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Some white people tell me I see racism in everything. I used to think it was just a way to dismiss what I was saying. But even whites who are otherwise serious about the subject of racism say it, so it is not merely just a way to get me to shut up.

First of all, I do not see racism in everything. While I do think that racism in America, both white racism and internalized racism, is far from dead, I doubt it accounts for everything. For example, I think fatherlessness and having children out of wedlock have little to do with racism – both were far lower among blacks in the 1950s when racism was worse. And both have knock-on effects on the rates of crime and poverty on top of the effects of racism.

But I do not talk much here about supposed black pathologies because they get more than enough attention elsewhere. And because I know full well whites use them to get themselves off the hook: See, blacks create their own mess – it has nothing to do with us!

Yet compared to most white people I do seem to see racism in everything. Because they see racism in almost nothing. Because they have narrowed the meaning of the word to just a kind of personal hatred. Because it does not affect them in a bad way. Because they do not want to face up to the racism their lives have been built on.

In reading about this on other blogs, it seems that what persuades them that they are right and I am wrong is that most people agree with them, not me. But “most people”, in this case, are white people!

Why in the world would white people be a better judge of racism in American society than black people? That would be like saying men are a better judge of sexism or straight people are a better judge of homophobia. It would be like asking monks about sex or the rich about poverty.

Does that mean that blacks are right about everything they say about racism? Hardly. But it does mean they have a far better understanding of racism than most whites do. They have to – they are affected by it way more.

I am certainly not right about everything I say. I accept that maybe I see racism in too many things – or too few things (some say I am too soft on whites). I have gone back and forth on this issue myself.

But if you do not believe me the worst thing you could do would be to turn to white people or television. What on earth do they they know? But there are tons and tons of books and blogs written by living, breathing black people and other people of colour. Read those, the more the better, putting yourself into their shoes, and see for yourself how much of this stuff I am making up.

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The use of black rape statistics is a common white racist argument. It seeks to prove that black men have a dark and savage nature by showing that they rape women at vastly higher rates than white men. The beauty of the argument is that few whites question it because it plays on two stereotypes they have about black men: they are violent and they have stronger sex drives that they cannot control.

First, as black crime goes rape is rare. Here are the top ten crimes committed by blacks in America according to FBI numbers on arrests made in 2007:

  1. 485,054 Drug abuse violations
  2. 261,730 Larceny, theft
  3. 316,217 Assault (non-aggravated)
  4. 183,810 Disorderly conduct
  5. 109,985 Aggravated assault
  6. 97,472 Driving under the influence
  7. 68,052 Burglary
  8. 62,278 Drunkenness
  9. 57,745 Weapons; carrying, possessing, etc.
  10. 54,774 Robbery

Forcible rape was not even close to making this list: there were only 5,708 arrests.

Second, white men are a far bigger threat. Despite the racism of the police and the stereotypes about black rapists, the police still arrest twice as many white men for rape.

Going by the stereotypes, you would expect whiter countries to be safer. Wrong. Despite the millions of black men in America, women are way safer there than in Canada and Australia, where rape is more than twice as common.

So where are the statistics that show black men are such dangerous rapists? It comes from comparing not all rapes but just interracial rapes. Comments like this often appear on this blog:

Fact – blacks rape white women 2000 (yes 2000) times more than whites rape black women. In New York City, about 300 white women are raped by blacks every year BUT there has not been a black woman raped by a white male in anybody’s memory (going back over 20 yrs.) Consider: Al Sharpton had to go upstate New York to find a hoax and that was almost 20 years ago. (Source NYT 4/22/05)

That looks solid: the New York Times said so! Except that it did not: there is no such article.

I looked up the numbers for myself:

The FBI does not break out numbers for interracial rape but the Justice Department does for “rape and sexual assault” – based on a crime victim survey it does every year. But interracial rape is so rare that there are fewer than ten cases in its sample. So you cannot draw any firm statistical conclusions.

On television rape is a dark-alley crime, but in fact strangers commit only 2% of rapes. Half are done by current or former boyfriends, dates and husbands. Interracial rape is rare for the same reasons that interracial marriage is rare. So rare that there are not even solid government figures on it.

But better numbers would not help: after all, if you applied the same reasoning to numbers on marriage it would “prove” that black men are by nature also more likely to marry.

The argument is built not on sound reasoning and solid facts but on white fears that go back at least to Jim Crow times.

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equality

IQ and income map of the world (click to somewhat enlarge!)

Equality means that all people are born equal and should have equal rights.

Jefferson said it best:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Understanding “men” in the sense of “human”, not “male”.

Not everyone believes in equality. For example, some think that whites are better than blacks. Those who blog about it, like Steve Sailer or Guy White, try to prove this by showing that whites have more intelligence or wealth than blacks.

First, their arguments have huge holes in them. For example:

  • The intelligence argument is based on whites having higher IQs or a longer list of inventions:
    • But IQ tests cannot be trusted – unless you believe that Muhammad Ali (IQ 78) and Andy Warhol (IQ 86) lacked intelligence to a noticeable degree.
    • The inventor argument, if applied fairly to all history and not just choice bits of it, like the one we live in, favours the Chinese (Asian) and Egyptians (40% black), not whites.
  • The wealth argument assumes that achievement is based on merit, that luck and power and naked violence have nothing to do with it, that wealth and poverty do not each have a snowball effect. If there were no North America, one of the biggest pieces of luck in history, most white Americans would be living in the slums of Europe. Everyone knows that. Thus their “merit”.

In short, if whites were truly that much better than everyone else, they would have been on top all throughout history, not just parts of it.

Second, even if you grant these arguments about wealth and intelligence they fail at a much more profound level: equal rights are based on human worth and human worth cannot be measured. No human being can be baked down to a number – their IQ, their bank account, their whatever. To do so is profoundly dehumanizing, turning humans into little more than talking animals or bank machines. Anyone who has ever lost a child – or dated a gold digger – knows that. In fact, most people know it.

That is why racists do not drive their arguments to their logical conclusions:

  1. If IQ is so important and so trustworthy, then why not aristocracy? Why not give all the top positions to those with the highest IQ? Why have elections? Why have job interviews or resumes? Why not have birth licences or sterilization based on IQ?
  2. Likewise, if wealth is such a wonderful measure of who is better or worse, then why not plutocracy? Why not give public offices to the highest bidder? Why bother to hold elections? Why not have a huge maternity tax so that the poor do not have “too many” children?

Etc.

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“You are the one keeping racism alive” means that talking about race helps to keep racism alive. That it would die a natural death if people just stopped talking about it. That I should stop talking about race and go back to writing about half-naked women or the Middle East or whatever it was I was writing about before race became a big subject on my blog. That I am causing more harm than good.

It is something white commenters often say on this blog. Yes, white. I cannot remember a black commenter or any person of colour ever saying that, not even the right-wing ones. That alone should make you wonder about where this thought is coming from.

And it goes beyond this blog:

  • Rush Limbaugh seems to think racism is kept alive by the “race industry”, by people like Al Sharpton.
  • Three-fourths of white parents do not talk to their children about race.

Some white beliefs that support this:

  1. Race is unimportant: race does not affect whites directly in a bad way. Unlike people of colour, they do not have to think about race unless they want to.
  2. Racism is dead: because it does not affect them, many whites think it has died away. It is just something in the history books: slavery, Jim Crow and all that.
  3. Noticing race is racist: many whites do not see the difference between being race conscious (knowing how race affects your life) and racism (looking down on people because of their race).
  4. If we do not talk about racism it will go away: an odd idea that no one thinks to apply to things like sexism, cancer, crime, dishonest government or any of the other ills of human life. What makes racism so different?

Blacks are one-eighth of America. They could not keep racism alive all by themselves even if they wanted to. They do not control the courts, the police, the newspapers, the schools and all the rest. But whites do.

Whites in America have five times more votes and 50 times more wealth. Like it or not, racism rise or falls with them. Racism goes on because they continue to be racist. It is that simple. There is no huge mystery about it. It does not fall out of the sky or come up through the cracks in the sidewalk. It comes from whites acting in racist ways – not from black people talking about whites acting in racist ways.

Some whites might say “you are keeping racism alive” because they hold to one or more the beliefs listed above, but the heart of the matter is that talking about race makes white people uncomfortable. Because deep down, whether they want to admit it or not, they know that they have an unfair position in society because of the colour of their skin. Instead of living right they would rather live a lie – like they have been doing to different degrees ever since slave days.

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“My family never owned slaves” is something you hear White Americans say. Although not racist in itself it has the effect of turning a blind eye towards racism.

The statement by itself is true for most whites: even back in slave days in 1860 fewer than 2% of whites owned slaves! Slaves cost way too much for most people and in half the country it was against the law. On top of that millions of whites came to America long after the slaves were freed, like most Italians and Jews.

The trouble with the statement is not its truth but how it is used: to cut white people off from history. When they say black people live in the past and need to give the slave thing a rest, they are making the very same argument: history does not matter, it somehow magically does not affect anyone alive now. If we are affected at all by history it is only through our families, nothing else.

That is wishful thinking. America’s slave past still profoundly affects its present. Most white people, it seems, refuse to see that: it makes them uncomfortable. By saying “My family never owned slaves” they are trying to buy themselves a pass from American history, both past and present. As if their family had been living on some Robinson Crusoe island all these years – and still does.

Your ancestors did not have to own slaves to benefit – either then or now. If anything the opposite seems to be true: most descendants of slave owners seem to be black, not white, like the descendants of Thomas Jefferson. Most blacks are part white and most of that white comes from slave owners.

A white American saying “My family never owned slaves” is like the daughter of a Mafia boss wearing her diamonds and pearls and saying she never murdered anyone or shook anyone down for money. As if the diamonds and pearls fell from the sky.

America grew rich on the red man’s land worked by black slaves. For a long time cotton was the main thing America sold to other countries. Profits from cotton (made mainly in the North and in Britain, not in the South) in turn helped to underwrite the growth of the country’s industry. The racism that grew out of slavery kept most blacks at the bottom as a supply of cheap labour. That benefited all whites through lower prices.

Even today whites continue to benefit from racism in the form of better education, higher incomes, longer lives and all the other unearned benefits of white privilege that have grown out of slave days.

Whites want to benefit from their ugly past – and their less ugly present – but they do not want to face up to it and set things right. Two attempts were made – the civil war and the civil rights movement – but both were incomplete. “My family never owned slaves” becomes an excuse not to do anything more.

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The black crime statistics argument points out that blacks commit crime at a way higher rate than whites and therefore blacks are more given to crime than whites – you know, because blacks are more violent, dangerous and immoral. It has been used to excuse white flight, bad policing and society the way it is – therefore helping to keep crime at much higher rates than in other rich Western countries.

For the argument to work one must assume the just world doctrine, the idea that America is more or less just and equal. Once you assume that, then you are pretty much forced to conclude there is something wrong with black people.

But for any meaningful comparison between black and white crime rates you need to take into account things like income, unemployment, the rate at which crimes are reported, etc. Further you need to assume that the police and the courts are not racist, which is rarely the case.

A good example is murder. In New York blacks are way more likely to murder someone than whites are. But does that mean blacks are more violent and savage than whites? Hardly.

I used to live in one of those parts of New York where blacks and Latinos were killing each other right and left. I never saw someone killed but I certainly heard the gunshots and knew two people who were shot dead, both black-on-black murders.

It had little to do with the supposedly violent or savage nature of black people and everything to do with the drug trade. In the process of getting drugs from South America to the good white people of North America blacks, as always, get stuck with the most dangerous and dirty work. Of course they are already breaking the law by selling drugs in the first place but blacks also have the highest rate of unemployment and so are more likely than others to turn to it. Not that that makes it right, of course, but we are talking about comparisons here.

But there is more: not only were most of the murders drug-related, the police did little about it: they seemed much more interested in protecting the lives of whites and Asians than those of blacks and Latinos. As with other city services, black ghettos are badly served by the police compared to other parts of the city.

So to just present the bare numbers,while it may seem clear-eyed, hard-headed and fair, is extremely misleading. Especially when presented to people who already have certain stereotypes about blacks. To assume from such numbers that there must be something wrong with blacks – as opposed to something profoundly wrong with how American society functions – is racist and, for white people, self-serving. It also has the effect of making crime a black thing, which means little is done about it other than to hire more police and build more prisons.

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The race industry argument says that racism is no longer a big deal, that it is being kept alive by those who make money out of it or win votes.

Here is Rush Limbaugh in 2009:

The race industry is still around.  One of my most fervent desires and wishes, I’m serious, as a human being, is that all of this racism just be over with, all this group victimization be over with, and I don’t get it, because it’s never going to end.  These are tactics, these are political tactics employed by the left to secure power, and they’ll never give it up.  And while they’re the ones out there practicing all this racism and groupthink and victimization, they’re blaming people like me for it.  And it’s just a shame.  It’s just a shame.

But it is way older than that. Here is Booker T. Washington almost a hundred years before in 1911:

There is another class of coloured people who make a business of keeping the troubles, the wrongs, and the hardships of the Negro race before the public. Having learned that they are able to make a living out of their troubles, they have grown into the settled habit of advertising their wrongs — partly because they want sympathy and partly because it pays. Some of these people do not want the Negro to lose his grievances, because they do do not want to lose their jobs.

Are there people who make money or win votes by bringing up racism? Of course. But there are also doctors who make money out of curing diseases. While you can argue that some doctors help to create disease or find cures to things that are not true diseases, disease would not go away if all the doctors became house painters. Instead it would get far worse.

In Booker T Washington’s day it was not the “race industry”, the profitable complainers, who hung black men from trees or kept black people at the back of the bus, who kept blacks from voting; they are not the ones who kept blacks out of  libraries, cinemas, hotels, restaurants and amusement parks.

Likewise today it is not the complainers, the whiners, the race card pullers, who make innocent black children go to bad schools, who help to keep blacks  out of white neighbourhoods, who hire them last and fire them first, who would rather spend money keeping black men in prison than in getting them off of drugs, etc.

That a black man could make the race industry argument at the height of Jim Crow shows two things:

  1. A race industry does not prove that racism is just being kept alive by complainers, that if they shut up it would go away.
  2. That some black people can argue that racism is no big deal even when it is.

The main thing that both Booker T Washington and Rush Limbaugh leave out is that they themselves make their living by defending an unjust society as just.

Thanks to commenter Great White Man for bringing the Booker T Washington quote to my attention.

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“Get over it” is something White Americans say when black people point out a case of white racism that is hard to deny, like that picture of watermelons growing in front of the White House. The phrase means that blacks should not get too hung up on racism, that thinking about it too much will only make things worse. It also means this: shut up and stop being such a crybaby.

One commenter advised me:

Get over it abagond, stop whining about racism and move to Africa, yep, make a contribution to the motherland.

When whites complain about reverse racism or affirmative action, I do not notice anyone telling them to “Get over it”. Instead their complaints are taken seriously. You know, like they truly matter.

“Get over it” assumes that racism is pretty much over, that it is either dead and gone, ancient history, or at least no longer a big deal. “Get over it!” Blacks are either stuck in the past or making something out of nothing.

“Get over it” assumes that whites are better judges of racism against blacks than blacks themselves! Because blacks are oversensitive, because they are like children who have it too easy and complain about every little thing. And, like children, blacks do not know what is in their own best interest – but white people do, despite their terrible record on that one.

Unlike most racist arguments, this one admits that the case of racism in question is true – otherwise there would be nothing to get over.

That is why it comes up so much in arguments about the White American practice of keeping black slaves: it is one of the few cases of racism that whites cannot deny. They know it was true and know that it was terrible. But they do not see – or want to see – that a society that could allow that to be done to people because of the colour of their skin could allow other bad things to be done to them – even now.

Slave days, Jim Crow and all the rest are ancient history for whites because it does not seem to affect their present. But not for blacks – not because they are unreasonable children who do not know when to let go of the past, but because racism still affects their lives.

Racism did not die on the day they freed the slaves. Racism did not die on the day they outlawed hanging a black man from a tree. Racism did not even die on the day a black man put his hand on the Bible and became president – in fact, it seems to have only made it worse since it was against the wishes of most white voters. Racism is dying, yes, but it still very much alive.

When will blacks “get over it” and “move on”? When whites get over their racism and move on. They created it to excuse their crimes; they can also destroy it.

Thanks to commenter and fellow blogger Aiyo of  BBG: Black British Girl for suggesting this post.

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no-one-cares-about-your-white-feelings

White Americans often derail an argument about race by making it about their feelings. The feelings of white people, for some strange reason, matter more than the truth. White women’s tears are a good example.

Sometimes they make it about your feelings as a person of colour: you are oversensitive, angry, hateful, whining, etc.

Either way the argument is shifted away from facts and reasons, rights and wrongs – to what? Feelings. Feelings which only they can know – even if they are yours! (Try telling them you are not hateful, for example.) That puts them in control of the now-derailed argument.

In the most common case they get angry because they think you are calling them a racist. That they might in fact be racist does not matter – just their hurt feelings.

But while their feelings are the centre of the known universe, they use your feelings to belittle your experience, to assume you are unreasonable, the kind who imagines things or blows them out of proportion.

Sometimes they use their feelings as a kind of blackmail. As Renee of Womanist Musings put it:

We are routinely told if we spoke in nicer terms we would be less alienating, as though whiteness has any real interest in divesting itself of its power. Gee, if only we had realized that the key to ending white hegemony was speaking in respectful terms, it never would have been necessary to go through the heartache and strife of a civil rights movement.

Some call this the tone argument. Nezua the Unapologetic Mexican calls it the Drowning Maestro. Some of his examples:

  • “We’d admit about your point if you presented it nicer.”
  • “People would listen to your complaint if you weren’t so loud.”
  • “If you want people to care about this, you should learn to be smoother.”

Nezua:

… what really bothers them is that a brown person has the nerve to speak with such self-confidence and passion. This, in fact, scares them. … what is really desired is for the brown person to admit the desired hierarchy, to get “back in place.”

He agrees with Renee that they have no interest in hearing people of colour – not even the nicest, smoothest and most respectful ones.

How we know: if you stepped on my foot, say, I might be angry, I might be loud, I might seem “oversensitive” or like I am whining (after all it is my foot that is in pain, not yours), I might not be smooth, I might seem hateful, etc. But then for you to say stuff like this:

  • “I’d admit I stepped on your foot if you said it nicer.”
  • “I would listen to your complaint if you weren’t so loud.”
  • “If you want me to care about your foot, you should learn to be smoother.”

only proves that you do not care at all, that you are a jerk who just wants me to shut up and “move on”.

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“Whites are individuals” is a common argument brought up by whites. It is part of a set of closely related arguments:

  • Whites are individuals. There are all kinds – bikers, soccer moms, coal miners, business men, goths, etc – so you cannot make general statements about them.
  • To make a general statement about whites is itself racist. It is stereotyping them. It is hypocritical. It is seeing them according to skin colour and that is racist.
  • The “all whites” argument: “All whites are not like that”. They bring this up even when no one said all whites were anything. But that is how they heard it. It amounts a straw man argument.

These arguments seem to be driven by two things:

  1. “Blacks are racist too.”
  2. They are uncomfortable with being called white because they have been taught not to be race conscious.

Just for the record, I do know that whites are individuals. I live in America, a country that is mostly white: I work with them, they are on television and presented as individuals with their own storylines and not as racist stereotypes or even as too-good-to-be-true supporting characters.

On the other hand….

It does seem like most of them, like at least 60%, at least in the Greater New York Metropolitan Area, all went to the same secret course on whiteness. They do act in certain common ways, ways that support racism.

And, based on comments on this blog, this stuff extends well beyond New York. In fact it seems to go clear across the country and into Canada, and, in a slightly different form, into Britain and South Africa.

I have never been to the Southside or Oakland, but they sound strangely familiar to me. Another sign that the racism of white people in New York is not just a New York thing.

And having seen the Maori in New Zealand and the Sioux in South Dakota, I know full well that this has surprisingly little to do with the faults of black people – or the Maoris or Sioux – and everything to do with how white people are. Whites do not like to hear that, but that does not mean it is not true.

And there is no way I can talk about white people – or any subject – without making general statements. It would be nice if I could back them all up with studies, but this does not seem to be a well-studied field.

Of course I am quite capable of making racist statements. But to say that every general statement about whites is necessarily racist makes it impossible to talk about how racist they are!

The most maddening part is that it is white people who draw the line between themselves and everyone else. They are the ones who apply the colour line and all the injustice that goes with it. They are making themselves white – and yet they do not want to be seen as white!

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Wite-OutI read a post by Wildflower that got me to thinking: “Is It Neutral and Normal Because It’s White?”

White Americans as a whole do not have a neutral point of view. They do not see the world in a fair, open-minded way like they think.

This should be as plain as day, it should go without saying. Not so.

I will go further: most whites have a dishonest, self-serving, closed-minded, narrow way of looking at the world that is far from neutral, far from fair, far from objective. They are more interested in maintaining a false image of themselves as a kind and good and just people than, say, the truth.

White Americans are born with perfectly good minds, just as good as anyone else’s. Most have at least 14 years of schooling. America is a remarkably open society – it was before the Internet came and now it is even more so. There is every reason to expect them to be the most open-minded, knowledgeable people in all of history.

The trouble comes because of their power:

  1. It makes them believe they have all the answers - so why listen to others? Why care what goes on in other countries? Why take people of colour or other cultures seriously? Why even take voices from their own past seriously?
  2. It fills the world with their own voice – with television shows, news, Hollywood films, magazines, blogs, etc. They can barely hear anyone else but themselves.
  3. It makes them morally blind - they turn a blind eye to the evil done in their name.
  4. It makes them think the world is juster and less screwed up than it is – not just because they are morally blind but also because in their corner of the world things are fine. Most seem to believe in just world doctrine, which is hardly the way the world works.
  5. It separates them from other people – most live in an all-white world and rarely hear forthright, honest opinions seriously defended that are far from their own except of a narrow political sort. It also makes them blind to their own skin colour so that they think they are raceless, that their race does not affect how they see things.
  6. It allows them to write their own history – and fill it with lies and half-truths, putting themselves at the centre, making themselves its heroes, making themselves what all of history was leading up to!

In short, there is little to keep them honest. They believe what they want to believe. Not just in regard to history, race or foreign affairs, but even personal morals. In 1900, for example, abortion, divorce, illegitimacy and same-sex marriage were all beyond the pale and had been for at least 1500 years. But now?

Most do not seek out other voices from other times and other places, not even from people of colour from their own time and place. And so in spite of all their money and power they live in a very narrow world that does not extend much beyond the white middle-class English-speaking world of the last 30 years.

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waybackmachine

The white inventor argument says that we know white people are better than everyone else because of all their wonderful inventions.

The argument has three main uses:

  1. To prove that whites are better – and the world better off despite whatever racism they may have practised.
  2. To change the subject. It is a great way to derail any argument about white racism: blacks hate this argument and will jump on it, quickly forgetting whatever they were talking about before. This is why trolls love this argument.
  3. To point out that x would not even be possible without white people. For example, when arguing about how racist a film is, whites will sometimes try to end the argument by pointing out that it was whites who invented film in the first place!

What is wrong with this argument:

  1. Doing something good does not excuse doing something bad. More particularly, inventing x does not give you or anyone else the right to misuse x. The invention of film, for example, does not excuse using it to push stereotypes about blacks.
  2. If inventions “prove” one part of mankind is better than all the rest, then the Chinese and Egyptians have a way better claim than whites.

When people point out the bad that whites have done, whites are quick to point out how other people have done it too, how it is “natural”. Like with the slave trade they quickly point out that Africans and Arabs did it too. Historical Context suddenly matters. But when it comes to the good things, like inventions, white people act like they are the only ones. It is no longer so “natural” anymore. Historical Context goes out the window.

Yet white people would be nowhere without four Chinese inventions: gunpowder, the compass, paper and the printing press. Their rise to world power was built on these.

In fact, before 1500 there were very few white inventions but plenty of Chinese and Egyptian ones.

The Egyptians invented civilization itself along with stuff like writing, calendars, irrigation and so on. They made huge pyramids that no has been able to match since. Egypt was the most advanced part of the world for over 2,000 years – twice as long as even China, much less the West.

True, most important inventions of the past few hundred years were made by white people. But that is only because they have been on top during that time. If it was because white people are born with more brains, then white people would have been on top all throughout history – not just a fifth of it.

If you assume that the largest city will tend to be in the most advanced part of world, then you can say how many years different people have been on top:

  • 2072 Egyptian
  • 974 Chinese
  • 364 Roman
  • 360 Sumerian/Babylonian
  • 359 Persian
  • 285 Greek
  • 281 Arab
  • 140 Anglo

Anglo power – British and American – is fresh in our minds, but it is merely the latest chapter in the book of history. And that is the Historical Context that this argument forgets.

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barbara-bush

From time to time this blog will give out the Barbara Bush Award for Deluded Whiteness to worthy souls. No prize money, no gold medal. Just the mere honour. You do not have to be white to win – you just have to buy into the lies that white people tell themselves. You can add your nominations in the comments below.

The first winner is, of course, Barbara Bush herself.

On September 5th 2005 she visited the Houston Astrodome where 15,000 had fled Hurricane Katrina, having lost almost everything but their lives. Most were poor and most were black. She said this to an NPR reporter:

Almost everyone I’ve talked to says, “We’re going to move to Houston.” What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this, this is working very well for them.

Many compare this to the queen of France, Marie Antoinette, saying “Let them eat cake” when she was told that Paris had run out of bread to feed the poor.

But this is not a case of a rich and powerful person having no idea about how the other half lives. It is worse than that. It is a piece of racist excuse-making. The “sort of scary” tells you she is thinking of them as blacks, not as the cake-eating poor.

The better comparison is with statements that White Americans used to make about black slaves. Here is Robert E. Lee in 1856 on the good fortune of being a black slave:

The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things.

Here is the pattern (the unsaid parts in parentheses):

  1. (I know it looks bad but) blacks are better off here (America, the Houston Astrodome) than where they were (Africa, New Orleans).
  2. Things will get better.

This is also the pattern of those news stories on the state of Black America that you see on Martin Luther King Day.

It is an exercise in playing down black suffering. What makes it strange and unsettling is that no one who truly cared about such suffering would even think to talk like that. But whites do because they are driven more by their own sense of white guilt than other people’s suffering.

Katrina was hardly her fault, so why did Barbara Bush say this? It could just be habit, but more likely it was in answer to charges that her son, President George Bush, did not do enough to help poor blacks stuck in New Orleans during and right after Katrina. As Kanye West put it just three days before in one of the best pieces of television ever: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.”

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Care_Bear_PlatesJust world doctrine, also called the just world fallacy and just world hypothesis, is the belief that the world is pretty much just – or at least one’s corner of it even if the rest of the world is screwed up. There are “imperfections”, of course – like Nixon, Enron, Abu Ghraib, Love Canal and the death of Sean Bell. And of course new laws and reforms are needed from time to time too – and maybe a bit of sensitivity training. But by and large society is just.

Justice is not a hope for the future but an achievement of the present. No messiahs need apply.

From what I can tell, this seems to be one of the main differences in how whites and blacks think about America and why they often talk past each other: most whites seem to take it for granted, assume it, while most blacks do not.

The experience of most blacks in America, particularly those who are poor or who live in ghettos, is not of a just world. Injustice is not a matter of a few “imperfections” – it comes standard; it goes straight down to the heart of what America is.

Meanwhile it seems like most White Americans do believe in just world doctrine. So much so that some take it as a given and reason backwards from it: if America is just, then so are the police and the courts, the schools and the press – and even, for the most part, large companies. Not perfectly just, of course, but for the most part.

And if America is just then racism can no longer a big issue and the troubles that blacks still have must be all their own fault – or just their imagination. You see that all the time in comments on this blog. And you hear it from the mouths of Rented Negroes and other well-paid blacks.

Why people believe in just world doctrine:

  • It is pushed on television and at school – particularly in history books and on the news.
  • It allows the winners of society to feel they won fair and square, that they are good people; that the losers need to grow up and stop complaining.
  • If power in society and the world is exercised in your interests, there is little reason to question it or doubt its goodness.
  • It can be comforting to think society is just and orderly even if you are at the bottom (though it is harder to believe).

The winners think society is just and have the power to push that belief on others. And they succeed in doing that with the broad middle of society.

But it is not just those blacks who love to complain and blame others who disbelieve in just world doctrine. Neither does the Bible, The Economist, Shakespeare, Jefferson, Lord Acton, Orwell, Thucydides, Tolkien, Plato or Aristotle, to name a few. In the Bible justice does not come till the end of time on Judgement Day. Meanwhile sin rules the world because of man’s fallen nature.

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Keith1001006

Possum Stew, when giving her reasons for not dating white people, says this:

… most people of color (even activists) think that White people are basically benevolently clueless (BTW, that notion is a function of White privilege as well – that White people are always friendly, welcome, and well-meaning.  Every time I encounter this idea from a White person who is “not racist” or ”colorblind” I immediately recall Emmett Till and smile grimly to myself. Yes, knowledge has made me jaded.)

I want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but the thing is, clueless innocents do not act the way most white Americans do when faced with their own racism.

Imagine if I am stepping on your foot by accident and do not seem to know it. You tell me. I look down, remove my foot, say “Oh, I am sorry” and feel bad about it.

To review:

  1. I see my fault.
  2. I do something about it
  3. I say I am sorry and mean it.
  4. I feel bad.

And better yet, I might try to make up for it somehow.

So if a white person is benevolently clueless, unknowingly racist, he would do this:

  1. Understand how what he said or did is racist.
  2. Stop doing it or see to it that he does not do it again.
  3. Say he is sorry and mean it.
  4. Feel bad about it.

Mostly they do the opposite:

  1. Refuse to admit they are racist.
  2. Do not change.
  3. Do not apologize.
  4. Get angry.

And worse yet, they might say or do more racist things.

Or sometimes you get the half-baked apology: “If I offended you I am sorry. But I am not a racist. Some of my best friends are black.” Something like that.

These are not the actions of the benevolently clueless. These are the actions of a jerk, of someone who refuses to see or understand the wrong he has done and keeps doing it. And if you do not like it, well screw you already.

Why do white people act this way? Because deep down they know full well they are racist but do not want to face the fact.  It is one of the side effects of white guilt.

Most white people will do the right thing when they step on a black person’s foot. But imagine if they handled it like they do racism: they would not remove their foot, they would not even look down, but instead say stuff like this (the extended version):

I am not stepping on your foot. How dare you accuse me of that – and after all the nice things I have done for you! You are just imagining it. You people do nothing but blame others and complain. You just hate white people, that is why you are saying that. Arab traders step on feet, did you know that? It is perfectly natural. But if I am stepping on your foot, then I am truly sorry, but it is not something I would ever do.

Foot still not removed.

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