Race: March 2004 Archives

Racism Double Trilogy

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I've finally finished the double trilogy on racism that I've been working on for over six weeks, so it's fitting to sum it all up and collect all the links together in one post. (Also, I get to replace all the links in my favorite posts menu with this one, which makes the list a good deal smaller.) For the sake of a simpler discussion, I'm focusing on race relations between blacks and whites in the United States. I'm aware of many other issues and relations, but I'm focusing on that particular part of a larger framework here, mostly because the authors I've been drawing on do that.

I started with three posts presenting some of the standard liberal picture on racism today (or at least what I agree with of that picture). Much of this was framed in ways Patricia Williams discusses things in her Seeing a Color-Blind Future: The Paradox of Race, though some of the terms were my own. After the first in the first trilogy, I interjected an explanatory post about the overall goals of the series. These trilogy itself consisted of two on the biggest remaining problems of racism in our society, normative whiteness, white voyeurism, and racial narratives. The fourth post discusses Williams' views on what the ideal world (racially speaking, anyway) would look like and why.

The second trilogy takes its major content from John McWhorter's Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America but builds on the material in the first trilogy (hence my calling it a double trilogy). One racial narrative that works in the reverse of the racial narratives Williams discusses, negatively evaluating white people (with bad consequences for everyone involved) is the victimology narrative. This in turn leads to black separatism, which in some ways parallels normative whiteness but in a strangely ironic fashion, with some normativity for a racial narrative picture of whiteness and in a different sense for a construction of blackness. A particular kind of anti-intellectualism (seeing intellectualism as white) that damages the black community in many ways follows quickly from the first two problems. [This last post also ventures into the issues of test score gaps between black and white students for a bit.]

The ironic thing about all this is that Patricia Williams and other liberal thinkers on race give the theoretical framework to make McWhorter's pointed in a much more sophisticated way than he does (though I think his description is just as accurate). In the end there's not a lot to be said in any of this about where to go from here. Both authors say little, though McWhorter does say one thing we should stop doing, which I'll cover in my next post on race -- affirmative action. In a way some of this comes right out of the material in the anti-intellectualism post, but it's its own topic with a number of arguments not related directly to the structure of this series, so I'm not counting it as within the ranks of the double trilogy. More on that when I get around to it.

Update: It turns out my first trilogy wasn't a trilogy after all. There was a fourth post (though it was actually second) on White Voyeurism, and I'd forgotten to include it here. I've inserted it above without changing much else, so it will look a little odd as a four-part trilogy. Well, Douglas Adams had even more parts in his trilogy.

Also, I've fixed all the broken links in this post from the move to the new location. Not all my dead links have caught up, but this one was a priority, and I think they should all work now. Let me know if they don't.

Anti-Intellectualism

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I'm finally getting around to John McWhorter's third feature of African American culture that he thinks is self-destructive (from Losing the Race). See my victimology and separatism posts for the other two and the links there for how it fits into my overall argument about racism in society today.

Anti-intellectualism, as McWhorter uses the term, is not undervaluing education. It's more subtle than that. It's a matter of seeing learning and school as "white" and therefore not for black people except as a means to achieve things (see my separatism post for some of the background here). McWhorter describes it as a tendency to see achievement for its own sake and learning for its own sake as wholly other. Learning is a place to visit but not a place to live. The origins of this problem go back to slavery, which enforced a lack of learning, which in turn led to education really being only for whites. Somehow this dissociation from learning turned the attitude of black America against the very thing that racist policies and attitudes had wrongly denied to black people, and this current gut reaction to it as wholly other prevents success in these areas, a glass ceiling initiated entirely from within.

Some of McWhorter's discussion relies on a whole background discussion about test scores, intelligence, genetic heritability, and environmental influence. This will require a bit of a diversion, but McWhorter's argument relies on this information.

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., has come out of the closet. He now admits to self-destructive tendencies within black America. I saw parts of a recent special he did in which he goes into a little more detail on this. One of the observations he made was that many younger black people today are dependent on affirmative action, and it's bad for their own potential to do well on their own. He thinks this is unfortunate, yet he doesn't bring himself to condemn affirmative action as bad, even if its harmful effects are obvious to him.

He expresses a far too typical attitude among black liberals (to avoid the label of not being black? -- he explicitly mentions Clarence Thomas in the process, who often does get it put that way about him). Here's the bad argument he gives:

1. X is bad.
2. I benefited from X.
3. Therefore, I can't speak out against X without being hypocritical.

Now insert slavery in for the X. Is a slaveowner who realizes the badness of slavery a hypocrite for changing his mind and speaking out against it? Gates's argument is of the same form. I've heard the same argument from other people, and I just can't understand why they think the conclusion follows. It seems to me that the denial of the conclusion straightforwardly follows from the first premise, and thus the second premise is irrelevant.

I think the hypocrisy goes the other direction. He's come to a conclusion that something is harming his people, and he won't bother to do anything about it. Why? The answer seems to be that he's gained because of it. Isn't hypocrisy when there's a discrepancy between what you do and what you say?

Thanks to La Shawn Barber for the link.

Separatism

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I've finally come back to my series of posts on race after too many days of not wanting to start a lengthy post. Since it's been two weeks since my last post in this series, I should start with some explanation of where we are now. [See this post for links to all the items of the series.]

The first set of posts examined the most deep-seated problems of racism remaining among mainstream white people in the United States, most of it unconscious and unintended, with some time spent on what ultimate goals we want to strive for. Now I'm looking at a very different kind of obstacle -- from within the black community. John McWhorter identifies three such obstacles in his Losing the Race, and this post focuses on the second one, separatism.

McWhorter isn't complaining about the tendency to congregate with those who have similarities to you along lines of culture, community, family, etc. He thinks that can often be a good thing. He sees some negative separatist tendencies within African-American culture in the U.S., with strong enough cultural support that the tendencies perpetuate themselves and with bad enough effects that they need to be stopped.

Roundup

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I'm afraid I've found myself once again with a bunch of stuff I feel like linking to but without the time to say much about them, so it's time for another roundup.

A politically-motivated policy (and I would argue one of ill will, since 'pro-choice' is at least as much of a euphemism as 'pro-life') has led a copy editor on the Los Angeles Times to replace 'pro-life' with 'anti-abortion' when the opera being described was, quite literally, pro-life and not about abortion at all.

La Shawn Barber has some nice balance to the Memogate charges. Her conclusion? They're all deceitful snoops on both sides, and this is just about one person who got caught. This was a dishonest crime that found out the culprits anyway, and why isn't that being investigated?

The new Spare Change (formerly Clarity Amidst Chaos) has a comparison of John Kerry before and after in a nice chart. Some of these are legitimate changes of mind on the issues, but I have a hard time believing this many serious differences could be from that. As I think I've said before, I think he's in the upper class of the Democratic party, voting according to the current political wind to retain the lower elements of the party and not caring as much about the issues. (See this post for more on the class structure of the parties.)

I never knew that John Kerry had once realized the negative consequences of affirmative action for the very underrepresented minorities it's supposed to be helping. I wonder how many liberal politicians know this but won't admit to believing it due to their desire to maintain control over black voters (also in the above-linked political party class structure post). For those who want arguments for my view on affirmative action, you'll have to wait until I come to it after I finish my posts on separatism and anti-intellectualism, which I will get around to soon but have been putting off.

On the topic of the Democratic enslavement of the black vote, Baldilocks has two posts, one on her frustrations of being assumed to be a Democrat by voting officials simply because she's black and another on the issue that may cost the Democrats their loyal slaves. (This is probably one reason John Kerry, who condescendingly wants to be considered the second black president, as if there has already been one, won't say anything on the issue.)

Instapundit has a large amount of information (unusual for him) on the people complaining about Bush's commercials. Lots of interesting stuff.

Biblical scholar Ben Witherington and John Dominic Crossan (who is something else but says he's a biblical scholar -- I think he's more of speculative fiction writer about historical matters -- he seems to think Jesus was just a political revolutionary whose death was later reinterpreted to have spiritual significance and whose followers concocted most of the teachings we have from him to fit this theory instead of continuing the revolution he started and would have wanted them to continue) have a discussion about The Passion of the Christ. I give Crossan credit for giving the most serious real criticism of the film I've seen yet (though he said it for all the wrong reasons) about how people would misunderstand the cross without the context of the rest of the gospels, though I don't think that's a problem in itself. One focal point of Witherington's response to Crossan is Crossan's repetition of concerns I've pointed out before raised by Andrew Sullivan that in fact reveal a prejudice against an orthodox Christian theology of the cross. They also consider whether Mel Gibson did enough to remove the anti-Semitism objections. At the end Witherington lists some unhistoricalities that bothered him. I should say that Crossan's final comment about how Mulsims respond is just stupid. Muslims won't use this movie to blame Jews for the death of a prophet that the Qu'ran says didn't die (because prophets can't die, according to Islam).

Adrian Warnock has challenged my claim in this post that, despite the fall, humanity still has anything at all good before being redeemed. I think it's quite obvious from the biblical picture that the image of God gets twisted in the fall but not removed, but one person in the comments section of his blog seems highly resistant to this idea. Adrian also has a whole bunch of posts from the last few days responding to objections against "the church" (although I somehow get the feeling they aren't using that term as the biblical writers used 'ekklesia' for the gathering of believers).

Disney is backing the first Narnia movie. So much for that one.

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