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.  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.

27 September 2020

Response to a response 3 (Part 4 of a series on race based on emails to my family)

  After a few back and forths, the previous posts (which were originally emails to family members regarding the recent race protests and their implications), I started getting longer, more in-depth, and more nuanced responses.  This (and the last two posts) are responses to those responses.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 I see now why you argued with my saying that your last letter (the one about your childhood & teens) made your position (or the reasons for your position) more clear.  You certainly do spell out your perspective more fully and clearly here.  

Thanks.  
I think a lot of what I wrote before assumed the reader had read (and remembered) everything I had written before that.  I didn't want to make already long posts even longer by going over old stuff, so I usually just have hyperlinks to older posts when I think they are relevant.  I was trying to focus on the most pertinent points and put them all together here.

 

I want to say here that one of your most clarifying points is your analogy between the percentage of convictions and incarcerations by race, and the percentage of convictions and incarcerations by gender.  You provide interesting information and make an excellent point.  Likewise, you provide interesting information about the study showing that cops generally display less race bias than the general population.

Before I go on towards what I agree with and what I don't, I want to pause here to point out that police absolutely should be trained to react, as much as possible, without bias, because 1) it is their job; their profession.  Just like a therapist has to follow a code of ethics that regular people are not subject to, police absolutely should meet a higher standard of objectivity and restraint than your everyday citizen.  2) Being armed with the ability to physically injure or even kill, as well as the power to jail someone, they have a great responsibility to ensure that their power is not abused.  3) They are agents of the government, supposedly acting to ensure safety and justice, and as such have a duty to serve ethically and justly; a duty that far exceeds that of the average Joe.  I hope you agree with this.


I do agree with you and Rachel on that point.  I just don't think it is realistic to have the only acceptable rate of mistakes to be exactly 0, ever.  I think the rate of police killing unarmed and non violent black people, up to several a year, compared to almost 10,000 civilian murders of black people, demonstrates that cops are already performing at a much higher standard.  I think given the public perception, any number above zero, no matter how rare, will always be viewed as "rampant" and a priority issue, and that is a problem.
 

That being said, I agree that far too many (mostly young and poor) black men commit violent crime (usually upon other young black men or women) and that there is some correlation between who is getting arrested and who is committing crimes.  I won't go into how much is violent crime, and how much is "victimless" crime like drug abuse and prostitution,

Actually, that is a very significant factor in all this, as the statistics show significantly more bias in drug crimes than in violent crimes, for both arrest and incarceration.  Fortunately the majority of states and cities have begun to recognize this. 
(Incidentally, small town middle America is both where the most "tough on crime" mindsets remain, and where the opioid epidemic hit hardest, leading to white women being the group with the highest percentage increase in incarceration "Over the 16 years that were studied, the number of black men in state prison declined by more than 48,000, while the number of white men increased by more than 59,000. Similarly, the number of incarcerated black women fell by more than 12,000, and the number of white women in prison grew by nearly 25,000."

 

or how black crime is (as you've noted in the past) more visible due to being out on the street, while similar white crimes more often are hidden indoors, nor will I dwell on racial inequities in sentencing (or bail) when the crime is identical, since you are talking here just about police bias and not the other issues.  

But the kind of street crime that you refer to happens mostly in poor black ghettos, whereas much of what I have read of black men's frustration and anger about being stopped repeatedly and without good cause by police is written by educated middle-class black men, often living in middle-class (integrated or mostly white) neighborhoods.  I can't assume that they all responded inappropriately every time that they were stopped by police, and that that is because they were taught to fear or hate police from childhood.  But I would not be surprised that if it happened to someone too many times, and they noticed that it never happened to their white friends, after a while they may accummulate a lot of resentment and eventually anger about it.  I have no reason to believe that every one of the many educated middle-class black men over 30 who complain of excessive police harrassment in their own or other middle-class neighborhoods are either lying, or have been responding inappropriately every time they see a police officer.  

 

I don't think any of them are lying, and I'm sure many aren't always being disrespectful.  But pretty much all of us are primed to expect to be stopped for no reason, and to be harrassed when we are, and that leads to someone being completely sincere when they claim that being stopped for speeding, or an expired license plate, or not coming to a full stop, was really just because they are black.  That is something I have witnessed many times, an ordinary police stop being (sincerely) attributed to race without any specific basis. I even hear white people saying "if I had been black, I wouldn't have been let go with a warning".  No one person lives a lifetime being both white and black in order to actually experience a lifetime of police interactions, but I know from times being stopped on my motorcycle (with no skin exposed) or in a station wagon with tinted windows at night, or driving a vehicle that looks like it would be owned by some hippy (again, with tinted windows) that cops don't only stop black people.  I know also that discovering a driver is black, they don't necessarily always give them a ticket, never mind do an automatic search.  Certainly things may be worse some places than others, but I've also personally heard plenty of people in the Bay Area say with confidence how they were only stopped because they were black, or that they wouldn't have been let off with a warning if they hadn't been white, or other hypotheticals based on nothing other than their assumptions of what the cops thinking was based on the predetermined narrative of racist cops.
I'm not aware of objective data that finds these significant disparities in middle or high income neighborhoods.  I've searched, and I can only find studies that look at average perceptions of police interactions by race including middle class or above neighborhoods.  Not surprisingly, studies based on self reports find disparities in those perceptions.
There are certainly more total stops and more use of force in poorer neighborhoods and more high crime neighborhoods, (for both white and black people) and an unfortunate number of black people live in those neighborhoods - including individuals with higher income than the neighborhood average, which makes it impossible to parse meaningful conclusions from any statistics that isn't specifically divided that way.
According to this report by the sentencing project "In fact, 62% of African Americans reside in highly segregated, inner city neighborhoods that experience a high degree of violent crime, while the majority of whites live in “highly advantaged” neighborhoods that experience little violent crime."  and "juvenile delinquents who live within areas that have high minority populations (more heterogeneous) will more often be detained, regardless of their individual race or ethnicity."


The reason I commented on each of the examples in the editorial by Ishmael is because the majority of the basis for believing that police bias is driven specifically by skin color rather than factors related to culture, poverty, anti-authoriatiness,etc is anecdotes by individual middle class black people who believe they were stopped and/or treated unfairly based solely on the basis of their skin color. All the reports that come out finding significant bias don't look at high-income, low crime neighborhoods, or if they do, they don't distinguish the data.  If only a very small percentage of those neighborhoods is black, their lesser rate of police stops will get lost in the larger data set.  The problem with relying on notable and outrage inducing anecdotes can be seen when people believe that (for example) only black people are ever shot by police (whites are actually shot by police more often) or that black people make up the majority of the prison population.  You can't draw meaningful comparative conclusions from any number of anecdotes, because there is no basis for comparison.  Overall, poverty and urban density are correlated with arrest rates, especially for young black males.

I think this is similar to how the pre-existing belief that police murder of black people happens at a significant rate allows any one example to be taken as proof, the pre-existing expectation regarding stops allows individual anecdotes to serve as evidence of rampant bias in middle class police interactions without any particular objective evidence.

 

What I disagree with the most is your apparent belief that everyone who supports the "Black Lives Matter" movement believes all the things that you list as "the basic premise of every protest, every article, every proposal."  The reality is that (as with many movements), there are many different people within the movement who disagree with each other. 

 

I don't mean to imply that every individual involved believes those specific things.  I am saying the actual specific things articulated in writing, and the specific incidents which garner widespread attention (and the ones that don't) inherently implies those premises.

 

A prime (and quite relevant) example is the proposal to "defund the police."  ...

Just because extreme proposals get more media attention (as it is the media's intent to attract attention, so the more sensational, the better), does not mean that those who want to completely defund the police, speak for the whole movement.  They do not.  Unfortunately, the media attention makes it seem that way, and then a lot of other people fall into step with the concept for fear they will seem against BLM if they argue that we do need police.  (But some have argued such anyway.)

 

Granted, literally every message that can be accessed in any form other than direct word of mouth is filtered by some form of "media".  A picture or video of protestors holding signs can be focused on specific signs, newspapers magazines and websites can choose which editorials and letters they publish, even social media algorithms can favor some individual posts to show up in a feed than others.  I think it is reasonable to say that the trigger for each major protest has been an incident of police violence. That alone is the biggest part of what I think is an implied subtext.  The fact that those incidents are the spark for protests, and nothing else is, itself implies that white police are the biggest negative factor to be addressed in black people's lives.

And I do suspect that at least some of the messages that make it through various forms of media have some reasonable degree of representation of at least a plurality of the people involved.
Media absolutely sensationalizes, but it is a bit of a chicken and egg situation - they hype what sells, and what people care about is when white people kill black people.  Just the same way we object when conservative papers or news programs supposedly make a point of showing black criminals (which is theorized to be the primary or only source of subconscious racism), "our" papers and other media make a point of stating the race of officer and victim every time a white person kills a black person.  They are not in the least subtle about it, and they do not make a point of specifying race in any other combination.  They do this because it's what gets people riled up and buying papers, but it sells papers because it fits the conclusion people already have.

 

I am aware that many white people do feel so bad about racism and/or fearful of offending black people, that they defer to whatever one or more black people say about reality or goals, or, if they disagree, remain quiet about what they really think.  This may be a temporary reactive swing in the opposite direction from when whites did all the talking and blacks kept quiet.  Be patient with the process; there is so much to process.

Still, 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.

 

No, of course, I'm not saying anyone says those words.  I'm saying that is the implication when people give example after example of what they feel constitutes systemic racism and institutional racism and implicit bias and white privilege and oppression and inequality, and when the rare acknowledgment of crime is invariably coupled to a reminder of the factors of trauma and poverty and historical oppression. Being arrested is because of police bias. Prison is due to judicial bias. Education and employment is limited by white administrators and employers.  Poverty and crime are indirect factors of oppression.  Disparate health outcomes are because of racism in medicine. Dietary choices are a result of marketers and city planners.  Tobacco and alcohol is a result of targeted advertising.  What bad thing that happens to black people doesn't get attributed to white people?  There is no room there for any self-determination or influence over one's life in this narrative.

 

Nor have I heard anyone express most of the other over-simplified, over-generalized statements ending with, "If white people would just stop Oppressing black people, all problems faced by every black person in America would instantly go away, they would all join the upper 1%, and we would live in a (separate, but equal) utopia.  These may be your assumptions about what you think is implied in what others say and do, but it is not my impression that that is what people are thinking.


If that is not the subconscious belief, then there should be some amount of wide-spread attention to any issue that is in no way connected to oppression.  There are plenty of public service type messages geared toward helping people to help themselves that are race neutral.  

If every individual message to or about black people is that every problem worth mentioning is caused by oppression, if oppression is the only thing worth addressing, if all inequalities are caused by oppression, then does it not stand to reason that the purpose of fighting oppression is because there is nothing else worth addressing?
 

That last one in particular leaves me wondering who you think has these thoughts, black people or white people? 

 

Both.  Not every individual, of course, but the most vocal, the ones who write and speak on the topic, and a significant number who read and listen to them, and many who participate in activism or talk regularly about oppression and privilege and racism.

 

Or are you referring quite specifically to young, uneducated, alienated, and angry young black men from the ghetto?  To be clear, that is neither who started the Black Lives Matter movement, nor are they who it is mostly made up of, though presumably many have joined the movement now, as have many white youth all around the world.  It started as, and has become again, a cry against racism of all kinds, not just police. 


Correct, not just police.  Also white "vigilantes".  
" Black Lives Matter ... started out as a ... organization whose mission was to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes"
https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/ 
"In 2013, three radical Black organizers — Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi — created ... #BlackLivesMatter. It was in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer"
Our members organize and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.  Black Lives Matter is an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise."
https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/ 

They are very clear and consistent that they are focused specifically on "the rampant and deliberate violence inflicted on us by the state."  There is nothing in their own writing that supports the idea that they are equally concerned with black lives lost that aren't directly attributable to either cops or white people.

 

The unjustified killings by police caught on film and circulated have made the movement very visible, and of late, extremely widespread.  The fact that so many white people all over the country and all over the world have joined these protests against racism is a wonderful thing that can act against anyone's belief that, "White people believe that black lives don't matter, and are filled with Hate."

But knowing that almost half of the U.S. voting public voted for Donald Trump who panders to white supremacists, how can you not tell that racism is "alive and well" in the U.S., and not just a figment of imagination or delusion of black people?


I realize how obvious it seems to democrats and liberals and bay area people, but not every Trump voter sees him as "pandering to white supremacists."  He says plenty of stuff that can reasonably be interpreted as racist, and certainly that are compatible with white supremacist beliefs, but he also doesn't say anything that couldn't be interpreted another way.  He generally claims after each scandalous remark that he meant it in the not racist interpretation - that shit-hole countries is a matter of poverty vs high tech job skills, that he wasn't advocating shooting looters, merely saying that is what tends to happen (and, in fact, more people were killed by rioters or people defending themselves from rioters than were killed by police).
Evangelicals (the largest part of his support, by far) picked him over Clinton because of abortion.  Wealthy whites picked him for tax cuts.  Poor whites picked him for his anti-immigrant nationalism.
13% of people who voted for Trump also voted for Obama.  8% of black voters voted for Trump.
His strongest "base" - the people who didn't just vote for him over Clinton, but who support him fully, no matter what, are known to skew not only white and male, but uneducated, poor, rural, and feeling politically powerless.  Those are not the whites with the power to influence life outcomes of other people.
This article https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/opinion/trump-white-voters.html goes into great depth, and makes a strong case for his supporters not being racist specifically, but "otherist", for example showing exactly equal prejudice against Lithuanians as against blacks.  They are particularly afraid of Islamic terrorists.  https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/03/who-are-donald-trumps-supporters-really/471714/ They are, more than any other one thing, authoritarian: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/02/01/how-your-parenting-style-predicts-whether-you-support-donald-trump/
Not everyone saw the election in terms of "the racist candidate" and the "not racist candidate", so having half of voters choose him over the one other available choice doesn't imply that half of voters are racist.


 

To use your example about rates of violence by gender, it occurs to me that, despite the fact that the violence disparity is much greater by gender than it is by race, many more white women, fear and/or discriminate against black people, than fear and.or discriminate against men.  This despite the fact that most black violence is toward other blacks. 


This is exactly like how black people report greater fear of police than of crime, even though the murder rate by (non-police) crime is literally thousands of times higher than the rate of police shooting unarmed suspects.  Human psychology focuses on the threat of "other".

However I don't really believe it is true that a majority of white women would feel more afraid alone in an elevator or on a empty street at night around a black female stranger than a white male stranger.  Fear, discrimination, and wanting to spend time around, are 3 completely separate things.  


And while the basic drive to have a partner stems from the reality of how animals reproduce explains women's tendency to marry men, I do think that the level of interracial marriage is part of the problem. 
Notably, while 60% of white Americans explicitly support BLM specifically, only 9% of white Americans marry someone of any other race and less than 1% marry a black person.  That means nearly all of the white "supporters" who are willing to attend a rally, put a sign in their window, or post something anti-racist on social media, are not willing to actually make the "sacrifice" of actually their integrating their own family.  They are still breeding purebreds, and nearly all of them will pass down their wealth to their own children, keeping white people privileged.
 

I have not heard or read anyone claiming that life would be a perfect utopia without racism, just as I have not heard or read anyone claiming that life would be a perfect utopia without homophobia or war or domestic violence or environmental destruction.  But things would be a lot better without any one of those things.  Surely you agree with that, no?  You may disagree about how much racism there is in the U.S. or in the world, but no matter how much there is, wouldn't it be better without it?

 

Yes, I do agree.  What I disagree with is the tactics for achieving it, as well as the prioritization and focus on it relative to other issues.  I believe that focusing on integration, education, and income inequality would not only do more to improve conditions for black people, but also do more for actually decreasing racism, both explicit and implicit, in the long run.

 

I agree with you that violent crime in black ghettos (and in Oakland, the crime spreads out of the ghetto), is a very serious problem that is very harmful to black people, in very concrete terms, not just reputation or making the race "look bad."  (Again, why is it that male violence doesn't make men "look bad" in the same way, doesn't make the majority think that most men are criminal, in the way that white society thinks most blacks are criminal?)


First of all, on what are you basing that: "white society thinks most blacks are criminals"?  What exactly is "white society"?  You just pointed out "so many white people all over the country and all over the world have joined these protests against racism".  In fact, 60% of white Americans explicitly say they support the BLM movement specifically.
And are the only options that a white person either joins a specific protest movement, or believes most blacks are criminals?   Who is actually espousing that belief?  I don't know that even most actual white supremacists make such a claim. 

Second of all, male violence absolutely does reflect on all of us!  Consider the "alone with a male stranger" scenario, and the resistance to unisex restrooms.  The whole "not all men" response to "me too".  The nearly 100% focus of domestic violence as being male perpetrated when the actual numbers are close to even or even slightly more often initiated by women.
And as I pointed out initially, men are given on average 63% longer sentences for the same crime as women are, which is 3 to 6 times larger than the sentencing disparity for the same crime between black people and white people (10 to 20%) which is one of the facts that most shows racial bias is in fact in play.  In implicit bias simulators, police show significantly higher bias to males than to black people "The participants shot armed White males more quickly than armed Black males, and the participants took significantly longer to shoot an armed White female than an armed Black or White male" https://fisherpub.sjfc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1419&context=education_etd  which is likely why though females commit 20% of violent crime and 12% of murder, they make up only 5% of police shootings.  Given a police stop "the race of the suspect did not affect the measured outcome of stops. Gender was related to the likelihood of being frisked... There was a five times greater likelihood of males being frisked" https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/213004.pdf 

 

In concrete terms, more black people are killed by other black people than by police.  And for this reason in particular, I agree with you that there needs to be more focus on this critical problem.

But I don't see it as either/or.  I think that Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi could not have come up with a better slogan than "Black Lives Matter."  It speaks to both issues, and more.  It speaks to white racism and black internalized racism.  It speaks to cops killing unarmed blacks as well as blacks killing blacks.  It speaks to both deliberate racism, and neglect of poor black neighborhoods and schools, whether intentional or just neglectful.  It is such a fabulous slogan (for blacks without being against whites; simply asserting the importance of black people's lives that have been so oppressed and neglected for so long), such a fabulous slogan, that millions of white people have joined the movement, even risking their lives and health marching too close together (often unmasked, sadly) all around the world to announce that they too want an end to racism in all its forms.

 

I appreciate your positive outlook, and I wish the founders, movement leaders, and tens of thousands of supporters all recognized what you're saying and agreed with it (or that those who did, actually said it out loud).  But based on the website maintained by the founders themselves, what you are saying is not really their intention, and based on what every large scale protest is actually about, and what activists actually talk about and have as their agenda, both large scale and small, both black and white, I don't see evidence that your view represents them.  I'm sure you are not the only individual supporter to see some extra nuance and complexity and to interpret the slogan to mean something more broad, but as long as that message is not being widely circulated, most people will continue to interpret it the way it is actually intended - a message to white people and a movement very specifically against police violence.

 

In my opinion, people's behavior is highly influenced by their outer as well as inner environment.  Likewise, change is facilitated by outer conditions, not just from within. 

 

Agreed.  I do not think changing the narrative is enough by itself.  I also think we need to make significant changes to the economic system, one which allows wealth to stay along genetic lines indefinitely, there by automatically perpetuating the inequities of slavery indefinitely.  Of course that too is not the only thing that needs to change, but I think it is the single largest thing, and one which receives essentially zero attention as being a major race issue.

But the narrative itself is a major issue, and one that is completely obscured by a focus on oppression.  For example, many articles have come out pointing out the rates of covid infection as yet another example of black suffering at the hands of white society.
Yet the differing rates might also be explained by differing perceptions and beliefs, and resulting behaviors, similar to how the infection rate in men is higher than in women, and this is largely attributable to male resistance to wearing masks or following social distancing guidelines.  Men are infected much more than women, and the surge in cases recently is largely increased rates of new infections among republicans, both trends connected with the groups relative resistance to wearing masks and social distancing compared to women and democrats
link 1 link 2link 3link 4 


https://www.popsci.com/story/health/covid-19-vaccine-poll/  
https://edition.cnn.com/2020/04/06/opinions/african-americans-covid-19-risk-jones/index.html  

This is a sub component of a general difference in feelings toward the healthcare system in general.

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10701087_Race_and_Trust_in_the_Health_Care_System 
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1913079/   
A strong feeling of being separate from society, of not trusting not just government, but "the system", has real impacts on behavior.  When that extends even to the point of health care advice, it will be self-destructive.  When media and activists then report disparities of outcome as being a product of oppression, it reinforces the idea that you shouldn't trust the system, closing the circle and increasing the negative effect.

Note also, that while there are plenty of articles pointing out the link between behaviors and outcomes for men vs women and democrats vs republicans, every article that discusses covid in the context of race attributes it entirely to systemic racism

 

As I alluded to earlier, black people have been trying to rise up since slavery ended, and have been blocked and smashed down in so many ways, and yet and still, more than half were able to reach the middle class after the 1960s (interestingly, after much black protest and clamor), though there has been some regression with various economic events which, as always, hit harder at those who have less.  (See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_middle_class,     https://blackdemographics.com/households/middle-class/,   and https://today.duke.edu/2020/05/middle-class-not-level-playing-field-blacks-new-duke-research-finds.

Just as you acknowledge (and I agree) that teaching black children that the police are their enemy will likely exacerbate the conflict and endanger their lives, likewise other conditions of black children influence how they think of themselves, how they think of others, and how prepared they are to achieve.  (By the way, most parents who "have the talk" with black children about encounters with the police, stress the importance of behaving very respectfully towards the police so that they don't get arrested or killed.  So I highly doubt such talks are what is causing the problems.) 

 

Of course the Talk isn't explicitly telling kids to be resentful or antagonistic!

But you have to consider the kid's world.  Teens are more influenced by peers than parents.  In many cultures honor and respect are the most important things especially for a male.  If you live in a world where someone disrespecting you verbally obligates you assault them physically, if you believe no external authority is legitimate, and of course if everyone you know agrees that cops are the worst of the worst, being told to kowtow to a cop by your parents is perhaps the best way to tip them over the edge and have them react negatively to any police interaction.

Sort of how areas with abstinence only education have the highest teen pregnancy rates, telling kids not to do something is not known to be the most effective way to get them not to do it.

 

But can't just tell some teen parents in the ghetto to "get it together, raise your kids well, and give them a better education than you had."  If the parents don't know what to do and have no support or guidance, they will make do with whatever they have or know.  There needs to be social workers and educators and good schools for the kids and parks to play in and decent housing that they can afford and transportation and jobs that they can do and job-training and childcare and etc etc etc.  ....  If the BLM movement inspires more government (and private) attention on improving conditions in poor neighborhoods, that would be great and would contribute to turning around black self-esteem and behavior in the ghetto.

 

Absolutely! Which is exactly why it bothers me to see all of the attention being on what police do or don't do, and no nationwide protests with thousands of people or NYT  editorials regarding real meaningful neighborhood or school integration in the North.  In fact, we get the opposite, people objecting to integration on the grounds of it being gentrification, even in cities with rent control where forced displacement is not an issue.  The movement isn't focused on improving conditions, it is focused on police brutality, which itself is a product, not the primary cause, of conditions.

 

Do we need to eventually shine more attention on blacks killing blacks,

No, not necessarily.  If we address the root causes - wealth inequality and segregation, it will subside on its own.

 

and do everything possible to address the many causes and try to turn that around?  Absolutely.  Is it important for improved 2 way communication to take place between blacks and police? For certain.  Do many black people today segregate themselves from whites thinking that whitey is the enemy, or that they have to prove their blackness through separation, or because they have been hurt by racist comments or slights too many times or because they are just more comfortable with people who look and think like they do?  Sure.  (Just like lesbian separatists segregate themselves from men, even though most lesbians don't.)  Do people in movements make mistakes (like everyone else), and do some say and do misguided things, and some even advocate absolute crazy stuff?  Sure, of course, every group of people makes mistakes, and has a few nutty members that get an unfair share of attention.

But I believe what is happening now with the BLM movement is a fabulous thing that has never happened before at this scale (at least not since the civil war.)  And the very fact that so many whites have shown such support, will really help towards many of the attitudes among blacks toward whites which you complain of, (especially if the support is lasting, and backed up with concrete changes.)

 

I am skeptical, because that support is limited to a statement of principle.  There is no movement for middle class white people to stop picking neighborhoods on the basis of getting their kids into the "best schools".  There is no call to send white kids to low performing public school and donate funds to send urban black kids to private school.  There is no movement to leave white houses and inheritances to random poor black families.  There is no discussion about how to deliberately, systematically encourage cultural and geographical integration.  There is not even any call to personally get to know and befriend a black person, never mind promoting interracial marriage.  There is nothing any white supporter is actually giving up or sacrificing, no real changes for them to make.  It is all about having someone else make changes, the police, the government, the racists.  But it is the actions of random ordinary not-racist middle class people that contribute the most volume to the status quo.

 

  And it gives me a lot of hope for change.  Will positive change occur in time before we all burn up from climate change? 

 

I don't know if positive change ever occurs, or if we just endlessly cycle social arrangements, however, "burning up" is not a scenario any climate scientist is predicting, at least not for another 4 billion years, when the sun expands so much it engulfs all the inner planets including the Earth.

 

I hope so.  Will you and I come closer in our understanding of each other's perspective? 

 

I think we might be getting closer?