Open Thread on Racism



One man. Two boys. Twelve kids.

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80 Responses

  1. Avatar nevermoor says:

    TNC: bringing it. As per usual.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      It’s worth it to do some work.

      The TNC piece @nevermoor linked above is a good start; it directly links slavery to heritage. If you’re going to argue anything about states rights, I would expect you to read that first; words from the historic documents about states rights.

      Then read The Condition of Black Life Is One of Mourning by Claudia Rankine. Read about what it’s like to be a black parent, and the fears you deal with every day when your child walks out the door. Read about Mamie Till Mobley’s decision to show photographs of her son’s lynched body. Read about the daily fear:

      The Charleston murders alerted us to the reality that a system so steeped in anti-black racism means that on any given day it can be open season on any black person — old or young, man, woman or child. There exists no equivalent reality for white Americans. The Confederate battle flag continues to fly at South Carolina’s statehouse as a reminder of a history marked by lynched black bodies. We can distance ourselves from this fact until the next horrific killing, but we won’t be able to outrun it. History’s authority over us is not broken by maintaining a silence about its continued effects.

      If you want to talk about racism, talk about the way our society plunders black lives.Report

  2. Avatar Damon says:

    Let’s talk about ALL of it. Like say, Omar Thornton.Report

  3. Avatar Damon says:


    Yes, let’s talk about that.
    Let’s also talk about the lack of evidence in that claim.
    Let’s talk about whether or not “racism” sometimes used by people who historically have been victims of racism to excuse their behavior?
    Let’s talk about whether or not his actions in shooting all those people was racist as well.
    Like I said, let’s talk about ALL of it.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Oh good, black on white crime comes up!Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:


      Okay. Talk about it. Stop insinuating things and say what you want to say.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:


        Gee, the only thing I was insinuating was that this discussion wasn’t really going to be a talk about racism, but only a subset, because there’s a lot more than white on black racism.

        Are we going to talk about black racism against asians?
        Are we going to talk about asian racism against blacks?
        Are jews, for the purposes of this discussion, a race, and will we be talking about that?
        Shall I go on?Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      You want evidence?


      Some more evidence.

      And even more evidence.

      A whole collection of evidence.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        When you post “evidence” it’s helpful for that evidence to actually be, you know, on topic, which was, the lack of evidence related to Omar Thornton’s claim that he was the victim of racism and that’s why he shot up the place he did.Report

        • Avatar zic says:

          I have no interest in bsdi arguments. Yes, some women make false rape claims, that doesn’t mean there’s far too much rape and we should ignore women when they say they’ve been raped. Same goes here.

          Early in the spring, a friend’s son, someone I’ve known since he was in diapers, left the subway on his way to work. A large black man clocked him in the face, yelling racial slurs, and broke his jaw. Do you think I don’t know there is black racism, too?

          Just because something like black racism happens does not mean that we shouldn’t dig deeply into white racism; and there’s a lot of room for seeing the roots of a lot of black racism in white racism. That’s certainly the case with the assault my friend’s son experienced — Michael Brown was the reason given for the attack.

          According to the FBI, black people are the largest target of hate crimes; we live in a nation soiled by slavery and Jim Crow. So where do you want to work to end racism? At it’s ugly heart or on the margins?

          • Avatar Pyre says:


            What the hell is a bsdi argument? It’s got to be a phrase unique to this site as googling it does not provide acceptable answers.Report

            • Avatar nevermoor says:

              BSDI = Both sides do it.

              An example: “While some say Republicans are not fiscally conservative, and Reagan and Dubya are the only presidents since Roosevelt to increase the national debt by more than 100%, Democrats are also eager deficit spenders with every Democratic president in the last 140+ years leaving a larger debt than they inherited.” It qualifies because few democratic presidents except Roosevelt and Obama had much of a meaningful impact on the deficit and those two (not coincidentally!) presided over awful economies they inherited from Republicans. And, of course, Roosevelt also had to pay for WWII. It obscures the more significant point while lending a veneer of dispassionate centrism.

              The example here is “Sure white southerners have engaged in racial violence against black people for centuries, but this one black person also committed racially motivated crimes against white people so racism is universal.”Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                “The example here is “Sure white southerners have engaged in racial violence against black people for centuries, but this one black person also committed racially motivated crimes against white people so racism is universal.”

                Actually, no. While I’m a 100% believer that racism exists in all races, the alleged point of OP was to talk about racism, not “racism” (code for white on black racism”. I’m starting to believe that there’s a rather large lack of sincerity in that claim.Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                Thank you for the explanation.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Imagine that you want to argue that something that is universal is unique to your opponent. You pretty much have to narrow the scope of your argument down to some pretty fine hair-splitting. When someone points out “hey, you’re splitting hairs pretty fine, there! What you’re complaining about is universal!”, your response pretty much has to be “Oh, so you’re saying that both sides do it? How freaking convenient!”

              Like in an argument about structural racism that focuses on The South. “How come there are more apartheid schools in the Coastal Elite parts of the country than in the South?”

              Accusing the opposition of resorting to a “both sides do it!” argument allows you to stop discussing the issue of structural racism but now start arguing about how your opponent is arguing in bad faith while, at the same time, assuming that there are only two sides and you’re on the right one (which, of course, implies that others are on the wrong one).Report

              • Avatar Pyre says:

                Yes, I am aware that it was a bad faith dismissal statement. Pretty much everything that can be boiled down to a one-two word catchphrase or an acronym is.

                I just didn’t know what the acronym was. Without knowing what the acronym was, I wasn’t sure if that was a “Discussion over.” statement. Now I know and can react accordingly. Possibly with an added reference to something like this:


              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Accusing the opposition of resorting to a “both sides do it!” argument allows you to stop discussing the issue

                that’s certainly one view of how the dynamic goes. What you outline strikes me more as someone pointing out (or trying to point out) the hypocrisy of their interlocutor. In my experience, tho, the concept is usually used (like, way more often than not) by folks who view themselves as above the partisan fray and pass down the BSDI comment to invalidate both positions as being purely partisanly driven and not “objective” or “dispassionately rational” or some such.

                And usually, the response to that type of criticism, is just what nevermoor wrote upthread: equating institutional racism of whites over blacks with a single instance of black racism against whites is just a huge error on a bunch of levels. It’s not an example of both sides do it (since blacks are incapable of institutionally racistizing whites).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, if the inspiration for the argument over the nature of racism is an example of brutal violence using an individual who was a septic fountain of hatred, we’re not discussing institutional racism really.

                If we’re discussing the toxic hatred form of racism (as opposed to the nice, racism without racists, white flight to the nice part of town with the zip codes that go to mostly white/Asian schools), it makes sense to ask about the ugly violence that does, unfortunately, exist everywhere.

                Now, given the vile events from last week, it does make sense to talk about the violent eruptions of the more personal racism… but that can open up issues where we start looking at measurable numbers. How many inter-racial attacks are there? How many of different kinds? What can we learn from these numbers, if anything?

                If we want to argue that these kinds of violent attacks represent institutional racism and those kinds of violent attacks don’t represent institutional racism, I suppose that’d be interesting as well… but there are people out there who start from a position of how the violent attacks are violent attacks are violent attacks and they need to have it explained to them that they’re wrong on this rather than being berated on how they’re merely asserting that both sides do it. I mean, especially if they have measurable numbers.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Ya lost me Jaybird. I do think it’s interesting, however, that we’ve moved from talking about the events and our judgments of the events to judgments about other people’s judgments of what constitutes a useful judgment of the events. Metaland!Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I believe what he’s saying is that if you focus on the individual racist, then the folks who say that black on white crime is a big deal will get to make their arguments. Which is a position he’d have to defend beyond simply saying that the two things share some highly abstract similarity (they both involve race and crime), but this is consistent with his other abstract universalizations: these two things share some context-free universal concepts, and are therefore the same (or at least will be treated as such, or at least will be treated as such by the wrong people, so perhaps we shouldn’t talk about certain things; at least that’s how it looks).Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                By the way, since we actually have data on crime, both intra- and inter-racial, I think we can simply argue against the idiots — and they are idiots — who think that because some black crimes have white victims “reverse racism” is just as bad, or worse, than regular ol’ racism, without having to avoid talking about the fact that hatred based on race, religion, gender, or just about anything can and too often does lead to violence, and that groups who are marginalized in cultures that breed breed hate and treating them as inferior will be most at risk for such hate-based violence.

                Though perhaps I understand Jay wrong, and he’s not saying that we should be careful because idiots will say what idiots are going to say anyway.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, I’m pretty sure that we were all in agreement that the events are vile and ought to be condemned in the strongest possible language.

                Were we not in agreement on that?Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:


              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Then I’m confused as to why you think it noteworthy that we’re not spending more time discussing something we’re all in agreement upon.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I was looking back at a 2010 conversation hereabouts on roughly the same subject (you won’t have hard time finding it), when I saw a similar thing occur.

                Back then, there was a call to take down the flag, because it represents slavery and white supremacy, to which precisely the person you’d expect argued that it was about tariffs (’cause said person is ignorant as hell, in precisely the self-justifying way you’d expect, but that’s another conversation), at which point you and said person lamented that this conversation — which was about removing the flag because it represents slavery — was always about slavery and how folks like said person always had to state unequivocally that they hate slavery.

                It seems to me that in that conversation, one could easily avoid having to state that by not saying, “I support the cause of the Confederacy” (which is what said person was doing, as he often did). If one says “I support the cause of the Confederacy,” one is going to have to lay out which cause one means, and since everyone else knows that the cause of the Confederacy was preserving and expanding slavery, you’re probably going to have to say “but I don’t mean slavery.”

                I see the same thing happening here, and you complaining in precisely the same way about a conversation you started, just as you and he were back then. And I bet if he were here, you two would be having precisely the same conversation right now, even after he initiated it, as if he were a victim of his own words as you are now.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Time is a flat circle, sometimes.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                To be sure, I’m just not sure that there’s not a bit of making your bed and then complaining about others lying in it with you.

                That’s certainly what was going on with Cheeks 5 years ago. But Cheeks was Cheeks, and Southern victimology was a part of his sense of self.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Duverger’s law applies to the dialectic.

                The anti-anti-antis and the antis probably have very little in common indeed.

                Well, beyond the anti-antis.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                But it’s not even at that level. My description was, I think, quite accurate: a post about the flag being bad because it stood for slavery, Cheeks saying the flag was good as was what it stood for, which led you and he to lament that he then had to say, “but I don’t support slavery.”

                Consider an analogy without all the negative vibes. Imagine if I’d said, “I dislike Almond Joy because coconut is awful. If you then said, “I love Almond Joy because of its ingredients,” I might reasonably think you meant to include coconut. If you didn’t, for pragmatic reasons, if not purely social ones, you might want to indicate that you meant the almonds, not the coconut. It would seem very odd if I said, “You like coconut?!” and you lamented that every time you said you loved what’s inside of Almond Joy you had to say you didn’t really like coconut, just loved almonds.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                This seems stupid to harp on, I know, but I point it out because it really plays into the Southern victimology of someone like Cheeks, but Cheeks is representative of a whole bunch of white southerners. “Look at the hoops we have to jump through just to maintain our Exclusively White Southern Culture without being accused of racism!”Report

              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                Correct, and that’s what I’m trying to convey. It’s a critique of faux-centrist articles (see, e.g., everything Broder ever wrote).

                Another example would be “I support policy X. Party A opposes policy X and Party B has been unable to overcome that opposition. This is why we need a third party to implement policy X!”

                It’s not properly applied to situations where, in fact, both sides are doing something. If instead both parties oppose policy X, a desire to implement it WOULD explain the need for a third party.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I suppose that that’s why we can spend so much time on the Confederate Flag. One side is fully supportive of getting rid of it. The other side is somewhat torn (there are many who want to get rid of it, many who don’t, many who want to change the subject, so on, so forth).

                If, however, we want to discuss structural racism, then talking about parties, it seems to me, it to talk about something orthogonal to the problem. Indeed, both parties are orthogonal to it.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Orthogonal? Or pretty well aligned?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                The structural racism of Baltimore or Detroit or (list of cities as long as your arm) seems to be party independent to the point where you can replace every single politician with another and nothing would change. (For good or ill.)

                If they were aligned, you’d think that it’d be likely that *SOMETHING* would change.

                That’s what I mean by orthogonal.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Ah, see I think that means they’re aligned, which is to say, if you replaced every single politician with politicians from outside the two parties, you might actually change something, if those politicians were truly different from the two parties.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                At this point, I think that the system is self-sustaining (or, at least, politician independent).

                Out of the list of things that could be fixed by changing politicians, I’m not sure that structural racism is one of them.

                The flags? We’d totally be able to get rid of the flags.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Do you think structural racism is independent of racism in our culture, particularly deep-seeded racism in our culture? And do you think symbols play a role in the latter? If the answer to the first question is no, and to the second question is yes, then I assume you think bringing down the flag is actually worthwhile.Report

              • Avatar Glyph says:

                Chris: Do you think structural racism is independent of racism in our culture,

                Sorry to jump in with a sidebar, but this is something that, in a way, I think the answer is *sort of* “yes” to, sometimes.

                That is, the *history* of racism in this country (or more accurately, the history of the country, which is informed by racism, both cultural/internal and structural) means that certain systems will inertially continue to produce racist outcomes, even if you magically made racism *itself* vanish instantaneously from the people making up the system.

                Consider: We all know that cops tend to stop and search black guys more often than white guys.

                And we know, based on scientific testing (and plain old testimony) that people (and cops is people too) harbor subconscious (and conscious) racist beliefs, that drive a lot of this outcome.

                But if you fired the entire police force tomorrow, and replaced them with color-blind RoboCops who can’t even “see” race, and have no cultural memory or biases to trip them up – those RoboCops are still going to be sent wherever the most crime is being reported.

                Which will be tend to be poor neighborhoods (if you live in a decent neighborhood, how often does a police cruiser come down YOUR street?)

                Which for historical reasons, means the neighborhoods will also tend to be minority.

                Which means that we will probably still see a disproportionate number of brown people getting stopped and searched.

                Because the brown people are where the cops are; and the cops are where the brown people are; and everybody is where they are, because everybody was where they were (if that makes any sense).

                We focus a lot on statistical outcomes because numbers are concrete, and relatively easy to work with.

                This number is bigger than that one, by a disproportionate percentage. We have a problem.

                But unfortunately, that doesn’t mean the solution is as simple as “well…then make the numbers match up!”Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                This is a good point (and of course you don’t have to apologize for jumping in).Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think bringing down the flag is actually worthwhile. The line recently given about how “we took it from the state capital and put it in a museum” is a nice one.

                But like I said elsewhere: “One of the sour thoughts that occurs to me is that the victory of no longer officially flying the flag will be confused as a symbolic victory over the symbolized with an actual victory over it by way, way, way too many people.”Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                It is an actual victory, because of what it symbolizes. It’s a big step, one in which very powerful people are acknowledging that the symbols of a culture they have cultivated are deeply racist. It’s a huge step towards recognition that the culture it symbolized is itself deeply racist.

                I agree with Glyph above that racism in the culture is not all that’s at issue, but it is a big part of what is at issue. It is undoubtedly true that if we were to eliminate all raicsm, and white supremacy, from our culture tomorrow, structural racism would still result in racial disparities in all sorts of areas of our society. However, what about twenty years from now? Thirty? The reason we have structural racism is because of historical and current racism. If you do away with both, how will it sustain itself well into the future? Particularly when we would then be able to, culturally and politically, ask some hard questions and take some difficult steps that cultural racism prevents us from asking and taking.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think that the fact that we can do this when, say, 10 years ago we could not do this is a victory. But the removal of the flag is not, itself, the victory.

                It’s a huge step towards recognition that the culture it symbolized is itself deeply racist.

                I don’t know that. Maybe.

                The reason we have structural racism is because of historical and current racism. If you do away with both, how will it sustain itself well into the future?

                How much current racism is still going on in that list of cities as long as your arm?

                The historical racism is still causing ripple effects in (list of cities) and doesn’t appear to be getting better at all.

                It seems, from here, to be getting worse. Am I wrong on that?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                A whole lot of current racism in those cities.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Hrm. Fair enough.

                Are there any cities that I could use as an example that has overcome the whole current racism thing?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Sure, Monowi, Neb.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m not sure that that particular solution scales.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Therein lies our problem.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Oh, I failed to answer your questions.

                Do you think structural racism is independent of racism in our culture, particularly deep-seeded racism in our culture?

                Independent doesn’t strike me as being the right word. They have a common ancestor and one is more advanced than the other. They’re cousins, though. They’re related… but you could get rid of one without touching the other.

                Indeed, in some parts of the country, they have.

                And do you think symbols play a role in the latter?

                A role? Yes. How much of a role?

                I’m reminded of something that C.S. Lewis said about Satan. There are two main mistakes that people make about him: they either underestimate his power or they overestimate it.

                So too with this.

                A role? Yes.


              • Avatar nevermoor says:

                And that’s a good example of something that DOESN’T merit a BSDI complaint.

                Both republicans and democrats run cities the treat black people like shit. Absolutely true, and absolutely relevant. Not faux-centrism/broderism.Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                Much like the powers-that-be in Israel and Palestine actively benefit, politically, from the maintenance of the violent conflict between the two, both parties in America actively benefit from the maintenance of structural racism. “Hey, we can help you, so vote for us!” the Democrats can say, and then don’t help. “Hey, they just take take take, so vote for us!” the Republicans say.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                How do you disassemble faction?Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I don’t know, but I imagine what ever method will have to be radical.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:


            So you actually don’t want to have a “Open Thread on Racism”. You just want to talk about white on black racism. Fine. But, this thread is allegedly about ALL racism.

            Color me surprised….Report

            • Avatar Kazzy says:


              Instead of haranguing people for what they want to talk about, talk about what you want to talk about. If that’s black-on-white crime, have at it. If you want to go meta and talk about whay we talk about when we talk about race, that’s cool, too. But you’re not really doing that so well either. Honestly, you haven’t done much if anything other than ceiticiE people which is a quick way to get yourself seen as not a serious contributor to the conversation.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Actually, @kazzy

                I’ve done exactly what I wanted. Your OP reads as a desire to start a real convo on racism. I asked if that was going to include ALL aspects, cause 1) I’m happy to engage in all of them, because I think a real, full discussion, would be useful. I even listed some I felt were important, 2) I wanted to see if the rest of the commentariat would engage or if it was just going to be another tired white on black series of comments. So far, based only on Zic’s comments, it’s been #2. But there’s only been 30+ comments so I’ll give it a bit longer to see what develops.Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                So I’m not supposed to say what I think; I’m a problem for pointing out the problems I see with the weight of your discussion?

                Sorry, I don’t play that game, @damon

                You’re attacking me, not my argument that while there’s racism on all sides, the weight falls on one, and that addressing that weight is what matters.Report

              • Avatar Kazzy says:


                You can’t demand that others talk about your preferred topics. Say your piece and allow others to respond (or not). Quit the games: if you think you have something worth saying — worth being heard by others — say it.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Oh, I’m not demanding it. I’m just observing because I was curious to see how the comments would play out. I think I’ve said enough and said what I’m interested in talking about. I’m a reactive commenter, not an OP kinda guy.Report

            • Avatar zic says:

              @damon I gave you a bunch of links to actual statistics of race and hate crimes. And you told me that wasn’t evidence.

              Nobody denies that all people aren’t at some level racist and prone to bias. But say you’ve got two intersections in your town where people have a lot of car accidents; at one, there’s one or two a year, and at the other, there’s one or two a month. Which will you put your energy and resources into?

              I’ve sat with friends repeatedly and watched them deal with racism; watermelon jokes, idiotic questions rooted in stereotypes, and overt, hurtful bigotry. They mostly roll their eyes and live with it, and I am always left wondering why they’re so tolerant of white ignorance and presumption; why they’re not more racist. To get buy, day by day, they have to tolerate it, have to find a way to live with it. You, on the other hand, are perfectly free to rage at any perceived slight to you or another white person based on whiteness.

              If you don’t understand that double standard, that’s really sad. I hope you’ll grow.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                I’m just going to repeat my statement again.

                “When you post “evidence” it’s helpful for that evidence to actually be, you know, on topic, which was, the lack of evidence related to Omar Thornton’s claim that he was the victim of racism and that’s why he shot up the place he did”

                I didn’t read everything on the links you provided, so if I missed a section that was actually addressing my point, I’m sorry. So you got a link SPECIFICALLY related to Omar’s claim he was a victim of work place racism?Report

              • Avatar zic says:

                The only evidence that Thornton didn’t encounter racism is that he didn’t file a complaint.

                He was certainly emasculated in the workplace, and he was certainly struggling with some serious issues. If people were calling him “momma’s boy,” I don’t have much difficulty seeing him perceive it as racism. That doesn’t mean he was right. But nobody who wasn’t there knows what people said or what they did to him; and that he didn’t file complaints doesn’t mean it didn’t happen anymore than it means it did.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                In other words, the only evidence of the alleged racism is he claimed it. Neither of which is evidence.

                And I don’t consider being called a “momma’s boy” as evidence of racism. Bullying, perhaps.Report

              • Avatar zic says:


                I’m finished with this conversation; it’s fruitless and barren. You win. Thronton was obviously a racist whose claims of experiencing racism were obviously racist, too.

                Congrats on shutting the open conversation down.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    When we talk about racism as the phenomenon of individuals who feel hatred towards other races to the point where they are willing to act violently, we can talk about a lot of things. It becomes a lot easier to make arguments about The South and various symbols and whatnot.

    When we talk about racism as something structural that one can gain advantage from without ever feeling a bad thing about other races (indeed, some of one’s best friends (for real best friends (and not just the shoeshine guy)) are from other races), then it becomes a lot more difficult to talk about, address, and a lot more difficult to avoid how “both sides do it”.

    Shootings turn racism into something a lot easier to discuss. Hell, it’s theoretically possible to prevent shootings, after all.Report

  5. Avatar Doctor Jay says:

    The piece linked above by @nevermoor highlights several of the things I like about Coates. First, what he calls out is not racism but white supremacy, and a system of organized plunder of black bodies.

    I am of the opinion that most, if not all, of the citizens of the United States are racist in some way. But this deploys the word “racist” in the way that many black people do it. As just that ordinary, every day headwind that they experience, the sort of unconscious bias that it would be very difficult to avoid absorbing a little bit of growing up in America. James Baldwin deployed “racialist” in much this way.

    When white people call something “racist” it carries a different meaning, more akin to “bigot” or “white supremacist” or even “child molester”. Now it’s pretty clear that the views of Dylann Roof were far more into the category of “bigot” and “white supremacist” and all the way into “eliminationist”. It’s also the case that Roof took rhetoric seriously that perhaps others meant hyperbolically.

    So that ordinary racism is a sort of tinted lens though which people, including me, look at life. Now I don’t happen to like getting a distorted view of things, so I’d like to get rid of that lens. What’s the program for doing that? Well, getting out more, looking at more things is a start.

    Coates used to exhort us to “go to a black barbershop”. That doesn’t quite work for me, but the idea is to just pay more attention. Strive to be a fly on the wall in places where black people are talking with each other. Pay attention to the black people who are in your life. (I noticed a lot more of them after starting this, including some whom, I’m ashamed to say, seemed like “white” to me).

    The second part of this program is inspired by Baldwin, who claimed that when the white man learned to love himself (“which may be never”) then there would be no race problem. I think engaging with one’s own bias really does require some self-love – the best sort of self-love. If one believes that any racist thought is an indelible stain of shame, and an eternal judgement, then one will probably never notice those racist thoughts when they do flit through your head.

    And how could they not? Racism is a human characteristic, called “affinity bias” gone past its usefulness. And growing up in America, an ideology of the inferiority of African peoples was essential to supporting slavery, and slavery itself was probably instrumental in the creation of what we know as America. And here’s the rub, if it is too shameful, and too painful for me to engage with my own bias, then I won’t engage with them, and they won’t change, and I’ll be stuck with them until my molecules disassociate with one another.

    And so I grow a bit impatient at my allies who want to content themselves with battling the racism of other people, while never engaging with their own racism.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      “I grow a bit impatient at my allies who want to content themselves with battling the racism of other people, while never engaging with their own racism.”

      How do I engage with my own racism? I could turn out my pockets but that wouldn’t go far. I could feel really really bad but I don’t see how that could help. I could try to make sure that I don’t come into situations with predetermined conclusions based on racial stereotypes, but as far as I can tell I already do that. And if you’re saying I’m deluding myself about how well I do it, then *that’s* where the conversation needs to start–“you’re trying to not be racist, but you’re failing”.

      Because if people are being dumb, the way to stop them doing that is to teach. And you won’t get much teaching done by screaming at students that they’re dumb and they refuse to learn.Report

      • Avatar Doctor Jay says:

        Of course, the danger of general rhetoric is that it isn’t specific, and doesn’t apply specifically to one person. So, I can’t tell you, specifically, how you do that. I’m not advocating, as should be clear, endless shame on the part of white people. Let go of the shame, it’s part of the problem.

        Take the Harvard test of implicit associations: (They are about a lot of things, I’m referring to the one on race) You might do well, I didn’t do so well. That kind of sucks, but it isn’t the result of any upbringing or conscious thought on my part.

        Challenge your own ideas, should you have them, about just how much genes affect life outcomes. (I’m adopted, it was helpful on this score). The scientific reality and the popular notions on this don’t overlap very much. But I don’t know you, and I don’t know what you know. Most aspects of personality are learned behavior. Ask yourself, when you see a behavior that seems a problem, “how did they learn that? What circumstances made that behavior seem useful?”

        When you’re out, just take note of black people you see, and how you react viscerally. Ask yourself if, or how, you would react differently if they were white. Ask yourself, how this person is presenting themselves, and how consciously or not they are countering the usual stereotypes about black people. Ask yourself if you avoid conversations, or for the topics that aren’t discussed when you’re talking to black people. Look for the stuff that isn’t seen, the dog that doesn’t bark.

        The posture that’s helpful is the growth mindset. I can learn more, and other people can learn more. We can get better, we can improve, we can make things better.

        We have made things better. As horrible as these events are, they are still way above the baseline for 1860, and probably even 1960. (Try engaging with some of the stories about shootings of black men for simply walking through certain neighborhoods in Chicago.) Does this mean we can relax and walk away? Not at all. This is me saying, “don’t despair, don’t give up”

        I don’t really believe in an impersonal “force of history”. There’s no such thing as the force of history. MLK said, “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice”. I say that this is only so because people – lots of people – want it to be so. So everything that’s changed, and all the ugly politics behind Civil Rights gains (and they are definitely ugly) changed because people wanted it to change.

        I find this an encouraging thought.Report

        • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

          Assuming that the question was asked in sincerity and not out of an attempt to be snide for snide’s sake (it’s not always so easy to tell with you, at least for me) I would hone in on what @doctor-jay is saying and offer this one suggestion:

          Try for just a week to be open to the possibility that two separate things can be true. In this case, things such as: liberals can be overly precious AND that racism can exist; that liberals can be racist too AND that this doesn’t automatically nullify things they point out are bad; that liberals can have poor answers for how to address racism AND that it can still be a problem that needs to be dealt with.

          And then go from there, from that “I must defend these things because liberals are against them” place, to a place where you can ask yourself the harder questions about whether or not those things deserve to be defended independent of that.

          That’s one thought, anyway.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “And then go from there, from that “I must defend these things because liberals are against them” place”

            Interesting how you honestly believe that’s where I”m coming from, that this is a mindless reflexive monkey-tribe response. Do you honestly have that much a problem with people who disagree with you?Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          Thank you; that’s pretty much what I was looking for. More of a “you’re doing it wrong, here’s some ideas for how to not do it wrong” than a “you’re doing it wrong on purpose” thing.Report

  6. Avatar FTC LTL says:

    Here’s something I haven’t reconciled in the wake of Charleston: the shooter was a white supremacist monster right from central casting. If anything, that should provide a degree of distance between regular white people and Root.

    After all, if the white people who are killing black people are walking around with Rhodesian flags on their coats, it’s not us regular white folk, right? Even George Zimmerman didn’t outwardly brand himself like that.

    Most everyone has been wholeheartedly condemning people like Root for decades now; white supremacists count on chaos at the 10x larger counter-rally more than they do in making a show of their own paltry numbers.

    If the really dangerous people are the frothy-mouthed rednecks showing outward displays of racism, what’s the point of all this white privilege struggle session emoting among the white progressive vanguard?

    You really couldn’t pick a worse posterboy for change than Root. He’s just too obvious to engender a re-think for most white people.Report

    • Avatar nevermoor says:

      And yet, a re-think is happening.Report

      • Avatar FTC LTL says:

        A re-think or some public emoting? A sea-change in how white people think of their place in society, or a few weeks of self-righteously nodding at Very Important Articles until the next shiny identity politics bauble to have the correct opinion on comes along?

        I guess what I’m trying to say is that the serial rapist jumping out of the bushes in the dark of night does not make a great argument for affirmative consent laws, at least among the unconvinced. Root jumped out from the bushes.

        Were he someone’s somewhat un-PC uncle who posts on Facebook about “why is there no white history month” or “I support law enforcement,” then perhaps more people would examine themselves and the people around them. Instead, we have a very clear Other.Report

        • Avatar nevermoor says:

          Root jumped out from the bushes.

          [Citation needed]

          A re-think or some public emoting?

          I guess we’ll see, but Haley has promised a special session to take the flag down. Mississippi may well change it’s state flag. These are both significant (if primarily symbolic) changes that, if made, would show pretty clearly that people have made significant changes in how they see and accept the world.Report

          • Avatar FTC LTL says:

            He jumped from the bushes figuratively. Like I said, he’s the central casting villain and thus doesn’t challenge what regular white people think the threats to black Americans look or act like. He requires no introspection.

            I guess we’ll see, but Haley has promised a special session to take the flag down. Mississippi may well change it’s state flag. These are both significant (if primarily symbolic) changes that, if made, would show pretty clearly that people have made significant changes in how they see and accept the world.

            These things always claim a couple of heads – it makes us feel like we’ve done something. In this case, it’s the Stars and Bars. To which I say good riddance! But just like the Rhodesian and apartheid-era South African flags, it’s a marker of the Other – those bad, bad racists in another state, neighborhood or social class. Nobody who quotes TNC (or belongs to the vast disengaged white political middle for that matter) is taking down any flag of their own. It’s all so safe, distant and easy to be on the right side.Report

            • Avatar nevermoor says:

              I know you didn’t mean literally that he jumped out of some landscaping. My point is that he’s a product of a culture that exists. I would have thought the link made that obvious.

              You also continue to claim that he teaches nothing, but I’m seeing things I never expected, like basically the entire GOP presidential field calling for action on confederate symbols. That’s a blow to the culture that spawns guys like Root.

              And no, I’m not intending to take down any flags, but that’s because I don’t fly any so clearly objectionable. You’ll have to explain why that’s a problem, and why it’s a problem that these issues are “easy to be on the right side” of. The SC legislature sure wasn’t a few years ago.Report

  7. Avatar nevermoor says:

    Interesting takes from Chait, Paul Thurmond, and New America.

    Also, on Baltimore policing.Report