Will America ever be able to shut up about race?

“C’mon people now, smile on your brother

Everybody get together try to love one another – right now.”

Lyrics, “Get Together,” The Youngbloods

“[Thomas Sowell’s book Migrations and Cultures] is a strong indictment of both affirmative action and multiculturalism. The former because it tends to be self-defeating, the latter because it discourages minorities from shedding old habits and adopting new and more functional habits.”

James Michaels, Forbes, May 6, 1996.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

In the recent Inauguration festivities, occurring (as they always will) near Martin Luther King’s birthday, America’s obsession with race was once more on display.

Thus news reports noted a disproportionate number of African-Americans in attendance, and there were endless intertwinings of the Obama Presidency with Black civil rights. 

Once again there was the nauseating self-congratulation at electing a “black” President (for explanation of the quote marks, see below).  Civil rights icon John Lewis was front and center. An overjoyed person-on-the-street told CNN that he hoped there would be a series of milestones – female Prez., gay Prez., Hispanic Prez….how about secular Prez.?  Won’t happen anytime soon.

Time to shut up

The politics of racial identity will never go away.  Race is the perennial subject of a national “conversation,” because the race merchants and diversity mongers won’t SHUT UP about it.  Don’t tell me it has to go on till there’s not a racist thought or action in this great land.  That’ll never happen.

In the Annals of Political Hypocrisy, there’s a place of honor for the politicians who proudly proclaim that we don’t have “a Black America, a white America, a Republican or Democratic America (fill in your own list of adjectives)…but we are all one nation, indivisible.”

Nice thought.  What crap. 

The very politicians who proclaim our supposed national unity then continue to undermine and destroy it by diving us into “races,” institutionalizing the idiocy with lists of these artificial categories on census and other forms.  How many times have you been confronted with those odious little lists and the little boxes you‘re supposed to check? 

Sorry for the cheap shot, but the last society to be so obsessed with racial classification was the Third Reich.

We are urged to check the appropriate box and segment ourselves so that we can receive government goodies aimed at this or that “race.”  I’ve seen “Pacific Islander” and “Orthodox Jew” as “races.”  

Given that we now have an arsenal of laws against discrimination, I can’t see how this is good for the country, this obsession with pigmentation and forced equality.

Vile cancer

These are vile cancers, undermining meritocracy, competence, and productivity in various ways: bilingualism, race-norming, African-American studies, ubiquitous employment and admissions quotas (I've seen the HR data charts), Corporate diversity councils and conferences, just for starters.

It’s all accompanied by and cloaked in Orwellian jargon:

-- “inclusive” ( = preferences for blacks, Latinos [as self-defined; see below], and women),

-- “diverse” (same definition as previous),

-- “multi-cultural” ( = favoring the culture of the aforementioned groups), 

-- “equal opportunity” ( = “we’re gonna meet our quotas, come hell or high water”),

-- “diversity awareness training” (= “of course, we assume you’re all bigots; we’ll just rub your face in it and teach you to keep it to yourself”),

-- and my favorite, “people of color.” 

This last one is extremely slippery – see below – but seems to apply to African-Americans, Asians and self-defined Hispanics.  The Asian Heritage celebration at the last corporation I worked for was embarrassing, including everybody from India and Pakistan to the Far East.  That's about three billion people...and oh yeah, they’re all SO proud to be Asian. 

Enough already!

After a whole generation of affirmative action, haven’t we achieved “diversity”?   After a generation of preferences for “people of color” (ridiculous: we’re ALL people of color, except maybe albinos), of making people today pay for the past sins of others, can we be done with it?   

(I note in passing that the concepts of "hereditary guilt" and displaced punishment are firmly embedded in religion and thus come very easily to modern people.  The Old Testament holds succeeding generations guilty for the sins of their ancestors. And the Big One: Jesus was scarificed to forgive everyone's guilt, forever and ever, at least for those who believe.)

Blacks and Hispanics (and women) now have a plethora of professional organizations that can help them get a leg up.  Why don’t they think that the perpetual double standard is demeaning and unacceptable?   

White Attorneys Association?

I ask once again:  Why can we not have a White Accountants or Attorneys Association?  There’s just as much diversity within the “white” groups as there is in the others.

I know the pat liberal answer: because that’s what we had back when if you were white, you were all right, and just about every organization was whites-only.  But is the remedy to commit the same crime as payback?   For 300 years?

Companies waste a lot of time and money trying to get their numbers right.  If you’re the right color and gender, there’s recruiting and mentoring for you (the corporation uses employees as unpaid recruiters).  I never got any personal mentoring to accelerate my career.  Wrong color, wrong gender.

No mas!

Most odious to me as a linguist is the encroachment of Spanish as a second national language.  I know what happens to societies that have two or more competing languages for public life.  They are tragically and permanently divided, because there’s no better way to exclude someone than by speaking another language.

I think that when a caller presses 2 “para Espanol,” he/she should hear this, in Spanish: “Pressing 2 means that you have obviously not taken the time to learn the language of your adopted country.  Please hang up and call back when you are able to conduct business in English.  Have a nice day.”

Who’s the “they”?

The media reflect this racial perception, with constant references to “the fast-growing Hispanic electorate.”  Well, yes, they have a high birthrate.  But who’s the “they”?  There’s no escaping the fact that their differences outweigh their similarities, although they bank on the latter for political advantage. 

"Latinos" from a couple dozen countries, with wide genetic, linguistic, and cultural variation, band together as one “people” to get government preferences.  Just one more snout in the public trough.

Affirmative action for the Irish?

No affirmative action or race-norming for Jews, thank you very much.  Or any other group that’s suffered persecution and discrimination in this nation’s history.  Would affirmative action for the Irish be in order, given what they endured?  There was a time when they weren’t even considered white! 

And all of this despite the fact that race does not even exist as a biological/genetic reality!  It is only a social and political construct.

“Races” are not real.

Jews are not a race, as has so often been argued, by Jews as well as those who would exterminate them.  OK, there are two major gene pools, Ashkenazic (Eastern Europe, mainly Poland) and Sephardic (Southern Europe, mainly Spain).   Culturally/religiously, they are two different sects, like Lutherans and Episcopalians.  

And yes, there is a lot of intermarriage.  Sometimes, living in the suburbs of Detroit, I thought that the entire metro Detroit Jewish community had sprung from just 100 families.  They all sure looked like cousins.

But Jews are not a race.  Genetically they are most like – guess who? – the people they live with.  So an Ethiopian Jew is genetically more similar to another Ethiopian than to me.  Duh!

***********

{Aside:  The whole inbreeding/intermarriage/pure blood thing has been a disaster for humanity, resulting, on a small scale, in what I call “Xerox errors” (or in my more cantankerous moments, “Jew diseases”) like allergies or auto-immune ailments – systemic weaknesses of the body and resultant illnesses…and on a macro-scale, in a “march of folly,” as one hereditary, “pure-blooded” hemophiliac royal idiot after another looted and screwed up his country -- or was so weak and retarded that other, power-hungry people stepped in and did the same. 

How much of human folly can be traced to genetic disabilities from inbreeding?  Just a thought. }

***************

Impossibility of racial classifications

Guy Harrison eloquently makes the point about the impossibility of racial classifications in his book 50 popular beliefs people think are true (pp. 180-185).  The so-called "races" in the layman’s mind are arbitrary choice-points in a vast continuum of pigmentation, facial features, and other physical and genetic characteristics. 

Harrison says that instead of trying to prove the existence of discrete races by putting a “Caucasian,” an “Oriental,” and a “Negro” side by side, what if you picked a Navaho, a Fijian, and an Ethiopian?  Who belongs to what race?

He notes that “for something that is supposed to be obvious and commonplace, race is awfully difficult to pin down.  The reason for this is clear: races are make believe. . . [A]s human-made categories and not natural biological categories, races are created and defined by the whim of culture.”

Harrison cites the amazing conclusion, based on research on sub-Saharan genomes (paper published in Nature in 2010), that two bushmen from two villages within walking distance are genetically more different from each other than from a Japanese or a Korean!  I’m still trying to wrap my mind around that one.

Harrison concludes that “The truth before us is clear, if we choose to recognize it.  Our species simply does not accommodate naturally occurring race borders between vast groups of people.  Cultures have created and artificially imposed them.  The fact that so much death, cruelty, suffering, and social inefficiency has been caused by this delusion demands that we finally accept the reality of who we are and abandon [the belief in discrete races].”

But noooooooo.   

Political behavior is based on images, perceptions, and feelings, not scientific data and facts.

Is Obama Black?

Most ridiculous and nauseating of all is the hoopla and self-congratulation over that fact that America is finally enlightened enough to elect a Black President.  Woweee!

Except he’s not an American Black; he’s LITERALLY an African-American, not at all related, by history, culture, or genetics, to the people who today call themselves “African-Americans.”  

Once again we see the arbitrariness of racial classification.  I find it amusing that there is a real, if somewhat nutty, controversy over his birthplace – but not a peep over whether he is “really” black.

Not only does he lack the American Black experience (smoking dope at the elite Punahou School in Hawaii doesn’t count)…but East Africans, including Obama’s Kenyan father, are very different from the West Africans who made up the slave population.  But he’s got the color – and no accent, either, and that’s good enough.

Sports and “race”

In sports, supposedly the ultimate meritocracy, the concept of racial superiority/inferiority in this or that sport is refuted by massive research that explains ethnic sports performance in terms of social and cultural factors, not to mention a ton of hard work by individual performers. 

Michael Jordan is my favorite example. I was in Chicago for the glorious 90s – six NBA Championships in eight years!  Few people recall that he was actually cut from his high school team.  He could have quit basketball right there.  But Michael, tall and gifted, also had a prodigious work ethic. (So did “white” Larry Bird.)   He added dimensions to his game as he matured.  He practiced long after others had quit. 

Superstition dies hard.

Sometimes even centuries of scientific proof are not enough, as we see in the pathetic but tenacious efforts by religious believers to cling to their fairy tales.   I find it incredible that in 2013, huge numbers of people believe that the Book of Genesis actually describes the creation of the universe.  They reinforce their fantasies by building religious museums and theme parks and, now, a life-sized model of Noah’s Ark.

The spurious concept of “race” will likewise endure, even in the face of new knowledge that tells us that there is only one race – the human race – with an infinitude of variations. 

Verdict of science

Interestingly, religion and science agree that there is a “brotherhood of humanity.”   But once again, the two diverge sharply in reality.  With religion, it’s just lip service, usually – and hypocritically -- accompanied by commands to ostracize or murder those who look different. 

But the verdict of science supports the humanistic point of view: we are one species. 

Views: 195

Tags: African-Americans, Jews, Obama, action, affiremative, diversity, identity, politics, race, racism

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Comment by Alan Perlman on January 30, 2013 at 10:04pm

Glen,

Just because your ideas are wildly impractical doesn't mean they're not good. 

I emphatically agree that education, of a very different kind, is desirable.  As you may know, it wasn't until my college honors thesis -- and only by accident, because I chose to analyze literary dialect in the writings of black authors -- that I found out how blacks had been treated in our great country for 100 years after the Civil War, which I thought had solved the problem of racism, forever.  Silly boy.

I know about the Jewish (even in my day) quotas and wouldn't be surprised to learn that there are quotas for Asians too.  Colleges want many things besides smarts from their students.  Very few proudly tout their reputations for learning above all else (e.g., The University of Chicago, "where fun goes to die"), so forget about intellectual meritocracy.

Critical thinking  is something many institutions promise but never deliver.  Maybe the professors are too left-wing.  If people were skilled in critical thinking. important institutions (religion, politics, sports) would be challenged, and we wouldn't spend $12 billion on Super Bowl consumer goods and food (just heard it on CNN).

I'm lacking in perspicacity...?

Hear, hear on the quality of debate at A/N.  In all too many forums, people post vile things anonymously.

Take a look at the Thomas Sowell link on my latest post.  He's an economist who's done exhaustive research on race, ethnicity, and achievement, and he's one of AA's most articulate critics. And he's black!!

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on January 30, 2013 at 7:23pm

Allen,

I think the negative reaction to your article is in part due to the delicacy of the issue and in part due to the lack of typical Alan Perlman mother of all linguists, perspicacity.

While I remain ambivalent about AA if a gun was put to my foot I'd probably reject AA. Harvard University used to have quotas limiting the number of Jews it would admit. I wonder whether there are universities today limiting the number of Asians it will admit. This is a form of these guys are smarter than the rest of us and we aint too crazy about their kind discrimination.  In some ways a meritocracy is the best of all possible imperfect worlds.

I offer a solution to the general issue of racism. There is nearly zero chance of its effectuation. We should have an encylopedia of religious harm. We should look at our own history critically. We should teach children how to think critically. We should deem childhood indoctrination (before the age of reason) a form of child abuse. Aint none of what ought to happen gonna happen.

As an aside, seems to me that the atheists on this site are generally more thoughtful, intelligent, and ethical than the population at large. This aint a bad place to test one's ideas in a free marketplace of ideas.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 30, 2013 at 11:05am

Glen,

Once again, thanks for your thoughtful comments.  I loved "monkeys with machine guns." 

As regards sports, you and I are definitely on the same page. Super Bowl tickets cost (I think) $600, and that's without scalping.  

Racism is real, and we should not shut up about it.  But that wasn't the title of the post.

As I looked through the comments, I saw that I was being accused of racism, callousness, and worse.

People!! I object to affirmative action, compulsory quotas based only on ethnicity and gender (profoundly anti-humanistic), artificial classification, and self-congratulation on the success of an individual who's black, Hispanic or a member of some other "protected class" (again, what about Lithuanians or Cambodians?) -- regardless of quaifications or competence.   You may not care if the success of your enterprise is undermined by underqualified AA cases, but I do.

I totally agree with paragraph 4 and 5.

Your point on Jews/Irish vs. blacks is well taken.  But recall that both (and other) groups suffered terribly in what was then a virulently racist America.  Jews weren't immune to lynching - remember Leo Frank?  And, as devil's advocate, I would point out that blacks have done better in America than anywhere else in the world, including Haiti, which has been independent almost as long as the US.

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on January 30, 2013 at 8:18am

One of the problems of monkeys with machine guns is over-identification. Our biological heritage causes us to be tribal. Humans identify with their groups way too much. Over-identification is the sine qua non of nationalism, religion, racism and even spectator sports.

Any educated individual can prattle on for hours about the evil of the aforementioned. I mean if sports fans were not so damn zealous ticket prices would be reasonable and some of those groupies might be on the market for us regular guys. Oh yeah and maybe some of the trampled to death fans at soccer stadiums would well, not be trampled to death.

In the matter of racism in America should we keep quiet about it because race is a social construct, not a real phenomenon? Or should we examine racism, make its etiology and its history known? I think it is the latter. It is time for education in America to get real. We need american education to inculcate critical thinking and critical studies.

Understanding the physiology, sociology, history and impact of racism will encourage children to break with their racist parents and greater culture. The over-identification of their parents with their own race and the demonization of other races will be rejected. And when young'ns reject the concomitant evil in prohibition against miscegenation we will have greater flavor in our citizens. "Purebreds will be the exception and there will be less opportunity for ingroups.

Ultimately the playing field will even out. Ignoring racism simply gives the ingroups carte blanche to willy whale hump the rest.

It is unfair to compare blacks who came to america in chains and endured slavery with Jews and Irish who came here for a better life. I dont feel like expanding on this thought.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 7:41pm

Glen, We'll agree to disagree on whatever point of language we disagree on. See my explanation of grammar vs. lexicon. 

Why do you think I have something against Hispanics?  It's just that they're such a big target.  What other group is so blatantly and artificially self-created for the purpose of political advantage?  What other group (aside from blacks, women, and assorted "people of color") thinks that "diversity" means "more like me"?  We don't have this problem with Albanians or Lithuanians or Kazakhs or Morroccans in the US. 

I am actually FOR multiculturalism, literally.  We're already multicultural. Just let it happen. Some ethnic groups may gravitate to some fields and occupations.  So what?

Comment by Glen Rosenberg on January 28, 2013 at 1:16pm

Alan I stand by my straw. Have a thousand readers comment on the article as is and another thousand who read revised version with the spanish stuff expunged and see favorable impression in control group. Unless of course the tea baggers are in control group.

I dont think you are xenophobic. I think you are all over egalitarianism, just think your idea re english is incorrect, at least as it was initially presented.

My great grandfather was ashkenazic revolutionary who escaped from Czarist prison.

Comment by jay H on January 28, 2013 at 12:47pm

@Laura

Certainly it is problematic to put people in a stereotype based on their genetics. But while it can (and often is) reduced, it is unlikely that will ever completely disappear. We evolved as social animals with a sense of in-group and out-group. Now exactly what constitutes 'in group' is something that we may learn as children, or we may learn through good or bad experiences, but the instinct to categorize is there. You cannot completely educate that away.  And you CERTAINLY can't stop it through government intervention.

But there is a big difference between mistreating people on account of their genetics/religion/language and simply acknowledging that we are primates with millions of years of natural selection behind us.

Similarly 'sexism'. We are mammals, and mammals, perhaps more than many other animal forms, have significantly different behaviors between the sexes. This is NOT accidental, it's the product of long evolved reproductive strategies. What works out for males does not for females and vice versa.

The issue of aggressiveness was brought up. In virtually all mammals (and certainly primates), males are more aggressive. This is not a social construct (if anyone doubts that, I invite you to try to manage a bull the same way you do a cow). People, even enlightened ones, do perceive women and men differently (recent neurological testing has demonstrated this). So, through experience, and perhaps some instinct, we expect somewhat different behaviors. An (unskillfully) aggressive woman may be perceived as harsh, in much the same way that a passive man would likely be perceived as weak.

We have largely eliminated the legal differentiation between males and females (as well we should) but we should hardly be surprised that underneath it all, we still have the same primate brain. Eliminating the legal differentiation, or preaching an ideology does not change who we are.

It's true that we have gone through a genetic bottleneck 70K ago, but there is a lot of room for variation in that time. Dogs split off from wolves much more recently than that, and different breeds of dogs are significantly different in behavior and size even though they are still a single species. The very measurable shift in IQ in Ashkanazi Jews seems to have occurred during the middle ages. The IQ peaks in some Asian groups is probably much older, but certainly not reaching back to the bottleneck time.

The right approach is not to pre-judge any person (because remarkable people can come from ANY background) but it is not necessarily (and is indeed futile) to argue that background magically has no statistical effect, when it plainly does for all kinds of animals.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 12:20pm

Glen, Glen, Glen...You create a huge straw man (forced assimilaton) and proceed to burn it down with great (if misplaced) glee. 

My argument for one national, public language is based on considerations of practicality and social cohesion.  You object to those?  People can speak any language they like.  It's a free country.  You want to put Spanish subtitles on our money...that's where I draw the line ;) 

I am only two generations removed from Ashkenazic Jewish peasants who fled here to escape the pogroms and compulsory service in the Czar's army.  How could I be xenpophobic and anti-immigration. I'm one of those people who believe that one of the major reasons for America's success is the self-selection of motivated, risk-taking people to come here and start anew. 

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 12:06pm

PS. to S/B: I agree that Obama, whatever his claims to Negritude, couldn't have been elected even 25 years ago.  And there are plenty of people today who hate him for his color (and his middle name). 

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 11:56am

To S/B: Thanks as always for your thoughtful comments.  Please see my reply to other commentators re race (doesn't exist) and racism (definitely does exist and must somehow be eradicated).

On language, it's important to distinguish vocabulary from grammar.  The structure of English has changed over the centuries, but not because of the influence of other languages. Change is endogenous.  English has always been a Germanic language, historically related, in its structure and basic vocabulary, to Dutch, German, and the Scandinavian languages. 

But lexicon is another story entirely.  We have "loan words" from a hundred languages.  There's a big difference between using Spanish words (rodeo, barbecue) and Spanish grammar. 

There was a huge influx of French (and, later, Latinate) words after the Norman conquest, but they're now so totally embedded that they seem totally English.

Of course, it's not always as clear-cut as that. "Spanglish" does switch back and forth, even in the same utterance.  And in many societies, there are different languages for different settings and purposes (when people do this, they're "code-switching").   

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