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  #1  
Old 05-02-2017, 12:23 PM
MikeF MikeF is offline
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Kamau Bell and Racist Five Year Olds

Mods: Not sure where this should go. Here in CS? IMHO? Pit?

I caught the end of an interview with comedian A. Kamu Bell hosted by Terry Gross yesterday. Having not seen his act and only bits on TV, I didn't have much of an opinion regarding Bell but he sounds intelligent and is funny at times. The conversation at that point concerned how Bell was going to deal with racial issues and and their impact on his bi-racial daughters. Bell's wife is white. Gross said that the girls were probably too young (two and five years old) to feel the impact of racism directly but would soon enough. Bell stated that his older daughter went to a diverse (I think, private) school but that it wasn't black enough for him. I'm not sure if that remark was an attempt at humor or not. He chuckled as he said it. He went on to say that his older daughter had been wearing her hair "out" but told him that she was going to start wearing it pulled back or in or whatever the correct term is. He asked her why and she said that other kids were touching her "out " hair without her permission and it made her uncomfortable. Bell then went on to say that this was racism in action. From five year old kids. He never alleged that the other kids were picking on his daughter, calling her names, excluding her or anything else. WTF, Bell? Racism? Really? Could it be that five year old children are likely to check out anything that is new or different out of mere curiosity? And that the way they do it is to touch it? I'm certain that there are five year olds who are raised to be racist from birth but that doesn't sound like the case here. I'm equally sure your daughters have perfect manners and are well schooled in social mores. Most five year olds don't fit that mold. I was disappointed that Gross didn't call him on this but I had the impression that she may have been stunned and/or didn't want to challenge her guest during a friendly interview. In any case, it is now my opinion that Bell is an asshole.

Last edited by MikeF; 05-02-2017 at 12:23 PM..
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  #2  
Old 05-02-2017, 12:29 PM
enalzi enalzi is offline
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Here's what he actually said for anyone that is interested (bolding mine):

http://www.npr.org/templates/transcr...ryId=526387278

Quote:
And she when she wears it out, she looks, you know, it's like this huge, like sort of sculpture of hair. And it's amazing, and it's fun. And so she would wear it out, and then she came home one day and said to my wife Melissa I don't want to wear my hair out anymore. And Melissa said why? She said because everybody touches it when it's out. And I know that that's racism. Like, that's - because I've had it. When I had dreadlocks, I had a similar experience. People think they have access to touch you without asking, and that's racism. And now it is little kid racism, but it's still parents not teaching their kids not to touch other kids without asking. You know I'm saying? And so she's just sort of experiencing like being standing around with her friends and somebody just suddenly grabbing her hair. And she doesn't like it.

And part of me wants to sit her down and go, Sami, this is racism. That's what you're experiencing. But she's not ready for that. So what I did was like I sort of swallowed hard and was like all right, Sami, if you don't want to wear your hair out, you don't have to wear your hair out. But just so you know, me and Melissa both said this - your hair is beautiful, we love it when it's out, and when you're ready to wear it out again, you can - we will - you can wear it out. So, you know, allowing her to have the agency to make her decision and then over the course of several months, she wore it down. And then one day she's like I want to wear it - I want to wear my hair out again.

Last edited by enalzi; 05-02-2017 at 12:29 PM..
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Old 05-02-2017, 12:39 PM
Ike Witt Ike Witt is online now
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Touching hair is racism? Is that what is he is saying? TBH, I have no response for adults touching his hair, but kids? Seriously? That is why people go through childhood, to learn social boundaries.
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Old 05-02-2017, 12:46 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Originally Posted by Ike Witt View Post
Touching hair is racism? Is that what is he is saying? TBH, I have no response for adults touching his hair, but kids? Seriously? That is why people go through childhood, to learn social boundaries.
How kind of you to volunteer his daughter as an object lesson in social boundaries.
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Old 05-02-2017, 12:55 PM
divemaster divemaster is online now
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Aren't all kids object lessons in learning social boundaries? That's part of being a kid.

Last edited by divemaster; 05-02-2017 at 12:59 PM..
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  #6  
Old 05-02-2017, 12:56 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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Everything is racist now. I'll just go ahead and make sure you get a copy of the memo.
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Old 05-02-2017, 12:57 PM
Grey Grey is offline
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And if it had been curly red hair? Still racism at that point or simple curiosity of a small child overcoming the "keep your hands to yourself" instruction they likely received?
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:02 PM
Roderick Femm Roderick Femm is offline
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I heard that interview.
Quote:
She said because everybody touches it when it's out.
(bolding mine) To me this is the critical part. This child's perception is that everyone (probably an exaggeration, but we don't know if so or how much) touches her hair without her permission when it's out.

This is another thing, although not as serious as being shot by a policeman for the crime of being black, that black people have to go through just because. The sense it gives to the black person seems to be that they are not fully a person with a person's right not to be touched without permission.

Admittedly it's probably not a huge thing, and it is probably a teaching opportunity for the kids, but in general this seems to be a hot button for black people. Something bigger than a micro-aggression but smaller than Black Lives Matter. Maybe this guy was over-reacting (and, incidentally, I think the way he actually handled it* with his daughter was very good) but this is another place where context is very important. I've never been black and I've never been on the receiving end of this kind of behavior, but I've seen this complaint often enough to recognize it as a real thing.

*He simply told her she could wear her hair "in" or "out" whichever she wanted, so she wore it in for a while and then went back to wearing it out.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:06 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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It's beginning racism but what do you want? They're five year olds.

White people touching black people's hair is a thing. It's not something that Bell imagined.

http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/09/...k-womens-hair/
https://www.dailydot.com/via/taylor-...nd-black-hair/
http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasonin...ic=7483.0;wap2
https://www.quora.com/Why-do-certain...he-hairs-owner
https://thelapine.ca/white-people-as...-peoples-hair/

Here's what you can do when you learn something new about racism. Absorb the new information and resolve to avoid that behavior in the future now that you know other people find it offensive. Or ignore it because you're a special snowflake who should never have to change because you're perfect just the way you are.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:07 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I'm not sure I agree with him that characterizing it as racism is appropriate, but I'm not 100% sure he's wrong, and even if he is, I don't think that makes him an asshole.

Where it might verge into racism is in the fact that there aren't many black kids at her school. She's being Othered by the kids there--not deliberately, not viciously, but institutionally, by an institution that makes her the only kid with that kind of hair at school. And while th emotives might be innocent, the effects are not: they're making her uncomfortable in her body, in a way that many black people are made to feel uncomfortable in their bodies, in a way that often is the result of white people taking liberties with black people's bodies, in a way that's going to break the heart of a parent.

Racism on the kid's part? I don't think so. Systemic racism in action? Yeah, kinda.

His response--that parents need to teach their kids not to touch other kids without asking--is directly on point, and his daughter's shame at her hair is exhibit A in why this is an important lesson.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:08 PM
Channing Idaho Banks Channing Idaho Banks is offline
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There may have been more to it than just the hair pulling.

Last edited by Channing Idaho Banks; 05-02-2017 at 01:09 PM..
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:10 PM
Richard Parker Richard Parker is offline
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Little kids explore differences. It's natural and unavoidable.

However, white kids who grow up in integrated neighborhoods and go to integrated schools don't get to age 5 and suddenly discover kinky hair for the first time. The fact that this discovery is happening at age 5 shows that, in all likelihood, those white kids hadn't spent much time with black kids before. Moreover, unfortunately, kids raised in such segregation already form all kinds of implicit biases by age 5.

Not a stretch to call the incident racism at all.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:12 PM
Roderick Femm Roderick Femm is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm not sure I agree with him that characterizing it as racism is appropriate, but I'm not 100% sure he's wrong, and even if he is, I don't think that makes him an asshole.

Where it might verge into racism is in the fact that there aren't many black kids at her school. She's being Othered by the kids there--not deliberately, not viciously, but institutionally, by an institution that makes her the only kid with that kind of hair at school. And while th emotives might be innocent, the effects are not: they're making her uncomfortable in her body, in a way that many black people are made to feel uncomfortable in their bodies, in a way that often is the result of white people taking liberties with black people's bodies, in a way that's going to break the heart of a parent.

Racism on the kid's part? I don't think so. Systemic racism in action? Yeah, kinda.

His response--that parents need to teach their kids not to touch other kids without asking--is directly on point, and his daughter's shame at her hair is exhibit A in why this is an important lesson.
Nicely put.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:24 PM
Thudlow Boink Thudlow Boink is offline
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Thanks for your post, LHoD. I was about to ask "How on earth is one kid touching another kid's hair racism?" and then you came along and explained it and helped me understand.
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Old 05-02-2017, 01:27 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
comedian A. Kamu Bell

This is probably an autocorrect issue, but just to be clear—We are talking about W. Kamau Bell, I think.
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:08 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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I'm having a hard time seeing this as racism, even with LHOD's explanation. There are two components to what's happening here: First, the daughter's hair is different from her classmates', and second, her classmates don't yet know appropriate social boundaries. The second part certainly isn't racism: That is, as others have said, part of being a child. The first at least touches on issues of race, in that the daughter's hair is different because she's a different race... but there are many other possible differences that aren't racial but which would elicit the same response. And yes, she's only seen as different because the other kids haven't had much exposure to black people yet in their lives, but is that racist? Probably not: Before school age, most of the people kids are going to be exposed to are their family members, who will generally be the same race as themselves. School is where they mostly start learning that yes, there are other people who look different from them, but they're still ordinary people, like themselves in the important ways.
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:10 PM
snoe snoe is offline
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Agree with the praise for LHOD's post; I think "Racism on the kid's part? I don't think so. Systemic racism in action? Yeah, kinda" sums it up nicely.

Jay Smooth's 2008 videoblog referenced here http://kottke.org/17/04/jay-smooths-...still-the-best is relevant. Calling 5-year-olds racist* is moronic. Saying that something they did or said is racist (or, more precisely, is an example of systemic racism that pervades our society to this day) is obviously still controversial, but defensible and in many cases correct. Not insignificantly, it shifts blame away from the individual and towards society.

* I'm reminded of asking my dad if it was okay for two different races to marry - I must have been somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. He stared at me like I was crazy and started babbling frantically about how it was fine, how some of my classmates had parents of different races, etc.

I only asked because my elementary school friends and I were experimenting with Dungeons and Dragons, creating characters. I wanted to know if it was okay for an elf and a human (or whatever) to marry. When I clarified things, he was even more mystified.
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:14 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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I think you folks are leaping to all sorts of conclusions without evidence.

No evidence is given in the interview that this little girl is being singled out for unwanted hair touching because of the color of her skin or any other racial characteristics.

It could potentially be the case that they all touch each other's hair, particularly if that hair is long. Ask any parent of a little girl with hair in braids, they will tell you - some unmannered kids will touch or pull on them. They will get touched by badly behaved kids, and they probably won't like it any better than these girls.

Why is it "racist" to touch a kid's "huge" hair (as described in the interview), and not racist to touch a kid's braids? The trigger in each case seems to be the same - the availability of lots of hair to touch, in the presence of kids lacking in social graces to mind their invasions of other people's personal boundaries. It is most likely a case of children being treated the same regardless of race and not differently because of their race. Lots of hair quite possibly = you get unwanted hair touching.

Of course it could also be racism. We aren't given enough information to make that call. If I had to bet, I'd be betting against it, though.

The parental reaction in this case is to transform the problem of manners into a problem of race. Seems to me this isn't a good thing. Though, to give the parent credit, he refrained from actually making that connection with his kid: "And part of me wants to sit her down and go, Sami, this is racism. That's what you're experiencing. But she's not ready for that."
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:27 PM
snoe snoe is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
And yes, she's only seen as different because the other kids haven't had much exposure to black people yet in their lives, but is that racist? Probably not: Before school age, most of the people kids are going to be exposed to are their family members, who will generally be the same race as themselves. School is where they mostly start learning that yes, there are other people who look different from them, but they're still ordinary people, like themselves in the important ways.
You have a point about 5-year-olds having a family-centered social life. (Although they do get together a lot before that age, from what I, a childless 40something, have seen -- all my friends are having kids and bringing them to other people's kids' parties. And there's preschool, too.)

I think Bell might be extrapolating: this uninvited-touching-of-hair is something his daughter will deal with for years to come. As he did.

And, too, the exoticizing of "natural" black hair isn't just a result of interpersonal unfamiliarity. It's cultural: who's on TV? What color are they? And, for the black people: how do they do their hair?

(I listened to Bell's podcast about Denzel Washington, so I know he's a fan of the kids' cartoon "Doc McStuffins." She's a prominent African-American character for kids, and her hair is not "natural." http://www.gstatic.com/tv/thumb/tvba...86_b_v8_aa.jpg)

Last edited by snoe; 05-02-2017 at 02:29 PM..
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:28 PM
sleestak sleestak is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I'm not sure I agree with him that characterizing it as racism is appropriate, but I'm not 100% sure he's wrong, and even if he is, I don't think that makes him an asshole.

Where it might verge into racism is in the fact that there aren't many black kids at her school. She's being Othered by the kids there--not deliberately, not viciously, but institutionally, by an institution that makes her the only kid with that kind of hair at school. And while th emotives might be innocent, the effects are not: they're making her uncomfortable in her body, in a way that many black people are made to feel uncomfortable in their bodies, in a way that often is the result of white people taking liberties with black people's bodies, in a way that's going to break the heart of a parent.

Racism on the kid's part? I don't think so. Systemic racism in action? Yeah, kinda.

His response--that parents need to teach their kids not to touch other kids without asking--is directly on point, and his daughter's shame at her hair is exhibit A in why this is an important lesson.
From the article:

Quote:
And she when she wears it out, she looks, you know, it's like this huge, like sort of sculpture of hair. And it's amazing, and it's fun.
Expecting little kids to ignore 'huge, like sort of sculpture of hair' and then concluding they are racist because they didn't ignore it seems kind of odd.

There are a bunch of questions to start asking, first and foremost is are there other black kids who wear their hair out but don't have huge sculpture like hair? If so, do they also have kids wanting to touch their hair?

I suspect that this kid has the same thing happen.

Another question: When I was a kid I ended up at Disney World with my parents. I ended up in about 1,000 photos* with Japanese folks. Turns out the really blond hair and the blue eyes was a novelty for them so they would ask to take pictures. They would also touch my hair, most of the time without asking.

Was this racist? Should I have been insulted?

Slee

*Ok, maybe not 1,000 but it was a lot. And no, I didn't mind.
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:32 PM
carnivorousplant carnivorousplant is offline
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Originally Posted by Chronos View Post
I'm having a hard time seeing this as racism, even with LHOD's explanation.
I thought that he was stretching the definition of racism when I heard him on Fresh Air, but I guess the point is that he believes it to be racist. I guess that being treated differently all your life makes you sensitive to things like that, so I'll not argue with him. Teri Gross sure bought it.
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:41 PM
The Other Waldo Pepper The Other Waldo Pepper is online now
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Originally Posted by snoe View Post
I'm reminded of asking my dad if it was okay for two different races to marry - I must have been somewhere between 7 and 10 years old. He stared at me like I was crazy and started babbling frantically about how it was fine, how some of my classmates had parents of different races, etc.

I only asked because my elementary school friends and I were experimenting with Dungeons and Dragons, creating characters. I wanted to know if it was okay for an elf and a human (or whatever) to marry. When I clarified things, he was even more mystified.
"But it's harder to mate if you're black -- you know, since the other guy goes first."
"Please tell me you're talking about chess."
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:41 PM
snoe snoe is offline
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Originally Posted by sleestak View Post
Another question: When I was a kid I ended up at Disney World with my parents. I ended up in about 1,000 photos* with Japanese folks. Turns out the really blond hair and the blue eyes was a novelty for them so they would ask to take pictures. They would also touch my hair, most of the time without asking.

Was this racist? Should I have been insulted?

Slee

*Ok, maybe not 1,000 but it was a lot. And no, I didn't mind.
Your exoticism was, I think, a symptom of systemic Japanese racism. And, as you note, pretty harmless on the individual level -- I'm assuming you didn't live in Japan at the time and so didn't feel "othered. " And pretty blameless on the part of those Japanese tourists -- you WERE exotic, to them!

But there's a reason that this showed up all over Twitter the other day, and I don't think it's that black people are over-sensitive: https://twitter.com/emulatelife/stat...62459565506560
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Old 05-02-2017, 02:50 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I'm having a hard time seeing this as racism, even with LHOD's explanation. There are two components to what's happening here: First, the daughter's hair is different from her classmates', and second, her classmates don't yet know appropriate social boundaries. The second part certainly isn't racism: That is, as others have said, part of being a child. The first at least touches on issues of race, in that the daughter's hair is different because she's a different race... but there are many other possible differences that aren't racial but which would elicit the same response. And yes, she's only seen as different because the other kids haven't had much exposure to black people yet in their lives, but is that racist? Probably not: Before school age, most of the people kids are going to be exposed to are their family members, who will generally be the same race as themselves. School is where they mostly start learning that yes, there are other people who look different from them, but they're still ordinary people, like themselves in the important ways.
I disagree that it's not racist, but do so because I'm interested in talking about systemic racism here, not necessarily personal racism. We do live in a society with a lot of racial segregation. (I'm not excluding myself here: while I live on a street with a lot of black and Latino families, nearly all of my co-workers are white, and my social circle tends to be monochromatic).

We've got a school with mostly white kids, kids who've apparently not gone to preschool with many black kids. They're engaging in a behavior that targets a black kid in a way that makes her uncomfortable. Yes, maybe they're also targeting a disabled kid in the same way (Can I use your wheelchair? Are you retarded? Why can't you walk?), innocently and making the disabled kid super uncomfortable; that doesn't indicate the behavior is fine.

Saying the behavior is racist doesn't mean that we should yell at these kids and call them assholes. It just means they're doing something inappropriate that's based on race, and in so doing they're reinforcing some social dynamics about race that we don't much care for.

The solution is simply to educate these kids in a twofold way: first, teach them some basic respect for other peoples' bodies; and second, have some open and honest conversations with them about race. Let their white parents answer their frank and innocent questions about race, even the racist ones. Don't make the black kid be the object lesson for their learning.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:15 PM
snoe snoe is offline
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
Why is it "racist" to touch a kid's "huge" hair (as described in the interview), and not racist to touch a kid's braids?
Or bright red hair? Or -- as with my boyhood friend Matt -- an aggressively hairsprayed flat-top? (We used to rub it all the time, without invite.)

A key difference is the specific experience of African-Americans in the US. We haven't had a strong history of legal and extralegal discrimination against redheads or guys with flat-tops.

We can say that staring at a redhead or grabbing her hair is a symptom of the relative rarity of that hair color. Therefore a symptom of unfamiliarity! Totally innocent, case closed!

I don't think we can say that about messing with black kids' natural hair. Sure, the action may be rooted in the same unfamiliarity as with the redhead, but there are deep and troubling reasons for that unfamiliarity.

And this exotic treatment is likelier to follow the black kid throughout her whole life with negative affects than it is the redhead.

So yeah, one action is a symptom of systemic racism and one isn't -- even if the actions look very similar. I get that this is a controversial position (especially among my fellow white Americans), but it's surely not nonsensical -- or is it?

Last edited by snoe; 05-02-2017 at 03:16 PM..
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:18 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
I disagree that it's not racist, but do so because I'm interested in talking about systemic racism here, not necessarily personal racism. We do live in a society with a lot of racial segregation. (I'm not excluding myself here: while I live on a street with a lot of black and Latino families, nearly all of my co-workers are white, and my social circle tends to be monochromatic).

We've got a school with mostly white kids, kids who've apparently not gone to preschool with many black kids. They're engaging in a behavior that targets a black kid in a way that makes her uncomfortable. Yes, maybe they're also targeting a disabled kid in the same way (Can I use your wheelchair? Are you retarded? Why can't you walk?), innocently and making the disabled kid super uncomfortable; that doesn't indicate the behavior is fine.

Saying the behavior is racist doesn't mean that we should yell at these kids and call them assholes. It just means they're doing something inappropriate that's based on race, and in so doing they're reinforcing some social dynamics about race that we don't much care for.

The solution is simply to educate these kids in a twofold way: first, teach them some basic respect for other peoples' bodies; and second, have some open and honest conversations with them about race. Let their white parents answer their frank and innocent questions about race, even the racist ones. Don't make the black kid be the object lesson for their learning.
We don't know that they are "targeting" a Black kid. All we know is that they are touching a kid with lots of hair.

The kid herself identified the big hair as the issue, not her Blackness - she wanted to not wear it "out", so that the unwanted touching would stop.

We simply do not know whether other kids who are not Black but who have lots of hair get their hair touched as well. Without that information, we can't tie this to racism, "institutional" or not.

If it isn't tied to race, it's a question of manners alone.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:20 PM
Eonwe Eonwe is offline
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There's a problem with how we address certain issues right now that seems to roughly be: "if it can be attributed to an -ism, then it must be an example of one, because these things are institutional, and so you can always draw a line from the -ism to the event."

On the one hand, that's completely true, and I wouldn't argue against it.

On the other hand, there are times when specific actions are much better understood when you look at other motivations and causes.

"Othering" can happen whenever someone is outside of the norm, and it happens within groups that might even seem homogeneous from the outside. Viewing every experience of othering through the lens of racism or sexism or _-ism limits the number of ways we can address and understand very subtle and universal human behaviors.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:21 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
We don't know that they are "targeting" a Black kid. All we know is that they are touching a kid with lots of hair.
You misunderstand. We do know they're targeting a black kid, because they're targeting a kid, and she's black.

Yes, you're right that they're not saying, "Ooh, there's a black kid, let's target her!" Fortunately nobody is claiming that.

The question is whether they're targeting her because of her blackness. That's where it gets tricky. They're targeting her because of her hair, and she's got hair that looks like it does because she's black, and they're not familiar with this hair type because they're not around black people very much. And they're not around black people very much because of systemic racism.

It'd be innocent, except that it's making her so uncomfortable that she's resorting to defensive measures.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:24 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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[Moderating]
Although this started from something a comedian talked about, it's not really about art. Moving to Great Debates.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:25 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by snoe View Post
Or bright red hair? Or -- as with my boyhood friend Matt -- an aggressively hairsprayed flat-top? (We used to rub it all the time, without invite.)

A key difference is the specific experience of African-Americans in the US. We haven't had a strong history of legal and extralegal discrimination against redheads or guys with flat-tops.

We can say that staring at a redhead or grabbing her hair is a symptom of the relative rarity of that hair color. Therefore a symptom of unfamiliarity! Totally innocent, case closed!

I don't think we can say that about messing with black kids' natural hair. Sure, the action may be rooted in the same unfamiliarity as with the redhead, but there are deep and troubling reasons for that unfamiliarity.

And this exotic treatment is likelier to follow the black kid throughout her whole life with negative affects than it is the redhead.

So yeah, one action is a symptom of systemic racism and one isn't -- even if the actions look very similar. I get that this is a controversial position (especially among my fellow white Americans), but it's surely not nonsensical -- or is it?
I think it is jumping to conclusions. The main one being that her hair is touched because she is Black and that this makes it "exotic". There is no evidence, other that supposition, that this is the reason.

The hair could be touched simply because it is long.

If two kids have long hair, and both have their hair touched - one being Black and one White - is that "racist"? They are being treated the same, regardless of race.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:31 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I think it is jumping to conclusions. The main one being that her hair is touched because she is Black and that this makes it "exotic". There is no evidence, other that supposition, that this is the reason.

The hair could be touched simply because it is long.

If two kids have long hair, and both have their hair touched - one being Black and one White - is that "racist"? They are being treated the same, regardless of race.
You use the word "simply," but that's not the simple explanation. We know this girl has hair unlike that of anyone else at the school. We know she's one of the few black kids at the school. We know that kids like to get their hands on unfamiliar things. Positing that there are other kids at the school with hairstyles more familiar to these white kids who are getting their hair touched so much that they have to change hairstyles as a defense is multiplying entities beyond necessity.
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  #32  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:31 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
You misunderstand. We do know they're targeting a black kid, because they're targeting a kid, and she's black.

Yes, you're right that they're not saying, "Ooh, there's a black kid, let's target her!" Fortunately nobody is claiming that.

The question is whether they're targeting her because of her blackness. That's where it gets tricky. They're targeting her because of her hair, and she's got hair that looks like it does because she's black, and they're not familiar with this hair type because they're not around black people very much. And they're not around black people very much because of systemic racism.

It'd be innocent, except that it's making her so uncomfortable that she's resorting to defensive measures.
That reasoning seems perfectly circular.

If that's the case, any negative interaction where the kid on the receiving end is Black becomes "racist" by virtue of the fact that the kid on the receiving end is Black.

If that is true, racism will never be addressed - because it is an absolutely normal part of childhood to have some negative interactions with other kids.

We have no idea whether they are "targeting" her because her hair is different, or because they are unfamiliar with her hair type. Indeed, we don't know if every kid with long hair gets their hair touched. Nothing in the interview said that she was unique in having her hair touched. That is simply being assumed.
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  #33  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:33 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Viewing every experience of othering through the lens of racism or sexism or _-ism limits the number of ways we can address and understand very subtle and universal human behaviors.
Sure. Similarly, failing to recognize how innocent behaviors can reinforce racist patterns in society also limits the ways we can address these problems.

I'm not saying we should only see this through the lens of systemic racism. I'm absolutely saying we need to recognize the role that normal childrens' curiosity plays in this event.

What I'm saying is that both lenses are necessary for fully understanding the event AND addressing it with kids in a way that preserves both children's curiosity and individual autonomy.
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  #34  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:35 PM
Richard Parker Richard Parker is offline
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One man's conclusion-jumping is another's reasonable inference from the facts. The difference often turns less on what's known about the facts of an individual case, and more on contextual knowledge.

Malthus, before this thread, were you familiar with the phenomenon of white people touching black people's hair (with or without asking permission)?
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  #35  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:35 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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You use the word "simply," but that's not the simple explanation. We know this girl has hair unlike that of anyone else at the school. We know she's one of the few black kids at the school. We know that kids like to get their hands on unfamiliar things. Positing that there are other kids at the school with hairstyles more familiar to these white kids who are getting their hair touched so much that they have to change hairstyles as a defense is multiplying entities beyond necessity.
I'm pointing out you are assuming facts not in evidence. We don't know that they are touching her hair because it is racially 'exotic'. What we do know, is that it is *big*.
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  #36  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:37 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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That reasoning seems perfectly circular.

If that's the case, any negative interaction where the kid on the receiving end is Black becomes "racist" by virtue of the fact that the kid on the receiving end is Black.
Not even remotely correct.

Two circumstances:

1) Alfred, a black kid, at recess comes up to me and says, "Mr. Dorkness, Liana (a white kid) just told me I wasn't her friend any more because I was playing with John (a white kid)!" Absent some more information (and THERE IS ALWAYS MORE INFORMATION JESUS CHRIST KIDS STOP THE DRAMA ahem), nothing racist here.
2) Jermaine, a black kid, at recess comes up to me and says, "Mr. Dorkness, Rachel keeps making fun of my name and telling me it's weird!" There's some racist undertones going on.

In order not to see the difference, you have to blind yourself to the history of race in our country. I see no benefit to doing that.
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Old 05-02-2017, 03:38 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
I'm pointing out you are assuming facts not in evidence. We don't know that they are touching her hair because it is racially 'exotic'. What we do know, is that it is *big*.
Good grief. Why is it big when it's out and not when it's not?

It's starting to feel like you're jumping through some real hoops to avoid the plain meaning of his story.
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  #38  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:42 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Richard Parker View Post
One man's conclusion-jumping is another's reasonable inference from the facts. The difference often turns less on what's known about the facts of an individual case, and more on contextual knowledge.

Malthus, before this thread, were you familiar with the phenomenon of white people touching black people's hair (with or without asking permission)?
Yes.

Richard Parker, before this thread, were you familiar with the phenomenon of young children pulling hair, braids and pigtails (without asking permission)?

Are you contending that "contextual knowledge" is sufficient for you to state, reasonably and unequivocally, without knowing anything more about these people, that this is the result of one - and not the other?
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  #39  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:43 PM
mikecurtis mikecurtis is offline
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Originally Posted by snoe View Post
When I clarified things, he was even more mystified.
(hijack) i think this summarizes alot of parenting! (end hijack, as you were)

mc
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  #40  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:44 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Good grief. Why is it big when it's out and not when it's not?

It's starting to feel like you're jumping through some real hoops to avoid the plain meaning of his story.
I honestly have no idea what you are talking about.
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  #41  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:45 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
Yes.

Richard Parker, before this thread, were you familiar with the phenomenon of young children pulling hair, braids and pigtails (without asking permission)?
How often have you heard of it happening to such a degree that kids decide to change hairstyles to avoid it?
Quote:
I honestly have no idea what you are talking about.
You said:
Quote:
We don't know that they are touching her hair because it is racially 'exotic'. What we do know, is that it is *big*.
We know that they mess with it when it's out, but not when she puts it up. If they're touching it because it's big, that implies that it's no longer big when it's up. There's no reason to think that, unless you're trying to define "big" in a way that avoids the unique aspect of her hair that's tied to her race. Which seems contortionist to me.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 05-02-2017 at 03:47 PM..
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  #42  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:46 PM
Richard Parker Richard Parker is offline
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Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
Yes.

Richard Parker, before this thread, were you familiar with the phenomenon of young children pulling hair, braids and pigtails (without asking permission)?
This seems pissy and rhetorical, where my question was genuine. Not everyone is aware of stuff like this: http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/07/25...air/index.html

Quote:
Originally Posted by Malthus View Post
Are you contending that "contextual knowledge" is sufficient for you to state, reasonably and unequivocally, without knowing anything more about these people, that this is the result of one - and not the other?
Reasonably, yes. Unequivocally, no.

In other words, based on my experience in the world, I'd put the likelihood of this being because she's black at 50%+. But there's also a chance that this could have happened among black friends if her hairstyle were particular unusual.
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  #43  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:46 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Not even remotely correct.

Two circumstances:

1) Alfred, a black kid, at recess comes up to me and says, "Mr. Dorkness, Liana (a white kid) just told me I wasn't her friend any more because I was playing with John (a white kid)!" Absent some more information (and THERE IS ALWAYS MORE INFORMATION JESUS CHRIST KIDS STOP THE DRAMA ahem), nothing racist here.
2) Jermaine, a black kid, at recess comes up to me and says, "Mr. Dorkness, Rachel keeps making fun of my name and telling me it's weird!" There's some racist undertones going on.

In order not to see the difference, you have to blind yourself to the history of race in our country. I see no benefit to doing that.
Huh? Of course these are different.
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  #44  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:48 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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How often have you heard of it happening to such a degree that kids decide to change hairstyles to avoid it?
It's happened twice in my immediate circle. Once with pigtails, and once with braids. In both cases, the hairstyles were dropped because of hair-pulling (admittedly, in one case, it was really more a question of bullying).
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  #45  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:49 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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Huh? Of course these are different.
Yes, of course they are. So when you say that my view leads to thinking "any negative interaction where the kid on the receiving end is Black becomes "racist" by virtue of the fact that the kid on the receiving end is Black," you're incorrect.

As for the commonality of kids changing hairstyles to avoid hair-pulling, in my ten years of teaching and eight years of parenting daughters, I've not seen or heard of it happening once.

Last edited by Left Hand of Dorkness; 05-02-2017 at 03:50 PM..
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  #46  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:50 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post

We know that they mess with it when it's out, but not when she puts it up. If they're touching it because it's big, that implies that it's no longer big when it's up. There's no reason to think that, unless you're trying to define "big" in a way that avoids the unique aspect of her hair that's tied to her race. Which seems contortionist to me.
Huh? I said none of that.
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  #47  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:51 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Yes, of course they are. So when you say that my view leads to thinking "any negative interaction where the kid on the receiving end is Black becomes "racist" by virtue of the fact that the kid on the receiving end is Black," you're incorrect.

As for the commonality of kids changing hairstyles to avoid hair-pulling, in my ten years of teaching and eight years of parenting daughters, I've not seen or heard of it happening once.
Then, as so often happens, our experiences differ.
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  #48  
Old 05-02-2017, 03:55 PM
Malthus Malthus is offline
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Originally Posted by Richard Parker View Post
This seems pissy and rhetorical, where my question was genuine. Not everyone is aware of stuff like this: http://www.cnn.com/2011/LIVING/07/25...air/index.html



Reasonably, yes. Unequivocally, no.

In other words, based on my experience in the world, I'd put the likelihood of this being because she's black at 50%+. But there's also a chance that this could have happened among black friends if her hairstyle were particular unusual.
I think the part you are not factoring in is that these children were five years old.

Hair-pulling or touching simply isn't unusual at that age.

I'd be inclined to agree with you, if the kids were significantly older.
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  #49  
Old 05-02-2017, 04:07 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Then, as so often happens, our experiences differ.
And do you see how no one is questioning the veracity of your experiences in your life? Is it possible for you to extend that same courtesy to W. Kamau Bell?
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  #50  
Old 05-02-2017, 04:07 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
As for the commonality of kids changing hairstyles to avoid hair-pulling, in my ten years of teaching and eight years of parenting daughters, I've not seen or heard of it happening once.
My son, who happens to be one of 3 white kids in his grade of very mixed children, likes to wear a crew-cut during the summer. He would like to wear it during the school year but prefers not to becuase "the other kids are always touching my head."
Make of it what you will.
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