Archive for the ‘stuff white people say’ Category

GeromeslavemarketThe Arab trader argument is my name for an argument white Americans often use to defend the evil they do in the world. It goes like this: if white Americans do something evil and terrible it is all right – or at least not all that bad – so long as they can find at least one example from world history of someone else doing the same thing. Thus the Atlantic slave trade was not so bad because Arabs traders sold slaves too!

See how it works? Pretty cool trick.


The thing is utterly morally bankrupt. It is the everyone-does-it argument that we tried when we were eight . Our mothers did not buy it then and it does not work now – except maybe for the morally blind.

But that is just what  many white Americans seem to be: morally blind. They know the evil that is done in their name, not just in the past but even now, but they do not want to see it. And when they are faced with it, they try to excuse it with stuff like this.

Maybe moral blindness leads to morally broken thinking – or is it the other way round?

It would be like if I robbed a bank and then said, “People rob banks all the time, what is the big deal?” Or if I slept with someone’s wife and I said, “Your wife had an affair two years ago. See! I am not that bad. Why are you angry at me?”

Do you see how shameless this kind of argument is?

It amazes me that anyone even tries it, for two reasons:

  1. That anyone would waste more than two seconds trying to excuse something so clearly evil, like the slave trade, the Japanese American prison camps, racism, etc.
  2. That they would try to use such a bad argument with a straight face and not see just how bad it is.

But they do it.

It seems to bring comfort to them, but that comfort is completely one-sided. It brings no comfort to those who have to suffer their evil. Like when the Jews were being sent to the death camps, did it bring any comfort to them to know that the Turks killed over a million Armenians?

Forms of this argument:

  • This is the way we have always done it
  • Blacks do it too
  • Blacks are racist too
  • There will always be racists

Right and wrong are not determined or proved by what everyone does, much less by what some people do, like Arab traders. That would just excuse everyone to sink to the lowest, meanest, most evil levels of behaviour.

A simple and far better way to determine right and wrong, without getting deep into religion or philosophy, is the Golden Rule, which is not “Do unto others as some others have done”, as the Arab trader argument would have it, but “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Acts of racism fail this test by their very nature.

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Sonia Sotomayar (Princeton, ’76, summa cum laude)

This week President Obama named the first ever Hispanic woman in American history to the Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor. She graduated summa cum laude – at the top of her class, you cannot get more cum laude than that – from one of the top universities in the country, Princeton. But even that was not enough to keep some from questioning her intelligence!

I saw this exchange between two right-wing Republican talking heads on Mirror On America and Ta-Nehisi Coates:


Fred Barnes (University of Virginia, ’65): I think you can make the case that she’s one of those who has benefited from affirmative action over the years tremendously.


Bill Bennett (Williams College, ’65): Yeah, well, maybe so. Did she get into Princeton on affirmative action, one wonders.


Fred Barnes (University of Virginia, ’65): One wonders.


Bill Bennett (Williams College, ’65): Summa cum laude, I don’t think you get on affirmative action. I don’t know what her major was, but summa cum laude’s a pretty big deal.


Fred Barnes (University of Virginia, ’65): I guess it is, but you know, there’s some schools and maybe Princeton’s not one of them, where if you don’t get summa cum laude then or some kind of cum laude, you then, you’re a D+ student.


Bill Bennett (Williams College, ’65): That ain’t one of them, I know, because I’ve got two boys there…

And Republicans wonder why they do so poorly among blacks and Hispanics!

Barnes is either a racist, a sexist or a fool. Maybe all three. If he is not being racist or sexist, then why in the world is he questioning the intelligence of a Princeton graduate? For what other reason? And if he does not know how affirmative action, university graduation and honours work, then why does he lack the sense to keep his mouth shut?

Sadly it is not just Barnes who thinks like that, far from it. Many white Americans – I would say most, but I have no way to prove it – doubt the intelligence of blacks and Hispanics. So even if you have a degree from an Ivy League university, like Sotomayor, they will still doubt your level of education! It will be pretty much like you were white and graduated from a state school.

It goes beyond just degrees too. It applies to how your ideas and talents are seen. In general you have to be twice as good before whites will say you are equal to them. And even then, like Barnes above, they still might not want to admit it.

Note to white people: Affirmative action or racial quotas helps blacks and others to get into a university but it is not some magic carpet ride to graduation. It is just a foot in the door. They have to study and take tests just like everyone else. Affirmative action affects admission policies, not graduation. Princeton’s good name, and therefore its fortunes, depends on the quality of the people it produces, regardless of colour.

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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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