I am always suspect of white "friends in struggle." it's not that they are inherently untrustworthy but rather that they, like all other whites can fall to white privilege. This can happen even when they have nothing but pure motivations. The more their livelihood is dependent on race talk, the more suspect I usually become. Like their black counterparts, there is a line that the "anti-racist" must toe. For many of the people who are their primary audiences, these lines seem to be quite spectacular. Indeed relative to most people, these persons are quite revolutionary and indeed deserve a modicum of applause for their efforts. However; the issue I have is that ultimately they are dependent on their own ideas of what should and should not become real. And these ideas are ultimately bound by the limits of their own consciousness. Before we continue with Tim, let me go back to a few other well known "anti-racists" which would be known as "anti-abolitionist" in their day.
Some time ago I was moved by the spirit to pick up a book by Lloyd William Garrison. He is the famous abolitionist that ran with Frederick Douglass. If one looks at Mr. Garrison's writing on the issue of slavery you will note a strong dislike of traditional African culture. All throughout the writings and publications of many abolitionists are statements about bringing the light of Christianity and civilization to "the dark continent". All of the writings about freeing "the slaves" were couched in terms of the "civilizing" mission of Europeans. Even the African Colonisation Society (ACS) was rife with such terms. Liberia would not only allow for freedmen and women to built their own society, they would also civilize the native African and bring him to the light of the true religion.
Even the great Jim Brown, often sited as a prime example of white cooperation with blacks, made derogatory statements about African culture. Mind you, I'm sure that many Africans were interested in many things that Europeans brought with them, but I'm not entirely convinced that on the whole Africans felt that their own culture was inferior to anyone else. Yet this train of thought among largely Christian abolitionists, both black and white, became bedrock in the ideologies of "anti-racists" up to the modern day.
There has indeed been other factors that are specific to the situation of African-Americans. Being a small minority of the general population in the United States, Blacks here have developed in a fashion far less "African" than their brethren in other parts of the diaspora where the black population tended to be larger than the white ones. Jim Crow and other means were used to mentally train blacks into thinking in certain ways. This being Black History Month, I would suggest that all readers of this essay take an opportunity to visit or revisit The Mis-education of the Negro by Carter G. Woodson.
It has been demonstrated that when asked their opinions on certain racial issues both blacks and whites will at times "adjust" their answers to fit some preconceived or implanted ideas of racial harmony. Blacks especially will have negative opinions of anything perceived as "discriminatory" even if it isn't in reality. Any black person , at least in the US, knows of the 'hushed tones" and such that occurs when the topic of race comes up in "mixed company" or other situations in which they feel that their ability to maintain employment could be threatened. For this reason alone, I'm not willing to trust the statements of someone who is not white when they presume to state with certainty what black people "want" or "believe." Simply put, many blacks with the experience and knowledge to have thought out such things are unlikely to even bother with answering certain questions.
One such hot topic would be school desegregation. Publicly blacks have put on the face of "we are for school integration." Many of these blacks themselves went to "segregated" schools and while they may have deplored the lack of modern equipment and the like, I've yet to meet one black person who went to a segregated school who spoke of the experience as inherently "bad" or that they felt cheated by the mere absence of white students. And be sure, when the discussion of segregation or separation it is almost always put in black and white terms. This is due to the fact that blacks are always seen as people that need to be "looked after" and experimented on. As thousands of blacks who go to HBCU's illustrate, being separate is not necessarily a bad thing. It has been reported in various black academic journals that even the teachers in such overwhelmingly black schools do not mind the demographics. What they object to is the school funding.
In residential spaces as similar phenomenon plays out. removing the issue of poverty and the material wants produced by such a condition, blacks who live in predominantly black neighborhoods, such as South Jamaica, Queens NYC, like living around mostly black people. They like having patty stores here and there. They like being able to meet neighbors from the same countries they or their parents may have come from. They like the common culture shared among the residents. They also like the idea that their neighborhood may provide suitable mates for their children who can pass on their culture to their grandchildren. Oddly enough, many of the blacks that move away from such "hoods" find themselves returning for the cultural things they cannot get while living in other 'more integrated" neighborhoods. many blacks in 'suburbs" surrounded by whites find that they need to find others "black like them" in order for their children to not be culturally isolated from other people "like them."
With those things covered lets examine this article by Tim Wise. Wise quotes a White Nationalist by the name of Jared Taylor:
As white nationalist Jared Taylor put it during our debate at Vanderbilt University last year, “Preferring members of one’s own race is no different than having a preference for one’s own children as opposed to those of one’s neighbor.”
I can't say I disagree with Jared on this point. Note that Jared does not state anything about disliking ones neighbor or burning crosses on ones neighbor or any other negative activity. Wise counters with the fact that such racial divisions are artificial due to some plot of the racists. Wise points out that little children when put into play areas will not separate themselves out by color, the usual euphemism for race. Says Wise:
Put two-year olds of different “races” in a room with an assortment of toys and you’ll see what I mean. Although certain kids will get along better with some of the rest of the group than others, their emerging affiliations will rarely if ever break down along racial lines, even if the children have never been around “other” race kids before.
Although children that age can discern differences in skin color, they are too young to have typically ascribed value to such a thing; as such they don’t naturally fear those who look different, or cleave to those who look similar.
Children encountering other children (at least if they do so before being exposed to too much media imagery or other negative conditioning) naturally gravitate to a common and recognizable humanity. They realize instinctively what grown-ups too readily forget, or have been taught to ignore: namely, that in biological and genetic terms, there is no meaningful difference between so-called racial groups.
While this is true, wise fails to ask or address the other glaring issue that children do form cliques. Though these may not be "based on" race, the fact that they can decide that certain children are "not nice" or whatever basis they use to form lesser bonds with some other child, is the basis for later "preferences." A similar position was put forth at a conference I attended. They found that when children were given common group tasks, "racial" differences were put aside for the "greater good." I asked if when competing against a different team if such hostile stereotypes and other hallmarks of "racism" were evident. They affirmed that it did indeed happen between groups.
Here lies my problem with "child' examples. As the Christian Bible points out. Jesus is claimed to have said when I was a child I thought and spake as a child." Children are more or less blank slates, the same thing that makes them ideal examples of "how things should be" is the same thing that disqualifies them from being such examples.
If we were to eliminate race from the equation, what would we be left with. Culture. within every racial group are ethnic groups. Why are Igbos and Yorubas different? Why do they speak a different language? Why do they call the Supreme being different things? No one really knows for sure, but I would suggest that it had a large part to do with behavior. My position is that groups such as the Yoruba and Igbo developed because individuals in these groups liked each others ideas and behaviors and decided to create and live in communities where they could develop that which would be their culture. Though they may still interact with other groups that developed among their own lines, they still preferred to live among themselves. If this theory is correct then "separation" is indeed endemic to the human condition and "racism" merely became another behaviour that persons gravitated around. This would also make Jared correct in his statement. I may not care for the ideology of white nationalists, but I'm not about to claim anything they say is invalid simply because I don't like their group ideology. But Wise tips his hand when he points out "negative conditioning." Are all conditionings negative? What qualifies as negative conditioning?
Wise points out:
>Far from natural, racial bias stems from propaganda. If people are told repeatedly that certain folks make bad neighbors, drive down property values, or bring crime to a neighborhood, they will likely come to believe these things, with or without first-hand evidence for such beliefs.
This indeed is true: But that would not explain why people in South Jamaica Queens choose to live in largely black neighborhoods. Clearly the above stereotype does not apply to whites. The fact that the stereotype does not apply to whites would also explain Wises next statement:
Asian Pacific Islanders and Latinos too have high rates of intermarriage with whites, and rarely seek to avoid whites the way whites seek to avoid being around “too many” people of color.
Historically in the US as well as in the Caribbean, non-black "people of color" have been designated by the white power structure as being more desirable, more evolved and of a higher culture than blacks. Indeed many Latinos are in fact whites (Europeans) with Spanish names. Indeed I stumbled into an "Asian" internet board where many Asians were discussing, with disgust I might add, the propensity, as they saw it for Asian women to go after white men when the opportunity arises. If such a phenomenon is accurate and the discussion that I saw was correct, then Mr. Wise would be possibly painting a false picture of the rates of intermarriage among these groups.
Another area where Mr. Wise fails to portray an accurate picture of AA thought is in "staying with their own kind":
Most whites, on the other hand, say they prefer no more than 10 percent people of color in their neighborhoods. Likewise, when asked by pollsters, whites are 45 percent more likely than blacks to say that it’s best for people to “stick with their own kind” in the racial sense.
While blacks may be reporting low incidences of "stick with your kind" tendencies, in action blacks, particularly black women, are the least likely group to marry outside of their race. So why the discrepancy between reported attitudes and actual actions? I take us right back to my position earlier that blacks basically lie to poll takers in order to seem to fit the common conceptions of "racial harmony." But you'd need to be in the group to know this since we operate on a "ask but don't tell" policy. It is an odd statistic that persons who want to live in 50-50 neighborhoods (No Asians I guess) also exhibit the lowest amount of interracial family creation. I guess then that Blacks like to pair up with each other and then be the spot in the neighborhood.
Wise attempts to retroactively apply his theory to the contact between colonizers and Africans. He states:
Indeed, it was in part the openness of African and indigenous American cultures, and their relative lack of racial “consciousness” that rendered them vulnerable to conquest, enslavement and colonization. In other words, some folks appear more likely to engage in racial “othering,” and those most susceptible (at least in the U.S.) are white.
I disagree with this statement. I believe that history shows that Africans indeed realized that whites were "other." What Africans did NOT have was the idea that a person could be someones material property. They were more than happy, unfortunately, to make "others" out of different ethnic groups or religious groups etc. . The African lacked the culture of anything for profit and private ownership.
Tim Wise gets a lot of things right. I like him for that. What I do disagree with him on is when he trots out statistics to show what blacks "want." I do not like it when boot licking blacks do that, and I dislike it coming from white man and women. No matter how non-racist he may be, he is not black and therefore, in my opinion should not attempt to state with any certainty as to what blacks want or don't want. As it regards this particular piece I'm not convinced that the dissenters in this case actually meant that racism, as commonly defined (but not adhered to here on this blog) was natural. I wasn't there so I could be wrong. Group separation is a natural social occurrence exhibited in each and every human society on earth and is not a necessarily bad thing. Furthermore, Natural does not necessarily mean inborn instinct sometimes it means natural progression.