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March 19, 2008

Talking About Race in America

Having spent some time earlier today telling you what I did not like about Barack Obama's speech, I thought perhaps I might discuss what I did like about it.

Unlike Lex and Grim, I cannot agree that it was a great speech. However, I do believe it was an extremely important and even an historic one. My reasons for hesitating to dub it "great" are perhaps best summed up by my differences with the posts cited above. Lex says:

...the words he has to say - on race, at least - are the most compelling and honest things any politician has put forth on this topic in the last century, perhaps in our history. As rhetoric, it is very nearly flawless. But it is much more than that.

As my post attempted to lay out this morning, I could not disagree more with the 'honest' part of Lex's summation. And yet I do not accuse him of lying. Barack Obama may well believe, or think he believes, the words he spoke yesterday. Yet those words do not square well with his actions. If this is a contradiction I find difficult to overlook, how could I decorate the speech, as distinguished from the man, with the term 'honest'?

It is not always easy for us to see life squarely, to filter out the influence of our own innate bias, our life experiences. In this, I agree with the Left. Our lives are prisms through which we view the world; our experiences and culture, like lenses, can distort and refract events as they occur, coloring the way we perceive them. I cannot help but perceive life as a woman, for instance. It requires a supreme effort for me to try to understand the world as it often seems to men.

And yet I try, for getting along with men is important to me. Also, I find the effort it takes to understand someone else's view of the world enriches my own. Suddenly, I see things I missed before. They are more relevant when this particular 'lens' is applied.

But I also believe there is such a thing as objective reality, and to the extent that I consider myself an educated and rational being, I strive to be aware of, and if necessary, discount my entirely subjective perceptions of the world. I test my reactions against hard, cold facts and if (in my opinion) my experience as a woman or my emotions seem to conflict too much with objectively discernable reality, I set them aside. You may well ask, "How do you know if you're being influenced by passion rather than reason if you view everything through the prism of being female?" I would answer that each of us has a brain in addition to a heart and soul. The three parts of our humanity temper and inform each other. I would not want to be all brain, all heart, or all soul. It takes all three, in the proper measure, to make one a human being rather than an animal.

For the record, it is not just women who must perform this balancing act. Men, too, are emotional. It is just that they experience emotion differently and even feel different emotions, given the same stimuli, as women. But if anyone doubts men are emotional creatures, let him watch the movie 12 Angry Men or attend a sporting event where the crowd loses control.

Anger is an emotion. So are fear, prejudice, pride, insecurity, aggression. Men can and do regularly experience all of these, and more. To each, his own.

James Taranto, in today's WSJ, points out a fascinating and disturbing fact:

The auditorium at Philadelphia's National Constitution Center, York reports, "was filled mostly with guests invited by the Obama campaign." Unsurprisingly, they "thought he delivered a great speech." Disturbingly, several whom York interviewed didn't understand all the fuss about Wright:
"It was amazing," Gregory Davis, a financial adviser and Obama supporter from Philadelphia, told me. "I think he addressed the issue, and if that does not address the issue, I don't know what else can be said about it. That was just awesome oratory."

I asked Davis what his personal reaction was when he saw video clips of sermons in which Rev. Wright said, "God damn America," called the United States the "U.S. of KKK A," and said that 9/11 was "America's chickens . . . coming home to roost." "As a member of a traditional Baptist, black church, I wasn't surprised," Davis told me. "I wasn't offended by anything the pastor said. A lot of things he said were absolutely correct. . . . The way he said it may not have been the most appropriate way to say it, but as far as a typical black inner-city church, that's how it's said."

Vernon Price, a ward leader in Philadelphia's 22nd Precinct, told me Obama's speech was "very courageous." When I asked his reaction to Rev. Wright, Price said, "A lot of things that he said were true, whether people want to accept it, or believe it, or not. People believe in their hearts that a lot of what he said was true."

A survey of black churches revealed that none would condemn Wright's words:

Newsweek's Lisa Miller reports on WashingtonPost.com that black religious leaders take a similar tack:

Last Friday, in an effort to gauge just how "out there" Wright's sermons are in the context of the African-American church tradition, Newsweek phoned at least two dozen of the country's most prominent and thoughtful African-American scholars and pastors, representing a wide range of denominations and points of view. Not one person would say that Wright had crossed any kind of significant line.

Clearly, these people interpret life through a very different prism: one, moreover, that requires no objective proof that whites deliberately created the HIV virus to kill blacks. You see, whether or not it is objectively true, it could be. It fits the way they view the world.

It is the sort of thing "They" do to "Us" all the time.

And yet as I mentioned this morning, many many whites heard in Barack Obama's speech the promise of a better, more perfect union where there will be no 'us' vs. 'them'. But what objectively discernable fact surrounding the Obama/Wright debacle can possibly support this belief? It is clearly not shared by the congregation of Trinity United church, nor by the many black pastors who were asked to comment on Reverend Wright's sermons. If you will not renounce an 'Us vs. Them' mentality, how can you ever hope to reach that state of perfect union where there is no "Us vs. Them"?

Easy. By dismissing or glossing over the beliefs of those who disagree with you:

I think the core question is here: what, to judge from the speech, is the role of the American nation in Obama's view?

It is his starting point: "to form a more perfect union." He declares that he intends to be on the side of "the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag."

But demonstrably many (if not a majority) of those who bleed together under the same proud flag do not agree with Barack Obama that this war should never have been waged. They do not agree it is the proper exercise of patriotism to bring them home with the task so many have fought and died for still unfinished. How can you support people when you aim to undermine and subvert the very values they are willing to die to defend? Have they become invisible to you? How can a speech with such great and glaring contradictions be considered either honest or great?

I promised to say what I liked about Obama's speech.

I liked that he tried to grasp the great third rail of American discourse, however imperfectly (in my opinion) he may have done so.

I like that he called for each of us to confront the anger of what the Left likes to call The Other, and not to dismiss it out of hand. I have always thought it important to talk about race, because only by doing so can we begin to move past it. I think there is a right and wrong way to talk about such a volatile subject. As one of Lex's commenters pointed out:

Morgan Freeman, a man who knows a thing or two, during an interview, when asked about racism in America said, bluntly: “You want to stop racism? Then stop talking about it.” He also stated how tired he was of “Black History Month”. His idea was to have teachers teach, you know, AMERICAN history, all of it, and quit dividing it up by special interests.

The gentleman speaks the truth.

I could not agree more. I am not sure we need to wallow in our competing perceptions of the world as viewed through the subjective prism of race. I cannot know what it means to be black. Blacks cannot know what it means to be white. And as I hope this story will illustrate, I'm not sure that makes any difference to our ability to get along.

When I was in high school, I dated a young black man for a while. During this time my father received PCS orders and we moved away. He, also, graduated high school and went away to a historically black college. In fact, it was my parents and I who dropped him off, freshman year. But though we no longer saw each other physically, we kept in touch.

We wrote each other long letters, and called when we could. I wondered at times, as young girls are wont to do, whether I would marry him one day. I can't say I thought much about the question of race. You see, this is not the way I was raised. It was not a topic that was ever entertained by my conservative Republican parents. To me, he was a boy I liked. He spoke as I do. He was intelligent and ambitious and good looking.

After several months, he invited me back to my former school for Homecoming. I was excited; so much so that my mother and I rushed out and began an orgy of sewing, working on my dress for the dance. Until just a few years ago, I still had that dress, believe it or not; made when I was quite young. I wore it to many a Marine Corps Ball.

When I arrived at my old school, however, I found that some things had changed. My boyfriend had brought new friends home with him from college; friends who didn't attend our high school. And they did not like me one bit; not that they ever said one word to me. So their dislike cannot have been personal. It was just, as it turned out, that I was white and they were not.

Despite my efforts to be sociable, it was clear I was unwelcome and he did not know what to do. And so, I left. I left, actually, in tears (though I did not let him see me crying). I was crushed. None of this is a big deal, or even the point of this story. The point is what happened next.

His mother found out.

And that woman, God bless her, taught her son the right thing. She made him take me to that dance and honor his invitation. She shamed him into apologizing to me and standing up to his new friends. And she herself, though she had done nothing wrong, apologized to me. I was stunned by the majesty of her anger with those boys, and made uncomfortable by her evident embarassment, and moved by her dignity and grace. And at the same time her actions healed something ugly.

What she did was to uphold a standard of right and wrong that applied, no matter what the color of someone's skin might be and no matter whether she personally approved of our relationship. This united her with my parents, of a different race and a different culture (for when I had spent time at his house before, it was often clear to me that he had been raised in a different culture from my own).

But we shared the same values. And though I was hurt and embarrassed, I tried hard that night to make it pleasant. And it was not so bad.

We never dated after that. But we remained friends. He came to visit me, years later. His best friend from high school (who happened to be be white) also came to visit me. He told me that my boyfriend felt he had let himself down. He was harder on himself than I ever was on him.

I am not sure we have to get inside each other's skin, to get along. I do think it is tremendously important that we try to come to some agreement about the broad standards of equity under which we plan to live our lives. These values are eternal, and they know no skin color. This is what Martin Luther King preached: what ought to matter to a man or woman is not the prism through which they view the world because if you will not resist the tendency to think and act as a white or black person rather than as a human being, you are part of the problem with race relations in America. What matters, is not the color of a man's skin, but the content of his character.

That is the conversation we should be having about race in America. We should be talking about color blind values and trying to take an honest look at whether our own experiences sometimes interfere with our efforts to live up to those values. Because the pain that lies behind the debate on race in America lies, not in "not understanding each others' anger", but in the refusal to see that if we can only learn to set aside the subjective prism of race when it threatens to betray our better natures, the rest will follow.

What is needed, in the post-civil rights era, may not be so much a thundering "Let my people go", but "Let go of identity politics." Treat those of all races as you would be treated.

This requires courage; the kind of courage my then-boyfriend and his mother showed many years ago, the kind of courage my parents displayed when they welcomed him into our home despite the prevailing opinions of the day. But imagine what the world could be like, if everyone just adopted that single standard?

We might not all agree, even then. But I'll bet we'd get along a lot better.

Update: Suds46 linked to a VDH post that neatly sums up where Obama went astray:

The tragedy of Obama's speech and the mindless endorsement of it was the rejection of any constant moral standard—an absolute sense of wrong and right that transcends situational ethics, context, and individual particulars. And once one jettisons such absolutes, they won't be there when one wishes to seek refuge in them in a future hour of need.

This is the tragedy of identity politics: that in closing ranks against what they perceive to be a hostile world, minorities and women and (for all I know) transgendered wolves too often embrace the very mentality responsible for their troubles. Once they endorse an "It's wrong for him to do that but perfectly fine for my kind to do it" line of reasoning, they lose the respect of those who would otherwise be inclined to sympathize with them.

A few other viewpoints:

Beth makes a very astute point:


I don’t want the government to be “my keeper.” I can be my own keeper, thank you very much, and how is “be your brother’s keeper” consistent with “self-help,” anyway? This isn’t a government with programs based on selective Christian principles, anyway, is it? And if it is, why does Barack Obama support government actions that are so decidedly un-Christian? (Opposing a ban on partial birth abortion, for example, just to start.) His particular strain of Christianity simply isn’t the Christianity that most Christians–or Jews, or atheists, or anyone else–subscribes, anyway. Nor is Mitt Romney’s religion what most Americans believe, either, but the difference is, Mitt Romney didn’t ask us to accept his beliefs as part of how he has governed or would govern. Joe Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew, but he hasn’t asked anyone to accept his beliefs as part of how America should be run, either. And yes, John McCain is a Christian, but he doesn’t say we must be “our brother’s keeper” as justification for how he would govern. He believes that we do what we do because of our traditionally American values. Duty, honor, country. Independence. And yes, equality.

Of course, I don’t believe that Barack Obama thinks we should live under a theocracy, anyway. He does, however, believe in a theology that insists on social change–even revolution–to bring up the “oppressed.” In my eyes, this isn’t theology; it’s political ideology that uses Christian language (very selectively!) to support its theses.

Fausta thought the speech was aimed at the Superdelegates.

Baldilocks lays it out:

Obama coats his lack of self in Black Liberation Theology--an ego-based, God-as-Sugar-Daddy ideology. But it could have been any other ideology that was equally as metaphysically empty; he suited up in this one because it fit the best for obvious reasons.

Some of us are still trying to clue you all in as to the exact nature of Obama's fraud. So when you stop fretting over the fact that He Done You Wrong, when you stop letting your ego and your fear blind your judgment, pay attention to the big, hairy clues in the guy's background. (No. The other clues.)

They've been sitting there all along.

She has a series of excellent posts on the speech. Read them all.

Posted by Cassandra at March 19, 2008 05:47 PM

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Comments

Wow! Bravo! Just something you said about "seeing a crowd lose control" and objectivity (whether rational or irrational) made me think of Edward Bernays and "The Century of the Self" Five part BBC series watch. Great post.

Posted by: Miguel at March 20, 2008 12:04 AM

Outstanding, as usual. Your perspective on things like this is flawless. I think Victor Davis Hanson would agree: http://corner.nationalreview.com/post/?q=OWJjNDRiZmE4ZWJmMDMyNGU0MTk2ZmE3MzM1MGQ1ZWU=

Posted by: Suds46 at March 20, 2008 12:35 AM

Darlin', you've outdone yourself...this post actually brought tears to my eyes. Being an "American Melting Pot" hybrid myself, I've dated Black, White, Hispanic and Asian types.

As a co-worker of mine pointed out, "how can something heal if you keep picking at the scabs?"

I think that's an excellent analogy...

Posted by: camojack at March 20, 2008 01:13 AM

I am glad you liked it :)

I think it is interesting to note, in reading through all the many, many perspectives on this speech, how many different takes there were on it and how everyone seemed to see something different. I wouldn't have written this, except that Lex and Grim, two writers I respect, saw something very different (and much to like as well as disagree with). So they made me come back and take another swipe at it, which I was glad to do because as I think I said over at Grim's I instinctively liked the speech.

It was just that after thinking about the places where he struck a false note with me, I also disagreed.

Thanks for the VDH link :)

That first para is perfect - that is precisely what I was trying to say, I think, but I was just too tired after working all day and couldn't summon the right words.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 05:31 AM

Well, I'll say again what I said before: the speech's strength is that it treats the nature of America as a virtue, and the "more perfect union" as the perfection of that virtue. It is, in that sense, in the best tradition of American oratory. It calls us to what is best about our nation.

Now, the other thing it does is try to assert the claim that Barack Obama's preferred policies is the right way to pursue that perfection. There we have a lot to disagree with; my main disagreement with him is that the isolationism he advocates appears to me to be a disasterous course, for the world in the short term, and for even the nation in the long.

That said, this is the discussion we should have as a nation: recognizing the virtue implicit in the Founding, how to perfect it? Seeing the Democratic Party moving to that place is a beautiful and happy sight, and one that makes me smile. By all means, let us fight about the best way to perfect a nation that is already implicitly moral, correct, and virtuous in its roots.

Posted by: Grim at March 20, 2008 06:14 AM

See?

Again, you saw something I missed completely (in addition to the isolationism aspect) :p And that is why I love reading you.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 06:21 AM

I was fascinated by a lot of Lex's take too. His passion on the subject surprised (and pleased) me, and I thought it thought provoking. It is just that I took away something different from what both of you saw.

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 06:23 AM

"Also, I find the effort it takes to understand someone else's view of the world enriches my own."

Unless, of course, that someone else is driving a one-hoss shay with really short reins...

Posted by: BillT at March 20, 2008 07:59 AM

Look darlin', just as long as it's an Amish horse.

None of that kinky new-fangled lingerie for me.

/and I'm outta here!!!!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 08:15 AM

"...just as long as it's an Amish horse. None of that kinky new-fangled lingerie for me."

Toggles, then? I've never been a huge fan of buttons on underwear, either.

Film at Eleven...

Posted by: BillT at March 20, 2008 08:31 AM

Dear Lord, man. I just snorted half a cup of hot coffee...

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 08:36 AM

Well, I'll say again what I said before: the speech's strength is that it treats the nature of America as a virtue, and the "more perfect union" as the perfection of that virtue. It is, in that sense, in the best tradition of American oratory. It calls us to what is best about our nation.

So did Hitler when he reunited a shattered and demoralized Germany. More perfect union depends upon what you mean think perfect is.

Such things are radically different from one faction of America to another, which is why identity politics are so rampant and successful.

There's no disputation that powerful and effective rhetoric must bind as well as divide. That it must exploit people's need to work together just as it exploits people's hatred of others.

The objective reality difference is whether the effort to divide is based upon a real threat or a fabricated one, where it actually is necessary to create such divisions as was advocated. Additionally, it also raises the point of whether people really should combine to work towards a common goal, because if that common goal is the holocaust or jihad instead of the Pax Americana, then would it really be a good thing to bring people together in harmony and togetherness with such oration?

When a speaker speaks about what divides humanity, such as what divides us from our enemies, then this is a good thing because it is sourced from objective reality. He is not creating a division where none existed, simply recognizing it and trying to get people to deal with things that already exist. Togetherness and perfecting the union is not a categorically good thing to invest in. And that's where I disagree with Grim on, that such a thing will always or even often will lead to a better world.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 20, 2008 11:21 AM

I'm not sure that Hitler comparisons are ever useful; but insofar as they are, I'd like to point out that Obama was pointing precisely to America's Founding, not Germany's. The American Founding was something of a rather different nature than the creation of Germany out of the remains of the Holy Roman Empire (which was not, as per the poet, any of the three).

One can refer to the principles of the American Founding with confidence. For, indeed, it had principles: not simply blood, on which to rely.

Posted by: Grim at March 20, 2008 11:43 AM

I think if you expect too much out of any politician, you are bound to be heartbroken and disappointed at the end; or at least mightily pissed off.

Mr. Obama makes good speeches, and reading this one reveals a lot of good notions, but there is a dark undercurrent of unaddressed grievances and gripes and victimology, against those who apparently own the "means of production".

Mr. Obama has, in effect, upped the ante, in the floating crap game of politics. It's race, it's economics, it's the class war, it's free trade, it's education; it's pretty much all the cultural issues rolled into one. Synthesis, I think they call it in philosophy.

Now, in this season, this speech will be the Rosetta stone of racial discussions. He has covered all the liberal-left bases (all the victims are together here) and denuded the landscape of any objective right-or-wrong moral judgement (equivocating his maternal grannie to Rev. Wright; just, wow!), while at the same time connecting his views with the Founders as a philosphical touchstone.

Pretty clever guy. Don't underestimate him.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at March 20, 2008 12:11 PM

Thank you; and this is the whole enchilada:

What she did was to uphold a standard of right and wrong that applied, no matter what the color of someone's skin might be and no matter whether she personally approved of our relationship.
Your friend's mother was blessed with a quality that's becoming all too scarce: integrity.

Thinking about that word, I'm reminded of the related word, 'integration.' Aside from its obvious connotations, one can be reminded of the integration that you spoke of; of mind, body and soul and how each has its proper level in a given human. How about that?

Posted by: baldilocks at March 20, 2008 12:50 PM

"I'm reminded of the related word, 'integration.'"

Quick story about that.

A few years ago, certain architects and planners started building a kind of community where you can 'live, work and play' -- that is, they designed it so that you could do everything you needed to do, from working at a job, to shopping, to having restaurants and clubs, all within walking distance of your apartment. This was the old urban theory, but they started building these things out in the suburbs.

My friend Dear Sovay, a young liberal lady, is a confirmed suburbanite. She was absolutely thrilled about this concept, and was deeply excited when one of the first ones was built not too far away from where she lives in Germantown, MD.

I came up to DC on business, and visited with her while I was up there. "I'm so excited to see you," she said. "I want to take you to see something you don't have there in Georgia. It's called an integrated community!"

Posted by: Grim at March 20, 2008 01:07 PM

re: his is the whole enchilada

I agree - it was sort of a rambling post. I just sat down and wrote it after work w/out putting much thought into what I was going to say. I need to learn not to do that!

The thing I've found hard to understand, when I've heard many black leaders talking about the civil rights movement, is that they seem want to be fully 'integrated' into American life, but without giving up one iota of their essential blackness (huh???).

I often wonder, when I hear that, what the heck they're talking about? I mean, there are lots of subcultures in a pluralistic society. They're not going to be told how to walk, talk, etc. This is rambling a bit b/c I'm in a hurry, but I also wonder how they'd take that statement coming from someone who was white? It sounds like a proxy for something else (the right to keep yourself separate? for nurturing a sense of grievance/entitlement?).

Everyone, if they want to join some larger entity, submerges aspects of their personality to get along with others, so I'm always confused when I hear some black leaders speak as though somehow they are supposed to be immune to the same rules and standards of conformity the rest of society tolerates as the price of sheltering under society's admittedly collective mantle :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 01:14 PM

Oh dear God, Grim.

Well, you *are* from the South and we all know what that means :p

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 01:16 PM

Nay, the girl was as innocent as it's possible to be. She couldn't figure out why I was sputtering. :)

Posted by: Grim at March 20, 2008 01:18 PM

And fwiw, I can well understand that a close-knit community might fear losing the ties that bind them if they become fully assimilated into a larger social group. I mean, military people deal with that all the time at various levels, especially when you're in a joint command. I don't want to read too much into that, it just that it always strikes me as funny when I hear it!

Posted by: Cassandra at March 20, 2008 01:18 PM

"A few years ago, certain architects and planners started building a kind of community where you can 'live, work and play'"
Columbia Maryland was one such community, built quite a number of years ago. My oldest child was born in Columbia in 1982. The snark in those days was a take off on the Virginia tourist board's slogan of Virginia is for Lovers... with Columbia's being Columbia is for Clones.

Lex recalled the outstanding people he met in the Navy. I had the pleasure to establish similar bonds during my time in the service. Funny how little the color of a person's skin matters in the military. This seems to me to be yet another one of the important life lessons that a person can learn while in the military.

Regarding the south and integration, I can recall the separate facilities, eating establishments and so on for people of color. I also remember when I was going into high school, busing began and our schools were desegregated. A few Neanderthals stirred the pot, but most folks tried to bridge the divide, cautiously, but with a growing awareness that it had to be done for the sake of all. That whole house divided thing.

Funny thing is, I can also recall that there was not so much hatred among all the folks in my little southern community back then. Not to say that there were no hateful racists, nope, they were there. But we lived together, went to school together (after '68-ish anyway), worked together, in some cases went to church together, ate together in non-commercial settings due to the prevalence of segregated restaurants (anyone recall Lester Maddox?) and just generally visited with and got on with many friends in those days.

Now all this recollection is from when I was iddy biddy. Yet I also seem to recall that we generally treated each other with respect. My dad's wholesale distribution business had quite a few black clients. I can not recall one instance of ugliness or disrespect during the many summers that I would travel with my dad on business.

I can remember spending weekends with one of my friends (the son of a black client of my dad) at their farm in another southern county during those long summer days. Fishing, riding horses, helping with choirs... riding bicycles on dirt roads looking for mischief, carving wooden slingshot handles with our Barlow knives.

My nanny was a lady I loved and stayed in touch with until her death. For the first five years of my life, I thought she was my mother, because my mother was always working long hours including Saturdays to grow her little business.

Now when I lived in northern California and worked with the farmers of the region, I experienced my first up close and personal bout with blatant racism. I started dating a little senorita and boy did the excreta hit the reciprocating wind machine. It wasn't even southern California. Go figure.

Sorry 'bout the ramble but I do not think the south is the only locale in the USA where the Neanderthal roams, but I do nope their range diminishes as it should. And I suppose I am often disappointed that we still see so much hate and racism with no real reason for it to continue.

I just don't get all the yapping about our differences. At this time in our evolution we ought to know better than to pick at differences based on something that could not be further from our control than skin color.

I think Morgan Freeman has it just about right... shut up with all the talk and just behave as if we're all family. And lord knows, there are some family for which I have little use, but for most you do what is necessary to help them when needed.

But I still don't have much to say on the positive side for Mr. Bo's speech. Then again, I'm a cynical curmudgeon... especially WRT politicians, so never mind.

Posted by: bthun at March 20, 2008 04:42 PM

Now when I lived in northern California and worked with the farmers of the region, I experienced my first up close and personal bout with blatant racism. I started dating a little senorita and boy did the excreta hit the reciprocating wind machine.

Northern California is the only place in America that I have experienced overt racism. Go figure

Posted by: baldilocks at March 20, 2008 05:43 PM

I read an article back in the 70s about region and racism. It was really interesting: they interviewed returning war brides (Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese) and people of various ethnicities.

The conclusion was basically this: there is some intolerance everywhere. The interesting part, however, was that in the South, for instance, oriental war brides were received with open arms. In California (which has a sizeable Chinese community) they were received coldly, but many blacks reported experiencing less hostility. It seems to be what I'd call the "Portugee" phenom (that is the only nasty slur I ever heard growing up) - in several parts of NE I remember hearing that a fair amount.

The explanation (who knows if it's true?) was that if a region was perceived to be hostile to one minority it generally bent over backwards to be nice to others who weren't there in large numbers. I guess sort of a "See? I'm not a racist - it's just those (*&^ [fill in the blankety-blanks]" :p

I'll tell you the only place I've ever seen really virulent racism:

The streets of Paris, France. And it scared the crap out of me. I don't ever want to see anything like that as long as I live. I never thought I'd see people act like that. Not sure what was up with that.

Posted by: Cass at March 20, 2008 06:05 PM

Of all the places I've had the opportunity to visit in my life, France is one of the few that does not make my list of those I would like to visit again. But it's only because of the French I had the misfortune to encounter on my earlier visits. =8-)

Posted by: bthun at March 20, 2008 06:24 PM

Oddly enough, they were great to us. It's just some of the people on the streets were like junkyard dogs.

It's the only place I've ever been where I've seen people just berating each other for no apparent reason except pure cussedness.

Posted by: Cass at March 20, 2008 06:32 PM

"It's the only place I've ever been where I've seen people just berating each other for no apparent reason except pure cussedness."
That's all?! I spent a week with a tour group of Scots in Palma De Malorica one summer. After some time and innumerable pints, I came to understand that was that the behavior one used to show the proper camaraderie for your mates.

Sheesh Milady, I had no idea you were so sensitive... =;^}

Posted by: bthun at March 20, 2008 06:50 PM

I'd like to point out that Obama was pointing precisely to America's Founding, not Germany's.

The principles and methods are the same. Germany was disenfranchsed, stabbed in the back, betrayed, and so forth. At least it was their perception, and people used this perception to gain power.

There are more uses to Hitler comparisons than simply the popular connotative ones of fascism.

The black community, same as all other minority communities with grievances, are in a very similar position to what Germany was in after WWI.

The creation of an external enemy, the white man, is also a common theme for those that seek to manipulate disenfranchised or aggrieved minorities or even majorities. Such lies and manipulations are more effective the more truth is used to construct that external enemy. On the other hand, if there was a real external enemy, something that would have benefited a people to hear rhetoric about, then that would be different. But the white men or what people call institutional racism is not the black community's most dangerous threat. Or rather, it would be more accurate to say that institutional racism is a severe threat to the black community, but only because the black community supports it by a great majority.

Isn't welfare another sort of institution of slavery painted over with a new skin?

One can refer to the principles of the American Founding with confidence. For, indeed, it had principles: not simply blood, on which to rely.

Anything and anyone can be corrupted. The man with the best intentions and using the best principles on which human nature rests can still bring about great destruction and evil. Intentions do not nearly matter as much in terms of ethics as actions and the consequences there of.

One can refer to the principles of the American Founding fathers with confidence only if you can be relied upon to actually obey those principles, rather than simply using those principles to corrupt what you deem inconvenient.

Now, in this season, this speech will be the Rosetta stone of racial discussions. He has covered all the liberal-left bases (all the victims are together here) and denuded the landscape of any objective right-or-wrong moral judgement (equivocating his maternal grannie to Rev. Wright; just, wow!), while at the same time connecting his views with the Founders as a philosphical touchstone.

Curiously enough, Don, others have said this same thing in comments on the net.

"“The point I saw was that Barack wanted to get beyond the angry black conspiracy nuts and the angry white conspiracy nuts into forging a unified proletariat full of rage and conspiracy-nuttism against the same enemy: the evil white man who runs private enterprise.

In other words, for him, getting beyond racism is the sine qua non for a successful launch of the marxist class warfare: until now the Left has been split into tiny groups of mutually antagonistic groups holding each back by the smallness of their goals, respect here, more secure jobs there, the enviroment way out there….

He fashions himself as the uniter not “for the people” as a whole (though that’s his rhetoric) but for just THOSE people who can nurture a sense of victimhood…. in classic Marxist thought (shot through with the Rev. Wright’s liberation theology and Hard Left Democratic fringe thinking), until all the underclasses energize and focus their ‘united efforts’ via democracy the revolution won’t come.

This speech telegraphed his goal to take down private enterprise - every little group of haters were excused their hatred in light of the evil corportations that one way or another is “guilty” for their poverty of mind, soul and spirit.

Government action - spurred into life by a democratic victory of the little groups of haters is seen as the vehicle of settling scores against this enemy of the people: business, private enterprise, the profit motive.

He wants to unite us in our hatred of those who have more than we do - and use the federal government much like the communists used “the party” to do the ‘leveling’.

All hatred can be excused - from whatever quarter it comes from - because of the evil of ‘rich white people’. That point was made loud and clear. He wants to move beyond race - only because the unity he seeks is that of the party against private property.
John | Email | Homepage | 03.19.08 - 4:49 pm | #”"

http://www.bookwormroom.com/2008/03/19/today-i-agree-with-her/#comment-21239

I agree - it was sort of a rambling post. I just sat down and wrote it after work w/out putting much thought into what I was going to say. I need to learn not to do that!

Actually, I thought it was a great post as it is, Cass. I wouldn't have advertised it had I thought otherwise.

The thing I've found hard to understand, when I've heard many black leaders talking about the civil rights movement, is that they seem want to be fully 'integrated' into American life, but without giving up one iota of their essential blackness (huh???).

Isn't that the same mentality of the gay marches who want society to accept them, i.e. marriage, without compromising anything with the hetereosexual majority concerning what the majority wants?

It sounds like a proxy for something else (the right to keep yourself separate? for nurturing a sense of grievance/entitlement?).

It is just the duality of the superior-inferiority complex, Cass. As I described it before, slaves or oppressed minorities naturally feel a sense of inferiority. They can see that their lives and their value as individuals aren't quite up to snuff in society. Some go deeper into this and become engrossed in a sort of inferiority complex, the belief that they are inferior and that is how it should be. This is similar to Stockholm syndrome in a fashion. Others feel their inferiority, but lash back out using pride or resistance, by going back towards ancestral customs or other ancient analogs. This is why the black community has so much pride in "Africa", whatever that means. They can't have pride in American culture because they see it as the culture that is making them feel inferior. So they redirect their feelings of pride and superiority to other targets, like Africa, which they deem as superior to their current mode of life.

The reason why people that are treated as inferior develop superiority complexes is because of this logic. If the black man was really inferior, why would it take the combined might of the white man to cheat, lie, and manipulate his way into keeping blacks down in the mud? Isn't this because blacks are special and would be more powerful and superior than whites, if they were given the chance? This is this not factual demonstration that black culture would be superior than white culture, if white culture wasn't causing the crime rates in black culture to skyrocket due to economic depression and exploitation?

People with superiority complexes tend to discount their own flaws. It is not just simple arrogance, it is intimately intertwined with a person's self-identity. Who they are cannot allow the idea to be accepted that they are the cause of the problems they attribute as coming from the "white man". And why can't blacks accept that they have certain problems that they themselves are causing? Because underneath their sense of superiority, is a sense and acceptance of their inferiority. They aren't strong enough, in integrity, spirit, soul, or mind, to accept responsibility for their own actions and problems. They know this, on some sub-conscious level, but deny it by using a sense of false superiority as justification for self-deception.

Remember the Palestinians and their views of Jews and where the Palestinian problems are coming from. Remember Hitler and what he saw as the cause of the fall of the German people. He didn't think it was because of his actions, but because of the Jews. Is Islam really as superior as they tout themselves as? Why do Arabs often times feel a need to praise themselves for the achievements of their conquered subjects, as if the scientific creations of Christians and Indians were rightly attributed to Arab culture? Inferiority subsumed under a superiority complex is my answer. The psychanalysts like Neo-Neocon, Dr Sanity, Shrinkwrapped, Sigmund Carl and Alfred can give you a more detailed and scientific answer.

I could go on and list other examples in history, but these should suffice.

I just don't get all the yapping about our differences.

Of course it would be better for the people that just want to get on with life to bridge differences and work together in harmony and community. But this is not the objective of the powerful and greedy. They need to make things worse for people, in order to come in as their savior. They need to create the "con" in order to derive benefits from the game.

If you divide people up against each other, you, because you are pulling the strings of both or one of the sides, become automatically more powerful. This is far easier to gaining strength by honesty and hard work: that requires actually becoming strong and adhering to ethics.

The streets of Paris, France. And it scared the crap out of me.

One Navy enlisted guy was talking about shore leave in Italy around the 80s or maybe early 90s. He saw one Italian guy go into a phone boot that a woman was using, deck her and knock her unconscious, while the navy enlisted and a ensign was just waiting outside for the use of the phone boot. The Italian guy looked straight at the two with an expression and said "you going to do something?". The Navy enlisted guy wanted to slap this guy around, but the Ensign wanted to just get out of there. This was also the same area where the enlisted guy was talking about how the prostitutes wouldn't accept black patronage.

I never thought I'd see people act like that. Not sure what was up with that.

America is the most cosmopolitan and societally advanced civilization in human history. Not only is the US better fundamentally in terms of culture and national character to other nations, but the US gets better at a rate far faster than the parochial hicks you may have observed in Europe could accomplish. When individuals are busy making a better life for themselves and learning the responsibilities that go with power, they are far less likely to waste their energies walloping on minorities, women, or people of different color, Cass.

Sheesh Milady, I had no idea you were so sensitive... =;^}

Royalty are used to a more refined palate, Bt. Not the crass utterances we lowly serfs prefer to indulge in.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 20, 2008 11:48 PM

The thing I've found hard to understand, when I've heard many black leaders talking about the civil rights movement, is that they seem want to be fully 'integrated' into American life, but without giving up one iota of their essential blackness (huh???).

A direct answer to your question would be this. They don't want to give up one iota of their essential blackness because they see being black as being superior to being white. And given the race wars that we have seen and will see in the future, can we be certain that they are wrong in this analysis of a world created through racism?

A world created through racism would produce a segment of the human race with a different skin color, considered as fundamentally superior to any other.

When conservatives say "racism cannot be ended with more racism", they aren't getting it. For a minority that has embraced a superiority complex overlaid upon their inferiority complex, their intentions are not to make things "equal" because to them America can never equal the work ethic, superiority, culture, and technological advances that the black race in Africa produced.

Why then is Africa dark at night, if they had such advances? Their answer is because the white man came in with colonialism and wrecked everything.

This is a religion and some call it "liberation theology" actually.

Actually, when you think about it, America's respect and awe of the Founding Fathers is also a religion. The oldest religion in human history, called ancestor worship.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 20, 2008 11:57 PM

The ultimate strategic path to victory for the Islamic Jihad is through cementing alliances with Africa, the continent they once conquered through Sharia and Jihad.

One of the reasons I support the Iraq endeavour is because if America cannot solve the problems of the Arabs and their inferiority complex in Arabia, we will also not solve America's internal problems with minorities and race wars and all the other things that will crop up in the future.

And should the two ever combine together, given the black respect for African traditions, which also includes, paradoxically, the Islamic Caliphate, then America's fate will have been sealed.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at March 21, 2008 12:05 AM

The explanation (who knows if it's true?) was that if a region was perceived to be hostile to one minority it generally bent over backwards to be nice to others who weren't there in large numbers.

Kenneth Greenberg (who is just as Jewish as his name suggests) became intrigued by the way that Jews had done so well in the South in the antebellum period. He wrote what is probably the finest academic examination of the Southern code of honor, its roots and meanings, as a result.

One thing he noticed about the South was that Jews were occasionally challenged to duels. Although this doesn't sound good, it was in fact the highest possible compliment: becaues a gentleman duels only with equals. It meant you were good enough for me to let you try to kill me, and grant you even terms for the attempt.

Greenberg's thesis was that the black/white divide in the South was so severe that it swallowed all the other divisions. Irish, Jewish, German, whatever -- you weren't black, so you were white. So that left the South with a deep and ugly problem -- black/white racism -- but it also prevented the development of the bitter divides that you saw in New York, Boston, and everywhere else.

The Irish in New York were the subject of severe prejudice; in the South, they were permitted in the 1840s to adopt one of Savannah's founding fathers (Sgt. Jasper, who twice rescued the colors from the earth while under heavy British fire -- the second time, he did not survive the rescue) as one of their own. He was in fact Polish, but if you go to Savannah to his monument you'll find it identifies him as "Irish-American."

Posted by: Grim at March 21, 2008 01:04 AM

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