"African Americans, etc" Part two. . .

The thread on the term “African Americans” generated a lot of response, with some of the posters seeming (to me, anyway) to express what appeared to be bitterness over the concept of “race.”

Why is the concept of “race” so controversial?

Is it that big a deal that populations that have lived more-or-less isolated from one another have different physical characteristics?

Help me–I’m not quite up to speed on this one.

The concept of race is controversial because as long as humans have had the ability to comprehend differences in other human beings, they have feared/hated those differences, rationalized somehow that the differences meant that their group was somehow superior, and tried their damndest to subdue anyone who was different.

After centuries of this inbred in all of us as a people, now that MORE rational thinking is employed, we are trying to celebrate those differences instead of attacking them, and this shift in human insight takes a long time to happen, but many want changes NOW!

It’s something that goes far past the treatment of blacks in America, IMHO, and since people will always react to things that are different in different ways.

Some people see an odd bug in their house, they want to catch it and find out about it. Others want it dead. Still others keep tarantulas as pets.

As for the allusion to the “African-American” thread, my responses in that thread say that the term has nothing to do with what we THINK of people of a certain race, but what we CALL them and WHY. Different issues…

Yer pal,

Because people are tribal. Anything that’s different deserves to be feared, because it may harm us.

Though that it is applied to other human beings is counterproductive to a racial (the human race) instinct.


Problems arise when we are put into one area under one dominant culture and expected to react, think and live as one, when we are vastly different. It’s not impossible, but it does have its problems. It takes time to nuture the sense of oneness. When the government legislates morality and ethics, it puts pressure on issues that are volatile and may even exacerbate, rather than heal. Race is the obvious badge, or mask, if you will, that illustrates our differences and is sometimes the thing that people attack when they are hostile.

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


But should we react, act and think as one? I certainly don’t think so. I’ve managed to survive so far without resorting to conformity. I don’t think it’s a necessary survival trait. It may be possible, but, quite frankly, there are a lot of people out there that I don’t like and don’t want to be like. Should they conform to the way I act? Only if they want me to like them. I don’t think they should. Is individuality in some way sacred, is conformity a bonus? I don’t know. But it suits my personality and my dignity to be able to say to myself that I AM, and that that does not depend on how others think of me, and so I go my own way. Whether my views coincide with those of others doesn’t strike me as important. If I happen to align with mainstream culture, it’s not important. What I do, I do for my own reasons, and anything else is pretty inconsequential.

So, John John, I think the solution to sectional tension is not conformity of any sort, no matter how possible oneness is. Instead, people should just not care. Being the same isn’t important. What others think and feel really doesn’t matter in relation to what you think and feel. The only time you should consider others, is when your actions effect others. And then, just be certain you don’t hurt them. The only imperative there is is “Don’t hurt others.” Everything else is up to you.

There my thoughts, and you really shouldn’t care about them. I post here for my own benefit. You’d be surprised how writing out your thoughts helps clarify them. So, pay attention to whatever it pleases you to pay attention to. I really don’t care.

Surgo, that was well said and a philosophy I easily agree with. I was not advocating for oneness but simply saying that oneness, the sense of mutual society, does not come naturally but is learned societal imperative. Race is the outward sign that we are different. Perhaps societies pressure to bring disparate people into oneness is an artificiality that is unworkable. Who knows?

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


The sense of mutual society? Does that mean a feeling of belonging, some property that actually IS belonging, or is it something different?

Why do people want to belong? What is it about people that makes them want to be with other people, with people that are like them? For that matter, what is it that makes people care so much about others? People say that our world is falling apart and that values are failing, but I’d be willing to bet you that 50 years from now you’ll still occasionally see in the paper the headline “2 died searching for lost child.” Mankind is almost universally stupid, in that people will turn out in great numbers to try and save another person, despite the odds against survival. What is it in our makeup that does this to us?

I think there’s an instinct in us that drives us to do this. I doubt there’s a single person that would question the rightness of the act of getting a baby out of the path of an oncoming car, despite the fact that they don’t have any personal interest in doing so. It’s something they do almost as a matter of instinct.

The saving of another life is almost ingrained in us. Society is probably an instinctual behavior. And part of that instinct is that we expect the society to mesh. And when it doesn’t, we get upset. Why doesn’t society mesh? Because people are not all the same, but large groups of fairly similar people gather together, making it appear that society is sectioned and not whole.

Is it that humanity as a whole desires to function as a single society, but would like a measure of impossible conformity? If this is so, would that conflict lead to growth or destruction?

I think mutual society means that we share common goals, values and recognize each other as a member of the same tribe. We humans are societal by nature since we roamed the savannas millions of years ago. Our strong point, as a human animal, is our industry TOGETHER. Our willingness, and intelligence, to work at a task TOGETHER is one of the things that separates us from the mindless herds. Just look at a heard of wildebeests being attacked by a few lions. If they worked in concert, as humans do, they would thwart the lions attack easily.

I think the problem with conformity is when we expect ultra conformity, to the point of subordinating individuality to the needs of the mass, as in ant colonies. One of the beauties of humanity IS our humanity. We value life and go to great lengths to protect each other, which is one reason we have survived.

I think taking TOO many different people and forcing them to act as a tribe too quickly is artificial. The sense of tribe, which can transcend race and religion, takes time and must not be forced, or rushed.

“All rising to a great place is by a winding stair.” F.Bacon


The concept of race is rather controversial because too many people think that people of different races have major genetic differences from people of other races. Actually, there really is no such thing as “race” in a biological sense. Race is purely a cultural construct, and since that’s the case, the word itself is somewhat negatively charged because of its association with biology.


OK, now, what does that mean? (Sincere question–I’m not pickin’ on ya.) I think it means that we’re all the same species. “Race” (to me) is just the human version of the word “breed” that we might apply to other critters.

Dogs: Chihuahua, St Bernard, Whippet
Cattle: Jersey, Holstein, Hereford, Brahma
Horses: Clydesdale, Arabian, Friesian

See my point. They’re all the same, but all physically different. To me, “race” is our version of “breed,” looking at us strictly as animals–which we are.

Biologically speaking, different races have slightly different genetic trends, leading to slight differences in physical characteristics.

Unfortunately for that way of looking at it, humans share 50% of their DNA with bacteria, and nearly 99.9% of it with other humans. (those are estimates based on dim memories of journal articles) So what? So, genetically speaking, we’re almost exactly the same. Take that, Klanny.

So, basically, what you’re saying is that we have to find a common ground to stand upon, without sacrificing our individuality, John John?

I can dig that.

They’re my thoughts, and you really shouldn’t care about them. I post here for my own benefit. You’d be surprised how writing out your thoughts helps clarify them. So, pay attention to whatever it pleases you to pay attention to. I really don’t care.


I think the new age sociologists are trying to make the question of race a cultural shading, or slight variation, which totally ignores the phsiological difference in the human species. We are all humans as a species, but are broken down into three main catagories, Caucasoid, Mongoloid and Negroid. From those three branches, which have equal merit, come the human species. Each branch is as valuable as the next but vary in appearance and habit. To expect people to react to the same situation in the same way is foolish. We LEARN culture.
Race :

1 : a breeding stock of animals

2 a : a family, tribe, people, or nation belonging to the same stock

b : a class or kind of people unified by community of interests, habits, or characteristics <the English ~>

3 a : an actually or potentially interbreeding group within a species; also : a taxonomic category (as a subspecies) representing such a group


c : a division of mankind possessing traits that are transmissible by descent and sufficient to characterize it as a distinct human type flavor, taste, or strength

Truth is something you stumble into when you think you’re going someplace else.
[Jerry Garcia]

Sorry about the whole response in bold - not my intention. Must have hit wrong button.

Truth is something you stumble into when you think you’re going someplace else.
[Jerry Garcia]



Individual effort is as important as group effort. It is very possible to get different races to act in concert, as a cultural tribe, towards common goals, as long as they see themselves as equal parts of the whole. When we emphasize race, as in African American, Italian American etc.,the sense of tribe gets diluted.

Truth is something you stumble into when you think you’re going someplace else.
[Jerry Garcia]

I think in America more harm is done than good by concentrating on race. I feel that if everyone just relaxes, it’ll go away. Unfortunately, my wishes cannot be universally disperssed over the American population. Sigh.


I think in America more harm is done than good by concentrating on race. I feel that if everyone just relaxes, it’ll go away.


I do not criticise your sentiment, but I think that, pragmatically, ‘everyone just relaxing’ is unlikely (to the point of impossibility) to be the solution.

First, it is very difficult to forget past wrongs. (Just ask the inhabitants of the Balkans.) Second, to the extent that inequality of opportunity has become institutionalized, asking those on the ‘less than’ side of that inequation to “just relax” would be seen as, if not actually be, asking them to acquiesce and just accept a very long-term (if not permanent) second-class status.

I’d also respectfully submit, still without criticism, that your comments sound much more likely to be issuing from a member of the privileged ‘class’ than from someone who is daily subject to prejudice or even oppression (real or imagined). Would you say that is fair? If it is, and if you can for a moment step into the shoes of someone who knows that s/he will never get a fair shake, but who hopes for better for hi/r (grand)children, would you modify them in any way?

For my part, I think any solution will have to include some measure of reaching out (let’s build a bridge to…OUCH!), of active and conscious efforts increase tolerance and understanding.


yes, it is tough to forget past wrongs but if people are to move forward they must do that. What is the statute of Limitations on past wrongs? Do we still hate the English for the War of 1812, or the Spanish for the USS Maine?

I think provisions have been introduced to rectify past wrongs i,e., Affirmative Action, Minority Loans and Aid to Families in need. How long do we let that stand? An argument can be made for the feeling that I do not want to be held responsible for OTHER PEOPLES past crimes. What is the right answer that satisfies everyone?

Truth is something you stumble into when you think you’re going someplace else.
[Jerry Garcia]

John John,

You’re quite correct in pointing out that it is complicated and not amenable to “simple” solutions.

  1. Exactly. I just observe that that usually requires, as I said, “reaching out.” That is, there needs to exist some acknowledgment that feelings may be hard, and hard feelings may be justified, but that we’re all gonna work to try to improve things - and there needs to be some movement on that front, as well. (“Forget it” is often not the best advice.) If, however, someone who might be justified in some anger or other can instead let it go unilaterally, more power to them!

  2. No such thing, of course, but I get your point. In a perfect world, wrongs would rarely happen and would be immediately righted and as soon forgotten. In the real world, it appears that old wrongs are remembered for as long as the inequity it bred continues (say, for as long as the land remains concquered, or as long as the descendants of the wrongdoers continue to profit), or as long as similar wrongs keep the memory current, or as long as some advantage results from its remembrance. I really don’t know any solution other than ‘try to make amends.’ If ‘the other side’ remains unreasonable, and ‘we’ have really understood their point and why they remain upset, and truly nothing more remains to be done…then I dunno. (But clearly, room for improvement remains on the American ‘racial’ scene.)

  3. No, but then: 1) we are no longer suffering the effects of those incidents, and 2) we have long since received more benefit from ‘moving on’ than keeping a hatred alive would have accrued.

Also, those are minor incidents not akin to genocide or cultural destruction. Perhaps better questions might be: why do so many self-proclaimed Christians still hate (or why did they ever hate) Muslims and/or Jews (and also vice-versa)? (Was it because of the actions of the Roman Empire? Because of the events of The Crusades? Or is it just that no real reason is required?) Also, why is there still so much prejudice directed at the Roma (Gypsies)? (Because “they’re thieves?” How ridiculous.) It’s these millennia-old hatreds that really seem to defy logic.

  1. That argument could be made for me - I am white, descended from recent immigrants on my father’s side, from Canadians on my mother’s. As far as I know NONE of my ancestors were involved in oppressing or profiting from black or any other Americans. On the other hand, I continue to benefit from privileges I have not earned which are afforded me, because of my skin tone, simply from the state into which our society (northern California, in my case) has evolved. Real estate agents and cops and prospective employers and etc. generally treat me in a way that a black citizen could not expect. (A black citizen might be treated the same as me some or even most of the time, but they could not EXPECT it; on the contrary, they can EXPECT, some of the time at least, to be treated differently from me for reasons not of their own doing.)

Benefitting from privilege afforded does NOT make me a wrongdoer, but I should not then be surprised when someone on the other side of the fence, or the glass ceiling, or whatever, identifies me as part of the problem. (I do live in that unattainable land, even if I’m not in the ‘army.’) To some extent, the ‘crimes’ are not ‘past’ while the inequities remain - and that is especially true with regard to people’s perceptions of the situation. If I don’t like that perception being applied to me, then (speaking pragmatically) I’d better be pretty darn visible among the forces trying to tear the fence down.

  1. There is no such thing as either “THE right answer” or everyone being satisfied. (At least, not in a group of more than one, and often not even then.) I’ve said this before, and it comes up again: our American habit of looking for the one right answer, for the magic bullet that will solve all difficulties, causes more problems than it cures. Life can’t be solved; it can only be navigated. Systemic problems (problems involving complex systems) must be managed, because the inputs and even the subsystems change; there is no one perfect, unchanging state to be achieved.
    When it comes to a subject like the current one, it seems that it is always those on top who don’t want change. (Surprise!) And what is further obvious in the backlash to such programs as you mention in the part I didn’t quote, people just don’t like to get the short end of a stick. ‘White Male Anger’ is an emotional response to a perception of being oppressed. It’s true that people are and have been treated unequally by such programs as Affirmative Action. But if anything, that experience should produce MORE understanding (I’ve walked a mile in your shoes…) and activity for real improvement, rather than just demands for a return to the old situation.

Personally I don’t think the government can solve a problem of this sort, with any type of program. It will take the efforts of all of us. And I don’t think spreading the misery around is the right answer, nor paying people not to acquire survival skills. On the other hand, halting all attempts to improve and just letting everyone shoot it out is not a good answer, either.

Very thoughtful and well written { DF. Obviously there are no easy answer to these hard question. It cannot be cured in a short time, since it took centuries of wrong doing to bring us to this point. It is even made harder when innocent people are blamed for wrongs they had no hand in committing. Why are the descendants of Northern Liberals, for instance, who fought to end slavery, held to blame? Why is it that the very people that helped end segregation in this country are now lumped in with the culprits and blamed? Is that fair?

You say we are the recipients of privilege because of our color? Is that still true? What doors are still closed to blacks? Why do Orientals do so well in this country?

No one has the all the answers.

Truth is something you stumble into when you think you’re going someplace else.
[Jerry Garcia]