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. 

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Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 11:40am

To Ruth: I always pay close attention to your thoughts. You commit several rhetorical errors.  A few responses:

(1) OF COURSE I want racial discrimination and sexual harassment to end! You talk as if we don't have laws, courts, and legal redress. 

(2) I agree that despite much progress, violence against women is still endemic in much of the world -- rape, genital mutilation, honor killings, sexual slavery, spousal abuse, severe social restrictions with harsh punishments...the list goes on and on. 

(3) Please note the distinction between (a) opposing oppression (too strong a word for racial relations in the US, but applicable elsewhere) and (b) opposing coerced solutions and compensatory injustice.

(4) I did suffer race, sex, and age discrimination.  I am anything but "naive" about this.

(5) My consciousness IS raised.  In my experience, "consciousness raising" = forced indoctrination.

(6) Please do not engage in "slippery slope" logic. Get real.  Business and government have the "press 2" option.  Emergency services put you in touch with real people immediately, and even someone who speaks no English can cry for help, give minimal information, and get an appropriate response.

(7) I already agree with this: 

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.

It's right there in the post, supported by a quote from Harrison's book; get down off your liberal soapbox, please.

(8) Exactly which of my presuppositions is "arrogant"?  This propaganda technique is known as "name-calling."

Someone once told me that if I wanted to blog, I'd better develop a thick skin. I have.  ;)

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 28, 2013 at 11:28am

Alan, that suggested message for spanish speaking people will play well with xenophobic tea bagging right wing anti-immigration folks.

You prefer to compel melting and cultural unanimity to addressing past wrongs.

On the other hand your underlying message is one of ignoring notion of "race." I say that forced americanization is no better than forced establishment of religion. If we have free exercise we need to permit spanish speaking.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 11:15am

To Glen:  I don't get it.  A forked tongue suggests dishonestly or hypocrisy.  Please tell me where either of those occurs in the post.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 11:14am

PS. to Luara:  Yeah, blacks aren't lynched anymore, and we don't put them in gas chambers either.  Wow, we are SO enlightened. 

Progress from barbarism is necessary, but jeez, we've been around as a thinking species for 100,000 years or more, and we're proud when we don't kill someone just because they're different?  

We still have a long way to go.  Much of the world is embroiled in exactly this type of conflict.  Racially-motivated massacres occur with depressing regularity.  

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 28, 2013 at 11:08am

I agree that discrimination occurs at unconscious level.(conscious too) Not sure that is sufficient to warrant label of racism. On the other hand it is the glue in institutionalized racism.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 11:05am

To Earther: I have actually thought of that many times...thanks for bringing it up.  My point was that as different as we see ourselves, we would look exactly alike to aliens, much as every insect of the same species looks the same to us, though I would asssume  that there are subtle differences between one ant and another.

Comment by Alan Perlman on January 28, 2013 at 11:03am

To Luara (and others): I commented only on "race," which does not exist, but racism very definitely does exist.  I agree that it can be overt or covert - or even subconscious, as people make implicit assumptions about each other on the basis of assumed racial/gender qualities. 

How often have I read that a pushy, obstinate male executive is "assertive," while a woman behaving similarly is "a bitch"? 

IMHO, instead of laboriously putting people in categories and filling quotas, employers should find ways to make academic and job applications race- and gender-blind.  Maybe conduct job interiews electronically instead of face-to-face (that would also eliminate the bias toward attractive people).  Also very important: WHY do you have to know the applicant's name?  That alone creates a lot of bias and stereotypical reactions.

Your argument about reproduction is the same as I used when trying to convince my Mother to accept my non-Jewish first wife: We're both human beings; if she's so different, how come we can mate and reproduce?  Mom wasn't buying it.  

Comment by Luara on January 28, 2013 at 10:23am

When I was a child, my father was going on once about how different races of people should be considered different species, and that this wasn't done for "political correctness" reasons.

I said "but they can interbreed, that's what a species is", (and produce fertile offspring).  He didn't have an answer. 

My father was much into rationality and science, but his rationality left him on the subject of race.

Actually there is little genetic diversity among humans compared to other species, because the human race almost went extinct about 70,000 years ago.  There was a "genetic bottleneck" where there were only about 10,000 people of breeding age. 

Apparently we have a few genes that control appearance, and they evolve to suit the environment that people live in.  Over thousands of years, nontechnological white people in a tropical environment would evolve into black people, to adapt to the strong sunlight. 

These few genes seem to be a way in which the human race is adapted to survive most any place on Earth. 

So much of what is said on the subject of race is such dishonest bullshit.  The crucial thing for people to understand is that racism is unconscious a lot of the time; a person - of whatever race, actually - may act on the basis of racial stereotypes, discriminate against people of color, even if they have an egalitarian mindset and no conscious bad intentions. 

The same is true of sexism.  I read of some research where people were given a sample job application for a lab manager position.  Identical job applications; but some had female names attached, some male.  The applicants with female names were rated lowerBy women as well as by men.

People act as if this weren't true, as if not consciously agreeing with racial or gender stereotypes were enough.  Realizing that one may discriminate all the same, shows there's a need to counteract these unconscious tendencies.  Like, graders of student work ought to do it without knowing the student's name.  Affirmative action is a (certainly very crude) attempt to force non-discrimination on average. 

It does slowly improve, racism is less overt than it was 50 years ago.  Black people aren't being lynched anymore, anyway.  But sexism in the form of violence against women is still very virulent. 

Comment by Frankie Dapper on January 28, 2013 at 8:30am

Alan, you speak with forked tongue, mixed messages, Ruths' sharp tongue speaks truly. Not to discredit the article entirely, like much of it.

Comment by Earther on January 28, 2013 at 12:52am

When the aliens come we should see a large decrease in racial dogma.



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