Racism and Over-Tolerance

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Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby sourmìlk » Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:47 am UTC

I've noticed that, as of late, instead of racism what society has now is a sort of forced tolerance. This is reflected in affirmative action laws and the fact that people can't point out valid cultural differences between people of different ethnicities or religions for fear of being called prejudiced. People disregard rational and reproducible observations for fear that they'll be considered racist. For example, a technician at a sleep study hospital was nervous about saying that Asians tended to have sleep apnea more often than caucasians.

So I ask you, members of the XKCD fora, at what point does racism stop and this over-tolerance begin? What constitutes an appropriate generalization over a culture based on observation, and what constitutes a baseless stereotype?
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Red Hal » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:11 am UTC

I would say that it depends on the language you use for the generalization.

By way of example, assume that the average alcohol consumption per head for people living in Scotland was twice as high as any other country in Europe.
To my mind it would be fair to say "In general, people in Scotland drink more than other Europeans".
It would not be fair to say "All Scots are fucking drunkards."
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby dedalus » Tue Jun 15, 2010 11:10 am UTC

If you're stating a fact, and you're stating a fact in neutral language, then it's not racist. You might have to watch the language so as to make sure it's neutral, but yeah.

If what you're stating is an opinion, or the fact is tainted by opinionated language, then you're heading towards racism, depending upon the statement itself.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby KestrelLowing » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:44 pm UTC

I think that in order to make a generalization about a group of people, statistics are needed to back it up, and in order to not offend, be worded saying something like "the majority of x do y" or "on average x does y more than z"

Something slightly related: I was in German class in high school and we were learning how to describe people (Er hat blaue Augen - He has blue eyes, etc.) so we were drawing pictures =. There was one black student in our class (the rest were Caucasian), and everyone was reluctant to color his skin in darker. We're just hyper-sensitive about everything

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:45 pm UTC

It is forced tolerance, no one says you can't be racist, or tells you who to associate with. Just that you can't act on it against the public interest. Affirmative action is a remedial device which is falling from use after recent Supreme Court decisions.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Indon » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:49 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:For example, a technician at a sleep study hospital was nervous about saying that Asians tended to have sleep apnea more often than caucasians.

Why? Racial trends in medicine are well-established. Some races experience greater rates for heart trouble, for instance, and african-americans primarily suffer from sickle-cell anemia above other ethnicities.

sourmìlk wrote:What constitutes an appropriate generalization over a culture based on observation, and what constitutes a baseless stereotype?

I can hardly see that the difference would be anything but "facts and the appropriate use of them".

KestrelLowing wrote:There was one black student in our class (the rest were Caucasian), and everyone was reluctant to color his skin in darker.


How is that even being tolerant, let alone over-tolerant? That's more being awkwardly self-conscious and not knowing what the hell you're supposed to be doing.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Jessica » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:54 pm UTC

The forming of the OP is telling.

But, I'll give two cents. There should be no problem with good studies which look at biological or medical differences between races. In the sleep apnea example, the researcher is being silly. If their study was as unbiased as possible, there is no problem with finding differences.

There are other issues, of course. In the medical and scientific field, especially in the past, and still today, there are some major problematic biases which should be addressed. People looking for differences will find differences. And there are issues with some of the applicability of certain studies. Not to mention, in general, minorities are treated as curiosities to be studied. Yes, it still happens. Not necessarily to the larger minorities but it still happens.

Also, there's no problem with talking about strictly biological issues, but problems also arise when there is intersection between biology, psychology, environment, society etc. In the example given above of "studied Asians experienced more sleep apnea than studied Caucasians" the next question is why? Because a study can show a difference, but what can cause the difference? The answer isn't necessarily genetic, or inherently biological from one study. It simply showed a statistical difference, with causes unknown.

To answer the more general question of "over-tolerance", again I think the statement of dipoles is leading. The opposite of our current "over-tolerance" isn't necessarily racism. The fact that they place us currently in "over tolerance" means that we shouldn't be as tolerant of others as we are. There are issues that need to be worked on, and I don't think that tolerance of cultural, economic, societal differences is a bad thing for science to look at. Science at it's core isn't inherently racist but scientists are people like you and me, and are affected by bias, just like you and me.

I hope that makes sense.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby juststrange » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:06 pm UTC

Being called out as a racist or bigot causes otherwise legittmate opinions to go un-heard at times. I've had to check myself from calling someone ignorant (that word can be very loaded), or annoying, etc. I am a straight, white, male. I get along with people of every type and creed for the most part. The problem is when people seem to overlook the obvious. I'm not getting on you because you are black/gay/hindu, I'm getting on you because you are a jerk/ignorant/dope. But, must bite tongue (you got down into Baltimore, wait for someone to act ignorant, then tell them that). As such, theres a lot of "free-pass" that goes on.

The problem is, someone always pulls the race card. And they usually get press coverage for it.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Jessica » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:14 pm UTC

Spoiler:
What Kind of Card is Race? By Tim Wise wrote:April 26, 2006


Recently, I was asked by someone in the audience of one of my speeches, whether or not I believed that racism--though certainly a problem--might also be something conjured up by people of color in situations where the charge was inappropriate. In other words, did I believe that occasionally folks play the so-called race card, as a ploy to gain sympathy or detract from their own shortcomings? In the process of his query, the questioner made his own opinion all too clear (an unambiguous yes), and in that, he was not alone, as indicated by the reaction of others in the crowd, as well as survey data confirming that the belief in black malingering about racism is nothing if not ubiquitous.

It's a question I'm asked often, especially when there are several high-profile news events transpiring, in which race informs part of the narrative. Now is one of those times, as a few recent incidents demonstrate: Is racism, for example, implicated in the alleged rape of a young black woman by white members of the Duke University lacrosse team? Was racism implicated in Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's recent confrontation with a member of the Capitol police? Or is racism involved in the ongoing investigation into whether or not Barry Bonds--as he is poised to eclipse white slugger Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list--might have used steroids to enhance his performance?*

Although the matter is open to debate in any or all of these cases, white folks have been quick to accuse blacks who answer in the affirmative of playing the race card, as if their conclusions have been reached not because of careful consideration of the facts as they see them, but rather, because of some irrational (even borderline paranoid) tendency to see racism everywhere. So too, discussions over immigration, "terrorist" profiling, and Katrina and its aftermath often turn on issues of race, and so give rise to the charge that as regards these subjects, people of color are "overreacting" when they allege racism in one or another circumstance.

Asked about the tendency for people of color to play the "race card," I responded as I always do: First, by noting that the regularity with which whites respond to charges of racism by calling said charges a ploy, suggests that the race card is, at best, equivalent to the two of diamonds. In other words, it's not much of a card to play, calling into question why anyone would play it (as if it were really going to get them somewhere). Secondly, I pointed out that white reluctance to acknowledge racism isn't new, and it isn't something that manifests only in situations where the racial aspect of an incident is arguable. Fact is, whites have always doubted claims of racism at the time they were being made, no matter how strong the evidence, as will be seen below. Finally, I concluded by suggesting that whatever "card" claims of racism may prove to be for the black and brown, the denial card is far and away the trump, and whites play it regularly: a subject to which we will return.

Turning Injustice into a Game of Chance: The Origins of Race as "Card"

First, let us consider the history of this notion: namely, that the "race card" is something people of color play so as to distract the rest of us, or to gain sympathy. For most Americans, the phrase "playing the race card" entered the national lexicon during the O.J. Simpson trial. Robert Shapiro, one of Simpson's attorneys famously claimed, in the aftermath of his client's acquittal, that co-counsel Johnnie Cochran had "played the race card, and dealt it from the bottom of the deck." The allegation referred to Cochran's bringing up officer Mark Fuhrman's regular use of the 'n-word' as potentially indicative of his propensity to frame Simpson. To Shapiro, whose own views of his client's innocence apparently shifted over time, the issue of race had no place in the trial, and even if Fuhrman was a racist, this fact had no bearing on whether or not O.J. had killed his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. In other words, the idea that O.J. had been framed because of racism made no sense and to bring it up was to interject race into an arena where it was, or should have been, irrelevant.

That a white man like Shapiro could make such an argument, however, speaks to the widely divergent way in which whites and blacks view our respective worlds. For people of color--especially African Americans--the idea that racist cops might frame members of their community is no abstract notion, let alone an exercise in irrational conspiracy theorizing. Rather, it speaks to a social reality about which blacks are acutely aware. Indeed, there has been a history of such misconduct on the part of law enforcement, and for black folks to think those bad old days have ended is, for many, to let down their guard to the possibility of real and persistent injury (1).

So if a racist cop is the lead detective in a case, and the one who discovers blood evidence implicating a black man accused of killing two white people, there is a logical alarm bell that goes off in the head of most any black person, but which would remain every bit as silent in the mind of someone who was white. And this too is understandable: for most whites, police are the helpful folks who get your cat out of the tree, or take you around in their patrol car for fun. For us, the idea of brutality or misconduct on the part of such persons seems remote, to the point of being fanciful. It seems the stuff of bad TV dramas, or at the very least, the past--that always remote place to which we can consign our national sins and predations, content all the while that whatever demons may have lurked in those earlier times have long since been vanquished.

To whites, blacks who alleged racism in the O.J. case were being absurd, or worse, seeking any excuse to let a black killer off the hook--ignoring that blacks on juries vote to convict black people of crimes every day in this country. And while allegations of black "racial bonding" with the defendant were made regularly after the acquittal in Simpson's criminal trial, no such bonding, this time with the victims, was alleged when a mostly white jury found O.J. civilly liable a few years later. Only blacks can play the race card, apparently; only they think in racial terms, at least to hear white America tell it.

Anything but Racism: White Reluctance to Accept the Evidence

Since the O.J. trial, it seems as though almost any allegation of racism has been met with the same dismissive reply from the bulk of whites in the U.S. According to national surveys, more than three out of four whites refuse to believe that discrimination is any real problem in America (2). That most whites remain unconvinced of racism's salience--with as few as six percent believing it to be a "very serious problem," according to one poll in the mid 90s (3)--suggests that racism-as-card makes up an awfully weak hand. While folks of color consistently articulate their belief that racism is a real and persistent presence in their own lives, these claims have had very little effect on white attitudes. As such, how could anyone believe that people of color would somehow pull the claim out of their hat, as if it were guaranteed to make white America sit up and take notice? If anything, it is likely to be ignored, or even attacked, and in a particularly vicious manner.

That bringing up racism (even with copious documentation) is far from an effective "card" to play in order to garner sympathy, is evidenced by the way in which few people even become aware of the studies confirming its existence. How many Americans do you figure have even heard, for example, that black youth arrested for drug possession for the first time are incarcerated at a rate that is forty-eight times greater than the rate for white youth, even when all other factors surrounding the crime are identical (4)?

How many have heard that persons with "white sounding names," according to a massive national study, are fifty percent more likely to be called back for a job interview than those with "black sounding" names, even when all other credentials are the same (5)?

How many know that white men with a criminal record are slightly more likely to be called back for a job interview than black men without one, even when the men are equally qualified, and present themselves to potential employers in an identical fashion (6)?

How many have heard that according to the Justice Department, Black and Latino males are three times more likely than white males to have their vehicles stopped and searched by police, even though white males are over four times more likely to have illegal contraband in our cars on the occasions when we are searched (7)?

How many are aware that black and Latino students are about half as likely as whites to be placed in advanced or honors classes in school, and twice as likely to be placed in remedial classes? Or that even when test scores and prior performance would justify higher placement, students of color are far less likely to be placed in honors classes (8)? Or that students of color are 2-3 times more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled from school, even though rates of serious school rule infractions do not differ to any significant degree between racial groups (9)?

Fact is, few folks have heard any of these things before, suggesting how little impact scholarly research on the subject of racism has had on the general public, and how difficult it is to make whites, in particular, give the subject a second thought.

Perhaps this is why, contrary to popular belief, research indicates that people of color are actually reluctant to allege racism, be it on the job, or in schools, or anywhere else. Far from "playing the race card" at the drop of a hat, it is actually the case (again, according to scholarly investigation, as opposed to the conventional wisdom of the white public), that black and brown folks typically "stuff" their experiences with discrimination and racism, only making an allegation of such treatment after many, many incidents have transpired, about which they said nothing for fear of being ignored or attacked (10). Precisely because white denial has long trumped claims of racism, people of color tend to underreport their experiences with racial bias, rather than exaggerate them. Again, when it comes to playing a race card, it is more accurate to say that whites are the dealers with the loaded decks, shooting down any evidence of racism as little more than the fantasies of unhinged blacks, unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own problems in life.

Blaming the Victims for White Indifference

Occasionally, white denial gets creative, and this it does by pretending to come wrapped in sympathy for those who allege racism in the modern era. In other words, while steadfastly rejecting what people of color say they experience--in effect suggesting that they lack the intelligence and/or sanity to accurately interpret their own lives--such commentators seek to assure others that whites really do care about racism, but simply refuse to pin the label on incidents where it doesn't apply. In fact, they'll argue, one of the reasons that whites have developed compassion fatigue on this issue is precisely because of the overuse of the concept, combined with what we view as unfair reactions to racism (such as affirmative action efforts which have, ostensibly, turned us into the victims of racial bias). If blacks would just stop playing the card where it doesn't belong, and stop pushing for so-called preferential treatment, whites would revert back to our prior commitment to equal opportunity, and our heartfelt concern about the issue of racism.

Don't laugh. This is actually the position put forward recently by James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, who in January suggested that white reluctance to embrace black claims of racism was really the fault of blacks themselves, and the larger civil rights establishment (11). As Taranto put it: "Why do blacks and whites have such divergent views on racial matters? We would argue that it is because of the course that racial policies have taken over the past forty years." He then argues that by trying to bring about racial equality--but failing to do so because of "aggregate differences in motivation, inclination and aptitude" between different racial groups--policies like affirmative action have bred "frustration and resentment" among blacks, and "indifference" among whites, who decide not to think about race at all, rather than engage an issue that seems so toxic to them. In other words, whites think blacks use racism as a crutch for their own inadequacies, and then demand programs and policies that fail to make things much better, all the while discriminating against them as whites. In such an atmosphere, is it any wonder that the two groups view the subject matter differently?

But the fundamental flaw in Taranto's argument is its suggestion--implicit though it may be--that prior to the creation of affirmative action, white folks were mostly on board the racial justice and equal opportunity train, and were open to hearing about claims of racism from persons of color. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. White denial is not a form of backlash to the past forty years of civil rights legislation, and white indifference to claims of racism did not only recently emerge, as if from a previous place where whites and blacks had once seen the world similarly. Simply put: whites in every generation have thought there was no real problem with racism, irrespective of the evidence, and in every generation we have been wrong.

Denial as an Intergenerational Phenomenon

So, for example, what does it say about white rationality and white collective sanity, that in 1963--at a time when in retrospect all would agree racism was rampant in the United States, and before the passage of modern civil rights legislation--nearly two-thirds of whites, when polled, said they believed blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities--almost the same number as say this now, some forty-plus years later? What does it suggest about the extent of white folks' disconnection from the real world, that in 1962, eighty-five percent of whites said black children had just as good a chance as white children to get a good education in their communities (12)? Or that in May, 1968, seventy percent of whites said that blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities, while only seventeen percent said blacks were treated "not very well" and only 3.5 percent said blacks were treated badly? (13)?

What does it say about white folks' historic commitment to equal opportunity--and which Taranto would have us believe has only been rendered inoperative because of affirmative action--that in 1963, three-fourths of white Americans told Newsweek, "The Negro is moving too fast" in his demands for equality (14)? Or that in October 1964, nearly two-thirds of whites said that the Civil Rights Act should be enforced gradually, with an emphasis on persuading employers not to discriminate, as opposed to forcing compliance with equal opportunity requirements (15)?

What does it say about whites' tenuous grip on mental health that in mid-August 1969, forty-four percent of whites told a Newsweek/Gallup National Opinion Survey that blacks had a better chance than they did to get a good paying job--two times as many as said they would have a worse chance? Or that forty-two percent said blacks had a better chance for a good education than whites, while only seventeen percent said they would have a worse opportunity for a good education, and eighty percent saying blacks would have an equal or better chance? In that same survey, seventy percent said blacks could have improved conditions in the "slums" if they had wanted to, and were more than twice as likely to blame blacks themselves, as opposed to discrimination, for high unemployment in the black community (16).

In other words, even when racism was, by virtually all accounts (looking backward in time), institutionalized, white folks were convinced there was no real problem. Indeed, even forty years ago, whites were more likely to think that blacks had better opportunities, than to believe the opposite (and obviously accurate) thing: namely, that whites were advantaged in every realm of American life.

Truthfully, this tendency for whites to deny the extent of racism and racial injustice likely extends back far before the 1960s. Although public opinion polls in previous decades rarely if ever asked questions about the extent of racial bias or discrimination, anecdotal surveys of white opinion suggest that at no time have whites in the U.S. ever thought blacks or other people of color were getting a bad shake. White Southerners were all but convinced that their black slaves, for example, had it good, and had no reason to complain about their living conditions or lack of freedoms. After emancipation, but during the introduction of Jim Crow laws and strict Black Codes that limited where African Americans could live and work, white newspapers would regularly editorialize about the "warm relations" between whites and blacks, even as thousands of blacks were being lynched by their white compatriots.

From Drapetomania to Victim Syndrome -- Viewing Resistance as Mental Illness

Indeed, what better evidence of white denial (even dementia) could one need than that provided by "Doctor" Samuel Cartwright, a well-respected physician of the 19th century, who was so convinced of slavery's benign nature, that he concocted and named a disease to explain the tendency for many slaves to run away from their loving masters. Drapetomania, he called it: a malady that could be cured by keeping the slave in a "child-like state," and taking care not to treat them as equals, while yet striving not to be too cruel. Mild whipping was, to Cartwright, the best cure of all. So there you have it: not only is racial oppression not a problem; even worse, those blacks who resist it, or refuse to bend to it, or complain about it in any fashion, are to be viewed not only as exaggerating their condition, but indeed, as mentally ill (17).

And lest one believe that the tendency for whites to psychologically pathologize blacks who complain of racism is only a relic of ancient history, consider a much more recent example, which demonstrates the continuity of this tendency among members of the dominant racial group in America.

A few years ago, I served as an expert witness and consultant in a discrimination lawsuit against a school district in Washington State. Therein, numerous examples of individual and institutional racism abounded: from death threats made against black students to which the school district's response was pitifully inadequate, to racially disparate "ability tracking" and disciplinary action. In preparation for trial (which ultimately never took place as the district finally agreed to settle the case for several million dollars and a commitment to policy change), the school system's "psychological experts" evaluated dozens of the plaintiffs (mostly students as well as some of their parents) so as to determine the extent of damage done to them as a result of the racist mistreatment. As one of the plaintiff's experts, I reviewed the reports of said psychologists, and while I was not surprised to see them downplay the damage done to the black folks in this case, I was somewhat startled by how quickly they went beyond the call of duty to actually suggest that several of the plaintiffs exhibited "paranoid" tendencies and symptoms of borderline personality disorder. That having one's life threatened might make one a bit paranoid apparently never entered the minds of the white doctors. That facing racism on a regular basis might lead one to act out, in a way these "experts" would then see as a personality disorder, also seems to have escaped them. In this way, whites have continued to see mental illness behind black claims of victimization, even when that victimization is blatant.

In fact, we've even created a name for it: "victimization syndrome." Although not yet part of the DSM-IV (the diagnostic manual used by the American Psychiatric Association so as to evaluate patients), it is nonetheless a malady from which blacks suffer, to hear a lot of whites tell it. Whenever racism is brought up, such whites insist that blacks are being encouraged (usually by the civil rights establishment) to adopt a victim mentality, and to view themselves as perpetual targets of oppression. By couching their rejection of the claims of racism in these terms, conservatives are able to parade as friends to black folks, only concerned about them and hoping to free them from the debilitating mindset of victimization that liberals wish to see them adopt.

Aside from the inherently paternalistic nature of this position, notice too how concern over adopting a victim mentality is very selectively trotted out by the right. So, for example, when crime victims band together--and even form what they call victim's rights groups--no one on the right tells them to get over it, or suggests that by continuing to incessantly bleat about their kidnapped child or murdered loved one, such folks are falling prey to a victim mentality that should be resisted. No indeed: crime victims are venerated, considered experts on proper crime policy (as evidenced by how often their opinions are sought out on the matter by the national press and politicians), and given nothing but sympathy.

Likewise, when American Jews raise a cry over perceived anti-Jewish bigotry, or merely teach their children (as I was taught) about the European Holocaust, replete with a slogan of "Never again!" none of the folks who lament black "victimology" suggests that we too are wallowing in a victimization mentality, or somehow at risk for a syndrome of the same name.

In other words, it is blacks and blacks alone (with the occasional American Indian or Latino thrown in for good measure when and if they get too uppity) that get branded with the victim mentality label. Not quite drapetomania, but also not far enough from the kind of thinking that gave rise to it: in both cases, rooted in the desire of white America to reject what all logic and evidence suggests is true. Further, the selective branding of blacks as perpetual victims, absent the application of the pejorative to Jews or crime victims (or the families of 9/11 victims or other acts of terrorism), suggests that at some level white folks simply don't believe black suffering matters. We refuse to view blacks as fully human and deserving of compassion as we do these other groups, for whom victimization has been a reality as well. It is not that whites care about blacks and simply wish them not to adopt a self-imposed mental straightjacket; rather, it is that at some level we either don't care, or at least don't equate the pain of racism even with the pain caused by being mugged, or having your art collection confiscated by the Nazis, let alone with the truly extreme versions of crime and anti-Semitic wrongdoing.

Conclusion -- See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Wrong as Always

White denial has become such a widespread phenomenon nowadays, that most whites are unwilling to entertain even the mildest of suggestions that racism and racial inequity might still be issues. To wit, a recent survey from the University of Chicago, in which whites and blacks were asked two questions about Hurricane Katrina and the governmental response to the tragedy. First, respondents were asked whether they believed the government response would have been speedier had the victims been white. Not surprisingly, only twenty percent of whites answered in the affirmative. But while that question is at least conceivably arguable, the next question seems so weakly worded that virtually anyone could have answered yes without committing too much in the way of recognition that racism was a problem. Yet the answers given reveal the depths of white intransigence to consider the problem a problem at all.

So when asked if we believed the Katrina tragedy showed that there was a lesson to be learned about racial inequality in America--any lesson at all--while ninety percent of blacks said yes, only thirty-eight percent of whites agreed (18). To us, Katrina said nothing about race whatsoever, even as blacks were disproportionately affected; even as there was a clear racial difference in terms of who was stuck in New Orleans and who was able to escape; even as the media focused incessantly on reports of black violence in the Superdome and Convention Center that proved later to be false; even as blacks have been having a much harder time moving back to New Orleans, thanks to local and federal foot-dragging and the plans of economic elites in the city to destroy homes in the most damaged (black) neighborhoods and convert them to non-residential (or higher rent) uses.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America writ large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we've become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter, when we have run up such an amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In every era, black folks said they were the victims of racism and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong.

Unless we wish to conclude that black insight on the matter--which has never to this point failed them--has suddenly converted to irrationality, and that white irrationality has become insight (and are prepared to prove this transformation by way of some analytical framework to explain the process), then the best advice seems to be that which could have been offered in past decades and centuries: namely, if you want to know about whether or not racism is a problem, it would probably do you best to ask the folks who are its targets. They, after all, are the ones who must, as a matter of survival, learn what it is, and how and when it's operating. We whites on the other hand, are the persons who have never had to know a thing about it, and who--for reasons psychological, philosophical and material--have always had a keen interest in covering it up.

In short, and let us be clear on it: race is not a card. It determines whom the dealer is, and who gets dealt.



* Personally, I have no idea whether or not Barry Bonds has used anabolic steroids during the course of his career, nor do I think the evidence marshaled thus far on the matter is conclusive, either way. But I do find it interesting that many are calling for the placement of an asterisk next to Bonds' name in the record books, especially should he eclipse Ruth, or later, Hank Aaron, in terms of career home runs. The asterisk, we are told, would differentiate Bonds from other athletes, the latter of which, presumably accomplished their feats without performance enhancers. Yet, while it is certainly true that Aaron's 755 home runs came without any form of performance enhancement (indeed, he, like other black ball-players had to face overt hostility in the early years of their careers, and even as he approached Ruth's record of 714, he was receiving death threats), for Ruth, such a claim would be laughable. Ruth, as with any white baseball player from the early 1890s to 1947, benefited from the "performance enhancement" of not having to compete against black athletes, whose abilities often far surpassed their own. Ruth didn't have to face black pitchers, nor vie for batting titles against black home run sluggers. Until white fans demand an asterisk next to the names of every one of their white baseball heroes -- Ruth, Cobb, DiMaggio, and Williams, for starters -- who played under apartheid rules, the demand for such a blemish next to the name of Bonds can only be seen as highly selective, hypocritical, and ultimately racist. White privilege and protection from black competition certainly did more for those men's game than creotine or other substances could ever do for the likes of Barry Bonds.

NOTES

(1) There is plenty of information about police racism, misconduct and brutality, both in historical and contemporary terms, available from any number of sources. Among them, see Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue. Soft Skull Press, 2004; and online at the Stolen Lives Project: http://stolenlives.org.

(2) Washington Post. October 9, 1995: A22

(3) Ibid.

(4) "Young White Offenders get lighter treatment," 2000. The Tennessean. April 26: 8A.

(5) Bertrand, Marianne and Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment in Labor Market Discrimination." June 20. http://post.economics.harvard.edu/facul ... lygreg.pdf.

(6) Pager, Devah. 2003. "The Mark of a Criminal Record." American Journal of Sociology. Volume 108: 5, March: 937-75.

(7) Matthew R. Durose, Erica L. Schmitt and Patrick A. Langan, Contacts Between Police and the Public: Findings from the 2002 National Survey. U.S. Department of Justice, (Bureau of Justice Statistics), April 2005.

(8) Gordon, Rebecca. 1998. Education and Race. Oakland: Applied Research Center: 48-9; Fischer, Claude S. et al., 1996. Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 163; Steinhorn, Leonard and Barabara Diggs-Brown, 1999. By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race. NY: Dutton: 95-6.

(9) Skiba, Russell J. et al., The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment. Indiana Education Policy Center, Policy Research Report SRS1, June 2000; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: Youth 2003, Online Comprehensive Results, 2004.

(10) Terrell, Francis and Sandra L. Terrell, 1999. "Cultural Identification and Cultural Mistrust: Some Findings and Implications," in Advances in African American Psychology, Reginald Jones, ed., Hampton VA: Cobb & Henry; Fuegen, Kathleen, 2000. "Defining Discrimination in the Personal/Group Discrimination Discrepancy," Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. September; Miller, Carol T. 2001. "A Theoretical Perspective on Coping With Stigma," Journal of Social Issues. Spring; Feagin, Joe, Hernan Vera and Nikitah Imani, 1996. The Agony of Education: Black Students in White Colleges and Universities. NY: Routledge.

(11) Taranto, James. 2006. "The Truth About Race in America--IV," Online Journal (Wall Street Journal), January 6.

(12) The Gallup Organization, Gallup Poll Social Audit, 2001. Black-White Relations in the United States, 2001 Update, July 10: 7-9.

(13) The Gallup Organization, Gallup Poll, #761, May, 1968

(14) "How Whites Feel About Negroes: A Painful American Dilemma," Newsweek, October 21, 1963: 56

(15) The Gallup Organization, Gallup Poll #699, October, 1964

(16) Newsweek/Gallup Organization, National Opinion Survey, August 19, 1969

(17) Cartwright, Samuel. 1851. "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race," DeBow's Review. (Southern and Western States: New Orleans), Volume XI.

(18) Ford, Glen and Peter Campbell, 2006. "Katrina: A Study-Black Consensus, White Dispute," The Black Commentator, Issue 165, January 5.

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Oregonaut
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:30 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:
Spoiler:
What Kind of Card is Race? By Tim Wise wrote:April 26, 2006


Recently, I was asked by someone in the audience of one of my speeches, whether or not I believed that racism--though certainly a problem--might also be something conjured up by people of color in situations where the charge was inappropriate. In other words, did I believe that occasionally folks play the so-called race card, as a ploy to gain sympathy or detract from their own shortcomings? In the process of his query, the questioner made his own opinion all too clear (an unambiguous yes), and in that, he was not alone, as indicated by the reaction of others in the crowd, as well as survey data confirming that the belief in black malingering about racism is nothing if not ubiquitous.

It's a question I'm asked often, especially when there are several high-profile news events transpiring, in which race informs part of the narrative. Now is one of those times, as a few recent incidents demonstrate: Is racism, for example, implicated in the alleged rape of a young black woman by white members of the Duke University lacrosse team? Was racism implicated in Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney's recent confrontation with a member of the Capitol police? Or is racism involved in the ongoing investigation into whether or not Barry Bonds--as he is poised to eclipse white slugger Babe Ruth on the all-time home run list--might have used steroids to enhance his performance?*

Although the matter is open to debate in any or all of these cases, white folks have been quick to accuse blacks who answer in the affirmative of playing the race card, as if their conclusions have been reached not because of careful consideration of the facts as they see them, but rather, because of some irrational (even borderline paranoid) tendency to see racism everywhere. So too, discussions over immigration, "terrorist" profiling, and Katrina and its aftermath often turn on issues of race, and so give rise to the charge that as regards these subjects, people of color are "overreacting" when they allege racism in one or another circumstance.

Asked about the tendency for people of color to play the "race card," I responded as I always do: First, by noting that the regularity with which whites respond to charges of racism by calling said charges a ploy, suggests that the race card is, at best, equivalent to the two of diamonds. In other words, it's not much of a card to play, calling into question why anyone would play it (as if it were really going to get them somewhere). Secondly, I pointed out that white reluctance to acknowledge racism isn't new, and it isn't something that manifests only in situations where the racial aspect of an incident is arguable. Fact is, whites have always doubted claims of racism at the time they were being made, no matter how strong the evidence, as will be seen below. Finally, I concluded by suggesting that whatever "card" claims of racism may prove to be for the black and brown, the denial card is far and away the trump, and whites play it regularly: a subject to which we will return.

Turning Injustice into a Game of Chance: The Origins of Race as "Card"

First, let us consider the history of this notion: namely, that the "race card" is something people of color play so as to distract the rest of us, or to gain sympathy. For most Americans, the phrase "playing the race card" entered the national lexicon during the O.J. Simpson trial. Robert Shapiro, one of Simpson's attorneys famously claimed, in the aftermath of his client's acquittal, that co-counsel Johnnie Cochran had "played the race card, and dealt it from the bottom of the deck." The allegation referred to Cochran's bringing up officer Mark Fuhrman's regular use of the 'n-word' as potentially indicative of his propensity to frame Simpson. To Shapiro, whose own views of his client's innocence apparently shifted over time, the issue of race had no place in the trial, and even if Fuhrman was a racist, this fact had no bearing on whether or not O.J. had killed his ex-wife and Ron Goldman. In other words, the idea that O.J. had been framed because of racism made no sense and to bring it up was to interject race into an arena where it was, or should have been, irrelevant.

That a white man like Shapiro could make such an argument, however, speaks to the widely divergent way in which whites and blacks view our respective worlds. For people of color--especially African Americans--the idea that racist cops might frame members of their community is no abstract notion, let alone an exercise in irrational conspiracy theorizing. Rather, it speaks to a social reality about which blacks are acutely aware. Indeed, there has been a history of such misconduct on the part of law enforcement, and for black folks to think those bad old days have ended is, for many, to let down their guard to the possibility of real and persistent injury (1).

So if a racist cop is the lead detective in a case, and the one who discovers blood evidence implicating a black man accused of killing two white people, there is a logical alarm bell that goes off in the head of most any black person, but which would remain every bit as silent in the mind of someone who was white. And this too is understandable: for most whites, police are the helpful folks who get your cat out of the tree, or take you around in their patrol car for fun. For us, the idea of brutality or misconduct on the part of such persons seems remote, to the point of being fanciful. It seems the stuff of bad TV dramas, or at the very least, the past--that always remote place to which we can consign our national sins and predations, content all the while that whatever demons may have lurked in those earlier times have long since been vanquished.

To whites, blacks who alleged racism in the O.J. case were being absurd, or worse, seeking any excuse to let a black killer off the hook--ignoring that blacks on juries vote to convict black people of crimes every day in this country. And while allegations of black "racial bonding" with the defendant were made regularly after the acquittal in Simpson's criminal trial, no such bonding, this time with the victims, was alleged when a mostly white jury found O.J. civilly liable a few years later. Only blacks can play the race card, apparently; only they think in racial terms, at least to hear white America tell it.

Anything but Racism: White Reluctance to Accept the Evidence

Since the O.J. trial, it seems as though almost any allegation of racism has been met with the same dismissive reply from the bulk of whites in the U.S. According to national surveys, more than three out of four whites refuse to believe that discrimination is any real problem in America (2). That most whites remain unconvinced of racism's salience--with as few as six percent believing it to be a "very serious problem," according to one poll in the mid 90s (3)--suggests that racism-as-card makes up an awfully weak hand. While folks of color consistently articulate their belief that racism is a real and persistent presence in their own lives, these claims have had very little effect on white attitudes. As such, how could anyone believe that people of color would somehow pull the claim out of their hat, as if it were guaranteed to make white America sit up and take notice? If anything, it is likely to be ignored, or even attacked, and in a particularly vicious manner.

That bringing up racism (even with copious documentation) is far from an effective "card" to play in order to garner sympathy, is evidenced by the way in which few people even become aware of the studies confirming its existence. How many Americans do you figure have even heard, for example, that black youth arrested for drug possession for the first time are incarcerated at a rate that is forty-eight times greater than the rate for white youth, even when all other factors surrounding the crime are identical (4)?

How many have heard that persons with "white sounding names," according to a massive national study, are fifty percent more likely to be called back for a job interview than those with "black sounding" names, even when all other credentials are the same (5)?

How many know that white men with a criminal record are slightly more likely to be called back for a job interview than black men without one, even when the men are equally qualified, and present themselves to potential employers in an identical fashion (6)?

How many have heard that according to the Justice Department, Black and Latino males are three times more likely than white males to have their vehicles stopped and searched by police, even though white males are over four times more likely to have illegal contraband in our cars on the occasions when we are searched (7)?

How many are aware that black and Latino students are about half as likely as whites to be placed in advanced or honors classes in school, and twice as likely to be placed in remedial classes? Or that even when test scores and prior performance would justify higher placement, students of color are far less likely to be placed in honors classes (8)? Or that students of color are 2-3 times more likely than whites to be suspended or expelled from school, even though rates of serious school rule infractions do not differ to any significant degree between racial groups (9)?

Fact is, few folks have heard any of these things before, suggesting how little impact scholarly research on the subject of racism has had on the general public, and how difficult it is to make whites, in particular, give the subject a second thought.

Perhaps this is why, contrary to popular belief, research indicates that people of color are actually reluctant to allege racism, be it on the job, or in schools, or anywhere else. Far from "playing the race card" at the drop of a hat, it is actually the case (again, according to scholarly investigation, as opposed to the conventional wisdom of the white public), that black and brown folks typically "stuff" their experiences with discrimination and racism, only making an allegation of such treatment after many, many incidents have transpired, about which they said nothing for fear of being ignored or attacked (10). Precisely because white denial has long trumped claims of racism, people of color tend to underreport their experiences with racial bias, rather than exaggerate them. Again, when it comes to playing a race card, it is more accurate to say that whites are the dealers with the loaded decks, shooting down any evidence of racism as little more than the fantasies of unhinged blacks, unwilling to take personal responsibility for their own problems in life.

Blaming the Victims for White Indifference

Occasionally, white denial gets creative, and this it does by pretending to come wrapped in sympathy for those who allege racism in the modern era. In other words, while steadfastly rejecting what people of color say they experience--in effect suggesting that they lack the intelligence and/or sanity to accurately interpret their own lives--such commentators seek to assure others that whites really do care about racism, but simply refuse to pin the label on incidents where it doesn't apply. In fact, they'll argue, one of the reasons that whites have developed compassion fatigue on this issue is precisely because of the overuse of the concept, combined with what we view as unfair reactions to racism (such as affirmative action efforts which have, ostensibly, turned us into the victims of racial bias). If blacks would just stop playing the card where it doesn't belong, and stop pushing for so-called preferential treatment, whites would revert back to our prior commitment to equal opportunity, and our heartfelt concern about the issue of racism.

Don't laugh. This is actually the position put forward recently by James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal, who in January suggested that white reluctance to embrace black claims of racism was really the fault of blacks themselves, and the larger civil rights establishment (11). As Taranto put it: "Why do blacks and whites have such divergent views on racial matters? We would argue that it is because of the course that racial policies have taken over the past forty years." He then argues that by trying to bring about racial equality--but failing to do so because of "aggregate differences in motivation, inclination and aptitude" between different racial groups--policies like affirmative action have bred "frustration and resentment" among blacks, and "indifference" among whites, who decide not to think about race at all, rather than engage an issue that seems so toxic to them. In other words, whites think blacks use racism as a crutch for their own inadequacies, and then demand programs and policies that fail to make things much better, all the while discriminating against them as whites. In such an atmosphere, is it any wonder that the two groups view the subject matter differently?

But the fundamental flaw in Taranto's argument is its suggestion--implicit though it may be--that prior to the creation of affirmative action, white folks were mostly on board the racial justice and equal opportunity train, and were open to hearing about claims of racism from persons of color. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. White denial is not a form of backlash to the past forty years of civil rights legislation, and white indifference to claims of racism did not only recently emerge, as if from a previous place where whites and blacks had once seen the world similarly. Simply put: whites in every generation have thought there was no real problem with racism, irrespective of the evidence, and in every generation we have been wrong.

Denial as an Intergenerational Phenomenon

So, for example, what does it say about white rationality and white collective sanity, that in 1963--at a time when in retrospect all would agree racism was rampant in the United States, and before the passage of modern civil rights legislation--nearly two-thirds of whites, when polled, said they believed blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities--almost the same number as say this now, some forty-plus years later? What does it suggest about the extent of white folks' disconnection from the real world, that in 1962, eighty-five percent of whites said black children had just as good a chance as white children to get a good education in their communities (12)? Or that in May, 1968, seventy percent of whites said that blacks were treated the same as whites in their communities, while only seventeen percent said blacks were treated "not very well" and only 3.5 percent said blacks were treated badly? (13)?

What does it say about white folks' historic commitment to equal opportunity--and which Taranto would have us believe has only been rendered inoperative because of affirmative action--that in 1963, three-fourths of white Americans told Newsweek, "The Negro is moving too fast" in his demands for equality (14)? Or that in October 1964, nearly two-thirds of whites said that the Civil Rights Act should be enforced gradually, with an emphasis on persuading employers not to discriminate, as opposed to forcing compliance with equal opportunity requirements (15)?

What does it say about whites' tenuous grip on mental health that in mid-August 1969, forty-four percent of whites told a Newsweek/Gallup National Opinion Survey that blacks had a better chance than they did to get a good paying job--two times as many as said they would have a worse chance? Or that forty-two percent said blacks had a better chance for a good education than whites, while only seventeen percent said they would have a worse opportunity for a good education, and eighty percent saying blacks would have an equal or better chance? In that same survey, seventy percent said blacks could have improved conditions in the "slums" if they had wanted to, and were more than twice as likely to blame blacks themselves, as opposed to discrimination, for high unemployment in the black community (16).

In other words, even when racism was, by virtually all accounts (looking backward in time), institutionalized, white folks were convinced there was no real problem. Indeed, even forty years ago, whites were more likely to think that blacks had better opportunities, than to believe the opposite (and obviously accurate) thing: namely, that whites were advantaged in every realm of American life.

Truthfully, this tendency for whites to deny the extent of racism and racial injustice likely extends back far before the 1960s. Although public opinion polls in previous decades rarely if ever asked questions about the extent of racial bias or discrimination, anecdotal surveys of white opinion suggest that at no time have whites in the U.S. ever thought blacks or other people of color were getting a bad shake. White Southerners were all but convinced that their black slaves, for example, had it good, and had no reason to complain about their living conditions or lack of freedoms. After emancipation, but during the introduction of Jim Crow laws and strict Black Codes that limited where African Americans could live and work, white newspapers would regularly editorialize about the "warm relations" between whites and blacks, even as thousands of blacks were being lynched by their white compatriots.

From Drapetomania to Victim Syndrome -- Viewing Resistance as Mental Illness

Indeed, what better evidence of white denial (even dementia) could one need than that provided by "Doctor" Samuel Cartwright, a well-respected physician of the 19th century, who was so convinced of slavery's benign nature, that he concocted and named a disease to explain the tendency for many slaves to run away from their loving masters. Drapetomania, he called it: a malady that could be cured by keeping the slave in a "child-like state," and taking care not to treat them as equals, while yet striving not to be too cruel. Mild whipping was, to Cartwright, the best cure of all. So there you have it: not only is racial oppression not a problem; even worse, those blacks who resist it, or refuse to bend to it, or complain about it in any fashion, are to be viewed not only as exaggerating their condition, but indeed, as mentally ill (17).

And lest one believe that the tendency for whites to psychologically pathologize blacks who complain of racism is only a relic of ancient history, consider a much more recent example, which demonstrates the continuity of this tendency among members of the dominant racial group in America.

A few years ago, I served as an expert witness and consultant in a discrimination lawsuit against a school district in Washington State. Therein, numerous examples of individual and institutional racism abounded: from death threats made against black students to which the school district's response was pitifully inadequate, to racially disparate "ability tracking" and disciplinary action. In preparation for trial (which ultimately never took place as the district finally agreed to settle the case for several million dollars and a commitment to policy change), the school system's "psychological experts" evaluated dozens of the plaintiffs (mostly students as well as some of their parents) so as to determine the extent of damage done to them as a result of the racist mistreatment. As one of the plaintiff's experts, I reviewed the reports of said psychologists, and while I was not surprised to see them downplay the damage done to the black folks in this case, I was somewhat startled by how quickly they went beyond the call of duty to actually suggest that several of the plaintiffs exhibited "paranoid" tendencies and symptoms of borderline personality disorder. That having one's life threatened might make one a bit paranoid apparently never entered the minds of the white doctors. That facing racism on a regular basis might lead one to act out, in a way these "experts" would then see as a personality disorder, also seems to have escaped them. In this way, whites have continued to see mental illness behind black claims of victimization, even when that victimization is blatant.

In fact, we've even created a name for it: "victimization syndrome." Although not yet part of the DSM-IV (the diagnostic manual used by the American Psychiatric Association so as to evaluate patients), it is nonetheless a malady from which blacks suffer, to hear a lot of whites tell it. Whenever racism is brought up, such whites insist that blacks are being encouraged (usually by the civil rights establishment) to adopt a victim mentality, and to view themselves as perpetual targets of oppression. By couching their rejection of the claims of racism in these terms, conservatives are able to parade as friends to black folks, only concerned about them and hoping to free them from the debilitating mindset of victimization that liberals wish to see them adopt.

Aside from the inherently paternalistic nature of this position, notice too how concern over adopting a victim mentality is very selectively trotted out by the right. So, for example, when crime victims band together--and even form what they call victim's rights groups--no one on the right tells them to get over it, or suggests that by continuing to incessantly bleat about their kidnapped child or murdered loved one, such folks are falling prey to a victim mentality that should be resisted. No indeed: crime victims are venerated, considered experts on proper crime policy (as evidenced by how often their opinions are sought out on the matter by the national press and politicians), and given nothing but sympathy.

Likewise, when American Jews raise a cry over perceived anti-Jewish bigotry, or merely teach their children (as I was taught) about the European Holocaust, replete with a slogan of "Never again!" none of the folks who lament black "victimology" suggests that we too are wallowing in a victimization mentality, or somehow at risk for a syndrome of the same name.

In other words, it is blacks and blacks alone (with the occasional American Indian or Latino thrown in for good measure when and if they get too uppity) that get branded with the victim mentality label. Not quite drapetomania, but also not far enough from the kind of thinking that gave rise to it: in both cases, rooted in the desire of white America to reject what all logic and evidence suggests is true. Further, the selective branding of blacks as perpetual victims, absent the application of the pejorative to Jews or crime victims (or the families of 9/11 victims or other acts of terrorism), suggests that at some level white folks simply don't believe black suffering matters. We refuse to view blacks as fully human and deserving of compassion as we do these other groups, for whom victimization has been a reality as well. It is not that whites care about blacks and simply wish them not to adopt a self-imposed mental straightjacket; rather, it is that at some level we either don't care, or at least don't equate the pain of racism even with the pain caused by being mugged, or having your art collection confiscated by the Nazis, let alone with the truly extreme versions of crime and anti-Semitic wrongdoing.

Conclusion -- See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Wrong as Always

White denial has become such a widespread phenomenon nowadays, that most whites are unwilling to entertain even the mildest of suggestions that racism and racial inequity might still be issues. To wit, a recent survey from the University of Chicago, in which whites and blacks were asked two questions about Hurricane Katrina and the governmental response to the tragedy. First, respondents were asked whether they believed the government response would have been speedier had the victims been white. Not surprisingly, only twenty percent of whites answered in the affirmative. But while that question is at least conceivably arguable, the next question seems so weakly worded that virtually anyone could have answered yes without committing too much in the way of recognition that racism was a problem. Yet the answers given reveal the depths of white intransigence to consider the problem a problem at all.

So when asked if we believed the Katrina tragedy showed that there was a lesson to be learned about racial inequality in America--any lesson at all--while ninety percent of blacks said yes, only thirty-eight percent of whites agreed (18). To us, Katrina said nothing about race whatsoever, even as blacks were disproportionately affected; even as there was a clear racial difference in terms of who was stuck in New Orleans and who was able to escape; even as the media focused incessantly on reports of black violence in the Superdome and Convention Center that proved later to be false; even as blacks have been having a much harder time moving back to New Orleans, thanks to local and federal foot-dragging and the plans of economic elites in the city to destroy homes in the most damaged (black) neighborhoods and convert them to non-residential (or higher rent) uses.

Nothing, absolutely nothing, has to do with race nowadays, in the eyes of white America writ large. But the obvious question is this: if we have never seen racism as a real problem, contemporary to the time in which the charges are being made, and if in all generations past we were obviously wrong to the point of mass delusion in thinking this way, what should lead us to conclude that now, at long last, we've become any more astute at discerning social reality than we were before? Why should we trust our own perceptions or instincts on the matter, when we have run up such an amazingly bad track record as observers of the world in which we live? In every era, black folks said they were the victims of racism and they were right. In every era, whites have said the problem was exaggerated, and we have been wrong.

Unless we wish to conclude that black insight on the matter--which has never to this point failed them--has suddenly converted to irrationality, and that white irrationality has become insight (and are prepared to prove this transformation by way of some analytical framework to explain the process), then the best advice seems to be that which could have been offered in past decades and centuries: namely, if you want to know about whether or not racism is a problem, it would probably do you best to ask the folks who are its targets. They, after all, are the ones who must, as a matter of survival, learn what it is, and how and when it's operating. We whites on the other hand, are the persons who have never had to know a thing about it, and who--for reasons psychological, philosophical and material--have always had a keen interest in covering it up.

In short, and let us be clear on it: race is not a card. It determines whom the dealer is, and who gets dealt.



* Personally, I have no idea whether or not Barry Bonds has used anabolic steroids during the course of his career, nor do I think the evidence marshaled thus far on the matter is conclusive, either way. But I do find it interesting that many are calling for the placement of an asterisk next to Bonds' name in the record books, especially should he eclipse Ruth, or later, Hank Aaron, in terms of career home runs. The asterisk, we are told, would differentiate Bonds from other athletes, the latter of which, presumably accomplished their feats without performance enhancers. Yet, while it is certainly true that Aaron's 755 home runs came without any form of performance enhancement (indeed, he, like other black ball-players had to face overt hostility in the early years of their careers, and even as he approached Ruth's record of 714, he was receiving death threats), for Ruth, such a claim would be laughable. Ruth, as with any white baseball player from the early 1890s to 1947, benefited from the "performance enhancement" of not having to compete against black athletes, whose abilities often far surpassed their own. Ruth didn't have to face black pitchers, nor vie for batting titles against black home run sluggers. Until white fans demand an asterisk next to the names of every one of their white baseball heroes -- Ruth, Cobb, DiMaggio, and Williams, for starters -- who played under apartheid rules, the demand for such a blemish next to the name of Bonds can only be seen as highly selective, hypocritical, and ultimately racist. White privilege and protection from black competition certainly did more for those men's game than creotine or other substances could ever do for the likes of Barry Bonds.

NOTES

(1) There is plenty of information about police racism, misconduct and brutality, both in historical and contemporary terms, available from any number of sources. Among them, see Kristian Williams, Our Enemies in Blue. Soft Skull Press, 2004; and online at the Stolen Lives Project: http://stolenlives.org.

(2) Washington Post. October 9, 1995: A22

(3) Ibid.

(4) "Young White Offenders get lighter treatment," 2000. The Tennessean. April 26: 8A.

(5) Bertrand, Marianne and Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "Are Emily and Greg More Employable Than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment in Labor Market Discrimination." June 20. http://post.economics.harvard.edu/facul ... lygreg.pdf.

(6) Pager, Devah. 2003. "The Mark of a Criminal Record." American Journal of Sociology. Volume 108: 5, March: 937-75.

(7) Matthew R. Durose, Erica L. Schmitt and Patrick A. Langan, Contacts Between Police and the Public: Findings from the 2002 National Survey. U.S. Department of Justice, (Bureau of Justice Statistics), April 2005.

(8) Gordon, Rebecca. 1998. Education and Race. Oakland: Applied Research Center: 48-9; Fischer, Claude S. et al., 1996. Inequality by Design: Cracking the Bell Curve Myth. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press: 163; Steinhorn, Leonard and Barabara Diggs-Brown, 1999. By the Color of Our Skin: The Illusion of Integration and the Reality of Race. NY: Dutton: 95-6.

(9) Skiba, Russell J. et al., The Color of Discipline: Sources of Racial and Gender Disproportionality in School Punishment. Indiana Education Policy Center, Policy Research Report SRS1, June 2000; U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System: Youth 2003, Online Comprehensive Results, 2004.

(10) Terrell, Francis and Sandra L. Terrell, 1999. "Cultural Identification and Cultural Mistrust: Some Findings and Implications," in Advances in African American Psychology, Reginald Jones, ed., Hampton VA: Cobb & Henry; Fuegen, Kathleen, 2000. "Defining Discrimination in the Personal/Group Discrimination Discrepancy," Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. September; Miller, Carol T. 2001. "A Theoretical Perspective on Coping With Stigma," Journal of Social Issues. Spring; Feagin, Joe, Hernan Vera and Nikitah Imani, 1996. The Agony of Education: Black Students in White Colleges and Universities. NY: Routledge.

(11) Taranto, James. 2006. "The Truth About Race in America--IV," Online Journal (Wall Street Journal), January 6.

(12) The Gallup Organization, Gallup Poll Social Audit, 2001. Black-White Relations in the United States, 2001 Update, July 10: 7-9.

(13) The Gallup Organization, Gallup Poll, #761, May, 1968

(14) "How Whites Feel About Negroes: A Painful American Dilemma," Newsweek, October 21, 1963: 56

(15) The Gallup Organization, Gallup Poll #699, October, 1964

(16) Newsweek/Gallup Organization, National Opinion Survey, August 19, 1969

(17) Cartwright, Samuel. 1851. "Diseases and Peculiarities of the Negro Race," DeBow's Review. (Southern and Western States: New Orleans), Volume XI.

(18) Ford, Glen and Peter Campbell, 2006. "Katrina: A Study-Black Consensus, White Dispute," The Black Commentator, Issue 165, January 5.



That article seems vaguely "Have you stopped beating your wife"-ish to me.

Also, I do so love being told that I'm racist because I'm white. Seriously. I had a young gentleman in the military attempt to use the fact that I was white as a defense against my punishing him for his chronic inability to be on time. I "had it out for him". It wasn't the fact that for six months I couldn't count on him being on time to work, or on time to formation, or on time to PT. No, it was the fact that I was white, male, and racist.

I'm not saying that racism doesn't exist, South Carolina politics proves it does. But until *everyone* stops generalizing about everyone else, I'm fairly sure we're not going to get anywhere fast.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Azrael » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:43 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:Also, I do so love being told that I'm racist because I'm white.
You didn't read that very well then, did you? The article made no such claim. The closest gist was that white people still exhibit the same statistical proclivity to deny racial inequality's effects now as they did in the 1960's; that denial is equally as present now as it was during a time that hindsight has thoroughly illuminated as being chock full of significant problems.

As has already been mentioned, race is a perfectly legitimate way to categorize scientific data; in this case that white people are incredibly likely to deny race is a problem, and have been for as long as such scientific opinion polls on the matter have been taken.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jun 15, 2010 4:51 pm UTC

Azrael wrote:
Oregonaut wrote:Also, I do so love being told that I'm racist because I'm white.
You didn't read that very well then, did you? The article made no such claim. The closest gist was that white people still exhibit the same statistical proclivity to deny racial inequality's effects now as they did in the 1960's; that denial is equally as present now as it was during a time that hindsight has thoroughly illuminated as being chock full of significant problems.

As has already been mentioned, race is a perfectly legitimate way to categorize scientific data; in this case that white people are incredibly likely to deny race is a problem, and have been for as long as such scientific opinion polls on the matter have been taken.


Ok, this one was my fault for not re-reading what I typed. The "Also" in that sentence was supposed to indicate a change in thought train. The only portion of my post that regarded the previous article was the first sentence. The rest was with regards to a different point all together. The intention was that it is not only white people who are racist. I've seen other ethnicities be equally racist.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby folkhero » Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:02 pm UTC

Just seconds after reading this thread, I stumbled upon this blog post. Some members of the NAACP demanded that Hallmark pull a greeting card (and succeeded) because they misheard the term "black hole" as "black ho" or "black whore." The fact that the card had a general theme of astronomy didn't seem to change their opinion at all. It turns out that when you look for something (be it racism of the image or the virgin Mary) everywhere, you sometimes find it in placed where it isn't.

edited for typo
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Jessica » Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:07 pm UTC

There are levels of power. It's why it's not a simple 2 dimensional graph where you have one side being racist against the other side. There are lots of intersections, and levels of power. The important thing is not to look at it as "they are also racist" because that is dodging the issue. Yes, people can be racist, when they are a POC. they can be sexist, they can be homophobic, or abilist. But, lets look beyond that at the simple fact that people can be racist, sexist, etc. and that there are ways to make things better. There's a word for it: kyriarchy. It describes a system where there are multifaceted levels of power and oppression. But, we can still fight against it. Part of that is accepting that everyone has some levels of societies racism or privilege. Certain people have more power to do things, and to hurt/hinder than others.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Tue Jun 15, 2010 5:27 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:I'm not saying that racism doesn't exist, South Carolina politics proves it does. But until *everyone* stops generalizing about everyone else, I'm fairly sure we're not going to get anywhere fast.


Jessica wrote:There are levels of power. It's why it's not a simple 2 dimensional graph where you have one side being racist against the other side. There are lots of intersections, and levels of power. The important thing is not to look at it as "they are also racist" because that is dodging the issue. Yes, people can be racist, when they are a POC. they can be sexist, they can be homophobic, or abilist. But, lets look beyond that at the simple fact that people can be racist, sexist, etc. and that there are ways to make things better. There's a word for it: kyriarchy. It describes a system where there are multifaceted levels of power and oppression. But, we can still fight against it. Part of that is accepting that everyone has some levels of societies racism or privilege. Certain people have more power to do things, and to hurt/hinder than others.


Which is a much better way of putting what I said in the quoted post above. Everyone needs to stop, and while you can't start the journey of a 1,000 miles without that first step. And that first step may be having all the white folks get together and do a mass "rei" while chanting "sumimasen" to all of the rest of humanity.

But I do not feel that we can appropriately address the issue without having all parties buy in to the process. I feel no burden to apologize to black people for being white, I am fairly confident that I owe them no debt. When I was in the military, I served alongside people from damn near every ethnic cross-section of life, and helped them or hindered them as was appropriate to the governing rules and regulations. I didn't do this because I was concerned about the perception of racism, I didn't do this because I was told to, I did this because I was human, they were human, and we got our human on together. Working 18 hours a day, six days a week, for a decade, taught me all I needed to know about them, individually, as people. I no more held them responsible for 50 Cent than they held me responsible for Strom Thurmond

That's probably where most of my hang ups come from. People need to stop with this "white people" stuff, if we're ever going to have a hope of stopping the "black people" stuff. I am not indicative of all white people, any more than Colin Powell is indicative of all black people.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby morriswalters » Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:08 pm UTC

Just because someone calls you racist doesn't make you raciest. The act in the case you cite is no more than a kid crying not fair, not fair. Having said that it is probably too soon to achieve the goal you seek, certainly not in this generation. We are too close to the era of legal discrimination.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby mosc » Tue Jun 15, 2010 6:38 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:For example, a technician at a sleep study hospital was nervous about saying that Asians tended to have sleep apnea more often than caucasians.

This is a great example! The statement is not inherently racist, but it relies on racism. It implies statistical probability based on an arbitrary cut set. if you make a different arbitrary cut set, you may find a higher correlation. Saying X has a higher chance of Y than Z is not good science unless you've exhausted all X vs Z separations. In other words, maybe it has to do with a specific gene which has a higher correlation, independent of what "race" you think someone is.

The point is that there has NEVER been any real scientific reason to differentiate people by race. Finding "racial differences" is easy, and not entirely wrong. However, it has no useful purpose. The debate isn't that noticing sleep apnea rates vary among different people, it's deciding that the line should be a race. It's not scientific.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:04 pm UTC

Tim Wise wrote:First, by noting that the regularity with which whites respond to charges of racism by calling said charges a ploy, suggests that the race card is, at best, equivalent to the two of diamonds. In other words, it's not much of a card to play, calling into question why anyone would play it (as if it were really going to get them somewhere).
Is the point of malingering to get somewhere?

I agree with sourmilk that race is an issue that's generally impolite to talk about and that leads to problems. Generally people call it 'Basic Human Decency' instead of over-tolerance, though. The perception is often that the only people able to publicly talk about, say, racism against blacks are the NAACP / other civil rights groups; and, without an opposing force to correct them (or perhaps because public discourse has become so sanitized) they end up mostly talking about silly things. When you get people who say sensible things about sexism (like Larry Summers) or racism (like James Watson), they end up getting ousted because simply bringing up the subject is a problem. When you look at Bill Cosby, the reaction of many non-blacks seems to be "finally! Someone who's saying what we're all thinking, and is able to get away with it!" (and who isn't a Black Nationalist).

So, yes- there is still racism against minorities, and it is unlikely that whites as a whole will understand the non-white experience. But a central mistake of most activists (and school-age blacks) is to mistake habits conducive to success with whiteness. IQ and SAT tests are racist- despite that Asians routinely outperform whites by about as much as whites outperform blacks- rather than realizing that parental support and book learning point towards success for any individual.

The other mistake is to focus on external factors to the exclusion of internal ones. I mean, talk about fighting against kyriarchy. The central belief is that your problem is other people- and while that certainly might be the case, it's rare that your solution is other people. The best solution is yourself.

Or, for example, take crime. Blacks get arrested for a lot more crimes than other racial groups, and tend to get harsher sentences- but their victims are overwhelmingly black. Is the problem that the justice system doesn't serve black criminals well, or that the black community is hobbled by the preponderance of criminals preying on it? The two are obviously linked- if we had effective rehabilitation programs instead of crime universities, there might be less criminals- but if too many criminals is the problem, harsher justice should lessen that, not weaker justice.

mosc wrote:The point is that there has NEVER been any real scientific reason to differentiate people by race.
Indeed- even pinning down the boundaries between races is incredibly difficult to do scientifically, and produces little to no value.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Charlie! » Tue Jun 15, 2010 7:42 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
mosc wrote:The point is that there has NEVER been any real scientific reason to differentiate people by race.
Indeed- even pinning down the boundaries between races is incredibly difficult to do scientifically, and produces little to no value.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jun 15, 2010 8:02 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:Increases ideal prostate cancer screening rate and accuracy in african-american males.

Informs the drinking habits of southeast asians.

And sunscreen use, of course :D
As mosc points out, race in those situations is just an imperfect proxy for the actual underlying biological mechanism. Your genes don't look different because your ancestors came from Africa or Ireland- they look different because genes vary between individuals. Genes can be common among people groups, and your measurement in those groups can be a useful proxy, but it's not as good as the actual information.

I mean, the only actual racial groups out there are groups like Ashkenazi Jews, which are much, much more specific than, say, "blacks."
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Charlie! » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:07 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Charlie! wrote:Increases ideal prostate cancer screening rate and accuracy in african-american males.

Informs the drinking habits of southeast asians.

And sunscreen use, of course :D
As mosc points out, race in those situations is just an imperfect proxy for the actual underlying biological mechanism. Your genes don't look different because your ancestors came from Africa or Ireland- they look different because genes vary between individuals. Genes can be common among people groups, and your measurement in those groups can be a useful proxy, but it's not as good as the actual information.

I mean, the only actual racial groups out there are groups like Ashkenazi Jews, which are much, much more specific than, say, "blacks."

Of course race is a proxy for the biological stuff. But that doesn't make it not real - a rock exists even though it's just a bunch of atoms, etc etc. For most people, race is a very useful proxy, and so we keep using it.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Vaniver » Tue Jun 15, 2010 9:30 pm UTC

Charlie! wrote:Of course race is a proxy for the biological stuff. But that doesn't make it not real - a rock exists even though it's just a bunch of atoms, etc etc. For most people, race is a very useful proxy, and so we keep using it.
I'm aware. But I hope you see the difference between saying obsidian has certain properties and saying igneous rocks have certain properties- generally, the narrower the construct the better the information.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby sourmìlk » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:39 am UTC

It seems kind of silly to say that race is just a proxy for the biological and genetic stuff. Isn't the biological and genetic stuff part of what defines the race?
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby somebody already took it » Wed Jun 16, 2010 5:56 am UTC

Quote sniping: Deleted.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Steroid » Wed Jun 16, 2010 10:53 am UTC

I think it's a definition that has been lost. Racism theoretically means judging specific people by their race. It does not mean judging the race itself. For example, the card that FolkHero mentioned, even if it had referred to "Black Whores," shouldn't be construed as racists, since there certainly exist prostitutes with dark skin. But when Don Imus talked about "nappy-headed hos," that was racist, because he identified specific women as prostitutes, which there was no evidence that they were.

All that said, as a political point, I think we're far too sensitive to even actual racism. Affirmative action is enforced racism against some groups in favor of others and, in my opinion, shouldn't be enforced. Racism should be dealt with as a social issue, not a political one.

And what I think my greatest concern is that while we might use social pressure to make life difficult for racists, we ought not do that to people who are not racists themselves, but support the right of racists. Case in point is Kentucky Senatorial candidate Rand Paul's recent claim the the 1964 Civil Rights Acts took away some rights of restaurateurs and hoteliers to choose their customers. For this he was pilloried, even though he argued not out of racism, but out of small-government ideology. The prevailing attitude seems to be that if you aren't as reflexively intolerant of racism as a racist is of the race he hates, then you're as just as bad as he is. To me, reflexive intolerance is bad whether it's based on skin color or political opinion or any other reason.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Indon » Wed Jun 16, 2010 12:38 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:That article seems vaguely "Have you stopped beating your wife"-ish to me.

It's kind of relevant if the article cites studies that show that your wife keeps going to the doctor for falling off the stairs, and you've been buying a lot of switches.

folkhero wrote:Just seconds after reading this thread, I stumbled upon this blog post. Some members of the NAACP demanded that Hallmark pull a greeting card (and succeeded) because they misheard the term "black hole" as "black ho" or "black whore."


This just in: Stupid people exist!

Also, Islam is the liiiiiight!

Oregonaut wrote:That's probably where most of my hang ups come from. People need to stop with this "white people" stuff, if we're ever going to have a hope of stopping the "black people" stuff. I am not indicative of all white people, any more than Colin Powell is indicative of all black people.


The people with the greater degree of power in the situation are going to have to start it - and that's us, for being at the top of the kriarchy.

"We're not stopping until they've stopped" is just an excuse never to stop.

Also, ITT: So much "reverse racism" claims. Like, WTF. I know this has come up in this forum before.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:31 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
Oregonaut wrote:That article seems vaguely "Have you stopped beating your wife"-ish to me.

It's kind of relevant if the article cites studies that show that your wife keeps going to the doctor for falling off the stairs, and you've been buying a lot of switches.

folkhero wrote:Just seconds after reading this thread, I stumbled upon this blog post. Some members of the NAACP demanded that Hallmark pull a greeting card (and succeeded) because they misheard the term "black hole" as "black ho" or "black whore."


This just in: Stupid people exist!

Also, Islam is the liiiiiight!

Oregonaut wrote:That's probably where most of my hang ups come from. People need to stop with this "white people" stuff, if we're ever going to have a hope of stopping the "black people" stuff. I am not indicative of all white people, any more than Colin Powell is indicative of all black people.


The people with the greater degree of power in the situation are going to have to start it - and that's us, for being at the top of the kriarchy.

"We're not stopping until they've stopped" is just an excuse never to stop.

Also, ITT: So much "reverse racism" claims. Like, WTF. I know this has come up in this forum before.


re: Wife beatery: Yes, but my point on that statement was that if someone claims to not be racist, you can just say that they are lying. So if they say that yes, they are biased to a degree you are playing directly into someone's argument, and if you say you are not then you are just giving them cause to call you a liar. You can't actually win an argument with someone once they have called you racist. If I cite example after example of how I have lived my life viewing everyone equally, that still doesn't stop someone from calling me a liar. How am I going to come up with, on the spot, documented proof of all of my actions in life?

When I spend my life doing what I can to treat everyone based solely on their actions, and I get accused of being racist because I am white, I feel well within my rights to be frustrated by the entire situation. As I said, I know I am not indicative of the enitre white population, but that is a good thing because I am, at times, a real asshole. However, when someone who is muslim sits there on TV and screams ignorant hate speech, I don't knee-jerk "Hey, all muslims are dickburglers!" So, I can be frustrated by the situation, and still come out swinging when necessary. Critiquing situations if fun like that.

Also, are you saying that reverse racism does not exist? Or is irrelevant to the topic at hand?
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Indon » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:39 pm UTC

Oregonaut wrote:re: Wife beatery: Yes, but my point on that statement was that if someone claims to not be racist, you can just say that they are lying. So if they say that yes, they are biased to a degree you are playing directly into someone's argument, and if you say you are not then you are just giving them cause to call you a liar.

If you're making an argument that can seriously be stopped with only an accusation of racism, then it's not a good argument.

Oregonaut wrote:You can't actually win an argument with someone once they have called you racist.

Yes, you can - you just need facts. If I say "African Americans disproportionately suffer from sickle-cell anemia compared to other racial demographics", and someone else says, "I think that's racist BS", I can then show them proof I am correct, thus winning the argument.

Oregonaut wrote:Also, are you saying that reverse racism does not exist? Or is irrelevant to the topic at hand?

I'm saying that the concept of reverse racism itself is largely bullshit along the lines of the article previously posted in the thread. If you don't like affirmative action, feel free to have evidence about how it's not helping fix the problem of racism in the workplace/school environment/whatever.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:48 pm UTC

Indon wrote:
Oregonaut wrote:re: Wife beatery: Yes, but my point on that statement was that if someone claims to not be racist, you can just say that they are lying. So if they say that yes, they are biased to a degree you are playing directly into someone's argument, and if you say you are not then you are just giving them cause to call you a liar.

If you're making an argument that can seriously be stopped with only an accusation of racism, then it's not a good argument.

Oregonaut wrote:You can't actually win an argument with someone once they have called you racist.

Yes, you can - you just need facts. If I say "African Americans disproportionately suffer from sickle-cell anemia compared to other racial demographics", and someone else says, "I think that's racist BS", I can then show them proof I am correct, thus winning the argument.

Oregonaut wrote:Also, are you saying that reverse racism does not exist? Or is irrelevant to the topic at hand?

I'm saying that the concept of reverse racism itself is largely bullshit along the lines of the article previously posted in the thread. If you don't like affirmative action, feel free to have evidence about how it's not helping fix the problem of racism in the workplace/school environment/whatever.


I think I see the problem here. I'm talking about interpersonal daily business, and or business situations such as the one I described earlier where the gentleman was malingering, and you're talking about studies and the claims of racism there-in. My posts are based on the thought that one is going about his daily business and is charged with racism.

As far as affirmative action goes, I don't like having to hire a minority over a more qualified candidate. If the goal is to provide preferential treatment, than it has done the job. But it assumes that every generation is equally racist. I think that it is fine as a temporary measure, but if it is permanent, it is only going to stigmatize the very people it is supposed to be helping in the future.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Jessica » Wed Jun 16, 2010 2:53 pm UTC

Also in these discussions, these articles, the talk about racism isn't directed at you specifically Oregonaut. It's not about whether you yourself go to Klan meetings, or use racial slurs. It's about how society in general (which you are a part of) treats people in general. Some people (those who have sociological power) have advantages (or privileges) over other people, who lack power, and are discriminated again. It's not about blaming people. It's about bringing up how our society bends us to have these biases, or issues.

Also, reverse racism is a misnomer. First because in a sociological sense of the word racism without power is meaningless (for example - slurs against minorities have much more power to affect people, than slurs against the majority). Second, because racism is racism, and reversing it is still racism - calling it racism attempts to use the "power" of the word racism against the less powerful groups. Policies which are called "reverse racism" (eg Affirmative action) aren't racist, because they attempt to balance sociological differences between groups. It's making them more equal.

edit: THE MEME THAT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS A CHOICE BETWEEN A MINORITY OR A QUALIFIED CANDIDATE IS WRONG!

Sorry. The point of affirmative action is to give a overt reason to pick a candidate that sociologically wouldn't be chosen normally. That doesn't mean they're not qualified. It just means that normally, when given two candidates with equal qualifications, the white one is chosen more.

It isn't taking unqualified people and forcing them into jobs they can't do. It's giving a reason to overcome our own internal biases.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:03 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:Also in these discussions, these articles, the talk about racism isn't directed at you specifically Oregonaut. It's not about whether you yourself go to Klan meetings, or use racial slurs. It's about how society in general (which you are a part of) treats people in general. Some people (those who have sociological power) have advantages (or privileges) over other people, who lack power, and are discriminated again. It's not about blaming people. It's about bringing up how our society bends us to have these biases, or issues.

Also, reverse racism is a misnomer. First because in a sociological sense of the word racism without power is meaningless (for example - slurs against minorities have much more power to affect people, than slurs against the majority). Second, because racism is racism, and reversing it is still racism - calling it racism attempts to use the "power" of the word racism against the less powerful groups. Policies which are called "reverse racism" (eg Affirmative action) aren't racist, because they attempt to balance sociological differences between groups. It's making them more equal.

edit: THE MEME THAT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS A CHOICE BETWEEN A MINORITY OR A QUALIFIED CANDIDATE IS WRONG!

Sorry. The point of affirmative action is to give a overt reason to pick a candidate that sociologically wouldn't be chosen normally. That doesn't mean they're not qualified. It just means that normally, when given two candidates with equal qualifications, the white one is chosen more.

It isn't taking unqualified people and forcing them into jobs they can't do. It's giving a reason to overcome our own internal biases.


I've probably been mislead by the media then. (Not that it would shock me.) When I think "affirmative action" I think back to when the University of Michigan had a point system that gave additional points to minority candidates in order to increase the rate of acceptance. Which, to me, meant that those who were not a minority would not be chosen if they had otherwise equal scores. Think of it this way, you have two kids, both with 1500s on the (old) SAT, they each had volunteer service giving them an additional 50 points, and they each had a GPA of around 3.65. The black gentleman gets an additional 15 points for being black, and gets accepted over the white gentleman by virtue of that fact alone. When I was reading the articles (I don't remember when) that is what I took away from this. If that isn't how it works, then I probably need to do some reading to find out how it does. Considering, I can't figure out how it would work otherwise.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby mosc » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:10 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:It seems kind of silly to say that race is just a proxy for the biological and genetic stuff. Isn't the biological and genetic stuff part of what defines the race?

No, that's the point. There. Is. No. Genetic. Stuff. There is no scientific reason. It's self fulfilling. You create a split along arbitrary lines and then see differences and deem the lines useful. They're not. It's bad science. Detecting differences along your arbitrary line does not mean that the line has some underlying basis beyond racism.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Tomo » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:15 pm UTC

Anecdotes might be a terrible way to confirm any trends in a discussion, but you only need one counter example to disprove a rule. So I'll just go right ahead while people are posting absolutes like:

Indon wrote:If you're making an argument that can seriously be stopped with only an accusation of racism, then it's not a good argument.


Jessica wrote:edit: THE MEME THAT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS A CHOICE BETWEEN A MINORITY OR A QUALIFIED CANDIDATE IS WRONG!

Sorry. The point of affirmative action is to give a overt reason to pick a candidate that sociologically wouldn't be chosen normally. That doesn't mean they're not qualified. [...]

It isn't taking unqualified people and forcing them into jobs they can't do.


I teach in a university, one of my jobs is marking reports, that in a final year should be written at close to peer reviewed, journal standard. I have one student who understands almost nothing about the subject, rarely turns up to lectures, and handed in absolute rubbish at the end of the term. A quote from his paper to illustrate the quality I'm talking about, was his attempt to explain that time was labeled as "t". He wrote:

When t increases, time goes bad seriously.

Not to mention the god awful English, he actually though t and time were separate, but related. I generously gave him 45% (40 is a fail, I was feeling nice) because he'd produced 2-3 of the 10+ required results, and hey, at least he tried.

Next day I'm being called in front of a discriminatory committee because I allegedly gave him bad marks because he's Chinese. Of course the case went nowhere, it was blatantly obvious I was doing my job correctly, but in order to keep him happy, the university bumped him up to top marks, no questions asked. They're THAT scared of being accused of racism.

It doesn't even matter sometimes whether you're being racist or not, the accusation itself can be incredibly damaging even without facts to back it up.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:34 pm UTC

Perhaps I misunderstood affirmative action. I was under the impression that affirmative action was a mechanism designed to overcome a built in bias. The thought being that racism had so inversely impacted the affected parties that it had inherently made it impossible to improve the situation without "affirmative action". In the example cited
Oregonaut wrote:I've probably been mislead by the media then. (Not that it would shock me.) When I think "affirmative action" I think back to when the University of Michigan had a point system that gave additional points to minority candidates in order to increase the rate of acceptance. Which, to me, meant that those who were not a minority would not be chosen if they had otherwise equal scores. Think of it this way, you have two kids, both with 1500s on the (old) SAT, they each had volunteer service giving them an additional 50 points, and they each had a GPA of around 3.65. The black gentleman gets an additional 15 points for being black, and gets accepted over the white gentleman by virtue of that fact alone. When I was reading the articles (I don't remember when) that is what I took away from this. If that isn't how it works, then I probably need to do some reading to find out how it does. Considering, I can't figure out how it would work otherwise.

the rational would be that to correct the existing inequity then preference would have to be given to the minority applicant. That is that the minority, even if qualifications are equal, starts from behind because society has a built in bias that comes from years of racism. But as I stated my understanding could be flawed.

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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:45 pm UTC

sourmìlk wrote:It seems kind of silly to say that race is just a proxy for the biological and genetic stuff. Isn't the biological and genetic stuff part of what defines the race?
Have you heard of the "one drop rule"?

Indon wrote:The people with the greater degree of power in the situation are going to have to start it - and that's us, for being at the top of the kriarchy.
Start it? Have you not been paying attention since 1807?

Indon wrote:If you're making an argument that can seriously be stopped with only an accusation of racism, then it's not a good argument.
How many people respond to "You're a racist!" with [edit] "Whether or not I'm racist is irrelevant"? Generally, the argument is stopped because now the discussion, instead of being about whatever it was about before, is about racism. Take the example of Larry Summers- his actual position (if there are differences in variance in the relevant skills for being a science professor at Harvard between men and women, we would expect more men than women to hold positions as science professors at Harvard in a sex-blind society) was discussed with much, much less frequency than just that he made sexist comments about the ability of women to do science.

Indon wrote:Yes, you can - you just need facts. If I say "African Americans disproportionately suffer from sickle-cell anemia compared to other racial demographics", and someone else says, "I think that's racist BS", I can then show them proof I am correct, thus winning the argument.
Then what about James Watson, where he was repeating the fact that Africans underperform on intelligence tests?* Did the proof he was correct matter?

*Slight proviso: Watson was assuming that intelligence tests do actually measure intelligence. There's quite a bit of proof for that, but it does require you subscribe to a somewhat narrower definition of intelligence than sometimes used.

Jessica wrote:First because in a sociological sense of the word racism without power is meaningless (for example - slurs against minorities have much more power to affect people, than slurs against the majority).
Isn't a bit short-sighted to excuse the racism of racist groups while trying to empower them? They'll still be racist afterwards.

Jessica wrote:THE MEME THAT AFFIRMATIVE ACTION IS A CHOICE BETWEEN A MINORITY OR A QUALIFIED CANDIDATE IS WRONG!
The meme that "All Affirmative Action programs select unqualified minorities" is wrong; the meme that "Some Affirmative Action programs select unqualified minorities" is undeniably true. It's also a mistake to assume that applicants are either "qualified" or "unqualified"- hiring someone is about finding the most qualified, not just someone who is qualified.

Jessica wrote:It isn't taking unqualified people and forcing them into jobs they can't do.
This is a flat-out lie. Affirmative action at universities has been pushing minority students away from tougher fields into softer fields, as well as causing them to flunk out at disturbingly high rates. The answer to "what can we do to keep African American students from flunking out" is "send them to an easier school," not "inflate their grades" (which also happens at a number of universities).

Tomo wrote:It doesn't even matter sometimes whether you're being racist or not, the accusation itself can be incredibly damaging even without facts to back it up.
The disastrous policy of "disparate impact" assumes guilty until proven innocent. In the case of New Haven, where blacks with power prevented whites and a hispanic from being hired (is that enough power to call them racist yet?), it took 6 years for the case to finally be decided against the racists (and whether or not that'll be enough precedent to actually dethrone disparate impact is yet to be seen).
Last edited by Vaniver on Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:36 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Jessica » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:08 pm UTC

The Meme I have a problem with, which is repeated over and over again, is that affirmative action takes an (unqualified) minority and makes you choose them over a qualified (white) applicant. This is a lie. It takes two qualified (whether equally qualified, or not isn't what's important) and gives one a bump, where normally the other would get the bump.

Yes. There are going to be instances where someone who isn't the best at what they do who gets picked over someone who is viewed as "the best" at what they do. But, so much of interview processes, and qualifications about who is the best is subjective, based on little more than who you like, who talks best, who uses the right words, the right clothes etc. The meme that if you just didn't have affirmative action, businesses would pick the best applicant is just as false, as there are minority applicants which are better for a job that get passed over for the majority applicant.

Qualified IS pass/fail. Do you meet the qualifications for the job, yes/no? There are lots of people who meet those qualifications. To choose the best person after you've found X people who can do the job, you have to go beyond what the necessary requirements to preform the job. Those are subjective, and are not necessarily about getting "the best". That's what I hate hearing over and over again when this argument comes up. "Think of all the more qualified (aka white) people who aren't getting jobs!" It's a false dichotomy, because there are people who are qualified who are able to preform the job. More than who get the job. some of those are white, some aren't. And yet, historically, white applicants were much more likely to get the jobs when they applied. they are much more likely to get interviews, even with similar qualifications.

As for your other entry - Look. If you use the word racist to mean "one person has prejudice against another person based on race", that's great. But it's useless at looking at systemic issues. That's why there are more than one definition of racism. One which can be applied to a person, and one which can be applied to society.

You can have specific black people who think all white people are dirt. That is racist, by the first definition.

But, when you use that definition when trying to deal with sociological issues, it breaks down, because you get the issue of "well they're racist too". The problem then is, who has the ability to actually cause problems sociologically with their racism. Some groups have power over other groups. When those groups have power, and have biased views of the groups without power, there are problems. And that's why the sociological definition of racism has power added to it. Because when looking at society, one individual's personal views about people around them doesn't have the effect of one groups general views against another group. And those effects are what's a problem.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby TaintedDeity » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:10 pm UTC

@University anecdote
Is that not a pretty good example of affirmative action done wrong, then? Not disproving Jessica's point at all.

Ah, post ninja'd.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:16 pm UTC

Jessica wrote:Qualified IS pass/fail. Do you meet the qualifications for the job, yes/no?
Is that something you've heard from managers, or from moralizers?

Jessica wrote:But, when you use that definition when trying to deal with sociological issues, it breaks down, because you get the issue of "well they're racist too". The problem then is, who has the ability to actually cause problems sociologically with their racism.
And that's why I'm wondering: are you willing to admit that blacks (and other minorities) have that power, and you are actively trying to give them more without removing their prejudices?

Tainted Deity wrote:Is that not a pretty good example of affirmative action done wrong, then? Not disproving Jessica's point at all.
The "No True Scotsman" defense isn't very satisfying. If the theoretical model is nice while the actual practice is a problem, perhaps you should assume that people complaining about it are complaining about the actual practice they see, rather than the theoretical model you imagine?
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby Oregonaut » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:17 pm UTC

TaintedDeity wrote:@University anecdote
Is that not a pretty good example of affirmative action done wrong, then? Not disproving Jessica's point at all.

Ah, post ninja'd.


It was, in my opinion. I would feel that using race as a qualifying factor in something as competitive as graduate education would be doing a disservice to those candidates who lost out simply because they weren't the preferred minority, minority in this case including women (going back to another thread where Jessica pointed out that women are considered a minority even though they constitute over 50% of a population). I can't see where it helps to say that you did as well as them, but because they're them you can't be accepted.
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Re: Racism and Over-Tolerance

Postby morriswalters » Wed Jun 16, 2010 4:39 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
Indon wrote:Yes, you can - you just need facts. If I say "African Americans disproportionately suffer from sickle-cell anemia compared to other racial demographics", and someone else says, "I think that's racist BS", I can then show them proof I am correct, thus winning the argument.
Then what about James Watson, where he was repeating the fact that Africans underperform on intelligence tests?* Did the proof he was correct matter?

*Slight proviso: Watson was assuming that intelligence tests do actually measure intelligence. There's quite a bit of proof for that, but it does require you subscribe to a somewhat narrower definition of intelligence than sometimes used.

It also assumes that intelligence as measured is an absolute outcome of genetics, a dubious assumption at best . And a quick look at his bio gave me the distinct impression he that he was quacked.


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