My Pick for Essay of the Year.

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto

Nob Akimoto is a policy analyst and part-time dungeon master. When not talking endlessly about matters of public policy, he is a dungeon master on the NWN World of Avlis

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609 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Just read the first paragraph of TNC’s essay. Reminded me of this, from early 1988: no one ought to be surprised Obama turns out to be… not really all that liberal.

    Back to reading.Report

  2. Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

    To them here’s a preemptive: “Go fuck yourself.”

    It is what it is.Report

  3. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    It’s ridiculously long and I kind of lost interest after this:

    “It would be nice if this were merely a reaction to Obama’s politics or his policies—if this resistance truly were, as it is generally described, merely one more sign of our growing “polarization” as a nation. But the greatest abiding challenge to Obama’s national political standing has always rested on the existential fact that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin. “

    The Right resisted Obamacare because the president is black. I’m sure that is the explanation (insert rolling eyes here).

    It’s also really hard to take this essay seriously considering the author. Coates sees racism everywhere. I know that’s his schtick but he needs to broaden out just a bit.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

      Yeah, I realize a black guy pointing out the fact we’re still a pretty racist nation can be uncomfortable to a white guy.Report

      • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

        Sooo…. A guy who claims to be against universal health care must be against it because he’s racist. Got it.

        See, this is part of the reason people don’t take racism as seriously as they should. Logic like this actually gives real racism against African Americans cover.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          …from the essay (Emphasis mine):

          On Fox & Friends, Glenn Beck asserted that Obama had exposed himself as a guy “who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture … This guy is, I believe, a racist.” Beck later said he was wrong to call Obama a racist. That same week he also called the president’s health-care plan “reparations.”

          One possible retort to this pattern of racial paranoia is to cite the Clinton years, when an ideological fever drove the right wing to derangement, inspiring militia movements and accusations that the president had conspired to murder his own lawyer, Vince Foster. The upshot, by this logic, is that Obama is experiencing run-of-the-mill political opposition in which race is but a minor factor among much larger ones, such as party affiliation. But the argument assumes that party affiliation itself is unconnected to race. It pretends that only Toni Morrison took note of Clinton’s particular appeal to black voters. It forgets that Clinton felt compelled to attack Sister Souljah. It forgets that whatever ignoble labels the right wing pinned on Clinton’s health-care plan, “reparations” did not rank among them.

          Michael Tesler, following up on his research with David Sears on the role of race in the 2008 campaign, recently published a study assessing the impact of race on opposition to and support for health-care reform. The findings are bracing. Obama’s election effectively racialized white Americans’ views, even of health-care policy. As Tesler writes in a paper published in July in The American Journal of Political Science, “Racial attitudes had a significantly greater impact on health care opinions when framed as part of President Obama’s plan than they had when the exact same policies were attributed to President Clinton’s 1993 health care initiative.”

          Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            I actually agree with everything Coates just said, including the part that you highlighted.

            Having a conversation about that is not only helpful, I would argue it’s necessary for our country. But saying to the first person that disagrees with you about healthcare policy “you’re a racist!” doesn’t actually start any conversations. In fact, it does far worse – it makes people who are neither inclined to want to be racists but not as informed as TNC (either by data or by life experience) inclined to agree with the Glenn Becks of the world. Hey, you know you were against UHC when Clinton was president and now someone’s telling you no you weren’t, you’re a racist – what is that going to do for the credibility of the side that wants to actually deal with racism?Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          I think Mike has unfairly represented Coates’ piece, perhaps because, as he admits, he didn’t read it. I don’t think Coates, or anyone for that matter, thinks people dislike that law because he’s black.

          Also, there’s much more in the article than “racism underlies some opposition to Obama.”Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I’m responding to the quote from Coates, which implies opposition to Obama’s policies is based on his race, not the policies themselves. It seems pretty straight-forward.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              No, you’re taking out of context from a piece that explains why he says this in order to fit your preconceptions and defensive knee-jerks regarding racial attitudes in the US.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Nob,

                I think you are presuming quite a bit when you say, ‘preconceptions and defensive knee-jerks’. The quote wasn’t really taken out of context IMO. In fact, allow me to provide additional context here:

                “Obama’s first term has coincided with a strategy of massive resistance on the part of his Republican opposition in the House, and a record number of filibuster threats in the Senate. It would be nice if this were merely a reaction to Obama’s politics or his policies—if this resistance truly were, as it is generally described, merely one more sign of our growing “polarization” as a nation. But the greatest abiding challenge to Obama’s national political standing has always rested on the existential fact that if he had a son, he’d look like Trayvon Martin. As a candidate, Barack Obama understood this.

                “The thing is, a black man can’t be president in America, given the racial aversion and history that’s still out there,” Cornell Belcher, a pollster for Obama, told the journalist Gwen Ifill after the 2008 election. “However, an extraordinary, gifted, and talented young man who happens to be black can be president.”

                Yep. Still seems to be a ridiculous statement. As Greginak pointed out, GOP opposition to HCR was around a long time before we got a black President. Of course the first time much of the opposition was blamed on Hillary Clinton being a woman. It seems that maybe some just can’t accept policy opposition based on the policy alone. It’s easier to blame ancillary factors so they can call the opposition irrational and unprincipled.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                In all fairness, Hillary Nutcrackers make it kinda hard to accept “policy opposition based on the policy alone”Report

            • I’m responding to the quote from Coates, which implies opposition to Obama’s policies is based on his race, not the policies themselves. It seems pretty straight-forward.

              It seems to me Coates’s argument is more that the tenor of the opposition to Obama’s policies is informed by race.Report

          • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

            Oh, I’m not down on Coates. Not only is he one of my favorite writers, I actually thinks he talks about race issues better than anyone else today does. And part of that is TNC takes the time to dig into race issues, he doesn’t say knee jerk things like “you disagree with me so you’re a racist.”

            I like Jesse, but Coates would never have done what he just did.Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              I don’t think Jesse said what you attributed to him just now, either.

              It’s a legitimate blindspot that whites in general seem very quick to dismiss writing about race under the guise of “look, those blacks are sooo quick to cry racism, they should get out more.”Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              You’re right, Tod, Coates wouldn’t have done what Jesse did, but I think Coates is probably more used to people reacting the way Mike did than Jesse is.Report

          • Avatar b-psycho says:

            Especially his simultaneous admission that black supporters are treating Obama with kid gloves, as if they’re defending Blackness Itself rather than merely the current guy with the nuclear launch codes.

            I understand their reaction. That doesn’t make it a correct one. The moment anyone proves themselves able to obtain significant political power, no matter what kind of lofty hopes anyone may have, that person becomes Them, no longer Us if indeed they ever were. Judging him racially either direction distracts from the real critique yet to be significantly made.Report

        • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

          Sooo…. A guy who claims to be against universal health care must be against it because he’s racist. Got it.

          They can’t help it. It’s a reflex. It’s like the left-wing version of crying socialist.Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      I haven’t read the essay yet. Does he really say the entire opposition to the ACA was based on race? Like i said i haven’t read it yet, but i doubt it. It’s pretty to everybody on the left that the right is opposed to just about any HCR and universal coverage. We remember the clinton years.

      Part of the apparent impossibility of even talking about race is some people will say any mention of the R word is seeing racism everywhere. Any mention of race is playing the race card. Just to be complete i’ll say that i’ve seen plenty of times liberal types throw out the R word to fast and carelessly. I read TNC everyday and i believe he would agree with that statement. Racism is a loaded word and should be used far less often then people do. But that doesn’t deny that racism exists and might be a problem now.Report

    • Avatar Sam says:

      Maybe Coates sees racism everywhere because racism is everywhere?Report

      • Avatar DRS says:

        TNC is one of the most consistently interesting and readable writers around. I wish the Atlantic Monthly would yank that hack McArdle and give him a monthly coloumn in the print mag.

        I think part of the problem is that we have an outdated idea of racism: you can’t be racist unless you’re burning a cross on someone’s lawn or jeering at teenagers entering a high school in Little Rock or encouraging Bull Connors to sic his dogs and firehoses on protesters. We’re past that kind of stuff.

        Racism today might take the form of distrusting black public figures who propose certain policies because they must have some kind of ulterior motive that other similar public figures don’t have. For instance, Obama isn’t in favour of HCR because he’s a Democrat and has liked the idea since at least the 90’s; no, it’s got to be “reparations” as Beck puts it. Or foodstamps: so many families are using them not because adults are unemployed, it’s because “those people” are always on food stamps and government freebies. It’s like the mind is compartmentalized so completely, there’s no acknowledgement that unemployment is a national issue affecting millions and that families using food stamps are part of that reality. It’s like channel surfing, with no real control over the remote.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          McArdle no longer works for the Atlantic.

          (Perhaps we could have a discussion about sexism someday.)Report

          • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

            This is something I’ve long been pretty open about. The people on the internet I find the most infuriating (other than Tom Van Dyke, of course) are Megan McArdle, Ann Althouse, and Veronique de Rugy. Now, granted, they all write lots of empty-headed nonsense, but so do a metric fish-ton of men, and none of the men are as capable of reducing me to a spittle-flecked rage. I can almost guarantee that what’s going on here is not “someone is wrong on the internet”, but rather “a woman is wrong on the internet”. It scares the hell out of me, to be perfectly honest.Report

            • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

              Althouse and McCardle also have [1] the most obnoxious commentariats this side of Jeff Goldstein. How that relates to their being women, I don’t know.

              1. Or perhaps had, in the latter case, I don’t know if they’ve followed her to her new gig.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Hey Ryan, I don’t care for Althouse either and have never read de Rugy to my recollection, but when it comes to McArdle, I’ve always felt the guff she got is often out of all proportion to what she actually wrote. But it never even occurred to me to impute what I saw as ‘overreaction’ to sexism on the part of her critics. I thought people just really really didn’t like her politics or privileged upbringing or prose or whatever (I saw the reaction as tribal in the political sense, not the gender one, basically).Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                People’s reactions to her may or may not be sexist. That’s a discussion we can have if people really want to have it. I’m just saying that I have noticed my own inability to read her without flying off the handle, and it seems to me that I virtually only have that reaction when it comes to women who are wrong. That’s my own hangup; it may not be yours.

                I will say that McArdle is a few orders of magnitude less glib than Tyler Cowen, and everyone who hates her either loves or at least respects him. And, speaking again for myself, every time he says something jaw-droppingly tone deaf or stupid (which is like once a week) I just say, “Oh, that’s Tyler,” and move on. McArdle, on the other hand, makes me want to twist the heads off of kittens.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                I always thought, as they have significant biographical overlap, if you switch McArdle’s and Yglesias’s genders, neither one of them would have been ‘discovered’ as a professional writer.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                This is probably true.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                McArdle is definitely less glib than Cowen. I’m not sure that’s a feature in the medium, however. The length of her posts simply didn’t (I haven’t read her in quite a long time) IMO fit inside the blog format. I realize the standard agreement in the professional blogosphere is essentially that you don’t get edited and in return you take the full brunt of whatever screwups you make – the outlet doesn’t have you back the way they would for traditional print pieces. But I’m not sure that arrangement worked out for the best for either party in the Atlantic-McArdle relationship. Of course, it lasted a long time and seemed pretty happy, so I guess who am I to judge. I can’t say I ever read the entirety of a single one of her posts, though. My God, the phalanxes of paragraphs just did not stop walking up the screen.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                If you haven’t read any of Cowen’s booked, I highly recommend them. It will radically revise your assessment of him as glib. The key with Cowen is to pay attention to his economic argument (and food and travel posts), but ignore anything he says about politics.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                but ignore anything he says about politics.

                That’s the key with most people.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I find that he can also be pretty freaking clueless about ethnic food kitchens and the reality of labor practices in a lot of asian restaurants, but whatever…he does like his food.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I think in terms of McArdle it is a mixture of upbringing and sexism matched together.

                Basically reducing her to being a spoiled, precocious rich girl.Report

              • Glyph,

                The few articles I’ve read by McCardle seem to support your view, in my opinion. She seems a lot more thoughtful than a lot of others seem to give her credit for. But again, I have read only a few of her articles.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I just wanted to say that I appreciate the self-awareness (or attempts at such) in this thread. I noticed a few years ago that, for some reason, I do seem to respond differently based on gender. I like McArdle more than most here, but one time when she was dreadfully wrong, I found myself responding as many of her harshest critics do – and a way that I do not, generally, respond to others who are wrong. It is extremely difficult to drill down enough to know exactly what to do about this.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Well, since this seems a safe space with you & Pierre … I kinda like McArdle. I think she has a dry sense of humor.Report

            • Avatar NewDealer says:

              I am not a fan of all three either but they don’t send me into the same kind of rage as Michelle Malkin or Glenn Beck. Or TVD but he is of no power or consequence.

              They do probably get a lot of hate because they are women though. However, John Chait seems pretty good about debunking Veronique de Rugy* without being sexist. Is he sarcastic? Yes but not dismissive of her simply because she is a woman.

              The unrepentant Freudian in me thinks that humans brains have not completely evolved yet and in our unconscious, we still resort to the easiest and most brutal attacks against our opponents because it is less work than an attack on the merits of the argument. Also reducing an ideological opponent to being a point of mockery reduces them as a threat. Not that Chait or De Rugy have much direct readership. I only read about De Rugy’s arguments via Chait. My exposure to Althouse is via Sullivan.

              *If I ever heard her in person, I’d probably just melt at the French accent though. I think French accents are absolutely charming and she is pretty easy on the eyes. What can I say? We all have our weaknesses.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                ‘humans brains have not completely evolved yet and in our unconscious, we still resort to the easiest and most brutal attacks against our opponents because it is less work than an attack on the merits of the argument. Also reducing an ideological opponent to being a point of mockery reduces them as a threat.’

                Yes Yes Yes

                Also YesReport

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Actually no, but only because of the implication that there is some endpoint of “complete” evolution of the human brain. The problem ND is really focusing on is real, but there’s no reason to think there are, or will be, any selective pressures that will cause our minds to evolve on a path away from those tendencies. Evolution is not teleological.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Good clarification James and yes I do understand evolution well enough to know that; it was the general point I was agreeing with.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I did not attend for that implication to be there. Nor do I think it will happen soon or possibly at anytime.

                The general spirit of bipartisanship that existed during the mid-20th century was probably an exception over a rule. The current strident partisanship is probably a return to old form.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Sorry to be pedantic, then. I did agree with your essential point.Report

          • Avatar DRS says:

            You’re not just saying that to make me feel good? She’s really gone? Don’t get my hopes up for nothing, that would be cruel.

            Sure we could discuss sexism someday. Sounds like a good topic. As one of the few female commenters on this site, I’d enjoy it.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          Lotta people at our local discount grocery (Trader Joe’s) on foodstamps.
          White, affluent, middle class.Report

          • Avatar NewDealer says:

            There was an interesting essay I read about young, white people in their 20s on food stamps because of the Great Recession.

            The author was a writer and part-time waitress in New York. Most of her friends were also well-educated but sparsely employed creative/artist types. The essay was about how people guilt tripped her for being white, young, educated, and on food stamps. The attackers seem to think the author of the essay should be able to get an office job easily because of her education and race.

            http://thebillfold.com/2012/05/young-privileged-and-applying-for-food-stamps/Report

  4. I enjoyed TNC’s piece, as usual. I really could have done without your post-script, though.Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

      Plus one on both points.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        I haven’t finished it yet, but what I read was both beautifully-written and contained some good points. I think the PS in the OP here is counterproductive, and will likely prime the ‘usual suspects’, whoever they may be, to give the piece a less-open-minded reading than they otherwise might. Was this the intent?Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      And yet the main reply above yours effectively crystallizes why I felt compelled to have a statement to that effect.

      Because simply even bringing up the possibility of race being a factor leads to the condescending “oh the liberals need to shut up about race” bullshit.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I think the post-script might have been poorly worded, but I understand the frustration. For some people, there are two possibilities when it comes to racism: either we can not talk about it, or we’re using it to score political points. I honestly wonder what Tom, Mike, Scott (he’ll be here soon enough, I’m sure), and the other conservatives around here think an honest, productive discussion of racism would look like. Would it be limited to the Klan and Neo-Nazis? Can we talk about racism in more mundane forms like, say, the lack of interracial couples on major television networks, or white nostalgia for eras in which black people were largely excluded from the white world (I’m thinking, in particular, or the rash of period TV shows about pre-1965 America)? Can we talk about racism in politics at all? What about the criminal justice system? Economic discrimination?

      I personally can’t imagine having any conversation about racism here, without restricting it to its most obvious and egregious manifestations, without the whining with which Nob is clearly frustrated. So why don’t the people who do the whining tell us how they’d like to talk about racism, where they see it, if they see it anywhere, and what they think should be done about it? I challenge them all, and they know who they are.Report

      • Avatar LauraNo says:

        I’ve asked this of the conservatives on twitter I follow or who follow me, I never get so much as an acknowledgement that I’ve asked the question. But if I point out an instance I’ve seen in the news of what I feel is racism, they come out of the woodwork! Spitting bile, usually. I will be interested to see if you get any answers to your question.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      One of the ideals that brought me to this place in the first place was that it didn’t start from a place that said that people who disagree should go fuck themselves.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        Right, they say go fish yourselves. 😉Report

      • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

        Given that it seems like the constant barrage of comments attempting to marginalize any conversation of race and gender into shades of the subalterns being somehow erroneously aggrieved against the majority have essentially been a retort in the other direction, I’m not quite sure what else I could say.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I can think of a post or two about race that didn’t go too far awry in the comments.

          It’s possible. The possibility makes it something to strive for.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          I guess the question I would ask you, Nob – from someone who is actually aligned with you very strongly on this particular issue – is, what is your goal when talking about racism?

          Is it to make the people that don’t see the racism we do reconsider their position, and get them on board with making things better? Or is it to give all of us that agree with you a hearty “Huzzah?”

          Because I’d ague that the net result of the FU is the latter, and actually makes the former harder.Report

        • Just to be clear- I totally get where the frustration was coming from. I can’t say that I’ve never done something similar. Unfortunately, the effect of expressing it in that manner tends to have the opposite effect of its intent.

          But you are correct that Coates’ piece needs to be read in full to be properly appreciated. The first page is good, but it’s the last two where the power of the piece resides.

          One thing that I would like to see more discussion of is what we might call McCain/Palin Democrats. Coates gets into it a little bit, but not much since race based opposition to Obama is only a part of his point; but understanding this group strikes me as essential to understanding racial politics in 2012.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Doesn’t seem very Gentlemanly, does it? Maybe they should just change the blogname, it seems so much less apt lately anyway.Report

  5. Avatar greginak says:

    I’d agree with peeps above that stating people should fornicate themselves is not a way to start a conversation, the way to end a post and , most importantly, will suck up all the O2 in the conversation instead of discussing TNC’s post. If TNC’s piece is worthy of discussion, which it likely is then don’t kill the convo before it starts. Talk about the piece not the suggestion.Report

  6. Avatar Sam says:

    Whether or not I agree with Nob’s phrasing, I agree with the sentiment. The speed with which non-white, non-male, non-straight concerns are often dismissed out of hand around here is regularly shocking to me, as if these are problems that simply don’t exist in the “real world” and thus shouldn’t be discussed here.

    Obviously, I’m not talking about everybody.Report

  7. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Let’s move beyond the intemperate postscript in the original version of the post. Nob retracted and apologized for the remark. Done.Report

    • Avatar Koz says:

      Actually, let’s not. First of all, Nob retracted the postscript he didn’t apologize for it. In fact, most of what he’s written since are attempts to justify it.

      More important than that, the postscript was the main point of the post in the first place.

      Obviously there is going to be some antagonism in using another person’s work as a weapon in an ideologically charged environment. There is going to be some antagonism in most worthwhile things. But there ought to be at least some figleaf of didactic or explantory input.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Koz, having a environment in which it’s safe to fuck up means safe to fuck up for everybody. The last thing in the world I’m interested in is parsing retractions as being indicative of true repentance vs. political necessity.

        Move on and have a conversation that, by its very existence, demonstrates to him that he was wrong to have put it there in the first place.

        That’ll do a hell of a lot more heavy lifting than making sure that all of the notes in the “I Repent” song were sung correctly.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        He describes the remark as “ungentlemanly,” “rash,” “does not stand up to further rationalization,” and “inappropriate.” That’s not an apology? Some sage wisdom got dispensed quite recently:

        …the foundation for a productive conversation is an environment in which it feels safe to fuck up. You can say something boneheaded. You can say something that betrays generations of privilege. You can say something that you’ve never attempted to put into words before because you’ve never been in a place where putting it into words was something you’d want to do… because it’s easier to be quiet and listen to other people talking (or even easier than that to read off of the cards that have been provided for this very occasion by the usual suspects for the last few decades). If fucking up isn’t going to be on the table, enlightenment won’t be on the table either. The possibility for the one is the possibility for the other.

        (Emphasis added; TNC wrote a damn powerful essay.)

        So, c’mon, serve the guy up a slackburger with cheese and let’s focus on the TNC essay.Report

        • Avatar Koz says:

          Yeah, I got that part. But the point being isn’t that Nob wrote some horribly unforgivable thing, or that his retreat was not sufficiently sincere. No, the point, at least as far as I’m concerned, is to describe with some clarity exactly what was wrong with what he wrote the first time. To summarize, Nob

          1. Links to TNC’s piece as a forensic weapon against his adversaries, presumably conservative commenters here at the League.
          2. Frames his postscript in a way so as to deny his adversaries a fair opportunity to comment.
          3. Makes no attempt at any original or substantive point, and
          4. Uses gratuitously a incendiary turn of phrase to do it.

          Now the real heart of the matter, what’s actually blameworthy in the whole thing, is #2 not #4. If we make an effort to practice self-containment, we can ignore #4. But it’s #2 that he wants to double down anyway.Report

          • Avatar Johanna says:

            I want to know how a straight up admitted generalized dismissal of arguments regarding racism is unforgiving yet a dismissal on a person based solely on association veiled in what appears to be civility is somewhat more excusable or gentlemanly? I would rather have someone curse at my views than try to dismiss them on a rational that appears civil but basically says exactly the same thing.

            Part of what makes racism (sexism, homophobia) so heinous is that it is often clouded by what appears to be civil or rational when it in fact is anything but. It is then excused and those that are truly victim of those attitudes are blamed for incivility.Report

            • Avatar Koz says:

              Hmmm, I don’t think those two things are closely comparable.

              The thing with the TVD flame wars, especially that last one, is they have a strong tendency toward Seinfeld-nothingness, like a black hole of internet content or the cloud of dirt following Pigpen in the Charlie Brown cartoons. Your contribution may have been valuable when you had it, but in that context it just gets glommed together will all the rest of the dark matter in the black hole.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I think where some people go awry in interpreting the TVD contretemps(es?) is this assertion that they’re not really about anything. But that’s not exactly true. The League has reached a point where it’s both large and cohesive enough to have an inner culture, and the TVD wars are fights about that. In a traditional organization, I guess these are the fights that would occur behind closed doors rather than in public, but unfortunately all we have is a public forum.

                So the argument about what Nob did here strikes me as essentially “external” – in that it’s about the League’s relationship with its audience – while the TVD fights are “internal” – the League’s relationship with itself. I agree with you that these are different things, but there is a tendency among a lot of people to write off the “internal” issue as if its basically meaningless, which is false.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Yeah I see your point, and there’s probably something to be said for the idea that the TVD flame wars are about the internal culture of the League, but that still overstates the case imo.

                If anything, Tom’s flame wars are about Tom’s person, and what it means to interact with him fairly (or not). Not even so much what it means to interact fairly with people general, but Tom Van Dyke in particular. It’s pretty thin gruel for umpteen thousand comments.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Speaking as someone who writes off large swaths of the TVD “wars” I have to say my reasons for doing so are somewhat different than you suggest.

                I write them off because more often than not, there seems no purpose on any side to have them except to have them. In the last exchange Tom went somewhere he shouldn’t have gone with Joanne (and to his credit I think he acknowledges this), but as a reminder it started because he clearly explained the mindset of some subset of people in MO, and people looked for a way to take those comments as his opinion – even as he was clearly mocking Akin and providing stats that proved his ideas false.

                When I see people argue Tom’s points (many of which I find flawed) I have no issues with any of this. But more often than that it seems to me like we engage in this war because it’s what we do.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                I read the league on and off for a while before deciding to start posting.

                One of the things I learned in my observation is to reply to TVD as a little as possible.

                I have a lot of disagreements with James but he is intelligent, polite, civil, and intellectually honest. He is fun to debate with. TVD simply goes for jeering extremism and partisanship. Luckily I think that there are more people like James on the League than like TVD.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                New Dealer: This seems like the perfect place to come down on an online forum:

                This guy doesn’t strike me as fun/interesting/honest, so I choose to ignore him or her.

                This other guy is all those things, so I like discussing things we agree or disagree on.

                I’ve only been doing this a year, but I don’t know how you stay sane unless you do this.Report

              • Avatar NewDealer says:

                Very good point in your last sentence.

                I don’t always follow my own advice for the sake of honesty. Sometimes I get angry enough and respond to bait.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                Actually Koz this may have started with my comment towards TVD (not interested in beating this dead horse) but do you see at all in my perspective how your original comment did exactly the same thing to me as you felt Nob did to you here? You/Tom outright dismissed my comments prior to engaging in what I actually said using guilt by association. Now you are doing it again even though you are being more polite about it. Nob quickly apologized and retracted what he said to the commentariat here. That seems more forgivable than rationalizing poor behavior.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Yeah, I see your point about the similarities but the differences in context are so substantial that I don’t think they are closely comparable.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                Well you weren’t the one dismissed out of hand. Your view of the context is obviously clouded by perceptions of me based on non-post related criteria. It is comparable. The difference is one person sincerely recognized his err and apologized and discussion ensued in earnest. In the other case, no acceptance of even partial culpability caused the thread to quickly deteriorate.Report

              • Avatar Koz says:

                Ok, let’s separate a few things as best as we can. Tom’s “view of the context is obviously clouded by perceptions of me based on non-post related criteria”. I think Tom can fairly be blamed for a number of things, but not this. You carry a grievance from a prior thread into a new thread and add to a dogpile with James and a couple others who routinely antagonize Tom, and Tom refuses to engage. No, I don’t blame Tom for that one at all. The non-post related criteria are kind of important.

                I am not dismissing you, I am perfectly willing to correspond with you. I just think that in this case you were wrong on the merits for the reasons I mentioned before.

                Nob was trying to enforce coercive cultural boundaries wrt how his post could be interpreted, and did it in an incendiary way on top of it. He apologized for latter but not for the former which for me at least is the important point anyway.Report

              • Avatar Johanna says:

                Koz it was you I said had the clouded perception. I was offended, I made it clear why. Neither you or Tom or anyone else can delegate what I can or can’t be offended by. Although the driving force behind the reason he responded to me as he did makes is understandable, it does not excuse it. I made clear to Tom how and why I was offended. There are others who recognized why what was said was out of line including folks outside of the “gang”. You may not agree, but in the case where I am the one who was insulted, it is my call to make. A true gentlemen would have apologized or at least acknowledged his part in this. You can complain all you want about what Nob wrote here, you can even question his sincerity but he actually took some ownership of his fish up and apologized.Report

        • Avatar Scott says:

          Burt

          Slackburger my fish. If TVD had written the same thing folks here would call for his head. This is one more example of the double standard here.

          As far as the essay, it is just one more example of liberal race baiting. The idea that opposition to obamacare is race based is just pathetic.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            You should read the essay.Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            A Gentleman accepts another Gentleman’s sincere apology. That goes for Ladies, too.

            So “folks” would not have included me. Would it have included you?Report

            • Avatar Johanna says:

              Accepting a sincere apology is easy, actually. Getting one or offering one where warranted not so much.Report

            • Avatar Scott says:

              Burt

              If TVD had said the same thing I would criticize it but not not call for his head, as some around here seem to do on regular basis.

              A gentleman does apologize but hopefully wouldn’t use such language in the first place, especially if you having posting privileges.

              If Nob wants to be a partisan and divisive front page contributor, this comment along with his wingnut post the other day show he is succeeding.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Scott, can you give us an example of racism in society today?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Though I was not asked, I’ll give you just such an example: the Congressional Black Caucus: which will not allow white members to join, though those would-be members represent majority black districts.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I just noticed this. Who knew you were a comedian?Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Chris:

                hHow about Marion Barry’s comments about Asians?

                http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/74866.html

                “We got to do something about these Asians coming in and opening up businesses and dirty shops,” Barry said on Tuesday night, according to video posted by WRC-TV/NBC4. “They ought to go. I’m going to say that right now. But we need African-American businesspeople to be able to take their places, too.”

                Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0412/74866.html#ixzz24aSA9yb5Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yeah, that was pretty racist. People on both the left and right were pretty damn pissed at him for it, too.

                I’ll revise my question: do you know of any areas of society where racism effects people?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I will note that regardless of whether or not TVD gets his head called for on any given day, he’s still here.

                So I’m not sure what the privilege/double standard is. Nob took a ration of, “bad job” from a number of people on this thread already.

                Are you complaining because TVD has *persistent* detractors and Nob doesn’t? Well, shoot, dude, I’m not about to start booting commentors because they don’t like one guy a whole lot, any more than I’m going to vote for booting writers because a bunch of people don’t like that one guy a whole lot.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Sure TVD is still here but every thread seems to bring calls from the peanut gallery for him to be banned, which has not happened here. On the contrary, we are supposed to cut poor old Nob some slack.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Who cut him slack? He was told in no uncertain terms by any number of FPers that he was out of line, and he responded by apologizing.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Burt in #74 asked if we could cut him slack. Frankly you would think a front page poster would have a bit more maturity, especially if he really wanted a conversation.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Notably, Burt asked if we could cut him some slack after he apologized. I don’t honestly know what the point of all this is. Nob said something people didn’t like, a fair number of people, called him on it, and he retracted the statement and apologized for it. Admitting that you’re wrong and eating your humble pie is a sign of maturity where I come from.Report

              • You seem to be conveniently and willfully ignoring the fact that Burt wrote that after Nob had apologized.

                I realize this is difficult for you, who have never been wrong or needed to apologize for anything that you’ve ever written but instead have just been attacked by people whining about how you’ve offended them, but the proper response to such an apology is to accept it, not to pretend it wasn’t made.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Also, honestly, not to dredge up the past, but the very first thing you did after I wrote a post about my marriage was insult me for changing my name. I’m really not sure where you get off criticizing anyone for lack of class.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Mark

                Yes Burt wrote that afterwards. I’ll be honest that I found the post script to be quite mean spirited, more so than a lot of what is seen here. Not to mention that I see myself as one of those folks the p.s. was directed so I don’t feel particularly forgiving. Maybe that is a character flaw, I don’t know.Report

              • As opposed to the mean-spirited garbage you regularly spew but refuse to apologize for at all?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                At the risk of repeating myself, I repeat myself.

                A Gentleman accepts another Gentleman’s sincere apology. That goes for Ladies, too.

                Nob retracted and apologized for the remark. Done.

                Let’s focus on the TNC essay.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                What I see is that you have a monolithic idea of what the peanut gallery is, when it is, in fact, not one thing.

                A certain set of people routinely get irritated by Tom (they have copped to it, in fact). That certain set of people will go into a cycle of behavior when they get irritated by Tom.

                That’s not the same thing as “Nob wrote something and he’s treated differently than Tom would be if he wrote something comparable”, because Nob isn’t Tom and the set of people who are irritated by what Nob wrote doesn’t map directly onto the set of people who would be irritated by what Tom would have wrote if Tom wrote it.

                If you want a better conservative presence in the comment thread, go pimp out the blog to your conservative friends and get them to come here and comment. Then you guys can all form your own “we hate Nob” crew and go around the maypole whenever Nob writes something, and you’ll have achieved parity.

                It’s a lose-lose, but hey, you’ll be happy and equally persecuted, which will probably suit you just fine for a bit, and then you can get bored with it and the collections of “Tom haters” and “Nob haters” can then start going around the maypole about who is the worst set of persecutors and who is the most persecuted.

                Or you could just start trying to contribute constructively instead of destructively, (edited to add) and bring in other conservative commentors who contribute constructively instead of destructively (/edited) which might be a win-win. In fact, that would be fucking awesome.

                But that’s, yanno, effort for you.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Dammit, Pat, I am never going to be able to criticize Tom again without having that image in my head.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Eventually, given enough popularity, we’ll get there, and then we’ll have to start over.

                Hell comes for us all, on the Internet. Eventually.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m not going to make a long explanation, because u don’t want to drag it out even further, but the repeated refrain that some of us critique a particular writer just because we dislike the person is, at best, a radically incomplete perspective. I find it puzzling that repeated explanations of the problem with argumentative method are so readily reduced to “personal dislike.” I guess that’s a nice cognitive shortcut, easier than thinking about issues of method. All I can say for myself is that I’ve never hesitated to state when I agree with that particular person, and have on occasion defended him against what I thought were inaccurate attacks. Because while I can’t honestly say I like the person, I’m not interested in looking for excuses to tear him down. I huts have a hatred of both excessive ideology and dishonest/disingenuous argumentative methods. I’ll criticize them where I see them, but side with the same people when they’re not doing those things.

                OK, I guess that was a long explanation. Sorry for starting with a lie.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                James, I’m not inclined to litigate it further, as Tom himself would say. I think the combox should be a constructive place. If it’s not a constructive place, the method of argumentation or the rhetorical style… they don’t matter. And if it’s a constructive place, they don’t matter either. You can transmit wisdom with a bad argument, if the other guy is listening constructively.

                I can interact constructively with Tom, and so can Jaybird and Mark and the good Doctor and even occasionally Stillwater… so I know it can be done and it ain’t just me. I can interact constructively with you and with Kazzy and Ryan and pretty much everybody around here with a couple of exceptions.

                Shit, I could talk to Bob, up until Bob decided he wanted to play his role more than he wanted to talk.

                I don’t think you can interact constructively with Tom. I really don’t give a good goddamn about why. Even when you’re correct and he’s wrong, you go nowhere. Even when I think he’s correct, and you’re wrong, you go nowhere.

                I’m at a loss for why you think it’s necessary to talk to him, except that you don’t like the guy. Chris has figured it out just fine, with a couple of occasional backslides. Give it up. Whatever the underlying reason is for the dynamic, the dynamic is malignant, and nothing good comes out of it.Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                I wish I had a group of haters.

                But if I ever go on about being persecuted for my views, just shoot me.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                If [the combox is] a constructive place, [the method of argumentation or the rhetorical style] don’t matter either.

                Respectfully, I couldn’t be more in disagreement. It seems to me that whether or not the combox is a constructive place is wholly dependent upon participants’ methods and style.

                A combox is a combox is a combox–there has to be something that makes them constructive or not, and that something isn’t whether they’re threaded or not, but what actually fills them.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > It seems to me that whether or not the
                > combox is a constructive place is wholly
                > dependent upon participants’
                > methods and style.

                It is certainly your prerogative to find someone’s methods or style an essential part of whether or not you find interacting with them constructive, or not.

                It is not, however, your prerogative to tell me what *I* find constructive or not, to me. I repeat myself: I can interact constructively with Tom, and I am not the only one who can do so. Thus, Tom’s methods or style are not a barrier to *everyone* interacting with him constructively. Just some people.

                Maybe most people.

                I confess, I’m perhaps preconditioned to deal with Tom’s self-described elliptical style because I have some personal experience with someone who talks like Tom. Parsing him is therefore not the same experience for me as it is for some/most other people. I wouldn’t mind if Tom spoke – generally – more plainly, but it’s hardly my place to dictate to him how he writes.

                Moreover, when I ask him a straight up question, he answers or demurs with a straight up response. Maybe he does that for me and not for some people because I listen to him differently. I dunno.

                In any event, if you don’t find Tom’s methods or style to be something you can interact with constructively, it still doesn’t explain why you bother to interact with him. You get nothing out of it, so just… don’t?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                ” it still doesn’t explain why you bother to interact with him. You get nothing out of it, so just… don’t?”

                buuuuuut heeeeeeee’s WROOOOOOOOOOOOOOONGReport

  8. Avatar Will Truman says:

    My view is generally this:

    There are things that are directed by race. There are things that are influenced by race. There are things that are not affected by race. It is extremely hard to tease out where one begins and the other ends. Virtually impossible. Any discussion of politics – particularly involving a president in an election year – is going to involve this ambiguity being consciously and (very often) unconsciously twisted for partisan ends.

    Person A says such-and-such is affected by race. Person B denies it because he is hearing that it is directed by race and if it’s not being directed by race it’s not being influenced by race. Person C says that something doesn’t have to be directed by race to be influenced by race. Person D says that we shouldn’t listen to Person A and people like him because they are being directed by race, or influence by race to such a degree that, well, we shouldn’t listen to him.

    I’d love for a productive conversation, but I don’t see how one occurs.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      The thing that strikes me as the foundation for a productive conversation is an environment in which it feels safe to fuck up. You can say something boneheaded. You can say something that betrays generations of privilege. You can say something that you’ve never attempted to put into words before because you’ve never been in a place where putting it into words was something you’d want to do… because it’s easier to be quiet and listen to other people talking (or even easier than that to read off of the cards that have been provided for this very occasion by the usual suspects for the last few decades).

      If fucking up isn’t going to be on the table, enlightenment won’t be on the table either. The possibility for the one is the possibility for the other.Report

      • Avatar greginak says:

        Well yeah. Part of that is being willing to fuck up and then admit it and move forward. In this context that means a person saying something like “why yes i have some negative racial stereotypes.” or “there are things i can’t see because of who i am so i’ll shut up and take your word for it.” or “my side has some people with issues.” ( i’ll throw in here again that i think some liberals use the R word to often and carelessly. ) Those are hard for people to do.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          See, where we differ is that I don’t see those as examples of fu… er, messing up at all. That’s someone telling the truth as he or she sees it.

          If we don’t even feel safe enough to do *THAT*, we’re… well… we’re fucked.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            I agree we need to be safe to make mistakes. Learning comes from making mistakes but only if you can admit you don’t know or screwed up. I don’t see people willing to say “my side has some blind spots” “i have blind spots” or even ” i don’t know.”Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Let me sleep on this. This doesn’t strike me as being what we ought to be striving for but damned if I’m not turning into one of those one sound per word guys.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Monosyllabic.

                but only if you can admit you don’t know or screwed up

                It seems to me that it’s more important that someone can admit this to themselves rather than learn to parrot what they ought to say after they say something they ought not have said.

                But, hey. Maybe the point is getting enough of society to say the same things that after all of the old people die that people just start thinking in terms of the new things that are said rather than in the old terms.Report

          • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

            I thought Greginak was saying that those the worthwhile things that come after realizing and admitting you’ve fucked up. And since they’re really hard to do, the more likely reaction to fucking up is stonewalling and hardening your position.Report

      • For the record, I think this is a pretty fishing awesome piece of insight, and one of my favorite Jaybird paragraphs ever.

        Thinking more about this, and specifically back to my Thurgood Marshall/David Allan Coe piece a few months back (and especially to the story that was the centerpiece of it), well, it answers a question that’s always been in the back of my mind.

        That question is: “why in the hell would we have ever thought it a good idea to put that song on in the company of that friend?”. I think the answer is that we were comfortable enough with him that we weren’t afraid to fish up, even in a really, spectacularly imbecilic and outrageous manner, and he wasn’t afraid to let us fish up. So when we inevitably did fish up, it didn’t take but a simple act to let me know how badly we had fished up, and why we had fished up; once that happened, everything else sort of started to click for me.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      Telling people to fuck themselves in beneath you, Nob. That’s for the party of religion and family values.Report

  9. Avatar Glyph says:

    As is often the case, I agree with JB.Report

  10. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    It’s a bit thick to suggest that Derbyshire’s essay was intended to be taken entirely seriously, with no hint of satire whatsoever.

    *****

    I’m amused by TNC’s intimation that fifty years of being told that We’re All The Same Underneath Really was all just a bunch of garbage, and that there is a Black Identity–that President Obama does not possess, or at least does not acknowledge, because if he did then all those white racists (redundant, right?) would completely lose their heads.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      You’ll have to fight with Derb about that — he’s been defending it as simple common sense ever since, if quibbling a bit around edges like whether groups of non-whites being dangerous mobs is a fact or only an overwhelming statistical probability. Of course, now that VDARE is his only outlet, he has to take that line, doesn’t he?Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      That’s not what I took from TNC. What I took is that Obama has a black identity, but that in order to succeed in the white-dominated world, he must constantly and painfully submerge it:

      …what are we to make of an integration premised, first, on the entire black community’s emulating the Huxt­ables? An equality that requires blacks to be twice as good is not equality—it’s a double standard.

      I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction to this was “The Huxtables were good role models! A doctor, a lawyer, nice kids, happy family.”

      And then it occured to me that the Huxtables didn’t seem to have very many white friends and the didn’t seem to have that many white guest stars or co-stars; nearly all the characters on the show, including the Huxtables’ friends and co-workers, were black. It was as if they lived in the world of the immensely frustrating film White Man’s Burden. Apparently not even the very creative, positive, aspirational, and progressive Bill Cosby couldn’t think of a way to deal with the notion that in the real world, Dr. Huxtable and his beautiful wife would almost certainly have had significant obstacles placed in their paths preventing them from attaining the sort of lifestyle depicted on the show. Which is TNC’s point about Obama — his strategy for success in a world with institutional barriers based on race is to sidestep race altogether.

      TNC suggests that this “Booker T. Washington” social strategy is the one Obama cleaves to, one that presumes that a black politician can only succeed by being as inoffensively black as possible. Rather than giving in to the simmering boil of resentment a la Harry Belafonte every once in a while, Obama must possess the same sort of ambiguous, icy passivity that TNC depicts in Shirley Sherrod: combined with great acheivement is also the frustration that someone “twice as good” cannot, despite their successes, find the nerve to assert themselves as fully as a white person in the same position presumably would.Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        Or, for another example, Trayvon Martin. For far too many people, there were only two possibilities: every indication that he wasn’t a to-good-to-be-true teenager, was further proof that he was a thug who was inevitably headed for a bad end.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      I’m amused by TNC’s intimation that fifty years of being told that We’re All The Same Underneath Really was all just a bunch of garbage, and that there is a Black Identity–that President Obama does not possess, or at least does not acknowledge, because if he did then all those white racists (redundant, right?) would completely lose their heads.

      This is substantively missing part of the point of the essay. Which is simply that because it’s part of an outsider culture, black cultural identity (which TNC is quite explicitly attributing as part of Obama’s personality) is treated differently by most white Americans than their own specific brands of white ethnic subcultures would be.

      Whereas being “Southern” or “Irish” or “Italian” is on one hand an acceptable “quirk” of being within the white cultural milieu. Blackness in contrast isn’t.

      This is perhaps the most important summation of racism in general:

      Racism is not merely a simplistic hatred. It is, more often, broad sympathy toward some and broader skepticism toward others. Black America ever lives under that skeptical eye.

      This is a society where flying the flag of a national cause founded upon racial supremacy is considered a cultural quirk and acceptable display of heritage, but where listening to a certain type of music can have you branded a “thug”. Where the reactions of two different people of varying skin tones to the same offense will get polar reactions. This is still, in the end a white and male society, where the validity of non-white points of view are often held to question, and where simply by the act of raising that question, the subaltern is relegated to illegitimacy.

      And yes, there’s an anger there from people who see that happening. It’s that anger, that I clumsily turned into a cudgel.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “Whereas being “Southern” or “Irish” or “Italian” is on one hand an acceptable “quirk” of being within the white cultural milieu.”

        Ah-heh. So there’s no such thing as redneck-bashing? Nobody ever gets a cheap laugh out of toothless inbred moonshine-drinkers?

        “This is a society where flying the flag of a national cause founded upon racial supremacy is considered a cultural quirk and acceptable display of heritage…”

        Aaaaand there it is.Report

        • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

          Duck, I’m mostly Irish, okay? The Irish have been globally crapped on plenty.

          Jews and Black people have had it worse. In America, in particular, Black people have had it **way** worse. That’s just simple truth, right there. Period.

          Cheap laughs at the expense of the Irish is fine (to me). They’re cheap laughs. Hell, I don’t know anybody who is of Irish descent who is actually *offended* by Notre Dame’s mascot, so I expect the qualifier (to me) isn’t necessary.

          I don’t think that’s because Notre Dame’s mascot is **inherently** less stereotypical or offensive than black-related-stereotypes, okay?

          I think that’s because the history of institutionalized barriers against the Irish in the United States doesn’t compare to the history of institutionalized barriers against black people.

          Making a joke about privilege is a fine line. Reading offense into a joke about privilege is usually a function of the history of the privilege, not the privilege itself… and I hate to bust your damn bubble, but you don’t get to decide where either of those lines are, the subjects of the joke do.

          If there’s one big hole you have in your ability to participate around here in sensible conversations about certain topics, it’s your ability to actually communicate effectively on racial matters. That’s on you, dude.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “Cheap laughs at the expense of the Irish is fine. They’re cheap laughs.”

            Right, because they’re just Irish people, right?

            What’s your opinion on Polack jokes? Or blonde jokes?

            “I don’t know anybody who is of Irish descent who is actually *offended* by Notre Dame’s mascot”

            Oh look, it’s “I don’t know anyone who’s offended therefore this is not offensive”.

            “I think that’s because the history of institutionalized barriers against the Irish in the United States doesn’t compare to the history of institutionalized barriers against black people.”

            So the Irish suffered discrimination but it wasn’t like for real discrimination and so we can just laugh it off and make a joke about it, because it’s okay to just blow off discrimination and pretend it never happened.

            Note, also, how there is an entire subset of the modern entertainment industry devoted to making fun of rednecks. There are performers whose entire career is based on it.Report

            • Would you characterize those as in group jokes primarily or as outgroup jokes?Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Yeah, this. Foxworthy, White, and Engvall can get away with more because they are of Georgia and Texas (though I think the latter two live in California now, I think Foxworthy lives in Louisiana).

                That being said, there are a lot of jokes and pokes at the South for which this is not the case. The notion that the flying of the Confederate Flag is an acceptable quirk borders on the absurd. The notion that nobody except African-Americans have any reason to have a chip on their shoulder – because, hey, they’re white – is problematic even if we all concede that it is not as bad as with other groups. (I cut Nob some slack because he is from a group for whom it is notably worse, but I do find it agitating when wealthy whites from wealthy backgrounds and wealthy areas think the problem with West Virginia is undue privilege.)Report

              • Completely agreed actually. I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about that last point of late.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. A chip here, a chip there and pretty soon you have enough to build a cross and have a dandy bonfire.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                So a joke about how the Space Shuttle is a Polish bomber(*) is an “ingroup joke”, but a joke that ends “we ain’t as dumb as you think we is!” is an “outgroup joke”?

                (*) made of bricks, the bomb bay’s on top, and it can’t leave the ground under its own powerReport

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              Duck, show me an American of Irish descent who doesn’t like The Quiet Man and I’ll concede you might have something resembling a small point, here.

              Your response to my comment just leads me to believe that your imagination is completely caged inside a context that you can’t shed, come hell or high water. You can’t walk a mile in anybody else’s moccasins, because you can’t take yours off.

              You press as strongly as you can to keep missing the point of what other people say, and attribute to them the implications that you infer.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                You write: “Cheap laughs at the expense of the Irish is fine (to me).”

                I suggest that it actually isn’t.

                You reply: “You can’t walk a mile in anybody else’s moccasins, because you can’t take yours off.”

                Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here, I’m the one who’s saying that A: despite the original claim, ethic humor about white people does exist, and B: cheap ethnic humor is reprehensible no matter who it’s about. And Pat Cahalan is telling me that we shouldn’t, like, be so sensitive about stuff, man, because Irish people totally love having jokes told about them.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                No, that’s not what I’m saying.

                Nobody in their right mind would claim that ethnic humor about white people doesn’t exist, Duck. So good on you for making an uncontested claim as if it’s a big deal.

                Cheap ethnic humor isn’t reprehensible no matter who it is about. It’s reprehensible when an “outgroup” uses it to keep an “ingroup” “in their place”.

                When a member of an ingroup uses it to poke fun at the group, it’s not about “keeping a group in their place”.

                Jerry Seinfeld (or most Jewish comics, ever) making jokes about stereotypical Jewish mothers is not in any way shape or form analogous to Andrew Dice Clay making jokes about women or Eddie Murphy making jokes about gay people. Eddie Murphy or Chris Rock or Richard Pryor making jokes about black people isn’t the same as Rush Limbaugh doing it.

                If you don’t understand that, you’re fundamentally missing the point about walking a mile in someone else’s shoes.

                It’s not about *them* treating *you* as if you were part of their tribe.

                It’s about *you* not treating *them* as if they were *not* a part of your tribe.

                A guy (or gal) poking fun at their own tribe is inviting you to be part of their tribe, for a bit.
                A guy (or gal) poking fun at someone else’s tribe is laughing at how “they’re not like us”, usually with the implication, “and we’re so much better!”

                Welcome to the human race.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Nobody in their right mind would claim that ethnic humor about white people doesn’t exist, Duck. ”

                You mean like the guy who I replied to in the first place?Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Can you either give a name or a quote? I’m scanning this thread and not seeing who said that.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                166 Nob Akimoto August 24, 2012 at 3:05 am

                “Whereas being “Southern” or “Irish” or “Italian” is on one hand an acceptable “quirk” of being within the white cultural milieu. Blackness in contrast isn’t.”

                Now here’s the part where you explain how I’m totally wrong and how saying “acceptable quirk” totally means that you can still make demeaning, othering jokes about it.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I’m not sure how you got from A to C on that one.Report

            • Avatar LauraNo says:

              It could be the fact the Irish ARE NO LONGER discriminated against that allows them to laugh at the jokes. In fact, it seems very likely.Report

    • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

      Burt and Nob are correct in this, I think, and well articulated.

      Particularly this from Burt:

      What I took is that Obama has a black identity, but that in order to succeed in the white-dominated world, he must constantly and painfully submerge it

      and this

      TNC suggests that this “Booker T. Washington” social strategy is the one Obama cleaves to, one that presumes that a black politician can only succeed by being as inoffensively black as possible.

      “as inoffensively black as possible” is a very accurate description. Something that I think about a lot. “Don’t give them a reason” as my Dad says.

      And from Nob:

      because it’s part of an outsider culture, black cultural identity […] is treated differently by most white Americans than their own specific brands of white ethnic subcultures would be.

      And this:

      This is still, in the end a white and male society, where the validity of non-white points of view are often held to question, and where simply by the act of raising that question, the subaltern is relegated to illegitimacy.

      Much of this, though not all, is the cumulative effects of Microaggression.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I followed the microaggression link you provided, JHG, and saw two passages that gave me pause:

        Microaggressions can take a number of different forms, for example, questioning the existence of racial-cultural issues, making stereotypic assumptions, and cultural insensitivity. Some other types of microaggressions that have been identified include Colorblindness (e.g., “I don’t think of you as Black. You are just a normal person”), Denial of personal bias (e.g., “I’m not homophobic; I even have gay friends.”), and Minimization of racial-cultural issues (e.g., “Just because you feel alone in this group doesn’t mean that there’s a racial issue involved.”). “Colorblindness” in particular has been associated with higher levels of racism and lower levels of empathy.

        and

        People have expressed several ways in which they feel harmed by racial microaggressions, such as implied messages that may make them feel demeaned. Implied messages can range from example like, “You do not belong,” “You are abnormal,” “You are intellectually inferior,” “You cannot be trusted,” and, “You are all the same.” Recipients of these messages have also reported feeling other negative consequences, including powerlessness, invisibility, pressure to comply, loss of integrity, and pressure to represent one’s group.

        These things gave me pause because they made me think about what I do for a living, a big part of which is unlawful detainer litigation. That gets me in court a lot. I’d estimate that a third or maybe a little more than a third of the people I evict for my clients are black. Very few eviction defendants (of any race) are well-educated, a large number of them (of all races) look solely to government entitlements as their means of survival.

        I certainly hope that I’m a person possessed of empathy, and I can easily see that these people are totally at sea in court — they don’t know how to dress properly, how to conduct themselves before the court, and many obviously feel demeaned, distrusted, and disempowered. Some bench officers, unfortunately, enhance that, and in my role as the landlord’s lawyer I am necessarily antagonistic towards them so I’m in no position to help guide them to accept that the result given to them by the system is fair despite being adverse to them. Which in many cases, it isn’t.

        And I consider my professional colleagues and clients. Of the various racial groups out there, blacks are underrepresented within those ranks. Not absent, just underrepresented. Thinking back to the first paragraph from the wiki, I frankly had thought that not paying any particular attention to my colleagues’ or my clients’ race was generally the way to go. A black judge is as able to identify hearsay as a white one; a black lawyer can make the hearsay objection as well as a white one. An advocate’s strength at persuasion is a facet of one’s personality with a spectrum that empirically seems to be independent of race. I can’t recall having many discussions with these clients or colleagues about race, and none have ever raised objections about my own attitude or respect for them (at least not related to racial issues). But have I demonstrated this sort of microaggression? Some of the attitudes described in that paragraph are thoughts I’ve had. And have my colleagues and clients submerged their responses rather than calling me on it, for the purpose of getting along, as the accomplished TNC describes in his underlying essay?

        I suspect that a strain of commenters will respond to these self-doubts by derisively labeling them as “liberal white guilt.” I resist that, because if we’re going to truly embrace the ethic that racism is a moral wrong, as we should, then that calls for moral self-examination as a part of the process of moral self-policing and moral self-improvement. Class, education, wealth, and race are all part of the sloppy, unpleasant cultural soup in which we all swim, and it’s difficult to pick out one part of the soup and leave the rest in. Maybe the best we can do is try, despite the knowledge that we will all fail at one point or another, at which time all we can do is ask forgiveness.

        But it’s disquieting to not even know when to seek that forgiveness.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          The problem is when people decide that “assisting with moral self-examination” is boring and slow and doesn’t seem to be doing much, so they go for the much quicker (and far more fun) “calling out the INHERENT RACISM of American society!”Report

          • Avatar Burt Likko says:

            That’s a problem, yes; there are others, including cavalier dismissal of the notion that racism is frequently a good deal more subtle than old white guys acting like Archie Bunker.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              Indeed, sometimes racism is so subtle that it takes a finely-honed mind to detect it; a mind experienced at hearing dogwhistles, a mind so thoroughly sensitive that it can detect thoughtcri–uh, I mean, racism.Report

        • Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

          Mr. Likko, I am impressed with your thinking on this and your honest grappling with the issue. It’s not something that people usually are comfortable doing, let alone discussing in public. I have had conversations about this, but they are usually in private.

          But have I demonstrated this sort of microaggression? Some of the attitudes described in that paragraph are thoughts I’ve had. And have my colleagues and clients submerged their responses rather than calling me on it, for the purpose of getting along, as the accomplished TNC describes in his underlying essay?

          I don’t think I can answer the first question for you, and I don’t think you can answer the second question, nor can I. FWIW, my guess is “Probably, yes” for both questions. Ask your friends. Be honest, and you’ll probably get an honest answer.

          Here’s a test about whether you have demonstrated microagression: Have you ever thought “I don’t think of you as White. You are just a normal person.”? My guess is that most people have not, though I have no idea about what you have thought. My guess is also that most people have thought or said “I don’t think of you as Black/Hispanic/A Woman/Gay/Disabled/Etc. You are just a normal person.”. This is but one example of the microagression that some groups receive from individuals and society. They are different from the norm, and the norm is never singled out in this way.

          In my opinion, the difficulty with color-blindness is that it is an ideal we wish to achieve and is certainly worth working towards, but it ignores the current reality of systemic privilege of certain groups and the microagression towards other groups.

          This gets to the heart of it, I think:

          Class, education, wealth, and race are all part of the sloppy, unpleasant cultural soup in which we all swim, and it’s difficult to pick out one part of the soup and leave the rest in.

          though I would add some other things (gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc.), though these are nitpicks and I’m sure you were thinking more broadly of these things even if you did not write them.

          Regarding this:

          Maybe the best we can do is try, despite the knowledge that we will all fail at one point or another, at which time all we can do is ask forgiveness.

          But it’s disquieting to not even know when to seek that forgiveness.

          You’ve already done more than most would be willing to do. To look into yourself and honestly question your certainty that you do not contribute towards these problems. We all do. And the only thing we really have the power to change is ourselves. It all starts there.

          Thanks for sharing your thoughts and honesty on this with me.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “They are different from the norm, and the norm is never singled out in this way.”

            So–just to make sure I understand how I’m supposed to think now–it is now the case that it’s racist to not treat someone differently because of their race.Report

  11. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    From Iron

    “Nature within her inmost self divides
    To trouble men with having to take sides.”

    -Robert Frost

    My children are biracial. Are they European/American? Are they K’iche’ ? The whole dialectic of race is suspect. It’s crazy talk.

    Just how black do you have to be to qualify as black? American black? Did your ancestors have to be enslaved to qualify? What if your ancestry included white people? While we’re on the subject of classification, what’s White? Northern European? If there was a day when Italians and Irish and Romanians and Poles weren’t part of White Society, that was mostly because they were Catholics. Once this country got over its problem with Catholics, around the time of Kennedy, Catholics were welcomed into the ranks of White Persons. Have any doubts on this timeline? Consult your Ku Klux Klan manuals, see what they have to say about Jews and Catholics. Until the time of LBJ and the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, White culture never coalesced. Look at who marched with Dr. King. Catholics and Jews.

    I’m sick of the politics of grievance, especially race grievance. TNC can blather about Barack Obama’s Indelible Blackness. Earth to TNC: Barack Obama is half-African and half-White Bread. He never knew his father, who returned to African culture and didn’t come back.

    Fact is, if Obama’s got any cred with what emerged from the culture of slavery, that culture of slavery emerged from many cultures, too. What passes for Black Culture in these times is one vast confabulation, ginned up from various literary and mythical sources. The greatest abomination of American slavery was the systematic eradication of the black family and any traces of African culture. Those American slavers knew what they were doing, all right. More’s the pity that we must now endure the smug taunts of TNC, telling us about Twice as Good and Half as Black. Barack Obama is the living embodiment of Half as Black.

    For in other countries, such as Brazil, also a destination for slaves, African culture did survive. Yoruba is spoken in Brazil, its gods still worshipped. But in Brazil, they don’t sort people out by Black and White. They have an equally destructive sorting out, by class. Well, we’ve got that too, up here in the USA. Sacred cultural practices and tropes, my ass, it’s a dirty old litany of grievance much of it.

    Much of what goes about describing itself as American Black culture is as absurd and baseless and devoid of actual substance as a parade at Disneyland or a three dollar bill. There is an actual heritage of black culture, which folks might just find in TNC’s article. Just not in the writing part. That pantheon of black cultural figures surrounding that faux woodcut illustration represented a struggle to achieve equality, not some distinct black culture. Even Malcolm X eventually came to the conclusion colour didn’t matter and was murdered after reaching it, by a black racist named Thomas Hagan.

    If Obama hasn’t mentioned Race, that’s because the President of the United States of America has bigger issues to deal with than to re-read the Litany of Grievance. He’s our president, all of us, however we label ourselves and however we label him. Americans all bleed red blood, and so do all Africans, yes, even Japanese too.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      “My kids are half Mayan, therefore I know what being black in America means” is probably the worst argument I’ve ever heard on the issue of race. The rest of the comment displays a complete tone deafness, and I’m not sure how it helps any more than the other dismissals.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            So which are my children? White bread or K’iche’ ? Since it’s such a stupid argument, since I’ve had to live with them being either both or neither, I’m all-too-willing to be instructed by someone who thinks he knows.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I don’t know what your kids are, Blaise, because different races are handled differently. I recommend you research the treatment of black-white mixed race individuals in this country, though. Or put it this way: how many people would have no problem with your children dating their’s, but would be very upset if Obama showed up to pick one of their daughters up for a date? If you don’t think it’s a shitload, then you’re even more racially tone deaf than I thought, and I thought you were pretty damn tone deaf.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I have laid out the facts. You know enough to make a choice. You haven’t made one, which shows where this debate is going.

                In a multiracial marriage, which race are the children? Now answer that question. There is an answer in Judaism: the mother defines the race, not the father. Maybe in modern day America, if there are any Negroes in the Genetic Woodpile, we can go back to the racist one-drop law and declare them to be black, by default.

                I recommend you answer the effing question.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                My kids, who are half Asian and half ridiculously pale Caucasian, are treated as white. When they were younger, people would occasionally assume that my wife was their nanny. My stepson, who is half Asian and half darker-skinned Caucasian, often gets treated as Mexican.

                I honestly don’t know what about saying “race is a social construct, and people are going to be slotted into it one way or another” offends you. I’m not happy about it either, but it’s how the world works.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I’m not particularly offended. I’m casting aspersions on the entire notion of Race as a Social Construct. It’s absurd. It’s pernicious. If that’s the way the world works, then it’s time for a new paradigm, one which looks at your children and mine and doesn’t ask stupid questions of that sort.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                And for a version of capitalism that isn’t half-bright people in expensive suits making risky bets with other people’s money. And religion that’s more about trying to understand man’s place in the universe and less about condemning people who don’t open an egg from the same side you do.

                I’m not holding my breath.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                No question.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Argh, that was a screwup, that’s supposed to be to Mike just below at 2:38. I do not know when I am gonna get the hang of this.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                and again. Sigh. I give up.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                You’re fine, Glyph; it’s just that there’s a maximum indentation level, and my comment was already there.

                (And I must like you, because I passed up the opportunity to banish you forever for breaking the commenting system.)Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Mike, I know Blaise van answer for himself and lord knows I don’t want on his bad side after what just happened to Chris, but wasn’t one point of TNC’s essay that Obama had to tone down who he was, to acquiesce or become palatable to white America, and that this is unfair?

                In this respect, it seems to me that Blaise wants to define himself and let his children define themselves as they wish, not as anyone – not ANYONE – else wishes. He’s “Bringing The Noise”, and while I don’t always agree with Blaise, I think it’s cool.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                “Fish you and your preconceptions” is very cool. It just won’t work for everybody. And that’s worth discussing.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You will never be on my Bad Side. The legacy of bigotry and intolerance must be completely swept aside. It’s all toxic. We can’t put up with any of it.

                The subtlest and most persistent evil ever perpetuated on humankind was the notion of Race. It all seemed so Scientific when it was dreamt up. We cozen up to it, still give it credence, make excuses for it, swear we’re not buying into that line of bullshit for ourselves — but you know, everyone else is buying into it so I guess I’m going to have accept it as if it were a fact, though it’s the worst thing about us as a species.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Blaise, my answer, and society’s answer will differ, and society’s answer will differ for different racial mixtures. So, for most people, a child with one black parent and one white parent is black, even if they look white. A child with one East Asian parent and one white parent, however, might sometimes be considered Asian and sometimes white. Black and Asian (“Blasian,” as some people say) is black to most people. Half Latin American, including mesoamerican or Native American will sometimes be white, sometimes Native, depending on appearance and who you’re asking. But again, half black is almost always black to white people (that goes for half black half Asian, half black have Hispanic, half black half white, and so on).

                Again, your inability to see this is, I think, striking.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s so much squid ink. You’re the one who said my argument was the worst argument you’d ever heard on the subject of race. The farther this goes, the dumber you’re looking. Don’t play the coy maiden with me, Chris. You started this out on a sour note and your answer has not been forthcoming. Nor will it be forthcoming, if present trends continue.

                Lay off the Society line. That’s just more of this racist twaddle about society and mixtures, perpetuation of the old codes of slavery and tribalism and you goddamn well know it. I don’t care about Most People. I care about my children, an argument you called the worst you’d ever heard. It’s the only argument worth making and it’s an argument for which you have no reply. Stop trying to inject Most People into this argument, it’s a straw man.

                Based on what you’re saying, you still adhere to the old racist lines. Now it’s your turn to convince me otherwise.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Blaise, you basically said, “my kids are of mixed race, therefore I can tell TNC how to think about race,” and by extension, what it’s like to be black in America. It was absurd, and I suspect you know it. I’m not sure, however, whether you understand that different mixes of races result in different perceptions in our society. I don’t think you do, in fact.

                So no, I have no reply, because your argument is utterly irrelevant.

                Also, if I wanted to know what race your children were, even after you’ve told me what you’ve told me, I’d ask them. If you want, you can ask them for me and report back. Then I’ll know how to answer your question, as irrelevant as it is to this discussion.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                You will commence, henceforward, by quoting me correctly. I asked a question, let’s review:

                My children are biracial. Are they European/American? Are they K’iche’ ? The whole dialectic of race is suspect. It’s crazy talk.

                Your entire line of rhetoric, starting with the misquote “My kids are half Mayan, therefore I know what being black in America means” is probably the worst argument I’ve ever heard on the issue of race. is intellectually dishonest to the highest degree. And now this fresh turd,

                Blaise, you basically said, “my kids are of mixed race, therefore I can tell TNC how to think about race,” and by extension, what it’s like to be black in America. It was absurd, and I suspect you know it.

                You get right, Chris. I take a dim view of being misquoted. You might start with an apology.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Blaise, I didn’t intend them as quotes, but paraphrases or summaries. That’s how your initial comment reads to me. My girlfriend is black. Does that make me an expert? What if we have children. Will I be then?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                The fact is I asked a question, a question you have yet to answer. Which race are my children?

                Though you won’t answer my question, I’ll answer yours in typical Talmudic fashion: if you had a child by your black girlfriend, which race would that child be?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Blaise, I answered your question. See above.

                If she and I have children, then I’ll ask them. We would of course raise them to be aware of their heritage: my Italian family, my English family, her African American family, and all that comes with all of that. Then they can answer your question about themselves, and I’ll go with what they say. However, I know damn well how most people would classify them.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Now’s where I am obliged to bust your chops, Chris. You want to ASK your children. That’s because you wouldn’t know, yourself. The only honest answer, the only one which would make any philosophical or ethical sense is none of the above.

                The very idea, that you’d come round here to say my argument’s the stupidest one you’ve ever heard. Now it’s my turn to tell you — not only do you not know, you want to ask the question. Uh, ‘scuse me li’l guy, son of mine, light of my life, lying there on the changing table, what race are you, zackly?.

                Now that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard in my life. Takes the cake.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I don’t know what your kids are, Blaise, because different races are handled differently.”

                It is absolutely ludicrous that you would say something like this while thinking that you weren’t a racist.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                It’s not quite as ludicrous as your constant insistence that having the ability to see how the world treats race as a concept makes one a racist. You’re like Stephen Colbert with his “I don’t see race” shtick, only you’re actually serious.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Density, you don’t think people handle different racial mixtures differently? Then you are as blind as Blaise. However, see above for how I’d obtain the necessary information to answer his question about his own children, or anyone else’s children for that matter.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Density, you don’t think people handle different racial mixtures differently?”

                Who exactly are we talking about, here? You? Or “people”?

                Because I find that when we’re talking about “people”, we always turn out to be talking about people made of straw.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Duck, I think there is an implied (in the eyes of society) after the words ‘are’ and ‘differently’.

                IMO.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                And I the O of everyone who doesn’t let their blinders stop them from being able to read the words on the screen.

                IMO.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Yeah, I just didn’t want Chris to think I was putting words in his mouth. Better safe than sorry at this point around here. Chris if you’re reading this hope that was OK.Report

          • Avatar BlaiseP says:

            Maybe my kids are Indelibly White.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              This is, itself, evidence of progress. White used to be delible.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                That’s not evidence of progress. It’s evidence that America won’t give up on the stupid notions of race, once and for all.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Given that America has a fixation on this, dismissing it as stupid is self-referentially self-defeating, even if it is stupid.

                It is what it is, Blaise. Americans have a lot of fixations on various things. This makes the things important in the context of America, even if they’re metaphysically as boring as whale shit.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Patrick, I love you to bits. Think the world of you. But passively accepting this state of affairs simply won’t do. America needs to pull its collective head out of its ass. People of goodwill must quit rolling their eyes about my Quixotic Quest. It’s the only way out of this predicament.

                If there’s to be any fixation on Race ‘n Culcher, let it be a theological debate on the merits of barbeque heritage, with a special anathema placed upon the heretical practice of Boiling the Rib.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Oh, I’m not saying that passive acceptance is the way to go, m’friend. And I think your general approach of, “Jesus, just acknowledge that it’s – at its foundation – based upon humanity’s record of bullshitting itself and thus bulling through it is the quickest way to get through it” is a workable solution for a good number of people… and in fact, it’s probably the least pessimum solution if we could get everybody to just do it, already.

                So I’m on board with you, there. Advocate away, on that score.

                It just doesn’t work for everybody, either.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                While we continue to weep ‘n moan about humanity’s endless predilection for self-delusion and bullshittery, nothing will happen. Ever.

                So when I do point out the self-contradictory crapola inherent in all these arguments, from Was macht a Yid to Indelibly Black, what do I get for my trouble? Oh Blaise, your argument’s the worst I’ve ever heard. Quixotic. And ever the subtle crabwise rhetoric of half-measures, talk of Foundations and Bulling Through.

                No. I won’t accept any of it. Ever. From anyone. I await any comer with this Sphinx’s Riddle: “What race are BlaiseP’s children?”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Human.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                There ya go, Patrick. +1. That’s what I always put on the little line on those hiring forms when they ask me for which race I am. They always have a check box for Other. I check it, and write in “Human”Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                I put “Half-Elf”, but I would, because I’m a racist.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                4×400 relay.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Aren’t orcs half-elves, too?Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m puzzled by the repeated reference to American craziness on race. Across the globe and throughout history the evidence is that drawing ethnic distinctions is a persisten human pre-occupation. Not that I don’t largely share Blaise’s ideal here, but saying that Americans need to stop thinking about race is to say that Americans should be super-human.

                Far more practical to shape how we think about race than to suggest we stop thinking about it.Report

              • Avatar Rod says:

                Actually, we’re a lot farther along than most countries. It’s just that our multi-cultural, multi-racial, composition makes America the point of the spear. It’s a lot more visible here.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I kinda got on my German friend when he snarkily wondered when we’d get a female president (which I do think we are overdue for, btw) by asking him when Germany would have its first Turk chancellor.

                For some reason I think the US will win that race.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Tolkien kept changing his mind about that. Sometimes they were elves Morgoth had corrupted (just as trolls were corrupted ents), because Morgoth didn’t have the power to create, only to ruin what already existed. But sometimes other things entirely.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I spent quite a long while driving up to Marquette University to study the Tolkien papers. Had an extensive written conversation with Christopher Tolkien while he was editing his father’s papers in France, but more with Taum Santoski, a Tolkien scholar who died tragically young.

                Out of loss, out of life, unto long glory.

                It seems to me JRRT would sit down to write a character, write a chunk, write in some history, come back to the story, only to find himself faced with contradictions in the back story. The Hobbit can’t be squared up with the rest of LOTR, nor Silmarillion and especially not the ever-evolving back story.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Ever-evolving is right. One strong impression I got from the History of Middle Earth ia that every time JRRT tried to edit some point into consistency, his creative genius took over and instead it got cooler, more detailed, and even less consistent.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Without making any judgements on TNC’s article (I hope to finish the last 2 pages today) or the general conversation or every single idea contained in this comment, I just wanted to say to Blaise: this is a beautiful rant, and I enjoyed reading it. Pursuant to my comment to you yesterday on another thread about PE, I doubt Chuck D would agree with its sentiments; but I think he’d enjoy the cadence and force. “Radio stations I question their blackness/They call themselves black but we’ll see if they’ll play this” indeed.Report

      • Kind of a general comment on the comments to this thread:

        I think there are plenty of real example of institutional racism that we can all agree really exist (i.e. prison/death row population vs. crime committed, immigration policy) without wasting our time on something as intractable as whether or not R opposition to Obamacare was racially motivated. So what if it was in any degree? How does knowing or not knowing that offer possibility for improvement of our society (not a rhetorical question)?Report

        • Avatar BlaiseP says:

          Immigration policy? Every immigrant group thinks they’re getting shafted. As for prison populations, the statistics point more toward income level and representation at trial than a race problem. Of course, inside the prisons, the convicts do sort themselves out along exquisitely balanced racial lines.

          If we are to take racism seriously, we might start with the premise of race itself. If sensible people are willing to say “It doesn’t matter if you’re black or white or anything else [insert hopeful statement about progress and equality here]” then race doesn’t matter and people who make the distinction are still holding to some qualitative difference between the races. Either race matters or it doesn’t. I don’t care about skin tone and epicanthial folds. They define nothing. Clinging to some perverse and antique cultural markers like Blackness is nothing more than a little lizard sitting on a rock, flaring his colourful neck.

          If we’re to improve as individuals and as a society, we’ll first have to get serious about definitions for both concepts. I’m an individual. I’m not defined by my skin tone. I live in a society, defined by the people who live in it, not the colour of my passport and my flag and certainly not my skin. I live in a world of individuals and wish to be judged by the content of my character.Report

          • “Immigration policy? Every immigrant group thinks they’re getting shafted.”

            Every immigrant group is getting shafted.

            “As for prison populations, the statistics point more toward income level and representation at trial than a race problem.”

            Income level and representation at trial is a race problem.

            “If we’re to improve as individuals and as a society, we’ll first have to get serious about definitions for both concepts. I’m an individual. I’m not defined by my skin tone. I live in a society, defined by the people who live in it, not the colour of my passport and my flag and certainly not my skin. I live in a world of individuals and wish to be judged by the content of my character.”

            This is a bit quixotic, I think, for nearly all groups within our society. Races are just like brands.Report

            • Avatar BlaiseP says:

              Quixotic? Or could it be common sense? Here’s just how stupid these “brands” are: the Black Brand is a racist definition, by tautological proof. Who got to define the Black Brand? First it was the slave culture, which lumped Yoruba and Twi and Fula and every other West African tribe into one untidy heap.

              But now, after fifteen decades of trying to do something about equality, not only for black people and Asians and every other similarly lumpen conflation of this sort, here comes TNC to tell us Black is Indelible. Excuse me to death. That’s a racist statement. If there were any non-racist interpretation of it, I’d like to hear it.

              I refuse to accept there’s anything definitional about skin tone or sexual preference or any other such nonsense. I might give some credence to gender differences, but only according to what’s unique to being female and I’ll let women work that out for themselves: in every other substantive human interaction, women are the equal of men and may be fairly judged, as I have said, by the contents of their characters and not their plumbing.

              As for prison statistics, I’m going to stick with my income-based criteria for conviction rates. It’s the poor who end up in prison: let OJ Simpson’s murder trial show what money can buy, even for a black man.Report

  12. Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

    Temperatures have been running just a tad high around here lately, haven’t they? I’m not sure whether we should attribute that to election year loony-ness or what, but eventually we’re going to have to actually sort this out somehow.

    In any case, the essay itself I find over-long. I don’t think it’s quite as well-written as people insist, but it has its moments – the “indelible blackness” line is widely and deservedly quoted. I think TNC argues from a place where people who are already inclined to agree with his assumptions or conclusions are going to see something powerful and true while people who reject them out of hand are going see something trite and over-wrought. The comments here at least bear that out.

    I don’t think there’s a productive way to have a conversation about race in America between the two(-ish) groups who just don’t agree with each other. I don’t think there’s a productive way to have a conversation about gay rights, either, or any culture war issue. Our disagreements on these subjects may not even have anything to do with the subjects themselves, when you get right down to it. These are questions about identity or privilege, and they just don’t map onto rational discourse particularly well.Report

    • Avatar aaron david says:

      I think this pretty much nails it down, on both the reactions to the essay, and high tension here at the league. There are somethings that people cannot see eye to eye on, for whatever reason, and trying to force some of these issues just isn’t going to help, not right now.Report

    • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

      Having now read the whole piece, I’m going to agree with Ryan on the length (18 pages printed). To quote one of my favorite movies, “The art of writing lies in thrift.”

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4php_B1LQiM

      I also don’t think the piece was nearly as good as others say, but since I am a white male, I am probably just revealing my inner racism by saying that. Chris asked what we conservatives would do about race. How would we have that conversation? My suggestion is fairly logical.

      1) Define the specific problem (example: Why are there less black hockey players?)

      2) Determine if this problem is actually a product of race or some other factor

      3) If the problem can be fairly attributed* to race then discuss the root cause

      a) Institutional / policy
      b) Racism
      c) Internal flaws within that specific community

      4) Suggest solutions

      That’s how I would handle it, but I think it may be too narrow for some. I think some people want to have a Great Big Discussion About Racism and talk in broader terms, which basically means we will all choose teams and have the same boring, stale conversations. Specifics are how you move things forward. If someone wants to present a specific problem, I’d certainly love to talk about it.

      * This is the hardest part when some people are predisposed to see race everywhere and others to see race nowhere.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        The problem is, racism pervades pretty much every area of our society and culture. Singling out a specific area, like hockey, doesn’t get us much closer to solving the larger problem. Sometimes, we have to have been discussions.

        Also, I can see why people might think Coates’ article is too long, but it doesn’t have just one thesis. It takes the first term of Obama’s presidency from more than one perspective, and places it into a cultural context. Making it much shorter would have been pretty difficult.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Hi Chris, while I see where you are coming from, I am inclined to be sympathetic to Mike’s point here. I work in IT and it doesn’t do me any good for someone to say ‘the system’s broken’. I know it’s broken, we’re both looking at a blank screen. What I need are specifics about this particular instance, if we want to solve the problem at hand, and moreover start collating those individual problems and their fixes into any larger picture about what to do with the system overall. ‘The system’ (or ‘racism’) is too big to tackle in a forum like this and get very far.

          We can’t just say ‘the system’s broken’ and chuck the whole thing out in the case of the US. We will keep tinkering, we have been for 200 years, and I think as bullheaded as we are, we’ll keep trying to get it right.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Glyph, the problem is, you have to admit the systems broken before you’re going to commit to fixing it.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Chris, to know the system’s broken you need a specific instance/example and the causes leading up to it.

              Or to put it another way, ‘have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?’ I don’t work in this end of IT, but as annoying as this question is, there is a reason they ask it first.

              How do we get around this chicken and egg problem?Report

          • Avatar Jeffrey Straszheim says:

            See, this is the problem. Coates is talking about the Black American experience, where entire generations grow up in deep pain, a pain that passes to their children, that kills their sons, rapes their daughters, and gives them a life so meager you would not believe, a pain that murders them. This pain leads some to so much seething anger, which cannot be expressed or answered. It is literally unbearable.

            Response by a white dude: “Well, I see it how I see a malfunctioning computer system.”

            Coates is one of the most deeply humanist writers I have ever read. He amazes me with his patience and endless reservoirs of curiosity and love.

            The correct response to this essay is to cry.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              I’m glad you obviously ‘feel’ so much more than I do, despite knowing next to nothing about me and basing your comment on a brief comment I made trying to explain why narrower focus than the essay (monologue) might be more productive in dialogue here, in this forum.

              Let me know when your ‘feelings’ have fixed racism. I will try to come up with the ‘correct’ response in the meantime.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                You know, I regret that, it was posted in irritation. But jay-sus, Jeff, come on, gimme a break. We are all trying here, aren’t we?

                This exchange, in a microcosm, is why we can’t get anywhere. Because even if I believed & felt exactly as you do (and you don’t know that I do or not, I’d wager) you’d have to be sure I believed/felt it as strongly, and for all the same reasons, as you do.Report

            • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

              This is an important comment.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Jeffrey,

              There are two ways that one can deal with a problem; A) cry or B) roll-up your sleeves and go to work. Intellectually at least most of the people around here fall into group B. We see a problem, we want to talk about fixing it, not gnashing our teeth about the very existence of the problem and how tragic it is.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sometimes there isn’t a current solution to a problem, though, Mike.

                Sometimes the solution isn’t visible yet. Sometimes the fog needs to clear away.

                When problems are like that, just talking about their existence can help some of the fog clear away.

                As much as I like to engineer problems away, sometimes the real problem isn’t visible until the fog clears.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                I think at the micro level i.e. the effect of racism or race, there is almost always a solution or at least a good indication of one. Standing on the soapbox yelling that there is a problem does zero for me. I simply have no tolerance towards calls for public catharsis.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Heh.

                Do you have that same problem I do when trying to fix stuff when your wife tells you that there is a problem, when the actual issue is just that she wants to talk about the problem, not actually fix that particular problem?Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                DUDE. Yes. I have so much trouble understanding that reporting a problem isn’t a request to spitball a solution.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                It’s not really a “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” thing.

                It’s a people thing.

                Half of the time when people talk about problems, they want to talk about talking about the problem. They don’t need a solution, they need catharsis.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If you didn’t want a tech, why fill out a trouble ticket?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Solution: listened to customer talk for a half hour. Said things like “oh” and “that’s awful” and “that’s good” when appropriate. At end of conversation, she said I could close ticket.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                This actually works on some persistent issues.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Guys,
                as far as I’m concerned, it’s okay to spitball solutions.
                It’s expecting the other person to ACT on said solutions that’s silly.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Patrick,

                I run into that every day. Coworkers, wife and even one male friend (that one irks me the most). I understand that some people have that compulsion, but at the national level I guess I feel like the solution-oriented strategy is more appropriate.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                > It’s okay to spitball solutions.
                > It’s expecting the other person
                > to ACT on said solutions that’s silly.

                I… honestly don’t know what this means.Report

              • Avatar Kimmi says:

                Patrick,
                If someone comes to you with a problem (half explaining it), you throw out some ideas. Sometimes your ideas get blown off (either because just talking helps the situation, he reconsiders doing anything… or something else)…
                It’s foolish to think that your ideas are going to be right … or even that any ideas at all need to be used.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sure, okay, now that makes sense.

                But if you get to the stage where you build something, you really kinda sorta oughta be sure that someone is going to use it.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Patrick, there’s a sovereign rule for engineering — now I only know to apply it from the software side of things, but here’s my take on it.

                The solution to a problem lies in an ever more exact definition of the problem in question. The Use Case paradigm allows various people to view the problem from every angle.

                I build my use cases using a numbering scheme. System initialization is always the first use case, 1.0 and it’s just stubbed in. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you about Use Cases or Misuse Cases.

                Before we can roll up our sleeves and get to work, we must define the problem to hand. Often, in the course of defining that problem, what appears to be a tiny and irrelevant step in a use case will turn into an entire forest of use cases when someone like yourself asks a perfectly innocent question such as “how are we going to do this?” Well, 1.4.4.3.2.1 is as valid a use case identifier as 1.0.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Yeah.

                Sometimes, the problem isn’t one that you can fix with your available tools and responsibilities.

                “We can’t share our documents effectively” isn’t a technical problem if the root is “five people are comfortable using one process and two people are comfortable using another process and nobody wants to change”.

                That’s not a technical problem. Getting everybody to agree on what process to use is going to be much more important than building something that can accommodate process A and process B. Especially when all of the exception scenarios are ones borne by the other team.

                “I don’t need to change, because I don’t have a problem” is a huge issue.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                One of the first things I do when constructing a Model is to identify who generates the data which populates, views and deletes entries to that Model, with real names attached. Once I’ve got all the Actors and Stakeholders enumerated, then I can sort them out into Roles, but not one minute before.

                That list is of great use to the IT and especially the security people who have to provision the application.

                I once had a gig at USDA. Everything Washington did, St. Louis hated and vice versa. Solution? Send out two teams of Business Analysts who helped design two separate Views talking to a common Controller and Model.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Of course, it could be suggested that a problem you can’t fix isn’t a problem.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Oh Duck. The only Unfixable Problem is the Undefined Problem. I generally make everyone who deals with a use case initial it and add himself as a Stakeholder. That way, all the people who agreed to how something should be created can’t whine about how it wasn’t done their way.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Another fun one is when you spend so much effort defining a use case that you learn it’s something you don’t actually need to do. (There’s something rather zen about seeing a self-eating watermelon swallow.)Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                “And we need to be able to accept requests from the S/370 via SNA.”

                “That machine is due to be decommissioned a year before this project completes.”

                “Well, suppose that project is late and this one’s on time?”

                I am NOT making this up.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                I have two billing rates, one for analysis, the other for implementation. Analysis costs three time more per hour than implementation. This keeps the analysis phase short.

                I also charge by the use case. Want to get a client to get to the point? Every time they change a use case, I simply tell ’em, “That’s fine, now I’m going back to analysis mode until this use case and all its dependent use cases are signed off again and my billing rate will reflect it.”

                This strategy keeps down both the number of use cases and the unwise utterances of backseat drivers.Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                That’s kind of patronizing, in my opinion.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Hi DRS, I realize this wasn’t directed at me, but since I signed on, can you explain why?Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                I was referring to Mike Dwyer’s comments at 1:38 and 1:47 p.m. Rather than deal with Jeffery’s post, he assumed a lecturing knows-best tone to chide him for being too emotional about the existence of a problem rather than on focusing on a “solution”. Without, of course, offering a solution himself.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                DRS – Fair enough. Thanks.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                DRS – it probably is but that’s my default response to those kinds of statements that diregard people wanting to fix a problem because ‘hey – I’m not done complaining about the existence of that problem!’Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                That is not at all how I read Jeffery’s post, Mike AND Glyph. (To tell the truth, Glyph, upon re-reading your coments, I didn’t have much appreciation for your anger.) I thought he did a good job of pointing out the real pain that can be inflicted on fellow Americans by racism. Where you got the idea he wasn’t interested in solutions, I don’t know. Is a post focusing on the existence of a problem somehow preventing solutions from being proposed?

                If Jeffery hasn’t been turned off by the response, maybe he’ll post again and push the discussion forward.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                DRS, I’d say I got that impression, and got angry, because in the comments about a piece about how some people experience the world, I said, I experience it this way, and how/where can we find common ground to make it better?

                And Jeff responded (IMO, paraphrased): ‘You’re not experiencing the world the way I do! With FEELING! THAT’S the REAL problem!’

                Er, no. That’s not the real problem. The real problem is, again, racism.

                Look, I am not Apserger’s (I don’t think) but if I were, and related to the world in a less-emotional way than others (I don’t think I do, but surprise surprise, being a unique human being with a unique history I react differently in degree and kind to lots and lots of things, so certainly on some topics I’ll be less emotional than others), and expressed a view to attempting to solve a problem (after agreeing it was a problem!) in a way that made sense to me, and somebody jumped on me and said UR DOIN’ IT WRONG, well, who’s got the problem?

                Aren’t I doing the best I can with what I got, like we all are?Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                This is a response to Glyph’s post of 3:19 pm, which is apparently underneath this post but there’s no “Reply” button under Glyph’s post – for whatever reason.

                I think you responded very emotionally to Jeffery; so what if he’s talking about his feelings? Are feelings such scary things? You obviously don’t think they are because you’re talking about your feelings in this 3:19 pm post. Why are your feelings legitimate but Jeffery’s description of others’ experiences (and maybe his own?) and the feelings engendered as a result can be seen as avoiding the subject?

                …attempting to solve a problem (after agreeing it was a problem!) in a way that made sense to me, and somebody jumped on me and said UR DOIN’ IT WRONG, well, who’s got the problem? Aren’t I doing the best I can with what I got, like we all are?

                So you want a cookie for agreeing it was a problem. Okay, here’s your cookie. But I can’t help but feel that other people’s pain is something that can be acknowledged, especially since it’s not the kind of experiences we’re likely to encounter ourselves.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                You are missing the point DRS. I don’t care if Jeffrey talks about *his* feelings. We can all talk about our feelings. That’s what we come here for. But if someone sees their *own* feelings/sincere attempt to understand the problem and work towards a solution get posited instead as part of the problem, you can’t be surprised if they react emotionally (and hey, where’s my cookie?)

                Jeff could have left me out of it and talked about his feelings and how moved he was, and I’d get it. But from my perspective, Jeff implied I was the problem under discussion (pretty sure TNC said nothing about IT troubleshooting processes or employees in his essay), while knowing next to nothing about me, and prescribe my reaction for me.

                You honestly don’t see where this could be off-putting?

                Also, I apologized, immediately, so I don’t really see much more to be said on the topic.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Chris,

          You and I will have to agree to disagree about how pervasive racism is. I think that statement might be true when discussing ‘race’ but those are separate things. For example, a specific: Black kids as a group do not do well in school as white kids. Seems like race plays a factor. If you drill down though it’s not really a race issue. It’s an income issue. Poor kids do worse than non-poor kids and race plays little or no factor.

          A sub-discussion of this subject though is why more blacks are poor than whites. I’m willing to admit that does have something to do with race. So the trick is really to unpack every issue one-by-one and get to the root cause. As I said though, if you want to have a high-level discussion of Racism it will get you nowhere. I feel like you want one big victory inistead of being satisfied with chipping away at the problem. Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Mike, this is precisely the sort of thing about which “agreeing to disagree” is problematic. I can’t say, “Yeah, racism is everywhere, including in you, but you don’t see it that way, so let’s just drop it,” because dropping it is a big part of the problem.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Chris – It seems clear that your intent is to get an acknowledgement that racism is everywhere and thus race-related problems are all rooted in irrational behavior. What this would accomplish I don’t know other than to provide an excuse to not actually try to fix anything, because you are damn well not going to make racism go away with anything other than patience and generational die-off.Report

              • because you are damn well not going to make racism go away with anything other than patience and generational die-off.

                I think there’s more sympathy on the left to this perspective than you may realize. But in order for it to go away with generational die-off, it needs to first be acknowledged as existing and understood for what it is.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                +1. If the next generation continues to be nostalgic for the Confederacy, we’ll have to wait for the one after that (at least.)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                As someone recently put it (damn, where did I read that?) prior to Vietnam southerners were the only defeated Americans. That attitude persists and creates a feeling of inferiority. For a long time, romanticizing the Confederacy was the salve for that wound. I think this is changing. High-end Southern culture is on the rise as of late. The best example of this is Garden & Gun magazine. Southern cuisine is finally getting its due as the one true Amerian cuisine. Stuff like this is going to help move us in that direction.Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Uh, sorta. America doesn’t like to admit the Chinese kicked the living doo-doo out of us. That’s part of the reason Americans have amnesia about the Korean War.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                southerners were the only defeated Americans.

                I’d think that being captured, taken away in chains, and enslaved counts as defeat.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                This.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Generational die-off is the leading cause of cultural change! Mike, we are in synch like whoa today.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Quick! Let’s solve the debt crisis before our powers go away!Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                Heh. The beneficiaries of all that Gummint Largesse are dyin’ off in droves, wavin’ goodbye to us, feebly laughing at the rest of us. They’ll all be tucked away in their coffins before the chickens come home to roost.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Generational die-off is in fact a key part of the solution to the debt crisis.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Only if they die off quickly enough. And since a large part of our debt problem stems from policies devoted to preventing them from dying off quickly, it’s ll quite the amusing little cluster fish.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                We’re overdue for the flu.Report

          • Avatar Kimmi says:

            So. We have two principles here:
            1) “We aren’t all racists, so assume good faith and talk about specifics so we can Fix Something!”
            2) “We’re all racists, just look at my MRI evidence… Now let’s get to fixing our heads!”

            I think there’s a bit of merit to both… And that the second IS someone pointing to specifics… is someone trying to solve a perceived problem.

            Does this make sense?Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              The problem is that while ‘racism’ may be specific it’s way to macro to be solved in a single-subject debate. And since racism involves irrational behavior you can’t exactly reason it away.Report

        • I basically agree with this, though in terms of the length of the essay, I think it could have at least been better organized – I suspect if he had led with Shirley Sherrod and the story about his friend, but concluded with the paragraph that everyone’s picking out, it may have been more effective.

          In terms of racism pervading every area of our society, I think it’s worth adding that on no given issue is it the sole explanatory factor, but on all or nearly all issues it is a factor. The only way to discuss it in most instances is in general terms.

          Part of the problem is also that one of the side effects of stigmatizing racism is that it seems to most white people that there are only two responses when the topic comes up: (1) deny it, since to be a racist is to be a terrible person, and you are quite sure you’re not a terrible person; or (2) admit it, and saddle yourself with massive amounts of white liberal guilt.

          I’m pretty sure that there is in fact a third option, and I’m pretty sure that much of TNC’s writing is aimed at showing that a third option exists, but I’ve been struggling to articulate it for years. The best I’ve been able to summarize it is abstractly, to wit: Bobby Lee was neither a kind and honorable man nor a racist slaveowner. He was both.Report

          • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

            Or this TNC essay may be the high-water mark for race-politicking. This is all-in.

            And when Barack Obama is gone from the scene, whether it’s this January or 5 Januaries from now, there will be no centerpiece for this stuff to rally around. Charlie Rangel and his like will be gone, and many of the race warriors from the golden age of the Civil Rights Movement. If they had moral authority to speak as they do, those of succeeding generations do not.

            This is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning: It’s the Leftover Left who will die off, the generation who hires TNC in the first place; it’s TNC who is the last of his kind, who is the dinosaur.

            “It’s not ‘spic’ or ‘nigger’ anymore. [Instead] they say, ‘Let’s cut taxes.'” —Charles Rangel, 1994

            No. That does not fly. A new day is coming soon.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              We’re at high-water something.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                High-something, but it’s the wrong color for water.Report

              • Avatar Gen. Tuck Burgidson says:

                FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

                Location: Deep Inside Cheyenne Mountain
                Subject: A Proposal, of Modest Scope

                (audio transcript follows):

                Gentlemen…ladies.

                It’s no secret there’s been a lot of infightin’ around here lately. I don’t need to tell you all that the people here at the League are the best and the brightest we’ve got, and there’s no reason on God’s green earth that I can see for this nonsense.

                Why, you people mostly come out of the Western Enlightenment Liberal tradition! Y’all are demographically more like each other than 99.9% of the planet – mostly American, mostly white, mostly male, mostly middle-class and educated, mostly Judeo-Christian-derived, except for you godless heath –

                (inaudible)

                Anyway, I think it’s high time we focused on our energies on the one thing that has always united and healed us all, as people – I am talkin’ about all-out war.

                No, I don’t mean here on this blog, though you’ve been gettin’ plenty of practice in these here environs.

                I mean, it’s high time the League declared war on another blog.

                My recommendation would be to look at ones that can serve us strategically, such as http://www.theoildrum.com/, and avoid likely-nuclear-armed ones such as http://www.lp.org/

                In my dreams, I see former mortal enemies TVD and Ryan, slow-mo strugglin’ from their foxhole, carryin’ each other to safety while BlaiseP and Chris lay down a suppressing hellfire of rhetoric to cover ’em, with Dwyer and Stillwater rainin’ links from above, like logical death.

                We got some pacifists ’round these parts – Greer, and KatherineMW, right?

                No worries, y’all can still serve, always broken HTML what needs repair.

                CK, you’re on Disinformation. I have no idea what that kid is talkin’ about half the time anyway, and I think he’s on my side. We’ll see what those other buggers make of ‘im but damned quick.

                I think it’s clear that, while not all of you are ‘down’ with that Jesus feller, he wasn’t far wrong when He said, “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?'”

                That’s deep, Gentlemen.

                Now let’s get out there, Leaguers, and kill ourselves another blog.

                Near as I can tell, it appears our internal cohesion must depend on it.

                See you on the other side, and may whatever gods you hold dear…or that Darwin guy…have mercy, on all our souls.

                Signing off,
                General Tuck Burgidson

                (transmission ends)Report

              • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

                What this country needs is a short, victorious war to stem the tide of revolution.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Or we could unite against a telepathic space squid.Report

      • Avatar KatherineMW says:

        Not all good writing is programmatic.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      What do we do, then? Something has to be done, so what do we do?Report

      • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

        I’m not implying that we should stop pressing our positions in one way or another; I’m just saying that I think rational argument is nearly useless. We aren’t experiencing sweeping successes with increasing gay equality because Dan Savage sat down and had a chat with someone; we’re experiencing these successes because culture moves over time. I guarantee Will & Grace had more to do with the recent expansion of gay equality than the sum total of ink spilled making rational arguments about it. I’d bet a very large amount of money on that.

        Especially on matters of widespread and pervasive social ill, I can’t see any other way forward. You simply aren’t going to convince conservatives that “being black” is a disadvantage on anything more than a purely superficial level, so what are you hoping to do here? Do you want to change policy, or do you want to change the way people behave? Rational argument is, for my money, notoriously worthless for improving the latter.

        Mike has extended an olive branch of sorts. Mike is also… not insane, so good luck getting that olive branch from any other conservatives.Report

        • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

          Ryan,

          “I guarantee Will & Grace had more to do with the recent expansion of gay equality than the sum total of ink spilled making rational arguments about it. I’d bet a very large amount of money on that.”

          This +100Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            There’s a problem with that particular statement, though. How do we get to the point where Will & Grace itself is acceptable?

            How many sitcoms with main characters who are black are on network television right now (Fox, ABC, NBC, or CBS)? How many interracial couples on network television right now? Would putting black characters and interracial couples onto network shows change people’s minds, or do we need to do a fair amount of mind changing to get them onto those shows in the first place?Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              The fastest parts of culture move to the point where a TV station is willing to push the envelope and show something new, they put something on the air and then attitudes of the slower folks start to change. I think the role of television in moving culture forward is vastly under-rated.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Again, how to we get to the point where we can put people on TV who can change attitudes? Because we’re clearly not there.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Do you want the attitudes changed with a sledgehammer to the head or with a degree of subtlety that leaves people wondering when they stopped caring about what the characters were doing?Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Mike, I’m looking at my Official Guide to Internet Comment Threads here, and I believe you were supposed to write “jackboot to the neck” there. Please consider this a warning.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                You’re not answering my question. Why do you think there are no sitcoms with black main characters, why are there so few interracial relationships (particularly black men and white women), why so few black protagonists in major dramas? I am using television as an example, of course, if you can answer those questions, then you’ll understand why Will & Grace is two steps ahead us.

                Also, I wonder if you can answer my challenge above: name a place in society where you see racism and its pernicious effects, and maybe you can give us a potential solution.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Chris – I don’t feel like you actually watch that much TV. On top of all of the Tyler Perry-eque sitcoms there are plenty of others with prominent non-white characters. As for cross-racial relationships, I’ve seen plenty. Just to spitball a few in recent memory:

                Castle (latino/black)
                Suits (white/black)
                Grey’s Anatomy (asian/black)
                Private Practice (white/black)
                Hell on Wheels (white/black)
                Hell on Wheels (white/American Indian)

                And for prominent black characters in general, again, are you actually watching TV? I mean, I’m a TV junkie. I see a lot of this. I feel like you would have to have your head under a rock to miss it.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I know Mike can answer his own questions but I just can’t resist: WOD, and ending same. Like, now. I think this would have effects beyond prison and black-community-related, I think it’d take a lot of cultural wind out of the sails of people who see all poor black people as drug-dealing, gun-wielding thugs.

                Because there would BE fewer drug-dealing, gun-wielding thugs, of all races.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                couple more –

                Firefly (sadly-long-cancelled, and sci-fi, so might miss Chris’ criteria) – black/white

                Louie (black/white)

                Also, this TV thing makes me remember I wanted to respond to something similar Chris put out in another thread, where he was referring to a rash of shows nostalgic for pre-1965 – first, I am not sure there have been a rash – a few attempted, in the wake of Mad Men’s critical success, but I think they all died quickly.

                Second, even with Mad Men, I have seen this charge levied and just do not get it. They have dealt with race explicitly a few times on the show, and anyway its (critical – it doesn’t get huge total numbers) popularity is not due to some white nostalgia for pre-civil-rights era, its due to the fact that it is a beautifully written/shot/acted story about a very specific type of character inhabiting a very specific world, told with attention to detail and a artistic yet clinical eye for both the beauty and the ugliness of that time and place.

                If you weren’t referring to Mad Men, Chris, and I am way off-base, please forgive me the aside.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                sorry for typosReport

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, I see you’re still not answering my question. I’ll assume at this point you’re not going to.

                But I will address your points.

                Castle – two main characters are white.
                Suits – two main characters are white.
                Grey’s Anatomy – not really sure who the main characters are on that, so I’ll defer.
                Private Practice – the main character is white
                Hell on Wheels – the main character, around whom the whole premise of the show revolves, is white

                Now, there are characters of color on each of these shows, but they’re not the main characters. Do you see my point now? I doubt it.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Firefly, main character white, though it’s one of my favorite shows, and I love that it has a prominent black female character.

                I don’t know Louie.

                I would have said Psych, but sidekick sort of proves my point more than it argues against it (Psych, which I admit to really enjoying, is a throwback in a lot of really not very good ways).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I should add that you are right, Mike, particularly on cable, there have been more interracial relationships in the last couple years than there were in the 10 years prior. I hope that’s a trend that continues.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Chris – I think you are missing the concept of ‘ensemble television’. With the exception of Castle, all of the other shows are ensembles meaning there is no actual ‘main character’. There have been plenty of shows with black leads. It appears this is even on the rise for the fall:

                http://www.drewreports.com/2012/05/more-black-lead-actors-this-fall-on-broadcast-tv-series/Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Huh, I thought it was obvious I was referring to the interracial marriage in Firefly (Wash/Zoe) and like Mike says, Whedon’s thing is kinda the ‘ensemble’ even if Mal is the ‘protagonist’ nominally.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                And on Louie, his ex-wife (with whom he has 2 daughters) has been portrayed as black (though ‘Louie’ has a slippery notion of reality and casting and that could change without warning or explanation).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Glyph, ah, Walsh and Zoey. Man, I love Zoey.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Mike, the problem is that none of those shows are about true Scotsmen.Report

              • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

                Scotsmen are definitely an underrated group in television.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Doesn’t every single CSI L&O crime procedural clone have the same mixed and matched spread of ethnic and gender diversity on the team? And isn’t the team’s executive boss normally a woman and/or person of color these days?

                (Heck, isn’t every President on TV and Cinema African-American these days? Granted, the world is always coming to an end on their watch, but that’s just art imitating life)Report

              • Avatar DRS says:

                Anyone remember “Julia”? Or “Room 222”? Late 60’s TV shows with middle-class, well-spoken, suit-wearing black principal characters? Presented as authority figures, especially Room 222? Let’s talk about getting back to that level of presentation rather than assume it’s never been done before. (And both were pretty good shows, if I remember correctly.)Report

    • Avatar Sam says:

      I think it’d be unfortunate if we simply avoided these topics because we’re at each other’s throats about them. We ought to explore them.Report

      • Avatar Glyph says:

        Sam, I’d like to explore them too. I’d just also like us to move our hands a few inches away from each other’s throats while we do so.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          I think hands can be at throats, sure. I also think that most of the time the perception of “hands being at throats” is made by people who’d rather not talk about racism.

          It’s almost as if the topic by itself is a hand on that person’s throat, and bringing it up acts as a reminder. Or something.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            I get what you are saying, but whether the perception is real or imagined (call it 50/50 or whatever percentage you want), the cornered person does not react well almost 100% of the time. We are trying to negotiate that space between ‘letting someone get away with it’ and ‘cornering’ them, whence the sharp teeth come out and nobody gets out unbloodied.

            On the internet, we all think we’re Batman, swooping in from the shadows to right injustice.

            But sometimes, all the guy on the other end sees is some nut in a suit running at him.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Part of the problem when it comes to talking about privilege is that there are many kinds of privilege that are pretty awesome and the problem with them is that they are not universal… but complaining about someone else’s privilege comes across as complaining that they had it rather than that you (or someone else) didn’t.Report

  13. Avatar KatherineMW says:

    I’d second your pick, Nob. It’s a thoughtful, insightful, and spectacularly well-written article.

    This site just isn’t the kind of place where it’s likely to get a thoughtful and intelligent discussion.Report

    • Avatar DRS says:

      Well, it has potential. They did (finally) boot Bob Cheeks, after all. But the private-conversation quality to threads can be off-putting, no question.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        Talk more.

        If there is one thing I would ask of the mostly-silent commentariat, it’s open up and talk. Some of us talk too much. Some of us talk to others of us about the same things (in particular) WAY too much.

        So the more people that talk, the less likely it is that Regular Commentor A and Regular Commentor B can start a back-and-forth that creates the private-conversation quality you find off-putting.

        (FWIW, yes, *I* find it off-putting, too)Report

    • Avatar Johanna says:

      part of why you should stick aroundReport

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Like I said above, it’s difficult to have a conversation about race here. There are three types of people here: types like me who get pretty emotional about the issue, for whatever reason (maybe we just have eyes), people who get really defensive or automatically see it as a form of gotcha rhetoric, and the people who tell everyone to calm down and maybe talk about something else. I’m not sure any of us are really doing any good, but these issues should be talked about, and the people here are the ones who really need to talk about it.Report

      • To no small extent, I think this is true. My question is whether you think it’s also broadly true outside of this site. I think it is, though it may not necessarily seems as such to the extent all of the people involved in a discussion are from the same one of those three groups.

        No, I don’t know what this means. But I do take some solace and encouragement when I see exchanges such as that involving Burt and JHG.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          I suspect it’s pretty easy to have conversations about race at other sites – say, BJ or RedState.

          It’s easy to have a conversation about race when everybody agees it’s other people, and not us, that have anything to learn.Report

          • I agree. This is what I was trying to get at, inarticulately, in my third sentence.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            I’m trying to think, now, whether I’ve ever had a productive discussion about race, online or off, with anyone who didn’t agree on certain fundamental things (like, say, that racism is pervasive), and the answer is no. That doesn’t mean that I’ve never had a productive conversation about racism online, just that it starts with a certain level of common ground that doesn’t exist here.

            That said, I think this is the sort of place where conversations about racism are the most important.Report

            • That said, I think this is the sort of place where conversations about racism are the most important.

              Exactly.Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              “I’m trying to think, now, whether I’ve ever had a productive discussion about race, online or off, with anyone who didn’t agree on certain fundamental things…”

              So you have never had a productive conversation with someone on race unless they agree with your primary thesis? Shocking… Like I said Chris, this seems to be your line in the sand. Admit that racism is everywhere or there’s nothing else to discuss. I don’t know what your hang-up is on that. but I generally find that setting pre-conditions for debate guarantee failure.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                It is certainly my pre-condition for taking someone seriously on issues of race.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                So if I point out that I have devoted literally thousands upon thousands of words writing about race-based education issues, desegregation plans and school diversity and I have some decent ideas about how we can improve the educational experience for black people, I get dismissed because I don’t see racism everywhere?

                That’s a RIDICULOUS standard to set and it’s your loss. But point taken Chris. You certainly don’t have to worry about continuing this discussion with me.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                While I object to the refusal to take people from differing perspectives “seriously,” I think that in the main there is some real truth to the notion that conversation cannot occur without some agreement.

                You can’t have a discussion over whether pre-millenialism and post-mallenialism is correct with an atheist. You have to backtrack the conversation as to whether Christianity itself is correct. Likewise, discussing the ramifications of pervasive racism (which I believe is the conversation Chris wants to have) isn’t possible with someone who believes that it’s not pervasive. The conversation has to be whether it is pervasive to begin with (which Chris is not interested in discussing because he considers it already determined).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, not if you don’t see it everywhere, but if you don’t admit that it is everywhere. If I thought you were open to it, I’d be happy to point you to the empirical research, but I don’t think you are. And that’s the problem. I don’t think you’re even open to the possibility, simply because you don’t see it. So yeah, I’m sure there’s no point in talking about it with you, but it’s not all that ridiculous to say so.Report

              • I think the point is that it’s not up for debate – the only people who know whether certain things do them harm/make them feel inferior for a given reason, etc. are the people who experience that harm or those feelings. To debate the existence of racism is to tell them that whether they are being harmed, and whether they feel inferior is for someone else to decide.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                C’mon Mark. We can all think of at least one example of someone screaming racism when the bad thing that happened to them had zero to do with race. But of course, we can’t prove a negative so racism seems a convienent charge (it’s an irrational behavior so the bad thing must be the result of hate = victim is right by default).Report

              • Sure we can. But when we value the speaker’s humanity enough (and they are the one claiming injury for themselves) we ask them why they are upset and do all we can to understand why- we don’t just start complaining that we did nothing wrong or accusing them of lying or eing oversensitive.Report

              • …and i confess this isn’t always easy to do even when we are talking about something else with someone we care about dearly. But it’s still what we should always strive to do.Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Mark:

                Once “we ask them why they are upset and do all we can to understand why” can we then determine if their complaints are valid? That would seem to be the next logical step, right?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Or mebbe it’s just all in the game, Scott.

                http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/31/magazine/31clinton-t.html?pagewanted=all

                And the man once called the “first black president” remains deeply wounded by allegations that he made racially insensitive remarks during the campaign, like dismissing Obama’s South Carolina win by comparing it with Jesse Jackson’s victories there in the 1980s.

                “None of them ever really took seriously the race rap,” he told me. “They knew it was politics. I had one minister in Texas in the general election come up and put his arm around me.” This was an Obama supporter. “And he came up, threw his arm around me and said, ‘You’ve got to forgive us for that race deal.’ He said, ‘That was out of line.’ But he said, ‘You know, we wanted to win real bad.’ And I said, ‘I got no problem with that.’ I said it’s fine; it’s O.K. And we laughed about it and we went on.”Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                I expect that Bill’s standing and Scott’s standing aren’t exactly equivalent.

                Sub in “average white dude” for “Scott” and it still holds true.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                Don’t think of Scott as an “average white dude.” Think of him as an Uncle Tom.

                http://newsone.com/101141/top-5-fox-news-uncle-toms/Report

              • Avatar Scott says:

                Tom:

                I’m white so I guess that would make me Simon Legree, right?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                You’re white? According to Joe Biden, you want to put black people back in chains.

                “Was he talking about slavery? You bet your ass he was. Was he using the vernacular? Yes, he was. Did he think it was cute? Yes, he did. Was it something stupid to say? You bet your life it was stupid.
                Rangel added, “if a black had said it, we would have been laughing, because we would know deep down, they may be beating the hell out of us but they ain’t thinking about putting us into any chains.”

                —Charlie Rangel, of all people

                The only stupid ones are the ones who take this stuff seriously. That was my point about them race-baiting Bill Clinton of all people fer crissakes, Pat.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sounds like you and Blaise are on the same page, Tom.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Are all bankers white people, or are all white people bankers?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP says:

                So this morning, my (Republican) girlfriend gets out of bed, looks an article, something about partisan poll watchers (she’s having trouble finding it, but this will do just as well) Oh, she just found it, over on nbcnews.

                Okay, this angered her. I had slept in, was stumbling around for coffee, she’s screeching about it. I blearily replied, “I had this fight yesterday. These sorts of things emerge from some reporter going through a crowd to find the most fearful, ignorant person in search of a headline. But look, really, I’m old enough to remember real voter intimidation at the polls.”

                This caused a little meltdown in my Dear One.

                I’m sick of the race debate, truly I am. But here’s a case where the GOP is sending voters across fifteen degrees of north latitude to find voter fraud, and always to minority voting districts.

                Voter intimidation? This sort of bullshit needs a soundtrack. There’s George Wallace in 1963, “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever!” And y’know what? I think George Wallace was a goddamn prophet. It will be segregation forever. From what I’ve seen here on LoOG, what I see in my own kitchen, it’s gonna be segregation until the sun burns down to a lump of dead charcoal. It will be put on life support, by Liberals and Conservatives, yes even Libertarians, too. They just love it. It’s been with us for so long, like a crazy uncle. Yes, he was dangerous back in the day, but now in his dotage, he’s harmless. Think again, folks.

                I have been called Quixotic. But el ingenioso hidalgo thought he was fighting a rearguard battle against forces of evil in the world. Cervantes lived at the very end of the world of chivalry and Don Quixote represents its dying gasp. Every effort to preserve the idiotic world where Race matters is doomed to failure. I am no Don Quixote. I am Sancho Panza, who when el ingenioso hidalgo would get his antique ass in a sling, would cry for home.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Blaise – “George Wallace was a goddamn prophet. It will be segregation forever.”

                That’s hilarious and disturbing. The last book from Charles Murray makes an empirical case for that, arguing among other things that people are happier if they live as the majority race in a largely homogeneous community. That’s fairly unsettling if one is hoping for progress towards a tolerant pluralist society (which I am).

                As for Sancho Panza, really? That’s your self-image? Profound, witty side-kick? I would have guessed more Omar Little from The Wire – profound, rugged individualist, making money as a ruthless entrepreneur.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Of course people are happier if they’re in the majority. They don’t spend their lives being insulted by people like Charles Murray.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Charles Murray is too often unfairly abused … but he sort of deserves it given the subtitle of his last book. The point, fwiw, was that there is empirical evidence that independent of socio-economic factors, people prefer homogenous communities. If so, it’s pretty disconcerting to the pluralist, liberal worldview frankly. I find it disconcerting anyhow.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Charles Murray is too often unfairly abused

                And that’s so unnecessary.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        ” types like me who get pretty emotional about the issue, for whatever reason (maybe we just have eyes)”

        Okay, eye-boy, see that? What you did there? At the end of your sentence?

        The reason we can’t have conversations about race is that people like you don’t actually think there’s a conversation to be had. When you say “conversation”, what you actually mean is “I talk, they listen”.Report

        • Sometimes listening – and doing nothing else – is the appropriate thing to do. If you see someone you care about crying or in a foul mood, the humane and decent response is usually to ask them why they’re crying or in a foul mood, not to start berating them about how they shouldn’t be crying or in a foul mood.Report

          • Avatar Scott says:

            Mark:

            How is your example analogous to the situation we have here where the folks that profess that they want a conversation add snide remarks about how they know better?Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Density, and people like you don’t think there’s a conversation to be had because what you mean by conversation is, “nothing they say is valid because it’s all just pc/liberal bullshit.” So we’re even.

          And yeah, when it comes to race, I figure anyone who pretty much elides or dismisses racism should be doing more listening than talking.Report

  14. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    I just take the postscript as saying “don’t dismiss the article out of hand”. I guess the difficulty with that would be in critiquing it without being seen as dismissing it out of hand, but that’s probably not that difficult.

    Okay, so I found there were a lot of interesting insights in the article and it’s really just interesting for me to hear about how other communities understand things. The two problems I have with the article, and I don’t think they amount to a dismissal, are that he doesn’t seem to really wrestle with the fact that criticisms of the sitting President have been batshit crazy for some time now. We just tend to forget them with time. I can probably pull out old letfy newspapers with images of Reagan as Hitler or Dracula- my favorite was actually “Grandpa Caligula.” I also probably still have videotapes of late night ads where you could send off for videos to tell you the shocking truth about how the Clintons killed Vince Foster and how they were planning to suspend free elections. We should still remember when Bush was both the stupidest man in history and cleverly instituting a dictatorship- my Canadian friends were convinced he was going to suspend free elections. And, now, surprise!, Obama is an anti-American idiot who’s planning to suspend free elections and institute Communism. TNC sort of acknowledges that things were pretty unhinged with the Clintons (conveniently brushing over all the Bushitler stuff), but forgets just how unhinged they’ve been for some time now. We might just imagine it to be worse now. However, because it’s been so fishing bad for so long, it’s hard to suss out just how much of this has to do with racism. Yes, the people who are really fishing racist are really fishing racist, but does that apply to every Republican who’s unhinged about Obama, or would they more likely be the same way about any Democrat in the White House? It’s really hard to tell, which makes it a frustrating conversation to start.

    My other problem is just that a President has to be “twice as good” too, which he doesn’t address nearly as much as I’d like in the essay.Report

    • Avatar Rufus F. says:

      Oh, also, I’m losing track of the ways that Obama has been a coward since getting elected, so the message that he’s been cowardly in terms of race issues because such is the lot of a black President doesn’t resonate as much as it could.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        In the comments to that article, there was a subthread about how Obama is the greatest president since Roosevelt and how historians don’t even know how to process his presidency yet.

        I was reminded of those who say the same about Bush with regards to the Middle East.

        I guess it’s too soon to tell.Report

        • Avatar Rufus F. says:

          Much like the significance of the French Revolution.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            Apropos of my comment but not your response exactly, you might know that the Birchers were actually opposed to the Vietnam War because they believed Johnson was continuing the war against Communists in Vietnam as a means of instituting Communism in the United States.

            (My point being that plenty of people will tend to go to extremes in their estimation of political leaders.)Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          There’s a sort of partisan that, until the internet came around, I didn’t know existed under the age of 70, who simply have no perspective whatsoever. I would find it amusing if I didn’t know that these people vote and serve on juries.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      We should still remember when Bush was both the stupidest man in history and cleverly instituting a dictatorship

      Bush was just a stupid figurehead; Cheney was the one doing the dirty work. Honestly, it’s not like this stuff is hard.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      There’s some false equivalence there, Rufus. Yeah, there was a lot of irrational Bush hatred: how much of it was in sources as mainstream as the Wall Street Journal, which was pushing “Hillary killed Vince Foster” as long and as hard as anyone on what’s generally accepted to be the lunatic fringe? And how many elected officials were 9/11 truthers, compared to the number who have publicly professed Birtherism (either positively, or of the mealy-mouthed “I’m not sure” variety)? There’s always been unhingedness, but it’s more mainstream among Republicans, and more virulent with Obama than with any previous president.Report

      • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

        Or put it this way. Mitt Romney is perfectly comfortable making a birther joke in front of an audience and it gets cheers and laughs. If John Kerry had made a 9/11 Truther joke, I don’t think he’d get any cheers, even in the most Democratic of audiences.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley says:

          To be fair, there’s a big difference. I think most people, including conservatives, realize that the birther business is quite silly–not worth anything more than a joke, in fact. Whereas the truther business is about the worst terrorist attack ever on our country (and Kerry’s run was definitely “too soon” for that kind of joke), and it’s an accusation that our government killed a couple thousand of its own citizens in a secret plot. That’s a lot less funny.Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            I might agree *if* the climax of Birtherism were not that Obama is therefore ineligible for the presidency and therefore should be removed from office. That’s the point where it no longer becomes a tasteless tweaking. That a number of people believed it (and a smaller number still do) means that it is, at best, wildly inappropriate as a joke.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              I don’t think it was a great joke. Perhaps mildly inappropriate (I’m not so sure about wildly–it was in Mitt’s birth state, so that context is important, I think, in making it really tongue-in-cheek). But without any of us having been there, we can’t really tell if the crowd was laughing at Obama or laughing at birtherism.Report

          • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

            To be fair, there’s a big difference.

            Sure, we know for a fact that birtherism is false.Report

  15. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    You know, I’ve lived in a lot of places that were highly mixed and have always had lots of interactions with blacks, but I remember the first time I walked down the street in Marseille, a passing black guy saying, “Bonjour!” in a way that was so open and happy and unguarded that I had nothing to compare it to and being quietly staggered by that in spite of myself.Report

    • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

      You didn’t respond “Goldberg”?Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        I’m tickled by your comment even though I don’t know what it means. I feel like it’s a reference I should know, which intrigues me.Report

        • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

          Old joke:

          Goldberg finally retires from his clothing business and doesn’t know what to do with all his free time. At the suggestion of some fellow retirees, he books a cruise to Europe. The first night on board, he tries to make conversation with his table-mate, a Frenchman, but they have no language in common, so the Frenchman shrugs, smiles, and says “Bon Appetit!” Goldberg responds “Goldberg”. They’re always seated together, so this conversation is repeated at each dinner.

          One day, the purser stops by Goldberg’s stateroom to ask how he’s enjoying the cruise. He responds that he’s learning a lot about the world, for instance how formal the French are. Even though they’re old friends now, Mr. Bon Appetit feels he has to introduce himself every night. The purser is a puzzled, but a few questions clarify the situation. He explains it, and Goldberg is mortified at his ignorance.

          That night, as soon as he gets to his table, Goldberg wishes the Frenchmen a hearty “Bon Appetit!”, to which he replies, with a broad smile, “Goldbairg!”.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      By the way, some might see this as PC nitpicking, but you may want to say “black people” instead of “blacks.” The latter is, well, ask a black person.Report

      • Avatar Rufus F. says:

        Eh, I think I’d use the word ‘signalling’ instead of ‘nitpicking.’Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Feel free to call it whatever you want.Report

          • Avatar Rufus F. says:

            How about preening?

            When I left off here yesterday, at about 300 comments, the subtext- actually often the text- of your comments on the thread had been that you, Chris, are clued into racism in a way that the rest of us are not, and it’s very tiresome and frustrating for you to watch us attempt to discuss the issue here because it never gets anywhere.

            In this case, I tried to start a discussion on the pervasiveness and normalcy of racism and racial tension in the United States- something you’ve elsewhere called a baseline starting point for a discussion- by way of a comparison, and your response was to point out that there was a racially insensitive nuance to the term I used that I am unaware of, but you, Chris, are aware of it, and not going to waste your time explaining it to me.

            Maybe it’s changed overnight, but yesterday, you reminded me more than anything of what happens here when we try to discuss conservatives and Tom comes on to comment that this place sucks because we know so little about conservatives. You say this is the sort of place that needs to have a discussion on racism. Absolutely! But since that discussion is clearly not going to live up to your standards, given the unbearable whiteness of everyone else here, maybe you could let us fumble through without you?Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              You see what you did there?

              Anyway, yeah, I’ve been self-righteous here. As I said below, I’m not the one to talk to the unbearably white folks here about race. I realize that, even if I can’t help chiming in now and then (any more than you can help your particular breed of self-righteousness, which I’m sure you’re convinced is infinitely more productive, even if, as you yourself must admit, it never sparks any discussion here, ever). But yeah, it is frustrating how blatantly stupid some of the people here are on the issue of race. Am I a race genius? Fuck no. I’ve spent my adult life dealing with my childhood in a small southern town which was, at that time, still struggling to get a hang of what it meant to live in a post-1954 racial world. But I’ve seen more enlightened discussions of race and racism in a fucking truck stop diner than this bullshit. So yeah, you can tell me I’m preening (for myself, apparently, because I’m well aware of how it’s received here), and you can yet again pretend that you’re the calm, rational one here (it’s your schtick, I wouldn’t expect differently), but I’m right: this place has race issues. I’m not the only one who sees that. I’m not the one who sees it the most clearly, even. But I see it, and I don’t have any respect for the idiots who don’t, at least not on this issue. If that bothers you, tough shit. At least now you have another opportunity for your own special brand of preening.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Also, the reply I gave to your comment (that you were using an antiquated mode of reference for a particular group) was about as deep as it deserved. If you want something more, write something more. Or write some more about me.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Don’t break an arm patting yourself on the back there, Chris.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Right, that’s obviously what I’m doing, since I keep pointing out that I’m failing.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Perhaps, but you really do seem to be coming across as, if not the only person who’s really serious about the issue, as one of the special few.

                But yeah, it is frustrating how blatantly stupid some of the people here are on the issue of race

                I see it, and I don’t have any respect for the idiots who don’t, at least not on this issue

                Come on, you’re even losing me here, and I agree with your essential point. You’re working overtime to draw lines between the good folks and bad folks here, instead of either listening or trying to really explain your ideas clearly. I’m pretty sure I know what the basis for your argument is, but mostly from other past discussions; I’m not getting it from this thread.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, I agree that my tone hasn’t been productive. I’ve said so. I also don’t think I’m the only one here with my eyes open. I just think far too many have them closed. Furthermore, I don’t think being able to see that we live in a country that still has far too much racism is something deserving of reward or recognition. I do, however, think that not being able to see it, and what’s more, actively avoiding even attempting to see it, is deserving of scorn.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Chris,

                Your main argument seems to be with Mike, and below you call discussion with him a “complete waste of time.” but where has he said there’s not ” still far too much racism,” in the U.S? I really think you’re defining him rather than listening to him, and it’s not really impossible to have a conversation with him; you are just refusing to have it except totally on your terms. If it’s a complete wate of time to try, it looks to me like you are bound and determined to make damn sure it’s a waste of time.

                Seriously, Chris, it would be great if the League could have a good discussion about this, but nobody is sabotaging it quite as badly as you are. Listen to Mike, then ask him to listen to you. Quit demonizing him.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                James, I don’t think he’s patting himself on the back. I think he’s being honest about his “righteous indignation”, and he’s also being honest in saying that he thinks there’s empirical evidence to justify that indignation. The part you’re objecting to, it seems to me, is that he’s being unapologetic about his views. But he’s admitting that. Which is part of his larger critique: from his pov, someone who denies that racism has real effects on minorities isn’t being honest.

                There might be something to criticize in there, but I don’t think it’s that Chris is patting himself on the back.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Stillwater,

                “Which is part of his larger critique: from his pov, someone who denies that racism has real effects on minorities isn’t being honest.”

                I don’t think anyone here has denied that racism exists and that it has negative effects. What Chris is looking for is for everyone to admit that racism is a Big, Huge Problem that permiates all parts of society before the discussion can progress to specifics. It’s either a line in the sand designed to prevent actual problem-solving or it’s some kind of weird point-scoring strategy. He presents it as a sort of IQ test for us but I’m hoping he’s not quite that arrogant.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I do think racism is a huge problem, and I do think it permeates all parts of society. I don’t think you have to admit all of this to participate in a discussion about racism. I think you have to admit a.) racism exists, b.) it’s widespread, and c.) it’s a problem, before you can participate in any productive discussion about racism, because in order for such a discussion to be productive, it has to get past there that point. That point’s where we already are, as a society. If we’re just dancing around prior to a-c, then we’re not really being productive.

                Now, I think it would be possible to have a useful discussion that leads up to a-c, if people are open to the possibility of a-c. I think some people here, yourself included, have shown that you’re not. So it’s not so much an IQ test as a test of whether it would be a complete waste of time. With you, it would be. Same with Scott, and Blaise, and more than a few others. If you’re wondering why I think that about you in particular, read your first comments, and consider how that looks as a response to Coates’ essay, which is in part about a-c.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Chris – sometimes I would like to require an IQ test before someone can comment here at The LOOG, however, even morons make good points once in a while. If you were really interested in problem-solving you wouldn’t set pre-conditions. You would simply begin the dialogue. Like I said though, i don’t think you actually want to have a productive conversation.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, first, let me apologize for calling you a shitty human being. That was out of line. Also, I’m sorry if I didn’t give you a fair shake here. Perhaps you’re not of the sort for whom the first examples of racism that pop into your head are the Congressional Black Caucus or Marion Barry. I didn’t give you a chance to show otherwise.

                Second, I am interested in dialogue, but like I said, I get irked because there’s a pattern. I don’t know if you remember the Treyvon Martin posts, but that’s how race conversations have gone here in the past (gender isn’t much better), and I find that deeply disturbing. As I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not sure if it’s possible to have a discussion about racism here, and I’m still not. But I shouldn’t have behaved as though it weren’t.

                I will ask you again, where do you see racism? Not simply disparities, and certainly not just cultural differences, but racism and its effects.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                even if, as you yourself must admit, it never sparks any discussion here, ever

                Good point- I’ll take it to heart and stop coming to the site.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Awwwww… You want someone to ask you to stay? Please stay, Rufus! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease. There, somebody asked.

                This is your other schtick. When you don’t like the conversation that’s going on in a comment section, you tell us you’ve stayed away, or you threaten to stay away. It looks really funny alongside the “above the fray,” enlightened Rufus schtick, because it’s the opposite of it.

                Seriously, though, post something on Locke or Hobbes. I’ll read it, 3 of us will comment on it, and you’ll feel better. “They love me! They really love me!”Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                Chris, take a deep breath, count to 10, and read that comment again, as if someone else had written it. What do you think about it?

                Because, frankly, I’m as much in agreement with you as anyone else here, and you’re not making us look good.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Mike, I assume Rufus is being flippant. If I’m wrong, and he really is threatening to leave, then to be honest, I find it even sillier.

                I don’t mean to associate this with the views I’ve expressed here. I’m sorry if it rubs off on people who agree with me to any extent. This is strictly a Rufus thing. It’s hard to see it as being anyone else, because it is specifically Rufus’ schtick, but I’ll leave it alone, and he can just ignore my preening.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “I assume Rufus is being flippant. ”

                That doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to be a dick in response.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                The mind boggles.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Density, dickishness begets dickishness.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Wow, Chris, you really do think I’m a piece of shit, huh? Or, at least, beneath any respect. I mean, I honestly had no idea that I had a shtick, much less that people found it so obnoxious around here- okay, I know, I know- you’d probably use the word “pathetic,” or something like that over “obnoxious.”

                Honestly, I also don’t remember ever threatening to leave the site. What I’ve done is stay away from some comment threads that were getting mean and nasty because I worried they’d make me angry or hurt and I’d say something I didn’t want to. And I’ve said before that I wasn’t commenting on some thread or I was coming in late, although to be honest that’s usually because I don’t have as much time to be here as I end up spending being here. Generally, I’m not trying to say I’m above it all- I just really don’t have any spare time anymore. Anyway, if that’s my shtick, I wasn’t aware.

                Also, I think when you keep making fun of me for “pretending” to be calm or rational, what you’re talking about is a self-image that I try to live up to, and probably fail as much as anyone else. I’m definitely failing at this moment, but still trying. Call it “repression”- it’s still what the vast majority of us do in every human community we take part in.

                I think what you’re referring to in the larger sense is that, as you’ve pointed out a few times now, it sometimes does hurt when I spend 12-14 hours reading some book and posting on it and then nobody comments. What I usually tell myself, and I’m probably still going to cling to this belief, is that it’s just like when Mr. Wall posts something I like a lot and I don’t comment because I have nothing much to add. So, most of the time it’s fine. But, yes, my deepest fear is that I’m wasting my time here, or that nothing I say is worth responding to. I think there’s a larger human fear of not connecting with others underlying that. You’d have no way of knowing, of course, that I grew up with a parent who regularly told me that I’m stupid and my thoughts were not worth listening to. But, I am probably triggered about that and insecure and somewhat irrationally so because of that trigger. Feel free to make fun of that.

                Anyway, yes, when you pointed out that “nobody ever” responds to what I say here, it hurt, silly or not. Partly it hurt because it seemed unrelated to the discussion of racism and so superfluous and unnecessarily mean, but also it hurt because I suspect you’re right. Most people reach an age where they seem pathetic to those who are younger than them and it hurts to get called on that. Even at my age, it hurts to get called a loser by the cool kids. But, the point is, you nailed me- you found a sore spot of mine and used it to make me feel pretty stupid for coming here so fucking often over the last few years. I think probably the recognition of just how much time it really has been and that underlying that time and effort was a desire to connect with other people, which has apparently failed, probably was a bit of a light bulb moment for me.

                So, unsurprisingly, you now think it’s also stupid or silly or whatever to stop coming here in order to avoid wasting my time saying things to people who don’t care what I have to say, according to you. You say that I certainly must know that when I post things nobody ever responds to them. You see where this might put me in a bind? I suppose I could just ignore your low opinion of me altogether, which as you’ve admitted has fuck-all to do with the racism discussion you say you want with the other “fucking idiots” who actually disagree with you about racism. But, here’s the thing: maybe you’re right, in which case nearly everything I could do with my time would be more worthwhile than being here.

                I’m sure you’ll call it fishing for compliments or whatever, but I really could not fucking care less at this point. Making fun of me because nobody cares what I have to say here, in your opinion, threw me- of course, on some level, I want to know if that’s true. Really? Besides, fishing for compliments is pointless because maybe everyone else is just being nice about it. Certainly you keep claiming that your consistent viciousness is just bringing the truth that everyone else is too polite to say. I’ve always taken insults more to heart than compliments. Because why the fuck would you take the time to try to hurt my feelings about that? It has absolutely nothing to do with your attempts to address racism here and just suggests that your level of viciousness throughout the thread isn’t coming from the good place you claim it is.

                Now, I don’t doubt that you’re triggered about racism, but you’re also not listening to the “fucking idiots” whose full spectrum of thoughts about the single most difficult and painful issue in American life you’ve found beneath you by virtue of what beliefs you’ve attributed to them. You’re also not listening to me, and telling a bunch of us that you’re not listening to us because we’re fucking idiots or our opinions are worthless, or whatever, doesn’t change the fact that you don’t know what you’re talking about when you go on to make your little classification tables of our positions, which you’ve been too pissed off to listen to. Seriously, your categories 1, 2, and 3, that you’ve shared on your blog and in this thread- my position is not in any of those categories, although I’m fairly certain where you’d place me.

                Anyway, whatever, I got made fun of by one of the cool kids and it hurt. Life goes on. Besides, the honest to God truth is I have plenty of friends in the physical world who seemingly care about what I have to say, or at least don’t make the effort to make me feel shitty about myself. I’d much rather spend time with them.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Rufus, a few things. First, I am sorry I hurt your feelings. I hit a soft spot that I didn’t know was there.

                Second, it is your schtick to pop into a discussion, tell us what you think of the discussion (not what you think on the topic), and then either tell us that you’re leaving the blog for the duration of the discussion, or that you stayed away because of it. You’ve done it enough for me to notice the pattern. So yeah, I didn’t take the threat to leave seriously.

                Third, I do place you in category 2, you’re right. Of course, you guessing that I would doesn’t mean it’s not true. The schtick I described above puts you firmly in that category, because you bring it out when someone says something offensive, and people get riled. But you don’t say anything about the offensive remark, except maybe to imply that you and the higher ups are aware of it (why should we care)? You say something about the tone, which is to say, about the people who got riled up. And you know what? Sometimes people should get riled up, even “gentlemen.” So again, you’re in category 2, like it or not.

                Fourth, I read your posts. I may not comment on them, but if I don’t, it’s because I haven’t got anything to say about them. That doesn’t mean they didn’t make me think. I suspect a lot of people are like that with your posts. We can’t all be Tod, who has a knack for producing extended discussions. That doesn’t mean your posts aren’t of the same quality, it just makes them different. When I say you don’t spark discussion, what I mean is your meta-commentary, which is a large portion of your commentary outside of front page posts. And I would suggest that you look at whether that meta-commentary is worth your time. I’d say no. The posts? That’s for you to decide, but when you post again, I know I’ll read it.

                Finally, I told you that you were using an antiquated form of reference, one that, at least among the people I know, is discouraged. I said it because I thought you needed to hear it. You then accused me of signalling, or later, preening. I wonder, who do you think I’m showing off for? Do you think the discussion about the blog’s title is just so much signalling and preening? Or do you think some people might actually think it needed to be said? In hindsight, I should have brought this up with you in an email, but as you were well aware at the time you said it, I was already pretty riled up. So you must have known I wouldn’t react well. In fact, I assume that was what you were doing it for. Because what other purpose might it serve?

                One more thing. I don’t think you’re pathetic. I don’t know you. I don’t pretend to know you. I just know what you do here. I assume it’s not all you are. If I thought you were pathetic, I wouldn’t have written anything more than, “Fuck you, Rufus.”

                By the way, were you ever on Life – Philosophy? (If you were, you’ll know what I mean. If you don’t know what that is, no worries.)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                By the way, this is possibly the only time in my life anyone has ever described me as one of the “cool kids,” even ironically. If you’re worried about the cool kids insulting you, keep on Jason’s good side, or Erik’s, or Kazzy’s, apparently, what with the t-shirts and all.

                Seriously, though. I should have said whatever I had to say in an email. Next time, I will. I still won’t pull any punches, but I’ll swing them privately.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Chris, a few things here: the first is that I clearly misinterpreted the words you said that stung me. If you look at many of the threads here, you’ll find raging discussions among a bunch of y’all on them and then some long comment from me responding to the original post lying at the bottom of the thread like roadkill with zero responses. And, you know, the same thing happens with more of my posts than I’d like to admit. So, when you said that nobody ever discusses the things I write, I assumed you meant those longer on-topic comments, which are fairly numerous, along with the posts. But, in general, if I have any spare time, I do try to comment on posts themselves if only to make sure the authors know I read them.

                Which brings me to the second thing here- I can accept your critique that my meta-comments are unhelpful and, you know, stop with them. But a few points in my defense: 1. I generally make them when I assume there are lots of lurkers staying out of a discussion because it’s getting ugly, 2. If you look, I usually make them in conjunction with a separate comment that addresses the original post- again those are the ones that sort of settle to the bottom and get overlooked, and clearly it would make more sense to bundle them together instead of assuming people will catch that I did, in fact, try to address the original topic elsewhere in the thread, 3. Many of your comments on this thread are meta-comments and part of the reason I’m going to take your point here is that I had the same problems with those meta-comments and I have them with those sorts of comments in general.

                Next, no, I think you actually put me in category three, which is supposed to be people who get offended at you for pointing it out when other people here say offensive things or hold racist views and respond with, “Come on, calm down, stop preening, you’re not being productive.” Well, okay, maybe in your opinion I’m someone who believes that racism doesn’t exist or who says horribly offensive things here that you respond to- which was your second category- but if that’s the case, your understanding of me is way off and actually to the point that it doesn’t bother me.

                I assume, though, you think I’m an Appeaser because I complain about the tone here. The stuff about how I don’t comment on offensive comments, but suggest that the higher ups know about them, honestly I don’t really know what you’re referring to, but I’ll bear that in mind because it probably isn’t helpful. I’m also going to think a lot about why I don’t respond to the more offensive comments because there was a comment on the blog about three weeks ago that I found completely obnoxious and I remember wishing that everyone would just ignore it, since I knew we were all thinking the same thing about it. I think it has to do with picking battles, but maybe it’s not a useful tactic.

                The problem I have with the Appeaser category is that you assume that someone has said something offensive, you’ve responded to it by calling them on their shit, and anyone who’s criticizing you is doing so because you’ve rocked the boat here or because of your tone. The thing is, sometimes your readings of what people actually said that offended you come off not so much as being uncharitable as just not accurate. I don’t think you’ve really heard what a handful of people have said on this thread and, frankly, I think it’s because this is a painful topic for you, as of course it should be. But you seem to have some pretty rigid interpretations of some of them and what they believe that I just haven’t come to from what they’ve said.

                But, no, my issue isn’t just that you’ve called people on their shit in a blunt way and rocked the boat. Actually, ironically enough, my problem was more with your meta-comments, in which you make note of the fact that some group of people here are fucking idiots who it’s not possible to have a discussion with because of the views they hold, but don’t always seem to have a read on the views they hold in the first place. So, yeah, I take your point that it’s not helpful to just comment on the level of discussion here.

                As for the term I used, no, you didn’t tell me it was antiquated. What you said is that the term shouldn’t be used because it’s… well, I can ask a black person to explain that to me. I didn’t find that a useful comment. I found it more a statement about your own level of understanding that didn’t do much for me, aside from me taking your word on not using that term in the future.

                When I said “preening,” clearly it was the wrong word and place to use it. (Update) However, James Hanley’s comment below about not breaking your arm patting yourself on the back was exactly the same point I was making for exactly the same reasons. There’s a way you come across when you talk about these issues and how fucking stupid other people are around here that feels a bit like you’re lording your higher level of enlightenment over them- and, yes, even in spite of the fact that you say your wisdom on the topic is just common sense. I also think you’ve mischaracterized some of their opinions in the first place. At the least, you could recognize that you’re talking about the single most painful and difficult topic- series of topics- in American life and that people’s views might be a lot more nuanced than you’re making them out to be. Also, that, of course, there are people who are set in their ignorance, but there are plenty of them who are trying, and fumbling along, to understand better than they do.

                Anyway, I realize that your back was up and it wasn’t a useful comment and should probably have used the email method as well. I’ve never been on Life-Philosophy. Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Rufus, I realized I don’t have your email. I would rather send this by email, but I’ll put it here and if you want to continue this conversation, I suggest emailing me.

                First, I don’t think the people here are idiots. In fact, I think the vast majority of them are quite smart. I think a few are objectively racist, and a couple even wear their racism proudly, because they view it as a sort of protest.

                I think the appeasers are more damaging than the objectively racist folk, and I do think you are one of them (category 3, you’re right; I hurt my back in a basketball game last night, and have been on some nice pain meds for most of today, so I had trouble keeping track of that). I think they’re more damaging not because of the way they react to me (I’m an asshole, and people react to me accordingly), but because they let keep the atmosphere exclusive, but not in a good way. I don’t think that’s their intention, but that’s their effect.

                And yeah, I probably could have worded the “black people” comment differently, but I was doing it at my usual level of seriousness. However, instead of accusing me of signalling or preening, you could easily have said, “I don’t think that’s fair” or “Explain further” or whatever. You chose to accuse me of preening, and I saw it as your typical comment Buddha bullshit.

                James has known me online for a few years now, so when he says something about my behavior, I take him seriously. I disagree, though, that I was “patting myself on the back.” To be honest, I was riled up enough that I didn’t really care what anyone thought, at that point. I told you something I thought you needed to hear. I should have explained the reason you needed to hear it more clearly, but that doesn’t change my reason for saying it.

                Anyway, like I said, if you want to continue this conversation (and it’s entirely up to you), shoot me an email. You have it from the comment form.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Anyway, like I said, if you want to continue this conversation”

                and that, sir, is the funniest thing you’ve said all day.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Density, you slay me with your wit. Get back to me when something you say sparks a conversation.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                The troll that provokes only flames in response is not the true troll.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                If you think that you’re serving some greater profound purpose here, let me just say that if you shuck all that bullshit and actually write without constantly wallowing in your Id, whatever you think your purpose is here would be lesser in comparison to what you’d accomplish without the bullshit.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I can’t imagine anyone thinks they’re serving a profound purpose here. But thank you for the advise.

                By the way, my reaction to Rufus here has nothing to do with the conversation on race. It was a reaction to Rufus specifically. I was already angry because of the race stuff, so I was harsher than I would otherwise have been, but he has some habits that annoy the piss out of me (as I’m sure I have habits that annoy him), and this instance of one of them put me over the edge. As I said above, I should have told him privately, and next time I certainly will.Report

              • Avatar Rufus F. says:

                Actually, no, you don’t have habits that piss me off, at least not usually. Most people here don’t. There was one person who used to have the habit of responding to my comments as if I’d said something totally different but using some of the same words and really enraging to him, so I just avoided that one altogether. I think this is what Mike was getting at about it being weird to have someone pay attention to what he’s said here. It’s weird to think anyone was paying enough attention to get annoyed. For the most part, you folks aren’t real people to me. No offense meant by that blunt statement, but the real people for me are the ones I see on a regular basis. Y’all are more like really interesting people who I’ve never met, but we slide notes under each others’ doors. I don’t really have a lot of strong or fast opinions about the regulars or their ways and usually when someone actually does piss me off enough to remember it, they don’t last long. (From the very first comments that H-ger left here, I said he should go.) Anyway and for the record, this thread is not upsetting or enraging to me by today, one day later.

                Anyway, I’d like to still take part in discussions here and I’m sure I will, since this place is like heroin for me. But, right now, I’m not gonna be much use for those discussions. A disagreement I have with cultural conservatives is I think, if you think that your culture is worsening, the only way you can really “fight” it is by living in a better way and hoping someone younger wants to copy you. While I can imagine the sort of discourse that would further these discussions in a more fruitful way, I’m not up to actually supplying it right now and, so, probably wouldn’t help much. (And, since we were just talking about which of my comments are helpful and which one aren’t, well, it’s on my mind.) I’ll come back around when I’m feeling more likely to be helpful.

                Note for James Hanley: I’m actually running out the door in a half hour to DJ for a show where the headliner is Jello Biafra (and his new band). I don’t know if there’s anyone else here who might find that amusing, but I thought you might.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Rufus, for what it’s worth, you are one of the people who I have in mind as my audience when I write something vaguely philosophical. There’s always a “this isn’t as good as what Rufus writes” voice in the back of my head.

                While I don’t know of that many folks who may have been chased away, I think it’d be a goddamn shame if you were one of them.

                You make the site better, even if I don’t always comment. (And, I suppose, I’m sorry that my comments aren’t as good as they ought to be when it comes to the stuff I do comment upon.)Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                What Jaybird said –

                Rufus, I enjoy your posts, and wish there were more of them, as I told you recently elsewhere. As to your comments ‘sitting like a dead fish at threadbottom’ I saw one of those recently, and I thought it was an eminently fair, reasonable, nuanced comment (I certainly agreed with it, anyway) that just happened to come into the discussion after that discussion had already spiraled out of control long ago, and everyone had already picked their dance partners in the ‘Which Of Us Is Trying Today To Destroy All That Is Decent In The World’ dance, so nobody picked up your comment.

                Count me in with ‘cool heads are a good thing around here’. Ignore any cheap shots.Report

  16. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I just wanted to point out that this thread is 276 comments deep and not one thing has actually been accomplished towards moving a discussion on race forward. THAT is why I say specifics are critical and broad discussions are fruitless.

    So lets give it a try:

    Minorities are significantly under-represented in outdoor sports (hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc). Is this because of racism or something else? Any suggestions of how to change that?Report

    • Avatar Ryan Noonan says:

      I’d say the proximate cause has to be that minorities are significantly more likely to live in urban environments. If you want to cache that out more, you’re inevitably going to hit words like “red-lining”.

      “Solving” this problem is also likely to be fraught, in that the barriers to getting large numbers of minorities into rural environments are attitudinal more than they are policy-based. At least, I would think.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Ryan,

        I thought it was an urban/suburban thing too but then I started thinking about how many white city dwellers and suburbanites I meet in the woods. It’s got to be more of a cultural thing me thinks.

        …or racism? Do blacks feel unwelcome in the outdoors?Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          If I were black, I might feel uncomfortable in isolated wilderness ith an unknown number of whites with guns. Might be a baseless concern, band certainly I’d have nothing to fear from almost all hunters, but I am less likely to enjoy myself if I have even a remote fear of a singular racist/crazy one.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          I see plenty of college age blacks around the woods. not so much older people.
          I think it’s cultural.

          I feel QUITE unwelcome in the woods during hunting season. Stepping over dead deer carcasses does nothing to dissuade me of this point (seein as you aren’t supposed to be hunting where I’m walking…)Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I’ve tried to advance some topics above, after a good exchange with John Howard Griffith, and I thought BlaiseP raised some challenging points that have yielded fruit.

      To engage your point, I would think that it’s what people grow up with. With the exception of Latinos in the southwest, rural areas where the outdoor activities you describe are popular, for the most part, are demographically overwhelmingly white.

      The fact that most minorities are raised in urban environments is responsible for what you describe. When you’re raised in a rural environment, you see adults engaged in the kinds of recreational activities you describe and are trained in them and learn to do them and enjoy them yourself. In a more urban environment, athletics and recreation tend to be more structured and take place in parks and other spaces dedicated for that sort of thing, so you get more basketball, baseball, football, hockey, and the like.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        I should add from personal experience (and noting that Ryan beat me to the same punch) that a large percentage of male black clients I had in Tennessee, all of whom had middle-class types of jobs, were enthusiastic fishermen and golfers.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        Not to disagree with your general point, but I did want to add that there are more blacks in the rural south than is often supposed.Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          I mean, honestly, who is supposing there aren’t? (I know people are; just saying it’s dumb. It’s kinda where African Americans started out; there are bound to still be a fair number around.)Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      In my experience, a lot of black people fish, but I don’t know any who hunt. I’m not sure why that is.Report

    • Avatar aaron david says:

      Mike, out here in the Ca valley, there are a lot of black fishermen, and I do see a few black hunters when I am in a shop ( can tell they are hunters as they are buying steel shot.)Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      “I just wanted to point out that this thread is 276 comments deep”

      Man, those were the good old days, weren’t they?Report

  17. Avatar DRS says:

    Why is there sometimes no “Reply” button under a post? I want very much to reply to Glyph but see no way to do it.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Hey DRS, it happens when the indentation gets too far to the right. When that happens scroll up to the next ‘reply’ you see and use that. That messes me up *all the time*. Or, just hit me here, ‘cos I guess there is more to say?Report

    • Avatar NewDealer says:

      I’ve wanted to know the same thing. It has been bugging me more than it should since I started posting.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        The layout crimps the columns. There are other ways to display threaded conversations, but for most threaded conversations, this is the best possible solution.

        Yes, it’s limited, though.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          The problem with continually indenting the posts is that eventually

          y
          o
          u

          g
          e
          t

          p
          o
          s
          t
          s

          t
          h
          a
          t
          (okay that’s annoying) are only one column wide due to the indentation.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            The alternative is a bunch of GOTO statements and linear comments.

            Which has the big advantage of eliminating the mis-perception of in which order people said stuff, and the bigger disadvantage of not being able to carry on sub-conversations, which is sort of important.Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              There used to be threading with GoTo links, a while back. I think they went away for technical reasons, but it was awesome when we had that. Not only (though mostly) because you follow a link to the predecessor comment, but because it listed who we were talking to by default.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                While I’m talking about what would be cool, it would be neat if we could dethread the comments with the click of a button (but only with the aforementioned feature). I mostly like the threading, but it’s also nice to be able to read all the comments since the last time I read all the comments. Right now I use Gift of Gab and open like thirty windows.Report

            • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

              There’s also the threaded USENET reader model, which uses two panes.

              The top pane looks like Windows Explorer. Each comment is represented by a line that has the poster’s name and the posting date. Top-level comments are all left-justified; replies are below the comment they reply to and slightly indented. Because the indent can be only a few characters, this can go very deep. There’s a widget to let you open or close the list of replies to any specific comment. When you click on a comment in the top pane, its text appears in the bottom pane.

              I’ve never seem this used for Web Forums. I don’t know why not.Report

  18. Avatar Kolohe says:

    Coates is wrong in at least one thing. Obama made his ‘If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon’ comment on March 23. The battle lines were already being drawn before then, due to the slow burn and the vectors it took to reach the national agenda http://reason.com/blog/2012/03/20/did-trayvon-martins-shooter-george-zimme#commentReport

  19. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Jesus, guys, I leave for a few days and THIS happens? Holy crap!

    There is a lot I want to respond to. Honestly, though, I fear that whatever I said would add more heat than light.

    Which is exactly the problem. We can’t talk about race here. Or gender. Religion, maybe. Barely. That is a huge fucking problem.

    No. Let me correct that. THIS IS A HUGE FUCKING PROBLEM!

    I’m going to quote one person here… Mr. Noonan:

    “Temperatures have been running just a tad high around here lately, haven’t they?”

    Have they? Probably. That is a good thing. Temperatures run high for certain folks and folks in certain places all the goddamn time. And there is an almost inherent, reflexive balking at upping the temperature here because, well, we like it cool. And we tend to have the option of keeping it cool. Unlike so many.Report

    • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

      “Temperatures have been running just a tad high around here lately, haven’t they?”

      If you’re going to have a swamp, it might as well be a fever swamp.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Sometimes coolness is overrated, for sure.

      As I said somewhere else in this now massive thread, this is precisely the sort of place that conversations about racism need to be had. I mean, look at this thread. We’ve got the reflexive “People only say things are racist to score points against conservatives” folks, we’ve got the guy who thinks that racial disparities in the hunting community are a good place to start, and the guy who thinks that pointing out that Obama’s being black is something that people, both black and white, see no matter what he does, is the most racist thing anyone’s ever said. This place could not possibly be whiter.

      Unfortunately, the person or persons who can reach these people ain’t here. It sure as hell isn’t me, because I get pissed about it too easily and want to start throwing things. It isn’t Nob, for similar reasons. I dunno who it would be, but that person is not here. To be honest, though, I worry that such a person doesn’t exist, because while I know that my yelling won’t accomplish anything, I’m not sure reason would either. The blinders are too thick and the defenses too high.Report

      • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

        If someone as smart and thoughtful and compelling as TNC isn’t that person, he simply doesn’t exist.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Mike, as I was typing that comment out, I thought for a moment, “Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could get Coates to do a guest post here,” and then it struck me that, much of the reaction has been to Coates. That’s about the point that I wrote the sentence beginning with, “To be honest…”Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          In some of the diversity training#* I’ve done, they talk about a 20-60-20** split… 20% of people are already actively working in the direction you are, 20% will never be, and 60% are in the middle and can be convinced. The problem is that we often focus on the 20% of people that will never be convinced. Head banging ensues.

          # I increasingly hate having to say things like “diversity training” to describe what I’m talking about, but we are limited in our vocabulary. If that term sounds uber-lame, I agree, but the work being done isn’t.
          * I don’t think this theory only applies to “diversity” stuff.
          ** I’ve seen different splits with the numbers, but the general idea holds.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Chris,

        “As I said somewhere else in this now massive thread, this is precisely the sort of place that conversations about racism need to be had. I mean, look at this thread. We’ve got the reflexive “People only say things are racist to score points against conservatives” folks, we’ve got the guy who thinks that racial disparities in the hunting community are a good place to start, and the guy who thinks that pointing out that Obama’s being black is something that people, both black and white, see no matter what he does, is the most racist thing anyone’s ever said. This place could not possibly be whiter.”

        You are full of opinions about what we are all doing wrong but I haven’t seen a single item in this thread where you have done anything other than complain. I haven’t seen you educate any of us. So here’s your chance: Submit a guest post. Share your wisdom with all of us. You’ve got my word it will be posted as-written. Or if that offer intimidates you, put something on your own blog and I’ll link to it on the front page. Otherwise…shut up.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Mike-

          I have some practical ideas about what we LoOGers can do to make it better. I am weary of posting them because I fear the light/heat ratio will be out of balance and folks (most of all, myself) will get burned.

          Perhaps this is weakness or cowardice and I am wrestling with that. You are right that pointing out problems without offering solutions isn’t particularly productive (though it does have some value, assuming it is done constructively… I won’t assess whether Chris has met that standard). Maybe I’ll muster up the balls* and get it done. We shall see.

          * -1 point for a misogynistic microaggression.Report

          • Avatar BobbyC says:

            Regarding language, and spurred by the Todd Akin kerfuffle, can someone call a dude a douche bag for stating that for-real-raped woman don’t get pregnant? Or is that self-defeating?Report

        • Avatar Stillwater says:

          Well, I’ll actually back Chris up a bit on the “black outdoorsmen” thing. To wonder why black people don’t engage in activities that white people do, and conclude from that some aspect of racism or whatever, seems to get things backwards. The lack of black people who hunt (I hav eno idea if that’s true or not) seems to me irrelevant to the broader discussion of racism.

          I mean, the question you asked at the end – Minorities are significantly under-represented in outdoor sports (hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc). Is this because of racism or something else? Any suggestions of how to change that? – arguably assumes a white-centric view of what constitutes “normal” cultural behavior, and that black “outdoor culture” somehow requires an explanation because it’s different than “white culture”.

          It could be a result of racism. It could be a result of cultural differences. Or whatever else. But the presumption implied by the way the question was asked is that white culture determines the baseline by which other cultures are viewed as “normal”.

          Does that make any sense?Report

          • Avatar Will Truman says:

            It makes sense, but I think it’s wrong. To say “We have this thing that we enjoy, how can we get more minorities to participate?” is usually considered “outreach” which I struggle to find problematic in the least. I don’t see the implication that there is something wrong with not-hunting, except insofar as people who enjoy it think that others might enjoy it.

            Asking “Is there something we are doing that is making it less inviting for minorities?” is usually a question that is encouraged.Report

            • Avatar Stillwater says:

              Will, I get that. But the question you asked at the end was about whether the lack of black people and other minorities engaging in outdoors activities is a result of racism. Or not. That’s an interesting question, of course. On the other hand, the other issue you focused on – inviting other people to share an activity you enjoy – is part of being human, and in and of itself has nothing to do with racism. (SISTM.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                I consider the question I asked at the end to be much more of a logical conclusion to “Any suggestions of how to change that?” than your suggestion that the question implies white-normity.

                Asking other people to participate, and selecting a group that is presently under-represented to focus one’s efforts, does not strike me as problematic. It strikes me as the kind of thing that’s usually applauded.

                I’m not sure where you are coming from with the sense that it is somehow a presumption that there is considered something wrong with minorities if they are not choosing to partake in the activity.

                (I don’t know SISTM stands for.)Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              I think this is right, Wil. Most people who enjoy the outdoors grew up spending time in the woods/mountains, etc. So asking why more black people don’t pursue outdoor activities strikes me as asking if too many black children don’t get the opportunity to experience nature.

              And far from that beings white-centric view of “normal” culture, it assumes that there’s nothing intrinsically “white” about loving the outdoors, but that it’s an experience people from any race/ethnicity can enjoy. Rather, to say “well, that’s a white activity, you shouldn’t ask about black people doing it” seems to reinforce the standard stereotypes.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Stillwater,

            “I mean, the question you asked at the end – Minorities are significantly under-represented in outdoor sports (hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc). Is this because of racism or something else? Any suggestions of how to change that? – arguably assumes a white-centric view of what constitutes “normal” cultural behavior, and that black “outdoor culture” somehow requires an explanation because it’s different than “white culture”.

            The % of blacks particpating in outdoor sports is not in-line with the % of blacks in the general population. I was simply asking if that was racism or something else. It’s not a very highbrow issue compared to how many blacks are doctors, but I thought it was a safe starting point to test the waters.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              Hey Mike, I realize this thread is already heated and I don’t want to make it worse, but I am from the South, and I have certain things expressed by both blacks and whites (so you know, HUGE grain of salt, what i am about to say has no basis in any studies I know of and I did not look now) that one reason that blacks down here seem to participate less frequently (and again, I have no hard numbers here, so apologies if this ends up throwing more heat than light) in certain outdoorsy activities IS due to slavery legacies + cultural heritage (that is, kids are taught to do what their parents were taught to do, by their parents, and so on – and the children of slaves were taught to do different things than the children of free men).

              The logic goes something like this:

              Swimming
              http://rollingout.com/entertainment/black-children-more-likely-to-drown-less-likely-to-know-how-to-swim/

              The logic I have heard is that slaves were often not taught how to swim, swimming being a means of escape. No idea if this is true. But my parents made sure I knew how to swim, as did their parents them, and so on.

              Hunting:

              No stats here, but my understanding from my family is that for many years, a black man with a gun in his hands in the woods (or on the way to/from the woods) in the South, was far likelier to be seen as a threat than a white one, who would be assumed to be hunting.

              This is probably way better than it used to be, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if it persists in some places; and anyway the point is, even if they wouldn’t be seen as a threat today, their parents never taught them to hunt, because their parents never did, etc. etc. Generational transmission, basically.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Glyph,

                My personal opinion is that is totally a cultural thing. With regards to swimming it’s also simply a hair thing (see Chris Rock’s documentary). Re: general outdoor stuff (hunting, camping, etc) the blacks I have spoken to have said that they see it as ‘roughing it’ for no good reason. One black mother of a girl in my daughter’s Girl Scout Troop actually said, “My daddy didn’t work two jobs to put me through college so I could spend the night in a tent in the woods.” There’s an old joke that only white people find ways to make life harder and call it fun. The punchline is that white people will leave a perfectly good house to sleep on the ground in the woods. Probably some truth to that.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                I don’t doubt that that is somewhat true Mike, and there’s maybe no way to tell for sure, one way or another, but I’d ask you to at least consider the possibility that people don’t consider some things ‘fun’ because their parents never taught them it was ‘fun, because their parents never did…and way back when, there may have been good (bad) reason for that.

                That is, it IS cultural, but for reasons of historical, not current, racism.

                One more anecdata..after a fairly close black female friend became the most recent black person to remark that they ‘didn’t like dogs’, I asked her why they didn’t, and after looking askance at me for aminute, we got to talking, and came up with some theories there. Again, nothing to back this up, but we came up with.

                1.) As above, white people hunted, and blacks didn’t; therefore, whites kept hunting dogs.

                1a.) If you don’t keep a dog to hunt, it’s not ‘rpoducing’ – it’s just a mouth to feed. When you are poor, this can matter a whole lot if you are deciding to get a dog, or get a goat.

                2.) Dogs were used to track slaves and keep slaves in line (and used as tools of intimidation during Jim Crow).

                Now, none of this means a black person today wouldn’t like a dog just fine. But they never had dogs growing up, because their parents never did, etc., etc. So it is not something they aspire to, and in fact dogs make them nervous because they don’t know anyone who has one.

                I am way oversimplifying here, but try considering these things at least.Report

              • Avatar Jesse Ewiak says:

                This. Take swimming.

                Prior to probably the 60’s or 70’s for the vast majority of black people, there was no easy access to swimming pools because well, segregation and de facto segregation.

                So, people who are middle-aged and having kids today never learned to swim and it was no big deal. So, they think their kids not learning to swim isn’t a big deal. At least until they hit the middle-class and everybody elses kids are going to swimming camp or YMCA stuff. However, I think in the next 20-30 years as those adults who basically never had a chance to learn to swim die off/aren’t part of the picture, you’ll have an increase in the level of swimming among African American’s, largely because there’ll be equal access, equal want from the kids, and near-equal want from the adults that they should be taught.Report

          • Avatar BobbyC says:

            Are you saying here that being in the woods is not a universal thing? That somehow humans being away from cities and technology and farms and such, just roughing it in the woods, is not a universal human thing? I realize that culturally you can have modern cultures that ignore it, but I think it remains a fairly universal thing, based on, say, millions of years of humans being in nature with pre-agricultural technologies.

            Not to make light of the whole thing, but this would be the strangest way to be considered racist that I have ever heard of!!!Report

            • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

              That somehow humans being away from cities and technology and farms and such, just roughing it in the woods, is not a universal human thing?

              Given that arboreal woodlands that tend to be the emphasis of such “roughing it in the woods” type things isn’t a universal human experience, yeah, it’s probably not a universal thing. Especially when you start to consider the complexity and diversity of pre-agricultural human lifestyles.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Hogwash! I’m not saying that someone has to sit in a typically North American forest to “rough it”, but I think it’s fair to ask of any culture how and why it disconnects from the human past. In this case, it’s really a question about urban culture; for instance, many of my native New Yorker friends don’t go into the wilderness, and I’ve seen their children refuse to walk in the grass barefoot in the Hudson River valley out of squamishness (and not because of Lyme disease!). My point was that one is not engaged in an implicit “white baseline” when one talks about why a given culture, in this case American black culture, doesn’t go into the wilderness. That charge is misplaced here.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Mike, I don’t think everyone’s wrong, I think you’re doing it wrong. That pisses you off. Tough shit. Your views on race are not only idiotic, they’re intractable. You’ve made that clear. So yeah, I think you’re doing it wrong. Does pointing out that make me special? No, but it comes pretty close to making you a shitty human being. Killing stuff for fun puts you over the edge. Does me pointing out this make me a shitty human being? So fucking be it.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            I’ll assume that means you don’t want to do the post Chris.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Mike, nope. I think people can just read Coates’ article. You know, the one that my agreeing with makes you feel so shat upon, and which you dismissed out of hand to start things off.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “Mike, nope. “

                Not even a little bit surprised. All show and no go.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                By the way, Mike, I’m not sure sending you a guest post has anything to do with “go.” I apologized up thread, but seriously, I have seen no reason to think a guest post, or even serious comments, would do any good. Prove me wrong. Answer my question above, and we’ll start there. You accuse Coates of seeing racism everywhere. Let’s see if you see it anywhere.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                We should clarify – you mean racism against black people among white people.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yes. Though I’d love to hear what Mike, or Blaise, or Scott, think the differences between white racism against black people, and black racism against white people, might be in terms of their real world effects.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The difference is one of political and cultural power.

                If, for whatever reason, political and cultural power shifted, then what?

                Well, let’s let some time pass. There are a lot of people who look like people who have a lot of stuff coming to them.

                So time has passed.

                Now what?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                The difference is one of political and cultural power.

                Ding. Ding. Ding.

                Add economic, though (I’m going to assume the police and the judicial system fall under political).

                I’m not sure what you’re asking after that, though. Do you mean, if the situation were reversed, and black people had the political, cultural, and economic power, and took it out on white people, what should we do/think/say?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s more asking this: at what point could we say “okay, fair is fair, those people have had the tables turned long enough”?

                And then, after we agree that the tables have been turned long enough, I’d wonder what we should institute officially. As fair.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                Looking at the big picture of politics, economics and culture, nicely evades Mike Dwyer’squestion question of what specific thing we can tackle to try to change. Saying we need to change our politics, culture and economics sounds great and could very well be true, but you don’t move a mountain by focusing on moving the whole mountain.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                James, at the beginning of this thread, I asked for an example of racism. The reason political, cultural, and economic power were brought up here was that Jaybird was answering my follow-up question of what’s the difference between white to black racism and black to white racism. But I’m still asking Mike for any example. I don’t think that’s dodging Mike’s question, that’s trying to keep Mike from dodging the one I asked first. Like I said, Mike tells us that Coates sees racism everywhere. Before we can have a discussion, he needs to show that he can at least see it somewhere.Report

              • Avatar James Hanley says:

                I’m still going to say you’re–at a minimum–equally responsible for the lack of discussion here.

                Before we can have a discussion, he needs to show that he can at least see it somewhere.

                That sounds an awful lot like “we can’t have a discussion unless it’s on my terms. And given the way you’ve rather viciously attacked him here, I don’t wonder that he doesn’t want to answer your question. I wish he would, to see if maybe a real discussion can get going, but if his thoughts are anything like mine at this point, he’s probably thinking any example he throws out will be mocked and instantly dismissed as not being the real issue. Unless you give some indication that you’re not going to do that, I don’t see why he’d bother. You already seem to have made up your mind that he’s a horrible evil person, so how likely are you at this point to read anything he says with any charity, rather than being primed to see it in the worst possible light?

                That’s all I’ll say, as this is turning into just another of “those” conversations, and has clearly gone on long enough.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’m still going to say you’re–at a minimum–equally responsible for the lack of discussion here.

                Stipulated.

                That sounds an awful lot like “we can’t have a discussion unless it’s on my terms. And given the way you’ve rather viciously attacked him here, I don’t wonder that he doesn’t want to answer your question.

                Sure, I am saying we can’t have a discussion unless it’s on my terms, but in this case, my terms are not particularly demanding. It seems to me that, if you have lived in this country for more than a couple years, and you haven’t seen any racism, you’re probably not capable of seeing any. So all I ask is for one example of racism that you’ve seen, in order to make sure that it’s even possible to have a conversation about it.

                You already seem to have made up your mind that he’s a horrible evil person

                I apologized for saying that, above. It was out of line.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                James,

                In the context of the discussion, which was aimed at a piece exploring what part racial attitudes still play in forming people’s political beliefs, I’d argue that wanting to move to a discussion about “what can be done” about racism without being very willing to lay one’s cards on the table about what the current reality actually looks like, amounts to a more fundamental dodge, again, in original context. If that’s right, then it was MIke who first dodged, and Chris responded by refusing to allow the topic to be moved off the one that was initially raised, believing that that topic, precisely, was worth that attention, and, being the initially raised one, the one that enjoys pride of place in the discussion. Refusing to be moved off it is not a dodge.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Mike-

                Can I ask why you responded (keep responding to) Chris here but not to my own comment above?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Kazzy,

                This is a thread of epic size so I probably just missed it. Please point the way and I’ll be happy to reply.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Mike D-

                Not a problem. The convo got away from us, which is understandable. I’m working on a post of my own on that subject and would ask you to bring your perspective to that, whenever I get it done. It would be good to have you contribute.Report

          • Avatar Chris says:

            Also, being an apologist for police brutality doesn’t help.

            Anyway, let me express my position even further: there are 3 kind of people involved here. The first type is not only concerned about racism, but concerned about how it’s treated here. The second type is you, and Scott, and Blaise, and the nameless, and a few others, who basically are the problem that the first group is concerned about. The third group, which is the largest, is the group that gets upset at the first group for pointing out the second group. “Come on, calm down, stop preening, you’re not being productive.” So, the first group is left with two choices: One, shut up and join the third group, which we might call the Appeasers, which is happy to let the second group dominate the discussion, or two, become the bad guy in the eyes of groups two and three. It’s impossible for the first and second group to have a rational discussion, and the third group is more interested in a calm, collected discussion about how the first group is making this place unbearable by giving the second group such a hard time.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley says:

              Just because you think someone is in the first group doesn’t mean they are. I’ve never seen you get so rigid in your determination that you knew another person’s heart. Go have a few drinks and contemplate whether maybe there are some cues that are blinding you to what Mike’s really saying. That’s my recommendation as an old Internet friend.Report

      • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

        I think part of the problem on this thread is that you think blinders are too think and defenses are too high and you started off yelling to get past the barriers and then people started responding to your yelling instead of what you were saying.

        There were some good spots, though. Jaybird’s bit about privilege was good.

        I try to read more than I write in these comment threads. It reminds me of the posts that led up to me writing the coercion thread; everyone was talking about coercion but nobody was talking about what it was, so there was a lot of discussion about different aspects of the thing that didn’t go anywhere because they weren’t aligned.

        I see a *lot* of that on this thread.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Eh, the blinders and defenses are pretty clear. Witness what’s going on with Blaise right now on the other thread. But I got in the way of this thread as much or more than anyone, to be sure.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            I think you and Blaise are having two different conversations and neither of you is granting the other guy the right to have the conversation he wants to have. You both want to have the conversation you’re having. You’re both pretty adamant about it.

            I also don’t think either one of you is entirely wrong in the conversation you want to have, or entirely right about how the other guy is wrong about the conversation he wants to have.

            If that doesn’t make sense, it’s because I’m only just now getting my coffee.Report

  20. Avatar BobbyC says:

    Nob – I read the whole essay; it’s sophisticated in its analysis at times and the prose is excellent, deserving of The Atlantic. But the line of argument is not clean, there is a vexing mix of nuance and bold assertion, and ultimately the essay juxtaposes racial realism with aimless hostility. Probably its greatest weakness is a tacit overestimation of the prominence of race as an important issue in America.

    What did I takeaway:
    1) Having our first black President, far from confirming that America has transcended traditional racial problems, reveals the significant racial problems that exist; they are the same double-standards, race-based judgement, and racially-charged politicking that have been around since desegregation began.
    2) Obama is a politician and a black politician and hugely successful. Being all three of those constrains his public actions related to race relations. He had to present as a certain kind of black person to win a national election as a black politician. (This is true, and tells us many things about race relations and the politics of race, but it’s not very surprising to me. Also this fact in no way implies that race is a primary issue in the political opposition to Obama.)
    3) The reaction against Obama reveals that race can still too easily be used, directly or indirectly, as a political weapon to discredit black politicians. Enough voters still fear black power that implicating Obama as part of a black power movement works. (This is a generous interpretation of what the essay says – one can easily read it uncharitably as claiming that opposition to the President is BASED on the politics of race and fear of black power, which is FALSE and I think fails to stand up to rational scrutiny.)

    I wish the essayist had explored the fact that while Obama gives speeches which sound many conservative themes, he has decided to govern much more from a traditional leftist worldview. Look, I love Barack Obama the writer, the thinker, the competitor, and the speaker. He is an American intellectual who can inspire meaningful reflection on who we are, what we value, and how we function as a society. I voted for him largely on the basis of his two books, his conservative speeches, his intelligence, and the failure of McCain to offer a comparably good product (eg hawk, no economic understanding, Palin). It felt good to vote for Obama and I was proud to be an American when he won (although it didn’t fully repair the breach from Bush’s reelection in 2004). I will NOT vote for Obama again because of how he has governed. Does that mean that I secretly fear black power? HA! It’s quite the opposite; I fear the consequences for civil society of black impotence, what the effect will be on our nation of having a tenth of the country be a racial group with persistently high poverty, unemployment, and underachievement.

    The essayist correctly praises the election of Barack Obama as a sign of our progress in this area, and is right to point out how it shows the problems that persist. When he looks to the criticism of Obama however, he is mistaking the cynical use of race as a way to undermine the President for a sign of the primacy of race as a motivation to oppose the policies of the administration. It’s a natural concern maybe, and certainly race can be used to stir up racist voters, but it’s just not the basis of opposition to Obama.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      I marvel that you can so calmly confidently from where you happen to sit on a given day pronounce that someone else’s estimation of the importance of the issue of race as an issue in America today is simply an overestimation, period, finis, ende.

      In light of the rest of your comment, perhaps you meant that he overestimates the prominence of race as the driving factor of opposition to Obama in the minds of a certain part of the overall population of people who want to see him out of office.

      I haven’t read the piece, but it does seem obvious to me that had there been a white president who governed exactly the same way under exactly the same conditions, so long as that president had been a Democrat, the large majority of the same people who want Obama out of office would want that president out of office. But that doesn’t actually tell us that much about what part Obama’s race is playing in the feelings they actually do have about Obama now.

      And certainly none of that tells us very much at all about how big an issue race is in America today. When I go out into the world, look at it, and compare it to what I saw five, ten, fifteen years ago, I come more to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter all that much that the president of the last four years happened to have a black African father, despite my hopes four years ago that it might be a big deal. If we get a couple more minority presidents and a woman or three over the next few cycles, I’ll be willing to put the rose-colored glasses again for a while, but for now I’m just going to look at the world itself when I want to know how big an issue race is, nit at the White House first. And the key thing to remember about how the world looks in terms of the importance of the issue of race (or anything else, really) is that it would look different if you were someone else somewhere else.Report

      • Avatar BobbyC says:

        My style may be obscuring how tough of an issue I think race is – I do think race is a difficult problem, and likely an eternal problem. At core the same emotions that make people root for their country or their favorite NFL team are wrapped up in race, so I don’t view it as entirely unnatural, but the particulars of white-black interactions in America are what really puts the sting in the whole thing. Atrocities committed against one’s forebears and one’s political, cultural, or ethnic group in history are legitimate causes of present suffering. But I think there’s something like an inverse-square law at work – the personal impact of prior crimes dissipates at an increasing rate with time. For instance, injustices committed against my parents are sincerely felt by me, while I have spent scant time thinking on what misfortunes were put upon my forebears four generations ago. I guess that just means that I think it will take time and that time will overpower the desire of current folks to have their descendants feel and prioritize current and past injustices in their own lives. I’m not sure where we are exactly, but there will be a day, soon hopefully, when the primary suffering due to race inflicted on black people will be the psychological pain of the history of racism in America, not the current functioning of our society. And from there, our collective work in healing racial strife will effectively be done.

        That said, the essayist, who I am unfamiliar with, overstates the role of race: both in the political opposition to Obama, but also generally. This is probably because he is descended from the 12-odd pct of the population that was oppressed on this continent (as opposed to someone like me, who is descended from European serfs and it doesn’t have nearly, nearly the same impact on my experience). Read the essay and then tell me if you disagree.

        For instance, it is argued that in responding with empathy in the Trayvon Martin tragedy, that Obama was exercising power in such a way that people saw “black power” and Americans feared the exercise of the office of the President by a black man. The reality is that people already opposed to Obama on ideological grounds decided to criticize the President in a way that they thought gained political advantage. The essayist explicitly states that the “greatest abiding challenge” to Obama is that he is black. I think that statement needs to be updated in light of the 2008 election results – the sneaky racist America went missing that day, to my surprise admittedly, but it happened.

        Race is an issue in America. For black people, race is rightly a big issue, albeit steadily declining in relevance. For America, it’s not one of the critical determinants of what kind of society we will have anymore (like say it was when there was slavery and then de jure segregation). I know that people who take the economic and political vitality of America for granted will think that social justice issues like race are the grandest, most pressing issues in America, but they are nice people who are wrong. (how’s that for calm confidence to be marveled at!)Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          I appreciate your thoughtful response, Bobby.Report

          • Avatar Michael Drew says:

            …My main response is just that, in terms of pronouncing on this ‘overestimation’ you describe, I really think we need to grant a presumptive legitimacy (which is not to say, exclusive correctness) to the perceptions of those directly affected by the realities they are trying to describe.

            It continues to concern me that you seem willing to grant yourself a position of neutral arbitration of these fundamentally position-dependent perceptions about reality. You do realize that where you sit is in a position of privilege in many senses, but crucially not in the sense that you can see “reality” that much more clearly than others can on this issue, don’t you, BobbyC?Report

            • Avatar BobbyC says:

              I think black people who are super-focused on race relations in America have “presumptive legitimacy” when commenting on their experience of race in America. It’s a pretty low bar though! I also give people with autistic children “presumptive legitimacy” when they discuss the experience of dealing with autism. But I still tell ’em that they’re wrong if they say things like “MMR vaccine causes autism.”

              I’m a wholehearted subjectivist. I also think that I see reality more clearly than most people (it’s pretty easy to think that by the way). I’m a bit verbose and a bit didactic as it is, so I try not to write “I think Dave Chappelle is hilarious” when I can just write “Dave Chappelle is hilarious” – but as a philosophical matter, I’m not going to argue than anything I’m saying is true is some grandiose sense. It’s just true in the normal old way of being right. 😉Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I don’t think anyone, Coates or otherwise, means to imply that racism underlies all opposition to Obama in its entirety. Coates lives in this country, and lived in this country before Obama came along. Partisan politics has always been contentious, and has recently become almost obscenely so, and it goes without saying that people are going to dislike a Democrat because he or she’s a Democrat, or a Republican because he or she’s a Republican, even without ever seen the color of the person’s skin (or heard the person’s name, or anything but the political party affiliation). On top of that, people are going to genuinely dislike some of his policies (even if their views of them are exaggerated). However, there were signs from day 1 that racism pervaded much of the opposition to Obama, even if it wasn’t the only, or even the primary motivator of that opposition. And it’s not just in the insanity of birtherism. It’s all over. It’s not even just among conservatives. If you don’t think there’s racism among the liberal/progressive critics of Obama, go back to the 2008 primary campaign and look at some of the rhetoric of Clinton supporters (and I don’t mean her husband).

      This, I believe, is one of Coates’ points: while a lot of this is politics as usual, one thing is making it unusual politics, and that is the fact that for the first time in our more than 200 year history, we have a black president. That affects things, maybe a little in most cases, maybe a lot in some, but it affects things, and it affects things because, as a country, we are still struggling, implicitly or explicitly, with race.

      I’m not a fan of the Implicit Association Test, which you may have heard of (there was even a King of the Hill episode about it), but there are plenty of other ways of studying implicit racism. And this is what is at work, for the most part, as I think Coates gets at when he talks about “skepticism” in place of hate. I recommend reading up on it.Report

      • Avatar BobbyC says:

        I agree with most of this, but see the role of race in opposition to Obama as less prominent than you do. It’s sort of hard to litigate that kind of disagreement, for all the reasons you note. I’ll try anyway.

        The point is important insofar as it speaks to where America is on race and where our politics are. I do not think that “racism pervaded much of the opposition to Obama.” First of all, most of the Obama opposition, including the 2010 electoral win by Republicans, is traceable to the Tea Party movement, which is primarily economic in nature. It started as opposition to TARP, which is a Bush policy originally. Now the people in the Tea Party movement may be some of the less sensitive people to issues of race, people that you would say just don’t get it, but that is very different from saying that racism pervades their opposition. Hostility to govt spending, politicians, authority, taxes, bureaucracy, and socialism pervade their movement. Would I bet that racists are overrepresented? Yes, I would. But again, it’s economics and political economy and not race that is important to them.

        The mistake that I think it is easy to make starts with seeing how the political opponents of Obama sprinkle little code words into their rhetoric in order to incite racial animus towards Obama. I get that. But that’s because it’s smart politics – most people who would object to it ignore it, but the message gets through to people who do fear having a black President. And even people like me, who generally can see what they are doing, are hardly going to base my political views and policy preferences on what the likes of Rush Limbaugh stoop to doing. So, again, it’s win-win strategy to engage in subtle racist messaging. That is wholly different from actual racists and racial animus pervading the opposition – it’s a logical mistake to infer that from the despicable strategies employed by some Republicans.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “I don’t think anyone, Coates or otherwise, means to imply that racism underlies all opposition to Obama in its entirety.”

        No; just whatever part they happen to be talking about right at that moment.Report

    • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

      My initial inclination of course is to quibble about “governing from a traditional leftist worldview” because I’m quite sure that’s one place from which Obama hasn’t governed….

      That said, more interestingly, I find your response telling because like a lot of others on this thread, it reveals certain attitudes about race and dialogue that I’m still trying to process.

      I’ve been trying to listen a lot more than I was talking here in general. My initial combative response made it easier to just scream rather than read, so I’m trying to keep a certain distance from this overall thread.

      Chris has expressed a lot of what I’ve been thinking as part of that process. I’m not sure what else I could say that would add to the debate.

      The ruminations may, however, end up a post down the line.Report

      • Avatar BobbyC says:

        On the “leftist worldview” point – Obama has massively disappointed leftists of course. But the many sexy inclusions of conservatism in his 2008 speeches, and even in both the 2010 and 2011 SoTU speeches, were not followed up with conservative governing. Instead he pushed a crafty left-wing Keynesian agenda – stimulus, universal health insurance (even if done via the “market” on an individual mandate), and govt pervading economic life. Where is the corp tax cut, the vetos of earmarks, the opposition to teachers unions, the immigration reform for high-skill workers, the tax reform deal that was begging to get done last year? The only conservative governing has been killing non-white people in foreign countries at an alarming rate, which is not the sort of thing I smile at.

        I’d be curious to hear what attitudes toward race you think are subtly in my response – I don’t take offense easily, so I actually thought your little diatribe was cute, like “don’t even start down that tired path.” I find it ironic that anyone can complain about race being overused as an excuse while simultaneously getting upset if someone complains that they are tired of people less impacted by race problems saying they are tired of talking about race.Report

  21. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I finally finished the whole thing. I initially shared the objection that it seemed a bit too long, but my ‘buts’ to the piece itself in the first 1/4 were mostly answered in the remainder, so it was not too long after all.

    I do agree with BobbyC above that the threads of argument seem to veer off from time to time. One example is the assertion that Obama as a ‘clean’ (Coates words, echoing Biden’s) black man is the only way he has been able to ascend to the highest office (which is true), but this same ‘inoffensive’ man is able to ably converse in the language of African American culture.

    In a related, but side note, I wonder what Coates’ opinion would be if Obama were not comfortable with these cultural cues. After all, his upbringing was far different than say, Michelle’s (or Coates for that matter) – all this cultural education was imparted second hand and/or late in life. If this didn’t take, or if Obama had the emotional intelligence of say, Mitt Romney, how different would things be?

    I do think it’s a bit overstated on how much opposition to Obama is racially motivated. As I said before, the Martin/Zimmerman opinion was starting to divide before Obama entered the argument and would have evolved the way it did with or without Obama. (though I agree that the evolution accelerated).

    The racial element is definitely there, no doubt, like the sexist element would (will?) be for President Hillary Clinton. But you go with the scurrilous and baseless political attack you have, not with the one you want. Though if you have the one you want, you do go all in with it.

    And at the end of the day (year) Obama’s going to win re-election, with what has been at best a middle of the road Presidency so far (but 2nd terms are rarely as accomplished as the first). At the very least, he’ll achieve victory over those fears of a Black President. Scoreboard.Report

    • Avatar BobbyC says:

      “Scoreboard” – exactly … if race was such a huge part of the opposition to Obama, then wouldn’t we be talking about that as a determinant of the 2012 election? And we are not – we are talking about Medicare and Florida and whether Romney can elevate himself to the status of “just a Republican” from his current quagmire of “Romney.”Report

    • Avatar BobbyC says:

      And on Obama the person, his blackness, and that whole thing – okay, it’s a good bit away from my expertise, but I share a lot of Obama’s life experience and I know a lot of people with similar life experience insofar as they went from middle-class-average-beginnings to Harvard Law. His experience of being black is very disconnected, and his first book is just a wonderful account of his coming to grips with his identity. One of the best parts of the essay was the conversation between Obama as President telling Shirley Sherrod to read his book to see that he understands the struggles of blacks in Georgia and her saying to Coates “but I had read his book.” That exchange says it all about Obama and his connection/disconnection with the black experience in America.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      Since there’s now assent to it, I’ll voice the dissent I initially decided was not worth the keystrokes.

      Obama’s going to win re-election? What are you talking about? He might: it’s a dead heat right now. If he does, it’ll be in squeaker, against a wounded duck football pass of an opposition (both party and candidate).

      If he wins, it’ll say pretty much nothing about racial attitudes in our country that we didn’t know from 2008.

      By the way, the scoreboard says it’s 43-1, home team leading.Report

      • Avatar BobbyC says:

        How about this: the fact that you think that “if he wins, it’ll say pretty much nothing about racial attitudes” means that you think America is past the point where reelecting an incumbent black President to a second term causes a substantial update to your view of racial attitudes in America. That’s essentially my perspective here, ie the 2012 election is about many things but race is not one of the prominent issues. (as a corollary, race is not the “greatest abiding challenge” to Obama as Coates asserts)Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          Wow, BobbyC. You dishonestly inaccurately quoted me and put words in my mouth that I may or may not believe but which are not implied by my words all within the span of about thirty-five words in that comment. My initial esteem for you has found new support.Report

          • Avatar BobbyC says:

            I prefer “crafty” or “clever” to “dishonest” but I’ll take it.

            As for “43-1”, we did elect a disabled person to that office 76yrs before we elected a black person President … so I’ll concede that the “scoreboard” argument has its limits.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I’ll give 2:1, which is a bit better than Nate Silver’s probability table right now (just a hair shy of 69/31)

        “If he wins, it’ll say pretty much nothing about racial attitudes in our country that we didn’t know from 2008.”

        Coates overall point, if there is one, is that Obama exemplifies (personifies?) *everything* about racial attitudes in America today, so his re-election definitely says something too – esp when the fundamentals in the economy are hard against it.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        Alternatively, one of Coates’ points is that the usual suspects have been beating the usual code drums ever since Obama was elected (and even before). Furthermore, they’re beating those drums harder than ever due the resonance cavity that Obama provides because of who he is. When Obama wins (p=.6-.7) does not that say something more about racial attitudes in America than the 2008 victory did?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          When Obama wins (p=.6-.7) does not that say something more about racial attitudes in America than the 2008 victory did?

          There will be arguments made that the 2016 election will also say many things about racial attitudes in America… and, given that I see the Republicans winning that one (barring any *HUGE* events), it’ll say bad things. 2008 and 2012’s election results will be waved away.Report

        • Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

          It does say something. And in fact one might also note the Akin stuff too, says something about gender attitudes in the US, too. (Like if Akin manages to beat McCaskill despite his retrograde views on women)

          That is to say, 2012 will be a statement, too. It’s as much a statement about whether or not that old hegemonic structure is crumbling. It probably is, which is a good thing. But it’s last gasps are gonna be really ugly.Report

  22. Avatar Jaybird says:

    It’s easier to fight against racism than against cultural privilege.

    I don’t know that the battle against racism has been definitively won but it seems to me that, if it hasn’t, it’s going to be.

    Privilege is a lot closer to invisible and, quite honestly, has manifestations that are downright good things that provide tangible benefits (due to the fact that there are quite a few other folks that don’t do these things).

    That’s a battle that will be a lot tougher.

    It’s a lot easier to fight against racism.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I’m not sure they’re separable. There is racism of the explicit, unmistakeable type, and to some extent that can be separated from privilege, but not completely. Often (but not always), it seems that sort of racism is born of the fact that race, or skin color, or religion, or whatever, is the only source of privilege, or the only advantage, that some people feel. That’s why, despite the fact that in many ways their interests, at least their economic interests, are closely aligned with those of black people, this sort of racism is often found among poor or working class white people.

      But there’s another sort that is completely inseparable from privilege. It’s the skeptical racism that Coates describes, the racism of lowered expectations, the racism of “it happened in that part of town, or to people who aren’t like us, so we can ignore it,” the racism of the vast majority of cultural icons (celebrities, politicians, etc.) looking like the privileged people, the racism of thinking my stereotypes, if I recognize them as stereotypes at all, or perfectly benign, the racism of thinking, if you notice that there aren’t black people in your club, thinking that it’s probably because black people don’t want to be here, the racism of thinking, “If I can do it, anyone can do it, so the people who don’t do it are inferior or they screwed up or they just didn’t work hard enough or they’re just not as smart as I am,” the racism of pigeonholing, the racism of treating errant white folk is anomalous and errant black folk as representative, the racism of an implicit preference for people who share your privilege, etc., etc., etc. These are all inseparable from privilege, because they are born of and perpetuated by privilege, and privilege is perpetuated by them. They’re the soft, slow burning forms of racism that, aggregated across a large society, create a whole hell of a lot of damage, and a whole hell of a lot of privilege.

      It’s sort of like when you start a site, and you think, anyone who will ever come here will be like we see ourselves, so you name it in a way that excludes anyone who isn’t like you see yourselves. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.)Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        One of our dear nephews has a nighttime ritual that involves being read a story before bed, yes, every night. He has two parents who are able to read him a story before bed every night… if one isn’t able to read the story, the other is.

        This is one of those things that will give the kid a leg up in the future. It’ll result in better reading ability than without it, better EQ than without it, and more connections in the brain than without it.

        The kid will have a leg up in early schooling because of this.

        Having two parents who love each other is one of those things that, all other things being equal, will give you a leg up. Having two parents read to you at night is one of those things that, all other things being equal, will give you a leg up.

        There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of those things. Little things that, all other things being equal, add up. If I’m an employer and I have a choice between someone who has a lot of these little things and someone who has a few of them, all other things being equal, which will I pick?

        Freddie tells the story himself here. Privilege is a funny thing. It’s not the same as racism.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          My point wasn’t that they were identical, but that they were inseparable: they are mutually creating and perpetuating. Let’s use your story. It’s a widely known fact that a lot of black children grow up without fathers in the home. There are a lot of reasons for this, but three of the big ones (not unrelated to each other) are drugs, prison, and poverty. Now, drugs, prison, and poverty among black people are in part, in large part I’d say, a result of historical and contemporary systematic racism: racism in the way law enforcement targets black people, racism in the sorts of sentences they get, racism in housing, in the amount of money that flows into particular communities, in the quality of schools in particular communities, and so on and so forth. There are other causes, but racism is a big factor. Now, drugs, poverty, and prison are pretty much the opposite of privilege, and it’s not only the case that privilege provides more means to avoid these things, but that avoiding these things is helpful in gaining and maintaining privilege. And then we’re back to the children growing up without fathers. These people are, according to your own story, going to be less privileged, and as my story shows, going to be more likely to end up with drugs, poverty, or prison.

          So, racism confers privilege, and privilege makes racism both possible and gives it its power. They are not the same thing, but they’re inseparable. Without racism, privilege is distributed quite differently, and without privilege, racism is toothless.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            I’m sure you’ve heard of the whole “racism without racists” theory. I think it’s a good one (though Bonilla-Silva’s solutions strike me as likely to not work).

            In any case, at the end of the day, while it’s true that there needs to be significant changes when it comes to our perverse incentives within the legal system (End The War On Drugs!), there also needs to be a significant change in the culture.

            The privilege that my friends are bestowing upon their son by reading to him every night is something that ought to be more universal than it is… which leads me to another wacky thing I’ve noticed. We’d be better off without racism. There are a lot of forms of privilege that we’d be better off with a lot more of.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              I haven’t read the book, though I know of it. Would you recommend it, even if you don’t like the solutions it offers?

              I agree with you about the War on Drugs. I don’t know that I’d say we’d be better off with a lot more of any kind of privilege. I’d say that we’d be better off if those things that now count as or produce privilege were so evenly distributed that the word “privilege” no longer reasonably applied to them. But that’s just the pinko commie part of my brain talkin’.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Meh. I dunno. I like the first half where it breaks down how the stuff works. It does a good job of that. So I recommend that part. The pinko part of your brain may like the second half a lot more than I did, though.

                When it comes to the whole racism/privilege thing, though, I think about “what do *I*, Jaybird, need to do?” One of the main things that Maribou and I do is buy books for our nephews. The youngest ones need them read to them, the older ones read them themselves (and the nephews we have that don’t like to read? We bend over backwards finding them stuff that they will like to read).

                When it comes to racism… what can I do? Have more Black friends, have more Latino friends, have more Irish friends. When it comes to many, many kinds of privilege, however, I’m going to bust my hump making sure that my nephews love to read. That’s going to give them a leg up, all other things being equal.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Yeah, my only suggestion is to just watch what think and what you do. Listen, too, but don’t expect people to be your teachers (particularly if you’re going to seek out more black friends). Say something to people who are clearly not watching what they think and do, and who are clearly not listening. Somebody might tell you you’re preening, but you can pretty much dismiss them as assholes.

                Also, go somewhere you wouldn’t ordinarily go because your preconceived notions about it involve it not being for you. You may not like it, but go anyway (I don’t mean to imply that you, in particular, don’t do this; I just mean people in general).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I don’t mean go after you don’t like it. I mean go anyway, to find out. I realize that was ambiguous.Report

              • Avatar Mike Schilling says:

                There are privileges which are available to all, like reading; it’s just that some people fail to take advantage of them. You’d have to be far more pinko than I am to try to ration them in some fashion, though having public libraries to make them available free of charge is one of my favorite examples of a public good.

                There are other privileges which are scarce, like admission to an Ivy League university. I don’t want to see a market for that, since that rewards the already privileged. Nor do I want to see a purely “objective” measure like SAT scores, since that also rewards the privileged, e.g. those who can afford prep classes or tutors. I like the idea that “overcame lack of privilege” is an input into the decision. Race isn’t a perfect measure of that, but as things stand, it is, unfortunately, pretty good. When that ceases to be the case, we can talk.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Two off-topic random thoughts:

                1 – if you read the mission statements of the Ivy League schools, it is wholly inconsistent for them to keep coursework, lectures, syllabi, and the whole curriculum off the web. They cannot keep raising oodles of alumni money and competing to hire top researchers while maintaining those alleged mission statements. They are either complete phonies (and the alumni need to call them on it) or they will be forced to put all the courses online for no fee.

                2 – re: public libraries, when are we going to start seeing some rich people buy the rights to important books solely to put them into the public domain? How much would it cost me to buy Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom, the rights, and just make it freely available on Kindle / iPad / Nook / internet / etc? I want to make this happen – get some libertarian hedge funders and create a shopping list. I’m doing this asap.Report

              • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

                Yeah, public-spirited hedge funders. Good luck with that.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Mike – now I’m definitely going to make this happen … nothing is so motivating as casual uninformed dismissal of a good idea!Report

        • Avatar BobbyC says:

          Is it permissible to plug a charity?

          Reading to young children is simply critical. My working hypothesis is that if we don’t correct the massive disparity in what happens from conception to age three, then much of public policy is essentially remedial work. Getting books into the homes of all young children is a great start – and much more important in my estimation than the great work going on among education reformers at later stages.Report

  23. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    Chris,

    Apology accepted, however I have no interest in continuing the discussion with you. James Hanley accurately sums up my feelings on the conversation at this point. You were pretty quick to unload all sorts of items about me like ‘killing stuff for fun’ and being an apologist for police brutality, as though you had been keep mental notes for just such an occasion. You may have apologized, and kudos for being graceful enough to do so, but I suspect your actually feelings about me haven’t changed. So I can’t imagine that a reply to your question would meet your minimum standards for dialogue. Also, this:

    “It seems to me that, if you have lived in this country for more than a couple years, and you haven’t seen any racism, you’re probably not capable of seeing any. So all I ask is for one example of racism that you’ve seen, in order to make sure that it’s even possible to have a conversation about it.”

    As previously stated, I don’t care for IQ tests as a pre-condition for dialogue. It’s both insulting and an implication that your time is so valuable you won’t even begin a discussion unless it starts on ground you are happy with. I’ve also stated numerous times that I don’t have any interest in talking about racism at a broad level because I prefer discussing specifics. So we are at a stalemate and I am happy to leave it there.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Mike, so be it. I do wonder, however, if you would consider it inappropriate if you were to demand, say, a basic level of knowledge of hunting before you started discussing the merits of this particular weapon over that one. I mean, would you want to have a conversation with me about it, knowing that I not only don’t hunt but dislike hunting? I doubt it, because it wouldn’t go anywhere. So yeah, I expect people to at least admit racism exists before I have a discussion about how we might go about changing things, because if they can’t admit racism exists, if they can’t point to even a single example, then they don’t think there’s a problem to fix, and if in 2012 in the United States, they don’t think there’s a problem to fix, I can’t help them. No one can.Report

      • Avatar BobbyC says:

        Where’s Rodney King when you need him.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          BobbyC – I think the General, up above, had some relevant points.Report

          • Avatar BobbyC says:

            Yes, missed that … sort of puts my Rodney King reference to shame … but I think if we took up his suggestion I’d get the short end of the stick … like the new character in every dramatic series that shows up in a late episode, seems interesting, and is promptly killed off.Report

            • Avatar Glyph says:

              BobbyC, speaking as a relatively new guy too (longtime lurker only fairly recently delurked) I really enjoy your comments.

              I think yer goin’ places.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Tks man. But I do fear that another couple weekends of shirking child care and my wife will have some ideas about the places I should go!Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                This place really is a time-sink isn’t it?

                I mean that in the best possible way, but I have been like a hamster hitting the lever marked ‘CRACK’ the way I keep clicking ‘refresh’ around here.

                Well, just remind your wife, as I do mine, that at least she and the kids know where I am all the time.

                In the basement, in my underwear.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        “I do wonder, however, if you would consider it inappropriate if you were to demand, say, a basic level of knowledge of hunting before you started discussing the merits of this particular weapon over that one. “

        Of course not. That would assume a degree of stupidity in the other party that doesn’t seem very polite. Guns really aren’t that complicated and even if they were, explaining complicated things in an uncomplicated way is a basic life skill most adults should possess. Lastly, I enjoy sharing my knowledge with others so I certainly don’t see conversational prerequisites as necessary. In fact, I welcome the challege.Report

    • Avatar Michael Drew says:

      I’ve also stated numerous times that I don’t have any interest in talking about racism at a broad level because I prefer discussing specifics.

      Mike,

      Not saying you need to or not in order to pass any particular test or anything, but if you wanted to write a post unpacking this statement in some detail, explaining what you mean by both of these categories – racism at a broad level and in specifics, and what conversations about these things would consist of, and why you’re interested in one and not the other – I think it would go a long way toward having the kind of diagnostic – i.e. a necessary first step leading to prescription – discussion that Chris and others would like to be able to have with you about race and racism that this thread has not fostered.

      I understand if you are discouraged about the prospects for that discussion being productive or, for that matter, comfortable in light of this one, and would understand if you didn’t care to undertake it.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        There’s not much to it Michael. ‘Broad level’ racism is something like saying yes, racism exists and is even common in America.” I find that incredibly useless. Specifics would be something like the question I asked about outdoor sports. Once someone asks about a specific issue, I laid out how I would approach it here:

        https://ordinary-times.com/blog/2012/08/my-pick-for-essay-of-the-year/#comment-337696


        1) Define the specific problem (example: Why are there less black hockey players?)

        2) Determine if this problem is actually a product of race or some other factor

        3) If the problem can be fairly attributed* to race then discuss the root cause

        a) Institutional / policy
        b) Racism
        c) Internal flaws within that specific community

        4) Suggest solutionsReport

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          The problem with “specific explanations and specific solutions”, to the people who worry about racism, is that if you’re asking for specifics then you’ve already lost. If you were able to understand why the specific thing you did was racist, and why the specific solution fixes it, then there wouldn’t need to be a solution because you’d have already not done whatever it was you did.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          Disparities in the hiring of subcontractors by government contractors for construction projects. There’s a huge literature on it. Economic and other demographic factors do not explain the disparity. Years of research in pretty much every court case (because it’s court cases that motivate the research) show that race is a significant factor when you control for just about everything else people can think of. This is despite the fact that there are federal, state, and local rules pertaining to the hiring of MoB’s and WoB’s (in essence, you have to hire some). I did some contract work, many years ago, as a statistician for a company that does the econometrics for these studies when they get hired by some town, county, or state that’s getting sued. The numbers are really pretty striking. And it’s not just in hiring that you see the race effect for these businesses. You also see it in credit. So, let’s talk solutions, knowing that the current raced-based initiatives don’t work.Report

          • Avatar BobbyC says:

            Ok – I don’t mean to go all libertarian in our discussion of race, but I cannot help myself sometimes.

            Hiring quotas don’t work. There is ample evidence and good logical arguments that unpopular / maligned minorities do better in unregulated parts of the economy. The majority, if it is really wants to, can keep unpopular minorities out of govt contracts and public office and the like. But how do you keep someone out of the oil market? Out of the market for the popular arts? Out of financial markets? To keep a group as an underclass, the society has to route a large amount of opportunity and the economy through political (including regulatory) processes. It should surprise no one (and pls don’t bash me for generalizing wildly – the specifics don’t matter much!) that Jews have done well in Hollywood and Wall St, that Italians set up the mob in America, that minorities have long done well in sports (from the Irish to Italians to blacks), and so on. The black community has had wonderful success in the arts and sports, but much less success in areas where discrimination exerts more influence, from much of business to govt contracts to politics. My point is that we are not likely to address racial bias via politics – in fact, politics is lagging and more often than not is an instrument of oppression rather than liberation. The courts can lead at time, but legislatures almost never will. I am familiar with the Civil Rights Act and I see it as supportive although I know some people really think that LBJ and the Congress led (and I disagree).

            What does work is strength. Self-empowerment. That’s NOT an argument that we should tolerate injustice in the laws or that it is somehow the fault of the black community if plenty of people in power don’t want to hire them or have unconscious and conscious bias against them. It’s not that. It’s just to say that what will work is internal communal strength, especially cultural and economic strength. Much of human history is the story of hard, disadvantaged outsiders utterly defeating comfortable incumbent cultures. That is what will work for the black community, not corrective public policy, nor aid from its allies, nor concessions from its enemies. The other option is total assimilation. That works too, but is a very different kind of winning.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              See, the government doesn’t hire the subcontractors. The government hires a contractor, who hires the subcontractors. These contractors have requirements, and even with those, disparities still exist. But things are better than they were before those requirements existed. So I’m not sure your argument holds here, or if it does, it doesn’t stand up to the empirical evidence.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Are you arguing that this is not an example of how politics / govt contracts / regulations fail to correct racial injustice? Seems to be failing to me. My perspective would be that even if the govt contracts with some racist or crypto-racist contractor who won’t hire the best subcontractor at the lowest price, that’s still an example of how running an economic project through the govt fails minorities. When we force products and services into impersonal free markets, unpopular minorities face the closest thing to a fair shake that they will get in a society where they are, you know, unpopular. I’m all for making the law impartial, and we need processes to uncover injustice in the laws, but routing contracts and regulations through politics plays into and exacerbates injustices arising from popular biases.

                In my idealized world, the racist firms have to compete and win in the market vs firms that hire the best available regardless of race, creed, etc. It’s the Branch Rickey approach to winning. In the real world, racist firms survive on the teat of govt and by seeking legal protections to restrict competition; or they are just damn good at what they do and happen to be bigoted (the Chick-fil-A approach). I read history as supporting that view of the real world in countless ways.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Bobby, do you think, outside of government projects, MoB’s get hired at a better rate? If so, you’d be mistaken.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC says:

                Chris – I’m laying out how it ought to work, and pointing out the ineffectiveness of politics / political processes to correct injustice. You respond that minority owned businesses do worse in both private and public bidding. Aside from evidence of potential racism among their customers, what does it show? Does that mean that race-based legislative initiatives, like quotas, do work? That we have a race problem generally? That MoB are consistently uncompetitive? That MoB are discriminated against consistently in both public and private bids? My point is that the solution is not to be found in legislatures; what’s yours?

                In fact, if you want to discuss my views, pls respond to my last two posts! You wrote “let’s talk solutions, knowing that the current race-based initiatives don’t work.” That’s the post I responded to! I agree with that statement, and laid out why, and some thoughts towards what will work. Do you have other ideas for how individuals, policymakers, and institutions can improve the situation?Report

        • Avatar Michael Drew says:

          ‘Broad level’ racism is something like saying yes, racism exists and is even common in America.”

          We don’t have to spend a ton of time on it, Mike, and I may have missed it in the thread, but have you said whether you think this is a true or a false statement?

          If it’s false, it’s good to know that you think this.

          If it’s true, and if you think it’s true in a way that has a significant impact on life for people of color in the country, then, with you being all about specific examples, I’m with Chris in wondering what you think the important examples are that lead you to this view. Is that the relatively small number of black people who participate in outdoor sports (if such is actually a fact in the world)? Are there specific examples you might name that you think might have a more profound impact on the life of everyday people than not particupating in that particular recreational activity?Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Yes, Michael. There IS racism. Do I think about it at the broad level? No. I don’t know how many times I can stress this point but I prefer specifics. My opinion is that there is little we can do about Racism (capital R). There is a lot we can do towards mitigating the effects of specific policies that harm one race or another.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              But the problem, as some people seem to see it, is that this doesn’t actually stop people being racists. It just stops their racism from having an effect. In certain ways. At certain times. And those dog-gone racists will just go and find another way to be racist and you’re right back where you started.Report

            • Avatar Michael Drew says:

              Mike,

              I specifically asked about specifics, because you had stressed your preference for talking about them. I’m interested in what specific examples are the ones that lead you to the conclusion that racism is a force that significantly affects the lives of people broadly in this country. I guess that’s one more general question I have, since techincally you’ve now simply said it exists, but then we can go all-specs: is racism a force that significantly affects the lives of people broadly in this country? That can be a one-word answer – I’m not asking you spend any time at all discussing that. Then, if you think it is, I am absolutely intersted in hearing about the specific instances of it that most lead you to this conclusion, if you’re interested in talking about them, which you say you are.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                “… is racism a force that significantly affects the lives of people broadly in this country?”

                You realize you are asking the same question Chris did, right?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Well, I gave you a specific example. I figured it’d be right up your alley, since it’s business and all. Plus, there is a ton of research documenting the disparities and showing that, when you statistically account for economic and other demographic factors, race still has an influence, so it’s the sort of thing where we can definitely attribute the disparity to race, even if we don’t want to say it’s racism (that is, we don’t need to worry about what’s in people’s heads to say that race is a factor in the hiring decisions). We also know that the current policies in place to reduce or eliminate the influence of race in these hiring decisions only do the former, not the latter. So it’s a good place to talk about possible solutions. Hell, you don’t even have to talk about it with me. I’ve given you an example, and you could have had at it, but chose not to, and instead kept at a broad level. Kinda like I thought.

                What was it you said about all something or other and no go?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I think the question is directed at a different target than you think it is, Mike. I think it’s much closer to what DD suggested right above here. To wit:

                If a person concedes that racism is a Big Deal, and they believe that racism is the result of individual and cultural behaviors, to what extent do they then feel compelled to proactively reshape culture in an effort to eliminate racism and the causal roots that give rise to discrimination, as opposed to trying to preserve or maintain that culture by merely trying to minimize the observable effects of racism?

                I don’t mean to be asking that question of you personally, Mike. I’m just trying to articulate what I think might be an underlying issue dancing through these types of discussions.Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Stillwater,

                “If a person concedes that racism is a Big Deal, and they believe that racism is the result of individual and cultural behaviors, to what extent do they then feel compelled to proactively reshape culture in an effort to eliminate racism and the causal roots that give rise to discrimination, as opposed to trying to preserve or maintain that culture by merely trying to minimize the observable effects of racism?”

                I had to read through this a few times but I think I understand what you are getting at. My suggestion would be, if the effects of racism can be mitigated at a more micro level then that has a positive effect on macro level racism.

                For example, let’s say that a building foreman thinks that Asians make terrible carpenters. He has no rational basis for this opinion but maybe his dad fought in Vietnam and his grandpa fought in WWII and they developed some racism that rubbed off on him. Some policy is implemented by the government or through his union and he is forced to hire a few Asians. They do a great job and his opinions change. This trickles down to his kids. The micro problem gets solved first and then the macro problem follows.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Let’s take your example and say that the guy hires a few Asians, because the government says he has to, but his opinion doesn’t change. Is this a win or a loss? The effect of his racism is mitigated but he’s still racist. In the end, which was the goal of the policy?Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                How would it be a loss?

                I could see thinking that it wasn’t a full win, but who lost? The foreman? What did the foreman lose?Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                DD,

                I guess you could call it a 50% win but with policy that is good enough. And also, maybe it’s not just the foreman. Maybe it’s the non-minority coworkers of the Asian workers. Then that trickles down to their kids.

                I’ve seen it happen already here in KY with Mexicans and their American coworkers on farms, landscaping crews, etc.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                But he’s still a racist, in my alteration of the example. He’ll still do racist things; just not that particular thing.

                As I asked–what is the goal? To mitigate the harm done by racism, or to Stop Racism? There are things that you will do to achieve the latter that are not part of what you do to achieve the former.Report

              • Avatar Michael Drew says:

                …I’m asking you to answer it using the method you say you prefer, as a way of trying to get that approach to offer a bit more to us about your perspecive. I said it could be a one-word answer, which is not a heavy load of discussion to ask for. On the other hand, you could say you aren’t sure but be willing to use you preferred method of reflection to engage the question to some extent, saynig, ‘Here are some examples that might lead me to suspect that it is, but I’m not sure they lead me to that conclusion finally…”

                If it’s so important to you to avoid answering that question at all, I can do this in a different way (actually, I already did): What are the kinds of specific examples of racism that have the greatest effects on people’s lives ni this country, might you guess? (I’ve already asked, “Are there specific examples you might name that you think might have a more profound impact on the life of everyday people than not particupating in [a] particular recreational activity?”)Report

              • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

                Michael,

                As I think I said somewhere above, I really just don’t think about high-level racial issues very much. I DO see it on the micro level, especially in the area of education which is an interest of mine. That is one area that effects a lot of people.

                I also don’t think that education issues all originate in racism, even when they have a racial component. There are all sorts of challenges facing immigrant communities that appear have more to do with cultural differences than the color of their skin.Report

  24. Avatar Jaybird says:

    So I figured, hey, I’ll talk to Parker and see what he thinks. “Here, read this article.” He read it.

    “What’d you think?” “Ta-nahesi is right, mostly.”

    So there’s that.

    We discussed privilege for a bit after that and he explained something to me that was his experience that was not my experience. The reading thing he sympathized with (his nephews are read to every night as well) but he wanted to point out one of the assumptions White Folks make that Black Folks can’t.

    Employment. White folks, he told me (and this is my experience too) generally assume that they will be employed until they are ready to retire. If you get a job at 25, you’ll have a better job at 30, a better job than that at 35, and a better job than even that at 40. (Even if you’re at the same company the whole time… but if you’re not, the idea is that your station will always be on an uphill climb with only minor setbacks if any.)

    This matched my experience. I was told, as a young man, “70% of life is just showing up. So show up, be showered, dress well, be groomed, and give a damn. If you do that, you’ll be a better candidate than most of the other schlubs out there. Even if you don’t know what to do, communicate that not knowing doesn’t bug you and that you can be brought up to speed faster than most. You’ll be okay for the rest of your life.”

    I was also told this: “Just get a degree. It doesn’t matter what it’s in. Just having a degree will communicate that you can finish stuff you put your mind to finish. It doesn’t matter if it’s in forestry or philosophy or art history. The piece of paper is the thing.”

    Parker told me that Black Folks get told different things entirely. Dress twice as good. Work twice as hard. *BE* twice as good. Don’t get a bullshit degree in a bullshit field. Get something in science, or programming, or engineering.

    He told me about his brother who has degrees out the wazoo, is the guy who teaches math but is smart enough to the point where he should be designing curriculae… but, because he’s black, is merely a (really good) teacher and the automatic assumption is that he’s employed *NOT* because he’s good enough to design curriculae in a job where he’s teaching it but because, hey, Affirmative Action (and he was told this to his face).

    (For the record, I have no idea how this should be addressed.)Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      (I also apologized to him for using him as “My Black Friend That I Talk To About Race Issues” and he that “it’s fine, Jay” thing that I’m sure you can imagine him saying.)Report

      • Avatar MikeSchilling says:

        If you’ve ever read any of these books, you’ll understand why it’s a bit jarring when JB calls his friend “Parker”.

        (By the way, “curriculae” is an interesting (and real) word. It appears to have come from turning “curriculum” into a plural twice. The next logical step would be “curriculaes”.)Report

    • Avatar greginak says:

      fwiw re: employment. Last time i was a b0ss, at a promient Catholic chartiy, i hired a gregarious black guy. He has a history of drug use and crimes, but in a chartiy that works with drug abusing kids that in itself is not that odd. He was years away from his problems and had great references. He also was relentlessly positive in a way many recovering folks are. We also had a guy who had worked for us for years who had a history of drug use and crimes. Very nice guy, good worker, white guy from the south. I was told not to let my new worker work with anyone but me so i could keep an eye on him. I also heard a couple of the workers were a bit scared of him even though he almost always had a big smile on his face. In the end the guy i hired decided to pursue a MA out of state which was a good move for him and likly best for everyone. It certainly saved me from being a bad evil person by pointing out why it looked like one ex-drug user and felon was a concern and one ex-drug user felon was a great guy to have around.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      I know of at least one charter school group, which works in almost exclusively poor black and Hispanic neighborhoods, where class are named after colleges and the expected graduation year of kids in that class.

      If I taught in that school, my class would be called BC ’30 (or ’31… whatever it is). So they wouldn’t call us Pre-K or Mr. Kazzy’s class, they’d call us BC ’30. The idea is to build in an expectation for these kids that they go to college and that they graduate, since so many of the kids don’t grow up with the expectation and how having or not having this expectation makes a huge impact on the likelihood of attending college and of graduating college and of all the social, economic, political, and other benefits that come with taking that path. The school has not yet reached the point where it’s oldest kids are going to college, so time will tell if this works. But, it was interesting to think about…

      Along those same lines, I was reflecting on the various conversations we had about the worth and value of college. This summer, I worked with some high school kids from the inner city. They talked excitedly about going to college, some remarking they would be the first person in their family to attend. Some (not all) of these kids were the same type of kid who many folks here were saying might not be better off with college. But these kids, these largely poor black and Hispanic kids, had a benefit to attending college that their white middle-class peers did not… they had to chance to change their expectations for their whole family. That shit is profound. And largely absent from our conversations because some folks seem to think the experience of poor black and Hispanic kids is indistinguishable from white middle-class kids.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

        Kazzy,

        “And largely absent from our conversations because some folks seem to think the experience of poor black and Hispanic kids is indistinguishable from white middle-class kids.”

        I think the more important question is whether or not the experience of poor black and Hispanic kids is indistinguishable from poor white kids. I would contend that when it comes to the obstacles to educational success their experiences are remarkably similar.Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Mike-

          I considered exploring that but was late for a meeting. Class matters, absolutely.

          Poor blacks are more like poor whites than they are like middle-class. But are poor blacks more like poor whites or middle-class blacks? I dunno… It depends on the variable. In the aggregate? Yea, I dunno…

          But, largely, our conversations are about middle-class white folks, which indeed leaves out poor whites.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy says:

            I will confess that line in particular was a thinly veiled attack on the position Blaise is advocating elsewhere.Report

          • Avatar greginak says:

            I’d strongly agree that class matters and the poor of all colors often have a lot in common. Not everything but in many important ways this is true.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

            Kazzy,

            Here’s my anecdotal response: The poor black kids are more similar to the poor white kids. I have a close relative who works for the school system here as a social worker. On the first day of school they position social workers in all of the elementary schools to deal with the inevitable issues that come up. This year she had four kids who showed up for kindergarten and didn’t know A) Their own last names B) Their parent’s names C) What school they were in D) A phone number to contact someone. In all four cases the kids were not even at the school they were supposed to be at because their parents hadn’t read any of the paperwork they received. I asked my wife if there were any common characteristics the four kids shared. Her answer? “Judging by their clothes they were all probably poor.” Their racial make-up was one black, one white and two hispanics.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              MikeD-

              As I said, I don’t know a universal answer. Along a variety of variables, class can define shared experiences. For other variables, race or gender or age might be the unifying factor. And, of course, multiple ones can work in conjunction.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Also, please see my response to cfpete below. My point was not that blacks’ experiences are wholly disparate from whites’. My point was that many of our conversations ignore the experiences of those who aren’t middle-class and white; in this particular instance, I was focusing on a school where the only white student was upper-class amd the son of the founder.Report

          • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

            I think there isn’t much difference between being a poor white kid and a poor black kid for “kids sufficiently young”.

            Once you get to middle school and above, there is definitely a difference between being a poor white kid and being a poor black kid, and it has mostly to do with how the greater society views and responds to you.

            This, of course, is contextual to where you actually grow up and what your local demographics are and a whole bunch of specific factors.

            But I see poor black kids and poor white kids in my kids’ classes, and they share mostly the same disadvantages. At 5… 6… 7… 8… maybe 9. Once they get to 10, there’s a lot of other things going on.Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:

              PC-

              For the children themselves, largely yes. For the broader context from which they come, there might be more difference.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sure, but those things that cause self-referential generational poverty? Most of them show up just a tad bit before puberty.

                Barring horribly abusive parents or some other very significant family dynamic gaming the comparison… You could take a kid out of the projects at age 2 and put him or her in Mr. Drummond’s penthouse and the difference between that kid at age 6 and that kid at age 6 if he stayed in the projects is probably going to be mostly tracked with what toys he or she plays with and what television shows they’ve been watching. Not much. The elasticity of kids at age 6 is a factor.

                Fast forward another 4 years and that’s going to be a very different kettle of fish.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Note: this doesn’t imply that things like basic nutrition don’t make a difference, as well, because they certainly do.

                But I see some kids show up at school events and other kids show up at school events… and you can see the ones who show up hungry and don’t have enough parent involvement. And you can see how quickly they change when their circumstances change… moving in with a grandparent who reads to them might make a huge difference for a kid at age 6, sure.

                But as your age climbs, the amount of stuff you need to do to make that huge difference gets exponentially bigger.

                Sorry, I’m reading what I’m writing and it doesn’t sound like what is in my head. Read these last two comments as charitably as you can.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Even before MS, the race matters. You can look at this in the rates of special education referral for black boys (there is a gender component well) for kids as young as 5. And I see this anecdotally as well.

                “You could take a kid out of the projects at age 2 and put him or her in Mr. Drummond’s penthouse and the difference between that kid at age 6 and that kid at age 6 if he stayed in the projects is probably going to be mostly tracked with what toys he or she plays with and what television shows they’ve been watching.”

                There will be far more difference than just what toys they play with, in the aggregate.Report

              • Avatar Patrick Cahalan says:

                Sure, shoot, this is what I meant when I said read charitably.

                Yes, race still matters (to the extent that race is a proxy for a number of other factors that matter) prior to middle school.

                What I see is that those differences are much more easily undone at a younger age than they are as kids approach their teens.

                Once peer group identification becomes as big of a driving force as parental involvement, the whole self-reinforcing aspect of generational poverty gets the barbed part of the hook in.

                Prior to that, you can take the hook out with a lot less effort.

                Is this a better explanation?Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha!

                If you believe (as I do) that the differences that exist between folks of different races or classes* are there because of social or cultural or contextual or experiential reasons, than it naturally follows that accounting for or adjusting the social or cultural or contextual or experiential inputs will impact the outputs. The sooner the change happens, the better and easier it is to make happen. While you can’t control for every thing (well-educated, millionaire black athletes still get arrested for DWB) that happens to the person, you can largely direct and impact who that person becomes.

                Going back to my original example, the school in question was attempting to do just that: white middle-class kids largely grown up with the expectation that they will one day go to college. This (among other things) has a large impact on the high rate of white middle-class kids going to college. Poor black and hispanic kids largely grow up without this expectation. This (among other things) has a large impact on the comparably low rate of poor black and hispanic kids going to college. So, if you change that aspect of the difference between the experiences of white middle-class kids and poor black and hispanic kid, maybe you change the difference that exists in their college attendance rates.

                So… yea… I think we agree. Or are much closer to agreeing. Basically, if I didn’t think that we could alter the future outcomes of children, why the hell would I be teaching?!?! We just have to realize there are a whole host of OTHER things also seeking to impact their future outcomes, some of which we must combat against, and which are not evenly distributed across gender, racial, ethnic, religious, or class lines.

                * I deliberately exclude sex here because there is a biological component to the differences between the sexes that I do not believe exists between the races or classes. Which is not to say that there are not also social/contextual/etc factors at play there as well. Basically, I think there is NO biological component to the differences we are talking about here between races and classes and at least SOME between the sexes.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke says:

                “Peer group identification.”

                Bingo.

                a href=”http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=zeaxHJwyHbcC&oi=fnd&pg=PA375&dq=black+academic+achievement+middle-class&ots=6jbzqwXrs2&sig=rnsq9lM5xrbs2UMn8giMIW46_wE#v=onepage&q=black%20academic%20achievement%20middle-class&f=false”>”Do Black Adolescents Disparage Academic Achievement?”

                Among other factors. Why the effects of Head Start disappear, why even middle-class black kids experience a falloff in academic achievement.

                It’s more complicated than the standard racism bleat.

                Here’s some more recent stuff, but see also the work of John Ogbu.

                Achievement gap is deep, even in middle class March 17, 2010 By Hanna Roos (PhysOrg.com) —

                Several decades after racial integration legislation was passed, many African-American students still lag behind in school, said Travis Gosa, and the black-white achievement gap, he said, is greatest among middle-class and affluent students.

                Read more at: http://phys.org/news188056690.html#jCpReport

              • Avatar Kazzy says:

                “It’s more complicated than the standard racism bleat.”

                What is the standard racism bleat? And who here is bleating it?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                It’s more complicated than the standard racism bleat.

                Man, it sure sounds like you’re saying something other than culture accounts for the achievement gap. Even after all the best efforts of white people to do so!

                Say it aint so, TVD!Report

            • Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

              Patrick,

              “Once you get to middle school and above, there is definitely a difference between being a poor white kid and being a poor black kid, and it has mostly to do with how the greater society views and responds to you.”

              With regards to race beyond elementary school there IS a noticable drop off correlating with race when kids hit middle school however, it is not as pronounced as one would think. I put together some data a couple of years ago with regards to Louisville schools. Here is the % of students that are non-white and their rankings based on state criteria. You will notice that the #5 school and the #20 school have the same % of non-white kids:

              School % Non White Rank
              Barret 31% #1
              Brown 42% #2
              Jefferson County Traditional 36% #3
              Crosby 32% #4
              Noe 47% #5
              Johnson Traditional 43% #6
              Meyzeek 55% #7
              Kammerer 39% #8
              Highland 40% #9
              Newburg 59% #10
              Farnsley 44% #11
              Ramsey 35% #12
              Carrithers 48% #13
              Thomas Jefferson 62% #14
              Myers 56% #15
              Westport 60% #16
              Conway 38% #17
              Moore 44% #18
              Stuart 39% #19
              Lassiter 47% #20
              Knight 40% #21
              Olmstead South (girls) 64% #22
              Olmsted North (boys) 64% #23
              Frost 46% #24
              Western 65% #25Report

      • Avatar cfpete says:

        “And largely absent from our conversations because some folks seem to think the experience of poor black and Hispanic kids is indistinguishable from white middle-class kids.”

        Really, who the hell thinks that?
        Are you under the impression that there are no poor white people in the US?
        I regret to inform you that the majority of low income people in the US are actually “white.”

        I guess those poor white people are just stupid and lazy. Maybe it is genetics?Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Cfpete-

          My point was that our conversations tend to focus on the experience of middle-class whites. Wich ignores the often very divergent experiences of other groups. I spoke specifically about poor blacks and Hispanics because that is the population of the school in question.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Jay, this gets at Coates’ desription of racism as skepticism quite nicely, I think.Report