What if Americans really talked about racism?

12_Years_a_Slave_film_posterSolomon Northup, a black man, was a fiddler and a carpenter in Saratoga Springs.

He had a wife, Anne, and three children, Elizabeth, Margaret and Alonzo.  Together they operated a small farm in the town of Hebron in Washington County.

In 1841, Northup was kidnapped by slavers operating out of Washington DC.

He was drugged and transported to Louisiana, where he was sold in the way that livestock is sold to a series of plantation owners.

He lost twelve years of his life to America’s “peculiar” institution.

A movie is set to be released soon, telling Northup’s story — the story of a North Country man caught up in an evil system that was enshrined at the heart of the American experiment.

(Check out the trailer for the film at the bottom of this post.)

This very local tale comes at a time when more of us are being forced to confront our nation’s long, shameful embrace of racism.  President Barack Obama spoke about this tension in the context of the shooting of Trayvon Martin this week.

“I think it’s important to recognize that the African American community is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away,” Obama said.

There are very few African American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.

There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of walking across the street and hearing the locks click on the doors of cars. That happens to me — at least before I was a senator.

There are very few African Americans who haven’t had the experience of getting on an elevator and a woman clutching her purse nervously and holding her breath until she had a chance to get off. That happens often.

This is a conversation a lot of Americans just don’t want to have.  Which is understandable.  We are a proud people, convinced of the honor and wisdom of our Founding Fathers, devoted to the ideals that have been passed down to us.

But for many decades, we have resisted confronting honestly — and working to cure — the canker that remains at the heart of our republican experiment.

So let’s speak bluntly for a moment about what we did as a people and who we are today, the links that bind Solomon Northup to Trayvon Martin.

Through the first four centuries that Europeans were establishing a foothold in North America, we exterminated many of the human beings who lived here before us.

In many instances, we did so deliberately and with calculation, eliminating whole civilizations because we believed that the native Americans who occupied this continent were, at best, inconvenient and, at worst, a kind of dangerous vermin.

During this long, dark chapter, our forefathers — including the men who founded our nation — enriched themselves through the industrial ownership of other human beings.

Ours was a society that used the most evil imaginable tools in order to create a significant part of our wealth — a system of mass-kidnapping, rape, torture, eugenics, and bureacratized murder.

It’s important to confront the fact that this system wasn’t merely limited to slave-traders and plantation owners, no more than the German system in the 1930s and 1940s was limited to Nazi party officials and SS troopers.

The policies that produced slavery and genocide in America were the product of a much larger matrix of interests, from bankers to politicians to merchant traders to small farm owners.

We began the process of extracting ourselves from this dark tradition with the Civil War, but the deep system of racial hatred and violence was perpetuated through much of our modern history.

Jim Crow laws, public lynchings, KKK terror, deliberate (and successful) efforts to disenfranchise black voters, and widespread denial of access of blacks to the nation’s shared public wealth — these all continued into the mid-1960s.

Even today, many of us instinctively and reflexively view blacks as inferior, as problematic, as criminal, as lazy, as dangerous.

This prejudice colors who we are willing to hire.  It colors who the police stop on the street at night.  It colors who we put in prison.  It colors who George Zimmerman feared and stalked and killed.

We have, of course, made great strides.  The Civil Rights era produced remarkable gains.  There is, at long last, a black middle class in America.  Blacks take part in our political culture in robust ways.  We have a black President, a black Attorney General.

What we have never had is a proper national discussion of this stain on our history and our honor.  We have never reached any kind of national consensus on how to atone and how to heal.

There was never the equivalent of Germany’s Nuremberg trials, or South Africa’s truth and reconciliation process.

In much of conservative white America, there is deep ambivalence about revisiting this history.

The same community that talks with passion about preserving the traditions, values, and history of the “real” America, regards any discussion of race, any acknowledgment of shared guilt, as liberal hand-wringing.

Conservatives point to the terrible struggles within the black community — with crime, poverty, broken families and drug addiction — but want no part of connecting those horrors to our own centuries-long exploitation.

Many white liberals, meanwhile, believe that future discussions should involve class and the struggles of poor people generally — not merely focusing on black America.  A rising tide lifts all boats.

I think this misses the mark.  It’s not merely about money or economic progress.  When an honorable people does wrong — and we, as a people, committed a long, dark atrocity — they must be honest, they must be humble, and they must atone.

It’s time for us to talk not just about Trayvon Martin, but also about Solomon Northup, and the long chain of black men and women that connect them.

It’s time to talk honestly about the privileges and wealth that white Americans — even white Americans of modest means — enjoy because of our forefathers’ complicity.  It’s time to talk bluntly about our own fears, our own prejudices.

It’s time to acknowledge that much of our dislike of black America stems not from traditional racism, and a feeling of superiority.

Instead, it grows from that quiet nagging voice — the voice of our better angels — that tells us we have done a deep wrong and failed to put it right.

It’s time to to ask what would we expect of our government and from the wider community, if our people had been enslaved and cheated and humiliated in such a grievous fashion.

It is, of course, too late for us to welcome Solomon Northup home.  Too late to make sure that some justice is restored to him and his wife Anne and their children.  Too late to gather on his farm in Washington County and pay our humble respects.

It’s too late to save Trayvon Martin and restore to him the life and opportunity that any seventeen-year-old American boy should have.

But it’s not too late to think through ways that we might break this terrible chain that still burdens us as a people, black and white.


66 Comments on “What if Americans really talked about racism?”

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  1. The difficult of talking about racism is that, like so many other issues, people can’t/won’t do it without viewing it through the simplistic liberal/conservative paradigm. Race is a ‘liberal’ issue and the notion that racism is a thing of the past, exagerrated for political reasons, is a ‘conservative’ issue. As usual, the truth is somewhere in between.

    This has less to do with the actual issue but it’s implications. Kind of like how many conservatives deny climate change not so much they think it exists but because accepting it exists might imply having to accept some ‘big government’ actions. They don’t reject it because of its own merits or lack thereof but because it what it might imply.

    Similarly, if racism still exists, that would imply that we might have to change something about our country or ourselves. That doesn’t fit in well with the conservative notion that America is perfect and can’t be criticized.

  2. Ellen Rocco says:

    Check out NPR’s Codeswitch blog and related stories last week–interesting study on how contemporary “racism” is not so much hatred-based as habit-based…and most of us have racist-thinking/acting habits.

  3. mervel says:

    Segregation I think needs to be addressed to open up a lot of the discussion.

    We still live in an essentially segregated country.

    The other issue is just massive demographic shifts. As our largest states become minority non-Hispanic white, we will see really large changes across the board. However the interesting thing is that America is NOT an historical country. Young whites today simply do not feel burdened by the racism of the past. The other issue is the growing minority groups and largest minority-majority groups have no slave experiences. The wealthy Hispanic business owner in Texas whose family has been in Texas since the early 18th century, is going to have a different conversation and view of America’s so called dark atrocities and history. She may not be burdened by this and wonders why she should care at this point? She is concerned with other issues.

    Our country is changing quite quickly and in fact the slave experience and the African Americans who have direct relationship to that experience may simply become less relevant as the new majority coalition of Hispanics and Asians simply do not feel the need to dredge up an old history that is not relevant to them. For many their history is totally different and many have a history that only started in the US in the last 50 years. They are here for the ideal of what America is, not White European history.

    Events may overtake this whole discussion it will be very interesting. The black-white discussion surrounding history and jim crow may be something for the old white people, something that is very 20th century.

  4. Peter Hahn says:

    Racism is pretty natural for humans. The White American version is nasty for historical reasons. Evidently, in pre-revolutionary America slavery was very common, but not associated with race. There were all forms of indentured servitude for most European immigrants. The Africans had the worst version but it wasnt racist. After the American Revolution and declaration of independence and the inalienable rights etc, there needed to be a rationalization for why that didnt apply to African Slaves. The answer was the development of White American racism.

  5. Peter Klein says:

    Isn’t talking about racism or at least feeling the need to talk about it part of the problem?
    I mean, I have never liked nor disliked a person on the basis of race, creed, color or sexual orientation – and I might add, political views.
    I certainly have never felt afraid nor intimidated by the color of a person’s skin – not even when walking alone at night in Harlem or anyplace else.
    The whole slave thing was just plain stupid. If there hadn’t been the Civil War, it would have ended anyway, if not by the slaves revolting and killing all of the stupid slave owners or by the slave owners figuring out it would be cheaper to layoff the slaves and have machines do the work.
    Racism is a form of fear and fear is always a dangerous thing, resorted to by cowards.

  6. dave says:

    I’ve been followed (by security) while shopping in a department store. And I am a white privileged liberal male. In fact, I bet most of you have been followed at a department store. If you haven’t worked security before, or if you are not hyper aware and sensitive to it, you probably didn’t notice.

    I’ve had women act timid and afraid (at least that was my interpretation) when in a confined area with me… and I am as about as clean cut white as you can get. They were not reacting to race, they were reacting to being in an uncomfortable, potentially vulnerable situation with a strange man.

    And I’ve lived in a horrible, crime ridden neighborhood (in Syracuse, NY) where walking across the street when you see someone who looks a certain way was not racism, it was based on past experiences and was a smart move… literally, a survival mechanism.

    So while I agree that we need to continue to talk about the disadvantages people of color have today because of the horrible past they endured… I have a really hard time connecting that past to some of the “experiences” the President went on and on about. I just don’t see them as being as related to race as everyone else seems to.

    In fact, I feel like trying to connect those dots, when there are few, if any, to actually connect, detracts from what should be larger, more important, more productive conversation about race.

  7. Jim Bullard says:

    So what do you propose to resolve the situation? A number of years ago it was proposed that the blacks be paid reparations. I didn’t see how that would fix anything and I (whose dirt farmer ancestors had nothing to do with slavery) resented the notion that I should pay someone whose ancestors were enslaved (not the person who was a slave) and that would somehow make things right today. I dare say the problem is one of attitude and not necessarily conservative attitude, conservative in the political sense that is. We’re all conservative about some things, the things we hate to see change even if it’s just the replacement of Classic Coke with New Coke. I know how it feels to be part of a segregated group. I grew a beard before it was ‘acceptable’ and as a consequence found myself shunned by people who knew me and spit at on the street by people who didn’t. I’m not saying it was the same and I could have reversed it by simply shaving (I didn’t) but it certainly was a taste of what it’s like.

    The basis, as Pete observes is fear. Not necessarily shaking in your boots fear. Sometimes just a nagging feeling that someone is ‘other’, not ‘one of us’. I hereby confess to having those feelings about people I encounter who are carrying firearms in situations that don’t call for being armed. “Is he/she a whacko?” “Will he/she be set off by some trivial action or comment and start shooting people, perhaps me, because of their perception of me and my intentions?” Of course I’m as guilty in my fear/assumptions in those situations as they are in carrying a weapon or George Zimmerman was or Trayvon Martin.

    Legally (under Stand Your Ground) Trayvon had as much right to stand his ground against the “creepy cracker” who was stalking him as George Zimmerman had to shoot the “punk” who attacked him. We could start by ridding ourselves of laws that encourage us to act on our assumptions and fears. But that will only be a start and I have no suggestions for how to entirely rid the human race of irrational fear and the identification of a feared group as ‘other’.

  8. Peter Hahn says:

    The suggested answer is to keep talking about it.

    When we lived in Syracuse my oldest came home one day and said he had been pulled over for driving while black. He was giving an african american teammate a ride home and got pulled over. He wasnt doing anything he didnt normally do but he probably changed lanes too quickly. He couldnt figure out why he was pulled over until he realized that all the cop saw on that side of the car was his teammate.

  9. Peter Hahn says:

    My grandfather got picked up walking home from work and got thrown into a slave labor camp (Dachau). It was racism and slavery. But that particular form of racism (and slavery) ended relatively quickly and easily compared to slavery and racism in America.

  10. DanP says:

    My first reaction to Obama’s comment that he could have been Trayvon Martin 35 yrs ago, it occurred to me it wasn’t likely. Nearly 50% of murders in this country involve that 12.4% of the population that is black, and 94% of those murders are black-on-black. Obama would have been at disproportionate risk of being killed, but at first glance, it would seem that it would have been another African-American that would have done it. Recent research digging into the problem, exploring violent crime in a West Chicago neighborhood, identified a subpopulation representing just 5% of that community in which 70% of the murders occurred. The distinguishing feature of this group is that they knew other people who had been involved with (victim or perpetrator) violent crime. Mostly, commentary and study by white Americans on the troubles that involve black communities – but which are not intrinsically black, and often do cross racial lines – are often not welcome. The scars are deep enough that efforts to help, and to save lives, and to reduce a peculiar misery that continues today, are often simply not welcome. There has been a lot of recent research that is really digging into the structure of the problem. It looks like it isn’t your race that is the predictor of trouble; it is who you are hanging with. Even Chicago – now infamous for its murder rate – is trying to see if they can impact the problem by using some of these results. [However, I wonder if delivering letters will make much difference…]


  11. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    An apology goes a long way toward healing old wounds, but for some reason lots of people get bent out of shape when it is suggested that we should apologize for stuff.

  12. JDM says:

    There is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America—there’s the United States of America. Barak Obama – 2004 DNC Keynote.

    Anyone who thinks there is a “black America” better take it up with this man.

  13. Peter Hahn says:

    JDM you are absolutely correct – there is only one America. But different groups have different experiences. African Americans have to deal with racism. Its unfortunate.

  14. mervel says:

    Jim you bring up the basic issue; white privilege, you feel no responsibility for the history because as you say your parents were dirt farmers.

    Yet Brains point is that you and your family are responsible for slavery just as all whites who “benefit” from white privilege are.

    I think this is a hard sell, most whites in the US just don’t buy it, particularly low income whites. This is the rub, ye we do know that low income blacks DO fare worse in general than low income whites.

  15. dave says:

    The question that eventually has to be asked is this… at what point do we say it is no longer OK to cite things that happened in the past as the reason for your present disadvantage? When does a historical disadvantage change to an excuse? Certainly, that must occur at some point in time. But when?

    A lot of conservatives seem to think the statute of limitations has run out already. But I strongly disagree. We have to keep in mind that some pretty horrible, overt, direct racism was taking place in this country only 1 generation ago.

    So do we really expect the severe and very real disadvantages from that period of time to have been both erased and made up for in 1 lifetime? I can’t imagine how anyone would reasonably think that.

    Personally, I think it will take several generations still, before we truly see the negative impact of that history fade away.

    This is why public policies such as affirmative action and voter protection laws are so very important and necessary and warranted.

    THOSE are the important discussions about race, and our history of racism, that we should be having. And that is the direction the president should have steered this national conversation.

    Not this silly, “someone locked their car door when I walked by them”, stuff.

  16. Brian Mann says:

    Good discussion. A couple of points.

    First, this is not “ancient history” that anyone needs to “dredge up.” We’re living it now. We’ve living in a world where blacks in much of the country are still in their first or second generation of partaking in a free society where true upward mobility is possible. We’re still living in an era when our policies tend to criminalize behavior in black America (drug use, juvenile crime, vandalism) that are treated with nuance a and flexibility in white America.

    Second, it is not sufficient to say that blacks (and by implication, Trayvon Martin) are more violent than whites and leave it at that. You have to own the argument. You have to tell us why you believe that the statistics are what they are. Is it because many African Americans, half a century after we ended Jim Crow and systemic bias, still live in abject dire poverty, with a deeply wounded culture? Is because there are measurable forces — macro-economics, social stigma, widespread prejudice — that largely define that outcome? Or do you simply think blacks (especially black men) are inferior, naturally violent, inherently criminal?

    Thirdly, Obama’s “someone locked their care door when I walked by them” concern isn’t silly. That racial stigma, which many black men face, isn’t just the reason that women clutch their purses on sidewalks. It’s also the reason that certain people don’t get hired. It’s the reason certain people don’t get loans from banks. It’s the reason certain people aren’t allowed to buy homes. It’s the reason certain people are detained by police. It’s the reason that Trayvon Martin is dead.

    Fourthly, those Americans who don’t want to own the deep stain of racial prejudice that colors our history are perfectly free to disown their history. But you can’t own the good stuff without the bad. You can’t be proud of our greatness, our slow march toward greater liberty and equality, our steady reforms and expansions of suffrage, if you don’t also carry the moral burden of our horrible errors. It’s painful how many Americans want to live cheerfully in the history they admire, re-enacting great battles and reading long books about our Founding Fathers. But when confronted with the darker vein of our history, veins that still bear painful fruit today, we don’t want to hear about it.

    Finally, the question has been asked over and over again — not just on this blog — what do we do about it? As if America didn’t have a long history of rebuilding and working together on massive, difficult projects. As if we didn’t rebuild Japan and Germany. As if we didn’t rebuild the South after the Civil War. As if we didn’t use massive public works projects to open the West. Working to rebuild black (and mostly urban) America isn’t a question of hand-outs or welfare checks. It’s a question of thinking, at long last, about the hard, expensive business of restoring a community that was deeply damaged – by us.

    Most of that work would be done by black Americans. But the process would, I hope, mean some small sacrifice from every white American. That’s how we do good things and right grievous wrongs, by making sacrifices on behalf of our neighbors and our countrymen. The first step, in my view, is simply acknowledging our moral debt.

    –Brian, NCPR

  17. Peter Klein says:

    I fully agree reparations should be paid to anyone alive who was a slave.
    Back in the 70’s, before moving to Indian Lake, I was pulled over by a trooper.
    Why? As he told me, because he didn’t recognize me or my car.
    Some 10 plus years later when I moved up here, he and I became friends.

  18. Brian Mann says:

    Right, Peter. You got pulled over once by a cop. So you understand the black experience in America.

    And you’re exactly right – the things we do to one-another begin and end in a single generation. When slavery was abolished, that was that.

    Four centuries of industrial slavery, systemic torture, brutality — all fixed. Clean slate. Pretty cool.

    No Jim Crow, no systemic economic prejudice, no lynchings, no burning churches, no burning of Tulsa, no assassination of Martin Luther King.

    No history of our fathers and mothers getting the jobs that in many cases should have gone to more talented black men and women.

    No history of black farmers being systemically denied access to the Federal programs that were keeping white farmers afloat.

    No long history of blacks being murdered if they tried to vote.

    No century-long focus on rural policy in Washington, with almost no commensurate focus on urban policy.

    And you’re also right that we white people never dredge up the past.

    That’s why we never talk about our broader history, or the debt we owe to the people who came before us, or the importance of our long traditions and institutions.

    We never admit that our present prosperity and good fortune rest in large measure on the freedom and industry and ingenuity of our forefathers.

    We assume that we have no debts, no obligation to the past.

    American history began with us. It’s a clean slate. Unless you’re Trayvon Martin.

    -Brian, NCPR

  19. erb says:

    Fish don’t know what water is.
    The comments here really make the point: the feelings we have about people based on skin color are so deeply embedded most people do not recognize them for what they are. It’s not a question of statistics, it’s not something that happened “then,” a chapter that ended and we just start over with a blank page. That is not reality.

    We all react to a person’s skin color, just like we all react to a person’s sex, age, dress, etc. It’s ridiculous to think that we have no response to a vital part of someone’s identity. The challenge is to put those reactions into a larger context which recognizes the unequal treatment that affects people of color in many, many circumstances.

  20. Sunshine says:

    As a teen in the late fifties/early sixties, I remember that a hope of many of my generation was that we would live to see the day when Americans would not sport black or white or brown or yellow or red skin, rather…that we would be a mixture…perhaps a sort of medium sunny brown shade. Unrealistic yet idealistic thinking. Yet, today, I notice that this is happening…often resulting in visually stunningly beautiful people.
    Alas, it will take more than changing skin color to change folk’s fear of ‘the other’… but it is a beginning.
    (BTW: People of color are not the only people discriminated against. I know Jews in the North Country who don’t make their ethnicity or religion known for fear of recriminations.)
    Most of us like the feeling of power and control…and find it where we can.
    It takes empathy, respect, love and caring for all beings in the world to change our heats…a worthy yet challenging (but not impossible) goal, indeed.
    Talking about it is crucial. Let’s keep the conversation going.

  21. Sunshine says:

    Last sentence correction: should be ‘hearts’ not ‘heats’. Sorry.

  22. dave says:

    “Thirdly, Obama’s “someone locked their care door when I walked by them” concern isn’t silly. That racial stigma, which many black men face, isn’t just the reason that women clutch their purses on sidewalks. It’s also the reason that certain people don’t get hired. It’s the reason certain people don’t get loans from banks. It’s the reason certain people aren’t allowed to buy homes. It’s the reason certain people are detained by police. It’s the reason that Trayvon Martin is dead.”

    It happened because you are black = racial stigma.

    It happened and you happen to be black = not a racial stigma.

    My grandmother used to lock her car anytime any male, or group of teenagers, no matter what color they were, approached her car. When it was a big burly white guy the guy probably didn’t notice or just thought, ha, silly old lady. If it were the President, apparently, he would have thought my grams was a racist.

    If you keep bending over backwards to try to connect something that happens, to the color of the person it is happening to… Who is really the racist then? YOU are the one bringing race into the situation. But don’t assume the participants are.

  23. mervel says:

    Certainly there is ongoing racism.

    The question is which history are we talking about and which racism? In a multi ethnic society which we are not becoming, where in many states whites are the demographic and political minority along with other minorities; which history needs hashing? In the north country we have a very homogeneous population, but if you go to many other parts of the country particularly areas that have seen large net in migration, large amounts of inter marriage and so forth, the discussion is just different. The fact is African Americans are not the predominant minority in the US anymore and their struggles are important, but will not dominate the future of racial discussion in the US, which will largely be about Hispanic and Asian immigration and how we work as a nation with that new majority minority.

    Which history is the question? The US has had large problems in this area. Is the US uniquely evil in this area among developed nations? I am not so sure we are.

    Also a discussion a real discussion is not a lecture. Most whites when they hear we are going to have a discussion about race simply will listen to how bad we have been and learn about the system and how bad it is and then say ok. But that does not solve anything. But in America today we have this ironic situation. We do have ongoing racism particularly in the Justice system. However the worst thing you can be labeled is a racist. I mean people who get tagged with that will literally never hold a professional job again. You can be a lot off other really slimy things, aka look at our current political comebacks, and be fine, but racism is a death sentence. So what does that mean? It means that a white person is really crazy to say much of anything about race except to accept blame and nod ok and move on. Nothing changes however.

  24. Peter Hahn says:

    There arent many people today who would self-identify as racists. But “studies have shown” that cops pull over more African Americans than their percentage in the population. Those same studies show that the cops are totally unaware of this bias. It is an unfair burden. It means that if you are African American and get pulled over by the cops, how do you know whether it was because it was something you did or the way you look?

  25. nelson says:

    I do not see talking about race as being productive. Why, I don’t know. Attitudes are formed in early years and as time rolls along these attitudes become more fixed and intractible. Thats a fact.
    And professing an open mind unclouded by any kind of hypocrosy is total bunk.

  26. The Original Larry says:

    Keeping the race fire burning, even if only by constantly talking about it, helps nobody. There isn’t a racial group in America (or anywhere else, for that matter) that hasn’t been victims of prejudice at one time or another, even currently. The question is, do you want to cry about it forever, or do you want to move on and live your life? Most “victims of racism” seem to be too busy just living life to be bothered. Doesn’t mean it didn’t and still doesn’t exist, it just means that most folks don’t let it drag them down. In fact, I think it is self-hating white liberals who do most of the crying about racism in America today.

  27. Peter Hahn says:

    There is no such thing as “self-hating white liberals”. Its actually conservatives today who complain most about race as an issue.

  28. Sunshine says:

    We need to hear from more women on this subject…assuming that ‘erb’ and knuckleheaded…’ are not women and Ellen from NCPR is clarifying.

  29. JDM says:

    Some do not want racism to be dead.

    They see it as a means of gaining personal or political power.

    I think that is sad.

    There are a lot of black teenagers dying in Chicago.

    No one seems to notice, or to care.

    Nothing to gain personally or politically, I must assume.

    I think that is sad.

  30. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    JDM, lots of people care about black teenagers in Chicago dying…it was mentioned here in blog posts about gun violence.

  31. The Original Larry says:

    I thought conservatives were to blame for not wanting to talk about race? “Self-hating white liberals” are those who always point their fingers at affluent, older white people, no matter what the issue. Any social, political or economic issue has got to be our fault. Never a mention, for example, that some minority groups are complicit in their own “victimization.”

  32. knuckleheadedliberal says:

    Right OL, there are never any stories about black on black crime or hispanic gangs or Coyotes smuggling illegal aliens, or robberies of Korean groceries or inner city drug dealing, or riots after major sports championships. Be careful not that you have outed yourself as affluent, a minority person is likely to want to take any stuff you have left that we can’t get through taxes.

    Excuse me, I have to go sit in a corner and do my morning self-hate meditation practice now.

    MO….MO… MO… (that’s OM backwards for you non-liberal, non self-haters)

  33. erb says:

    ‘”Never a mention, for example, that some minority groups are complicit in their own “victimization.”’
    Really, OL? This is what you get out of a discussion on racism as it exists today?

  34. Peter Klein says:

    One last comment (I hope) on this thread.
    To know a person’s skin color is to know absolutely nothing about that person.
    Everyone is a person, no matter what race, creed or whatever grouping they or you chose to put them in.
    What we have in common is being human. After that, all bets are off.
    Never ever presume anything.

  35. Peter Hahn says:

    Larry – conservatives dont want to talk about racism. They like to talk about race.

  36. newt says:

    Sorry Pete, came to this late and I can’t help myself.

    Full reparations for slavery were paid by the approximately 650,000 Union soldiers and sailors who died between 1861 and 1865 enforcing (among other things) the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment

    I think an argument could, however, be made for reparations due to African-Americans for the United State’s failure to reasonably enforce the 14th and 15th Amendments between Reconstruction and passage of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts.

  37. Peter Hahn says:

    Newt – the amount would be staggering. We could make sure that their (slave descendants) kids get a good education and a shot at a good job. We (as a country) deprived their parents and many previous generations of both.

  38. Will Doolittle says:

    Peter (Klein): Good point. There is no difference under the skin, none. Everything we’re talking about has been imposed by the arrangements of history and all the consequences that have flowed from them. But those are powerful. To deny their force, or the significance of the sometimes small markers that point to them (like being followed around in department stores) is to deny that history or assert your ignorance of it.

  39. Paul says:

    Remember many countries have a deep racial divide even without a history of things like slavery. It is perhaps rooted in a distrust of those that are different than YOU. For example I was surprised at the amount of racial animosity when I visited places like Finland. We have to fight against an evolutionary urge to alienate people that are different. And in the case of the US we have to deal with the sordid parts of our history as well.

    “There is no difference under the skin, none.” Not true. There are many genetic differences that underpin racial characteristics. Everything is controlled by the genome (and the epigenome). No one race is better (eugenics) than any other but there are differences.

  40. Peter Hahn says:

    Paul – that genetic argument is factually quite wrong. There are different distributions of genes in different human populations, but all the genes found in one population are generally found in any other. There are gradients in distribution mainly because the way genes spread (sex generally among neighbors -but sometimes by marauding armies or sailors etc ). Some genes are selected for by specific geographic features. Sickle cell gene is selected for by malaria. Even skin pigmentation depends on latitude and UV intensity, not “race”.

  41. The Original Larry says:

    Yeah, erb, really. I didn’t “get anything” out of this discussion, at least nothing useful. More crying, mostly by people without a clue.

  42. Paul says:

    The sickle cell gene is selected for in that it does give you some protection from malaria. Yes, and it is a different genotype for sickle cell versus non-sickle cell. I was not talking about selection I was simply talking about what makes you and I different, our genes and how they are expressed (epigenetic variation). Skin pigmentation like hair and eye color are genetically controlled. And yes there are environmental reasons to select for one versus the other. It doesn’t change anything about how we deal with racial issues.

  43. Paul says:

    BTW there is no “genetic argument” there is simply genetics.

  44. Paul says:

    Peter more to your point, yes we all have the same genes. Absolutely. But lots of them are different between individuals. No we are not clones.

  45. Peter Hahn says:

    Yes – we are all slightly different genetically. But there are no genetic differences between races, just geographic gradients.

  46. Peter Hahn says:

    and not to flog this indefinitely but there are not any significant epigenetic differences between people of the same sex that I am aware of. There are big tissue differences in the same person, but your liver cells probably have exactly the same epigenetic modifications that mine do assuming we are both males. but who knows

  47. Will Doolittle says:

    I don’t see anyone here crying over things, Larry. I see them discussing an important issue. Your complaints about that discussion come closer to “crying” than anything else here. It’s weird. You’re not making an argument that I can see, you’re complaining that any argument is being made. You don’t like the subject. OK. But people want to talk about it, not necessarily with you, but with each other. OK?

  48. Mervel says:

    You can’t go to Riverview or OCF and simply walk around and not believe that something is wrong somewhere in our justice system as regards to race. Essentially a bunch of white guys guarding a bunch of African Americans and Hispanics.

    I do think we have to look at our drug laws and how they are applied. We could start there. I think talking about slavery and the civil war and Jim Crow is interesting historically, but most people are simply disconnected from it, we need answers now addressing current racial problems.

  49. mervel says:

    Maybe talking about the civil war and Jim crow is another baby boom obsession? Seriously older white guys who wanted and some were in the civil rights movement wanting to relive the old days or are simply stuck talking about a world that does not exist. Certainly racism exists, but its really different today. Its too bad we don’t have more diversity up here and on this board.

    I would like to see what young black leaders want to talk about they should be leading the discussion.

  50. The Original Larry says:

    You think that most of the inmates in the prison system are African-Americans and Hispanics because “something is wrong somewhere in our justice system”? The truth is an ugly reality nobody wants to talk about. Much easier to blame it on racism.

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