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

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.

 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…


(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.



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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you ask a question, I will answer it.

NEW: Blogger finally put in a system to be notified of responses to your comments! Just check the box to the right, below, before you hit "publish"