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: 192

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

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Comment by Ruth Anthony-Gardner on January 28, 2013 at 12:08am

I must be one of your "diversity mongers". I don't think it's moral to stop talking about racial oppression until it's over. Nor do I think it's moral for women to shut up and stop complaining about being harassed. You might not like the concept of race, you think it's spurious. But what word would better describe the cultural and social inequality present today? The word "race" might be arbitrary, but the reality is hard. Of course "It is only a social and political construct." But that construct is used to inflict pain, heartless rejection and loathsome inequality.

You say "we are one species".

But you also say

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.”

So a patient with chest pain who calls his doctor's office and doesn't speak your language should just go ahead and die? To be blunt you sound like someone with the sensibilities of a naive white guy who doesn't even realize his preconceptions are arrogant, like someone who has never experienced consciousness raising. You don't appear to know the difference between overt racism, where hatred is openly expressed, and systemic racism, where the racists are perfectly polite while they cut you off at the knees collectively.

Comment by Sentient Biped on January 27, 2013 at 9:41pm

Alan

I understand what you are saying.  And I agree on some aspects - "Race" is an artificial concept, and that what we think of as racial, and even ethnic, categorizations, is messy and nonscientific.

However, I still think it's important to understand racism, which still exists even if "race" does not.  I've seen it personally, when people confide in me things they should not.  Ordinary, suburban grandmotherly people, not just skinheads in northern Idaho.  And in a variety of other settings.

On the topic of language, far be it from me to argue with a linguist.  However, given that English is already a language made from mixing multiple others - apparently, Germanic dialects, Latin, Norman, and Norse all processed into a gemisch that has a character of its own, and is still actively changing.  Because of that, I don't understand why not have Spanish thrown into the stew as well.

That said, I'm married to someone who grew up speaking Mandarin, of which I understand about 10 words.  So our language at home is English.  I find it a lot easier to ignore Chinese soap operas, because I don't understand a word of them.  If they were English soap operas, I'd have to go to the garage to avoid them.  

I do think it says something about change in American electorate that Obama was elected.  Regardless of who he claims to belong to , or how we define him, he would not have been elected in 1960  or 70 or ...  I don't know when.  He's still black in the eyes of many, even if he's of half euro and half african heritage.

Again, I respect what you have to say, and the conversation is important.  

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 27, 2013 at 9:38pm

To Jay H.: You're most welcome; that's why I do it  "Officially disapproved" I take as a high compliment.

To Spud: Thanks for your kind words. Yes, even the idea of "skin color" is arbitrary.

To Spud and Pat: I merely scratched the surface  of this issue, confining myself to the country I know best.  But I am aware that arbitrary racial barriers are in force all around the world.  Americans need to be much more aware of them - they are the source of as much conflict as political and sectarian differences. 

Only a very few Americans know that Iranians are not Arabs.  There's enormous cognitive blurring when it's a faraway group.  They all look alike.  Not so. After a couple of years in Hawaii, I could tell a Korean, a Chinese and a Japanese apart, even 2nd generation.

Here at home, there are sharp status distinctions among African-Americans based on color.  Not too black, not too white.  "Grocery-bag beige" is about right. Obama draws admiration for marrying a woman darker than himself.  As far as "racial" features are concerned...I actually know a family of Chicago Jewish people with the Oriental looking eyelid.

Comment by jay H on January 27, 2013 at 6:33pm

Both the 'conservatives' and the 'liberals' have a vested interested in keeping 'racial' issues alive. Manipulating people by alleged identity works but is poisonous.

Thanks for your excellent comments, even though they are officially disapproved.

Comment by Idaho Spud on January 27, 2013 at 3:45pm

You give words to a lot of my feelings Alan.  Thanks.

Just one comment for now:  For many years, I thought the word "colored" or the phrase "people of color" were stupid.  Seems to me that even an albino is colored pink from the red blood under his skin.

Comment by Pat on January 27, 2013 at 1:47pm

My understanding of a mammalian species (from my days in anthropology) is a fertile female mating with a fertile male, and producing fertile offspring. While donkeys and horses are distinct species, a mule is not. Same with dogs, cats, and homo sapiens. "Race" is an artificial distinction based on in-group/out-group mentality.

Having said that, where I take some issue with your post, Alan, is somehow limiting the  criticism of this phony classification to the US. It's not as though Americans are the only people on the planet that engage in this universal nonsense.  Granted, the way we handle it leaves a lot to be desired. However, unlike the majority of people on the planet earth, at least we recognize its existence.

I once worked with a girl from Japan at an admissions office at a midwestern university. She would quiz me whenever someone with an epicanthic eye fold would come in the office. "OK," she would ask, "what race is that person?" She would quickly point out that the person was Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indo-Chinese,  etc., and was amazed, and somewhat appalled, that I had no idea. And worse, that I didn't give a shit.

Try telling a person from Iran (Persia) that he/she is an Arab, or a Turk, and see where that gets you in the conversation. Or Bedouin from North Africa that he is a Bantu. Need I remind everyone of the result of perceived differences between the Tutsi and Hutu in Rwanda? I could go on and on, over different areas of the world, including Europe, South America, Africa, and the Pacific Islands, with the same or similar examples of the foregoing that would fill volumes.

The phony, and universal, classification of "race" today in my humble estimation, has more to do with cultural and physical differences born out of ancient tribal identifications that still cling, like a barnacle on a ship's hull, to the modern world. Then again, and notwithstanding our technology, we may not be as "modern" as we like to think we are.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 27, 2013 at 12:13pm

Thanks so much to Steph and Randall for your kind words. 

I was forced to live with this crap, this lying hyporcisy, for many years.  Even wrote speeches to kick off Black History Month, as well as similar celebration of our "Hispanic" and "Asian heritage." 

I once got into trouble (with the CEO, no less) by saying, in an interview with a professional publication, that since every individual is different, you already have diversity; it's pointless to try to achieve it by grabbing up people from certain specified grievance groups.  What, no Afghans, no Zulus, no Lithuanians?  How can we be diverse without them?  This is heresy, and I'm delighted to share it openly, at last.

   

Comment by Randall Smith on January 27, 2013 at 8:30am

Wow--powerful post!! And right on target. Perfect analysis (or use the plural of that word) of "our America". I'm making a copy of this. Thanks for elucidating my own feelings.

Comment by Steph S. on January 26, 2013 at 10:26pm

So far, I don't think so - but you never know.

I love what you said here. Beautiful.

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

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