25 September 2020

Response to a response 1 (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 next couple posts) are responses to those responses.

"There was/is a black group that is very focused on inner change and behavioral change of blacks in the ghetto, and focuses particularly on blacks who are incarcerated or are acting criminally out on the streets.  They advocate a sober lifestyle, self respect, respect of women (in a patriarchal fashion), and have turned around the lives of many former convicts and gangsters.  They are called Black Muslims and they think whites are the devil.

In the 60s, after the non-violent civil rights movement (as well as so many blacks that were not even in the movement), suffered so much violence and killing at the hands of white racists, some young people in the movement got tired of non-violence and decided to fight back.  The 60s were a time of very frequent police brutality.  Aside from anything from harassment to rampant brutality towards black men on the street who were doing nothing wrong, it was also a time when you risked severe injury as well as arrest when you participated in a demonstration.  I am not just referring to the famous scenes of cops beating, and firemen shooting water hoses on non-violent civil-rights marchers in the south.  In NYC cops came plowing into marches on horseback swinging their billy clubs and cracking heads right and left of demonstrators peacefully marching down the street protesting the war or other injustices.

So some youth got tired of not fighting back.  One group in particular focused a lot on inner change in black people.  They focused especially on raising self-esteem and black pride among ghetto folks with a lot of internalized racism and self-hate (something which contributes to black-on-black crime.). They created schools and taught black history to both children and adults.  They made breakfast programs and fed children healthy food.  They made very reasonable demands of society in well thought out lists of concrete changes that needed to be made.  Unlike Black Muslims, they did not think whites were the devil, and they supported (in theory at least) the rights and self-determination of black women.  They made alliances with many white or integrated movements for social change, including mutual alliance with the Gay Liberation Front.  And they believed in self-defense from what was the rampant abuses by the police against blacks.  They armed themselves and chanted, “No more brothers in jail - - Off the pig! - - Pigs are gonna catch hell - - Off the pig!”  They were the black panthers, (one of whom was your uncle D****), and were so admired for their accomplishments and idealism and pride and determination, that many other groups formed for various cause using a variant of their name from the white panthers (a white anti-racist group), to the grey panthers (seniors who fought for the rights of the elderly). 
And despite the eventual demise of the Black Panther Party, as well as of the general civil rights movement of the 60s, many positive changes in law, government, police and society in general did result from the actions of both movements.

Fast forward to  today.  Much has changed and much has stayed they same.  There have been forward movements toward equality, and backward movements too.  Almost 2/3 of black people were able to achieve middle class lifestyles and many owned their own homes until recessions and other events caused many to slide back into poverty.  The introduction of cheap crack cocaine into black neighborhoods in the 1980s had a devastating effect on black communities, including in Richmond.  It is not such a big problem now, but the ghetto is still reeling from the problems that it caused.  Many of the tough, undereducated, poorly behaved youngsters shouting and cursing on the bus were raised ( or raised themselves) by single teenage moms or serious drug addicts.  Other youth (like your brother) fell in step for fear of being bullied.  Eventually a whole culture of black youth and even white youth grew around admiration of the supposed toughness of black prisoners, drug dealers and pimps, and the radio and music industry greatly encouraged and spread this movement, playing only the most violent and sexist and/or criminal rap music, and only the public stations would air rap with any political or even reasonable or productive content."

Regarding the "Historical Perspective" email:

-I am in complete agreement with your summary of the history.
-I am a fan of the Panther's, and appreciate the degree to which they were focused on positive action, providing meals to children and health clinics.  They were fundamentally and explicitly against capitalism.  It's an interesting side note that gun control was developed specifically in response to them.
-I agree with your assessment of the linear progression of the cumulative effects of oppression and inequality on the rise of crime
-minor aside, I disagree with your assessment of the music industry, over the air radio stations actually censored the most violent etc music, the parental advisory system of censorship having been begun by Tipper Gore in 1990 - the first album being a rap album.  It isn't legally binding, but radiostations and MTV do risk FTC violations from airing uncensored music deemed inappropriate.  You could hear MC Hammer, LL Cool Jay, and Will Smith on the radio, but you hear NWA on people's car stereos and boomboxes.  The suggestion that white controlled media deliberately promoted violent material seems like conspiratorial thinking to me, and an example of trying to fit stuff to the narrative of white people dictating every facet of black life.

Your analysis of the literal implications of the slogan itself, devoid of context, I think is spot on.  The problem is with the explicit intent and focus of both the founders as individuals and, more importantly, the tens of thousands of participants.  The actual wording of the slogan itself has nothing to do with police, however 100% of the large scale protests are in direct response to incidents involving either police or white "vigilantes".  The subtext of implications I am saying are there isn't in the slogan, it's in the context.  It isn't in what is said, it is in what isn't said, and the context not clarified. 

"Please imagine a mother, father and baby.  Imagine the alcoholic or drug-addicted father becomes controlling of and violent towards the mom, and repeatedly injures her and does many extremely cruel things.  Eventually, fearing for her life (and that of her child), she leaves him, taking her child with her. 

The child was so young at the time that she/he remembers nothing of the father.  But whenever he/she asks her mom about the father, mom tells her all the horror stories of the past, and warns the child to stay away from his/her father.

The father, meanwhile, becomes clean and sober, gets into therapy about his underlying issues and takes anger-management classes.  One day he decides he wants to make contact with his now-grown-up child, only to discover the child wants nothing to do with him.  He doesn't understand why the child hates or fears him, because he was never violent directly towards the child, and besides, he has changed.

Can you understand the (grown-up) child's reaction?

Now picture that the mother is the black community of yesteryear.  The father is white society in the U.S.  The child is (some of) the black youth of today.  Can you understand why blacks who have been severely abused and watched their family members raped and lynched and killed by whites in a very racist society might warn their children to be careful around white people?  Can you see why this may result in many black people self-segregating even when they have opportunities to integrate (like at school)? "

Regarding the analogy:
I find that analogy to be a perfect one for one of my primary assertions!  Yes, absolutely I agree that it is the expected outcome, and that it is entirely understandable.  My objections never had anything to do with not understanding why people feel the way they do or make the assumptions they do or have the focus they do, my objection is to the net result of our acting on those ideas.
I think you can take that analogy further.
First off, I would say that the once abusive father has not become a saint.  You can still see how he thinks about women in the way he talks, even if he isn't physically abusive, and every once in a while he has the occasional drinking relapse which may even end in some degree of violence.  He has come a long way, but has a bit further to go.
Second, there's a correlation between both abusive and absent fathers and the likelihood of delinquency, and to some extent long-term life outcomes, notably the chances of being involved in crime or domestic violence themselves.  Having a positive relationship with one's father has a positive association with less juvenile issues, from crime to schooling, and with positive life outcomes, and even if this person wasn't directly harmed, they obviously lacked that.

You know therapy better than me, so correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is if that person has trouble later in life, with jobs or relationships or drugs or whatever, it might be helpful to look backwards and acknowledge the impact their parents relationship indirectly had on them - and once that is understood as a baseline, it is equally important NOT to then fall back on that knowledge as a rationalization for every self-destructive behavior.  The childhood context is important for self-understanding, but actually taking concrete positive steps requires taking full responsibility for one's life.  A therapist isn't going to suggest that the way forward is for an adult to track down their once abusive father and demand all those back child-support payments.  Whether he has cleaned up 100%, mostly but not entirely, or not at all, conditions have changed such that the father no longer has direct control over every aspect of the now adult child's life, and dwelling on him as the source of all current problems, as natural and understandable as it may be, is not productive.

Now say that when mostly-reformed dad comes to try to visit, he is intercepted by a neighbor who remembers him.  The next time the neighbor sees now grown child, they launch into a diatribe about how truly awful dad was, and how he no doubt only came by to beg for drug money.  No one in this person's life is talking about the opportunities they have or the potential for success, instead all of this person's family, friends, and neighbors make a point to remind them regularly how a terrible person their father was, and how much that has held them back, and continues to hold them back.

What I am saying is at that point the friends and neighbors bear some responsibility for the person's continued feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and victimization.
If in the past those people were involved in helping mom to escape and keep him away, or were involved in getting dad into a recovery program, then that was an important and significant thing they did to help.  If they keep bringing it up daily 30 years later, however good the intention, they are now a negative influence in the person's life.

" One thing that has long angered many blacks and added to the friction between them and other people of color, (particularly Asians), is the way that Asians have been much less discriminated against, and been given so much more opportunity for advancement....  It is primarily due to many racist barriers to advancement.

On a somewhat related note: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_United_States and even https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Irish_sentiment
more generally  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_in_the_United_States  
US discrimination has not been limited to dark skin.  
In fact, surveys of random Americans find that in terms of acceptance, black people outrank atheists, homosexuals, and muslims; the relative success of those groups might call into question the degree of power the average intolerant American has over the people they dislike.


" you can't ignore history, or the on-going racism today, and only focus on the bad criminal behavior of a minority of black people (mostly poor male black youth from the ghetto in their teens and twenties) without any context."

 The only reason I bring up crime specifically is in response to the attention to police violence.  I keep saying that the major issues to address are income inequality and segregation.  Crime is a symptom of those two issues, not a cause.  Nothing in the modern civil rights movement is working in the direction of reducing those issues.
My statistics on crime are not meant to show how crime is the issue holding black people back, but rather to show how rare police killings actually are, and how as far as the scale of impact on people's lives goes, it isn't worthy of the amount of attention it gets.  My point in making the comparison is that if the honest intention is saving lives, the effort should be proportionate to the relative risk.  Otherwise it is just another form of the universal "us vs them" war that every society seems to need some version of.

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"