Category Archives: Racism

Thoughtless and Racist.

I’m going to be vague on location here to avoid giving away too much, but I had a friend who just had to interview a group of homeowners in a portion of the northeast that’s very wealthy and smugly liberal. The group was concerned about a mixed-income housing unit going through the zoning approval process. These folks were going to get some new neighbors, and they didn’t like it. They actually feared it, and said so on the record.

Officially, the group was upset about increasing traffic, and that the plan called for some units’ backyards to face the street, forcing them to look at backyard things like playsets and grills. Zoning officials addressed those concerns, but residents were still not happy. When a group of a dozen neighbors called my friend over to their swanky townhouse complex, which is on the border between well-off and less well-off sections of the city, some unofficial objections leaked out through the aggressive use of pronouns.

I mean, why do they all have to live in this side of the city. Right?

Last week, this same town filled all three available board of education spots with candidates who came out against “heterogeneous classrooms,” which are experimental classes in some local middle schools that do away with the former method of grouping kids by ability. Ability is assessed at way too tender an age, and in suburban schools the achievement gap by and large splits black and Latino students from their white peers. The idea used to be that kids learned best in similarly abled groups, but it turns out that idea hurts lower-achieving students and does little if anything to help higher-achieving ones. This parental fear that lower-achieving kids are somehow going to infect the higher-scoring ones with their stupidity has no merit. I can’t say for certain that heterogeneous classrooms were the deciding factors in the elections, but it was a big issue during the campaign and those who supported them lost.

I don’t see the harm in calling “ability grouping” what it really is: segregation. And I see no harm in calling the condo-folks’ efforts what they really are: unofficial redlining. They believe lower-income residents, largely black and Latino, will lower their property values, blight their neighborhoods because they don’t make home improvements and use their pools without permission (kids knock on their doors in the summer to ask to use their pools, and are turned away.) But what really worries the residents is that people who don’t look like them will be so woven into their lives that they see their backyard playsets every day, that they can’t tell one yard from the next.

The people in the townhouses trying to guard their suburban idyll will tell you it has nothing to do with race, and I think they actually believe it. They were all white, young professionals who aren’t among the wealthiest in the city. This area went heavily for Obama last year, and in general aggressively pursues affordable housing projects like this one. It’s a city outwardly concerned with equality and opportunity for all but at the same time people gripe about the taxes and policies used to provide services for them.

Both these instances made me think about the controversy after a New Mexican hotel owner asked his workers to Anglicize their names. For some, it was a shock to call this racist. I learned about it when I saw a CNN banner that read “Racist, or Thoughtless?”

As if people can’t be thoughtlessly racist. In fact, people are more often thoughtlessly racist than they are aggressively so.

Which is why I was the only person on Jimmy Carter’s side when he called out the obvious racism against Obama. I know the argument against his having said it; that it’s not helpful, only puts people on the defensive and shuts down conversation. But I have a certain affinity for a fellow white Southerner who sees racism from a different angle, when it’s spoken in closed company by people who assume you agree with them. That’s what upset my friend the most; the homeowners spoke to her as if she knew what they were trying to say. They call it dog-whistling for a reason: It’s under the surface until you call it up and address it, and white Americans just don’t have these conversations that often, if ever.

‘Damn, That Halloween Costume Is Racist!’ A Practice Post.

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Our first Halloween with a black president is upon us, which almost certainly means that we will bear witness to a bevy of “edgy” costumes in which the whole joke is that the president is black.

“There’s nothing racial about this costume,” the kid in the blackface will say as he clutches a copy of the “Audacity of Hope” while being flanked by slutty “Secret Service” agents. “We’re just having some fun! I’m not a racist!”

Can you believe the gall of these hypothetical motherfuckers?

I, for one, am deeply offended by these as-yet-unworn costumes, and I invite you all to join me in preemptive indignation.

Technology Gets RNC in Trouble, Again.

You’ve probably already seen the picture of President Barack Obama eating fried chicken with the caption, “Miscegenation Is a CRIME against American values… Repeal Loving v. Virginia,” that was hastily removed from the Republican National Committee’s Facebook page.

In this case — along with the e-mails of watermelons in front of the White House and Obama bucks — it’s not clear whether anti-Obama racists don’t understand how quickly these types of things spread, or whether they just don’t think it’s wrong.

Racism as Backhanded Compliment.

from Wikimedia Commons.

In a post called “Penny-Pinching Jews and South Carolina Republicans,” Jeff Goldberg points to an editorial by two South Carolina Republicans defending Sen. Jim DeMint’s opposition to opening the federal spigot for his state.

Recently your newspaper published a letter from state Rep. Bakari Sellers attacking U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and his opposition to congressional earmarks.

There is a saying that the Jews who are wealthy got that way not by watching dollars, but instead by taking care of the pennies and the dollars taking care of themselves. By not using earmarks to fund projects for South Carolina and instead using actual bills, DeMint is watching our nation’s pennies and trying to preserve our country’s wealth and our economy’s viability to give all an opportunity to succeed.

To which one of Goldberg’s readers responded:

Perhaps I’m seeing something that isn’t there, but I inferred from the title of this post a suggestion of anti-Semitic bigotry on the part of the two county Republican chairmen.

First, I think there is a difference between stereotypes to be disparaged and stereotypes to be emulated. The chairmen were guilty of the latter. Second, I’ve lived 2/3 of my life in the South/Southwest and the rest in the Northeast. I’ve the noticed that the attitudes about Jews in either place to be remarkably different. In New York, a Jew is some jerk who is dating his sister or a weirdly dressed guy who’s probably hoarding diamonds. In the S/SW and probably in most of the Midwest, a Jew is David or Solomon or Daniel or Jesus or James or Paul.

Ah, yes! Those good stereotypes that we should emulate! They’re always tossed into the bin of “bad” and “racist,” which just isn’t right. Unlike “bad stereotypes,” the good ones are dehumanizing and condescending, but in a well-intentioned sort of way! More…

The White Racist Meme.

(by Jeremy Levine, x-posted from Social Science Lite)

It would be an understatement to argue that the mass media has taken on racial analysis with unprecedented zeal since the election of Barack Obama. Unfortunately, in attempts to present fair and balanced news coverage, cable news programs have typically included panels with representatives from both sides of the Left-Right ideological spectrum.

The problem with this method, of course, is that subsequent analyses usually follow the same tired pattern: “That was racist!” vs. “That is ridiculous! Race was not a factor!” At best, this produces unproductive exchanges. At worst, it woefully simplifies complex social process and interactions, institutionalizing diametrically opposed ideological camps instead of offering nuanced analysis. More…

Wade Watts Had the Patience of Job.

Do I need a late pass on this?

More on Johnny Lee Clary here, and Wade Watts (uncle of JC Watts) here.

A Night to Remember. And Then Forget.

After prom, after graduation, after all the senior-year pageantry, I hope each and every one of the graduates – black and white – from Charleston High School are able to put their sad little town in the rearview mirror.

Maybe that’s not the right thing to say.

But I can’t help myself. This is how I feel. When HBO’s fascinating but frustrating documentary, “Prom Night in Mississippi,” reached its uplifting – though carefully planned – denouement, I found myself wanting a more satisfying final act for the teens trapped in this Mississippi Delta backwater.

So what brought the film crew to town? More…