The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 17, 2005


Today is Martin Luther King's birthday, and I thought it might be the right time for a discussion about race. What I wanted to do was be completely clear on my own position:The differences in status and performance between cultures and human beings has more to do with cultural organization and context than the genetic potential of those human beings. There. No, I don't deny that there are inborn differences. Yes, I think that,(for instance) the conditions of slavery and the Middle Passage might well have done a bit of selective breeding. However, that said, I think that the differences between whites and blacks are due not to innate negative or positive or side-ways qualities on either part.
No weasel words, please. I have a white friend who claims that my race doesn't figure into any of his dealings with me--but who always mentions it when we're together. Always tries to lead me into discussions of what is wrong with "them"--paying me (he thinks)the ultimate complement of not being one of "them." I love this person, but am not fooled. As I've said before, the "Right" wing tends to believe that essence preceeds existence. The "Left" that existence preceeds essence. So those on the Left have to beware of a tendency to want to redistribute all wealth and power, and those on the Right have to beware of a tendency toward believing those at the bottom are there solely, or primarily, due to innate ability.
It would be easier for me to accept some of the beliefs on the right if once, just once, I heard someone spouting that rhetoric who had what I considered to be a grasp of the psychological factors that determine success in life (I'm not saying those are the only factors) and the vast, gigantic ocean of difference between those factors for whites and blacks. Black Americans are arguably the only group of people in the history of the world who were taken to the other side of the world, stripped of their names, culture, religion, self-determination, language...then subjected to three hundred years of forced labor, rape, torture, humiliation, and brain-washing...and then set "free" in a country in which about 99.9% of the role models--including that of their Diety, resembled the oppressor more than they resembled the oppressed. That this group didn't become fully American citizens until about 1970, and in less than 40 years have accomplished as much as they have, is astounding.
YES! There are horrific problems in the inner city, and much of black culture is toxic as hell. But if you had a 40-year old adult who spent 30 of those years chained in an attic, wouldn't you expect to find pathological behaviors? I know I would, and those proportions are roughly accurate. ##No,I am not suggesting that whites were particularly vindictive, vicious, or whatever. Anyone who read my novels "Lion's Blood" or "Zulu Heart" knows I'm not that two-dimensional. People are just people. We are both noble and selfish, sacrificinng and destructive. There are two basic positions (and I say this with full understanding that it is a bit 2-D): "The Bell Curve" and "Guns, Germs, and Steel." I come down squarely in the second camp.
I love this country,and the dream of our founding fathers. The more I travel, the more impressed I am. Iam proud to be an American,with all of the odd history that comes along with that. And I am proud of every bit of my genetics: Native American, European, and African. And I believe in our future. Bless you, Dr. King. Your dream lives on.

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