Jay Nordlinger Doesn’t Care About Black People

Contrary to what I imagine every non-wingnut first thought upon reading it, this piece was not actually written by Stephen Colbert [emphasis mine]:

Every once in a while, something will happen that makes me think, “Oh, yeah — that’s why I became a conservative in the first place.” Does that ever happen to you? (Or maybe you were born one.)

Robert De Niro made a joke, just a joke. But sometimes — often — jokes tell us something. He said, “Callista Gingrich, Karen Santorum, Ann Romney. Now, do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady? Too soon, right?”

When I was growing up, the liberals around me seemed to think of everything and everyone in black and white — literally. They had race on the brain. People weren’t people, with their virtues and flaws, but skin colors.

Does it occur to you that Michelle Obama is black? Not to me: It occurs to me that she’s a left-winger, a fitness enthusiast, a left-winger, a fashion-plate, a left-winger, a jet-setter, a left-winger, etc.

Does it occur to you that those other women, those other wives, are white? Not to me. Frankly, I don’t know enough about them to think of them as anything at all. But I’m pretty sure that their skin color is one of the least important things about them.

How sad — how wrong — to live in a black-and-white world.My first inclination was to think Nordlinger was being disingenuous, but he does have a track-record of being remarkably (and conveniently) ignorant. Let’s assume, then, that it really was something of a bolt from the blue when Robert De Niro reminded him that the first African American First Lady was African American. Jay Nordlinger is America and so can you.

Fine. But it’s hardly as if this somehow reflects better on Nordlinger than if he were simply lying. It’d be better, really, if he were lying. Because if he — and the many, many other conservatives who have made an equivalent argument — were being untruthful, at least we’d know that they weren’t so remarkably insensitive, clueless, and disinterested in how people different than themselves would like to be seen.

When they assert that race is such an abstraction to them, so completely irrelevant, that it might as well not even exist, conservatives must think they sound ultra progressive.* They don’t. What they do sound like is someone who is so caught-up in their fear of offending that they betray their fundamental discomfort and thus offend. Denying a clear, morally contentless reality like someone’s race sends the implicit message that race is something left unsaid in polite society. It’s, in a word, patronizing.

But, again, thus is the norm for the contemporary far-right. Take these statements from Rick Santorum on Obama’s recent comment that, if he had a son, that son would look like Trayvon Martin [emphasis mine]:

Rick Santorum told conservative radio host Scott Hennen a little bit ago, when asked if President Obama was “pouring gas on our racial fire, over the Trayvon Martin death, said, “It’s clear the president has been not a uniting figure on an issue that, I think many Americans thought he would be. And it’s very tragic and to take a horrible situation like that and inject this issue, which, you know, may be a factor, may not be a factor, but even if it is a factor, it’s one… If it is a factor, it’s obviously one sick man and to use that instead of just saying, as a healing president would do, try to bring people together, but instead try to divide people is really a sad, tragic legacy of this president.”

He also told Laura Ingraham earlier today: “It sounds like a heinous act and condemn it for being a heinous act, but to introduce this type of rhetoric that is clearly meant to bring up these very sensitive issues I just think is out of line for this president. It’s very, very unfortunate that he seizes upon this horrific thing where families are suffering and inject that type of divisive rhetoric and that to me is one of the disappointing parts of what this president has brought to the table.”

The euphemism “very sensitive issues” — you’ve gotta figure this refers to race, generally, and Obama’s being black, specifically. Now, what’s the most logical inference we can glean from this? Considering what Obama said was so anodyne that even the New York Post responded positively, Santorum must take issue with Obama’s simply acknowledging his own blackness. If Obama were a truly unifying figure for America vis-a-vis race, Santorum implies, he’d prove it by evincing a stalwart unwillingness to ever mention, much less embrace, his racial identity. Anything otherwise is to “inject…divisive rhetoric” into the nation’s rhetorical bloodstream.**

Keep in mind this weird, neurotic, “see-no-evil, hear-no-evil” approach to race the next time you hear someone (most likely a conservative) talk about “post-racial” America. Because until Jay Nordlinger can see Michele Obama’s skin, or Rick Santorum can hear Barack Obama speak about his, it’ll be what it is today: pious baloney.

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*Ironically, this kind of enlightenment maximalism — this conception of humanity as uniform, rational, indistinct — reminds me of one of the American Right’s favorite bêtes noires, the French.

**Santorum’s use of pseudomedical language here is interesting, too. Suffice it to say the history of politicians bringing scientific terminology into issues related to national identity is not composed of happy moments.

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339 thoughts on “Jay Nordlinger Doesn’t Care About Black People

  1. When righties like Nordlinger tell us that only lefties make an issue out of race it’s a bit like protective coloration, if you will.  They think it makes them immune to criticism for minority-bashing policy preferences and rhetorical dog-whistles.  It’s a little like their vaunted, yet misunderstood, sense of humor: politics, like watermelons and fried chicken, has become post-racial — no offense is ever intended and no umbrage is ever justified.

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  2. This constant attack of the Right is gets old after a while, especially when stretched to something like this. I imagine that Nordinger thinks race is important in the proper context, but that the first thing he thinks about when thinking about Michelle Obama is not that she’s black. I understand that. I meet black people all the time in my business, and I live in a town that’s majority black, so I have many black friends, and I don’t think Race first when dealing with them. It would have to be a situation in which their race is pertinent for me to give it any thought. I think this is all Nordinger meant, and that the Left is quick to make race an issue, when the context doesn’t call for it.

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    • But it’s more fun to psychologize your enemies and assign dark motives or subconscious hatred, fears and such.

      People get tired of me talking about statism, but this is another consequence of the statist policization in America — it divides us into warring groups so that we never find a large coalition to resist State power. As we fight each other with these petty battles, the State spreads it arms wider and wider promising to heal if only a great majority will submit permanently. I fight against the ideas of the Left as they pertain to central planning and politically correct moral legislation, but I have no problem with individual liberals or progressives — all my friends are basically liberal. If we could only stick to debating ideas, we’d all be better off. It’s when one side thinks they are morally superior and the other side is ignorant or evil that we go astray. So, you give Nordinger two options, dishonest or ignorant, never taking into account he can sincerely be saying something important.

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      • I hope you don’t have a problem with the idea of the Left looking at the government and saying “It’s our government.”   You’re terribly concerned with state power, seems quite reasonable to me.   But when the Right, (or more properly, what passes for it these days) has been saying “The government is the enemy” since the days of Reagan, would you be annoyed if I told you we Left Wingers find that unpatriotic and annoying?

        The State is hardly spreading sinister bat wings over our country.   Seems to me the nation’s getting a little threadbare, its powers to affect our lives diminished for both good and evil.   Nobody seems to be submitting in any event.   Our economy’s majestically sinking below the waves.   Oh a few hundred thousand folks got hired.   I think Clinton averaged about 250,000 jobs a month all during his presidency.   We are on hard times, Farmer.

        This country’s sick.   If we ever had any moral superiority, it’s been gone for many years.   Our nightmarish war in Iraq has just ended and the war in Afghanistan has been so evilly conducted I believe future generations will judge us morally bankrupt.

        It’s not clear in my mind’s eye where you stand on Bush43’s legacy.   It’s unfair, I know it is, but I’ll say it anyway.   When the Left thinks about the Right these days, Bush43 is what comes to mind.  Moral bankruptcy on a colossal scale.

        In 2008, after years of imprudent deregulation, combined with much war borrowing, the US economy got in trouble.   Banks couldn’t lend to each other.  Nobody but the government could have intervened.   The Tea Party arose to protest the Economic Recovery Act, entirely within their right to do so — and were completely coopted by the Right, the same Right which had completely abandoned any semblance of Conservative virtue.

        The Right needed a little fire in the belly, what with the disgraceful Bush legacy, combined with the bizarre antics of McCain and Palin.   And here come these Tea Party folks, made to order, yet another crop of politically-naive bumpkins who hated the idea of big government.   Never mind that corporate idiocy and greed had put the nation on the road to ruin and now the world economy was hanging off the back of the Federal Reserve Towing Service truck, the so-called Conservatives were able to convince these Tea Party hayseeds to vote Republican, against their own best interests.

        It was no miracle, really.   It’s not a question of what people are for, that’s always a difficult thing to explain.   The Right Wing is all about what it’s Against.   That’s easy thinking.  You might object to politically correct legislation.   I object to morally bankrupt legislation   When I think of the Right Wing, I think Gitmo and secret prisons and that lonely C-47 coming into Dover AFB in the dead of night with a terrible freight of dead American kids and all those hearses lined up.   Sure, some individual Right Wingers are nice people, that’s how people are, individually.   But when I consider what you have to say about the Left Wing, you need to understand why we think the way we do.

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          • You know what’s funny? That for some people, the “I have black friends” thing only comes up when they are trying to make a point about how race-blind they are, or how they are no racism in America, or how liberals are the real racists. Plus, that was a response to someone else, no one is questioning your bona fide with African-Americans. FYI, though, I think saying that “I” have won somebody’s respect is a bit, umm, self-congratulatory.

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            • Human beings are in general, polite (and with a dislike for confrontation). Most people probably are not going to tell someone to their face “You haven’t earn my respect.” So maybe we should be more humble about whose respect we can claim we have earned, and not be so self-righteous about it.

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            • the “I have black friends” thing only comes up when they are trying to make a point about how race-blind they are

              And… you’re… concerned… that… the issue of race… didn’t come up… before…. the issue… of race… came up…
              Hmmmm….

              no one is questioning your bona fide with African-Americans

              No, these weren’t “African-Americans.”
              I’ve known quite a few people from the Ministry of Agriculture in Kenya. Those people are African.
              The people I’m talking about are outright black.
              No euphemism is going to make them any less black.
              And you know what?
              When they dream, they probably dream of themselves being black.

              I think saying that ”I” have won somebody’s respect is a bit, umm, self-congratulatory

              I earned it.
              I was the hottest guitarist on the gospel scene in a major metro for two years running.
              I’m talking about a group that opened for the Williams Brothers.
              A group that met with Emmanuel Cleaver.
              A group that was voted by some radio station as being the #2 male vocal group for three years running (some stuffing the ballot box knocked us out; we were a small church).
              And I did an awful lot of shows at various churches.
              And I always won them over.
              I remember the visiting pastor that was blind saying of me, “If I didn’t know any better, I’d think he was black.”
              He meant that as a compliment, btw.
              He didn’t mean “black” in the sense of “too stupid to think for himself and so must be informed of his priorities by some liberal.”
              So, it’s not as if I congratulated myself.
              I am relating those same accolades, which I retain by right.
              I earned that.

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          • To people who’ve been around the block a few times. If you’re at a point where you feel the need to point out that you have black friends, you’re probably already on the wrong side of the issue.

            I’m not saying that’s true of Farmer, but that’s how it comes off when anyone says it, because it’s always a defensive maneuver.

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            • He didn’t say that he sat with Token at lunch one day.
              The guy comes from a place with a significant minority population, and he probably lives in a mixed neighborhood.
              I don’t see that as being defensive.

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                • There’s the whole “do unto others” thing, Mike. You’d probably receive more benefit of the doubt if not for the fact that your consistent portrayal of the “left” has been mostly about caricature and exaggeration under the guise of being “non-partisan”.

                  But in this case, I do think the others are going too far.

                  That said, on the subject of the OP, Nordlinger has said enough things in the past that I think Elias’s reading of his statements is more toward the right interpretation than not.

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                  • The funny thing: my point wasn’t about righties being meanies but rather about how denying preemptively denying the existence of another person’s race is, not unlikely, going to be somewhat offensive to them. Rejecting key aspects of someone’s identity because it makes you uncomfortable is very narcissistic and unfeeling; and it’s not the hallmark of enlightened thought. That was my point. In what I’d posit is not a surprising turn, the hard-righties in this thread have chosen instead to make this about them and whether or not they’re being victimized.

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                    • The hard-righties. This is fucking hilarious and you are a great joke. This place is spiraling down the toilet with partisan crap.

                      Akimoto — show me where I’ve exaggerated and caricatured the Left? You can’t — you can only make baseless accusations. Show me.

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                    • Would you feel offended were I to say that I didn’t find that comment to be obviously masculine?

                      Or, “That sounds like something a Gentile would say?”

                      How strongly do we wish for our statements to be associated with our personal identity?
                      Seriously, in a perfect world, what weight would the listener place on the personal characteristics of the speaker?

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                    • Yeah, right. It’s the fault of the people you attack.

                      From the pov of the right, anything but complete agreement with their views constitutes an attack. Simple disagreement constitutes an attack.

                      Liberal: “Hey, I think Nordlinger is full of it when he says he’s racially color-blind. I mean, he doesn’t even notice that Michelle Obama is black? Weird.”

                      Conservative: “That’s a baseless accusation of racism intended to score cheap political points! The man said he’s not a racist. But apparently you are. Stop attacking him!”

                      NonPartisan: “This proves once again that Both Sides Do It!”

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                    • This is really sad. This place used to be an intelligent place to discuss current topics. Now it’s group think and circle jerk and patronizing the “hard right” with little lectures about how real open liberals relate to race. It’s sad, but it’s funny, because I doubt many of the privileged little liberal pricks here have ever spent much time with minorities outside universities. Tea with Jonthan Capehart is probably their example of mixing it up with races.

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                    • @Karl:
                      You say it like that, it’s understandable.
                      But really, I don’t think we would hang out at this place if we were the quintessential right-wingers.
                      I’m more of a displaced blue dog myself.
                      And I was one to stand up for Rev. Wright during that whole fiasco.
                      Thing is the idea that AIDS was developed by the US gov’t to reduce the black population isn’t really such an odd idea among blacks.
                      That white people were shocked to hear that was more odd to me.
                      Seen in the light of the Tuskegee experiments and Reagan rocking up cocaine to sell arms to Central America, it’s not out of the ballpark.

                      But I appreciate your saying so, and I didn’t want to let that pass without acknowledging it.

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  3. Frankly, that is stupid.
    I really don’t see your point (other than bash the Right), and I have serious reservations regarding the validity of it if there was one.
    Personally, I like Obama as a president, but I don’t give a damn about him one way or another as a black man.
    It’s none of my business how black he is.
    If I view him solely on those terms, that’s pretty much the same as saying, “One nigger’s the same as the other.”

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    • What I see here is that Obama made a simple factual statement: if he had a son, he would look like Treyvon Williams. It’s hardly surprising that the case hit close to home. Then a whole slew of right wingers accuse Obaman of injecting race into the issue, as if race wasn’t a huge part of the issue from day one.  WTF???

      A 17yo black kid was shot for walking down the street and possibly for defending himself from an apparent stalker.

      Said stalker gets off all charges at the local level without even the most basic investigation; instead the local police pretty much contaminate any subsequent investigation.

      How can anyone think race isn’t an issue here? It may not be the only issue, but it’s certainly a big one.

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      • That is incongruent.
        First of all, Zimmerman was not a stalker.
        Stalking is a crime involving repetition. This was their first meeting, or we would have heard otherwise by now.
        Secondly, that the cops mishandled an investigation probably isn’t so much about racism.
        Third, Obama quit being ‘black man on the street’ when he was elected Senator. Now he’s president. It was a lapse of judgment for him to comment on the matter on such personal terms.

        If race is an issue at all, it’s with Zimmerman himself.
        There were two people involved. Adding more spectators to the sidelines isn’t going to change that.

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      • Obama’s simple words were a very elegant gesture for Trayvon’s parents. After all, if the Florida state government doesn’t care enough about his death to be bothered to look into it, Obama said exactly the best thing to Trayvon’s parents to show that he really feels for their loss because his son might have looked like theirs. I’m sure it’s comforting for them to know the President of the United States really feels for them.

        Yes, looks do count for parents of dead children and that means a lot, especially when they see their dead child is still alive on the playground but the kid is just not theirs.

        People wringing their hands about Obama not giving equal time to ALL children are applying PC logic to the situation. I hope people trying to undermine Obama’s expression of sympathy are doing it for political reasons rather than to deprive Trayvon’s parents of the gesture.

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            • My brother was shot and it wasn’t investigated.
              He had come to live with me back in ’05.
              It was tough finding work, and after a series of dead-end jobs, he went to work for a temp service.
              They sent him to the library as a janitor. The city contracts out the work so that they don’t have to pay benefits.
              He loved it. He loved being around all the books, getting reading time, etc. He even spent out of his own pocket for some of the supplies.
              He was a drinker, and he wold buy a six-pack every day coming home from work. He didn’t want to keep it around the house, because he would stay up and drink. But if the beer ran out, he would go to bed.
              One night, some guy tried to rob him on his way back from the liquor store. The guy tried to take his beer, and he fought back. He got shot.
              While he was laying there in the gutter bleeding, the guy drove past him in a car. The guy stopped and rolled down the window to say, “I ought to kill you!” before driving away.
              He got up and knocked on a few doors. No one would open their door for him. Someone called the police, but they were taking a long time. He walked six blocks back to the house.
              He came in and I got him to the bathroom. He took off his coat and shirt so I could get a better look at it. The cops showed up right about then, and then the ambulance.
              They never investigated because he had $300 on him at the time. They figured it was a drug deal gone bad. Cops know everything.
              He spent a week in ICU after that. I went to visit him only once. He looked worn and haggard. It hurt me to see him like that.
              There was a surveillance video at the liquor store. The police never asked for it, even though the shooter was in there when he was that night, and had followed him from there.

              Shootings happen all the time that don’t get investigated. The officers on the scene determined that this one did not warrant the attention of a detective. End of story.
              It’s really not unusual.
              I wish it were otherwise.

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            • How much does it say about me?
              Here is a photo of me with my best friend, a man I had known for 11 years.
              Yes, I’m on crutches, and he’s on an IV. Long story.
              I watched from my window while he was shot dead by the police. 8 shots.
              They lined up a firing squad, and killed him.
              They stood there for 20 minutes without taking cover or acting threatened in any way. And then the guns came out. They stood like that for 20 minutes before they shot him.
              Why did they shoot him? Because he was so drunk that he fell backwards from the log he was sitting on.
              The case is Aipperspach v. McInerney, Case no. 11-CV-01225, filed in the Western District of Missouri. It will be heard at the Charles Evans Whittaker Federal Courthouse by US District Judge Greg F. Kays.
              In the meantime, I have been the victim of an incredible amount of witness intimidation under color of law.
              This led me to make numerous public statements that I am not suicidal, and do not own a firearm.
              I fled that state in fear of my life a little over a year ago.
              I remain in hiding.

              I don’t think they killed the man because of his race (we are both bi-racial).
              The fact that he has an Arabic name might have had something to do with it.
              But the police in those parts have a reputation of being very violent and aggressive.

              Was that what you were thinking that it said about me?

              If not, then why?

              If you know me so well as to be able to determine my thoughts, then tell me.
              I would love to know what I am thinking.
              Do, please, tell.

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              • I’m not a psychiatrist or psychologist but I like to play one.

                It would wrong and dehumanizing for me to say your feelings are invalid or deny that you genuinely feel what he said is divisive. I can’t imagine how you might get from what Obama said in terms of psychological logic to the feeling its out of line.

                I can see how it would be very appropriate for him to say what he said.

                If I was president, I wouldn’t say anything about an Asian kid being raped and killed even if she might have looked like the daughter I might have had. Asians being raped and murdered is pretty unusual. And we don’t feel oppressed in that way. So that doesn’t work….

                But let’s imagine some day we have a president who is a combat vet from the Iraq war, maybe even injury or PTSD came up during his election. One day an OIF vet murders his entire family and some of his coworkers.

                In his suicide note, he writes,

                “They could never really accept that I would never return to normal. They would never let down their guard around me, or stop giving me advice as if all I needed was to hear the right idea. And I would suddenly be better. And everything could be the way it was before I left. I suppose since I can never be the man I once was to them, I may as well play the role Fate has found for me. Sorry, I couldn’t find another way to live.”

                I would expect the president to say something personal to address the nation’s shock about the tragedy.

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                • I would expect for him too under such circumstances as well.
                  In this case, I just think the “my son” bit was going a bit far.
                  It stuck, and it made news.
                  And that’s sort of insensitive to the Zimmerman family.
                  They have enough on their plate right now.
                  There are two parties to this, and we shouldn’t forget that.

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                  • I honestly don’t think the president was thinking much about Zimmerman period, but rather was just trying to reach out to the Martin family. Now while that may or may not be appropriate, it was a very human reaction and honestly I think it was pitch perfect at least from the perspective of people who might be in a similar boat….in so far as it’s really the first time that someone in power at the very top can say that…

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          • Zimmerman’s father was a judge. Obama was a lawyer. Zimmerman’s dad isn’t going to be afraid of being lynched. Zimmerman’s dad now has to worry about being investigated by the Justice Department along with the state attorney.

            If you read his statement, there is nothing about Zimmerman, and it’s even typical politician talk: “I pray for the family and hope that his killer is caught and is punished or face the full extent of the law.”

            Is it because “he could have been my son”, therefore we need to go get Zimmerman? Not all Americans have a vengeance-orientation. In fact, vengeance is what our government is supposed to be against (in theory).

            What’s wrong with Zimmerman’s case showing up in court? That’s how we create justice. The injustice exists because people feel like justice has not been served and this whole thing is unfair. Just like Zimmerman felt mortal danger for his life (or he was supposed to). Maybe he’s let off because of Florida’s stupid law, but at least that’s some justice for Trayvon (acknowledging and maybe changing this SYG law).

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  4. I know that race has always been a political issue in this country, but it’s a shame that it remains one, because it makes it much more difficult to discuss race honestly. Let’s face it, white conservatives and white liberals don’t get it (neither, for that matter, do the vast majority of white people who don’t fall on that political axis). At this point, though, conservatives have become so defensive about race that they can’t hear any discussion about it without a knee jerk reaction of some sort. Liberals, on the other hand, are all too eager to use race issues as political weapons. This isn’t a “both sides do it” thing. This is a fucked up political system in which everything becomes an opportunity to score points.

    Sometimes I think conservatives should get some of it. They’re always complaining about being kept out of the media, Hollywood, the tree house, etc., and it turns out that if you look at television, movies, and much of the media, you won’t see a whole lot of black people either. But I don’t think I’ve ever heard a conservative talk about racial disparities in the media and entertainment. In fact, because of the defensiveness, all too often conservatives try to deny or rationalize racial disparities wherever they exist. If it isn’t actual racism, it certainly comes off looking like it. And so the point scoring and defensiveness cycles.

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    • Sorry about picking on you here Chris, since you do at the end of the comment pretty explicitly say that conservatives are the generators of all this nonsense. But your saying that liberals do X and conservatives do Y seems to exclude the possibility that there are legitimate, defensible reasons for the accusations. And conversely, that there are legitimate reasons to get defensive. Personally, I’m tired of the equivalence which says that both sides are equally guilty of partisan tribalism; of scoring cheap political points in equal proportion and intensity and frequency. That’s just bullshit. There’s a faction of conservatives who argue – just as Elias wrote about in the OP! – that they live on a color-blind, post racial world and liberals are the real racists for even mentioning that skin color might be relevant in explaining the outcomes of certain events. That’s just a denial of the facts, and a self-serving one at that. Where’s the analogue for this sentiment in the liberal community?

      The other side of this is the intellectual convenience exhibited by self-identified NonPartisan’s when they reduce political disputes to Tribal Identification, and who,view the give and take, the to and fro, as nothing more than grunts and shouts expressing Tribal Signifiers. There’s more to it than that. But the argument is lost on the NonPartisan because he always interprets it as being nothing more than yet another Tribal Identity Marker.

       

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      • Look, I think there are a shitload of racists on the American right. Hell, I run into them on a daily basis, living in Texas. I think it’s gotten worse in the last few years, too, both because of the skin color of our president and because, in part because of his skin color, race has become more of a political issue than it had been probably since Rodney King, if not going back even further. I have heard things in the last 3 years that I hadn’t heard since I was a child in a small town in the Old South in the early 80s, when there were plenty of people around who thought it was still 1920, and taught their children accordingly. It’s shocking to me, because I naively thought that most of that was gone now, and that while racism was still very real and pervasive, a certain level of it was limited to the fringe of society. I was wrong.

        I also think that the defensiveness from conservatives is, in no small part, the fault of liberals, because they use race politically as much as conservatives do, and conservatives certainly do. They do it because it gets them ahead a bit, and that’s what partisan politics is about. So yeah, I do think liberals share in some of the blame. Who shares in more of the blame? Honestly, I don’t give a shit, because that’s the mindset that gets us into this bloody (in this case, actually fucking bloody!) cycle. You’re all to blame, as far as I see it (I don’t mean you specifically, or anyone else here specifically, but “you” generically). If you’re not a racist — and let’s face it, there are a bunch of racist liberals too —  but you use race in the political game, I see no difference between you and a racist, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative. You’re causing just as much harm by making it more and more difficult to deal with the actual, very real issues of race. The issues that in part got Treyvon Martin killed, sure, but which are so much bigger than that. You know where black people are dying by thousands? Go to parts of Chicago, or L.A., or northern New Jersey, or New Orleans, or D.C., and you’ll see where, and it’s rarely even mentioned in our political discussions. My long-time girlfriend has two black brothers, and they can’t where red outside of their house, despite the fact that they live in a suburban Long Island neighborhood in 2012. A suburban Long Island neighborhood in 20-fucking-12! And ask 100 black men who they fear more: the Zimmermans of the world or every cop they see, and I bet you 99 of them will tell you its the cops they fear more. My girlfriend won’t even let her brothers visit her in Texas, because the police here have a nasty habit of using excessive force with minority men (and boys!). Homelessness, incarceration, poor education opportunities, discrimination throughout their daily lives, and a thousand other issues that black people face every day are not served in any way by a bunch of white people bickering about race to score political points. And the moment we start trying to put more blame on one side or another, that’s what we’re doing. Yeah, we’re all upset about Treyvon Martin, and we’re going to talk about it, and we’re going to wear a hoodie. How mighty white of us.

        There’s a way out of the cycle. You start discussing race on its own terms, without bringing partisan politics into it. And when people inevitably do bring partisan politics into it, because there are people who can’t help it (and as some people here have shown, they can’t help but see everything through a political lens, to the point that it even their senses of humor are entirely driven by their political views), you’re just going to have to resist the urge to play their game, and try to focus on the real issues. I know there will be some who push back hard, and I know it will come mostly from the conservative side of the American political spectrum, but you know how you beat that? You beat it by voting, you beat it by advocating, you beat it through activism.  And you also beat it by listening, because I guarantee pretty much every single one of us here, including myself, have very little clue about what’s going on out there for minorities, because it doesn’t affect us in our daily lives.

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        • I feel ya on all that Chris. But what the hell do you think liberals are trying to do when they talk about the very same issues you do? Is it merely to shame their opponent? Or is it to get people to think differently about how they act, and how they think? You’re talking like the cause of the problem is partisan politics. It isn’t. The cause of the problem is racism. So when you say

          There’s a way out of the cycle. You start discussing race on its own terms, without bringing partisan politics into it.

          my response is that a liberal cannot do this because every time he brings up race, conservatives get their feelings hurt and NonPartisans accuse the liberal of scoring cheap political points (see! Both Sides Do It!). I mean, there have been manymany efforts by liberals over the last few weeks here to talk about misogyny as well as race in a rational, coherent way. That non-liberals continue to view liberals who engage in these discussion as trying to score cheap political points is, in my mind, an even bigger problem than the occasional hyperbolic liberal who actually does so.

           

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            • There’s lots of ways to talk about racism, JB. ONE was is to show the falsity of someone’s claim ‘X isn’t motivated by racism’. That’s a negative pursuit, merely showing that a belief or assertion is incorrect. ANOTHER way is to show that racism may be, and in fact quite likely is, a contributing factor in ‘X’. A THIRD way is to show that if not for the racial factors in play, ‘X’ wouldn’t have arisen. And a FOURTH way to discuss racism is with people who are experience ‘X’ everyday. As a white guy, I can’t contribute to the last one except as a listener. But I can certainly discuss, argue, and present evidence over the first three.

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          • Still, I don’t think partisan politics causes the racial issues in our country. I just don’t think it helps. And you know, I generally don’t hear liberals talking about most of that stuff (incarceration and the police maybe). Again, though, there’s a simple way of actually working towards something, rather than playing this silly game: stop talking about it in terms of liberals and conservatives. If conservatives have a cow about it, fuck ’em. Let them be uncomfortable, but not because we talk about how conservatives are racists, but because we talk about racism, and they have to confront it. To be honest, I’m more worried about the liberals who think that something like, “Hey, I’m a liberal, so I’m all good with this shit,” because that’s as much if not more of a source of inertia than conservatives getting all huffy and puffy because they’re not exactly on good footing when it comes to racism.

            This OP isn’t designed to convince anybody of anything, or to cause anyone to reflect on their thinking about race and racism. Elias may be right about Nordlinger, but seriously, who the hell cares? What good does his being right about Nordlinger do anyone other than liberals in the game? I’d rather leave Nordinger out of it, because he’s irrelevant, and start figuring out how we can deal with urban poverty, cultures of violence, disparities between city and suburban schools, gentrification, disparities in the judicial system, disparities in hiring and contracting, and so on. I know they’re hard problems, and we’re not going to come up with any miracle solutions anytime soon, but hell, we’re not even talking about those problems, we’re talking about Nordinger and conservatives. What’s Nordinger got to do with any of the important stuff? Jack shit, that’s what.

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            • [I realize now that I basically write this comment every time I bring up race here at the League; but I’ll risk being redundant just because Chris has spilled a lot of digital ink in this thread over this issue, so I feel he deserves a response.]

              Let me get this straight: you don’t want to talk about race in America unless we’re figuring out “how we can deal with urban poverty” — and, what’s more, it’s not germane to discuss the views of one of the lead editors for the most influential right-wing magazine in America…..

              I understand your kvetching about racial politics often being defined by tribalism and name-calling but, really, get over it. This is what politics almost always is, to one degree or another. When it comes to the real world, not the League or similar little enclaves of basically identical people, demographically, speaking past one another, there are no wise men that sit around tables and discuss matters with pure reason and complete lack of prejudice (in the broad sense of the term).

              Railing against what’s an eternal and unchangeable reality isn’t truly the most responsible or mature thing to do, imo, and can lead you to the place where, fundamentally, you’re doing the same thing you criticize others for: going in rhetorical circles for no greater purpose than asserting your superiority.

              And all of this is kind of tangential since your operating assumption — that the League is somehow influential in a grand way that means it can determine what problems “we” solve — is, to my mind, very silly.

              If you want to see a post all about how we can talk about race without talking about race, how we can be technocratic philosopher-kings that will solve America’s racial issues just so long as everyone agrees not to utter that which cannot be named, then you should e-mail E.D. and arrange to write it yourself.

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              • The battleground for the battle of ideas is in the mind.

                My reading of Chris is he thinks it’s futile to have the battle of ideas because fighting just seems to make things worse and the ideological forces more committed to fighting. He’s saying its better to just deal with the problems in physical reality so that the ideological battle no longer needs to be fought.

                This is similar to what Dmitry Orlov says about our 21st century economical and environmental crises. Bickering with people and trying to fight in the framework of the existing system (or society) is futile. Ignore the dysfunctional milieu, act as if it doesn’t exist, and perhaps an alternative system will take root.

                If the current political context is stupid, then have a separate political context that excludes the intractable participants. Let them do their angry dance and not worry about convincing them to change because it may never happen.

                At least that the extent of what I understand he is envisioning.

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              • Elias and Jeff, argh, I must be expressing myself very poorly, because you’ve got me wrong on some fundamental issues. One, I don’t think the League is influential, but it is fairly representative, at least when it comes to discussing race. Two, I don’t think we should stop exchanging ideas, I just think we should stop treating ideas as weapons in a political game. That’s very clearly what’s going on here, and it’s what goes on very often all throughout the media. It’s a good way of feeling like you’re talking about and tuned into race issues without ever having to deal with race issues.

                I know perfectly well that partisan politics is the way things work. On the other hand, it doesn’t work, in that it doesn’t get shit done when it’s not relevant to partisan politics. Elections become less about solving problems than they do about convincing people that you’re on their side in the game. So no, you don’t need to talk about how to solve the urban poverty problem to talk about race, but if you’re talking about race to talk about partisan politics, you’re not really talking about race, and you’re part of the problem, whether you like it or not.

                There are ways around this. There are people out there who are actually interested in the issues, and who recognize that Democrats and Republicans are worth shit when it comes to those real issues, and that it doesn’t really matter that Republicans are worth slightly more or less shit than Democrats. And there are a hell of a lot of people who are affected by the real issues, and who, whether they realize it or not (and they often do), know damn well that neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are doing shit to help them (and that it doesn’t really matter whether the Republicans are doing mroe or less shit to help them). Let’s talk to those people, and about those people, and the issues they face. Fuck partisan politics, however inevitable it is. I know that in order to create change at the legislative level, we have to go through it, but there are ways of doing that which don’t require playing the game first and worrying about the issues second. I don’t see that happening here from many (BSK is an exception, the poor bastard).

                What this doesn’t require: being perfectly objective. Hell, I don’t think you should even be remotely objective. This shit pisses me off, and that is a good thing. Fuck objectivity. And I don’t think you need to do it without talking about race, and I’m not sure what I’ve said to suggest otherwise. In fact, I think we should be talking about race, but that’s not really what you’re doing.

                Look, I don’t want to make this personal, but I’ll put it like this. To me, you come off as a privileged white liberal who’s never been poor or lived in a neighborhood with mostly racial minorities, who doesn’t spend a whole lot of time thinking about the issues that people of color face, and who writes about it in a way that doesn’t advance any discussion of those issues in any way. IMaybe I’m wrong about everything but the last part (that part is obvious), but I doubt it. If I am wrong, though, how would anything you’ve said about race on this blog suggest otherwise?  read this post, and all I got from it was, “Hey, this conservative iscluless about race, and the fact that I recognized it means I’m not. Yay!”

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              • In Chris’ defense, he’s got a good point there.
                Most of the things that he names here:
                urban poverty, cultures of violence, disparities between city and suburban schools, gentrification, disparities in the judicial system, disparities in hiring
                have other affected parties other than solely minorities.
                Race didn’t cause the problems.
                Adding race into it makes them worse.

                And that’s probably why we continue to fail in addressing racism in this country.
                By making it an issue of race, they are separated from their natural allies.

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        • “I also think that the defensiveness from conservatives is, in no small part, the fault of liberals, because they use race politically as much as conservatives do, and conservatives certainly do.”

          yup, the party of personal responsibility.

          this:  “If you’re not a racist — and let’s face it, there are a bunch of racist liberals too –  but you use race in the political game, I see no difference between you and a racist, whether you’re a liberal or a conservative. ”

          really gives away the game.  makes any discussion of race off limits.

          this:  “You start discussing race on its own terms, without bringing partisan politics into it.”

          presumes that you are the arbiter of when partisan politics are brought into it for all sides.

          keep digging that hole!

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          • Dude, it’s really easy to discuss politics without bringing partisan politics into it. For one, you don’t start talking about conservatives and liberals and what they do or don’t do. Instead, you start talking about what gets done and doesn’t get done, what needs to get done, and how we might go about doing it. I guess that’s difficult for some people to grasp, though, becasue to them, this world is all about liberals and conservatives, and it’s impossible for them to see how we could possibly discuss anything without brining them into it.

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                    • no.  i simply reject your suggestion that maintaining a strict separation of “partisan politics” from conversations about race is possible or beneficial.  it is to you and i would submit conservatives generally.  i’m not so sure it benefits persons of color.  your desire for a non-level playing field in the guise of “this is a level playing field” is easy to see through.

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                    • joey jo jo, let me guess, you came here from balloon juice, right? I guess this because you assume someone criticizing a liberal is a conservative.

                      You aren’t rejecting my premise, you’re making a counterclaim.

                      So I’ll ask you to defend it: explain to me how this post, and posts like it, help people of color?

                      Explain to me how partisan bickering over race issues helps people of color?

                      Explain to me how Republicans or Democrats help people of color, period?

                      It seems to me that the only claim Democrats have is that they don’t hurt them as much, because they don’t enact things like the stupid Arizona or Alabama immigration laws. But see, this is still about stupid partisan bullshit, which you have to pigeonhole into “level playing field” nonsense, because you really think it’s a playing field. It ain’t; it’s two parties that do little more than pay lip service to race issues while they spend the rest of their time getting their’s. Fuck ’em both.

                      I’ll take you seriously when I see you at the next meeting of your city bus service protesting their inevitable decision to reduce service to a minority neighborhood while increasing it in some white neighborhood where no one rides the bus anyway. Enjoy your game until then.

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                    • i don’t know what you are and it doesn’t matter.  i came here from sully’s place.  your suggestion benefits conservatives in general in my opinion.  that doesn’t necessarily mean that you self identify as a conservative.\

                      you’re moving the goalposts with your demand.  “this post” isn’t at issue.  what is at issue is you setting the “rules” of debate or worthiness.  see, e.g. “I’ll take you seriously when I see you at the next meeting of your city bus service protesting their inevitable decision to reduce service to a minority neighborhood while increasing it in some white neighborhood where no one rides the bus anyway.”

                      it’s a give away.

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  5. I’m not good with this post either, Elias, more GOP = racism.  Me, I thought DeNiro’s joke was funny, and innocent.  And I thought that President Obama’s remarks—on Trayvon Martin looking like the son he never had—fed the flames of division instead of cooling them.  Bad judgment in the very least, cynical race-baiting in an election year at worst.

    But it’s hardly as if this somehow reflects better on Nordlinger than if he were simply lying.

    I can’t even parse this, Mr. Isquith.  Seems you got Jay Nordlinger coming or going, heads you win [racist], tails he loses [he’s a liar].

    This lends no clarity to the current crisis, Elias, only more confusion and ugliness.

    Maybe we should just return to the first point of possible agreement:  DeNiro’s joke was funny.  Hell, I laughed, anyway.

    “Callista Gingrich. Karen Santorum. Ann Romney,” De Niro said. “Now do you really think our country is ready for a white first lady?”

    I guess he shouldn’t have named them by name.  That’s a little out of bounds, I guess.  But if they ever take to the microphone as surrogates for their husbands—and they do—then they’re public figures and in the campaign too.  In a real way, they run for First Lady.

    Ch4ristLordyJesus, I’m so sick of this nitpicking, Elias.  Nordlinger isn’t a racist and this is all bullshit.  After all of America’s shameful history on race, I’d rather have a black president than any other kind and so would at least 80% of us.

    Just not this one, who’s to the left of any Democrat I ever considered voting for.  And I just voted for Jerry Brown this last time around, for the record.

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    • Bad judgment in the very least, cynical race-baiting in an election year at worst.

      Race-baiting for whom? According to some conservatives, all black people will vote for the black guy anyway (because they’re the real racists!). He’s got that vote sewn-up, so accoding to this worldview, who is he race-baiting for? To deliberately alienate white people? To what purposse?

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      • I’ve thought of this idea before, but a few of us actual leftists should create a platform so guys like TVD actually understand the difference between a standard-issue center-left Democrat and actual social democrats.

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        • Left vs “liberal?”  I’ve made that call for clarity for a year now, and just today, Jesse.  My mom was an FDR Democrat, and I loved my mom.  The rest of you, you even hate each other, so forgive me if I run from you rather than give you a big sweet hug.  When push comes to shove, one of you leaves the other with a knife in their back. Include me out.

          Keeping your distance is the only safe and sane course.  This egg wants no part of your omelet.

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        • Agreed.  Tom, here’s a sample:

          – A real left-winger would never even consider starting a war with Iran over the mere possibility that it may be developing nuclear weapons.  They would not even consider war with Iran if we knew Iran to be developing nuclear weapons, because they would have a definition of “just war” which was limited to defensive wars.  They might even think that Iran has every right to develop nuclear weapons for the purposes of deterrence, and that it’s hypocritical for nations that are already nuclear powers (like the US and Israel) to punish countries that seek to follow in their own footsteps.

          – A real left-winger would have sought to bring in true public, single-payer health care, along the lines of Canada or Europe.  In Canada, even our Conservatives – who are to the right of any previous conservative party here in modern years – pay lip service to the necessity of preserving Canada’s public health care system.

          – A real left-winger would have launched an investigation into the Bush Administration’s illegal use of torture and wiretapping and released the results publicly, even if they didn’t attempt to put former Bush Administration officials on trial for involvement in torture.

          – A real left-winger would have withdrawn US forces from Afghanistan by now.

          – A real left-winger would have pushed hard for repeal of DOMA.

          – A real left-winger would have cancelled the Bush tax cuts for anyone making over $100,000, regardless of the political cost.

          That’s just a start, Tom.  Obama is, in terms of the political spectrum, somewhat to the right of Clinton, in my estimation.  I know leftists.  They aren’t fond of him in the least.  Self-defined leftists tend to be people who regard Republicans and Democrats at two sides of the same coin.

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      • sonmi — this is a man who speaks highly of Mr. Corporate Whore Harold Ford. You ought to draw up a “how corporate is he” on Barack Obama.

        –disclaimer: the “corporate whore” moniker isn’t mine. That’s skeptical brotha’s.

        –further disclaimer: I know someone who worked on Ford’s campaign staff. Yay money sink!

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      • Defend Clarence Thomas?  From who[m]?   Defending a great man from lesser men is always a losing percentage becuase there are so many more lesser men than great ones.  In 100 years, they’ll still be citing Clarence Thomas and his detractors will have faded to dust, and mud.

        Alan Keyes, pass.  I liked his speech once.  I was an Alexander man.  Please do read the whole thing.

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          • The idea is that he wants to defend the helpless black man (because blacks are inherently helpless) against Evil Whitey, go for it; don’t stop with Trayvon.
            If Thomas doesn’t need some defending against Evil Whitey, then surely Keyes does, no?

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            • I actually think Thomas is the more intellectually principled of the two, with Scalia being more the brazen politician. That said, Thomas a frequent side-effect of being principled is dullness, predictability, and simplicity; and on that score Thomas also has Scalia beat easy. The ways Antonin finds to squirm his way to answer his politics demand are frequently executed with more bravado than the average Justice. And he’s a good writer.

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          • That’s because Scalia is one of the statists. Power will find it much more convenient to quote Scalia.

            Thomas’s opinion in Gonzales v. Raich was a repudiation of Wickard (which is interesting in its own right) and his opinion in Gonzales v. Oregon was an exceptionally interesting rebuke of pretty much everybody else on the court. If Thomas is not quoted, it will be because it is inconvenient to quote him.

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              • Relatively speaking, yes, that’s accurate.  It may be decribed more accurately as Scalia being able to find a drug war expemption to any given element of the Constitution.  (for example, both Raich and Bong Hits4Jesus)  (though also Thomas gave a concurrence on the Morse vs Frederick case, so both of them are unclean on the issue)

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                • Scalia and Thomas have a voting alignment in the mid 80s, which is the highest of any pair of justices in recent memory. And do we all forget Thomas’s infamous dissent in Hamdi? His dissent in Georgia v. Randolph, or Doggett for that matter?

                  Dude loves the state, just not when ti’s interfering with commerce. He does love when ti locks people up, though.

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                    • Are you sure about Souter and Ginsburg? The Harvard Law Review article I read on the SCOTUS had them as about a percentage point lower than Scalia/Thomas…maybe it was out of date.

                      It’s not something to be criticized, just pointed out when you consider one a paragon of anti-statism and the other as a statist apologist.

                      And again, what the heck is more statist than the Thomas dissents given above which basically said “yeah it’s okay for the state to do xyz”?

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                    • The comparison I read had higher agreement between those two. I’m pretty sure on this. Let me find the article.

                      From here:

                      The conventional wisdom that Thomas’s votes follow Antonin Scalia‘s is reflected by Linda Greenhouse’s observation that Thomas voted with Scalia 91 percent of the time during October Term 2006, and with Justice John Paul Stevens the least, 36% of the time.[98] Statistics compiled annually by Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSblog demonstrate that Greenhouse’s count is methodology-specific, counting non-unanimous cases where Scalia and Thomas voted for the same litigant, regardless of whether they got there by the same reasoning.[99] Goldstein’s statistics show that the two agreed in full only 74% of the time, and that the frequency of agreement between Scalia and Thomas is not as outstanding as is often implied by pieces aimed at lay audiences. For example, in that same term, Souter and Ginsburg voted together 81% of the time by the method of counting that yields a 74% agreement between Thomas and Scalia. By the metric that produces the 91% Scalia/Thomas figure, Ginsburg and Breyer agreed 90% of the time. Roberts and Alito agreed 94% of the time.[100]

                      I see Thomas’s reasoning not based in the state having the power to do X (for example, when it comes to how schools treat children under their care) but because the parents aren’t there, the schools have a responsibility to act as exceptionally strict guardians in loco parentis.

                      This is different from the approach made by Scalia’s which tends to be that, of course, schools can tell students to do whatever.

                      Splitting hairs?

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  6. I have some sympathy for conservatives when it comes to race, not because I don’t think they’re wrong, but because I can understand why they haven’t yet gotten it right.  Racism is a grave social sin nowadays (at least among the scribbling class), and it’s psychically painful to think they’re backwards on the issue.  This, combined with the fact that conservatives rarely have the tools in their intellectual kit to quickly apprehend their privilege, means it’s usually far easier for them to dismiss accusations of racism as arising from some base motive of the accuser.

    I’m really skeptical that racism is a moral failing the way many liberals seem to think it is.  Racism is a pretty conventional form of ignorance (albeit with more pernicious effect than most), but we don’t usually treat it that way.  Instead of meeting racism with knowledge and patience (like we do with most ignorances), we throw it in people’s faces and demand that they feel shame.  I think progressives could make a lot of inroads on racial issues if every time they’re tempted to throw out the “r” word, they instead try to figure out what which misconception about race animates the racist sentiment, and extirpate it with facts.

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    • Perhaps the problem is that conservatives are uncomfortable with their racism. Can a person really be blamed for their prejudices which may be based on their media experiences or even in person experiences? I once met a South African who complained about the darkies ruining everything in South Africa. I was taken aback, even though I enjoy unhappy endings to stories. I didn’t say anything, I thought to at least question why he thought that, but later in the conversation he remarked that his friend’s was burned alive by black gangs, and it quite made sense.

      John McCain used to complain about the Gooks, I found that offensive and unsavory even though I liked John McCain as a politician. Part of becoming an adult is developing the skill to think more about the context for people’s ideas. As I got older, it made perfect sense that McCain might hate Vietnamese people, how could he not? Of course, in spite of that John McCain has done quite a bit to improve US-Vietnam relations and has been willing to meet his former enemies.

      Perhaps the problem is that liberals expect too much of conservatives or that conservatives have difficulty accepting prejudicial feelings in the social context that expressing these feelings may be inappropriate at certain times. You can’t ignore the possibility that a young black man in a hoodie might be a threat or that you feel he might be a threat, but you can’t be disrespectful to them directly. Conservatives are not great at nuances and walking the fine line, so it should not be surprising they might just throw up their hands and tell liberals to F Off with their forced kindness.

      As the Avenue Q musical sings, “Everyone’s just a little bit racist.”

      I could imagine myself being a bit wary of Trayvon Martin in my neighborhood since I don’t think there are any black people at all. I did want to walk around the neighborhood with a gun, although that gun would be a Garand or Lee-Enfield. Then again, militarizing their neighborhood might not be appreciated. Plus, I don’t really care about my neighbors that much, I would just want to keep the burglars from swiping my guns.

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      • “Jeff Wong,” huh?  “Wong” is an ethnic name.  Albanian, I believe, and all you Albanians hate Hispanics, as I recall.  So where do you ethnic scum get off lecturing good Americans on stereotyping and racism, Mr. So-Called “Wong”?

        Move along, you hypocrite, and take your Albanian hatemongering and race-baiting along with you.  We’ve had enough of your kind around here, lemme tell you.  All you do is make things worse.

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  7. I always thought that the problem with the “some of my best friends are black”, historically, is that it was always followed by stuff like “The milkman! The guy who shines my shoes! The guy who sells me a newspaper at the newsstand!” and every single one of the people rattled off was not a peer but a subordinate.

    If someone says “I actually have black friends” and they actually have black friends who are, like, peers and everything?, it’s… well… it doesn’t reflect well on the person who pulls the “some of my best friends are black!” line out against them.

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      • I’ll use “gay” for this next analogy because I’m a white male and you might actually believe me on this part.

        I have gay friends. I don’t think of them as “my gay friends” and I don’t introduce them as “my gay friends”. They’re friends who happen to be gay. Now, it’s also not an open secret between us that they’re gay… We argue politics (they’re well to my left), we talk about gay marriage, we talk about all sorts of things (some of them prefer Marvel comics to DC comics. Some of them prefer dubstep to house. One of them (the lesbian, of course) is a vegetarian). They’re gay… but they’re not “my gay friends”. They’re my friends who just happen to be gay.

        I don’t see being gay as particularly interesting. Now, of course, I don’t know what it’s like to be gay and I’ve really irritated the hell out of one of them by comparing “coming out as an atheist” to “coming out as gay”… but the fact that they’re gay is something that I don’t really care about.

        Am I thinking about them being gay incorrectly, somehow? Should I not be blind to their sexual orientation?

        If it’s good that they’re not categorized in my head as “GAY” but “friends (and, yeah, they’re gay)” (and I suspect it is), why wouldn’t it be good to do similar with the non-white people one knows?

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        • I suspect that coming out as an atheist from a family environment of evangelical Christians is somewhat comparable to certain types of coming out as gay to certain types of environments.  Coming out as gay and atheist to a family of evangelical Christians might be a topper.  Then again, it might be a, “well, you dropped two nukes together in the same spot, same effective yield”, too.

          On the other hand, I can also see both types of coming outs as, “Oh, come on, man, we knew that already” and lots of stuff in-between.

          I can make no claims to having a really good understanding of any of the above.  I have an imagination.  I know people who are alienated from large swaths of their families for all sorts of reasons.  I’m not one of them, and I can’t (quite) wrap my head around it.

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        • My experience usually works like this. Say I’m sitting at a table in the bar area of a restaurant, and I look over and see two black men and a black woman sitting at the bar. I will think, in a way that’s not really verbalized, but that’s still explicit, that there are two black men and a black woman sitting at the bar. If, on the other hand, I end up having a conversation with those three people, I won’t consciously  think about them being black at all. Unless, of course, race comes up, and then I will become acutely aware that I am white, and they are black. There’s no helping that. Consciously is important here too, because the unconscious does the vast majority of our mental work. So I’ll do things that are based in my notions of race in America without actually thinking about it: if I’m talking to a couple black men I don’t know at a bar, I’m probably more likely to talk about hip hop than folk rock, for example. And yeah, that’s probably a bit racist, but I’m one of those people who thinks we’re all racists.

          I suspect that my experience, in all of these situations, is fairly typical.

           

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          • So what’s the endgame?

            We think “there are two black men and a black woman sitting at a bar” the way we’d think “there are two blondes and a brunette sitting at a bar” or “there are two people wearing jackets and one wearing a sweathshirt sitting at a bar” or “there are three people sitting at a bar”?

            Because when people suggest that, we’re told that “race-blindness is another form of racism”.

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            • Read a book on colorblind racism. It’s a precisely defined scholarly term. it is NOT what you think it is.

              P.S. If, as Silva says, College students are more likely to steal from the liquor store, why is it that blacks are the ones being profiled/stalked?

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          • C’mon.  Jaybird’s explicitly making the point he’s able to consider them as both gay and as friends.  So what?   Even in the case of the homophobe, these days, it’s not a whole lot different than in the early 70s with black consciousness.

            I presume you know disco didn’t originate in black establishments.  It comes out of gay dance clubs.   Everyone with a clue knew it, nobody wanted to acknowledge it.  Here come acts like Village People, good lord, when Weather Girls were belting out It’s Raining Men, it simply does not get any gayer, folks.   Elton John came out.   Everyone just went on pretending.   Freddie Mercury came out.  The girls went right on shrieking.  Gay culture had been part of haute couture for decades, nobody wanted to admit it.   The only people who were bashing gays were screwed up guys who were wrestling with their own sexual identity — and other gays.   It wasn’t like gay culture was all sweetness and light.   All those chickenhawks slithering around, the pimps, the drugs, some of it was downright awful.

            So what, someone’s got some silly ideas about gay people.   So what, they don’t know anything about gay culture.   They want to find out a few things, don’t want to be dumb fucks, want to enlarge their horizons a bit.   So what’s so terrible about saying “I’ve got some friends… who happen to be gay”, eh?   He’s trying.  Overcoming barriers.  Being a homophobe these days looks pretty stupid but it’s not like gay culture is all that wonderful.   Now that it’s freed up from the closet and the insanity of the Castro and the furtive gay bar culture, I think it’s pretty cool that hetero people are befriending gay people, just because they’re gay.   Shows some class, if you ask me.

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            • Disco changed substantially at some point.
              I can’t really pin it down, but there seems to be Class I and Class II disco.
              Class I is the good stuff. Shaft. Bertha Butt Boogie.
              Class II has slicker production, more keyboard-driven. Donna Summer, Bee Gees.
              Somewhere between 75 & 79, things changed.
              Thoughts?

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              • Disco… jeebus, now I’m showing my age.   A friend of mine played with Nile Rogers and Chic.   He went disco, I started playing prog.  Here’s my take on it, sorta taken from him. I have my digitized LPs filed by year, so I sorta have to compose this comment going back and forth to the file system.

                In those days, early Roxy Music and Bowie had taken a goodly chunk of the rock market in a decidedly un-macho direction.   Black culture had changed:  the Isley Brothers, they of Twist and Shout, had evolved and were turning out funk.   After Kent State, the hippies had, in the words of Steely Dan:

                all those Day-glo freaks who used to paint their face
                they’ve joined the human race
                life can be very strange

                Fag hags had shaped a good deal of early 70s culture but they were years ahead of their time.   Maybe I shouldn’t use that phrase any more.   Well, they were also years behind it, too, all that Liza Minelli stuff, fag hags were great arbiters of culture in that demi-monde.  Anyway, when funk met the likes of Donna Summer, something happened.  Straight women started liking it.   And packing into gay bars, which is why American men had such a hissy fit about it.

                As with all things which are cool, by the time John Travolta started prancing around in Saturday Night Fever, the bloom was off that pallid rose.    Terrible things arose.   Polyester shirts.   Barry White.   Platform shoes.

                Gay culture had already moved on to the Blitz Kids.

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      • The problem is this:

        Person X Says Racist Thing (let’s call this P).

        Person X Says “Some of my best friends are black!” (let’s call this Q).

         

        Later on, we find another situation Q.

        This does not mean that P happened… but it’s an even bet that people will respond to Q as if P had.

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        • I read a webcomic once. Thought it was funny, though I didn’t quite understand it. So I asked a black coworker/friend. The fact that she laughed helped reassure me that I wasn’t laughing at something that was … umm… kinda racist. I remain aware of my own ignorance.

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    • Well yeah. The other thing is many people really display a strong in group/ out group world view. I’ve heard numerous people genuinely say they have black friends. I have no doubt they would give the shirt off their back for their friends/in group members. But i’ve heard those same people display blatantly toxic views on race aimed at out group members. The “black friends” line is at the same time genuine and good, and shallow and missing the point about racism.

      I think to start a conversation on race we need to all admit to ourselves that people in our tribe/town/familyourselves might have some racist/bigoted/nasty views. Its hard but we all need to look in the mirror first and last. Before we can talk to others we need to see where we come from.

      A few years ago there was a minor brouhaha up here about a bar out in the boonies. The owner had a mannequin being hung in effigy outside his bar. I don’t recall the reason. The mannequin was black. Some local NAACP members saw this and, quite reasonably, thought this represented the hanging of a black person. The bar owner said that wasn’t his intent, he had black friends and he wasn’t aiming to offend anybody. He had the few local black folk speak up for him as a good person. He gave the “people are to PC nowadays” defense also. Who knows what was in his mind. I’d guess he wasn’t a nasty racist or the locals wouldn’t have defended him. But he had to also have a major blind spot to not see how what he did was really freaking offensive. I’d also bet the local people thought he was a nice guy and real chunkhead about this.

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      • Very well said. I also think there is more to explore in this in/out group issue. Being a genuine white person I happened to have lots of friends and relatives who are white. Among them there are a lot of people who use the “I have black friends” or “I have Asian friends” and even “I have gay” friends as a defensive shield when they say or do some thing racist or insensitive, but what they really mean is that they have friends who are in fact like them in most ways except for the black/gay/asian facet. When they go on their racist/homophobic tirades they aren’t talking about GOOD blacks or gays, they are talking about THOSE blacks and gays, you know, the ones who don’t live and behave like middle class heterosexual white people. The ones who have adopted middle-class values (at least on the outside and when in white, heterosexual dominated groups) are just fine, and why can’t they ALL be like that?

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        • except it’s not just the values. You gotta “act white” — which means not being proud to be from a sub/counter culture. Have the same values as a white person, but be proud to be black? Talk in AAVE? They won’t be your friend…

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          • You know, I’m not some union firebrand whenever I walk into Wal-Mart.
            I’m there to take care of business and get out of the place as soon as possible.
            That I’m not representin’ every moment of the day isn’t the man trying to stick it to me.
            It doesn’t serve anyone to mold myself into a caricature.

            http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_Vc3qCHWZCXY/TRrlObVhbdI/AAAAAAAAAIo/Gx2itIwvhE0/s1600/Big%2BCrash.jpg

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYE8f0jXXjE

            (I’ve given up on the Ramones)

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                • It’s not a myth.
                  But trying to equate it to racism is a stretch.
                  And an unfortunate one.
                  It’s counter-productive.
                  If you really cared about doing something about it, rather than engaging in impotent hand-wringing, you would be more careful with your words.

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                    • Ok, so you’re saying you’re too dense to grasp an analogy.
                      I get it.
                      Let me try again to get through your thick unreasoning skull.

                      At issue was not “being black” nor “being a union member.”
                      At issue– solely— is:
                      You gotta “act white” — which means not being proud to be from a sub/counter culture. Have the same values as a white person, but be proud to be black

                      And that if fully the extent of it.

                      This concerns behaviors. Not characteristics.
                      Got it?

                      I was drawing a correlation between the way that blacks act around whites and the way that union members conduct themselves in a Wal-Mart.

                      Are there any other things which are difficult for you to grasp that you would like me to explain to you?
                      I’m on elementary mode now, so speak up while you have the chance.

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                    • So you’re the “one nigger’s the same as another” approach?

                      I do see color.
                      It just doesn’t matter so much when you’re considering the person.
                      People are more than the color of their skin.
                      Why can you not seem to grasp that?
                      What deficiency of character might possibly make a person so monstrous as to reduce persons to nothing more than skin color?

                      I think I can see why affirmative action makes sense to “progressives.”
                      “One nigger’s the same as another”– end of story.

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                    • Actually, this is one of the few places where I have ever openly discussed my race.
                      I don’t care to.
                      I don’t care to think about it.
                      The first time was here.
                      That was a big step for me.
                      I was being open toward people I really don’t know about something intensely personal.
                      I wasn’t even that open about it with my last girlfriend.
                      I spoke on the matter again here, but only to illustrate a greater point.
                      And think about this:
                      I write on a blog with 54 other writers. Not one of them has any clue as to my heritage– exactly the way I want it.
                      I went into some depth as to my heritage here.
                      And I wrote about the matter on this very thread right here.
                      What I didn’t say was that I was madly in love with that man’s sister at one time, and I wanted to marry her.
                      He’s bi-racial too. He hated blacks, and didn’t mind in the slightest using derogatory racial slurs right in front of them. Stuff like, “Why don’t you go back to the jungle and swing?” I remember hearing him say that.

                      Again, I re-iterate: Your sort of stupidity is bound to set any progress on racism back by a hundred years.
                      This guy has it right.
                      You would do well to listen to him rather than to argue with me.
                      When more people think like that, we can make some progress.

                      More than anything else, a liberal is a person who wants desperately to help, and doesn’t know how, but refuses to keep out of things until they learn.
                      To me, that’s what defines a liberal. (rather, what passes for one in modern day)
                      But you know what?
                      I actually enjoy being able to talk to a principled liberal.
                      I really do.

                      Now I’m rambling (which I do from time to time), so I’ll leave off.
                      It’s going to take a force greater than myself to pull your head out of your ass.

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              • I answer to one concern, and you bring up another.
                It would be amazing to me were any progress to be made on the issue of racism were people of your sort to be the only allies available to minorities.
                They need, first and foremost, an honest broker.

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      • I lived in a building in Pittsburgh with a number of Holocaust survivors on my floor. (It’s Pittsburgh, we have a lot of old  European Jews). As a Buddhist, I have a lot in common with Jews and felt very welcomed by my Talmudic neighbors. They really enjoyed me as one of the few young men in the building.

        It would have incredible rude of me to wear any Chinese, Indian, or Buddhist swastikas on my person, even if it was the reverse of the Nazi one or decorated with extra dots. As if I could say, “Oh, it’s not the Nazi swastika, it’s the Gentle Swastika of the East!” and their frowns are turned upside down. Last I checked, Jews are human beings, not Vulcans.

        That bar owner could have saved himself trouble by just explaining that the effigy was a depiction of a ninja execution, by people with no swords.

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    • No, the problem with “I have a black friend” is not that it was followed by “he’s my milkman,” or whatever. It’s that it is generally offered as evidence that one is not a racist after one has done something to make it clear one’s a racist. “What, me racist? But I have black friends! How could I be a racist if I have black friends?” As if one can’t have black friends and be racist. Most people who are at the point that they feel the need to say they have black friends have nothing else to fall back on. That’s why it’s seen the way it’s seen.

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      • Well, now we can hammer out exactly what Farmer’s racist statement was and break it down.

        He was the “some of my best friends are black” guy, after all.

        And if it turns out that his comment wasn’t racist… then what? We’re stuck mocking someone for pointing out that they have friends of color in a discussion about racism.

        To what end?

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        • I haven’t the slightest idea whether Farmer is a racist, nor do I care in the least, ’cause I don’t take him very seriously anyway. I didn’t think what he said was racist, though. I just chuckled when I saw that, because it’s the sort of thing that people of a certain age, and from certain parts of the country, would spot right away and might be inclined to interpret in a certain way. It might even color the way they see the rest of what he writes on race.

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          • And the original post mocked a conservative for talking about how he tries to be color blind.

            I’m tempted to wonder if there’s some sort of no-win situation being set up here.

            ~\o You can’t win, get over your head
            and you only have yourself to blame
            you can’t win, child
            you can’t break even
            and you can’t get out of the game ~\o

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              • Once you understand that racial discussions take place in minefields, you can start to work out how to get to the upside.

                One way is to avoid the common tropes of racists (which, to be clear, does not mean that saying them makes you a racist, it’s just that they’re commonly heard from racists in denying that they’re racist).

                By the way, I think a better thing to say than “I have black friends” would be, “I’m not a racist; my son-in-law is black.” I’ve known a hell of a lot of people with black friends who would freak the fish out if their daughter wanted to marry a black man. If you’re white and are OK with your daughter’s black husband, I figure you’re probably not a racist.

                Relatedly, the scene in Our Family Wedding when America Ferrera’s (I forget her character’s name) grandmother faints upon seeing her black fiance is hilarious.

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            • Yeah, like I said up top, the fact that race and partisan politics have become this comingled is a damn shame, because it means that nothing gets accomplished. Hell, it means that most of the real issues don’t even get discussed, because they don’t fit into the partisan battles very neatly. Whose fault is it that parts of Chicago are a war zone? Republicans? Democrats? How does that question, phrased as a partisan one, even make sense? But since it doesn’t make sense in the game, no one talks about it, because the game is all that matters.

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    • ‘Understand’ has some quantitative and qualitative issues.
      Say, if I knew a farmer– one and only one– that wouldn’t give me much leeway to speak on, “Farmers prefer to do _____.”
      If I knew 30 farmers, I might have a better idea of what different farmers do.
      I could even divide them into groups and say, “Most farmers prefer X, but others prefer Y. A few, however, do Z.”
      Even then, if I had known them for 12 years, there still might come a time when I say something that they would think to be a stupid mistake; something they could see easily.

      Knowledge is always incomplete.

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    • Nob’s right.   Just because they’re a friend doesn’t mean I understand them.   Sometimes, it’s actually worse.  A stranger will tell me where I’m fucking up and friend might not.

      My old man taught me a lesson.   He had to supervise Africans, taught African kids in a secondary school in our second term in Nigeria.   He was left-handed.   Africans think anything picked up with the left hand is inferior to what’s picked up with the right.  Arabs only wipe their asses with their left hand.   Cultural thing.   He was awarded some certificate, took it in his left hand.   The students were visibly upset.

      So thereafter, on the first day of class, he would tell the students to pick an ombudsman, someone who he could work with.   That person could tell him where he was going astray, culturally.   In exchange, he’d communicate stuff which was bothering him about them.

      So that’s what I do when I’m working with Indians.   First problem, they’re not all from the same places in India.  I tell them that story, say I’m not going to play little cultural games, have them pick an ombudsman from among themselves.   Anything negative gets relayed through the ombudsman.

      Working around the Japanese, I learned not to blow my nose in public.   Worse than farting in some circles.  Now that was embarrassing to learn, a week into a cold.

      “…to see ourselves as others see us.”

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  8. All I will say on this topic is that I encourage those that I love to think like Nordlinger about THEMSELVES. Some of my children and grandchildren are considered by those around them as white, some are considered black, and some are considered hispanic.  I have always encouraged them to consider themselves as individuals and not as parts of some arbitrary tribe.

    If we all teach our children to consider themselves as individuals rather than parts of tribes, we begin the process of outgrowing this destructive in and out group disease.  We start with ourselves. We then extend our compassion to our children. Eventually, some time in the future, perhaps it will encompass us all.

     

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  9. To put into more wordy language.

    There’s a lot of privilege associated with being part of the normative group. In the US (and most other western countries) that’s being white, male and straight. In daily life, there’s dozens and dozens of little needling cultural signifiers out there that tell you you’re not part of that normative group.

    Those things add up over time but for the most part you work to get past them. Then something like this happens, which reminds you again you’re not part of that normative group. And then the moment a respected member of your group makes a statement of empathy, he’s hounded as if he’s transgressed by a bunch of scolds from the normative group, who ask, nay demand that they and only they be considered the identity signifier that matters.

    White people may often have black, hispanic, etc. friends. But there’s a lot they won’t actually feel on the same visceral level. Just like how men shouldn’t deign to comment on matters that concern women far more heavily.

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    • The danger with extending “racism” to normative groupings is that it undermines the veracity of incidents.
      Like if everything is “abusive” or this-or-that is “rape.”
      There’s enough of he real thing going on that we don’t need to dab around the central figure with the same hues to blend it into the background.
      I think it really does any fruitful discussion on race a disservice.

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      • The point isn’t that everything is racist. It’s that there are many little things that you don’t notice every day, plus the additional stimulus of big incidents like this one.

        Society as a whole is racist. It’s not an indictment to say so, except in America “racist” means “cross-burning white hooded extremist” so no one could possibly do anything racist or racial unless they’re not white and “playing the race card”.

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        • That’s really not a fair statement, and I know you to be a better thinker than that.
          Obviously, you feel passionately about the issue.
          You started off well, and lost it at the end.
          I can wait until you gather your thoughts.
          There’s no winners or losers here; it’s just expression.

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        • This is why we need more and better terminology, to differentiate between “supports things that disproportionately harm minorities and disfavored groups” and “considers people of different ethnic backgrounds differently (and, implicitly, in a way that disfavors disfavored groups)” and “wants America to be a White Country.”

          Defined broadly, racism is everywhere but loses a lot of its moral punch because it is unavoidable and we all behave in racist ways. Defined narrowly, it packs a heavy punch but overlooks a lot of situations that are unfair and problematic but not overtly hostile the same way that a burning cross is.

          When someone says such-and-such is racist, I never know if they are talking about the first category or the second. Sometimes I think they want the moral weight of the second category with the breadth of the first. Which is probably unfair. Which is why we need a better vocabulary.

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          • I’m personally very tired of the narrow definition of racist, because it lets people get away with a lot of ignorance, or obliviousness. This notion that unless you’re consciously, actively discriminating against a group, your actions can’t possibly be racist, is one of the most pernicious ideas present in the social fabric today.

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            • My issue with that:
              If people that have yet to exist– persons who will be born five years from now– can be “racist” at this very moment, then “racism” is so nebulous that it’s simply not a concern– there’s nothing we can do about it, and why lift a finger to bother trying.
              There’s enough overt racism going on that needs addressed.
              Maybe when that finally all goes away, then we can turn our attention to the racism of the non-existent.
              Until then, it can only detract from any efforts to address the present situation.

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            • There’s an either/and thing going on there.

              If progress is the idea, then distinction is really important.  The fact that some people might be dicks about it doesn’t mean you don’t have to do it anyway.

              Look, I’m a white guy in my 40s.  I make a decent chunk of change (although apparently I’m not Middle Class, by Kimmie’s standard of Middle Class – which is a surprise! – and I’m certainly not Rich).  I live in a predominantly white middle class neighborhood – it’s a historical district, for cryin’ out loud.

              Right across two of the four major streets that border our neighborhood are two less affluent neighborhoods, one predominantly black and one more hispanic.  The other two borders are white middle class neighborhoods.  Our neighborhood public school, which my children attend, is a white minority school.  My mother was a barely-ex hippie when I was growing up and *her* mother was a civil rights activist.  I find most racism abhorrent.

              On the other hand, when I was a kid I went to a private school that had one black kid.  My high school was much more demographically mixed, but predominantly white.  I’ve never lost a shot at a job because of my skin color.  I’ve never had a cop look at me askance because of my dress.

              On the other hand, I’ve had cops treat me as sheep, too.  And I know from experience that asserting your individualism is a way to get your ass in trouble with police.  But, since I’m white and middle class and I’m not 20 anymore and I can afford both a lawyer and I have lots of friends in the community and I could seriously get up in the police chief’s public relations nightmare, I don’t feel compelled to get mine back from the Man if a cop treats me poorly.   I can ignore it and get my justice through channels.  If I didn’t feel that way, I might be inclined to tell that cop he ain’t got no right in spite of my better judgment, and that’s a road downhill.

              The fact that I sit upon privilege isn’t lost on me.  I can’t really feel guilty about it because I didn’t step on anyone to get here.  Sure, there are people who are systemically screwed by the system from which I benefit.  There are an infinite number of things that you can be rightfully accused of not doing to unscrew the system, but there are a limited number of things any one individual can do to unscrew the system without damaging himself and his.  I probably am not doing all of those things, I grant.  On the other hand, I don’t have any free time to take a dump with a magazine either, most days.

              Am I a passive racist?  Probably, by any useful definition of the term.  We, as a nation, are certainly not doing enough to undo the systemic problems, and I’m part of the nation, so I bear some measure of the blame for that, so by extension that makes me… at least in some sense… some level of “indifferent”.  Using that term to describe me robs it of all distinction, though.

              People probably should not freak out quite so much when it’s pointed out that they’re huge beneficiaries.  People should probably not immediately respond to a charge of indifference or not doing enough by feeling like they’re being called Hitler.  On the other hand, that response might not be so common if we weren’t using “Nazi” so freely.

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        • My basic point is that I don’t think it’s legitimate for people not in an out group to tell that out group they have no grounds for feeling aggrieved for reason xyz, particularly when those giving that critique are part of what is defined as the normative values of society.

          To make this point isn’t to say that society is terrible and we should condemn it entirely. It’s simply to state that there’s blindspots that make it difficult for someone who isn’t part of the normative majority to know what’s offensive to those outside of it.

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          • But the problem with this is that it essentially gives members of that out-group a blank check to assert aggrievement and demand recompense. There’s a certain percentage of people who, given that kind of power, will milk the hell out of it.

            Granted, that usually doesn’t get them very far, but that’s because we don’t actually take your advice. If we don’t get to call BS, how do we prevent milking?

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            • I take it in a slightly different direction. Normative behavior doesn’t begin with white, male, and straight. I mean, don’t get me wrong: I think white, male, straights have far less to complain about than anything else. But not all white, male, straights are in the same station in life. Some of them have things to be aggrieved about, when compared to other white, male, straights. These aggrievements are typically construed as whining and victimology by people who hate it when other aggrievements are construed as whining and victimology.

              I mean, I have squat to complain about. I was born (white, male, and straight) to an upper middle class family in an economically vibrant area with good schools, in an in-tact and attentive family. If I am not the embodiment of the in-group, I am reasonably close to it. I know it is likely that my comment will be interpreted as “Boohoo, the real victim here is the white male.” Actually, in my estimation the real victim in the Zimmerman/Martin case is a young black male and black people more generally who have a tragic reminder of things that shouldn’t be. I think Nob’s statements are generally correct here. I just don’t think we should necessarily stop at white, male, and straight, when we’re talking about in-groups and out-groups. I mean, like hell would I want to live in (the vast majority of) Mississippi, and the most at-home I’ve felt anywhere was a large, very liberal city in the Northwest.

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              • So, if you were to do a Venn diagram of the ‘sphere of privilege’ within the totality of American society, would there be a set of people with maximal privilege who aren’t straightwhitemales? If not, then the comment reads as you suggested: boohoo. I mean, for straightwhitemales to bitch about how other straightwhitemales have even more privilege is a bit of slap at all the outgroups that don’t come anywhere near the center of societal privilege. And for SWMs to bitch about how women and blacks are the beneficiaries of affirmative action or whatever is the height of unselfconsciousness.

                Trumwill, there’s a theory of conservatism – caveat: it’s proposed by liberals! – which claims that cultural and to some degree economic conservatism can be more or less defined as the attempt to preserve privilege, and in particular SWM privilege, from the ravages of modernity. Do you think that thesis has any merit?

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                • First, an area of agreement:

                  And for SWMs to bitch about how women and blacks are the beneficiaries of affirmative action or whatever is the height of unselfconsciousness.

                  I agree that this is problematic. Complaining that whites, as a group, men, as a group, or straights, as a group, are discriminated against is inane. Now, on to…

                  I mean, for straightwhitemales to bitch about how other straightwhitemales have even more privilege is a bit of slap at all the outgroups that don’t come anywhere near the center of societal privilege.

                  The fact that somebody else has it worse doesn’t make it so that a white guy from Clay County, Kentucky, should have absolutely no reason to complain because hey, there are rich white guys all in Chicago and Austin and Silicon Valley (many of whom think you’re nothing but a bunch of ignorant, census-taking murderers)! The hierarchy of having it better and having an easier road than other people doesn’t magically end so that the folks Clay County have no reason to complain. A little self-consciousness on the part of those of us who were born in places conducive to turning out… well… better than they do. By our standards, of course, which are the standards that people are generally judged by.

                  Trumwill, there’s a theory of conservatism – caveat: it’s proposed by liberals! – which claims that cultural and to some degree economic conservatism can be more or less defined as the attempt to preserve privilege, and in particular SWM privilege, from the ravages of modernity. Do you think that thesis has any merit?

                  I think that’s a fantastic way to assert cultural superiority over those other people. This touches on something else I believe (“Most politics is identity politics.”) that I will take a pass on getting into right now. I know you’re a Corey Robin fan, and… well we’re not going to find a whole lot of common ground on that.

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                  • I think that’s a fantastic way to assert cultural superiority over those other people.

                    Maybe. But I think that does a disservice to the thesis. Once held, privilege is something that will only be reluctantly relinquished. Isn’t that right? So I don’t look at the thesis as expressing cultural superiority or anything like that. I view it as explaining, in a neutral way, and one which includes objective values like self-interest and cultural tradition and individual expectations, a great many conservative policy prescriptions. I think it’s a pretty compelling argument.

                    But alternatively, and I ask this question with all sincerity, how would you explain the ethos of contemporary conservatism?

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                    • But alternatively, and I ask this question with all sincerity, how would you explain the ethos of contemporary conservatism?

                      As the designation of the followers (or brand for the leaders) of a political party that has yet to come to terms with the fact that it has an electoral coalition, but not a governing one. Unfortunately, I can’t really go on as I have an assignment tomorrow.

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                • That’s sort of a stupid argument.
                  You really believe that Clarence Thomas doesn’t enjoy more privilege than our commenter Mr. Farmer that lit a firestorm by stating that he has many friends who are black?
                  Do you really think that Thomas’ marriage to a white woman gets scrutinized in the way that Mr. Farmer’s friendships have?

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  10. Refusing to acknowledge race when race is clearly pertinent to an event is not progressive.  It’s making a virtue out of willful ignorance.  Refusing to acknowledge your own privilege – in other words, refusing to acknowledge that you have the luxury of being able to ignore and be unaffected by aspects of our society that deeply affect people who are not white – is not enlightened.  It’s a stubborn refusal to try to imagine life from someone else’s perspective.  Maybe Nordlinger really doesn’t notice what race people are (although I doubt it).  But black people don’t have the luxury of being able to forget they are black, nor would most want to.

    It’s not a coincidence that Treyvon Martin was black.  A guy followed him with a gun and shot him for the crime of walking home in his own neighbourhood, because he thought he looked “suspicious”.  I don’t think it’s outlandish – actually, I don’t think it’s anything other than stunningly obvious – to note that it would be unlikely for the same thing to happen to a regular well-off white kid.  And that if it did, nobody would blame the white kid for wearing a hoodie.

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        • Of course I am, Katherine.  You just need to think about it.  I’m objecting to your poisoning the well with this “white privilege” business.

          Refusing to acknowledge race when race is clearly pertinent to an event is not progressive.  It’s making a virtue out of willful ignorance.  Refusing to acknowledge your own privilege – in other words, refusing to acknowledge that you have the luxury of being able to ignore and be unaffected by aspects of our society that deeply affect people who are not white – is not enlightened.  It’s a stubborn refusal to try to imagine life from someone else’s perspective.  Maybe Nordlinger really doesn’t notice what race people are (although I doubt it).  But black people don’t have the luxury of being able to forget they are black, nor would most want to.

          This totally ignores Nordlinger’s argument:

          Of the shooting victim in Florida, Trayvon Martin, President Obama said, “You know, if I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.” Yeah, so? What if he wouldn’t look like Trayvon? What difference does that make?

          What if the victim had been of Chinese ancestry, or a freckly red-headed Irish-American kid, or a kinky-haired Jewish piano student? So?

          What is wrong with people? Do we really serve the god of biology? What Barack Obama’s offspring would look like: Isn’t that the least important thing about the Trayvon Martin case?

           

          Spot on.  What if it were George Zimmerman who looked more like Obama?  What the hell difference would that make either?

          The incident itself is quite a rarity; it’s the reactions and rush to judgment that are fairly dog-bites-man.  Nobody knows what happened [exc Zimmerman].  That’s the only fact of which we can be sure, yet too many people have made up their minds.

          And so, that was my point.

          The “white privilege” thing is off the wall, and has zip to do with the event.  And let’s update the photos.  First we had the angelic Barack Obama Jr. looking one next to the Zimmerman mugshot.

          Dang.  But Trayvon age 17 not 14 isn’t quite as cuddly [I believe those are gold teeth in there]

          Whereas George Zimmerman on a better hair day

          seems not quite a monster.  In fact, he looks a little like President Obama too.

          So yeah, Katherine, what I’m saying is this mess and the reaction to it has a lot more to do with wayward sentiment than it has to do with fact, reason and “white privilege,” which when turned around as a weapon aimed at Jay Nordlinger or “white males,” is nothing more than “poisoning the well,” attempting to discredit opinions by  who they came from.

          Because a black female could say the same thing.  And did.

          http://dailycaller.com/2012/03/28/alveda-king-sharpton-jackson-should-stop-playing-race-card-over-trayvon-martin/

           

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          • Ignoring the fact I don’t the find the “not cuddly” picture of Trayvon that scary, I don’t care if the kid was walking down the street wearing a ski mask and holding up a boom box playing Cop Killa’. He didn’t deserve to get shot and killed.

            The fact conservatives can always find one black person to back them up doesn’t mean that the vast majority of black people are quite aware of the racial attitudes in this country when it comes to crime and punishment.

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            • You don’t know what happened, Jesse.  That’s my point.  As for “poisoning the well,” no, I don’t think you got to the bottom of it.  The point is that Nordlinger should be responded to as though the writer had been a black female because it might as well have been.  Respond to the idea, not the author.  Surely this concept is accessible to you.

              As for the photos, I meself found Trayvon’s beatific smile disarming, and Zimmerman’s mugshot unsympathetic.  I’m sure you were able to transcend appearances, but on the other hand, the president saying his own son would look like Trayvon played right into that and was um, unhelpful.

               

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              • Again, short of Martin reaching through Zimmerman’s car (which he was told to stay in by 911 operators) and beat on him, Zimmerman was the aggressor. Thus, he had no reason to shoot Martin for any reason.

                The idea was dumb as well, but the fact that it was a privileged white male telling black people to act adds an extra layer of WTFness to it. An aggravating factor, if you will.

                Both pictures of Trayvon look like kids to me. Maybe I’ve actually interacted with teenagers more recently than you have, but I see kids that look like Martin in his “thug” picture every day on the bus here in Seattle. I’m never scared of them. Even if they’re in hoodies.

                The President said his soon would’ve looked like Trayvon because guess what, look at the President’s daughter. They look African-American, not mixed race to the untrained eye. The difference between the 50/50 split in Obama and the 75/25 split in the Obama family.

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                • You don’t know what happened, Jesse.  This is pointless, and that’s my point.

                  That and the “teachable moment” here is that the Hispanic guy shouldn’t have shot the black guy and the white guy Nordlinger should shut up about it.

                  BTW, I did disagree with him on this:  I thought DeNiro’s joke was funny, and sometimes a joke is just a joke.

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                  • I know Zimmerman left the car of his own accord after being told not too. Anything after that doesn’t really matter. If Zimmerman had stayed in his car and waited for the police, Martin would be alive. Point blank.

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                • You don’t get it, Jesse.  Black people are racial, so they’re always biased into thinking these things are about race.  White people aren’t racial, so they’re in a better position to be objective and recognize that race isn’t a relevant issue here.

                  You’d understand that if you weren’t all full-up of white guilt.

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                • Engage the idea, not the author.

                  Certain ideas are predictable products of certain types of authors. To wit, every time a black guy gets killed, there are white guys who will be quick to reassure us it’s not about race.  In these cases, the idea is so deeply a product of the author’s social position that it’s impossible to separate them.  Demanding that we talk only about the idea is an attempt to divert us from recognizing the way in which the idea is almost solely a product of its source; that it in fact has no independent existence from the source.

                  I’ll go Godwin here, boldly and unapologetically.  I think we should engage the ideas in Mein Kampf, not the author.  The author, and his beliefs, pathologies, social positioning, what have you… they never matter.

                  Except, that is, when it’s a black person saying the issue is about race.  Then it’s all about the author.

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          • I think that this actually shows a lot of the problem. The shots of Martin (or in another case, another kid who was clearly not Martin at all) that are supposed to look like a thug, actually look like some teenager goofing around on his webcam, in his bedroom.

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            • No, don’t you see, Trayvon’s (and what kind of name is Trayvon anyway?) is such a dangerous character, with his mean mugging and (fake?) gold teeth, he easily could’ve used those Skittles as projectile weapons on the good people of Zimmerman’s gated community.

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          • No, recognizing the existence “white privilege” is not an attempt at poisoning the well (i.e.: cutting off discourse).  It’s an attempt to get white people to understand the simple fact that <i>they don’t know what it’s like to be black</i>.  When they look at a situation involving race, they may be missing things because those things are totally absent from their own experience.  It’s not an attempt to delegitimize disagreement, it’s a call for empathy and humility.  It’s the same thing when male privilege comes up in discussions of sexism – it’s not saying that men have nothing whatsoever to contribute, but it’s saying that no matter how sympathetic you are (in your case, based on multiple previous statements, not), you aren’t female and will never fully understand what it’s like to be female, and as such are always going to be missing relevant parts of what’s going on, meaning that listening is a good idea.

            And actually, young unarmed black men being killed by police (or, in Zimmerman’s case, self-appointed vigilantes) isn’t so rare, sadly.

            What if the victim had been of Chinese ancestry, or a freckly red-headed Irish-American kid, or a kinky-haired Jewish piano student? So?

            If he had been, he might have been less likely to be a victim of the shooting.  If he had been, the cops might have been a little more inclined to look into what happened rather than taking Zimmerman’s word even when he was contradicted by witnesses and his own words on tape.  That’s why it’s relevant.

            And I don’t find Trayvon remotely scary-looking in that photo.

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            • I don’t know what it’s like to be black? Well by God everyone seems to know what it’s like to be white

              And, y’know, you’re shooting yourself in the ass here, because if you’re going to stand up and tell me that I can’t ever understand or empathize with the experience of a black person in America, then you’re actually telling me that I shouldn’t bother trying.  There’s no point in me trying to not be racist, because I can’t ever not be racist, so I might as well q