Racism is a grandfathered in to American society

This criticism doesn’t mean that all white people are the devil, that malice or active racism are necessary. A hermit frontiersman in the 1800s might have had no opinion on slavery or even been against it morally.

But the act of doing nothing is tacit support of the status quo.

An auto union worker in the 1940s and ’50s may have thought segregation was wrong, but if they felt that opposition to anti-lynching bills in the Senate were equally important as economic policy, then their tacit support for a dehumanizing system of oppression is based on racism because it says that mobs torturing and murdering a man, woman, or child with impunity isn’t so important if that person is black.

In the same way, if you say that regularly stopping and frisking black and Latino people without any reasonable suspicion is just one of many issues, it’s because you think it’s unlikely to affect you or people like yourself, so you don’t care that much.

Malice is not required; apathy is more than sufficient.

Democrats can’t demand record turnout and 9 out of 10 black voters as a sustainable strategy for victory; voter ID laws and restricted polling times/locations are designed to depress turnout among likely Democratic voters, although usually more subtly than North Carolina or Texas’s CHL, yes; student ID, no efforts.

But none of that would matter if people who are not directly affected by a grave injustice cared as much about it as they do minor things that do affect them, like having mansplaining or lack of representation in fiction pointed out to them. Because right wing people will go bonkers about that while telling people to settle down when a law is passed preventing them from using a bathroom in public.

It is really silly that people keep trying to scapegoat “white males” as the problem, so much so that it’s becoming the problem.

Like, I’m a white male. That’s just what I was born as. I don’t what color you are, what handouts or advantages you’re entitled to or get, or how you handle your business, but I’m also not going to apologize for being white or act as if I have to check my privilege and “recognize this or that” because I’m white and someone else isn’t.

I’m not a racist, and racism doesn’t exist in my world. If you want to bring issues of race into it, that’s on you and not me.

Now that said, if we want to talk socioeconomics, I’ll do that all day. Black people in poor neighborhoods aren’t poor because they’re black and the system wants to keep down black people. It’s because they were born in a poor neighborhood, grew up in a poor neighborhood, had kids in a poor neighborhood, raised those kids in a poor neighborhood, and the cycle continues and continues as the insular neighborhood culture falls apart on itself.

But blaming that on race is just as much of a scapegoat as blaming white people for being white.

What year in American history would you say local, state, and federal governments stopped creating laws to keep black people in a disadvantaged situation? What year would you say they stopped enforcing them?

Slavery ended in 1865, but tell that to the people sentenced to Southern chaingangs from spring to fall. Every person born in the United States counted as a citizen, but tell that to Emmett Till and his mother who watched her son’s torturers and killers go free, to brag about their crime. I could multiply examples, but I don’t think I need to, and my question isn’t entirely rhetorical. I’m honestly curious as to the moment in time you think America achieved its goal of giving everyone in the country a fair shake at success irrespective of how poorly they chose their ethnic heritage.

To head off another issue, the crucial difference between a poor black sharecropper in the early 20th Century and a poor Jewish immigrant in the early 20th Century is that as an adult Jewish emigrant of Russia or Poland, you may never be able to fully learn a language or change your accent but your kids can, and they can become invisible to the most naked expressions of prejudice to immediately rise in society. But if you’re the sharecropper’s son, just changing your name to Kirk Douglas doesn’t really change your situation.

My family was rural, poor, and uneducated in the first half of the last century, of English, German, and French extraction. My great-grandparents had very little education, and both my father’s grandfathers were drunks and abusive. But in West Texas, the way out of that life was the oilfield, and separately, both of my father’s parents were able to climb out, with my grandfather helping to start a successful business with his brothers. They served in World War II and afterward, worked really, really hard for that success. They all deserved it.

But in 1946, if they hadn’t been white and probably if they hadn’t been white Protestants, they wouldn’t have had a chance. In fact, even menial oilfield work was closed to non-whites then as before, and, to some degree, it still is.

Being white didn’t guarantee them successful livelihoods and the ability to send my father’s generation on to college. But being anything other than white would have guaranteed failure in most industries, and guaranteed they wouldn’t have the wealth or resources to improve the lives of successive generations.

Hey man, fish don’t know they’re wet, either.

Everything you cited me was generations ago.

Today we have a black president, black role models, hispanic role models, attractive male Asian American TV stars – some of the biggest acts in the world are black, and the legal status quo isn’t unfairly keeping down people because of their race. It is, however, keeping them down because of the neighborhoods they grow up in, or the financial aspirations they ascribe to.

I grew up in a poor neighborhood. I watched white people who were just as disadvantaged as black people tear their lives apart, be mistreated by the police and local government, and I’ve seen both white and black people climb out of the ghetto by going to college and distancing themselves from negative influences.

Calling it racism is a scapegoat in 2016, because when you move into the good neighborhoods, when you start interacting with educated people, there are black people, hispanic people, people of every race at the table and no-one cares.

Are poor people racist? You could make an argument for that. Are certain people in power racist? Yeah, probably. Racial bias is terrible. But the system itself isn’t racist. It’s classist.

Black people just happen to occupy the lowest class on a higher percentage than statistical races in America.

I’m still curious when you’re saying it actually stopped, though.

My point is also that ‘generations ago’ isn’t that long a time because we inherit certain things, and our circumstances aren’t just shaped by the laws and norms of our time but of our parents’ time, and grandparents’, many still alive today.

That’s why the wealth disparity for white and black in particular is so high. Black people have been actively prevented from accumulating wealth for hundreds of years in the United States, so when a grandparent dies, relatively little can be passed on, even compared to the typical poor white family.


wealthbyrace-medSource: Urban Institute

If your family was black grandparents were well-to-do but they legally were not allowed to buy a home outside of an area intentionally designed to be a ghetto (an Interstate constructed through it, redlining, liquor stores instead of groceries or bank), then yes, they lost lots of possible future social connections for children and the schools are likely to be of poorer quality so educational attainment is more difficult. But directly, the sale of that house or land will be of less value than if your ancestors had been allowed to buy a house elsewhere.

It’s not just socioeconomic, and it’s not just rich vs poor. That’s part of it, but there’s a reason why Ferguson, Missouri, police were pulling over black people and searching them for drugs even though they were less likely to find drugs, and there’s a reason why police in Baltimore were willing to be rude and hassle black people in a way they’d never think of trying on even poor white people. Poor whites might be related to or know someone important and temporarily be in poverty, but black Americans have been intentionally targeted in ways to make them vulnerable to police abuse, so that they can be arrested to better hit quota numbers or have their property seized, with much less chance there will be repercussions from powerful people. It’s not a conspiracy; it’s a confluence of historical baggage and current, disparate motivations.

‘My grandparents worked very hard and earned everything they got’ — but they were allowed to earn things through their hard work. They were allowed to accumulate to pass along generational wealth, and I have benefited from it. (Barack Obama benefited from it, too, by being able to take advantage of his mother’s family’s wealth and grow up in Hawaii away from Jim Crow.) This self-evident thing shouldn’t be offensive to anyone, but enumerating the ways of it tends to make people defensive and angry.

But that generational data is important, because we’re far removed from what is or should be the effects of those ancestors not being able to have this or that.

Like I said, I grew up without money, and I accumulated it. By taking on debt, by saying no when the local dealer asked if I wanted to make some side money, by focusing on my studies instead of the guy who claimed to be my “brother” asking me to blow off school to give him a ride to so and so place.

More than the system, more than anything else today, the biggest thing ripping apart poor communities is their own families.

We can say Barack Obama is an outlier, we can say Kanye West is an outlier, we can say Jay-Z is an outlier, we can say Andre Benjamin is an outlier, we can say Terry Crews is an outlier, we can say Maurice Jones-Drew is an outlier, we can say my black lawyer who represented me in a civil dispute nearly a decade ago was an outlier, we can say the black detective is an outlier, we can say Terrence Howard is an outlier…but how many outliers do we need?

Are places like Ferguson absolute shitholes? Certainly, but they’re shitholes for everyone. Probably moreso for black people, but everyone has the ability to take on student loans and GTFO when they become of age. The government wants you to take on student loans and they suck and they sucked for me, but incurring debt and moving away and studying is still the key to success.

You can pay that back later, because the opportunities are there for everyone, and they’re not going to stop you if you’re a certain color and say “sorry, you can’t go to college, you can’t succeed because you’re black.”

I disagree on the idea that we’re removed from effects of the past because of the reasons I’ve already stated. Inheritance of wealth in particular is a cross-generational thing, and then on top of that you have cultural inheritance of having educated parents who can help raise and teach you, too. Parents and grandparents robbed of an education robs from their descendants, too, even with no additional discrimination.

But there has never ceased to be active discrimination in the United States, so I still want to know when you think it stopped.

Your outlier argument doesn’t make any sense. I can say in general, ‘You shouldn’t count on football to be your path to success,’ and if you offer up Maurice Jones-Drew and Drew Brees and hundreds of other NFL players as outliers, that in no way whatsoever contradicts my assertion because many more tens of thousands of people play high school or college or make NFL practice squads.

We have 38 million black Americans. We should be able to name tens of thousands of outliers of successful black Americans yet those prominent outliers remain exactly that. In the 1950s you could just as well say that Martin Luther King Jr and Jackie Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard and Ella Fitzgerald and Thelonious Monk and Ralph Ellison all proved that segregation in the Deep South and racism throughout the U.S. weren’t real problems. ‘Look at all these outliers!’

(In addition, most of those people are in industries where people have to be outliers to be successful in general. As Chris Rock said [Note: this anecdote was misremebered], he lives in a neighborhood where the only other black person is Michael Jordan. The two of them are in Halls of Fame, but the rest of the neighborhood is white dentists, and they don’t have to be Hall of Fame dentists in order to live there.)

Under early Jim Crow, many states had grandfather clauses that exempted people from literacy tests or other requirements if a person’s grandfather was born a free citizen. The entire purpose, of course, was to be able to impose deeply difficult to insurmountable difficulties to registering to vote on black people because their ancestors had been enslaved while exempting white people who hadn’t.

It seems to me that your argument at that time would have been, ‘But look, there are some black Americans in those states who have managed to register or vote. The rest must be lazy. And I don’t know why you keep bringing up slavery when the grandfather clause doesn’t even mention that.’

If a primary barrier to college is its expense, and white supremacists systematically stole wealth from the average family that they don’t have now, then the inability of black people to attend college is a more subtle but not less impactful example of that.


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