White privileges or lingering anti-black racism?

I recently came across an article in the Washington Post which completely caught my attention.

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

Heroin addiction sent me to prison. White privilege got me out and to the Ivy League.

Second chances don’t come this easily to people of color.

Keri Blakinger, who spent more than two years in prison for drug possession, graduated from Cornell University after her release. (Courtesy of Keri Blakinger)

I was a senior at Cornell University when I was arrested for heroin possession. As an addict — a condition that began during a deep depression — I was muddling my way through classes and doing many things I would come to regret, including selling drugs to pay for my own habit. I even began dating a man with big-time drug connections that put me around large amounts of heroin. When police arrested me in 2010, I was carrying six ounces, an amount they valued at $50,000 — enough to put me in prison for up to 10 years. Cornell suspended me indefinitely and banned me from campus. I had descended from a Dean’s List student to a felon.

But instead of a decade behind bars and a life grasping for the puny opportunities America affords some ex-convicts, I got a second chance. In a plea deal, I received a sentence of 2½ years. After leaving prison, I soon got a job as a reporter at a local newspaper. Then Cornell allowed me to start taking classes again, and I graduated last month. What made my quick rebound possible?

I am white.

Second chances don’t come easily to people of color in the United States. But when you are white, society offers routes to rebuild your life. When found guilty of a drug crime, white people receive shorter sentences than black people. And even after prison, white men fare better in the job market than black men with identical criminal records.

It was prison that clued me in to just how much I benefit from systemic racism in our society. Until then, I hadn’t thought much about white privilege, which is exactly how privilege works – as a white person, I could ignore it. But sitting behind bars, I saw how privilege touches almost everything, especially the penal system.

It starts at the gate — or rather, who comes through the gate. When I moved into the state prison, the racial disparity was immediately obvious. I was surrounded disproportionately by people of color. While blacks represent just 13.2 percent of the New York State population, they are nearly half of the state’s prison population. Reasons for the disparities are clear: Nationally, blacks are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be searched, and, if arrested, likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime. Although whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate and although whites are more likely to sell them, black youth are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than are their white counterparts.

Once in prison, minorities are at an even greater disadvantage. Some corrections officers (though hardly all) were overtly racist. Some used racial slurs. One was rumored to sport a tattoo of a black baby in a noose. Even if the rumor wasn’t true, it says something about the prison’s racial climate that prisoners believed it conceivable enough to repeat.

In one case, I watched prison officials send a black inmate to solitary confinement for wearing her pajamas at 10 a.m. Apparently, there was a little-known rule prohibiting inmates from wearing pajamas after a certain hour, despite the fact that they looked nearly identical to regular state-issued clothes. I never even thought about when to change out of my pajamas, so I’m sure I wore them after the appointed hour, too. But nobody ever troubled me about it, let alone sent me to solitary. There were many times that black inmates were hassled for things that white inmates weren’t.

To be clear, it is not only minority inmates who could get sent to solitary for little to no reason. Whatever their race, inmates routinely get put in solitary for trivial rules violations such as having too many postage stamps, missing appointments, or talking back. Overall, though, black inmates are treated worse. In New York State, they make up 49 percent of the prison population but 59 percent of the solitary confinement population. And the superintendents who decide how long prisoners will spend in solitary are overwhelmingly white in my experience. I knew of only one African-American superintendent or deputy superintendent in the five female facilities that existed when I was locked up. (The New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision says they have two black superintendents now).

Of course, race alone doesn’t explain my story. There were other factors that led to my reduced sentence and my return to Cornell. I was arrested in in Tompkins County, a liberal jurisdiction with long-standing commitment to alternatives to incarceration and progressive sentencing. (If I had been arrested in any of the surrounding counties, my sentence could have been three to four times as long.) In another stroke of luck, New York rolled back parts of the notorious Rockefeller Drug Laws the year before my arrest. Had I been prosecuted under those laws, I would have gotten 15 years to life.

Although Cornell has a process governing the readmission of suspended students, they never explained exactly what persuaded them to allow me to return. When I was arrested, officials told me that it is standard to suspend any student who is arrested, though the Campus Code of Conduct doesn’t specify that punishment. Readmission is allowed on a case-by-case basis. I gathered letters of recommendation from former professors, my parents and my parole officer and sent them to the judicial administrator. I provided samples of my freelance writing to show I was working to support myself. I answered a standard set of written questions about what I had learned, what I had done to change my path and what safeguards were in place to make sure I don’t recidivate. I had a 20-minute or so phone interview with the judicial administrator and then waited on pins and needles for a response. It came in the form of a brief e-mail: “I am pleased to report that you have been approved to finish your Cornell degree, starting in January 2014.”

It’s impossible to know if a black or brown student in the same circumstances would have been allowed back in. But I think it’s likely. Through its Prison Education Program at a maximum-security state facility, Cornell allows inmates to earn Cornell credits. Clearly, it is a school interested in second chances.

I regularly encounter people who deny that things like racism and privilege still exist, who believe that we are living in a post-racial world. And yes, I dream of a world in which every ex-con could enjoy the opportunities I have. But I saw firsthand how deep and structural biases shaped our criminal justice system. For some, the battle is about ending racism and privilege — behind bars or anywhere else. But for others, the battle is simply acknowledging that there is a battle at all.

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

The war on drug is an atrocity

The first thing I have to say is that the war on drug is a terrible moral atrocity. As I explained, I consider it deeply wicked to punish people for consuming drugs, most of them having, like Keri Blakinger, often started their consumption out of despair. I also do not believe that people dealing drugs for financing their own addiction should be punished if they’ve completely lost any control over their consumption. I think that a very good case can be made that countless addicts dealing drugs have got where they are through an unfortunate set of circumstances and unfavourable genetics.

Big dealers who do not take in the poison they sell ought to be punished extremely severely. Not their victims.

Besides the failure of providing poor children with a decent healthcare and its imperialistic policy, the war on drugs is another example showing that the US do not occupy any “moral high ground” Americans should feel proud of.

Q: Is it time to end the war on drugs? NO. NO.
The war on drugs in all its glory.

Is it really “white privilege”?

Now I want to go into the main topic of this post. There is absolutely no doubt that there is a differential treatment unjustly affecting African Americans. To quote the last sentence of Keri, it is undeniable that a considerable battle must be fought.

I beg to differ, however, with her views on the causes of this revolting state of affairs.

While she didn’t make it explicit, according to her things seem to be going like this (see the parts of her text I emphasised).

1) American society is incredibly harsh and unjust towards drug addicts.

2) Then “white privileges” step in. (Some) white junkies are helped just by virtue of their having the right skin colour. Black drug addicts do not take advantage of such acts of mercy.

While I’m open to being wrong on that, this seems to be the most straightforward way to read her.

With all due respect, I think she has it backward.

It might be that under rare circumstances, some people in the American judicial system decide to save a person otherwise doomed to a long stay in jail because they say to themselves “Oh! (S)he’s white! I wanna help her!“.

Likewise, it is quite possible that in some cases, people are helped because the officials like their physical appearances or voices.

I strongly doubt, however, that this is going to be a main factor in more than a few cases.

To my mind, the most likely explanation of the statistical disadvantage of black persons looks rather like this.

1′)  While still being very unjust, the judicial system has become more merciful towards drug offenders, to some limited extent.

2′)  African Americans do not take advantage of such opportunities because of lingering racist prejudices against them. A great number of law enforcement officials are still convinced they are far less to be trusted than their white counterparts.

In quite a few situations, I can very well imagine that white members of the judicial system are animated by egregiously hateful feelings against human beings having a black skin.

That my own explanation (namely that direct racism instead of “white privilege” is the culprit here) is much more likely to be true is well illustrated by the problem of discriminating policemen.

As she rightly wrote

It starts at the gate — or rather, who comes through the gate. When I moved into the state prison, the racial disparity was immediately obvious. I was surrounded disproportionately by people of color. While blacks represent just 13.2 percent of the New York State population, they are nearly half of the state’s prison population. Reasons for the disparities are clear: Nationally, blacks are more likely to be pulled over, more likely to be searched, and, if arrested, likely to be sentenced to more time for the same crime. Although whites and blacks use drugs at about the same rate and although whites are more likely to sell them, black youth are 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than are their white counterparts.

Of course, it’d be utterly absurd to think that days-in and days-out, policemen discover an equal number of white and black addicts and decide to leave most of the former alone because they’re white.

The true problem is that they are still persuaded that black people are inferior to white people and/or are driven by sheer racial hatred. Consequently, they’ll control disproportionately more black persons than white ones.

Does the difference really matter?

I guess that many liberals might react by saying:

“Yeah, I grant your point that these inequalities aren’t the results of a direct intention to privilege  white people but stem from racist prejudices and racial hatred against black people. Still, what on earth does that change to this tragic injustice?”

Other might say that the distinction I raised is purely semantic.

If black folks are discriminated, it naturally follows that white people are privileged. Period.

My problem with that answer is that “anti-black racism” and “white privilege” do convey different meanings.

While the first involves racial prejudices and hatred against African Americans, the second suggests a conscious effort to favour a person having white colour.

As I explained in the case of the the policemen, it seems very likely that the former plays a much more important role than the latter.

Are poor whites to be punished?

Far from being a mere semantic choice, this concept of “white privileges” is very important to white liberals because it lies at the very foundation of their political worldview.

According to their deepest conviction, a white is always an oppressor and a black is always an oppressed, regardless of their relative well-being and plenty of other factors.

I mentioned elsewhere it is morally wrong to favour a rich woman over a poor man (or a rich African immigrant over a poor white) just because the latter didn’t have the chance to be born with the right genes.

Times and times again, I hear that the victims have to gladly accept that “positive” discrimination because they benefit of “white privileges” anyway.

As we saw previously, the problem is not that American officials do  undeserved favours to white folks just because they’re white but rather that they’re much more severe and unjust towards African Americans because they believe them to be inferior.

It is cynical and inhuman to tell a homeless “white trash” that he cannot be aided because he belongs to the race of the oppressors. As I pointed out elsewhere, even more than 2500 years ago, an ancient Hebrew prophet preached against the notion that children have to pay for the sin of their parents.

How much more absurd is that to hold him accountable for misdeeds nobody among even his direct relatives committed?

Another thing I often hear is that there are worrisome statistical differences between whites and blacks in America in terms of successful careers, poverty, unwarranted incarcerations and so on.

(I agree this is a shame. )

They go on arguing that we must even out these statistics as soon as possible even if this means committing injustices towards members of the dominant group underway.

It is here I strongly disagree with the underlying philosophy.

Mean values, standard deviations and any other statistical values you can imagine are unable to feel  anything.

The goal of any human system of morality should ultimately consider the well-beings of individuals who are capable of experiencing emotions such joy, pain, suffering and happiness.

Far from creating a society where race no longer plays any important role, affirmative action perpetuates such a state and hinders a real reconciliation between the white and black lower classes.

As Martin Luther King put it:

It is my opinion that many white workers whose economic condition is not too far removed from the economic condition of his black brother, will find it difficult to accept a “Negro Bill of Rights,” which seeks to give special consideration to the Negro in the context of unemployment, joblessness, etc. and does not take into sufficient account their plight (that of the white worker).

Martin Luther Kind giving a talk.
Martin Luther King: modern prophet who truly loved his “enemies”.

I believe we ideally need a race-neutral affirmative action which considers the relative well-being of the two candidates in question along their chances of getting hired elsewhere.

Racial peace can only be reached once we’ve given up collective punishment and the idea that children are responsible for the sins of those having the same skin colour or the same Y chromosome as they have.

Advertisements

The confessions of a heretical progressive

At Patheos Progressive Christian, united Methodist minister Morgan Guyton wrote an interesting post I reacted to.

*****

Why white Christians need to listen to Amos and Isaiah

“But let justice roll down like waters; and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24 is a verse that gets thrown around a lot in times of protest like the most recent unrest in Baltimore. Taken by itself, this verse is pretty innocuous. Who’s opposed to the idea of justice and righteousness? But it becomes a very different message when we read it in context, starting with verse 21:

I hate, I despise your festivals,
    and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
    I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
    I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
    I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
    and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

Do you hear what God is telling the Israelites through Amos? He hates their worship. He hates their inspiring, accessible sermon series on Biblical living. He hates it when they go on and on about how much he deserves to be praised. He hates their relevant pop culture video clips. He hates the way that the pianist plays softly under the preacher’s prayer. He hates their smiles and their Jesus jukes. He hates their exhibitionist false humility.

Why does God hate these things? Because they have not produced justice. Old Testament prophets like Amos are unanimous in their declaration that worship without justice is a mockery to God. Isaiah 1:12-17  says the same thing:

When you come to appear before me, who asked this from your hand? Trample my courts no more; bringing offerings is futile; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and calling of convocation— I cannot endure solemn assemblies with iniquity. Your new moons and your appointed festivals my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you stretch out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.

What if God is actually angry, just not for the things we want him to be angry about and not at the people we want him to be angry at? Many Christians who like to talk about an angry God define sin in such a way that they could never be the objects of God’s wrath. But what if God is angry at us, the people who love to sing happy songs about him and talk about how grateful and humble we are? What if the rage in Baltimore this past week is part of how God is articulating his wrath against the church that’s supposed to be fighting injustice? If Amos and Isaiah were alive today, they wouldn’t have any qualms about naming the Baltimore riots as a sign of God’s wrath.

I’m not saying that the individuals who burn down buildings aren’t committing sins by doing so. But I do believe the collective rage that has exploded into violence is an expression of God’s wrath. When truth and human dignity have been violated repeatedly in millions of ways as they have in the lives of our country’s black community, God’s wrath is kindled.

To understand this, we have to recognize that God’s hatred of sin comes from a place of solidarity with victims, not sanctimony about law. That’s what Jesus teaches us over and over again in his debates with the Pharisees. God does not hate imperfection and rule-breaking on account of his ego as a lawmaker. God hates it when our collective idolatry and selfishness cultivate a world order that crushes the most vulnerable. Worshiping God is supposed to help us get over ourselves and purge our hearts of the idols and selfish agendas that make us aloof to injustice.

The problem is that worship for privileged people too often becomes an indirect form of self-congratulation just like it was for the people Amos and Isaiah were yelling at thousands of years ago. The more that I go on and on about how good God is, the more likely it is that I’m doing it to show other people how good I am at talking about God’s goodness. Even sitting through “tough” sermons about sin can make me feel even more satisfied with myself for having a dour, sober perspective about the wickedness of humanity rather than convicting me personally into true repentance and humility.

If worship is doing what it’s supposed to do, it’s supposed to melt me. It’s supposed to leave me the opposite of self-satisfied. It’s not supposed to produce a snide scoffer, but a heart that is wounded by God’s mercy and burdened by the need to share it with others. I wonder what Amos and Isaiah would say about the self-satisfied scorn that so many white Christians have been spewing out into social media in response to the rage in Baltimore. What would they say about the efficacy of our worship? Would they tell us to “trample [God’s] courts no more”?

***********

While agreeing with almost everything he wrote, I couldn’t help but express my frustration with what I view as the selective moral indignation of the progressive crowd.

Here was our exchange.

*******

Hi Morgan.
I just discovered your blog.
Theologically speaking, I’m pretty progressive since I not only reject Biblical inerrancy but also believe that the Bible isn’t necessarily always more inspired than books outside it.
I’m also completely disgusted by the obsession of Conservative Evangelicals with homosexuality while they find it perfectly fine that poor children do not receive a decent healthcare from the State.
(A concept I developed here).

I completely agree with the general principles about social justice you evoked.

I’ve also no doubt at all that a strong anti-black racism among American law enforcement officials is still alive and well in 2015.

Anti-black racism: people killed by the police accoring to their ethnicity.
Anti-black racism: Given their much smaller proportion in the American population, Afro-Americans are disproportionately killed while not attacking in comparison to Americans of European descent.
It is horrendously shameful this is still the case at the dawn of the third millennium.

But I fear that often times Western liberals can be as callous, self-righteous and harmful as Conservatives.

One perfect example is their widespread belief in the legitimacy of collective punishment which is a logical consequence of their belief in unconditional positive discrimination, the idea that a female person should be favoured over a male person and a black one over a white one, regardless of the life conditions of the two individuals in question.

As I once explained, I think this can lead to quite wicked decisions if their respective well-being isn’t taken into consideration.
I think it is profoundly wrong to disadvantage a very poor man against a wealthy female because the former isn’t born with two X chromosomes.
I think it is profoundly wrong to disadvantage a very poor white person against a wealthy black person because the former isn’t born with the genes responsible for a black pigmentation.

I strongly believe that liberals defending the morality of these actions are NOT “fighting injustice” and rescuing the oppressed.

I believe that if there is to be any positive discrimination at all, it should be based on wealth and well-being and not on factors not directly related to the suffering of the persons.

American scholar Richard D. Kahlenberg wrote a long paper about this:

Another related liberal injustice is the systematic refusal to recognise the existence of racial hatred against white people and/or to condemn it.

While I cannot speak about modern America, I can say that acts of racial violence targeting innocent white folks are very real in France.

ve
Whilst it isn’t institutionalised, anti-white violence is real. For the sake of the victims, such acts need to be exposed and condemned as racial hatred. Nobody is morally guilty for having the same skin colour as slave traders.

I think that the very worst thing liberals can do consists of misusing such tragedies affecting black people as a justification for the suffering of innocent white persons.
Western liberals need to listen to the prophet Ezekiel who remind us that “the child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.”
By acting in this way, they’re upholding a vicious circle of hatred and planting the seeds of the destruction of us all.

What frustrates me enormously is that some “progressives” I explain my views to call me a “white supremacist” even if they know absolutely nothing about me.

I’m a Germanic Frenchman and after the terrorist attacks in Paris, I’ve been loudly saiying that many Muslims find this appalling as well and that we should absolutely overcome the temptation to lump them together with militant fundamentalists.
I often stand for the right of Muslim women to wear a headscarf in the public sphere and in enterprises if they choose to.

I hardly know any “other” white supremacist who acts in such a manner.

I find it a real pity that instead of challenging any ideas getting in the way of justice, political progressivism has degenerated into the unconditional adherence to a set of dogmas with no tolerance towards heretics such as myself.

I did not write all these things as a criticism of your blog post but rather as an expression of my frustration with the progressive movement as a whole .

I find that the ideas you convey here are really excellent and I’ll surely take a look at other posts you wrote.

My only concern would be the choice of your title.
I agree that white American Christians are more likely to ignore problems of social justice than Christians with an Afro-American background owing to historical and cultural factors.

But is it really true that, on a worldwide scale, white Christians tend to neglect their duties towards the poor much more often than non-white Christians (keeping Jesus’ parable about the poor widow in mind)?
I haven’t seen any evidence showing this.

Finally, it is worth noting that my criticism of liberal biases is not akin to downplaying the extent of the atrocities American blacks still suffer from.

Here is the answer of Morgan.

Thanks for your thoughtful engagement. The title was my weakest point. I wasn’t sure who needed to read Amos exactly. I think we all do.

And my final reply.

Thanks for your quick answer!

I understand you had very good intentions. I think this might unfortunately lead to prejudices against white persons not having this despicable mentality.

I greatly appreciate your humility.
Be blessed.

*****

I was very glad that our exchange remained so friendly. I think that things might have unfolded in a very different direction if I had started out using a culture-war rhetoric. I really think that kindness and humility are two essential moral features which help one not cause or ramp up heated and loveless arguments.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Openly condemning all forms of racial hatred?

Rebecca Trotter replied to my last post about anti-white hatred entitled “Racism has no color: an affront against political correctness.”

**********

OK, I’m going to push back at you a bit here. Imagine for a minute that in the past minority peoples had been forced to live in trees while white people were able to live in homes on the ground. Living in trees meant that it took more time and energy just to get to work, stores, entertainment and the like as they were all situated on the ground and climbing up and down trees is a lot of work. It also meant that the people living in trees had a significantly higher rate of skin cancer as they were closer to the sun. And occasionally, a child or even a whole house would fall out of the tree and die/be destroyed. The people living in the trees would also be stigmatized because, living in trees, they developed various ways of dealing with life which were foreign and distasteful to the ground dwellers.

Now, imagine that after several generations, society decided that they would no longer force people to live in trees. They weren’t going to help the people living in trees find and afford new homes on the ground, mind you. It was just that now, if a tree dweller could find a way to be successful enough, and was adventurous enough, they could join the white people living on the ground and enjoy the advantages of not having to climb up and down trees every time they needed to go somewhere or have their children and property endangered by gravity. As you can imagine, the migration out of the trees would probably be slow. For some time into the future the tree dwellers would continue to struggle to do well enough in life to actually get out of the trees. And some of them, particularly the youth, were angry about the state of their and their family’s lives. Now, the people who had always lived on the ground had their own problems. After all, living in a tree is hardly the only obstacle one can face in life. So while they agreed that having forced people to live in trees had been a bad idea and was no longer acceptable, they had their own problems and got tired of the grousing of the tree dwellers. After all, it wasn’t their fault that some people lived in trees. They weren’t responsible for creating the situation.

Imagine if a tree dweller said to a ground dweller, “living in a tree is destroying me and I can’t seem to find a way out! There are just so many obstacles to overcome and it’s all I can do to keep my family fed and safe and make it through each day. I hate living in a tree. It’s unfair that my people are living in trees while other people have always been able to live on the ground.” Do you really think that the tree dweller would be demanding a confession of guilt from the ground dweller? Or do you think that the tree dweller wants the ground dweller to hear of their struggle and have empathy? In this situation, would asking the ground dwelling people to help the tree dwellers overcome the problems that came with living in trees be a matter of asking them to carry the guilt of their fore-bearers who had created the unfair, harmful situation? Of course not! This idea that white people are being asked to carry guilt for what their forefathers did is a creation of the white imagination and not reality. What minorities want is for white people to stop dismissing and discounting their struggles and simply offer the same sort of empathy and assistance that any decent human being ought to offer to another who is struggling. They would like some acknowledgment from white people that being born a “ground dweller”, so to speak, means that there are certain struggles that we generally don’t have to deal with. What is being asked for is NOT guilt. What is being asked for is basic empathy and a willingness to do what we are able to do to help the “tree dwellers” move past the challenges which were left by our forefathers. Claiming that it’s about imputing guilt is a convenient way to wave off any sense of responsibility for our fellow man.

I also want to push back regarding your interaction with your Moroccan co-worker. Now, I agree that any act of bullying or violence, for whatever reason, is unacceptable. I would guess that your co-worker teaches her own children not to engage in such behaviors as well. However, I would also guess that your co-worker has personally witnessed, in a way that you have not, people who did not have the strength of spirit to deal with the obstacles and challenges that being a minority person entails. Not everyone has the character or strength of a saint. In real life, people do get to a place of bitterness, anger and despair that leads them to lash out at others. Particularly others who are, in their eyes, identified with the people who benefit from the way things are. (And whose children will witness and may repeat the bitterness their parents carry.) These people obviously cannot be given free reign to act on their anger and hatred. But no doubt your Moroccan co-worker is keenly aware of what brings a person to the point of doing that. And while I am certain she does not approve of people lashing out violently, no matter how downtrodden and angry they are, she does understand why it happens in a way that a person who has not seen it happen up close and personal do not. (And I’m not even getting into the way that when a white person behaves terribly, it is often ascribed to mental illness or getting caught up in crowd. Meanwhile a person of color behaving terribly is usually attributed to their culture and seen as a reflection of their community.)

On the other hand, the people who created this situation were not doing so because they had been pushed to the point of being crushed by the circumstances they were facing in life. They were doing so in order to maintain power and order. They were doing so out of convenience or because they did not feel the people they were pushing into untenable circumstances deserved any better. They did so because they did not want to risk having to do with less so that others could have what they needed. IOW, what drove people to create the situation of inequality is not really comparable in any way to what drive a person living on the losing end of their actions to lash out. And no doubt, for your Moroccan co-worker to hear the two situations painted as equivalent is offensive. A poor person who steals from their employer is still stealing and ought not do so, but their actions are not morally comparable to a dictator that steals his nations’ resources for his own benefit and leaves the people desperate and impoverished. And that, I believe, is why your co-worker responded so negatively.

Also, one of the things that I have become aware of is that we white people have an expectation that minority people would be sympathetic to and concerned about our negative experiences when it comes to race while we ourselves are frequently dismissive and skeptical of their negative experiences. It’s a bit like a sighted person complaining about the cost of prescription glasses to a blind person who, after all, can get by with sunglasses which don’t cost nearly as much. It just shows a lack of awareness on our part. I apologize if this sounds dismissive to you, but let me give you an illustration of how this plays out in real life. Here in the USA the practice of setting aside jobs, college admissions or scholarships for people of color is hugely controversial. White conservatives in particular consider it to be the ultimate hypocrisy as they see it as a form of reverse racism and aren’t we supposed to be getting rid of racism? So, let’s just accept the sake of discussion that they are completely right about this. Affirmative action (as this practice is called) is racism against white people and ought not be allowed in a society which is committed to equality for all people. And let’s just say, for the sake of our discussion, that this sentiment is widely shared by people of color as well. Even with all this being the case, it is quite likely that a white person condemning affirmative action to a person of color will be met with anger and hostility. Why?

The thing is that affirmative action is a form of discrimination that literally affects maybe 10,000 white people every year. And that’s a generous guess. The real number is probably much less than that. On the other hand, here in the USA, we have a situation where approximately 13% of drug users and drug dealers are African American, yet 60% of drug prisoners are African American. And that affects hundreds of thousands of African Americans each year.

Pot calling the kettle black.
Black people are much more affected by the War On Drug than white consumers.

And not only is the actual number of people affected by this racist system far, far larger than the number of people affected by affirmative action, because such a small percent of Americans are African American (12-14%), nearly every African American is affected by this racist system in some way. Plus, white people who lose out on a job or college admission due to affirmative action then have to find another job or school. Black people who are jailed for drug offenses not only lose their freedom for years on end, once they are out, they are virtually unemployable, have a hard time finding housing, can’t vote and in many places are unable to get any welfare benefits or educational assistance.

The end result is that white people are really, really upset by the racism of affirmative action, which affects almost no body, isn’t life destroying and isn’t widespread, yet the much bigger and more destructive racism of our “justice” system is hardly on most white people’s radar. In fact, when the problem is raised, most white people reflexively blame black people for the problem. Thus even a person of color who disagrees with affirmative action is likely to have much sympathy for white people who are harmed by it.

When white people insist that the discrimination they experience is a really, really big deal while simultaneously refusing to pour just as much energy and resources into fighting the much more devastating discrimination experienced by people of color, it will rub people of color the wrong way. To say the least. When we then try to get them to join us in being outraged over discrimination experienced by white people, well, let’s just say that we white people are lucky that bazooka’s are illegal.

The thing with “PC” is that while it is often poorly and foolishly executed, at it’s heart it is simply an attempt to get white people to move past our programmed self-centered views and show some consideration for and awareness of how our words, actions and attitude affect and appear to people of color. That’s it. We struggle with it because we have this idea that while our forebearers obviously left a mess that continues to affect minorities, we believe that we ourselves are unaffected. And that’s just not so. That we experience demands that something be done to fix the mess left behind as charges of guilt and object to being asked to consider the perspectives of the “other” as unreasonable whitewashing is evidence of the way that this pernicious evil practiced by those who went before us has caused us harm that we must also struggle to overcome.

*********

My answer follows.

Hi Rebecca.

Thanks for your long and thoughtful reply.

I really liked your metaphor about the tree-dwellers and ground-dwellers and think it is a great (albeit sad) description of the situation in America and other Western countries.
I think there are several things I’d like to say in response.

__
1) I used “racism” as a synonym for “racial hatred” as this use is widespread in Europe, at least among common people.

I didn’t mean institutionalized racism.

What I was saying is that anti-white hatred is as real as any other kind of racial hatred and that it must be as firmly opposed.

__
2) You say that white people are oblivious to the inequalities other races suffer from.

You further say that if a gruesome crime is committed by a “colored” individual, white folks tend to assume it is not just due to mental illness but to his being black.

I don’t know the situation in the US in 2015. If this is still the case, this is very saddening indeed.
In modern France, this attitude is no longer widespread among the younger generations.
The large majority certainly stands for equal rights regardless of skin color.
And if after a psychopathic crime someone were to say “You see! These Blacks are crazy!” he’d spawn disgust and disdain against him.

Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is still widespread towards Muslims, especially after the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo. This is extremely unjust, preoccupying and revolting. Yet, this is not driven by feelings of racial superiority but by an ethnocentric conviction that our Western civilization is good whereas other cultures are savage and evil.

3) I completely agree there are laws in the US which are systematically very harmful to minorities.

The “war on drug” disgusts, horrifies and infuriates me. There’s absolutely no denial on my part that this wicked enterprise is massively ruining the life of young black men.

Overwhelming Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrets.
The prohibition of drugs has a terrible effect on the lives of countless young black persons.

Given all the financial interests related to this crusade, it’s perhaps never going to be abolished.

I find this monstrous and long for this evil to be undone.
I do believe, however, that my being white does not attribute me any kind of guilt, all the more so since I want it to cease as soon as possible.

I can’t honestly think of any kind of reasoning which would justify that alleged logical connection:

“Marc is white => Marc is partially responsible for the war on drugs destroying the lives of countless black persons”

I appreciate the fact you emphasized it’s not a question of feeling guilty but one of feeling empathy towards those who are still suffering  from the consequences of past abuses.

I do agree it is our moral duty as Christians and as human beings to act in an empathic way towards them.

4) Your analogy about stealing is an interesting one.

I certainly accept the fact that the moral culpability of members of a poor (and  formerly oppressed) ethnic minority who have to steal for surviving might be far lower than that of members of the dominant group engaging in the same type of activity.
However, this isn’t what I meant there.

I had in mind gratuitous crimes driven by sheer hatred.

As for example a gang of Arabs who wanted to rape a white woman after having screamed to the husband: “We’ll fuck your white whore!”.

It is my contention that from the standpoint of the victim and her suffering, this act is as heinous as the reverse situation where a white gang attempts to rape a black woman after having screamed “We’ll fuck your black whore!”

So, I think it’s perfectly in order to loudly say in the first case: “This is racial hatred. This is wrong. We need to reject that as well in order to build up a stable society. The past and present crimes of white institutions doesn’t justify in any way, shape or form this kind of heinous deeds.

and I could draw on French-speaking black rappers making these points.

5) Let me give you a personal analogy to drive this point home.
It does not involve races but another situation of institutionalized ethnic discrimination.

I’m a Germanic Frenchman coming from a region which has been historically bilingual French-German (I speak roughly half of the time in French and half of the time in German to my father).

France has always had a very repressive policy towards regions having a non-French culture (I documented this sad state of affairs here).

An intense propaganda has been carried out for convincing people that they ought to ONLY speak French to their children and that the languages spoken by their ancestors belong to the past.
Children speaking in dialect in the schoolyards were severely punished and oftentimes even beaten.
Any kind of administrative act and public meeting had to be performed in French.

People speaking in dialect or speaking in French with a strong accent were systematically mocked and even bullied by many (ethnic) French people.

Consequently, in my region, German has inexorably declined to such an extent that nowadays, people younger than I (I’m 30 years old) only speak French. It seems now doomed to disappear.

While modern Britain finances bilingual schools English/Welsh and does everything it can for allowing this language to survive, France of 2015 consistently refuses to compensate for the cultural genocides of the past by allowing bilingualism in private schools and administrations.
No, countless politicians hold fast to the dogma that French is the only tongue which ought to be used. Many of them still view dialects as a threat (which is disgustingly absurd since in many cases they’re spoken by less than 10% of the local population).

Now, does that situation mean that someone bullying a French person for defending French is less heinous than a French person bullying someone for defending a dialect?
It is true that in the second case, the misdeed is built upon a history of institutionalized discrimination.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that both acts should be exposed and condemned.

I’m far from being a saint in that respect. A while ago, a Frenchman started an action against Anglicisms invading the French language.
This made me angry and I reacted with harsh words: “What? You destroyed the language of our ancestors and you dare to complain about your language being modified to a small extent by English influence?…”
He answered me that he’s for the preservation of all languages and has never endorsed French repression against dialects.

I then understood I had been  unjust while attacking him and saying he was responsible for the destruction of our tongue just by virtue of his being French and loving the French language.
So I went to him and sincerely apologized.

While being an activist defending dialects and combating current French policies, I now openly condemn any hateful assertion about French people coming from my fellow Lorrains and Alsatians (i.e. the inhabitants of my homeland.)

__
6) To your mind, how does Jesus view the situation?

Suppose that a black and a white woman get (or got) gang-raped owing to their skin color.
Does he feel any less angry (or compassionate) in one case rather than in the other?

At the very least, I believe that His compassion is the same in both situations.

Jesus: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.  Jewish woman: certainly he doesn't mean the Romans?  Jewish man: I hope not.
Jesus preaching love towards our enemies. Has there been any progress during the last two thousand years in that respect?

__
To conclude, I contend that:

a) racial hatred against white people truly exists and it has real physical consequences
b) acts driven by racial hatred should be called for what they are and firmly condemned no matter who the victims and perpetrators are
c) holding this position doesn’t amount to being a white supremacist.

__
I hope we can have a nice conversation despite our fundamental disagreements about this particular problem. In many of the things I went into, I was not necessarily criticizing your personal views but was making general points.

We should keep in mind that I can’t automatically translate the current situation in France to America and you can’t automatically assume to know how things in Western Continental Europe look like.

(That’s not an accusation, just a remark. )

There are many historical and cultural concepts which greatly differ (for instance, Arabs tend to be much more often victims of discrimination than Blacks in France).

I do believe we should all strive for a society where ethnicity no longer plays any role in terms of advantages and hurdles for living one’s life. I’m convinced this demands fighting impartially hate towards innocent people who never asked to be born with their skin color.

I think that issues concerning the shape reparations should take and positive discrimination are very complex ones and I have not (yet) any firm position in that respect.

Cheers and blessings.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)

Racism has no color: an affront against political correctness.

Rebecca Trotter, a Facebook friend of mine, wrote an incredibly insightful comment on one of my last posts I want to reproduce here.

(You can visit her own blog here).

It was about my pointing out that anti-white racism is real and should be combated as much as any other kind of racism.

While I don’t necessarily agree with everything she wrote, I find her thoughts really profound.

***

I have come to think that part of the reason we have failed in the Western world to handle the problem of race productively is because we don’t really understand the problem we are dealing with. We tend to think of racism as interpersonal animus motivated by an irrational dislike for certain races. So the answer must be to fight this interpersonal animus where ever it shows up. However, as we have seen, this isn’t all that effective.

We want white tenants in our white community.
Racism and discrimination in America.

The thing is that back when racism was motivated by this sort of irrational hostility towards a group of people based on race, people didn’t just walk around being nasty to certain groups. They actually set policy which had as its goal putting certain groups at a disadvantage and not allowing them to escape that disadvantage. Often this was done openly for the benefit of the dominant group. For example, it was quite common for discussions of employment to revolve around the need to protect jobs for white men, thus justifying discriminating against women and people of color. We tend to think that these discussions from the past aren’t particularly relevant to the present since we no longer engage in that sort of thinking. However, that doesn’t mean that the problems created by the past go away all by themselves. A good example of this is housing discrimination. After WWII, while white Americans were able to buy houses using the GI Bill, neighborhoods where African Americans were allowed to buy homes were excluded from eligibility for GI loans and other conventional forms of financing. When African Americans figured out ways to buy homes anyways, realtors and bankers engaged in shady practices which resulted in many African Americans losing their homes and those who didn’t were left with homes that were worth less than people had paid for them. Those who lost their homes or never could manage to get a house, were forced into unsafe, poorly serviced neighborhoods. And this is how we ended up with our crime ridden inner cities. We forced people to live there and then blamed them for not being able to overcome all the obstacles placed in their way. So that’s a problem which we created and which is still with us today. But because we think that racism is only about whether one particular person is nice to another particular person, we don’t really understand how unsafe minority communities are the result of racism, much less what to do about it. A lot of people don’t even understand why we might have an obligation to do something, in fact. So we don’t.

Then there’s the fact that people rarely dislike other groups of people for purely irrational reasons anymore. Generally, they have reasons they dislike other people. They don’t like the way they act, talk, dress, their attitudes, their morals, etc, etc, etc. So a lot of people feel like they are being forced to pretend that what they find unacceptable is not problematic for the sake of PC. However, what I have learned is that the things that people are most likely to point to as legitimate reasons for disapproving of another group of people was the direct result of a wrong done to them or their people and a set of insurmountable obstacles they were facing. For example, I have known some of these infamous black men who have children with multiple women, wind up in jail, etc, etc. Every single one of them suffered horrendous abuse growing up. (I am completely convinced that it should be possible to look at any pathologies present in any given African American family and trace them directly back to their people’s experiences during slavery. Women who were raped by their owners did not go on to have healthy relationships with other men. Men beaten by their owners and overseers did not go on to raise their children with patience and time-outs.) All of these men were raised without dads. (The US government went through a period where it would not provide assistance to families with a man in the home. So we’re not innocent in creating that situation.) All of them had witnessed terrible violence both inside and outside the home while growing up. They usually desperately want the love and approval of a woman, but have poor relationship skills and they are attracted to women with similar trauma histories who also have poor relationship skills. These men didn’t just wake up from comfortable lives one day and decide to act an ass. They needed help long before they got to the point of impregnating people and causing trouble. But we have nothing but contempt for these men.

Two black boys in a poor suburb.
Black ghetto produced by a wicked housing policy.

At the end of the day, I think that we simply have not faced the depth of the damage done by our racist past. What we see as increasing levels of pathology, immorality and the like are actually the fruit of seeds planted in our societies long ago reaching harvest time. I think that once we understand the problems that way, we can start finding practical solutions that will make a real difference. But Americans are obscenely immature. Any solution that starts with having compassion on someone who they don’t think deserves compassion is a no-go. Poor Americans vote Republican because they believe in a world where good people get rewarded and bad people get punished. It’s a fantasy, but one that they put their trust in because, after all, they are good people. So if those who share their belief that good people should be rewarded are in charge, they will be rewarded. Or at least they will be able to take some satisfaction in knowing that the bad people (who just so happen to be disproportionately African American) get punished.

Anyhow, sorry this is super long, but it’s a complex topic and one that I’m convinced is generally poorly understood.

**********

There is absolutely no doubt that the white dominant class in America committed atrocious crimes whose consequences can still be felt.

I certainly want justice to be achieved and the wounds of the past to be healed.

Interestingly enough, France has a similar history concerning the housing policy.

After World War II, French capitalists fostered a massive immigration of workers from their Arabic and black African colonies. They did that because this manpower could be paid much less than the salary they would have had to give to Europeans. They decided to put all of them into public housing apartments plagued by poverty and bad life standards.

The ethnic tensions experienced by modern France are a direct result of this shameful policy.

It was sheer madness to have massively imported workers with a very different cultural background, concentrated them within poor suburbs with awful life conditions, discriminated them and then expected that everything would be just fine.

That said, I must also emphasize that I reject the idea of a collective culpability of the white race (if there really is such a thing in the first place).

I once discussed with a former colleague from Morocco and I told her:

Racism hasn’t any color. The seeds of hatred, intolerance, bigotry and xenophobia can take root everywhere” and I then went on evoking the case of French children being bullied in schoolyards owing to their being white.

She became really angry.

“But haven’t you seen what France did to us? Aren’t you aware of all the horrors they inflicted to us during the colonial time?”

I wasn’t willing to engage an unproductive verbal fight and so I just left.

"Colored" rowdies are kicking a white victim who has fallen on the ground.
Anti-white racism during a demonstration.
The victims are left-wing French people who were, ironically enough, protesting against inequalities. The racist character of the aggressions is recognized by even mainstream left-wing medias.

While she isn’t an evil person by any means, her words (reflecting what countless people think) are extremely offensive from a moral standpoint.

To see how, let us first consider what a Jewish prophet loudly proclaimed 1600 years ago.

The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.
Ezechiel 18:20 preaching against the notion of an inherited guilt.

This ancient text is extremely strong in that it went against the widespread concept that children of wicked people should be retributed for the misdeeds of their parents or that their current suffering was a divine punishment (a notion which can, incidentally, be found in other Biblical passages).

More than twenty centuries later, this very notion hasn’t been erased everywhere, alas.

The conversation I had with my former colleague is a sad example of this state of affairs.

If punishing children for the crimes of their parents is morally abhorrent, how much more horrendous is it to bully and hurt someone just because he or she has the same skin color as a group of oppressors.

It is depressing that if anyone dares to speak out about the reality of anti-whit racism, the Slaves of Political Correctness (SPC) shoot from the hip and become morally indignant.

I’m convinced that far from promoting peace, their fanatical denial of this phenomenon fosters a vicious circle of hatred.

Indeed, white folks who have been victim of such hateful acts are likely to join far-right groups after having been ignored or even ridiculed by all mainline politically correct parties.

The racist is the other man.  Really? Are you sure?
The racist is the other man.
Really? Are you sure?

I’m persuaded that a society where skin color no longer plays any role can only be created through a battle against every kind of hate regardless of its source and object.

Thematic list of ALL posts on this blog (regularly updated)

My other blog on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP)