An Open Letter to Our Nation’s Capital

Dear Washington, DC,

I seem to have inadvertently hurt your feelings by suggesting that it’s wrong of you to use the Courts to change the Constitution.  You, you argue, have no other choice but to circumvent the Constitution because you cannot influence the federal government any other way because you have no representation in Congress.

I am sympathetic to your lack of representation.  It seems to me clear that, if you don’t have representation, you should not be forced to pay federal income tax.  I’m fine with any fix to this: y’all get you some congress folks or you stop paying taxes.   Whichever you guys feel would work best for you, I support you in it.

However, it seems to me just a tad… just a tad… hypocritical that you both want to say “Oh, Constitution, smonstitution–if we can’t amend it, we won’t live under it” and “We want Judges to declare that the Second Amendment doesn’t apply any more.”  Either you don’t live under the Constitution, in which case, pass some local legislation saying so, and outlaw all guns, vote me Queen of DC, and do whatever unconstitutional stuff you want to do or find some other way to deal with gun violence other than stripping people of their constitutionally protected rights.

Love,

Aunt B. 

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Smoke and Mirrors

I have a question, and I ask it in all seriousness, especially of you, Kleinheider. What do you think racism is? I don’t mean some bullshit dictionary definition. I mean, when you sit there and try to analyze whether something is racist, what standard do you use?

I ask because I just for the life of me can’t figure out it.

Carter asks:

Putting aside issues of white privilege, institutional racism, etc. is has been my feeling that in recent years the more overt racism, by which I mean visceral dislike and expression of such, exists more among people of color than among whites.

To which I must respond, “Come the fuck on! Just come on.” Do you even listen to yourself when you ask bullshit questions like this? Do you even see what you’re asking here? No, of course you don’t. You just spout out this nonsense like separating cause and effect has some meaningful insight to give us.

Let me spell it out for you, Carter. You’re saying, “If we disregard all the fuckerly things we do to black people, don’t they seem much more just viscerally hateful of us than we are of them?”

Well, shoot, yes, if you do set aside all the shitty things we do to black people, they do seem strangely angry at white people for no reason.

This, Carter, is what folks mean by white privilege. There you sit in your newsroom all day pulling shit out of your ass to write about and you get to ask questions that make no sense, but have an air of authority behind them. You get to make a statement so stupid it gives me a headache–“If we overlook the shitty things we do to black people, don’t they seem much more unreasonably angry at us than we are at them?” (to paraphrase)–and the stuff you say is treated as if it has merit, by virtue of the fact that it’s you who’s said it. When really, in a perfect world, immediately after you posted that, you should have been bombarded by phone calls from folks just laughing at you until you were too embarrassed to pick up the phone.

Anyway, I direct your attention to William Law (I hope his name is not a joke; that makes it funnier) who is all about explaining to the readers of Tiny Cat Pants what the problems with black people are.

The ideal of two married parents with their own biological children has proven to be more successful. Or at least less unsuccessful.
Less criminal activity: drug abuse, prostitution, violence, robbery, and rape in later life is typical of children from these ‘ideal’ families.
It is a fact that this is so. However, the cause and effect relationship can be debated if you want to waist peoples’ time.
Some Blacks, feeling disadvantaged, will typically blame Whites or Semites or Orientals for their failure amd cite the legacy of slavery as justification.

Slavery, in Black consciousness, is seen as their uniqe burden placed upon them by Whites. The fact that Blacks enslave Blacks even now and genocide is being committed by Blacks on Blacks even now is ignored. It is an inconvenient fact which disrupts their racial mythology. Sometimes they use colonialism to explain this ‘aberrant’ behaviour of the otherwise kind and just Black sensibility. So, even when they behave dreadfully as in Rwanda or Darfur, they blame it on White people. We are routinely seen as devils who deserve to be attacked, robbed or raped. That is a part of the psyche of many urban Blacks all over the world. The evidence is abundant.
To accept resposibility for their own failure in education and social cohesion would open up the question of their disproportionate criminality to scrutiny.
Frankly, it suits Blacks to be seen as the descendents of victims who are victimized still.

No word from Mr. Law about whether he’s a mind-reader or just how he knows the things he knows, but there he is spouting away anyway. I had thought about refuting Mr. Law’s points, but it occurs to me that it’s probably just best to point and laugh.

 

It just tickles me that “real” “un-PC” talk about racism, where we get all honest with each other as white folks when we think black people aren’t listening never just acknowledges white on black racism but looks for a way to justify it not because we enjoy the (sometimes small) advantages it gives us, but because black people deserve it or because black people are worse racists than us.

You’d think that the folks who thought racism was justified would couch it in terms of the advantages it brings us as white folks, which makes it seem unfortunate, but not something we’re likely to give up, but no, instead, rhetorically, they admit that their position is evil, but justified by the evilness of the groups it’s turned against.

 

Very strange.

So, Magniloquence has been sending me her comments via email so that I can post them and wouldn’t you know? Squarespace wouldn’t let me post them either. Squarespace and I are going to have a little chat right about now. Meanwhile, here’s everything she wants to say, but can’t, all crammed into one spot.

from Magniloquence

That said, I’m going to start by poking Slarti, because that’s … slightly tangential, but an area of great study for me. (Seriously, it’s a big issue for my current job, something I was active in during college, and oh, did I mention that the other significant part of that mixed-race heritage of mine that keeps cropping up in these conversations is Japanese?)

Overall, the trend for Asians has been that of the “model minority.” Wikipedia’s overview http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Model_minority is fairly clear, if not as statistically accurate or rigorous as I’d like. Asian Nation has a nice essay dissecting the phenomenon. http://www.asian-nation.org/model-minority.shtml Yes, Asian Americans as a group have done well, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t the targets of institutional, structural, and overt racism.

Furthermore, that particular view is complicated by the fact that Asians as a group aren’t homogenous. With African-Americans there is a forced homogeneity (something I’ll get to later, I think, if I remember it. I’m not saying that we’re all alike, by any means, but that the way “black” people came to be an identity distinct from “people in America who can trace their heritage to Africa” – as is the case for modern People-From-Africa-Who-Emigrate-To-America-and-would-be-called-African-Americans-if-not-for-some-unfortunate-quirks-of-language-and-history – is one which has caused the group to share certain characteristics in a way which is quite different from members of other minority groups.), but Asia is a damn big continent.

There is a *lot* of variance over the different groups, and many of them don’t like each other very much. Their socioeconomic and educational attainment differ drastically, and when you look at the spread, you see that most things touting the ‘Asians as overachievers/model minority’ stereotype are disproportionately biased toward Japanese, (mainland) Chinese, Korean, and affluent Indian-subcontinent populations, to the detriment (or mostly, by ignoring) other populations such as Filipinos, Cambodians, and Pacific Islanders. For instance, this article, http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/archives/pihigheredpr.htm points out:

“In an economy that increasingly requires a college education to be successful in the labor market, Pacific Islanders have fallen behind and current admissions patterns will perpetuate this problem, according to an analysis conducted by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center , the UC Asian American and Pacific Islander Policy Initiative, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center . The analysis uses data released November 14, 2006 from the 2005 American Community Survey, iterated by race, Hispanic origin, ancestry and age released today by the U.S. Census Bureau, along with previously released data.

Major Findings include:

* Among those 25 years and older, single-race Pacific Islanders are only about half as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have at least a bachelor’s degree (15% versus 30%). The gap is even wider when compared to Asians (49% with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree).

* Pacific Islander levels of educational attainment (15%) are similar to African Americans, in which 17% have at least a bachelor’s or more advanced degree.

* Pacific Islanders in Hawai’i have lower educational attainment than those in the other 49 states.

* Among Pacific Islanders, Samoans, Tongans, and Fijians have the lowest percentages with a college degree.

* Prospects for future educational attainment are bleak. Slightly less than a third (29%) of Pacific Islanders between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in a college or university, a rate comparable to African Americans (29%). In contrast, the college enrollment figures are 39% for non-Hispanic whites and 57% for Asians.

* Public schools are failing to prepare Pacific Islander students for high school and college levels. The lack of culturally-appropriate programs and a hostile educational environment contribute to social alienation and a high dropout rate among Pacific Islander youths.

The full nine-page report, Pacific Islanders Lagging Behind in Higher Educational Attainment, which includes graphs and tables, is available free for viewing and downloading on the web site of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center.”

(That’s just the summary. Go download the report if you’re really interested. It’s fascinating, and a little scary).

For more information on related issues, http://angryasianman.com/angry.html is a wonderful place to start. It’s not a primer or a blog, exactly, so it’s not going to lay out a framework for you, but it’s a great place to look for a number of articles.

So, to bring this back to your actual question, Slarti: although Asian Americans are prevented from fully assimilating to the degree of true “whiteness,” this is often addressed with the “model minority” paradigm. Although privileging to an extent, this paradigm is not an unproblematic one. It disadvantages and constrains Asian Americans in ways that aren’t always immediately evident, not least because it makes it very difficult for people to perceive shared discriminatory experiences. It is also simply not true, as the differential attainments of various Asian/Asian-American/API populations attests. It causes issues in college admissions (some have gone so far as to institute “negative action” policies, where instead of awarding additional weight to underserved populations, they automatically subtract weight from those perceived as being overserved, most heavily Asian Americans, even though they are still often under-served (if paradoxically over-represented in specific areas) See: http://www.advancingequality .org/files/kidderarticle.pdf -warning, PDF. Via http://www.law.ucla.edu/home/index.asp?page=2285 which is also a great source of information, though many of the links are broken), and reverberates into every aspect of life.

——–

“You’re saying, “If we disregard all the fuckerly things we do to black people, don’t they seem much more just viscerally hateful of us than we are of them?” ”

“Well, shoot, yes, if you do set aside all the shitty things we do to black people, they do seem strangely angry at white people for no reason.”

I think the disconnect between you two is summed up there. Who exactly is ‘we’? AC names the things (institutional racism, etc.) whereas you name people (we). I am not ‘we’. I don’t do shitty things to black people. I’d wager AC doesn’t either. So, who is ‘we’ and what are they currently doing?

AC doesn’t assume ‘we’ are doing shitty things. You do.

-SayUncle

Well, one of those “shitty things” is the fact that it doesn’t matter who says it, any intimation that something might, maybe, somehow, involve racism in some way gets greeted with: “but I’m not a racist! (so you don’t know what you’re talking about)”

I don’t understand this disconnect you point out at all. Sure, you could re-frame what Aunt B. said: “Well shoot, yes, if you do set aside all the shitty things that happen to black people, they do seem strangely angry for no reason.” The passive voice is nice like that. It doesn’t change the issue one bit. Someone is being hurt, and all you can say is: “Well don’t look at me!” Do you think that doesn’t hurt?

Let’s bring in Aunt B’s Queen of the World thread for a bit. Say you’re in a wheelchair, for whatever reason. You go to a building staffed with otherwise nice people, and, whoops! the building isn’t really designed for your mobility. You need something upstairs, but there are a lot of windy corridors, an elevator that only occasionally works, and a nice stairwell that is, unfortunately, not on the map. Some people open doors for you and try to help you over obstacles, while others just sort of scoot out of your way. Even they’re trying to be helpful, by not making you run over them. Finally, after a while, you just ask someone to go get the damn thing you need from upstairs, please. Then everybody you met, even the ones who are helpful and acknowledge that you might not be able to get something from upstairs, turns around and bites your head off for asking. “We didn’t design the building!” “Why should you get special accommodations? We all have to climb the stairs.” “I have a bum leg, and I climbed the stairs.” “I knew someone who climbed the stairs while paralyzed from the neck down.”… and so on and so forth.

If we were standing in the same place right now (and, okay, you weren’t a stranger, male, and probably significantly older than I am), Say Uncle, this is where I would stand in front of you, hold your chin, look you in the eyes and tell you: “It hurts when you do that. It hurts me. Personally. And it hurts us as a group, because if the ‘nice’ people can get away with acting huffy because we dare to be upset that bad things have happened to us, even when that anger isn’t pointed directly at those so-called ‘nice’ people, then the people who aren’t so nice can get away with anything.”

… but I don’t know you, so I will instead pick apart the argument as I see it happening. (It does hurt, though.)

I pointed out at Volunteer Voters that the poll he quoted said nothing about the actual attitudes of the groups surveyed. The poll was about the perception of inter-group tension. Do black people think white people don’t like them? Looks like it. Do white people think other white people don’t like black people? Not quite as much as black people, but sort of.

This is the exact post I left there:

Ow.

Coming here from Aunt B’s sandbox, I promise to keep it relatively short, but.. this is dumb.

Aside from all of the amazingly complicated and deep academic and personal thiings I could say here, I just want to point out one relatively simple thing:

Dislike != racism. Antipathy to a group, unexpressed or expressed indirectly (voting behavior, talking behind people’s back, the comments you make when you think nobody’s watching) is prejudice, but only in its expression does it become racism.

On a slightly different note:

“According to the poll — conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation — 33 percent of blacks think that many white people dislike them while another seven percent feel they are disliked by all white people. In all, four in 10 black Americans feel disliked by whites.

Conversely 69 percent of whites polled believe only a few whites dislike blacks while 24 percent of whites say that many white people dislike blacks.”

The question as asked, in the setup as presented on CNN, is close to useless for the issue as you presented it. Nowhere is there evidence of a controlling question of any sort (“Do you like blacks?” would have been useful, even if it is problematic for self-reporting reasons).

Saying: “Gee, I think members of group A like members of group B, (with which I identify)” and having that countered with “No way, I don’t think group A (which I identify with) dislikes group B” sheds no light on whether Group A actually does or does not like Group B, and provides even *less* information about the attitudes of group B with respect to group A. At most, it says that members of groups A and B have differing perceptions of the tone of their interactions. It strongly implies that group A is blind to the effect of its actions on members of group B, and/or that group B is misinterpreting group A’s actions and intents. I think both of those are likely to be the case, personally.

You might say that you just posted it to be provocative, or that reading it made you think of your anecdote (“is [sic] has been my feeling that in recent years the more overt racism, by which I mean visceral dislike and expression of such, exists more among people of color than among whites.”), but you certainly can’t logically go from the results of that study to that conclusion.

[likely cross-posted at Tiny Cat Pants, provided I can get Squarespace to work with me again.]

magniloquence | 12.13.06 – 2:01 pm | #

It’s a piss-poor survey to begin with. (And before you ask, yes, I have done complex statistical analyses on large populations, using surveys of various sizes and qualities. I’ve worked with GSS and Census data, as well as specific data from individual studies found through Web Of Science and similar programs. I can run a regression and read an ANOVA chart just fine, thank you. None of that is in this survey, as released.)

Second, let’s take a good hard look at those numbers. He says:

“According to the poll — conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corporation — 33 percent of blacks think that many white people dislike them while another seven percent feel they are disliked by all white people. In all, four in 10 black Americans feel disliked by whites.

Conversely 69 percent of whites polled believe only a few whites dislike blacks while 24 percent of whites say that many white people dislike blacks.”

24 percent of whites is nearly a quarter. While there’s a significant difference between one third (blacks) and one quarter (whites), a rather large proportion of people of both ethnicities think that many white people dislike blacks. The results are actually more strikingly similar than that.

From the pdf at CNN itself:

8. Do you think only a few white people dislike blacks, many white people dislike blacks, or almost all white people dislike blacks?

Few white people dislike blacks-

Total: 65%

Whites: 69%

Blacks: 51%

Many white people dislike blacks-

Total: 27%

Whites: 24%

Blacks: 33%

Almost all white people dislike blacks –

Total: 3%

Whites: 2%

Blacks: 7%

No opinion-

Total: 5%

Whites 5%

Blacks: 9%

There is not a lot of variance there. Opinion Research Corporation gives this poll a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points. Three. While that doesn’t quite even out the groups in anything but the no-opinion group, it certainly makes the numbers a little more interesting, don’t you think?

(This is leaving aside the understandable but nonetheless infuriating self-selection biases of a CNN poll, conducted via telephone, of only 1,207 people, over three days. Not to mention the difference in their sample sizes – there are more than twice as many white answers as there were black answers. There is so much wrong with this as an actual statistical thing it’s not even funny.)

Most people – a simple majority, in any grouping, thinks that few white people dislike blacks. Personally, that would be my answer (both for the dislike != racism reason – people can act racist without actively disliking anyone, see: Richards, Michael – and because, well, most people have better things to do than sit around all day disliking people. Most people like to think they’re nice, and generally act that way too, in the Grand Overall Scheme of Things).

Many people – a third or a quarter of respondents, depending on the group – thought that “many white people don’t like black people.” How many is many? This question is so vague it shouldn’t have been on this survey in the first place. While I think that relatively few white people (in relation to the general population) dislike black people, I do think that’s still a damned lot of people. I might, depending on my personal experiences (I’m not talking just about racism, I’m talking about familiarity with statistics, personal preference for quantifiers, and one’s experience of taking phone surveys, among other things), bump that “few” up to “many” without necessarily meaning anything different from what I said earlier.

Then we get to the last little group. Given the margin of error and all the self-selecting biases (you’re far more likely to respond to a survey if you have strong opinions about a matter, and it doesn’t really matter what the subject is, strong negative opinions prompt more action than strong positive ones), I’d say there are probably about five percent of people who fall into this. You can get five percent of a group to say whatever wingnutty thing (though you can’t get them to vote for your third party unless something silly is happening at the national level).

Somehow, out of all of this, we manage to get a post saying that: [it seems to Kleinhinder that recently] “ … more overt racism, by which I mean visceral dislike and expression of such, exists more among people of color than among whites.”

That may be his experience. I’m the last person to pick on a person saying: “this is what I’ve seen and how it makes me, personally, feel.” But that survey doesn’t lead there from anywhere except free association.

So… we get to Aunt B’s question. What criteria are there for racism? (See how I did that, with the passive voice? Can you tell I’ve been a social scientist?)

I, personally, use the categories as laid out by my high school history teacher. He said that prejudice is in thought, discrimination is in/action, and racism (or any of the isms) is the system. Somebody who hates black people with a passion but is too afraid of getting his butt sued off and so never, ever expresses it is just prejudiced. Yes, of course, in the colloquial terminology, such a person would qualify as racist, but that’s the point of this exegesis, isn’t it? Not calling an applicant for an interview because her name is Trenyciana Quandeece Williams is discriminatory, sure; but the –ism is in the systemic nature. Do you discriminate against people based on their race? This can come from prejudice or ignorance or whatever, but the –ism of it comes from the fact that it follows some sort of rule.

I also differentiate between racism (systemic discrimination on the basis of race, or racially related qualities), and things which have racist results. The “War on Drugs” that calls for differing penalties for possession of equal amounts of cocaine based on whether it’s powder (which rich white folks get) or rock (which poor folk of color get) isn’t overtly racist; it doesn’t SAY “Lock up black folks for having drugs and fine the white folks.” It does, however, have strikingly racist effects (in which, yes, people of color are arrested, fined, and jailed far more frequently than white people, for crimes of the same type and similar nature and degree of severity).

(One might further differentiate between acts which are in themselves racist-in-the-colloquial-sense (such as Michael Richards’ tirade), and the state of “being” racist. One may certainly do things which are themselves racist, or which have racist effects, without being a person who consciously dislikes or devalues people of another race. Who you are and what you do don’t have to track that way.)

I don’t suppose that entirely answers your question, Aunt B. Not in its form, anyway. For me, I take as colloquially racist any acts which are (by my stricter definition) racially discriminatory or harmful, though noting that such acts may be perpetrated by people who are not racist or do not consider themselves to be so, and that the racism in question may be a byproduct of something that isn’t exactly anyone’s fault.

Systemic discrimination in hiring processes by name? ( http://drcenter.org/employment.htm , particularly http://drcenter.org/employment.htm#names ) Racist. Using racial slurs? (outside of certain in-group circumstances, such as an evening with friends, in the privacy of your own home, where you are mocking groups with which you are at least affiliated, perhaps) Racist. (“I’m just joking” is not a defense, but the situation does matter) Willfully ignoring ample evidence of racial inequality in a system in which one is a participant, especially if said blindness leads one to campaign against doing anything about the problem one won’t acknowledge? Racist.

To Mr. Law, well.. you’re a hard case. Personally, I’m inclined to take Aunt B’s route, and just laugh. I do, however, want to point out that the American “black” and “African-American” populations (again, as distinct from ‘people-who-emigrated-from-Africa) are culturally and historically distinct from Africans. This: “ So, even when they behave dreadfully as in Rwanda or Darfur , they blame it on White people” just doesn’t make any sense at all. “Race” as we read it isn’t just about the color of your skin, or how likely your baby is to be lactose intolerant. There’s history there too. The slavery that you speak of is something that definitionally happened to the group of people that were being discussed in the conversation before you got here (black people), not the people you bring in (the Rwandans and Sudanese). That doesn’t mean that those few people who make claims of pan-African-diasporic essentialist unity aren’t crazy, but… nobody was making those claims here.

And lastly (I swear! Unless someone posts something else while I’m typing), addressing the point you bring up here, Aunt B:

“It just tickles me that “real” “un-PC” talk about racism, where we get all honest with each other as white folks when we think black people aren’t listening never just acknowledges white on black racism but looks for a way to justify it not because we enjoy the (sometimes small) advantages it gives us, but because black people deserve it or because black people are worse racists than us.”

….yeah. It’s tempting, but it’s also silly. You can’t reprimand someone for something and turn around and do it yourself. “Do as I say, not as I do” has never worked. Of course there are a lot of bitter, racist, ‘ignant’ black folk out there. There are narrow-minded people of any ethnic group, and people who are unhappy have a tendency to lash out. People in marginalized groups tend to be (gasp! Shock!) upset about being marginalized in the first place.

But I don’t really want to debate relative marginalization. I want to point out something very basic: just because other people are mean doesn’t give you a pass to be mean back.

I’ll add a few more simple, cliché things, and then I’ll let you go: escalation is never justified, one ought strive to do as one wishes to be done by, and an inability to control all aspects of a situation (including others’ behavior) is no excuse not to address those one does have access to (including one’s own behavior).