Archive for the ‘2009’ Category


Not sure if this one is for the ages, but I love the Corvette.

I was thinking maybe she was Jamaican American. As it turns out she is Guyanese Canadian.

The beginning of this song is almost the same as the beginning of “(Hey There) Lonely Girl” (1975) by the Softones.


Oh yaahh I’ve got trouble with my friends
Trouble in my life
Problems when you don’t come home at night
But when you do you always start a fight
But I can’t be alone, I need you to come on home
I know you messin around, but who the hell else is gonna hold me down
Ooooh I gotta be out my mind to think it’s gonna work this time
A part of me wants to leave, but the other side still believes
And it kills me to know how much I really love you
So much I wanna ooh hoo ohh to you hoo hoo
Should I grab his cell, call this chick up
Start some shhhh then hang up
Or I should I be a lady
Oohh maybe cause I wanna have his babies
Ohh yah yahh cause I don’t wanna be alone
I don’t need to be on my own
But I love this man
But some things I can’t stand ohhhh
I’ve gotta be out my mind
To think it’s gonna work this time
A part of me wants to leave but the other half still believes
And it kills mee to know how much I really love you
So much I wanna oohh hoo ohhh, to you hoo hooo

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RogerEbertAndWifeRenee of Womanist Musings has a wonderful post on Roger Ebert’s review of “Good Hair”. I was going to comment on it at Stuff White People Do where it was guest posted, but I feel a post of my own coming on:

Roger Ebert wrote a review of Chris Rock’s film “Good Hair” (2009). Nothing surprising there: he makes his living as a reviewer. But what makes this one priceless is it shows up his whiteness in two ways:

  1. He assumes he knows more than black people – even about black women’s hair!
  2. He downplays what black people go through by comparing it to something white that is not at all the same thing.

Roger Ebert ends the review this way:

The movie has a good feeling, but why do I know more about this subject than Chris Rock does? Smile.

The smile presumably refers to the fact that he is married to a black woman, Chaz Hammel-Smith. Earlier in the review Ebert takes issue with the film based on the Wikipedia, of all things. So Ebert feels he knows more about black women’s hair based on what? This:

  1. I am married to a black woman.
  2. I look up stuff in the Wikipedia.

Compare that to Chris Rock:


  1. Also married to a black woman.
  2. Has a black mother and two black daughters.
  3. Spent two years making a film about black women’s hair.

Where in the world does Ebert get off thinking he knows more about black women’s hair? Since Ebert does not strike me as a know-it-all blowhard – I used to watch his reviews on television – it is hard for me not to think this is racist: “White people know what they talking about, black people do not.” Help me out here.

He even assumes he knows more than his own wife, who has had such hair all her life! You know this because it is clear he printed the review without her looking it over – either that or he did not take her comments seriously. It would have kept him from making a fool of himself. But, again, he thinks he knows better.

I find it hard to imagine his wife agreeing with this:

The use of the word “natural hair” is, in any event, misleading. Take a stroll down the hair products aisle of a drugstore or look at the stock price of Supercuts. Few people of any race wear completely natural hair. If they did, we would be a nation of Unibombers.

See that: what black women go through with their hair is no big deal at all! This is stock racist deflection: what black people go through is no different than what white people go through.

White people talk that way because they have a hard time accepting difference in people – what leads to the whole “good hair” thing to begin with. They also do it because, like Ebert, they do not want to take black people seriously.

See also:

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Goldstone report

The Goldstone Report (2009) is the United Nations war crimes report on the war in Gaza last winter. Richard Goldstone, a former South African judge (pictured above) led the UN’s fact-finding mission to Gaza.  The report finds both sides guilty of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, but Israel much more so.

The report does not “prove” that war crimes took place, merely that it seems so based on facts found. The report calls on both Israelis and Palestinians over the next six months to carry out their own independent investigations that meet international standards.

If they fail to do so, then the UN Security Council should hand the matter over to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in the The Hague. But most likely America will block that: it has veto power in the Security Council and turns a blind eye to Israel’s misdeeds.


  • Palestinians:
    • Fired rockets into southern Israel with little hope of ever hitting a military target, thereby spreading terror among civilians.
    • Hamas, the ruling party, used the war as cover to kill some  from the opposing party, Fatah.
  • Israelis:
    • Israel struck mosques, hospitals, schools, apartment buildings, water treatment plants and factories that had no military value. One mosque was struck while hundreds were there praying. If Israel’s true concern were weapons that may have been hidden there it would have struck the mosque in the middle of the night.
    • It struck a house after the Israeli army told Palestinians to stay there to be safe.
    • It used white phosphorus, which burns and kills people, in the middle of Gaza City.
    • Israeli soldiers used Palestinian civilians as human shields.

In war you are supposed to fight the enemy’s military and destroy things of military value, like bridges, roads, armies and weapons factories. Some civilians will get killed, but you are supposed to take reasonable measures against that.

Israel did not. It was not just carelessness either: it went after things like water treatment plants that were a threat to no one.

The Israelis called the report “one-sided” and unacceptable – months before it even came out! They would not help the UN one bit, which had to cross into Gaza from Egypt.

After the report came out Israel said it was “one-sided” (again), “inaccurate and flawed” and that it would derail the peace process (a lie: the Israeli government is hardly serious about peace). Sadly American Congressmen and even The Economist repeat the same words and excuses as the Israelis.

Hamas does not agree with everything in the report but accepts it. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a Fatah man, says he will not hold a vote on the report till March 2010. He is seen as giving in to the Americans. That has led to protests (pictured below). In Gaza there are posters of Abbas with a black X across his face at which people throw their shoes.


See also:

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I do not hate white people. Am I racist against them? Yes. Do I sometimes have a hard time trusting them? Yes. Do I hate some of the things they do? Yes. But do I hate anyone just for being white? No, of course not. Even with racist jerks I try to hate the sin not the sinner. But, I must admit, I have not always been successful.

I do not want to put people in a box. I want them to surprise me and sometimes they do. But too many times white people act like they all went to the same Secret Course on Whiteness that I was not invited to.

Some commenters assume that because I say bad things about whites I must hate them, that I think they are pure evil, that no one else in the world is evil, that I do not know that black people can be evil too. No, it is not like that. It is just that white people do bad things too and, unlike with black people, it tends to get overlooked or played down.

Have white people done good things? Of course. I would have died at 13 if it were not for modern medicine. My wife would have died in childbirth. There would be no Internet or television game shows. Etc.

Have white people made progress? Of course. In America they no longer use whips and chains on black people to force them to work for free. They no longer force blacks to sit at the back of the bus or hang them from trees. A big fraction of them – more than I expected – voted for a black man for president. Etc.

Whites have the same hearts and minds as everyone else, the same human nature. What makes them different: power.

Power corrupts: it hardens your heart, it wears away your sense of right and wrong, it weakens your hold on the truth. Because there is no one to keep you in check, to keep you from going off the rails. Power leads to evil and self-delusion.

So in the case of White Americans they take land from the American Indians (because they can) and make black men slaves (because they can). They knew it was wrong, but instead of stopping they made up lies about blacks and American Indians (because they can), many of which they still believe to this day (because they can). They went off the rails, losing their hold on right and wrong, on the truth. It is still going on.

That is what power does to people. Read Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, Thucydides’s “History”, Shakespeare’s “King Lear” or even the Bible.

Whites use their power to make themselves look good and blacks look bad. From the time we are little children our minds are filled with “white is right” and “black is bad” over and over again, making white people big-headed and blacks self-hating. I am not going to use my blog to add to that.

See also:

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This is partly in answer to Macon D’s post on Stuff White People Do: “fail to see how racism harms white people”. Here is my take:

Racism both helps and hurts white Americans. I cannot prove all of the following statements with studies, charts and figures, but this is the truth as best I know it:

How it helps:

  • They are way richer than they would have been:
    • They live on land taken from the American Indians.
    • They benefit directly or indirectly from the free labour of black slaves and, later, from the cheap labour of blacks and other people of colour.
    • They get paid more for a given level of education.
    • Lower unemployment: they are less likely to fired and more likely to be hired – even with a prison record.
  • They get to live in nicer, safer neighbourhoods with better schools.
  • They live longer: even poor whites live longer than middle-class blacks.
  • It helps to keep them from falling to the very bottom of society.

How it hurts:

  • They become morally blind. Since they do not see the evil they do they are surprised by 9/11, race riots, failures in foreign policy, poverty at home, etc.
  • They harden their hearts.
  • They become partly deluded: they believe lies – about themselves, their history, their society. They do not take the truth seriously when it comes from a person of colour.
  • They have a limited idea of what it means to be human. At root, racism is the idea that being “different” means there is something wrong with you. That means many whites hide or slowly kill their true selves in order to fit in, making them into plastic people.
  • They become small-minded:
    • Because they feel good about themselves by looking down on others.
    • Because they narrow their minds by not taking other people and their cultures seriously.
  • They are not true to themselves and their belief that all men are created equal – and so they live with guilt.
  • Crime is higher than in other rich countries – and so they live with fear.
  • By hurting people of colour they are hurting their own country. At the very least they are wasting a part of its human capital.
  • Many whites vote against their class interests in part because of race.

That is what comes to me off the top of my head. I might be forgetting some big ones. Commenters can kindly point them out.

In short, whites are not true to themselves – to their morals, their beliefs, their heart, their soul. They are sell-outs to an idea that is beneath them.

If I still have any white readers left I know they will strongly disagree. Perhaps they will think I hate them, that I am trying to put them down. Wrong: I am trying to be honest.

Whites signed up for racism to create America and they continue to hold on to racism to hold on to its advantages. They made a deal with the devil and we know how that ends.

See also:

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shoppingWhileBlack“Shopping while black” is the “crime” of shopping while being a black person. It is not supposed to be a crime but you would not know it the way some shopkeepers seem to assume you are going to take something the minute their back is turned.

In one well-known example a woman and two of her friends from work went to Old Navy during lunch. They were respectably dressed. But despite that when they entered the store the police were informed of a “gang of shoplifters” – based on little more than the fact that the three women were black.  The police came and held them for 90 minutes even though they had shoplifted nothing.

It is not just “certain blacks” either – most blacks in America have had the experience of being followed or closely watched while shopping, of not being trusted. One black woman put it this way:

I’m very careful about how I move throughout the store…. I try not to put my hands in my pockets. You internalize a lot of the heightened racial scrutiny.

Meanwhile on the Internet people say stuff like this about blacks:

… they just point the finger at the white community and cry racism, whenever they see white folks reacting reasonably to the uncivilized tendencies at the core of their own culture.

With the way some shopkeepers act you would think they did an Internet search and found out that most shoplifters are black.

In fact most people arrested for shoplifting in America are white – about 70% according to the FBI. And that comes in the teeth of racial profiling aimed at blacks and Latinos! According to one study shoplifters are most commonly white women in their twenties and early thirties.

A store at the Barton Creek Square mall near Austin, Texas is being taken to court for singling out black shoppers for suspected shoplifting: FBI numbers show that blacks at that mall are no more likely to shoplift than anyone else.

One black woman who was arrested at Macy’s in New York noticed that even though 80% of the people who shop at Macy’s are white, 0% of the four other  people who were being held at the same time as her were white: two were black, one Middle Eastern looking and the fourth Hispanic.

Blacks and Latinos are being singled out not based on any hard-headed facts but based merely on racist stereotypes.

ABC staged some very unsubtle cases of “shopping while black” (pictured above) to see what other shoppers would do. About 80% of the shoppers did nothing, but 20% of the time they spoke up for the black person. People of colour were more likely to do that than white people – meaning that well over 80% of white people are quite fine with it.

There has been progress: in the 1950s, according to Siditty, Neiman Marcus would not let black women try on clothes. Sears and J.C. Penney in the South were even worse: black women were required to order their clothes from the catalogue.

See also:

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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.

See also:

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Vogue does blackface


The October 2009 issue of French Vogue has a 14-page spread of Lara Stone, a white model. In five of the pictures her skin is coloured dark brown. This comes on the heels of Madrid Fashion Week which used at least two blackface models in September.

Jezebel.com accused Vogue of “cultural insensitivity”. SOS Racisme in France said it was “tactless”.

Note that this was French Vogue, not Italian Vogue which had that all-black issue last year.

So was French Vogue being racist?


Maybe not:

  • Stone also appeared in whiteface in the same spread: in two of the pictures her skin is coloured snow white.
  • France does not have America’s history of black slaves and blackface entertainment.
  • Even in America blackface was used to stereotype blacks and make them a laughingstock. That is not being done here.
  • It is the whole Christ-in-piss thing to sell more magazines. Vogue’s sales are falling. They do stuff like this to get people talking and presumably sell more magazines. In one past issue they showed two women kissing with blood coming out of their mouths.


Maybe so:

  • Not a single black model appears in the issue. Unfortunately that is not uncommon. Huge parts of the fashion industry still seem to live in the 1950s.
  • The photographer, Steven Klein, is American. Even if the French editor is “benevolently clueless” about blackface (which I doubt) he certainly is not.
  • France has 2.5 million blacks. It used to rule large parts of Africa and had black slaves in the Caribbean.
  • Stone appeared in dark skin before: in the February issue she had dark skin and was dressed to look like an African savage.
  • If they simply wanted to make Stone look strange and striking to draw attention, why pick dark brown of all colours? What is wrong with pure black or even, you know, purple?
  • If dark brown skin made the clothes look best, then why not use a black model?
  • It seems like white people feel they can be more openly racist these days ever since Obama became president. This spread falls a little too well into that pattern.

laraWhat I think:

  1. Even apart from this, Vogue is a racist magazine. I mean, what? No black models at all? Come on. I am not saying Vogue is cross-burning Klan but they seem to have little regard for black people.
  2. The editor and photographer knew full well what they were doing. They knew it would be taken as blackface. Vogue is not some gardening magazine in Romania which truly might not know better.
  3. It was a cheap shot to sell magazines.

They are little better than Rush Limbaugh in that they do not regard blacks as part of their customer base and so if a bit of racism will get them more customers, why not?

One of the excuses fashion designers use for not using black models is that their looks draw attention away from the clothes. If that were true, then why is Lara Stone coloured dark brown?


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This is one of my wife’s favourite songs these days – she plays it to death.


Looking back on the years you see
It was you and me but I gave too much you see
And now it seems you’ve grown tired
And wanna walk away, but you feel obliged to stay
We break up and make up
And everything would be brand new
We gotta face up there ain’t no make up
I said there’s nothing left to do, and

Don’t stay, if you don’t wanna stay
Baby I’ll be okay, believe me when I say
I’ma be alright
Don’t stay, if you don’t wanna stay
Baby I’ll be okay, believe me when I say
I’ma be alright

I’d rather be without you
Livin’ with you is too hard to take
And I know you don’t feel the same
Cos it’s written, it’s written, it’s written all over your face
Remember when we break up and make up
And everything would be brand new
We got to face up there ain’t no make up
I said there’s nothing left to do, and

Don’t stay, if you don’t wanna stay
Baby I’ll be okay, believe me when I say
I’ma be alright
Don’t stay, if you don’t wanna stay
Baby I’ll be okay, believe me when I say
I’ma be alright

It’s so hard what I got to do, oh
I gotta make you leave, for both me and you
And it’s so crazy how things have changed
Cos we ain’t the same, and

Don’t stay, if you don’t wanna stay
Baby I’ll be okay, believe me when I say
I’ma be alright
Don’t stay, if you don’t wanna stay
Baby I’ll be okay, believe me when I say
I’ma be alright

I’ma be alright

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Mitrice Richardson (c. 1985- ),  a 24-year-old secretary from South Los Angeles, has been missing for two weeks.

  • Height; 5 foot 5 (1.65 m)
  • Weight: 135 lbs (59 kg)
  • Tattoos: on the back of her neck and lower abdomen
  • Wearing: a black top and blue jeans
  • Last seen: at 1:25 am on Thursday September 17th 2009 leaving the Malibu/Lost Hills police station in Calabasas, California.
  • Reward: $10,000.

If you see her call the Los Angeles police. But please call her mother or father too because the police have been bad at following up on this:

  • Her mother, Latice Sutton, at (909) 282-9134
  • Her father, Michael Richardson, at (310) 283-4717

mitrice-richardson450Unlike most missing black women, Richardson has made the news nationwide: both NBC and CNN have carried the story. But apart from her race she is like most of their missing persons: young, female, middle-class and pretty.

Her mother says she is manic-depressive (bipolar) and that on the night she disappeared she was in the manic stage, meaning she was not quite in her right mind. Signs of that:

  1. That afternoon she sent “erratic” text messages to her friends;
  2. She went to a very nice restaurant (Geoffrey’s Malibu) looking like the second picture (the police photo from that night), having her 1990 Honda Civic parked by a valet;
  3. According to workers at the restaurant she said she was from Mars and was there to avenge the death of Michael Jackson. She started talking in a made-up language (but that was after she was caught short on money and could not pay the $89.21 bill);
  4. She walked out into the night from the police station (after being arrested for failing to pay her bill) with no money, no car, no mobile phone and not even her ID. No buses run there in the middle of the night and the nearest shops were 20 minutes away on foot. (They kept her car because they found some marijuana in it.)

Her mother called the police station and said she would pick her up. She was led to believe they would hold her overnight till the morning. They did not (they later lied and said they did not have room). They did not even tell Richardson that her mother was coming.

Her father on seeing the police photo:

She looked like a demon had come inside her. That was not my daughter. It ran chills up my spine. I’ve never seen my daughter look like that.

And in that state they let her walk out into the night with nothing.

Five hours after she left a man called and said a woman was sleeping on his porch. She fit the description. The police took three hours to show up. By then the woman was gone.

The police have searched for her, but they have not followed up on all leads: at least one woman who reported seeing her was not called back.

Some of the roads nearby are very dangerous for walking as they go through canyon country – the kind that twist and turn and have a huge drop on one side.

Postscript: Her skeletal remains were found in Malibu Canyon on August 9th 2010, nearly a year after she disappeared. More at CNN.

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Lou Jing (娄婧)


Lou Jing (1988- ), or 娄婧, is a Chinese student from Shanghai who took part in the television talent show, “Let’s Go! Oriental Angel”, in 2009. Even though she lost she became famous in China because of the Internet firestorm she caused, bringing to light how racist China still is (old news to Tibetans and Uighurs). As Hung Huang put it:

In the same year that Americans welcome Obama to the White House, we can’t even accept this girl with a different skin colour.

One night during the show they brought out the families of the contestants. There on live television her mother told China that she had an affair with a black man who returned to America not knowing she was going to have his baby. Then her Chinese husband left her after he saw that the baby was black! She had to bring up Lou Jing on her own.

Pretty strong stuff for Chinese television. Most of the comments that I have seen are directed at the mother, calling her shameless for speaking openly about her affair. The father is stereotyped as a black buck.

Women who have children with foreigners are seen as race traitors. And yet Eurasians, those who are half Chinese and half white, are stereotyped as having more beauty and brains than most. Eurasians are common in fashion, entertainment and advertising.

For those who are half black it is not quite like that. It will be hard, for instance, for Lou Jing to get married. It is unclear whether her skin colour will stand in the way of achieving her dream of becoming a television host. Dark skin is looked down on. Chinese women buy skin creams to lighten their skin.

When Lou Jing was little her skin colour was not a big deal. But as she got older and went out in public more, people would ask her about it, mostly just curious. Others, though, were less kind, calling her names.

But then she went on the show and it got way worse.

The hosts of the show called her “Our Chocolate Girl” and “Black Pearl”, which might be innocent. But people on the Internet left no doubt what they thought, calling her things like “Black Chimpanzee”.

They were saying she was not truly Chinese – even though she was born in China, has lived in China all her life, speaks perfect Shanghai Chinese (to the surprise of many) and can sing Shanghai opera better than most.

Because she looks black American or black African to the Chinese, many believe she is not truly Chinese.

Time magazine would have you believe that is because China is backwards, unlike America. As if Asian Americans do not face the very same perpetual foreigner stereotype in America. Even blacks are not seen as truly American, not like how white people are – just think about Katrina and the Birthers.

Lou Jing:

After participating in this competition, I finally found out, the world is not like what I thought it was.

See also:

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racism is not natural

racism-just-in-caseRacism is not natural. But in America racism has become so common and accepted that it seems like part of the human condition, like love or poverty. Some do not even notice it except in its more extreme forms. But, as Malcolm X discovered in Mecca, racism does not have to be. It is not something we are born with.

Seeing racism as natural allows whites to believe there is little they can do to make society more just. Fighting racism would be like trying to stop the rain. It excuses inaction.

How do we know that racism is not natural?

First, racism is not built into human nature. If it were we would see it in the Bible, we would see it in the Greeks. Both the Jews and the Greeks divided the world into an us and a them, but neither used race to do it: the Jews used religion and the Greeks used language. The colour of your skin meant little to them.

Second, there is no reason for racism to be wired into our brains by evolution: coming across people of other races was rare till the last few thousand years. Not enough time to affect evolution. Europeans did not even think of themselves as “white” till about 1500: race as we know it is a side effect of ocean travel.

Even in America blacks were made into slaves at first because of religion: they were not Christians. Race as an excuse came later, not till the 1660s.

It was only when race became an excuse for keeping blacks as slaves and taking land from the American Indians, only when society was built on skin colour, that racism began to seem part of the “natural” order of things.

The races in America are not “natural” either. Most countries with blacks and whites see mixed-race people as separate, like in Brazil, South Africa or New Orleans under the French. But not in America. There you have the One Drop Rule: if you look at all part black you are seen as all black. So the “black race” has some people who are 90% white!

What Americans see as the races of man and how they feel about them is not something they were born with  – it is learned from a society built by slave owners, by people whose relationship with blacks was a thing of whips and chains.

Even now, more than a hundred years after the slaves were freed, whites still look down on blacks like there is something wrong with them. Whites would rather hire a white man with a prison record than a black man without one; the police can still spend more manpower looking for a dog than for a black woman – or shoot an unarmed black man dead with 50 bullets and call it a “mistake” – and be believed! And on and on. This stuff goes against all common sense. It is not one bit natural.

– Abagond, 2009.

See also:

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childrearingMost white parents and some black parents in America believe in bringing up children in a colour-blind way: they never talk about race but just say stuff like “Everybody’s equal”, “God made all of us” and “Under the skin, we’re all the same”. Some go even further and make sure their children have a chance to regularly meet people of other races, like at school.

It sounds great, but in practice it does not work in most cases.

There was an article in Newsweek a few weeks ago called “See Baby Discriminate” by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Supported by the latest studies, they say that children will still see colour anyway. All they learn from their parents’ silence is that they are uncomfortable talking about race. As one six-year-old white boy put it:

Parents don’t like us to talk about our skin, so don’t let them hear you.

Some interesting findings:

  • In one study five and six-year-olds (100 white, 100 black) were given a pack of cards with drawings of people on them. The children were told to sort them into two piles any way they wanted. Only 16% sorted them by sex, while 68% sorted by them by race – without being asked!
  • In a twist on the blue-eyed/brown-eyed exercise, four and five-year-olds at a preschool were given T-shirts, half of them red, half of them blue, given out in no particular order. They were told to wear them every day for three weeks.  That was it. The teachers said nothing more about it, they did not divide the children according to their T-shirt colour or anything. Yet after three weeks the children who wore blue T-shirts thought the blues were nicer and had more intelligence than the reds, while the reds thought they were the better ones.
  • Going to a mixed-race school does not necessarily make one any less racist. It seems to work for six-year-olds, but not for anyone eight or older. If anything it seems to have opposite effect: the more evenly balanced the races in a high school are, the less likely one will have a best friend from another race. And, mixed school or not, only 8% of white high school students have a best friend from another race. For blacks it is 15%.

Bronson and Merryman say it is better to talk to your children about race than not. Most parents of colour do, but 75% of white parents do not. In fact it makes them very uncomfortable.

Yet no one brings up their children in a gender-blind way, as if there were no such thing as boys and girls, men and women. Not only do parents freely talk about gender, they even make sure to talk about how gender stereotypes are bad and unfair. Why should race be any different?

As to black children, colour-blind child rearing will leave them unprepared for the racism they will face. Studies show it is best to feed them with good images of blacks and not with too much doubt and suspicion about whites.

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The opposition against President Obama is not like what we saw against Clinton and Bush. It comes from a darker, more dangerous place. It expresses itself in a more troubling form.

People disagreed with Bush and Clinton. They questioned their character and intelligence. The Republicans even tried to bring down Clinton by impeaching him. But through it all they continued to respect the office of the presidency – even if they did not like the man holding that office. That is how Americans have been. Not so with Obama. A line is being crossed.


That line was crossed when Congressman Joe Wilson said “You lie!” in the middle of speech by the president to the country, openly disrespecting him.


That line was crossed when Sean Delonas of the New York Post drew a cartoon showing the president being shot dead (as a chimp).

Before Obama no one has doubted the president’s right to be the president, not in living memory.

Bush in 2000 lost the popular vote, winning only through a questionable vote count in a state where his brother was governor.  Yet there was no movement that continued to question his right to hold his office.

Reagan in 1980 won by less than Obama, destroyed the power of the labour unions and pushed through much more extreme policies than Obama’s. Yet you did not hear about people “taking their country back”.

Further, none of these men had their Americanness questioned. None were required to show their hospital birth record because suddenly the one from their state of birth would not do.

The only thing that makes sense of all this is that some have a hard time accepting a black man as president. So they question his right to be president or act towards him like he is not the president.

If so then it is coming from a dark and dangerous place in the American soul, a place of whips and chains and hangings. Dangerous because no one knows how it will end. It could do more than simply take down a president, it could divide the country to a dangerous degree. Already it seems like racism is becoming much more open and naked than it was even six months ago.

Unlike a president’s sex life or bad English, race is one of the few things that can tear the country apart.

lewinskydressThe Republicans hammered Clinton. Even in 1996, two years before Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress, it seemed like Clinton might not make it through another four years. It seemed like sooner or later the Republicans would find something that would stick.

Yet the worse it was ever going to do was to bring down Clinton. It was not going to shape the nature of the country. Its damage would be limited.

If Republican opposition to Obama was based mainly on stuff like ACORN and Tony Rezko, then it would be like what they did to Clinton. But it is not. This is something different.


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Jimmy Carter, a good man who was a bad American president, said this the other day:

Carter: I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African American. … racism still exists and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface, because of a belief among many white people, not just in the South, but around the country, that African Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.

Obama disagrees. His press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said this:

Gibbs on behalf of Obama: The president does not believe that that criticism comes based on the color of his skin. We understand that people have disagreements with some of the decisions that we’ve made and some of the extraordinary actions that had to be undertaken by both this administration and previous administrations to stabilize our financial system, to ensure viability of our domestic auto industry.

Carter is right, though his timing might not be the best. Carter tends to do what he thinks is right, the consequences be damned. So, for example, he pushed for human rights in Iran under the Shah even though it led to the rise of Ayatollah Khomeini. Carter acts morally without thinking ahead.

Obama, on the other hand, goes along to get along. To a sickening degree: He agrees with right-wing talking heads that racism has nothing to do with it. Nothing. It was his policies for saving the banks and the car companies.

He cannot possibly believe that.

Yet, I wonder: Is Carter doing Obama’s bidding? Obama, after all, could never say what Carter said. It needed to be said and said by a white man, one whose opinions would be reported and not be dismissed out of hand.

Obama cannot “cry racism” himself. It would put him in an extremely weak position. And it would not even work: white people have built-in defences against that stuff. It is how they live with themselves.

Yet the racist right is not going to go away. Yesterday it was about his hospital birth record, today it is about health care reform and a sudden, overdone concern for state socialism, tomorrow it will be something else. None of it has the ring of mere policy disagreements. It is too angry and too unreasoned. Because the true issue is not his policy but his race.

The country is at that point in its history where it is liberal enough to elect a black man as president but still too racist for many to accept him as their true president. The nearest comparison I can think of is King James II, a Catholic king of a Protestant England. He was overthrown in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.

Like Reagan and the labour unions, Obama needs to force a showdown with the racist right. That is how Martin Luther King dealt with them. We call it Selma.

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