Saturday, September 4, 2010

Can We Get Enough of Hitler?


Posted by: Noel Jones 


So have you heard about how Easton High School printed its yearbook with a Hitler quote in it, and how this has caused an uproar, resulting in stickers being placed over the quote, while some in the community getting upset about the stickers, claiming that it is a free speech issue? 


Read my comment on the Morning Call's Valley 610 Blog in response to Christopher Baxter's blog post on this hot topic, and be sure to vote in the poll. And if you disagree with me, feel
free to post a comment, but let's keep the debate civil...






Earlier this year, a Holland Township couple made the news for getting mad at ShopRite for refusing to personalize a birthday cake for their 3 year old son that they named Adolph Hitler. 

More recently, Stephen Schwarzman, head of The Blackstone Group in New York claimed that the Obama administration's desire to not renew tax cuts granted to the wealthy during the Bush administration was akin to Hitler's invasion of Poland.


Why can't we seem to get enough of Hitler in our society? Considering thousands of our servicemen lost their lives in World War II to extinguish the man's tyranny over Europe, you'd

think we'd be glad to get rid of him.


My friend Matt told me about a funny Internet adage called Godwin's Law that says that all conversations, if given enough time, will end up on the topic of Hitler. I have my own hypothesis about why this may happen.

When I used to teach poetry in an inner-city high school, I told the kids that I didn't want them to curse, but not because of any sort of moral judgment on cursing itself, but because people curse out of laziness, when they run out more creative ways to express how they are feeling, and that the curse itself is meaningless and expresses little more than anger, frustration or a lack of respect, not the perspective behind it. That laziness is the antithesis of poetry, which seeks to pack as much meaning into each word or line as possible. I think a similar thing happens with Godwin's Law, in that references to one of the world's most heinous murderers is almost never appropriate when compared to anything happening today, either literally or metaphorically--it is an exasperated exaggeration that one leaps to when their side of an argument isn't holding up in a debate--the "nuclear option" so to speak (another gross exaggeration, but much less specific) that one detonates to end a debate that they are losing in such an uproar, in the hope that no one will notice that his/her argument before the Hitler reference made no sense.

49 comments:

David Caines said...

Regular references to Hitler are (at least in my view) about on par with the abuse of the Term "Racism" . They are pointed, generally completely unfounded and usually are offered to force an opponent to back away from a conversation that the user of the terms cannot present any other argument to . Hopefully like the "F" word, these habits will eventually become tired and de- classe', but most likely that won't happen until the economic or political advantage of using the terms is lost.
As to the greater issue, the student who penned the quote by Hitler has as much right to do so as any other student has to quote any other being. I'd advise the student or his/her family to sue.
This sort of thing is a knee jerk reaction to possible perceived insults to large groups of people who may not even be offended or notice. It is Racist in that the school has assumed the worst of both the person placing the quote and the minorities that might be offended by the quote.
well, that's my two cents,
Thanks,
David

noel jones said...

Thanks for posting David. I don't follow:

"It is Racist in that the school has assumed the worst of both the person placing the quote and the minorities that might be offended by the quote."

How is it 'racist' and who said anything about minorities? There are plenty of white people out there offended by the quote. Isn't this "abuse of the Term 'Racism'" as you put it?

The school district asserts has the legal right to edit its printed publications--that it's not legally a civil rights issue. I know you like researching these kinds of issues, so if you have legal evidence to the contrary please post it because it will make for an interesting discussion--thanks!

David Caines said...

Technically students have almost zero rights on school grounds, odd way to teach the concept of freedom, odder still that we've lined up to complain about a quote and not the base concept of censorship.
-Isn't this "abuse of the Term 'Racism'" as you put it?-
Yes, got it in one, though was hoping some one would. The term is horribly misused and misunderstood as are words like tolerance. The "R" word has come to have nearly the power (if not perhaps moreso) than the "C" word (Communism) held during McCarthy's time. "It always galls me that we look back to such times and say, I can't believe they got away with it" while doing the same thing with different words. Though considering the state of our public schools it shouldn't surprise me.
As to the legal issue if there is one, the question is one of Parity the "You wear your "X" and I'll wear mine" sort of thing. If and it is likely, the school published comments likely to be offensive to other large groups, or by other politicians (Hitler was one, I can't stomach his work myself...but fair's fair), then by right of the concept of parity they should either print his quote uncensored, or censor all other such quotes, barring this the student has been singled out as has the quote, pointing at a very real possibility that the school has acted with bias against this student and his choice of expression. Believe me, I'm not fighting for Hitlerian quotes, but censorship is a slippery slope.
Have a good morning and happy holiday, and I'll ask all to remember that as go the unions, so goes the middle class. Oddly both are shrinking.
Peace,
David

noel jones said...

I do agree that the term "racist" has taken on a life of its own that has little to do with its actually meaning. Nowadays the word seems to be used to mean, "really bad person." And so, people who hold racists view have actually said things to me like, "just because I think black people are lazy, doesn't make me a racist!" So even when the person is expressing a racist view, the general usage of the word suggests that what the person really means is, "I have a right to hold racist views and it doesn't make me a really bad person!"

It's kind of like saying, "just because I have a fear of the number 13, doesn't make me superstitious!" or "just because I hear voices doesn't mean i'm crazy!"

Now, with regard to the quote, nothing gets around the fact that when people list quotes in a yearbook, they are suggesting that the person quoted is a person of honor, worthy of quote. Being that the school puts out the yearbook as a way of showing off how well their students have done under their instruction, it's understandable that the school wouldn't want their yearbook to honor Hitler by quoting him, of all the people they could choose to honor with a quote. Which takes me back to the student's choice. A play for attention in my opinion--and he/she is getting it--but let them get the attention they deserve, not the attention we invent for them--let's not try to dress it up as some have as an intellectual exercise to spur dialogue. People know exactly what they're doing when they quote Hitler--getting a rise out of people. There's nothing high-minded or intellectual about it.

ghendennis said...

I recommend a reading of Kelefa Sanneh's multiple book review in the April 12, 2010, New Yorker Magazine, "Beyond the Pale: Is White the New Black?" for more ideas... perhaps better ideas... on the subjects of freedom and race in the United States.

http://news.infoshop.org/article.php?story=20100408023641779

David Caines said...

Thanks, I will look into the book.
I'm going to pass on the rest of the argument except to point out that there are some who do hold Hitler as a person of honor. I for one despise the writings of malcolm x, and for that matter Ghandi and yet they are quoted constantly by people who hold different views than my own. I would chose not to stifle them or censor them, though I'd love to just smack the folks who start a conversation with the word "B*tch" . There really should be a law.
Anywho, I chose not to chose who to censor. I've lived long enough to know that words don't have quite that much power but that laws do. Today Hitler (fully justified of course) tomorrow who.
And yes, White has become the new black, and we'll be there until we figure out that we owe nothing for the actions of those who came before us. I am as it stands "White" by accident of birth like the rest of the world. It is an act of social violence to try to hold me accountable for the actions of others who have either suffered by or profited from a similar accident.
Peace,
David

David Caines said...

In an effort to hopefully stimulate a bit more conversation here, and hopefully some of it honest conversation. I'll give some inkling as to my ethos. Most recently a penned (with the aid of a pair of excellent editors) a piece on exactly these topics for the PHRC (PEnna Human Relations Commission) to be present to at a DOJ (Department of Justice) conference last month. With luck it will become at least something of a standard for inter-agency approaches for how to deal with hate crimes and racially based incidents stemming from the extreme right.
I may be disabled (Though I'm working on it), but I do try to keep up with my social responsibilities. For the most part the paper concentrated on treating suspects fairly and within the letter of the law. And recognizing that under law all people have the right to believe pretty much whatever they wish unless or until those beliefs bring about criminal acts (no matter how crazy , irresponsible, etc... that belief may seem to the rest of us.). This is simply the present state of American law, and the only place from which to open honest debate.
With that said. Hopefully we may have some here.
Peace,
David

carinne said...

Oh my god.
I do not see a censorship argument in the quoting of Hitler in a high school yearbook. I am sure PLEANTY of students were censored or (knew they would be) for cursing up a storm and/ or “crossing a line” in the yearbook. Kids do really dumb things, that’s why they need adult guidance. Other politicians may have been quoted in the yearbook, but here’s why I don’t see the same issue with their quotes… THEY WERE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR KILLING MEN, WOMEN, AND BABIES BY DISGUSTING, UNIMAGINABLE MEANS.
What the hell is this “white is the new black” nonsense. Maybe I need to sit and take more time to read through this because I feel like I must be missing something. Black is still black. Jewish is still Jewish. That’s what I see proven when Hitler is quoted. I am sorry but after a significant period of blacks owning whites as slaves, decades of white deaths by lynching, and when you see a white 14 year old boy in the papers looking like Emmitt Till and no one ever suffering consequence, then let’s ask if “white is the new black”. I do not understand why some white individuals today confuse a need for COMPASSION, EDUCATION, and AWARENESS for GUILT. I do not feel personally guilty for slavery, lynching, and hate crimes against blacks. I do however feel really SAD and ANGRY about it. I don’t get some of the attitudes today. If someone tells you their grandma has cancer do you say or think “so what I didn’t give her cancer” or do you simply think “I am so sorry”. It’s not about taking personal responsibility for the problem; it’s just a kind response because you are a caring human being. Last, if some jerk treats you poorly only because you are white, then yes, that one person is in fact, a jerk.

noel jones said...

Thanks for the link, Ghen--an interesting article, and I think the end of it is worth quoting:

'In 1994, the white labor historian David R. Roediger published an incendiary volume, “Towards the Abolition of Whiteness.” Paying special attention to unions and strikes, he traced the unsteady growth of American whiteness, a category that eventually included many previous identities that had once been considered marginal: Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish. “It is not merely that whiteness is oppressive and false; it is that whiteness is nothing but oppressive and false,” he wrote. “Whiteness describes, from Little Big Horn to Simi Valley, not a culture but precisely the absence of culture. It is the empty and therefore terrifying attempt to build an identity based on what one isn’t and on whom one can hold back.” In his view, fighting racism wasn’t enough; white people who wanted to oppose oppression would have to do battle with whiteness itself. Nearly two decades later, amid a rancorous debate over our first black President, the idea of abolishing whiteness seems no less tantalizing—and no less remote.'

noel jones said...

"White Guilt" is an interesting term that tends to get tossed out to dismiss arguments against racism by "white" people by those "whites" who have not come to terms with their own survivors' guilt about white PRIVILEGE.

When a white person asserts that slavery is in the past and that they "had nothing to do with it," it is, in essence saying, "I have no advantage, I have nothing to feel bad about," because many people find it an insult to their own sense of identity (as a person that has struggled against obstacles of their own) to admit that they might still have an advantage by being perceived as "white" in American society. So out come the stories about growing up poor or working class, or being the great-granchildren of European immigrants who had it rough--as if one's appearance when descended from European immigrants does not give one an advantage on a daily basis over those descended of slaves in today's American society.

The use of the "White Guilt" card is always an interesting offense-as-defense play in these debates. I know plenty of white people who do not have a problem admitting that racism--including institutionalized racism-- is still a huge problem in America, and that they are privileged simply by being perceived as "white" in a society where the power still lies with old white men.

I, for one, have no problem saying that although I was born to a single mom on welfare, and have had to combat classism and sexism throughout my life, it has also been easy to recognize throughout my life that I have been seated before "black" people in restaurants, asked if I needed help first when stepping into banks, and given the priority over black candidates in job interviews. I do not find the truth and insult to my sense of identity. The use of "White Guilt" as a dismissal in these debates demonstrates the desire to not think about the truth of racism in our society--and to perpetuate the fantasy that everything a "white" person has achieved has been solely by "pulling him/herself up by the bootstraps" and not partially due to any number of doors opened on a daily basis by being born "white."

Now the censorship issue is something different. There has always been a line drawn, but the line does seem to shift sometimes. For instance, it's easy to say "free speech--we should be able to say anything we want in America!" But most agree that people shouldn't be allowed to shout "bomb!" in an airport, or to shout harassing derogatory terms at other people in passing. So the censorship debate is always one worth having, and in this case, the rights fall with the school district's decision. But this is a county where laws are made and changed by the people, so if enough people got together and wanted to change where that line is drawn, they could conceivable do that.

David Caines said...

It is the empty and therefore terrifying attempt to build an identity based on what one isn’t and on whom one can hold back-
Agreed, but so is "Blackness", "Latino-ness", "Jewishness". I am openly and totally opposed to racial identity as a base concept. And perhaps it is a missperception on my part built upon years of trying to find ways to work with "Tolerance" groups towards a true unification of cultures to create a peaceful America that colors my view.
Still it is my view and I've tested it against many and not found it wanting.
Race is inane, asinine and utterly false, culture is a different matter. And I'll leave that there for now.
As to carinne's argument that whites (those born of predominantly western European stock and culture) have not suffered enough to hold ourselves to the standard of suffering experienced by the descendants of the African tribes, I will ask a simple multiple choice question.
Racism is ?
A)- always justified
B)- Never Justified
C)- is justified in situation- ally specific amounts.
I chose B.
Do I care about the past? , obviously.
Do I accept that what happened in the past in any way gives any one a moral advantage over another in the present?
No, that's asinine.
And obviously to both commenter's our experiences differ. When I speak of "White Guilt" I speak of the weapon held over our heads, often by minorities (though not always) used to explain or rationalize those things that profit the (Generally Black but not always) Racial group at the expense of another.
Well, I think I may be running out of space. So I'll have to leave this here. Shame as I hope to get back to both the free speech and censorship issues.
Thank you for you time and your comments,
And peace to both,
David

noel jones said...

I'm curious about this line:

"Do I accept that what happened in the past in any way gives any one a moral advantage over another in the present?
No, that's asinine."

I'm not sure what a "moral advantage" is.

David Caines said...

call it a political advantage then (Though a moral advantage is the we're better than you because... or you owe us because... in short a moral advantage is the right to tell someone they should or shouldn't do something because you have acted better or suffered more ;))
Peace,
David- I'm doing the kitchen counter-top today...so I'm in and out. We sort of talked about all of this sitting around a fire a few years back. I'm thrilled that the author quoted is taking up the line of "Race is BS", though to be of value it must apply to all aspects of race, or it simply becomes a justification for stripping race from the "white man" while allowing it to all others.
Peace,
David

noel jones said...

The reality of race relations has everything to do with how one is PERCEIVED and TREATED in society, and very little to do with actual make-up (after all, human DNA is a 99% match with chimpanzees, so how similar must all HUMANS be genetically?)

For instance, my little brother is Native, and dark-skinned--when he was a kid, he endured racist behavior from white kids at school who weren't sure "what" he was, since most Alaskan Natives were lighter-skinned than he was. So because he was darker-skinned, he was treated like he was black by some. Now, a roommate of mine in New York, whose mother was white and father was black, ended up with light skin, long red curly hair, green eyes, and rather ambiguous facial features. Many assumed she was Irish, and if she didn't correct them, she received treatment by white people as if she were "white."

So clearly, with regard to actually scientific make-up, it's all B.S. (although Hitler tried very hard to prove that there did exist science that justified racism), since most people don't even know their complete heritage (they like to think they do, but then one has to assume that no one in their family tree has ever had an affair and lied about it), and what really matters is how someone is treated by their society.

Now, back to the idea of "moral advantage"--the only moral advantage that can be assumed here is freedom from guilt for benefitting from privilege, i.e., being treated as white in a society where most power is still held by old white men, or in some cases, inheriting land, a business, money, jewelry, etc. that has been handed down through families since the days of slavery. The only white people truly free of this second sense of guilt are those whose relatives immigrated more recently than the Civil War, and did not marry into any families who were descendants of slave owners, or people who are descendants of abolitionists or white servants, for instance, who never married into families descending from slave owners (but that's pretty rare, because most Americans are complete mutts). Otherwise, some measure of a family's estate or business being handed down through generations was built on the backs of slaves in this country. And everyone wants to believe that they DESERVE whatever they have.

But every white person, regardless who they are descended from, benefits by being treated as a white person in a society where white people are in most positions of power. And many hate to acknowledge that because they want to believe that they got a job because they were the best qualified, etc., or that they somehow deserved to catch a cab instantly, next to the black person who has had their hand up for 15 minutes while cabs pass them by. In the case of cab drivers, the majority in a place like New York, for instance, are not white, but they are going for the white customers because they know white people to have the financial advantage in our society.

Some white people have no problem acknowledging white privilege and calling it wrong, and something that needs to be changed, while others get very defensive and try to pretend that it doesn't exist.

This is where people love to bring up President Obama--to which I simply point at the ratio of "whites" to minorities in Congress, or more importantly, to the CEOs and upper management of our largest corporations, who run our Congress.

David Caines said...

I'll admit here, that you are fun to debate with ;)

-the only moral advantage that can be assumed here is freedom from guilt for benefitting from privilege, i.e., being treated as white in a society where most power is still held by old white men-

I'm almost not even sure where to begin with this, so I'll start with the basics.
The assumption in your statement is that somehow there must be guilt because there is privilege.
Which disallows the possibility that such advances and "Privileges" as "Whites"(though by no means all whites-just look around at the white poverty in Easton alone) enjoy were not earned, and again of course that all "Whites" benefited directly from slavery, and of course that somehow this was wrong morally at the time in a world that had a four thousand year recorded history of slavery (OF which every color, creed and nation can admit to some period of slavery), and a world in which slavery still exists (See the NYT articles on African slavery in the modern day- they are many. An issue which almost no one wishes to comment on as Blacks owning blacks counters the economic and political benefits of black racism). But I digress.
The statement and the rationale behind it also assume that the nation could not have become what it is without Black slaves, while wholly discarding a few centuries of history to include the periods of Chinese and Asian slavery, Hispanic slavery, American Indian slaves, and White indentured servants and to a lesser degree slaves. Had we not had black slaves anyone would have done, to include whites the enslavement of which was not made illegal until 1900 something. But as white slaves were few and far between and of similar "racial" makeup as their owners there is no political or economic advantage to making a big stink about it. Which of course is why the only slavery issue (in America) is that of whites owning blacks.
What I do find a bit odd is that while admiting the falseness and complete inanity of "Race" you chose to carry on with the argument...aserting that since this is the fact of our day it has value?
If that assertion holds then the change we all say that we wish for can never come to pass. Period. The only way to break such a vicious cycle of circular thought and action is through linear thought and action. Knowing you to some degree, I find it hard to believe that you actually wish to remain part of the problem and not become part of the solution.
Nonetheless, this is going long again. I wanted to salute you by the way for asking the question about moral advantage. Few who don't know or understand a thing have the strength of ego needed to admit it. I stand impressed. And I'm off to make dinner.
Peace,
David

noel jones said...

You too, are fun to debate with. Now, let's not confuse "race" and "racism"--proving that "race" doesn't really exist does not mean that "racISM" doesn't exist. The conversation must be had until the problem either goes away, or becomes so infrequent in cropping up its ugly head that it is negligible to those affected by it.

Enjoy your dinner--I look forward to shifting focus back to censorship/freedom of speech, as this, in my opinion, is a much grayer area and open to interpretation, whereas racISM is a reality that those affected by it live with, while those who are not affected by racism, enjoy the privilege of not being affected by it and sometimes feel entitled to dismiss it.

I still can't believe someone named their kid Hitler...can you imagine THAT therapy session in later life? "So.....tell me about your mother..." "She doesn't love me." "What? Surely you don't believe that..." "She named me HITLER." "Oh...I see..."

David Caines said...

Ohh...I never said the name was kind, just that they have the right to do it. Personally I hope he's home schooled or he's in for a rough life. And yes, racism exists, I grew up a minority and know it first hand, but I also knew more folks who just didn't care, granted we were kids...but it followed me into adult life. I've been denied jobs for being "white". I had a staff sergeant in the army who'd tell anyone who asked that it was impossible to be racist against whites (because we deserve nothing better), though of course he was . And yet my best friend at least at that point in my service career turned out to be a rather bookish computer nerdy black kid named willy who went Infantry to pay for college.
There is an often played down point of history that I wanted to mention before wandering off to other subjects, and that is of course that we forget that slavery wasn't a choice we Americans made. It was an aspect of English rule that followed us into the birth of the nation and by the time the nation was born we were dependent upon it. Though, in the end we abolished it.
I'll also pause to throw in a second point, and that of course is that black slavery existed to a very small degree in Europe. Being predominantly of English decent...I assume that somewhere back in the family history someone might have owned a black slave, but as to the rest of we "whites"...it was unheard of in Scandinavia, The Germanies, Russia, all of the former soviet states, the Balkans,Switzerland, The islands, Italy, well most of Europe in truth. To paint "Whites" of most cultures and Descents with the brush of slavery is unfair to a degree that surpasses reason. Hells, I have first generation Polish Friends who never even saw a black person on Tv before coming to America which says quite a bit about Poland's utter lack of anything to do with the slave trade at any point in history.
Anyhow, I think maybe this horse is dead so I'll stop beating it.
Have a good night,
David

David Caines said...

Just wanted to throw in a note of thanks, BTW.
It's rare to find a space where such debates aren't simply edited out by the blog owner. I know we may disagree on some points, but I am thankful that you've allowed for the statement of historical fact without censorship. Cudos. I also wanted to just point out one thing that I am not saying and that is that I am not saying that any one group is better than any other. In the annals of human history, no ethnic group comes of that much better than any other that they can say with a straight face "We are the best".
So thanks again,
Peace,
David

noel jones said...

Thanks for a good debate, David. If you read what I wrote carefully (because I wrote it carefully) you will see that I did not make statements about "all whites" and was very careful to specify that I was talking about white Americans whose descendants married into past slave owners' families. The reality is that businesses, property and wealth, however meager in some families, trickles down--especially when it comes to connections/advantages. And yes, as discussed before on this blog, white people are not the only people guilty of slavery--there are restavek children in Haiti working as slaves for their wealthy Haitian owners as we speak, by the hundreds of thousands, as reported in the NYTimes. And there is no one that can convince me that some British pansy in a white wig and tights was able to navigate the jungles of Africa to kidnap slaves without the help of other Africans who were willing to act as their guides, round other Africans up and sell them to slave traders.

As for racism alive and well in present-day America, Isaw on MSNBC last night that the head of Black Farmers of America is still fighting--11 years later after the 1999 Federal court decision--to get Congress to pay out the settlement owed to black farmers in this country. Ed Schultz also mentioned that it statistically takes a black farmer 400 days to get approved for a loan, compared to an average of 30 days for white farmers. That's today in America, 2010.

This has been a good discussion--and with regard to your comment, yes, this is a safe space for debate-- I never delete comments unless they are laced with vitriol or personal insult that aren't contributing anything of value to a discussion. My favorite discussions on this blog are when people either disagree with me, or disagree with each other, but respectfully--even passionately at times, but respectfully--because otherwise it's just a lot of preaching to the choir, and debate is how we as a community learn from one another. sadly, I think one of the most important things our society needs to re-learn these days, is how to have a passionate, civil debate without being certain that the sky will fall, personal relationships will end, or that there will somehow be hell to pay.

So everyone is encouraged to jump on and disagree with me, or anyone else on this blog, just keep it civil, try to stay on topic (although some digressions turn into interesting discussions too) and bring your points as best you can, because someone WILL answer back with point of his/her own.

Oh, and thanks for posting your name--we have too many Anonymous scaredy-cats out there! i understand if people want to post anonymously if it involves criticizing a local official--some people are nervous about that in a small town--but when it comes to simply sharing ideas and debating, it's beyond me why people do so anonymously. It also makes for a more focused and civil debate when people post their names and own their words, so I am always happy when people take personal responsibility and let everyone know who they are and that they stand by what they are saying. The best conversations happen when people come to the discussion without set views, and are interested in learning from and interacting with other readers.

David Caines said...

I'll be honest in saying that I sort of though we'd agreed to pass on this aspect of the debate?
But I feel a need to question this statement.
-was very careful to specify that I was talking about white Americans whose descendants married into past slave owners' families-
I was aware that you had qualified, I just chose to let it pass.
I'll admit I've always been curious about the practical aspects of reparation, and the assignment of guilt and blame for this 150 + year old past sin on the part of a minority of long Dead Europeans, a handful of Hispanic slave owners and a somewhat smaller number of black slave owners in the US. Now assuming of course that we can identify these people and their pure blood lines?
The argument seems to be that they and they alone, bear the full responsibility of the American slave trade and any reparations and such. Assuming that we can find and identify the pure blood line descendants of past African salves (not the others-they don't matter). Then we can begin to assign, guilt , blame and rewards and such accordingly.
I'm not sure how exactly spouses fit in except perhaps guilt by association, but for the sake of the debate I'll paint with that brush. I'm also not sure how we deal with those of mixed ethnicity. Maybe we could mark them with something like gold silver and bronze stars? Gold for a 100% match and the a sliding scale of worth based upon the degree of pure bloodline affiliation to past actions. I assume we'd want to mark the guilty whites as well. I'm told that East Germany has a large cache of slightly used stars of David available cheap. For in an effort to avoid falsely accusing those "Whites" who had nothing to do with slavery, the ones worthy of our ire and condemnation must somehow be separated from the rest (both publicly and privately- we would want to prevent he innocent from accidentally marrying into such families).
All of that being done I'm at least willing to assume that we have to come up with a dollar amount, minus room and board, medical expenses, travel expenses and such luxuries as reading, writing, and eventually freedom. Personally I value my freedom highly, but it is obvious that this opinion isn't universally valued the same. Let's call it a dollar.
With that all said and done, my math tells me that we break even. I assume you disagree.
With luck, this time we can actually kill this part of the conversation.
The above is a bit tongue in cheek, but how else does one deal with this particularly ludicrous subject matter?
Peace,
David

noel jones said...

i guess another way of looking at it would be:

if a nazi gets rich by stealing land and possessions of jewish citizens, pulling their gold teeth, etc. and builds his estate on that wealth, then marries someone who never did anything wrong to jewish people, and the children of those two grow up benefitting from that wealth (as does the wife) and then inherit the wealth when their parents die, which by now has put them into certain wealthy social circles where they then meet spouses who had nothing to do with the genocide, but they and their subsequent children still inherit and benefit from the wealth, at some point, someone might say--"you know you owe some of your wealth is the loot of nazi crimes," to which they will likely respond, "how dare you lay this guilt on me, i had nothing to do with the nazis!"

now, in another scenario, a aryan-looking kid might have zero nazi wealth in his family, but because former nazis and their families and friends are still in the wealthiest circles in town and therefore the power, the aryan kid may struggle at various jobs and work really hard along the way, but he still gets looked at and treated differently by those in power, and there is a benefit to that, a break here and there, that a black person (or in this case, a jewish person) wouldn't receive.

there are many nuances to a discussion like this, and one that interests me a lot is the human desire to believe that everything one has, one has EARNED and DESERVES, that they received no breaks at all, which seems to be why the concept of white privilege is so upsetting to some.

David Caines said...

So for you the question is original sin?
In that case everybody owes everybody if we go back far enough.
I do take issue with the concept that "White" privilege is the only form, though this may not be what you meant, it's the only form mentioned in your statements. I also think that you confuse privilege with the preference that all people have for spending most of their time with people of their own culture. I've always found it funny that even the most racist of people consider this racism when it is just one of those facts of human existence. I prefer to spend the majority of my time with people who are like me, generally "White" though I prefer anglophiles...not out of racism but because we share similar social mores and cultural values, similar levels of education and fairly similar experiences. Though believe me sadly this doesn't really apply locally . Many of the "Whites" who live close to me are more ghetto than the local blacks (and since it's not their native culture, they do it very poorly) and we have almost nothing in common to include language, experiences , basic social values, and expectations.
As to the example given , I side with the Nazi's kid. "Sorry, but you should have taken it up with my Dad." though I might make a donation to B'ania B'rith or something. But that's me. I'm not surprised by the level of assumption put forward in almost all of the statements made to this point, this is a fairly common practice based mostly in Hollywood history. And the depth and breadth of history is just pushed aside to make for simpler and shorter arguments. I have neither the time nor the inclination to get into the Wiemar period of German history which led to WW II, the Jewish communist pogroms, the state of the German nation at the time of Hitler's ascendancy which would make the most hardened modern ghetto child in America weep from frustration and despair. Though it is worth a bit of study, it may change your views.
Nonetheless, I think it best that we just chose to agree to disagree.
Peace,
David

noel jones said...

Agreed. Thanks for the debate.

David Caines said...

It was fun. I think the key point is that we're aimed at the same target, the abolition of racism in America.
Peace,
David

David Caines said...

This probably isn't the place, but bible burning anyone?
The gods know, no book has brought more trouble. The Q'uaran by comparison is sort of "dick and Jane" for Muslims.
Granted they blew up the twin towers, and had the q'uaran not existed , they would have had to be x-tians. or Hindy, or Asian, or somehow among the 8 billion people of our world who aren't x-tian. So, anyone burning a q'uaran this week?
It seems to fit in nicely with the whole censorship issue.Or should Islam and all of the followers of the false prophet Mohamed just be removed. A sort of localized genocide?
Peace,
David

g_whiz said...

I've been patiently trying to read through these comments, and yes very interesting thread derail. There are several points in your argument, Mr. Caines, that I would like to personally rebut.

Agreed, any social scientist worth their diploma will tell you that race, biologically, is a misnomer and that the concept as we're sold it is socially created and culturally maintained. To suggest that because the concept of race is biologically invalid and therefore something we shouldn't consider ignores the reality that hundreds of years of Western civilization have been differentiated based on these constructs. Perception is reality, in other words, and lots of people perceive race as an important, often THE most important, characteristic.
Our culture has been inherently racist (and by "racist" I mean that it has stratified people in a ranked hierarchy based upon the idea of racial superiority and inferiority) ; by establishing legal, social and moral justifications for the slave trade and very much benefited from its use ( Unpaid laborers working farms and mills all through the South with the net gains going directly in the pockets of the slaveowner).

As a means of justifying the practice of slavery, American society established a wealth of cultural norms and laws, reinforcing the idea that group X is less than group Y. These ideas have been embedded within our overall culture for more than a century and persist to this day.
Regarding your personal experience, while it is without question wrong and upsetting to be discriminated against individually, it is a little myopic to suggest that one incidence of discrimination makes “white the new black” or in any way is equivalent to the systematic and institutionalized discrimination inherent in generations of people being first forced into life long servitude , then upon earning freedom, living in a sub-standard communities and forbidden from being a fully functional part of the America they helped build. That is not to suggest that racist attitudes towards white people do not exist, as it would be patently false to do so. However, to suggest that all 12.5% the US population’s African American community is institutionally discriminating against you and your forbears is not genuinely defensible either. Nor is the suggestion that “some blacks participated and or benefitted from the slave trade”. Does the race of anyone involved negate the truth that slavery based upon race was wrong, and legally mandating it was, is and should always be considered blight on our collective history?

g_whiz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
g_whiz said...

And the concept that slavery ended and that was the extent of the damage, justice was done, is a tad oversimplified. The social structure implemented post-Reconstruction sought to alienate a newly freed people, and perpetuate a way of life where the status quo was as little upset as possible. Black Codes and Jim Crow laws were established to ensure that black persons weren’t bestowed troublesome things like voting rights without performing herculean feats of civic knowledge. Generations were denied their basic civil liberties, as well as access to public services, access to the educational and occupational tools with which to succeed solely because of an accident of birth. This social stagnancy created by these conditions remained constant until the Civil Rights era, which was the tumultuous time my parents grew to adulthood around. My parents graduated from segregated high schools, were not permitted to stay in hotels, or dine in restaurants. The impact and implications of slavery, in short, didn’t end with the abolition of slavery. The socio-cultural forces that had rationalized and perpetuated it all that time, largely served to keep the attitudes and conventional thought on the topic of race rooted in jingoism.
Its interesting that the conversation has basically been about whether or not anything is “owed” anything and anyone is justified in feeling that their ancestors were wronged by systematic institutional discrimination, when it could be as simple as Carinne states in her post. A simple attempt at understanding and empathy would serve far better than heatedly contending you weren’t directly responsible for the metaphorical cancer in the first place. First, it serves to acknowledge said cancer exists and existed and created a complicated, often painful relationship we as a society have a difficult time addressing even now.
If anything, this has indicated to me we’re lightyears away from that post-racial society I heard so much about after President Obama was elected. It informs me that there are plenty of people in our culture that are willing to spend a great deal of time avoiding so called guilt and justifying responsibility for slavery instead of remotely attempting to understand the complicated context of (the very socially created) race.

David Caines said...

Thanks G and much of your argument I simply can't argue with. What I think is perhaps most important at present is that we all get over ourselves. IF- we are seeking a post racial society and I am, then it becomes necessary to let go of the sins of the past. I'm sorry but we can't have our cake and eat it too. If we want to truly move past discrimination and racism then it can be appropriate for no person regardless of ethnicity to continue moving into the future with an attitude of "You owe me you ......" because.
We need to be rid of Black,
White, Latino, we could use to move towards words like human, citizen, possibly friend. And if this is to be done then we can accept no justification for the continuation of racial identity. Period. Maybe I should have just started with those statements but I felt the need to lay some ground work.
For the nation to unite, and move hopefully peaceably into the future "Race" as a concept must be destroyed root and branch. And yes I get a little tired of having it explained to me why only this group or that must be rid of race as a concept while another group should be allowed to keep it.
PEace,
David

g_whiz said...

Mr Caines,

I believe I understand the spirit of what you're saying. I still feel there are a few points of contention to mull.

You present an interesting, if not a little complicated suggestion about America and race. To "get over ourselves" is problematic in that it actively involves first understanding the self in the first place. As it pertains to the socio-economic implications of race in American culture, we live in a society that considers race so important that every ethnicity/"race" other than Caucasian generally inserts a hyphenated disclaimers FIRST stating our racial background before our nationality. As a way of adding context to this truth; the only time I’ve just been called “an American” in my life was when I was wandering around Montreal having political conversations. It was an odd bit of culture shock at the moment, and one where I was suddenly reminded how important the status of “race” is in our culture.

You suggest that in order to “get over” race, we should abolish the idea that its important….but hundreds of years of stratification and inequality have in face been caused and perpetuated because of this socially constructed topic. Human lives have been lost and thought irrelevant because of our culture’s inaccurate considerations of race. In short, so many abhorrent acts if human cruelty has been visited upon people of African-American dissent …and so much of our lives has been dictated by a status our culture itself has dictated is THE most important aspect of who we are that it becomes a little insulting for people to suggest we “get over” being black because it suddenly makes things easier for everyone else.

g_whiz said...

If I may continue,

I’m reminded of a conversation I was relayed by a good friend and neighbor before Heritage day this year. The friend overheard people we know at a party say , “Man, what is up with Black people and slavery? It happened over 200 years ago! Get over it!” The suggestion that these aspects of our history that are negative and have had real and lasting implications for an entire group of people based on (arbitrarily) their racial background seems to trouble those who grapple with how to process this experience you resent and consider “white guilt”. The irony? The next day we as a community were celebrating the history of an event that happened far far earlier. I’d be curious if he felt we should get over celebrating the (arguably white) heritage as well. So again the dominant culture gets to dictate what the minority culture considers relevant, when the dominant culture has previously gone out of its way to create and perpetuate these concepts of racial and ethnic difference in the first place.

What I find suspect is that a group of people who openly display that they are neither willing or interested in even considering how the history of African-Americans is no different than the history of America in general, the group of people who suggest they “get over” blackness, slavery, jim crow and the like are often the very same people who are quick to remind us in some cases of our “otherness” of our hyphenated status. To bring this full circle, would you or anyone other than a Holocaust denier (who I hope we can all agree are on the wrong side of History) suggest that someone who told a Holocaust survivor or his or her direct descendants to “get over” the Holocaust and forget the fact that an entire community or nation got together and decided they should be imprisoned, and or killed based on their ethnic or racial status? How then can you be so disconnected in this regard?

g_whiz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
g_whiz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
g_whiz said...

In closing; (and bare with me, there is a lot on this thread to respond to)

Its an interesting conundrum. If you ran a poll asking people belonging to an ethnic minority group if they would like to get beyond racism as an overall society, I bet you the lionshare would say yes without hesitation. What I see as the problem to what you suggest is that your “get over it” response doesn’t – like the overheard partygoer- come from a place of historical context or awareness. It comes from a place where you feel inconvenienced and annoyed for having to recognize the negative aspects of American racial history and the part dominant culture (the part more people than you come from, I remind) has played in that. That there’s a suggestion that you as an individual of a certain status haven’t had to (ever) consider the matter of how race impacts you fully due to your status. That’s a privilege. It’s a luxury. And one I rather envy. I can count the number of times I’ve been reminded of my statuses as being a national outsider in my own nation. Again, it took going to Canada to be reminded I was “interesting for an American”.

I would LOVE to be able to “get over race”, but first it would require that a bunch of people who seem so utterly disconnected about how much its shaped the recent past of American culture actually acknowledging that these differences our culture has created happened in the first place. Coming to terms with an issue with such a profoundly large social impact requires a lot more than just deciding to “get over it”. It requires examination and understanding, reflection and awareness. If our culture’s relationship with the issue of slavery has taught me anything- its that most people in the majority aren’t interested in doing that long enough to move forward.

Best,
Gavin

g_whiz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
noel jones said...

this is a great discussion everybody--thanks for engaging in it.

g_whiz said...

Apologies for the multi-post! Technical difficulties on my end for some odd reason.

Since I'm posting one last missive, I have to actually touch on the idea of the original post. (Talk about a thread derail. Interesting one, yes, but...)

A la Godwins Law, the comparison and evoking of Hitler as a scare tactic happens ENTIRELY too often. There, thankfully, is very little outside of open genocide that can compare to the atrocities that Hitler was responsible for. Its doubly vexing to see so many people compare policymakers they dislike to Hitler as the worse case scenario, as it minimizes the brutal reality of what Nazi Germany was about.

Should most students have more leeway about what personal comments they publish in their personal space on a yearbook? Yes, when most students are not being intentionally incendiary. I might think Pol Pot had some amazingly insightful quotes, but the idea that I publish one as a statement in a school yearbook is the height of inconsiderate and worse, inflammatory. Me saying, "Gosh, why would anyone take issue with me valorizing pearls of wisdom from a man who butchered upwards of 2.5 million people?" is utterly disingenuous. People often invoke Hitler when they want to make alarmist claims and invoke a fear of the groupthink and fascism that got humanity to such a condition. Or they want to indicate that they identify with the man and the movement he later comes to represent. There is no distancing the benign comments Hitler might have on policy reform from those he had on genocide. The very mention of Hitler is instantly polarizing and anyone with an ability to read a social circumstance should know this. The point that the student invoked him is one thing, that it was published is quite another. I would be extremely unhappy having my personal yearbook besmirched by a stunt this way as someone who is very much a humanitarian.

His rights to believe Hitler is a “clever guy” talking about success (of the master race, most likely) does not supersede the rights of others to NOT want to consider quotes from the man responsible for the deaths of many while they reminisce through their yearbooks.

David Caines said...

Gavin,
You're a smart cookie, but in the end what you're saying is that we're stuck with it. It's too complex to deal with so let's just pretend it's justified in some way.
If I act in a racist manner towards a black person, I'm a racist. If he does the same to me, he's what exactly?
Justified.
If those are my options then sign me up for the most extreme white power group you can find. If my skin must be my uniform, then my side has been chosen and lets just get to the killing and get it over with.
Personally I find all racism unsettling and unjustified.
What is sad is that many defend it, mostly because it works, economically, politically, and pretty much universally. Most of us only whine when it goes against us.
What annoys me is not that I can't be bothered to look deeper, but that most of the depths are BS. I've been in the field over twenty years. It would be nice to see some new argument.
By the more or less standard BS, why not white power? Black Power, Green Power?
Seriously if anyone can find a justification for prejudice, then anyone else can use it. Hells, the modern Black "Hate Groups" (see hatewatch.org) are just the Klan using the word Black instead of White.
The question is, can we man up?
Are we prepared to embrace the world with out the shield of race.I thank you for your responses, but your wasting your time on me. Try a new approach. Explain to me why racism isn't justified.
Or at least branch off into the periods of history when we were prejudiced against the WOPs, Mick's , Krauts....etc. Ohh, I forgot, they're white now. I guess I didn't get the memo. Seriously. You either suport the continuation of racism or you don't. Your arguments suggest that you do, but only where you feel them justified.
Shame,
Try to work on that. Try to think towards a society where we might at least just be Americans.
Peace,
David
sorry Noel, this topic doesn't seem to want to go away;)

David Caines said...

Just a side note here- today in American history a few thousand men women and children lost their lives for no greater reason than being American. Obviously our enemies do not see us along racial lines. Maybe we should give some thought to why we refuse to stop doing so.
I wish peace to our soldiers of all colors and their speedy and safe return.
David

noel jones said...

David--do not apologize--it is an important topic and one that needs to be discussed in our society until it is resolved, rather than trying to brush it under the rug. I think we would all be hard-pressed to find other forums in the community where this topic could be debated passionately, earnestly and civilly for 40 comments!

I do have to take issue with two points that you have posited here:

1. That we all need to "get over ourselves." We have already established here (one of the few points that we are all in agreement on) that race has no scientific basis, therefore it is not "ourselves" that we need to get over, but the concept of "the Other." Racism is not a behavior born out of who the object IS or even THINKS HE/SHE IS, but how the perpetrator of racism PERCEIVES THEM. And yes, it would be lovely if everyone could get past that and think of us all as brothers and sisters in humanity.

2. Your claim that g_whiz is asserting that racism is "justified" for some groups makes no sense as no one commenting here has claimed that--you are dueling with windmills by continuing to toss that idea out there as if someone here has asserted that. Racism is always bad, no matter who it's coming from, but there are different kinds of racism (all of which are bad). One is that coming from a person that was privileged at birth to be PERCEIVED by the group in power to be one of them in terms of race. Please note the use of "perceived". It is not about who the person IS or THINKS they are, but how they are PERCEIVED. The second kind of racism from a minority group who dares to express such views when they are not backed up by the group in power (a much harder thing to do, and largely born out of anger at oppression rather than a sense of superiority or desire to oppress, but still not good).

Some argue that the term "reverse-racism" is a misnomer and that racism from an oppressed minority is impossible by definition. Here are the definitions of "racism" according to dictionary.com:

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one's own race is superior and has the right to rule others. [so under def#1, racism by a minority is impossible]

2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination. [so under def#2, racism by a minority is also impossible], and

3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races [under this 3rd definition "racism" by a minority is possible]

So the whole two-wrongs-make-a-right argument leading to the assertion that everyone should just drop it and be satisfied with what they have, is not
(cont.)

noel jones said...

(cont.)

...only inaccurate under the two main definitions of racism, but it only benefits the privileged group because it is the privileged group that comes out with more power, money and influence in the end.

Implicit in your assertion that everyone should "get over themselves," is the idea that no one is entitled to reparations--not American Natives, not Black Farmers of America--that everyone should just be content with they have at this point, accept that their cultures were defeated and not care about how anyone came into what they have, while the disparity of wealth in our nation's economy, which was built on slavery is skewed heavily on the side of the people who have always held the power, their friends and family. The current reality in this country, in 2010, is that it takes "black" farmers 400 days on average to get a loan when it only takes "white" farmers 30 days. Institutional racism is alive and well in America, and this conversation needs to be had until we as a nation live up to our assertion that "all men are created equal" and are equally entitled to the pursuit of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," which is a heck of lot easier when those privileged to be born white in a white-dominated society are not acting as apologists for institutional racism, but instead are comfortable expressing validation and sympathy for the daily psychological struggle of all minorities in the face of institutionalized racism, and pledging to be willing to have the conversation until the norm is for things to be done fairly with regard to finance and opportunity for ALL in this country.

As for the censorship issue, I reiterate my earlier question: would the same people in our community who are defending a student's right to honor HItler in a quote in a school yearbook be offering the same argument if the student had chosen to quote Osama Bin Laden instead (a minor villain compared to Hitler, who order the murder of millions)? If the answer is no, then it's time to examine the automatic IMPULSE to defend the Hitler quote. What drives the impulse?

g_whiz said...

David,

I feel that you completley mistated my arguement. To say that racism is real, and that it exists and that it has a history that cannot be completley wished from American society without doing more damage to the people institutional racism has damaged is catagorically NOT to say that racism is EVER acceptable or justifiable.

If you know anything about me, about where I come from as a person, its that ethical consistancy is incredibly important to me and racism, sexism, homophobia...these are all things I universally do NOT tolerate. There's not a moment where I sit back and say, oh, white people on the whole are X...
because I'm a.) both smarter than to blame an entire group for individual behavior, b.) acutley aware of how racial biases work due to my childhood experiences and graduate coursework and c.) a genuinely better person than that.

And yes, I'm saying we ARE stuck with it. Just as we're stuck with Judeo-Christianity, sexism and a bipartisan political system. Social change is an adruously slow process. We're still as a society catching up with some of the complications of being a society with a wide array of diverse peoples, religions and beliefs and when it comes to a lot of socio-cultural issues we always will be.
My argument? Is that we should own and embrace our pasts instead of willfilly ingnoring the issues because it makes you feel uncomfortable. The attitude you take on doesn't serve to improve people's perceptions of race, it serves to suggest that the experiences and feelings of people who HAVE been victimized by the accident of birth caused by racism are wholly unimportant to you. We have to be able to discuss things that have happened in our very recent collective histories. It just seems patently irrational to NOT look at a social factor that has been a massive part of the way our society has run for the past 200 years.

Racism exists. Racial stratification happens and happened. Saying "we need to get over this" without examining it, is like saying we need to get married without going on a date. If we dont as a society come to a concensus about how these events and social forces surrounding the concept of race work, we're not going to as a group "get over it". We're going to pereptuate the idea that one sub-culture is unconcerned about their role in racism while continuing to stress that being Black is an awfully important and conspicuous difference.

Do I want racism to be a non issue? Of course. Am I going to suggest that my parents didn't experience segregation and discrimination just because they were born black in the south during a time when our legal system approved these things? No, because I think history and accountability and ethical consistancy are extremely important for both individuals and a modern democracy. Just as I don't suggest Japanese American desendents of those who were sent to Interment Camps during WWII should just "get over it" it suggests a lot of crass ambivalance to blithley tell people its "bad for society" to think about race, when on some level society has been telling the same people race is the most important thing about them. You can't move on down the path without clearing the brush.

I appreciate your dialouge, and perhaps some of your intentions, but find it somehow alienating to be told that its the responsibility of the person who is in the minority group to "get over" the very social concepts that have been forced upon them in the first place.

David Caines said...

"We must be the change we wish to see in the world."
While I despise Gandhi, I agree with whomever he got the quote from.
Racism will not be legislated away, though it is a start.

while I appreciate and respect the intelligence of you both, I also believe it is your downfall.
So I will challenge you here, and now to be simply human, American, Eastonian, make the circle as small as you wish...but pick a greater cause. Be a peer, be an equal.
If I punched a man yesterday, he may charge me with assault. But if he punches me tomorrow he commits assault.
I have not misunderstood, in truth I understand. It's is believe me an unlovely place to be.
Are you prepared, can you move forward. Can we , will we forgive the sins of the day before?
IF not, we must carry them. We must be enemies. And if my past history is any indicator I am an implacable one.
This is one of the few, fleeting black and white areas of life.
One is racist or one is not. One is a murderer, or one is not. One is a virgin, or one is not. Believe me, I understand that most of life is gray.
As such I challenge you. Be raceless. Be the change. It is unpopular, it is to some unforgivable. It is also truth. We have admitted that race is non-sense. That said, there is no excuse, except that it works.
This change will come one being, o9ne soul, one individual at a time. Well, I am there...join me.
I have a thousand pages both black and white and everything in between on my hard drive. Some more, some less eloquent than yourselves. But again, nothing new. Give me a why if you must be racist. Why one section of society mus suffer while another gains.
And a side note-
Underlying your arguments is a key factor. That those once harmed do not benefit from past harms.
Odd in that I see all colors on the dole, on our roads, on the internet. I see them in all aspects of life. I see them in nice houses and not so nice ones, I see them as my fellow citizens, prevailing and failing as the nation does.
You're arguments assume that the black, brown or other live in some other world where the benefits of our society, of slavery if you must, don't reach them. We live in an interdependent nation. If the benefits of slavery serve one then by definition they serve all.
Consider my last post.
Consider a post-racial America and what must be done to achieve it.
Consider forgiveness.
Blessings,
David

noel jones said...

David, you said:

"If the benefits of slavery serve one then by definition they serve all."

With all due respect, the "benefits of slavery" is the resulting wealth of this nation's economy over the decades, and if, as just one tiny example, black farmers in 2010 are waiting 400 days for the same loans that take 30 days for a white farmer to receive, then your assertion has so far not come true, and Americans have a right and responsibility to fight for that justice until it does come true for all.

g_whiz said...

Okay, this is beggining to get a little galling. It is particurlarly improbable to "be raceless" in a society that activley reinforces the importance of race. I, as an individual, do in fact conduct my life in such a way and wish more people did. Again, its not possible to get beyond the topic unless we adress it. Ignoring the elephant in the room for the sake of social convenience is neither useful nor honest. I believe we can live in a society that can get beyond these issues, but you don't get to dictate how I or anyone else feels about their racial or ethnic heritages, nor how they feel about their nation's role in perpetuating inequality.

America while being a country of many cultures and ideas and peoples, manages quite consistantly to get caught up in the details of differentiation. It is problematic, but its impossible to sugest that as a society we are not still hung up on race. Minority cultures aren't sensitive to the topic for arbitrary reasons, its because the dominant culture has dictated the terms. That blackness, in this case, was the sole determining factor that rendered them less than. To say suddenly race doesn't matter, when yesterday and the day before it was patently obvious it did is a difficult concept to sell overnight.

Now you're dictating that those notions (which persist within the cultural mileu to a large degree) can be handily warded away with a hand wave. Social change requires more than wishful thinking and one person being "post-racial" if such a thing is even possible in a society founded on racism. It requires a consensus from the society at large- from the dominant culture- and I'm not getting any indication that they're too interested in understanding race except when people bandy about the term racist and make them question themselves. Color me apathetic, but its going to be quite a long way until our country stops finding reasons to be xenophobic and clannish. If we're all Americans, it takes more than we as individuals to bring about change for the entirety of the group. Conceptions about race prevail and haven't changed enough for the behavior to follow suit. Someday yes, at present no. Its not a matter of whether or not I forgive anything (as I'm not blaming anyone for anything, merely pointing out historical and sociological truths) its about whether or not we as a society actually do the work required to do what it is you say you want- and thats to move forward. Further, we can only forgive sins of the day before if we first acknlowledge them. Mea Culpas are only useful if the party actually honestly confronts the mistake and its more than the agreived party that is aware of the slight. For the whole of our society to move forward we're going to have to be on the same page, and I'm not seeing much that gives me an indication this is going to happen any time soon.

David Caines said...

Can't win don't try, the rest is just twaddle that assumes that as a nation we have not addressed these issues since before the birth of the nation.
a post racial society will be hard, maybe impossible, I'm not prepared to stop aiming for that end simply because of those factors. 200 hundred years ago the concept of a black man in America who wasn't a slave would have seemed ludicrous.
I'm choosing here to resign from this debate. Not because I don't feel that I can continue but because we have crossed the point of no return. Obviously you feel the need to debate the subject for the next hundred years and by doing so intend to continue to carry it forward. Ensuring that racism will never die.
I assume it works for you in some way.
Me, I've said my bit, and I have work to get back to.
Sadly as to the ABC question presented earlier, you chose "C" sadder still, you haven't admitted that fact to yourself yet.
Well, I'm back to my life. This has taken enough of my time.
Blessings,
David

Anonymous said...

Did anyone in this thread mention that we had a Civil War - mostly whites against whites over the issue of slavery. It was bloody awful evidently. There are alot lot of white families that paid a very high price to end slavery. That none of them are alive now to remind you of that in this dicussion is a pity. No reparations for them. No credit either.

g_whiz said...

1.)There are plenty of people to speak for abolitionists. There are plenty of Quakers from this very state who have had ancestry that contributed quite a lot to the abolitionist movement. Its all there in the history books, and I'm actually aware of it. (They have credit too) This is an area of American history that is largely glossed over, and that is part of my point. We can't get over it because we don't actually stop to consider it in its full scope. From an objective historical context. I like to think that abolitionsist were involved because it was the right thing and (because it was constitutionally just to do so) reparations for NOT being enslaved for generations is a non issue. They already had access to their freedoms, and nobocy ever has to my knowledge tried to diminish their contribution to American society en masse.

As for "option C", I don't speak for an entire group of people. What is more, I choose knowlege and awareness any day of the week and twice on sunday to skirting the cultural realities of race, and gender and all of implications therein. And I don't think as a researcher its useful to hit the reboot switch on an important aspect of American history/society. There are lessons to be learned, and frankly, its not up to me whether or not they're learned. Its up to society at large. And society at large seems to be more interested in skipping the reality of whats happened and presuming there hasn't been any human costs. Its ethically dishonest and frankly, rather uninteresting. But yeah, life. Whatever.

noel jones said...

Anon 9:51--be careful not to post criticisms if you haven't read all the comments. i mentioned abolitionists specifically in earlier comments on this post.

my favorite abolitionist was John Quincy Adams, who came out of retirement as President of the U.S. to act as an attorney on behalf of the kidnapped slaves on the Amistad (a great movie by Stephen Spielberg as well), a Spanish ship whose crew was overwhelmed by the slaves who managed to free themselves, and dared to argue to the courts that they owned themselves. this is one of the most incredible stories in our nation's history, and somehow, when i was a kid, it was never in our textbooks...hopefully it's been added since i was kid...here's a link to the story: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amistad_(1841)