New low for racist left

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'Racism' can be defined in two ways. The more common understanding of the term among white people is that a racist is someone who has a demeaning or hateful attitude toward someone of another race. This is called personal racism. The problem with this definition is that it doesn't capture attitudes, policies, or practices that don't stem from personal racism but do have a negative impact on a racial group, particularly one that's been historically demeaned, hated, or harmed. So 'racism' is then used more broadly to include what's called institutional racism, which is any attitude, policy, or practice that does in fact have such negative effects, even if not intended. Now I don't agree with Howard Dean that this kind of racism is the only kind of racism worth talking about (in fact, I think it's less important for racial issues today than some other issues that don't get their fair share of time). However, I do think these are an issue, and I think we need to spend more time thinking outside the Democratic box about which attitudes, policies, and practices do this. Here's a good example of what I'm talking about (from Matthew Stinson):

Yes Virginia, there is left-wing racism.

Apparently the idea is the Condoleeza Rice is an Uncle Tom. Maybe there's more going on here than just that, but that's at least part of the idea. It strikes me as odd that anyone could even think this, given two facts: A. She is incredibly smart. Her thoughts on many issues of foreign policy have been widely cited as innovative, unusual, and not just towing a conservative party line. In fact, her arrival at conservative views was a later-in-life move. She was convinced of it by arguments. B. She has voiced her disagreement with President Bush or other Republicans on a number of issues. One is on affirmative action. I think she takes the wrong view on the issue, though I'm not sure Bush has the right reasons for the right view, but the fact that she voiced her disagreement signals something about her thought that is independent of the Bush Administration (even if it's dependent on so-called black leaders' rhetoric). Additionally, she was one of the key figures to chime in calling for Trent Lott's resignation. She's certainly not a "defend the Republicans in spite of my own convictions" type. Now why all the introductory comments on racism? This ad is racist. It's not racist in having a negative attitude toward black people per se. The negative attitude is toward one black person who serves in a Republican administration. What seems racist about this is that it's in a long line of such actions. I've had students tell me in a philosophy class that Colin Powell isn't black. Clarence Thomas, J.C. Watts, Thomas Sowell, Shelby Steele, John McWhorter, and other prominent black thinkers who have sided with conservatives on key race issues all face this sort of name-calling. Why is this racist? I have numerous reasons for this. 1. Steele and McWhorter, among others, have given some very good reasons for thinking affirmative action is very harmful to black people. The Supreme Court conservatives on this issue say that it's unconstitutional because it's unfair to white and Asian students. These guys have more sophisticated (and I think better) reasons to oppose it, and those reasons come right out of the desire to see black students do well in school. If affirmative action holds black students back, then of course it's not being an Uncle Tom to suggest that it should be gotten rid of. Thomas Sowell has also argued for more general points about cultural issues behind the disparity between blacks and whites in the U.S. and directs people to focus on those to move toward progress. The attitude that these people are Uncle Toms prevents looking at whether these arguments are good and therefore will continue to harm black people if it turns out that their conclusions are correct (as I think they are). 2. The assumption behind this ad is that black people can be Democrats if they care about black people. If they side with the Republicans, then they're Uncle Toms. This assumes that black people can't think for themselves and decide whether the Democrats' policies are helping black people or holding them back. Saying that someone is only truly black or only truly seeking black concerns if they toe some party line is more like an encouragement to Uncle Tommish behavior, except it's Uncle Tomming the Democrats and not the Republicans. 3. One assumption of this sort of labeling is that there's some "white culture" that black people need to be separate from. The idea is that anything true of mainstream culture is non-black. This fails to recognize the significant impact black people's achievements have had on mainstream culture. It is not therefore a white culture but a culture that's been influenced by many cultural backgrounds, including those of black people (and I do mean the plural here). This robs black people of the credit for the hand they've played in American culture. 4. Perhaps even worse is the effect that this has on black people's attitude toward that society that they are very much a part of. There's a tendency that I have observed first-hand to blame this fictional white culture on any slight or harm, since after all it is not a mainstream culture that black people are part of. It's then seen as white people against black people. This turns into a negative attitude toward the fictional white culture and therefore toward the average white person. When the average white person then has to interact with someone who is antagonistic and separatist for what seems like no good reason, it often leads to negative consequences. When people then make hiring decisions based on how well they got along with those they interviewed, this antagonism is often noticed, and it's often blamed on white racist hiring policies or attitudes, when it's just as easily explained by an illegitimate bad attitude on the part of the job candidate. 5. The idea that anything true of mainstream culture is non-black has led to a separatism has in turn led to the desire not to achieve in school, since that is a "white" thing. Therefore it has led to anti-intellectualism among black people, as much an Uncle Tom feature as anything else. The peer pressure that results continues the low achievement in school among black people, and it even leads to silliness among those who do reach graduate school and can't bring themselves to do serious work that might be viewed as mainstream out of the perception that it would be doing white Uncle Tom work. This holds back black intellectuals from doing good work and having their hands in elements of society important to us all simply because they don't see how it will help black culture in terms of its relation to what they think of as white culture. 6. The particular wording of the ad is worth noting. "I'm fighting for Whitey! He trusts me to take charge on the front lines!" Aside from the racist assumptions of white culture I noted above, this seems completely counter-productive. President Bush has the most diverse cabinet in history. What's especially interesting about this cabinet is not just its ethnic diversity but that some of the people who aren't ethnically like Bush are also not necessarily like him in their views. It's true that Elaine Chao and Spencer Abraham, both minorities, are more traditional conservatives, at least on the issues their departments deal with. Rod Paige is more complicated than that, though he does tend to be more Bushlike. His differences with traditional conservatives are one of the main differences between old-style Republican policies and the new compassionate conservatism. I've already noted Rice's differences, and Powell's aren't that different on race issues, though both emphasize personal responsibility and drive to achieve on the part of blacks, which most Democrats won't bother to include as legitimate issues. Powell also has been the odd man out when his realist foreign policies have lost out to Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld's more neoconservative ideas (though the extent to which this has happened has, I believe, been overstated). Mel Martinez is apparently worrisome to many conservatives, who seem to prefer Katherine Harris as a senate candidate. Then we get to Norm Mineta, who of course is a Democrat and served as Secretary of Commerce under President Clinton. Given the diversity of this cabinet, both ethnically and in some important ways ideologically, I think President Bush should be commended for doing exactly what Howard Dean says is the only thing we need to do. Dean thinks the main problems with race in this country have to do with insitutional racism, which in his mind includes the serious problems black people have in getting into positions of power and influence. President Bush has made far more efforts in that area than any of his predecessors, including President Clinton. The tactic of belittling Condoleeza Rice for being part of a Republican administration is putting Republicans in a catch-22. If they don't appoint minorities to these positions, then they're contributing to institutional racism. If they pick thoughtful, intelligent minorities who are somewhat like-minded but even have significantly independent views, then these people get labeled as Uncle Toms. The fact that President Bush picked these people shows that he does in fact trust them, and isn't that a sign that racial problems are diminishing? To reframe this in the opposite direction is moving race relations backward. For these reasons and probably a number of others that aren't immediately coming to mind, I see the attitudes behind this poster as a serious harm to black people in the United States today. Therefore, according to the definition of 'racist' that liberal intellectuals like to use so frequently, the ad is quite racist.


Actually this is not a comment about this particular blog...

but I just wanted to let you know ... as regards that photo up there.

He and Sam really do look like that. Dont be deceived. Actually they look a little better up there.

1-17-04 11:52 am

[Link to old blog location with photo added for clarity.]

I didn't say we don't look like that, just that we don't normally dress like that. Actually, the beard's currently gone, though it may return if I stay as lazy about it as I've been for the last few days.

1-17-04 12:56 pm

Thanks for publishing the Rice poster. I hadn't seen it before. I agree with the poster 100% and, now, I'll be able to pass along a good high-res copy.

Well, let me know when you bother to read my comments about it, so I can know what you think is wrong with them. Obviously you didn't have any substantive criticism, or you would have said it. I assume you don't want anyone thinking you're a racist, so you would do well to come up with such a response if you're going to be willing to put yourself behind such a racist poster.

I think you need to define racism in it's original sense: that it is the belief that some human beings are inferior due to their genetic heritage. Your use of the word is not precise. Your comments in point 5 tell me that you probably don't know any black people, and if you do, you don't know them well, or know many of them, because it is such a generalization that it makes me wonder if YOU are racist.

Jeremy, clearly you have at best, a 'laboratory' level of knowledge of african-american culture. Please take the time to make some black friends. Yes! Real black people! Not just the ones you have been seeing on MTV. Contrary to what you may think they aren't all dropping out of school or drifting around higher education with a lazy work ethic. Good thing the voices of people like you are limited to random, who gives a **** postings like this one. [Expletive demonstrating lack of creativity in word choice and insensitivity to who may be reading this blog deleted. The rest of the comment is unchanged.]

Malcolm: I'm just using the term 'racism' according to standard academic use today among people across the political spectrum. As I explained in the post, there's a kind of racism that's attitudinal and deliberate, and there's unconscious residual racism. There's also instutional racism, and then there are racist practices, which are any practices harmful to racial groups that have traditionally been harmed as a group. This is the last kind.

To both: As for not knowing any black people, how about my wife and her family? Do you think they count? According to the one-drop rule, my sons are also black. Do they count?

See my separatism post for more on why I think this. I give examples there in the lives of people I know, including my students, who have experienced this.

Perhaps looking at it in the context of the series it was in would give a wider perspective of the overall position I take, which both of you seem to have missed. My point is out of concern for forces at work in America today that are harmful to the entire black community and to the potentially good relations, interaction, and understanding between racial groups. I think many people ignore these realities to the detriment of all involved. To call this post random when it's part of a blog that is significantly devoted to issues having to do with racial progess is ignorant. To describe it as if I don't care is morally insensitive and perpetuates the very attitudes that harm black people in America today.

Awe come on, why did you burst their bubble so soon? I could have had so much fun stringing them along. :(

Please don't patronize us with the "some of my best friends are black (so therefore I am a qualified expert)" routine. It appears to me, your experience with your wife and family has done little to enrich your view of African-American culture in the states.

If you are so concerned and sensitive, why do you circulate ideas such as: 'anti-intellectualism among black people', etc?

With what lens do you view African-Americans in this country? It appears to me you have a monolithic view.

You still haven't defined 'racism'. Let's start there, then address your critique of that hilarious poster.

p.s. Samantha, string me along anytime.

The reason I'm talking about what I'm talking about is because I'm convinced it's true! I don't blind myself to realities simply because it's politically incorrect to do so. This is an empirical issue, not the sort of thing you can arrive at with preconceived notions. If there are negative cultural traits out there, then calling someone racist for pointing them out is blinding you to their existence.

As a college educator, I've seen a tendency among too many black students to see learning and school as a "white" thing. Studies show that black parents will give serioius consequences for grades lower than a C-, while white parents tend to give serious consequences if the grade is lower than a B- (and Asian parents lower than A-). That suggests a real difference in how much value there is on success in school in these different cultural groups. Black children are often teased for being interested in things associated with school (knowing lots of facts, reading for fun), thinking such things as being white. Successful black people are often considered less black because of their success in "the white man's world". I had a student tell me Colin Powell isn't black.

If you don't like the term 'anti-intellectualism', then come up with a better one. I don't know of one. There is a phenomenon of anti-intellectualism across racial groups throughout the country, and maybe this phenomenon deserves a better name, since it's more focused in particular ways. I don't have a better name, so I'm simply going with John McWhorter's term. (He's black, by the way, and his criticisms of what he's calling self-sabotage in black America are for the sake of overcoming this negative side-effect of racism and slavery. Would you call him a racist for trying to do that?)

These are real cultural traits, and I'm interested in figuring out how to address them. As you're demonstrating, there's tremendous resistance to seeing this problem, but it's got serious effects. I think it's one of the main reasons for the 200-point SAT gap between black and white students. Certain skills essential for doing well in school and doing well on tests like that are just not being fostered in the black community in the United States.

Part of it is from independent characteristics. In black families that do raise their children, which is a significant enough percentage despite the problems in the area, there's a greater assumption that children don't think for themselves and do everything their parents say without evaluating it, which can sometimes be very good. Kids get away with less nonsense and listen to their parents' wisdom. Unfortunately, it has the consequence of training kids not to think for themselves as much or ask reasons why they should do something. The kind of thinking that gets encouraged is assumptive thinking, based on stuff you assume as background knowledge that not everyone will agree with. What you don't see as much of is hypothetical reasoning, which involves putting aside your assumptions and seeing what follows from other views. That's essential for success in college, and those resistant to it do very badly in the courses I teach. I've seen intelligent black students resist that thinking so much that they'll get a C in a course they could easily have gotten a B+ or A- in if they'd been willing to engage with the issues. White students do this too, but black students have more of a likelihood of resisting independent thought.

A heightened preference for adapting and think on your feet, which helps in basketball and involves developing an intelligence that white people don't as easily develop, together with seeing precision of thought as "white" because black people had been excluded from disciplines requiring it, leads to lower emphasis on important skills needed in the sciences, philosophy, linguistics, and foreign and classical languages. Black students will do what's necessary for this stuff if they need to, and I've seen some who enjoy it, but it's not something I've seen a high tendency to enjoy for its own sake.

I see this especially clearly in philosophy, because both of these tendencies are crucial for good philosophical thinking. They're both cultural tendencies also, which is shown by the fact that black people who grow up in white families without much contact with black culture don't have these problems, and black immigrants from African and the Caribbean don't seem to have the same issues either. Their children do, though. It's exactly the questions relying on these skills that black students tend to get wrong on SATs and IQ tests.

So I very much care about this problem. I don't know what we should do about it. I think it's most definitely there, and calling people racists for noticing it doesn't fix the problem or make it go away. There are real problems of racism, most of them unconscious and non-deliberate but serious nonetheless. I've tried to spend some time talking about those too. I'm not a single-issue blogger. I do think this is enough of a problem to make it part of the mix in addressing the various problems that bear on race relations in this country. It has an effect on what we say about testing, affirmative action, integration/segregation, school funding, vouchers, and many other issues.

And why is what I said patronizing? You claimed that I don't know any black people. I responded that I do. You claimed that I had a merely laboratory knowledge of black people. I suggested that my becoming willing to enter the world of someone who is black by marrying her and having children with her shows that I don't. Tell me why that's patronizing. I was simply pointing out something true of me that flat-out contradicts your assertions.

Most of my experiences have supported rather than undermined my views on the issues I've been talking about here. Most of my wife's family seems to agree with me on this. They've seen it and grown up around it. Black students I'm teaching right now confirm a number of these things from their own experience.

Malcolm: The term 'racism' has a number of definitions. I'll simply repeat the one I already defined in the post itself. The broader sense of the term used by most race scholars in African-American studies programs is something like this:

Any attitude, policy, or practice is racist if it in fact have a negative impact on a racial group, particularly one that's been historically demeaned, hated, or harmed, even if not intended.

The reason for going so broad and not just limited it to intentionally harmful acts or attitudes against people is that racist jokes may not always be intended for harm but are harmful, and why talk about problems with racism unless it's to confront the problems we need to seek to solve? So we'll call things racist if their effects are harmful. The people who do them are not necessarily racists, but the effects of the action in question are anti-black (in the case of this poster). It leads people to think of a successful, intelligent black woman as a race traitor merely for being successful and known to be intelligent in a "white" world. That's harmful to black people, because it discourages some of the very things necessary for overcoming racial disparity (and it gets white people mad for making false charges of racism against them, which makes them less sensitive to the real problems they cause without being intentional racists). That's why the poster is racist.

Jeremy, Thanks for writing back. I think normally I'd stick to a more traditional definition of racism, but I'll use the one you provide for the sake of furthering the conversation. Which leads me to a question, though. Could that poster legitimately lead other people to different conclusions than the one you identify? If so, would that still mean the poster is racist? Even if we agree to share the same definition of racism for critiquing the poster, I don't see how that poster can -force- reasonable people with good intentions (in our discussion) to necessarily see the poster this way. I think it's one possible way they could view it, but I think legitimate and alternate interpretations and responses are possible. The reaction might be that one thinks the poster is racist (in our definition), but that doesn't make it necessarily so. Someone could see it as a satirical way of conveying the idea that Dr. Rice is working for people who don't have the interests of black americans at heart, for example. While I think you have a point about the presumption that blacks shouldn't be conservative republicans, there is nothing in that poster that declares a black person can't be successful and intelligent (and articulate!). There is nothing in that poster that would discourage a future Langston Hughes, Beah Richards, Frederick Douglas, Guion Bluford or Mae Jemison.

OK, Jeremey, fortunately, for all of us who are reading this thread, you have exposed your biases quite well. Allow me to quote you:

"In black families that do raise their children..."

"A heightened preference for adapting and think on your feet, which helps in basketball..."

The implications of your comments here are very harmful and stereotypical. Do you really think African-Americans are better bball players cuz they have a better ability to think on their feet? Are you really implying that most black folkks don't raise their families? If so, that confirms my original thought of your monolithic view of African-Americans.

I truly pity any of your students (especially the non-blacks) who are exposed to your viewpoint. Who knows, maybe you teach at Bob Jones University, where the students wouldn't care....

Malcolm: The poster is definitely intended, as you say, "as a satirical way of conveying the idea that Dr. Rice is working for people who don't have the interests of black americans at heart". That's the very thing that I think is racist. To assume that someone doesn't have the interests of black Americans at heart simply because he's a Republican is racist. It doesn't allow black people, particularly extremely intelligent ones, to think through issues themselves. It treats them as slaves being forced by the ideas around them to think in certain ways. She's obviously smarter than that. I think the more likely political party to get the label of being a plantation that black people work on for whitey is the Democratic party, which consists mostly of rich white men like John Kerry and Ted Kennedy who don't care a whit for black people but pretend they do by insisting on continuing harmful programs that keep black people down.

Langston: It's a well-known and tragic fact that many black men abandon their children to their multiple sex partners. There's even a common joke about it among today's youth ("who's your daddy?" and "my baby's daddy"). These men do not raise their children, and they leave women who have to support their kids without the time to raise them properly. If it's considered a bias to recognize that tragedy and try to point it out to those who ignore it, then call me biased, but I'd prefer to use that work for those who try to hide such facts.

Oh, and I never said most black people don't raise their families. The only reason I mentioned it is to stave off any objections to my point about parental values that would come in from the observation that some black children aren't in the position I was talking about simply because they unfortunately don't have someone asking them about their grades. I never gave any indication that I thought this was even a quarter of black children, never mind most.

It's also a well-known fact that black people in general tend to be better than white people at basketball. I think one of the reasons is that black people culturally are better trained at certain kinds of intelligence involved in playing the game. I'm pretty far behind in that kind of intelligence, as well as I do on standardized tests. It's true that not every black person is good at or likes basketball (my wife isn't very interested in it, for instance), and lots of white people do and are very good at it. Still, generalizations are what they are. They're true for a large number of the general population in question. There's nothing harmful about that as long as it's clear that it's just a generalization that isn't true in every case, and my use of words like 'tendency' and 'in general' signal that. It's wrong to expect black people to be like that. It's wrong to define black people in terms of cultural traits like fried chicken and so on. But that's because being black is far more than that. It involves a shared history and complex interactions with a majority group who marginalized black people for a very long time in extremely serious ways. None of that gives any reason to ignore general trends when there are such things.

As for Bob Jones University, do you think they'd want someone in an inter-racial marriage to teach there? They've officially removed their ban now, but I'm sure their hiring decisions are still affected by the biases of the people in those positions, who haven't all been fired since the ban was removed. I do think there are some good things about the place. A friend of mine who needed serious discipline in his life went there and came out the better for it, and he had the good sense enough to question their more extreme tendencies as he moved into real life upon graduation. I don't think I'd be interested in teaching there, for far more reasons than just their past policies about race.

Jeremy, I think you're losing me. I never said that 'simply' because she's a Republican, she doesn't have black American interests at heart. That's over simplifying things a bit. The satirical critique seems to be particular to her in this case.

Who runs what party, whether they are boys or girls, rich or poor, care more about americans than the other party or not-- this is extraneous to the question of the possible racism of the poster's creators. It's distracting, perhaps intentionally.

Maybe you'd be better off looking at how cartoons like this poster serve more as a political rorschach test than as a definitive measure of racism.

I think the poster was making exactly the claim that it's because she's a successful Republican. It doesn't even matter that she doesn't hold the party line on affirmative action but officially said she disagrees with Bush on it. That's why I find this poster so offensive.


You make a great deal of things that you hold to be generally accepted, such as your accusation that there is a propensity among black males to abandon their families, that beg for proof. (It reminds me of the current myth that most of the reason for the slow decrease in unemployment now is due to the transfer of jobs overseas, even when that is simply not supported by data showing that normal cyclic behavior and turn-over matter far more.)

More importantly, however, is that you presume causes without proving them. Take, for one example, your presumption that a black men do better at basketball because they are taught to be quick-witted. Proof would be nice, else I am begged to wonder whether, perhaps, sports have given an opportunity for black men to excel as objective criteria are clearly available whereas such opportunities have been barred in other professions that put more fuzzy criteria on decisions of advancement. Or, perhaps, there is some other reason. I remember some guy telling me a theory that black men's ankles are built better.

Or, regarding your point about the black men abondoning families, along with data to prove the point please show that the true reason is not a possibly unrelated matter, such as poverty. If, for example, black men tend to be poorer due to discrimation in hiring and poor men overall are more apt to abandon their families, then the core problem is still one of racism. Same question about the priority of education for a family: why can you so blithely assume causality.

Your choice of using this poster as a jumping off point is curious. The poster says nothing about Republican or Democrat, does it? To me, it seems distasteful to satirise Rice like this, but must it be self-loathing or self-racism or something for an author to raise the question of whether or not the criticism is true? For example, would it matter for your argument if you learned that the author was an hispanic republican? Point being, the broader discussion may not be directly relevant, if you want to focus on this discussion.

If you wanted to discuss the more general issue, then I am surprised that your discussion with Malcolm went so long before you defined your terms. Worse, the definition you provide seems odd. ("Any attitude, policy, or practice is racist if it in fact have a negative impact on a racial group, particularly one that's been historically demeaned, hated, or harmed, even if not intended.") By specifying 'in fact', you send a certain signal to this reader, at least, that you may not like. The final part, following 'particularly', makes me wonder if you think there are multiple levels of racism. Is racism against white people who have not been the downtrodden group in the US to be considered differently - as 'quasi-rasicm' or something? When you finally gave Malcolm that answer, he may have been generous to allow it.

I suppose the more general concern, to me, is the number of unsupported assertions. That's fine for an informal discussion, of course - and you can tell that I do not participate in such discussions on-line! If you want to convince the masses that your view is correct, you might invest more effort to build the case thoroughly, no? But, of course, it all depends on your purpose for drafting the initial posting.

I want to thank people for trying to carry on a more reasonable discussion. I've enjoyed the process of stating my views more carefully, and it's nice to see that people return to carry on the discussion more carefully once I've responded to their initial points. I'm happy to keep the discussion going with anyone who wants.

WWT: You attribute to me the following view. "There is a propensity among black males to abandon their families." 'Propensity' seems far too strong a word for what I was conceding. I'm not sure why anyone would think that the way you described it. I certainly said nothing of the sort. I did say that too many black men abandon their families, but that would be true if only one did. It happens that a lot more than one do. Young white men do this too, of course, and so do many middle-class white executives who divorce their wives for petty reasons. I never said this is exclusively a black problem. I never said it was a propensity. I did say it happens, and the only reason I mentioned it was to stave off a possible objection that not every black family has the problem I was giving on the grounds that some black families cease to function as families before the children are even born.

I'm not sure what you were getting at with poverty as an alternative exlanation for black men abandoning their families (but your very admission of this acknowledges that it happens, which you didn't seem to want to say). I wasn't trying to explain why black men who abandon their families do so. Poverty is probably a significant factor in it, though if it's the primary reason then you'll have to see if middle-class black youth do this frequently enough to require you to say more. I don't know the numbers on that.

I'm also not sure why you raise the issue of priorities in education. It's clear that many poor people have lower priorities on education than many middle-class people, regardless of race. Most black people, however, are not poor, and it's insulting and racist to assume that most black people are poor. A larger proportion of black people are poor than is true of white people, but it's still a minority. The test score and grade gap is prominent among middle-class black students whose parents clearly value education. I made this point in my posts I linked to, which leads me to believe you either didn't read those posts or you just missed that point. It's not about whether black people prioritize education. Many black people clearly do. Somehow that isn't enough to close the gap in performance, which suggests that something other than valuing education is behind the problem. I was suggesting that not seeing learning for its own sake as "ours" but rather as "white" -- something to visit but not call home -- is at least part of the problem. That attitude is consistent with valuing education for instrumental purposes. I wasn't assuming causality, either. I gave an argument for it (which I linked to). There's a difference.

You're right about the overseas job issue. What's being called outsourcing has been shown to increase jobs stateside. I see no connection between that issue and whether it's ok to point out, as a concession to my opponent, that some black men abandon their families. The unfortunately high number of black single mothers whose children's fathers are not dead is all the proof necessary for that claim. It's not a claim about what black men automatically do. It's a claim about what in fact does happen with too many black men.

The basketball example was not something I thought I had proved. I'm not even very sure it's true. I was giving an example of a possible way different kinds of intelligence might work. I got the example from either Thomas Sowell or John McWhorter. I don't remember which. Both of them are black, and both are intellectuals who think there's nothing biological behind the test score gaps. You don't have to prove a possible exlanation for it to serve as a possible explanation.

The theory that fuzzy criteria bar black people's progress is ridiculous when you look at which fields black people don't progress in. The hard sciences have about as clear criteria as anywhere. I can't see anyone claiming that black people don't do well in physics or theoretical mathematics on the basis of any fuzzy criteria in how physicists' or mathematicians' work is evaluated. The criteria are plain. The reason more black people aren't in those fields is because they aren't interested in them, for the most part. I think one reason for lack of interest is low grades in those subjects, which I think in many cases is because many black people don't see the development of some of the skills required in those fields as important. The breakdown of which test questions black students don't do as well on confirms this. I think there are cultural reasons behind all of this. Whatever you think of that explanation, it seems ridiculous to me to assert that the criteria for success in physics are fuzzy.

It wouldn't matter to me who made the poster. The racial group you come from is irrelevant to whether you are a racist. Critical race theorists talk about this all the time. Black-on-black racism (in the attitudinal sense) is when one black person has negative attitudes or actions toward black people. Why should it be different with institutional racism? When someone furthers it, it's a racist act, even if it's not intended to be. That's the kind of racism we were talking about here anyway.

The reason I took so long to restate the definition of racism I was working with in the discussion with Macolm is because I was assuming he had read my post, which gives that definition quite plainly. I didn't see why it should be necessary to repeat what I had already said. As for the definition itself, I'm just using the standard one race theorists use. This isn't a conservative or liberal definition. It is the one most liberal thinkers are happy to use when describing practices they call racist when the people involved aren't deliberately trying to harm anyone, never mind deliberately having nasty attitudes toward black people. Discussing racism under this definition is my way to turn liberals' arguments on race against them when a poster comes up clearly criticizing someone who happens to be conservative on some issues (but at most moderate on race -- she supports affirmative action). By their own definition, the poster is racist. That was my primary point, and I even had language in my post suggesting that that's what I was doing.

As for levels of racism, that's true of any moral issue. Any moral failing is a matter of degree. Bad foreign policies could be worse or better than other people's bad foreign policies. Being a coward or greedy is also a matter of degree. So also with racism. Some kinds of racism are worse than others. The ones we want to focus on the most are the ones that harm groups that have more severely been hampered by racism. That doesn't mean black people can't be anti-white racists, as Louis Farrakhan is. It's not as bad a moral failing as white anti-black racism, but it's bad nonetheless.

I thought my later series of posts was a lot more thorough than this one. I'm not sure if you read them, but some of what you said leads me to believe you didn't. This post was just expressing my immediate reaction upon seeing this poster. I gave some theoretical reflections on what things I think are true without carefully supporting them. I did go back and do much of that supporting work later on as I worked through my series posts on various kinds of racisms much more systematically. So I'm not sure if you would have the same view about those posts.

By the way, is anyone interested in clueing me in to why there's so much interest in this old post of mine so suddenly and after I've done much more work on more careful, comprehensive, and balanced discussion of racism, its causes, its effects, and possible ways to overcome it? Is there some discussion going on somewhere else about this post? Were these three independent search engine finds? It seems so sudden and so coordinated for such a post from three months ago when I was still finding my blog-legs.


I think I draw conclusions from your previous notes that follow from your text - intentional or not.

I am lead to believe that you think black men are have a greater likelihood of abandoning their familiies. Your text, "many black men abandon their children to their multiple sex partners" says as much to me. Your original text did not specify 'too many'. I do not assume that you think that 'many' is all and do not say that. It is somewhat telling that you have progressively modified the readers' interpretations ("most black people" to "many" to "too many"). Does this trouble you?

You begin to see my question on poverty. I think it's a good start: "if it's the primary reason then you'll have to see if middle-class black youth do this frequently enough to require you to say more." That would be one start to doing the tests and another would be to see if more generally the primary explanatory factor is income, not race at all. Finding the cause is preferable to assuming that it is culture or race.

You make an accusation that is a bit shocking. You state "Most black people, however, are not poor, and it's insulting and racist to assume that most black people are poor. A larger proportion of black people are poor than is true of white people, but it's still a minority." You blatantly misunderstand my words, despite my cautious statement ("If, for example, black men tend to be poorer ..."). How do you get from my quote anything like a strong assertion much less that I think what you claim? In fact, we say the same thing, don't we? You say "a larger portion of black people are poor than is true of white people." I say (omitting the my more cautious 'if') "black men tend to be poorer." We say the same thing, but you call me racist. It would be funny if you did not seem serious.

Physics does allow fuzzy criteria at times, such as when a prof divides merit for lab work. But, more generally, a good career in physics depends on having a good start in the form of a good education before walking into college. One does not show up and start taking physics tests. Rather, the candidate proves their merit for a school, in some cases passing further hurdles to acquire grants or loans, on the basis of a history of school work. Do you argue that there are not ample times for fuzzy criteria from elementary school through to college? Or do you argue that these grades are irrelevant for anyone seeking to study physics. Thus, your attempt to disprove the general hypothesis on one example does not seem to hold true. I am sure that if you keep looking you might think of a few cases, but I don't know if you can so readily disallow the general argument.

It is true: "You don't have to prove a possible exlanation for it to serve as a possible explanation." But if you want to then use that as if it is a fact in support of your argument, you must realise that you won't convince people who want proof instead of suppositions.

The idea that racism has shades is interesting. I am more inclined to think that the cures vary, not the degree of evil. After all, I think I would be equally disgusted at 4 black men burnt and hung on a bridge by whites in the old South as 4 Americans by Iraqis today. Of course, this is a matter of subjective judgement, I feel. I am only surprised that the definition you cite enables that kind of subjectivity, but you assure us that it's the real deal.

Yes, you are correct that I did not read much of your site. Did a bit, but time is short, you know. But, having been so badly misquoted, you don't push me towards patience!

Good luck.

Jeremy, your post was right on the mark. It is racist- in the liberal patronizing way. Just a few thoughts:

If a white conservative had drawn up a similarly scarcastic poster saying Jesse Jackson was serving on the white liberal plantation it would be greeted with charges of "racism". Our college campuses are a good example of the hypocritical liberal double standard when it comes to race. Liberal definitions of "racism" are too often self-serving in their hypocrisy. A white student being beaten up on the school ground by black thugs who may use racial slurs is not "racism" because "racism is only when the oppressor has power." Ask the beat up kid who has the "power". If the tables were turned, the NAACP and a host of "rights" groups would appear on the scene decrying "racism", and it would be added to the stats as a "hate crime." Liberal hypocrisy is rife. Spike Lee who boasts of glaring at interracial couples to make them feel uncomfortable is not racist, but a white guy who does the same is. Examples can be multiplied- from universities, to the corridors of politics where people who use standard words like "niggardly" lose their jobs. Perhaps a mandatory course in "ebonics" might have sufficed.

The poster shows the arrogance of liberals- how they appropriate black people so easily and casually to cover their agendas. Essentially it implies that black people are only SUPPOSED to think and act a certain way. Condi Rice doesn't fit how black people are SUPPOSED to speak, or act or think. But Condi is only a symptom of a larger problem- the patronizing, arrogant manipulation of blacks by white liberals and their lackeys to fit their agendas- from the cynical farce of "affirmative action" that has fed many underprepared black students to the wolves on top college campuses, to a dependency inducing welfare system that (until very recent changes) promoted and subsidized the abandonment of families by black men. One poster asked for data- any Google search will reveal the harsh facts about single parent black families and the negative effect of such family arrangements. As Sowell in his "Economics and Politics of Race", "Geography and Culture" and "Knowledge and Decisions" along with other books shows time and time again, poor non-white immigrants facing discrimination achieve much better levels of family stability, and he shows not just the usual Asians but such BLACK groups as Africans and Caribbean immigrants. The data are there, but the liberal hypocrites are afraid to go find it. Let them look it up this time and prove you wrong.

And your mention of the "acting white" problem is on target- supported not just by classroom observations, but by empirical studies on black students' counterproductive attitudes and behavior. See:
("The Worm in the Apple" by Peter Brimelow), "Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb" by John U. Ogbu) and also see Abigail and Stephen Thernstrom's new book, "No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning"
Again, the data are there but liberals will shy away from it in their hypocrisy.

It is amusing to hear them talking about "satirical" aspects of the poster. Of course anything can be satire. But if the shoe were reversed wouldn't they be hollering "racism" loudly? And it is not just "conservatives" complaining about white liberal hypocrisy and appropriation of black people for their posturing. Check out the complaint from a black LIBERAL.

Perhaps the COndi issue has popped up again due to the current WMD debate in Washington. But whatever the reason, one thing that hasn't changed is liberal hypocrisy, and its arrogant manipulation of blacks. Keep on exposing it.

WWT: I'm sorry if I gave the impression that I wasn't paying attention to the nuances of your language, but I don't think I did that, as I'll try to explain. I do tend to get impatient when people act as if I said something I didn't say. You were the third person in a row to do that.

Let me repeat why I said what I said. I had originally written the sentence with no reference to broken families, but I realized that enough black families aren't really as I had described them due to not having a father figure while the mother works so many hours as not to play this role. I expected someone to object that I was assuming something in the opposite direction of a real problem that exists. So I changed the sentence to the above to prevent objections to my claim based on that.

Then when people charged me with saying something that the sentence doesn't imply, I tried to make it clear what I meant. The sentence itself was saying something about responsible black families, which shows that I don't think there's any inherent tendency for black men to abandon their families.

Why is it troubling that when people don't read me charitably and I have to explain what I meant that I get more precise about what I was trying to say? Isn't that how a good discussion intended at being clear is supposed to go?

Income is a factor, since poor students tend to do a little worse than middle-class students in general. However, the racial gap is much larger than the income gap, and the racial gap is present even when comparing people of the same income.

On black people being poor, I wasn't accusing you of asserting that. I was simply pointing out that the antecedent of your conditional is false. That's important, because you looked to be offering possible explanations, but this one is false and can't serve that purpose. I didn't call you a racist. What I did was urge a caution against seeing that as an explanation, not only because I think it's false but because I think it could be viewed as insulting.

I wasn't talking about a career in physics. I was talking about doing well in subjects that require precision and hypothetical reasoning. Those skills are not developed as well in black students who take standardized tests. This is the data. The explanation I was giving is that these are viewed as "white" skills not worth developing for their own sake and only useful if necessary. To do well in physics or theoretical mathematics, you generally have to enjoy that kind of thinking. I'm not saying there aren't fuzzy criteria, but the criteria involved with skills of precision don't seem to admit of much fuzziness , and those are one of the two kinds of skills black students tend to score lower on. So the racism explanation can't be right for this kind of skill.

Thanks for conversing, Jeremy. We will continue to disagree, but I think we disagree in a way that does not keep us from working and thinking together as members of the same American community.

"Scourge", on the other hand--it must be snug and secure in world like his (or hers), where everything is simple. It must be comforting to be so completely correct and reasonable, while one's opponents are so completely wrong and morally suspect. I imagine such a world doesn't ask much from Scourge's mind or character. What need would there be to understand someone who disagrees with you, since they are Wrong and Immoral? From the tone of Scourge's post, the answer is "None".

"Please don't patronize us with the "some of my best friends are black (so therefore I am a qualified expert)" routine. It appears to me, your experience with your wife and family has done little to enrich your view of African-American culture in the states."

Speaking first to this comment posted by langston, there is a reason that his experience with his wife and her family have done little to enrich his view of "African-American culture", that reason being that his wife and her family are not "Africa-American". At this juncture you are probably wondering how I can say this for sure, well, I happen to be his sister-in-law, and I am not "African-American." According to my birth certificate and medical records, I was born on the island of Barbados, which would make me Caribbean in general, Barbadian specifically. Now before you feel the need to dash off a quick, and curt response to me about anything along the lines of being in denial about my race, please take a moment to get a dictionary and look up the actual definition for the term "African-American". Also please take a moment to consider the fact that I would know my heritage and background, and what type of fruits are in my family tree better than you would. May I also ask that you take a moment to consider that one of the main constructs (and subsequently main problems) with the issue of race and racial identity, is that more often than not, the race that you are considered part of has been assigned to you by someone else. My family is Caribbean. What we know about "African-American" culture is based on what we have learned since we have been in this country. Finally I have a question for you. You interchanged "black" for "African-American", does that mean that all black people are African-American, and that all African-Americans are black?


I use African-American because African-Americans represent the largest fraction of "black" America.

Your question is best directed to Jeremey, who apparently feels that being married to a woman from Barbados is equivalent to being married to a 'black' American. I wonder if he feels he is equally familiar with Nigerians? Or 'black' Brasilians?

What exactly does this mean? "Also please take a moment to consider the fact that I would know my heritage and background, and what type of fruits are in my family tree better than you would."

I am happy for you that you know your family tree all the way back to when the slave ship dropped you off. That is quite an accomplishment.

Langston, I don't know what a 'black' American is, but I most certainly am married to a black American. Look at the picture I linked to for the black part. I'm not going to scan in her citizenship form to prove the American part, but I don't need to prove it to you for it to be true.

I never said I was intimately familiar with every aspect of American black culture, and I never said my marriage to my wife is what informs me the most about black culture in America, but her experiences spending 80% of her life in the United States, and 60% of it in New York City in the public school system, are part of that. The reason I mentioned her is because you made clear your assumption that I don't really know anyone who is black, other than the people I don't watch on MTV (which comment I should resent greatly, as my wife pointed out on her own blog -- it's extremely insulting to assume of someone that he watches eMpTyV).

I know enough from my own experiences by living in a racially mixed society and attending racially mixed schools with very intelligent people representing black America, from courses I've taken with scholars of various races who study black American culture, from time spent with a fair number of people who are black Americans since birth (from very good friends to mere acquaintances) who are both intelligent and observant and have lots to say on the subject, from reading books from people who study the subject from across the political spectrum, and from ordinary interaction with black people on a daily basis, including teaching them in classes in a racially mixed university (of multiple generations given the relatively high number of black continuing ed. students at Syracuse) and a slightly less racially mixed college (with one noteworthy black student born in the U.S. and raised in a black family who just wrote a paper for me arguing against affirmative action).

To answer your question about other black people, I don't know anyone from Brazil or Nigeria who is black (that I know of, anyway), but I have black friends from Zimbabwe and South Africa, and black acquaintances from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

I get the sense that certain views are just off-limits for you, no matter the evidence or arguments. When you approach an issue from the perspective that certain things just can't be true, you're not considering all the options. John McWhorter says most of his collegues at Berkeley do this to him. He says not one of them in criticizing his book has actually addressed his arguments. I haven't seen you do any serious criticism of those arguments either, as Malcolm has been trying to do (though not in a way that has convinced me).

I approached this issue open to any view consistent with the data. That meant being open to the Bell Curve view that genetics explain black SAT score gaps (which seems to be a matter of empirical study and therefore can't be racist in itself, though racists try to use that information) while also being open to racism as the explanation for those gaps in scores. I concluded after studying the issues carefully that each view fails to explain the data sufficiently (or even largely). That's why when I saw Thomas Sowell and John McWhorter's explanations (both black Americans quite familiar with black culture in America), and they seemed to make sense given what I do know and what the experiences of my black students, my wife, my black professors, my black friends, my white friends who have grown up in largely black neighborhoods in New York City, and others have confirmed to me, I concluded that they are probably the best expanations we have. I get the impression that you aren't approaching this from the same open mind and disqualify from the outset any explanation other than racist white practices. Maybe you aren't, but that's the sense I get from your vehement resistance to this idea and your incredibly strong urge to paint anyone saying it as a racist.

Condi Rice aside, this conversation is now interesting. I suppose depending on how racist a colonial power was determines the collective esteem an ethnic group has, and how much they play a viable role in the economy and society. I'm sure the Caribbean Africans did not have to put up with the barbarism of the United States up to the 1950's and 1960's. But I have often sensed a bit of a superiority complex between Caribbean african americans (these are the Americas, afterall) and United States african americans. It has always bemused me, because it reminds me of paper bag tests; it reminds me of how the Irish disassociated themselves with the stigma they used to share with african americans; it reminds me of how every society has someone on the bottom, and now no one wants to be associated with that group, no matter who it is. Star-bellied Sneetches, whatever. But it makes sense, though. The greatest snobbery and racism occurs between groups that are identical: Semetic people (Jews and Arabs), Irish (Catholic and Protestant), Aryan (Indians and Pakistanis) and, lo and behold, the descendants of west african slaves sent to the united states and the descendants of west african slaves sent to the plantations in the Caribbean. In the end, you're still black. Or do you plan on marrying an Aster, Vanderbilt, or scion of the House of Windsor any time soon?

But, to return to the point of this page, Jeremy, if you (putting your satirist and sophist hat on), were to create a satirical piece about Condi Rice, what would you come up with?

So langston, I take it you missed that section that asked you to kindly actually take a moment and think about some things before sending off a pithy little comment. Your remark about the slave ship also shows that you really have no understanding of the institution of slavery as it occured in the Caribbean, probably because it is not a subject widely taught in the mainstream of history. If you did have any understanding of the slave culture that existed in the Caribbean you would know that it was very dissimilar to slavery in the Americas. Now I cannot actually go all the way back to the ship that dropped me off, because I did not arrive on the island on a ship. I was born there, so in that sense your comment is moot and ignorant. In the case of my ancestors that did arrive on the ship they were of English, Scottish, and Irish decent. So as I said before, kindly take a moment to think about some points, and do some research before shooting off the curt responses.


You seem to miss entirely what is wrong with your assumptions about Jeremy's interactions with black people. Your initial comments (and those of others) seem to imply that a person is incapable of assessing the condition of black America unless they are black. This is an utterly false and totally useless stance to take. It basically cuts you off from all avenues of interaction and finding common ground with anyone who isn't already like you according to your definitions. If this is not what you ment by, "Jeremy, clearly you have at best, a 'laboratory' level of knowledge of african-american culture. Please take the time to make some black friends. Yes! Real black people! Not just the ones you have been seeing on MTV."


"Please don't patronize us with the "some of my best friends are black (so therefore I am a qualified expert)" routine. It appears to me, your experience with your wife and family has done little to enrich your view of African-American culture in the states."

then please tell us what you really ment so we can stave off further misunderstanding.

Your resistance to the idea that the state of black folk in America may be some of their own doing is quiet humorous since it corresponds so well to what black academics (notably John McWhorter) call the cult of victimology. What is the cult of victimology you ask? It is the idea that everyone (and I do mean everyone) is responsible for "keeping the black man down" as the saying goes. The cult of victimology causes one to grasp for any excuse for one's poor performance despite the efforts of many to ensure that one does perform well. You can read more about it here if you're really interested. I doubt you are since your tone seems to suggest that you feel you have stumbled onto a nest of white racists and self hating house negroes. I could be wrong but that remains to be seen.

I would like to you see you address some of the arguments made here rather than just be rude and insulting.

Malcom, just a quick question. When you make the statement: "But I have often sensed a bit of a superiority complex between Caribbean african americans (these are the Americas, afterall) and United States african americans.", are you refering to the Caribbean as being "the Americas, afterall"? If so, then I would like to ask why because I do not believe that the Caribbean islands are considered part of the Americas seeing as how with possibly the exception of the U.S. Virgin islands, all of the other islands were originally French, Dutch, Spanish or British colonies. Also, when you say, "In the end, you're still black.", what does that mean? What does it mean to be 'black'? Where does that terminolgy come from? Why is it that in the end we should all be lumped together in one big homogeneous group when we are anything but?

Simone, the Americas is everything that is part of the South or North American geography. Venezuelans are as Americans as Candadians. It is only the United States' selfish use of the word 'American' that blinds English speakers to the fact that everyone over here is American. Ask someone fluent in Spanish who is from Latin America.

What do I mean by still black? I see how desparate you are not to be considered along with your relatives in the United States. But I shall tell you what 'still black' means. Look at who sits behind the desks of the high offices and corporations. Look at who is in public office. Don't limit yourself to exceptions. Go see what clubs you can't join. Take a look at the standards of beauty in the Western World. And take a look at those whom YOU look down on. Or want to look down on. Take a look at those with whom you do not want to be associated, and ask yourself why. That will tell you. You are seen, fundamentally, as the same, once self-congratulatory distinctions as "I'm Jamaican" or "I'm from Barbados" are stripped away, and you are seen as what you are, a descendant of slaves from Africa, with brown skin, round noses, kinky hair. Or, as I wrote before, do you have aspirations to marry your children into a family like the Asters or the heirs of the Johnson and Johnson company? Go try it and see how welcome your Caribbean heritage will be. They see you as no different than someone born to a rich family in Harlem or a poor family in Mississippi. Except that maybe you are more articulate, and thus "one of the good ones".

Funniest bit yet, "Look at who sits behind the desks of the high offices and corporations....." Malcolm, if I had a dollar for everytime I heard this lame old argument I would OWN said clubs, restuants, families, etc.

Point number one, black folk from the Caribbean are not "Caribbean African American", we're just plain old unimpressive sounding black and we are okay with that. African American is a politically motivated term peculiar to the United States.

Point number two, it has long been my opinion that one of the greatest assets of my Caribbena heritage was that I didn't have to carry arround so much of the cultural bagagge that black Americans seem to. The cultural bagagge that leads you to make statements like the one above. Not every white person was a racist waiting to put me in my place (as people seem to think is the case here in the states). In fact growing up I got the distinct impression from the adults around me that white people were the inferior ones, incapable of cleaning their own homes, cooking their own food, raising their own children, and such.

Point number three, "In the end, you're still black. Or do you plan on marrying an Aster, Vanderbilt, or scion of the House of Windsor any time soon?" What's your point? You're not implying that black folk who hold certain views (or enter into mixed relationships) think that they aren't black are you? Cause that would be a really stupid racist thing to say. (Yes I know that word gets thrown around far too easily but I think it would definitly apply if this were the case.)

Point number four, I fail to see how any of these things address previous objections to Jeremy's assertions that the poster of Condi Rice is racist. And I certainly haven't heard any good arguments for why it is not racist. Only someone totally unaware of the house slave/field slave dynamic in American history would claim that this poster is not racist.

The baggage you carry, my dear Samantha, Simone, et al., is that you feel the US views you different than the US views African-Americans (or black Americans if that suits you better). I am glad you take pride in your Carribean heritage, as well you should, but your refusal to accept the reality that the world doesn't care how YOU view YOURSELF, leaves you in a state of naivete.

I don't CARE how anyone in the US views me. That is not the source of my self worth. Are you going to address any of the issues raised here or not?

Wow! This thing has exploded, and I still haven't seen an explanation of why all these people have arrived at this one old post all of a suddent.

I think there's a lot of talking past each other going on here.

It's plainly true that someone who is black and is also from the Caribbean is still black. It's also plainly true that there are distinct cultural (and genetic!) differences between that person and someone who was born in the United States who is black. It's even more true that there are huge cultural and genetic differences between someone born in Africa who is black and any of the people in the previous sentences. Racial classifications systems in the U.S. would also classify some of the aboriginal people in Australia or Fiji as black, and yet genetically and culturally black people in the United States are much closer to Europeans than they are to those people. This has nothing to do with anyone thinking themselves better than anyone else. It's a simple fact. The only thinking better than anyone else that I've seen go on in this family is a thinking better because of deliberate things some people do that are destructive that this branch of this family doesn't do (and they make fun of this even among the branches of the family tree that do do those dysfunctional things). I'm not sure that counts as the sort of thing you're describing, because it's as much in-family criticism as anything else. (That's what she was talking about with the fruits of the family, by the way.)

If I were to come up with a satirical piece about Condi Rice, it would be about those black people who hate her because she's an intelligent, successful black who made it in a world they think is "white". It would be making fun of those who made this very poster. I'm philosopher, not a satirist, though, so I don't have anything in mind that could really pass.

If South Americans are American because they call themselves that, then why would you say Caribbeans are Americans, when they don't call themselves Americans? It's not on any continent (and I'm not sure it's on the shelf).

Relatives in the United States? I should point out that many of Simone's close friends would probably have no problem calling themselves African American. Still, all of her close relatives in the United States are also Bajan. Any other relatives could be something like 10 generations back, which is how far back some of my European ancestry goes before you have to go back to Europe. In my experience she doesn't tend to distance herself from anyone who might be her less of a close relative, such as black Americans and Americans of British, Irish, Scottish, and perhaps Jewish and Indian descent. I don't see her distinguishing between any of these less close relatives.

It's your question that distinguishes between them by assuming that only the ones who are visibly of African descent are genetically close to her, when some of those who are wholly of European descent (including people much like me) may be closer genetically to her than many black Americans are. That's the sort of thing that's impossible to determine without genetic testing, but it seems to me that the descendants of the siblings of the British colonists of Barbados go as far back as the descendants of the siblings of the slaves brought to Barbados. If their ancestry is in both lines, those descendants are equally related to them. There's been far more mixing in Barbados than among blacks in the U.S., as you can tell by looking at how dark my wife is compared to how light our kids are. So it's extremely unlikely that most black Americans are much closer to them genetically than most white Americans with British, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.

Again you are on target.
As McWorther often notes, his opponents spend a lot of time NOT addressing the issues directly. They prefer such emotional sidelines as "whether you know any black people." Here's some data to round out what you are saying.

Your impression of black student's counterproductive behavior being a prime cause of dismal educational performance is a sound one. Way back in 1972, Sowell's "Black Education: Myths and Tragedies" pointed to all-black PUBLIC schools that were not bywords for vulgarity, violence, drug abuse and anti-intellectualism. He meant of course, all black, public Dunbar High School in segregated Washington DC, which until its decline in the "progressive" 1960s produced an impresive crop of black achievement and regularly posted test scores ABOVE the white average in the surrounding public schools. He also showed numerous black private schools that managed the same.

Nor is this pattern anything unique. In the 1940s and 1950s Sowell shows that in many east side NY neighborhoods black kids generally held their own academically with whites from similar circumstances, sometimes posting performance a little lower and sometimes a little higher than whites, but never miles behind the way they are today. The key at Dunbar and in those NY schools of yesteryear was a hard-nosed committment to standards. Not everyone was expected to be a genius, but in general, high standards were demanded and sanctions applied to enforce this demand. Notions such as "acting white" (surely encouraged today by "multiculturalism" with its thinly veiled contempt for "middle class" standards) were scarcely tolerated by serious people.

There are some who mention Caribbean immigrants from such places as Barbados, and that example only serves to further strengthen your point. Black Caribbean immigrants and their descendants have long had very different attitudes towards education and work than some native denizens (note: I did not say all) in the urban neighborhoods where they have traditionally settled. The prominence of West Indians and their descendants among black achievers in the US is of course well known, but again, the point is attitude and behavior- a message many would prefer to be obscured. The old saw about West Indians-- "only the Bajan can withstand the Jew" or the disparaging term "Jewmacian", and the sometimes tension between Caribbeans and their descendants and native born blacks is based on certain differences in outlook and behavior. There have been whole books on it. See for example Ivan Light's 1972 study "Ethnic Enterprise." But of course differences in outlook and behavior are what many do not want to hear.

And let's mention one last thing about West Indians. Some seem to think that Caribbean "attitude" stems from some supposed more comfortable or easier time in the islands, because said West Indians mostly come from black majority societies. But things were in many cases worse across the blue waters. In fact slavery historically was more brutal and viscous on the Caribbean end of the scale than in the United States. The reason is that contrary to US plantations where the owner and wife were typically resident, and had more incentive to care for their slaves (white wives were often active in the care of sick slaves in the US), the Caribbean was much more characterized by absentee ownership, driven by short-term profit maximization. As a result the data show child mortality and adult life spans were much shorter among Caribbean slaves than in the United States. In the harsh calculus of Caribbean life, it was considered CHEAPER to overwork and expend existing black populations than to maintain them. Another batch of fresh victims was always available to be imported on the next slave ship to cover normal "wastage".

I could throw in some Asian examples along the same line (comparing the behavior of the often violent, rowdy white Irish childen in schools to the disciplined behavior of Asian immigrant children ("a joy to teach") was the consensus of many white teachers in the 19th and early 20th century), but you get the picture as to the key elements of behavior and attitude.

As regards would-be Bell Curve theorists, Sowell debunks the "genetic" explanation for gaps in racial test scores not by emotional hand wringing but by looking at the actual data. He point out that low levels of IQ scores are nothing new for people not fully acculturated in the modern urban economy. Jewish soldiers (many from immigrant background) scored dismally on IQ tests given during WWI, and some whites were scarcely in a position to be "role models" for black people. In fact the data of that time show that black soldiers from northern states, places like New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Ohio scored higher on mental tests than white soldiers from southern regions like Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

He also shows how "genetic" explanations are undermined by the success of black orphans raised by white families, and that contrary to the claims of some whites as to static or "declining" black intelligence, the intelligence scores of blacks (along with other initially low IQ whites) have been rising for decades. As Sowell points out, it is the "norming" of IQ tests from their earlier baselines so that increases are reshuffled to yield a "normal average" of 100, that has concealed black progress. When progress is measured from the original baselines, in fact, whole groups (yes, including white people) and indeed nations, have experienced rising IQs over time.

What the above means is that blacks don't need to be treated as a special case. They can cut the mustard just like everyone else provided that certain counter-productive attitudes and behaviors change, and STANDARDS ARE DEMANDED AND ENFORCED. The alternatives of course are more attractive to many: justifying or rationalizing away said behavior, and the spineless policies that too often hold sway with our politically correct education establishment and its apologists- social promotion, "multi-culturalism" (along with other isms), affirmative action quotas, busing and all the other ludicrous farces that liberals have inflicted upon black folks to cover their own agendas.

To both langston and Malcolm,

We (speaking for myself and my sister) are not refusing to accept how others define us, what we are refusing to accept is that someone else's definition of us should have any bearing on our lives. Society may see us as what ever they want to, but that does not mean it has to govern our lives. I am not because they say I am. I am because God says I am and because I say I am.

(P.S. Geographically speaking, the islands that make up the Caribbean are not part of the continents of North or South America.)

Patriot Paradox has linked to this post with some comments of his own, well worth reading. His argument is that you don't even need to go to the institutional racism argument to say the poster is racist. It's racist for singling out black people as unable to be conservative without being morally wrong in doing so. That's straightforwardly racist on the attitudinal definition, even if it's black people who are saying it. To say that black people aren't free to choose their political affiliations, where white people are, is racist. To say that being authentically black requires having one particular view about which policies are in the best interest of black people, already deciding in advance what the "black view" is, is racist. It insists that black people shouldn't be allowed to think for themselves, basically putting black people in the category of having to be told what to think.

So the combination of treating black people as sheep who have to be led and insisting that black people are more limited in what views they can have is a clear case of racism against black people, regardless of who is perpetrating it (though my suspicion is that this poster was designed by a white liberal).

Wow, you said it better then I did!

Simone, it looks like you need to be schooled out of your own bigotry: from "America(sometimes referred to as America) is the area including the land mass located between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean, namely North America and South America. The term also usually includes the Caribbean, the islands in and around the Caribbean Sea, and Greenland, though not Iceland, for cultural and historical reasons. The isthmus of Central America is usually considered geographically part of North America. The Americas are often also described collectively as the Western Hemisphere or the New World.

Most references consider there to be two continents, North America and South America. However, most Spanish language references consider the two to be a single continent, "America". Even so, many Spanish speakers consider Ammerica del norte and America del sur to be separate continents. The use of America to refer to the New World as a whole is also sometimes used in English, such as in the common phrase "Christopher Columbus discovered America".

People who live in the Americas are sometimes referred to as being American, although the word "American" is more commonly used to refer only to a citizen of the United States of America. (See also Alternate words for American)

See naming of America for a discussion of how the Americas were named."

I think your bottom line is to preserve the idea, at least in your own heart, that caribbean slave descendants such as yourself are ethnically and culturally superior somehow to your cousins in the United States. Maybe God loves you more.


I can accept as valid (but not necessarily agree with) your critique of the poster if the word you use is 'bigotry' rather than 'racist'. I think that word, 'bigot' is more efficient at what you are describing, and moves away from the diffuse, special definition we have been using in this discussion about the poster.

We're speaking English, not Spanish. The two languages don't function in equivalent ways. In American English, 'America' most commonly refers to the U.S. To specify that you're talking about the Americas, you use the expression 'the Americas'. If you want to refer to the language of the entire English-speaking portion of the Americas (the U.S. and Canada), you usually say North American English. Simone made some comparisons between black people in the Caribbean and black people in America. The context suggests that by 'America', she means the standard American English referent. There's nothing bigoted about that. She's just using words according to what they mean in her geographical location. If you're somewhere else, you need to make that clear.

People who want to make distinctions don't necessarily need to make them for the purpose of making themselves feel better about their background. Simone made a comment about the dysfunctions within her extended family, making it clear that her insistence on cultural differences between black Caribbeans and black Americans is not one of a "better than thou" character. She's simply pointing out that the cultural attitudes of the two groups are different enough to be worth distinguishing.

As for bigotry, that term seems to be about having prejudices. I'm not sure how this poster could be bigotry without being racist, since the kind of bigotry is bigotry about race. Could you clear that up?

Jeremy, see what you think of these.


racist: The belief that race accounts for differences in human character or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

isn't it true that as slaves our ancestors risked death and punishment trying to learn how to read and write? now, ironically, some parents go through h*ll just to try and motivate their kids to read, write and learn. i am also appalled that poverty and racism are being made excuses for teen pregnancy, fathers living their babies, and our brothers and sisters not wanting to be educated. isn't it also true that way before the civil rights era our fathers stayed with their families and they did not have good jobs, their rights were stamped on and they could not vote; but yet that did not abandon their families. i believe it is time for us as a people to realize that for us to overcome it starts at home first. we have to build a better society from the bottom to the top.


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