The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Answers to folks...

1) Pagan Topologist: I believe that Greg Walker's work is somewhat fantasy oriented. If I'm wrong, and he is a science fiction writer, that would change things, but that isn't my understanding.

2) Mike: I agree that assimilation is the best course. But then, I believe that whites and blacks are basically equal. If you don't share that belief (if, for instance, you believe that whites have left a trail of death and destruction every where they've gone...) then assimilation would seem like suicide. If you have extended your hand again and again and had it slapped down, or cut off, you might think it foolishness to ignore your experience and offer them the benefit of the doubt.

That said, if EVER, if one single time I had ever seen Steve treat a white man or woman as less than a human being, I could not model him with an open heart. No. He has offered the bounty of his life experience to anyone willing to treat him with respect, anyone willing to do the work. And he has many white students who adore him. But our life experiences shape us. The "tragedy of the commons" suggests that those who play fair while others cheat can suffer. And the reality is that Martin Luther King's non-violence wouldn't have been as successful if America hadn't been afraid of cities burning.

Those who would do violence, and have it in their nature, are often stopped only by the spectre of that violence being turned back upon them. A core aspect of male psychology is the "cross this line and I will kill you." You can find this attitude almost anywhere in the world you have healthy, un-colonized males. They will be polite, they can be loving and giving. But cross that line, threaten their families, and they will kill you. Two males of such temperament rarely fight. Warriors recognize each other, and can make parley. Steve is a warrior, and he has chosen his community. I have chosen mine. While they are not exactly the same community, we can communicate and understand each other. In a very real sense, because he is who he is, I am free to be who I am. Every generation should be just a little freer, shouldn't they?

But someone has to be the guardian at the gate, or those of cold intent will take your village.

3) Christian: I can believe that you weren't a "loved child." In all honesty, my friend, you seriously need a hug. In my mind, saggy pants are not "based on a desire to not go to school or excel." That betrays a very two-dimensional perspective on human performance. I would say the following:

a) fashion creates tribe. By dressing in a particular way, these young men are declaring that they belong to a group bounded by certain social, racial, and economic boundaries. Human beings are tribal creatures, and we will do all kinds of stupid, self-destructive shit not to feel alone. We MUST have community.

b) "a desire not to excel." All right, ask yourself under what circumstance this apparent behavior is an avoidance of pain. Simple: if you don't believe that there is actually opportunity. If you believe that even if you do, you will be isolated and alone and vulnerable. If you believe that school will INCREASE the net amount of pain in your life, rather than reduce it. In other words, people who believe that they CAN and SHOULD "get out" or achieve...do. When you see people who are embracing the most negative stereotypes of behavior and dress, they aren't doing the best they can do in an absolute sense...they are doing the best they BELIEVE they can do. They are computers running really shitty, buggy social/psychological programming. They were programmed by people with corrupted software, who were themselves programmed by people with corrupted software. And they can't just program themselves with "white people's software" because that can cause you to ignore very serious differences in the operational environment.

You can work around this by studying enough successful people with similar challenges throughout the ages, but how many people do that? Most people just follow the programming they got from their parents and immediate environment, screw up, get caught in the safety net, grow up, and then grow old. That pattern works well...if the system is designed for you.

Most white people, male and female, would perform with the same problems as black people if you stripped their skin and memories away. To me, what we see in these kids with their baggy clothes is some fairly typical teen-aged behavior...with some serious and negative consequences. National dress code? No. But school-by-school dress codes? Maybe. I agree with Christian that it's terrible. Steve and I were watching kids in the shopping center parking lot, just shaking our heads.

##

4)Dan--you can communicate your experiences, as a human being. As an adult male. You really are a man, and many boys have never met one. Race isn't the only thing about human psychology, or I never would have been able to learn from my many, many white or Asian teachers. Teach by example, tell the truth. Race is no more of a barrier than nationality or gender, and we manage to learn from people of other genders, nationalities, and even eras. You could communicate with Steve Muhammad by using any entrance of shared experience: martial arts (you've boxed), raising a family, striving to excel as a human being, growing older. That doorway gives you the opportunity to share attitudes and perspectives. Of such things are sympathetic bonds made. Steve doesn't need to be told that things have changed: he's seen more change than you and I combined.

I've dealt with hundreds of women who have been abused, raped, shattered. And I've had many of them tell me that my treatment of them with consideration and respect, seeing their humanity while encouraging them to find their strength...teaching them to protect themselves while giving them space to open their hearts....and them knowing, feeling, and sometimes SEEING that I will place myself between them and danger, and that I believe that there is a special circle of hell reserved for men who violate what I see as the divine mandate to both protect and respect women even at the cost of life itself...helped them to believe that men were human. Believe that they had somehow encountered more than their share of predators, and that their own behavior and attitudes MIGHT have contributed. This is the painful part: separating responsibility from guilt, blame, or shame. If you're not responsible, you can't stop it from happening again. And this is about human stuff--it goes way beyond race or gender. Men CAN communicate to women, and vice versa. Unless they are lying to me in both words and behaviors, I've seen it. Whites CAN communicate to blacks, and vice versa. I've seen it. But to do it, you have to be capable to truly, deeply seeing the humanity in the Other. To look beyond gender and race, and see the foibles on both sides. To do that, you have to be able to see beyond that within yourself.

Some women will say men shouldn't write about them. Curious, but I've never heard one of these women say women shouldn't write about men. I've heard some blacks say that whites shouldn't write about them. Funny, but I've never heard anyone black say that blacks shouldn't depict white characters. It's all bullshit. People can absolutely love across racial, gender, national, religious or any other lines. Claiming otherwise is just fear masquerading as cultural pride.

Give love and respect even where it is not returned. Be fiercely protective of your life and family and honor...but give the other person the respect of assuming they are just as willing to die to protect what is theirs. Start with honoring the child within you, and then seek to see the child within all others. Make peace with the old man or old woman within you, knowing that, from the safety of the death bed, they are watching everything you do, listening to everything you say. And understand that everyone around you is taking the same journey, heir to the same fears, filled with the same aching needs.

It is reasonable for a damaged woman to blame men. But people heal, and good men help heal the wounds caused by bad ones. Just takes time (all wounds take more time to heal than they took to inflict. A rape happens in minutes, and it can take years to heal.) Whites and blacks with strength and open loving hearts help heal the wounds caused by weak, cold-hearted whites and blacks. And again, wounds take longer to heal than to inflict. So no, I wouldn't expect 400 years of damage to have healed in 150 years. Or 35 years, if you're counting from the Civil Rights acts.

We're all in this together. Don't give up on each other, or yourselves. We need every good man and woman, black white Asian or whatever, to stand up and be willing to sing his song as loudly as possible. Not everyone will hear. But we only need to shift about 10% for the rest to follow.

21 comments:

Pagan Topologist said...

Thank you, Steve. This post and the previous one really tie together so much of what you have said and written here over the years in a comprehensible way.

As to Greg Walker, he says that he is neither an sf writer nor a fantasy writer, but that his writing has aspects of both. I agree, though, that he is more of a fantasy writer than an sf writer. I would venture a guess that he sees himself as a re-creator of missing and very much needed cultural myths, though I shouldn't put words into his mouth.

Shady_Grady said...

This has been a really deep group of posts and associated comments.

I think I have a problem with the term assimilation. It has a hugely negative connotation for me.

My family always taught me that the point of the struggles that people went through for the lifetime of this country and especially since the late forties was that Black Americans could have equal treatment under the law.

That's it. So desegregation was a good thing but assimilation? Not so much.

People should have every right to befriend, sleep with or marry whomever they wish but they shouldn't feel forced to literally be like someone else. That way lies a significant amount of self-hate if one is not careful.

There are differences among peoples. Most of these are minor and mean very little. Yet if someone has grown up in a society where every depiction of the beautiful or the divine doesn't look like them it can be very harmful to try to match some ideal which is impossible to reach.

"Assimilation" to me means that black people (mostly women)feeling compelled to straighten their hair to "fit" into a corporate environment. It means depictions of a Caucasian Jesus in black churches. It could mean accepting some othering views of yourself if you're not vigilant.

I think that integration is wonderful but that implies choice between two or more parties.

This tension between desegregation and assimilation is nothing new of course. It can be seen as far back as the differences between Dubois and Garvey and even beyond. Dubois' theory of "double consciousness" remains the best explanation of this which I've seen.

Christian M. Howell said...

Christian: I can believe that you weren't a "loved child." In all honesty, my friend, you seriously need a hug. In my mind, saggy pants are not "based on a desire to not go to school or excel." That betrays a very two-dimensional perspective on human performance. I would say the following:

a) fashion creates tribe. By dressing in a particular way, these young men are declaring that they belong to a group bounded by certain social, racial, and economic boundaries. Human beings are tribal creatures, and we will do all kinds of stupid, self-destructive shit not to feel alone. We MUST have community.

b) "a desire not to excel." All right, ask yourself under what circumstance this apparent behavior is an avoidance of pain. Simple: if you don't believe that there is actually opportunity. If you believe that even if you do, you will be isolated and alone and vulnerable. If you believe that school will INCREASE the net amount of pain in your life, rather than reduce it. In other words, people who believe that they CAN and SHOULD "get out" or achieve...do. When you see people who are embracing the most negative stereotypes of behavior and dress, they aren't doing the best they can do in an absolute sense...they are doing the best they BELIEVE they can do. They are computers running really shitty, buggy social/psychological programming. They were programmed by people with corrupted software, who were themselves programmed by people with corrupted software. And they can't just program themselves with "white people's software" because that can cause you to ignore very serious differences in the operational environment.


Yeah, my mother said I was too smart and not gay enough. It took me a LONG TIME TO RESOLVE THAT ISSUE. I resolved it by saying Screw all of you too.

I don't need a hug, I need less people making an unholy, perverted mess of everything.

On the one hand you say people have the right to be themselves, but then you say, well, unless you think "this."

As far as sagging, if it's not a "path to underachievement," then why do I NEVER see these guys doing anything but janitorial work?

Why are they always standing around with no goals but to die in the hood?
Our tribe is FUCKED. No one respects us and most of us shouldn't be respected.

Though I believe that slavery has had an effect, I think now it affects whites more than blacks.

My mother wanted to program me with that crap. Don't reach too high, make sure you pick up traits of whites, etc. I loved my mother but she didn't like me. The funny thing is that when I got my job at Microsoft on MY OWN TERMS, she bragged all the time. It made me wonder why she thought I was spineless and couldn't keep my goals.

When I deal with the weak BITCHES in NYC, I see why. Thugs talk a good game but fold under pressure.

What if I told you that my role models right now are the Devil and Data from Star Trek?

I have admittedly been swept away by evil and by that I mean people who say that because this isn't Rome the same things aren't decadent, perverse and ruining our economic, intellectual and social growth.

I'm actually preparing for a horrible plague which is why I limit my interactions with people. I mean people actually look the other way with STDs. That's scary.

I can only say that I'm happy with my choices as I know I'm smarter than everyone else. I can move through technical environments rather easily and am still a well-conditioned athlete.

Mike Ralls said...

>But then, I believe that whites and blacks are basically equal. If you don't share that belief (if, for instance, you believe that whites have left a trail of death and destruction every where they've gone...) then assimilation would seem like suicide.<

Suicide for who? The individual? The individual's descendants? The group?

On the individual level, full assimilation for some blacks is obviously possible, as the number of "white" Americans who have a recent African ancestor, is greater than the number of Americans who identify as "black", for example (50 million according to this study;
http://www.isteve.com/2002_How_White_Are_Blacks.htm)

Assimilation _is_ suicide for the group, but groups are imaginary. Literally. They exist in the imagination and nothing else. They are stories we tell each other. Real physical people and their decedents on the other hand are not killed by assimilation. Rather, they stand a better chance of survival if they do so. Take two light skinned blacks in 1800. One assimilates into white society and has kids who identify and are identified as white. One assimilates into black society and has kids who identify and are identified as black. Over the next 200 years which group of decedents do you think are going to prosper more?

Now, I _hope_ that the next 200 years aren't going to be like the previous 200 years but there is no guarantee of that.

In 1792 Jews in Europe were better off than they had been 50 years ago.
In 1842 Jews in Europe were better off than they had been 50 years ago.
In 1892 Jews in Europe were better off than they had been 50 years ago.
And in 1942 Jews in Europe were being turned into soap and lampshades.

History does not move in a straight line. This is often sad, but it is a reality and it is unwise to ignore it.

Mike Ralls said...

> So desegregation was a good thing but assimilation? Not so much.<

Your value judgments can be whatever you wish them to be, but people don't have to be "forced" to be like their neighbors. People are socialized with their age-group companions. If there is not physical or psychological segregation between them, they tend to grow up interacting with each other and this results in a spread and adoption of similar mores, norms, and behaviors. After they reach adulthood, people then have a good chance to go on to marry and produce offspring with people who share those mores, norms, and behaviors. Exceptions abound, of course, but that is the rough course of things.

In past generations of American history, the Germans, Italians and others all had strong feelings of separateness. They spoke a different language. Had their own press. They felt that they were part of a different tribe. Didn't matter, not over the long haul. Assimilation isn't and wasn't a one-way street of course, which is why Hamburgers and Pizza are considering quintessentially American, but the number of "pure" Germans or Italians in America is dwarfed by the number of American mutts with some German or Italian ancestry but who by and large act no different than someone with no German or Italian ancestry.

Think of it as a math problem. Let's say that There are 100 members of Tribe A and 900 Members of Tribe B. There is a 50-50 chance that someone from Tribe A will marry someone from Tribe B. The first generation results in "pure" Tribe A's being reduced to 50 The next generation to 25. The next to 12. The next to 6. In four generation Tribe A has gone from 10% of the population to less than 1%. By contrast if the AB's have a 50% chance of marrying B's, then almost half of the offspring will have some A ancestry somewhere.

Very few people hate an ethnic group if they have a grandparent or great-grandparent of that ethnic group. To give just one example, there was real widespread prejudice against the Irish before they were assimilated, but now everyone is, figuratively, Irish on St. Patrick's day and if current demographics continue, in another generation or two everyone will be, figuratively, Hispanic on Cinco de Mayo.

Now of course, if one emotionally identifies with the Tribe, one can regard this as A Bad Thing. But from a pure, "looking out for the welfare of the decedents of Tribe A" standpoint, I don't see how this could be a bad thing, _if_ it is possible.

The last 100 saw an absolute slaughterhouse of ethnic minorities all over the globe by their neighbors, many of whom had lived next to each other for hundreds of years and in a few instances, millennia. And even those areas that didn't see outright ethnic cleansing saw a lot of simmering conflict. America did _really_ fucking well over the last 100 years on a relative scale compared to most of the planet, with the biggest exception being against those who were _legally_ and physically presvented from assimilating into mainstream American society.

Now that those legal and in many instances physical restrictions have been removed, what reading of history makes one go, "You know, I'm sure my decedents would be better off if they remained a visible unassimilated minority." I've heard people say it's not possible, but I haven't heard anyone give an argument for why it wouldn't be in the interest of one's decedents if it _is_ possible.

Christian M. Howell said...

Now that those legal and in many instances physical restrictions have been removed, what reading of history makes one go, "You know, I'm sure my decedents would be better off if they remained a visible unassimilated minority." I've heard people say it's not possible, but I haven't heard anyone give an argument for why it wouldn't be in the interest of one's decedents if it _is_ possible.

A major problem is the stigma attached to the word assimilate. It's mainly because of slavery that it exists as all immigrants, forced or voluntary, need to make themselves PRODUCTIVE members of the society.

Perhaps the lazier slaves were the ones who worked in the house while the ones who worked the field perhaps had pride in how they did their work, whether appreciated or not.

I mean someone got to be the "head slave." I would say it was the one who dealt with it as it came and grew - to the extent growth would be possible in that situation. The ones who brought their freedom, who did sharecropping, founded schools, invented things, inspired people are the progenitors worth remembering and mimicking.

Most people don't hold social thought to the same level as say Physics. That's why people argue versus discuss.

Marty S said...

I'm with Mike on this one. I don't see assimilation as a one way street. I see it as a melding with both sides coming together to form a greater whole.

azrael said...

Mike, I've read a bunch of your comments on race or what black people should do and there is something important that I'm not getting.

Although almost all my friends are white and I have dated interracially, I can't say that I am in favor of assimilation the way you seem to be defining it.

It is essential for black people to master the rules and norms of the dominant culture in order to succeed. Having white allies, who are actually allies, is a wonderful thing. I believe in being open to, befriending, loving, and building community with quality people of any race.

But I don't understand why any black person with any self esteem whatsoever would want to cease to be black or actively work toward creating non-black decendents. Although there is pathology in so-called black culture, I think there is incredible diversity within actual black culture, and there is much in black culture that benefits individual black people who embrace it AND our non-black fellow Americans.

If my great-grandchildren didn't identify as black because I happened to fall in love and reproduce with a non-black person, and then my child and grandchild did the same thing, that would be fine.

But actively working toward this because statistically life is "better" for white people seems disturbing. It is possible to be quite "black" and quite successful in the United States.

My experience is that individual black people don't have to stop being black in order to be successful or in order to find individual white people who respect, advocate for them, love them, marry them, etc.

My hunch is that the dismal statistics about black people are are result of the "really shitty, buggy social/psychological programming" Steve talks about in is response to Christian. And, I'm inclined to favor Steve's solution over a solution that says that black people need to just stop being black.

azrael said...

After reading Marty's comment I went back and re-read Mike's second comment.

If there is not physical or psychological segregation between them, they tend to grow up interacting with each other and this results in a spread and adoption of similar mores, norms, and behaviors. After they reach adulthood, people then have a good chance to go on to marry and produce offspring with people who share those mores, norms, and behaviors. I guess my question becomes how does one reduce the psychological and/or physical segregation? And, what can white people do?

Marty S said...

Azrael: My grandsons go to a private school in Dutchess County, NY. By eye, I am guessing about ten percent black students. There is one class per two grades. This year the theme subject for the younger one's class was Africa. They studied the animals, geography and culture of Africa. This included Black history. I would say that this is an example of what White people can do as part of the assimilation process.

Scott Masterton said...

I don't see assimilation as the relinquishing of individuality. I see assimilation as a focus on our commonalities rather than our differences.

I suspect that one of the big failures of this modern movement toward "multiculturalism" is that so much time and energy is put into how "different" we are rather than how we're the same. The ultimate truth is that we're all really the same...sure we wear disguises (Physical, cultural and linguistic) that gives the illusion of seperation, but we're all really the same beneath it all. As you've said Steve, we all move away from pain and toward pleasure. We all want happy, healthy children, good relationships, fullfilling work and on some level we all want to contribute to the betterment of the world. Even if that desire to give back to the world is seriously damaged by early conditioning.

Scott.

Mike Ralls said...

>any black person with any self
esteem whatsoever would want to cease to be black or actively work toward creating non-black decendents.<

Minority groups almost never try to have their members actively try to cease to be part of that group, or actively work towards towards creating non-group-identifying decedents, but if that group assimilates into a larger mainstream society it's just something that happens anyway.

Mexico, for instance, had about 10% of it's population be considered at least part-African in 1810. It didn't have the social or legal segregation of America and as a result that 10% blended into the general population over the generations with the result that today very few Mexicans identify or are identified as of part-African decent, despite the fact that most of them are! No active work or grand plans, just generation after generation feeling free to marry whoever their hearts felt like marrying and the part-African genes and culture being spread and spread until it was all wrapped up and indistinguishable from mainstream Mexican culture.

>incredible diversity within actual black culture,<

Sure, but that's true for any culture.

> and there is much in black culture that benefits individual black people who embrace it AND our non-black fellow Americans.<

True again.

> But actively working toward this because statistically life is "better" for white people seems disturbing.<

I never called for any individual to actively try to marry white and have white kids. I said that assimilation is not suicide, and it's not.

Now, the next statement that people who visibly looked black suffered more in America over the last 200 years than those who visibly looked white and that there is no guarantee that this will not be true in the future as well _is_ disturbing. That does not mean it's not true.

> It is possible to be quite "black" and quite successful in the United States.<

True again. But that has been true for all American history. When most blacks were slaves there were still a few blacks who were quite successful (some even owned slaves themselves - not many, and mainly in New Orleans, but they existed and were successful by the standards of their time).

The question is; is it possible for "blacks" _as a group_, to be successful in the United States if they aren't assimilate into mainstream American society? I maintain that, no, it's highly unlikely for that to be the case.

If you disagree fine, and we can talk about why or why not one of us are wrong.

But I started to talk about assimilation because Steve's mentor had an opinion that I said prevented assimilation. It does not take active work from a group for that group to assimilate, but it _does_ take active work to prevent assimilation from happening, such as being physically segregated from the mainstream or having outer-group marriage forbidden. But it can also come from littler things such as viewing all members of the group as your brothers but saying that non-group members can never be your brothers.

Now that's not a horribly evil and unspeakable opinion to have, and it's almost certainly based upon life experiences, but does it help prevent assimilation? You bet.

If you think that blacks, as a group, can prosper without assimilating, then that's not a big deal. But I don't. My reading of history tells me that visible, unassimilated minorities tend to have bad stuff happen to them, especially in the long term. Is that distrubing? Yea. Is it true. I think so. Don't you? Does anyone here disagree with the following;

"Throughout human history, visible, unassimilated minorities have tended to have bad stuff happen to them in comparison to the mainstream majority."

Shady_Grady said...

You have interesting viewpoints on assimilation Mike but I think I disagree with just about all of them... =O

1) I don't think it's much use to make comparisons of Black Americans (however defined) to "white" ethnic groups (immigrants) and ask 'why haven't blacks assimilated as did (insert group)'. The experiences and histories are very different. The fundamental difference is that Italians, Jews, Irish, Bohemians, Greeks, etc were over time considered to be "white"-which makes them part of the in-group in America. That was simply never a choice for the vast majority of Black people, historically or currently.

2) Related to the above, is that even if assimilation (which I consider negative) or integration (which I do not) were desirable there is a very long history of Blacks seeking residential/educational integration and Whites avoiding such options. The schools today are more segregated than they've been in forty years.

You can not integrate or assimilate when the larger group generally does not wish to live around you or send their children to school with yours. After a few decades of this, more than a few blacks are not going to see the point of continuing to pursue such policies-especially if it leaves them open to even greater amounts of insults, misunderstandings or rejections. This has nothing to do with individuals; I'm talking about groups here.

3) There is a key difference in approach. One could argue that whites are doing better so blacks should strive to become white or have their descendants be considered white. One could also argue that society should be changed so that race is no longer a predictor of very much at all.

4)There are tons of black middle class, upper middle class, and wealthy people who have succeeded in America and still maintain a strong cultural identity, group pride and have found that those things are actually a foundation to their success. They live integrated lives in many respects but I wouldn't say they've assimilated. Some (see Lawrence Otis Graham) seem to have a serious disdain for assimilation.

5) Human nature being what it is, even if every black person only married and reproduced with a white person for the next 100 years so that the US looked like Brazil, there would STILL be problems of racism and prejudice, as there are in Brazil. The paradoxically good thing about the US system is that we've had to confront these things head on.

6) Self-esteem and pride are important motivators. Desegregation is great. Integration is ok. But assimilation means that group A becomes like group B or melds into group B. I don't see value in that. Again, anyone who has pride and self-worth is not going to waste his time asking someone to be his brother who's made it painfully clear he's not interested in brotherhood. Again-talking groups here, individuals are a completely different kettle of fish...

7) I think a fair society does not try to eliminate differences or pretend they don't exist. It accepts differences but insists on equal treatment.

Mike Ralls said...

>I think I disagree with just about all of them... =O<

How boring would life be if everyone agreed with everyone on everything?

> The fundamental difference is that Italians, Jews, Irish, Bohemians, Greeks, etc were over time considered to be "white"-which makes them part of the in-group in America.<

It's a good point. The counter-point is Asians. Not considered white in the past or today, yet they currently have a very high intermarriage rate, and are showing all signs of being fully assimilated into mainstream America in another generation or two.

The other factor is that, as you obliquely mention, those groups were at one time not considered white. Why were they allowed to become white over time? What changed? And most importantly, how can that be applied today?

>a very long history of Blacks seeking residential/educational integration and Whites avoiding such options.<

True! I've never said that assimilation will be easy or that it doesn't have a _lot_ of history to overcome. I've merely stated that it would be in the best interest of the country as a whole and of blacks as a whole.

>You can not integrate or assimilate when the larger group generally does not wish to live around you or send their children to school with yours.<

True! In fact, I'm pretty sure I've said that I fear that blacks remaining unassimilated is a real and distinct possibility. It's what the demographics currently suggest will be the case for a long time, after all.

>One could also argue that society should be changed so that race is no longer a predictor of very much at all.<

Can you show me a country with two distinct groups who do not assimilate into each other where their group status is not a predictor of very much at all? Preferably one where the two groups live side-by-side instead of in different geographical area's?

>They live integrated lives in many respects but I wouldn't say they've assimilated.<

I know you think past immigrant groups are not a very valid comparison, but I believe they are the best we have and in that it's worth looking at the traditional pattern of assimilation which goes roughly as follows;

1st generation: Speaks mainly home countries language with enough English to get by. Keeps most of cultural norms from home country. Highly likely to marry person from the home country.

2nd generation; Speaks English fluently but is also able to converse in parent's home country's language. Has a fusion of of parent's cultural norms and mainstream norms. Decent chance of marrying someone who's parent's are not from the home country.

3rd generation. Speaks English exclusively, not able to converse in grandparent's home country's language. Has mainly mainstream norms. High chance of marrying someone who is NOT from their grandparent's home country.

If we think of Black's as only being able to _begin_ assimilation in 1967 (Loving vs Virginia, as good an arbitrary date as any) and apply them to this traditional pattern, it makes sense that Black's would not be fully assimilated yet. It would be unusual if they were.

Indeed, I would argue that because of the historical dislike of blacks by mainstream America (stronger than that towards any other ethnic group), we should expect the traditional 3 generation cycle to take 4 or even 5 generations. And that might be optimistic.

Mike Ralls said...

>But assimilation means that group A becomes like group B or melds into group B. I don't see value in that.<

Well value's are non-falsifiable opinions. They are the result of conditioning in young adult-hood. I can argue the effects of non-assimilation but I can't convince you that melding is good in and of itself anymore than I can convince you that the taste of cream cheese is bad (assuming you like cream cheese).

Quick question on effects though, how prosperous and peaceful a country do you think the United States would be if 15% of the population spoke German and had German norms, 13% spoke various African languages and had African norms, 11% Galic and had Irish norms, 9% spoke English and had English norms, 8% spoke Spanish and had Mexican norms, 6% Italin etc, 4% French etc, 3% Italian etc, etc etc Because if assimilation had never happened that would be the case. And if you think that we would be more prosperous and peaceful if all those different groups hadn't (mostly) assimilated into one group, then why was the 20th the death of multi-national empires? 100 years ago multi-national empires ruled a good chunk of the world. They all died in fire and bloodshed. Every one of them. Without exception. Ottoman Empire - - died and after it died there followed a period of mass slaughter. Austro-Hungarian Empire - died and after it died there followed a period of mass slaughter. Russian, German, French, Italian, British, etc all died and after they died there followed a period of mass slaughter. All told we are talking hundreds of millions of deaths here. That's just a number, but think about what it means. Group after group driving out, raping, or out right exterminating other group after other group. Blech. Sounds pretty dangerous to me, and I don't believe that people have suddenly become so good and pure that it won't happen ever again. Better to harness people's tribal instincts by having everyone think that everyone around them is a member of their tribe and that can only happen if there is a large degree of commonality.

azrael said...

It does not take active work from a group for that group to assimilate, but it _does_ take active work to prevent assimilation from happening, such as being physically segregated from the mainstream or having outer-group marriage forbidden. But it can also come from littler things such as viewing all members of the group as your brothers but saying that non-group members can never be your brothers. Mike, thanks for taking so much time to explain your views. The above clarifies a few things for me.

Steven Barnes said...

The biggest problem I see is that people make the mistake of comparing immigrants (who came here with their cultures, names, religions) with blacks descended from slaves. When you have something, you can decide to give it up. But when you lack something, you can yearn for an identity that you can never really have. The result is devastating: you can end up as computers that can be programmed by anyone who comes along. Yuck.

Mike Ralls said...

The situation is what it is. There is no time machine to change things, so we've got to do the best with the situation as it exists. Blacks are unlikely to exactly follow the pattern of immigrants, but it's still the best model we have. Thinking about it, rather than immigrants as a whole, immigrants who are refugees would probably be a better model. They didn't necessarily _want_ to leave, but they had to or be killed. The most recent and biggest group of those I can think of would be the South Vietnamese who had to flee their country after the North conquered it. All indications are that they are assimilating rapidly, btw.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

I feel as though assimilation is a complicated issue. My great-grandparents came to the US from eastern Europe about a century ago, which is why I have no patience with the "this is my home and nothing can drive me out" attitude.

I'm content to be fairly assimilated American, but a tremendous amount gets lost. (See Outwitting History, an account of rescuing as many Yiddish books as possible. It gave me an overview of Ashkenazic Jewish history and culture that I didn't have at all.)

I don't think complete assimilation is exactly the best thing all around. It's good to have variety for resilience.I wouldn't ask that anyone sign on to separation as a policy, but I take GW's presidency to be the sign of a severely deteriorated white elite, and I'm grateful there were people who were enough outside of it to be an alternative while still being solidly enough close to the mainstream to win.

Shady_Grady said...

>"The other factor is that, as you obliquely mention, those groups were at one time not considered white. Why were they allowed to become white over time? What changed? And most importantly, how can that be applied today?"

In America, Blacks were (are) the Other. This could change. I do not know why some people flee neighborhoods that are at a racial tipping point or get hot under the collar if their child dates or marries a Black person. There are fewer such people like that than in the past and I don't necessarily think _all_ those people are "bad" or "racist".

I think marriage is such a personal thing that it shouldn't be held up as a bellwether of social progress. As long as people marry and/or live with people that make them happy, why should we care how many of them have or have not intermarried?

Shady_Grady said...

>"Can you show me a country with two distinct groups who do not assimilate into each other where their group status is not a predictor of very much at all? Preferably one where the two groups live side-by-side instead of in different geographical area's?"

Most countries do tend to be majority one group or another but there are a few that might meet your criteria –Switzerland is the best example. Belgium also comes to mind. Both countries have ethnic groups that are somewhat distinct, although growing less so and have different language traditions. A great many African nations are also multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. India and Indonesia have a huge number of different ethnic and linguistic groups.

From what I see all else equal a Tamil has no advantage or disadvantage over a Telegu. And neither group has any interest in giving up their language.

At the opposite level you have Brazil, where by American standards the people are quite mixed and assimilated. Relatively few Brazilian people describe themselves as Black but in America many would be described as such.
Despite this assimilation and mixing, there is a general association of darker skin with less desirable living conditions. So assimilation doesn't necessarily go hand in hand with greater levels of relative equality.

>"If we think of Black's as only being able to _begin_ assimilation in 1967 (Loving vs Virginia, as good an arbitrary date as any) and apply them to this traditional pattern, it makes sense that Black's would not be fully assimilated yet. It would be unusual if they were. "

See, the thing is though that most Black Americans are not immigrants, not in any normal sense of the term. Black folks have been here since before the country existed as such.

Black people were here already at the 20th century immigration wave from southern and eastern Europe, at the 19th century immigrations from Ireland and elsewhere, at the 17th and 18th century inflows from the UK, Scandinavia, Germany and so on. "Black" Americans generally have the same religion, language, general cultural patterns, etc, as White Americans.

Relatively few Black Americans can point back to any home country. Even DNA tests can only give a general idea. All of that country/ethnic specific history, religion, language, folklore, culture, knowledge was almost completely eliminated. The average Black American has a somewhat significant proportion of European ancestry. So arguably in a very real sense Blacks have already been forcibly assimilated. The big differences between Blacks and other groups are intermarriage/residential segregation/educational separation. I think that is up to the individuals involved and is really no one else's business. I do think that increasingly more Blacks and Whites will intermarry over time but I don't think it will soon reach or really ever be near the proportions of Whites marrying Hispanics or Asians.

>"Indeed, I would argue that because of the historical dislike of blacks by mainstream America (stronger than that towards any other ethnic group), we should expect the traditional 3 generation cycle to take 4 or even 5 generations. And that might be optimistic."

My thought is that after rejection for so long and by so many, some people do not wish to "assimilate", _if_ by assimilate you mean disappear in the larger society. People are _legally_ free to marry as they please or generally live where they please. The legal barriers are down. The other things are matters of choice, on all sides.