Archive for the ‘white people’ Category

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. At least in America.
  • 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.

– Abagond, 2009.


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Dorf (2009) is short for “dead, old, retro or foreign”. Jody Rosen at Slate.com came up with the term to get a handle on what it is about the black music that NPR plays. You find the same sort of black music at Starbucks and the New York Times Magazine.

If you have ever noticed that  out-of-date black music is respectable among well-to-do whites while the current stuff never is, that is dorf.

On occasion NPR will have a Jill Scott or a Santigold, but by and large their black artists are dorf:

  • dead: Michael Jackson (now that he is dead), Mahalia Jackson, Bobby Short, Albert Ayler, Sam Rivers.
  • old: black vaudeville, jazz, blues, Motown, old school hip hop, Booker T. (still alive), Smokey Robinson, Living Colour, Death (1970s), Run DMC, Solomon Burke.
  • retro: soul revivals, Little Jackie, Ryan Shaw, Brown Bag AllStars, Lenny Kravitz.
  • foreign: anything African or anyone with the last name of Marley, Oumou Sangare, Rokia Traore, BLK JKS, Staff Benda Bilili, Amadou and Miriam, Blick Bassy, Cesaria Evora, Andy Palacio.

You might say, “Well, it is not like NPR plays Britney Spears either.” In fact many NPR stations spend much of the day playing utterly dorf music like classical and jazz.

True enough, but they also push plenty of white indie rock: current stuff by living, breathing American artists working in a current style. None of it dorf, but nearly all of it white.

To assume that NPR is not being racist at some level you have to assume that the quality of black music sank like a rock sometime in the early 1990s and never recovered, at least not up to the levels of indie rock, African music and Little Jackie.

One could argue that, but I doubt that is what is going on here. Because dorf is not just an NPR thing or even a current upper-middle-class white thing. I first noticed dorf in the 1980s:

  • The opening credits of “The Big Chill” (1983). It has an all-white cast but it starts with Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard it Through the Grapevine” (1968), a black song from 15 years before.
  • In “Pretty in Pink” (1986) Duckie, who plays a white teenager, knows all the words to Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” (1966), a black song from 20 years before.

But meanwhile old school hip hop was at its height at the time. Back then it was dismissed by whites (and many blacks) as being “too ghetto”, but now it has become respectable in the very same circles.

And jazz went through the same thing too: at first it was just music that poor blacks listened to. Not only did whites look down on it, so did middle-class blacks. But now the very same songs, in their dorfitude, are utterly respectable. Why is that? It is not like the music has changed.

Angela Davis noticed this dorf thing too among white people: if she spoke with a foreign accent, whites would be way nicer to her.

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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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kchronicilesHere in one place is the list of the most common arguments that white racists use on this blog, listed roughly from the most common to the least:

  1. Anything but race – Racism is over. There must be some Logical Explanation that has nothing to do with race.
  2. Blame-shifting – Blacks like to use the race card, crying racism and blaming whitey, but blacks are to blame for their own mess. Racism is so 1968.
  3. ad hominem – question a commenter’s intelligence, character, age or motives.
  4. Whites are individuals – so you cannot make general statements about whites. Besides, that would be racist.
  5. “Blacks are racist too” – but they do not like to admit it. Find a case where a black person did something just as bad as what they are pointing out.
  6. “You are the racist one” – turn the tables.
  7. “I am offended” – how dare they call you a racist! You do not see a person’s colour – they could be purple for all you care!
  8. Arab trader argument – whites are not as evil as black people like to think. For example, it was not just white people who traded slaves: Arabs did it too! Few blacks know that, so make sure to point that out whenever you can.
  9. “But that happened to me too!” – whatever blacks complain about, try to find a case where a white person – you, a friend, someone in the news –  experienced the same thing.
  10. Point out how “ghetto” and disagreeable black people are – because they are and it needs pointing out. No wonder no one gets along with them!
  11. Talk down to them – they are imagining things, they do not know what they are talking about. How dare blacks tell us what we are like. What do they know? Are they white?
  12. straw man – argue against some stock position that is kind of like the post. That way you can copy your comments from another blog. Or from Ann Coulter.
  13. Blacks need to be colour-blind – if they just stopped seeing race and talking about it so much then racism would go away!
  14. Start quoting rape statistics – out of the blue, if necessary. Rates of imprisonment are good too.
  15. The white inventor argument – whites invented everything so shut up already.
  16. Demand proof – Make them prove it beyond a reasonable doubt with facts and figures. Find holes in whatever facts they present. Find counter-facts.
  17. Make it about the past – and point out that your family never owned slaves. When are they going to stop living in the past?
  18. Go back to Africa – if it is so bad here, then go back to Africa already!
  19. Bootstrap – I made it on my own without help from anyone.  Blacks expect something for nothing!
  20. Some of my best friends are black – so there is no way I am racist!
  21. Might makes right – all through history.

Most of these arguments take neither the truth nor the experience of black people seriously – because what matters most is white people and their feelings, particularly about feeling good living in a racist society.

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BE031491Keeping this blog has blown my mind. White people say stuff here that they would never  say offline in my hearing.

I knew white Americans were racist – living in so-called liberal New York left no doubt in my mind about that – but I had no idea how deep their racism ran.

I used to think they just did not know any better, that they were brainwashed by a culture founded way back by slave owners; that if they woke up and saw the truth they would change.

If only.

I know that the whites who comment on this blog are not the ordinary sort. For example, most of them are race conscious for one reason or another: they are white nationalists, they live in a place where most people are black, they have black people in their family or are even married to a black person and have black children.

But that is just it: leaving aside the white nationalists as being too far gone, they if anyone should know better and yet they do not. Whites who married black or who live in black neighbourhoods do not have the excuse that most whites do: a lack of solid, first-hand knowledge of black people. And yet they are still racist, just with fewer stereotypes.

So then I saw that racism is rooted not in a lack of facts or in bad ideas, as I thought, but in their sense of self-worth.

The truth will not set them free because they are not interested in the truth. They are interested in maintaining their sad, two-bit sense of self-worth, which is partly built on feeling that they are better than black people – and anyone else who is “different”. It is like at the end of “The Bluest Eye”.

Also: They know perfectly well that blacks are getting screwed for no good reason – they have seen the ghettos, they know the numbers – but to avoid a sense of guilt they have to believe that blacks truly are just that screwed up all on their own.

They think like wife beaters:

  • making themselves feel good by putting down others,
  • avoiding blame for their own actions,
  • listening only to their own sad, half-baked lies.

If you point out how off-base they are, they just call you names or think of a thousand and one reasons why you are wrong. Anything but taking a cold, hard, honest look at themselves. Because deep down they know the truth but are afraid to face it.

This sick, insecure frame of mind of white people seems to come from slave days when they had a relationship with black people that was nakedly abusive. They would do themselves and everyone else a world of good if they took the road to health: make right their wrongs and then base their self-worth on something good and true.

Not that I am holding my breath or anything.

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image_thumb7Womanist Musings had a good answer to all those white people who think that people of colour (POC) would just be so pitiful and lost if white people had not come along and saved the day. Here is a bit of it:

What would we have done had Whiteness not colonized the Americas, while in the process nearly eradicating our Native American citizens? Those of us that are of color should bow down at the feet of Whiteness because heavens knows we have never ever contributed anything to society except too many babies and a high crime rate. We will just ignore the fact that the inner cities were created by White flight and that they are largely populated with poor. Gee, a little thing like income disparity and racism have nothing at all to do with elevated crime rates …we darkies were just born bad.

Whiteness continues to present a biased view of bodies of color to ensure that we remain secondary citizens. Purposefully ignoring our work or outright theft, (ask Little Richard) has been standard operating procedure. It has caused many of us to doubt our value, underachieve and internalize racist connotations. […] If Whiteness were perfect in its inception there would be need to create systems that are specifically designed to minimize POC. I suspect that it is the very possibility that Whiteness is not naturally fit to lead, that produces fear driven protestations and false reasoning.

Read the whole thing at Womanist Musings.

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Blame-shifting is where you are accused of doing something wrong and you immediately shift the blame on to someone else. Children do it: “Tommy did it too!” Wife beaters do it: “You made me do it.” And so do racist white Americans: “The Arabs traded slaves too.” This post looks at how it is used to defend white racism.

Some things white people say when faced with a case of white racism:

  1. Blacks are racist too.
  2. You are the racist one.
  3. I was beaten up/robbed/called names by blacks.
  4. Blacks have a high crime rate.
  5. Blacks carry knives.
  6. Blacks are to blame for their own troubles.
  7. Blacks like to “blame whitey”.
  8. Black parents do not care about education.

And so on. The argument is moved from what whites do to what other people do, mainly blacks. It is just what whites accuse blacks of doing when they say that blacks like to “blame whitey”.

At one level it is just a cheap attempt to change the subject, to draw attention away from what whites do. But at a deeper level it is also a moral argument – directed not at you but at themselves.

White Americans know they live in an unequal society where whites benefit and blacks get screwed. They feel guilt about that at some level because they believe in equality and believe that racism is wrong. Since they want to believe they are good people they either fight against that inequality – or make up excuses. Making up excuses is way easier.

If they can blame blacks for their troubles, then they have no reason to feel guilty at all. Then they can still see themselves as good people. Case closed!

Otherwise, if that does not work, they try to make blacks or Arabs or whoever seem just as bad if not worse. It becomes the everyone-does-it argument. Whites, then, turn out not to be so bad after all – and again there is little reason to change.

The following are everyone-does-it arguments, which do not so much shift the blame as spread it to others, which is almost as good:

  1. It has always been done this way.
  2. Blacks have it better in America than in Africa.
  3. All human societies are racist.
  4. The Arabs traded slaves too.

These are moral arguments but they are at the level of everyone-beats-his-wife or I-only-beat-my-wife-on-Tuesdays-and-Thursdays. As if that makes it all right. Pat Buchanan loves this kind of argument. Did the nuns teach him it in Catholic school?

So in the end we know all about what is wrong with blacks, because that makes white people feel better about themselves, but very little is said about what is wrong with white people and the white racism built into society. Where is the CNN special on that? Still waiting.

Blacks are not perfect, as everyone knows, but given the imbalance of power in American society, it is noticing the mote in your brother’s eye and not considering the beam in your own.

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white guilt

art-sd_guiltWhite guilt is where white Americans feel bad for the wrong they have done to blacks and other people of colour.

The right wing uses the term to put down white liberals, who are pictured as helping blacks to ease their own sense of guilt.

They are wrong about white liberals: at best liberals are just trying to help those who voted for them so they can win re-election, like anyone else with any sense. As it is, white liberals mostly take the black vote for granted and do little to help them. As for the right, they just want a way to bad mouth any reason against cutting taxes.

That is white guilt at the public level. It is just a bit of cheap political rhetoric, part of the right’s bag of tricks.

The more interesting level is the psychological, what goes on in the hearts and minds of white people. Here is how I make sense of it:

Most white Americans seem to think racism is a thing of the past. Black people are either living in the past or making a big deal out of nothing. Whites only notice the more extreme cases of white racism, like the Klan. Whatever troubles blacks have is their own fault. So from this point of view there is absolutely nothing to feel any guilt or shame about.

Case closed, right?

Wrong. There is more to it than that. You can tell because whenever you point out cases of racism, like how poor blacks in the city go to bad schools, the defences spring right up. Too quickly. They take it too personally, more personally than it makes sense to, and their most common defence is to shift blame in one way or another.

You have touched some nerve. The blame-shifting shows that they know it is true and are trying to avoid a sense of guilt.

It seems that most whites have had the experience of taking a wrong turn and winding up in some poor black neighbourhood. So they know full well how unequal American society is, that their material comfort and safety comes at a cost to black people.

They will deny it, but deep down they know full well what is going on and what their part in it is. They know they are turning a blind eye to it and benefiting while others suffer for no reason other than the colour of their skin. Deep down they know. Not even the sweet lies at night of Rented Negroes on cable news can make it go away.

Thus the guilt and shame, the quick defensiveness, the blame-shifting.

It is why they do not like to talk about race, why they do not like to think of themselves as “white”, why they are afraid to squarely face up to their own racism. And why they fear black men: no matter how many they lock up they still do not feel safe.

– Abagond, 2009.

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whiteliesThe following is based on Dr Beverly Tatum’s excellent book, “Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” (1997):

According to Dr Beverly Tatum growing up white in America goes something like this, though please note that most whites never get beyond the first stage:

  1. contact: you are just normal. It is people from other races and ethnicities who are different. You think American society is fair, pretty much. You are not racist, you do not see a person’s colour. They could be purple for all you care. Except for the Klan and some skinhead nuts, racism is a thing of the past. Blacks are making a big deal out of nothing.
  2. dis-integration: you have an experience that shows you plain as day that America is racist and unfair. Like maybe your black boyfriend getting pulled over by the police for no good reason. It wakes you up: you start noticing all the white racism that you had been blind to all your life. But this leads to discomfort, anger, shame and guilt. So most likely you will shut off your mind to the whole racism thing. Case closed. But if you do not:
  3. re-integration: you become anti-racist, but since most whites are racist, you find yourself slowly becoming an outcast. The easiest thing would be to just let it go. And so you do: you tell yourself that blacks or Latinos are to blame for their troubles, etc.  Most likely that will be the end of the matter, but sometimes it is not:
  4. pseudo-independent: you still cannot shake the idea that America is racist and unfair. Now you wish you were not white! To escape the shame and guilt you try to become part of the black world or some other world of colour. But it does not work: They do not understand what you are going through, so they cannot help. The shame and guilt remain.
  5. immersion/emersion: only whites can help you and only those who have already been through it all. They are known as white allies. America is too racist to sing their song, but they are out there.  They become your support group. They will help you to unlearn your racism and to fight the good fight against it in American society. Your shame and guilt go away at last.
  6. autonomy: you can mix freely with people of other races and see  them as  individuals and yet still as members of their race. You are still white but now with a much deeper and more solid understanding of what that means.

So it is possible for whites to move past their racism, but it is way harder than you would suppose because it means being something of an outcast, unfortunately.

Jews and white gays have little trouble getting to stage 2, but then have a harder time getting past stage 3 because they do not like owning up to their whiteness: “I am not like other whites”. In some ways, yes, but in other ways, no.

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emotion-picture-eveRacelessness is where you feel or act like you have no race. For example, in much of Africa people do not think of themselves as “black” because everyone is black. But in America it is the opposite: if you are black it is a hard thing to forget – you become race conscious instead of raceless.

It has been said there are two kinds of white people: those who have found themselves the only white person in the room and those who have not – those who are race conscious and those who are raceless.

It seems like at least 80% of whites in America are raceless – they generally do not think of themselves as “white”. They can walk into a room where everyone is white and not even notice.  They can paint Eve from the Bible as a blonde and see nothing wrong in that. They can make a list of the most beautiful white women and just call it “the most beautiful women”, leaving out the word “white” – a word they leave out all the time.

If you are white and want to get a good idea how raceless you are,  try Thandeka’s Race Game: for one week call everything that is white “white”: my white girlfriend, my white manager, the white television show, that white man across the street, a white radio station, etc.

There are four reasons most white Americans are raceless:

  1. Most live in an all-white world, living in white neighbourhoods in white families, learning white history in school, watching white shows on television, hanging out with white friends, etc. Blacks and others are few and are mainly just at the edges of things.
  2. They rarely suffer directly from racism.
  3. They do not like being reminded of their white privilege – that they receive unearned advantages for being white, like generally living in better neighbourhoods. That is why they are uncomfortable when you call them “white”.
  4. Most whites born since 1970 have been taught to be colour-blind: “I do not see race”, “I am an individual”, etc.

Most regular commenters on this blog – black, white and Asian – are race conscious, so at least one of these four conditions probably does not apply to them. For whites it would tend to be #1, for blacks and Asians, #2.

Whites, it seems, can go for weeks or months without ever thinking about black people. And they can go way longer than that without thinking about themselves as white people.

Racelessness might seem like a good thing, and it can be, but in the case of white Americans it winds up blinding them to their own racism and privilege. It stands in the way of progress on race.

It also allows them to see white as “normal” and “neutral” and everything else as different, sometimes as good different (“exotic”) but mostly as bad different. So racelessness allows whites to be narrow-minded and full of themselves, looking down on those who are different like there is something wrong with them.

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“Some of my best friends are black” is a phrase whites use to prove they are not racist. They also use it when they are about to say something racist: “Some of my best friends are black, but….” As if that gives them a green light to say any racist thing they want.

My first reaction is to doubt the quality of said friendships. But giving them the benefit of the doubt, it has become clear that black friendship has little effect on white racism:

A white Boston police officer said this in an email about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr, a black Harvard professor:

If I was the officer he verbally assaulted like a banana-eating jungle monkey, I would have sprayed him in the face with OC.

Later he said in his apology:

I have so many friends of every type of culture and race you can name and I am not a racist.

A white high school student who went to a whites-only prom did not think he was racist either:

I have as many black friends as I do white friends. We do everything else together. We hang out. We play sports together. We go to class together. I don’t think anybody at our school is racist.

A white commenter, the first I kicked off this blog, only called black commenters names, never white ones. To one black commenter he said:

That’s right. Go play on train tracks and get hit by a train. No one wants you alive.

But he did not think he was racist either. To prove it he said:

Oh and by the way, four of my best friends have been black… My brother is married to a black a girl, too. So you really have no argument kiddo.

If anything the black-best-friend argument shows that the speaker does not know much about racism and is blind to it.

I used to think that whites who marry black or live in black neighbourhoods were not all that racist. But even that is not true! While they do tend to have less stereotyped views of blacks, they still hold onto their sense of whiteness and the racist views used to defend it. They still see things from a self-serving white point of view.

Come to think of it, even blacks can be racist against blacks!

So having a black best friend proves little.

Racism in America is built partly on a separation of the races and the stereotypes that fill in the lack of first-hand experience. Like the sea monsters on the old maps of the Atlantic. A black best friend can help remove some of those sea monsters, but not if you think your friend “is not like other blacks”.

But more than stereotypes racism is also built on the need for whites to feel good about themselves living in an unequal society where blacks get screwed. Black friends, neighbours and lovers will not make that need go away.

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At the end of a press conference on health care reform, they asked President Obama about the arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr, a black Harvard professor who is a friend of his. Obama took three minutes to answer the question. In part he said:

Now, I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played in that, but I think it’s fair to say, number one, any of us would be pretty angry; number two, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, number three, what I think we know, separate and apart from this incident, is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately. And that’s just a fact.

That was so great and so wonderful! To have a president who does not mouth the storybook lies about America but knows full well what goes on and says it out loud. Not only was he willing to call the police boneheaded right there on television, but he did not buy the police account of events either!!

One of the best lines from his NAACP speech last week:

When I drive through Harlem or I drive through the South Side of Chicago and I see young men on the corners, I say, there but for the grace of God go I. They’re no less gifted than me. They’re no less talented than me.

One of the greatest, greatest things about Obama is that he does not believe in the Just World Doctrine – unlike most White Americans, who seem to believe, or at least want to believe, that the world is just. Not should be just, but already is just!

So when the world is plainly unjust they look the other way or try to come up with Some Logical Explanation or some half-baked excuse. Like when the New York Times talks about black unemployment. Unless the injustice is far away (China, Alabama) or long ago (1800s, 1950s) or is done by people “not like them” (Muslims, blacks) it makes them uncomfortable and not, say, angry or sad or shocked like they should be.

They want to believe that America, or at least White America, is just. It is clear that their sense of themselves as good people is built on it, which makes their belief even more deeply rooted. But the lies and the level of moral and intellectual blindness required to carry that off means only that more evil will be done.

Therefore the Just World Doctrine makes the world more unjust than it would have been. And so then, one fine day, one bright Tuesday morning, they find two of their tallest buildings falling down in front of their eyes.

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whitesToday is June Jordan’s birthday and I was going to write about her, but I think she would understand:

I wrote about whites-only proms not too long ago and now this: There is a whites-only swim club. In America. In 2009. In supposedly post-racial America. In the supposedly Enlightened North. Just outside of Philadelphia. Right now.

Our story:

About 65 black and Hispanic children ages 5 to 13 go to a day camp in Philadelphia. They spend most of the week in the city in the basenment of a grade school. But one day a week they get to go swimming in the suburbs. The camp paid $1950 so they could go to the Valley Swim Club in Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania just outside the city.

They went there for their first day of swimming on June 29th. When they got in the pool all the white children got out. One white mother was overhead saying:

Uh, what are all these black kids doing here? I’m scared they might do something to my child.

She was not the only one talking like that. But it got worse: the pool attendants came and  told the black and Hispanic children that minorities were not allowed in the club and that they need to leave immediately.

Well, maybe it was all just some big misunderstanding.  But no, the president of the club gave back the $1950 (you know, like the year this club still lives in). He said he was getting too many complaints from (white) parents. The complaints had nothing to do with racism, he said. He put it this way:

There was concern that a lot of kids would change the complexion … and the atmosphere of the club,

By the way, they had signed up online.

Some good news, though: Girard College, a school in the city, offered their swimming pool, free of charge even, so they will get to swim.

It is like what I said about the whites-only proms:

Note to white people: Small-town and working class whites often come off seeming racist and backward in the press, but that is only because they do not have the money to move away from blacks. I mean, why have a whites-only prom if you live in a place that is less than 1% black, like nearly all suburban whites do?

Well, this club is in one of those places where white people do have the money to move away from blacks. It is 0.5% black.

Somehow I get this feeling that white Americans feel free to be more openly racist now that there is black man as president. It is kind of like how white people think that if they have a black best friend then it is all right to go to a whites-0nly prom. Or say nakedly racist things. Like some commenters on this blog, not to name names. It seems like the same kind of strange, twisted moral thinking.

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promnightAs we found out this past weekend in the New York Times Magazine, there are still whites-only proms in many small towns in the American South. Yes, in 2009, the year a black man became president.

Near the end of the school year most high schools in America hold a formal dance called the prom. It is a big night. But in some towns of the South the white parents hold a separate whites-only prom. No blacks allowed.

Here is what one white student in Mount Vernon, Georgia said about it:


Harley Boone:

There’s always been two separate proms. It don’t seem like a big deal around here, it’s just what we know and what our parents have done for so many years. In our school system it’s not really about being racist or having all white friends or all black friends. We all hang out together, we’re all in the same classes, we all eat lunch together at the same table. It’s not about what colour you are…

It is no big deal, it is not about colour.

Now hear what a black student at the same school says:


Kera Nobles:

My high school has been a great one, except for one night that I only share with people that’s my same race, and that would be prom night. Yes, it is hurtful, because you just think about how, I go to school with you every day, I sit beside you in class… but I can’t go to prom with you one night?

The “white-folks prom” at this school was on Friday night, the “black-folks prom” was on Saturday night. The black prom was open to everyone, but nearly all the whites went  to the white prom instead! Either the white students did not understand that a whites-only prom is racist (hard to believe) or they did not care. One of them said, without missing a beat, that some of his best friends are black. What the word “friend” could possibly mean under such circumstances and how it could excuse a racist act is unclear.

PORTFOLIO_LAUB_THUMBGillian Laub, who is used to taking pictures of Arabs and Jews in a divided Palestine, took the pictures for this piece: the smiles of joy on the white faces and the empty look on the black faces, even on the black prom queen herself,  says it all. They did not let Laub in to the white prom. It seems she asked too many questions about racism to be a white in good standing.

The piece did not feature the pictures or words of any black person except for the students.

Note to white people: Small-town and working class whites often come off seeming racist and backward in the press, but that is only because they do not have the money to move away from blacks. I mean, why have a whites-only prom if you live in a place that is less than 1% black, like nearly all suburban whites do?


Thanks to Macon D for bringing this article to my attention through his blog, Stuff White People Do.

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Pat Buchanan on why blacks should thank white Americans:

First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known.

Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream.

Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks.

We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?


Ta-Nehisi Coates replies:

I always found this quote interesting because it originates from the same racist thinking that Byron York employed last week–that black people don’t actually count. In this instance, the idea isn’t about polling, it’s about taxes. By Buchanan’s lights, black people do not exist as tax-payers, but as social sponges. And the converse is true–no white people use government services, they simply pay taxes that are transferred to blacks.

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