Archive for June, 2013

Bobby Valentino: Slow Down


This song went to #1 on the American R&B charts in 2005, to #4 on the British pop charts.

Bobby V is our poster child for the 2000s. Not for having its greatest song, but, like CeCe Peniston of the 1990s and Shannon of the 1980s, for having an R&B song typical of that time.

I know, the video has issues of whitened, Ciaraesque ideas of beauty and sexual objectification, but that was part of that time (and ours) too. Still a great song, one that reminds me of back then.

The video is pretty much my picture of Los Angeles. It reminds me of how it looked when I was there in 2003.

Other songs on this blog from 2005:


I saw you walking
Down on Melrose
You looked like an angel
Straight out of heaven, girl
I was blown away by
Your sexiness
All I have to do is catch up to you

Slow down I just wanna get to know you
But don’t turn around
Cuz that pretty round thing looks good to me
Slow down never seen anything so lovely
Now turn around
And bless me with your beauty, cutie

A butterfly tattoo
Right above your navel
Your belly button’s pierced too just like I like it girl
Come take a walk with me
You’ll be impressed by
The game that I kick to you
It’s over and for reeaal

Like a flower fully bloomed in the summertime, you’re ready
To be watered by this conversation, you’re ready
I’m in awe cause you shine like the sun
Let me be the one to enjoy you
Let’s kick it girl

[Hook x2]

Oh baby you know by now that I want you bad
I’m floating on thin air I can’t come down
Cupid hit me already damn
Now I can’t leave till seven digits are in my hand, my hand


[Hook x2]

Slow down never seen anything so lovely


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The N-word


The N-word is the word “nigger”, one of the three truly taboo words left in Standard English in 2013 (the other two start with c and f). It means a black person but has behind it hundreds of years of white racist contempt, particularly when it comes out of the mouth of a white person.

Timeline (when words first appeared in writing):

  • 1550s: Negro, probably from Spanish or Portuguese, where it simply means “black”.
  • 1568: neger
  • late 1600s: nigger
  • 1800: nigger in the woodpile
  • 1840s: nigger-brown (shade of brown)
  • 1878: nigger heaven (upper gallery in segregated theatres)
  • 1896: nigger toes (Brazil nuts)
  • 1925: niggah (in black use)
  • 1944: nigra (possibly worse than “nigger” itself)
  • 1967: a thousand place names in the US still have he word “nigger” in them.
  • 1969: nigga (black use)

By the late 1700s, at the latest, the word had become racist. The word itself is a screwed up way of saying “Negro”, which till the 1960s was the proper, respectable word for dark-skinned Africans.

By the 1800s whites applied the N-word not just to the dark-skinned people from Africa, but to those from India, Australia, Polynesia and the Philippines as well.

In Jim Crow times (1877-1968) the racism that underlies the word was so taken for granted that White Americans could use the word as mere description without any ill-will – like in Mark Twain.

Since the 1960s, with the fall of Jim Crow, the word has changed among Americans:

  • among whites:
    • its public use has become one of the few signs that one is racist, now considered a grave moral fault.
    • Its private use is seen as harmless and meaningless by many if not most whites.
    • Its artistic use, like in “Django Unchained” (2012), is debatable.
  • among blacks some have tried to reclaim it by using it as a common word, to take the sting out of it. Mostly written as “nigga” or “niggah”, it can have a negative to neutral to positive meaning depending on context. Other blacks, however, avoid the word as wrong to use. Either way the word plays out against a background of internalized racism (black self-hatred).


Use in hip hop music: This can be an act of reclamation, as with Lauryn Hill, or it can come from and strengthen internalized racism, as with gangsta rap. That in turn has to be set against the fact that most listeners of hip hop are white, where the N-word can amount to minstrelsy – blacks degrading themselves for white entertainment.


Chris Rock: Ugh. In the 1990s he informed us that only some blacks are “niggas”. Whites love to quote him, especially those whose idea of “some” is 99.991%.


“If blacks use the word, why can’t whites? So unfair! Waahh!” Given the past and present racism of whites, there is probably no public use of the word by a white person that would not reasonably offend at least a fair number of black people. Whites who still want to use the word anyway want to disrespect blacks. Why would they want to do that? Because they are racist.

Thanks to Sondis for suggesting this post.

See also:

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Voting Rights Act of 1965


The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA) is one of the main American civil rights reforms of the 1960s. It outlawed the literacy tests, poll taxes and other devices that the Jim Crow South used to greatly limit the black vote. It is what Medgar Evers, Freedom Summer, Selma and those fire hoses were mainly about – the right to vote.

President Johnson called the VRA:

a triumph for freedom as huge as any victory that has ever been won on any battlefield

The VRA has not only allowed way more blacks to vote, but also more Native Americans and Latinos: it outlaws practices that in effect limit voting by race or language.

In 2006 Congress, after holding long hearings to see if the VRA was still necessary, voted to extend it by 25 years. Over 90% voted for the extension. A Republican President Bush signed it into law.

On June 25th 2013 the Supreme Court, in a 5 to 4 decision, gravely weakened that extension. Chief Justice Roberts said that it was “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.” Congress had used facts from 1975 to determine which states and counties need oversight by the Justice Department when changing voting laws and practices.


States and counties that required Justice Department approval to change voting laws or practices

Congress could update the VRA to satisfy the Court, but that seems unlikely any time soon: the Republicans firmly control the House. The difference between 2006 and 2013 for the Repubicans is one of demographics. The election and re-election of President Obama show that the white vote is no longer enough. That will become more and more true with each passing year.

That is why the Republicans in 2012 passed laws to limit voting – voter ID, cutting back on early voting, changing voting hours, etc. The VRA kept the Deep South, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, North Carolina, Alaska, New York City and some other places from doing that, but now with the new ruling they can – just in time for 2016.

Blacks and others can still challenge these laws under the VRA in court, that part of the VRA is still in effect, but that takes time and does not always work.

We have been here before: In 1876 the Supreme Court gravely weakened the laws Congress passed to carry out the Fifteenth Amendment, the amendment that gave black men the right to vote. The Court said the laws were not specific enough.

Even the Fifteenth Amendment itself was a fatally flawed compromise: some wanted it to outlaw poll taxes and literacy tests. Blacks wanted national voter registration to protect their right to vote.

By the 1890s the South pushed through laws to limit black voting with poll taxes and literacy tests. The South did this in part to break up an alliance between blacks and poor whites. The Klan did their part by using violence to stop blacks from voting.

Which brings us all the way to the 1960s – and the Voting Rights Act.


Number of Black Southern Legislators, 1868-1900 and 1960-1992

See also:

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Paula Deen


Paula Deen (1947- ) is an American television cook of down-home Southern cooking. In June 2013 the American press and the Internet went nuts over her admitted use of the n-word.

Her empire the day before the scandal broke:

  • net worth: $16 million (700,000 crowns)
  • income: $4 million in 2007
  • television shows: 3 on the Food Network
  • books: 5
  • magazines: 1
  • restaurants: 6: her own and her brother’s in Savannah, Georgia and four more that bear her name at casinos owned by Caesar’s.
  • spokeswoman for: QVC
  • products with her name sold by: Walmart, Target, Sears, Smithfield Foods, Walgreens

In 2012 Lisa Jackson, a former white female manager at her brother’s restaurant, took Deen and her brother to court for sexual harassment and racial discrimination.

On June 19th 2013 the National Enquirer made the court testimony public. According to Jackson, in 2007 Paula Deen said of her brother’s wedding:


Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Shirley Temple in “The Little Colonel” (1935)

Well what I would really like is a bunch of little niggers to wear long-sleeve white shirts, black shorts and black bow ties, you know in the Shirley Temple days, they used to tap dance around. Now, that would be a true Southern wedding wouldn’t it? But we can’t do that because the media would be on me about that.

According to the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, which has talked to some of the black employees:

  • Light-skinned blacks deal with customers while dark-skinned blacks are put in the back.
  • Whites are promoted faster than blacks.
  • Her brother told one black employee, “you don’t have any civil rights here.”
  • Someone in Deen’s family repeatedly called a black cook “my little monkey”.

Deen admitted under oath to wanting the plantation-style wedding for her brother complete with blacks playing slaves, but that she has not used the n-word since about 1987. That was when she told her husband about a black bank robber putting a gun to her head.

On June 21st she apologized twice, saying that the n-word is completely unacceptable.

Then the Food Network dropped her.


On June 24th Smithfield Foods dropped her.


On June 26th Matt Lauer interviewed her on television. She maintained that she is not racist. The interview ended with her close to tears, saying:

I is what I is and I’m not changing.

Then Walmart and Caesars dropped her, no longer wanting her name on their stuff.



Her friends say that the press is making her into something she is not.

It is now June 27th, early morning.

She grew up in the Jim Crow South in Albany, Georgia, in the heart of cotton country. Her family used to own 35 slaves.

In 2012 she told the New York Times:

We [slave owners] didn’t see ourselves as being prejudiced.

and that:

black folk were such integral part of our lives, they were like our family.

and that in 2012:

We’re all prejudiced against one thing or another. I think black people feel the same prejudice that white people feel.

She is not sure if racist jokes offend black people. She is not even sure if the n-word does, given how much they use it.

Thanks to Sondis and Daniel Bryant for suggesting this post.

 See also:

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Blade Runner

“Blade Runner” (1982) is a Hollywood film based on Philip K. Dick’s science fiction novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” (1968). Film noir meets science fiction. Rick Deckard (a young Harrison Ford) is a bounty hunter in a gritty, dystopian Los Angeles of 2019. He kills androids – but then falls in love with one. The film was great at making the future look real rather than wow. Ridley Scott of “Alien” (1979) directs.

  • Philip K. Dick: the Hollywood films “Total Recall” (1990) and “Minority Report” (2002) are also based on his stories.

What Dick calls androids the film calls replicants – humans genetically engineered to be slaves. They are born fully grown and live only four years or so. Some have false memories planted in them which makes them think they are human. They are supposed to lack feelings. They live off-world – those who flee to Earth as runaway slaves are hunted down and killed by people like Deckard.


A Future Without Black People? Los Angeles in 2019 is a mix of all kinds of people, mostly stereotyped Asians, but few if any are black. Unless, of course, you read the replicants as allegorically black. 

I saw “Blade Runner” for the third time last weekend. It is not as good as I remember it. That might be because there are different -

  • Versions: There are seven altogether. In 1982 Hollywood made Scott put in a happy ending. In 2007 Scott put in the ending he wanted on the DVD.


But, of course, the book is better.

In the book:

  • One of the androids is an opera singer – important to the theme of the book. Hollywood made her a stripper.
  • Deckard makes love to – but does not fall in love with – an android. He is married and goes back to his wife in the end.
  • Androids are utterly heartless and see religion as fake.
  • The love scene is more interesting – what is it like to make love to an android?
  • Most of the action is set in metropolitan San Francisco – post-apocalyptic, but solidly Anglo.
  • Androids have issues of “passing”. Deckard calls them “illegal aliens”.
  • Roy Baty, the lead android of the runaways, is not white but has “Mongolian” features.

But most of all, the film leaves out the religion and nearly all the philosophy in the book. While the book is built on a police story – something Hollywood is good at – it goes much deeper into questions of what it means to be human, drawing the line between man and meat machine at empathy and, arguably, religion. Fakeness – of people, of American culture, of way too many things – is a huge theme, one that went right over Hollywood’s head.

Dick got the idea for the book when he read a letter by a guard at a Nazi German death camp. The guard complains:

We are kept awake at night by the cries of starving children.

It shocked Dick that anyone could be that inhuman. When the Vietnam War came it was apparent that the same fake humanity had spread to America.

See also:

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The voice of colour


The voice of colour is the idea that, all things being equal, people of colour are better able to speak about racism than whites because they experience it directly. That might seem like common sense, but not to most White Americans, who believe in:

The voice of whiteness -  the idea whites are better at talking about racism, about anything, in fact, because whites presume themselves to be fair-minded, unaffected by the colour of their skin, by race, by race loyalty. It is one of the Rules of Racial Standing – the rules by which whites process the truth of statements according to the race of the speaker. In America it is why:

  • in most court cases where race matters the jury (and judges) will be nearly all white.
  • it is hard for a black person to win a job discrimination suit without white witnesses.
  • whites think blacks are emotional thinkers.
  • whites think blacks imagine racism.
  • Tim Wise can make a living by repeating stuff people of colour say.

Because they trust the judgement of whites over people of colour, even (or especially) when it comes to racism. Whites trust voices of colour only in so far as they agree with the voice of whiteness. Thus Rented Negroes.

Strictly speaking both the voice of colour and voice of whiteness are a logical fallacy, an ad hominem: judging the truth of statements according to who makes them. From the point of view of logic, statements are true or false regardless of who makes them – they stand or fall based on facts and reason. Experts in a field might be able to make better arguments, but they must still stand on their own.

In practice, however, the race of the speaker does matter. Whites leave out racism, play it down or fail to know even the simplest facts about it. Karl Marx, for example, lived in a time when whites kept blacks as slaves and wiped out native people to take their land - yet, despite his vast reading, thinking and writing about Western history and the nature of its society, he said little about racism.

It is not what you might think – a simple lack of direct experience of racism. At least not in the case of White Americans. After all, they do not seem to have the same trouble in knowing, understanding and talking about, say, anti-Semitism or toxic waste. White people have brains. There are tons of written accounts of racism. They can read. It goes deeper than that.

Instead it is their Fragile White Ego: They base too much of their self-image as good people on being white, as strange as that sounds. Yet it is the absurdity of that position – and deep down they know perfectly well how absurd it is – that makes them avoid any deep examination of racism. It becomes like that thing your uncle did that no one wants to talk about.

See also:

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A guest post by commenter Jefe:

Blockbusting (1910s – 1980s) was a common real estate practice throughout the 20th century in the United States. It was used to profit from and enforce racial segregation in housing, reaching a peak between 1948 and 1971. Prior to 1948, it was more common to use restrictive covenants to enforce segregated residential patterns. In 1948, the Supreme Court ruled (Shelley v Kraemer ) that lower courts could not enforce restrictive covenants on real estate. The Fair Housing Act of 1968 invalidated the practice of blockbusting, but it continued until the 1980s. Some cities tried to break blockbusting by making it unlawful to place “For Sale” signs in front of houses, but the Supreme Court ruled in 1971 that that violated freedom of expression.

Blockbusting refers to:

The practice of frightening homeowners by telling them that members of a particular race, religion, or national origin are moving into their neighborhood and that they should expect a decline in the value of their property or an increase in crime. Homeowners sell at deflated prices and properties are then resold at inflated prices.

Blockbusting became widespread following the two Great Migrations (1910 – 1930 and 1940-1970) when increasing numbers of African-Americans moved outside the Deep South. The demand for housing outstripped the supply in crowded ghettos. Also, more non-whites started to earn higher wages and wanted to move into middle-class neighborhoods. Previous restrictive covenants and land zoning had created highly segregated residential patterns which made it very difficult to open up housing to prospective residents.

Some black residential suburbs were built to satisfy this need. However, this required land to be made available to build houses for non-whites and lending institutions to relax their redlining practices (of not lending to non-whites). Supply remained limited.

The other, more profitable, option was to convert a nearby white neighborhood into a non-white one  by blockbusting.

S0me blockbusting methods:

  • Hiring blacks to walk through a neighborhood pretending that they live there (eg, having a woman push a baby carriage down the street in full view of all the neighbors) and then flooding the neighborhood’s mailboxes with warnings that non-whites were moving in and offering quick cash.
  • Convince a single or small number of homeowners to sell their houses to non-whites at a slightly inflated price, after which the remaining residents were scared into selling at depressed prices.
  • Leave buildings in the neighborhood abandoned. In turn, houses would be sold to black families at inflated prices, often made possible by predator lending methods. The white families could be sold a more expensive house in another neighborhood that had not yet been blockbusted. Real estate agents raked the money in.
  • Conversion of rental properties could be sped up by raising rents to unaffordable levels (say, by making an inconsequential improvement), forcing the residents to move out quickly.
  • Rezone the school district with nearby black neighborhoods so that white students were suddenly forced to attend majority black schools.

Blockbusting became rare by the 1980s, but the effect was continued by the practice of Racial Steering, and reinforced through Redlining and Subprime Mortgage or other Predatory Lending.

Reference: Encyclopedia of Chicago.

See also:

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CeCe Peniston: Keep on Walkin’


Shannon was our poster child for the 1980s. For the 1990s it is CeCe Peniston. They overplayed this song back then but it has held up remarkably well – it still sounds great 21 years later. It went to #3 on the American R&B charts in 1992.

Other songs on this blog from 1992:



You can just… walk on
You can just go, walk on, keep on
You just go, walk on, keep on

Sittin’, waitin’, anticipatin’,
Waitin’ for your call
Tossin’, turnin’, my heart’s burnin’
From the things I saw

I’m sorry baby,
You can’t play me,
I just cant be used

I’m so fed up,
Time to get up,
Baby we are through

I though that what we had would never end
But now it’s too late for my heart to mend
And although what we had was good
I’ve got to make this understood

Keep on walkin’,
I ain’t talkin to ya anymore
You can just go on
Keep on walkin’

Keep on walkin’,
I ain’t talkin to ya anymore
You can just go on
You can just go on
Keep on walkin’,
Keep on walkin’
Go on baby

Go on go on baby yeah
You, you can just…
Walk on You,
You can just… keep on

Sittin’, waitin’, anticipatin’,
Waitin’ for your call
Tossin’, turnin’, my heart’s burnin’
From the things I saw

I think you’re crazy to try
To play me for a foolish girl
You’ll soon discover
You’re not the only lover in this world

I though that what we had would never end
But now it’s too late for my heart to mend
And although what we had was good
I’ve got to make this understood

Keep on walkin’,
I ain’t talkin’ to ya anymore
Go on
Keep on walkin’
You can just go,
Walk on, keep on

Ooh ooh ooh ooh,
You can just go
Ooh ooh ooh

You can just go,
Ooh ooh ooh ooh

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dr-ben-carsonA guest post by commenter Peanut:

I adore Black men, as many Black women do. Black men have to deal with racism and injustice on a daily basis, yet many rise above it. I idolize men like Dr. Benjamin Carson, a renowned neurosurgeon, and John Keller, an unsung hero of Hurricane Katrina. I am not alone in my adoration of Black men. Most Black women love Black men and because we love them, we are loyal to them.

Some believe that Black women have no choice, but to be loyal to Black men because no other men desire us.

I disagree.

Black women are indelibly connected to Black men through our shared culture, struggle and history. If Black men are being profiled, brutalized by police or discriminated against, then it’s like our Black brother, our Black father, our Black son or our Black lover is being discriminated against. From the days of Ida Wells, who started the anti-lynching campaign, to the present day of Michelle Alexander, who advocates for an end mass incarceration of Black men, and the Black women who came out in mass to support the Jena Six, Black women have advocated for Black men because we care and we know that in order to survive, we must support each other.

Therefore, it is disheartening to see some Black men degrading Black women, while the majority of Black men do nothing. Racialized Sexism in the Black community is unacknowledged, yet it’s rampant, as evidenced by the Desiree Washington and Mike Tyson debacle. After being indicted for sexually harassing a Black waitress, Albert Haynesworth, who is a pro-football player, famously stated that the waitress was just jealous of his white girlfriend because he didn’t date Black women.

Black men date out more than twice the rate of Black women. There is nothing wrong with a Black man marrying a non-Black woman if the relationship is based on honest love. However, we live in a culture that assigns value based on skin tone. The whiter the woman, the more value she has in society. Consequently, Black women are portrayed as unattractive, masculine, immoral, emasculating and trashy.

Black men, in contrast, are portrayed as hyper-masculine, strong and athletic. These stereotypes harm Black men in the economic and political realm, but they are prized in the athletic and pop-culture realm. As a result, Black men are portrayed as trendy in the pop-culture sense, while Black women are not.


Some Black men go into interracial relationships because they’ve been indoctrinated with these stereotypes, because they’re ashamed of Black women’s low status or because of internalized hatred. I have yet to see a Black female equivalent of Tommy Sotomayor, SrgtWilliePete, Slim Thug or Albert Haynesworth. The closest that you can come to them is the BWE crowd, but even they have not stooped to the level of viciousness that men like Haynesworth or Sotomayor have exhibited. For this type of Black man, the love and loyalty that many Black women feel is not reciprocated.

The majority of Black men are not vicious like these characters, but more Black men need to speak against the Black men who mistreat Black women because at the end of the day, Black men and Black women DO need each other.

See also:

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Linda Tuhiwai Smith on history

Decolonizing-MethodologiesThe following is mainly based on the first chapter of “Decolonizing Methodologies” (1999) by Maori scholar Linda Tuhiwai Smith. (Tuhiwai sounds like too-HEE-why.)

Linda Tuhiwai Smith’s ideas about history are shaped by three things:

  1. She is Maori. The British took most of the Maori’s land in New Zealand in the 1800s and then destroyed much of their culture when they found them “in need of” Western education, medicine and religion.
  2. Edward Said’s idea of Orientalism – that the West’s scholarly knowledge of the Arab world is not neutral and objective but  is shaped by Western imperialism.
  3. Frantz Fanon’s idea of decolonization – that those under Western rule must not only free their countries but their minds too. Western imperialism is not merely of the gun but also of the schoolbook.

Her Western education informed her that the Maori were savages who lived at the edge of the map. It taught her loyalty to the flag of a Western power. The “I”, “we” and “our” in books meant white people, not her. The Maori were mostly left out. When they appeared they were misrepresented – they barely seemed like Maori. She could not bear to read Western anthropological works about her own people.

She found that Western history:

  • Serves Western imperialism: it is by and for Westerners – yet it believes in its own innocence.
  • Dehumanizes non-Westerners, seeing them as not fully human, as not being able to think and speak for themselves.
  • Thinks in either-or binaries – dichotomous thinking.
  • Is patriarchal, valuing the actions of a few top men – leaving out the history of women and common people (but this is changing).
  • Privileges writing, valuing written accounts by Westerners over non-Western “oral traditions” (not even called history by Westerners).
  • Sees history in terms of a stage model of Western progress.
  • Etc.

Westerners are interested in how the Maori were before whites arrived, like they belong in a museum, but not in how the Maori are now, not in the history that got them there.

Maori need history, research and theory:

  • to understand their past and present, like any other people.
  • to decolonize their minds, to undo the brainwashing of Western imperialism.

Waiting for a “better” Western history will not do it: Westerners do not have their interests at heart. Instead the Maori have to come up with their own theories, do their own research and write their own histories.

Of course, it is not just the Maori who find themselves in this position. So do all people whom Smith terms indigenous: those dispossessed by Western imperialism, torn from their land, language and culture. This means not just the native people of New Zealand, Australia and the Americas, but the Africans and Asians the West brought to the Americas as slaves and labourers.

Just as Fanon and Said helped her to understand history as a Maori, so indigenous thinkers and historians can help each other understand the past and present they have in common.

See also:

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The main ideas I learned from history as taught in schools and books in America in the late 1900s:

1. Spotlight history: Most of human history does not matter. Here, roughly, are the important periods and regions:

  • 3500 to 500 BC: Middle East (honorary white)
  • 500 BC to AD 500: Greece and Rome (white)
  • 500 to 1500: Western Europe (white)
  • 1500 to present: North America (white)

Other parts of the world make “contributions” from time to time, like gunpowder or slave labour or land. That is all you need to know about them. Even the history of the people who would become the English does not start till they cross into the Roman Empire, into the Spotlight.

But: This leaves out at least 65% of world history!

2. Technocentrism: Better living through technology. You can rank human societies from backward to advanced according to a Western technological scale, which goes something like this:

  1. stone tools
  2. agriculture
  3. bronze tools
  4. wheels
  5. writing
  6. iron tools
  7. arch
  8. printing, paper, gunpowder, compass
  9. industrialization
  10. electricity
  11. cars, planes, rockets
  12. computers

Thus the Incas and Ancient Egyptians are backward because they could not make iron tools.

But: The Incas and Ancient Egyptians could make things the West cannot.

But: Mexico had cities and zero long before Britain, yet had no metal tools or wheels.

But: Gunpowder wiped out millions and made millions more slaves.

But: Before 1500 the West ranked the world by religion, not technology. By that measure the West itself is now in a dark age.

3. White Moral Centre: Northern White American Protestants are the moral centre of history. You can tell because they always fight on the right side of history: in the American Revolution, the Civil War, two world wars and so on. Democracy, freedom and equality! Bootstraps! Yay!

But: Most Ivy League history professors were Northern White American Protestants. Is that, like, a coincidence?

But: genocide, slave trade, slavery, Dead Indian Land, Indian boarding schools, wars of empire, regime change, ghettos, racism, etc.

But: abortion, high rates of divorce and out-of-wedlock birth.

4. Magical Progress. Everything just naturally gets better all the time without anyone trying too hard. Not just in technology but in every way: morally, culturally, intellectually, politically, everything. That means you do not have to waste time reading what people wrote in other times and places.

But: What was Magical Progress for whites was Apocalyptic Regress for others, like Black and Native Americans.

5. Race is fixed and racism is universal: The idea of what is “white” has always been the same throughout history. Racism is natural, part of human nature, going all the way back to the first tribal wars. Yet: whites are becoming slowly less racist over time because of Magical Progress.

But: White Americans became more racist after 1890. Before 1500 English did not even have the words “racism”, “savages”, “whites” or “civilization”. Ancient Greeks did not see themselves as “whites”.

6. Only white people matter. Far worse than the Eurocentrism of all this, most of these ideas about history assume that only white people matter.


“Friends” (1994-2004), an American television show set in a New York where, in real life, 65% were people of colour.

See also:

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Here, in one handy post, are the main rules many if not most White Americans seem to apply when thinking about black people:

  1. All blacks are niggers. No matter how well-dressed, well-educated, well-spoken or well-anything, at bottom they are all the same. Note: Do not use the n-word out loud. Blacks are sensitive about it for some reason.
  2. Blacks are emotional thinkers. Well, except when they say bad things about each other. Then in that case they are being utterly objective and profound in their observations.  The same goes for when they agree with white people. Otherwise they are blinded by race loyalty and hatred of whites. Or at least lack the education and intelligence to know what the hell they are talking about.
  3. Blacks imagine racism. All 40 million of them. They suffer from mass hallucinations. Well, all right, sometimes they are just being “oversensitive”. Racism is pretty much dead because whites say it is – and they should know!
  4. Blacks are born bad. When they do something bad, it is because they are black. If they do something good, it is an exception. That is why black drug dealers who support none of their 13 children by 5 different women are TRBC: Truly Representative of the Black Community. Pathological killers too. And any black person arrested on the 11 o’clock news. For whites it is the other way round: Jeffrey Dahmer? An exception. Isaac Newton? White people are so amazing!
  5. The stereotypes are true. When you see a black person who fits a stereotype, that proves it! Even if the black person in question is a character on television created by a white screenwriter. After all, why in the world would whites make this stuff up? There must be some truth to it. Whites know blacks better than blacks know themselves. It is not like most whites are still racist or something.
  6. Television gives a fair representation of blacks. Especially the parts where there are mostly black people on the screen. Black comedians, hip hop videos and BET all apply rigorous anthropological standards to their work, just like National Geographic. It is like what a PBS documentary is to white people.
  7. White cultural institutions are reasonably objective. The press, universities, high school history, etc, present a fair picture of blacks and Africa. They are untouched by racist thinking. Whites are neutral and objective.
  8. American society is more or less fair. Slavery was outlawed in 1865. Racism was outlawed in the 1960s. Therefore the police, courts, schools, hospitals, banks, labour market,  housing market, Congress, the Supreme Court, the president, etc, are pretty much colour-blind and fair.  That means whatever troubles blacks still have must be of their own making.
  9. Bootstrap Myth. Anyone can start from the bottom of American society and, with nothing more than hard work and good values, make it to the top – or at least out of poverty. If millions of blacks are still poor, it is due to laziness and bad character. What else could it be?

See also:

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calling out racism


What racists seem to think!

Calling out racism is where you point out that something is racist. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is an important part of fighting racism. It can even stop genocide, as crazy as that sounds.

Genocide: Genocides unfold in eight stages. Stopping it at any one stage, stops the genocide from going forward. The second to last stage before the mass killings is this:

  • Polarization: The first people killed in any genocide are not the pariahs themselves but those in the mainstream who speak up for them. The voices in the middle are silenced through threats, arrests or even killings. Now the message of hate goes unchallenged.

What applies to genocide applies to racism more generally. Racism grows and feeds off a culture of silence. The point of calling out racism is to break down that silence. It does not matter if you persuade anyone, it does not matter if you “win the argument”. It is very unlikely you will. What matters is that you were heard and planted that seed in people’s minds of, “Hey, maybe this is not right.”

1957-09-04Elizabeth Eckford was one of the first nine black students to go to Little Rock Central High School in the American South. That school was a racist hell for her – because the 90% who were not giving her hell would not stand up to the 10% who were. She could not even enter the school till the president of the nation grew a pair and stood up to the governor of the state.

The American civil rights movement succeeded when people stopped being cowed by fear of standing up to racists.

White people calling out racism: One of the best thing white people can do at the personal level to fight racism is to call it out when they see it. If not to the racist person’s face, then to family and friends. If not to family and friends, then at least inside their own head. Anything is better than nothing.

In America calling out racism matters more when it comes from whites. That is because of the Rules of Racial Standing – that thing where white people think others whites are way more objective and neutral about racism than blacks. The Tim Wise Effect.

Black people calling out racism: White Americans discount what blacks say, it is part of their cultural conditioning, but they still hear it. They hear what they say and, just as important, what they do not say. If something racist goes down and blacks say nothing, whites will assume that it is “okay” or “not so bad”. Especially since many whites assume blacks are “oversensitive”.

That is part of why I post on, say, Quvenzhané Wallis, but not Don Imus or the racist outcry over the Cheerios ad - because those two were roundly condemned even by white people.

Warning: Calling out racism does require judgement and sometimes courage. This post is not about that.

See also:

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You cannot “prove” racism to most White Americans. Some white commenters seem to think that is what I am trying to do!

Important terms:

  • Most: means like maybe 80% in this case, not “all” White Americans.
  • “Prove”: means to move them from a state of intellectual unbelief to one of intellectual belief that racism is still a big deal in American society.  I say “intellectual belief” because most of them deep down seem to know perfectly well what is going on.
  • Racism: in this case it means that American society generally favours whites over people of colour – and not just because on average whites have more money or education – that would be classism – or that they have fewer “cultural pathologies” or whatever non-racist reason whites dream up.

The reasons why, in no particular order (click on the links for more):

  1. They are emotional thinkers. That is clear from how they put their own white feelings above facts. Many get bent out of shape when you use the word “racist”: they can no longer stay calm and think clearly.
  2. Their minds are bought and paid for. They benefit from racism, psychologically and often materially. This causes them to turn a blind eye, to make excuses, to believe highly unlikely things about their country – like that racism suddenly stopped in the 1960s after 300 years of skinhead racism. There is not only the carrot of thinking they are better than others, of belonging to the white club, but also the stick of avoiding white shame and guilt about the frauds that they are.
  3. They control the cultural institutions that determine “truth”. The press, universities, scientific journals, museums, schoolbooks, etc. Maori professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith: “We are not the final arbiters of what really counts as the truth.”
  4. Cultural conditioning. From this comes their scripted denials, excuses and arguments: “Get over it!”, “Blacks are racist too!”, “Africans sold their own into slavery!”, “Go back to Africa”, “You are the racist one!”, etc.
  5. Racism makes you blind to racism. Personal racism allows whites to live in a racist society and not notice. It seems “normal”. Blacks have twice the unemployment rate of whites? There must be something wrong with blacks. Whites live in neighbourhoods that are over 90% white? It is natural to want to live with one’s own. Wiped out the Indians and took their land? Everyone does it. Etc.
  6. Prejudice is not logical. That makes it hard to disprove, logically. It can be confirmed by facts (one loud-mouthed black woman) but never disproved (a hundred quiet black women). It works in a part of the brain that deals with feeling, not thought. So:
  7. Racism is “proved” psychologically, not intellectually. In practice, most people believe in racism not because they read it in a book, but because they experienced it first-hand. For blacks the experience is direct. For whites, it comes through seeing family, friends or lovers subjected to racism – but even then they might still discount it for one or more of the reasons above.

See also:

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Freedom Writers


“Freedom Writers” (2007) is a Hollywood film based on the true story of Erin Gruwell, a white  teacher who got through to her 149 poor black, Asian and Latino students and one white student. Instead of dropping out of school, as many probably would have done, they all graduate, most going on to university. It is the film “MADtv” made fun of in the “Nice White Lady” sketch. Hilary Swank stars.

It is 1993 at Woodrow Wilson high school in Long Beach, California (part of metropolitan Los Angeles). Nearly all of Gruwell’s students come from poor, violent neighbourhoods ruled by gangs, where the police do whatever they want and get away with it. Black, Latino and Asian students at the school are deeply divided by race. They do not mix. Fights break out between them. One student is killed.

The school has written off her students as sure to drop out. The fact that she is teaching them is a sign of that: she is completely inexperienced! So is the fact that they expect her to be a glorified babysitter: she is not allowed to use the copies of Anne Frank’s diary that the school bought. The school says the books would be “wasted” on them: their reading scores were too low, they would just damage the books.

But she does not give up on them. 

Her students hate her because she is white and tell her so to her face. Instead of getting angry or defensive or shutting them up, she listens to them, seriously. She sees in them Anne Frank  - 14-year-olds whose lives are torn apart by racism, violence and knowing that any day could be their last.


She has them write about their lives. She takes a second job to buy them copies of Anne Frank. They eat it up: Frank puts words to what they are going through in the ghetto. Gruwell finds other books that speak to their experience. Their scores go up. They stay in school.


  • I wanted to hug each student!
  • A good understanding of prejudice: Shows how dehumanizing and destructive it is – and how the lack of moral courage lets it grow.


  • White Saviour trope: Yet another white teacher saves inner city kids! When is Hollywood going to do Tucson’s equally successful Latino teachers? While the film is not as cringetastic as, say, “The Blind Side” (2009), it gives Gruwell an oversized part when you consider all those student diaries! Only one student, Eva, is fleshed out. The Asian students are cardboard. Black girls say almost nothing.
  • Ghetto pathologies: The film shows the students’s home life as being more screwed up than it was. It allows you to believe that most of the ghetto’s troubles are self-caused, like it is in a foreign country or something.
  • Does not openly condemn racism by White Americans – just prejudice by Nazis and people of colour. While it does show cases of white racism, drawing the parallels with the Nazis is left as an exercise for the viewer.

See also:

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