Bigotry feels itself aggrieved: school busing

gabriel conroy

Gabriel Conroy [pseudonym] is an ex-graduate student. He is happily married with no children and has about a million nieces and nephews. The views expressed by Gabriel are his alone and do not necessarily reflect those of his spouse or employer.

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97 Responses

  1. LeeEsq says:

    You can also say the same thing for the other big form of hatred in the West, anti-Semitism. My high school text book dealt with Holocaust but not really with why people hated Jews. My public school was also heavily Jewish though so most students learned this outside of school.

    Trying to explain the reasons behind anti-Semitism, sexism, racism, and homophobia are going to be something of a fool’s errand because it involves a lot of murkiness. The standard reason for Jew-hatred is that it started with the Jewish rejection of Jesus and morphed into racial hatred with the rise of scientific racism in the 19th century. In his book, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition, David Nirenberg presents an entirely different argument that every Western philosophy movement in the West has defined itself against Jews and Judaism since antiquity for the most part. A phantom Judaism was what they were not.

    You have the same problem with sexism, racism, and homophobia. We know that most societies in the world were very sexist and patriarchal against women with again, some exceptions like certain Native American societies as I understand it. This sexism manifested itself in different ways and it was a lot harsher in some societies than others like those that allowed for honor killings as opposed to those that did not. Yet, trying to get the origins of this and teach it to kids will lead to ideological land mines. One school of thought argues that pre-history was an era of gender and sexual equality but than Sky God worshipers appeared and ended the Earth Goddess utopia. The problem with this theory is that there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it. Its just as much of a just-so story as anything the sexists say to prove that women should be in the kitchen.

    We are on firmer ground when it comes to explaining why racism against African-Americans and modern racism started but we still get into some ideological hatred. I personally see the ultimate origin as coming from the hatred of Jews that existed since antiquity. A lot of other people might disagree and go for a more modern origin because whether Jews should be seen as white or not is a contentious point. Seeing Jew-hatred as the origin of modern racism is not a popular option.Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Thanks for the comment, and I hadn’t heard of Nirenberg before.

      I do have a hard time believing that anti-black racism in the US had its main origin in antisemitism. There were so many economic and social incentives to foster and perpetuate anti-black racism and racist institutions. That doesn’t mean antisemitism wasn’t a template (and perhaps one of the strongest ones) people drew on, though.

      At the end, though, those things, in addition to the other excellent points you made, are things a study of history can explain. But there’s something that to my mind history really can’t grapple with.Report

      • “There were so many economic and social incentives to foster and perpetuate anti-black racism and racist institutions.”

        I agree. I think it’s fair to say that slavery did not have its origins in racism. It was just something victorious people did with defeated peoples for economic benefit going far back into antiquity. Actual ‘racism’ began much later, in response to abolitionist sentiments. Those who favored slavery had to create justifications for slavery that we now see as racist. This continued all of the way up through the 20th century as the Jim Crow era was built on an assumption of inferiority. So in many ways, biology-based racism was a reactionary institution, not a foundational one.

        Even today, cultural prejudices (read: not racism) is reactionary and still requires an assumption of inferiority.Report

        • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Barbarian ring a bell?
          I’m sorry, but racism has been around for a loooong time.
          The specific American Institution of Racism was a reaction to the French Revolution.
          Because turning poor blacks against poor whites and vice versa was a grand way to prevent rich whites from being reduced to poor whites.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:


          You are correct that slavery existed absent racism for millenia… though it was still generally predicated on some form of ‘otherism’.

          But I don’t think it is accurate to say that American slavery was absent slavery until abolitionist movements arose. In fact, I can’t imagine a way to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade — the effort and money that went into exporting African slaves instead of taking local white folks as slaves or simply paying them to work — that isn’t predicated on the idea that Africans were less than Europeans and European-Americans. I don’t know how you describe that as something other than racism.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

            In fact, I can’t imagine a way to justify the trans-Atlantic slave trade — the effort and money that went into exporting African slaves instead of taking local white folks as slaves or simply paying them to work — that isn’t predicated on the idea that Africans were less than Europeans and European-Americans. I don’t know how you describe that as something other than racism.

            This is because you’re a modern American and operating in a world where you assume people have various rights unless there’s some reason they shouldn’t.

            16th-18th century Britain did not need to justify treating non-British as crap. Note that the slavery trade started *right as feudalism ended*, during which the English nobility essential *owned their workers*.

            Well, that changed, and now we need a system to get people to work the new lands that have been discovered…hey, look, there’s a bunch of people in Africa we can just take.

            The skin color was an afterthought, if thought about at all.

            You operate in a world where everyone should *obviously* not be a slave, so you think there must be some *reason* that certain people can be slaves.

            16th-18th century British men operated in a world where British men had certain rights, and also British women had some rights that would be exercised by her father or husband, and that’s basically the end of the story.

            Racism basically showed up when that started to change, and the slaves were no longer hidden overseas working giant plantations but fairly integrated into society, and also people started asking ‘Wait a second, is this right?’ and someone had to invent an answer, so, tada, those people must be inferior. Yeah, that’s the ticket. Inferior.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I’m not saying they said, “Look at the black race people. They stink because they’re black race people. Let’s enslave them.”

                But they surely did think, “We can treat Africans this way because they’re Africans. We won’t treat others the same way because they’re not.”

                That’s racism.Report

              • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

                I’ll split the difference between @kazzy , @davidtc , and @mike-dwyer here, even though you all (and I) already agree on a lot to begin with. I’m no expert on the origins of American slavery (or other types of slavery), but here are some semi-random thoughts:

                1. One of the very early justifications whites used for enslaving Africans was that they were allegedly not Christians. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t something else that was racist or proto-racist involved even at the early stage (and it’s probably not necessarily good theology, even by 16th and 17th century standards).. But it does suggest that slavery was rationalized, if at all, sometimes by non-race-related reasons.

                2. I say “if at all” in no. 1 because I suppose one could argue that slavery was a source of labor of convenience and the slavers probably rarely thought about justifications or invented them on the fly. Even in the 17th century, Englishmen enjoyed certain….not rights, exactly, but protections that in some ways were holdovers from the feudal era (which I’d say ended earlier in England than DavidTC suggests) and in some ways represented the evolution of English society. It was probably easier to enslave those who had no such protections from the point of view of the laws and customs.

                3. I wouldn’t be surprised if a certain kind of race consciousness, especially as a justification/apologetics for slavery, emerged in the context of a stronger and more vocal abolitionist movement. But I wouldn’t be surprised to see evidence of that earlier.

                4. We need the qualification “stronger and more vocal abolitionist movement,” because abolitionism in some way had existed from the founding of slavery. Slaves often resisted, and very early, at least in the English colonies, some Quakers spoke out against slavery (while others owned slaves).

                5. It’s been said above that slavery had existed for millennia without racism. There’s probably a lot of truth to that, but I wouldn’t be surprised if, in some circumstances, slavery led to racialized justifications or othering. So, while we have to keep in mind DavidTC’s excellent comment above about rights consciousness as a backdrop for forming race consciousness (if I interpreted him right), it’s hard to say it hadn’t happened before.Report

              • Popes were condemning slavery as early as 1453 ( but it seems they drew the line between Christians and non-Christians, not Europeans and non-EuropeansReport

              • That reflects my understanding, mostly. My “it probably wasn’t good theology” was in part a hedge just in case it did count as some doctrine somewhere.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

                So, while we have to keep in mind DavidTC’s excellent comment above about rights consciousness as a backdrop for forming race consciousness (if I interpreted him right), it’s hard to say it hadn’t happened before.

                Well, the reason I’m thinking it didn’t really happen before is that Europeans didn’t really *need* it until the Enlightenment, because before that, no one had to justify jack shit. The people in charge were in charge because God said they were in charge, and they could do whatever they wanted. I mean, serfdom essentially *was* slavery, and no one had to justify it based on anything besides ‘God said this is how the system works’.

                After that stopped working, racism mysteriously starts popping up *all over* when Europeans (and U.S.ians) need excuses to mistreat groups. Not just anti-black…look at how Britain acted in India and how they justified that, or how Americans acted towards natives and how they justified that. (Although those were harder to tell from white people, so we needed to exaggerate a bit with claiming they had red skin, and emphasis the whole ‘savages’ thing a lot.)

                ‘Luckily’, a lot of the people the Europeans met had different skin color. (If everyone they met had had white skin but purple/blue/green hair, we’d be having a discussion about hairism.)

                That said, Europe is obviously not the only place that existed [citation needed]. Hell, the caste system in India is sorta the same concept as racism, except arranged slightly different.Report

              • Gabriel Conroy in reply to DavidTC says:

                Thanks for clarifying your argument.

                ETA: I do think people in general, and pre-Enlightenment Europeans no less than others, do try to justify their treatment of others. The divine right view you allude to above is itself an example of that.Report

            • greginak in reply to DavidTC says:

              But people had been believing some Other was inferior for many many generations before the 16th-18th centuries. Sometimes that was based on noble birth or class and definitely on religion. The nature of racism certainly changed in how it was targeted but it didn’t just start at some point in time.Report

            • Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

              I might be wrong, but I think I recall that — very early on — that it wasn’t so much slavery as indentured servitude, for black and whites alike, that slowly transitioned. (This was complicated because I think that, at the time, English accepted slavery was acceptable only if it was a non-Christian, and conversion was a way to transition to indentured servitude for a period of years).

              As I recall, there was a gradual slide towards outright slavery from the indentured servant concept, and that it hit blacks because (1) They were, so to say, pre-marked and thus visually identifiable as well as being ‘other’and (2) because snagging the foreign heathens was already acceptable, so simply removing the ‘outs’ (like conversion, or the time limits on servitude) was where the frog boiled.

              After all, Europe pretty much was leaving the concepts of slavery at the time. I think the servitude contracts (in exchange for passage) and the need for labor (esp. in the South) was what made America different in that respect.

              Then again, it has been 20+ years since I had an American history class.Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Morat20 says:

                I keep seeing people talk about non-Christian slaves, but, frankly, I don’t remember that rule *at all*.

                Looking at Wikipedia, the only ‘Christian’ rule I can see is that the courts held slavery of non-infidels was legal in 1677, in Butts v. Penny. But that didn’t make it illegal for *Christians*, and that was one decision among a sea of contradicting ones.

                The legal status of slavery in England was completely vague and random and unsettled throughout almost all of English slavery’s history. It sort of *tacitly* became legal, and the courts went along with it. In 1729, when Attorney General and Solicitor General of England signed a statement that, in the government’s opinion, slavery of *Africans* was legal. (Africans, not non-Christians.)…which, oddly, did not actually settle anything either, and didn’t make slavery of other people *illegal*.

                Courts kept ruling semi-randomly on the various issues until 1772, when the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench said that slavery did not actually exist under English common law, and it is such an ‘odious’ institution and so at odds with common law that it actually *needed* an explicit law to exist…which England did not have. (And, sadly, which the American Colonies at the time *did* have.) And even then, it took another 60 years to pass a law to make it clear that slavery really really didn’t exist.(1)

                There doesn’t really seem to be a distinction of ‘Christian’ in there. There seems to be a distinction of ‘English’ and otherwise. If you were an English subject, you could only become a slave via conviction of a crime, and even that was pretty rare by the point we’re talking about. If you weren’t an English subject, and were brought into England by a guy that said you were a slave, you were a slave.

                In *practice* these slaves tended to be black, because they tended to be pulled from the existing triangle slave trade, and it was chic to have a black servant. But that wasn’t any sort of legal restriction, and in fact a bunch of *Scots* had gotten themselves stuck in hereditary slavery at the time also.

                It’s worth pointing out that most nations did not have naturalization processes at that time, so if you moved, or were moved to another country, you’d likely *never* have any of the (recently invented) ‘rights’ that native citizens had. It didn’t matter if you were African or French, or even Scottish.

                1) And we complain our legislature doesn’t work. At least we don’t have conflicting opinions about whether or not something is legal for *over a hundred years* without anyone bothering to make a specific law either way. Gez.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to DavidTC says:

                I think I got Church and secular law confused.

                Yeah, digging into Church law, looks like the Catholic Church at least was onboard with the ‘only non Christians could be enslaved’ (I think it was seen as a good thing, as you could save these benighted souls from their heathen religion) from the 15th century onward. That’s pretty clear on the Catholic side. (of course, the Crusades and other conflict might have had something to do with keeping ‘non-Christians’ on the slavery block).

                Then there seemed to be a growing concept of natural slavery which slowly focused on blacks in America (I would suspect, again, because ‘black versus white’ is easy to determine compared to ‘Christian versus Non-Christian’) which started to develop this whole thing about Ham and Canaan to justify the continued enslavement of Christian blacks. (And, I suppose, only the religion you were when you were enslaved counted. Otherwise you’d just backslide).Report

          • Maria in reply to Kazzy says:

            There was a Reddit AMA about the Atlantic slave trade that I found very interesting. I think it is worth a read, particularly in gleaning good book recommendations for this particular period in history. Here is the link:

    • Brandon Berg in reply to LeeEsq says:

      The standard reason for Jew-hatred is that it started with the Jewish rejection of Jesus and morphed into racial hatred with the rise of scientific racism in the 19th century.

      And then there’s the economic aspect, which we don’t like to talk about, because it looks too familiar.Report

      • Kim in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Alright, so Goldmann and Stearns may have been some of the corps who caused our Lost Decade. What the hell is your point? Why does this look familiar??Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        Economic anti-Semitism is a mid-19th century bridge between the earlier Religious anti-Semitism and Racial anti-Semitism. A lot of people who were troubled by modernity in early modern Europe but didn’t quite see Jews as a distinct race yet, blamed the changes of modernity on the Jews. Economic anti-Semitism comes in socialist and capitalist varieties because you have people blaming Jews for both.Report

      • DavidTC in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        And then there’s the economic aspect, which we don’t like to talk about, because it looks too familiar.

        (Apparently I was unaware we ‘do not like to talk about it’, as I did so above.)

        Well, no, it doesn’t look familiar. Or, rather it looks familiar in that what Jews were accused of is, in some near global way, actually being done by a bunch of people. (Some of who are Jews, I guess?)

        But, uh, saying it’s ‘familiar’ is base slander. The things that Jews were accused of economically, though history, were *lies*.

        What would actually happen is that, repeatedly, someone who happened to be Jewish would happen managed to amass some slight local power, economic or otherwise…at which point other powerful people would see a weakness in their Judaism, and turn everyone on them.

        Meanwhile, what the banks industry has done is *true*. What the rich have done is *true*. It actually happened. We were there. It is still happening. Economic inequality isn’t the same as ‘some people owe that Jewish guy money’.

        Japan doesn’t get a pass on the Rape of Nanking because it sounded like what African-Americans had been accused of doing to white people for the previous 100 years. This is because the Rape of Nanking *actually happened*, and what black people were accused of was made-up racism bullshit.

        In fact, I’d wage that *most* slanderous actions that people and groups are accused of *actually were done* by someone at some point.Report

        • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

          Just wanted to note that you’d better get your facts straight on the whole “the financial meltdown” before you decide to blather about what “actually happened”.

          It went a little like this:
          “Oh, shit, we fucked up bigtime…”
          “Yeah, is there anything we can do about this?”
          … and the people genuinely gave a shit and tried to fix their own fuckups.

          [Okay, the AIG board can burn in hell, the bastards. But most people genuinely were upset with the idea of a global meltdown].Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to LeeEsq says:

      “We are on firmer ground when it comes to explaining why racism against African-Americans and modern racism started but we still get into some ideological hatred. I personally see the ultimate origin as coming from the hatred of Jews that existed since antiquity.”

      Ignoring the awkward segue into discussing Anti-Semitism, I think the connection between racism towards African-American and Anti-Semitism is almost a comparison of opposites. Slavery did not really start because of prejudices. It started because it was easy and that was the way the world worked back then. Eventually biological racism developed to defend the institution and that morphed into cultural prejudice, which we still see today.

      On the flip side, prejudice against Jews was mostly cultural and then biological racism came much, much later. It was quite nearly a reverse trajectory.Report

      • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Is that why slavery started?
        Prior to slavery we have genocide as the pretty much only military option (albeit a lengthy one that would span generations…)
        I would assume slavery started because we found ways to afford the slavemaster (or at least the guy holding the whip).Report

    • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

      I personally see the ultimate origin as coming from the hatred of Jews that existed since antiquity.

      Wait. Are you saying that the source of racism as a global phenomenon has its origins in anti-semitism?Report

    • DavidTC in reply to LeeEsq says:

      Oddly enough, the origins of anti-Semitism seems to be one thing I *have* heard some sort of ‘official’ explanation of, although I can’t remember where.

      Namely, that at various times, Jews have been the only people willing to loan money, because they were not bound by rules against usury. As such, the choice kept coming up again and again throughout history, where the rich and powerful think: Well, I *can* pay my loans off, or I can chase the Jews out of town. Hmmm…

      Do that often enough, and it sorta just becomes a habit, even long after the Church relaxed the idea of ‘usury’ and now other people could make loans. Throw in the random bouts of religious fanaticism Europe had until a few hundred years ago, and anti-Semitism becomes official policy.

      I suspect that’s not the *only* cause of anti-Semitism, but it certainly seems plausible as one of them, especially when you look at the actual slurs used against Jews.Report

      • Maria in reply to DavidTC says:

        Don’t forget that historically Jews were restricted from many professions and options were limited. They didn’t necessarily going into usery because they wanted to/could. Often it was one of only a handful of ways open to them for making a living.Report

        • LeeEsq in reply to Maria says:

          This line of thought has been questioned recently. The historical record reveals that most Jews were urban craftsman or merchants centuries before the first examples of legislation restricting Jews to particular professions. Most Jews also lived in what we now call Iraq and Iran from sometime in late Antiquity to after the Mongol Invasion of Baghdad and faced no official restrictions on what they could do. Jews were still urban craftsman and merchants.

          What actually seemed to happen is that Jews adopted mass literacy as an ideal during the early years of the Common Era. This caused the Jewish population to decline because people who didn’t want to spend resources on their kids education left the Jewish fold. It also led to more Jews abandoning farming for more lucrative urban professions because they had the necessary skills and the Rabbis wanted Jews to have the time necessary for Torah study. Craftsman and merchants tended to have more free time than farmers.Report

        • Kim in reply to Maria says:

          Mostly the only profession they were historically excluded from was nobility (otherwise known as being landlords). Jews could have been serfs, but really, who wanted to be a serf?Report

  2. Kim says:

    What’s so hard to understand about propaganda?
    Follow the money, folks… who wins when you set poor whites against poor blacks?
    (Also, look to where integration happened without notable incident… where was the propaganda notably ineffectual?)Report

  3. Kazzy says:

    My town has a sizable Black population (28% in 2000) and is barely majority white (56%). About 40% of the population is Jewish, with a large share (though I’m not sure how much) being Orthodox Jewish. Most of them send their kids to private Yeshivas, leaving the public school majority students of color. The town is fairly segregated, with two distinct neighborhoods identified as “the Black side” and “Hebrew Hills”. When we were school age, there was one town-wide Kindergarten (this was before Kindergarten was mandatory), four neighborhood elementary schools, two neighborhood middle schools, and one high school. The elementary and middle schools were fairly well-integrated despite the town being fairly segregated. Interesting to note that my town (Teaneck, NJ) was the first to voluntarily desegregate its entire school district back in the ’60s.

    Growing up, we went to Catholic school when we were young. My old brother and sister started at a school just one town over. Then the three of us went to a school two towns over. Eventually the four of us landed at a school about four towns away. I’ve come to learn that the constant shifting was the result of my brother, who had some behavioral and social issues. We were fairly religious at the time but not incredibly so. When my parents separated, we ended up in the public schools. And that was that. I never considered whether my parents put us in Catholic school when we were younger for racist or racist-ish reasons. I do know that my parents certainly harbored some unpleasant views on racist, though I think they’d fall into what was once described as Kennedy Liberals — all for liberal ideas like integration and civil rights, so long as it wasn’t their kids being impacted. I remember hearing some rather unsavory language used, including the N-word and an Italian slur for Black folks, but was never explicitly forbidden from having friends of all stripes and obviously the hostility wasn’t so much that we didn’t end up going to schools where we were in the racial minority.

    It might be time for a talk with Mom…Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

      “We were just trying to do what we thought was best for you, using the information we had at the time. Also, it was entirely your father’s fault.”Report

    • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

      Thanks for relating all that, @kazzy . It’s probably too late to talk to my mother about that topic, and my father passed away 8 years ago. Even if I could talk about it, it would be hard to do so in a way in which they’d have been comfortable being honest.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

        Heh… I’m pretty confident I could ask my mom, “How come we went to Catholic school?” and with some probing arrive at some pretty frank answers.

        It is also worth noting that, before we were born, my mom taught in the town’s school system so she had some first hand experience with it. That was back in the 70’s, not TOO long after desegregation. It’s possible she had some less-than-stellar experiences while teaching there, some of which may have been related to issues of race and desegregation, which could have further led to the very sort of thing you explore in the OP: If my mom looked at the system as less-than-stellar because she saw issues arise from desegregation and she placed responsibility for that on desegregation and the presence of Black students… what exactly does that mean?Report

  4. DensityDuck says:

    So the question is, how many non-racist reasons does it take to make up for racism being one of the reasons?

    And if the answer is “you can’t ever make up for it”, then how are we not turning any discussion about outcomes into Find The Racist?Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to DensityDuck says:

      “And if the answer is “you can’t ever make up for it”, then how are we not turning any discussion about outcomes into Find The Racist?”

      And that’s the real problem. Race-based busing has been proven to be in-effective, however because one element of opposition was indeed based on racism, all of the other reasons (many of which turned out to be legitimate concerns) will be blamed by association.

      Regardless, one good outcome is that race-based busing has been evaluated and SCOTUS has struck it down, so that is a positive step forward towards busing plans that actually work.Report

    • Chip Daniels in reply to DensityDuck says:

      This is a good point in that allowing discussions of racism to slide into a search for guilt and blame makes it destructive and pointless.

      Racism is inherent to humanity. It the dark side of the positive face of groupishness.

      We can recognize the value and worth of our differences, even while we recognize the universal value of the other.

      In fact, it is hard to recognize the value of those who are different unless we are secure in ourselves. Most racism is born out of that fear and anxiety that the other poses some sort of threat to us.
      Cain saw Abel as different, alien and apart from himself because Cain himself feared rejection from God.Report

      • “Racism is inherent to humanity.”

        I would modify that statement to say that Prejudice is inherent to humanity. Race is mostly (completely?) a social construct.Report

        • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Race, like many other things (gender), is far more complicated than people want to give it credit for. It’s not a purely social concept, but there’s also more than five races (and depending on what you’re looking for, you get different divisions).Report

        • Stillwater in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Race is mostly (completely?) a social construct.

          That would explain why conservatives are racially color blind: they don’t believe in the social construction of reality. 🙂Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Stillwater says:

            I have to say, I’m a little weary of the way in which certain folks on the right are co-opting the idea of race as a social construct. It often seems… self-serving.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

              Better that than the co-opting the idea that one’s race ought to be celebrated for its own sake.

              Which, I reckon, will make a comeback in a big way in the coming decade.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Well, you can believe something OR you can pretend to believe something you don’t actually believe only so that you can twist it to suit your own agenda. The latter is objectionable no matter what, no?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                “You’re not saying this because you believe it. You’re saying this because you know that I believe it.”

                That said… the path to getting them to start believing it is to get them to start saying it in public.

                And the games of “but I don’t see race” have a lot less historical baggage than “You want me to see race? I will see the ever living shit out of it.”Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                It is fun that facts need to be “believed”.Report

              • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

                No, they needn’t be believed to be true.
                But in order to make money off them?
                You’d be wisest to be the only person who believes in them.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                While “X is a social construct” may be a fact, belief in the truth of the claim itself has many different things that follow than belief in the (obviously false!) claim that “X is a result of nature”.

                (I’ll add that I’m never entirely sure what is supposed to follow from “X is a social construct”.)Report

              • DavidTC in reply to Jaybird says:

                (I’ll add that I’m never entirely sure what is supposed to follow from “X is a social construct”.)

                That’s just said about race because it completely undercuts racism. If race is something we just made up, most racism sounds *really really stupid*.

                It takes racism out of ‘wrong’ and puts it firmly in ‘that doesn’t even make logical sense’

                If someone was to argue that they aligned their bed exactly north/south so blah blah magnetic pseudoscience, well, it’s dumb, but hard to argue against. And other people might fall for it.

                But if someone brags about how they bought a house exactly on a line of longitude and sleep directly on that because pseudoscience…uh, dude. We *made up* lines of longitude. They do not exist. They are a social construct. There is no possible way that being exactly on a line of longitude is in any way beneficial. That’s past pseudoscience into literal magical thinking.

                Convince people that is how race works (Which is mostly true), and you’ll get a lot of people just staring blankly at racism propaganda, like it’s some guy telling us never sleep in a house with a street address that starts with an 2 or we’ll get cancer. That…can’t possibly be a real thing.Report

              • Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

                Says the guy not earning money through geneology.
                Can we speak to the people actually earning a profit for a change?

                If it was just all in our heads, it would be impossible to make a profit using it…cleverlyReport

    • Tod Kelly in reply to DensityDuck says:

      I very much agree with DD here. I also very much agree with his unspoken corollary, which is that if we also refuse to admit racism might be an issue at all, the problems you’re trying to address becomes equally insurmountable.

      The first problem, as (almost) always, is getting people to listen to one another rather than treating everyone as symbols or totems. How you actually do that, I’m still not sure.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Tod Kelly says:

        I’d argue that a problem just as big as that first one is the idea that saying “present company excepted” saves you from having bad attitudes. Or, to put it another way, it’s the old “one of the good ones” thing. “All white people are all racists! Oh, except you, of course. You’re an ally.”Report

        • Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Yes, this is certainly stone truth.
          Have a carrot from my bandolier of carrots —
          how are we supposed to learn anything about each other if we can’t study racial differences? or gender differences? the list goes on… Liberal thinking can drive me crazy…Report

    • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      As others have said, this mindset assumes the goal is to label decisions as good or bad, right or wrong, virtuous or immoral. Which, no doubt, a sizable subset of people seek to do. But that isn’t the only reason to inquire into someone’s motives. Evaluating someone’s motives and saying, “These motives are likely to yield positive outcomes and these motives are likely to yield negative outcomes,” allows us to assess whether a motivating factor should be honored or resisted.

      Were Gabriel’s parents “right” to send their kids to the schools they did? It is hard to tell because we don’t quite know their motives. Supposing they were motivated, in part, by racism than the issue isn’t whether they went to the “right” schools but what the impact of that racism was on Gabriel and his siblings.

      My mom undoubtedly wanted us to hang out with “good kids”. Unfortunately, part of her definition of “good” was aesthetic in nature. This included, among other things, race. I know she didn’t love that I had many Black and Brown friends. She wished my friends looked more like my brother’s, almost all of whom were white. But you know what happened with my brother and his friends? A non-zero amount of legal trouble. Nothing major, much of it the kind of shit that most teenagers dabble in, but some of it pretty troubling and the result of a couple of real bad apples mixed in with his crew. And yet my mom still had this preference for friends “like his” instead of friends “like mine”. Was my mom right to want us to have good influences? Absolutely. But was her focus on race as part of what made a good influence wrong? Yes. And had I honored it, it is possible I would have had worse outcomes. None of that makes wanting your kids to hang out with good kids — or go to good schools — is wrong. But if you can’t properly evaluate who is a good kid or what is a good school because your perspective is biased by racism, your objective becomes questionable and, possibly, self-defeating.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

        “if you can’t properly evaluate who is a good kid or what is a good school because your perspective is biased by racism, your objective becomes questionable and, possibly, self-defeating.”

        So, yes, Find The Racist. Anything else is just ex post facto justification for racism, and it’s all suspect because you’re a racist.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

          Maybe I just don’t understand what I mean by “find the racist”. I’m not saying we look for any hint of racism and, once found, reject the person entirely. What I’m saying is that we can look at decisions like the ones my mom made and say, “I hear you saying you wanted your sons to hang with good kids. But it seems like you weren’t so great at figuring out who the good kids were in part because you based your perception of their peers on racially prejudiced ideas. To what extent did these ideas undermine your efforts to protect your kids? If you knew then what you know now, would you have made different decisions?”

          That is the sort of conversations I’m interested in having. I get that others just want to brand people who hold or act upon racist ideas as monsters and be done with them. And if you want to call those people out, by all means, do so. But don’t assume that everyone who is interested in the extent to which race and racism factors into decisions is pursuing that end.

          If anything, you’ve created a weird counter “game” of “Find the person-obsessed-with-attacking-racist”.Report

          • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

            What I’m having a hard time with, here, is you telling me that your mom made a wrong decision, that it was based on the race of the people involved, and yet somehow racism was not the root of the problem. That your mother would have–not might have, not could have, but would have–come to the same decision if everyone involved was white as Jefferson Davis.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to DensityDuck says:

              We use race as a proxy for a lot of things.

              Add that with the whole issue of individually beneficial/socially costly issue surrounding such issues as white flight/gentrification and, god forbid, school zones, suddenly you’re in a minefield when you want your kids to go to the best schools and have the ability to jockey your position around.

              Because it’s really easy to say “we, as a society, should all collaborate!” but, man, these are your *KIDS*.

              Which brings us back to how we use race as a proxy for a lot of things.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:


        While I agree with Tod above that @densityduck ‘s question is a good one, I think your response is a good framing. I should say I don’t really intend to condemn my parents for their decision, although I personally think it was the wrong one.

        I do wonder whether DD’s question strikes at a weakness in my OP: It’s not the best example of bigotry one can find, although I’m also fairly certain, at a gut level, that racism was probably a major motivation, along with a sort of “they’re trying all these experiments with our kids and who knows what they’ll do next” skepticism (a skepticism which I think is actually healthy, mind).Report

    • Let’s talk about Shelby County in this light. The reason for closing polling places and imposing voter ID laws is to stop minorities from voting. Is that racist?

      Yes, because it’s taking away the right to vote based on race.
      No, because it’s not based on racial animus, it’s based on racial voting trends. The GOP would be thrilled with black voters who voted for them.
      Yes, because the reasons blacks don’t vote for the GOP is that they expect them to do things like take their votes away.

      Is the Supreme Court being racist in increasing the prevalence of this by removing pre-clearance?

      No, say their defenders, they’re removing unjustified federal intrusion.
      No, say their opponents, they’re just favoring the GOP, as they do.

      I’m glad we cleared that up.Report

      • “Yes, because it’s taking away the right to vote based on race.”

        Technically it’s taking away the right to vote based on failure to meet certain criteria. If a greater % of minorities fail to meet that criteria than whites, that is an interesting study in race vs. culture. It’s really mostly a poverty thing and while there is a disparity there based on race, it’s lazy to blame it on racism.Report

        • DensityDuck in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          I can’t believe you actually gave his comment a serious reply.Report

        • Patrick in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          When someone believes that voting fraud is such an epidemic problem that in-person voting requires a government-issued standardized identification card…

          … while they simultaneously believe that absentee voting is somehow more secure (it demonstrably is not) and voting machines without a paper record are suitably secure (they aren’t)…

          … it’s possible to extend the causal mechanism to tribal identification, I suppose.

          That it isn’t so much that they themselves are racist or stupid, it is that a narrative has arisen among their peers and that narrative is accepted for peer acceptance reasons, and not underlying racism, classism, sexism, or some other -ism.

          But it does seem rather astonishingly unlikely that these narratives both arise spontaneously and they all seem to favor a protected class that is more highly correlated with the party that benefits from the practical outcome of the narrative and disadvantage a class that is more highly correlated to the party’s ideological opponents.

          When an established policy (voter ID law, registration requirements) is demonstrably more likely to affect minority voters, and a coupled policy (absentee balloting) is demonstrably more likely to advantage old white voters, and both of those policies are supported by the party that consists of more old white voters and fewer minority voters… yeah.

          The idea that someone somewhere is deliberately crafting this narrative doesn’t seem like the nuttiest idea in the world.Report

          • Mike Dwyer in reply to Patrick says:

            If some minority groups were less monolithic in their voting habits or the percentages of minorities that didn’t have IDs was the same as whites, Voter ID laws would probably not be a problem (I’m not saying that means they need to change their behavior, but it would certainly make it harder for Republicans to target them.)

            The thing is though, those two traits are not linked to the genetics of those groups. They are cultural characteristics. So it’s only about race in the sense that culture is tied to race. It would be fair to argue that minority poverty has its roots in institutional racism, however that makes it hard to explain white poverty.Report

    • @densityduck

      So the question is, how many non-racist reasons does it take to make up for racism being one of the reasons?

      To me, that’s not really the question I’m trying to ask, although I do think you’re describing a real tendency, and your critique of that tendency is a good one.

      What I think I’m trying to do is ask, given that there are some racist motivations behind people’s actions, how can we understand them? how can we even locate them? That sounds like “find the racist,” but not in the sense of ignoring the legitimate reasons behind the decisions made, but rather in the sense of, “there are some things that facts cannot tell us. So how do we go about understanding them.”

      (Of course, as I said in my response to Kazzy, maybe that’s a different argument from “bigotry feels itself aggrieved.”)Report

    • Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:


      I’m trying to parse your initial question a bit more and, to be honest, I’m struggling. Not because I think the general theme of it is unwarranted. In fact, I think it very much so is. Rather, I’m trying to understand what you mean by “make up for”.

      To make a rather crude analogy, I think of Monday Morning Quarterbacking and how often we question a coach’s decision because his process was flawed and how often we question his decision because the outcome was flawed.

      Sometimes, flawed processes can yield desirable outcomes. And sometimes good processes can yield flawed outcomes. That is just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.

      So, looking at my own situation, in evaluating my mom’s decision making process, I’d want to know whether that decision making process — if repeated 1000 times over — would more often than not yield the desired outcome (and let’s assume the desired outcome was true and noble and just call it a “good education” in the truest and most noblest sense). And if her process was flawed somehow, if the way she made her decisions was more likely than not to yield a “bad education”, I think we’d want to know where the system went wrong. And if some degree of racism was a part of that, I think we’d want to note that and, if possible, seek to eradicate it. In much the same way we’d want to know if her tendency to get wooed by charismatic school administrators who didn’t know shit about education impacted her decision making for the worse.

      So, for me, it is not an all-or-nothing proposition. And, as such, I don’t really understand the “make up for” part of your question. To the extent that I do understand it, I would not say that you have to junk a person’s entire modus operandi and, with it, that person just because racism is a part of it.Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

        Going back to the OP, which of these do you feel would deserve the most time in a response to the stated concerns about busing?

        *Location-based rules for school-district assignment drove my selection of neighborhood, and I paid more than I might otherwise have done; as a result my family is at a financial disadvantage compared to others, a disadvantage that I expected to be mitigated by my children attending a superior school. If you force my children to attend a different school that mitigation is no longer going to happen, and I’m at an ioverall financial disadvantage.

        *My children’s future (and their day-to-day safety) is dependent on the quality of school they attend; what plans are in place to improve the quality of the school they *do* attend, since I’m no longer permitted to make the determination of attendance?

        *I ain’t want muh kid goin’ to school with no blacks.

        Do you feel that the first two concerns are meaningful at all, or merely a smokescreen for the third?Report

  5. Mike Dwyer says:

    Popes were condemning slavery as early as 1435 but it seems they drew the line between Christians and non-Christians, not Europeans and non-EuropeansReport

    • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      So why did they trek across the Atlantic for African slaves when there were perfectly good non-Christian native peoples right here in the Americas?Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

        I don’t know the answer to that question (and in fact, some variant of it was almost inevitably asked when I taught or TA’s for such classes), so here are some speculations:

        1. The slavers saw American Indians as different. Cf. how Thomas Jefferson, in “Notes on the State of Virginia” describes Indians versus how he describes blacks.

        2. Indians were indeed enslaved, in some cases in very large numbers.

        3. There weren’t enough Indians, because, by estimates I’ve heard, ca. 90% were killed by European born diseases.

        4. A huge number, too, were killed by the English and Dutch and in the consequence of some very bitter wars, especially in the 17th century. The killings continued after that, of course.

        5. The very bitter wars suggests that Indians had better organization and means for self defense against enslavement, at least north of New Spain/Mexico. Also, in that area, some Indian tribes (e.g., the Iroquois) were able to play the French and English (and Dutch) off against each other.

        6. Indians, once enslaved, may have had more opportunities to resist or escape by virtue of knowing the land better.

        7. (And this gets back to point no. 1) Early on, say by 1700, the major slave colonies in British North America had developed slave codes that began to identify slavery with blackness. In the early to mid 1600s, the situation had been much more fluid. It wasn’t a racially egalitarian paradise (in fact, it wasn’t a paradise at all), but the status of slaves as slaves wasn’t quite as set in stone as it would be. In some cases, practice tended to treat them almost like indentured servants (who were treated horribly, but with some prospect of freedom), and some earned their freedom, and there was, apparently, at least some degree of camaraderie (and cohabitation) among black slaves and white indentureds.Report

        • Kazzy in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

          History is NOT my strong suit, but I remember a figure named de Las Casa (I believe?) who very strongly advocated that it was Africans who should be enslaved, NOT Native Americans. And this wasn’t based on practical arguments but on moral ones. AND that he was largely successful in the shift away from Native American slaves and towards African slaves. I struggle to see how seeing the enslavement of Africans and Africans alone as morally justifiable is not somehow based in anti-African sentiment. And while that anti-African sentiment was surely very different than later forms of American, it seems like a really weird semantic word play to claim it wasn’t racism.

          Very quickly we reached a point where the ONLY people who were enslaved were Africans. And we can’t blame their “culture” for that.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Kazzy says:

            Erm, Las Casa essentially didn’t want the Natives enslaved because he saw the atrocities and befriended them, so he suggested that someone else be enslaved instead, at least at first. (He soon changed his mind and rejected all slavery.)

            That didn’t have *anything to do* with Africans being Africans. It had to do with him being *friends* with the natives, and yet knowing that people still wanted slaves. And, no, he didn’t ‘strongly advocate’ anything based on ‘moral grounds’…he said ‘Stop enslaving these guys. If you want to enslave someone, do it to those guys’.

            You can *perhaps* blame him for starting the transatlantic slave trade, or at least pointing out it could work. What you can’t do is pin that on anti-African sentiment, on some sort of idea that black people were lesser than native Americans.

            And the idea that people learned some sort of *moral objection* to enslaving natives from him was utter nonsense. As @gabriel-conroy pointed, there were actually a *lot* of reasons not to enslave the natives, like the fact that there were *treaties* with native tribes, and letting slavers run in and randomly capture people would be completely idiotic and result in war, of which there was *already enough* of with Natives Americans.

            Oh, and the math doesn’t work anyway: Estimated Native American population of US between 1700-1800 is somewhere between one and two million(1), because something like 90% of them had just died from diseases.

            Total amount of imported African slaves into the US between 1700-1800? 350,000.

            Yeah, I’m sure that slavers would have been able to capture between *one third and one sixths of all natives* (Some of which were all the way on the other side of the completely unexplored continent, without any transportation at all.) to supply enough slaves for the US. (And fighting a war with every single Native tribe at once wouldn’t have decreased the stock of possible slaves at all.)

            1) It’s possible that the diseases hadn’t reached the farthest tribes yet, and the population might have been closer to six million at the start of that…but that only means that they *would* have started dying if slavers reached them, which would have made it even *stupider*…90% of their newly captured slaves would have died before they got them back!Report

          • Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

            My knowledge of Las Casas is pretty weak, but what DavidTC says rings true (although I hadn’t heard he later rejected all slavery).

            That’s not to say that there wasn’t something we’d today recognize as racism in the mix when it came to the decision to enslave Africans over Indians. As I’ve suggested in one of my convoluted comments above, racism can, could, and probably did exist in some form early on. So I don’t think you and I disagree on that.Report

          • Kim in reply to Kazzy says:

            To note: a significant proportion of white slaveowners in the South were raised primarily by African slaves (to the point where it was hardly out of the ordinary for a white slaveowner to speak with his slave’s accent). You can see some views on slavery, agriculture, and, importantly, mercantilism seeping in from this contact.Report

        • Autolukos in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

          2 is definitely true in the Caribbean, where the pattern of African slavery in the Americas was established. I’m not sure how much enslaving of the natives early English colonists engaged in, but given that their colonies were fairly precarious ventures well into their history, tapping into the existing trans-Atlantic slave trade was almost certainly easier than trying to take slaves locally.Report

          • I don’t know about English enslaving of Indians, either. I’m sure they did it, but not sure of the extent.

            My understanding of the English mainland colonies’ participation in the Atlantic Slave Trade is that for the most part, they relied on a secondary trade, purchasing slaves from the Caribbean rather than straight from Africa. Perhaps that started to change in the late 1700s, I don’t know.

            I agree with your assessment of the English colonies as “precarious ventures.” That certainly distinguishes them from the Spanish/Portuguese, and maybe in some respects from the French. (The French experiment in North America was also “precarious,” but it was much more of a state-directed project than most of the mainland English colonies, which were more like royal concessions.)Report

        • I don’t have any specific info to back this up but it had to have been easier to control slaves taken from another continent rather than slaves taken locally that knew the landscape and looked like all the other natives.

          Race-based slavery had obvious benefits in that the slaves looked different than everyone else, however race-based slavery is different than RACISM based slavery, and I think that’s an important distinction.Report

          • however race-based slavery is different than RACISM based slavery, and I think that’s an important distinction

            I agree that’s an important distinction, and not being a specialist on slavery in America, I don’t have the evidence for my claim that slavery very early on *probably* bore some features of what we might call a “racism based” institution.

            So while I acknowledge the distinction you just made is important, I’ll hedge on the distinction, too. you just made and suggest that if it’s “raced base,” it is in some sense “racism based.” Or to put another way, the laws and customs that ensure the slavery be and remain race-based are institutionalized forms of racism. And I think we see that with the slave codes adopted from the mid 1600s on. One of their functions (and probably their intent) was to more sharply distinguish between white indentureds and black slaves.Report

          • DavidTC in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            Race-based slavery had obvious benefits in that the slaves looked different than everyone else, however race-based slavery is different than RACISM based slavery, and I think that’s an important distinction.


            Modern racism, with all the trappings and stereotypes, was something that was needed with the invention of the modern ideas of rights and the enlightenment. *It* was invented to justify the already existing institution of slavery.

            There almost certainly was some racism *before* that, but that’s not *why* we ended up with slavery or those particular slaves. And the racism was probably more like ‘Those guys are non-European savages’, and pretty close to the generic entitled nonsense that Europe felt about *all* foreigners.

            And *that* racism we came up with, our racism, was a distinctly *American* invention. Other countries didn’t quite come up with it fast enough, and their slavery fell, but we *barely* beat the buzzer in 1776, and then revolution sorta forced us to carve it into stone. If we had revolved in 1750, we probably wouldn’t have put it in there, and been able to get rid of it, if we had revolted in 1800, England would have probably already stopped slavery here.

            And then, for political reasons, people had to keep justifying the thing to everyone. Over and over. Racism after racism, trying to convince everyone that *this made sense*. That a country that claimed to exist by the consent of the governed had slaves. It made sense, because those savages could barely feed themselves, dammit! And would run around raping our women!

            It’s actually sorta pathetic, when you think about it. Or, it would be, if it hadn’t resulted in lifetimes of horrors for people.

            Racism is not some generic thing that just magically appears out of thin air. It is not some natural state, or a fall from grace, or lack of civilization.(1)

            That was sorta the point of my original comment mentioned in the OP. Racism is when someone *wants* the population to dislike a certain group of people that could be defined by ‘race’. Racism is *created*. Racism has a *purpose*. Racism is a *tool* someone is using to accomplish something…or, at least, it was at some time…it tends to live on after it is ‘needed’.

            And for some reason we refuse to actually teach this in schools. Well, for a very good reason: Because there are *still* people that run around doing exactly the same thing, and they *really* don’t like people explaining this.

            1) In nature, we just sorta fall back into ignoring people outside our community (the Others), and at worse we might try to take their stuff and have a fight about it. What we don’t do is mistreat people *inside* our communities, the people we’ve grown up next to. No, someone has to *explain* why we should do that, why we should treat Frank, you know, Ted’s oldest kid, like an Other.Report

          • Alan Scott in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            If there’s a distinction between race-based institutions of oppression and racism based institutions of oppression, it’s an inherently fleeting one. Because people in oppressive roles create beliefs to justify their continued oppression.

            In the Stanford prison experiment, 12 college students were paid $15/day to pretend to be prisoners, and 12 college students were paid $15/day to pretend to be guards. Four days into a two-week experiment, the guards had convinced themselves that friends of the prisoners were going to come to the experiment site and break the prisoners out. Even though the prisoners were paid to be their, free to quit and leave at any time, the guards had convinced themselves of this so much that they actually moved the prison site. After four days.

            Imagine what wack-a-doodle things people will convince themselves if the experiment lasted four centuries and the lables were “slave” and “slave owner” instead of “prisoner” and “guard”.

            Except, of course, you don’t have to imagine. Our system of slavery, in which white people owned and exploited black people, created and perpetuated racist beliefs and practices which persist into the present day.

            Four hundred years ago, slave owners insisted their black slaves had thicker skin than white people, that they felt less pain from a whipping, and used that to justify the brutal beatings administered. Today, Black Americans are consistently given fewer painkillers than are given to White Americans for the same medical conditions at doctors offices and hospitals across the nation.

            Four hundred years ago, slave owners had convinced themselves that the men and women they held in bondage were capable of working under intolerable conditions, and that when they appeared to collapse from exhaustion they were just being slothful or disobedient. Three months ago, I witnessed a (thankfully former) supervisor chew out a Black co-worker for his laziness after complementing my hard work, despite our equivalent performances.

            Race-based slavery becomes racism-based slavery becomes racism that continues after the slavery ends, because that’s how human belief works. We justify ourselves and our tribe as good and right, and twist our understanding of the world to make that justification fit.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to Alan Scott says:


              The reason why I draw the distinction between race-based and racism-based is because I think race-based slavery has, in some way, evolved into culture-based prejudice, which I have long-argued is the contemporary problem in this country, not biological racism.

              What I mean by that is, while many people appear to have a racism-based hatred of another group, if you drill down they don’t actually believe those people to be biologically inferior. What they really believe is that there are flaws in their culture and there is a racial link only so far as that minority seems to have a homogeneous culture associated with it. While this often still represents broad stereotyping, cultural differences can be better understood or improved upon. This leaves room for things to get better.Report

              • Kim in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                People have a lot to say about the “bred in the bone” bits of race too, though. The culture builds on the genetics, after all…Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Saying, “It’s not racism, it’s cultural prejudice,” is a fancy way of saying, “It’s not our fault, it’s theirs,” which is really all about blaming Black folks for the oppression they experience. You did it above by pointing to voting patterns among Blacks as allowing the current voter suppression efforts to exist. It is a really, really unseemly position to take, especially since many of the supposed “cultural elements” are present in many other cultures and yet they don’t feel the supposed inherent ill effects of being so culturally inferior.


            • DavidTC in reply to Alan Scott says:

              If there’s a distinction between race-based institutions of oppression and racism based institutions of oppression, it’s an inherently fleeting one. Because people in oppressive roles create beliefs to justify their continued oppression.

              Yes, at least now, in America.

              I like your point alongside mine, because it’s possible to read mine and come away thinking racism was deliberate…but racism is a justification. Maybe someone deliberately came up with ‘thicker skin’ who didn’t believe, or maybe the person who invented it did believe it…but the important thing is that people who believed those sort of things *needed* to, because they needed to justify slavery.

              But I think it’s relevant to point out that Americans, back when they were Europeans, didn’t actually need race to justify anything. The people in charge were in charge because God said they were in charge, and because they were Englishmen, and they didn’t need *anything* to justify it beside that.

              That justification sorta stopped working due to the Enlightenment/American Revolution, when all men became equal, and they had to be like ‘Yeah, but those guys don’t really *count* because uh…skin color? Yeah, skin color, that sounds reasonable.’ (And later the English came up with the same justification in India, but that’s another story, and they didn’t have to justify *quite* so much, so never needed to ramp it up to our levels.)

              And then America double-down on on the racism when slaves were *freed*, mostly for political reasons. *That*, I feel, was definitely deliberate and conscious, done by the losers of the civil war and various other people trying to remove black’s newly found political power.Report

      • Michael Cain in reply to Kazzy says:

        So why did they trek across the Atlantic for African slaves…

        It’s been an awfully long time since I read on the subject, but my recollection is that Americans didn’t, for the most part. Coastal Africans handled the initial capture and subjugation. Mostly European-flagged ships carried slaves to the Americas (South much more so than North), although I believe this changed after laws against the Atlantic slave trade began to be more seriously enforced. From the perspective of someone looking to buy slaves, they just “appeared” in the port cities like a keg of nails or bolt of cloth.Report

        • Damon in reply to Michael Cain says:


          Indeed. Also, there were muslim slavers as well that worked with other african tribes to collect slaves for sale on the coast and for their own markets, but his is how the european triangle worked.

          “The first leg of the triangle was from a European port to Africa, in which ships carried supplies for sale and trade, such as copper, cloth, trinkets, slave beads, guns and ammunition.[3] When the ship arrived, its cargo would be sold or bartered for slaves. On the second leg, ships made the journey of the Middle Passage from Africa to the New World. Many slaves died of disease in the crowded holds of the slave ships. Once the ship reached the New World, enslaved survivors were sold in the Caribbean or the American colonies. The ships were then prepared to get them thoroughly cleaned, drained, and loaded with export goods for a return voyage, the third leg, to their home port,[4] from the West Indies the main export cargoes were sugar, rum, and molasses; from Virginia, tobacco and hemp. The ship then returned to Europe to complete the triangle.”Report