The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Dan's Bi-(racial) Curious...

Dan said:

"I'm curious -- has becoming a father again (of a son, and being aware of how hard it's been for black males in our society) made you more aware of racial issues?"
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STEVE: Yes, but in most ways I'm happy with what I see. Being married to Tananarive has been more of a focusing influence racially/politically.

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"We're at a point today where the only publicly acceptable form of discrimination at this point is against white men -- and since the advantages of being a white man have much outweighed the very modest disadvantages of being a white man, I'd have to be a pretty whiny bastard to focus on the downside instead of the upside...."
Hah! Well said. I definitely see discrimination against the obese, however.

As the country swings toward brown, expect some static. The worst static will be anticipated by closet bigots: you know, the ones who think that whites have treated non-whites better than non-whites would treat whites, based upon some intrinsic superiority. The reality I see is that as people are lifted up from the lower levels of Maslow's Heirarchy, they automatically begin to seek spiritual connection, and to believe in treating others with dignity and love. It is my belief in this that motivates some of my sense that the social safety net should be stronger. If one believes that human beings are, for instance, basically lazy and evil, it would make sense to have the maximum amount of pain anchored to "non-performance." Trust me, the exact same social situations can be interpreted in opposite ways depending on the initial filter, leaving either those who believe in "nature" or "nurture" wondering how in the hell anyone could fail to agree with their position. It's pitiful, really.

But if you look at the slavery, segregation, and Jim Crowe--which are merely the most visible aspects of the phenomenon of human tribalism as it relates to racism in America...and then look at the MASSIVE denial as to the existence of these tendencies (Northerners can believe Southerners are bigoted. Liberals can believe Conservatives are bigoted. People today can believe that folks "back then" were bigoted. Women can believe that men are bigoted. Blacks can believe whites are bigoted. Etc.) and you have a recipe for pain. Hispanics will, rather predictably andunderstandably, do everything in their power to gather all the power to themselves..while pretending not to. Blacks, as they gain more power, will from time to time enjoy twisting the knife and being "HNIC" (ask a black friend if you don't know what that means). It's been interesting noting one of the differences between blacks and Women, power-wise. Both groups have large contingents supporting a Presidential candidate largely on the basis of gender/race identification. However, women have been more able to actually talk about it, to openly demand that women vote along gender lines, or be considered traitors. There is definitely pressure in the black community, but so far I've not heard a single responsible black spokesman suggest it would be a "betrayal" for blacks to vote for Hillary, as I've heard numerous women suggest it would be for women to vote for Obama. Because I assume equal levels of integrity and honesty on both sides, I would assume that this difference exists because in one instance it is a winning game, and in the other, a losing game. In other words, if the election became genderically polarized, and 100% of women voted for Hillary while 100% of men voted for Obama...Hillary wins. On the other hand, if it became ethnically polarized and 100% of blacks voted for Obama while 100% of non-blacks voted for HIllary? Obama loses massively. So it behooves Obama NOT to mention race, if he can, while it is an effective tactic for Hillary's surrogates to bring it up every chance they can.

This is one of the reasons I sneer at people who think Obama is playing "the race card." For Obama, the "Race Card" is a deuce. For Hillary, the Gender Card is a Queen. No comparison.

What this means as the population shifts is that the EXACT same kinds of nasty, lying, back-stabbing, manipulative power-grabbing games will continue, as they have since the beginning of time. And for the first time in this country's history, white children will be on the losing end of a statistically significant part of it. But it will never, ever be as bad for them as it was for Non-Whites unless the direction of progress reverses. Race means less than it did, just as Nationality means less. The effective death of the concept of "Nation" (which I'll put at maybe two generations out) is accompanied by a Trans-or-Post Racial awareness, an international tribe that cares more about your Internet Avatar than your skin color at birth. The kids will work this stuff out. Race just isn't a survival factor in the same way it was for previous generations. Yes, there will be bullshit, but there won't be slavery or Jim Crow or extermination, and I'll settle for that.

21 comments:

Frank said...

Steve

I've not heard a single responsible black spokesman suggest it would be a "betrayal" for blacks to vote for Hillary

But I have heard of responsible black spokesmen suggest it would be a "betrayal" for blacks to vote for Michael Steele

From The Washington Times, Nov 2, 2005

Black Democratic leaders in Maryland say that racially tinged attacks against Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele in his bid for the U.S. Senate are fair because he is a conservative Republican.

Such attacks against the first black man to win a statewide election in Maryland include pelting him with Oreo cookies during a campaign appearance, calling him an “Uncle Tom” and depicting him as a black-faced minstrel on a liberal Web log.

Operatives for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) also obtained a copy of his credit report — the only Republican candidate so targeted.

But black Democrats say there is nothing wrong with “pointing out the obvious.”

Steven Barnes said...

I don't doubt it. One of the reasons I dislike politics.

Dan Moran said...

I could get dates off that headline. :-)

Mark Jones said...

The effective death of the concept of "Nation"--two generations out?

I'm skeptical. And I'm also sure I don't like the idea, unless you mean something other than "state" when you say "nation". The idea of a world state or nation scares the hell out of me. There are way too many people whose values disagree strongly with mine. As long as they can run their nation as they see fit and I can do the same, that's an acceptable state of affairs (even if I think they're backward or evil). If we all have to live under the same set of rules in a single system--that's something else entirely.

Josh Jasper said...

You will almost certainly hear white nationalists call other whites who're pro-Obama "race traitors".


"We're at a point today where the only publicly acceptable form of discrimination at this point is against white men
"

Depends on where you mean public. There are large regions that won't *say* they're not voting for Obama because he's black, but one word about Jeremiah Wright, and people insist that this means that Obama is some sort of Louis Farakhan disciple.

Heck, a reasonable percentage of voters are convinced that Obama is a Muslim because his name sounds funny, and they heard it on TV form a trusted conservative source.

How is that not public discrimination?

Frank said...

Josh Jasper

You will almost certainly hear white nationalists call other whites who're pro-Obama "race traitors".

Leaders; we're talking about leaders. Anyone can say any damn fool thing. And many do. But we're talking about leaders.

Heck, a reasonable percentage of voters are convinced that Obama is a Muslim because his name sounds funny, and they heard it on TV form a trusted conservative source.

Not "conservative"; they heard on TV from a Hillary Clinton operative.

Just to be clear.

Anonymous said...

Josh,
If you want an example of how easy it is to be labeled a racist if you are white,then look at the Geraldine Ferraro incident. She made a statement that can reasonably argued is true( just shift Obama's 70% to 80% of the black vote to 60% to 70% and Hillary is winning the popular vote even without Florida)and she is labeled racist and has to resign from Hillary's campaign.
Oh and on this Muslim thing, correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that his father was Muslim, so while he is not a practicing Muslim his heritage is half Muslim just as its half white.

Marty S

Anonymous said...

"Oh and on this Muslim thing, correct me if I am wrong, but my understanding is that his father was Muslim, so while he is not a practicing Muslim his heritage is half Muslim just as its half white."

Islam is a religion Marty. Religions are chosen not inhereted, you can't really be "half muslim" like you can be half french.
Scott.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

What Scott said. And even his father was a lapsed Muslim atheist. I doubt anyone would claim a candidate as Christian based on a single formerly Christian parent.

Steven Barnes said...

"If you want an example of how easy it is to be labeled a racist if you are white,then look at the Geraldine Ferraro incident. She made a statement that can reasonably argued is true( just shift Obama's 70% to 80% of the black vote to 60% to 70% and Hillary is winning the popular vote even without Florida)and she is labeled racist and has to resign from Hillary's campaign."
##
Ferraro was criticized for saying that "Obama wouldn't be where he is if he weren't black." I felt that was a bullshit comment (I consider it much more defensible to say Clinton wouldn't be where SHE is if she weren't a woman. For instance...she wouldn't be named Clinton) but many people considered that a comment that Obama is an "affirmative action" hire. That he is not judged as harshly because he is black. Now...is that "racist"? Maybe. If racism is the belief that one group is better than another, and Obama is the most viable black candidate ever, and HE doesn't deserve to be there...it might reasonably be inferred that blacks have not produced a person of sufficient quality to be President. Nature or Nurture? Another question. But this "connect the dots" approach is no less valid than those arguments which "prove" sexism against Clinton. I did not consider the comment racist--I considered it bullshit politics--but man oh man, would that argument resonate with someone who DID have racist tendencies.

Anonymous said...

Scott: First of all I said Obama's heritage was half Muslim, not that he was half Muslim. You can choose your religion but not your heritage. Second this view is not new to Obama. A lot of non-Jews have historically been persecuted for having a Jewish ancestor somewhere in their family tree. And as for political figures Benjamin Disraeli was always referred to as the Jewish prime minister even though his family converted to Christianity early on.

Steve,
I guess its a matter of interpretation of Ferraro's comment. If you interpret it to be her saying that Obama is somehow deficient and doesn't deserve to be where he is, then I see your comment. If you interpret it the way I did that to some extent being black has been an advantage for him in the campaign , then I think it has some validity.

Marty S

Steven Barnes said...

Marty--

I interpret her comment as meaning she believes that being black gave Obama an advantage. I think this is crap, and have discussed why before. But for shorthand, use the "refrigerator analogy" applied to a roller-skating race--uphill. So black skaters have a refrigerator strapped to your back, while white racers do not. Most never make it up the hill. But IF you do, then coming DOWN the hill you have some small advantages regarding, say, wind resistance. And the other skaters say: "wow! Aren't you lucky to have a refrigerator on your back!"
Yow.

Dan Moran said...

Josh,

No, I don't think that there's no bigotry left out there. There's anti-this-or-that color, anti this-or-that sexual orientation or ethnicity or eye color -- you name it, someone out there holds it. Somewhere in the world there's a person who thinks left-handed readheads are the spawn of Satan.

It is true in my experience that anti-white, and particularly anti-white-male, and quite particularly anti-white-male-straight bigotry, is the only "socially acceptable" form of bigotry left to express. (Steve mentions anti-fat bigotry ... I'm less sure that this is bigotry, at the root. I might be wrong about that but I've seen too many people struggle with their weight -- and win -- to accept that disapproval of obesity is somehow a form of bigotry on the part of the disapproving ....)

There are good reasons why anti-white-male-straight bigotry is socially acceptable, some rooted in history, some in practicality -- the actual amount and vehemence of bigotry that straight white men encounter is at its worst an inconvenience, versus the sometimes crippling effects of other kinds of bigotry. Historically, white male racism (not anti-white-male racism, but the racism of white males) was devastating, if you were on the other end of it. It wasn't white women leading lynch mobs, or kicking gays (or suspected gays) to death in the backs of bars....

It's still wrong for bigotry to be expressed against the majority simply because it is the majority. Less wrong, because less harmful, but wrong. I look forward to a day when none of us have to deal with this sort of stuff, including me, and certainly including my sons.

As to the Obama stuff -- sure, plenty of people won't vote for him because he's black. But at least they're ashamed enough to lie about it. This, seriously, is progress.

Dan Moran said...

I did not consider the comment racist--I considered it bullshit politics--but man oh man, would that argument resonate with someone who DID have racist tendencies

I think it was racist. Race-baiting is racism even if you don't share in it, and it's unlikely that Ferraro, a bright lady, didn't know what sort of response her comment was going to engender.

It's possible it wasn't race-baiting, but simply genuinely racist. The woman's in her 70s ... casual overt racism was thoroughly accepted when she was growing up in the 30s, 40s, well into the 1950s. It's like my -- argument's not the right word, since Josh refused to argue with me -- but interaction with Josh on the subject of anti-gay bigotry, a few months back. I grew up in a household where "three dollar bills" were commented upon. (Worse language than that, to be sure.) My dad never said a bad word about blacks or Jews or anyone else, but he looked down on gays. (Got a little better on it, very late in life himself, but just a little. Before he died he was open to the idea that gays should be allowed to marry, still dead set against gays serving in the military.)

I don't think I have any anti-gay bias, but I certainly have shit floating around in the back of my head I had to work through, growing up. Ferraro certainly had the same sort of stuff about black people I had to work through about gays, and it wouldn't surprise me if, quite simply, she never did work through them.

Anonymous said...

"I'm skeptical. And I'm also sure I don't like the idea, unless you mean something other than 'state' when you say 'nation'. The idea of a world state or nation scares the hell out of me. There are way too many people whose values disagree strongly with mine. As long as they can run their nation as they see fit and I can do the same, that's an acceptable state of affairs (even if I think they're backward or evil). If we all have to live under the same set of rules in a single system--that's something else entirely."

A one world state wouldn't be the only possible arrangement without nation-states. Remember, there was no one world state *before* nation-states were invented. What about feudal kingdoms, smaller tribes, outright anarchy in some areas, etc.?

"Somewhere in the world there's a person who thinks left-handed readheads are the spawn of Satan."

Found 'em:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6725653.stm

"...Photographer Charlotte Rushton has been chronicling the UK's redheads for a book, Ginger Snaps. Of the 300 she snapped, only two have been spared bullying because of their hair. She herself has suffered verbal abuse from complete strangers.

"'I was on the Tube, pregnant, and I was really humiliated by this drunk yob. He was shouting 'do the cuffs and the collars match?' He got right up into my face. You don't do that to other people.'

"She believes the phenomenon is long-standing and uniquely British in its most virulent form..."

and then

"As a white redhead, I would agree that racism is different from 'gingerism' - redheads have not suffered centuries of systematic abuse ranging from slavery to institutional racism. Abuse of redheads is usually personal and does not, for example, affect our life or job prospects.

"However, I would say that I have experienced abuse (although not so much as an adult) and I was mightily relieved that none of my children have turned out to have red hair and so they will not have to suffer similar abuse."
Rachel Pearce, Matlock, England

Mark Jones said...

A one world state wouldn't be the only possible arrangement without nation-states. Remember, there was no one world state *before* nation-states were invented. What about feudal kingdoms, smaller tribes, outright anarchy in some areas, etc.?

Technically possible, I suppose. But I rather doubt it. I read a book once (The Sovereign Individual, I think) that made a convincing case for why the nation-state has mostly supplanted all over forms of government. To wit: it's better at mobilizing manpower and material for war-fighting (especially large scale wars) than any other arrangement--such as tribalism, feudalism, etc. And given that societies live in a "state of nature" where the ability to fight wars is often all that stands between your culture and potential aggressors...that's a huge benefit.

So a post-nation-state world strikes me as likely only if it's because we've adopted a unitary world state. Which thought, as I say, scares the hell out of me.

Steven Barnes said...

I totally understand the fear of the idea of a one-world nation-state. I'm not promoting it. I'm just saying that, from the way I see things, as communication, commerce and travel become faster and faster, the concept of the "nation state" as a geopolitical entity is going to become obsolete. Not that there won't be lines on the map, but my guess is that the gap between countries (in general) will mean about as much as the difference between states today. My thought is that if this is true, we'd better figure out who we want to be in this matter, and not just let it happen to us...figure out which way the herd is going, and jump on the lead horse, so to speak.

Mark Jones said...

Oh, I realize you're not promoting the idea. But in addition to not liking the idea, I also suspect you're jumping the gun. I think it will be a long time before anything like that happens. And by the time it does, it will be mostly an afterthought--because it's not likely to happen until we have a fairly unified world culture. Which I think will happen--as you say, travel, communication and commerce will pave the way. But it won't be anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

"I think it was racist. Race-baiting is racism even if you don't share in it, and it's unlikely that Ferraro, a bright lady, didn't know what sort of response her comment was going to engender."

Accepting that Ferraro is a bright lady and could anticipate the response she was going to engender, ask yourself why she would say what she did. Linking Obama with reverend Wright, or pointing out that his father was Muslim might be an attempt to change votes, but simply stating that Obama gained some advantages from being black was unlikely to change any votes. The only explanation for her saying what she did assuming again she was bright enough to anticipate the response is frustration. Whatever refrigerator blacks carry around in general during this campaign being black has provided him with some advantages. Ferraro was probably frustrated, because most of the media was treating Obama with kid gloves while they had no such compunction against Hilary. Compare the situation with Chelsea Clinton being asked repeatedly about the Monica incident. Anti-Hilary people keep raising it to smear Hilary and the media keep aiding and abetting by covering each incident thereby giving it extensive coverage instead of ignoring it and letting it go away. Opponents in campaigns use what they can get against each other, but in Obama's case you have to be extra careful if you don't want to be labeled racist or have to resign.

Marty S

Brother OMi said...

never thought about it like that. so true...

Dan Moran said...

"Ferraro was probably frustrated, because most of the media was treating Obama with kid gloves while they had no such compunction against Hilary."

Probably. The kids glove stuff with Obama has been notable, and Hillary's been held to a different standard -- some because she's female, some because she's a Clinton. But Steve's argument about race -- discussion of it's a positive for Clinton, a negative for Obama -- might be true and at a bare minimum, the Clinton camp probably thinks it's true. (I doubt it is true, at least with Democratic voters so far ... but it wouldn't surprise me see it become true, in Pennsylvania upcoming, or certainly in the general election.)

Obama's won more white men than Hillary, so far. It's too late to stop that, but assuming Ferraro's race comment was calculated (even money) slowing that down has to be what the purpose was.