The third step of the Hero’s Journey is called “the acceptance of the challenge.” This can, of course be considered either a specific acceptance, or the more general (and important) aspect of human maturation called “conation”—the acceptance of responsibility. A person who constantly blames their parents, society, or whatever for their emotional pain and lack of capacity is functionally a child. But in truth, most human beings fit into this category. There is little more painful than truly growing up, understanding that life is finite, accepting both credit and blame for the events of our lives.
This stuff is tough, and the human ego will hide from it, distract you, do all in it’s power to convince you to “deny the challenge.” But if we are to move forward, we cannot do this.
Storytelling has always been about people confronted with challenges that stretch their limits, force them to confess their insufficiencies and sins, make them deal with fear and disappointment. Stories that do NOT push people to this “edge” are by definition, trivial.
Stories that push people to the edge…and beyond…have the capacity to stir the soul. This rigor need not be exclusively physical. It can be emotional, spiritual, intellectual, whatever. It can deal with a nation tested to live its conscience, a man called to confess his infidelity, a woman forced to leave a brutal marriage, a child forced to confront a parent’s alcoholism. All involve stepping out of the comfort zone. Once these steps are taken, they are hard to un-take. We go forward, onto the Road of Trials.
Look into your own life, and you’ll find countless times when you accepted the challenge…and a few uncomfortable ones when you refused, and knew you should have. These, the inner Gorgons whose image you could not bear, are your gold mine. Wherever you were stopped, halted in your tracks, paralyzed by fear or shame or guilt…these are EXACTLY the times in your life that will reap the greatest benefits, if you are courageous enough to tell the truth.
TELL THE TRUTH. What stopped you? Why were you afraid? What were your internal voices? Who in your group of allies sabotaged your efforts? What was the emotional pay-off for turning back? You must have the ability, the courage and commitment to look at these things honestly. And if you would be a writer of quality, you must have the ability to share what you find.
Wednesday, February 28, 2007
The third step of the Hero’s Journey is called “the acceptance of the challenge.” This can, of course be considered either a specific acceptance, or the more general (and important) aspect of human maturation called “conation”—the acceptance of responsibility. A person who constantly blames their parents, society, or whatever for their emotional pain and lack of capacity is functionally a child. But in truth, most human beings fit into this category. There is little more painful than truly growing up, understanding that life is finite, accepting both credit and blame for the events of our lives.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:26 AM
Some took offence at my suggestion that the civil rights movement was “feminine” in nature. I don’t say this lightly, and I mean no offense to the courageous men and women who took part in it. I am referring to the fact that they really had no choice but to take the high road. Direct action, direct violence in response to the violence offered their marchers, vote registrars, sit-ins, etc, would have led to extermination. The beautiful and brilliant answer was to remind America of her higher nature, Christian values, and to shame the U.S. on the world stage through provoking unmeasured response. There was no other way to work it.
But…my wife’s family was seriously involved in the Civil Rights movement, and I’ve heard many, many stories that don’t get talked about on the nightly news. And of course, some that did. On fact was that women and even children were placed front and center during marches, because men would have drawn too much fire. They literally would have been taken away and lynched. Men had to repress their urge to strike back, to retaliate. No one who could not repress this urge was allowed to march. And decades later, I’ve seen the result: men who still hunch their shoulders, can’t stand up straight, repressed rage eating away the core of marriages and lives,
NOTE: I’m not saying “women must behave X, men must behave Y.” But one of the problems I perceive in typical Liberals and Conservatives is that Liberals tend toward believing that there are no intrinsic roles or differentiation, and Conservatives tend to think that roles are graven in stone. I don’t know how much of this stuff is genetic—although it is inarguable that testosterone increases aggression. And I don’t know how much is social: after all, most female animals can defend themselves and their young just fine. But I do know that in human societies, I know of no documented instances where the females do the protecting and the males stay home with the kids.
If a man CHOOSES to be gentle and nurturing, avoiding violence and conflict, good for him. I have friends like this, and they are good people. But there is a real difference between choosing this for moral reasons, and choosing it because they are afraid of confrontation, afraid that they CANNOT cope with violence. My highest respect goes for the men and women who are capable of both sides of the equation.
You know what? I’d bet that if you did a study of blacks who fought in the Civil War, you’d find their descendants were healthier and better adjusted than the average descendant of slaves who were never free until the war ended.
Look at this comparison of “Male” and “Female” as “Yang” and “Yin” if you want. Fine. I’m just using the words to point out a phenomenon. It’s a wave, not a particle. I’m not talking about some immutable thing. But when you listen to Rap music and hear the hyper-male posturing, this is, in my mind, the result of 400 years of having to keep their heads down. When, in “In The Heat Of The Night” in 1967, Sidney Poitier struck a white man who slapped him, it sent shock-waves through America. I had never, in 15 years of watching movies and television, seen a black man stand up for himself in such a fashion. Black male audiences cheered. Isn’t that pitiful? You bet. But it is completely predictable, given human social evolution. And also as predictable that what any slave master must do is destroy the crazy chaotic male energy that says: “Live Free or Die.”
You cannot have it. So any blacks who exhibited such characteristics were broken, or killed. And post-slavery, the entire weight of social convention in the South struggled to keep blacks in their place—more killing of men and raping of women. And then during the 20th Century, when the walls started breaking down, these images of helplessness were reinforced in the media. To this day, you can see traces of it in shows like “The Unit” (one of my favorites) where, while Dennis Haysbert is the star, and quite virile, he and his wife are the only overweight folks on the show, while all the whites are lean and sexy. You still can’t quite get the full package past the guard-dogs.
So…I understand that my attitudes aren’t politically correct. But neither do they limit male or female behaviors. And I consider those who can operate within both modes: direct and indirect action—to be the most balanced human beings. But when you deny women the OPTION of being nurturing, or men the OPTION of direct confrontation and protecting their families with force…I think you have taken something precious. There is a reason why so many male hero figures are warriors, throughout all of history. And a warrior isn’t just someone willing to die—that is a corruption of the term. A warrior is also willing and able to kill. A warrior says: “I’m willing to die, and I’m willing to take you with me.”
A person who says only “I’m willing to die” is a martyr. Don’t confuse the terms.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:05 AM
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
“Similarly, when you talk about welfare what do you mean? Does unemployment insurance decrease adulthood? SS? Medicare or Medicaid? I assume you're talking solely about AFDC. Why?”
Primarily because AFDC is most usually referenced by Conservatives against welfare, especially when they make comments about its effect on minority communities.
“Or someone who starts going after another one of these goals at 5** and feels he or she has reached it at 10*?”
There are child actors who can support themselves—and their families—by the age of ten. They may very well, assuming healthy relationships and a mature and balanced approach to fitness, be on their way to a fine adulthood. But absent an insane level of mature precocity, I wouldn’t consider them adults. Sort of like “Junior Black Belts” with all the technique, but none of the muscle strength and mature joint mobility. “Junior Adults” maybe?
“My question to you is: If there were some large country in Africa that had been as succesful as South Korea or Taiwan over the last few decades, do you think that would have any effect on how African-Americans see themselves? That is, if people of African decent could look at an African country and go, "Damn, but they are doing good."* would that make a difference to them in providing some extra-US society that they could more easily look up to?”
Yes. It wouldn’t have a devastating, sweeping effect, but it would shut up a lot of racists, provide talking points, and provide a role model for success that other African countries could use.
"Blacks never got even."
Got even with who? Me? I was born in 1964 and (not that it is likely to matter to anybody, but for the record) both sides of my family were strongly in favor of civil rights long, long before it was trendy.
Simon Legree's been dead for something like 120 years. Even the southern whites who howled for "segregation forever" in the 1950s are now either dead or very old. So who are blacks in 2007 A.D. supposed to be getting even with, at this point?
Blacks AS A GROUP never got even with whites, or white slave owners AS A GROUP. I think that the helplessness of, say, being beaten by your step-father as a helpless child stays with people their entire lives. In the same way, to the degree that psychology might be considered quantum sociology, the damage of being stripped of all normal male prerogative, and never having the option of getting even, has been devastating. And, of course, my point is that there is NO ONE to “get even” with anymore. Did you hear me advocating violence? Or even reparations? Or even Welfare? No, you didn’t. And you won’t. I advocate love, forgiveness, remembrance of history, and total personal responsibility.
But I know the male animal. And I know the female animal. And there is mucho resentment from black females toward black males, and I have a suspicion that some of it is simply: “if you bastards had been on your job, and killed every white man who set foot on African soil, we wouldn’t BE in this mess right now.” Yeah, it’s irrational, but human beings are like that.
“I guess I'm now an adult. I still daydream but now (as opposed to when I was young) I know what the realistic chances are of my daydreams coming true. I still daydream about being a superhero and saving the world (don't tell me you don't also, I won't believe you) but now I don't try to persuade myself that it could happen.”
Daydreams almost never come true. Goals often do. The difference is writing them down and finding role models for success, and then mapping out a course of action that, with luck and massive hard work, might take you there. I believe that I can accomplish anything that anyone else can do, if they started with my basic tools and resources. I haven’t always been right. But in other instances, I’ve exceeded my expectations. And at times I am disappointed that I haven’t done more. I guess that’s just life.
“Is adulthood necessarily a somber and serious period of life? In the comics world, a lot of lip service is being given to the idea of fun comics, where fun means the kinds of books one might have read as a child and are aimed more at children. Are adults fun? Besides sex, what is adult fun? Is following one's bliss adult fun? Those are the big questions that I'm struggling with at the moment.”
Hell yes, Adulthood is fun! I get all the fun I ever had as a kid, plus major perks. Man, climbing on Kilimanjaro, jet-biking in the Bahamas, walking Munich at midnight, sky-diving, watching my daughter born, and watching my childhood dreams realized in the material world are more fun than I ever DREAMED of having as a kid. I love this life, and this world, and this country, and all of the friends and teachers and students that have helped me understand myself, and outgrow my childhood. And now I get to help my own children, and anyone I can reach, find the same joy. I am one happy, self-contented SOB, let me tell you. Adulthood flat-out rocks. And when you are willing to really accept that responsibility, the “child” aspect of your personality wakes up and, safe for the first time since leaving your parent’s house, that “child” creativity can burst forth to an exceptional degree. There is no comparison, and I feel terribly sorry for people who feel afraid to leave the cocoon of childhood to embrace their Butterflyness.
“Maybe you're an adult to the extent that you don't feel the need to spend any energy convincing everyone around you that you're really an adult....”
Amen to that. Sharing the joy and light is one thing. It’s been a long time since I felt a compulsion to prove much of anything to anyone. Still a few residual ego shards here and there, but “proving” myself was a part of, say, my first ten years in the SF field. Those who’ve known me a long time may feel free to comment on what I was like then, and if they feel I’m the same way now.
So...in my opinion, the problems of individual human beings, America or the specific difficulties of Black America would be 90% alleviated simply by tracing out a clearer path between childhood, adolescence, and true human Adulthood. We all agree that responsibility is a major key. And that can be painful as hell. Letting our parents, society, men, whites, straights, skinnies, or whoever else you believe oppressed you--even if they did--off the hook can feel like defeat. It is not. Unless you are going to kill your enemy, forgive him. That's not to say to forget what he did to you. But negative emotions hurt no one but you and your family. We cannot afford that, no matter what "we" we're talking about.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:41 AM
Monday, February 26, 2007
Congratulations to Forest Whitaker for his well-deserved Oscar for “Last King of Scotland.” A terrific movie which follows a certain standard pattern: the white guy gets laid every which way, the black guy gets no play at all. No wonder America loved it…
And for those just joining this particular discussion, no, I’m not really that concerned with the “black guys don’t get laid in movies as often as white guys” statistic in and of itself. I care because it reveals market pressure, and that market pressure reveals what is REALLY going on in the secret greasy hearts of men. That is: they would like all access to all women, and deny that access to other males. Used to be that the fantasy started at the 1st chakra: non-white males could not survive action/suspense/horror films. Now they can survive, but they can’t have sex without turning off a huge chunk of the white male audience. And functionally, that’s the same thing. After all, if in your dreams, the “Other” doesn’t indulge in reproductive behavior, you’re really hoping they’ll simply die out, aren’t you…?
Back to the question of adulthood. I’ve been asked by several readers what they can do for themselves, in alignment with the principles discussed here, in terms of moving their lives forward. If you’re a writer, it’s a bit clearer. But what if you aren’t? I thought I needed to make some recent private thoughts more public…
I have a sense that the damage created by welfare (especially to the black community) is that it supports an extended childhood. Few of us grow up until it is necessary…and in the black community, the “baby boy” phenomenon, as well as “babies having babies” is horribly out of control. I’d estimate that better than 90% of humanity are really children. I don’t know whether a larger percentage of the black community could be considered such…I really don’t. But one thing I do know is that blacks cannot afford this luxury as much as whites can. Why? If you’re white, and an emotional/spiritual child, society itself is “Daddy.” At the very best, if you’re black, society is “Stepdaddy.” Stepdaddy who abused you a while back, and is in denial about it.
Conservatives can see the bit about welfare’s infantilization, but what they cannot see is the vastly greater damage done by 400 years of slavery and repression, ending only in about 1968. You have a hard time enslaving an adult. So…kill or break the adults, and raise children to never become adults, much as domesticated dogs might be considered immature wolves. Slavery is the domestication of human beings.
So…what is the way out? Human Adulthood, as discussed by Jed McKenna, is a prerequisite and gateway to the state of enlightenment. Blacks post-slavery imitated white behavior, literary pretensions, educational aspirations, acting like “mommy and daddy” as if that would make them full citizens. When it didn’t, the drive for black education lost some steam. I’d say that going to war in WW2 did a hell of a lot more for us than most other behaviors.
Marching up the chakras, you can “awaken the kundalini” from the bottom up, or the heart out. But NOT from the top down. So attempts to heal this gap by intellectual—or even spiritual—meant were doomed to fail. There was no root.
Post WW2, Jews were able to prosecute Nazis. See them hanged, and jailed. Incredibly healing. Adults, especially adult males, must have the option of slaughtering their enemies. They MAY decide to offer mercy, but if they don’t have that option, they are barely recognizable as adults, given world history. Blacks never got even. Not even close.
(And what am I saying is that core “male” energy? Look at what John L. Sullivan, the turn of the century bare-knuckle fighter, was famous for doing. He would walk into a bar, slam his fist on the bar, and yell: “I’m the Great John L., and I can whip any goddam sonofabitch in the world! And America loved him for it. When Ali screamed “I’m the Greatest!” white sports writers excoriated him. Go figure.)
Martin Luther King encouraged us to open our heart space—and THAT was a successful tactic. But please excuse me if I consider that somewhat feminine. It is a warrior tactic in the sense of grasping that it was about the only approach that could work. But denied the opportunity to kill or gain justice, that energy had nowhere to go except to turn in upon itself.
There are no organic rituals of adulthood within the b.c., so what we have are either aped from whites, or are false ceremonies (pregnancy, prison, violence) that FEEL like becoming men and women, but have little relationship to becoming actual adult human beings.
So…all of this is a round-about way of saying that what I may feel we should concentrate on in this blog is that thing which provides the greatest good for the greatest number. That is valuable to individual human beings…male and female, white and black, but which, frankly, is of even more vital importance to the black community because of damaged social and cultural roots, and lack of external support.
I would say that an “Adult” according to the definitions we’ve been playing with, is someone who takes FULL responsibility for their emotions, and their results in the three basic arenas (fitness, career, relationships). They are aware of the inevitability of their own death, and is committed to leaving the world a better place than they found it. They are committed to being scrupulously honest with themselves, no matter how painful it may be. They are motivated by internal values and morality that goes beyond social norms: “beyond good and evil” so to speak. They are not manipulated by what the herd says, and not afraid to speak their truth.
Or to try to put it even more simply:
They take responsibility for their actions, emotions, and results.
I think I’ve always felt something like this, and was disgusted when I myself did not. And while it is certainly possible to become an adult without having money, without having a healthy fit body, and without having a healthy primary relationship, I do believe that those who manage all three of these things cannot do so without being, at the core, honest and responsible people…or walking the road to being so.
If there were a finite number of things I would want to see in the black community that would correct its problems (or be symptomatic of those problems corrected) it would be:
1) Greater inherited wealth than the white community
2) Lower incarceration rate
3) Longer life expectancy
4) Greater percentage of children raised in two-parent families.
And you know what? There isn’t one of these things that wouldn’t come from Human Adulthood. Good for one, good for all. Good for part, good for whole. Black, white, male, female…it all seems to work.
So then, what am I suggesting? This is especially interesting because the state of full human maturation is an essential precursor to Enlightenment. So…whether one’s goals lie in this world or the next, are political, social, physical, financial, creative, or spiritual…the Adulthood concept can get you moving in the right direction. Very cool.
So: my take on this. Choose goals in all three major arenas. WRITE THEM DOWN. Then commit to moving toward them at 1% per week. Daily, meditate and journal on the questions: “What is true?” in each of these three arenas. And “Who am I?” in each of the three. You WILL NOT be able to progress toward these three in a straight line. No. You will ignore one arena, break your promises to yourself, get distracted. THIS IS FINE, and completely predictable. WRITE DOWN the excuses your subconscious uses. Write down all of the crap from your past that comes up as “explanations” and force your subconscious to come up with a new one every time. Trust me: it has limited cleverness. Eventually, you will hit a wall, and have to start telling the truth. And you’ll know that when it starts to hurt.
Adulthood isn’t easy. But, especially if you have children, you MUST accept the responsibility of maturing out of emotional childhood, or your kids, your life, your community are not safe.
Now…does this mean you don’t skip across the parking lot? Enjoy cartoons? Kick back with your friends? Dance in the rain? HELL NO! Here’s the nasty little secret your ego doesn’t want you to know: When you become a true adult, your “inner child” is set free. The joy, energy, creativity, aliveness and sexual energy released is astounding.
Please, don’t take my word for it—come see for yourself. All it costs is everything you’ve got.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:15 AM
Sunday, February 25, 2007
I am curious about something germane to the discussions we've been having lately. It has to do with the quality of "adulthood" among human beings. It is, I think, a rare quality. I was wondering if the readers would offer their own thoughts on:
1) what is an adult human being?
2) What are the processes that create an adult?
3) what are the processes or events that inhibit the onset of adulthood?
4) At what point in your own life did you first consider yourself an adult?
This is important, and links together with many of our posts recently. Please add your thoughts.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:30 AM
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
Wow. A ton of people came to the blog yesterday, and not one misinterpreted what I said about race. I am so happy I'm tap-dancing. Thank you, everyone...
Whew! Busy busy. Just heard back from a movie company I pitched to, and they seem to like what Tananarive and I said about their idea. More on this as it develops…
I was talking recently about the application of the Hero’s Journey to the process of what might be called Literary Autolysis—using our writing to eat our ego. Yum. The second step is Rejection of the Challenge. Now, we reject a challenge because of Fear, and any worthy challenge is gonna scare us. Why? Well, this relates to the proper choice of Hero and Challenge. The challenge must be large enough, weighty enough, to push the hero to the edge, to “empty him out” so to speak. The ego always defines us as something different from what we actually are. Therefore, the properly chosen challenge will either make a character rise to the occasion (“Die Hard”) and surpass the ego identity, or will deflate the false self concept (“Glengerry, Glen Ross”) and throw the character into painful confrontation with reality. No sane person would voluntarily choose either one.
So, if you’ve done your work right…the result is fear. Now, then…how to choose your fear properly…
Simple. Look into your own life. Look at the times when you grew the most, especially when you experienced major fear just before jumping through the hoop. If it felt like mortal terror, you’re on the right path. This is especially true if, after it was all over, you felt “larger” or “clearer.” And if afterward, you look back and laugh at the absurdity of your fear, you are dead bang on target. Fear is the favorite tool our egos use to keep us from growing and changing and…(wait for it!) killing our ego-shells. Never underestimate the power of an illusion.
When you have a list of three to five times that this has happened to you, choose the biggest and scariest. Now…if you can devise a story taking a character through a similar experience, you have a perfect opportunity to use your fiction writing to expand your sense of Self. What I absolutely love is to write stories that will force me to grow as a human being, stories I am afraid to tackle, that will force me into confrontation with an aspect of my ego that is uncomfortable. Keeps you honest and on the edge.
Get together with your writing group or partner, and let a little honesty into the room. Talk about this stuff. Come up with some good examples…
And then get to work!
A letter from a young man I met recently:
Hello. My name is C., and I am a 16 year old who happened to be inspired by your discussion of awakening. Just like all people before me, I have been spending the last 16 years wanting to know not only who I am but also what and who it is that exists around me. I have wondered about much more things than I have learned and in many ways, I see you as a possible teacher. I do not mean to be too blunt, doing things such as hunting you down and following your every move, I mostly only want to discuss with you things that I have noticed as bumps or abnormally smooth parts on my road.
My first question of our hopeful relationship is pertaining to something of my childhood. To put it in front of the bush, my best friend died when I was six. Everybody at my previous school understood this as a part of who I was. My new high school which I have been attending for two years is full of people who have no idea. It is not exactly that I have side stepped questions and direct listeners, it is mostly that no one has been interested enough in my past to ask (let alone know to ask). The question is should I tell my friends straight out at the right time simply for the sake of personal depth and understanding, or should I wait for the impossible inquiry that will lead to my telling? I think that of the two, you would pick the first option but I am wondering if there is a better option still.
Anyway, I hope this is not just a taxing time-consuming thing for you and that neither of us become misunderstood.
In the hopes of disillusionment,
"My best friend died when I was six" is a load to carry--only offer it to someone who has volunteered to carry such a load. I did--I gave you permission to get in touch. Someone offering you friendship does--friendship has reciprocal obligations. If you ever have a class assignment asking you to tell a group about "my most meaningful experience" or some such, that is also a possibility. But in reality, this is your weight, part of what will help you become the man you will some day be. We all must deal with loss, and there is no good time for it. None at all. To lose a loved one is to stare into the abyss. To do this without losing balance is a good trick, and intelligence doesn't help, my young friend. Seek to balance yourself in your external aspects, and you'll begin to sense how to maintain that internal, "spiritual" balance. Seek a physical discipline (yoga, martial arts, etc.) something you can push yourself with your whole life. Commit to knowing your heart, using external relationships as a mirror. Develop your intellect--but don't be limited by it. Being smart is as much of a trap as being stupid--if you let yourself be attached to it.
My blog over at lifewrite.com is a great place for these conversations. If you are serious, I'm sure we can find ways to interact.
Balance, C. It's the only thing that is safe to be obsessive about.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:38 AM
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Yesterday I spoke at a Mensa meeting in Monrovia. Sort of like a science fiction convention, without the science fiction, if you know what I mean. At any rate, a young man there was wearing a martial arts t-shirt, and we spoke a bit about his current training in Aikido down in San Diego. There’s a big guy in his class who hurts people (accidentally) and my new acquaintance was rather intimidated. I told him that this gentleman is exactly the sort of fellow he needs to train with if he is ever to learn to apply his skills in real life. He protested that he already knows how to hurt people, that’s not what he’s training for. Oh? I asked. Were you a mean little ass-kicker before you started training. No, he replied, but he had fantasies…
And that’s the problem, of course. Your fantasies of competence in an arena may or may not map over to actual ability. And the fear that they don’t will force you to back away from real tests. The gentleman in his class is a real test. “When you learn to deal with him,” I said, “you’ll be one step closer to that black belt you covet. He’s your mountain. Start climbing.”
This search for truth stuff is hard, because one of the first things I notice is that intelligence, education, and spiritual orientation don’t seem to mean much. Those are all as likely to trip you up and trap you as are ignorance and mean-spiritedness. Odd, but it seems to be true. Remember a loooong time ago I started talking about Balance? And have we noticed yet that terribly few people are interested? Now, I’m not suggesting that that “Balance” thing is necessary to wake up. But you can be damned sure that anyone who is out of alignment with their own values in those three arenas is sound asleep.
Yesterday, Robin posted an interesting question, very much in alignment with the Lifewriting position, asking me to turn the technique on the racial divide in America. Something to the effect of: “Steve, what would you say to a student who came to you and said they had been enslaved for the first thirty years of his life, and then abused and brainwashed for the next nine. He is currently about forty years old. What do you do for him?” A fascinating question. I’m not sure I can answer it yet. But I can back off from that one just a bit, and try addressing the following question, which might be even more useful:
“A family comes to you. They live in a very small town, where for thirty years they were robbed and then enslaved and repeatedly raped. And for the next nine, they were abused and reviled. Three years ago, the town finally changed its laws, making them equal citizens. None of their property was returned to them, but they have no place to move. What can they do?”
That comes pretty close to the metaphor I’ve been building. Whew. How do I apply what I know to this family? I can try to make some very broad statements and parallels. Please remember that I understand fully that this metaphor doesn’t hold totally—but it may be useful.
1) If you can’t kill the other families in the town, you have to forgive them. Completely. This is not for their benefit, it is for yours.
2) You are not imagining things if you think some of them are smirking at you. They fondly remember raping your mother and sisters, and fantasize that the men in your family are impotent buffoons. They stole your belongings and labor, divided it amongst themselves and passed it to their children--and then pretended it never happened. Yes. But you CANNOT allow your self-image to be permanently affected by this.
3) You must have clear goals. What do you want to be in five years? I suggest the following, to begin with:
a) a higher education rate than the rest of the town. Higher income. Higher inherited wealth.
b) A healthier, better balanced family than the rest of the town.
c) Stronger, healthier bodies than the rest of the town. A longer life expectancy.
d) A lower incarceration rate than the rest of the town.
No, I don't know how you will accomplish these things. BUT THE GOAL COMES FIRST. And the commitment to die to accomplish them. When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. When you have committed completely, totally, only then does the answer inevitably arise.
4) You must not allow your children to fall into the jaws of the legal system, where they will face “juries of their peers” consisting totally of those who so recently abused you. So you have to be VERY socially conservative. Train them well. Do not allow them to idolize criminals or those who pretend to be.
5) You must remember that the education system in the town is designed for the children of those who enslaved you. There is not necessarily any conscious venom in this—it is just human nature. So your homes must be a place of learning. You will also have to “interpret” the lessons so that your children can understand them. They must be translated into the language they speak. If they are not, the other townsfolk will shake their heads sadly and say: “see? They were better off slaves. Just don’t quite have it…”
6) Goals must be clear, and your children must believe they can reach them. To this end, search far and wide for role models of others who have overcome similar adversity. Their beliefs and actions will be greatly different from those who are swallowed by it.
7) Take full responsibility for your lives and results. Yes, you were raped and beaten and chained. But every second you spend whining about it is a second lost in your struggle to build a life of meaning.
8) Love yourselves, and each other. You have been programmed for self-hatred, trust me. Your ego-bubbles will be thin, scant protection against the fear that you are less intelligent, less beautiful, and farther from God than those who hurt you. Be careful in your interpretation of media images—educate your children to see how they portray you disproportunately as unattractive, dull-witted, criminal, and asexual. Unless they are images of your women—in which case they are always available to, and attracted to, the guys who used to rape your momma.
9) Remember that, among the townsfolk—perhaps even the majority of the townsfolk—are good and decent people who just care about the safety and welfare of their own children. You can ally yourselves with them, so long as you keep their attention on the world you can build together, and off your skin color.
10) Every day, you must perform rituals of cleansing: meditations and affirmations designed to prepare you to enter the battle. Remember: you are creating a safe world for your children, and grandchildren. You yourself may not enter the Promised Land. And that’s all right. It’s not fair, but it’s not unfair either. It just is.
11) Remember that the others in the town are frightened of you, as you are of them. Deep down, they know they hurt you, and wonder when or if you will take revenge. They will pretend to be confused by your anger, while knowing that, if the position was reversed, they would want to kill you. This denial cannot be compartmentalized: it creeps over into other aspects of their lives, poisons their spirituality and dulls their minds. To the degree you can, love them and pity them.
12) Do not, EVER, give members of your family a “pass” for bad behavior. They must care for their children. They must obey the laws—so long as those laws are equally applied to all. If the laws are unfair, then they must have their own, higher moral standards from which they will NOT be moved. They must pay their own way. They must carry themselves with pride and courtesy. They must, in every way, be examples for the community. One can only lead by example. All else is a lie.
13) Do not strive to be “equal.” Strive to excel. Kick ass, take names. Smile politely, and destroy your opponents on the playing field, the courtroom, the board room, at the bank. I promise you that this is what they are teaching their children. Teach it to yours.
14) Remember that everything we as a species have ever done, always, has been an attempt to re-connect with the divine. To find our lost place in Paradise. When you forgive and love others, you will find it easier to love and forgive yourself. And you must. The tendency to self-loathing is unbelievably strong.
15) Guys: Your women have borne special and terrible abuse, and are now being tempted to consider their bodies as coin in the market place, and your men as animalistic thugs. Love them, cherish them, and show them in every way this is not true, that they are precious gems, and that you can be trusted. And ladies: your men have been subjected to special and terrible abuse, murdered and stripped of their masculinity. Don’t be fooled by the contemporary music extolling their mighty penises and fearsome Glocks. They are scared to death that they will be crushed by the odds—and have good reason to be. Love them. Let them cry on your shoulders, while whispering in their ears that they are, in your eyes, the mighty warriors who will lift their people back to their rightful place. And that you do not blame them for the terrible position in which you find yourselves.
16) Remember that you are, in every way, the equal of any people who have ever walked this planet. No one is better than you…and you are better than no one. Only this position is unassailable. All else is built on ego, and will crack under pressure.
Just a few thoughts of what I’d say. If I was the king of the world, what would I DO? Not sure. But thanks for letting me clear my thoughts.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:36 AM
Sunday, February 18, 2007
I’ve known Mike for better than twenty years. He is a good, decent, intelligent man who calls it as he sees it, and I’m glad for the comment he made on the blog. He pretty much represents what an intelligent white male of somewhat conservative leanings sounds like to me, and no pejoratives are implied in that. Here’s what he said. I offer this not as argument, or to educate or to change anyone's mind, but to document the WAY I think about these things. I'm not saying I'm right, just that this is legitimately the way things bounce around in my head, for those amused by such things. Mike's comments are italicized.
My replies are in brackets:
“What I don't understand is why everyone looks at the IQ question strictly from a "race" perspective. Why isn't it looked at more holistically? Let me touch briefly on several seemingly unrelated topics. I will do so in a decidedly un-PC way, but as we have known each other a long time I hope you will take this in context and not be offended.
It is true that it appears that blacks in the US have as a group an average lower intelligence. But is there more to this than just race?
[Here, read: “I agree with those who believe that blacks…etc.” There are arguments on both sides of this, and intelligent and educated adherents to both points of view. To represent this as a settled “fact” like gravity or something is to create a somewhat false base for your argument. However, let’s go on.)
The culture of poverty, where ever you go in the world, is one which does not care about education. For instance in inner city US it is considered acting "White" to try and get an education.
[ To say “in inner city US too many blacks consider getting an education to be acting `white’” would be accurate. To say “it is considered” is too broad a brush, and conceals as much as it explains]
Please notice I said the "culture of poverty" not the act of being poor itself. There are many groups which may be poor but believe they can rise out of their circumstances through hard work, hence the relative success of poor immigrants in America over the years.
The current classes of systemic poor in the US are overwhelmingly from parents who were poor and whose grandparents were poor and so on. Please note the work “systemic” as it relates to a persistence of poverty across multiple generations.
[sure. Most people remain in the social class in which they are born, rich or poor.]
There has been a higher birthrate among the poor in the US than among those in the higher economic classes. It is well known throughout the world that the poor have the highest birthrates while the wealthiest have the lowest.
Natural selection says that organisms will adapt to their environment. Those that adapt the best will have the most offspring and those that don't will have less.
Some people have posited that the reason that Ashkenazi Jews have a higher IQ is that restrictions on Jews in Medieval Europe made it harder for Jews without a good IQ to survive, or more importantly for their children to survive. That is "smart" Jews survived and were able to pass on their "smart" genes to their children.
Now, if this is true, then "stupid" genes can be passed on as well. If "stupid" people can have children who survive to have more children in turn, then their "stupid" genes will be passed on.
As mentioned above poor people tend to have more children than people who are better off. But poor people, on average, have lower IQ's than the rest of the population, so their children should do relatively poorly in school. That is their children should have on average lower IQ’s.
Starting in the mid-sixties the welfare system in the US made it easy for poor people to have children without too many (related to survival) negative consequences. Now you and I might say that being on welfare (as a way of life) is "stupid". It provides few real benefits and too many negative obligations.
[To say: “there is disagreement about the costs and benefits. I agree with the Right, which believes the benefits are minimal” would be accurate. Again, you’re making a statement as if there is no intelligent disagreement. By the way—I tend to agree with you about this!]
But for a “stupid” person welfare would be great. It provides a relatively easy way to get independence from one’s family without requiring much in the way of work. Yes it is a lazy person’s way to comfort but it worked. In addition all one had to do to get
In addition all one had to do to get more money was to have more children. So, here we see a situation where being “stupid” was rewarded and actually promoted the passing on of the “stupid” gene.
The beneficiaries of this scenario were overwhelmingly black.
[Very wrong, as I noted elsewhere. Disproportionately black, perhaps. Overwhelmingly, no. Numerically, far more whites benefited.]
With a higher birthrate, the simple math says that over time the increasingly larger numbers of “stupid” black people will lower the average intelligence for the black group as a whole.
So, basically what I’m saying is that perhaps it is true that American blacks on average are less smart than other groups. But this is not because a large percentage of the “stupid” (low IQ) blacks were encouraged to breed in larger number than the “smart” blacks.
So in summary, the process of natural selection (as helped by the Welfare program) may have had a large hand in the problem of lower average IQ in American blacks. By that thinking it isn’t being black that is the problem but rather being both poor and black which resulted in the problem. If true then we should see similar poor groups throughout the world who similarly have lower IQ’s vis-à-vis the general population. I believe that where ever you go in the world you will find in the local systemically poor populations both a high birthrate and a relatively low IQ.
O.K., Mike, well stated, and certainly plausible. You’re wrong though, if you think you’re the only one who’s ever said this. It gets said a LOT. Now let me point something out about this argument…
Stated broadly, you’re arguing (quite reasonably) that social context (like welfare) can lead to genetically “dumbing down” a group. Food for thought. But while I’ve heard this dozens of times, NO ONE who has ever presented this has been willing to take it to the end of the line. So, then…welfare and negative belief patterns (acceptance of welfare, and criticizing those interested in an education) are responsible for a genetic drift that leads to, on the average, lower intelligence among blacks in the US. Am I representing your POV accurately?
Hope so. Now, let’s go back. Social context can cause negative genetic drift. While I’ve heard this many times, it is curious to me that the only problem EVER stated by people who present this is caused by…well, let’s just say “them pesky Liberals.” It’s fifty years of welfare! Made ‘em stupid!
Well…might I ask a small question? If blacks are so malleable that fifty years of subsidized food and rent for a fraction of their population would trash their IQ, then what exactly did 300 years of rape, torture and murder (slavery), followed by another hundred years of Jim Crow, Segregation, legalized violence and substandard education do? According to the same people who tend to sling about the “genetic” argument—and I don’t know if you’re in this group, Mike, so there’s nothing personal here—the answer is “nothing.”
Wait. Let me add this up. I can quantify the damage done to blacks during slavery: approximately 150 million man-years of life extracted. (Do the math. Look up the average life expectancy of slaves, and then the average life expectancy of whites during the same period. Slaves: 24. Whites: 37. Kalahari hunter-gatherers, about 36. Freed slaves 20 years after emancipation: about 36. So multiplying 14 years of stolen life per slave across the total number of slaves ever held in America will tell you the approximate cost per slave. That’s due to overworking, malnutrition, beatings, and murder. Sorry, but the numbers don’t lie. Look it up.)
As I said—IF you were going to take the position that there is a genetic difference (debated, not proven) and were to say that 50 years of Welfare had done damage (certainly possible) it would be absurd not to think that 400 years of abuse had no effect. So…we were superpeople for 350 years, and then suddenly hyperimpressionable? Does that really seem reasonable?
I ask you: why do you think nobody on the “Genetic IQ” side of the argument ever made THIS observation. (If I’m wrong, and someone did, please point it out to me and link me to it.) I’ll give you my theory, Mike:
Almost any argument you will ever hear a healthy human being make is to the effect of “we rule, you drool.” That’s the way the ego is. So your argument is very popular among…wait for it…people who are neither poor black (and therefore not a member of the group who supposedly denigrates education) or Liberal (and therefore not responsible for Welfare.)
It is saying: Yeah, there’s damage…but WE didn’t do it. Nope.
Man, I’ve heard versions of this all my life. From the black side, the argument is: “White people are evil bastards who raped and murdered us for 400 years. We would NEVER have done anything like that. We are spiritually and mentally superior, and we’re just fine now. How DARE Bill Cosby suggest that some of our problems are of our own making!”
Am I suggesting that the conditions blacks find themselves in now are of White people’s making? If you’re talking about Kalahari hunter-gatherers, who basically never SEE white people, no. But colonized or enslaved peoples? Hell, yes. The familial and social dysfunction (fathers not caring for their children, etc.) you see too often in the inner-city is not found in ANY natural group of people. For one simple reason: it doesn’t work. In a few generations, such terrible behavior will wipe your people out. So, yes, I can see that Welfare both generated some bad behavior and protected people from the effects of it.
But we didn’t write our own software, Mike. Not in this country. Again, if you want to see what more natural black families are like, go study some pygmies, or blacks living in the mountains of Africa, somewhere where they weren’t conquered or colonized or enslaved. And then you’ll find the same family groupings, hunting behaviors and passing of knowledge intergenerationally that anthropologists find anywhere else in the world.
No, it is not the responsibility of white folks to “fix this.” Yes there are real problems that black folks must deal with. Yes, whites contributed massively to the problem—and profited mightily thereby. Yes, I can hold all of these things in my mind, with no sense of paradox. Most people cannot, whether they are white or black. Perhaps if I weren’t mixed, I wouldn’t be able to either, but I have no motivation either to demonize, or blame.
So…is there possible genetic damage? Of course. Is it possible that, even without factoring in slavery, the apparent IQ difference is genetic in origin? Of course it is possible. I never said otherwise. I just said that I don’t believe it’s true, and that I would never accept the sole judgment of the dominator group as to the reality of that genetic difference. I have never seen human beings to be that honest, impartial, unself-centered, and free of perceptual filters.
And that’s from a lifetime of being around both groups. I think that whites, born into black lives, would perform and test at the same level. Further, I think that those whites who display the least understanding in this arena (and I’m not talking about you, Mike) would, had they been born black, absolutely despise white people, considering them smug, lying, self-centered cultural rapists without any sense of shame for the damage they do.
Some say that the beginning of sin is treating another human being like a thing, rather than a person. The very definition of slavery. But for me, the far greater sin is to break someone’s legs, steal their wallet, piss on them, and then to claim it's a scientific fat that that it is this poor soul’s genetic tendency to be broke, crippled, and stinking. That is such a great sin that I actually fear for those descended from slave owners who hold the “genetic IQ” belief. I think they hold onto it for dear life. Because if they are wrong…and there is a hell…
They’ve got a very warm condo waiting.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:53 PM
Well, let's define our terms. The Webster’s Third New International Dictionary defines “racism” as follows: “the assumption that psychocultural traits and capacities are determined by biological race and that races differ decisively from one another which is usually coupled with a belief in the inherent superiority of a particular race and its right to domination over others.”
That’s pretty much the definition I’d agree with, while emphasizing that NOT ALWAYS is it coupled to a belief that the superior group believes it has the right to dominate others. Often, but not always. The rest? Sure. A discussion of racial I.Q. differences is then, by dictionary definition, a “racist” discussion. One who holds these beliefs is, again by definition, a “racist.” I don’t see how I can avoid that conclusion.
I’m not saying their beliefs are wrong—just that I disagree with them. I’m not saying they are bad human beings. That would be determined by their behaviors. But let’s call a spade a spade here (so to speak.) Don’t shoot the messenger. I never said people shouldn’t have these beliefs, or hold these conversations. If you can’t stand the label, maybe you should look at yourself more closely.
People who believe in racial IQ differences will say that the Left is blind, or dishonest, not to agree with them. Wow. Couldn’t it be that there’s more than one legitimate way to look at this? Considering that, to my knowledge, there ain’t much evidence that political leaning predicts honesty, intelligence or education, anyone who can’t deal with the fact that those on the other side might be just as smart, just as honest, and see things differently may themselves be perceptually crippled.
My answer? We’re not pristine intellects sorting reality. Our intellect is filtered through layers of perception and belief. Where do they come from? Well, that’s back to the nature/nurture split, isn’t it? Those who say “nature” can say that our souls come into this world with the inclination to believe one way or the other. Those who say “nurture” can say we’re programmed by our parents or societies. Whatever.
But those who have hurt feelings because I say this discussion is “racist” had better just get over it, or go somewhere else. I respect you, but apparently you don’t respect the dictionary. You want the right to say things that a reasonable person might consider incredibly hurtful, and simultaneously deny that it causes pain. I NEVER SAID NOT TO TALK ABOUT THESE THINGS. In fact, it's downright weird that we can be in the middle of the discussion, and someone will say "but we're forbidden to discuss this." Feh.
Whatever. Speak of whatever you wish, as long as it's polite. But don’t for an instant think you can get away with saying that it’s not racist, and not hurtful. I may believe that it is not your intent to hurt, but like they say…the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
And regardless of your humanity and kindness, the David Dukes of the world are quite grateful to you for your support. Live with that. Stop hiding behind the notion of intellectual purity, or that one side of the political spectrum has “truth” while the other side is composed of deluded self-righteous children.
Being pretty much half white/half black, all my life I’ve heard hard-liners on either side assert that THEY know that whites, or blacks, hold the majority of the world’s positive attributes. And I’ve taken heat from both for not taking sides.
Here’s the deal, everyone: you have nothing I want. I don’t write this to sway opinions, or sell books, or make friends. Read it or don’t. Come here or not. This is written to work through my own stuff, and I use you guys as sounding boards. If you want to believe that one group—any group—is the arbiter of reality, and that your group sees clearly while the rest of the world is clouded…I’m going to laugh at you.
If you have top marks in relationships, career and fitness simultaneously, I’ll applaud, but still not put your opinion above my own (nor do I suggest you put mine above yours). But ladies and gentlemen—if you are lacking in two or more of those arenas, as far as I’m concerned your perceptual lens is seriously cracked, and you have serious work to do before you can even PRETEND to see the world clearly. Again…this is just my opinion, the way I sort things. Don’t believe me—balance these three arenas, and see for yourself. But you know something? The people I know who ARE balanced in all three rarely, and I mean RARELY buy into the “X group is better than Y group” business. And people who are REALLY imbalanced seem to have an almost pathological need to believe that because of political affiliation, racial group, religion or nationality they are better than someone else.
You really have to watch the human tendency to mistake insecurity for enlightenment.
If you want to believe that Christians, or Americans, or Muslims, or Republicans, or Homosexuals are the Chosen or Corrupted People, have at it. And I’m going to laugh at you. From where I sit, the show is mighty funny. From time to time I cry, but a good clown triggers that response, doncha know?
Send ‘em in.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 4:38 PM
I’m finally beginning to polish some of the rough draft on “Assassin’s Creed.” It’s dreadful, but that’s to be expected at this point, and I have to let my ego yammer at me, and just do the work. Do the work.
Interesting to note that any time we talk about the race/IQ issue on this blog, the stats go through the roof. That’s probably because there is almost nowhere that this issue is discussed pro and con politely, with members of both races represented.
Let me dive just a little deeper into my thought on the matter. When slaves first arrived in America, whites justified slavery by saying blacks were inferior mentally and morally, and slavery was good for everyone. As time passed, the percentage of whites who thought blacks were inferior shrunk, but there was always a core. These days, the percentage of whites who believe blacks are, on the average, inferior is probably smaller than its ever been. And believe me, they’ve been refining their arguments for 400 years. There is always evidence for any position you want to take—and what you accept or reject often says as much about you as it does the universe outside your perceptions.
Let me make it even clearer. To really measure this issue, the measurer would have to be outside it, devoid of cultural filters at the least. I’ve never met such a person, black or white. For me to believe whites are, on the average, smarter would force me to reject all my personal experience, and place me at the mercy of some external authority. And who are these authorities? Virtually 100% of them are composed of the same group who had massive reason to WANT to believe this conclusion: those descended from the slavers, those who believe in reduced government, those who believe in an hierarchical universe with “their” group at the top. (Note the slight-of-hand with “Ashkenazi Jews” being at the top, but, hey, they’re not white, so our research MUST be impartial and devoid of filters…bleh.)
To go even deeper, if I were to accept raw data from tests devised, administered, and interpreted by a sub-set of the group dealing with guilt over the triggering event above my own observations, I would have to do that across the board: my own observations are meaningless in the face of what others say. And you know where that would get me? The exact same mental process that would allow me to think “blacks are on the average less intelligent, and it is genetically based and immutable” would also come up with “whites are on the average less moral and decent, and it is genetically based and immutable.” While we’re at it, it would also conclude that “men are on the average less evolved and humane, and it is genetically based and immutable” and “women are on the average less intelligent and creative, and it is genetically based and immutable.” None of these things are in my mind, none of them match my world view, and you cannot present me with any amount of evidence GATHERED ONLY BY GROUP X that so denigrates group Y. When black scientists announce an IQ difference, when male scientists announce men inferior, or women scientists announce women inferior, I will find this far more interesting…but still unconvincing, unless it matches my own experience.
And in my mind, anyone who thinks differently, who puts the authority of others over their own experience, is a born slave.
I’ve been having fun at Moonview Sanctuary, even more now that I realize that my time with clients can be my own personal training/meditation time. Anything I discuss with others is actually an opportunity to clarify my own thinking. I go over the life triangle (body, career, relationship) and ask for clarity of goals. And I have to ask myself: how clear are my own?
I recognize that these three areas do NOT directly impact the question of “what is true?” or the approach to spirit. But the edge of a sugar cube looks like a square to a two-dimensional mind. In discussing spirit, we are trying to jump “up” one conceptual level, and the mind can’t do it. The mind doesn’t operate in that space without losing its tethers. Here there be dragons. So the “triangle” operates as safety rails as you leap for the divine.
Linking breathing to stress, and strain to dysfunction is another step. If I assume that we have all the resources we need to become whatever it is we are fated or destined to become, then what stops us is strain. This is why the yogic chakras (and Maslow’s Hierarchy) insists that we resolve lower problems before we advance to the next level.
I’ve noticed how frequently great spiritual teachers came from the middle class and higher. If the basic needs are not met, you’re going to spend a gigantic amount of your energy trying to meet them, and probably hold onto the illusion that satisfying them will lead to lasting contentment and happiness. The wealthy are less likely to have that illusion…they already know that having secure food, shelter, etc. doesn’t bring happiness. So they have the motivation and means to dig deeply.
Jed McKenna, whose “Enlightenment: The Damnedest Thing” I’ve been enjoying, obviously came from money. Otherwise, his journey would have been even more difficult.
At any rate, we all have stress, and the trick is to keep it from becoming strain. Breathing properly keeps you in the eye of the storm: life is a battle, but you are peaceful within. So using Coach Sonnon’s Flow State Performance Spiral to describe the process, and then Flow Fit to force them to move through all six planes of motion while crossing the Neuro Immuno Endocrine response barrier, I can create a miniature “life stress” in completely controlled space, and allow them to SEE how their breathing interrupts, and how this relates to those pesky voices in their heads—and dysfunctional behavior.
It’s dynamite, and in many ways seems to be the core of the world’s spiritual teachings. Now, then…what else would be necessary to complete the voyage, once a firm foundation is reached? Well, something like the “I am” meditation, or McKenna’s “Spiritual Autolysis” would probably fit the bill. Viewed spiritually, you are burning away Maya (the world of illusion) and revealing God, or the true universe, or whatever. Viewed Neurologically, you are flensing yourself of the automatic programming you’ve received since childhood. What remains is kinda like your computer fresh from the assembly line, pre-installation of software. What you can do then is selectively install the software you choose.
This is pretty sensitive work. And it benefits society very little—which is probably why you find so few places that the real work is being done, or even discussed. Churches, schools, political parties, any kind of hierarchical organization you can name will function to improve its own chances for survival. That’s how they work. They’re only as good as the human beings who create them. At best. Frankly, organizations strike me as functioning one level down from the people who create them, so that most are kinda like amoebas, eating everything in their path…or maybe like one of those multi-nucleide slime molds that can grow to hundreds of acres, expanding and expanding until they weigh more than sperm whales.
You will never get truth from an organization. You will never get truth from a teacher, or from experts. The only truth you will ever find will come from aligning your physical experience with your emotions and your intellect. You have everything you need to be anything you need to be. The universe doesn’t cheat: what you must, you can. But most people never really say “I must.” They say: “I don’t like where I am” without clearly defining the alternative. They are trapped by fear, and fear cripples dreams more than anything else. More than everything else. It is the devourer.
All that is a way of saying: I will never accept outside authority over my own mind, heart, and body. Period. Yes, that makes me unreasonable. So be it. I am not a reasonable man. I can live with that.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 1:12 PM
Thursday, February 15, 2007
Why its so important to have a say in history books. Note the following image and story:
The above appears to be a deliberate distortion of an event in the 19th Century, the battle of Adwa, where Ethiopians handed a humiliating defeat to the Italians. This picture seems to lie, stating that it was the Ethiopians who were defeated. Shameful. History is filled with this kind of crap.
Someone mentioned that they "weren’t bothered by the fact that Asians and Ashkenazi Jews were above them in I.Q."—and I let them get away with that. Again, if you want to Lump “Asians” or “Blacks” into separate containers, and then separate out Jews…and worse than that, a sub-set of Jews…please sell it somewhere else. I’m not buying here. Bobby Fischer isn’t white? Oh, please.
I’ll say this: I think this attitude is in part the result of a century of racist, Nazi propaganda saying “Jews aren’t white. Eventually, even some Jews will buy into it, just as blacks eventually bought into the “One Drop” rule. One thing is certain to me: I would never trust anyone who has those filters on to make a “culturally neutral” IQ test. We simply don’t see the same world.
Here’s another way of looking at why the “Ashkenazi Jew” situation ameliorates the terrible damage of believing you’re 3 points shy of Asians (while blacks are supposed to be about 15 points lower!) Imagine three families living on the same block. Asian, Black, White. The Black family is the poorest—by a lot. Asians are richest. The White family is about 3% less well off than the Asians. You’re in the White family, so on AVERAGE you are less wealthy than the Asians…but your brother happens to be a millionaire, a good deal wealthier than the average of the Asians. Wow. That takes the sting out a bit, doesn’t it?
Someone else asked why having less intelligence would be a problem. After all, there are mentally disadvantaged members of our community, and they do pretty well. O.K….a retarded member of your family will be cared for by others of your family and community. But if blacks were sub-standard (as a group) where would their aid come from? The same group that enslaved and denigrated them? Would it really be reasonable to expect blacks to feel warm and fuzzy about THAT possibility? And by the way…the position that IQ is genetically determined seems to be a position primarily on the Right…and isn’t the Right the same group that rails about “too much social services, welfare, and race-based considerations?” So what exactly stops you from seeing that, if blacks were actually (on the average) inferior intellectually, it would be a disaster, and it is completely natural and predictable that the subject would trigger fear?
Any teacher knows that if you tell most parents “your child is sub-standard” you trigger fear and anger, even though you aren’t talking about the parent PERSONALLY. Just apply this near-universal reaction, and you’ll understand exactly why black people might be a tad touchy about this.
Another subject. Thank God. NPR asked me to look at an enraged essay about the movie “Norbit,” in which Eddie Murphy exploits every imaginable stereotype about fat black women. I’m boycotting the film, but if anyone out there has seen it, I’d love to hear comments. It looks horrible.
Has anyone heard of a gentleman named Jed McKenna? He wrote a book called “Enlightenment, the Damnedest Thing.” The book strikes me as being the clearest, sanest discussion of the process of Enlightenment ever written in contemporary English, by a modern American. I’m extremely impressed. His Spiritual Autolysis process is as powerful a tool as I’ve ever seen, and goes to the heart of what I’ve been doing in this blog: emptying out my psychological basement, allowing people to add, attack, or comment, bringing old damage and concepts up where I can see them.
Note how easy it is to get stuck on the lower Chakra stuff: survival, sex, tribalism and power. Every time I talk about these subjects, blog stats go through the roof. Hah! And we wonder why its so hard to move our culture forward…
And applied to each of us personally, it should be obvious why it is so hard to move forward as individual, conscious beings. We are greedy, and mask our greed as political theory. We take no responsibility for the damage we do, projecting that guilt onto others. We have deep, pervasive perceptual filters, and believe we are clear-eyed. We are driven by emotions, and believe that we are logical creatures. We satisfy our most basic needs for security, power, and revenge...and mask it in the name of God. We are asleep, dreaming that we are awake. And those who actually wake up? We call them heretics, and burn them at the stake.
Just keep taking the blue pills. That steak is delicious...
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:30 AM
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
You can reach me at: email@example.com
The "one drop" rule, saying that anyone with any black blood at all is black, was a part of American (esp. southern) culture since the 1700s.) Whites were trying to protect their status, and wanted to know who they could sell. It was incredibly damaging. My poor mother, who was about Cher's skin color, never recovered. Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octaroon...and then "a nigger in the woodpile." Blacks tried to turn it around by saying "black blood is the strongest in the world--one drop makes you whole." But emotionally, it was clear that light-skinned blacks (notice that there aren't "dark-skinned whites", just "light-skinned blacks" in this sense) were very aware of the vast divide they could not cross. Ah, the "tragic mulatto." Anyway, all of this was clearly crap, but it cut deep, and hasn't been cleansed from the psyche to this day.
Me personally? I use the label "black" for convenience. It reminds me how others see me, and helps me understand some of the areas of damage in my psyche. My sister calls herself "multiracial" which is probably more purely accurate in some ways. When I really think about myself, it's a joke. Race to me is like one of those pictures made from big dots. The closer you look, the less "there" is there. Of course, gender identity is similar, and so is the entire question of existence. I'm digging away at the question "what am I" these days, and that's WAY more basic and frightening than dealing with third-chakra racial issues. Bleh.
On the other hand, when you move past this stuff (which I can, at times) very interesting perspectives occur. I love it when people talk about race and I.Q.--and then are oblivious to how painful and insulting such discussions are. One of the things I love about Jerry Pournelle is that he and I disagree about this, but he is VERY aware of how sensitive it is. As a result, we have had many, many talks. If you want to grasp how painful this stuff is, don't have a discussion with me--I'm someone who believes that race doesn't matter in this except as social construct. Have the discussion with an Afrocentric who believes that WHITES are inferior. See how long THAT discussion stays polite. Then, just maybe, you'll understand how it feels to hear skin color, which was the standard used to strip away the humanity of millions of people, then blamed for the current status of those people. Here's another analogy: it's one thing to mug someone, break their legs and piss on them in the gutter. It's another, lower thing to then blame them for being broke, crippled, and stinking. That is an entirely different level of human evil--but completely typical human behavior.
But what lies beneath? For me, I could take no pleasure or comfort in being "black"--I was a green monkey like you wouldn't believe at my Jr. High School, and right about puberty, that really sucks. And I certainly couldn't be "white" despite my mother's light skin. So my mind turned inward at a very early age. I began to ask "who am I" or "what am I" which are far more interesting questions. I slogged through a ton of muck-- some of which still devils me--but if you've read my books, my quest to answer that one has been right out in plain sight for almost 30 years.
And I think I'm finally approaching an answer. Now, I wouldn't suggest digging into this too deeply if you have ANY clinical psychological problems, because the answer isn't comforting: there's nothing down there. The Emperor has no clothes. The deeper you look, the more emptiness you find, and it will shatter your ego, ultimately. People end up in the asylum over this. But if you can thread that needle, I believe it's possible to make the journey to awakening without destroying your family, your life, your community, even though in this context none of them are "real"--all of them are "in the dream." That's why at the Path seminar I referred to the subtext of the whole thing as "how to awaken without destroying your dream." I don't feel I have the right to stalk Enlightenment at the (perceived) cost of my son, daughter, or wife, who (perceive that they) need me. That's just me. It pleases me to fulfill those roles. If I ever make it, I may have a different perspective, but in the meantime, I 've done no harm.
And Obama? So far, while he is certainly a politician, he also seems to speak more honestly and directly than any main-stream politician I've ever heard. And I think that this is what attracts people to him. If he eventually begins to use the kind of doublespeak that his contemporaries use, it will be a shame, but right now, wow. I guy who talks publicly pretty much the way I think he speaks privately. Who speaks--dare I say it--the way I hope I'd speak were I in his position. I'm not flattering myself there: the guy is smarter than me. I have no illusions about that. But can he remain as HONEST as I try to be? That is a much more interesting question. And is America ready for that?
So, what of his race? It's important. It's never, ever NOT been important in this country. Maybe there's someplace on this planet where it isn't, but I've never been there, or been convinced. So we might as well talk about it, although it is uncomfortable to do so. Whatever happens, this next election cycle represents something utterly different. For the first time ever, it isn't just a bunch of white Christian heterosexual guys talking to each other as if it didn't matter that they were just a bunch of white Christian heterosexual guys. The elephant in the living room has finally taken a big steaming dump on the rug. And boy oh boy, is it ever fun to watch people forced to wake up after hundreds of years of comfortable sleep.
I'm giggling. Ultimately, what matters is that the hand on the tiller be smart, and strong, and moral, and honest. If it's a woman's hand, how very very interesting. If it's a dark hand, how very very interesting. The best part in all of this is the discussions we're having--discussions that have been postponed for four hundred years.
Dreaming is great. Wakefulness is better.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 7:34 AM
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
5) Back in town after a successful PATH workshop in Portland, and also an NPR roundtable yesterday morning for the “On Point” show. I’ll post a link later when I find it—anyone who knows one could do me a solid by forwarding it to me…
The roundtable dealt with the subject “Is Barack Obama Black?”which seems to be fluttering around the American psyche these days. This was at least partially triggered by a Salon article which suggested that in America’s social and political reality, no he is not—because he is not descended from West African slaves. My attitude is that, viewed through that specific, narrow lens, I understand the position, even if I don’t agree with it. Before I went on the air, I jotted down a bunch of points I wanted to make, and managed to get most of them in. Thought you might like to see ‘em…
a) If an African immigrant is beaten or shot by white cops, I’ve always thought of him as black. Period. If he’d walked through the wrong Alabama neighborhood in the 50’s, believe me, he’d be black.
b) White racists would LOVE for blacks to splinter themselves like this. They must be licking their chops.
c) Many Africans don’t think American descendants of slaves are “black.” If I’ve rejected that, I also have to reject this.
d) Obama’s father was the product of Colonialization in Kenya—which ended much more recently than slavery, about the same time that Jim Crow and Segregation finally broke down. There is analogous damage.
e) All my life, people have tried to define for me what “black” is. Melanin count? Ability to dance? Speech patterns? Income? Education? I’ve got news for you: there is no Governing Board of Negritude, people. Get over it.
f) We are still living in the shadow of the social reality created by the “one drop” rule in the past.
g) It’s a big tent. There’s room for all kinds of clowns in this circus.
Just thoughts, of varying degrees of value and seriousness.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:06 AM
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The entire Lifewriting approach is designed to
mine our own consciousness for creativity, and
then harness it to a practical set of skills for
submission to a public market. It’s an interesting
tightrope walk, believe me.
But the core of it all is the question of honesty in
your writing: do you really believe what you just
wrote? Would a real human being, in this situation,
really do or say what you just wrote? Even if it’s a
fantasy story, would a real being, evolved within a
universe of fantastic potential, behave in this fashion?
Nothing destroys “willing suspension of disbelief”
faster than a character behaving irrationally or for
“author convenience.” The classic example is the
horror movie trope of “let’s all stay together” followed
by the doomed teens wandering off in all directions
to be slaughtered. The audience laughs and eats its
popcorn, not believing this nonsense for a moment—
but that’s really part of the fun. But unless you have
implicit permission from the audience to do this, don’t.
And there is another reason not to. In Lifewriting, we
look at the 360 degree dynamic sphere of plot and
characterization, the way the two create each other.
This needs to be related to our own human “is-ness,”
the truth about our lives, our hopes and dreams and
actions. Every time you lie in your work, you take
yourself AWAY from your essence, and out into the
realm of technique, or craft, or cleverness. All well
and good, but isn’t that a waste of life? Shouldn’t
you, at every moment of your existence, be struggling
to learn what is true about you, about the world, about
the nature of life? And isn’t that the greatest gift you
can give your readers or viewers?
That doesn’t mean you can’t write escapist work. John
McClain in “Die Hard” is a perfectly believable character
within the context of that first film. He is motivated by
love, he bleeds, he feels fear and fatigue and
hopelessness, and covers them with wise cracks. We
all do that. He also happens to be a man of unusual skills,
the kind of man you’d want on your side when a dozen
terrorists strike. The film spawned a thousand imitations
and three sequels, and made Bruce Willis a star. Escapism
is fun—but the actions and feelings of the people must
make sense within the context of the world. You must
be able to put yourself in their place and say: yes. If I
were this person, with this history, and these skills, in
this situation, I would do this as well.
If you do, there is reverberating truth. There is also
increased probability of a sale.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 10:00 AM
Monday, February 05, 2007
White readers will probably catch, very quickly in the recent discussions of IQ, that blacks are certainly reluctant to admit the possibility of genetic IQ differences. They will rightly suppose that there are both personal and historical reasons for this. The question is: can you find the lesson for yourself and your group there? By generalizing, one can come to: "Members of a given group are loathe to admit that there are specific, painful aspects of their being or actions, currently or historically." All right, given this, can you be honest enough to see that there are plenty of whites who would be comforted by the idea that blacks are deficient in this arena? Not just "bigots", but those whose ancestors owned or trafficked in slaves, or those who believe in Conservative social economics (why spend money on expensive social programs that can't work anyway?). We are all eager to believe in things that make us look good, and loathe to believe in things that make us, our families or ancestors look bad.
After all--there are two (very broadly stated) points of view here. One that blacks are generally intellectually inferior. In which case, slavery was virtually a deliverance from their misery in Africa, and one might well believe that white America has done everything it can for us. Sniff sniff. The next is that blacks are generally equal, in which case you have to accept the possibility of a fantastic amount of damage done over 400 years, resulting in the inequal situation. I can understand how that would be hard to wrap the mind around. Another, of course, is that blacks are superior, triggering huge amounts of jealousy and fear--if we ever get a chance to catch our balance, BOY OH BOY are we ever going to even the score. And more. After all, sports performance used to be the measure of a man, and the way we kick ass disproportionate to our numbers would have to be mighty disturbing to someone who buys into genetic superiority...
No, I don't buy that, but could have great fun crafting an argument around it if I was that kind of A-hole. All I'm saying is that when you notice that black folks are reluctant to look at some things, look at it as a mirror: what are YOU missing? What do YOU believe because it is convenient or comforting? And if you think there isn't anything, boy oh boy are you in for an uncomfortable awakening one day...
Posted by Steven Barnes at 8:51 PM
Remember I've said that I have a theory about the Conservative-Liberal split? It goes like this: there is such violent disagreement about certain social, political, economic and religious factors along the Conservative-Liberal divide. Since I have absolutely no evidence that there is greater or lesser intelligence, honesty or morality on either side, I started wondering what else could cause such a split. After years of observation, I came to the conclusion that there was indeed a factor that could explain it, and that factor is curiously associated with that old saying about "not talking religion or politics." It's associated because it is one of the roots of both: the argument about whether essence (the soul) proceeds existence, or existence (cultural and social programming) proceeds essence. In other words, does the soul which enters this world with your body create your life, or does the nature of the life you're born into create your soul? It was fascinating to me how many attitudes on each side could be clearly labeled one way or the other. Conservatives, (I argued) TENDED to be against abortion and in favor of the death penalty, both making sense if essence proceeds existence--the fertilized tissue is already a human being with a soul, and the criminal has expressed his basic nature and must be removed from the equation. Liberals (I argued) TENDED to be in favor of "a woman's right to choose" and against the death penalty. Again, it makes sense if the soul is like a reef, created by experience not pre-formed upon entry to this world. The criminal does what he does because of social conditions, not innate tendencies. Why execute a man for what society did to him? Or so, supposedly, the argument goes.
How does one arise at one POV or the other? Innate? Social conditioning? Hell if I know, but whichever way you view the world--IF you have a strong tendency one way or another, is a perceptual lens that colors a huge part of your subsequent experience, and causes people to delete that which does not align with those initial beliefs.
I bring this up because I realized that there is another piece of support for this little theory of mine: the IQ debate. Almost invariably, those who come down on the "IQ is genetic, and blacks have less of it on average" are conservative. The debate rages on Conservative blogs, and about 95% I've known who support it have Conservative politics in other arenas. Not all those who adhere to the "IQ isn't genetic, and the racial divide isn't caused by immutable biological forces" are Liberal--I know many conservatives who pooh-pooh the idea. But 95% of the Liberals I know definitely are in the "nurture" over "nature" camp on this issue.
So I'm not saying that, for instance, being a Hawk on Iraq means that you think black people have less gray matter. I am saying that if you think black people have less gray matter, you're more likely to be a Hawk on Iraq.
The basic argument has been raging so long that I suspect it is actually a trick question, sort of like "Is it heads or tails" when the actual answer is, "It's a quarter, idiot." That heads or tails are dependent upon one another, and dependent on point of view. And if you mistake your point of view for the truth, you step away from the light, and into comforting darkness. One of them there duality traps.
So here's the experiment: when you meet someone with strong opinions about one of these three arenas: abortion, IQ, the Death Penalty--do a quiet investigation of their attitudes on the other two. Tally it up. After you've done this about ten times, let me know the results, would you? I've been playing with this for some years, but I could use some other information gatherers.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:22 AM
Saturday, February 03, 2007
Listen carefully: this is the most important post I have ever made here.
This is an odd post, because in saying I know for certain that I am not enlightened, I am actually saying that I am closer to it than at any time in my life. I am most certainly not saying I am closer to it than anyone else. Just me. The reason that I am closer is that I now understand more clearly what it is. Why that is I may choose to elaborate upon another time. Let's just leave it at that, reject it if you wish, or accept it. It doesn't matter at all.
From my current understanding, Enlightenment is not mystic union, or God Realization, or the acquisition of special powers. It is simply being awake from the dream. It is Truth realization. Those other things are great things, but they are not Enlightenment. This maps over with core statements from every realized being who has ever left a paper trail of his or her path or perceptions. But even if it did not, my "Is-ness" knows it to be true, and this would be enough.
How do I know I am not there? Curiously, this came up three days ago, when a famous friend who is overly impressed by my mind asked me about Enlightenment, and I commented that it is reasonable to me that perhaps a couple of dozen Enlightened people live upon the earth at any given time. "Of course" he said, "you are one of them." I could only laugh.
Reading back over this blog for the last few days should give anyone all the evidence they need that I am not. An Enlightened being sees the things of this world as shadow-play, is not attached to winning or losing, or the rightness and wrongness of things. They would never find their emotions spiking as mine do on racial issues. The question of race and IQ would not engage them as it does me, and the question of black male images in film would be less important than whether a black or red ant gets that piece of sugar. I am caught in the dream, struggling to awaken. I'm still asleep.
Understand something: I will never accept white people's judgement, or calculation, that black people are, on the average, mentally inferior. It would make more sense for a cow to accept a butcher's arguments about why hamburger is good. When a group of black psychometrists sit me down and explain how they came to the same conclusion, I'll listen more carefully, and perhaps accept it. But if I was actually Enlightened, I would not care.
There is not joy in this realization, but there is relief, and a certain satisfaction. I know the direction ahead, or within--both terms are only substitutes for words that don' t exist. I know what has been pushing me all these years. I know which of my teachers have been "there" and which have only been "here" with some interesting ideas about what "there" is like. It's actually kind of funny.
I'll continue to report back. But watch me: any time I get caught up in these debates, shake your head and say: "O.K., Steve: not yet. Not yet."
God knows I will.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 9:48 AM
Friday, February 02, 2007
Wow. I just saw the best fantasy film I've seen since "Return of the King." This tale, from director Guillermo del Toro, is the story of a young girl who vanishes into a fantasy world to escape the horrors of war. It is filled with some of the most heartbreakingly beautiful imagery in cinematic history, and is impeccably cast and directed. The CGI effects and makeup are wonderful. Be warned: it has moments of genuine brutality and startling violence, and is NOT for children. This is a fairy tale for adults, in the best and darkest sense of the words. An A+
And by the way...someone said that I might be surprised at the amount of variance within sub-Saharan Africans. I doubt it. Like I said--there's more variance there than within either of the other major racial groups. I'm perfectly aware of that. My only point is that since "blacks" are lumped together, as are "Asians," it is a logical inconsistency to separate out a single group from the "White" category. If you're going to separate out "Jews" of any kind, you then have the obligation to differentiate between different groups of Asians and blacks. If you don't , you may be obscuring some freaky little group at the edge of the Sahara with a phenomenal average IQ--after all, Africans have the shortest and tallest people. It wouldn't be too surprising if they had the greatest IQ spread as well. But if you lump them together, (as is most reasonable given the lack of data) you have the obligation to do the same with the other groups.
And since there really is no agreed upon scientific definition of "race" other than "human race" I tend to go with the Big Three as "primary colors" of humanity. You can blend these to make anything else on the planet, but you can't blend, say, Asians and Blacks to make White people. On a sociological level, it seems that this is the way people REACT to race, that's for certain. Another factor, playing to my observations about race and sex is: whoever white people don't mind watching in bed with their women, they consider "white." In other words, Desi Arnaz could be married to Lucy. William Shatner got much nookie on Star Trek, no issue. Omar Shariff was considered a matinee idol. No problem. So--Latinos, Jews and Arabs are reacted to emotionally as "white." (as long as they are light skinned), But Asians or blacks, forget it. A curious case is East Indians, who seem to be reacted to sort of as "dark skinned white people" based on the reactions of movie audiences I've been in. But that's way unscientific, and I haven't seen more than a half-dozen East Indian/White woman love scenes total to compare to the dozens of times I've watched and listened to audiences squirm to black/white or Asian/white scenes. I might be wrong.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 6:30 PM
Thursday, February 01, 2007
In reaction to my expression of distrust in I.Q. as arbiter of racial tendencies, a thoughtful reader posted:
"Two of your points appear to be at least partially inconsistent. You insinuate that Caucasians developed and administered the IQ test and that it therefore is not surprising that Africans (I actually prefer the terms White and Black) come out lower than Caucasians. You also note that Asians have higher IQs than Caucasians. If Caucasians rigged the tests (deliberately or otherwise)to favor Caucasians, then why do Asians score higher than Caucasians?
Next, Asians are not at the top of the heap. That honor goes to the Ashkenazi Jews."
My comment was not to suggest that whites necessarily "rig" the tests--I have no reason to think that whites are, per capita, more dishonest than anyone else. I say that I DON'T find it surprising that a non-Caucasian group scores lower. I DO find it surprising, and interesting that Asians score higher, and have yet to really speculate on that. But you're being inconsistent here: if whites created the tests, and Ashkenazi Jews are at the top, you're saying a group of whites tested highest aren't you? You may not see it, because this is a form of info-jiggering. Ashkenazi Jews aren't a group completely separate from Caucasians. They are a SUB-SET of Caucasians. Unless you are going to break down Africans or Asians into similar sub-groups, this is a boondoggle. Africans have more genetic variance than any other group, but no one ever breaks down "blacks" into the hundreds of sub-groups that you'd have to break 'em into in order to compare Ashkenazi Jews accurately not to a meta-group like "Asians" but to the appropriate sub-groups: there are dozens within Japanese alone, let alone the vast group called "Chinese." But this is natural: you know all the names of your own children, while the kids down the block are "the Joneses."
To my knowledge, the most accurate, non-culturally biased I.Q. test has to do with a light and color switch, and the speed of recognition. Supposedly, this measures "g", the underlying quality which expresses itself as various forms of intellect, more accurately than anything else. Sounds good to me--but I've yet to meet anyone who was given such a test. I've never seen one that didn't have strongly culturally determinant aspects, even if it was only "how many times have you taken such a test before?" The filters of culture are incredibly powerful, and the only way I'd believe this absolutely is if a Martian, completely outside the system, created a test for Earthlings. Or if you took blind kids, raised them without any visual cultural referents, had them mate, gave them all identical nutrition, and then tested THEIR kids. Or if the test was created by equal numbers of experts from each major racial group.
But saying that blacks have the same range of intelligence, but a different distribution, is just a polite way of calling us niggers. That "different" range boils down to "less intelligence on the average," otherwise it wouldn't be used to explain poverty and crime and lesser income. No one ever says this meaning "there are fewer unintelligent black folks, and more smart ones, relative to whites!" All my life, some whites--always Conservatives, by the way--have invited me to separate myself from other black folks, saying that "we're not saying all black people are unintelligent! Why are you taking offense? YOU'RE perfectly smart, Steve..." God, I have heard that, and variations on it, so often I want to vomit.
So please, please, know that phrasing it this way only makes the same terrible statement more polite and socially acceptable--it doesn't change what you're saying.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 1:17 PM
It's a dirty game, and a single misstep can trash an otherwise worthy candidate. Now, I know nothing about Biden, but this, just in the New York times...
"Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, who announced his candidacy on Wednesday with the hope that he could ride his foreign policy expertise into contention for the Democratic nomination, instead spent the day struggling to explain his description of Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat running for president, as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” "
Can obviously be explained as an attempt to say this:
"Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat, is the first African American running for president with a chance to really compete in the mainstream of American politics. A terrific candidate, he is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."
Now, if I'd heard him say that, I would still have a slight sense of condescension--white candidates never say things like that about each other. It's a little like the way white people love to rush up to me and say how "articulate" I am. I know where it's coming from, and am not insulted--it's hard to get over three hundred years of brainwashing saying that black people are mush-mouthed (especially when too damned many athletes and rappers in the public eye seem all too eager to prove the stereotype right). But you can be certain that Biden's campaign just died, before it could flap a wing. Pity. I would have enjoyed hearing his ideas. And by the way--when I first heard this, I assumed he was a Republican, and had the identical reaction, and would have posted this just as quickly.
Posted by Steven Barnes at 11:59 AM