December 11, 2009

"Race" Face

Hatched by Dafydd

Patterico has been driving a fascinating series of blogposts -- including two of mine, in my cacapity (sorry, it's after 2:00 pm, and I've had a three or four) capacity as a former guest blogger who still has blogging privileges on Patterico's Pontifications -- on the subject of racism. I find this not merely worth reading but utterly fundamental to any discussion of politics or cultural comparisons... because racism cuts to the quick of whether we see persons as individuals or as merely infinitesmial cogs in the giant machinery of State.

Big Lizards apple martini (not an "appletini," an appellation that makes us gag):

  1. One shot of Skyy vodka (unflavored);
  2. Three squirts of lime juice;
  3. Five shots of Dekuyper sour apple schnapps.
  4. Drink while watching (a) an original Perry Mason episode; (b) a "Thin Man" movie with William Powell and Myrna Loy, or (c) an episode of Dancing With the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance.

Patterico's most recent "racism" entry is this, wherein he quotes a table-pounding assertion by blogger Beldar -- who I love like a sister... brother, whatever -- as if it were written on the wall by a giant finger... mene mene tekel upharsin!

Anyone of any race who denies having ever had racist thoughts is a liar. Anyone who expects us to believe that he or she has never had racist thoughts is a fool.

With all due respect (which translates to "I'm about to make a pompous ass of myself by contradicting my betters) to one of my favorite bloggers, who I have never met (though I would love to take him to sushi in Houston), this abstracted and overly symmetrical homily is a load of sea cucumber *.

Big Lizards ordinary extraordinary gin martini:

  1. Fill a cocktail shaker with ice;
  2. Pour in a shot of vermouth;
  3. Shake vigorously;
  4. Pour the vermouth out and down the drain... you don't need it, it's just a condiment;
  5. Pour a shot of Citadelle gin into the shaker;
  6. Shake vigorously; the gin will pick up the slight flavor of the coating of vermouth from steps 2 and 3;
  7. Pour into a martini glass;
  8. Add three or four Tabasco peppers on a toothpick;
  9. Drink while listening to 1970s progrock... King Crimson, Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull (especially Songs From the Wood -- that kind of music. You know what I mean.)
  10. For a burst of flavor, eat the peppers while the alcohol still swirls around your mouth.

What is a "racist thought?" It must surely be a thought that is racist... that is, a thought that betrays a belief that at least one race is implicitly "superior" to at least one other race. Oh, wait; let me clarify some terms, so that we're all speaking the same language:

  • Racist: A person who believes some races are cosmically inferior to others.
  • Racial bigot: A person who dislikes people because they belong to a particular race.
  • Racialist: A person who thinks race is always a person’s most important characteristic.
  • Racial separatist: A person advocating a separation of the races.
  • Racial supremicist: A person who believes one race should rule over the others.
  • Racial discrimination: Treating a person differently because of his race.
  • …Distinct words for distinct concepts.

    It’s important we all use by and large the same language: A person can be a racial separatist without being a racial supremicist (Randy Weaver, for example), or he can be a racial bigot without being a racist, or he can be a racist but not engage in racial discrimination.

    More often if he’s one, he’s the other; but the terms are not synonyms.

    It's important to define your terms, as Ayn Rand insisted. (I'm not a Randroid, by the way; I think she was an interesting but not compelling philosopher, and her misunderstanding of mathematical logic was of the towering, epic class. But she was right on this specific point of defining terms; trust me.)

    Taking this definition as our lodestone, a "racist thought" is a thought that directly states, or at least presupposes, that (to simplify) race A is inherently superior to race B. But there exist people in the world (I'm one of them) who believe that "race" is an artificial, artifactual construct with no corresponding physical reality. That is, many of us believe that race is simply an external characteristic that is applied retroactively to humans on the basis of superficial and meaningless biophysical morphologies.

    Therefore, it would be intellectually impossible for me to have a "racist thought": It would be like accusing me of believing that one astrological sign was inherently superior to another. I don't believe in astrology, I reject the physical existence of astrological signs -- not just rhetorically but in my very being; so how could I imagine that Libra, my own sign, was superior or inferior to Sagittarius, Sachi's sign? I don't even believe that zodiacal signs mean anything at all, other than the ability of humans to look at a cloud and see a horsey, a ducky -- or a scales or archer.

    Similarly, I don't look at a black man and see a different subspecies; I simply see someone who occupies a particular point on an n-dimensional graph of physical characteristics... facial features, hue, height, build, and so forth. I don't see a "black" -- I see an individual who is darker than I, probably taller, has a particular shaped nose, etc.

    Beldar's projections from his own programming, having grown up in the South, are meaningless to me; I don't see "races," so how could I see one race as superior or inferior to another? He can recline on his couch and make lordly pronouncements that everyone harbors racist thoughts; but he's simply generalizing from the particular to the universal... and doing it badly.

    I could no more think that blacks were inferior to whites than I could think that people with yellow hair ("blonds") were inherently stupid compared to people with brown hair ("brunets")... or that libras were smarter than sagittariuses.

    Now to Patterico. My friend and former blogboss asserts the following astounding claim:

    Beldar makes two very important points: 1) "making a racist comment does not mean you are a racist," and 2) "you need not “intend” to be racist to be racist."

    As for the first point, that is why I was careful to say that I was not calling R.S. McCain a racist....

    As to point 2), there are just a lot of instances where it just makes no sense to say you “intended” racism.

    The first paraphrase from the first paragraph simply plays with definitions; the second is demonstrably false. Point 1:

    1. The most logical and obvious definition of a racist is a person who harbors racist beliefs.
    2. A racist belief is one that assumes, explicitly or implicitly, that one race is superior to another.
    3. Anyone who believes that one race is superior to another is, by definition, a racist.
    4. Ergo, anyone who intentionally makes a racist statement is, again by definition, either a racist (if he is honest) or a mendacious liar (if he doesn't really believe what he says)... because he intentionally stated -- that is, trying to make people believe -- that one race is superior to another.

    So what about the second point; what does it mean to say that one "intends to be racist?" Again, I think it clear that, because racist means "believ[ing] some races are cosmically inferior to others," making any statement that is racist -- implying or explicitly stating that one race is inferior to others -- one must either believe what one has said, which means one has been racist... or else one doesn't believe what one has said, which means one was telling a deliberate falsehood.

    On the second prong of the fork, there are only two reasons one might say something racist without really meaning it: Either you are deliberately playing on the latent racism of some listener, hoping to mislead him into a racist belief... or else your statement was never intended to be believed in the first place. For an example of the latter, consider Carroll O'Connor, playing Archie Bunker in a teleplay, making racist comments in a conscious effort to make his character seem repugnant and reprehensible.

    Other than such satirical or pedantic pronouncements, it's hard to think of an instance in which one would utter a racist comment without intending to utter a racist comment. However, I can think of many instances in which one would intentionally utter a racist comment -- but not realize there was anything wrong with such racism... which I think is what Beldar and Patterico mistake for not "intentionally" being racist.

    But an analogy makes clear that this is rhetorical error. The analogy is a person who kills a rival or object of hatred, not realizing there is anything wrong with doing so. Can he still be convicted of murder? Of course he can! For murder, one must only have the intention to kill a person, in a situation not allowed by law; there is no requirement that one realize that such killing is wrong... only that he realizes that he is killing a person, and that killing a person is against the law.

    Otherwise, you could not convict, say, a Sicilian who believes that it's perfectly acceptable to kill the brother of a person who wronged him. Evviva la vendetta!

    For a racist statement to be intentional, I only must show that the speaker intended to state that one race is inferior to another... not that he understands that non-racists reject such categorizations. Thus, David Duke may think there is nothing wrong in saying that blacks are inferior to whites; but his ignorance or paleolithic opinons don't exonerate him from the proper charge of racism.

    So the only way to make a racist statement without being racist... is to state the idea that one race is inferior to another without any desire to advance that idea. In other words, to dishonestly (for entertainment or perversity) say something you don't really believe, even for a moment... like if, in response to an attack by some liberal, I were to say ironically, "Oh yes, I think blondes are all stupid."

    So other than obvious instances of irony, playacting, or mendacious instances of misleading, when a person makes a racist comment, it clearly implies that he harbors racist thoughts... hence is a racist.

    Sorry, my friends; but the Beldar/Patterico thesis that one can utter unconscious racism without having any racist thought is a risible humbug.

    There; who says alcohol addles the mind? God, I wish I had some LSD. Haven't had a microgram in twenty years. Yeesh. (All right, all right, don't panic; everything is back to norble.)


    * Sea cucumber is the most vile, disgusting, emetic "food" animal; it is eaten only by deranged individuals, in restaurants that cater to the mentally condemned. It's the same phylum as a sea star (a.k.a., a starfish); anybody who would voluntarily eat an echinoderm like a sea star, desperately needs psychiatric counseling. (Exceptional dispensation is offered for the roe of sea urchins, which is heavenly... though not the sea urchin itself.)

    Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 11, 2009, at the time of 4:22 AM

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    The following hissed in response by: Sabba Hillel

    What about the situation in which one believes that there are inborn traits that are characteristic of groups, but are not related to physical appearance? For example, the stereotypes about Scots (Scotch on the other hand ...), French, Polish (BTW the only word in the English language whose pronunciation is changed by capitalizing the first letter), Jews, etc. that have given rise to "racist" "jokes". Would someone be a "racist" if he harbors the belief that the group is

    a. genetically determined and
    b. is "cosmically inferior"

    but the group is objectively not defined in that way (such as the groups that I mentioned above.

    What about definitions of "black" that restrict the racism to "descendants of people who were slaves in the United States between 1783 and 1865" and claim to use physical characteristics as an indicator of identity.

    BTW of course MY religion is superior to YOUR religion, even if neither of us know what the other's religion is or even if we "officially" belong to the same religion.

    The above hissed in response by: Sabba Hillel [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 5:47 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin

    I think a large part of the racism without intent argument may stem from a pseudo multicultural belief that racism is in the eye of the beholder.

    For instance, one might use the expression "The pot calling the kettle black" to chide another for the hypocrisy of accusing you of something of which they themselves are also guilty. The expression, to the speaker, simply refers to the two pieces of cookware sharing the same color attribute. Another, and I have seen and heard it done, will interpret that expression as derogatory and racist.

    The speaker intended no racism, the listener heard racism. Is it racism?

    I argue that it does not based on the clear objective meaning of the expression. The objective meaning of the words, of course, means nothing to those who think you are racist for singing "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas."

    The above hissed in response by: Stephen Macklin [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 5:55 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    Sabba Hillel:

    None of those groups is a "race," so it's not racism.

    Words that carry such a powerful negative emotional charge as racism must be narrowly confined to a specific meaning that everyone accepts, not allowed to bloat endlessly to include meanings that only some people accept.

    Otherwise, you have the situation of today, where anything can provoke a charge of racism -- therefore cheapening and diminishing the charge itself to the point where few people bat an eye at being called "racist": Misuse has drained the epithet of its power.

    One may of course be bigoted against Celts, Gauls, Slavs, and such; but since those are not races (they're all white), it isn't racism. Racism is a particularly odious kind of bigotry that bases the inferiority-belief upon, to be blunt, skin color and certain other obvious facial and bodily characteristics; such indicators are not merely genetic but by definition instantly identifiable.

    (Anti-black racism was later extended to people who had only the slightest trace of African genetic heritage and sometimes no visual markers of it at all; but I think that was purely economic... a way to legally obtain "white slave girls" to sell to deviants who wanted to be able to rape them without legal consequences. That's not really racism; it's state-sanctioned criminality.)

    I reserve the term racism for the belief that one race is inferior to another race, nothing else.

    Stephen Macklin:

    In this post, I only discussed what is racism when we actually can determine what the speaker meant; I think it would take another post to go into the epistemology of how we determine that.

    For example, the situation of the Monty Python "Hungarian Phrasebook" sketch obviously would not be racism; in that sketch, ordinary phrases in Magyar, such as "Where is the train station," were "translated" into completely different English phrases, such as "I would like to fondle your bum."

    If some foreigner were misinformed that the way to order halibut in a restaurant was to say "Black people are fit only to shine shoes," he isn't being racist when he says that, because what he is attempting to say doesn't depict one race as inferior. But a listener who spoke English could be excused for thinking it was a racist comment.


    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 1:42 PM

    The following hissed in response by: David Johnson


    You're in Houston?! Where do you eat sushi? I do read you regularly (yesss, I'm one of the three) and would certainly like to break bread dine sup eat sushi with you, circumstances permitting.


    If we get to a point where the hearer is the arbiter of what is or isn't racist, we will have to stop using any words that describe color at all. The pot calling the kettle stainless. I'm dreaming of a wintery Christmas.


    The above hissed in response by: David Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 3:03 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh

    David Johnson:

    No, I live in Southern California. I thought that Beldar lived in or near Houston, or at least in Texas, which is why I said that. (And I have no idea whether there are any edible sushi places in Houston.)



    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 5:58 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Beldar


    (1) Important things first: We agree entirely about sea cucumbers. The drink recipes all sound very intriguing. Houston, where I've lived since 1980, has some decent sushi places, although probably not as many as the major cities of California have.

    (2) Your definitions are internally consistent, and they therefore might be useful for purposes of discussion; but I'm unconvinced that they match up precisely with common English usage.

    (3) Admiring and respecting you as I do, I will take on faith that you have never, at any point in your life, made a mental judgment about anyone based upon his or her race, and if so, you have achieved something to which I aspire. I think the number of people who can truthfully say that, however, are vanishingly rare.

    (4) General and specific intent are indeed concepts that have longstanding and important meaning in law. In most states, for example, to commit a homicide, I have to have general intent: In a common example of that, I need to have intended, for example, to fire the gun (sleepwalking or dropping the gun to cause an accidental discharge won't suffice). I may have lacked any intention -- and indeed even had a contrary intention -- than killing when I fired the gun, but yet still be guilty of the homicide (e.g., if I fired intending only to startle someone, but I missed by actually hitting someone). To upgrade that homicide to felony murder, I have to have intended to pull the trigger while I was also intentionally engaged in the commission of a felony (e.g., I intended to deprive someone of his money by robbing him at gunpoint). To upgrade that to what's often called first-degree murder, I need to have not only intended to fire the gun, but that the fired shot kill the victim. Courts go to considerable lengths to ensure that juries are properly instructed about the requisite degree of general or specific intent in criminal cases whenever any sort of intent is an element of the crime -- typically through close parsing of the specific language of the criminal law that the defendant has allegedly violated. (There are a few crimes that do not include intent among their elements.)

    (5) In both civil and criminal law relating to race, I think it's fair to say that as a general rule, civil or criminal liability only attaches to actions (and perhaps also to certain deliberate inactions when there is a legal duty to act). And generally speaking, such civil or criminal liability also requires that a high standard of specific intent be met. An example: When in 2003 the Texas Legislature finally passed, and the governor signed, a Congressional redistricting based on the 2000 census, Democrats challenged its legality based on the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Both the special three-judge court which weighed the evidence and then the SCOTUS agreed that the Texas Legislature's overriding intention in drawing the new Congressional districts was to advantage Republicans (not whites) and to disadvantage Democrats (not non-whites). Discriminating against a political party, though ugly, is the essence of gerrymandering and is still, so far as the SCOTUS has yet held, entirely legal; but discriminating against voters on account of their race isn't.

    (6) It's tempting even for non-lawyers to import legal concepts, as from criminal and civil laws regarding prohibited racial discrimination, into a discussion of the morality of racial attitudes and actions. But that ultimately won't work.

    Take, for example, the hypothetical I used this morning in a comment I left on one of Jeff G's posts at Protein Wisdom:

    When I worry about my own racist tendencies, it's the unintentional ones I worry about. I catch myself nodding in agreement when someone says, "Oh, those Asian kids are natural math wonks." Well, I have no malice toward Asians, no deeply held and consistent belief that they’re superior to non-Asians or any race or ethnicity or national origin. I don't think I'm a racist. I have no evil intent toward anyone in connection with that statement, or my nodding approval of it. And yet: That's a racist statement. It's judging based on race (in this particular example, judging math skills). It's stereotyping, and even to the extent that there may be statistical support for such an argument, that confuses correlation with causation and may ignore lots of other causal sources (e.g., cultural ones that tend to overlap with racial categories but certainly don’t do so uniformly or automatically).

    Were I to catch myself feeling "revulsion" at mixed-race couples, that too is something I would not approve of in myself. Such a feeling might or might not be motivated, in whole or part, by a belief that one of the races is "inferior," but regardless of my good or bad or absent motivations, it’s a racist feeling.

    To which Jeff G. responded (italics his):

    There’s nothing "unintentional" about that. And yes, it's racist, and you were racist at the time for agreeing.

    Realizing that you’ve made a racist move — and correcting it going forward — means that next time you may not be racist.

    But in this example, I haven't done anything but nod. I haven't burnt a cross on anyone's lawn; I haven't petitioned the school board to limit the number of Asian kids who are permitted to take honors math classes at the public high school which my kids attend; I haven't acted in a way that has advantaged or disadvantaged anyone or anything. Indeed, I could have constructed my hypothetical slightly differently, such that instead of nodding, I remained absolutely still and only thought to myself "Yeah, that's right."

    With neither deed nor specific intent to advantage or disadvantage anyone based upon his or her race, I certainly haven't violated any law. But I have made a judgment about a group of people based on a stereotype that is in turn based upon their race. Jeff G. had no trouble labeling the sequence described in my hypothetical as "racist" -- and worse, no trouble labeling me as racist -- even though the hypothetical was constructed to negate the possibility of the sort of specific intent and conduct the law requires to impose criminal or civil liability for racial discrimination. Jeff G. insists, without explanation, that "there's nothing unintentional about that" -- but what does his "that" refer to? Am I supposed to be a race traitor -- someone who believes in the superiority of Asians over whites -- despite my denials that I regularly hold such beliefs? If so, then Jeff G. is re-writing my hypothetical -- projecting a subjective intention onto me that is contrary to the stipulations of my hypothetical (and certainly contrary to my real-life beliefs). With due and genuine respect to Jeff G. (and incorporating your disclaimer from above about that phrase), I think he's failed to resolve this contradiction in his argument that there is no "racism" absent pernicious intent. Do you have a resolution for it, Daffyd, that doesn't require you to project or impute an intent to disadvantage someone based on race?

    (7) You mention my implicit reference to my own "programming," based on my having grown up in the South, and you're exactly right: I'm old enough to have lived through the struggle for civil rights, I lived on one of its battle fields, and I'm acutely conscious of the generational progress that my home state has made -- how deeply imbued with racism we started, how far we've come, and how far we have yet to travel to reach a genuinely color-blind society. I had, for a time (but as an adult myself), a step-father who was a virtual caricature of a die-hard southern bigot, a man who would have reversed the Civil War and reimposed slavery in a heartbeat if it had been within his power. I've seen my own children -- who share my phosphorescently pale Celtic skin -- subjected to virulent racism (or, perhaps, what some would rather call "reverse racism") from black schoolmates who conclusively presumed that my children presume themselves superior on account of their particularly pale skin. (This was at a public middle school in Houston where race relations are particularly strained, and the manifestations included things like my then 12-year-old daughter, who weighs perhaps 85 pounds dripping wet, being pushed down a flight of stairs, tripped, and hit.) So these are not academic issues for me or my family.

    When one has just been victimized by racist violence, it's practically impossible to avoid at least briefly thinking of retaliation and revenge that is also premised on judgments based, in turn, solely on race. Those feelings are indeed infected with something very close to specific intent to make negative judgments based on race, albeit not then to act upon those judgments. But frankly, those feelings are the easy ones for me and my kids to recognize as racist (or, as some might put it, reverse-reverse racism) without very much reflection at all. And I'm satisfied that my or my kids' occasional racist reactions or thoughts of this sort don't dominate our outlooks, or characterize our personalities, or make us into reflexive and thorough-going racists. We simply have to keep straight our core values and beliefs to keep moving on the path toward a color-blind society. (In my case, that also involves pointing out and mocking identity politics; my kids are coming around on that subject too).

    No, what's hard -- and still important -- to do is to recognize and correct the less obvious, perhaps less pernicious (at least superficially) racist thoughts that aren't tied to any intention to disadvantage or retaliate or act in any other way. We want, and need, to recognize and avoid what President Bush called, for example, the soft bigotry of low expectations; we want to challenge the assumption that, for example, black people will always vote Democratic. We want to end racism that's well-intended as well as that which is motivated by pernicious beliefs in the superiority or inferiority of particular races.

    And here's the very nub, as I see it: If one insists that a racist intention must be present for a thought, speech, or act to be "racist," then one risks not only excusing me when I nod at the person who's just said "Those Asians are natural math wonks," but also excusing the "perfectly rational people" whom R.S. McCain says would react with a revulsion that is "NOT RACIST" upon being presented with images of interracial couples. Whether McCain himself, in his secret heart and thoughts, is or isn't part of the group he referenced, I don't know or much care. But I disapprove of those people. I believe very strongly that anyone who is experiencing "revulsion" from that particular stimulus is experiencing feelings based in racism.

    The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 10:47 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Beldar

    Bah. Missed a close-blockquote tag up there. But thanks for the opportunity to comment here, my friend.

    The above hissed in response by: Beldar [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 11, 2009 10:48 PM

    The following hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh


    First, the important thing: You needn't type the block quote and other tags; if you look directly above the comment text box, you will see a series of 13 buttons, labeled from B to Dict.

    I put those in to make it easier to format, without having to type the HTML code (and incidentally, making it very hard to mistakenly close with an open-blockquote tag, rather than a close-blockquote, thus turning the whole rest of the comment (and sometimes succeeding comments!) into one gigantic quotation.

    For example, to get the italics in the paragraph above, I just selected the text from "without" to "code"; when it was highlighted, I clicked the I button (I for italics); it added in the em and /em tags itself.

    It works the same for bold, underline, strikethrough, blockquote, and other tags. Link brings up a text box, into which you type or paste the link, and it turns the highlighted text into an href tag.

    Now to the meat...

    This is why definitions are so important; I think you (and Jeff G., though I'm not sure who he is) made a wrong turning at the very beginning of your hypothetical:

    When I worry about my own racist tendencies, it's the unintentional ones I worry about. I catch myself nodding in agreement when someone says, "Oh, those Asian kids are natural math wonks." Well, I have no malice toward Asians, no deeply held and consistent belief that they’re superior to non-Asians or any race or ethnicity or national origin. I don't think I'm a racist. I have no evil intent toward anyone in connection with that statement, or my nodding approval of it. And yet: That's a racist statement.

    The fundamental problem here is that what you nodded agreement to is not a racist statement; it's a prejudiced statement... but it's not really based upon race but upon the culture in which you presume the Asian (Sachi prefers being called Oriental) grew up.

    It would have been a racist statement if your interlocutor had said that Asian kids are better at math even if they are raised exactly like whites, because they have some genetic tendency towards mathematics that is tied to their skin color and epicanthic folds, or somesuch.

    Look, I can make the same statement about Jews -- that they have a "natural tendency" towards learning -- and Jews are not a race; a Jew can be any race. But our culture does value learning much more highly than does the typical black American culture... which is of course why Jews (as a group) regularly outperform blacks, Hispanics, and whites (each as a group) on standardized tests.

    I do not for one second believe that a Jewish baby -- adopted out to a white Christian family from birth and not told that he is of, say, Russian Ashkenazi Jewish heritage -- would be any more likely to love learning than any other baby raised in that family. There is nothing magical about Jewish "blood" (or genetics) that leads to better scores in math, science, history, or what have you; rather, it derives from a culture that, quite frankly, bullies children into spending all their time studying and not be a fulyack, a lazy bum.

    (Sephardim are also obsessed with learning, but they come at it from a different direction and with a higher-class style.)

    This is why I crafted those definitions as carefully as I did... to distinguish between racism, prejudice, and simple observation:

    1. "Blacks are subhuman, fit only to be ruled": racist
    2. "I'll bet that black guy is a fulyack": prejudiced
    3. "Blacks tend as a group to work less than whites": observation

    Statement 1 is obviously racist, I think we can agree.

    Statement 2 is prejudiced because the speaker presumes that this particular, individual black person fits the observation of Statement 3; what if "that black guy" is Thomas Sowell, or Walter Williams, or Jesse Jackson or Larry Elderberry? Agree or disagree with his politics, not a one of them is a lazy bum.)

    But however tempting it may be to conclude that, because a certain culture very commonly goes along with a certain skin color, that therefore a cultural statement like 2 is really a racial statement, the temptation must be resisted: Pinned down, few would believe there is a "math gene" that Jews and Asians have but blacks and Hispanics do not.

    Statement 3 is an observation that happens to be true; it would still be an observation even if it were false... e.g., "Domestic violence always spikes around Superbowl Sunday." And it remains an observation even though individuals within the group don't always fit the observation.

    You agreed with a prejudiced statement that was based upon a true observation; not all Asian kids are math wonks, but as a group, they fare demonstrably better at math than do kids raised in many other cultures.

    When I say racism, I specifically and only mean prejudice tied exclusively to skin color and related facial and bodily features. I completely agree that a person can make a prejudiced statement without being generally prejudiced; I also agree that virtually nobody is without prejudice, including myself.

    But I flatly disagree that nearly everybody has some specifically racist tendencies; that is a very narrow subspecies of mere prejudice (literally, "pre-judging") that is much rarer today than you seem to believe.

    This is enough of a response for the moment; we should deal with this distinction before returning to the Patterico hypothesis.

    (I won't be editing this comment, as I generally do, because we're leaving tomorrow morning for a few days in San Francisco, and I must finish packing activities... so this comment is raw and first draft. I'm living dangerously!)


    The above hissed in response by: Dafydd ab Hugh [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2009 4:11 AM

    The following hissed in response by: cdor

    This discussion seems intent on clarifying the specific definition of words, in this case words referring to race, so as to discern the intent of the speaker, perhaps even his character. It is an important discussion as words do having meaning, without which communicating with language would be impossible.

    So, I have to ask. Why do the words black and white keep appearing here, and in society as well, when referring to race? I don't remember the nominal usage of the color yellow when referring to Asians. I have never met a person who is black, nor one who is white. When discussing race, why do we allow these misleading and sometimes perjorative, certainly completely incorrect, colorization words into our vocabulary as a substitute for the actual names of specific human races? Are there actual names? Are there actual races, even? Have the proper nouns Negro, Caucasian, Mongoloid been removed from our language by some higher politically correct wordmeister for some particular reason, having substituted totally improper adjectives in their place?

    The above hissed in response by: cdor [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2009 5:09 AM

    The following hissed in response by: cdor


    If we are going to use colors when we are talking about races, why not use more accurate colors, like brown and creme, or some such. By attempting a more accurate description one might notice that we are no longer using polar opposites. That simple act could change peoples attitudes entirely. We are no longer black or white people, we are brown and creme people. In other words we are much closer to being the same than we are to being different.

    The above hissed in response by: cdor [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 12, 2009 5:21 AM

    The following hissed in response by: Sabba Hillel

    So, I have to ask. Why do the words black and white keep appearing here, and in society as well, when referring to race? I don't remember the nominal usage of the color yellow when referring to Asians. I have never met a person who is black, nor one who is white.
    IIRC (If I recall Correctly) the original usage for "black" was "Negro" or "Colored" (as in NAACP). When the words themselves became pejorative, they were replaced. I recall the arguments over the use of the use of "Afro-American", "African-American", and "black". People do tend to speak in shortened or simpler terms, (in "black" and "white" so to speak (:-)).

    Also consider how "the N-word" came about through the use of the extreme Southern accent applied to the term "Negro" (which of course actually means "black"). In the "hillbilly" accent, the long e was heard as a short i, and the long o at the end was heard as a short a. Eventually, people who tend to end English words with a consnant rather than a vowel, replaced the "ra" ending with "er". Since that pronunciation was used by the red neck crowd, it became the "pejorative that must never be used".

    As words become unacceptable by society, they are replaced by others. In fact, "Negro" was originally used because it is the actual word for "black". and the Latin spelling of the color black is "niger"

    The above hissed in response by: Sabba Hillel [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 14, 2009 7:13 AM

    The following hissed in response by: cdor

    I just popped over here by chance, and gee wiz, a response. Thanks Sabba. Black also means the absence of light and is oft times derogatory. If my skin were dark brown, I wouldn't want to be called black...unless I were trying to create a juxtapositon to the "white" guy, who isn't actually white. The terms are, by nature, dichotomous. If we are trying to achieve equality and respect, why do we use words that create polar opposites? Here's a definition from " Expressing, recognizing, or based on two mutually exclusive sets of ideas or values: black-and-white categories; a black-and-white point of view." Mutually exclusive terminology creates mutually exclusive societal relations, don't you think? There has been a lot of verbiage here defining racism in all its nuances. My point being that the human categories which we have chosen to stipulate by name (only over the last 40 years or so) are not helping to rid our society of racism, if that is what we are actually attempting to achieve. I think using the names "black" and "white" when describing Negroes and Caucasians is, in itself, racist.

    The above hissed in response by: cdor [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 14, 2009 8:05 AM

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