Musings on a Particular Discussion Dynamic


Jaybird is Birdmojo on Xbox Live and Jaybirdmojo on Playstation's network. He's been playing consoles since the Atari 2600 and it was Zork that taught him how to touch-type. If you've got a song for Wednesday, a commercial for Saturday, a recommendation for Tuesday, an essay for Monday, or, heck, just a handful a questions, fire off an email to

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73 Responses

  1. Jaybird says:

    (And, yes, I know about the J Smooth video.)Report

  2. David Ryan says:

    The whole thing is a whole lot easier if you let go of the idea that you have to defend yourself from the charge of racism/being a racist.

    Am I a racist? Of course I am. Look at the circumstances of my birth. How could I be anything else?

    Once you get past that, talking about race/racism really isn’t so hard.

    Sorry about your dad, too.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to David Ryan says:

      There are dozens of definitions of “racist”, though. There’s the good, old-fashioned, “White Supremacist” definition, there’s the popular “I just don’t think about black people” definition, there’s definitions that assume gobs of active malice, there’s definitions that assume gobs of privilege, and there’s definitions that tackle stuff like the movie “The Help” which was kinda racist even as it was tackling the issue of racism, and so on. To admit to racism is to admit to one of these definitions but we don’t know what definitions are in the heads of others and to say “Oh, I’m racist” (and use the definition that you’re using which very much applies to me as well) could come out as meaning some of the stuff said in the newsletters of That Man.

      The racism that is ubiquitous and goes hand in hand with merely having been born to certain circumstances is a different kind of racism entirely than the type of racism that I was taught to be disgusted by as a child.

      Or maybe it’s not. I dunno.

      (And thanks.)Report

      • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

        The discussion needs to start with the definition or at least a specific description of what the “racist” action was. To many people through out the word racism without being specific about what they are talking about. At least if you have a specific to deal with you can focus on just that action/thought and less on global judgments of a person.

        The idea that every white person is racist just by circumstances of birth is something i’ve always had a problem with mostly because it takes responsibility off the person for who they are. Being born white almost always brings certain privileges and very possibly some typical blind spots, but it is up to us to think and grow.


      • Christopher Carr in reply to Jaybird says:

        “…“The Help” which was kinda racist even as it was tackling the issue of racism…”

        Dude, I’ve felt that way about so many films, most recently The Blind Side.

        Also, I wanted to recommend the work of Dyske Suematsu as someone who’s spent a great deal of time investigating race and racism on the Internet: His other, general interest articles are quite good as well. And, he takes a long-term approach to blogging, which I think is rare.

        Third, there is definitely at least a continuum of types of racism, from ignorance to active malice. There are also cultural forms of racism and institutional forms. I think the way we tackle each type should be tailored to that articular type.Report

        • I’ve seen neither movie so I can’t say anything about either but…

          It seems to me that The Help is popular because it helps white folks say something like “thank goodness we’re not like *THAT* anymore!” while The Blind Side has, at the very least, something akin to “something like this actually happened” to hide behind… while it allows white folks to say “thank goodness we’re like *THAT* now.”

          If you know what I mean.

          (Note: Again, I’ve seen neither movie.)Report

          • Christopher Carr in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think The Blind Side, like Dances With Wolves, The Last Samurai, etc. are primarily about making white people feel good about themselves.Report

            • Christopher Carr in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              Apocalypto, on the other hand, even though it is a film by known antisemite Mel Gibson, I think scathingly critiques this pattern – whether for art or for equality – it’s a good film.Report

            • greginak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

              I don’t think those flicks exist to make white people feel good per se. They exist, aside from just to make money, to tell uplifting stories. Often to tell uplifting stories nuance is removed and the facts are simplified. The other thing is i’m sure of is the marketing for those movies assumed most viewers would be white. Was the miniseries Band of Brothers aimed at making white people or Americans feel good. Well obviously in a sense yes. The story of an elite unit is not a generalizable story. There would be plenty of stories of american soliders in ww 2 that would be anti-uplifting. Maybe i’m just rambling around the point you are making but i think there is a differining causalityReport

              • BlaiseP in reply to greginak says:

                It’s this removal of nuance and fact simplification which causes bouts of elbow nudging and whispering in the theater “That patrol is badly run, those troops are too close together.   And why are they talking at all?   They should be in patrol silence and operating with hand signals.  And why are they discussing the roles of officers and enlisted men?   That’s crazy talk, the subject of barracks discussions in Basic Training.  And where’s the radioman?  Those bozos are already in a world of hurt.”

                I hate ’em all, with three exceptions:   Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and an older flick, All Quiet on the Western Front.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I think you’d like Generation Kill, you ever see it?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                Saw a few episodes.  Mostly nonsense.  Well-meant nonsense.   But still nonsense.   If I was to write a story about the Americans in Iraq it would be a black comedy.

                True story from one of my buds in 3ID.   So 3ID is advancing on Baghdad early in the war.  They come upon a ruckus, a bunch of people milling around in front of a store, an angry man is pointing an AK-47 at the crowd.

                So they disarm the guy, the people rush into the store and loot it.

                Turns out the guy who had the rifle owned the store.

                Now I could tell you a hundred such stories from various units I’ve been associated with.   Americans learn their geography from the war reporting.Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                Well, I found it to be quite chock full of black comedy (and the counterpoint to Band of Brothers)Report

              • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                I’m also kind of surprised that you’re not a fan of ‘nonsense’ and yet you liked Apocalypse Now.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:


              • Kolohe in reply to Kolohe says:

                ‘Twas.  Nonetheless, ’twas a lot of nonsense too.  (it definitely takes a few viewings to warm up to it.  Familiarity with the source material helps too.)Report

              • wardsmith in reply to Kolohe says:

                Do I get a 1/2 cool point if a friend of mine from high school was an extra in the movie (think great music while napalming a surfing beach)?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kolohe says:

                I dunno.  Trying to capture the mad ethos of war is like trying to put lightning in the bottle.   Ares, the god of war, had two sons, Phobos and Deimos.  Phobos we’d recognize immediately in Hollywood, he’s the horror of horror movies.  Deimos we wouldn’t recognize so quickly.  He’s dread and terror.  Very very hard to capture a good likeness of him.Report

              • Chris in reply to Kolohe says:

                Ares and Aphrodite had 4 sons together: a god of fear, a god of panic, and two gods of love. They also had a daughter, Harmonia, goddess of harmony (strangely enough, given her name). I’ve always wondered what this said about the Greeks view of the relationship between fear and love.

                Also, any good suspense movie will give you Deimos. What Hollywood has trouble with is Harmonia.Report

              • Christopher Carr in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Not a Terrence Malick fan?Report

              • Kim in reply to BlaiseP says:

                meh. one of the aliens movies actually had competent choreography.

                Most of them are pretty freaking bad.Report

  3. DensityDuck says:

    I’m not really sure where Coates is going with what he wrote, because it seems really easy to reduce it to “discussions of racial issues often turn into nothing but accusations of racism and completely lose track of the specific situation that started the discussion, and that’s a problem, but it’s not gonna be solved until white people admit that they’re all racists.”Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to DensityDuck says:

      Oddly enough, I got absolutely none of what you said out of what he said.Report

    • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:

      He meant quite the opposite. White folks blankety copping to being racists doesn’t move the conversation much. Folks in general, white folks in particular, need to be better about being reflective and hearing criticism. This is acutely true around issues of race. If a person’s immediate response to being told something they said or did might have been racially insensitive or offensive is to cry, “But I’m not a racist!” the tone and direction of the conversation has shifted away from being constructive. As he demonstrates with the “bad parent” parallel, it is possible to not be a blank-ist but still do something blank-y.

      Judge the action, not the actor. Good people do bad things. Smart people do dumb things. Non-racist (using the most traditional senseof the word) do racist things. It happens. There are few areas of life where you are judged on one action or comment. So why is one’s standing as a racist not afforded this same nuance?

      I am apt to call out racism if and when I think I hearor see it. I haveworked hard to remind myself to comment on what was said or done, not n the person. I often fail and see how quickly this ends any chance at growth for any involved parties. This is my own failing. What is frustrating is when I am careful and explicit in not accusing the person of being tacist and yet we end up in the same boat as if I did.

      To bring it full circle to Jayird’s point in his OP… Why do ou assume to know what someone meant when their words explicitly indicate something else? Maybe your mom did mean to subtly warn you about cancer. Mor maybe she was just curious aout our day. Are you more likely to understand her perspective by assuming it or by engaing the meatof what she said? Which approach will ultimately lead to both of you better understanding each other’s feelings on the matter?Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to BSK says:

        “If a person’s immediate response to being told something they said or did might have been racially insensitive or offensive is to cry, “But I’m not a racist!” the tone and direction of the conversation has shifted away from being constructive.”

        The problem is that when you say something is “racially insensitive”, what you’re saying is “you might not be a racist but you sure do think like one”, implying that the only possible reason for that person’s action was racist beliefs or attitudes.

        If you say that you support labor unions, and I say “so did the Communists and the Nazis”, would you therefore assume that I was in no way suggesting that you had reprehensible attitudes or beliefs? That my choice of comparison was just two random groups I picked out of nothing?

        “Folks in general, white folks in particular, need to be better about being reflective and hearing criticism.”

        Right, unless we’re criticising the way people criticise people, in which case firsties wins.Report

        • BSK in reply to DensityDuck says:

          You are conflating racially insensitive with racism. The whole point of the original comment is that they are not one in the same.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to BSK says:

            one and the same.  I give you free reign to shot ordinance from your turrent and decimate the enemy hoard.

            “You are conflating racially insensitive with racism.”

            Of course I am!  Why shouldn’t I?

            I mean, here’s the thing.  You’re saying that a person can be “racially insensitive” without being racist, meaning that the interpretation of their remarks trumps the intent.  Then you say that an accusation of “racial insensitivity” should not ever be interpreted as an accusation of racism, and that people who think that are wrong–meaning that now the intent trumps the interpretation.Report

            • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

              Racism is INSTITUTIONAL. It is SOCIETAL. You don’t even realize what change jingles in your pocket because of racism. And if you did, would you give it away?

              You can be the drop of water in the desert, the first drop of rain. Perhaps a flower will bloom. But to do that, you need to listen, and look inside yourself.

              (the proper person to critique “Others” is an “other” himself. see me getting bitchslapped around for critiquing Jason’s use of flounce).

              If you can honestly say, “Look, I see why you’re upset. but it’s YOU, not everyone who’s black, because I ran it by a coupla coworkers, and they said you were overreacting” — that’s a decent defense. Folks can be wrong.

              But, you can be more sensitive too. Even if you didn’t realize that watermelon and blacks are sensitive subjects, or grape cola… Learn about a different perspective! Don’t be so fucking hardheaded.

              (and for the love of God, Channukah is NOT the “Jewish Christmas” — sorry, my own pet peeve)Report

  4. b-psycho says:

    Sometimes back in tha day I’d interject during casual remarks on race the revelation that I was a racist, which I’d explain along the lines of “yeah, damn humans, I can’t stand them…”


  5. Sam M says:

    But isn’t the bad parent example problematic from the get go? It assumes a transgression. An actual one. At times, isn’t the real problem when people differ over whether something was wrong to do? Let’s say my wife came up to me and said, “you signed the boys up for karate?” I might think karate is great. She might think it’s terrible. Did I commit an offense? According to her, yes.

    The whole question of offense strikes me as bizarre. Does Ron Paul stand accused of offending people? What does that even mean?Report

    • BSK in reply to Sam M says:

      That is why you have an open and honest discussion. The point of the comment was that conversation is interrupted when people get defensive, especially when they are defensive about accusations that were never levied. Maybe you think karate is great for kids. Does that mean your wife’s opinion is inherently wrong, invalid, and jot worth hearing? Maybe she knows something about karatebyou don’t. Maybe she doesn’t understand it well enough. How will you or she ever know if your first response is, “Don’t question my parenting skills!”Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

      It’s more that That Man happened to publish a number of offensive things under his name… offensive to African-Americans, offensive to homosexuals, and otherwise generally offensive.

      I found myself saying “well, you have to understand…” when it came to the various things that Ron Paul published that would be offensive to African-Americans. It wasn’t until our very own Doc Saunders wrote an essay (read it here) that showed me that I didn’t have the perspective to see *WHY* this was such an awful thing for him to do.

      In doing so, I learned that it’s easier for me to imagine being gay than for me to imagine being black.

      So now I get to spend a couple of days processing that.Report

      • Sam M in reply to Jaybird says:

        But is the problem that people are “offended”? Or that they are “offensive”? Is this a stand-in for “wrong”? Is it different? Is it the “way” he said the things? Do we care if people are offended? What does that mean? What happens if I am all for gay marriage and propose policies that support that position, but I use a bunch of off color language? I am not saying that’s analogous to Paul’s newsletters. But I am trying to get at the meaning and the import of language being offensive. Or ideas being offensive.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

          Trust me, Sam. I understand the “offensive” vs. “offended” distinction. This is part of my schtick, actually. I do my best to make sure that I can paint whatever conflict I happen to find myself in as a problem on the part of the easily offended rather than a problem on the part of the guy who is just talking about how the way shit is.

          There are circumstances where the problem lies with those who have thin skin and who are actively looking for reasons to be offended. No doubt.

          We agree on that, right? That’s cool, right?

          I think we’d also agree that there exist, even if only in theory, situations where the problem lies with people who are going out of their way to be offensive. (And, if “offensive” suggests nothing but psychic distress to you, let’s use “intentionally using loaded language to imply defects on the part of entire groups of folks without allowing for disagreement, difference, or even nuance on the part of those about whom the sweeping and loaded language is made.)

          For what it’s worth, I was very much of the opinion that “well, you have to understand” when it came to the statements about race made in That Man’s newsletters.

          It wasn’t until I read what he had said about homosexuals that it sunk in that he had, in fact, been offensive rather than it being the case that those who were offended were those types of folks who had the thin skin and were yelly and would yell if you said “I haven’t eaten yet… JEW???” before deciding to get something to eat.

          If you haven’t read Doc Saunders yet, I suggest you do so. Here is his essay.

          It’ll either get you to say “okay, I never looked at it like that” or “so what”. If it’s the former, then let me say “dude, that’s where I am”. If it’s the latter… well, I don’t think that we share enough common ground to be able to discuss this. We may have to back up and go into further fundamentals.Report

          • Sam M in reply to Jaybird says:

            “intentionally using loaded language to imply defects on the part of entire groups of folks”

            Assuming, and implying, defects on the part of an entire group of folks would seem to mean that racially insensitive and racist is the same thing.

            I did read the piece you linked to. I suppose it does offer a different perspective on what people think of Ron Paul. Or rather, it sort of gives the perspective people might have expected from the get go. As Slate often does, the original piece explores the depths of counterintuitivity. Hey! Dan Savage doesn’t mind the homophobic stuff! Saunders said, uh, well, maybe some of us actually do. Fair enough. When someone says something offensive, people are offended.

            My question remains, OK, so people are offended. Now what? What’s that mean in terms of things like policy? I am against foreign entanglements. So let’s say there are two people running for office. One is all for foreign entanglements. The other is against them. But he is against them for all the wrong reasons. One day he says, “Our liberal culture has feminized us to the point that we cannot field a decent army. I blame marijuana and reality TV. We are just too weak to fight.”

            I think that’s stupid.I would have a hard time voting for ssuch a person. I thinkit would have all kinds of terrible implications. I might not trust such a person to make a lot of decisions. But if my main voting critereon at the time is “will keep us out of foreign entanglements,” there you have it.

            I can be as offended as I want. I just don’t see what it has to do with anything. Unless, of course my main criteria are different and I think culture is the main political concern of the time. But even then, the fact thaat I am offended would seem to have less impact on my decision than the policy implications.

            Also, back to the original nalogy TNC used. In his example, the wife uses a very policy-specific charge. (You didn’t check the homework.) But “you are racially insensitive” is different than that. The equivalent would be, “You are parentally irresponsible.” If that’s what she said, I think, “I am not a bad parent” would be a perfectly defensible response.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Sam M says:

              Assuming, and implying, defects on the part of an entire group of folks would seem to mean that racially insensitive and racist is the same thing.

              Not what I’m doing. I’m talking about the difference between saying something that could offend someone and saying something offensive.

              I’m not even talking about the difference between “racist” and “racially insensitive”. I’m talking about the difference between “So and so was offended because so and so is thin-skinned, has a humanities degree, and is probably trying to impress chicks who also have humanities degrees and get laid thereby” and “So and so was offended because you said that all white people are racists who benefit from applied racism to this day”.

              My question remains, OK, so people are offended. Now what? What’s that mean in terms of things like policy?

              When it comes to representative government, the question becomes one of “Do I want my guy to think that all white people are racists who benefit from applied racism to this day?” and how reassuring are the arguments that “Just because he thinks that all white people are racists who benefit from applied racism to this day doesn’t mean that he wants to pass laws rolling things back!”

              I used to say stuff like “well, you have to understand…” as a defense against the things That Man had said. Now I just say “I totally dig how you can read those things and say ‘Nope.'”Report

  6. Robert Greer says:

    This post was so necessary.  Bless your heart for writing it.

    But I wish there were no converse to “bless,” — “condemn” — which is unfortunately so common when discussing racism.  Racism is a fact of life, something that arises from any initial inequality.  Condemning someone for being racist is like blaming the lion for eating the gazelle — the lion was only trying to preserve its own life, and was either ignorant of the gazelle’s desires, or faced a hunger that could not be overcome.  In either case it condemnation would be the height of forgiveness. So instead of condemning the hungry, let’s condemn hunger.  Instead of condemning racists, let’s condemn the conditions that cause it.  “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” — even the lion, who — God permitting — shall one day eat straw like the ox.Report

  7. Robert Greer says:

    **In either case condemnation would be the height of cruelty.

    (Yes, I’m drunk.   Happy New Year’s, everyone.  May 2012 be a spiritual jubilee.)Report

  8. BlaiseP says:

    Most of our agonizing about race is pointless.   Jaybird makes an excellent point:  if you’ve ever borne witness to melanoma taking its mindless toll, a sunburn takes on a special, horrific and irrevocable significance.  If someone’s been the victim of mindless racism, the resulting hatred takes on an equally irrevocable significance.   I watched my beloved Hausa hack an Ibo man to death with machetes in the opening days of the Biafran War.  My landlord in Germany was an old SS trooper.   My beloved Aunt Valeria died of cancer, a George Wallace racist to her dying day: though George Wallace outlived his racist past Valeria never did.

    I didn’t grow up with American racism.   I grew up with African tribalism.  I have preferences among the tribes of West Africa:  the tribe I know best, the Hausa, are among my faves.   They’re Muslim, mostly.   Their language was made for comedy:  once you come to know the language reasonably well it’s a laff a minute, Hausa people are hilarious.   The language is rife with proverbs and little maxims.  Yoruba are fine people and Ibo are clever and industrious but I have my favorites and I took the Hausa viewpoint, right down to some of their little prejudices about the Yoruba and the Ibo and Arabs.

    But the Hausa always called me bature.   Bature means variously an Arab, a white man, a rich man, you could say “Sannu bature” as a funny greeting to someone all dressed up in his finest.  Bature is also a word used of something bought cheap and sold at a higher price.  Bature is a boy’s name only given to to a baby born on Tuesday, in hopes he’ll become rich.  Bature is also a cowrie shell with two holes in it: cowries once served as an ad-hoc currency.

    When we came back to the USA for the first time, my little brother saw American black people for the first time and asked me “What tribe are they from?   They don’t seem black enough to be African.”

    If we’re to have an honest discussion about race, it would start with the ground rules for the context.  Bature lumps Arabs and white men together,  American racism doesn’t conflate the two.   Bature, the people of profit, profit itself,

    I learned to lump Arabs together with the rest of the bature from the Hausa.   Does this make me a racist?   Yes, I suppose it does: though the groupings of Hausa racism is different from American racism, the set theory is the same.

    The Boko Haram bombers are Hausa and they’re tearing apart Nigeria in places I knew, places I love.    I used the word boko in conversation.    It means bogus, false, pompous. Kada ka yi mini boko boko == don’t try to bullshit me.   Boko na yi masa == I agreed with what he said, in hopes he would go away, not because I believed him.   An yi wa ka’bakin nan boko, smearing the stopper of a bottle with good perfume to conceal the smell of what’s inside.

    In the Western press, some folks are trying to say boko means Western education.  It doesn’t.  There’s a perfectly good word for Western education, turanci, which also means the English language itself, the national language of Nigeria.   Turanci also means the customs and habits of Arabs and Europeans, again this conflation of Arab and European.   Haram is not Hausa, though it’s made its way into Hausa vocabulary, it’s an Arabic word, a Qu’ranic word, forbidden, unclean.

    The Racism Talk is uncomfortable because it’s confessional.  I’ve had four troublesome moles removed.   Sitting naked on that examination table while Dr. Song burned them off with his laser was not the most fun I’ve ever had in my life.   Nor was that terrible day in Kano, watching the Hausa riot and murder their way through the Ibo neighborhoods.    If I  am the white man who is willing to plumb the depths of his soul, where is the black person willing to discuss the realities of Africa and quit swanning around, sporting African names?Report

    • greginak in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Connected to your  points there is something i didn’t throw into the endless stupid Ron Paul threads. A few people tossed out Jeremiah Wright as proof of O’s racial corruption and somehow equivalent to Paul’s newsletters so everybody should just move along. Wright was born the same year as Emmit TIll. He would have experienced many unpleasant events. Our experience makes us. I wasn’t really ever surprised or offended with a black man of that age saying America is damned because of slavery and jim crow. Seems like a pretty reasonable statement given that experience.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to greginak says:

        Accurate scholarship can
        Unearth the whole offence
        From Luther until now
        That has driven a culture mad,
        Find what occurred at Linz,
        What huge imago made
        A psychopathic god:
        I and the public know
        What all schoolchildren learn,
        Those to whom evil is done
        Do evil in return.Report

      • Christopher Carr in reply to greginak says:

        Why exactly were (are) the Ron Paul threads stupid?Report

        • greginak in reply to Christopher Carr says:

          For one there is only so much one can say about any subject before there are few  returns. To many attempts to analyze what the newsletters meant when they the newsletters themselves are unambiguous. RP ended up being a stand in for all sorts of other discussions with RP being pointlessly shoehorned in.Report

    • Robert Cheeks in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I was recently ‘defriended’ by an acquaintance who was piously bragging about travelling to Africa every year to dig wells for some African tribe. I asked how long would it take before the Africans dug their own wells?Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Robert Cheeks says:

        Ecch, Africans can dig wells.   They don’t always have the resources to cover them and put in a pump and pipes to produce sanitary water.   I’ve dug wells in Niger Republic, put a DC pump at the bottom of a PVC pipe, used solar power to fill a water tank.

        Africans aren’t stupid or ineffective.   A good many of them suffer from malaria.  The concomitant high fevers cause severe brain damage in children.   They’re industrious, when they’re well enough.   But then again, I don’t think of them as “Africans”.   That’s for your benefit only.   To me, they’re Hausa and Yoruba and Ibo and Twi and Fulani and such.   I’m an African, too, for what it’s worth.   It’s all I knew for many years.   I was a white face in a black crowd and I never considered myself superior to them, though I lived a life filled with many advantages in that context.   I was bature because I had shoes and clean clothes and a servant who cooked my food and I shat in a toilet and not behind a bush.

        You were defriended with good reason.Report

        • Rob in reply to BlaiseP says:

          “they’re Hausa and Yoruba and Ibo and Twi and Fulani and such”  Which is why Africa is a continent of failure: the complete inability to conceive of a nation. A tribe is racially based and exclusive. A nation is ideologically based and inclusive.

          “Africans aren’t stupid or ineffective.”  <Many have> ” severe brain damage” Do you even read what you write?


          Who cares about race? It’s culture that matters.




          • BlaiseP in reply to Rob says:

            No, I don’t read what I write.   It’s all so much psychography, the automatic utterances of a raving lunatick.   I’m often amazed to wake up from one of these fugues to find them submitted online.

            If I seem contradictory at turns, forgive me, won’t you, Rob?Report

            • wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

              LOL, didn’t get to say that I’d broached the subject myself, albeit in a possibly less inflammatory way than the esteemed Mr. Cheeks. Back to my wine, my New Year’s resolutions can wait. 🙂Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith says:

                I was particularly amused by the attempt to distinguish race from culture.  The longer I live, the less credence I give to either as viable constructs.

                The old New Yorker cover comes to mind:  all provincialism suffers from the same dismal two-point perspective:  the world is always seen from different angles, with larger and more distant entities lumped into categories like Africans, as if an entire continent full of people can be so reduced and so simplified.

                Of course I will continue to think of Nigeria as composed of Hausa and Yoruba and Fulani and Ibo.   I have already admitted to my own odd concepts of tribalism, shaped by the Hausa, both for good and ill.

                What I find so silly in Ta Nehisi’s argument is this idea that some white person has to plumb the depths of his soul to write up an essay on what racism means to white folks.   Here we have a man who styles himself with a pharaonic name for Nubia.   There was another symbol for that area of Egypt, the hedjet, the White Crown of the pharaoh, the white crown of Horus, symbolizing his dominance over those black people.

                Now what sort of person would name his kid using the epithet for Nubia in the language used by the culture of Lower Egypt who routinely went up there to gather slaves?   Dude, if my Dad had given me that name I’d learn a little pharaonic Egyptian and head to court on my 18th birthday to have that name changed to Kwame or something else.   Hell, Ta Nehisi, write that essay your own damned self.Report

              • Nob Akimoto in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Honestly, I think you should address this to TNC directly and see what he says. Email him, maybe?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Nob Akimoto says:

                He knows there’s a link over here and I’ll bet he’s reading it and if I had the server logs I’d know it.  Let him come to me, if he dares.Report

              • wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Trust me my friend, there are many in this good ole’ US of A who think Africa is a country, not a continent. Someone else I went to high school with was a Jesuit Brother in Rwanda of all places. Yes he was there during the worst time possible. What he experienced was enough to make him drop his vocation completely. I got an earful at our 30th reunion. Where we see “blacks”, they see Hutus, Tutsis, Zulu, Swahili, Hausa, Ibo, Yaruba and more. Slavery in the US was horrific, but as Jefferson said, [We need to protect these people, they are our children now]. <- can’t find the reference could be completely wrong on this, maybe I just saw it in a series.

                Likewise while young I had friends who were Serbian and Croatian, yet living in America. They would tell jokes on each other, much as Americans tell Polish and Irish jokes. I had no idea of the true antipathy of their peoples until the breakup of Yugoslavia. In the US, what had been a joke carried on by the parents was a life and death struggle in “the old country”.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith says:

                I’ve had the opposite experience with Serbs and Croats.   When the World Cup was being played in Japan, a bunch of us would get up in the middle of the night and drive to a Polish bar in Chicago to see the games.

                I was blearily drinking coffee at one table, listening to Serbo-Croat spoken at another table.   I don’t speak it but I know it when I hear it.  I mentioned it to the (Russian) people at my table.   They said to me, “We know those guys.  They’re all refugees but there are fighters from both sides in that group.   Isn’t this the greatest country in the world, where enemies can sit at the same table and watch the World Cup?   Only in America can a man escape the fate determined for him in his homeland.”

                On Devon Avenue in Chicago, I’ve seen Orthodox Jews and Orthodox Muslims in the same line at the halal butcher shop, Hausas and Ibos in the same line at the taxi depot (I drove a cab in Chicago while going to grad school)  the children of slaves and the children of masters rooting for LSU football, oh this is a wonderfully capacious country, large enough even for Ron Paul fans to find a home.Report

              • Tod Kelly in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I’m not sure that this is fair.  TNC writes about race all the time, and never in a knee jerk way.

                Further more, in this point he is right.  We do in this country tend to overreact reflexively when race comes up.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Tod Kelly says:

                Yes he does write about race all the time.   That’s his schtick all right. Look, my experiences as a White Man aren’t congruent with the perspective he’s looking for.  What he’s looking for is the sight of a pair of leathery old white buttocks on top of Ron Paul’s thighs, bared and shivering in the proctocologist’s examining room so he can pull some more of his Insightful Black Dude song and dance.Report

        • wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

          I’ll cop to some guilt on the African wells issue. In a long ago thread that my current google-fu can’t find (or I shouldn’t have opened that second bottle of wine, but damn it’s good so I’m ok with it). I’ve never dug wells in Africa although I’m certain I could and might go ahead and do on a future date. I understand the overall dynamic though. My take on wells in Africa is more 30,000 foot perspective. As I’ve talked to pastors who get them dug (important consideration this) the problem isn’t digging the well per se, but dealing with the well. As one told me, “Realize, if Amadi digs a well near the village, puts in all the work, pays for all the infrastructure, by no means will he be the beneficiary of his hard work and expense. The village elders will take that water from him”. It is a tragedy of the commons issue. We’re accustomed to property rights and benefiting from the “sweat of our brows”. They’ve operated under a different dynamic for a long time, and it is difficult for them to make the requisite adjustments.

          Blaise, I respect you and even more after these recent posts, so if you have specific knowledge on this subject I bow to your personal experience. My data points are the usual fly-in whites who spend parishioner’s donations to do “good deeds” and fly out again. As another one I asked told me, “The wells aren’t digging themselves”. Whites can put up the money, hire all the locals who are available (and clearly were there before /whitey/ got involved) and get the wells done. You had an excellent post in another thread wherein you described a corrupt Chinese  bureaucrat who had skimmed 6% off the top of a construction project and compared him to a corrupt African bureaucrat who klepto’d it all (IIRC correct me if I’m wrong please). That made the most perfect sense to me. I don’t see people, I see systems. It doesn’t mean I don’t have a heart, it just means I’m wired a certain way.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to wardsmith says:

            The problems associated with well-digging are ongoing.  The biggest problem isn’t people, it’s animals.  Put in a well somewhere and it becomes  the zero point in a polar geometry for grazing animals.  If that well and access to it isn’t controlled, soon you’ve overgrazed the surrounding area.   It goes without saying an uncovered well is soon polluted with feces and you’re now faced with the issue of water-borne cholera.

            Most of these wells are dug into aquifers which don’t replenish quickly enough.  The well level sinks precipitously and soon goes dry.   Then you either have to dig it deeper, in hopes you’ll strike water again (often you don’t) or just restrict access to it until it fills again.

            Sub-Saharan Africa is a Planck Body, absorbing every last watt of goodwill radiated in its direction, eventually re-radiating that energy in the infrared of corruption and malfeasance.   I don’t have the answers, just more appalling questions about what might be done to change things for the better, for the list of such projects is long and what I’ve seen does not encourage me to do any more of them.

            I remember a USAID project which brought out a farm tractor to Dungas, Niger.   This was during the Cold War and the USA was trying to buy influence in Africa.   The tractor arrived with much fanfare, they hitched up a harrow to it and it bounced around a few hectares of land, raising clouds of dust.   It was the wrong time of year for planting.   It puttered around town for a few months or so, pulling loads for the chief and his buds.

            Then it broke down.  They called in my Dad, who looked at it for five minutes and said there was no oil in the crankcase and they’d ruined the engine.   That tractor is still where it stopped in town, rusting away, a plaything for children.

            Short-term project work in Africa can produce lasting results but only if those projects are seen as valuable by the people for whom they were constructed.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kolohe says:

      Does anyone mind if I talk about Scrubs? Okay, good.

      One of the things that makes Scrubs such an interesting show is how JD and Turk are best friends *AND* JD is so obviously and self-awarely “white” and how Turk is so obviously and self-awarely “black” and how this does not matter. They can talk about these things without it being weird.

      That’s television for ya.Report

      • Nob Akimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        I tend to feel like this is how my white friends interact with my non-white friends. (And for that matter, how I interact with my American and non-American friends) We’re all very self-aware of our identities but that doesn’t really make it harder to talk about them. Which is the charm of the whole thing.Report

    • greginak in reply to Kolohe says:

      Psych today is meh in general. I’m not exactly sure who that essay was aimed at. I’m in the mental health field and i can’t recall the last time, or any time for that matter, where the kind of colorblindness she is talking about was suggested. Its pretty basic nowadays that people ethnicities, culture, etc is important and needs to be heard and valued. I looked at some of her other pieces. She seems to write at a psych 101 for college freshman level which has always been my experience of PT. Not necessarily bad just simplistic.Report

  9. Jaybird says:

    Additionally, I have *ZERO* idea how to address the post that links to this post.

    It turns my, admittedly amateur, post where I tried to answer Ta-Nahesi’s question into a discussion of masculinity, of all things.

    On top of that, apparently I’m a liberal. I mean, I know how I use the term, I know how other folks in my usual circle use the term, and to get to how she’s using the term, you have to be using it differently from those first two.Report

    • Rufus F. in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t think it’s worth worrying much about a post that begins with, roughly, “I didn’t understand the title and then the black liberal guy said something that I literally (as opposed to figuratively?) did not understand” before culminating with something along the lines of “if they were real men I’d understand what they were talking about”.Report

  10. wardsmith says:

    I’m torn apart by this. Once the race card became the first and primary card pulled out of the political polarization deck *(by Democrats of all people, pretending (and apparently correctly) that Americans are too stupid, dense and illiterate to know their racist history) one was attacked and branded a “racist” for any and all crimes, including saying there might be economic repercussions to for instance the CRA extension and radical enforcement, that subsequently helped lead to the meltdown of 2008. Apparently one side is not allowed to distinguish from the other because of the white man’s burden. The problems persist, regardless. I can easily divorce numbers from faces, often that is the first step to reasonable solutions. However it is never enough to know that this percentage or that quintile has experienced thus, while the numbers point in one direction, we (for reasons unknown) can’t ignore the “feelings” of the participants.

    I had a good friend, a rabid radical liberal who was always on me about racism. He couldn’t point out often enough how he was an extra special non-racist because he had lived with a black girl in a long term relationship and thereby “learned” what it meant to be a black in our society, and furthermore, he was a liberal and naturally all venal sins are forgiven for liberals, no god needed. I couldn’t help comparing his situation with mine. He lived with a black girl, but certainly never brought her home to Mama as Sharpton famously opined. I on the other hand married my sweetheart, a Chinese girl and brought her home to momma (who never ceased for one moment in loving her like her own daughter).

    But somehow, by a calculus that is proofed nowhere and documented even less, conservative leanings transcend this reality and I’m condemned to racist-hood whether the opprobrium belongs or not. His mom died likely never even knowing about the black girl her son had lived with, and the rest of his liberal family can proudly pat themselves on their backs and display their cred as new age post-racists. But his well-educated, well-placed family with executive positions at multiple major corporations can’t demonstrate how /they/ hired blacks and other minorities as their executive assistants, as their VP Sales, as their Director product development, their chief of R&D, their VP Finance (all of which I’ve done). in point of fact, not one of his large Irish Catholic (all lapsed of course) family married anyone of any color other than white, they never hired anyone other than white but they can proudly point to Democratic fundraisers they’ve hosted in their homes, and of course their own large contributions to Obama’s campaigns. I guess that makes them the winners.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to wardsmith says:

      Wardsmith, for what it’s worth, it was not my intention to talk about race to that extent with this essay.

      I saw Ta-Nahesi’s aside comment and thought about it. Time went on and I thought about it. I drove around and I thought about it. Friday night came, my dear friend Fish said “let’s go out to dinner!” and we went to Panino’s and I got the prime rib (awesome) and, even as we talked, I thought about it. One of the things we talked about as we ate was this very website and the hundreds of little different dynamics that existed on it… and he pointed out that I was one of the conservatives on the website. Indeed, he said that I was one of the *MOST* conservative folks on the website. (I just called him for permission to post that last part and he said “well, what I said was that you’re one of the most conservative people I know… but that fits within the website too.)

      My thoughts went from there to “well… it probably wouldn’t do much good for a liberal guy to answer that question… he’d probably spend half the time flogging himself” and, from there, to “well… I have an answer to the question… and the question was asked… therefore I have an obligation to give an answer to the question that was asked.”

      Seriously. It wasn’t to discuss more than that.

      Granted, I knew that it was *LIKELY* to discuss more than that in the comments… but I didn’t really consider that as important when I was writing the post. My intention was to deal with that when it showed up.

      Which, I may add, this comment response to your comment isn’t doing. I suppose I should apologize for that… but, instead, I’ll talk about how awesome the bottle of wine *I* have enjoyed tonight happened to be and I hope that yours was half as good.Report

  11. wardsmith says:

    Dude, I lost you halfway through your post, but the part about the wine sounds Great! 😉

    One of my resolutions was to stop drinking and blogging, but then I thought, “wait a minute, I haven’t had a serious resolution in 35 years since the one where I promised never to make another resolution!”Report