Posts Tagged ‘Race and Racism’

How political correctness shields oligarchy

May 21, 2014

 The survivalist blogger Dmitry Orlov thinks debating “political correctness” is a way to prevent discussion of real issues of American politics.

Discussions of social policy, especially with regard to such things as the rights of women and sexual and racial minorities, play a very special role in American politics.  … It has recently been shown that the US is not a democracy, in which public policy is influenced by public opinion, but an oligarchy, where public policy is driven by the wishes of moneyed interests.

Dmitry Orlov

Dmitry Orlov

On major issues, such as whether to provide public health care or whether to go to war, public opinion matters not a whit.  But it is vitally important to maintain the appearance of a vibrant democracy, and here social policy provides a good opportunity for encouraging social divisions: split the country up into red states and blue states, and keep them in balance by carefully measured infusions of money into politics, so as to maintain the illusion of electoral choice.

Throw a bit of money at a religious fundamentalist candidate, and plenty of feminists, gays and lesbians will vote for the opposing kleptocrat who will, once elected, help Wall Street confiscate the rest of their retirement savings, in return for a seat on the board; throw another bit of money at a rainbow-colored lesbian, and plenty of bible-thumping traditionalists will vote for the opposing kleptocrat who, once elected, will funnel tax money to his pet defense contractor in return for some juicy kickbacks.  This part of the American political system works extremely well.

On the other hand, if some matter comes before the politicians that requires helping the people rather than helping themselves and their wealthy masters, the result is a solid wall of partisan deadlock.  This part works very well too—for the politicians, and for the moneybags who prop them up, but not for the people.


Racism and diversity: country comparisons

August 15, 2013

Double click to enlarge.

Here is a Washington Post map showing the United States among the leading nations, and not in a bad way.

The United States is one of the nations in which the idea of racism is least acceptable.

That doesn’t mean that Americans are free of racial prejudice.  Far from it.  Surveys show that, all other things being equal, a black person is less likely than a white person to get a job—in fact, a white person with a criminal record has a better chance of getting a job than a comparable black person with a clean record.  Mayor Bloomberg of New York City justified singling out black people to “stop and frisk”.

Somebody took a video of a white person and a black person trying to break the chain on a locked bicycle.  Passers-by assumed that the white person had a legitimate reason and that the black person was a criminal.

Then, too, the question is over-simple as a measure of racism.  Southern white racists in an earlier era liked associating with black people, provided that the blacks were deferential and “knew their place.”

Still, I think it is significant that the idea of racism is no longer acceptable in the United States and many other countries.  I have lived long enough to remember when this wasn’t true.

It’s a bit surprising to me that people in India are so frank about not wanting to be around people of a different race.   I read somewhere that the Hindi word for “race” is similar to the word for “caste,” so maybe what the Indians were saying is that they don’t want to live next to somebody of a lower or different caste.

What does count as a race?  I imagine the answers reflect Jordanian Arabs’ feelings about Jews, and Vietnamese feelings about Chinese, even though outsiders might see them as members of the same race.

I have read that the Japanese value racial purity and treat Koreans and other minorities as second-class citizens.  Maybe the results would have been different if the question had been about what kinds of people you would tolerate marrying into your family.

Another Washington Post map, below, shows that ethnic diversity is not necessarily a cure for racism.


“To My Old Master”

March 4, 2012

In August of 1865, a Colonel P.H. Anderson of Tennessee wrote to his former slave, Jourdan Anderson, to request that he come back to work on his farm.  Anderson had been emancipated, and was supporting his family with paid work in Ohio.  Anderson replied in a letter which had been making the rounds of the Internet:

To My Old Master, Colonel P.H. Anderson, Big Spring, Tennessee

Sir: I got your letter, and was glad to find that you had not forgotten Jourdon, and that you wanted me to come back and live with you again, promising to do better for me than anybody else can.  I have often felt uneasy about you.  I thought the Yankees would have hung you long before this, for harboring Rebs they found at your house.  I suppose they never heard about your going to Colonel Martin’s to kill the Union soldier that was left by his company in their stable.  Although you shot at me twice before I left you, I did not want to hear of your being hurt, and am glad you are still living.  It would do me good to go back to the dear old home again, and see Miss Mary and Miss Martha and Allen, Esther, Green, and Lee.  Give my love to them all, and tell them I hope we will meet in the better world, if not in this.  I would have gone back to see you all when I was working in the Nashville Hospital, but one of the neighbors told me that Henry intended to shoot me if he ever got a chance.

I want to know particularly what the good chance is you propose to give me.  I am doing tolerably well here.  I get twenty-five dollars a month, with victuals and clothing; have a comfortable home for Mandy,—the folks call her Mrs. Anderson,—and the children—Milly, Jane, and Grundy—go to school and are learning well.  The teacher says Grundy has a head for a preacher.  They go to Sunday school, and Mandy and me attend church regularly.  We are kindly treated.  Sometimes we overhear others saying, “Them colored people were slaves” down in Tennessee.  The children feel hurt when they hear such remarks; but I tell them it was no disgrace in Tennessee to belong to Colonel Anderson.  Many darkeys would have been proud, as I used to be, to call you master.  Now if you will write and say what wages you will give me, I will be better able to decide whether it would be to my advantage to move back again.

As to my freedom, which you say I can have, there is nothing to be gained on that score, as I got my free papers in 1864 from the Provost-Marshal-General of the Department of Nashville.  Mandy says she would be afraid to go back without some proof that you were disposed to treat us justly and kindly; and we have concluded to test your sincerity by asking you to send us our wages for the time we served you.  This will make us forget and forgive old scores, and rely on your justice and friendship in the future.  I served you faithfully for thirty-two years, and Mandy twenty years.  At twenty-five dollars a month for me, and two dollars a week for Mandy, our earnings would amount to eleven thousand six hundred and eighty dollars.  Add to this the interest for the time our wages have been kept back, and deduct what you paid for our clothing, and three doctor’s visits to me, and pulling a tooth for Mandy, and the balance will show what we are in justice entitled to.  Please send the money by Adams’s Express, in care of V. Winters, Esq., Dayton, Ohio.  If you fail to pay us for faithful labors in the past, we can have little faith in your promises in the future.  We trust the good Maker has opened your eyes to the wrongs which you and your fathers have done to me and my fathers, in making us toil for you for generations without recompense. Here I draw my wages every Saturday night; but in Tennessee there was never any pay-day for the negroes any more than for the horses and cows.  Surely there will be a day of reckoning for those who defraud the laborer of his hire.

In answering this letter, please state if there would be any safety for my Milly and Jane, who are now grown up, and both good-looking girls.  You know how it was with poor Matilda and Catherine.  I would rather stay here and starve—and die, if it come to that—than have my girls brought to shame by the violence and wickedness of their young masters. You will also please state if there has been any schools opened for the colored children in your neighborhood. The great desire of my life now is to give my children an education, and have them form virtuous habits.

From your old servant,

Jourdon Anderson.

P.S.  Say howdy to George Carter, and thank him for taking the pistol from you when you were shooting at me.

Hat tips to Ta-nehisi Coates and Letters of Note,

Click on What happened to the former slave that wrote his old master? for the rest of the story.

The forgotten challenge of Dr. King

January 16, 2012

The Real News Network today rebroadcast a program from Jan. 17, 2011, in which anchor Paul Jay interviewed columnist and communications professor Jared Ball on how we Americans celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, but don’t know or forget important things he really stood for.

Click on The Revolutionary MLK for a transcript of the interview.