RE: Vicious Racism

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Thu Aug 02 2001 - 20:10:47 MDT

Hal writes, in a fairly detached and analytic fashion,

> I agree with Harvey that the article was strongly racist, but I think
> he somewhat missed the point of the essay. A few quotes for the benefit
> of those who have lost it:
>> You can pay me reparations, Johnny.
>> To start with, I figure you owe me for three bicycles.
> The implication is that the bicycles were stolen by black people,
> and that Johnny Cochran is therefore responsible because he is black,
> a racist claim.

I actually hadn't read it that way; I read too fast, I'm afraid,
and this accounts for some of my errors. I thought of "Johnny
Cochran, Jesse, and Al" as just some three people. All I had
understood was that they were in favor of reparations. In this
case, it is a naturally (though overblown) reaction to say, "Okay!
Where is mine?" or even, "Blacks have committed more thefts
than whites---where are the reparations for that?" I do *not*
speak to defend either of those statements, but to rebut the
statement that the implication was that Johnny Cochran was
responsible because he is black. (Perhaps I will not be believed.)

>> A few years back, my middle-school daughter brought home a horrendously
>> misspelled science hand-out. Now, Johnny: You and I both know that it's easy
>> to make a typo, and write "phenylkeetone" instead of "phenylketone." But
>> "feemelkeebome" is stretching it. The errors were of this sort. An
>> understanding of chemistry clearly had never rippled the serene surface of the
>> woman's mind.
>> Without thinking, I asked, "What color is your teacher?"
> His first unthinking reaction at seeing a bad misspelling was suspicion
> that the teacher was black. This is a racist reaction.

Not necessarily. There is a correlation between being a black
teacher and being an incompetant teacher. The correlation may
be almost zero in some places, and quite overwhelming in others.

>> People in, say, Switzerland can walk their streets after dark. We
>> can't. Why? What have we got that they don't, that might cause fear?
> The implication is that blacks are dangerous criminals, a racist claim.

Yes. To lay this sad truth (about fear) at the feet of one race is racist.

>> The white guy beaten to death 100 yards from my door last year - they
>> never caught the killers, but - what you reckon, Johnny? Do you figure
>> it was white Presbyterian women from the old-ladies' home?
> The implication is that black people are more likely to beat
> someone to death than white people, a racist claim.

This is an empirical claim, and it may very well be true. I have
heard it reputably reported that racist black-on-white atrocity
obtains nation-wide attention much less frequently (if ever?) than
does white-on-black atrocity. It is said that there existed in
Florida a black gang whose membership requirement was that a white
person had to be killed. How can I ascertain whether this is true?
I do *not* trust the media to be objective.

>> As a result of slavery, you have been using our civilization
>> without a license.
> The implication is that black people are undeserving of the
> benefits of actions of previous generations purely because
> of their skin color, a racist claim.

No. It was the countering of an alleged ridiculous claim
(i.e. that reparations for slavery are due) with an equally
unfounded claim. I do not believe "undeserving" was implied.
What was implied is that historically it so happens that
civilization happened to be developed far from areas indigenous
to blacks. The further implication that somehow race is a
greater determinant than geography for the development of
civilization, if it's there, is racist.
> The real issue is that the essay is also intended to be read ironically.
> It is meant to be a satire on racist attitudes.

This is the first such reading I've seen! Do you know something
about Fred Reed that the rest of us don't? On what basis do you
claim the essage to be ironical?

> It aims to mirror some of the claims made by those calling for
> reparations in order to show how racist those claims are when
> the racial roles are inverted.

Sorry; I don't quite follow.

> I think the problem with the essay is that the attitudes it expresses,
> although meant satirically, are actually very close to real attitudes
> held by real people today and in the recent past. Many white and asian
> people DO believe that black people are thieving, stupid, violent, and
> undeserving. It's not expressed very openly now, but a few decades ago
> people made racist jokes and remarks in public. And views like these
> die hard.

Yes, and what keeps them from dying, like so many false beliefs,
is the kernel of truth they contain. The jokes wouldn't be funny
to anyone otherwise.

As Jerry wrote

"You're not going to find anyone more individualistic than me
anywhere and I always try to look at a person [more] as an
individual than [part of] a group. But I'm not going to pretend
that there aren't serious issues that need to be dealt with about
certain groups of people (not just US based urban blacks). We'll
never solve them unless [we] identify them and face them head on."

Because of polarization, it cost me some effort to say "yes"
when I had to above. Why? Because, being somewhat right of
center, I have an instinct to engage in the tug-of-war like
everyone else does, and to fall silent when I clearly see
that the liberals have repeatedly made some claim and got
some mileage from it. But if I make an effort against
polarization, so can anyone. Especially on the extropians list.


> P.S. From
> rac·ism
> n.
> 1. The belief that race accounts for differences in human character
> or ability and that a particular race is superior to others.
> 2. Discrimination or prejudice based on race.

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