Two Stories About Race

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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121 Responses

  1. Mike Schilling says:

    My reaction to Deen wasn’t “Yeah, Southerners. What can you expect?” It was “Geez, she can’t even take responsibility for her own actions.” She reflects badly on no one but herself.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

      Also, Kentucky is not the South.


      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        Kentucky and West Virginia baffle me as states that have legitimate claim to distancing themselves from the South, but choose not to. It’s really quite maddening, in a way.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

          West Virginia is like its own country. It should annex Western Maryland and secede.Report

        • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

          Example of the odd ways that I, as a southerner, get irked for completely irrational reasons that can only be explained by me being southern:

          Watching Justified, Boyd gives a speech about carpetbaggers, and I want to scream, “Kentucky didn’t need Reconstructed, so it didn’t have carpetbaggers, damnit!” Not only does the South not make sense to me, but I, qua southerner, don’t make sense to me.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

            Where does Kentucky belong then? As a northerner, I always assumed it was the south.

            But that could be based solely on Colonel Saunders.Report

            • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

              Kazzy, you know how it’s popular on the interwebs for people of a leftward political persuasion to claim to be leftier than other people of leftward persuasion? Well, Southerners have been doing that since the 1860s.

              People from Georgia or Alabama: “Tennessee? That ain’t the South. They’s practically yankees.” People from Tennesee: “Kentucky? That ain’t the South. They di’n’t even secede. They’s actual yankees!” People from Kentucky: “Pleeeeeease let us in! We’re southern, we swear! Look, we don’t even talk to those people over yonder in Ohio and Indiana. Hell, we even say ‘over yonder.'” People from Ohio: “I don’t like crossing over there into Kentucky. The South is like a 3rd world country. Now I’m going to go eat my spaghetti with chili on it.”Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

              Appalachia. Just like Pittsburgh.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

            Oi, you shoulda heard my mother-in-law about Silence of the Lambs…
            (They put General Meade up on the wall, and they dared to claim they were in Tennessee). [Movie actually shot in Pittsburgh, in Soldiers and Sailors, where it’s quite appropriate for that man to be up on the wall.]Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Will Truman says:

          During the various migrations of the 40’s and 50’s from Kentucky to industrial states, the Kentuckians who moved North had it communicated that their claims to distancing themselves from the South did not make one a Northerner.

          There is a surprising amount of othering in our society as a whole. Most reshufflings are due to deep prejudices being overcome by deeper prejudices.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

        ” “I tell you the truth,” The South answered, “This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” But Chris declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other Southerners said the same…”Report

        • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

          The South and me, we got a complicated relationship.Report

          • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

            Ayuh. How could it not be complicated? (Tho it does seem like a slightly abusive relationship, if ya know what I mean.)Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

            “Tell about the South,” said Shreve McCannon. “What do they do there? How do they live there? Why do they?…Tell me one more thing. Why do you hate the South?”

            “I don’t hate it,” Quentin said, quickly, at once, immediately; “I don’t hate it,” he said. “I don’t hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark: I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!” Report

    • She also does reflect poorly on Southerners as well. because of the history if systemic, institutional racism that exists in the South, those Southerners who stand on the national stage are seen by the rest of the Nation as representing an entire region, and all its cultures and sub-cultures. When David Duke ran for Louisiana Governor in 1991, it was well known and widely reported that he was a former KKK Grand Wizard. Thus his racism wasn’t particularly hidden, but he none the less got tagged as representing “the South.” Same thing here.

      And like Mike, it frustrates me to no end that Southern celebrities like this are given the power implicit in the public whipping they receive.Report

  2. Shazbot5 says:

    “Yes, this kind of racism IS a feature of the South. And also everywhere else.”

    But it is worse in the South. The South is more racist, even if other places are racist, too.

    By analogy:

    “Yes this kind of racism IS a feature of South Africa. And also everywhere else.”

    Hardly a defense of South Africa.

    Lots of Southerners are great and not racist. So too lots of South Africans. But let’s not pretend that the racism problem isn’t worse in certain places. It just is. Everywhere is racist. The South is particularly racist.Report

    • Damon in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Not quite,
      As someone who’s lived in the Mid Atlantic, the Pacific Northwest, and spent extensive time in the South, it’s not that simple. BTW, I’ve also been to South Africa. So let’s compare.

      Pacific Northwest: I saw a lot less racism in the PNW than anywherre else. A much more tolerant, or perhaps, more of a libertarian “do your own thing” vibe.

      South Africa: Lot of attitudes straight out of USA circa 1950s.

      In the other two locations, there was just as much racism in the Mid-Atlantic as the South-racism just manifested itself differently. In the South, you were more likely to run into someone who would spout off racist remarks during a casual convo upon first meeting you or going about you daily life. In the Mid Atlantic, folks “felt you out first” to see if you were “sided with them” before making any racist comments.Report

    • Michelle in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      But it is worse in the South. The South is more racist, even if other places are racist, too.

      Been to Chicago or Philly lately? I find that there’s a lot more integration here in North Carolina in public places like restaurants and stores than there was in Chicago, which is probably one of the most segregated cities in the country. This isn’t to say that there isn’t racism, but race relations here seem more relaxed.

      Racism in the South was written into law, but the de facto segregation of the North was based on the same foundation and enforced by social and cultural mores.Report

      • FridayNext in reply to Michelle says:

        Claiming it is a quantitative issue is just wrong. There is an old aphorism that should be better known, that in the North the races grow equal, but not close. In the South the races grow close, but not equal. Which is better or worse is beside the point. The question SHOULD be how does racism express itself in which culture (assuming it does) and what are the short and long term consequences.

        I lived in a college town in the South from 2007 to this past summer and have lived in the Mid-Atlantic or North East pretty much the rest of my life. Sure racism is everywhere, but the “type” of racism in the South is one of open hostility. I just stopped engaging white people I didn’t already know (even and perhaps especially my in-laws) because you just get tired of hearing “the n-word” and other racist epithets in casual conversation. I even heard a tenured professor or two at a major university talk about how that “nigger president will put us all into burkha’s.” (they were female)

        If (that is a huge if, I don’t agree that she does) Deen has any valid reason to use her southern upbringing as an excuse it is probably because in the South no one corrects or challenges you for using that language in casual conversation and she just never grew that filter on her mouth. Also, she has consistently made that uniquely Southern of assumptions that just because an African-American is your nanny or employee and sits silently while you talk like that, it means they don’t object and don’t hate you.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Michelle says:

        Anecdata, especially from white people, will get us nowhere. But I think you are underestimating how bad the South is, perhaps because -correct me if I’m wrong- you live in or near the research triangle?

        The hard data (and the black people I know who lived in both places) suggests the south is worse, or at least much of the South. (Places like Virginia and NC are probably becoming different.)

        “The key study on this subject is new. In May, Christopher Elmendorf and Douglas Spencer—law professors at the University of California-Davis and the University of Connecticut, respectively—released a paper arguing that the list of states required to obtain federal approval under the VRA “remarkably” mirrors “the geography of anti-black prejudice” in the United States. “What we have generated,” Elmendorf says, “is an answer to the question that the chief justice asked during oral arguments and [Verrilli] was either unable or unwilling to answer.” The answer, they argue, is yes.”

    • Philip H in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      The South is not more racist then the rest of the country, it’s more openly racist in some places then other parts of the country. Arizona’s voter ID requirement is a s racist as they come, but few people peg Arizona as being a racist place.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Philip H says:

        then most people are idiots and blind besides!
        I mark the places based on the worst that lives there…
        because I expect to be the hunted, at some point or another.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Philip H says:

        Phillip makes this point perfectly. The problem with racism in the South is that it’s more open. Everywhere else it’s spoken in whispers.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          I repeat my above question… how many 88’s you seen down there?

          What is considered acceptable (normalized if not desirable) is quite different in the South. But open racism is open racism, and it’s in a LOT more places than you think.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


          How can we say that definitively? Is it possible that the South is both more racist and more openly racist? I’ll fully concede that the Northeast, where I hail from, is not without its own racism, some of which would seem very familiar to a Southerner and some of which is unique to the area. But when I’ve traveled to the South and, somewhat less so, to the Midwest, what I saw was not only more palpable but also more pervasive.

          There is lots of evidence that some of the best ways, long term, of breaking down racism is to get people to interact with one another. Not just live next to each other, but to actually break bread together. My personal experiences tell me that happens much more so in the northeast, which is largely due to the urbanization of the area.Report

          • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:


            Maine, that’s the whitest state in the 48, has quite low numbers of hate groups.

            Rust belt and Mid atlantic are running about as high (if not higher) than a lot of southern states.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


            I’m pretty comfortable with the way they collected data for this study. It’s perhaps not hard science but it’s definitely intriguing. If we take it at face value it appears that racism is mostly an eastern U.S. problem. I will theorize this is both from history (Southeast) and from people bumping up against minorities in big cities (Northeast). Others are perhaps geographically unique, specifically references to ‘wetbacks’ being most common in Texas.

            Let me also raise the idea here that it’s a lot easier to paint the South with a wide brush because it probably has the most well-defined and homogenous culture of any part of the country.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              But this is just data about Obama.

              I cited research that clearly concludes the South is more racist in attitude, not just behavior, which you are admitting is more racist in the south.

              “Elmendorf and Spencer used data from the 2008 National Annenberg Election Survey, which asked nonblacks to rank their own racial group and blacks regarding intelligence, trustworthiness, and work ethic. Respondents ranked their racial group above blacks by an average of 15 points in each of these categories, perhaps proving the Avenue Q claim that “everyone’s a little bit racist.” Elmendorf and Spencer, however, only counted a person as “prejudiced” if he thought his racial group was more superior to blacks than the average person—and only if he thought so in two or more of the three categories. That is, a respondent could think his race was a lot better than blacks and still not count as racist under their methodology.”

              The results were striking: The researchers’ mathematical model suggests that of the seven states in the country with the highest percentage of people who are biased against black people, six are Southern states—Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina—required to seek federal approval for election law changes under the VRA. Arizona and Alaska, the other two states required to get the feds’ permission before changing their election laws, ranked much lower in anti-black bias. But as Elmendorf and Spencer note, these states are presumably required to seek that permission because of other bias—anti-Latino in Arizona and anti-Native American in Alaska—which their study did not measure. (Besides the eight states mentioned above, the VRA requires some counties and municipalities in seven other states to seek federal permission to change election rules.)”


              I’d say three things.

              1. The opinion of white people based on anecdotes about how the south isn’t more racist in attitude carry zero evidential weight. The anecdotal assesments of blacks and others affected by the racism would at leastcarry some weight.

              2. It is clear to everyone that outward behavior (including hate crimes, the use of racial epithets, etc.$ and laws (including attempts to disenfranchise as much as possible or ban interracial karriage) are worse in the South. Since behavior is all that really matters morally, the south is clearl more racist in the ways that count.

              3. There is hard social science data showing that racist attitudes, regardless of behavior, are worse in the South. I cited some of this above.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                2) seems unclear at least looking at the SPLC. Maybe I’m missing the whole “normalize by population” bit….

                Do you remember the story of the black canvasser stuck on the side of the road in WV, back in 2008? I’d say that gives something to be said for the differences in racism north and south.Report

            • Ehh, I’m not thrilled with that map, or at least with the way that it’s structured. It does not appear to control for population density, and it also does not account for the effects of a single person sending out a large number of racist tweets.

              The bigger issue is the lack of control for population density, though. This problem is made worse when the map is viewed from the fully zoomed out perspective. If you zoom in, you find that the densely populated areas of the Northeast are basically a consistent light blue haze, with a handful of pockets of royal blue in Western New York and Central PA. The less-densely populated Southeast is also largely an equally steady haze of light blue, but with a good number of pockets of royal blue sprinkeld throughout, and also a good number of pockets of dark blue and even red (there are no such pockets in the Northeast). This tells me that if you controlled for population density, the Southeast would come off looking significantly worse than the Northeast.Report

          • Mark Thompson in reply to Kazzy says:

            I’d formulate your question a bit differently. There’s absolutely no shortage of pretty horrid racism in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast (most of New England being a notable exception), even as I agree that it’s still a bigger problem in the South. But the way I would phrase the question is more “Isn’t being more openly racist the same as just being more racist, full stop?”

            I’m pretty sure that it’s been said quite frequently on these boards that social stigma is necessary to defeat racism. Well, the first step in that process is to force racism underground; if it’s underground, eventually it loses the oxygen it needs to survive.

            The Mid-Atlantic, in particular, has always kind of occupied this middle ground of racial progress in which racial and class resentments are closely intertwined, and in a manner frequently adverse to the region’s economic elites. New York and New Jersey did not have significant pro-Confederacy constituencies (e.g., unlike the border states, there were to my knowledge no NY or NJ Confederate regiments), but they were bastions of Copperhead sentiment, with NY having the nation’s worst draft riots and NJ being the only state to vote for McClellan. They were also about 20 years behind the New England states in abolishing slavery.

            Even nowadays, there are no shortage of older folks around here that won’t hesitate to drop n-bombs and the like if you talk to them for a few minutes. You just won’t find anyone under the age of about 65 willing to do so, and if someone drops an n-bomb in the presence of anyone in the northeast under the age of 65, you can expect that speaker to get seriously yelled at. The people doing the yelling are frequently still pretty racist, but they’ve learned to be ashamed of that racism; by openly oppposing overt racism, and teaching the younger generations to do so, gradually less of their covert racism will rub off on the younger generations.Report

            • Chris in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              But the way I would phrase the question is more “Isn’t being more openly racist the same as just being more racist, full stop?”

              The two are certainly highly correlated, even if that correlation doesn’t quite reach 1.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Mark Thompson says:


              Curiously, the only time I heard someone drop the N-word with clear disdain in unfamiliar public surroundings was in Maine. My friends and I were fishing in the area at a family’s cabin and went to a local watering hole for a drink. A couple of guys, maybe 10-15 years our senior, stumbled in, already pretty drunk. When Michael Vick was shown on the TV screen, one of the guys simply went, “Someone should shoot that N-word in the head.” For my friends and I, all of us from either the greater Boston or New York areas, college educated, liberal, yada yada… the record stopped. But the rest of the bar seemed to just go about their business. Some folks might have been uncomfortable, but no one spoke up. We were sitting closest to the guy, and one of my friends said something under his breath about it, at which point the guy’s friend sorta started to cover up. “Alright, that might be it for the night…” That sort of stuff. But never actually apologized. We paid our tab and left, never really addressing the issue.

              Now, this could have just been some drunken lout. But what always bothered me about it, besides the obvious, is that this guy clearly thought he was in a “safe space” to utter such nonsense. He looked around, noticed a room full of a white people, at a dive bar in rural Maine (a state that is literally 99% white) and said, “Yep… no one here will mind!” And while people might have minded, for one reason or another, he was not shouted down.

              This doesn’t refute your point, which I largely agree with. I might challenge your argument that New England seems particularly advanced with regards to racism. I actually always looked at the mid-Atlantic, especially the I-95 corridor between NY and DC (including Philly) as doing a pretty good job. Not a utopia, but sufficiently honest and open to really make inroads in combatting racism both individually and systemically.Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Mark Thompson says:

              “Well, the first step in that process is to force racism underground; if it’s underground, eventually it loses the oxygen it needs to survive. ”

              … people do anthropology studies about racist hate groups around here. It’s… interesting…Report

          • Philip H in reply to Kazzy says:

            There is lots of evidence that some of the best ways, long term, of breaking down racism is to get people to interact with one another. Not just live next to each other, but to actually break bread together. My personal experiences tell me that happens much more so in the northeast, which is largely due to the urbanization of the area.

            This is PRECISELY why my parents left my brother and I in East Baton Rouge Parish public schools when they were court desegregated in 1980. I graduated from a highschool that was, despite the order, 69% African American in 1988. we didn’t live together, but we learned a lot from each other.Report

      • Chris in reply to Philip H says:

        First, let’s take a step back. If you want racism against Arab immigrants, you will find places as racist as Staten Island, but you won’t find many places more racist than Staten Island. If you want racism against Hispanics, Texas and the Southwest are probably going to be your best bets, though as immigrants spread out into the Southeast and midwest in greater and greater numbers, I suspect that will change. Racism against black people, however, while it pervades every inch of our country, is objectively worse in the South.

        Now, I’ve heard this “more openly racist” cliche my entire life. Hell, I’ve even used it sometimes. The only problem with it is that it’s bullshit. Yes, the South is more openly racist. But sometimes, more openly racist just means more racist. So people in the South are more likely to be unapologetic about not wanting their white daughter to marry a black man. They’re also more likely not to want their white daughter to marry a black man! People in the South may be more likely to vocally support segregated proms. People in the South are also more likely to have segregated proms! Are people in the South more likely to come out and say that differences in accomplishment between the races are inherent? Yes. They’re also more likely to believe in racial essentialism.

        There might be some parts of the country that come close, but overall, the South, and the deep South in particular, is just worse. And that’s simply not surprising, given its history and its current demographics. And it’s not meant to imply that racism isn’t everywhere. Hell, just ask the residents of Detroit or Gary, IN, or Chicago, or East St Louis, or Los Angeles, or the people getting stopped and frisked in New York City. But they still ain’t Mobile.Report

  3. “We” do give power to certain words, but that assignment of power works in the way that my vote for president works: we contribute collectively, but have little individual over the outcome, so we better be prepared to live by the rules whether we like the outcome or not. Put this way, if someone uses the n-word, they can’t simply plead “hey, it’s just a word” and thereby escape punishment. Special pleading is not what I see you claiming, Mike, but it seems like a logical conclusion one can come to from your statement about the power of words.

    I do think the focus on the use of certain words is sometimes too facile. It’s almost as if one can have all the same attitudes and act upon them to the detriment of the marginalized peoples, and all one has to do is avoid using those words in order to escape any opprobrium.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

      “I do think the focus on the use of certain words is sometimes too facile. It’s almost as if one can have all the same attitudes and act upon them to the detriment of the marginalized peoples, and all one has to do is avoid using those words in order to escape any opprobrium.”

      This is the general point I was trying to make.Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    The difference between Rock and Deen, or Rock and racists more broadly, is that Rock offers his criticism in a constructive way. It’s coming from a place of love, even if that isn’t immediate apparent based on a reading of his words. In essence, he is saying, “We can do better.” I don’t think Deen and other people who hold such thoughts about people of color are thinking anything of the sort. They’re far more likely to be thinking, “You can’d to better. You are no better. In fact, you are worse… less than.”

    That is a pretty stark difference.

    Re: AA, I don’t know why we feel the need to see it as either/or with regards to race and class. Why can’t we account for both?

    For me, before we can really have this conversation, we have to define the purposes of a university (or whatever the organization is). If we see a university as serving a social purpose, of having a duty to it’s community and the broader world, that is going to lead us to view the appropriateness of race and/or class-based AA differently than if we view its duty as fire and foremost to its students… or its trustees… or its alumnae… or whomever.

    Now, of course here we can make a both/and argument. It could be many of these things, or all of these things. But we ought to define it. Mission statements are really helpful in this regard, though from my experience reading independent K-12 school mission statements, they tend to be rather useless: lots of vagueness, lots of buzz words, little real substance. However, once defined, we can than look at whether accounting for race, class, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, or whathaveyou serves that mission.

    Personally, I see educational institutions as being dual purpose: they have a duty to their students and a duty to their community (with community being as small as the town they are located in or as large as the world, again depending on their mission). If a school believes that all students learn better in a “diverse” environment, than it is imperative that they seek and create such an environment. There are a number of mechanisms via which they can do this, AA being just one of many. Now, not all schools believe that, so each individual’s mileage will vary. On the other side, I think schools ought to have an obligation to the community they serve. This, too, will take different forms: the Jesuit school devoted to social justice is going to have a different sense of obligation to the community than the for-profit school. How do they begin to meet these obligations?

    Personally, I’d rather schools take an individualistic approach. Rather than offer 10 points for being black, 3 for being Asian, 6 for being poor, and on down the road, I’d rather they just look at the full compliment of offerings the student brings to the table, both in terms of what they bring internally to the school community and how their attendance contributes externally to the broader one. So they can look at a poor black kid from the inner city who clawed his way to the top of his school, but who might still have good-but-not-great SAT scores and say, “This kid obviously has a strong work ethic and perseverance, two things we value here at State U. He is likely to bring a perspective we sorely lack, as evidenced by his essay on how growing up poor moved him to get involved in charity work and his personal statement about the way he has both attempted to fulfill and challenge the notion of what black men are. The opportunity provided for him here will be of untold value, setting him on a life path he might never have imagined and positioning him to carve quite a legacy for himself in the world.”
    So, are his race and class, among other things, part of the entire package he brings to the table, rife for discussion and evaluation? Yes. But is it done in an objective, systematic way that is more likely to be abused than actually beneficial? No.Report

  5. Chris says:

    I think “class-based” affirmative action is a wonderful idea, even if I have no idea how it would work in our current system. However, I don’t think it would solve the problems that its proponents think it would, because race-based disparities aren’t as correlated with class-based disparities as they think.

    As I mentioned over on NaPP yesterday, a few years ago I did some consulting for a company that helps states and municipalities in lawsuits when their race-based contracting programs were inevitably challenged by white male business owners in court. Since these programs were race-based, they fell under strict scrutiny, and one of the things they had to show was that there was still a compelling government interest involved. In order to do that, they had to show that race-based disparities still existed for MBEs. This is surprisingly easy to do: even when you control for economic factors, there are still large disparities in the frequency with which MBEs are hired as subcontractors and in their access to credit, particularly for businesses owned by black people.

    The point being, race influences opportunity independently of, or in addition to, socioeconomic status. A class-based program doesn’t deal with this. In other words, it doesn’t accomplish what existing affirmative action programs are supposed to accomplish. So, while “class-based” remedies are great, they’re not great as replacements for race-based program, only as additions to them.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

      I’m curious if the preference for class-based AA is rooted more in a sense that class is a larger factor than race -OR- if we’re simply more comfortable acting on class than on race?

      As I think more about this, there is something a bit squirrelly about a bunch of white folks (we are, predominantly, a bunch of white folks) deciding that race isn’t as big a factor. What the F do we know?Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        With education there seems to be a good amount of research that poor white kids have about as much trouble as poor black kids. That tells me that race is less of an issue, at least on that front.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          But what about middle-class blacks? Upper-class blacks? If they fare worse than their white couterparts, then it would seem that race supercedes class, but bein poor is bad for everyone.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

            Fair worse in what measureable way? If both the whites and blacks have reached middle class status via income, what other criteria would we use to measure success?Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              See, I can’t agree with that. If a black family had to work twice as hard to achieve MC-status… Is that what we want?Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

                I know this sounds like I am being difficult here – but ‘worked twice as hard’ is also hard to define and much of it is about self-perception.

                If by twice as hard you mean that a black man with a Master’s degree earns the same as a white man with a Bachelor’s, then yeah, that’s measureable. If you mean that it took 6 tries to get the executive job when the average for white workers was three, that’s also measurable.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                How we measure it is hard, especially at the individual level. But we do have stats that show disparate outcomes for blacks and whites even when controlling for income.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                And I don’t think you’re being difficult, FTR. I got too much respect for you to think that.Report

              • Patrick in reply to Kazzy says:

                Eh; these topics are difficult. In good faith, if you’re really trying to argue ’em out, you’re going to be difficult.

                People with easy answers are usually the ones with the most facile answers.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                By the time you get to middle or upper class, I think you could argue that equality can be measured best by the quality of one’s professional network.Report

              • Kimmi in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                bullshit. There are neighborhoods that I can walk around in (as a white person) that even the richest black person would think twice before doing. particularly in casual clothes. after dark.Report

              • Chris in reply to Kimmi says:

                I remember Chris Rock making a joke that in his neighborhood in New Jersey (I think it’s New Jersey), there are two black families, his and Mary J Blidge, two people at the very top of their professions. His next door neighbor is a dentist. Not the best dentist in the world or even one of the best dentists in the world, just a regular, ordinary white dentist.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kimmi says:

                Heh… he was referring to Alpine, NJ, a very, very wealthy suburb of NY. I believe the punchline was, “Do you know what a black dentist would have to do to live in my town? Invent teeth!”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kimmi says:

                Heh… he was referring to Alpine, NJ, a very, very wealthy suburb of NY. I believe the punchline was, “Do you know what a black dentist would have to do to live in my town? Invent teeth!”Report

            • Kimmi in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              Wealth? ability to not wind up jackshit poor (over the course of a lifetime)? Better health outcomes due to less stress?
              Life expectancy?Report

            • Mike,

              I take Kazzy’s “fare worse” to be the rough equivalent of your “trouble” (as in “…have about as much trouble as…”). So I’m going to re-phrase Kazzy’s question:

              ‘But what about middle-class blacks? Upper-class blacks? If they have more trouble than their white couterparts, then it would seem that race supercedes class, but bein poor is bad for everyone.’Report

      • Glyph in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, I suspect the preference comes from resentment and a sense of unfairness. The idea being “poor people need the help, no matter what color their parents were.”

        An anecdote. When I went to college lo these many moons ago, my roommate claimed Native American ancestry for tuition assistance/scholarship money. It’s POSSIBLE he had some – there were apocryphal family stories – but really, what it mostly was, was his mom was Vietnamese and he just looked Native American.

        One of my other roommates was from a well-off (not “rich”, but by no means poor) Cuban immigrant family – and he was receiving scholarships & assistance as a “Hispanic” student.

        Neither one needed to work while in school.

        I can trace my father’s side of the family all the way back to the original Spanish settlements in the US, the records actually exist – am I “Hispanic”? I didn’t claim to be. We were middle-class, and I received no assistance (other than $100/month from my folks, and was on their insurance).

        I worked full-time all through school, and that’s fine (probably for the best, really. Better to keep a young man at that age as busy as possible, and I came out of school with no debt).

        Like I said, I don’t begrudge my roommates what they did or got. It was a matter of doing what was best for them, and things turned out OK for all of us.

        But I can certainly see someone like me who can’t afford to go to college at all (or who has to work long hours like me, to come home tired and see others have been playing frisbee all day) resenting the fact that help was offered to others, strictly because of their skin color or heritage.

        You can call that “loss of privilege” but I think it’s very understandable.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        Kazzy, if the empirical data suggests that race is still a factor in both opportunity and outcomes, then it doesn’t matter whether we’re white, black, or purple.

        Note that Mike is still missing the point here, when he suggests that educational outcomes are similar among black and white kids, is that racial disparities that are not predicted by performance are part of the point of race-based programs.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


          I should have been more clear. It’s not that white people can’t have an opinion. It’s that if white people are arguing that they don’t really see how race is a factor (because race doesn’t impact them negatively) but they do see how class is a factor (because they are potentially harmed by their class) and they dismiss people of color who point out otherwise… that would be suspect to me. It would seem self-serving.

          White people are not the experts on how racism plays out for people of color.Report

  6. FridayNext says:

    ” For example, Chris Rock was really good in his stand-up specials at talking about the worst cultural traits of his own race. He was given a pass because of the color of his skin, but if we hear the same ideas expressed by someone of a different race and encapsulated in a single word, we lose our shit.”

    Lets not pretend this only works for black comedians and “the n-word,” though.

    Would The Blue Collar Comedy tour and their redneck, white trash, and blue collar comedy have been half as popular or even tolerated if the comedians were from Northeast cities and not Texas, Georgia, and other southern states?

    Would Maz Jobrani be able to get away with his “I’m not Arab, I am Persian” bit if he were German-American Max Wagner?

    If WASP comedians had told the same jokes and used the same schtick as pioneering Jewish stand up comedians, they could justifiably be accused of antisemitism.

    Words have a context which include, among other things, who is speaking and who is listening. I use all sorts of words of endearment to my wife that you cannot. I’m sorry if you or anyone else thinks that is unfair. Good luck changing that.Report

  7. Chris says:

    Re: Racism and the South

    The South has a legacy of racism that still affects it today in a way that most of the rest of the country does not. One of the ways in which this manifests itself is that, for much of Deen’s lifetime, and even today, overt racism has been tolerated in the South to a greater degree than it has been in most of the rest of the country. I think it’s somewhat naïve to suggest that her having travelled will have more influence than her having friends and family (certainly her brother) who have no problem with her being overtly racist, which is almost undoubtedly the case.

    I don’t mean to imply that you can’t find racism elsewhere. Obviously you can (in fact, the two most overtly racist people I’ve known in the last 15 years have been from Indiana and Montana), but you don’t have to look far for data to suggest that the South is still more racist than the rest of the country on aggregate.

    I also don’t mean to imply that this excuses Deen. She’s responsible for the shit that comes out of her mouth, not the South.

    For example, Chris Rock was really good in his stand-up specials at talking about the worst cultural traits of his own race. He was given a pass because of the color of his skin, but if we hear the same ideas expressed by someone of a different race and encapsulated in a single word, we lose our shit.

    The difference is that Chris Rock is almost certainly not going to think that black people are inferior because they have the traits he makes jokes about. That can’t be said of white people making the same jokes.

    Also, seriously, why are there so many white people who are upset that they can’t say the n-word? (I’m not referring to Mike here, as he hasn’t expressed such a sentiment.) I find it genuinely bizarre. Maybe white people are just so used to not having barriers to their behavior based on race that, when they come upon one, they are simply unable to handle it?Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

      I think this is mostly right, though I do think it has to be said that there is a pretty great deal of variance. Faces would turn white at certain behavior in the area where I was raised whereas 100 miles over it might be considered completely normal.

      The latter is, if not distinct to the South, at least unusual outside the South as far as I’ve seen. I mean there are places in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and such where that sort of thing is the case, as well as the Kentucky-WV thing, but not to the same degree.Report

      • Chris in reply to Will Truman says:

        That’s a good point. Like I was saying below (or was it above), the South is many different places. Some parts of it have progressed faster than others. Some have regressed more than others. There’s also a fairly large urban-rural divide on such things.

        Relatedly, I remember reading a report a few years ago that showed that, since people from the North started moving to the South a few decades ago, racial attitudes in much of the South have changed because northern immigrants and their children were more likely to keep their northern racial attitudes rather than adopt southern ones.Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Will Truman says:

        Nate Silver remarked in 2008 about some folks just a bit south of here (still in PA), happy to tell the nice canvasser that they’re “voting for the n!gger”.

        I do not understand some people.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:

      “Also, seriously, why are there so many white people who are upset that they can’t say the n-word? (I’m not referring to Mike here, as he hasn’t expressed such a sentiment.) I find it genuinely bizarre. Maybe white people are just so used to not having barriers to their behavior based on race that, when they come upon one, they are simply unable to handle it?”

      Great point.

      When people lazily trot out the, “Why is it okay for black people to say the N-word and not white people?” line of thinking, I usually just say, “Do you want to say it?” “Well, no, of course not. It’s just… it’s the principle!” Sure, buddy.

      Now, I will say, as a kid growing up in a predominantly black school system, I was sometimes confused by the black kids using it affectionately or neutrally with one another. Given the proliferation of black music at the time, there was a part of me that was confused about the appropriateness in THAT context, and that context only. And I’ll say that there were non-black kids (usually Hispanic) who did use that word amongst black kids with no problem; they seemingly had enough “cred” to get away with it.

      So, if a white person feels like they want to be able to sing along to rap lyrics without fear, well, at least I can understand that line of thinking.

      But most folks seem to think, “They say ‘nigga’ in a friendly way so I should be able to say ‘nigger’ in a hateful way!” Um…Report

      • Kimmi in reply to Kazzy says:

        At least some shmucks are going to want to say it in a friendly way… to be part of the “in” crowd.
        “but i like you guys, we hang out and stuff”
        “but you’re white,and you don’t get to say that”
        “but, you guys like me and all that?”
        “yeah, but you still don’t say that”Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Chris says:

      ” but you don’t have to look far for data to suggest that the South is still more racist than the rest of the country on aggregate.”

      … except that the modern day heartland of the KKK isn’t in the south at all.

      Do you have some stats to back this up?Report

  8. Tod Kelly says:

    “If I hear one more blogger mention how they ‘don’t understand the South’ I’m going to declare a renewal of hostilities in the War Between the States. So Paula Deen used the N-word. Shame, shame. She will obviously suffer greatly for this and hey, that’s the price of celebrity. Yes, this kind of racism IS a feature of the South. And also everywhere else.”

    Well, declare away, I guess, because I have to confess I am one of those bloggers. And I’m not trying to say that [ South=Racist/North=Harmony]; I get that racism is everywhere in America. But it really does take these forms in the South which, for those of us that aren’t from there, are just really, really bizarre.

    For example: From your piece, it appears that what shows up on your radar screen is that Deen used the N-word (with which I very much agree with your take, btw). But for those of us not from the South, what shows up is the whole party thing. And yes, part of what we find bizarre is that someone in the south deciding to have a “Plantation-Style” shindig with white guests and an all-black way staff.

    But part of it is also how confused Deen seems about people’s negative reactions to such an idea. And an even bigger part of is to see how many people in Georgia really, honestly don’t seem to have a clue about why this might rub people the wrong way – especially in news reports like this, which I’m pretty sure would be seen as a train wreck anywhere else.

    It’s the same with the whole integrated prom thing.

    So when I say I don’t get the South when it comes to issues of race, I don’t actually mean that as a “you’re a racist and I”m not!” slight. I mean that I really, really do not get the South.

    It baffles me.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      When asked if she used the N-word, Deen replied, “Of course.”

      Now, I didn’t hear how she said it. She could have said it, “Of course I did. We’ve all said things we shouldn’t have. I’m not going to deny it.” But she also could have said, “Of course I said it. What do you expect?”

      If it was the latter… well, yea, I don’t get that part of the South…Report

      • Damon in reply to Kazzy says:

        She should have said,

        Yes, I called the black guy who robbed me, sticking a gun to my head, threatening to kill me, a nasty word. Would you have called him “sweetie”?Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Damon says:

          “It was so frightening: he was obviously a hardened criminal who would as soon have killed me as not, and I realized if I gave him any excuse at all, he’d have done just that. He was cruel and abusive, and I thank the Lord that I’m an older woman now, which I’m sure is the only reason I was safe that way. I’ve never seen such concentrated evil; it was like looking into the face of the Devil himself.

          “But what really struck me about him is that he was black.”Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      For what it’s worth, from this southerner’s perspective, that she used the N-word doesn’t surprise me to a great extent.

      The plantation wedding? Oh… my…. god… That stunned me, and I am rarely stunned.

      That being said, my wife and I had a wedding at a place called “The [Such-And-Such] Plantation.” I cringed a bit that the word “plantation” was going to be on the invites, but that is the place’s formal name. Some people would look at it and “not understand,” but despite my cringe, it’s not a foreign concept to me. We didn’t do the jaw-dropping stuff, though there were more African-American servers than attendees because, well, the best catering company in the area is run by a black family.Report

    • Chris in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Dude, I’m pretty damn southern and I don’t get the South. No one does, because the South is not a monolith, and it’s an incredibly diverse place, culturally, ethnically, historically. I’ve spent a lot of time in Georgia (my Dad’s from Macon, my grandparents lived in the same house in Macon for almost 60 years until my grandmother finally had to be moved to an assisted living community), and I don’t get Georgia.

      I can’t imagine anyone from Kentucky gets Georgia either unless they’ve spent a lot of time there. Hell, Kentucky is one of the whitest states in the country, so comparing it to Georgia, which is about 1/3 black (though much of the black population is concentrated in Atlanta), on the subject of race relations makes little sense period. They are two different worlds.Report

  9. Kimmi says:

    A part of me is starting to get really, really ticked about these posts about racism.

    “I don’t get the south…” folks say.

    Y’all probably don’t get most of the country…

    I don’t get a place where arson is considered entertainment and a good prank.
    I don’t get a place where incest is if not condoned, at least accepted… (and folks won’t stop a body from doin’ it).
    I don’t get a place where wife/child beating is more normal than not.
    I don’t get a place where rape is so prevalent that people have stopped making a fuss about it.

    … okay, who am I missing? 😉Report

  10. Citizen says:

    From my experience, racism is at its strongest in regions where race groups are highly polarized. It appears to be a perpetuated phenomena more so than a tolerated one. Worse so in areas that the polarity is masked:
    “felt you out first” to see if you were “sided with them”

    It may be just an observation that Paula comes from an area where the polarity is out in the open.

    Some places I have lived have been so anti-polar that minorities were coveted.Report

  11. Francis says:

    What seems to be in the tea leaves is a slow move away from race-based affirmative action towards a class-based system, which honestly makes a lot more sense. And yet we have the text and legislative history of the 14th amendment to support the first, not the second.

    K. Drum’s post today about the Supreme Court’s view of the right to vote and the 15th amendment is pretty powerful — low bars for state laws that have the effect of disenfranching black voters, but high bars for federal laws that enfranchise black voters. Really?Report

    • Philip H in reply to Francis says:

      Yes, because Conservative ideology these days pays too much lip service to “states rights” and not enough to actual Constitutionally enumerated individual Rights. This is also reflected in the acceptance of the notion of Corporate Person-hood, since corporations are aggregate economic devices, much as states are aggregate cultural and societal devices.Report

  12. Roger says:

    Sorry, I have not been following the conversation. However, it seems to me that a focus on race is a strange and perverse paradigm.

    Let’s say I have two grand kids. The first, is a young black Hispanic male of eleven years of age who is smart, tall and good looking with extremely good impulse control.

    The other is a short, ugly, dumb, impulsive white nine year old girl with bad teeth.

    Why is it that I am supposed to support affirmative action for the approved classes of black and Hispanic and not the unapproved classes of short, ugly, impulsive and dumb? Is there any doubt which has the real leg up? Which would you rather be?

    Luckily, I do not have a nine year old ugly grand daughter. But I could some day.

    Race based remedies are a perverted paradigm which keep us mired in the muck.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to Roger says:

      Not sure how else you can remedy racial discrimination in the form of intense scrutiny for shoplifting.

      I mean, there are bonafide incidents of the “person hired to stop the shoplifting” being called in for being black.Report