24 September 2021

My Checklist for How to Actually be a Good Ally

Part 2 of my latest on race in modern America. 

For an explanation of the points below, read the last post



1) Stop using the term “poc” (or “brown people” or “bipoc”, or anything else equivalent). 

Tacking on “black and indigenous” supposedly somehow makes the term less reductionist, or less emphasizing of European’s special place in society (even though it still contains the same last 3 letters, which means its not so much changed as merely redundant). Just as society came up with the word “retarded” to provide a clinical, neutral term to replace feeble minded, which itself was to replace imbecile, and before that moron, which replaced idiot – and then “retarded” became the new pejorative, to then be replaced by “mentally disabled” and then “challenged” and… changing the actual specific words or terms, while leaving the meaning the same, doesn’t really change anything. Regardless of what acronym is currently in favor, the actual meaning of the term is still exactly the same as “colored people” – and we should all be just as offended by hearing “bipoc” as we would be from “colored people”.


2) Be conscious of – and reject – all forms of “separate but equal”.

They are everywhere, some more subtle than others. There are obvious ones, like decrying artists for “cultural appropriation” because they happen to like a genre dominated by people of a different appearance, or referring to all movements of European Americans into areas they aren’t already dominate as “gentrification” even when the location in question has rent control and just cause for eviction laws ensuring that no individual is displaced due to increasing rent prices. There are less obvious forms, like collecting separate data on people based on their demographics, when no equivalent data is collecting on equally irrelevant factors such as whether particular people are left-handed or whether they have attached earlobes or can fold their tongues. Summaries of what “the ____ community” thinks or does or wants or what is good for it, made by anyone other than the representative of a formal association made on the grounds of a particular demographic, are a form of advocating segregation. Look for it. Don’t do it.


3) Stop fueling the fire! 

Don’t repeat dramatic, outrage inducing anecdotes, unless you have taking the time and effort to personally research the relevant statistics, and you know that this particular anecdote is actually representative of a larger overall trend. Consider that the more outrage inducing a particular story is, the more likely it is that some or many relevant details have been left out somewhere in the retelling. This has always been true, but it is perhaps especially true in the age of character limited social media and the attention deficit disorder it has caused to become normal in everyone. Don’t constantly search for confirmation of the narrative. If you search for it, you will be able to find the evidence you want – just like you can do for any narrative. But taken out of a larger context, that “evidence” might really be nothing more than a random anecdote. The New York Times is a terrible offender in this. Literally every time they report on a story that fits the traditional Narrative of Oppression and will spark outrage (therefore selling more papers) they will make a point of noting the race of the individual’s involved, no matter how inorganically it fits into the headline: “White officer shoots black man”. When the story doesn’t fit the narrative - if they report it at all - there is no mention of race “Officer shoots suspect”; as though race is relevant if, and only if, it fits a predefined model of oppression. Because of media framing, almost everyone “knows” that police almost never shoot at white people, and certainly never unarmed white people – this just happens to be factually inaccurate, they actually shoot at white people more often. And while of course the ratio seems biased again when you account for the proportions of people in society, it turns out that when you adjust for rates of involvement in violent crimes (e.g. blacks commit more than half of murders annually), black men are actually shot at disproportionately less than white men in the same situation. The reason “everyone knows” something that is factually inaccurate is because media cherry picks outrage inducing stories, frames them misleadingly, and then the public repeats the implications of the stories to each other without bothering to fact check. Don’t have time to fact check every story? That’s fine. Just don’t repeat it, or take it at face value.


4) Don’t ignore real “intersectionality”, crimes, and other anti-social behavior committed by minorities.

Including that intersectionality works in both directions. That term is basically used simply to count the number of oppressed groups which a given individual falls into. But an intersection involves different paths crossing. The whole concept of “people of color” primes us to think of every human interaction as being between white people (presumably straight and male, and with all of the power, all the time), and everyone else, who are the white male’s victims. The only question asked is how many different ways is any specific person a victim. Reality is a lot more complex. If we really want to look at how different groups intersect, we need to be prepared to actually look at it, and look at it honestly. Reality includes that a majority of Muslims worldwide are homophobic, with a number of Islamic countries enforcing the death penalty on gay people, while even among those Muslims who immigrate to the US (on average more liberal than nations based on sharia law) half are opposed. If one asserts that you should always support a black man against the racist police and biased criminal justice system, and also that one should always support women against violent and predatory men, what do you do and who do you support when a black woman calls the police due to domestic violence or rape? This is a real situation that actually happens in reality. Do you condemn the white police officer who shows up and arrests the black man, or the DA or court that decides to give him jail time? As a black police officer I once worked with once said – if you want to abolish both the death penalty and the prisons, what do you do with white cops who commit murder? It is a comforting fantasy land to live in where rich straight white males are the only people who ever do anything wrong, and society would be a peaceful wonderland if only they would stop abusing their power and being so prejudiced, but unfortunately this view doesn’t even begin to approximate reality. There is a reason that the defund the police movement is overwhelmingly white and middle class, while black people who actually live in poor, high crime neighborhoods are against it: people who actually have to live in a high crime environment every day know from personal experience how much more likely they are to be attacked or murdered by criminals than by the police – and how much worse it would get if the police disappeared.

Instead of focusing on a small handful of high-profile cases where police behavior was unjustified, consider the victims of the 1 to 1.5 million annual arrests for violent crime in the year. Despite all the attention given to the occasional “hate” crime, the vast majority of violent crime is perpetrated within a community – white criminals have mostly white victims, black criminals have mostly black victims. Which means that by advocating on behalf of a person arrested by the police for involvement in a crime – thereby potentially saving him from the racist criminal justice system – one is also giving him free reign to continue to terrorize more victims in his own community. When the rate of violent crime by citizens compared to the rate of unjustified violence by police against citizens is on the order of several thousand to one, yet only police actions are protested, the message this sends to violent black men is that no one minds what they do.

Simplify it this way: if you are not personally a black person who lives or spent a significant percentage of your life within the last couple decades living in a mostly minority, poor, and high crime neighborhood, then you should not have a strong opinion on issues that affect the people who are.

When well meaning allies willfully ignore things like black crime out of an understandable but misplaced sense of guilt or fear of appearing racist, they end up advocating for counter-productive and destructive “solutions”.


5) Stop creating more purebreds

Seriously. I realize how outrageous that will sound at first. Is that an incredibly personal ask? Of course it is!

Society is not some giant living in the hills that imposes its will on people. Society isn’t “government” or “white people”. “Society” is nothing but the sum of all the various individual people. As a result, the conditions of society are nothing more or less than the sum total of individual choices. Which means there can be no meaningful distinction between the personal and the political. Your personal choices are what makes society what it is. 

To object publicly to racism, while limiting your personal dating / marriage / mating prospects to people of your own race is as ridiculous as it would be to verbally object to climate change while actually owning and driving a motor vehicle that runs on gasoline and eating animals raised on a farm. Personally owned automobiles and the production of animals for consumption (plus the production of feed for those animals as well as clearing land for them) together make up the majority of the source of greenhouse gases that directly drive climate change. It simply makes no sense whatsoever to rally against something that while personally causing the problem – yet you can actually see bumper stickers decrying climate change on gasoline powered vehicles. It isn’t politicians or oil company executives or people who don’t believe in climate change who are purchasing and burning the gasoline to move that car around. 

What society does is nothing more than the sum of the individual choices of everyone who makes it up, so there can be no division between the personal and the political. Everyone contributes their own little bit to climate change – unless they make the choice to sacrifice their own convenience for the good of us all – and everyone contributes their own little bit to the preservation of the racial divide by keeping their own life segregated.

There is a reason why interracial marriage is the white supremacist worst nightmare, why isolationist religions ban marriage outside the religion, why the government of India will actually pay a year’s salary to any couple that marries across caste: marriage is, and always has been, the single strongest bridge across cultures and groups. Nothing else can come close to shared grandchildren in making two families feel like a single family, and that makes the imaginary significance of physical differences begin to disappear. And of course, it literally bridges the gap between those physical differences as well. Had we been interbreeding sense the time slavery ended, the whole discussion would be moot, because everyone would have mixed heritage and it would be impossible to look at someone and place them firmly in any meaningful group based on appearance in the first place. But if we don’t start now, we can expect to still be stuck in the same place we are now in another 150 years. 

It is understandable if a person lives in Algeria, Gambia, Japan or Togo, where close to the entire population shares a single ethnicity, any given individual ends up with someone who looks pretty similar to themselves. If you live in the United States - and especially in CA, (and especially in the Bay Area, with it’s high concentration of window signs proclaiming their progressive values), where no ethnic group has a majority, there is no excuse. Even if you are in the most represented group (European Americans), approximately 65% of the people in reasonable dating distance look different than you. If one truly believes that all people are equal, than statistically it is most likely you end up with a partner of a different race. The fact that less than 5% of the population identifies their ethnicity as “two or more races” shows just how much race is still a primary criteria for seeking mates – in an area where about 80% of people lean left / liberal / progressive, and bumper stickers and lawn signs proclaiming allegiance to anti-racist movements are common place. Real integration is about much more than having “diversity” at the city level. If race doesn’t matter, if we are all one people, then it shouldn’t play a factor in who people end up with for partner, and the family unit is the most fundamental, and most meaningful, level on which integration can occur. 

Just as it is an obvious ethical imperative to avoid owning a gasoline powered car or eating farmed animals if a person believes that anthropogenic climate change is a threat to all humanity, the first and most important place to put beliefs of anti-racism into practice is one’s own personal life.

No where is that more powerful or meaningful than it actually mixing your DNA with someone's of another race.


Of course, there will be many reading this for whom it's too late. Of course every person who is already here is valuable in their own right, pure breed or not, and I wouldn't even go so far as to advocate committed couples split up just because your choosing of a partner whose ancestors came from the same continent as yourself is borderline incestuous.

However:


6) Recognize that "giving your children every advantage" is literally the definition of "privilege". 

Again, "society" is nothing more than the sum of millions of individual decisions, and it makes absolutely no sense to publicly declare your opposition to something while actively creating that exact thing in your personal life.

If you are against privilege for some, if you are against the idea of dynasties or inherited riches or 'crony' capitalism or aristocracy or an unlevel playing field or an unjust society or however you might think of the unfairness by which some people start out life with advantages they didn't earn, you can not make a special exception for your own personal family.

It doesn't matter that you aren't a billionaire - you already have more wealth and security than at least 80% of the world and at least 20% of the country.

Every one wants what's best for their children. That is just a natural instinct. But just as we who live in a society suppress equally natural instincts of violence and lust when they would manifest in anti social ways, we have a responsibility to society to be aware of the significance of that feeling, understand it, and not act on it.

This is true no matter what your race, but it is especially true if you or your partner (and especially if it's both you and your partner) are white.

Because if you are white, then your children are white, which means that "wanting what's best for your kids" is, in practical terms, no different from "wanting what's best for white people".

One might object that wanting what's best for someone doesn't necessarily mean holding anyone else back, but then one might also remember that this is literally the exact argument made by white nationalists: 'we don't hate anyone, we just want what's best for our own'. Really the only difference is that white liberals define "our own" narrowly as their own directly blood related white children , while the nationalist is generous enough to broaden that concern to cover all white children.

Whether you want to actively hold anyone back is beside the point. Consider most cheating in sports. One way to cheat would be to injure or somehow sabotage the training of all the competitors. The much more common - and effective - way is to give yourself, or your team, a little boost, something to make you faster and stronger so you can get ahead.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter, the result is the same.

In the modern first world, almost everyone has access to at least the basic minimums. Even in homeless encampments you can find luxuries unimaginable to kings and emperors of only a few hundred years ago, like cars and cell phones. As technology and wealth increase, our standards of what we "need" increase along with them, and with that "success" can only be measured relative to everyone else. In other words, unless you are defining "what's best for my kids" as 'not starving the death', then you are referring to a zero sum game.

By definition, it isn't possible for everyone to get into "the best" schools and universities. Not everyone can have a house at least as good if not better than the average homeowner. Not everyone can have a middle class or better paying job. These are things that are inherently relative, which makes them inherently zero sum, which means that helping your own kids "get ahead" is completely interchangeable with 'holding other people back'. There can be no meaningful difference.

So, to state the whole thing another way: if you are taking steps to help your kids get ahead, and your kids are white, you are the agent of white privilege.

So what does not being an agent of privilege look like?

It's simple, really. It doesn't mean doing anything specifically to hold them back; it just means not doing anything to help them get ahead (or at least not anything that isn't accessible to someone in poverty).

Instilling positive values, a strong work ethic, the concepts of delayed gratification and investment in the future, those are ways everyone can and should help their children to be successful in life.

Personally teaching them as much as you know, from as young as age as possible, and providing them a safe and supportive home environment is a totally valid way to help one's children.

Enrolling a child in private school, or moving to a particular neighborhood for the express purpose of ensuring your children entry into "good" schools is something which, by definition, is not an opportunity available to disadvantaged or underprivileged families.

It's not impossible to help out your own children without further disadvantaging those already behind; in fact, being a legitimate ally would actually close the gaps and improve the lives of the under privileged. For example – after enrolling your own kids in the under-performing school, the next step is to put in the same time and effort volunteering at the school that you would have at the fancy suburban school you considered moving for. Organize bake sales and volunteer in the after school program and tutor classmates. Contribute to real integration, and at the same time, learn and help your children learn about the real experience of the lower classes. Instead of declaring support for non-white people on social media and window signs and bumper stickers and at rallies, spend enough time in the communities you theoretically support to make real friendships. Instead of teaching your kids not to be racist, show them with your actions that you believe people who look different are people, and let them see that for themselves directly. And by your presence and participation, help blend cultures and communities and make integration a reality.

Of course, you may not yet be in the position to be the one advantaging your own offspring.


7) If you are in the younger generation – and you believe in equality – take the even harder step of turning down these kinds of gifts. 

It is not enough to verbally acknowledge that you have privilege. That acknowledgement does not do a single thing to help out someone who is underprivileged. The way to truly be a good ally is to renounce and disavow that privilege. Earn your own way, through your own personal hard work, intelligence and sacrifice. Play on a level playing field with all the others who weren’t lucky enough to be born, not only white, but to parents who don’t have a few excess tens of thousands of dollars to help fund their college, to help with a down payment, or even to buy them a car.

Everyone likes to think they are just one person, but the economy is a marketplace, and every buyer drives up the price just a little bit. The record home prices, the record tuition, making these things hard for the working class to afford, these things don’t just happen. Prices are the direct result of the cumulative choices of millions of people. Taking a few extra years until you can save up your own money is doing your part to keep prices sane for all the other people who don’t have the luxury of family gifts.

But don’t just reject the money, leaving that wealth in the hands of other white people. Accept it – and immediately donate it, all of it, to a relevant cause. Your middle class parents offer you down payment money? Donate to a program that offers down payment assistance to low income people. Parents offering to pay half your college tuition? Take it, donate it to a scholarship fund. Then get yourself a part-time job, full-time in summer, and learn what its like for everyone who didn’t have that option.


Ghandi never actually said the words “be the change you want to see”,
but Mos Def did say “Don’t talk about it. Be about it.”


Equality in early childhood education and experience are extremely important in ending inequality and injustice, to ending both the economic, educational, and cultural differences that lead to dramatic differences in life outcomes later in life.

But its just the beginning, as one of the largest contributors to economic inequalities, (which in turn directly impacts all sorts of secondary and tertiary effects), comes when children are all grown up and should hypothetically be accountable for their success or failure based on their own merit.


Half of white college students had at least some of their college tuition paid for by their parents, with almost 20% paying between ½ and all of it.

Half of young homebuyers get downpayment or closing cost money from family, 20% have parents co-sign loans, and 15% of adults under 34 still live in their parent’s home. 

Given that housing costs are the most expensive part of living for most people, and that property ownership is the single biggest part of wealth building for the majority of the middle class, these facts alone can account for the wealth gap. White families are also twice as likely to receive an inheritance, at nearly 50%, as black families, and that amount of that inheritance varies even more dramatically – a median of $100,000 for whites vs $4000 for blacks – a difference of 25x. 

(You don’t  have to  take my  word for it)

In fact, around 60% of all wealth in America is directly inherited. As with college and home buying, this varies dramatically by race.  

This preserves the status quo of inequality directly, with no need to invoke any form of systemic racism in housing or education or employment or criminal justice. 

Just like with helping your team by giving them a little boost, in any evaluation based on a comparison, helping one person is completely indistinguishable from holding back someone else. 

It is a lot more emotionally gratifying to look for racist boogiemen and vague indefinable “systems” of oppression that can be found easily in anecdotes but fade away if you dig into real statistics. 

One can feel self-righteous anger at cops, and judges, employers and educators who obviously must be discriminating, because, look – different outcomes, disparate impacts!

As long as the culprit is other, each individual can feel like the good guy. I’m not racist, therefore someone else must be responsible.

And this worldview very conveniently also means there is no need for any personal sacrifice whatsoever.

Rejecting privilege – actually rejecting privilege, in a meaningful way – isn’t something you can sum up in a slogan on social media or a window sign, isn’t something anyone is ever going to rally for, and no one person doing it is going to change the world instantly and forever.

Then again, none of the memes or bumper stickers or marches was ever going to change the world either.

By giving up privilege, and the desire to privilege your progeny, you can bring the world one small step closer to being one of equality and justice.


Anti-Racists: (The New Racists)

 

In 2020, during the world “pandemic” of Novel Coronavirus 2019, I was on an involuntary Coast Guard deployment to GITMO, the infamous prison housing (suspected) 9/11 planners along with a few other (suspected) high level terrorists, who after almost a decade in prison are still awaiting trial.

Myself, along with maybe about a ¼ of my ~200 person unit, I joined the Coast Guard with the idea of going out to rescue people from drowning, and other similar movie worthy heroics. The Coast Guard is technically part of the military, but it has never been under the Department of Defense. It has participated in some way in every major armed conflict the US has been in, but 5 of its 6 primary roles are peace time domestic missions.

I and several others were transferred to a more “defense” oriented unit because the Bay Area based Port Security Unit couldn’t find enough volunteers, and after training us to use machine guns and special tactics, we shipped out.


I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area, one of the most left/liberal/progressive areas in the country (if not the world). Working class, mixed race, LGBT family, vegetarian, even literal communists in the family – I grew up with a lot of the left’s checkboxes just being normal life for me.

I had a little exposure to religious people, anarchists, libertarians, little tastes of alternative viewpoints here and there, but liberalism was around me like water around a fish.

Going to GITMO was the first time I was ever fully submersed in an environment where conservatism was the default, liberalism the exception.

In GITMO it wasn’t just a mix of people who joined the Coast Guard to save lives and those who choose the Port Security Unit. It was people who volunteered specifically for GITMO. People who joined the Army and the Navy and the Marines. People who feel it is literally a moral issue to salute the flag. People who prioritize God, country, and family (in that order). Trump voters. People who continued to support Trump, even after he got in office and chose to manage his own Twitter account.


 

This was also the time of the massive “Black Lives Matter” protests.

Having been quite sick of the hypocrisy of the movement for many years, I tried to pay as little attention to it as possible, but having family back home who believed in the movements rhetoric, I eventually found opting out to be impossible, and ended up doing a good deal of writing about it. It was nationwide news, so of course it was a big topic of discussion at work as well, and I got to overhear a lot of opinions and ideas from the “other side”

And spending so much time among people with such a different worldview than the one I was used to, I eventually came to realize some things…

30 September 2020

Bigger concepts: Why the anti-racism movement isn't helping end race inequality PART 3/3 (Part 5/5 of a series on race based on emails to my family)

 

The final Chapter

(A few notes on specific things from a family member's last response, written before I got to the larger things I wrote about in the last post, follows):

 

Regarding music of the 90s: I listed a small sample of musicians who got plenty of airplay, who’s work had zero, or very little violence or other negative themes.  It’s not just that they weren’t the “most” violent.  I’m not really sure where the idea that radio stations deliberately promoted it came from, but I think it’s simply not true.  The fact that indie musicians with a specific message to promote are heard on public radio is a reflection of the pop music industry as a whole, it is no less true for “white” music.

Regarding reparations:
My point is that the symbolic reparations Jews got had nothing to do with their recovery. 

Your response is in terms of “moral right” –
For one I’m not interested in what people feel is “fair”, because that has little to do with the actual day-to-day conditions of reality and well-being. 
My point had nothing to do with what anyone does or doesn’t “deserve” – I wrote in my first reply that I would support it if anyone had any serious proposal – my point was that the proposal wouldn’t actually solve anything.

For two, I don’t believe a lineage is interchangeable with a person.  In fact, I believe that belief is THE root of all related issues, but I’ll come back to that in detail soon… The “heirs” which sometimes got reparations were the children of people who personally experienced direct harm, not the great-great-great-grand-children.  If generations are all part of the same unit, then all of us should be going back to Europe and Africa (and Asia, etc) leaving the remaining “Native” (aboriginal) Americans all of North and South America, and anything short of that will forever be the greatest injustice, perpetrated by all of us who choose not to leave.

I pointed out that the amount of money given by the US government to black people is tens of thousands of times more than Germany gave to holocaust survivors, even if they didn’t restrict it to only black people or call it “reparations”.  You suggest seed money for black-run businesses should count, and in fact there are things like the federal MBDA (minority business development) and procurement guidelines and quotas – which are not available to whites.  Again, not officially referred to as “reparations”, but with a total real world impact significantly higher than Germany’s contribution to Jews was.

Regarding other groups being oppressed, I was never suggesting that no other group was oppressed, nor that you thought that.  I was pointing out that the way groups overcome the negative perceptions that society (every society, without exception) puts on outsiders that join them is by cultural integration, not by “movements”.  Movements have times and places with value, but in terms of actually being accepted by the mainstream, that can happen without movements, but it can’t happen without integration.

I never said the primary measure of “oppression” is statistical cause of death – I think there is an overwhelming obsession with oppression which is both unwarranted by the facts of modern reality and, regardless of its level of truth, is counter-productive overall.  What I said is that if we are honestly concerned with people’s well-being, then our efforts should be proportional to the causes of suffering. 
Even if “oppression” is rampant and everywhere and there is this enormous and unbridgeable power imbalance that everyone is born into and nearly everyone who inherits power takes advantage of their privilege to the detriment of those born powerless, even if that is true, but other factors are more significant in causing suffering among the powerless, those other factors should be the proportionate focus of anyone who claims to have their best interest in mind.
Note also, I never said it should be the only focus, I said in the original as I said here, the focus should be proportionate.

And yes, I agree: “there is no analogous protest movement against heart disease or cancer because people are not held responsible for that “ that too is a big part of what I see as being a problem, not just in this issue but in nearly every issue facing humanity; we can’t care about anything unless we have a group of humans to identify as the bad guy.  I wrote about this a lot in my first letter, (which I now remember / realize I never sent to anyone but Ellen and Becca)

”’Murica” is short for “America”, and is supposed to be the way nationalist redneck hick yokels slur the word.

Your response to my list of things that is attributed to racism prompted the response “Well, you are convincing me of the serious need for a movement that demands a lot more” followed by an example of how racism affects employment opportunity.
 I wrote the list in response to “ in my whole life, I have never heard anyone claim that "100% of bad things in the life of every black person is the direct result of the choices of white people."” But you didn’t answer my question of:
What bad thing that happens to black people doesn't get attributed to white people?”
instead adding to the list of things that are blamed on racism!
So I say still, “There is no room there for any self-determination or influence over one's life in this narrative.”

 

 "Likewise, it is the experience of racism and disproportionate obstacles to success that make people feel disempowered,"
Maybe. Or perhaps belief of it is enough.  We have seen dramatically from the Stanford Prison Experiment, Jane Elliott’s blue eyes vs brown eyes, and many smaller lesser known experiments the degree to which people will embody the expectations on them.  There are countless social experiments that show the degree to which people can be primed, how they will seek out confirmation of what they believe, of how social acceptance is the largest factor in beliefs and values, how people see what they expect to and side with those they consider their “kind”. 
If you think my extending this as logically applying to black kids internalizing what they hear is societies expectations, this specific thing has been found to be true too:
Extensive research with adults has demonstrated that the subtle activation of stereotypes can negatively impact people’s behavior and performance. For example, in a seminal paper, C. M. Steele and Aronson (1995) showed that African-American college students perform more poorly on a challenging test of verbal ability after being subtly reminded of their negatively stereotyped racial identity… This initial demonstration has been replicated and extended in a number of different domains and with a variety of target groups (see Inzlicht &Schmader, 2012, for a review). Both theory and research suggest that stereotype threat effects can occur when people feel at risk of confirming negative self-relevant stereotypes. This concern can increase arousal and consume and/or deplete cognitive resources leading to stereotype-consistent behavior, including decreased test performance ”
https://www.cairn.info/revue-internationale-de-psychologie-sociale-2014-3-page-161.htm#
The different experiences of black people who are recent immigrants speaks significantly to the order of cause and effect between obstacles to success and a feeling of disempowerment, as explained well by this person from the Caribbean who moved to the US and experienced, much more than actual racism, the absolute assurance of the black American community of how absolutely rampant it is and the degree to which it would permeate their life:

http://aidanneal.com/2014/06/29/racism-caribbeans-just-dont-get-it/
(I don’t excerpt it here because it is all so relevant and fairly short)

In other words, I think feeling unempowered is itself the single biggest obstacle, and that it comes at least as much from our insistence of how unempowered black people are than from anything “society” is actually forcing on every individual with more melanin in their skin.

 



Regarding the term “movement”:
I don’t know that it is actually a universally agreed definition that “movement” refers specifically to law and policy change.  In fact, when you first define it, you wrote “
Movements are about societal and governmental change.” Perhaps I misunderstood the “and” as being “and/or”?  What are you considering “society”?  Only government?  Private business?  Only people determined to have “power”?  Only white people?  All individuals? 
In a capitalist constitutional republic, government may have a significant amount of power, but it is limited.  Businesses are run by, and represent, individual people. 

When Critical Mass rides bikes in mass, they aren’t demanding government or business do anything, the goal is awareness and visibility and respect by drivers, by random individual people.  Does that not count as a movement?  Given that this isn’t a communist country, should “governments” and “employers’ be a single category?   Government never mandated weekends.  Governments also have no direct control over who individual people choose to hire.
 
"I would not automatically assume that when people point to (especially poor) blacks having less access to health care, they are necessarily implying that it is due to deliberate racism, per se…  since such a large proportion of black folk are impoverished, it easily explains why black people are being affected/dying at greater rates than white people"
One of the things I’ve been saying all along is that class and race are not interchangeable.  If the effects are not caused by “deliberate” racism, but are secondary effects of poverty which disproportionately affect people who inherit poverty, then there is no advantage to framing it in racial terms.  If we address the wealth inequality that leads to disparate outcomes, the problems go away.  There is something vindictive in the apparent, usually unspoken, feeling that if we don’t make it racial, efforts to fix it might accidentally help out some white poor people too.  There seems to be an idea that if something helps everyone, then it “doesn’t count”, because its not “reparations”.  If the net result is that all individual people – including black people – are better off, what the hell does it matter?  How does it make the world a better place to call the list of effects of poverty on health “systemic racism” and then focus on making people less racist – rather than focusing on reducing toxic industries, the distribution of hospitals and supermarkets, public transportation, etc?  These are all things that government policy can directly control!  The “movement” rarely raises those issues, and if it does it is exclusively in the context of “institutional racism”, with the implication that racism itself is the thing that needs to be addressed, that if only “institutions” would stop being so “racist” all those problems would go away, and the thing I keep saying is that eliminating “racism” would not end ANY of the things you list as the effects of wealth inequality on health outcome, whereas addressing wealth inequality would address all of them.

And again, this framing of issues as issues of race I absolutely do believe has very significant effects on how young people growing up exposed to them build their self-identity.  Of course it does!  I’m not just talking about BLM, that’s a tiny part of it.  I’m talking about how literally every issue, every problem facing a black person is attributed to racism.  That seems like an extreme statement, but what is the exception?  I’m talking about the entire message, the  statements that “everyone knows” about police bias (even when the statistics don’t bear it out), the blaming of employment, health, representation or lack there of on TV shows, the condition of inner cities, segregation, every disparity, is attributed to racism, and only racism.

 

 


"conditions in the black community are that they are a consequence of societal neglect because people do not care enough"
What does this mean!? 

This is like when people who want more gender equality make statements like “society doesn’t value women”.  It’s a nonsensical statement.  “Society” doesn’t mean “government” or “powerful, influential men”.  Society means people.  The collection of all the individual people.  There is no single unified monolithic entity with its own independent thoughts and actions whose name is “society”, there is just a collection of individuals, with individual lives making individual choices.  Women are half of all people.  The statement “society doesn’t value women” is itself a product of deeply ingrained sexism, because the statement implies that women aren’t people, that they aren’t ½ of what the word “society” means.  And similarly, “societal neglect” because “people” don’t care enough doesn’t make any sense.  Which “people”?  The dichotomy between “black community” and “people” implies that the black community isn’t made up of people.  All individual people prioritize in order of relatedness - themselves first, their children second, their partner and immediate family 3rd, their community 4th, whatever they consider “their people” 5th (by race, culture, religion or nation), humans 6th, mammals 7th, vertebrates 8th...

All the members of society prioritize their own community over other people’s community.  This being capitalism first, and a federal republic second, there is generally no focus on neighborhoods beyond the city level.  There is no federal bureau of individual neighborhood welfare. 
The single largest factor in the conditions in any community is the collective actions of the people that make it up.  If you want “people” to care about a neighborhood, where “people” is code for “white people” you don’t do it by emphasizing how those people over there are a different people from you, and you shouldn’t hate them.  Neglect is not hate.  Neglect isn’t even discrimination.  Neglect is just prioritization.  People will always prioritize themselves first.  Which means the way you get “people” (white people) to not neglect certain communities is to make them part of those communities. 

"Yes, it has as much to do with class as race, but after several centuries of blatant racist atrocities, it is no wonder that black people think in racial, not just class terms."
Yes, I never said I don’t understand why people (not just black people, all the self-identified anti-racists and “woke” people and progressives) put everything in racial terms, I am just saying it is counter-productive.

 

I disagree with your interpretation of history, that “ "It has been movements and demands for systemic changes (along with unions, who likewise make systemic demands) that have given us so much improvement in the lives of poor and middle-class Americans today” I think the biggest contributor, by far, to improved conditions for all classes is simply technology.  After that, as much as I don’t think it is worth it, it is true that capitalism creates wealth much better than any other system, and while it does not distribute that wealth fairly, it does to an extent raise up every level.  It raises the rich higher and faster, but it raises the middle class beyond where it would be without it, and to a small extent even the poor.  The Great Depression affected such a wide swath of American’s, at all levels, that it didn’t take massive protests to push through. The government is made up of people, of citizens, and they don’t automatically want to make all people suffer just for it’s own sake, so sometimes they (we) do things to try to support the people. The 40 hour week was a central demand of organized labor for 150 years, but it was the New Deal that made it a reality.  Another factor is our outsized military, and how it helps secure foreign markets and cooperation. 

And we don’t actually have better pay, when adjusted for inflation, working hours, benefits, and number of household members working.  The single largest factor in the increase in household income is the percentage of married women who entered the workforce.  It’s the combination of inflation making dollar numbers bigger than their values, plus technology and outsourcing making stuff cheaper, that makes it seem like we have better pay.  Ultimately the extent to which pay increases or decreases is simple economics: number of workers who can do a particular job vs number of jobs to be filled.  The harder a job is to fill, the higher the pay, which is why skills and education makes a difference.  If a job is terrible enough, like coal mining or oil drilling, it tends to pay well too.  Of course, being capitalism, if you can get a percentage of money other people earn, like by being a boss or an owner, you make the most of all.  If a job can be outsources or done by robots or anyone who can walk and talk, it pays very little.  There is essentially nothing a social movement can do to change that, short of getting shorter working hours enacted (say, a 20 hour work week), because if the price of labor goes up, employers just find alternatives, like investing in robots or hiring overseas.
While you draw a distinct line between political movement directed at government policy and attempts at social change, I don’t think there is such a clear line.  There were abolitionists in white society and in government hundreds of years before the civil war, never mind the civil rights movement.  Boycotts are against private industry, not government, and even marches that end at city hall or the white house are intended to be public, to gain the visibility of ordinary people.  Police oppression may have been the issue that galvanized gay rights activists, but the pride parade is not directed at any particular policy, it is a demonstration to random ordinary people how many there are and that it is not associated with shame or guilt.  As much as the push for marriage equality way directed toward a government policy, the public push for it itself helped sway public opinion, with its focus on gay people not being depraved sex fiends, but rather relatable ordinary family people, and that in turn helped change the minds of enough people that it influenced government, which is afterall, more or less a democratic institution.  If the goal was just government policy, movements could be entirely expressed by letters and visits to representatives and get-out-the-vote efforts.  Publicity stunts like cafĂ© sit-ins and bus boycotts were always as much about generating public support by making prejudice obvious and impossible to ignore.  Which is as it should be, since, like “society”, “government” too is just made up of people.  While inherited wealth is disproportionately represented in government (because that’s who society picks), more than half of presidents do not come from the upper class by birth, and (almost) none of them inherit the job title the way most societies though history have done it.  Elections means that even systemic change largely follows the will of the people, even if it sometimes acts just slightly before the majority has changed its mind about a particular issue.  Just in general, I think we tend to frame everything as though we lived in a world of dynastic kings and nobility, peasants and slaves, and it just isn’t the reality of the world we are in.

29 September 2020

Bigger concepts: Why the anti-racism movement isn't helping end race inequality PART 2 (Part 5 of a series on race based on emails to my family)

 “almost everyone can do something.”


I absolutely agree!
Where we disagree is I don’t think going out and demanding other people do something is actually “doing” something.  I believe, strongly, that every activist and ally MUST “be the change they wish to see” FIRST.  If a person is not willing to actually do anything in their own personal life that supports what they claim to want to happen in the world, they are basically full of crap and have no credibility.  No one should listen to them, not policy makers, not people in power, not political rivals;

no one should believe they are sincere, because they aren’t.
The event that disillusioned me from “activism” was going to a protest against
Iraq war II, the theme of which was “no war for oil.”
I was literally the ONLY person to show up by bicycle.  There were no BART commuters or electric car drivers.  Every single other person went to this “no war for oil” protest in their gasoline powered cars. And they all shared a sense of outrage, of self-righteousness, of moral superiority, which none of them had earned. The war is to ensure they can keep putting oil in their cars!  Standing around holding a sign telling government to do something is NOT “doing” something.  If every citizen went out to protest, but kept driving gas powered cars, the oil industry will keep on making money, and the government will continue supporting it.  If zero citizens go out and protest, but also zero of them buy gasoline, almost overnight the oil industry begins to die, we have no use for
Middle East or Venezuelan or protected Alaskan oil, and both war and climate change halts in its tracks.  

Personally, I find hypocrisy to be worse than simple inaction – at least the conservatives who want cheap oil are honest about their priorities. 
Similarly, putting up a sign in the window about supporting diversity, or having a bumper sticker, or even going to a protest, is not “doing” something.  It’s telling other people what type of person you are, it is declaring a team, an identity.  At best it is asking other people to change what they do.

When these same people’s actions in their personal lives all serve to maintain the status quo, then the symbolic claims of support are not only hollow and hypocritical, they are as gross as the oil protestors who buy the products they are protesting.

Of course it is “natural” to want what ever is best for one’s own children.  Just as it is natural to discriminate against people that are classified as someone not one’s own “tribe”.  Ensuring what’s best for one’s children could include bribing their teachers, or murdering their rival students.  As a society, we collectively decide what things (which are completely “natural”) are unacceptable, for the good of society as a whole.  It is natural to want to harm someone physically because of a verbal insult or disrespect.  It is natural to discriminate.  It is natural to want to take things from others, or to take advantage of those who have less power than you.  If we thought we should allow everyone to do whatever they naturally feel like doing, then we wouldn’t have any laws at all.  Murder and theft and rape and violence are all natural, and all unacceptable. Every society decides collectively the degree to which individuals are required to forgo their own personal preferences for the collective good.  Most other developed nations restrict the degree to which a person can privilege their own children above everyone else more than the US does, with the predictable result of us having the most inequality – and consequently the most crime and violence - of any developed country.

 

Actions that are the ideal for one’s own children, like moving to the neighborhoods with the best schools, paying for private schools, paying for college, leaving property and cash to heirs, etc, has a much bigger overall negative impact on society as a whole than the positive impact it has on individual people.  Most of the developed world does not allow the amount of privilege we allow.
And yet, the very people who talk the most about privilege and how unfair it is have literally zero to say about real, tangible ways they could personally give it up.
Helping ones own children is literally the very definition of privilege, and equality is not possible while some people are privileged.  If an individual isn’t willing to give up these very tiny things, then they don’t really want equality at all.  It makes no sense to claim to want equality for all children – except my own, for whom I want the best.  If everyone is going to prioritize what is best for their own individual children, we may as well all stop pretending to want equality, because no one else is going to listen to demands to give something up made by someone who won’t give it up themselves.  If everyone gets to do whatever is best for their kids, people born into more wealth will always do better on average, and people born into poverty will always struggle more, and the cycle began by slavery etc will continue for the rest of time.

 

-                                           

 

If the goal is to help people who are at a disadvantage in life, it’s important to be able to let go of figuring out who to blame and who benefits, and instead focus on what is actually going to effectively address the root issues.  Weeds that aren’t dug up by the roots always grow back.  Illnesses in which only symptoms are treated don’t go away.  First we have to understand what the core issue is, and then focus on addressing that.
The core issues that are blamed on the “symptom” of “racism” are cultural segregation and intergenerational wealth inequality.

 

When I talk about “integration”, I am not just talking about living in the same neighborhood. 

I am talking about complete integration, geographic, yes, but more importantly cultural.  Life integration.  The only way to combat our natural tendencies to reject “otherness” is to reject that a particular demographic defines “other”.  In other words, not defining ourselves by random genetic demographics, whether they be race, or religion, or national origin in the first place.  I’m talking about not just having different “races” in the same workplace or schools, but different people eating the same food, playing the same music, wearing the same clothes, speaking the same language, and actually interacting with each other. 
No, this is not something that can be directly legislated, but it is something that activists can and do influence.  Right now much of that influence is directed at enhancing and encouraging differences and separation, sometimes directly (campaigns against cultural appropriation, “gentrification” in cities with rent control), other times indirectly, (emphasizing police shootings to the point where the general public believes there to be a disproportionality that doesn’t reflect reality, pushing for “black” media etc. rather than integration into “mainstream” - legitimizing the false idea that “black” is actually a “type of person”).  Just like having window signs and bumper stickers and influencing media presentation is all aimed not at law but at individual people, so too could we, hypothetically, focus those efforts on changing society in a way that would actually be meaningful and productive. 

 

No, I’m not suggesting that government pick a spouse for each individual.  However, societies have always placed rules, some legal and formal, others merely social pressure, on who can and can’t marry.  We as a society decide the degree of relatedness that is legal to marry: some states first cousin is OK, others it is not.  In some cultures that’s completely normal, in others, even if it is legal it is looked down on.  Some cultures have allowed uncle, aunt, and at times even siblings to marry, while others that is a violation of law, social norms, or both. There is a reason to avoid not only family, but members of one’s own community, as over generations the effects of breeding with even distant cousins adds up. In fact, generations of breeding with distant cousins leads to more negative health outcomes than a single generation of siblings in-breeding.
Adoptive siblings have no genetic risk factors from having children together, but are banned from marriage anyway. We decide the age at which people can marry, with cultures varying widely in both time and location. A 50 year age gap is perfectly legal, but strongly frowned upon socially. Interracial marriage was one illegal. The purpose was specifically to prevent integration by those who felt race was a real thing.  Before the attempted genocide in
Rwanda, people in intergroup marriages were labeled as “traitors”.
It is well known that more genetically diverse parents lead to healthier better offspring
http/://theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jul/02/diverse-parental-genes-lead-to-taller-smarter-children-says-extensive-study

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160413135710.htm
There is no reason this scientific fact can’t be promoted publicly, whether by government, activists, or both, along with pointing out the enormous social benefits –like it being the single most effective (and, I believe, the ONLY) way to fully end racism.


The Indian caste system never had anything to do with race or physical appearance, it is determined strictly by family lines, and was kept in existence by strict segregation and rules against inter-caste marriage.
Today, despite formally abolishing the caste system, in practice it still remains.  Many prominent public figures, including the supreme court, publicly declared inter-caste marriages to be in the national interest, and in 2006 state governments started offering cash incentives - currently between about $3000 and $6000 (about 6 month’s income) to any bride or groom marrying someone of the lowest caste.
https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/govt-to-give-rs-25-lakh-incentive-to-every-inter-caste-marriage-involving-a-dali/305229
https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/karnataka/2020/jan/30/in-five-years-three-fold-rise-seen-in-inter-caste-marriages-at-karnataka-2096421.html
https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/hyderabad/govt-incentive-for-inter-caste-marriage-enhanced-to-rs-2-50-lakh/articleshow/71849880.cms

 All this to say, it is not at all as crazy as you make it sound to suggest that law and / or social pressure might have some influence over who people consider to be within their pool of marriage candidates. Of course they do! They always have.    

The percentage of people who are willing to marry someone of a different race than there own is much smaller than the percentage who are willing to have different race neighbors…

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/05/17/5-insights-on-the-racial-tolerance-and-ethnicity-maps-from-an-ethnic-conflict-professor/?arc404=true

(open in incognito / private tab to bypass paywall)

 

 … which itself is smaller than the number who specifically think discrimination is a good thing. 

And as long as that is true – that people who claim not be racist still use race as a factor in determining who they would consider marrying - the support of “allies” is nothing but words, and the effects of racism will stay alive. 

 

Right now there are all sorts of personal choices that America shames as being racist – explicit discrimination, of course, as well as more subtle things, using certain words, flying certain flags, voting for certain politicians, wanting to be around a certain race, being a little too proud of a heritage that includes oppressive ancestors.  What I’m saying is, if a person lives in a city where 20 or 40 or 60% of the people look different than themselves, and they choose to create more purebred children, they should be added to that list of people and called out for the racists that they probably are. 

 

If a white person has a white partner, and they then choose to “do whatever is best for their kids”, they are the source of the next generation’s “white privilege”, and they need to be called out for it - especially when they are among the people decrying that privilege in self-righteous rallies and petitions.  They claim to want equality for all, but in reality they want to privilege a few white kids above everyone else (their own), which makes them the very embodiment of systemic racism.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/jul/12/egalitarians-be-warned-wealth-begets-wealth

 

Disparity would be a very easy issue to fix.  We just have to figure out what the root issue actually is, and be willing to make the (small) personal sacrifices it takes to fix it.
Until then, we are treating symptoms, often in a way that makes us feel better in the short term while letting the disease grow stronger.

28 September 2020

Bigger concepts: Why the anti-racism movement isn't helping end race inequality PART 1 (Part 5 of a series on race based on emails to my family)

 First and foremost:  I am beginning to realize that anti-racists actually believe that “race” is a real thing.

It isn’t.
While there are genetic differences between groups of people, they don’t at all align with what American’s define as “races".  In fact, a person from
East Africa is more genetically similar to a person from Europe than they are to someone from West or Southern Africa.  Biologically speaking, the term “black” person is completely meaningless. There is actually more genetic diversity within the continent of Africa than between parts of Africa and the outside world.  People from different parts of the continent have completely different, completely unrelated languages, culture, and ancestry.  No one in Africa identifies themselves as “black”, any more than a person in Vietnam self-identifies as “yellow”.  People on opposite sides of Africa are literally not even related to each other.
But genetics is not even what Americans mean when they talk about race.  It is used to mean a “type” of person.  It is supposed to tell you what “team” someone is on, who “your” people are.

The idea that a few random physical traits is what defines a person is not universal - you don’t find the term in ancient texts, even though Europe, the Mid-east, Asia and Africa all had knowledge of each other and trade with each other for tens of thousands of years.
In fact, the concept of “different races”, as we think of it today, was invented by racists, for the purpose of justifying colonization and slavery.

People used to pretend it was possible for science to determine whether someone was a criminal based on the shape of their skull or the bumps on their head.  But it was false.  The physical body tells you nothing about the mind.  Physical traits are determined by nature.  But culture is determined 100% by nurture.  A person adopted from infancy by foreigners will have zero accents from their parent’s country of origin.  Nothing in one’s DNA determines what name they have.


But that means doing a study in which you make the names on applications stereotypically “black” isn’t really testing for prejudice based on skin tone at all.  It’s not testing for prejudice against people with African origins.  It isn’t looking at a characteristic which is a fundamental and unchangeable part of who a person is.  Its looking at prejudice based on culture.  It is the equivalent to submitting applications with names like Bubba or Jed or Billy-Bob and then saying it demonstrates racism against white people.  People of any race can choose to be a part of any specific sub-culture – suggesting otherwise is itself racism, quite literally.
Choosing to not make a point to mention one’s race on an application is absolutely not “whitening” it!  That phrase itself assumes that white is the default; that white people have no need to specify their race, but everyone else should make a point of listing it.  It would be like someone with a gender neutral name not specifying their sex on a resume and claiming by not writing “female” on the resume they were “maleing” it up.
The idea of “people” in the sentence
 “Black people who were brought to the United States by force (ie in the cargo holds of slave ships)”, in the context of what people alive today should do in order to maximize their individual chances of success suggests that everyone of a particular race is “one people”, a distinct “type” of human with characteristics so identical that individuals are all interchangeable.  Not a single black person in the country was born into slavery, never mind taken from Africa by force.  We’re not all one single rhizome soul that spans infinite generations, all basically the same person.  People are individuals, and they only experience what they experience.
We seem to think about race the way we think of (non-pet) species, as all basically interchangeable – such that it is not a big deal for any individual to die, but it is a tragedy for a specie to go extinct.  While war and murder may be terrible, we consider “genocide” to be a completely different level, as though it were for some reason worse, or in fact at all different, to kill millions of people who happen to have a few more sections of DNA in common than it is to kill millions of random people.  Hate crimes are given special weight and attention, as though the reason for being murdered randomly makes it more or less ok to be murdered, as if being murdered after being picked out of a phone book is somehow better for the victim than being murdered for your external appearance.

Why?
There is absolutely nothing about skin tone or hair texture or eyelid shape that makes a person a particular “kind” of person; that determines who they are or what they like.
Nobody collects and reports on data regarding how all people who are left–handed vote, or on the average education or income of people with attached earlobes vs. unattached earlobes.
Nobody suggests that ‘of course people who wear glasses would prefer to interact with other people who wear glasses’ or that short women would prefer to marry short men.
Grouping people by handedness or earlobes is totally ridiculous, but it is exactly as ridiculous as grouping people by skin tone.  And this is something “anti-racists” do as much, if not more than, the people they wish to make less racist.

I suspect that most, if not all, of the race activists would feel that if every child in the next generation was mixed, and after just a few generations it was impossible to distinguish clear “races”, this would be a bad thing.  Instead of considering it an end to racism, it would be called “genocide”, to breed “minorities” out of existence.  (Never mind that this would also mean an eventual end to “white” people.)

For example, there is an implication in “now blacks in San Francisco make up only 5.22% of the population (less than those answering "mixed" and less than "other")“ that having more of the population identify as “mixed” than black is somehow an inherently bad thing.  I see it as a sign of society beginning to move past the racist concept that anything other than purebred European is automatically “black”.  Up until very recently, all official forms and documents listed a few options, of which mixed was not one, and you had to pick one and only one.  All of those mixed people would have selected black (or Asian) before, and made the number look higher. If every person in the US picked a partner who didn’t look like they could be from the same family as themselves, after a single generation every survey would have 100% “mixed” people, which would mean there was 0% “black” people. But no one would have been murdered or displaced. Explain why this would be negative for any specific individual?

 Of course the majority of so called “African-Americans” who are descended from slavery are at least slightly mixed race already. Just like how our whole concept of race was created by racists to justify colonization and slavery, the idea that everyone can be categorized as one specific race - and that anything other than pure-breed European is “colored” - is from the same people and the same era.  Obama is not black!  Obama has equally as many genes from
Europe as from Africa.  Every time someone refers to him as “the first black president”, they are keeping the traditional concepts such as “octoroon” and “one drop of unpure blood” alive.  If he is black for being half African, then he is also white. Why aren’t we calling him the 44th white president? The reality is neither; he is mixed.  Just like most African-Americans whose family didn’t emigrate here from Africa within the last generation or two is (at least a little bit).  There is no such thing as a “light-skinned black person”.  There are mixed race people, who are only forced into the category “black” because we’ve all collectively agreed to accept the rules made up by slave-owners, and we have been accepting it so long we are blind to how racist it actually is.  Our acceptance of the concept as real is what leads to “solutions” as ridiculous as the ones from the “Radical Imagination” article on banking, in which all (undefined) “black people” get all debt forgiven and zero interest rate loans being taken seriously enough to be published in a mainstream nationwide publication https://nyti.ms/3iCxFxt

It was dominate people of European origin who first divided the population into only two meaningful groups, themselves, and {everyone else}, and used skin tone to make the distinction.  So while people of African origin were the only ones formerly enslaved, people from
India or China or Aboriginal Americans all had to use “colored” fountains and doorways as well.  The use of the term “colored” as a catch-all for every single non-“white” person, regardless of language, genetics, culture, national origin, or citizenship, was one of the most significant manifestations of post-slavery racist America, implying merely from the existence of the term the special status of “white” people.
And yet today it is actually anti-racists that have revived the term, barely hiding its conceptual origin by reversing the word order: “people of color” instead of “colored people”.
If the racist history of the term leaves one wondering what term would be better – there is none!  It is the concept that is racist.  There doesn’t need to be any way to group all of humanity into “white” and “everyone else”, because there is no non-racist circumstances where such a concept is useful.


For generations we (Americans) have all agreed to pretend that there are actually meaningful categories called “race”, by which you can determine something meaningful about an individual person based solely on the about of melanin in their skin; so much so that everyone has internalized it and believes it is actually true - and now we are clinging to our wrong beliefs, treating it as an unquestionable given

 

The idea that it is “natural to want to be around your own kind” is literally exactly the reasoning used by white nationalists who insist that they are not white supremacists.  They say they don’t “hate” anyone, and that they aren’t racist, they just think people should be around people who are similar, share similar values and culture, they want what is best for their family and their people, they want to remember and celebrate and honor their heritage and history.  This is the central argument of segregationists and people who fly the confederate flag and even members of the KKK.  We identify them, correctly, as racists, but those exact same claims and arguments are no less racist ideas just because they happen to be held by members of an oppressed group, or their supporters.
Wanting to be "around your own kind" is exactly the reasoning of the racist whites who resisted integration and whose "flight" created inner city ghettos. “
… attempts toward integration in particular was tried in the past, with furious resistance from whites, as well as "white-flight."”  This was a problem, rightly decried.

The other concern has been the changing character of a neighborhood that residents were comfortable in, with neighbors they were happy with, and small businesses that they counted on
” "Changing character" is code for "white people moving in". The fact that segregation has been forced on a community for so many generations that it is now embraced doesn’t make it any better.  Separate but equal has always been an invalid concept. It is invalid when white people propose it as a solution, and it is just as invalid if it’s black people embracing it.  Separate is not, has never been, and will never be, equal, which is the whole reason our highest court struck its formal legalization down. As long as it is anti-racists supporting segregation, I don’t have high hopes we can ever move past it.


most humans have some tendency to prefer association with their "own tribe" with whom they are most familiar, have the most similar experiences and beliefs, and with whom they most identify.  

The degree to which humans are separated within a country varies throughout the world, and consistently, the more separate they are, the more racism and conflict there is:

 where ethnic groups have distinct areas apart from each other within a country, there is more conflict. Why? Well, partly because it facilitates separatism”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2013/05/17/5-insights-on-the-racial-tolerance-and-ethnicity-maps-from-an-ethnic-conflict-professor/?arc404=true (open in private tab to bypass paywall)

 

Going back to “with whom they most identify” – we collectively decide what characteristics individuals identify with; identity is not any more a real thing than race is.
This is not just my opinion, its been shown experimentally time and again.  People will identify with whatever entirely arbitrary grouping you put them into. 
Literally, even when people are assigned a random group based on a flip of a coin or roll of a dice, group orange will show more affinity, trust, concern, and generosity to another group orange than they will to a group blue. This tribalism is so deeply a part of the human brain that this effect shows up even when the people know that their assignment was random.
A person’s “identity” is what society tells them it is.


As I opened with, there is no biological basis for the American concept of “race”.  But there is no ethnic or cultural basis either, the people who self-identify and/or are identified as “black” by others in the US have as widely varying a genome as they do from “white people”, they have as broad a range of local accents as white southerners, Midwesterners, new Englanders, etc, a wide range of dissimilar cuisine, music ranging from rap to jazz, a wide range of skin tones and features, varied levels of education and class… literally the only characteristic that can be said to encompass all people designated “black” in America is that designation itself.  And in turn, the only reason our “tribe” is considered to be those other people so designated, as opposed to people who specifically share our DNA (which is a specific subset of all people with African heritage), or people who share our nation of birth (ie all Americans) or language, or religion, or any of the other dozens of characteristics one can use to designate a group, is because all of America has bought so deeply into the colonial pseudoscientific concept of race that we have all internalized it and made it the single primary source of identity.  Other people who were born here, whose parents and grandparents were born here, who have no remaining accent from their families nation of origin, no known family in that foreign nation, don’t always think of themselves as first and foremost their assigned “race”. They think of themselves as Americans. 


Whatever characteristic society deems one which can make a nice dividing line between groups of people, people will choose a side.  You can identify as republican or democrat, Christian or Jew or Muslim (or even Buddhist, Hindu, or atheist!), masculine or feminine (that’s a whole can of worms for another day), military or civilian, by race or by local sports team.  People choose which categories are most significant, and it’s really only for recent immigrants and black American’s that it is just assumed that race will be the single dominant trait that defines identity.

This idea we have all bought into, that “black” and “white” are real categories that represent some fundamental truth about who a person is and neatly divides all people into one of two clearly defined binary “types” which happen to correspond to a clearly visible physical trait is what allows us to pretend that the average inequality between different cultural subgroups is a product of “racism”.
But if we look past modern
America, it’s easy to see that isn’t true.  There is the US history of the early Irish and Italian settlers, but perhaps even more illustrative is a much more recent example, from a culture independent of the West and European colonization: Japan

Specifically, Korean-Japanese.
Japan annexed / colonized Korea at the very beginning of the 20th century.  The military took farms and other property from Koreans and gave it to Japanese settlers.  Many Koreans, without restitution and now landless, moved to Japan where they could get factory jobs or other menial labor jobs, which they could get because they would work for less than the Japanese.  Then WWII happened, Japan lost and was forced to give up Korea, then Korea had a civil war over communism vs capitalism, the US got involved, it was settled with a 2 state solution… meanwhile multiple generations of Koreans, people who had been born in Japan, lived their whole lives in Japan, spoke mostly or only Japanese, had no known relatives in Korea, are still officially considered foreigners.  Your parents and grandparents may have all been born in Japan and lived their whole lives there.  You could even have a great-grandparent who was Japanese.  Officially, you are a foreigner.  You have to register with the government, get fingerprinted, choose to affiliate with either North or South Korea, check in every 3 years.  Not only can you not vote, but it is entirely legal to be discriminated against in housing and employment.  You are not eligible for government jobs.  On the social side, Korean Japanese are generally considered to be lazy, dirty, simple-minded, sneaky, and criminal (although if they do commit a crime, they can be deported, to a country they have never been to).  They have a strong association with technically legal gambling, as well as to yakuza (the mafia).
Today, if you have the right resources and connections it is possible to obtain citizenship, although you risk being ostracized as a sell out to the enemy by other Koreans and still won’t be accepted as one of the Japanese.  Nearly every statement you can make about black people in
America you can substitute Koreans in Japan and it remains an accurate statement.
What makes this most illustrative for the plight of race relations in the
US isn’t the similarities – it’s the big dramatic difference: Japanese and Korean people look so similar that without language and other cultural cues, they can’t be told apart.  Not just by ignorant westerners like us, but by each other.  This is best illustrated by the fact that it’s relatively common, if a person has the opportunity and resources and is willing to give up all ties to friends and family, for Koreans to move somewhere, forge papers, and start over pretending to be Japanese. As long as they never come across anyone from their old life and no one tries to trace their paperwork too far, they can live a lifetime with no one finding out.
https://www.encyclopedia.com/places/asia/japanese-political-geography/koreans-japan

Another example is the Tutsi and Hutu of Rwanda, a sometimes violent tribal conflict between two ethnically identical but culturally distinct groups that went back 1000s of years before a brief European colonization led to an independent democracy which in turn led to a reversal of power between the two groups (as the historically dominate Tutsi were outnumbered by the Hutu), which also reversed the direction of social power and discrimination.  Perhaps the biggest contribution of the colonizers to the conflict, though, was introducing the idea that the tribes were not just lineages or social statuses, but actual “races”: two entirely different “types” of person.  Since they are in actuality not distinct ethnicities, the information was written on official ID cards, making it easy to distinguish people and prevent anyone moving from one team to another.  Now oppressed became oppressor, and government stoking of prejudice led to so much violence that many members of the once dominate Tutsi fled the country as refugees.  And then formed an army, began a civil war, and (presumably) assassinated the moderate president, sparking off the famous genocide of civilian Tutsi.  The rebel army indiscriminately killed civilians too, but there were many fewer of them, so civilian Tutsi’s ended up being killed around 10 times more than civilian Hutu – in the west the conflict gets presented in the standard oppression narrative with clearly identifiable good guys and bad guys, powerful and victims, but the reality was never so simple.  The best analogy would be if white South African’s (a once powerful minority) had fled the country due to citizen violence against them, formed militia, started attacking civilian towns, and murdered the president, and then black South African’s, egged on by media, started trying to eliminate all remaining white people in the country, whether they were involved in the “resistance” or not. Of course, in
Rwanda the displaced former powerful minority had no physical distinction nor history of outright explicit colonization, but the analogy may help picture the complexity of the situation.  In that situation, it’s hard to designate a “good guy” or even a victim.

What these examples show is that it really isn’t about skin tone at all. It isn’t about an instinct to favor people who look like oneself, it isn’t about a history of slavery, or even historical power, and it has nothing to do with “white supremacy” specifically.  All of these are just how it happened to manifest because of the particular random historical events of America.


The fundamental similarity in all cases isn’t a difference in “race” - it is a sense of “otherness” held by two groups of people, one of which has more resources than the other. In both of these examples that otherness was so artificial that it had to be codified on paper just so the dominate group could know who to discriminate against.  It's an issue of being outsiders; plus the intergenerational inheritance of wealth inequality, as much a factor in
Japan as it is in America.


We can not end the fundamental human brain need for tribalism.  It is one of the most deeply rooted aspects of our mind’s evolution.  We will not make people stop favoring who they think of as “their” people by telling some specific people that they shouldn’t do it.  However, we can change the criteria people make for deciding who is part of their tribe.  We can decide to group all glasses wearers in one group, and they will develop their own culture and be discriminated against, or we can decide that all the humans in our nation are part of the same tribe, treat each other that way and talk that way and it will begin to manifest.

Unless we understand the real fundamental root of the issue – the tendency of humans to group each other into “us” and “them” categories and assume “us” is good and “them” is bad, we have no real hope of improving the situation for any particular specific example of it’s manifestation.  We will forever be chasing tiny specific symptoms of the real issue, while failing to in any way address the root level changes that could actually make a difference.
Any factors which tend to enhance the feeling of otherness will ultimately strengthen the conflict.  Any factors that reduce it will ultimately reduce the conflict.