Is “Acting White” a Real Thing?

Vikram Bath

Vikram Bath is the pseudonym of a former business school professor living in the United States with his wife, daughter, and dog. (Dog pictured.) His current interests include amateur philosophy of science, business, and economics. Tweet at him at @vikrambath1.

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248 Responses

  1. Doctor Jay says:

    In very general terms, I think that the difference between Indians in India and African Americans in America is that it’s very easy to imagine India without any white people – it was that way for a millenium or so. However, there is no such thing America without either “white people” or “black people” – we came here together, we’re joined at the hip. This is quite possibly the most important thing I have learned from reading Coates over the years.

    The American natives, however, might have more similar issues.

    I note that it’s quite true that African Americans have similar issues with inter-racial relationships. It’s both a betrayal and a step up.

    And it’s definitely delusional to think that white people don’t behave very badly. The legacy of white supremacy might be that we don’t notice it when white people act like this. Or that we think it’s kind of cool.Report

  2. greginak says:

    I think “acting white” is a bit of a problematic term. What i think is really meant is “acting middle/upper class white.” Poor folk in most places have different manners and speech then middle/upper class types. “Black” culture, whatever that means, seems more prevalent among a class of whites now. Very loosely defined that might be stereotypical Hip Hop/Jock culture. Of course many people of all stripes find that culture tacky but it still has a strong pull among the yutes. In some places plenty of whites would look down on the “white culture.”

    Also i would think whether a minority is part of small minority in their school or actually in the majority in their school would matter. There is reason the HBC’s are popular among blacks. TNC speaks highly of his time there. ( Howard U i think)

    There might be something to the acting white idea but it is likely to be complex and not really suited for easy narratives.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:

      I think you are spot on here. “Acting White” can usually be translated into acting “Upper-Middle class” or in other terms “bourgeois”. There is a long history across the world and various cultures of disliking the bourgeois including a long history of the very wealthy liking the lower-middle class or worse off more than the bourgeois. American political culture seems to have no greater enemy than the upper-middle class, left-leaning, NPR listening, largely rather mild professional.

      What is it about the bourgeois and their attitudes/lifestyles that causes so much rage? Especially because it seems rather solid and comfortable over all?

      I say this as someone who can probably be called a born and raised member of the bourgeois and someone who largely took on most of their attitudes.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        well, you haven’t been out there, but “acting white” is far more of an issue in farming communities than it is anywhere else. To be fair, they’re pretty much concerned about their kids leaving and never coming back.Report

    • greginak in reply to greginak says:

      Only really “White” people use the phrase “spot on.” ( insert smiley face here)

      If i had a guess about the dislike of the upper middle class it might be that the rich fear them as competition or tacky nouveau rich. Poor people see the upper middle class as “the rich” people and hate them for the assumed power they have. Of course the really rich live mostly or entirely separate lives from the rest of us so people don’t see them except on movies or the occasional reality tv show.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


        What do you mean by that, old sport? 🙂

        I think you are basically right. Krugman mentioned the same thing a while back about how the rich have largely made themselves invisible and what people see are either celebs or comfortable upper-middle class people.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        @greginak, @saul-degraw, my impression is somewhat different. To me, the hatred of both the rich and the poor for the upper-middle class is more based on behavior than anything else. The upper-middle class represent the culture of delayed gratification, decorum, and controlling yourself in public. If you read Saul’s link about hillbilly television or a lot of other media, there is a certain amount of what could be called proud social dysfunction on both extremes of the income bracket. Or as George Bernard Shaw would have it, “morals are for the middle class. The rich don’t need them and the poor can’t afford them.”Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


        I’d agree with that too.Report

      • Matty in reply to greginak says:

        I wonder if there is an element of being uncomfortable with social mobility. Both the old money rich and the traditional working class kind of ‘know their place’ each can see what is expected of them and to some extent what to expect of the other. The bourgeois on the other hand seem more likely to have risen or fallen in economic class, if not personally then as families. If you grow up thinking there is one way to act with people you went to school with and another way to act if you meet a millionaire, what do you do about the guy you went to school with who made a million with his car dealership?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

        Matty, that could be an element of to. Both the working class and the rich ridiculed the bourgeoisie for being above themselves in some way during the 19th century. Traditional elites saw the bourgeoisie as crass materialists apping upper class behavior without a true sense of refinement. Working class peopel thought the bourgeoisie put on airs rather than recognizing what they really are, just bums like the rest of us.

        This sort of social anxiety about social mobility complements the ridicule directed at the middle-class for their discipline and decorum. Unless your born rich, get very lucky or your some sort of criminal, raising up even a little in the class system does require a good deal of work and patience. Social dysfunction is kind of antithetical to this.Report

      • Jim Heffman in reply to greginak says:

        There’s also the fact that if someone moves into town and works until they’re rich, it means that their money came from the local area. (in other words, that bastard stole his money from you and me.)Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to greginak says:


        I think that is part of it but my example would not be the guy who made a million with his car dealership. That is the kind of thing that Americans really respect because it does not necessarily require education and could require a lot of street smarts.

        American culture and clash rage tends to be directed at income-wealthy upper-middle class people. Professionals with graduate degrees who work in law, medicine, regional finance (the suburban broker), as CPAs, Engineers, Therapists, Academics. Basically your socially-liberal, not necessarily Churchy, NPR-listening, Stuff White People Like, etc. Said people generally raise their kids to also become upper-middle class professionals. These are people who can help their kids out from time to time but can’t guarantee them success.

        These are people who are successful because of educational achievement and not because of starting a business from scratch like a used car dealership.

        Said people might get outpriced of Brooklyn but that means they move to Westchester or the Hudson Valley.

        I think Lee is right about the putting on airs thing and the crass materialist thing. I also think that the GOP has a their fair share of upper-middle class professionals whose tastes and desires for their children are nearly identical to their blue-state contemporaries but the GOP ones are more masterful at hiding their upper-middle classness. This is what galls me most about American politics. There are a lot of people pretending to be humbler than they really are and they seemingly get rewarded for it.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to greginak says:

      The only cure for this is early childhood exposure to Masterpiece Theatre. If thats not possible than the theme song.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

      What i think is really meant is “acting middle/upper class white.”

      While this gets us a lot closer, I think it’s the same white as is mentioned in “Stuff White People Like”. I’m not certain how to pare away more stuff from middle/upper class, though… I think that what we’re talking about is in there, definitely, there’s a lot of stuff we’re not talking about too.Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to greginak says:

      I think “acting white” is a bit of a problematic term. What i think is really meant is “acting middle/upper class white.”

      I’m open to being proved wrong, but at least on its face I disagree with this notion. Most of the families I know across race and income levels all still want their kids to do well in school. They certainly vary in their ability to deliver on that desire, but as far as I can tell, they all value education, even if the parents barely speak much English themselves.

      Yes, it’s possible though that I just tend to gravitate to families who value education, but it still strikes me as unlikely that doing well in school is just an upper class white thing.Report

  3. Will Truman says:

    League alum Jamelle Bouie dismissed the concept a while back in The American Prospect, arguing that it was essentially just racialized bullying.

    John McWhorter took the opposing view.Report

  4. Saul Degraw says:

    There were several articles that came out recently that showed most or maybe even an overwhelming majority of white people don’t know any black people personally. This means most of the there exposure to Black Americans is going to be through media representation and I can see how whites would be disappointed upon meeting a black person who was more into rockets or history than Gangsta Rap or what not.

    I am mainly intrigued by the anti-intellectual thesis though. I think there is a lot of truth in it. Anti-Intellectualism has a long history in American Life and Americans have long been suspicious of intellectuals and credentialism in general. Eisenhower took a lot of digs at Adlai Stevenson for being an “egghead”. We seemingly have a lot more respect for someone who starts their own contracting business than someone who gets a PhD and dedicates him or herself to study. Considering only 30 percent of Americans get college degrees, there could be a good reason for some of this. In my observational experience, there is a small but fairly wealthy section of the American public that does care about academic success and intellectualism. They tend to be the upper-middle class professionals (lawyers, doctors, engineers, academics, etc) who tend to want their children to also become upper-middle class professionals. Also people from immigrant cultures with long histories of scholarships and academics. Jews in the 19th and early 20th century and now the American children of Asian-immigrant parents many times.

    We also see this anti-intellectualism in politics and that our politicians generally need to appear downhome even if they went to Yale Law and Stanford Medicine and the JFK School of Government at Harvard. They still can’t appear intellectual, cultured, or patrician in the vaguest senses especially if they are liberal. John Kerry comes to mind.

    That being said as bad as anti-Semitism was during much of American History, it was never as bad as the structural racism and the badges and incidents of slavery that Black Americans are still struggling to overcome.

    Though I just learned that the term “basic” as been used in the Black Community for much longer than it has in the general population:

    • Jim Heffman in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      ” In my observational experience, there is a small but fairly wealthy section of the American public that does care about academic success and intellectualism. They tend to be the upper-middle class professionals…”

      In other words, the people who see value in academic and intellectual success are academics and intellectuals, who understand how much actual work and actual effort that success requires.

      As opposed to the contractors and professionals, who think “all he did was sit around and read books for ten years, meanwhile I’m out there lifting refrigerators and bending pipe with my bare hands”. It’s hard for people to understand what goes into something when they aren’t familiar with it.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Jim Heffman says:


        Part of it is also cultural. Jewish and Chinese cultures have always had fairly to very formal educational systems which mapped close enough to the idea of going to university or grad school. Jewish people had Yeshivas and Talmud-Torahs and the Chinese had their old Imperial testing system which required years of study.* I can see how both groups can tell their first generation system to go to university instead of going to Talmud-Torah or taking the old Imperial exams.

        But basically yeah. Intellectual work can be exhausting (like studying for the Bar or Medical Boards or an oral defense) and physical labor is also hard but the two sides have a hard time seeing this.

        I also think there is a bias against abstract work. I have no problem with seeing a brief or a motion or taking a deposition as producing a tangible product but the whole thrust of “shopcraft as soulcraft” is that it is much more rewarding to produce a table or pies or jars of jam at the end of the day than it is to write a brief or complete a spreadsheet or do some work in the lab.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jim Heffman says:

        And that’s why nobody does their manual J!Report

  5. Saul Degraw says:

    Here is another thing that might be somewhat related (and maybe Murali can confirm). I recently went out on a date with a woman from Singapore. She said that the new narrative in Singapore was that being a British colony was a good thing in retrospect because it turned them into a trading hub. This seems to be opposite of any other former colony line which still seems largely seeped in Fanon. I wonder what causes Singapore to develop this very different line.Report

    • greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Hong Kong also benefited in some ways from being a trading hub of the Brits.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Singapore is a special case because it really wouldn’t exist as we know it without the British. Before the United Kingdom established Singapore is an entrepôt for South East Asia under Raffles, it was nothing more than an island off the coast of the Malay peninsula that was inhabited by fisherman and farmers. It was the British that turned Singapore into a great commercial center inhabited by Chinese, Malays, Indians, and others. Another reason why Singaporeans might be less hostile to the colonial period is that most of them are descendants of immigrants that arrived after the British conquest. Their really isn’t much of a pre-British history to Singapore that could be used to create a Fanon-esque backlash.

      Singapore’s post-independence leaders were also much more favorable disposed to capitalism than the leaders of other former colonies. This doesn’t give them much a reason to stir up hatred for the colonial period.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Singapore is a special case because it really wouldn’t exist as we know it without the British

        And HK would?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        HK wouldn’t either but Hong Kong has more of a pre-British history that could be used to stir up Fanon-esque type beliefs than Singapore. The way the British seized Hong Kong from the Chinese Empire made resentment much more likely than how they gained control of Singapore.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I doubt it. There was minimal indigenous population and the vast majority of the Chinese folks living there trace their ancestry elsewhere. They might have a generalized distrust of the British as Chinese people looking at the West, but not as Hong Kongites looking at their own past.Report

    • Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      I didn’t see this. Lee has got it mostly correct. Its also the case that Sir Stamford Raffles is regarded positively (even though according to historical sources he was a grade A asshole). Certainly, his name is attached to many highly performing institutions. Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls School are our highest performing secondary schools. Raffles Hotel is one of our poshest hotels. Raffles City is a really nice shopping mall/hotel complex. The centre of our financial district is Raffles Place.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Maybe they’re comparing being a former British colony to being a former French colony (Vietnam, Algeria) or to being a former “anything *BUT* British” colony.Report

  6. James Hanley says:

    I think it’s both possible that this is a cultural problem and that it’s not black people’s fault.

    Stick any group of people into shitty situations and it wouldn’t be surprising if some some unhelpful cultural elements develop.Report

    • aaron david in reply to James Hanley says:

      I remember reading somewhere that the same phenomenon happens with Koreans in JapanReport

    • Saul Degraw in reply to James Hanley says:

      Yeah this x1000Report

    • Glyph in reply to James Hanley says:

      This is what I am always trying to tell people when they want to completely separate the historical elements of the black experience in America, from some potentially-problematic element today that they say is simply black ‘culture’ (that is, attempting to wave away any possibility that that thing in black culture might be in part or whole a legacy of historical racism).

      How else do we think culture is even created? Culture IS history.

      It’s the sum total of all the things that a people did, and had done to them, and went through, and recorded, and remember.

      If ‘culture’ is sort of an analog to ‘personality’, but for an entire people: then nobody should be surprised that the older culture that grew from the kidnapped and abused younger culture, might have some lingering issues.

      Cultural PTSD, sort of.

      When I visited the Lincoln memorial many years ago, and was reading the words of the Second Inaugural Address, this portion hit me like a ton of bricks; I choked & teared up; stood there for a few minutes collecting myself:

      Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgements of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

      “It” of course refers to the war; but just then, “it” made me think of how the repercussions continue today, and likely will for many generations to come, and there’s no real reason anyone should expect any different.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        Lincoln could write.

        Anyway, I agree with your point about history. It’s essentially the one Coates makes in his discussion of Sir Charles as well.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        That passage amazes me too. Imagine any president of our lifetime telling Americans that we’re going to suffer and that we damned well deserve to.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Glyph says:


        How much of that do you think has to do with just plain ol’ secularization? We don’t believe in God as much so appeals to omnipotent justice don’t move lots of us?

        Or is there some other factor, a sort of cultural narcissism that would make such a thing impossible? Or could that even be separated from secularization?

        Not trying to argue or put you on the spot; just ruminating on your observation.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

        James Hanley, White Americans didn’t take to kindly to the idea that they would have to suffer because of slavery during the 19th century that much either. White Southerners rejected the Reconstruction project before it started. The rest quickly got bored with it and were not willing to fully implement it and abandoned it with glee in 1876. We were much more religious back than as a nation so, I’d say secularization as nothing to do with it.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        Proclaiming that some disaster is a punishment for the public’s misdeeds is pretty much what Old Testament prophets did for a living. Often, this included saying that some foreign power (e.g. Babylon) was unwittingly doing God’s work. The only recent example of that that comes to mind was this response to 9/11:

        “[T]he pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America,” Falwell continued, “I point the finger in their face and say ‘you helped this happen.'”

        “Well, I totally concur,” responded Robertson.

        This was so wildly unpopular, even among their followers, that they had to back away from it almost immediately. In other words, nowadays the religious can’t say this sort of thing either.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Well, Ray Nagin, Ovadia Yosef, and Louis Farrakhan pulled the same stunt for Katrina:

        (Oddly, that time Pat Robertson DIDN’T do it, but got tagged with it anyway).Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Wait a minute, no, Robertson got in on that one too:

        Less than two weeks after the Hurricane, Pat Robertson implied on the September 12th broadcast of The 700 Club that the Hurricane was God’s punishment in response to America’s abortion policy. He suggested that 9/11 and the disaster in New Orleans “could… be connected in some way”.[8]

        It was him blaming it on Ellen DeGeneres that was a false rumor. My bad.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

        Farrakhan said that God punished America for racism by hurting a lot of black people?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

        Nobody ever accused Farrakhan of being a rational person, Mike. Either that or the Creator has really bad aim.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Glyph says:

        America Punished For Impiety. Women, Minorities Hardest Hit.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Glyph says:

        Little-known-fact: The System to Make Impious Troublemakers Extinct, or S.M.I.T.E., in fact has a terribly-inaccurate targeting system and method of action.

        Lowest-bidder-designed and -built, you know how it goes.Report

      • Chris in reply to Glyph says:

        If God runs heaven anything like we run our military industrial complex, it was a no-bid contract given to one of his cronies from his time as a local god in Greece.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Glyph says:

        Ovadiah Yosef was a really interesting character. He was one of the most flexible Ultra-Orthodox rabbis in existence when it came to modifying Halacha for the 20th and 21st centuries. He was one of the first Orthodox rabbis that argued that women wearing pants and other traditionally masculine garb was perfectly acceptable under Jewish law, which is a very big concession if you ever been in an Ultra-Orthodox neighborhood. At the same time he could say things like his comments on Katrina, which even the strictest Ultra-Orthodox Rabbis would be loathe to say.Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to Glyph says:

        Notice that Lincoln’s peroration starts with “If God wills that…” He’s not saying he knows what God wills.

        One big reason that politicians today wouldn’t get away with it (if they wouldn’t; not so sure myself, depends on where) is that they probably wouldn’t be smart enough to frame it around an affirmation of a shared conviction: that God’s will is unquestionably right, and to merely say that if His will should involve some shocking scenario, then it would be no less right, being His will, than if it were anything else. Either they wouldn’t be smart enough to do that, -or- they would figure that hedging the claim in that way would make it too anodyne to be worth taking the risk of going public with the implied claim about their belief about God’s will or Divine justice. Pat Robertson certainly didn’t choose to frame his 9/11 views that way, and it didn’t appear to be an oversight.

        So I think what allowed him to get away with a lot of the extreme things he said in his time were the conventions of political communication at the time: flowery prefatory remarks setting the deep context and involved qualifications for the major claims of any given address were seen as necessary not to offend with excessive bluntness. This allowed for more radicalism in rhetoric than our current preference for politicians to get to the point and not mince words. If you can’t clear your throat and mince some words to try to soften and explain yourself, you really can’t say things as shocking as if you can.

        And Lincoln was the great master of this kind of 19th century throat-clearing and word-mincing in the service of relatively radical ideas (not radical enough for many, of course),Report

    • Roger in reply to James Hanley says:

      “I think it’s both possible that this is a cultural problem and that it’s not …. people’s fault.”

      Culture matters. A lot. Culture is like the rules of the game and being a collective emergent quality is indeed nobody’s fault. But the rules of the game have a major effect on outcomes.

      If we want to change the outcomes we need to consider our culture and begin the bottoms up process of change or expect the same results. Absent this, as individuals it is up to each of us to first change ourselves. It starts with the individual.*

      If I am reading Coates right, he is arguing that achievement disparities are 100% someone else’s fault. He is entitled to his opinion. Again though, I cannot imagine a worldview more absolutely positively guaranteed to lead to poor achievement on a wide-scale basis. If I wanted to ensure failure, I would raise my grandson to see himself as a victim.

      Indeed, seeing as how his success is important to me, even if I did see him as a victim, I would do everything possible to dispel him of this notion as it is cancerously destructive. His success in the end will be in his hands and victim-hood is guaranteed to undermine self determination.

      The dysfunctional culture is reflected (and propagated) perfectly in Coates’ article.

      *of course individualism is itself a cultural paradigm. Turtles all the way down.Report

  7. Mo says:

    “Socialism was terrible, but at least it wasn’t British.”

    That’s news to me.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Mo says:

      Yeah some of us still like socialism and Britain was instrumental in the development of socialism*.

      *By which I mean the welfare state which Vikram might not consider socialism.Report

      • I’m making this up as I go, but if you stick yourself in 1947 and want to ally yourself with something that isn’t British, what are your options? The US and Britain had just fought side-by-side in a major war. The Soviets were the only other power out there.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        If the welfare state is socialism, then that word has come to mean simply “government redistribution,” which is not at all what it used to mean, or continues to mean among people who consider themselves socialists.

        Hell, the welfare state was originally developed to compete with and combat socialism!Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        In the end I am a mixed-market kind of person. Capitalism is great for craft beer and we should continue to have Capitalism for these kinds of products. Capitalism is horrible for health care. Insurance needs to be single payer and Constitutional rights should not be subjected to significant fees like there is for court services.Report

      • Roger in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        But do you admit that absent capitalism (and the productivity miracle of the past 200 years started with the industrial revolution) that we wouldn’t have anything remotely recognizable as health care at all today? My guess is even Marx recognized this dynamic.

        Stated another way, it seems to me you are recommending we harvest the fruits of past discovery, initiative and invention without investing further in it. We can always eat next year’s seed corn. But what are the consequences?Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        without standardization and firing most of the medical schools circa 1910’s, we wouldn’t have the health care we have today. You can call that standardization, accreditation, but that’s well-managed capitalism.Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I don’t make that point simply to be pedantic. A big part of the flattening of the space of ideas involves taking alternative systems and essentially morphing them into barely distinguishable versions of this system. “Social democracy” is a perfect example, since it basically adds the label “social” to existing versions of welfare state capitalism.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        big part of the flattening of the space of ideas involves taking alternative systems and essentially morphing them into barely distinguishable versions of this system.

        Not to keep going further off-topic, but those forces can come from both within, and without. Bigger systems either subsume smaller ones, or attempt to push them into a competing system’s boxes.

        We’ve talked around here before about how there currently seems to be a minor movement afoot amongst Republicans to rebrand as ‘libertarian’, and try to shed some of that ‘R’ tarnished baggage. And of course L’s are often accused of being R’s in sheep’s clothing.

        And then people who should theoretically know better, label Taki’s Magazine a ‘libertarian blog’.

        Taki’s! Where Pat, Derb, Shaidle and Sailer publish!Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        A simple, valid, and sound deductive argument proving that libertarians are republicans.

        If something is evil, it is Republican.
        Libertarians are evil.
        Therefore, Libertarians are Republicans.

        Boom! (Little known fact: Aristotle completed all of his syllogisms with “Boom,” only in Greek: &#940νθηση).Report

      • That sounds about right. Though I’d note we seem to do something similar with Socialists and Democrats.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Kim is right here. A lot of medical benefits were discovered by profit-making companies but many were also discovered in more formal academic and not market-inclined or profit-seeking settings like Penicilin/Antibodies, Insulin, and the Polio Vaccine.

        I was mainly thinking about Insurance when thinking about healthcare and I simply refuse to believe that the U.S. must sacrifice having single-payer so the rest of the world can. There are plenty of big pharma companies in countries with socialized insurance like Bayer in Germany and Roche in Switzerland. Single-Payer healthcare will not cause Genentech or Merck to fold overnight.

        But Capitalism is bad for health insurance if you want the goal of health insurance to be that people can actually go out and see medical professionals. Capitalism will always want to take away people with preexisting conditions and other risks.Report

      • Roger in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        You guys are sidestepping the issue.

        I will be the first to admit the role of government, science and technology in the modern miracle which exploded about two hundred years ago. But absent capitalism it would not have come into existence. It is a necessary ingredient and I suspect you guys both acknowledge this.

        The very wealth of government comes from the productivity generated by free enterprise. Absent markets we would not have been able to outrun Malthusian forces. Absent productivity advances, we would not have been able to afford the universities and science and non profits.

        Markets are one discovery and problem solving system among many. But they are a necessary one. Socializing health care everywhere will indeed emasculate the market based discovery system. Fine for us. It is the seed corn for future generations which will suffer.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        yes, we like free fair markets with an equal playing field for all participants.
        Remind me to walk you through a monopsony’s business model sometime. I do know someone who’s been hired recently by Amazon…Report

      • Roger in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        This type of irrelevant snark is why I quit having conversations here.

        Do you want a rational discussion of the topic or do you want to exchange rhetorical barbs? I made a serious point and would really appreciate a serious answer. I am serious. I really like you and would like a serious discussion.

        Do you disagree that capitalism was essential to the wealth and prosperity and technology that delivers our current health care? What is your rationale?

        Do you disagree that The US is among the MOST racially tolerant countries on earth? Do you disagree that the playing field in the US has higher achievement outcomes on average for minorities than pretty much any other place on earth?

        The question for those of us really raising and mentoring minorities is not whether the world is perfect. It isn’t. The question is whether there is anyplace else I would rather raise them or at a minimum whether there is anyplace else I can model or learn from with lower levels of racial intolerance (see link on intolerance by country below) and/or higher standards of living.

        I can imagine a better world for my children and grandchildren. I hope they/we help create it. But compared to actual alternatives that really exist my loved ones are truly blessed to be born minorities today in America. Life is not fair, but being born here is like winning the lottery compared to just about anywhere else. Especially for blacks and Hispanics.Report

      • j r in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Remind me to walk you through a monopsony’s business model sometime. I do know someone who’s been hired recently by Amazon…

        Serious question: name me one product in which Amazon maintains a monopsony?Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Bandoliers of Carrots
        (oh, sure. NOW I suddenly decide to bowdlerize the swears…
        Can’t help it folks, I like that swear-filter, it’s amusing.)Report

      • Kolohe in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        In the 1940s and 50s UK we are talking about socialism socialism – coal, steel, rail, trucking, air transport, and most famously, television and radio were all (near exclusively) state-owned industries during that time (and there would be even more nationalizations in the 70s, only finally rolling back during the Thatcher years).Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        sorry, I actually meant monopoly for that one.
        They’ve pretty much got a monopsony on buying the larger boxes of Candy Basket caramels.

        (Costco has a monopsony on the green olives they sell, I’m pretty sure. They definitely have one on the highest grade of choice beef — but that’s mostly because they’re really large).Report

      • Chris in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Kolohe, now that’s real socialism, and it’s part of my point about the flattening of ideas. That was once what was denoted by “social democracy,” but today it just means a more expansive welfare state than we currently have in the U.S.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Defining political terms is a tricky business because a movement’s opponents play just a big role of defnining something as a movement’s proponents. We all know that certain people define any system less than one hundred percent free market capitalism as socialist. We also know that their are people that use the term fascist to define any political movement they don’t like.

        Making matters more complicated, disputes within a movement can lead to disagreements on how to define it. The split between the Classical and Social Liberals is the best example of this but every political movement suffers from this.

        Chris is right in saying that a welfare state is not enough to qualify a system as socialist. More governemnt control over the economy is necessary. I wouldn’t say that outright government control or ownership of at least some industry is though. A significantly regulated and bueraucratized economy where a lot of independent action by commercial entities or private people is not permitted is socialist enough to qualify for the label.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Mo says:

      Some formed of planned economy was basically economic orthodoxy in the mid-20th century. It could range from as heavy-handed Communist command economy to the infinitely more light regulated capitalism of the United States and everything in-between. Only a few economists seriously advocated for a completely free market economy at the time.

      Nearly every former colony adopted some form of socialism because that was the hip idea when they became independent and because capitalism was generally associated with imperial exploitation. They weren’t necessarily wrong to adopt some form of state development of the economy. None of the miracle stories of the 19th century like the United States, Japan, or Germany were exactly free market paradises. All three had governments that protected, aided, or guided the economy to an extent. The mistake made by the former colonies was that they thought that government could control the economy rather than act as protector, regulator, and guider.Report

  8. Stillwater says:

    All this is to say that I can understand why oppression can lead to weird, contradictory, self-destructive behaviors.

    Word. I’d only add: for the oppressors as well.Report

  9. LeeEsq says:

    @Vikram, wouldn’t using make-up to make you appear lighter be more in line with the traditional beauty standards that the fair skin was attractive because it showed that you didn’t have to be outside working in the fields all day? This was a very universal standard in many different and diverse cultures long before the East India Company was even conceived as an idea.Report

  10. Jaybird says:

    White people pronounce every consonant in all of their words, even when they are swearing.Report

  11. david says:

    English would have been a better and more practical choice, but you don’t kick out your oppressors but keep their language. I think this is part of the reason India ran to the arms of socialism. Socialism was terrible, but at least it wasn’t British.

    Maybe. There are certainly other countries in the former empire where English retained so much supremacy amongst social elites and ethnic minorities that it successfully maintained a position in education, government, and professional work, much like southern India. From 2003 to 2012 Malaysia experimented with restoring English as medium of instruction. Singapore eventually embraced wholesale anglicization, a point which has some bearing on Saul Degraw’s observation of neo-anglophilic revisionism.

    But language issues aside, Nehru-flavour socialism was very much a Labour-influenced socialism; when India and Britain finally parted ways, it was under an Attlee Labour government – both very much reacting to changes in the nature of Western socialism amidst WW2 and the germinating Cold War. For instance, both postwar Labour and INC wound up adopting five-year plans from the Third International, but limited to broad budgetary hammers rather than fine-tuned gosplans, in the spirit of the Second International’s hostility to the Third. Both scrambled for high-minded theoretical justifications (Keynes, Mahalanobis) on the basis of administration by a technocratic civil service, rather than radical agrarianism, Maoist collectives, or Gandhian self-sufficiency – of course the victory of bureaucratism reflects the common legacy of the empire but the point is that it is a very British conception of socialism, so British that when Congress socialists were busy defining themselves in opposition to the Atlantic character of the Socialist International and calling for Afro-Asiatic unity, these elements were tacitly retained, even if not consciously as British elements.

    Which is really the problem – coexistence in the same society would have marked such a socialism as being intolerably British, whereas separation permitted Indian socialists to adopt a very British socialism without subordination to a British identity. It’s not that socialism was terrible, it’s that socialism stopped being intolerably British and therefore became acceptable, and because it was acceptable, of course it was adopted by a society of British design and elites.

    But the black American identity overwhelmingly remains as proxy territory for political wars between upper-middle-class Americans, rather than defined by and amongst black Americans alone in relation to whites. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – see, e.g., the long-term consequences of British commmunalist management, where the leaders of individual communities do define themselves – but Afro-Americans have proven resistant to an erasure of their identities in the same way that a German-American or an Irish-American identity has been largely subsumed.Report

  12. ScarletNumbers says:

    Congratulations to @mike-schilling and the rest of the SF Giants fans on their third World Series win in five years.

    How much did you scream when Gregor Blanco misplayed that ball?Report

  13. Mike Dwyer says:

    This is an interesting comment from Coates:

    “For if black people are—as I maintain—no part of the problem, if the problem truly is 100 percent explained by white supremacy…”

    I’m not sure how he would describe the specifics of our ‘race problem’ but he IS saying that blacks share no blame in it. Not sure if I agree with that. While I will accept the premise that it begins with what white people did to Africans, 400 years later it seems like maybe blacks do have some agency within our society. Unless Coates contends that they are helpless victims, in which case there are a lot of reasons to dislike that line of thought.Report

    • Roger in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      My comment above reflects a similar concern, Mike.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Roger says:

        Despite what I’ve written above, I do share some of these concerns at times.

        I think, as usual, seeing almost any issue as 100% one thing or another is probably profoundly-unhelpful.

        There are also times when I see America’s cultural amnesia (often deeply-problematic) as, potentially, also sort of helpful.

        It wasn’t all that long ago that Irish, and Catholics, and Jews, weren’t considered “white” or “Americans”, and now they pretty much are, and we’ve all mostly “forgotten” that it was ever different (with, certainly, exceptions, and advance apologies to Saul et al for making a statement they may find untrue or offensive).

        We don’t want America to be like the ME or the Balkans, with people forever shooting back and forth over the memory of great wrongs that originated a thousand years ago, if we can help it.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Roger says:

        Glyph, I’m in full agreement with you that cultural and historical amnesia can be very helpful if channeled in the right direction. Lots of people complain about how most Americans or most people in developed countries don’t know much about history.* This can be a good thing. In the places with the most historical awareness, most people really don’t know real history. What they know is a sort of group mythology filled with misremembered tales of heroics, tragedy, persecutions, and victories. When this group mythology manifests in reality you get things like the horrific things like the wars accompanying the breakup of Yugoslavia. Peace or at least not fighting requires that people either forget or ignore what happened to thir group in the past to a certain extent.

        The problem is that America has a strange mix of cultural amnesia and group mythology that is preventing us from taking advantage of the good parts of cultural amnesia, at least when it comes to race relations. Too many White Americans use cultrual amnesia to believe that everything became better from African-Americans after MLK’s I Have a Dream speech while engaging in a sort passive persecution of African-Americans or Hispanic-Americans. They nurse a group mythology that actively hostile to Americans of color. Its getting the worst of both worlds.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      The question is less whether individual black people make bad decisions, than to what extent the context created by a history of slavery and segregation, along with continued segregation and racism, create an atmosphere in which black people are much more likely than non-black people to make such decisions, because their options and hope are limited, their behavior scrutinized, and they correctly see the state and police as oppressive forces.

      That is, Coates is not arguing that black people don’t have agency, but that no behavior takes place outside of a context, and the context in which black people live is one that puts pressures on their behavior that white people in particular do not face.

      See his essasy on reparations again for a bit of what he means by context.Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        Yeah. In fact i don’t think TNC would disagree that about half of all blacks are below average on intelligence or common sense or whatever. But the context of America makes it much harder for them. Not that they can’t overcome that at times, but it creates a major burden which drags people down.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:


        If the goal is to see race go away as a point of friction in our society, do we take the path demonstrated in the previous century when the Irish, Italians, etc became white or should there be a more modern approach to the problem? Is assimilation in the interest of blacks or even something they desire?

        Let’s be honest here: the reason why there is friction between whites and blacks is because of the ways we are different, not the ways that we are the same. The OP points out that there seems to actually be a resistance to assimilation within minority communities. If that is the dynamic, maybe separate but equal is the best we can hope for.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @greginak about half of all blacks are below average on intelligence or common sense or whatever

        I am sure this is exactly what you meant, but ‘blacks’ can of course be replaced with ‘humans’ in that sentence.

        I only amplify that here to try to save you any unwarranted guff, if anyone reads that sentence carelessly.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:

        “Harder for them” compared to what or where? Is there anyplace on earth with substantially or significantly higher achievement outcomes “for them” than the US?

        This type of thinking is propagating the victim meme. It is a vicious cycle And getting out of it starts with ourselves and those we love. I can’t convince Coates — I can only hope to protect those I love from this type of self-destructive meme.Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        @glyph Well yeah. That is sort of the point. Groups of people of all colors and stripes have brighter and less bright members. That is people. Added burdens will always way heaviest on those with less natural or other sorts of gifts. Barkley’s original argument is the kind those with great natural gifts tend to make. They don’t’ seem to see their own incredible luck as what it is: luck. Sure he worked hard, but without the luck to have an athletes body his work wouldn’t have mattered.
        @roger Harder compared to a society that doesn’t arrest blacks at disproportionate rates. Harder then not having racial barriers of all sorts. If you want something more concrete then places with Uni HC were far better for minorities then the US has been.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:

        Continuing the “compared to where” theme, compared to other countries the U.S. is among the most racially tolerant in the world:

        Racial intolerance is a form of tribalism (along with political tribalism which is even more robust) which is a part of human nature. I am not excusing it. Just establishing a context.

        I hope there is another country which has even higher achievement among minorities and even lower racial intolerance than the US. I hope we can learn from their example.Report

      • Glyph in reply to Chris says:

        @greginak I understood you perfectly the first time, just got paranoid that someone else wouldn’t. Carry on.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Is assimilation in the interest of blacks or even something they desire?

        Let’s be honest here: the reason why there is friction between whites and blacks is because of the ways we are different, not the ways that we are the same.

        Mike, I’m not going to lie, I had to take a few breaths before replying to that comment. What do you mean by “assimilation?” You mean becoming white? Because you can’t possibly mean becoming “American,” which is what assimilation usually meant for those other groups. Unless you mean something extremely racist, and I’m going to assume you don’t, I think you’re comparing apples to lawn mowers here.

        And part of the point is that white people won’t let black people become members in full standing of America’s social and economic institutions. It’s not that black people chose to be discriminated against in the housing and credit markets, so that they can’t live in the same neighborhoods and drive the same cars at the same rates, for example. And the justification has little to do with “differences” than it does with a sense of superiority among white people. One, again, I’m trying really hard to assume you didn’t mean to display with your assimilation question.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:


        So suddenly the conversation shifts from achievement outcomes to socialized medicine? Let’s not go there.

        I assume that blacks and Hispanics and Asians have higher achievement outcomes than the US somewhere. But where? Is it significant? Do other racial groups perform equally well?Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Mike and Chris,
        Mike lives in the part of America where historically blacks did become white (through intermarriage, and the intermediary fiction of an Indian grandmother). Same area now has a ton of Vietnamese women, who have intermarried.

        … just sayin, we might have different reference points here.Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        @roger I was using Uni HC as an example of something minorities in other countries might have that is superior to the US. It has primarily been poor people who lacked HI until the ACA has been fixing that. Leaving everything else aside, which includes a lot of stuff, it would be better to be a minority in a country with Uni HC then the US. Just a simple example that is all.

        Looking at all sorts of achievement is a big question. Different countries have done well and done poorly. I’m not sure there is an easy or ideological answer. Minorities in the US have done well when they have been re-designated as White or came to the US with advantages ( not all immigrants come to the US because they are poor. Some come because they have advanced degrees and/or enough money to get away from the places they lived)Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:


        You go from criticizing TNC above for making a statement that is somewhat accurate, but imprecise enough to raise problems. And then you say this:

        Let’s be honest here: the reason why there is friction between whites and blacks is because of the ways we are different, not the ways that we are the same.

        … a statement that is somewhat accurate, but incredibly imprecise. Also the whole “there seems to be a resistance to assimilation” is a pretty classic example of weasel words.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:


        When I say ‘assimilation’ I mean ‘to be made fully American’. People like Coates argue that blacks have never been equal, never fully brought into American society. Is that just about economic opportunity or does it also mean socially/culturally? Take the Irish for example. They were assimilated into American culture and still retained some parts of their native culture (not just St.Patrick’s Day but also a certain brand of Catholicism and many other traits). In addition to economic opportunity we know the Irish wanted cultural assimilation and actively sought it out.

        We know blacks want economic assimilation but do they also want cultural/social assimilation? I don’t know that they do and I would argue it is the latter that prevents the former. It’s the cultural traits that create division (right or wrong). In other words, when someone says they don’t want a black family to move in next door, they aren’t worried about those blacks being economically equal. They are worried that their cultural/social habits will be problematic. Right?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Chris says:


        I can’t help but read your comment as “Why don’t black Americans assimilate into white American culture?”

        There is no American culture. America’s dominant culture is one of white supremacy. It makes perfect sense that most blacks (and others) look side-eyed at it.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Jews are most emphatically against cultural assimilation. Yet they’ve managed to economically assimilate. Everything from the Homestead Act to the GI Bill to the FHA loans were rigged against blacks — even were we to wave a magic wand and culturally assimilate them right now, it would take at least 5 generations to gain something even close to parity.Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:

        There is no American culture. America’s dominant culture is one of white supremacy. It makes perfect sense that most blacks (and others) look side-eyed at it.

        I don’t think that is a true statement. Most blacks have the same middle-class American aspirations as everybody else.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        America’s dominant culture is one of white supremacy.

        Tell that to the music kids listen to.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:


        I strongly disagree. But it isn’t my opinion or yours which matters it is those in question. No member of my family, whether white, Hispanic or black would agree that the only choice which matters for their well being is whether or not they have socialized medicine. Indeed, I think they would count that as a negative.

        You really are dodging the question though. Do you know of a country of any significance in population and diversity where blacks make substantially more than here? Hispanics? How about any with substantially higher levels of education? I ask assuming that there are some somewhere that are marginally better, but would really love it if you provide an answer.

        If I was to find major faults in the US it would be with incarceration and primary education (my grandson’s school monopoly has been on strike for the last month and he has been at our house all day). And yes, I think we should all be outraged at both these areas. But the root cause to both problems is not racism, or blaming society (as Coates does), and the solution isn’t to propagate victim hood. It is to change our institutions and expectations for an effective government.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Look, black people are already “assimilated” into “America..” They are, in fact, one of the major determiners of it. Half of “white” American culture at this point is co-opted black American culture (think of all of the non-classical, non-roots country music you listen to, for example). The problem is that black people have been systematically excluded from certain economic and social institutions (including political ones — see, e.g., Ferguson’s local government) through a variety of means (vote suppression, which we see becoming more common these days, felony convictions, redistricting, housing discrimintion, credit discrimination, discrimination in education, white flight, etc., etc., etc.).

        The issue that Vikram is talking about, “being white,” is not an issue of assimilation, but one of social perception and fairness. As Vikram notes, it’s not a matter of not being acheivement oriented, for example. Instead, it is a recognition of the exclusion of black people and a sort of resistance to any attempt to work one’s way through or around those exclusions because such work arounds are not available to most black people.

        With regard to “differences,” the “differences” that people most often point to are precisely the sort that the white pointers actively contribute to maintaining through the systematic exclusion of black people from full membership in our social, political, and economic institutions.

        And if someone doesn’t want to live next to black people, it’s probably because they are horrible racists, not because of “differences” other than skin colors and their own sense of superiority.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Chris says:

        Uni HC as an example of something minorities in other countries might have that is superior to the US. It has primarily been poor people who lacked HI

        That’s a subtle, but noticeable, shift in subject.Report

      • greginak in reply to Chris says:

        Holy mackerel Roger, way to let your ideology get in the way. You may hate socialiezed medicine/Uni HC but how can you argue that , leaving everything else aside, a poor and/or minority person is better off in place they can get medical care then in a place they can’t or at best ER care. I get that you have the heebie jeebies about the socilizms but being able to get regular decent medical care seems pretty straight forward. And of course those evil socialism countries, like you know Germany and western E, are all pretty capitalist.

        Yeah i can see that aside from all the extra incarceration blacks do pretty well here. Point taken.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Chris says:


        Cultural assimilation is not just suburban white kids listening to hip-hop. There’s plenty of aspects of black culture that have remained distinctly separate from whites and, again, I would argue they are the basis for most racism in this country. Maybe it’s the anthropologist in me but I think everything else flows from the cultural differences. We can’t have full equality until we acknowledge that it is primarily cultural traits that make the two sides dislike each other.Report

      • Kim in reply to Chris says:

        Or, yaknow, it could be cultural similarities. The African influence on white southern culture didn’t start in the 1900’s. The cultural idea of the rich taking from the poor (and being lazy about the whole thing, certainly not investing in science or industry) was better established in Africa than it was in England.Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:

        There’s plenty of aspects of black culture that have remained distinctly separate from whites and, again, I would argue they are the basis for most racism in this country.

        OK. I’ll bite.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        There’s plenty of aspects of black culture that have remained distinctly separate from whites and, again, I would argue they are the basis for most racism in this country.

        It is certainly true that there are distinct white and black cultures in America. Again, are you suggesting that black people should adopt, that is assimilate to, white culture? It looks like that, and when you say something like, “I would argue [the distinctly separate aspects of black culture] are the basis for most racism in this country,” it looks a lot like you’re putting the impetus for racism on black people for their failure to assimilate. This doesn’t look like an anthropological explanation, it looks like excusing racism.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:


        As above you are still shifting the topic. I already conceded my preference was irrelevant to the choice. I said that none of the minorities I eat dinner with (none shares my ideology and most are moderate democrats) would choose where to live based upon the existence of socialized medicine, nor would it be a point in favor of choosing that place. In fact they would probably be offended you think that they are so incompetent as to be dependent upon redistribution to pay their own medical care.

        My daughter (as an example) has been discriminated against in ways which she found painful, especially when we made the mistake of moving into an all white Southern community. But all things considered they did not have any long term negative impact on either her education, her career or her happiness. Could her life had been even better? Sure. Would it have been worse if she was born stupid or ugly or socially awkward instead of being Hispanic? Yep. All things considered, unlike the other personal traits which are negatives, I doubt being Hispanic even counts as a net social “achievement” negative. Her heritage was irrelevant to her success and probably a source of positive pride. She considers herself lucky and blessed to be Hispanic. My guess is most immigrants think similarly as exhibited in part by their decision to live here vs alternatives.

        All in all, there is no place on earth she would rather have been born and raised. She is blessed in many ways and she knows it. The same cannot be said of someone abandoned in inner city schools. But again the issue isn’t racism, it is the way we fund and structure our educational institutions.

        Don’t get me wrong. Racism is an issue. An issue with tribal human nature. Tribalism cannot be avoided. But it can be managed, and according to the racial tolerance surveys above and my take on standards of living and achievement, we manage it better than just about anywhere ever.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:

        “And if someone doesn’t want to live next to black people, it’s probably because they are horrible racists, not because of “differences” other than skin colors and their own sense of superiority.”

        Actually, mathematicians have suggested the models indicate that as long as people have even a slight preference to be around people such as themselves (however they define it) it leads to segmented neighborhoods. The very fact that my wife didn’t want us to move to all white neighborhoods contributed to the emergent reality. I didn’t keep links to the studies, but I am sure you could find them.

        To reduce this to racism obscures the issue.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Roger, if you don’t want to live next to black people, you are a racist, pure and simple. It’s not a reduction, it’s a tautology.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        I’m willing to believe that White Flight is evidence of racism, but if measurables in the community change as a result of White Flight, that leads to some seriously troublesome conclusions.Report

      • Dand in reply to Chris says:

        When white people don’t live around black people it’s white flight and racist; when white people do live around black people it’s gentrification and racist. Heads I win tails you lose.Report

      • Dand in reply to Chris says:

        And for the record I agree it’s racist for whites not want to live around blacks; it’s the claim that white people living in blacks areas is racist that I dispute.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Sure, let’s imagine a city, we’ll call it Hope, in which group A controls most of the capital, and systematically depresses group B economically. One day, A realizes that its economic prospects are hurt by its own depression of B, because B is taking up space where A could be making money themselves (e.g., with more lucrative businesses or higher home prices). However, A can’t think of any way to just get rid of B, so A does the next best thing, and leaves any areas with B with their money and most of the city’s administrative organization for new areas where A can be all by itself with its money. So now in Hope, B is mostly alone, and the city’s lost most of its capital, which means most of its well-paying jobs and most of its tax base, so the schools suck, the police can’t do shit except harrass people, and no one has the time to pay attention to city hall so city hall does whatever the fuck it pleases, and A still systematically depresses B economically. Surprisingly, the place goes to shit.

        Then, 20 years later, when A reads about Hope in the newspaper they shake their heads and say, “See? This is what happens when you leave B alone. They can’t do anything right and everything goes to shit.” And their prejudices are confirmed, and they’re really glad they got the hell out of Hope with all of their money, and they smile about how much their property is worth and how there are like 5 Nordstroms within walking distance.Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:

        Heads I win tails you lose.

        What exactly are you losing in that analogy?Report

      • Dand in reply to Chris says:

        What exactly are you losing in that analogy?

        Either way the smug bobos and hipsters call you racist so they can feel superior to you.Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:


        One day, A realizes that its economic prospects are hurt by its own depression of B, because B is taking up space where A could be making money themselves (e.g., with more lucrative businesses or higher home prices).

        I don’t know how much this is an accurate portrayal of what happened. In general, the narrative of “white flight” has been oversold.

        For one thing, it is not really the elites that flee the city centers when things start to go to pot. The very rich who wish to stay in urban areas generally have the means to maintain themselves in their enclaves (e.g. the UES and UWS in New York, Gtown in DC, etc.) and the means to make up for declining public services (e.g. cars to make up for poor public transportation options, private schools to make up for failing public schools, second homes to make up for a lack of recreation options).

        The people who fled the cities in the 60s, 70s and 80s were largely the middle class. And, while some of them were certainly spurred because they feared the changing ethnic composition of their neighborhoods, mostly their concerns were far more prosaic. This was the heyday of the tax and spend mentality. So, a middle class person is seeing his or her tax burden rising, while simultaneously seeing the level of public services dropping (because more and more of that money is being diverted to social services that do not benefit them). Lots of them chose to move to the suburbs, where they could still reach the cities for work, but were getting more for their money. As they left, they were replaced by people lower down on the economic ladder, so even the people who want to stay become concerned with their property values. After all, these are middle class people and much of their wealth is tied up in their homes.

        This gutting of the tax base gets going and it is very hard to recover from it.Report

      • j r in reply to Chris says:

        Either way the smug bobos and hipsters call you racist so they can feel superior to you.

        Does it work?

        If not, then I cannot see how you are losing anything.Report

      • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

        With regard to “not wanting to live by black people” there are multiple different scenarios with different ramifications.

        A: “I don’t want black people living in my neighborhood, and especially not in an adjacent house” is pretty horribly racist. It’s honestly sufficiently so that comparatively few people will come out and say it directly, usually either (1) couching it in other terms or (2) talking about B below when, in actuality, they mean the above.

        B: “I don’t want to live in a neighborhood where the dominant demographic is black” may be racist in a similar way, but it is so in a way that touches on largely inescapable aspects of human nature, and it only takes a relatively modest preference to have a significant impact on segregation.

        I don’t know what the solution to B is. Ideally, we could talk about a colorblind society and all that, but that’s not close to a realistic model in contemporary society and pretending otherwise has detrimental effects.

        Anyway, I could be wrong, but I think @chris is talking about A, while @roger is talking about B.Report

      • Dand in reply to Chris says:

        ,Does it work?

        If not, then I cannot see how you are losing anything.

        It’s not rational, but I’m surrounded by these people and they really push my buttons.Report

      • Dand in reply to Chris says:

        And to provide an example of why this annoys me, a couple acquaintances of mine will mock blue color workers who fell that illegal/undocumented immigrants are taking their while at the same time expressing anger that employers in their fields are using H1B visas to hire workers and keep wages down. I don’t see any way too justify that position. It’s perfectly ok for them to oppose immigrants in their field but when someone who makes less than them does it’s xenophobia.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        Well, if it’s reasonable to, say, want to move to the best school district you can possibly afford to live in, does that make racism reasonable?

        If it does, isn’t that problematic above and beyond our ability to fix without some serious policies being implemented?Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:

        Thanks for jumping in, but it is even more lopsided than that, Will.

        My example was about minority families (such as mine) wanting to raise our kids in diverse neighborhoods. As a corporate executive I moved every two years or so, as did many of my coworkers. One thing shared by all minorities I knew was the drawback of raising our kids in areas where nobody else was like them.

        To dismiss this as racism does more to obscure than enlighten. The effect of these types of choices does tend to have an emergent quality of apparent segregation over time. Throwing out the R word doesn’t really add value.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Not wanting to be the only one who looks like you in a neighborhood and not wanting to live around people who don’t are two different things. That you purposefully equate them tells me a lot.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

        Thomas Schelling figured out that even a mild preference for neighbors similar to oneself results in high levels of segregation.

        Network effects that follow from this self-segregation are likely to do a good job of perpetuating such things as “mild preference”.

        I don’t even think that “racism” is the right word anymore. It’s a racism without animosity.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:

        Thanks Jaybird that is the model I was trying to make reference to.

        Chris, play nice. It is you who is conflating the two types with a single word. I am trying to separate them out. I never said my daughter moved into a black neighborhood to get away from white people. I never said my wife wanted to move away from white people. I said they sought out diversity and some people like themselves and their kids and that this is natural and healthy and to explain it away with taunts of racism is extremely damaging to healthy discussions.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        I’ve said not wanting to live next to black people is racism, by definition. This is not ambiguous. You countered by saying some people don’t want to be the only people like themselves, as though that were at all what I’m talking about. You are purposefully confusing the issue, reminding me why I have been ignoring you all this time. I prefer honest interlocutors. So I will ignore you again since you’ve yet again demonstrated your inability to be one.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:


        The benefit of coming to a site like this is to have an open dialogue without getting all defensive and resorting to personal attacks every time our worldview is challenged. Lets both take a breath and step back.

        1) The important argument is that segregation is a natural artifact of human interaction as exhibited in Jaybird’s Schelling’s model.

        2) The U.S. is one of the least racists countries (most racially tolerant) on earth as revealed by my link above. (Note how little discussion the empirical links get here compared to the mud)

        3) I asked if anyone knows of any country where blacks and Hispanics have higher levels of achievement than the US to quantify the supposed racism gap. All I got was crickets and Greg’s jaw dropping response than some places give poor people free health care. Therefore I will assume that the U.S. Is at or near the top of places for achievement regardless of race.

        4) Bottom line for me is that I cannot imagine a better real place for my loved ones to grow up and achieve a successful life. Racism is pretty frickin irrelevant to whether my daughter or her son succeed in life. Seriously. I wouldn’t call it a non factor*, just not an important one all things considered.

        5). This isn’t the same as saying racism isn’t a factor for anyone, and this is where you and even Coates have a point. Past racism (and normal self segregation) affects culture and communities in an emergent fashion creating various cultural traps. As James stated yesterday culture is both important and not anyone’s fault. But it is critical.

        * my guess is on net it is a slight positive factor. Being a black Hispanic student with strong mathematical skills is a ticket to better education and career opportunities. This assumes he can enter adulthood though without picking up the dysfunctional victimology peddled by people like Coates.Report

      • Chris in reply to Chris says:

        Roger, not wanting to live next to black people is racist.Report

      • Roger in reply to Chris says:

        Chris, please take the conversation up a notch.

        I am operating under the assumption that you think that black people are underachieving in the US and that it is due to white supremacist racist behavior. Feel free to correct me if wrong. You pretty much said as much.

        I am confident that racism is irrelevant to the larger life success of any minority that I love or know. White supremacists are not going to make a dent in the career or educational aspirations of my daughter or grandson. Why? Because they have the values, norms and culture of needed to succeed and thrive. Being black or Hispanic is absofrickinlutely irrelevant.

        But neither of them is locked into a dysfunctional attitude of victim hood and blaming others for their problems. Neither was raised in a culture where intelligence and hard work and reciprocal cooperation are frowned upon. Neither was raised to see themselves as livestock who choose a society based solely upon the existence of health care paid for by others.

        You need to seriously consider reexamining your assumptions. They are empirically wrong (based upon the links) and morally corrosive to the future well being of minorities.Report

  14. Roger says:


    Fantastic article. Extremely enlightening.Report

  15. Vikram – I’m still digesting this, but I wanted to say that this was an incredibly thought provoking and well-researched piece. You’ve been on one heckuva roll lately.Report

  16. Kazzy says:

    For whatever it is worth, I remember “white bread” (or was it “white bred”… I never really knew…) being thrown around pretty loosely in my high school, sometimes playfully and sometimes seriously. But I don’t think it was directly connected with academic achievement (though that might have been a component).Report

    • Vikram Bath in reply to Kazzy says:

      Yeah, I remember that too. I always assumed it was “bread”, but the “bred” thing is clever.

      I would say I remember it being associated with behaviors that might correlate with academic achievement. E.g. working on problems during lunch when everyone else was socializing.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:

        That is probably a better way to put it. I think “white bre(a)d” incorporated a number of things, including but not limited to, academic achievement. It also had to do with dress, speech, music, and just a general manner of being.

        An interesting quasi-recent example of this was the spat that arose between Jalen Rose and Grant Hill. When Jalen Rose’s documentary on the “Fab Four” included him saying contemporarily (but reflecting on his feelings at the time, which I think was lost in the shuffle) that he thought Grant Hill and other black players at Duke were “Uncle Tom’s”. Hill wrote a really interesting editorial in response.

        You also have recent allegations from the Seattle Seahawks locker room that certain players don’t accept Russell Wilson because he isn’t “black enough”.

        Also, see the new show “Black-ish” which deals with this phenomenon head on. So I would say there are real issues within the African-American experiences with what it means to be black. I don’t think they are limited to academic achievement. And the reasons for them are manifold and not limited to internal “disorder” among blacks.Report

      • Back when I was in high school and an undergraduate, “white bread” was usually used in a derogatory fashion about someone’s personality, meaning bland, tasteless, and largely devoid of any interesting character. For the most part, it was an insult leveled by white people at other white people. But that was rural Iowa and suburban Nebraska in the late 60s through mid 70s, which were pretty damned white places.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Vikram Bath says:


        That is why I thought it might have been “white bred”, which carries a very different connotation given both the dictionary definition of those words and the context in which I heard it used.

        On the other end, you also had “Wigger”, which is a portmanteau I’m sure you can decipher. It was used in a variety of contexts, usually pejoratively but sometimes in a more joking manner.Report

  17. Michael Cain says:

    English would have been a better and more practical choice, but you don’t kick out your oppressors but keep their language.

    This sentence kept coming back to mind when I was looking at the Hispanic line on the Fryer and Torelli graphs. At some point — high school and up, possibly even sooner — academic success in the US is tied to mastery of standard American English. Spanish is an SAT Subject Test, like French or German, not the language in which the reading, writing, and math tests are written. It would be interesting to see how Hispanic popularity varies with English fluency.Report

    • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

      Not as much as popularity varying with “time spent helping out friends and family” I”d wager.Report

    • There might be something to the language thing and availability of friends. If you are Hispanic and have a high GPA maybe that is because you are more comfortable with English. But being more comfortable with English might mean you are less comfortable with Spanish (perhaps because you speak English at home) and thus have a harder time gaining Hispanic friends.

      It’s a little bit of a convoluted explanation, but I don’t remember reading anything that would contradict it.Report

  18. j r says:

    Good post.

    The one thing that I would add is that these are the sorts of issues that would be better elucidated with some good ethnographic analysis in addition to the quantitative data. As other have pointed out, a lot of this could be about class and income level. There may be some very significant differences between ultra high-achieving white students and ultra high-achieving black and Hispanic students.

    For instance, perhaps there is something about the level and the type of effort that black students require to get above the 3.5 threshold that white students do not face. Maybe these are kids who don’t have time for extracurricular activities that might foster deeper social bonds with their peers. Or maybe very high achieving minority students are more likely to be taken out of the schools that they would normally attend and sent to specialized or private schools where they have trouble fitting in.

    A lot of this could also be a function of minorities being caught between two worlds in a way that high-achieving white students are not, because high-achieving white students are more likely to come from high-achieving backgrounds.Report

  19. Mike Dwyer says:


    I did not say blacks should assimilate into white culture. I’m asking if they have any interest in assimilation. If the problem is racist whites (as Coates and others claim) then there is the option of assimilation (the Irish model) or resistance. The latter may be more principled but history has proven it takes much, much longer. I’m not endorsing that, but rather pointing it out as a historical reality.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


      Assimilate into what?Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

        @kazzy @chris

        I’m asking if blacks have any interest in appearing more like whites in order to gain acceptance (see OP). That is the path that previous racial groups have taken to assimilation. For the 3rd or 4th time, I am not advocating this approach, merely pointing out that it is historically the method that works best.

        In lieu of assimilation, blacks can continue to maintain a distinct identity as a monolithic group…and that is a completely acceptable choice…but it’s naive to believe that doesn’t slow the arrival of full equality.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        I don’t know. I can’t speak for black folks, individually or collectively.

        I will say that the Freakonomics guy did an interesting study on names. What they found is that names have a “trickle down” effect. Names become popular among the economically elite. Those names — and their derivatives or alternatives — then become popular with the middle class and eventually the working/lower classes. This is not just a trend; it is an attempt to emulate the successful. “If I name my kids like the wealthy do, maybe they too will be wealthy.” What ends up happening? The wealthy abandon those names. Those names eventually become seen as the opposite of what they were intended and symbolize anything but success. And the cycle repeats.

        Now, that example focused on the economic dimension, but A) we know there is a huge interaction between race and economics and B) I would venture to guess similar patterns would hold along racial lines as well.

        So, my question would be: Is white America ready/willing to accept black America’s assimilation?Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        Again, you’re comparing apples to lawn mowers. Racism aimed at black people is not simply a result of the fact that black people have not completely assimilated white culture. If tomorrow black people started wearing shorts in winter, drinking milk, and letting dogs lick them on their faces, white people would still feel superior to black people. White supremacy is part of “white culture.” That’s not going to change just because black people start to act more white. The biggest difference between black people and Irish people is that Irish people look white, so white supremacy only lasts so long as Irish people try to distinguish themselves from “white folks” culturally. As soon as they stop, they’re indistinguishable. White supremacy doesn’t come into play. Black people don’t have that option. The only way to get rid of racism is to get rid of white supremacy.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        Black people don’t drink milk?Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        Saying what I said above about “acting white,” in relation to your “assimilation,” resistance to “acting white” is not a resistance to “assimilation,” it is a resistance to a culture that has white supremacy as an integral component. I imagine that if white people decided to “assimlated” to American culture, so that they no longer thought of themselves as separate from and superior to all other Americans, “acting white” would cease to be a thing.Report

      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

        n lieu of assimilation, blacks can continue to maintain a distinct identity as a monolithic group…

        Seriously, where are you getting this stuff?

        Do you not realize that your baseline assumptions are really really off?Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        I refer you to the legend of strawberry milkReport

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        From that episode, in case you don’t want to watch it:

        BOURDAIN: Who lived here in the ’50s?

        DESUS: All white people.

        BOURDAIN: What kind of white people?

        DESUS: White white. Like we enjoy milk white, that kind of, we’re kissing dogs on the mouth.

        The shorts in winter is, of course, a common stereotype: “White people will wear shorts in any weather.”Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        Ah, found linkie!
        (to be noted: strawberry allergy and milk allergy are very common in Eastern Asians)Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        “Black people don’t have that option. The only way to get rid of racism is to get rid of white supremacy.”

        So we come back to agency. Do blacks have any ability to reduce the frequency of racism? If I understand you correctly, you are saying that their separate and distinct culture plays no role in the way they are received by whites, so is this really just a waiting game? There’s nothing they can actively do other than to point it out every time a white person is racist?Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        Do blacks have any ability to reduce the frequency of racism? If I understand you correctly, you are saying that their separate and distinct culture plays no role in the way they are received by whites, so is this really just a waiting game.

        Oh sure, some of those differences affect the shape that racism takes, but they don’t cause them. The causes are much deeper than those differences (and in some cases, the causal direction goes the other way).

        There’s nothing they can actively do other than to point it out every time a white person is racist?

        First, nobody has time to point out every white person. But sure, there are black people fighting racism every day. They’re just not fighting it by saying, “Black people, you should become more like white people. Then they’ll like you more.” Because if they did that, they’d be called out on their racist bullshit.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:

        I tend to disagree with you on the importance of culture in the debate. I’ve written about this here on the site but a lot of what gets labeled as ‘racism’ is actually a cultural prejudice and I think that is an important distinction. I know a LOT of people who I would not consider racist but who have prejudices against certain aspects of black culture. That is what drives many of us to say that maybe blacks could play a role in stopping those feelings.Report

      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:

        I know a LOT of people who I would not consider racist but who have prejudices against certain aspects of black culture.

        What makes it racist is that you’ve labeled these “certain aspects” black culture in the first place. If you were to start listing what you think these aspects are, you would almost certainly find the same patterns of behavior among poor whites and poor anything else (hell, you’d find them among the middle class and wealthy as well). For some reason, those behaviors get filtered out of “white culture” and those people get labeled as white trash. That reason is white supremacy and racism.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        I know a LOT of people who I would not consider racist but who have prejudices against certain aspects of black culture. That is what drives many of us to say that maybe blacks could play a role in stopping those feelings.

        Ugh… I promise you, I’m trying really hard to be calm about this, but your second sentence there, like much of what you’ve said here, makes that difficult.

        First, I do not doubt that there are plenty of white folks (and, as Coates’ article shows, even some black folks) who dislike certain aspects of black culture. This may be a result of many things, like, say, misunderstanding black culture and black experience in this country, say, or not understanding the historical context, or just being short sighted. Also, racism. Usually racism.

        In fact, I’m just going to say this, because it is true: if you think that your friends disliking aspects of black culture means black people could fix racism and negative perceptions of black people (which is racism!!!!!!!!!) by becoming more white, you are a racist. What you are saying, in essence, is that people would stop judging a race of people negatively if more people among that race stopped acting like people of that race. Do you see how that’s racist? I mean, it is painfully, offensively, objectively racist. You’re blaming black people for the racism against them. You are also excusing racism by saying it’s not black people your racist friends don’t like, but black culture. And on top of that, you are continually engaging in white supremacy: white culture is better than black culture, so perhaps black people wouldn’t be seen as inferior (that is, there wouldn’t be racism towards black people) if they assimilated to the superior culture.

        Seriously, I’ve had pretty much all of this I can take. I am sure you mean well, but the level of racism you’re trading in right now is off the charts. It started the moment you mentioned assimilation. I’m just going to have to stop engaging you on this topic so that I don’t say something I regret later.

        Also, if you doubt what I’m saying here, I suggest trying to have this conversation with a black person. Ask them why black people haven’t assimilated to white culture, suggest to them that your friends who dislike black culture aren’t racists, and suggest to them that if they just behaved more like white people, white people wouldn’t be racist toward them anymore (and that to deny this is to deny them agency, because it suggests black people can’t do anything to fight racism). Tell them that black culture is the real cause of racism. I promise you that any black person you have this conversation with will walk away thinking that you are seriously, seriously racist. Even if you tell them you’re trying to approach the situation like an anthropologist.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        Nothing I said is racist unless you are unable to separate black culture from the black race. It appears you cannot, which seems to imply that all of those cultural habits are somehow embedded in their DNA…and that is a troubling concept in itself. The entire eugenics movement was founded on the principle that behavior can be linked to race. Surely you don’t believe the two are inseparable?

        Personally I think looking at culture verses race is a more evolved viewpoint. There are elements of every culture which cause mistrust, anger, etc. But those are behaviors, not genetic traits. Behaviors can be understood by the other side or, when they are negative, changed. On the other hand, screaming ‘racism!’ every time someone engages in a discussion of cultural differences really just kills the conversation. I actually counted and you used the term 20 times in your last comment. It seems like that is all you really want to see any time white people talk about the reasons why we don’t always get along with black people. Unfortunately that does more harm than good, IMO, no matter how principled you think your position is.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        What aspects of “black culture” do your friends have issues with?

        Note: I put “black culture” into quotes because I reject the notion that there exists a singular, monolithic black culture in America. And if your friends have issues with black people in general because of issues with particular aspects of particular black subcultures, well, I think it is fair to call that problematic.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        I think ‘subculture’ is probably more accurate. In fact, that exactly explains the phenomenon I’m talking about. I don’t know if this is something you also hear outside the South or even outside of Louisville but a line you will hear around here is, “I don’t hate all black people, I just hate certain kinds of black people.” Often that will also be followed with, “I also hate certain kinds of white people,” so they don’t get labeled as racist.

        The things that get complained about are generally just the most obnoxious behaviors. Just like any other group, people generally don’t like people that act like idiots. That goes for any other sub culture too.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


        Just to be clear on language (and I assume you are using the term in the same way), I say “subculture” to mean “a subset”, not “an inferior.”

        That said, what are the obnoxious behaviors? And are the unique to black folks? If your friends say, “Man, some black folks are just so loud!” Well, every group has loud people. At that point, their issue is volume, not the race of the person. But if they are only bothered by loud black people, well then, there is some real racism lurking there.

        And if they say, “I won’t live near any blacks because some blacks are loud but I will live near whites even though some whites are loud,” well, that too has some real racism to it.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        I don’t want to throw out a bunch of specific complaints I hear because then we are just going to get into a process of debunking each one. I think it’s also important to note that my experience here in Louisville is with a subculture of blacks who live here. So if the behavior I mention can also be attributed to Vietnamese-Americans where someone else lives, that doesn’t negate the observation IMO.

        So one example is that most black kids will not walk on a sidewalk in a neighborhood. This has been observed not just by me dozens of times, but by plenty of other people based on my quick Google search. Do I think there is something in their DNA which makes them do this? No. Do I think all black kids do this? No. Do I see white kids doing the same thing? No. There is speculation that this is linked to the Jim Crow era when blacks were expected to yield to whites on a sidewalk but at what point does it just become bad behavior? This was actually the very thing that started the confrontation between Trevon Martin and the policeman who shot him.

        So again, this is one behavior that is a cultural practice among some blacks. But it also creates animosity. Why can’t we talk about it in the same way that we talk about whites doing insensitive things and not call it racism?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:


      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:


        I am beginning to get the feeling that the reason you are hesitate to list specific complaints is that they are all going to be either easily debunked or ridiculously banal. From what I can tell, you really just want those black kids to stay off your lawn.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        You do realize that a lot of the things that black people complain about seem pretty trivial to white people…right? So it’s a matter of perception. My personal opinion is that in 2014 culture is way more important that race. Obviously Chris disagrees with me on that point and you are free to as well. The one key difference is that I’m not going to say you are prejudice for disagreeing on that point whereas anyone that doesn’t believe race is the alpha and omega all problems facing blacks are usually called racists by those that do.Report

      • j r in reply to Kazzy says:


        So, the fact that some black people’s complaints about whites are trivial justifies your own banal observations about so-called black culture?

        You still haven’t said anything precise or meaningful.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


        Maybe you should give an example of a cultural difference that is significant enough to merit discussion.Report

      • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

        I’ve got one meaningful enough: white supremacy.

        Others: hair issued, BBC, tokenism, media representation, arrest disparities and police brutality, housing discrimination, etc.Report

      • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

        oh, hell, let’s try a few:

        Being stalked in the liquor store, as a college professor, while the far more likely to steal white college kids get a free pass (nobody looking over their shoulder).

        Being stopped by the cops in your own neighborhood, as a senior citizen.

        Having school policies applied differentially or simply made up in order to discriminate.

        Having to listen to some racist ass talk horridly in public, without making a scene.

        This is the sort of “Unbelievable” shit black people complain about white people doing.

        “I hate the way some black people do… XYZ that everyone does sometimes” is pretty freaking racist. Yeah, so maybe there is some actual cultural mishmash about walking in the middle of the street. If that’s the worst thing that black/white folks have to put up with, well, that’s called awesome. Seriously.Report

  20. zic says:

    So I wonder what will happen if I act gray? Will people think I’m old? Steal my cane or help me across the street?

    And what if I act green. Will someone think I’m a tree? A frog? A dirty hippie?

    Acting red, of course, is the sure signal of a socialist commie fascist.

    And if I start acting blue, please please please beg me to go see a therapist or doctor for some antidepressants.

    Pink is, of course, reserved for girls. If I act pink, it’s because I am a girl. Purple, too.

    So I think I’ll act orange, hope that I’m appealing, and that I add a bit of sunshine to somebody’s day.

    No black and white for this baby, she shoots color.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to zic says:

      So I wonder what will happen if I act gray? Will people think I’m old? Steal my cane or help me across the street?

      I can’t speak to acting gray, since I don’t think I do, but when you look gray enough, the young woman jumps to hold the door at the student union for you with the kind of smile that clearly says that you remind her of her father/favorite uncle/grandfather. The teenager working the counter at Burger King gives you the free senior drink when you order the small drink without asking. Parents of tweeners taking fencing lessons say “It’s so cool that you still fence,” with a clearly implied “at your age” in there.Report

      • zic in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Yeah. That’s why I prefer to act orange.

        More to the point, at least in the US, I don’t think this is a discussion of black/white so much as a discussion of socioeconomics. What gives me pause here is the results for Latino students; does this suggest there’s some power to pressure to stay within the community, and not strive for upward economic momentum?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Parents of tweeners taking fencing lessons say “It’s so cool that you still fence,” with a clearly implied “at your age” in there.

        When I say, hey, kids, get off my lawn, you’d better believe they get off my lawn!Report

      • Kim in reply to Michael Cain says:

        maybe it’s more what happened with the Irish — pressure to help at home, to leave school to work, etc.Report

      • A few years ago when I spoke at some length with an Hispanic banker, who also runs a non-profit that works to encourage Hispanic kids to finish high school and go to college, he said that at least in Colorado there’s a very big cultural element. His example was along the lines of, “When essentially all of your friends and family expect you to go to work on your uncle’s roofing crew, and advancement means running your own roofing crew someday, but definitely not owning the roofing business or being the accountant or lawyer for the roofing business, why bother staying in school past age 16 or working hard at scholastics?” Even worse for young women.Report

      • @james-hanley
        The kids are okay — they pretty quickly pick up on the fact that on the strip, you can’t think of your opponent as young or old or female or black, you have to think about them as a fencer. Are they tall (advantages and disadvantages there)? Are they impatient? Do they attack from the wrong distance? It’s the parents that make me want to say, “Dress out, pick up that epee, and get out here on the strip. I am going to give you so many bruises.” :^)Report

    • Jim Heffman in reply to zic says:

      “And what if I act green. Will someone think I’m a tree? A frog? A dirty hippie?”

      A watermelon — green on the outside, red underneath.Report

  21. Kolohe says:

    The conventional wisdom is that cricket is more popular in India & Pakistan than anywhere else in the world, including its ancestral home in the British Isles.

    a) is this conventional wisdom true?

    b) if so, why isn’t this considered ‘acting white’, the way you say speaking English would be? (e.g., the most well known anti-Western politician in South Asia right now was a professional cricket player by trade)Report

  22. Kazzy says:

    If I understand the data correctly, black popularity rises with GPA until around a 3.5 is achieved after which it drops. White popularity rises with GPA unimpeded.

    Might there be some element of racial/cultural bias within the grading itself? Is it possible that teachers reward the sort of black student who is less likely to be popular with his peers with higher grades while punishing the sort of black student who is more likely to be popular with his peers with lower grades? So rather than grades fueling popularity, maybe popularity is fueling grades.

    As a teacher, I can tell you you’d be appalled by the sorts of things that sometimes factor into grading, consciously or otherwise.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

      To suss this out, imagine the following four students:

      John is black, smart, listens to rap music, wears a backwards hat, generally speaks in AAVE, and is popular among his peers.
      Arnold is black, smart, doesn’t really seem interested in music, wears ties to class, speaks the Queen’s English, and isn’t very popular.
      Patrick is white, smart, listens to rap music, wears a backwards hat, and is popular among his peers.
      Richard is white, smart, doesn’t really seem interested in music, wears ties to class, and isn’t very popular.

      It is possible that the perception of the teacher will lead him to give the latter three students A’s while the former student only a B+ despite equivalent quality of work because John doesn’t “seem” like an A student. As such, you’d see higher grades seeming to have a negative impact on black popularity in a way you wouldn’t with whites.Report

  23. Mike Dwyer says:


    Why don’t we walk things waaaay back to the first question I posed to you, which was in-line with the actual subject of the post. Given that the post was about ‘acting white’ and whether there is any evidence to support the idea that there is a negative reaction within minority communities to certain perceived behaviors, I think what I was asking made sense. When the Irish, Germans, Italians, etc assimilated into American culture it was by acting more like the people that were already here. In fact they over-compensated by becoming uber Americans (hence high Irish participation in the Civil War).

    So the question is, would a similar tactic work for blacks to become more equal (we can choose not to use ‘assimilate’ since you don’t like that word) and what would it look like? You’ve already answered by saying that no amount of ‘acting white’ (again, back to the OP) will change the inherent racism of whites. I can accept that answer, even if I don’t agree, but what then is the alternative? Since you really like the word racism, is it possible to extinguish it with anything other than the long wait for all those racist whites to die? I would like to think there is a solution where blacks can take an active role, whether than just waiting, but you aren’t really making me feel optimistic on that front.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Mike, that’s an interesting point. My own view – having come from a long line of racists – is that a lot turns on the word “inherent”. From my own perspective, a lot of racism against blacks results from white folks viewing their actions and behaviors as being intentionally different. Intentionally flouting the standard (white defined, from their pov acourse) cultural norms everyone else has to adopt. So I think there’s something to your question and perhaps even your suggestion. At least, from my white guy pov. (Not that I’d advocate for an outgroup to adopt ingroup norms for this particular reason.)

      On the other hand, I think what Chris means as inherent racism is the identification of black folks (and other races) as being somehow inferior to white folks, even tho that argument is blatantly circular. At least to me.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        Further than that, tho, is the concept of white guilt. I’ve mentioned this before on this site, but my own view is that white guilt has so permeated our culture that what would otherwise be a clear sign of defensiveness and rationalization has become normalized to such a degree that we (us members of the white, dominant culture – you could include strait and male, in that too if you wanna get fkrisky) can’t even see the guilt ridden forest for the defensively apologetic tree anymore.Report

      • greginak in reply to Stillwater says:

        Still, i’m not really sure about the white guilt thing. I’m only going on my own experience but i don’t’ think WG is all that common. I don’t feel any WG. Or at least that i’m aware of to be persnickety. Not sure why i should. That doesn’t’ mean i don’t have all the advantages of white dude, which is unfair but guilt seems like an emotion based on something a person actively did. I certainly don’t have guilt over slavery since all my ancestors were in Poland or Greece. I don’t’ WG as big thing; its more often thrown out by conservatives as an easy rational for liberal beliefs they don’t want to understand. Maybe i’m wrong and/or this could be topic to be fleshed out in a separate thread.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to Stillwater says:

        I here ya Greg. THere’s only a coupla things I can say about without getting really deep in the weeds. THe first is that personally speaking here, I do feel a sense of white guilt (or dominant culture guilt, whatever). I feel that every time the topic of racism comes up in any of it’s various forms, and it manifests as not only an admission that racism exists but also that I’m the beneficiary (direct, indirect, circumstantial, etc) of lots of institutional practices that other races in this country haven’t received.

        THe second is more broadly psychological (and therefore weedy): the observable fact that white people go to such great lengths to deny the obvious (historical and contemporary institutional racism) strikes me as a classic case denial, one which I think is best accounted for by the concept of white guilt. I wrote about this a bit ago, but in short, whenever I see folks go one the offensive about this and related topics (feminism and the patriarchy, for example) I’m always at a loss to understand exactly what they think is at stake in the argument. ANd it seems to me that the only thing at stake is a psychological property.

        Oh, and one other thing. A data point. When Avatar came out one of the first criticisms was that the movie was an appeal to white guilt. I saw the movie before I heard all that stuff and that interpretation never occurred to me. But man did people run with it! Why???Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


      “…American culture…”

      What is “American culture”? Can you define it?

      “…acting more like the people that were already here…”

      Black Americans have been here for centuries.Report

    • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Mike, I described above why I think “being white,” in the sense discussed in the post, may be discouraged.

      The idea that racism exists because black people have not adopted the dominant cultural paradigm, a paradigm that is inseparable from the oppression of black people, is incredibly offensive. It is, as one of the people I showed this thread to earlier this evening put it, “cross-burning racism.” That is, you’re saying what racists have been saying to justify racism since the days of cross-burning. I’m done with it. If you want to continue the discussion, try Kazzy or jr. They are better people than I.

      The exact quote was actually, “I don’t know why you bother with that sort of racist. It’s not even interesting racism, it’s ordinary cross-burning racism.”Report

  24. Kazzy says:


    So you have some friends who find some black teens walking in the sidewalk obnoxious. Okay. So what of it? How much does that inform their worldview? How much does that dictate the choices they make?Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


      What happens when you have a bunch of negative experiences with members of a certain group is that after a while it begins to color your entire perception of that group. That’s just human nature. For example, I have a visceral reaction to most of our sales staff in my company because i have met so many of them that are douches. Is it fair to make that generalization? No. But anytime I meet a new one I assume they will also be a douche until proven otherwise. Soooo…. I do think cultural experiences matter and I do think it’s short-sighted to pretend they don’t.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        If someone’s experience with black folks is limited to being annoyed by them walking in the street, they are in piss poor position to draw any conclusions about much of anything.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Let me also add that these types of prejudices are just as problematic, but I think it’s important to point out that they are not racist but instead rooted in cultural differences. That’s an important distinction.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        That was one example of many and that’s my whole point. It’s the collective negative experiences that cause cultural prejudices. We are the sum of our experiences, for better or for worse.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        Then why do they describe it as “black culture”? Why not “youth culture”? “Southern culture”? “People who live in [blank neighborhood] culture”?Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        ‘Black culture’ is probably just my unfortunate choice of words. In reality it seems to be specifically ‘black teenager culture’ with regards to the one example I gave. So back to the OP, if black teens started using the sidewalks on a more regular basis, would that reduce racism?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        But they have no positive experiences? How regularly do they interact with (not just observe) black folk?Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        I don’t think so. Because then it’d be other things they did. And all the black teens who do use the sidewalks still suffer racism.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I guess the question is, to what extent are we comfortable defining and judging a group of people and the potential culture they shared based on behavior? As opposed to simply assessing the behavior?

        For instance, some people would look at the folks described and think, “Ugh, I hate people who walk in the street.” Others see them and think, “Ugh, black teens.”

        Do you think those responses are equally valid? Is one preferable? If so, why?Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Sure, there are plenty of positive experiences with blacks. That’s why I think most people today separate culture from race.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        For instance, some people would look at the folks described and think, “Ugh, I hate people who walk in the street.” Others see them and think, “Ugh, black teens.” Do you think those responses are equally valid? Is one preferable? If so, why?

        What I hear is a combination of the two which is, “Ugh, why do black teens always walk in the street?” I think more than anything it’s any annoyance and a general WTF? Like they’re observing a phenomenon that they literally cannot fathom. (On a side note I feel the same way about white bicyclist who I hate with the heat of the sun).Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        But you don’t extrapolate that white cyclist to all whites. For whatever reason, your friends (it sounds like) do extrapolate to all — or at least a sizable group of — blacks. That is racism.Report

      • Mike Dwyer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


        Remember, it’s not just that one example. There are dozens of points of friction between between white and black culture every day. They all seem trivial when taking individually but when taken at as a whole, that’s where prejudices develop. But again, I want to point out that most of the people I know that start to make generalizations do not believe that a black person’s race makes them behave a certain way. They think it is a cultural problem. I’ve written about it here on the site. As a society I think we have to start having more conversations about cultural differences without people like Chris seeing a white hood behind every tree.Report

      • Roger in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        @michael-drew @kazzy

        Is it acceptable to be disturbed by, offended by, or to flee from a culture or sub-culture which one disagrees with?

        I assume the answer is yes, as the culture in question could be religious extremists, criminals, or even, heaven forbid, Chris’ white extremists or neo Nazis.

        But what if the subculture in question is strongly associated with a segment of a previously persecuted minority? Is it still ok? Why or why not?

        Is it ok if members of said minority group are offended by or want to flee from said culture?Report

      • Roger in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Oops, that should be to @mike-dwyer . My bad, hit wrong button.Report

    • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:


      For the reasons stated, I would say, “It depends.” Though I would respect the right of individuals to choose in their private lives and sometimes in their public lives who they associate with.

      The problem is, we’re not just talking about culture and association. It is one thing to say, “My neighbors are loud and I want to move somewhere quiet.” I think it is quite another to say, “Some black teens walk in the street. Clearly, these are just a people who refuse to play by the rules and I want no part of that,” and then vote to cut funding to the schools in their old neighborhood because it’s just those obnoxious people there.

      Look, if you don’t want to be around black people, don’t be! They’ll probably be happier with that, at least on a micro-level. But don’t pretend it isn’t both a reflection and perpetuation of racism (personal, institutional, and otherwise), that it’s black people’s fault you feel this way, or that the historical legacy of and ongoing racism do not play a part in those points of “cultural friction”.

      I mean, at what point can we describe Mike’s friends’ position as victim blaming? “Black people are asking for it!”Report

      • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:


        Yeah, I get the problem with culture and association, that was the point of posing the dilemma. (And I am reading your use of “you” in the third paragraph as a synonym for a generic “somebody”)

        I will let Mike speak for himself. But the hypothetical question isn’t about irrational intolerance or about spitefully trying to harm others. Let’s all agree that both are completely unacceptable.

        Your “depends” answer seems to imply that if *someone* (my term), does have legitimate reasons to disagree with or disapprove of a culture, and it that culture is identified with a racial or other minority that they should be allowed to decide to avoid said subculture.

        The results though, as indicated by Jaybird’s Schelling Model link, would look a lot like extreme segregation and probably be outwardly similar to racism in many outcomes. Members of that minority which do not associate or condone with the culture will flee from it as will members not of that group. Thus the culture becomes even more prevalent and pronounced. We see a self amplifying feedback loop with nobody to blame for the emergent pattern. To further complicate matters, cultures tend to self propagate over time.

        As I have stressed repeatedly, I find the racial or ethnic status of the various members of my family broadly irrelevant to their life success. The blacks don’t have it harder or easier than the whites or Hispanics or vice versa. Non issue. What does matter — a lot– is the cultural norms and mores which they have adopted while maturing. Their backgrounds matter a lot — how much time they spend reading, how much time they spend in libraries, their speach, their schooling, their peers, their inculcated views on work, fairness, time horizons, accountability and honesty and so forth.

        As several people have commented culture really is nobody’s fault. But it still matters immensely. Our cultural upbringings have a profound effect upon our values, our goals, our experiences, and our potential. If the culture doesn’t change neither will the expected outcomes — even if racism was hypothetically speaking at zero (which I am not arguing).

        As the links above revealed, the U.S, though far from perfect, is one of the most racially tolerant societies on earth. Still, we see alarmingly disparate results. Culture and emergent effects of cultural segregation explains a lot of this. Yeah, let us continue to stamp out racism. But if we don’t see the full extent of the issue including the cultural aspects we are doing a disservice to future generations.Report

      • Creon Critic in reply to Kazzy says:


        As I have stressed repeatedly, I find the racial or ethnic status of the various members of my family broadly irrelevant to their life success. The blacks don’t have it harder or easier than the whites or Hispanics or vice versa. Non issue.

        Really? “Non issue”, you say. Here’s some evidence to the contrary.

        “Are Emily and Greg More Employable than Lakisha and Jamal? A Field Experiment on Labor Market Discrimination”

        We study race in the labor market by sending fictitious resumes to help-wanted ads in Boston and Chicago newspapers. To manipulate perceived race, resumes are randomly assigned African-American- or White-sounding names. White names receive 50 percent more callbacks for interviews. Callbacks are also more responsive to resume quality for White names than for African-American ones. The racial gap is uniform across occupation, industry, and employer size. We also find little evidence that employers are inferring social class from the names. Differential treatment by race still appears to still be prominent in the U. S. labor market.

        Or this experience reported in the NYT, ‘Whitening’ the Résumé,

        Tahani Tompkins was struggling to get callbacks for job interviews in the Chicago area this year when a friend made a suggestion: Change your name. Instead of Tahani, a distinctively African-American-sounding name, she began going by T. S. Tompkins in applications.

        Yvonne Orr, also searching for work in Chicago, removed her bachelor’s degree from Hampton University, a historically black college, leaving just her master’s degree from Spertus Institute, a Jewish school. She also deleted a position she once held at an African-American nonprofit organization and rearranged her references so the first people listed were not black.

        Black job seekers said the purpose of hiding racial markers extended beyond simply getting in the door for an interview. It was also part of making sure they appeared palatable to hiring managers once race was seen. Activism in black organizations, even majoring in African-American studies can be signals to employers. Removing such details is all part of what Ms. Orr described as “calming down on the blackness.”

        The really sad thing is I can go on… Sociologist Devah Pager’s work “The mark of a criminal record” in the American Journal of Sociology. Pager finds (via the blog Sociological Images, “Race, Criminal Background, and Employment”),

        The results indicate that having even a non-violent drug offense had a significant impact on rates of callbacks: [Chart omitted] What was surprising was that race actually turned out to be more significant than a criminal background. Notice that employers were more likely to call Whites with a criminal record (17% were offered an interview) than Blacks without a criminal record (14%). And while having a criminal background hurt all applicants’ chances of getting an interview, African Americans with a non-violent offense faced particularly dismal employment prospects. Imagine if the fake criminal offense had been for a property or violent crime. In addition, according to Pager, employers seemed to expect that Black applicants might have a criminal record[…]

        HUD’s “Discrimination in Metropolitan Housing Markets: National Results from Phase 1, Phase 2, and Phase 3 of the Housing Discrimination Study” finds,

        While generally down since 1989, housing discrimination still exists at unacceptable levels. The greatest share of discrimination for Hispanic and African American home seekers can still be attributed to being told units are unavailable when they are available to non-Hispanic whites and being shown and told about less units than a comparable non-minority. Although discrimination is down on most measures for African American and Hispanic homebuyers, there are worrisome upward trends of discrimination in the areas of geographic steering for African Americans and, relative to non-Hispanic whites, the amount of help agents provide to Hispanics with obtaining financing. On the rental side, Hispanics are more likely in 2000 than in 1989 to be quoted a higher rent than their white counterpart for the same unit.

        Can I also add, my parents were victims of racial steering. They were not shown houses in certain neighborhoods because they of their race; the brokers were later convicted. Given that experience, and the reporting of HUD, the Schelling Model strikes me as particularly unpersuasive. In a context of +400 years of othering, construction of blacks as inferior, etc., etc. the Schelling Model does not seem to be the decisive factor here. I mean, it may provide some insight into the situation, but I’d say the +400 years of racism in America is what I’d look to when examining ongoing patterns of (re)segregation in the US. The broader context of US society is decisive, which race is steering in which direction, and which race is denied loans (or steered to sub par mortgage products), all far, far more important than the Schelling model.

        I really wish we lived in the world you’re describing Roger, for your (grand?)children’s sake, for my family’s sake, for all of us. The US as a nation is not there yet. It makes sense to take the time to listen to the contributions Coates and others have to offer,Report

      • Roger in reply to Kazzy says:

        I hate to say this, but if you actually thought about it you would see that my argument subsumes all these examples.

        Reread my argument. Read my hypothetical to Kazzy. Think of the implications. They lead to exactly these types of situations.Report

  25. H. Rap Brown says:

    [comment removed]Report

  26. Kazzy says:


    Why is it black folks’ responsibility to address those points of friction? Maybe your white friends should get overthemselves and stop denigrating a race and its cultures because they get upset about someone not kowtowing to their expectations. You know that is sort of the definition of privilege, right?

    As to the culture/race distinction, that seems a pedantic defense of racism. Saying, “I don’t hate black people. Just the obnoxious culture they stubbornly refuse to abandon per my preference,” is still racist.Report

    • zic in reply to Kazzy says:

      I think that there are two variations of racism, @kazzy

      The first is the overt bigotry of thinking that some certain class of people are inferior. I used to live in an apartment building with an old woman, Mrs. S., who’d been in the building for decades. The apartment beneath hers was, at the time, rented to two Jewish girls, attending college in Boston. I repeatedly would hear her mutter about them, “damn jews.” She was an overt racist/bigot.

      The second kind is the unintended racism; the kind that doesn’t think blacks are bad, but doesn’t hae any trouble with black incarceration rates; that sees black children held to more stringent guilt/punishment standards earlier in their lives. It may not be active racism, but it’s racism-by-association with injustices and inequalities that go unexamined. Perhaps we need a different term for it because of the baggage associated with being called racist. But if someone is comfortable with the institutional systems that foster racism, they are participating in racism; and so racist.

      /and yes, liberal privilege often provokes this type of racism; particularly in the developing world.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to Kazzy says:


      Who said it was the responsibility of blacks to address those points of friction? And I think ‘denigrating’ is a an exaggeration. As I mentioned, it’s more about just the exasperation of not understanding certain behaviors that are outside societal norms i.e. the general expectation of society is walk on the sidewalk when it is available.

      Saying, “I don’t hate black people. Just the obnoxious culture they stubbornly refuse to abandon per my preference,” is still racist.

      What if I said, “I the way people drive in Boston?” I’ve been there several times. The driving ‘culture’ in Boston is basically that everyone is an asshole. Does that represent a geographic prejudice on my part? Or is it merely an observation followed by a subjective response? In fact, I bet we could do a Mt.Rushmore on any number of desirable behaviors, which then excludes everything below that line in a sort of prejudicial way….right?

      I feel the need to also repeat (again) that i am not advocating that blacks behave differently in order to gain white acceptance. I was merely riffing off the OP and asking whether it would even work in the same way it did for other non-whites a century ago. Chris says that makes me a ‘cross-burning’ racist. I know you haven’t gone that far but you’ve ignored my statements several times now where I have clarified that I am not promoting that idea. Just in case, let me iterate one last time:


      Since it seems impossible to ask a ‘what if’ question without people misinterpreting it as advocating that position, I will refrain from doing so in the future.Report

    • ScarletNumbers in reply to Kazzy says:

      Why is it black folks’ responsibility to address those points of friction?

      Because they are the ones misbehaving.Report

  27. Creon Critic says:

    First I’d challenge the “self-destructive meme” characterization you offered. I’d say listening to the lived experiences of actual minorities is an important way of getting insight into what kinds of challenges they face in the US. If you have a group of thinkers (sometimes black journalists, academics, etc. raising research they’ve conducted as well as personal experiences) pointing to an ongoing problem of white supremacy / institutional racism, it might be advisable to hear them out.

    Tribalism cannot be avoided. But it can be managed, and according to the racial tolerance surveys above and my take on standards of living and achievement, we manage it better than just about anywhere ever.

    Responses that boil down to (simplifying here) Tribalism cannot be avoided, You’ve never had it so good, and Think about if you lived in these other, even more racist countries – are not satisfactory replies to ongoing white supremacy / institutional racism in America. And part of changing the existing the existing institutional arrangements in America is critiquing them. “we manage it better than just about anywhere ever” is the kind of self-congratulatory, American exceptionalist analysis that leads in precisely the wrong direction. Look how much we’ve accomplished is unsatisfactory when also looking at how much we’ve yet to accomplish. (To your credit, you mention some outstanding challenges like mass incarceration in your comments.)

    I wonder what kind of America we’d have it we were exceptionally humble about our accomplishments, if we were exceptionally self-scrutinizing and self-critical, if we exceptionally examined what steps we could take to help historically disadvantaged and vulnerable populations. That’s a kind of American exceptionalism I could get behind.

    Last, I’d like to highlight some pushback on the Daily Mail tolerance reporting you cite (emphasis added):

    (1) It’s tough to gauge racial intolerance through just one metric. Saideman makes the point that there are different ways to express racial intolerance.[…]

    (2) Different people might hear the question differently. Saideman writes, “In some places, when one is asked this question, they may think of a single race, perhaps the Vietnamese think of the Chinese but not of other races. So it may not be that the people are very racist in general — they just hate one group that is defined by race.” In other words, if Vietnam scored as particularly intolerant (they did), that might just be because they’re less tolerant toward the race that popped into their heads first — e.g. the Chinese — than they are of other races in general. This makes it tougher to compare across countries.[…]

    Sources (the Washington Post update draws from the blog post of a professor who studies ethnic conflict):
    http://www (DOT) washingtonpost (DOT) com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/05/17/5-insights-on-the-racial-tolerance-and-ethnicity-maps-from-an-ethnic-conflict-professor/
    http://saideman (DOT) blogspot (DOT) ca/2013/05/comparative-xenophobia-part-i.html
    http://saideman (DOT) blogspot (DOT) ca/2013/05/comparative-xenophobia-part-ii.htmlReport

    • Mod rescue please. I thought I’d avoid moderation, may has well left the dots in the links…Report

    • Roger in reply to Creon Critic says:

      Thanks for the reply, Creon. I was wondering when or if you would join in the discussion, and am delighted to see you have– with links!

      Unfortunately I can’t access the first one. The last two amount to stomping up some dust around the implicit imperfection of these types of surveys (granted). I encourage even more and better studies in the future. The data on the table seems to indicate that racial intolerance is a fact in the US, a fact everywhere, and notably milder in extent here than most other places. Let’s hope it continues to improve here and everywhere.

      Your third paragraph begged the question while simultaneously accusing and admonishing me of being both ignorant on the topic and a racism apologist. Please try to avoid this. The topic is too sensitive.

      Central to my position scattered through the above threads is that culture matters a lot and that culture and race/ethnicity can get wrapped up together.

      I do not believe the racial categorization of my various family members (I am the only white non Hispanic person at the Thanksgiving table) has any significant impact on how they succeed in life. Nor did that of my coworkers, employees and bosses. Their cultural backgrounds do make a huge difference. There is simply no comparison. Again, I repeat that this is still a severe problem because culture and race/ethnicity become intertwined and become effectively one for broad slabs of the population.

      I am not explaining away or apologizing. I am laying out the full extent of the situation. If you continue to diagnose the problem as it is all X (racism and supremacists) and it is actually primarily Y (culture) and a small bit of X then you would be misdiagnosing it. If we care about solving the problem (and I do) then we must diagnose it properly.

      Propagating the victimology meme (itself a cultural aspect) is the worst thing we could do. A human being will have trouble taking responsibility for their life if they see themselves as a victim. The only effective way out is through the doorway marked “culture.”Report

    • James Hanley in reply to Creon Critic says:

      I’d say listening to the lived experiences of actual minorities is an important way of getting insight into what kinds of challenges they face in the US.

      As frequently as Roger has pointed out that his wife is not white (and I’ve seen her with my own eyes and stand as witness) and his children mixed race, I think this comment is a bit off-target. Who are any of us to suggest that Roger has never listened to his wife, children, or his wife’s family members?

      And if anyone is inclined to think that his disagreement with others here is evidence that he’s not listening to them, I’d note that it very well be that person who is being dismissive of, and not listening to, his family’s experience, because the reporting of it doesn’t line up with the listener’s expectations.Report

  28. your lying eyes says:

    The Problem isn’t black culture the problem is black geneticsReport

  29. Jaybird says:

    Well, one thought experiment that I sometimes engage in is busting out Francis Schaeffer and asking “how should we live then?” or “how then should we live?” or whatever it was. (“Then how should we live?”?)

    Essentially, taking as a given all of the other arguments and asking “so what should I do then?” (“so then what should I do?”)

    What do I, Jaybird, need to do to combat racism? (Let’s assume that “write certain kinds of comments on blogs” isn’t one of the top ten answers.)

    Is there a certain way I need to vote?
    Is there a certain way I need to shop?
    Is there a certain way I need to spend some percentage of my disposable income?
    Is there a certain way I need to spend some percentage of my free time?

    I suppose it may be the case that racism gives me an obligation that will never be met, no matter what I do (which, lemme tell ya, is a situation that doesn’t inspire action) but there are surely things that I could do that I haven’t been.

    What are those things?Report

    • Tod Kelly in reply to Jaybird says:

      To the extent that this is a question you are actually asking as opposed to using as an argument against actually asking such questions (I can’t always tell with you), I would answer:

      Be willing to listen to others, and to do some honest self-evaluation on the topic.

      That answer isn’t pointed at you, obviously. It’s pointed at all of us.Report

  30. Kim says:

    Hey, down here!
    I do NOT THINK that black culture counts as a counterculture, particularly in the South. An independent observer would find the white/black Southern cultures nearly indistinguishable…

    These are NOT people trying to stick up and be a sore thumb. That’s the Jews, and that’s done freaking intentionally.

    But the jews ain’t nearly as discriminated against as black people are. Certainly I’ve never been followed in a store on suspicion of stealing. Though I haven’t worked as a security guard, I feel quite certain that if I did, no store employee would call mall security to report me as a “suspicious person” (as has happened to AAs)Report