Reinquist were against both it and the Voting Rights act of 1965.
Read the actually tally:

>>>"The Original House Version: 290-130
The Senate Version: 73-27
The Senate Version, as voted on by the House: 289-126
[edit]
By Party
The Original House Version:

Democratic Party: 153-96
Republican Party: 138-34
The Senate Version:

Democratic Party: 46-22
Republican Party: 27-6
The Senate Version, voted on by the House:

Democratic Party: 153-91
Republican Party: 136-35
Switches in position:

"Yea" to "Nay": Earl Wilson (R-IN), Bob Wilson (R-CA), and Charlotte T. Reid (R-IL)

"Nay" to "Yea": John Jacob Rhodes (R-AZ), J. Edward Hutchinson (R-MI), and Charles Weltner (D-GA).

[edit]
By Party and Region
The Original House Version:

Southern Democrats: 7-87
Southern Republicans: 0-10
Northern Democrats: 145-9
Northern Republicans: 138-24
The Senate Version:

Southern Democrats: 1-21
Southern Republicans: 0-1
Northern Democrats: 46-1
Northern Republicans: 27-5 "

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1964_Civil_Rights_Act#By_Party

So as you can see, MORE Democrats voted for the CRA of 64 than Republicans, if not only for the fact that there were MORE OF THEM. Southern whites of either party didn't support this bill.

>>>"3) Which party supports treating people as individuals? Which party puts people in groups based on characteristics such as race?"

This is another trick question. It all depends on what topic you're discussing. If you discussing profiling, disaster relief, tax cuts, warrantless wiretapping, etc. you could get a variety of different answers.

>>>"4) Which party has the better record of appointing minorities to high positions in our government?"

Trick question again. One cannot espouse "colorblindness" and "treating people as individuals and not racial groups" and then turn around and expect a pat on the back for minority appointments. If the minority appointment is qualified for the position, why should there be a celebration for using common sense?

>>>5) Which party fired a Senator from a leadership position for making a staement that can be construed as raciust> Which party supports a Senator who organized cells of the KKK and still uses words like nigger?"

Trent Lott's replacement was Bill Frist, another elderly southern white conservative male. You want me to compare and contrast three elderly southern white conservative males and their views on race? Please review the geographical breakdown of the CRA of 64 vote I provided and get back to me.


--Cobra

Gahrie said...

Well let me be the first to apologise for the actions of this country and the American people. After all, all they have done is produce the highest standard of living that Blacks have ever enjoyed anywhere in the world, at any point in history.

Jamie said...

Cobra -

I was going to let you and Gahrie duke it out, but there are some points I have to bring up (you know me): As to the '64 vote, yup, more Democrats than Republicans voted for it (though that's not true in a percent-of-total sense), but as you note, the vote was much more clearly split along regional lines than party lines. As such it says diddly about Republicans, and diddly about Democrats, but quite a lot about the state of the States. Also as you point out, the CRA was a bipartisan effort that (this part you didn't say) could not have succeeded without Republican support. Your statement that "Southern whites of either party didn't support this bill" is a little on the broadly-generalized side too, though I know what you meant - Southern Congresspeople of either party rather than the monolithic "Southern whites." Furthermore, I know you're aware that opposition to the CRA and the VRA fell into two general groupings, the pro-segregationists and the States' Rights group, and these two are not the same.

On Lincoln, the existence of racists in the present day (though I s'pose I could get into your characterization of the particular people you mentioned - maybe another day) has nothing to do with the fact that in Lincoln's time, his attitude was on the enlightened side of mainstream.

Back here in the present, I see two points of view that can be readily construed as non-racist: 1. The Democrat version, which includes racial preferences and identity politics (I'll shorthand it here - I'm sure you'll have thoughts and look forward to more discussion on the topic) designed to repair past wrongs to a greater or lesser degree, and 2. the Republican version, which includes judgment on merit and the classical liberal philosophy of individual rights (and responsibilities) without regard to an individual's membership in any group. Even if I didn't wear my party on my blog the way I do, it'd be obvious to which view I subscribe just by the language with which I describe them - but I acknowledge that neither side does anything close to a perfect job of living up to its ideals. (What, for instance, has the Democratic party done for its African-American supporters lately? Putting up John Kerry wasn't exactly a favor. I know you can come up with your own examples of how we Republicans fall short...)

I agree with your critique of Gahrie's #4, but do you remember our discussion of Dr. Rice when she had just been appointed SecState? If I recall, you took the position that if she wasn't the best person in the country for the job, she shouldn't get it - but as I pointed out, Madeleine Albright set the bar; was Rice or wasn't she able to meet that standard? If yes, then there should be no quibbles with Bush's appointing her to that high office, since he apparently felt she was the best candidate he knew (by which I mean "knew personally or had had referred to him").

In short, if it's unacceptable to claim meritocracy but expect kudos for the irrelevant characteristics of appointees, it ought to be just as unacceptable to claim a desire for racial justice and equal opportunity but hold an intelligent and capable person (of a different ideological stripe but an ethnicity desirable to your aims) to a higher standard than you'd (implicitly) hold that person if she were of your political persuasion.

Elderly white southern conservative males. What are you gonna do? The CRA-era Congresspeople are on the way out, by the mere passage of time; we'll see what happens with the new crowd. I guarantee that the next generation of elderly white southern conservative males will not be Byrd, or even Lott.

Far afield... I've gotten caught up in party when I intended to discuss race. Bring me back on track.

Gahrie said...

We live in a society in which White kids dress like inner city gangbangers, listen to 50 Cent, Ludiacris and Beyonce, revere Tupac like their parents rever Elvis, speak ebonics and want to grow up to be Michael Jordan, Shaq and Tiger Woods. The last two Secretaries of State have been Black. The person most Republicans would like to have appointed to the Supreme Court is a Black woman, and the person most Republicans would like to run for president is a Black woman.

The difficulty about discussing race in America is that I truly believe that it's still about the journey, and not the "destination."


This is doublespeak. What you mean is, that no matter how much progress is made, it will never be enough. If there is no destination, there is no purpose for the jouney, we are just wandering in a wilderness.

but at the heart of any political discussion of race, whether it's about Affirmative Action, racial profiling, voter disenfranchisment/suppression, Katrina, police brutality, etc, you can guess which party the politician represents before you even know the person's name.


I agree with you here, but probably for much different reasons. If the person is talking about entitlements, victimization and government programs They're probably Democratic. If they are talking about responsibilities, individualism and local solutions, they are probably Republican.

but proportionate representation is not so much a "goal" but a thermometer on the "racial health" of the society.


Some of us believe that treating people as members of a race, rather than individuals is the problem. Any system of proportionate representation perpetuates racism, because it forces people to be treated as a member of a racial group, rather than as an individual.

Cobra said...

http://www.thecobraslair.com/National%20Issues26.html

Jamie is absolutely right. Nobody is ever going to mistake me for a fan of Condolezza Rice. We've had deep discussions about her before, and we could do so again...probably in another thread, but if you want me to say something positive about her...ok. She was an African-American appointment by Bush who has not yet been caught shoplifting.

Jamie writes:

>>>"Furthermore, I know you're aware that opposition to the CRA and the VRA fell into two general groupings, the pro-segregationists and the States' Rights group, and these two are not the same."

The goal, however was common, and beyond any moral rationale. People throughout the ages have made all sorts of pseudo-intellectual justifications for attrocious behavior.

Essentially, Barry Goldwater didn't become more "huggable" to a black person living under the boot of Jim Crow than Strom Thurmond, because both their positions kept the oppressor's boot firmly in place.

Jamie writes:

>>>"On Lincoln, the existence of racists in the present day (though I s'pose I could get into your characterization of the particular people you mentioned - maybe another day) has nothing to do with the fact that in Lincoln's time, his attitude was on the enlightened side of mainstream."

Which speaks pretty poorly of America, don't you think? I mean, face it...Mt. Rushmore has the graven images of two slave owners and two guys who thought blacks were inferior (Teddy went a bit farther and thought all non-white, particularly non-ANGLO-SAXON races were inferior, and even championed eugenics.)

>>>"M.I.T.’s Walker got an intellectual boost from activities of the influential American sociologist Edward A. Ross, who explained to the American Academy of Political and Social Science exactly how unchecked Asiatic immigration would lead to the extinction of the American people. Higher races, he said, will not endure competition from lower ones. After that, even Teddy Roosevelt was issuing marching orders to Anglo-Saxon mothers, asking well-bred ladies to mobilize their loins in an effort to arrest the suicidal decline. Breed as if the race depended on it, said Roosevelt. Eugenics had openly become national politics for the first time in America, but hardly the last."

http://www.rit.edu/~cma8660/mirror/www.johntaylorgatto.com/chapters/11d.htm

Jamie writes:

>>>"1. The Democrat version, which includes racial preferences and identity politics (I'll shorthand it here - I'm sure you'll have thoughts and look forward to more discussion on the topic) designed to repair past wrongs to a greater or lesser degree, and 2. the Republican version, which includes judgment on merit and the classical liberal philosophy of individual rights (and responsibilities) without regard to an individual's membership in any group."

I would say here that the example you provide for Republicans would be ideal--if we lived in an ideal society. We do not. The Democratic strategy may be distasteful to purists and academic absolutists, but in the tangible America, it's almost a requirement, as society continues to judge based on skin color, culture, nation of origin, religion, gender, sexual preference, hair color, weight, and approximation of the eurocentric beauty standard no matter what impotently enforced law may or may not be on the books restricting such judgements.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"Well let me be the first to apologise for the actions of this country and the American people. After all, all they have done is produce the highest standard of living that Blacks have ever enjoyed anywhere in the world, at any point in history."

First of all, that's just not true. I don't even have to go pre-colonial African Kingdoms on you to prove it.

>>>"Ranking behind Norway in the top 10 - as the country with the world's highest standard of living - were Australia, Canada, Sweden, Belgium, the United States, Iceland, the Netherlands, Japan and Finland."

http://www.atimes.com/oceania/CG11Ah02.html

So by definition, the 662,000+ (as of the 2001 Census) Canadian Blacks are living at a higher standard than me and the rest of my African-American countrymen. And don't forget about the brothas and sistahs in Noway, Australia, Belgium and Sweden.

Second, you make some sort of vague inferrence in your commentary that would lend somebody believe African-Americans "owe" white Americans something for this standard of living.

We don't. African-Americans were, for the most part, not only brought over here against our free will, endured centuries of chattel slavery and oppression...but still managed to thanklessly serve in EVERY MAJOR WAR AND CONFLICT this nation has ever fought in, including the CIVIL WAR where 190,000 African-Americans served in the Union Army, and some more even served on the Confederate side. The back half of the title "African-American" was earned with the blood, sweat and tears of my forefathers, so any revisionist history about a debt being owed rings quite hollow.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"We live in a society in which White kids dress like inner city gangbangers, listen to 50 Cent, Ludiacris and Beyonce, revere Tupac like their parents rever Elvis, speak ebonics and want to grow up to be Michael Jordan, Shaq and Tiger Woods. The last two Secretaries of State have been Black. The person most Republicans would like to have appointed to the Supreme Court is a Black woman, and the person most Republicans would like to run for president is a Black woman."

And THEN Gahrie writes:

>>>"Some of us believe that treating people as members of a race, rather than individuals is the problem. Any system of proportionate representation perpetuates racism, because it forces people to be treated as a member of a racial group, rather than as an individual."

Hello? Which thesis are you selling me, Gahrie? This "Love-Condi-Hate-Tupac-but-don't-acknowlege-they're-both-black-for-the-sake-of-white-republican-voters/kids" is a bit confusing to me.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"What you mean is, that no matter how much progress is made, it will never be enough. If there is no destination, there is no purpose for the jouney, we are just wandering in a wilderness."

Well, let's see. Within MY lifetime, there were states that I couldn't marry someone of a different race in. Today, some of those same states have high schools that ban interracial proms, so I can't deny that some progress has been made. America still has a problem with race because race is a human issue, and humans are flawed.

I cannot look at the topic of racism and believe it has inevitable progress in store. I cannot control the thoughts and motivations of other Americans, any more than you can speak for the true mindset of people other than yourself. I will say, however, there is far too much data out there supporting a more thornier view than the rose like one some might present.

--Cobra

Gahrie said...

1) I fully acknowledge the constributions of Blacks to our nation, which is one of the reasons I refuse to call them any type of hyphenated American. Just as I don't refer to myself as a Euro-American.

so any revisionist history about a debt being owed rings quite hollow.


No where have I ever come close to saying that Black Americans owe a debt, and frankly I am offended that you accuse me of it.

2) First of all your link is to a statistic invented by the UN 16 years ago, which in the eyes of most rational people automatically discredits it.You somehow failed to mention that your link mentioned that the 28th lowest ranked countries using their measurements were all African, but I'm sure that's the fault of the White man anyway. Further reading of the article shows that our sixth place is largely based on educational enrollment (which is a whole other argument and a problem I know all about as a teacher) and life expectancy (which I would argue is a factor of our prosperous and indulgent lifestyle) The only country with a higher per capita income, (which is the true measurement of standard of living) was Luxemborg. Any attempt to seriously argue that ancient Africans had a higher standard of living is ridiculous on it's face.

3)and approximation of the eurocentric beauty standard

Where have you been living? Women all over America are getting botox inject to get bigger lips. Tanning booths are doing a landslide business, even with the cancer risk. Big butts are in. Those hardly sound European to me.

4) Love-Condi-Hate-Tupac-but-don't-acknowlege-they're-both-black


First of all, I never said I hated Tupac. In fact all I said was that a whole generation of White kids reveres him. However I do consider him a destructive influence in both the White and Black communities. I certainly didn't fail to acknowledge that either were Black, their being black was why I included them in my argument. In fact I would turn the accusation around, and say it is the Left that is refusing to acknowledge that Sec. Rice is Black.

5) There was a time in this country when my parents could not get married, because one was Catholic, and one was Protestant. In fact, my Dad had to promise to raise me as a Catholic before he and my mother were allowed to marry. The one thing I will agree with you on is that fear and distrust of the other is endemic to the human condition. I will merely point out that the one place in the world where it is most ameliorated is the US. As for segregated proms, to the best of my knowledge that is a preference of both Whites and Blacks, and has far more to do with musical and social differences today than it does race. And it's not White folks creating BSUs and Black dorms at our colleges

6) I cannot look at the topic of racism and believe it has inevitable progress in store.

Again I agree with you. The problem is, I see your solutions as a primary factor in the perpetuation of the problem.

As long as race is seen as the most important, defining, characteristic of a person, racism by definition must exist.

Cobra said...

Gahrie writes:

>>>"No where have I ever come close to saying that Black Americans owe a debt, and frankly I am offended that you accuse me of it."

Well, if you make a statement like:
"Well let me be the first to apologise for the actions of this country and the American people. After all, all they have done is produce the highest standard of living that Blacks have ever enjoyed anywhere in the world, at any point in history."

You're not only implying that I should be "grateful" for the "standard of living", but that "American action" was responsible for it, glossing over the fact that there were CENTURIES of attrocities against African-Americans. Also, you fail to mention that even at the "highest standard of living of any blacks on the planet in history" (which I dispute anyway), it still doesn't reach the standard of living by WHITE AMERICANS, which means there is not only a disparity, but an obvious indicator that we still have a long way to go.
In other words, your paragraph could be construed by the reader as a message to silence any criticism of American racism.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"First of all your link is to a statistic invented by the UN 16 years ago, which in the eyes of most rational people automatically discredits it.You somehow failed to mention that your link mentioned that the 28th lowest ranked countries using their measurements were all African, but I'm sure that's the fault of the White man anyway."

We can certainly discuss the impact of European colonization upon the indigenous non-white populations around the world. Why restrict it to Africa, but if you deny that there were black kings, empires, universities, and booming civilizations then no amount of blog posting by me is going to change your state of mind.

Second, there is a condescending implication in your tone that would suggest that there can't be a quality of life unless it is being lived in cable-ready, gadget-hoarding 2006 America.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"As for segregated proms, to the best of my knowledge that is a preference of both Whites and Blacks, and has far more to do with musical and social differences today than it does race."

You see, there you go again. Look at your own writings:

>>>"We live in a society in which White kids dress like inner city gangbangers, listen to 50 Cent, Ludiacris and Beyonce, revere Tupac like their parents rever Elvis, speak ebonics and want to grow up to be Michael Jordan, Shaq and Tiger Woods."

So where is the issue regarding integrated proms? You KNOW what the real issue is--the fear of interracial dating (sex). Like I said, in MY lifetime, it miscegenation was illegal in some southern states. Your personal views on interracial dating is irrelevant, as is mine. America as a society, according to polls, still doesn't have unanimous approval.


--Cobra

Gahrie said...

You're not only implying that I should be "grateful" for the "standard of living", but that "American action" was responsible for it, glossing over the fact that there were CENTURIES of attrocities against African-Americans. Also, you fail to mention that even at the "highest standard of living of any blacks on the planet in history" (which I dispute anyway), it still doesn't reach the standard of living by WHITE AMERICANS

1) I see our first problem is definitions. I consider black Americans to be just as American as the rest of us, and when I use the term American, I am including Black Americans within it. Sadly, apparently, you do not.

2) There are millions of more poor Whites in this country than poor Blacks. There are Blacks in this country in the top 5% of the wealthy. Wealth in this country is not based on race. Sadly the plague of single motherhood has hit the Black community particularly hard, and decades of government handouts has also had a deletorious effect.

but if you deny that there were black kings, empires, universities, and booming civilizations then no amount of blog posting by me is going to change your state of mind.

Not only do I not deny it, I teach about it. And by the standards of those times, many upper class Africans had a high standard of living. But if you took any of those kings in a time machine to modern times, they'd beg to stay here and be an ordinary citizen rather than return as king.

Second, there is a condescending implication in your tone that would suggest that there can't be a quality of life unless it is being lived in cable-ready, gadget-hoarding 2006 America.


Nope, I am actually not fond of commercialism. I will point out though, that the average American family in poverty has running water, indoor plumping, a stove, a refrigerator, electricity, at least one color television and quite often a car. There are many places in the world today where not even the middle class has all of that.

You KNOW what the real issue is--the fear of interracial dating (sex).

I know you are going to blast me for this, but my two best friends are Black men married to White women. One of my colleagues is a White man married to a Black women. It has been my experience that the demographic most upset about interracial relationships is Black women, who feel that Black men are abandoning them for White women.

Let me also state that the vast majority of segregation taking place today, is being done by Blacks segregating themselves from Whites.

Cobra said...

Let me preface this by saying that I really enjoy this dialogue, and I don't wish to come across as your "enemy" or "opponent." We may disagree on this issue, but I fully acknowledge that the issue is multi-faceted.

That being said...

Gahrie writes:

>>>1) I see our first problem is definitions. I consider black Americans to be just as American as the rest of us, and when I use the term American, I am including Black Americans within it. Sadly, apparently, you do not."

That's a commendable personal trait, Gahrie, and I say that with all seriousness. However, it is a relatively NEW trait in America, and one that isn't universally applied or embraced.

If I purchase a firearm, ATF Form #4473 commands that I write down my race in a box in the upper right hand corner of the document. If I fail to do so, I cannot legally purchase the firearm. If I put a false answer in the box, I could be fined or imprisoned.

If I register to vote in the State of Florida, I have to indicate my race. I know this because of the False Felon Purges of the elections in 2000 and 2004.

http://www.gregpalast.com/detail.cfm?artid=122&row=1

The interesting part of that episode is that during my research of that 57,000+ felon list, I found out that my given name, exact spelling was on that list, which means, I would have been stripped of my Constitutional right to vote had I lived in Florida in the year 2004.
I can assure you, I'm NOT a convicted felon, but those are just TWO examples where institutions have determined that my race matters, and there's no such thing as being "simply" American.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"2) There are millions of more poor Whites in this country than poor Blacks. There are Blacks in this country in the top 5% of the wealthy. Wealth in this country is not based on race. Sadly the plague of single motherhood has hit the Black community particularly hard, and decades of government handouts has also had a deletorious effect."

African-Americans only represent 12% of the US population, so sheer demographics would support your first claim about poor whites.
Second, I would AGREE with you that single motherhood is a recipe for any number of economic problems. I don't base my assessment on just that, however.

A review of the State of Black America Report from 2005 has some interesting conclusions.

>>>"1. Economics - Still the largest divide, black economic status measures 57 percent of white counterparts, an equality gap 20 percent wider than any other category. Black unemployment remained stagnant at 10.8 percent while white unemployment dropped to 4.7 percent, making black unemployment more than twice that of whites.

2. Health - Black health status is 76 percent of whites. Obesity rates for blacks are increasing faster and the life expectancy rate for blacks is 72 years vs. 78 years for whites.

3. Education - Black education status is 77 percent of whites. Teachers with less than 3 years experience teach in minority schools at twice the rate that they teach in white schools.

4. Social Justice - When measuring sentencing, enforcement and victimization, black vs. white equality under law is 68 percent of whites (5 percent less than 2004 the worst decline overall.). Blacks are three times (3X) more likely to become prisoners once arrested and a Black person s average jail sentence is six months longer than a white s for the same crime; 39 months versus 33 months.

5. Civic Engagement - Blacks out-measure whites in the area of civic engagement (voter registration, volunteerism and government service) at 1.08. However, volunteerism is declining for both blacks and whites, due to an upsurge with the 2004 elections.

Total Equality Index states that Black status is 73% of their white counterparts"

http://www.nul.org/PressReleases/2005/2005PR185.html

Now, do these statistics mean that Oprah Winfrey will be out panhandling next week? Not at all, but these results don't support your statements regarding wealth equality in America between the races.

Your statement about "government handouts" is also muted by your OWN statement that there are more poor whites than blacks--ergo...more "white handout recipients" than black, yet the social scientists that blow this trumpet won't play that factual note.

>>>"I will point out though, that the average American family in poverty has running water, indoor plumping, a stove, a refrigerator, electricity, at least one color television and quite often a car."

Well, that's again, a matter of perspective and interpretation of the facts. For example, I can truthfully claim that the average PRISON INMATE has "running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, three hot meals a day, access to color television (sometimes cable!) and exercise equipment equivolent to a baseline health club membership." Does that mean that the life of a PRISON INMATE is something to aspire to? I think not. Neither is life in impoverished America.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"I know you are going to blast me for this, but my two best friends are Black men married to White women. One of my colleagues is a White man married to a Black women. It has been my experience that the demographic most upset about interracial relationships is Black women, who feel that Black men are abandoning them for White women."

Again, my personal views on interracial dating and sex are irrelevant. The facts are that only 5.5% of all marriages in America are between blacks and whites (the most controversial of interracial marriages).
Your statement about black women would suggest that there is a paucity of non-black men willing to step up to the plate and date interracially, which is again something my opinion is irrelevant on.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"Let me also state that the vast majority of segregation taking place today, is being done by Blacks segregating themselves from Whites."

Could you cite some research about this? Most of mine indicates that realtors (overwhelmingly white) and zoning boards (overwhelmingly white) have far more influence over where people have access to live than you seem to give them credit for.

--Cobra

Gahrie said...

1) My comment about segregation is not about where people live, it is about how they associate. I am referring to things like a whole conference of Black colleges. Can you even imagine a single college described as a white college? There is a Black Miss America pagent, even though several Black women have won the Miss America pagent. Could you imagine a White Miss America pagent? On college campuses all over America, Black students are forming Black Student Unions and Black dorms. How long would a White Student Union or a White dorm last? There is only one religion in the US today that restricts membership based on race, The Nation of Islam.

2) The National Urban League is hardly a neutral party, and there is no discussion of the scientific basis for their index.

However I will acknowledge that on average Blacks are not doing as well as whites in the US, even though there are doing better than almost everyone else in the world. But my explanation for this is not the simplistic cry of racism, but an examination of deeper reasons. Reasons such as endemic drug and gang presence in most Black communities. Such as single motherhood. Such as poor economic decisions. (How many poor Black kids are wearing $200 shoes and bling bling? I have four in my classes alone)Such as poor schools. (see I agree with you on that one, but the reason has less to do with racism, and more to do with the behavior and attitude of the students in those schools, which is a function of endemic drugs, gangs and single parenthood) That such a concept as "acting White" exists, and is as prevalent as it is speaks volumes.

3) About your comments on prisons, you'll get no argument from me. Our criminals do live better than most people alive today, and 90% of all the people who have ever lived. I believe we coddle our criminals, and make prison life too conmfortable.

4) My argument has never been that life is perfect, or even easy for Blacks in America. But nobody was ever promised that. You are entitled to pursue happiness, not receive it. Are there black marks on the history of the United States? Yes. But I will stack our record against the record of any other country in the world or history. You look around and see a journey without end, wandering in the wilderness. I look around and see the clear path we are forging and how far we have come. (and how much farther we are than everyone else.)

Cobra said...

Gahrie writes:

>>>"1) My comment about segregation is not about where people live, it is about how they associate. I am referring to things like a whole conference of Black colleges. Can you even imagine a single college described as a white college?"

Bob Jones University prided itself on its anti-interracial dating policy. There are other institutions where there is an extreme paucity of black faces--some albeit for religious reasons, like Yeshiva and Brigham Young, but others still. There are "historically black universities" that actually have majority white enrollments, like Lincoln University, and West Virginia State.

http://www.aacrao.org/transcript/index.cfm?fuseaction=show_view&doc_id=2304

Second, I don't think you can leap over the stark reality of residential segregation to discuss what happens in colleges, because it's those same segregated neighbohoods that created the students who attend them.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"There is only one religion in the US today that restricts membership based on race, The Nation of Islam."

You must not have heard of the Christian Identity Movement and Odinism. Believe me, it's out there, and it's real. Let's also not forget the fact that even in "mainstream" religion, the most segregated day of the week is Sunday.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"But my explanation for this is not the simplistic cry of racism, but an examination of deeper reasons. Reasons such as endemic drug and gang presence in most Black communities. Such as single motherhood. Such as poor economic decisions."

There are some points here that I agree with you on, because despite the volumes I seem to write on multiple blogs about racism, I truthfully admit that it can be a skipping CD at times, where innocuous circimstances can be misconstrued as a racial conflict.

I'm sure that your experience as a teacher has provided you with annecdotal examples that I would be foolish to attempt to dispute without firsthand knowlege. Our disagreement on this part would be about the percentages of race-based versus self-inflicted situations African-Americans find themselves in.

The concept of "Acting white", however...is worth an entire thread by itself.

Gahrie writes:

>>>"You are entitled to pursue happiness, not receive it."

It's ironic that you would claim that my view on race is that of "an endless journey", yet you would claim that the Creator endowed inalienable right of "the pursuit of happiness" may prove just as fruitless.

--Cobra

Jamie said...

A brief note only - I don't want to distract either of you from this interesting discussion. But, Cobra, of course the pursuit of happiness may prove fruitless. The object of the game is to provide everyone in these United States with an equal chance to pursue happiness - equality of opportunity - rather than equal happiness - equality of outcome.

It's difficult to assess opportunity; it's easy to assess outcome. Obviously, outcome is also the measure we'd all like to do best at - it does me darn little good to realize that I could have won that d*mn debate against Gahrie back in high school, I had the opportunity to do so, when in fact I lost it (because of the "nuclear-tipped bullets," Gahrie, you maker-upper-of-nonexistent-weapons; I'm still amazed you nonplussed me so much with such a silly creation!). Nonetheless, it was my opportunity to win that counted.

Gahrie said...

1) I already said I was almost sorry I did that. :)

2)http://www.anawa.org.au/weapons/pic-du.html

Jamie said...

Noooooo!!!!

Is that a depleted-uranium round?

*Sigh...*

Cobra said...

I would have paid good money to sit in on that debate...80's perm and all.

Jamie writes:

>>>"The object of the game is to provide everyone in these United States with an equal chance to pursue happiness - equality of opportunity - rather than equal happiness - equality of outcome."

The problem of course, is that are plenty of studies and research that indicate there ISN'T an equality of oportunity. Our current debate revolves around addressing the issues that cause the inequality.

America's issues regarding race can remain below the surface for periods of time, until it bubbles to the surface during agitation or confrontation. Simply saying "it's now safe to into the water" doesn't remove what's lurking in the depths.

--Cobra

Jamie said...

Cobra, I agree with you - there isn't true equality of opportunity. There never will be. All we'll ever be able to do is approximate it, for everyone.

So the question is, when will our approximation be close enough for government work, so to speak? Somebody's always going to be disappointed, both emotionally and practically; how can we, our society, ensure that where inequalities of opportunity occur, they're incidental and not systematic? And how can we best facilitate the rooting-out of systematic (for instance, race- or gender-based) inequalities? My contention is that we'd do best to eschew identity politics, even though it means that in the short term, some individuals will be implicitly asked to "lean into the strike zone and take one for the team," as Jane Galt has been saying on other topics lately; yours (ISTM) is that identity politics is necessary in order to keep the issue sufficiently central to our societal consciousness, even though the cost of identity politics is resentment of and possible backlash against the "minority" (quotes because women aren't a minority).