The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Soldiering On

Well, I had a telephone conversation with the person who had the actual information about that science fiction publisher with the little race problem. Yeah, it was true. You know, I look at stuff like this, and realize that the man was one of the most powerful people in the field. Some would say "most." And John W. Campbell, often considered the most important early figure in the field, had the same attitudes. And people wonder why there are so few black writers in the field. What a terrible, terrible joke.

Apparently, he didn't mind Oreos but didn't like being around "real" black people. Hope he was uncomfortable as hell around me.

I suppose I knew that the field was like this when I first got into it, but hoped that I'd be able to help it change. I get emails almost every day saying I'm right, I did change it, and am still a role model. All I wanted to do was to create images for the little boy inside me, and I've done that.

But...I remember when women were first coming into the field, complaining about objectification and second-class citizen status. And now it seems that the majority of editors are women, and (it seems) half the writers. And most of the viable black SF writers seem to be women, which suggests that there is a bit of Sisterhood Circle stuff going on there. Good.

But if I was a little boy again, I'd still be looking out there seeking role models, and pretty much unable to find it in my favorite genre. I wouldn't have to search QUITE as hard, but it would be tough to look at the rack in the SF section, see all those white people and aliens, and hear SF fans piously claim that there is less bigotry in SF than in the outside world. Simply isn't true.

The trick is that bigotry seems hard-wired. All that has to happen for it to win is for people to remain unconscious. Point it out, motivate someone to do something about it, and you'll hear the closeted bigots whine about "Political Correctness." Women never complain "political correctness" when a woman is inserted into a story in a role traditionally confined to men. You only hear this when the role re-distributes a bit of unfair advantage. Whine, whine.

What was this publisher's problem? He would probably protest hugely if someone called him a bigot. Here's what he'd probably say: that he understood, or acknowledged, some things about black people that it is politically incorrect to admit. And if it is true, it isn't racism. I've heard that countless times. But yes, it is racism, even if true...which means of course, that the concept of "racism" has been a bit demonized. The real problem is bigotry, defined here as TREATING people differently because of their race, especially when their individual characteristics are not taken into account.

And while I do think there is a great deal of what I'm calling "racism" on the Right, being a bigot is another matter, indicative of, well, being a dick. And there are no more dicks on the Right than the Left. Different dicks, perhaps.

This publisher was a dick. And people around him knew it, and no one isolated him or called him on it, he moved in the very highest circles of the field, everyone loved going to his parties and encouraging him to promote their work. Why? Because it was no skin off their nose, that's why. Because the damage was being done to the other guys.

I just happened to be the "other guy", that's all.

I remember Jim Rosenthal, who was the editor at Black Belt Magazine, and went over to Weider Publications, taking me with him as a freelancer. At this time, I'd noticed that there were never any black people in their ads unless they were hard-core champion bodybuilders. And I asked Jim about that. And Jim ruefully admitted that he'd been in an editorial meeting, and the art director was asked about it, and said that he wouldn't use black models because he "didn't find them attractive."

THIS is what I'm fighting against. The rare, rare instances in which I have access to someone who was witness, and will TALK about it to me have to be greatly outnumbered by the times people said nothing, and kept it to themselves. And so it goes.

I soldier on.


Is Ultimate Fighting gay? The above link is an only slightly tongue-in-buttcheek article about the growth of both gay and female audiences for Mixed Martial Arts. It suggests that the promoters are actively welcoming gay audiences and athletes...which would be kinda cool. Considering that most of the sports stereotypically associated with gay audiences tend to be subjective rather than objective (figure skating, for instance) this is something a little different. I suppose in general, gays would be interested for the same reason that men like watching Hot Oil Wrestling, except that this isn't mere display. The skills and applicable physical attributes are awesome. Boxing is in trouble: one of the reasons boxing was so popular is that a case could be made that a boxer of a given size could defeat athletes in other sports in hand-to-hand combat...and make no mistake, a major element of sports is the sense that "our" warriors are thrashing "their" warriors. But boxers have trouble with wrestlers in general. In the thousands of rounds of boxing I've seen, only one time have I ever seen a boxing match end before the first clinch (Gerry Cooney bombing out Ken Norton before he could even get out of his corner!). That means that if a wrestler covers up and closes, he's got an excellent chance to take even a superb boxer. And MMA takes that to another level, incorporating boxing and kick-boxing into the mix. That's about as close to a street-fight as you'll ever get in a sport, and therefore hits the "who's toughest?" button quite handily. Yeah, it's rarely pretty (watching the real Brazilian Jiu Jitsu experts has a physical/intellectual poetry to it, however), but then much of the grace and poetry of traditional martial arts would dissolve if they were really evenly matched and trying to hurt each other. It's easy to look pretty when you're not in pain.

MMA also clearly selects for young brawlers, not just Alpha males, but those who actually release endorphins when hit hard. That is a scary friggin' thought, let me tell you, and as more of these behemoths walk the street, the idea of aiming blows at anything other than eyes, throat, groin, knees, and insteps goes the way of the dodo. All this to say that if gay athletes and audiences become a larger part of the MMA equation, the aspect of gay-bashing that arises from the notion that homosexuals are more feminine and therefore less efficient warriors will die. At that point, something very interesting could happen:

1) Fewer rational reason to object to gays on the basis of "they're weak." This actually IS a rational reason. It's just incorrect. But if homosexuality weakened men, almost any culture would fight against it.

2) An actual reason to be happy with the increase in gay men: less competition for women. There are few things in life as delightful as being the only straight guy in an aerobics, dance, or yoga class. Yum.

Of course, this would be balanced (one presumes) by a proportionate increase in gay females, so the competition would be different. Women tend to be more flexible about these things than men, for reasons I'm not sure of, but have plenty of whacko theories about.

One thing's for sure...the future will have some significant differences from the past, and it's gonna be both frustrating and amusing to watch people trying to rationalize their prejudices.



Marty S said...

I suspect a lot of things that could be considered racism goes right by us Whites. I watch a show called Lincoln Heights on ABCFamily. It centers around a Black family. The family includes three children. An older girl ready to apply to college, with a White boyfriend. A middle teen boy with little to no love life at all and a younger teen girl, who just acquired a White boyfriend. This would have seemed fine to me without your posts on the lack of Black male love life in movies. Now, I see this show as kind of more of the same.

Master Plan said...

Is "MMA" gay? Of course not! The majority of people are not gay ergo the majority of MMA people are not gay, and thus MMA is not gay.

Is it attractive to GLBT folks? On the same statistical assumption as above I would certainly expect *some* GLBT to be interested in it and certainly to train in it.

I've heard rumors one of the "big" MMA (ie, UFC) champs is gay, which I find pretty credible, and I wonder about the management of the UFC image by White and others to allow for that fact.

Be they knee-jerk homophobes or closet cases I think a significant chunk of the UFC core audience would not react favourably to the revelation of a gay champion. I like to consider how that would make me feel if I was the fighter in question. ;-)

I think there is another much more touchy issue tho. In US culture today there is no real outlet that I'm aware of that allows for....maybe "loving" or "theraputic" types of touching between (straight) men. I don't think this is the case for straight women (or gays or lesbians for that matter). They can give each other hugs or hold each others hands in certain cases and it's no big deal. Dudes, generally, in US culture, cannot do that with other dudes.

MMA training, particularly BJJ training, can, I think, provide that experience (for those who are deprived, particularly the unknowningly deprived) for men in our culture today and I think that helps to explain part of it's popularity.

I think that's the tricky issue is that men, generally, in US society, are not supposed to display emotion so much, so having such an emotional\physical weak spot, something you can tease them about, something tender if you will, will usually provoke a stonewalling\withdrawing sort of response. Because, most dudes, in the US mass culture I'm aware of, do not generally like being teased as "gay" (more in the effeminate or whimpy sense, the teasing, than the homosexual sense) and because this type of touching is so obviously close to that I think that's the tricky issue. What makes it popular and why nobody can talk about it.

The fact that BJJ is pretty awesome and fun to train in, but perhaps not the most Ultimate System of All Fighting (as it sometimes seems touted as by some of it's proponents (not shocking as everybody needs to make a buck)), just serves to further complicate the whole thing.

...well, that's what I heard....

Mike said...

>Apparently, he didn't mind Oreos but didn't like being around "real" black people.<

I don't know the guy so it very well could have just been a lie and he just didn't like any black people and gave an excuse for it. However, if he honestly disliked blacks who were part of Black culture, and thought that Black culture was inferior, but also thought that there was nothing wrong with Blacks who were not part of Black culture (and similarly disliked any Whites who were also part of Black culture), then that really wasn't racism. That would be cultural bigotry or chauvinism, but it would not be judging people by their race. It would be judging people by the culture they belonged to, most of whom happened to be of a particular race.

Now, this is a rather delicate subject, so I'm going to try and handle it as diplomatically as I can. From what I understand, the term "Oreo" means someone who has black skin but is white culturally. I do not like the term Oreo because it is obviously used as a slur, but to be perfectly honest, I fully support the meaning behind it and flat out want the group that self-identifies as Black in the United States to move in that direction. I've said before and I'll say it again, that I do not think that as a general rule truly multi-cultural countries are stable over the long term. My reading of history teaches me that they almost always end in mass bloodshed or oppression. I can point out so many slaughters of ethnic groups living side by side that it makes me just think that it's not a realistic goal. I think that we are tribal creatures and if people who think of themselves as belong to "Tribe A" are living side by side with members who think of themselves as belonging to "Tribe B" that there is going to be conflict or domination of some sort. The only hope is to get all members of an area thinking of themselves as one tribe, and that requires a high degree of uniformity among most members in custom, outlooks, speech, lifestyles, and most other things we label under culture.

I do not see how it would be detrimental for Blacks in America to assimilate the exact same way the Swedes, Irish, Germans, and other ethnic groups of the 19th century assimilated. I'm really glad that the Hispanic , Asian, Native American, and Jewish assimilation rates are so high. But I am troubled that the Black assimilation rates are so low and view it as a serious weakness for the country, and for Blacks as a group. To me the low rate of assimilation means, at heart, that the two groups don't like each other and that they don't view themselves as part of the same tribe. That does not bode well.

Now assimilation is a two-way street, which is why Hamburgers and Pizza are American as Apple Pie these days, so if the two groups fully assimilate into each other than some Black customs and traits will surely become part of mainstream American society. But the realities of the facts on the ground in America are the blacks are outnumbered 8-1, so if assimilation occurs, then vastly more blacks will become culturally white than the reverse.

Other groups in American History have gone from being seen as a strange other to being assimilated (They became "White" in the parlance of the time). They have overwhelmingly done this by becoming "Oreos" in some kind or another. The Irish didn't become White because they stayed apart and kept all there cultural characteristics, they only became White when they culturally became like mainstream Americans (and mainstream America took on one or two small Irish customs like Halloween and St. Patrick's day). Once that happened, the Irish were accepted and began marrying around until they were almost all blended together with the rest of America. 150 years ago "No Irish or Dog's Allowed Signs" were common. Today, Irish-Americans are just Americans, some of who, celibate a little harder on St. Patrick's day than the rest of America.

Mike said...

So what does that suggest for Blacks today? Well, I don't see any what that we can become a blended nation before most Blacks assimilate more into mainstream American culture.

Do you? Do you see any plausible path that Black America (as a whole, not individually) can take to reach full equality without fully assimilating into mainstream American culture? And despite the negative connotations of the slur, doesn't that mean that they will become "Oreos"?

> Hope he was uncomfortable as hell around me.<

Again, I'm going to try and say this delicately; If he really only cared about culture and not skin color, I don't think he would be. You obviously care about Blacks as a group, and self-identify as Black, no doubt about that, but my own personal impression from meeting and talking with you is that strike me as more assimilated into mainstream American culture than the most Blacks. If that offends you, I am genuinely sorry for doing so, but it is what I observe.

Off the top of my head, many Blacks sound distinctly Black due to speech patterns and dialect. If someone where to call you on the phone without knowing your race, do you think they could tell from your voice and speech that you were black? From hearing you, my guess would be no. What % of Blacks do you think that would be the case? (I honestly don't know the answer to that one. I've tried to Google any studies but have been unable to find one.)

Also, I hope I'm not misremembering, but your first wife was also a white woman, correct? That is a huge sign of assimilation into mainstream/white American society. Even today it makes you a statistical outlier in the black community (going off the top of my head, I think a black male is around 5 times likely to go to jail than he is to marry a white woman).

Furthermore, on the topic of marriage and child raising, you seem to strongly believe that a child should have both parents. Sadly, I do not think this is the majority opinion in the black community as as the majority of Black babies are born out of wedlock today.

I can understand why you would find the term Oreo offensive. It was undoubtedly designed to be offensive. Personally, I think a more accurate phrase would be "assimilated Black." So my question to you would be, "In what way, if any, are you less assimilated into mainstream/white society than the average Black?"

Shady_Grady said...

Mike, I think your premises are a bit off.

Black people (en masse) have been in America as long as or longer than any other ethnic group. So we're already "assimilated" in most regards. Black people have to know the ways of whites just to survive and thrive; the opposite isn't the case. Most Black Americans have no clue about their ethnic background, have no foreign language to speak, have no African religions or traditions to fall back upon, and can't visit the Old Country. By some counts I would argue that Blacks are the most quintessentially assimilated group in America.

The sort of mass mixing you seem to be referring to is not going to happen with Black folks. Not now. Not ten years from now. Probably not one hundred years from now.

The legal barriers against intimate contact have come down as they should have. That was a good thing. But people (Black and White) are still free to make their own decisions about where they live, who they associate with and who they date or marry. Most people end up, via inertia or active decision, with their own group. Those are very personal private choices and I don't think public policy(or anything else) can or should be able to do anything about that.

Also given the relatively recent massive importation of foreign language speakers and the seeming refusal to give up this language along with (some) revanchist claims to the Southwest, I'm not sure that Hispanics count as a good example for your model of assimilation.

Alan Dershowitz wrote a book decrying Jewish intermarriage as a threat to the Jewish community. He too sees limits to assimilation. His evident preference is to stop it but most of his book details ways around it to ensure what he sees as a survival of Jewish people.

The Irish also became "white" in part by disassociating themselves with Blacks, sometimes violently. To be "white" in America requires one to be "not black", something that isn't possible for Black people.

Shady_Grady said...

Steve, would you prefer that the publisher was upfront with you about his dislike of Black people?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Mike: I've said before and I'll say it again, that I do not think that as a general rule truly multi-cultural countries are stable over the long term. My reading of history teaches me that they almost always end in mass bloodshed or oppression. I can point out so many slaughters of ethnic groups living side by side that it makes me just think that it's not a realistic goal.

Nothing but protons are stable over the long term, and I'm not so sure about the protons.

Do you have a list for the multi-ethnic societies? My impression is that societies end for unknown reasons (I can't find it at the moment, but I just saw a long list of reasons why Rome fell), because people stopped thinking the society was worth doing (USSR), because it got too expensive (the British Empire). Sometimes they get conquered. Sometimes they're taken down by climate changes. Internal strife and mass murder both happen, but they don't seem to be a common cause.

Assimilation is indeed a two-way street-- it requires the consent of the larger society, and this isn't always given.

Mike said...

> Black people (en masse) have been in America as long as or longer than any other ethnic group.<

You do not think that slavery and Jim Crow prevented assimilation for the overwhelming majority of Black's history? I certainly do. To take the most obvious point, it was still illegal for Blacks to marry Whites as late as 1967.

> Black people have to know the ways of whites just to survive and thrive; the opposite isn't the case.<

The same could be said of German-Americans and Irish-Americans in the 19th century. That didn't stop them from assimilating and small parts of their cultures becoming part of mainstream American culture.

> Most Black Americans have no clue about their ethnic background, have no foreign language to speak, have no African religions or traditions to fall back upon, and can't visit the Old Country.<

True but irrelevant. The history of slavery and Jim Crow have produced in Black Americans a distinct and in many ways separate culture from that of mainstream America. It is that uniquely Black American culture that they are a part of and I do not see a way for them to achieve full equality in America without moving away from that culture and assimilating into mainstream American culture.

Mike said...

>By some counts I would argue that Blacks are the most quintessentially assimilated group in America.<

The four benchmarks of assimilation [1] are; socioeconomic status, geographic distribution, second language attainment, and intermarriage. Of these, blacks are most fully assimilated in second language as Blacks have spoken English as their primary language since before the United States existed (although there still exists a Black dialect that is common). But Blacks still have a large gap in socioeconomic status, still intermarry at a very small rate, and are still geographically segregated to a large extent. I believe these quantifiable standards show that Blacks are not assimilated.

Are there any quantifiable standards that you think show that Blacks are assimilated into mainstream American society?


Mike said...

> The sort of mass mixing you seem to be referring to is not going to happen with Black folks. Not now. Not ten years from now. Probably not one hundred years from now.<

That is a possibly. However, in rough terms the Black intermarriage rate has been doubling every generation for two generations now, up to around 5% IIRC. If that rate of growth continues, that means that by 2084 we could see a Black intermarriage rate that is only slightly lower than the Jewish intermarriage rate of today. So why I don't think it's a possibility in 10 years, I do think it is a possibility in 100 years.

I'm a historian by hobby. 100 years is not an unacceptable amount of time for me for certain goals to be achieved. I try to be realistic about reality.

> Most people end up, via inertia or active decision, with their own group. <

Groups are psychological creations, and hence liable to change over time. The short version is that in America if Americans are hanging out together socially during their marriageable years, they consider each other to be part of their group and marring each other is an option. This is one large factor in why white-black intermarriage is still so small: white's and blacks are just not social enough together, in the South more than other areas of course.

By contrast, the increasing levels of minorities in college is a large factor in the increasing rate of intermarriage in Asian-Americans (Americans of east Asian ethnic group decent marry out now, and this is a major difference compared to two generations ago).

>the seeming refusal to give up this language <

Largely a myth. Hispanics are learning English at higher rates then German-Americans or Italian-Americans of a century ago. The historical records is that it just takes at least three generations to fully assimilate. The people of 1909 complained that the Germans weren't learning English and were going to try and take over too. Hispanic levels of intermarriage are also as high, if not higher than German-American levels of a century ago. Incidentally, Germans are the largest ethnic group in the US, but when was the last time you met a non-immigrant German-American who actually spoke German as their first language?

> along with (some) revanchist claims to the Southwest<

About as worrisome as claims that the South Will Rise Again. It's something yahoo's tell other yahoo's to make themselves feel good.

>He too sees limits to assimilation. His evident preference is to stop<

The Jewish intermarriage rate is around 50%. In rough terms this means that the Jews in America will shrink in half over every generation. It doesn't take many generations of that for them to no longer be a significant group in America (2% of the population becomes 1 % becomes half a percent, etc etc). If you are emotionally connected to Jews being a significant group in America over the next century, then it's perfectly logical to oppose intermarriage. Doing so will also be about as likely to succeed as the German-Americans who shouted long and loud that German-Americans were going to lose their unique culture. They were absolutely right too, but in the end it happened anyways. Cultures, and sub-cultures within larger cultures are not immortal. They can and do fade away all the time.

Mike said...

>Nothing but protons are stable over the long term<

Stable in a historical context. Nothing lasts, ultimately. The fact that I'll be dead when the last proton decays doesn't mean I don't want to delay that end as far as possible.

> Do you have a list for the multi-ethnic societies?<

Every single multi-ethnic society in history? Not off the top of my head, no.

I can tell you that 100 years ago the majority of the human race lived under the British, French, Russian, German, Italian, Ottoman, Austro-Hungary, and Japanese Empires. By any definition those Empires were all multi-ethnic societies. And over the past 100 years they all fell apart in bloody chaos and mass destruction. Some saw less death and genocide than others, but even those still saw appalling levels of group on other group violence (It doesn't get much attention, but after Gandhi's largely non-violent movement to get the British out of India, millions died or were ethnically cleansed as Pakistan was formed from India).

People just seem more happy around people they regard as members of their tribe.

Here's a list of the happiest countries in the world;

The 20 happiest nations in the World are:

1 - Denmark

2 - Switzerland

3 - Austria

4 - Iceland

5 - The Bahamas

6 - Finland

7 - Sweden

8 - Bhutan

9 - Brunei

10 - Canada

11 - Ireland

12 - Luxembourg

13 - Costa Rica

14 - Malta

15 - The Netherlands

16 - Antigua and Barbuda

17 - Malaysia

18 - New Zealand

19 - Norway

20 - The Seychelles

Other notable results include:

23 - USA

35 - Germany

41 - UK

62 - France

82 - China

90 - Japan

125 - India

167 - Russia

The three least happy countries were:

176 - Democratic Republic of the Congo

177 - Zimbabwe

178 - Burundi


Notice how there are quite a few homogeneous countries near the top?

Shady_Grady said...

I think we've had this discussion before Mike. =)

1) I do not think it is valid to compare the experiences and survival tactics of white immigrants to America to those of Black people. The very obvious difference is not only the choice to immigrate but the ability to call oneself "white". You point out the differences but then make comparisons to German or Irish immigrants. Doesn't work. Today immigrants that might not be considered "white" in Europe or their home countries outide of Europe can be considered "white" in America. That's never been an option for Black people. And it's not an option today either.

2) Your writing seems to overlook the fact that mixing or what you call assimilating really does take two to tango. This is not all on Black people. With few exceptions, when a certain number of black people move into a neighborhood or school district, whites move out. Some areas are more tolerant than others, some less so but this is a pattern that has been repeated over and over again. I don't think the South is worse than the North on this-it might be a little better. I am most familiar with Michigan, where I live but when Black people moved en masse to Detroit, whites fled for the suburbs. The same thing is happening in the inner ring of suburbs now-places like Southfield or Oak Park that were mostly white in the eighties are now predominantly black as whites move out further.

The same patterns of racial preference/sorting are repeated in dating, online dating, friendships etc. Again, perhaps the readers of this blog are different-I certainly am =) but let's not pretend that it's not a two way street.

If I continually try to befriend someone and they tell me over and over again they don't wish to be my friend, what sort of low-esteem having fool would I be to continue engaging? Most whites (racist or not) simply do not wish to live among or marry Black people. Again-two way street..

If a man of German ancestry marries a woman of Magyar ancestry most people won't notice or care. If a man of Akan ancestry marries a woman of Scottish ancestry , some people will care a great deal indeed and everyone will notice. Race trumps ethnicity.

3) Groups do change over time but in America, "whiteness" generally means "not black". "Black" on the other hand hasn't changed much. If someone has apparent "Sub-Saharan" ancestry in America they will be considered "Black" , which has a certain set of stereotypes associated.

4) I think you are discounting group pride. Why (en masse) not talking individuals, would one subgroup rush to disappear within a larger group that had maltreated it for centuries? If the only solution to racism/separation is that Black people disappear-that's not really a solution. One of the harmful effects of "assimilation" is that Black people come to believe that their very looks and hair are "ugly" or "less than". This is all quite complex but can you imagine a world in which if a Caucasian woman went to work with her naturally straight hair, everyone (whites and blacks alike) would assume that she's either some sort of racial militant, too poor or lazy to get a perm, or "ugly"? A world in which such a woman would be told that she didn't have a professional image (tightly curled hair only please) and thus would be fired, sent home, not promoted etc..Yet that's the world we live in today.

5) This is nothing new. WEB Dubois wrote about what he called "double consciousness" over 100 years ago in "The Souls of Black folk". The same sorts of debates were extant then.

The best that the country can hope for is the removal of legal barriers, strict enforcement of anti-discrimination laws, disapproval of social barriers, and maybe a helping hand here and there. Where people find interracial friendships or relationships that's all to the good.

But looking at history and current level of social segregation does not make me think that Blacks are going to integrate themselves out of existence, not that I think that would be a good move in any event.

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Mike Ralls-- from the Wikipedia article on Switzerland: Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian, to which are added the Romansh-speaking valleys. The Swiss therefore do not form a nation in the sense of a common ethnic or linguistic identity. The strong sense of belonging to the country is founded on the common historical background, shared values (federalism, direct democracy, neutrality)[10] and Alpine symbolism.[11] The establishment of the Swiss Confederation is traditionally dated to 1 August 1291; Swiss National Day is celebrated on the anniversary.

I think you're been hanging out in some very bad company-- what you're offering is a toned-down version of white separatist/supremacist arguments.

This doesn't prove you're wrong, of course, and I do appreciate the difference between a hope for assimilation and a demand for extermination, expulsion and/or segregation.

Still, it's rather hard work to maintain a civil tone. I hear you as saying that I'm harshing your squee just by existing, and the Nazis couldn't help it, poor things.

I wish more separatists could figure out something like the Amish approach.

The implication of your argument is that it's just too hard for the majority to keep from savaging minorities. I think you're putting excessive emphasis on the worst periods, and leaving out the extended times when there may be prejudice, but there's pretty much peace.

Also, there's been extensive urbanization-- that is, people voluntarily moving into multi-ethnic environments. If it were that important to people to live in segregated environments, they'd try harder to make them happen.

I suggest that there are pulls in both directions, and I have a notion that we aren't really genetically paleolithic any more. Instead, there's a series of overlays. There's the paleolithic small-group, fairly egalitarian, meat and sporadic exercise gene set, the agricultural grain, stable hierarchy, and repetitive work gene set, and the urban gotta have a great immune system and tolerate noise, strangers, and change gene set.

Mike said...

> the ability to call oneself "white".<

Which many of them did NOT have when they first arrived, it was _GAINED_ though various means (and yes putting down Black people was one of those means). "White" has been an evolving concept. 200 years ago Benjamin Franklin did not consider the Swedes to be white. The fricken SWEDES!. Now you and I may think that the Swedes _look_ white, but Ben didn't. He thought they looked swarthy. He said that there was a _VISIBLE_ difference between Swedes and “Whites” like himself.

The short version is that in the past when previous groups who were not considered "White" are fully assimilated into mainstream America *poof* they become considered White. I can not think of a group this has not happened to. Swedes? Yep. Irish. Yep. Armenians. Yep. Jews? Yep. All at one time not considered "White."

”White” is just a word, and words are tools used to convey information, and the information they convey changes with time. Now given the accepted level of who was “White” in America has changed in a lot of ways over time, what information conveyed in the word “White” has stayed the same for all that time? I think the information conveyed when someone said “That person is White American” that has stayed the same throughout American history is that that person has really said, “That person is a Full Member of the Dominant Tribe in America.”

In America “White” is a used to describe an amalgamation of people who were earlier considered "White" with some more people who earlier were _not_ considered "White" but who became assimilated and then became considered "White". For at least 200 years, "White" has been an evolving definition that has grown to include more and more groups of people over time. I see no reason that trend will not continue into the future, although the actual word "White" may be dropped for something else so as to better include Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, and Blacks but the number of backgrounds from which assimilated people can come from and still be a "Full Member of the Dominant Tribe" will continue to increase.

Mike said...

> Your writing seems to overlook the fact that mixing or what you call assimilating really does take two to tango.<

In what way have I missed that? I've said that White's outnumber blacks 8-1 and that as such most of the assimilation will have to be more one way than the other, and that's a true statement. A group who are more powerful than another groups are in a position to demand more from the less powerful group. That is the situation Blacks face in America. Is this fair? Is this just? It just is.

Incidentally, I lived in a place where I was outnumber about 10,000 – 1. I did my best to assimilate and that was all a one way effort.

> Most whites (racist or not) simply do not wish to live among or marry Black people.<

The question is, is that because white’s don’t want to live among Black people's because of their skin color (unchangable) or because whites don’t want to live among Black people because of their culture (changeable)?*

There is actually a way to get quantifiable data on this. Does white flight happen if the newcomers are African Immigrants (as in from he continent of Africa and not the decedents of slaves)? African Immigrants share the skin color factor, but have a completely different culture. I’ve tried to Google this, but haven’t found any studies.

*My position is that in the past it was both, but that today it is far more due to the cultural aspects. But like I said, I’d like to see any quantifiable data.

> If a man of German ancestry marries a woman of Magyar ancestry most people won't notice or care.<

Today. It would have been a scandal in many places and times in the past. Marriage taboos are social constructs, and as such, changeable.

Mike said...

> "Black" on the other hand hasn't changed much. <

Not true! When “Black” was first used it was almost exclusively directed towards the new slaves brought to America who were of 100% African ancestry. Due to the raping of slaves many people of partial African ancestry were born and they were referred to by a variety of different names depending upon their ratios (Sambo, for instance literally means someone who was born of one full African parent and one half-white/half-African parent) “Mulatto” remained on the US census until 1930. Even before then it and other terms had been falling out of favor and the use of “Black” came to include all those of even partial African ancestry (unless they could pass for White). So it’s not true that “Black" hasn’t changed much.

Also, I think we may see a change in “Black” again soon, as for the first time since the 1800’s the US is beginning to receive significant numbers of African people.

Mike said...

>Why (en masse) not talking individuals, would one subgroup rush to disappear within a larger group that had maltreated it for centuries? <

Because if the maltreatment stops and large numbers of the subgroup start to hang out a lot with members of the larger group, then because the larger group is _larger_ if there aren’t any huge cultural barriers it’s statistically likely that someone in the smaller group will eventually meet somone in the larger group that they want to marry and have kids with. The Jews in America would be a good example here. Asians too, although American maltreatment of Asians didn’t really last centuries (multiple).

> But looking at history and current level of social segregation does not make me think that Blacks are going to integrate themselves out of existence<

Given the available data, you are probably right.

Mike said...

Hey Nancy,

Switzerland is definitly multiculural, peaceful, prosperous and a good place to live. I've never said it was impossible, just that it's not the safe way to bet. Move a couple hundred miles to East of Switzerland and you can find 10 Balkan states that didn't have a very good 20th century for the one example of Switzerland.

> white separatist/supremacist arguments.<

I have never heard of a white supremacist who hoped for a future in which all the races of America were assimilated together.

>I hear you as saying that I'm harshing your squee just by existing,<

I'm sorry you hear that, but no where did I say that the existence of Black people displeases me, because it doesn't. I hope for certain changes in Black culture, but I hope for certain changes in mainstream American culture as well.

> I wish more separatists could figure out something like the Amish approach.<

The trouble with land is that they are not making more of it. No group is going to give up it's land to let some other group establish it's homeland. There is a saying from the Balkans, "Why would I want to be a minority in your country, when you could be a minority in mine?"

> The implication of your argument is that it's just too hard for the majority to keep from savaging minorities.<

The implication is that humans are tribal creatures who are more willing to kill and oppress people who they do not consider part of their tribe then people they do consider part of their tribe. Do you disagree with that statement?

> I think you're putting excessive emphasis on the worst periods,<

It only takes one. The Jewish Population of Poland in 1939 was in the millions and was around 11% or so of the total population. Today? It's around 25,000 and is around .065% of the population. It had been around for thousands of years but all it took was one "worst period" to virtually end it. Extinction is forever.

Shady_Grady said...

White flight appears to start once a certain proportion (somewhere between 5-8%) of a residential tract population becomes black, regardless of whether this group is African-American, English speaking Afro-Carribbean, Afro-Latino, African immigrant,or whatever.
The African immigrant population shows greater segregation over time-which was different from other immigrant groups.

This is not to say there are not plenty of differences between the various groups of the diaspora, and that they don't see themselves differently, just that when it comes to housing choices, these groups face broadly similar constraints.

There are a lot of studies/books on this.

Here are two
The Housing Divide

Where we live now

Shady_Grady said...

Rather than say member of assimilated tribe, why not just use American? That is good enough. That includes everyone.

"American" and "White" used to be synonymous in some ways of thinking. Now they are not. That's progress.

Shady_Grady said...

With a few temporary exceptions (Creoles in New Orleans and a few communities in North Carolina) the various admixtures of white and black over the years were generally considered Black-One drop rule. Black meant "not white". That was the important thing, it delineated social and legal treatments.

I agree that this is social not biological- different social and political needs saw the same events treated TOTALLY differently in Brazil or Puerto Rico for example but I am sticking to the US for now.

So in America "Black" has included people ranging in tone from Wesley Snipes to Winfrey to Walter White. Very inclusive definition.

Mike said...

>Rather than say member of assimilated tribe, why not just use American? That is good enough. That includes everyone.<

I don't think it does, actually, not for the concept we are talking about anyways.

Take for instance a non-English Speaking Puerto Rican. He is without question an American citizen with all the rights and responsibilities so attached. But when a member of the dominant tribe of America encounters that non-English Speaking Peurto Rican, do you think their primal brain goes, "Ah, here is a member of my tribe." I don't. I think their primal brain goes, "Non-Tribe member! Outsider!" And this despite Puerto Rican being American citizens for almost 100 years now. So I don't think the mere fact that someone is American guarantees that members of the dominant tribe in America will regard any American as fellow members of the dominant tribe. So the term "American" is imprecise for that usage.

Mike said...

Thank you for the links, although I did not see any references to white flight due to solely African immigrants in them.

Mike said...

Does "White Flight" ever happen in the modern day if it looks like, say, Russians or some other immigrant group accepted as White are moving in large numbers to a neighborhood of native Americans?

Nancy Lebovitz said...

Mike Ralls, I see that the US is only a smidge less happy than your relatively monocultural list.

I didn't say you were using completely white supremacist arguments. What I'm saying is that you're using the same premises they do, though with a less malevolent conclusion.

Entropy is always with us, and ethnic strife is one way that societies get into trouble. I think you overestimate how common and destructive it is.

It would be worthwhile to look at how we can mostly prevent breakdowns. After all, houses need maintenance, but taking care of them greatly improves the odds of keeping them livable.

I'm white and Jewish.

The thing about the Amish is that they've developed a way of life that works for them and which would be just about impossible for outsiders to join. They aren't dependent on abusing outsiders to keep their system going.

Also, they aren't necessarily farmers. As farmland in their preferred region became more expensive, they've started non-farm businesses.

People prefer their ingroup, but the definition is flexible over long periods. "White" includes a range of ethnicities.

The Nazis are not a point in favor of your argument for assimilation. They targeted anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent-- it didn't matter whether anyone had been living as a mainstream Christian German.

Mike said...

>What I'm saying is that you're using the same premises they do<

I don't see that at all. I'm arguing for cultural unity and they are arguing for genetic unity. One is completely changeable by the human mind and will, and the other isn't.

When I lived in Japan I did my best to adopt to the Japanese culture. That was within my power. Adopting Japanese genetics was not.

> I'm white and Jewish.<

So is my wife, incidentally. Ethnically, anyways. She's an atheist-Jew and both her parents are atheist-Jews, philosophically/religiously speaking.

> Amish is that they've developed a way of life that works for them and which would be just about impossible for outsiders to join.<

Not true! The Amish do not _try_ to recruit but if you really want to become Amish they do accept outsiders as long as they conform and assimilate into their culture; it just requires that one live with the Amish, go to church, get a job, learn Pennsylvania Dutch, do all this for a year and then get educated in the ways of the church, and finally, get voted in by the church. Voila. Hard, but not impossible.