A Soaking Rain

I usually don’t comment on race issues because, hello, cracker, but I’ve been reading the Chait-Coates debate (here, here, here, here, here and here) and surrounding commentary with interest. Now Sully has piped up, and some of his readers are concerned that Coates has grown fatalistic on the prospect of the USA ever transcending its white supremacy framework.

One Sully reader (whose comment was front-paged) believes Coates’ pessimism about America is “an overreaction to the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis tragedies along with the uglier aspects of the Tea Party movement… It’s up to writers to rise above our emotional outrage and to not take isolated — yes, these were isolated events — and stretch them until they cover from sea to shining sea.”

Coates responds to that idea in detail here and ends with a link to the Serenity Prayer.

To reiterate, I generally choose to keep my opinions on racial issues to myself on the grounds that the supply of middle-aged white person commentary on that topic far outstrips demand. But as the mother of a teenage daughter, I empathize with Coates’ anxiety for his teenage son.

I also empathize with his pessimism — realism may be closer to the mark — about the prospect that the burden of Otherness will ever be lifted. Gender bias doesn’t form a perfect analog to racism, as people far more learned than I have explained in detail elsewhere.

But yeah, I know what it’s like to look at a group of laughing, incredibly brilliant teenage girls and realize that there’s a statistical likelihood that a quarter of them will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes and to know that there’s a 100% chance that their ideas and skills will be undervalued during their professional careers strictly because of their plumbing. Even if we have come a long way, baybee.

The patriarchy? We’re soaking in it. White supremacy? As Coates says, “It is but the rain.” The Serenity Prayer is as sane a response to that as any (except for the God part!).

216 replies
  1. 1
    different-church-lady says:

    On the one hand we are making genuine progress. On the other, we see the sheer size of the mountain.

  2. 2
    Another Holocene Human says:

    I’m glad Sully is here to Britsplain that America’s racial issues can be surmounted by thinking good thoughts and not ruffling the feathers of our Betters.

  3. 3
    Another Holocene Human says:

    It’s up to writers to rise above our emotional outrage and to not take isolated — yes, these were isolated events — and stretch them until they cover from sea to shining sea.”

    Another consumer of our “liberal” media.

  4. 4
    WaterGirl says:

    Sometimes you just have to let yourself feel the despair before you can pick yourself up and start fighting again. Today is a despair day for me.

  5. 5
    Comrade Jake says:

    For me, Coates remains one of the clearest thinkers/writers we have on a whole host of issues, particularly matters of race. He’s a mensch.

    I just wish Sully would air something comparable to this on McMegan, whom he continues to quote for God knows what reason. THAT would be entertaining.

  6. 6
    c u n d gulag says:

    And thanks to today’s SCOTUS decision, the Republican politicians will be able to continue their assault on women’s mental and physical health, in their never ending battle to disallow women to make choice about their own bodies.

    I’m waiting for our Reich-Wingers to make serious attempts to deny women the right to vote.

    Or, maybe they’ll be allowed to keep voting, but only if the husband fills out the ballot for his wife.

  7. 7
    WaterGirl says:

    @Another Holocene Human: Yeah, so many isolated events that, when plotted, they become a solid line.

  8. 8
    Belafon says:

    Not that I can even walk in Coates’ shoes, but: If you give up, they win.

  9. 9
    kwAwk says:

    It took generations for racial animosity and the white patriarchy to embed itself in our culture and it will take generations to weed it out. It has only really been 50 years since the idea that blacks should be treated equally found it’s place in the majority opinion, and with each generation that majority will be stronger as time goes by.

    As the right for black men to vote preceeded the right for white women by 50 years, and the Civil Rights Movement culminating in 1964 preceeded the fight in the 70’s for the ERA, a woman President of the US should soon follow.

  10. 10
    ice weasel says:

    In all ways, nicely said Ms. Cracker.

  11. 11
    rikyrah says:

    I’ve been down on Coates, but I have been amused by the ‘disappointment’ of Sully and others.

    I look at Coates, and I don’t see a ‘ turn to Al Sharpton’. I see a Black man slapped by reality. He’ll wallow in it for awhile, and then he’ll dust himself off and get back in the game, as did his ancestors and mine.

    Acknowledging that racism and White Supremacy are in every fiber of this country’s being isn’t being a pessimist – it’s being a realist. And, being real is the beginning point for whatever success a Black person gets in this country. Only rooted in that reality of ‘ Yeah, I know, now what’ is how you thrive in America DESPITE being Black.

  12. 12
    EconWatcher says:

    I agree with all of that, but here’s one nice little thing: I was recently watching a Chris Rock routine from 1996, back when Colin Powell was riding high, in which Rock was saying that no way, no how, would you ever actually see a black man on the presidential ticket. It was all part of a comedy routine, true, but there was obviously also some heartfelt commentary there.

  13. 13
    Roger Moore says:

    I think we have been making progress recently, but Coates’s pessimism is warranted for two reasons:

    1) The last few years should have shown anyone with eyes to see how stubbornly resistant the forces of racism still are.
    2) The experience of the Jim Crow South demonstrate that progress is not a ratchet; all the progress we’ve made since the start of the Civil Rights Movement can still be taken back if we don’t keep fighting.

    I think the second point is one that a lot of people miss. They’ve been taught a school room version of American history that teaches a lot about African American progress during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement but ignores the reason they had to fight to re-establish rights they had previously enjoyed. Our country has illegally taken away equal rights in the past, any a realist has to acknowledge the possibility it will happen again.

  14. 14
    MattF says:

    Well, people need to suck it up and agree that Coates is 1) exceptionally smart, 2) a clear, brilliant writer, 3) right about race. Why is that so hard?

  15. 15
    Helen says:

    @EconWatcher: Back when I was in high school, 30 some years ago, Gloria Steinem was asked if a woman would become President in her lifetime. She answered that a woman would become President only when a man of every race first got the chance.

    I remember laughing and thinking “she’s nuts if she thinks a black man will become President before a white woman.”

    Turns out she wasn’t nuts.

  16. 16
    EconWatcher says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I think there has been way too little coverage of the giant step backward after Reconstruction, which lasted almost a hundred years. It’s a really amazing thing–we went from black people being elected to Congress from recent slave states to black people not being able to vote at all, or enjoy normal economic access and rights, in the blink of an eye. I don’t think you average (white) person on the street knows that.

    I’m not being facetious when I say I wish Spielberg or someone would make a big blockbuster money featuring that as the backdrop. It needs to be known and understood.

  17. 17
    Roger Moore says:

    @Comrade Jake:

    For me, Coates remains one of the clearest thinkers/writers we have on a whole host of issues, particularly matters of race.

    The thing that makes Coates so impressive talking about race is that he has tremendous command of the facts. Lots of people talk airily about race relations, and he destroys them by quoting facts and figures and numbers and stories that are all well sourced and make a much stronger point. It doesn’t hurt that he’s a fantastic writer, either.

  18. 18
    EthylEster says:

    I find Coates less interesting these days (harder to read might be more accurate) BUT I appreciate his attention to white supremacy…because, as someone raised in the south by Crackers (not related to our front-pager!), I think THIS is the key point.

    So much white people behavior is understandable when it is acknowledged that many are certain that they are superior to non-whites.

    When ideas about race start with that assumption, it’s hard to move forward. When I visit the South, I hear “educated” white people still expressing views that blacks/browns are racially inferior. Of course they do this only when surrounded by white people…confident that no one will disagree.

  19. 19
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    I approve of this post and have not a word to add.

  20. 20
    EconWatcher says:

    @EconWatchersorry, typos: “your (average) white person” and “blockbuster movie.”

  21. 21

    Sully is going to back whichever hairball the Republican primary voters also collectively known as Greater Wingnuttia, coughs up.
    OT or may be not: his commentary on Cosmos and Neil DeGrasse Tyson also made me ragey.

  22. 22
    celticdragonchick says:

    @Another Holocene Human:

    Sully is actually be thoughtful about the discussion and acknowledges that his assumptions may need re-examination. Give him a pass on this one.

  23. 23
    OzarkHillbilly says:

    The pendulum, it will swing. Still, I fear for every child of color and what they will endure. What was it MLK said about the arc of history? Long but bending ever towards justice.

  24. 24
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    I don’t blame TNC for being cynical, at all.

    Sully’s commenter is whitesplaining. Fuck him.

    And Sully himself can NEVER be forgiven for his pushing of that Bell Curve idiocy. His spot on the tumbrel manifest is in indelible ink.

  25. 25
    Belafon says:

    @Helen: I really doubt we’ll have an Asian-American president before a female. And I don’t really see us getting a Latino-American (is that a thing?) president before a female.

    And a question for the women (yeah, this will be dangerous): Do you think any part of Obama’s winning of the nomination had to do with him being male?

  26. 26
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Roger Moore: Reading Warmth of Other Suns right now on TNC’s recommendation. Really filled in some gaps in my knowledge of that era and I recommend it to everyone.

  27. 27

    @celticdragonchick: His thoughtfulness is all pretense and no substance.

  28. 28
    AMinNC says:

    You know what, Betty, I think unless and until white people start talking more about race, white supremacist structures won’t change. Only when we (I’m white too) look at the racism in ourselves and, even more importantly,in the ways we organize our society, will it begin to be undone.

    Now, we need to be mindful of how we talk about race and racism, and listen and learn, rather than trying to “whitesplain” everything, but I applaud your wading into the discussion, rather than assuming “those issues don’t have anything to do with me.” Because, of course, they have to do with all of us.

    I wrote a blog post today about just this idea, with respect to men and the sexual assault of women: http://barbaricyawpblog.blogsp.....o-men.html

  29. 29
    the Conster says:

    We did manage to elect Barack Obama twice in landslides, so there’s that. As a result, he’s made (almost) half the country lose their shit. Now we pretty much can clearly see what we’re dealing with. It’s about as ugly as it gets because ugliness has been exposed, but this whole last 5 years has been extremely edifying. The Obama years have been a national sorting hat and I sure know more than I did before about the inner workings of people I thought I knew very well, and by now, I have heard as much opinion from white men as I care to hear for the rest of my life.

  30. 30
    jl says:

    @Roger Moore: I agree. Except I would emphasize that that the ‘possibility it will happen again’ is high. And it will not be just African-Americans, but Hispanics, youth, women, aged. But African-Americans would suffer the worst consequences.

    The very last reader comment in one of Sullivan’s posts makes a key point: there is racism, or at least serious bigotry, and it has real consequences right now for African-Americans. And different bigotries have consequences for Hispanics, youth, women, LGBT, and other groups. And it is held and being practices by a large minority of the white population right now, and most of them will not change. I think the teabagger movement, and the fact that the GOP just cannot give up its vile and long standing cynical Southern Strategy is strong evidence of that.

    Hey, maybe I am turning into Al Sharpton, but in one way, it looks like I am more radical and extreme than Coates. There is NO EFFING African-American culture of dysfunction. There is a community of human beings, with usual human being style habits with their strengths and weaknesses, who have suffered, and continue to suffer, oppression, and they are dealing with it as best they can.

    Coates talks about the coping devices, and the ruthless code of reputation and respect in his African-American hood. You think doofus privileged white guys in certain U.S. sub-cultures doe not live by a ruthless code of reputation and respect? The only difference is that the costs and benefits of using different means to enforce this code are different for different groups of people.

    I think the very idea that there is some unique and special African-American dysfunction is framing the issue of poverty and bigotry in this country that gives too much credit to racist and bigoted framing.

    People have pointed this out for a long time. I have cited a phrase by Alexander Hamilton, an early and avid race equalizer before in the comments, and it comes to mind now (paraphrasing): It is wrong to think that the rich are more virtuous than the poor, the rich merely have vices that are more conductive to the acquisition and preservation of wealth and power.

    We are all the same humans, but our circumstances and the power relations differ.

  31. 31
    Roger Moore says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I don’t think you average (white) person on the street knows that.

    The odd thing is that they probably know it in the sense of being able to answer a test question about it but don’t get it in the sense of being able to integrate it into their understanding of the world.

  32. 32
    slag says:

    Well-said, Cracker.

  33. 33

    @EthylEster: I find the commenters on TNC’s blog annoying. TNC’s is powerful when he writes on race but I do feel that he is too harsh on Obama.

  34. 34
    Kylroy says:

    @AMinNC: White people will openly and honestly discuss and think about race when there is meaningful incentive for them to do so.

    So, basically, never.

  35. 35
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @Kylroy: None are so blind as they who will not see… their own privilege.

  36. 36
    aimai says:

    I feel like Coates struggles with being the “black guy a lot of white people like to read” and that’s a heavy burden–like you are the tour guide for these stupid people, translation alla the fuckin’ time for people who are sincere and nice but deaf and kind of thick. First you spend time learning to speak their language so you can translate for them, then you take them on guided tours of their own neighborhoods which they seem never to have noticed before, then you offer them carefully constructed information and analyses that are doled out to them in small enough doses that they can understand, then you listen to them repeat the smallest bit of information to the people standing in the back who missed what you said, you hear them getting it slightly wrong, and then some old fart in the back gets upset because “this is all such a downer” and couldn’t someone else explain it better?

    I’d be fucking depressed too. Sometimes you don’t feel like cheering on drunken, idiot, syphlitic, efforts of the people on your side who seem to need hope that they will get to the promised land and have time to build a house with a garage and a swimming pool before the end times come.

  37. 37
    Emma says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Preach it brother. I’ll forgive him after he spends 20 years atoning — and maybe not even then.

  38. 38
    jl says:

    Because, sadly, many of the racist, sexist, and other bigoted attitudes we see today are life long, things will change very slowly as the dead enders and die hards die off. We have to hope, and I think hope with good reason, that their children will be less racist and bigoted, and either can free themselves, or be freed from their delusions, false pride and fear.

    But that won’t happen unless people who understand the truth be implacable, and be willing to explain the truth, even if it seems hopeless and they are called naive chumps mouthing peoliberal pieties and whatnot, and lose repeatedly to swindlers, sharks and fools who can delude a plurality of white dupes.

    Edit: And if people like Chait and Sullivan squirm while smarter and more eloquent (edit: and more experienced, and deeper) people like Coates explain things to them patiently, then that is good. That means someone is on the job.

  39. 39
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Kylroy: White people openly and honestly discuss race all the time, but often they’re not doing it in ways you’d call positive. We need a way beyond “racism bad” to “how does racism hurt people?”

  40. 40
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Another Holocene Human: I think it’s more like “Torysplain”, since he is one, and was a rabid worshiper of the Wicked Witch.

  41. 41
    Kylroy says:

    @Steve LaBonne: The question nobody seems to want to ask – why would they? What does a white person gain by talking about race? Keep your month shut and everyone assumes you’re OK, open it and reveal the depths of your ignorance. Privilege is most certainly real, and by acknowledging it a privileged person gains…what, exactly?

  42. 42
    hoodie says:

    “uglier aspects of the Tea Party movement?” Fuck, the Tea Party is an abomination in every conceivable way. I come from cracker roots and well know how ugly that shit is, it’s basically the same crap my kinfolk deluded themselves with while being fucked by the likes of Peabody Coal and US Steel. Yet, here in 2014, I know high school kids whose families hail from upstate NY, but who wave rebel flags. How the hell do you get there except by the power of race? I’m just as pessimistic as Coates at times.

  43. 43
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @jl:

    It is wrong to think that the rich are more virtuous than the poor

    Back in the old Salon Table Talk days, there was a thread about the infamous Jonbenet Ramsey case, in which one commenter said that any notions of considering her parents as suspects were wrong, because rich people would never do that.

    After people piled on to the commenter about how stupid that comment was, the asshole stuck to his position that the rich just don’t do that sort of thing, ever, because they’re rich.

    I kid you not.

    I recall also the incredible media frenzy over the Lord Lucan disappearance back in the 70’s. Nothing like an aristocrat in a scandal of that nature to get Fleet Street in a tizzy.

  44. 44
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @Kylroy: We gain the ability- if we care about being a decent human being- to at least try to be mindful and avoid exercising our privilege in ways that harm others. Of course it’s the getting people to care part that’s really tough, unless they’re already inclined that way.

  45. 45
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @rikyrah: And what of Al Sharpton? The man is anything but a race-baiter. His greatest crime was to speak up for people who had no voice. TPTB will never forgive him for that.

  46. 46
    Mnemosyne says:

    I also empathize with his pessimism — realism may be closer to the mark — about the prospect that the burden of Otherness will ever be lifted. Gender bias doesn’t form a perfect analog to racism, as people far more learned than I have explained in detail elsewhere.

    I am optimistic that the burden of Otherness will eventually be lifted … but I’m pessimistic that it will happen within my (or Coates’) lifetime. And when you have children, as Coates does, the fact that things will probably be better in another 50 or 100 years is not much comfort.

  47. 47
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Kylroy: You get the pride in learning stuff, the knowledge that you’re not being as big of a jerk as you might be. I know, not going to entice everyone that way, but it’s something.

  48. 48
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I think the second point is one that a lot of people miss. They’ve been taught a school room version of American history that teaches a lot about African American progress during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement but ignores the reason they had to fight to re-establish rights they had previously enjoyed. Our country has illegally taken away equal rights in the past, any a realist has to acknowledge the possibility it will happen again.

    BINGO.

  49. 49
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Kylroy:

    Privilege is most certainly real, and by acknowledging it a privileged person gains…what, exactly?

    The opportunity to use it to dismantle the structure that created it and thereby nudge society infinitesimally closer to a more just place? I’ll admit some wouldn’t consider that an unalloyed benefit, but…

  50. 50
    eric says:

    @jl: this is quantifiable. We see the numbers showing the trends on LGBT rights with younger people.

    Yet, none of the generational shifts will help the young black boy or black girl in poverty achieve greatness. Outreached hands have to come from “us,” but the “us” that is the government is still infected by the bigots of the Southern Strategy and the white supplicants in the press.

    We are marching to justice, but that march is, and will, leave too many behind — where too many is one.

  51. 51
    Porco Rosso says:

    I can understand why Imani wants to set things on fire. (Twib reference).

    It seemed like Ta-Henisi Coates’ issue concerns were 1) not wanting to consign the ridiculous notion that the fucked over enslave themselves, and 2) noting the classical liberal ideals this nation was founded upon are all too compatible with self-deception / papering over the exploitation of others.

    Figuring out ways to combat self deception seems a damn good start

  52. 52
    Visceral says:

    I spend enough time on RW sites to report that Latinos are going to get accepted before blacks do. GOP bigwigs arguing that Latinos are natural conservatives isn’t just cynical party-building; lots of regular guys believe it too. The myth is that Latinos were never spoiled rotten by welfare and “empowerment” the way blacks have been (courtesy of liberals). These conservatives even believe that undocumented immigration and “La Raza” are recent phenomena and allegedly alien to far older and fundamentally conservative Tejano and Californio identities and value systems.

    The explicitly racial calculus is that conservative whites are going to [try to] welcome half-white or more Latino elites into the fold to present a united front against the mostly Indios mass … which parallels the way politics breaks down in Latin America.

    The really interesting thing is that those parts of the RW that think white people in general are lost to liberalism actually put a lot of faith in “natural conservative” Latinos to save America.

  53. 53
    kwAwk says:

    Reading Coates’ original article, I was left wishing that he would acknoledge that perhaps Hip Hop has had a major role in the perception of inner city residents held by others. I’ll admit to being a white male, but it’s kind of the point.

    If I didn’t live and work in the inner cities where I see daily black men and women working in low wage jobs, working to make my meals and keep the office building I work in clean, I might be tempted to believe the Hip Hop image that all blacks in the city are interested in are easy money, drug dealing, loose women, driving a Mercedes at age 22 and partying. There may be a million Hip Hop songs about getting up at 5 am to ride the train to the airport to work at Mc Donalds for 10 hours but I don’t hear them.

    I would also say, that on the few occasions I’ve had to go do charity work, house rehabbing, in black neighborhoods on the south side of Chicago, there does seem to be a lost generation there where Grandma and Grampa worked hard at blue collar jobs, the grandkids are being raised by Grandma and Grampa and seem to be normal kids, while the parents are screwed up.

    Again, it’s just a perception of mine, but Coates could think more about changing perceptions, and how blacks could change the perceptions people have of them, rather than just lament racism.

  54. 54
    The Snarxist Formerly Known as Kryptik says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I will say that TNC, when it comes to actual party politics, gets dangerously close to the borderline of ‘both sides same thing’. Not quite over that line, but his cynicism pushes him quite close to it, due to higher expectations of the Dems.

  55. 55
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @EconWatcher: I actually learned about that in Eastern By George McGovern Massachusetts but we were never taught about the drip drip drip of Jim Crow and losing access to public accommodation. It was more presented as an immediate swingback once federal troops were withdrawn. We also didn’t learn about the coup in North Carolina. We did learn about the 1st (and 2nd) Klan, the crooked deal that ended Reconstruction, Plessy vs. Ferguson (which was the nail in the coffin of equal access to public carriers).

    They could do more to teach kids about the realities of losing rights, not something that happened to people you don’t know far away who probably didn’t really didn’t know the difference because they were sharecroppers anyway. Something very corrosive about presenting it like that. They could go into why people end up losing rights. I remember a lot of focus on the Holocaust but that’s hardly the only time that’s happened.

  56. 56
    I'mNotSureWhoIWantToBeYet says:

    Along these lines, a great piece I was pointed to recently on the stark differences between sensible actions in a poor, a middle class, and a rich community is Payne.pdf from Prof. Lynn Nations Johnson at Western Michigan University. (8 page pdf). It is a real eye-opener and well worth a read.

    Cheers,
    Scott.

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Cassidy says:

    We’re pack animals with very deep rooted social dominance traits. Someone is always going to get pissed on.

  59. 59
    Kylroy says:

    @SatanicPanic: So, you get to feel good about yourself. But if the price is having to realize that everything that made you feel good about yourself and your culture and your country is a lie…I just don’t see that being something you can market.

    If the white participants in the civil rights movement were told that their adherence to an ideal of color-blindness WRT race would later be used as evidence of their ignorance and apathy, I really do believe most of them would have lined up behind Bull Connor.

  60. 60
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Cassidy: To quote Rose Sayer in The African Queen, “Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we were put on this earth to rise above.”

  61. 61
    Belafon says:

    @Kylroy: What most whites would actually gain is the ability to recognize that their racism has been used against them to keep them poor. Even beyond the fact that they would actually be better people, there’s an economic incentive to opening their eyes.

    To me, it’s a lot like the Chinese finger puzzle: The more they struggle to keep their white privilege, the more it’s actually hurting them.

    And then you throw in the fact that blacks are being hurt more by their actions, I can understand Coates’ pessimism.

  62. 62
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @Belafon:

    And a question for the women (yeah, this will be dangerous): Do you think any part of Obama’s winning of the nomination had to do with him being male?

    Probably, yes. Because old white men had practice voting for Black men for mayor and stuff like that. Women other than wives/widows have been rare until very recently. The first one is always the hardest.

    Massachusetts, a state with possibly the highest percentage of white males to vote for Barack Obama (even white men of a certain age!) had the first Black US Senator post reconstruction: Edward Brooke, Republican, 1966.

    That was 42 years before the 2008 election.

    Elizabeth Warren is the first female US Senator from Massachusetts.

  63. 63
    jl says:

    @eric: I admit that I you made a very good and very important point, and I have no good response to it.

  64. 64
    kwAwk says:

    @Steve LaBonne:

    Kind of a bullshit response Steve. If I were to dress like Flavor Flav or Tupac and spend my conversations talking about how I was a drug dealer or gang member, I wouldn’t get very far in society either.

  65. 65
    Roger Moore says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    We need a way beyond “racism bad” to “how does racism hurt people?”

    It wouldn’t hurt if we had a more nuanced view of what constitutes racism. A lot of white people don’t want to consider anything much milder than lynching and burning crosses to be racism; they especially don’t want to acknowledge that one can be racist because of the way one thinks, even if it isn’t usually expressed in racist actions. And it’s very hard to get white people to see white privilege as racist; we don’t want to acknowledge that we’re passively benefiting from a racist system even when we aren’t doing anything specific ourselves.

    @Kylroy:

    The question nobody seems to want to ask – why would they? What does a white person gain by talking about race?

    Understanding. If you really do have black (or any other minority) friends, you owe it to yourself to try to understand where they’re coming from, even if that makes you look stupid and feel uncomfortable. Maybe the next time you’ll be a bit more knowledgeable and a bit more comfortable. And maybe it will open your eyes to all the subtle ways we engage in racism so you won’t look like an asshole by forwarding a racist email or using a loaded term whose implications you don’t understand.

  66. 66
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kwAwk:

    Reading Coates’ original article, I was left wishing that he would acknoledge that perhaps Hip Hop has had a major role in the perception of inner city residents held by others.

    And yet why did “gangsta rap” become popular and crowd out all of the other hip-hop genres?

    Because white teenagers bought it in droves. From what I can tell, purchasers of hip-hop are still 66 percent white.

    So your argument is that black musicians are to blame when white audiences box them in and demand more and more of the same stereotypes?

  67. 67
    Pogonip says:

    @kwAwk: This is also happening with whites, and not just trailer-park whites; at least half the middle-class white women I know are raising their grandchildren because the parents, their children, are completely incapable of navigating everyday life. And it’s nothing the women did wrong; they’re all typical middle-class Americans, full of Protestant work ethic. Nobody can figure out what went wrong, but at least half of an entire generation may have been lost.

  68. 68
    🍀 Martin says:

    Is there any real reason to be optimistic?

    Yeah, we might be able to tamp down the overt racism and reach a point where n-bombs aren’t even polite in quiet conversations, but that’s not where Coates is coming from.

    Do any of us really think that the myriad attacks on education, voting, taxation, housing, are going to end any time soon? You’ve got an entire political party apparatus and 40% of the country overtly supporting those moves. You have another 40% opposing those moves without acknowledging the racial implications of them, merely as some bad abstract policy.

    And the truth of the matter is that even the better political party only comes out against this stuff at the last possible moment – until then they are best apathetic to the attack and at worse complicit in it. Democrats have not been a bastion of gay rights for the last century. Hell, they’ve barely been for the last half decade, and if you’re trans you still have a long time yet wait.

    White women aren’t faring any better. Nor are Latinos. Nor are people with disabilities.

    This isn’t overt discrimination. Nobody is out there burning crosses on people’s lawn. But our laws and policies and infrastructure simply never considered them. They were ignored. A century of male architects never considered that women needed more square footage per person, and a little bit more time per person for restrooms. They were ignored. And outside of that we have a whole set of traditions and biases that keep us blind to the problem.

    A few years ago I got a referral for a hire for a position I had open. A colleague that I’ve always respected called up and said that she had a candidate that she liked but wasn’t able to hire, and that I should consider her, and indicated that she would probably be a great back-office person. I asked her to send her over, but ended the conversation as soon as I could because I was immediately pissed off. I knew what ‘back-office’ meant, and sure enough, a few minutes later a 40-ish, slightly overweight black woman walked in my office. She was a great candidate, and would have made a great front-office person. She was charming, had a very good demeanor with people, had a great resume. She was a slam dunk for the majority of jobs that we hire for, and I did make her an offer, but she got a better opportunity elsewhere (we don’t pay very well, and I’m sure she saw the same treatment I saw).

    Now, it wasn’t just my colleague that put this woman in the ‘not front-office material’ category, but an entire committee of people. We have very good policies against discrimination, and we take them seriously, but this was a very soft discrimination and one I needed to point out to my colleague, and make sure she knew that I saw it. I genuinely don’t think she realized the impact of what she did based on her reaction, but that’s sort of the point. We’re going to keep blissfully denying opportunities and setting up unfair situations against all manner of groups forever, and it all stems from the power base. So long as whites and males and Christians and heterosexuals and able-bodied people and so on are the ones in power and can glide through life without actually having to confront the reality of the people not in their little group, then this is never, ever going to end. It’s a soft white supremacy, but it’s still white supremacy.

    That’s my $.02 from my privileged white, male, able-bodied, heterosexual seat.

  69. 69
    Eric U. says:

    as Colbert said the other night, (might not be exact) “I know I’m white because I just spent the last 6 minutes explaining that I’m not racist”

  70. 70
    Belafon says:

    @kwAwk: Not all white people in Texas wear cowboy boots and hats, no matter how much country music might make you think that.

  71. 71
    AMinNC says:

    @kilroy (sorry, I don’t know how to actually link to your comments) I think you ask a good question – what does a white person gain by talking about race?- and make a good comment about needing incentives to change.

    I’d like to think that some white people would want to talk about race in meaningful and helpful ways because it is a moral issue for them. Some will want to because they are married to people of other races, or have children of other races and don’t want to see them hurt. Some will want to because they see how exploiting racial difference plays into class oppression. I think there are a lot of potential reasons that might outweigh what is likely to be an embarrassing and painful examination of privilege.

    But I also think that it is naive to expect the group with the power will just give it up out of the goodness of their hearts. Men and white people, as groups, aren’t going to forego privilege unless it is demanded of them. But it can’t hurt if some of the people doing the demanding are also white and male.

  72. 72

    The bigots know that power sharing is a zero sum game, if the black people or woman gain power, they lose at least partially. In Jane Eyre, Mr. Rochester who locks up his mentally ill wife is a hero, consider what we would call such man today.
    Women and black people are no longer property and there is small but politically significant minority does not like that outcome.

  73. 73
    gvg says:

    I think it is chance that a black man preceeded a white woman as President. Individual talent matters too, as well as strengths matching current circumstances. Hillary made some choices that some percentage of voters didn’t like as well as the choices a specific black man had made at that moment in history.
    It HAS been an edifying 5 years watching the racists lose their minds when previously they kept quiet more. We came very close to having a woman president and may see that soon. some days I am feeling tired anticipating what illusions I will lose when that happens.
    The thing is I knew perfectly well Florida could go for Obama by looking around me in the grocery store and at work. The grocery store told me there were a lot of mixed families, and if people accept in laws of another color even if it’s so they can see grandkids, that means they value those grandkids. It wasn’t just a few, it was a lot, and included well off and poor. Work results showed that I have had multiple black bosses and so have most people and it was just like having a white boss. Overheard and seen was evidence that the racists were living in a sort of fantasy that the polls didn’t really reflect the secret views of other whites and that was amusing before the election. Obama may not have recieved the majority of the white vote but he did get a large minority of it. After the elections have been a trial to my patience.
    I remember how shocking I found the women hating that was revealed in Clinton’s time. I’m not looking forward to that return but we can’t back down.
    It has seemed to me that the various haters think PC means it’s rude to say certain things the way it’s rude to fart not that it’s wrong to think certain things and when you say them people realize correctly that you are a bad person.

  74. 74
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @Kylroy: Getting into strawman territory there. No need, because we all do realize what a tough sell confronting one’s own privilege is to most people. The only- maybe forlorn- hope is getting people to realize that all non-0.01 percenters are ultimately in the same boat, and we’d better start rowing together rather than capsizing it. But that’s been the unrequited dream of the left for a long time…

  75. 75
    kc says:

    @kwAwk:

    Again, it’s just a perception of mine, but Coates could think more about changing perceptions, and how blacks could change the perceptions people have of them, rather than just lament racism.

    Oohh, this is kind of a pet peeve of mine. I think that’s unfair. I hear so many conservatives demanding that “black leaders” denounce gangsta rap or whatever. But no one ever says that white people need work on changing perceptions created by, say, satanic heavy metal, or Paris Hilton, or any other dopey or scary white-centric pop culture enthusiasm.

    Seriously, have you heard anyone demand that “white leaders” denounce Ozzy Osborne for biting the head off a live pigeon?

  76. 76
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @AMinNC: Interesting post. Don’t you think just directly talking about consent and ethics is more effective than trying to hide the pr0n? There’s porn that’s good on consent and a lot of porn that’s not, including all the alt.sex.stories and pervy fanfiction that’s out there. You can find piles of erotic shit on Tumblr, after all. There’s all kinds of sex talk going on at school. There are lots of fiction books not labeled erotica at all that nevertheless are littered with rape, dubious consent, and coercion, presented without context or commentary. You need to drum that ethical stuff at home, including the logistics of consent, just like you’d talk about the logistics of birth control. Don’t rely on school. Half the time you have teachers spewing christianist bullshit that’s the exact opposite of an ethics of consent.

  77. 77
    kwAwk says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Isn’t that kind of the point though? White kids were eating up Gangsta rap. Paul Ryan is just the right age to have been listening to the golden years of Gangsta rap while in high school and college. How might Paul Ryan, man from small town Wisconsin, developed his perception of inner city blacks?

    I try not to be racist, but even for me it took Eminem to kind of pull back the curtain a little bit and admit that a lot of rap was kind of a joke. I’ve never been to either Compton or Brooklyn. It never occurred to me that the Gangsta rap was a bit of exaggeration.

  78. 78
    Cacti says:

    @kwAwk:

    Reading Coates’ original article, I was left wishing that he would acknoledge that perhaps Hip Hop has had a major role in the perception of inner city residents held by others. I’ll admit to being a white male, but it’s kind of the point.

    Your point of view is neatly demolished by Ice Cube’s track “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” (i.e. prior to gangsta rap, Compton was a nature preserve for bunny rabbits).

    When Ronald Reagan was railing about welfare queens, hip hop was barely a blip on anyone’s radar. To say that hip hop has “had a major role in the perception of inner city residents” is to pretend that there was a generally positive perception of inner city black people prior to the advent of hip hop music.

  79. 79
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @kwAwk: Thanks for demonstrating the natural human reaction when one’s exercise of privilege is pointed out. And as already said, the really big market for the most objectionable stuff is actually white kids.

  80. 80
    eric says:

    @jl: thanks….allow me to add, that much of this racism has been served by religion. By feeding to the poor (and certainly to poor blacks) the promise of other-worldy “rewards” far too many are lulled into a passivity and acceptance of their plight. Plus, by making Christ’s suffering paramount to his divinity and justice, one can transform the suffering of the poor into a righteous trait from which one need not escape. It is the another form fatalism can take in the face of a Mountain that wont be climbed in a lifetime.

  81. 81

    @🍀 Martin:

    A century of male architects never considered that women needed more square footage per person, and a little bit more time per person for restrooms. They were ignored.

    If you go to many of the older buildings that house physics or engineering departments even at major universities, you will find fewer women’s bathrooms then men’s. Many times I was the only woman in my grad classes in physics and many times I felt distinctly unwelcome. The male students formed informal homework groups, that they never bothered to let me know, and so on.

  82. 82
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Belafon: Ding! Ding! Ding!

  83. 83
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kwAwk:

    Isn’t that kind of the point though? White kids were eating up Gangsta rap. Paul Ryan is just the right age to have been listening to the golden years of Gangsta rap while in high school and college. How might Paul Ryan, man from small town Wisconsin, developed his perception of inner city blacks?

    Racist people from small towns with no black people in them ate up racist stereotypes? Gosh, that’s a shocker.

    If you want to climb onto the Bamboozled bandwagon and complain about black people participating in their own oppression, you can do that, but you need to be clear that that’s what you’re doing rather than complaining that a few hip-hop artists reporting on their daily lives in the inner city forced innocent white people to be racist.

  84. 84
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @Belafon:

    And a question for the women (yeah, this will be dangerous): Do you think any part of Obama’s winning of the nomination had to do with him being male?

    Indirectly. Even though I was an Obama supporter from the beginning, I was distressed the Hillary ran such a shit primary campaign, largely because I thought it reflected badly on women politicians as a whole. I don’t believe many people consciously decided to vote for Obama because of gender — I think decisions based on race were far more widespread — but some of the sexual stereotyping, including the (perceived or real) exaggerating of experience, mismanagement of the campaign, appearance and other personal issues, played into archetypal anti-women themes. If Hillary runs and gets the nomination in 2016, I expect we’ll see these played out much more explicitly.

  85. 85
    Another Holocene Human says:

    Hell, if your kid is at any way good in English class there is going to be piles of rapey western canon–“she’s asking for it”–from Thomas Hardy books (although he subtly condemns his subjects) to disgusting, rapey rot like D.H. Lawrence (the biggest hypocrite of all, he sold out for fame and money but in his writing projects all his rage on the women he pretended to be attracted to). Camille Paglia dances through the Western Canon actually providing an extended apologia for the rapiness. And if that’s secular letters just watch out for the religious ones. Aquinas felt that harm reduction consisted of horny scholars raping women rather than masturbating. The Desert Fathers are infamous for their misogyny. Even “saint” Augustine was a bounder who strung his partner along for a decade because he didn’t want the responsibility of raising a kid*, before he had his religious conversion and was too holy for her anyway.

    *they were having sex. they had birth control back then. trufax.

  86. 86

    @kwAwk: What rap music were the people who carried out lynchings in Jim Crow South listening to?

  87. 87
    jl says:

    A couple of commenters brought up hip hop and rap, and concern about the effect of the ‘gangster’ genre of that movement, and how it would be good to acknowledge how that stuff is bad, and may have hurt the African-American community.

    OK, that is a fair point. But apply that to the (white) lawless southern rebel culture, some of the lowlife aspects of country music, rock and roll too, and in the same way, as some how being a legitimate reason for excusing social and economic discrimination against a whole community. But I don’t hear much about that.

    And, I think one has to be aware of the way popular perceptions can be manipulated by those in power to enforce racism and bigotry. Anyone remember the big fuss 20 or 25 years ago over the supposedly gangster rap of Public Enemy, and Chuck D?

    So, sorry, I will not acknowledge anything in particular about that the significance or effect of the more unsavory aspects of hip hop or rap.

  88. 88
    kwAwk says:

    @Steve LaBonne:

    White kids may buy most of gansta rap, but they buy most of most musical genres. White kids outnumber black kids in this country 4 or 5 to 1.

    The conversation is seems to be that people like Paul Ryan percieve that a generation of blacks are lazy and want to be street thugs, while blacks used to be hard workers. It’s not my perception it is his.

    It may have a lot do do with the fact that Marvin Gay, Michael Jackson and Aritha Franklin, didn’t put out Gangsta rap albums.

  89. 89
    Mnemosyne says:

    Last thing since I have to go to lunch: I am by no means perfect, and I still fuck up a lot when it comes to race and say stupid things, but I still think the starting point for most white liberals is Molly Ivins’ starting point: “When you figure out they’re lying to you about race, you start to wonder what else they’re lying to you about.”

  90. 90
    Turgidson says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    It seems that way to me too. One of the better points I think Chait has made in the back-and-forth is that TNC is putting Obama and Ryan in the same box, and not considering matters of degree. TNC makes an extremely persuasive case that the “black people need to live up to their end of the deal” (WTF does that even mean?) or “culture of poverty” discussions, which strongly imply, if not state outright, that black culture and poverty culture are one and the same, is extremely ignorant nonsense at best and outright racism at worst, and Obama should not be adopting that rhetoric. But assholes like Paul Ryan think the cultural aspect (assuming arguendo it does exist) is the whole problem and that government efforts to alleviate poverty do nothing, or make things worse (i.e. the “hammock” bullshit he used to say all the time). Obama, foolishly and/or wrongly, has made the “black folk need to pull their weight” type comments a few times, but that’s as far as his agreement with the zombie-eyed granny-starver goes. He believes government can be a force for good in this area and would gladly sign legislation to that effect if Congress would pass it. I am also certain his perception of the issue, informed by his own heritage and experience, is a million times more nuanced than Paul Ryan’s cruel Randian dipshittery, even if it does allow for the mistaken notion that the notion of a “culture of poverty” is a contributing factor.

    I find TNC’s objection to the whole “culture” premise very convincing (as usual), but basically saying Obama’s beliefs = Ryan’s beliefs because Obama has made a few unfortunate comments, is far more black and white than TNC’s analysis typically is. My suspicion is that it’s because TNC’s views on this specific topic are so strong and well-developed, and President Obama, having such a unique pedestal from which to argue against these long-held (and mostly accepted) White Supremacist notions, grievously and perhaps irrevocably disappointed him by buying into them (if only rhetorically) instead. But that’s just my stupid opinion.

    The whole discussion between Chait and Coates has been interesting to follow. Both writers have avoided letting the conversation drift towards the “whitesplaining” vs. “you just don’t get it” outcome that less thoughtful debaters would eventually arrive at.

  91. 91
    kwAwk says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    That’s just it! Gangsta rap isn’t an accurate portrayal lf all life in the inner cities. It is a characature of life in the inner city.

  92. 92
    Cacti says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    What rap music were the people who carried out lynchings in Jim Crow South listening to?

    For that matter, in popular entertainment, how is it that Archie Bunker was such a bigot in 1971 when the first rap album didn’t chart until 1979?

  93. 93
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Kylroy: I never said it would be popular. But not everyone is that bad. Some people do want to do the right thing.

  94. 94
    🍀 Martin says:

    @kwAwk:

    I might be tempted to believe the Hip Hop image that all blacks in the city are interested in are easy money, drug dealing, loose women, driving a Mercedes at age 22 and partying.

    Again, it’s just a perception of mine, but Coates could think more about changing perceptions, and how blacks could change the perceptions people have of them, rather than just lament racism.

    You find many Top-40 pop songs about hard work ethics and making regular contributions to your 401K? Most everything I remember from The Who down to Bieber is about easy money, drug dealing, loose women, driving a Mercedes at age 22 and partying.

    Nobody accused white people of uniformly adhering to the aspirations of our teenagers, yet we instinctively do that to black people. Hip-hop is no different from any other form of music in terms of content. It might be more overt, but the main difference is that it is non-conformist and embraced by people that we instinctively seek reasons to discriminate against.

    When you say ‘change perceptions about them’, you’re really saying ‘conform, act white’. You know what, there are some seriously fucking uptight white people (myself included) that could do well to be a lot less white and conformist.

  95. 95
    Another Holocene Human says:

    @jl:

    Hey, maybe I am turning into Al Sharpton, but in one way, it looks like I am more radical and extreme than Coates. There is NO EFFING African-American culture of dysfunction. There is a community of human beings, with usual human being style habits with their strengths and weaknesses, who have suffered, and continue to suffer, oppression, and they are dealing with it as best they can.

    Quoted for truth.

    There is a white culture of dysfunction. It exists in those families that make a deliberate choice, generation after generation, to teach their children to hate.

    You know the funny thing about hate? It’s pretty catholic. Hate one group, hate ’em all. Homophobia-anti-semitism-racism-colorism-transphobia-ethnocentrism-islamophobia–taste the rainbow.

  96. 96
    aimai says:

    @eric: That is a kind of submissive fatalism that is typical of white evangelical hermeneutics but not of AA churches. I defy you to say that to the face of a black person. Black churchs have been in the forefront of the civil rights movement and self defense for their membership since their birth.

  97. 97
    🍀 Martin says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: There’s a 10 story building a short walk from me that was built without any women’s restrooms AT ALL, built just a few years before the Equal Rights Amendment passed both houses of Congress.

    It not only got through a year of planning without women’s restrooms, nobody stopped during the 2 years of construction and said ‘hey, where do the girls pee?’.

  98. 98
    Mnemosyne says:

    @eric:

    Er, no, the problem is that white evangelical religion actively reinforces racism. The original “clobber verses” and the concept of Biblical inerrancy were created to defend slavery rather than being anti-gay.

    Can we stop blaming racism on black people? Just for one minute?

  99. 99
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    audiences box them in and demand more and more of the same stereotypes

    I don’t think this is fair to the rappers themselves. They have always had a choice- De La Soul, Kanye West, B.o.B. etc. have done quite well without producing “gangster” rap. Some people just want to rap about that sort of thing. That’s their choice and some of them have produced some great music.

  100. 100
    Belafon says:

    @Another Holocene Human: That would be an interesting Skittles commercial.

  101. 101
    AMinNC says:

    @Another Holocene Human:
    Thanks for checking out the post. I will let the boys have more access as the get older, but they are currently 8 and 11, so not just yet (in part because I don’t want them so freaked out by what they see that it turns them off of a healthy sex life).

    I do talk with them about sex pretty forthrightly, though, because I think you are right about them needing to learn the ethics of consent – and the ethics of pleasure – from an early age. As you point out in your later post, we are steeping in rape culture, and boys need the tools to resist that as “just what guys do.”

  102. 102
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kwAwk:

    It is now, yes. Early on, at the height of the crack epidemic, there was some truth to it. But then white audiences embraced it because it fulfilled all of their existing prejudices, and a lot of musicians got rich by catering to those tastes.

    But to claim that racism didn’t exist until white people started listening to gangsta rap is clearly completely fucking insane. Reinforcing prejudices is not the same as creating them. People like Paul Ryan who listen to gangsta rap because of its “truth” do it because they’re already racist and want confirmation of their existing beliefs.

  103. 103
    suzanne says:

    @Belafon:

    Do you think any part of Obama’s winning of the nomination had to do with him being male?

    Yes. Absolutely. Without a doubt. To me, that is so obvious that I’m rather surprised that someone asked.

    Coates is undeniably brilliant, and I have been following the debate between him and Chait closely. I have learned a great deal and have enjoyed the level of complexity that they bring to the table. I wish all of our public discourse could be this worthwhile.

  104. 104
    drkrick says:

    As the right for black men to vote preceeded the right for white women by 50 years, and the Civil Rights Movement culminating in 1964 preceeded the fight in the 70′s for the ERA, a woman President of the US should soon follow.

    The theoretical right for black men preceded the right for white women, but for many if not most blacks the actual right wasn’t available until much later. And after about 50 years, it’s under serious attack again.

  105. 105

    Anecdata alert: If you are black that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are immune from these tropes. I had an African neighbor from Mali when I lived in University Housing, she did black people’s hair for added income. The things she said about African Americans would have made a KKK member blush.

    Reminds me of traditional women who buy into their own subjugation and in turn treat other women like crap.

  106. 106
    kc says:

    Sorta on topic: Last week I cashed a smallish check at Bank of America. I don’t have an account there, because I hate Bank of America’s guts. The teller cashed it for me & didn’t charge me anything, but she told me that BOA charges a fee ($6.00 or $7.00, I forget how much) to cash checks of over $50.00 for non-account holders.

    Soo, today I was in my (community) bank and I casually asked the teller how much my bank would charge a non-account holder to cash a check drawn on the bank. We got to talking and she told me that she had recently tried to cash a BOA check – at the same BOA branch where I’d just cashed one – and the teller refused to cash it, even though it was a BOA check, because she didn’t have an account there.

    I know I was standing there thinking, WTF, why would the same BOA branch let ME cash a check and not her, when neither one of us has a BOA account? The only difference between us is that . . . I’m white and she’s black. I’ll bet she was thinking the same thing.

  107. 107
    catclub says:

    @🍀 Martin: “built without any women’s restrooms AT ALL,”

    Mississippi House (or Senate) Office building? Likely except for the 10 story part.

  108. 108
    Mnemosyne says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    But they haven’t had the insane financial success of the acts that were willing to go there. And, frankly, it’s kind of hard for me (as a white person) to blame them. If someone backed a truckload of money up to your door, would you turn it down on principle?

    I’m also not saying that the people who initially got rich off the “gangsta rap” craze are still milking that same cow. Ice Cube took his money and (wisely) started making movies, which helped movie studios realize, Hey, middle-class African-Americans will go see movies about themselves! and now we have a nice little boomlet of family films and romantic comedies aimed at the AA audience.

    But I do doubt that listening to gangsta rap “made” any white teenagers racist. As I said above, reinforcing is not creating.

  109. 109
    daveNYC says:

    @Betty Cracker: Unfortunately, talking about privilege is either preaching to the choir or talking to a brick wall. I’m not saying that progress can’t be made through conversation and education, but the real progress is going to come as older bigoted generations die.

    Every little bit helps, but overall I’m just pretty fatalistic about the whole thing.

  110. 110
    Cassidy says:

    @Betty Cracker: I don’t disagree with the sentiment, but I’m not that optimistic. It’s always easier to take, to humiliate, to subjugate.

  111. 111
    drkrick says:

    @Belafon:

    Do you think any part of Obama’s winning of the nomination had to do with him being male?

    Some of his support had to do with that. Some of the opposition had to do with race, too – remember Geraldine Ferraro and the “inadequate black man” lady? A lot of scales about our liberal virtue WRT race and gender dropped from my eyes during the 2008 primaries, both about people harboring prejudice and people willing to exploit it even when they didn’t feel it.

  112. 112
    eric says:

    @aimai: Are you denying that there was not a generational divide in the 60s leading to a more radical youth.

    @Mnemosyne: it is not blaming the victim. this is the bullshit that was fed to them by the slave masters to make them more docile. In large part, more militant islam made the same critique. It is not blaming them, but acknowledging that devices had been constructed to make people act or refrain from acting a certain way (in addition to the violence).

    This is the same thing that people say everyday about poor whites being the instrument of their own demise in failing to recognize their own station in the American class hierarchy.

  113. 113
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @daveNYC: But maybe talking about it is one of the reasons to hope that the younger generations left behind when those bigots die will do better?

  114. 114
    eric says:

    @eric: let me add that the question of agency and responsibility is a big issue in any marxist analysis of false consciousness. it is not blaming the victim to say that the individual acts the way they are programmed, even while they seemingly act freely.

  115. 115
    rikyrah says:

    @kwAwk:

    Again, it’s just a perception of mine, but Coates could think more about changing perceptions, and how blacks could change the perceptions people have of them, rather than just lament racism.

    This is nothing but respectability politics.

    AS IF racism is Black folks’ fault.

    Fuck that.

    Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were two Black middle class teenagers, who had BOTH parents.

    Trayvon Martin had skittles, iced tea and a hoodie.

    He was stalked, hunted and murdered for the crime of Walking While Black.

    Jordan Davis’ crime?

    He and his friends didn’t go ‘ Yessa, Mr. Charlie’, when told by some random White man about what they should do about the music playing in their car.

    I don’t think White people have any fucking clue how much the death of these two young men set off an earthquake in the Black Community. How their deaths hit the San Andreas fault of Black people and their collective last Black nerve in the balance of what it is and how Black folks make it in this country.

    Like I said, I understand where Coates is coming from completely.

    And, it’s not Coates’ son, or anyone else’s Black son’s responsibility for White Folks Racism.

  116. 116
    Belafon says:

    @suzanne: How? There are two interesting pieces of evidence that I want to bring up:
    1. It was pretty evident that the Democrat was going to win the presidency, whoever was the nominee.
    2. In the general election, Obama lost the white male vote.
    The reason I ask it is because I would like to see how much was because he was male, and how much was because he ran a tighter campaign and wasn’t a Clinton.

  117. 117
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @drkrick: Yeah, I’d want to see some empirical evidence before jumping to conclusions about which candidate was more handicapped by bigotry- it’s non-obvious to me that this factor wasn’t a wash or a net plus for Clinton. (For example, if nominated this time she will stand a pretty good chance of winning W. Va.) I think Clinton was mostly done in by a poor campaign run by poor managers.

  118. 118
    eric says:

    @rikyrah: this

  119. 119
    Dave says:

    @jl: I suspect that the only area you can really distinguish learned behaviors in poverty culture which is (and I suspect that there are broad differences between rural and urban poverty as it impacts culture) Black and others is that it is also dealing with significant racism as well as the class and material issues which are common with other groups poverty cultures (and of course there is prejudice against Latinos, Asians, etc but there is a special place in the heart of bigotry in America for people that we code as black which seems more intractable to improvement than other groups). And I think it’s an important distinction that Coates makes (and Chait does acknowledges) is that behaviors that can be well adapted for one environment and poorly for another. Very similar to how behaviors that are well adapted to combat are maladaptive outside that setting. And it’s all a very difficult topic one that extremely reasonably is tied to very strong emotions

  120. 120
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @rikyrah: So true and so well said.

  121. 121

    @Steve LaBonne: Her campaign was pretty cringe worthy, remember the white working class people BS? I don’t remember Obama campaign targeting Hillary for being a woman.

  122. 122
    kwAwk says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    I never said that racism didn’t exist until gangsta rap, but what I have said is that by playing into the stereotypes of violent angry black men, it helped to reinforce stereotypes.

    A couple of examples, back in the 80’s, Ice-T and his band released the song Cop Killer. White people used that as a reinforcement for their own predudices. But Ice-T had to say wait a minute, this song isn’t a call for actually killing cops, it’s a metaphor for the anger and frustration he felt.

    Secondly would be the Godfather movies. A lot of Italians hated them because they reinforced stereotypes of Italians as criminals and thugs.

    I think we are today seeing the quite backlash agaisnt gangster rap, thug life type projection with men such as Labron James, who seems to be described as Nerd Chic. Acting intelligent and dressing nice, isn’t acting white.

  123. 123
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne: THIS THIS THIS

    The “fundamentalists” got their start using their religion to justify slavery.

    My contempt of them knows no fucking bounds.

  124. 124
    Dave says:

    @Dave: Oh and there is significant and in my mind far more culpable dysfunction on white American culture that recreates racism and bigotry generation after generation.

  125. 125
    Dave says:

    @Dave: Oh and there is significant and in my mind far more culpable dysfunction on white American culture that recreates racism and bigotry generation after generation.

  126. 126
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    Can we stop blaming racism on black people? Just for one minute?

    Um, no, because then we’d realize that the white finger pointed at the black people has three other fingers and a thumb pointing back a the white person.

  127. 127
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Belafon: Betty was right to DING DING DING this comment.

    Divide and rule. Oldest trick in the book, and too many whites are stupid enough to fall for it.

  128. 128
    🍀 Martin says:

    @Steve LaBonne:

    I’d want to see some empirical evidence before jumping to conclusions about which candidate was more handicapped by bigotry- it’s non-obvious to me that this factor wasn’t a wash or a net plus for Clinton.

    Don’t rule out agism against McCain in the general in that case.

  129. 129
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @🍀 Martin: I don’t rule anything out, but again I’d want to see evidence.

  130. 130
    rikyrah says:

    I’d want to see some empirical evidence before jumping to conclusions about which candidate was more handicapped by bigotry- it’s non-obvious to me that this factor wasn’t a wash or a net plus for Clinton.

    Since we’re talking about Coates, there was a comment over at his blog after the 2008 election of Barack Obama from the former Press Secretary for Barbara Bush. Paraphrasing, the woman commented that it took Barack Obama almost a billion dollars to win the Presidency of the US, and he needed every dime of that money because he had to fight the 350 years of Black Male Stereotypes to win. I agreed with that statement.

  131. 131
    rikyrah says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    Don’t rule out agism against McCain in the general in that case.

    Ageism only caught up with McCain because his stupid ass chose Sarah Palin.

    When one is 72 years old
    A former POW
    And a four-time cancer survivor…

    folks look and you’ve chosen and incompetent idiot as your Vice-President…

    they look and see the actuary tables of your odds of making it through the first term…and go…um, NO.

  132. 132
    suzanne says:

    @Belafon: Well, it is hard to have this discussion without it devolving into a list of Things Hillary Sucks At and Things Barack Is Better At. Because he is undeniably an incredibly talented politician and I voted for him over Hillary in the primary because I thought he would be better and I stand by that vote.

    But his sense of gravitas and his calm demeanor are the two qualities in him that I think served him the best, both throughout the campaign and his administrations. No drama. No hysteria. No antics. All of those things….are, in the cultural binary, the essence of manhood. Women are hysterical, men are rational. Women are shrill, men are cool, calm, and collected. Women handle little matters, while men can take command. No matter how hard she tried, Hillary couldn’t project that. When she tried, she was called bitchy and bossy. Women who are even tougher get called “dykey”. Instead, we got to hear about her fucking PANTSUITS and her CANKLES, as if that wasn’t a wholly embarrassing thing to discuss when selecting the next leader of your country. The optics, the attitudes, the basic sense of comfort that someone needs to have in order to cast that vote….those are all, no matter how much we here on this blog like to think are rational, well-considered reasons, are in fact deeply personal and irrational. Think about it not as Hillary v. Barack, but as Women v. Men. How many women even get to that echelon where they would even be considered a reasonable candidate? Keep in mind that women are literally a majority. And look at all the dumb shit that is apparently reasonable to discuss. Gillibrand’s “upspeak”? Weight? Wrinkles? Boob jobs? Chris Christie is morbidly obese, and yet people talked about Hillary Clinton having some middle-age spread as if they were THE SAME THING.

    In short, I am not even surprised at all that a biracial man (who, while campaigning, discussed his white family a great deal) beat a woman. Not even a little bit. I am more surprised that many women don’t realize how much they are hated.

  133. 133
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Mnemosyne: Kanye has got to be at least in the top 5 all-time money earners. Eminem, Nelly, Ludacris- they got started when “ganster rap” was still a big deal and managed to do very well for themselves. And most of the big earners who did gangster rap ultimately made their big money on headphones, vodka, etc. I don’t think it was that easy to fake either- hip-hop is very strict in policing who is real and who’s not. Or at least it was. Rick Ross kind of blew that up a couple years ago.

  134. 134
    Mnemosyne says:

    @eric:

    this is the bullshit that was fed to them by the slave masters to make them more docile.

    So Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. is a symbol of docility and acceptance? Al Mohler’s pushing of white supremacist theology is less of a problem for American society than activist black theology?

    You may want to drop your anti-religion blinders for a minute just so you can see how insane your equating those two men looks to the rest of us.

  135. 135
    SatanicPanic says:

    @kwAwk:

    White people used that as a reinforcement for their own predudices.

    dude, this is what you’re doing here

  136. 136
    Porco Rosso says:

    @jl:

    Can’t mention the role of commerce in this. Irresponsibility and capitalism go together quite nicely.

  137. 137
    eric says:

    @Mnemosyne: I am not saying that King was docile. I am saying that religion was USED to make people docile and that was something that had to be overcome. I read black spirituals in that way. It is not blaming someone to say they are conditioned to behave a certain way.

    Again, the same issue is in play when poor whites are anti union. they have been TAUGHT certain lessons that run contrary to their own interests and they act on them.

    There is a fine line between acknowledging and blaming.

  138. 138
    kwAwk says:

    @SatanicPanic:

    How is that?

    All I’ve argued is that Gangsta rap is not truely representative of black culture.
    That white people growing up in the 80’s and 90’s who have no day to day contact with black inner city culture may percieve that it is.

  139. 139
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kwAwk:

    Yes, if only gangsta rap had never existed, racism would have died out years ago!

    Also, they shouldn’t have worn those short skirts if they didn’t want to be raped.

    @SatanicPanic:

    I will be honest, I can’t really argue about the history of rap and hip-hop because I’m a middle-aged white lady who missed the boat by thismuch. If it’s not Public Enemy, Run-DMC or Salt N Pepa, you kids need to get off my lawn.

    My argument is more that (a) the original subgenre of gangsta rap was a response to things that were actually happening in some places and (b) it’s fucking insane to claim that gangsta rap is to blame for white people being prejudiced. Bigoted white people will always have some bullshit excuse for being prejudiced, and if gangsta rap had never existed, there would be some other excuse for why Paul Ryan is an asshole that just happens to be the fault of black people.

  140. 140
    🍀 Martin says:

    @kwAwk:

    Acting intelligent and dressing nice, isn’t acting white.

    Yes it is when you have Richard Sherman (graduated 2nd in his high school class, Stanford graduate) being called a thug while Richie Incognito (kicked out of two universities) is merely a misunderstood victim.

    Sherman doesn’t just act intelligent, he genuinely fucking smart. But, that’s not enough. It’s not enough for every black college student that has been frisked at Barneys. It wasn’t enough for Louis Gates. I mean, how much more ‘acting white’ can you be living in Cambridge Mass and teaching at Harvard? Or Oprah’s repeated denials of service at retailers in spite of not only acting intelligent and dressing nice, also has mastered the technique nearly unique to white people in America of being a fucking billionaire. Didn’t help her either.

    It’s not enough and it will never be enough. Yeah, it helps, as witnessed by every story of black women needing to put on their sunday best in order to get the simplest thing done that white people take for granted. But even that isn’t enough because there’s a whole order of things that the sunday best still won’t get done for you.

  141. 141
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @SatanicPanic: Ssssh! He might hear you!

  142. 142
    Mack says:

    Guess I’ll wade in, since this thread hasn’t gotten unbearably ugly, as can happen when this issue is raised. I really enjoy Coates’ writing. He has a style that allows me to understand certain topics I previously could not get my head around, and even if I don’t end up in complete agreement, I have a better understand of the alternative viewpoint. That, I think, is a gift.

    I am second generation Mexican American. My father did not allow us to speak Spanish at home, the better to assimilate into American culture. He would get angry at Latinos who constantly complained of being discriminated against, especially those who seemed to go out of their way to reject a look or manner of speaking that made the Gringos comfortable. For him, though, it wasn’t that he fell in love with this new culture, no, for him, it was a practical matter and concerned safety.

    I’ve done a bit of advocacy work for undocumented workers and their families, and I often found myself cautioning those that lived in cities that had contracted with I.C.E. via the 287 (g) program to do whatever it took to avoid police scrutiny. Leave your kids with trusted relatives if you must drive somewhere. Wear clothes that look “American”. Don’t drive unless absolutely necessary. Sometimes, my Anglo co-workers would attack me for this, asking “why should these people live like that?” My answer was always, “they shouldn’t, but that is not the struggle I am attempting to address at this moment.

    Anyway, count me among those who also believe that the notion that white Americans should not discuss race is a tad myopic. Yes, the arguments can often be at best condescending, at worst insulting and dangerous. I believe you have to swallow your outrage and begin the long difficult process of changing their beliefs…which are almost always fear based rather than an endorsement of maintaining white privilege. I say chime in, engage, share, and we’ll work to find common ground.

    My .02

  143. 143
    Mnemosyne says:

    @eric:

    I am saying that religion was USED to make people docile and that was something that had to be overcome. I read black spirituals in that way.

    Wow, have you misread black spirituals. Again, from Fred Clark. Also, this.

  144. 144
    Porco Rosso says:

    @Cacti:

    “Shave ’em Dry.”

  145. 145

    One Sully reader (whose comment was front-paged) believes Coates’ pessimism about America is “an overreaction to the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis tragedies along with the uglier aspects of the Tea Party movement… It’s up to writers to rise above our emotional outrage and to not take isolated — yes, these were isolated events — and stretch them until they cover from sea to shining sea.”

    Isolated, that’s pretty fucking sad. Malissa Williams and Timothy Russell might disagree, but they were killed by police under pretty horrific circumstances not four miles from I where I sit. And the cops? C’mon people, where the FUCK do you think you are? This shit is like bad reruns that kill – the badges, the bullets, the body count, the bullshit excuses.

    Stretch, indeed. More like stretching my last Gaia-damned bit of patience with blind morons.

    @Mack: Bless you, Mack, your words are a pragmatic balance to the bitterness.

  146. 146
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Mnemosyne: Sorry, yeah I’m 99% agreeing with you, just nitpicking really. I posted and then thought- errr, maybe I’m being too argumentative. Sorry!

  147. 147
    Mnemosyne says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    Neil de Grasse Tyson has said he still gets followed by security guards in shopping malls. And, no, it’s not because they have burning questions about the universe. The only time I have ever experienced that was when I was with a group of friends who were not white.

  148. 148
    kwAwk says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It is said that one of the reasons Dave Chapelle left his show, which was truely hilarious, was that it occurred to him one day that people were laughing for the wrong reasons. It didn’t make Chapelle a bad person, he isn’t to blame for how others percieved his show, but that doesn’t mean that is show wasn’t being used by some and mistaken by other to be something it was not.

    And I’m sorry, but yeah, I am one of those that while acknowleging that no woman should ever be raped, in reality it represents poor judgement for a woman to go to a keg party at a frat house and get so blotto that she becomes an easy target for rape.

  149. 149
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Mack:

    this thread hasn’t gotten unbearably ugly, as can happen when this issue is raised

    I think that may be because it’s mostly white people (like myself) telling other white people they’re being stupid. Having a non-white person do or say the same thing tends to get a much more automatic and strong rejection from the white person being challenged. I can’t imagine why ….

  150. 150
    SatanicPanic says:

    @kwAwk: It is representative of some part of city life, especially in the late 80s, early 90s (though I’d say Chief Keef probably isn’t wholly making up his stories of life in present day Chicago). Should they rap about something else because someone might take it the wrong way? I don’t get this.

  151. 151
    kwAwk says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    The beauty of Richard Sherman is that the next time the racists morons see a big black guy with dreds spouting off on TV, they’ll be asking themselves, hey, did this dude graduate from Stanford too? That being said though, Richard Sherman does come across as an arrogant jackass at times. Especially on Twitter.

    Richie Ingonito is a jack wagon, but he’s being defended in stupid jock terms rather that racial terms.

  152. 152
    Mnemosyne says:

    @kwAwk:

    It didn’t make Chapelle a bad person, he isn’t to blame for how others percieved his show, but that doesn’t mean that is show wasn’t being used by some and mistaken by other to be something it was not.

    So Chappelle never should have done a TV show because some white people are assholes who used his work to reinforce their own prejudices?

    Richard Wagner’s music was a favorite of Adolf Hitler, and Wagner’s son-in-law was an active Nazi. Wagner’s music was sometimes played over the loudspeakers in the concentration camps. Does that mean that Wagner was a Nazi even though he died 6 years before Hitler was born? Or does that mean that some assholes will use other people’s work to reinforce their own prejudices?

  153. 153
    cokane says:

    I’d like to take the opportunity to point out that Andrew Sullivan of The Dish is a racist.

    Alot of people on the left throw that epithet around alot, and, frankly, in a mistaken way. Most conservatives who are labeled as “racist” are more xenophobic. They don’t actually believe in some racial-genetic superiority, they just don’t like blacks.

    Sullivan does. This is worth repeating every time he talks about race.

  154. 154
    jl says:

    @Mnemosyne: Me neither.

    One of the first memories of Martin Luther King Jr. back from when I was a tyke, was the outrage and consternation of some of my right thinking and liberal white relatives about his ‘meddling’ in social causes that did not narrowly fit into civil rights: poverty in general for all races, union rights, Vietnam war. It was not his business somehow. Why not? Only reason I can see was that by addressing those issues, King was implicitly assuming general equality with whites in discussion of social and political problems. And it scared and discomforted them, even though, in their own minds, they were free of racial prejudice.

  155. 155
    jl says:

    @cokane: Thanks for the reminder. Sullivan has, as far as I know, not stopped flacking for stuff like the Bell Curve.

  156. 156
    Roger Moore says:

    @suzanne:

    No matter how hard she tried, Hillary couldn’t project that.

    I think a big part of the problem is that making an effort to project being calm, controlled, and in charge is counterproductive. During the campaign, Hillary wasn’t calm, controlled, and in charge, and her attempts to project that image fell flat and made her look bad. Our society clearly accepts men better than women when they’re putting on a false show of strength, but it was ultimately the falseness of the display that hurt her. As Sec State, she actually was calm and in charge, which I think is a big reason it improved her reputation so much. If she can come back and maintain that demeanor as a Presidential candidate, she’s going to be really formidable.

  157. 157
    agorabum says:

    @aimai: That is a funny description of things over at his blog, although in reality, he learns a lot from the boards – usually.
    But he shut down the comments for a bit because of all the d-bags (tea-bags?) and trolls who showed up recently to fight about race and a ‘culture’ of achievement.
    And a lot of it was him explaining it to himself – he’s had a wide journey over the last several years.

  158. 158
    Cacti says:

    @Roger Moore:

    I think a big part of the problem is that making an effort to project being calm, controlled, and in charge is counterproductive. During the campaign, Hillary wasn’t calm, controlled, and in charge, and her attempts to project that image fell flat and made her look bad.

    It also didn’t help that she told outrageous lies to try to beef up her CinC bona fides, like the one about landing in Bosnia under sniper fire.

  159. 159
    Betty Cracker says:

    @Mack: Good points.

    Also, just to clarify, it’s not that I think white Americans should not discuss race, ever. I certainly discuss it in real life and when it comes up online in various contexts. What I mean is, I generally get more out of reading about others’ experiences than writing about my own when it comes to this particular topic.

  160. 160
    jl says:

    What are we going to do about the thuggish violent and sadistic southern white sub-culture? Probably take away some gummint moneys is the best thing to do, and sneer at them until they ‘get their act together’.

    McConnell Opponent Surprised To Learn He Spoke At Cockfighting Rally
    http://talkingpointsmemo.com/l.....ting-rally

  161. 161
    Applejinx says:

    I feel TNC with his current despair. All the same:

    I am white and got Barack Obama elected twice. The second time, I went out and worked at the nearest Dem field office just to fight harder.

    Demographics says racism in the USA is an old white man’s game. (that said, as climate change forces people to abandon their countries, it’s gonna be a hell of a thing. There will be much forced assimilation and we MAY be in a better position to cope than, say, the UK?)

    And, even if the United States becomes South Africa, apartheid failed. The rightwingers managed to force it right back again on economic terms but that’s becoming a global problem, not even racial anymore. And military might isn’t going to be relevant here: the Viet Cong beat the United States and we lost the Vietnam war. As for Iraq, we just broke it and are not in a position to break more.

    There are larger forces than racism going on. TNC has the right idea to refocus on the immediate. On the day that the banksters are guillotined by unthinkably huge mobs (perhaps ‘flash mobs’ using modern technology! Suddenly, the gated community is surrounded, and the guards freak out and abandon their posts to save themselves), your neighbor might still be able to feed you carrots.

    I am so sorry that you can’t have both this and a nice middle-class society with civilization and stuff, but frankly we are not the ones demolishing society and civilization. So I have no sympathy, just regret.

    When it gets down to .01% of .01% owning fucking everything, you can’t buy enough food tasters to stay in that position. Things are far more out of whack than people really give it credit for.

  162. 162
    JaneE says:

    I have long believed that we will see the end of racial prejudice in this country only when every person is the same shade of skin color. When that happens black and white won’t matter because they won’t exist. Then some other way of differentiating “them” from “us” will emerge. Unless every person is exactly equal, with no way to distinguish, categorize or group, there will always be a “we are better, they are worse” aspect to society. The best we can hope for is that someday a majority believe that different does not imply worse, and lets people just be what they are. I will never see it, and I am not sure that humanity will exist long enough as a species to see it, either, but I can hope.

  163. 163
    Incitatus for Senate says:

    @kwAwk: So, have you ever seen a movie from the 70’s? Black actors had a choice of drug addict, criminal or whore. Rap music was nothing new.

  164. 164
    Cacti says:

    @jl:

    What are we going to do about the thuggish violent and sadistic southern white sub-culture? Probably take away some gummint moneys is the best thing to do, and sneer at them until they ‘get their act together’.

    And strangely enough, you didn’t hear Paul Ryan take to AM radio to decry the “culture of poverty” in Appalachia.

    I wonder why not. /snark

  165. 165
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    I’d be living in a state of daily, mortal terror were I a black man. I cannot imagine how that fear must multiply if you have black, male children.

  166. 166
    Cacti says:

    @🍀 Martin:

    Sherman doesn’t just act intelligent, he genuinely fucking smart. But, that’s not enough. It’s not enough for every black college student that has been frisked at Barneys. It wasn’t enough for Louis Gates. I mean, how much more ‘acting white’ can you be living in Cambridge Mass and teaching at Harvard? Or Oprah’s repeated denials of service at retailers in spite of not only acting intelligent and dressing nice, also has mastered the technique nearly unique to white people in America of being a fucking billionaire. Didn’t help her either.

    Richard Sherman was called a thug over 600 times on network TV because of some spirited, post-game trash talking.

    On the other hand, Colts owner Jim Irsay was recently arrested for a DUI and 4-counts of felony possession of Schedule IV controlled substances.

    How many times was he called a thug?

  167. 167
    Ella in New Mexico says:

    Betty Cracker

    “But yeah, I know what it’s like to look at a group of laughing, incredibly brilliant teenage girls and realize that there’s a statistical likelihood that a quarter of them will be sexually assaulted during their lifetimes and to know that there’s a 100% chance that their ideas and skills will be undervalued during their professional careers strictly because of their plumbing. Even if we have come a long way, baybee.”

    Bingo! That, and the fact that I and my little brothers were badly bullied as children because the neighborhood Moms didn’t like our Mom. She didn’t fit their working-class, women stay-home-and-serve-men-their-beers, ’70’s suburban values where women were inferior–and she told them so. Oh, and they didn’t like N****rs either, and we did.

    Being mocked, ridiculed and otherwise discriminated against for something you have no control over is the very reason I have 100% empathy for minorities and what they experience, even if I am a white person. Add to that all the frigging forces against me I have struggled against my whole life because I’m a woman–both outside and those I ended up placing in my own way–

    I’m totally with TNC on this issue, Thank You, God.

  168. 168
    CONGRATULATIONS! says:

    So, have you ever seen a movie from the 70′s? Black actors had a choice of drug addict, criminal or whore. Rap music was nothing new.

    @Incitatus for Senate: Have you seen any from 2010? Pretty much the same shit.

  169. 169
    kwAwk says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    No. He he quit his show from what I understand because it occurred to him that he wasn’t communicating what he thought he was communicating. Sometimes racism isn’t about people who are assholes, it really is just about ignorance.

    The real problem I have with a lot of gangsta rap is that it isn’t clear in it’s communication that the gansta life is a rotten life. In a lot of the more lazy interpretations of it, life in the ghetto is glorified rather than lamented.

  170. 170
    kwAwk says:

    @Incitatus for Senate:

    And there’s a reason the movies from the 70’s are clalled Blaxploitation films. There were some movies in the 70’s where this wasn’t the case but not enough. Blazing Saddles, a lot of Richard Pryor’s word. Sidney Portier.

    And there are movies now that don’t portray blacks as criminals. Denzel Washington doesn’t play many drug dealers and thugs. Neither does Will Smith. Duane Johnson. Morgan Freeman. Samual L Jackson. James Earl Jones. The Wayans brothers. Angela Basset. Halle Berry. Tyler Perry.

    Surely you can admit that we’re much less colorblind that we were 40 years ago?

  171. 171
    Incitatus for Senate says:

    @kwAwk: I was trying to make the point that black culture was portrayed in a very negative way before rap music. White people’s perception of blacks didn’t suddenly become racist in the 80’s. Rap music didn’t change anything.

  172. 172
    jnfr says:

    I don’t know if my impression is correct, but I could see what TNC is calling his “blue period” begin when he took his trip to France.

    There was a post in there, among all the love of being in that country, that mentioned how he could see, could feel the difference of being in a country that didn’t have the slave history we have and how different it felt.

    And as folks have mentioned, he does all this heavy reading of the history and culture anyway. But since that trip it seemed to me that everything started to weigh on him in a somewhat different way, that awareness of how slave history literally permeates everything in this country.

  173. 173
    kwAwk says:

    @Incitatus for Senate:

    I don’t disagree with that. All that changed was who was doing the selling and pocketing the money.

    But in between there was a lot of effort to change perceptions. Michael Jackson. The Cosby Show. Steve Urkel. The Jeffersons.

  174. 174
    Long Tooth says:

    The past few weeks has witnessed an audacious campaign, waged by the republican party and its corporate media lickspittles, to inflame race hatred throughout the United States.

    Darrel Issa ordered a black congressman silenced during a congressional hearing. Maxine Waters was referred to as a “race hustler” by Bill O’Reilly. Donald Rumsfeld referenced an ape while attacking the competence of Barack Obama. And those are but 3 examples off the top of my honky head…

  175. 175
    Brachiator says:

    @jl:

    Interesting comment from Hamilton. It’s funny how the Tea Party Crowd and others believe that wealth does indeed make you better than everyone else.

  176. 176
    Porco Rosso says:

    jnfr says:
    April 2, 2014 at 5:48 pm
    I don’t know if my impression is correct, but I could see what TNC is calling his “blue period” begin when he took his trip to France.

    Well as a fan of the jazz, one can only imagine the shit Nina Simone went through which prompted self-exile.

  177. 177
    Tone In DC says:

    The past few weeks has witnessed an audacious campaign, waged by the republican party and its corporate media lickspittles, to inflame race hatred throughout the United States.

    Darrel Issa ordered a black congressman silenced during a congressional hearing. Maxine Waters was referred to as a “race hustler” by Bill O’Reilly. Donald Rumsfeld referenced an ape while attacking the competence of Barack Obama. And those are but 3 examples off the top of my honky head…

    True. All that in the last few weeks.
    But, overall, this has gone on for for last five years, dude. The last five years.

  178. 178
    Jonny Scrum-half says:

    As a middle-aged white male, I pretty much embody the “privileged” position that everyone is writing about. I’m also someone who until the past 10 years was a Republican, but who in that time has moved progressively (pun intended) left to the point that I voted for Obama and now would have a very difficult time pulling a lever for a Republican. To be frank, I’ve learned a lot by reading Balloon Juice and its comments, which I think have helped me in my search for understanding about how things really work.

    Given all that, I’d like to suggest a couple points. First, referring to white “privilege” is automatically off-putting, even if it’s accurate. Most people – including white people – don’t feel particularly “privileged,” because day-to-day life isn’t easy for a myriad of reasons. Even if someone has financial security, they probably know people in similar positions who have lost that security quickly, by getting fired or having an illness devastate a family. When I hear that I’m privileged (even though I think that it’s correct), it causes me to be defensive and makes it harder for me to really listen to what is being said. After all, I didn’t do anything to cause my privileged status, and I don’t feel privileged, so how dare someone make me feel guilty for something that I can’t control.

    I think that a better way to discuss the situation is to move away from accusations of racism, and instead point out that the real issue is economic inequality that results from the system being rigged in favor of those with power. Discuss the fact that the total tax system is either flat or regressive, even though the only taxes anyone talks about are the progressive tax rates on earned income. Point out that the 1% keep the rest of us distracted by arguing about things like “the war on Christmas,” or abortion rights, or racism, while the system keeps humming along in favor of that 1%.

    I also think that it’s important not to make it seem when it comes to civil rights issues as if whites are automatically evil or wrong and Blacks are automatically right. There’s bigotry in every community, because people are tribal by nature. A commenter upthread decried white people’s culture of hate against, for example, the gay community, but didn’t mention that the Black community is, if memory serves, even more “conservative” on that issue than whites.

    Finally, I’m not qualified to weigh-in on the issue of whether there is a particular “culture” in the Black community that either increases or decreases the probability of leading a stable and successful life. My guess is, again, that economic forces play a much larger role than culture. For example, my mother grew up in a coal-mining town in northeastern Pennsylvania that, until the 1960s, was a thriving melting pot of European cultures (mostly Polish). But the coal jobs are gone, and nothing has replaced them, so now that formerly thriving town looks a lot like a white version of the stereotypical South Bronx of the 1970s. Same “culture,” but very different results. That anecdote notwithstanding, I look at the relative success of the Jews in the 1900s and the south and east Asians of today, and wonder whether culture plays a role in that success.

    Bottom-line, you’re not going to persuade many people by telling them that they’re privileged and that they can’t even acknowledge their unconscious racism. A few might be introspective enough to “get it” eventually, but most will tune you out and become more embedded in their tribal beliefs.

  179. 179
    jl says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half: Good VA I think there is an evil synergy between racism and bigotry in general, and reducing opportunities for people to gain economic security and to have happy economic lives in general.

    I think people who invented the Southern Strategy understood this. People such as Nixon. There was a relationship between development of the Southern Strategy, and Nixon’s final decisions on how to pursue health care reform, which he himself characterized as making ordinary people pay more to get less.

  180. 180
    Mnemosyne says:

    @jnfr:

    There was a post in there, among all the love of being in that country, that mentioned how he could see, could feel the difference of being in a country that didn’t have the slave history we have and how different it felt.

    I’ve heard that before from African-Americans who have visited Europe — basically, in most countries in Europe, you’re not black, you’re an American, and you get treated like other Americans. Black immigrants from Francophone countries in Africa often get treated like crap in France, but if you’re African-American, there’s no problem. There’s still racism, but it’s not the all-pervasive, you’re-soaking-in-it thing that gets into every corner of your everyday life.

  181. 181
    Mack says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half: Well said, and I agree.

  182. 182

    @SatanicPanic: I, too, am reading The Warmth of Other Suns. Because mentioned by TNC a while back. Just started, and it resides at S.O.’s house because I don’t wanna get pulled in to what’s obviously a page turner. An extremely well-written sobering, infuriating page turner.

    Can I say how much I loved finding out that so much of its work is based on oral history? Okay then.

  183. 183
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half:

    I think that a better way to discuss the situation is to move away from accusations of racism, and instead point out that the real issue is economic inequality that results from the system being rigged in favor of those with power.

    Look. Neil de Grasse Tyson is not being followed by department store security guards because of economic inequality. He’s being followed by department store security guards because he’s black and they think he’s going to steal something. And, no, that didn’t magically change when he became famous.

    Race and class in America is extra screwed up, because our ancestors created a society where your social class is primarily based on the color of your skin. Those in power then told poverty-stricken whites that it didn’t matter how poor they were or how screwed over they were because they were automatically better than black people thanks to the color of their skin.

    Now what’s happening is that those same poverty-stricken white people are discovering that they were lied to, but they’re hearing it as You’re no better than a black guy. And they don’t like to hear that, because their one source of pride and superiority is now gone. They don’t have money, they don’t have education, they live in a drug-ridden rural area but, damn it, at least they were white! And now you’ve come and taken even that away from them.

    It’s hard to face up to the fact that you started life on second base. But you did. I’m a white woman, so I started on first base. Black men are still in the batter’s box. Black women are still in the dugout. But all you can see is that another, richer white guy started off on third base, so therefore you must not have gotten a head start on life at all.

  184. 184
    Long Tooth says:

    @Tone In DC: I’ll see your 5, and raise you 400 years.

    My point being the GOP (et.al) conspires. And, when one of their contemporaneous campaigns is in full gear, it’s always easy to spot to the practiced eye.

  185. 185
    Roger Moore says:

    @Long Tooth:

    The past few weeks has witnessed an audacious campaign, waged by the republican party and its corporate media lickspittles, to inflame race hatred throughout the United States.

    IOW, same old, same old.

  186. 186
    suzanne says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half:

    I think that a better way to discuss the situation is to move away from accusations of racism, and instead point out that the real issue is economic inequality that results from the system being rigged in favor of those with power.

    That glosses over the fact that economic inequality disproportionately punishes the black and female while elevating the white and male.

    To an extent….sorry if it makes you defensive and angry, but it’s your job as a person to learn and grow, even if that is uncomfortable for you and you don’t especially like your teachers.

  187. 187
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Cacti: Irsay is not blah. Therefore, he cannot be a thug.

    Because Richard Sherman nailed the use of “thug” as a substitute for ni*CLANG*.

  188. 188
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half: I’ll be the first person to say that sometimes discussions of privilege can get tedious and off-putting. But racism is still very much a problem regardless of economic inequality.

  189. 189
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half: As another middle-aged white man (with a Scots-Irish heritage on my father’s side) I know it’s not easy. But you can’t imagine how much harder it is if you’re not white. You just can’t. No matter how talented, intelligent, or hard working you are.

    People are suspected of being criminals simply because of the color of their skin. No other reason. You and I, on the other hand, are automatically NOT suspicious looking because we are melanin-deficient.

    That is an extraordinary advantage we’ve got right out of the starting gate.

  190. 190
    SatanicPanic says:

    @Susan K of the tech support: Such a wonderful book, but the first hundred pages scared the crap out of me. We should have a BJ book club on that one.

  191. 191
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @kwAwk: Just no.

    If one had stereotypes in one’s head already, a music video might reinforce it. That, however, is the problem of the person bearing the stereotypes.

  192. 192
    EthylEster says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: TNC is one blogger whom I read without always feeling the need to check out the comments. But the quality of the comments is uneven. And there’s this clubiness that sometimes puts me off.

  193. 193
    jl says:

    I took Johnny Scrum-half as talking about strategies for discussing the issue with racists and bigots, not as describing the reality.

  194. 194
    EthylEster says:

    @Mnemosyne wrote:

    Does that mean that Wagner was a Nazi even though he died 6 years before Hitler was born?

    Well, he was certainly an anti-semite well before Hitler was born.

  195. 195
    Cervantes says:

    @EthylEster:

    But the quality of the comments is uneven. And there’s this clubiness that sometimes puts me off.

    Hmm …

  196. 196
    Cervantes says:

    @cokane:

    I’d like to take the opportunity to point out that Andrew Sullivan of The Dish is a racist.

    Are you basing this assertion on his having promoted Charles Murray or on something else? (I have not read his stuff in about two decades, unless it was excerpted and discussed somewhere.)

  197. 197
    maxcat07 says:

    @rikyrah: @OzarkHillbilly: Yes, but how long does the arc bend before it breaks? I’m a white 63 year old woman, and while I’ve seen remarkable changes in my life, I’ve now seen that pendulum begin to slide back. It is sad.

  198. 198
    Steve LaBonne says:

    @CONGRATULATIONS!: It’s no accident that when Samuel L. Jackson was cast as a violin expert, it was in a Canadian film, The Red Violin.

  199. 199
    Mnemosyne says:

    @EthylEster:

    And that makes Wagner responsible for Hitler’s actions how, again?

    Wagner was definitely an anti-Semite in his public life, but there’s a fair amount of critical controversy about how much it spilled over into his music. His music is much more clearly pro-German and advocating for a united Germany (which didn’t happen until 1871) than it is specifically anti-Semitic, which is probably why Hitler liked to use it to sell his “greater Germany” and “lebensraum” bullshit. But that still doesn’t make Wagner personally responsible for the Holocaust.

    ETA: Shorter me — artists are not responsible for the uses that others put their art to. Even DW Griffith was shocked that Birth of a Nation was used to help revive the KKK, and that film is so nakedly racist that most people can’t sit through it anymore.

  200. 200
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Cervantes: Point taken. This place can be a bit clubby, too.

    Of course, like with the CEO parasite class, once you’re in, you’re in.

  201. 201
    Roger Moore says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half:
    I think it might be helpful if we could come up with a better term than privilege, because most of the time it exists as a penalty for minorities rather than a direct benefit for whites. It’s definitely real, though.

  202. 202
    smith says:

    @Mnemosyne: There’s an interesting mirror image experience for white Americans: Try travelling in Africa. I’ve done it a couple of times and found it to be an interesting experience to be the other, the outsider in someone else’s country, readily identified by the color of her skin. It’s not that the Africans I met were hostile, but they were confident and assertive in a way black Americans tend not to be when interacting with white Americans. The Africans knew whose country it was and expected me as a guest to respect that. It made it clear to me how guarded black Americans are around whites in this country — it seems they have an abundance of caution and reserve that was not obvious to me before I had assumed the outsider role in Africa. And, also, I suppose, showed me my own race-infused expectations about how black people act.

  203. 203

    @SatanicPanic: I’d love to participate, if we were to have one. Wondering if there was one in Ta-Nehisi’s Effete Liberal Book Club?

    (hm, I have Battle Cry of Freedom and made my way part way through it. I think I’ll have to pick it up again and dig in on that, too. That was one of the ELBC selections over there.)

  204. 204
    Jonny Scrum-half says:

    @Roger Moore: Agreed.

    However, to the commenters who wrote that I need to acknowledge that I was born on second base (putting aside that I already have done that) – then what? What am I supposed to do then, having made that acknowledgment?

    More to the point, let’s talk about a lifelong friend of mine who is white. He grew up working class, with an alcoholic father. He didn’t graduate high school, and his sister died of a drug overdose in her 30s. He is married and has 4 kids, 2 of whom have epileptic seizures. Another of his kids had mental-health issues, and the youngest has a severe stutter. My friend works manual labor, but is limited in the amount of time that he can work so that he can collect certain disability benefits.

    He’s also a guy who probably votes Republican, and has the stereotypical viewpoint of blacks and other minorities. If I were to say to him that he’s “privileged” compared to Neil deGrasse Tyson, and that he should acknowledge that he was born on second base, I don’t think that he’d agree. And I don’t think that demanding that he acknowledge his white privilege would advance the discussion at all.

  205. 205
    Cervantes says:

    @suzanne:

    @Jonny Scrum-half: I think that a better way to discuss the situation is to move away from accusations of racism, and instead point out that the real issue is economic inequality that results from the system being rigged in favor of those with power.

    That glosses over the fact that economic inequality disproportionately punishes the black and female while elevating the white and male.

    But if “economic inequality disproportionately punishes the black and female” (and it does), isn’t that precisely why we should focus on reducing economic inequality?

  206. 206
    Suzanne says:

    @Cervantes: Sure. But the root cause is the racism/sexism. You cannot fix economic inequality, I mean really fix it, without confronting the problem leading to the inequitable result. Not to mention, the attitude that “it’s all economic” very neatly turns away from the fact that it is NOT all economic. I want to go around in public with my boobs and be taken seriously regardless of how much money I or you make. And it’s facile. The problem is that even economic inequality IS DISTRIBUTED UNEQUALLY. It’s not just totally random that some people ended up rich and some people ended up poor. Blacks and women ended up poor. You think you can fix that in a meaningful way without asking or confronting the reason why?

  207. 207
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Suzanne: Arguments can be made that by decreasing inequality, one decreases anger and resentment within the populace. A less angry and resentful populace may well be less open to racist or sexist appeals. There is a bit of a chicken and egg problem here. I am open to chicken or egg solutions.

  208. 208
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Jonny Scrum-half:

    What am I supposed to do then, having made that acknowledgment?

    Try not to be an asshole, and don’t vote for assholes. Also, take time to listen to other people rather than dominating the conversation. It’s actually not that hard once you try it.

    And I don’t think that demanding that he acknowledge his white privilege would advance the discussion at all.

    Probably not. And the only thing that might work — getting him to acknowledge that quite a few of those people he stereotypes are in the same or worse situation he is for the same reasons he is (bad fucking luck) — probably still wouldn’t work, because he desperately needs to feel like he’s better than somebody, somewhere, no matter how much his life sucks.

    The sad part is, that’s what the Republicans feed on: his desperate need to feel that he’s better than someone else. And they will use that against him to take away every bit of social assistance he needs with the excuse that Those People are abusing the system.

    Frankly, that’s part of what unions used to be good at. You may have been a poor, working-class guy who got screwed by life, but at least you were Union. Now a lot of people don’t even have that.

  209. 209
    dww44 says:

    @🍀 Martin: Many hours later, but thanks for this. Having been a back office worker and then a manager of them, that ” soft discrimination” was very much in evidence at the branch office of a large national financial services firm where appearances and sex earned one a spot marked for success. And, most of us who were victims of that soft discrimination lived with it and accepted it and only occasionally railed against it.

  210. 210
    AxelFoley says:

    @rikyrah:

    I’ve been down on Coates, but I have been amused by the ‘disappointment’ of Sully and others.

    I look at Coates, and I don’t see a ‘ turn to Al Sharpton’. I see a Black man slapped by reality. He’ll wallow in it for awhile, and then he’ll dust himself off and get back in the game, as did his ancestors and mine.

    Acknowledging that racism and White Supremacy are in every fiber of this country’s being isn’t being a pessimist – it’s being a realist. And, being real is the beginning point for whatever success a Black person gets in this country. Only rooted in that reality of ‘ Yeah, I know, now what’ is how you thrive in America DESPITE being Black.

    Word up.

  211. 211
    mch says:

    One middle-aged white woman mother to another, Betty: You said it. Thank you.

  212. 212
    AxelFoley says:

    @rikyrah:

    This is nothing but respectability politics.

    AS IF racism is Black folks’ fault.

    Fuck that.

    Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis were two Black middle class teenagers, who had BOTH parents.

    Trayvon Martin had skittles, iced tea and a hoodie.

    He was stalked, hunted and murdered for the crime of Walking While Black.

    Jordan Davis’ crime?

    He and his friends didn’t go ‘ Yessa, Mr. Charlie’, when told by some random White man about what they should do about the music playing in their car.

    I don’t think White people have any fucking clue how much the death of these two young men set off an earthquake in the Black Community. How their deaths hit the San Andreas fault of Black people and their collective last Black nerve in the balance of what it is and how Black folks make it in this country.

    Like I said, I understand where Coates is coming from completely.

    And, it’s not Coates’ son, or anyone else’s Black son’s responsibility for White Folks Racism.

    This. So very much this.

  213. 213
    taras says:

    all those “here”s sure looks like two sex frustrated dudes talking about how mcmegan rode a bus once a
    I think I’ve read some chait but I don’t remember what. tried reading tnc, but his vapidity (he went to France to learn French and eat baguettes) is as bad as mcmegans.
    I just want to know if tnc has agreed to allow whites to say the n-word yet, or does he still hold the copyright?

  214. 214
    taras says:

    all those “here”s sure looks like two sex frustrated dudes talking about how mcmegan rode a bus once a
    I think I’ve read some chait but I don’t remember what. tried reading tnc, but his vapidity (he went to France to learn French and eat baguettes) is as bad as mcmegans.
    I just want to know if tnc has agreed to allow whites to say the n-word yet, or does he still hold the copyright?

  215. 215
    AxelFoley says:

    @Mnemosyne:

    It’s hard to face up to the fact that you started life on second base. But you did. I’m a white woman, so I started on first base. Black men are still in the batter’s box. Black women are still in the dugout. But all you can see is that another, richer white guy started off on third base, so therefore you must not have gotten a head start on life at all.

    If that’s not the best description of the way things are, I haven’t seen it.

  216. 216
    redoubt says:

    @AxelFoley: And your strike zone is from above your helmet to your shoelaces, four inches on either side of the plate.

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