Racialism: Everyone's Favorite Politics

Please, by all means. I’d love to know how describing a historical phenomenon/system put into place by the policies and practices of various 18th and 19th century American landholders and politicians is “broad-brush generalizing”.

I see people saying that it isn’t black and white(sorry), and not “They bear no responsibly whatsoever”.

If that is how one understands the term, then that is what they will take the term to mean, no matter how you explain that it actually means something else.

You are correct of course, in your use of it in the contexts that you do, but it is entirely a losing battle to try to explain, once again, the historical context to those who will refuse to accept it.

It is irrational, but it is decided that it is a term that they don’t like, not because of what it means, but how it makes them feel to hear it. That it was created by white racists in the past to justify the superiority of “whiteness” and justify racism doesn’t matter, and that the effects of those people and those policies still have an effect on us today, all that matter is how that word makes them feel, or at least. how they claim it makes them feel.

Now that “whiteness” is no longer a term of superiority, it now feels as though it is an insult, to those who refuse to understand its origins and uses.

That people continue to bring up your use of the word from other threads and use your use of it in a attempt to paint you as a hypocrite shows that their desire for understanding is a very low priority, and winning gotcha internet points is the highest.

It’s the result of circumstances. Those communities aren’t the way they are by random chance. Various policies and practices over history have molded those communities into what they are today, and the people within (in general) survive the best they can, since they’re human and that’s how humans tend to behave in such circumstances.

We understand what the term means just fine, thank you very much, we just see it as a phenomenally shitty term. We’ve explained this to you at length; your response boiled down to “Well, I disagree”. And y’know, that’s okay! It’s okay to have value disagreements like this. This isn’t a matter of scientific inquiry or something, it’s a matter of philosophy and it’s not clear-cut.

…It becomes a lot less okay when you misrepresent that value disagreement as “you don’t get it”. We get it! It’s a stupid term that alienates people and that almost everyone who isn’t Tumblr Woke ™ will consider to be racist bullshit (and indeed, everyone will recognize the natural inverse of “blackness” meaning “bad things most typically related to being black” as racist as hell), and that’s taking you as charitably as we possibly can. We’re not stupid. I didn’t call you stupid for using a term I consider incredibly counterproductive; please extend the same courtesy to us for disagreeing with you.

We understand the term. Just like we’re capable of understanding what Biffster means when he says “God is life”. That doesn’t make it good english (btw, both descriptivists and prescriptivists called it out there).

We get the context! Thank you! :mad: We had this whole discussion about it not too long ago. I absolutely stand by what I said. Cliffs notes version:

[li]the term sucks etymologically (white+ness is a pretty straightforward signal!) [/li][li]most people aren’t aware of the meaning you ascribe to it [/li][li]if a white person who isn’t aware of that meaning hears you talking about “whiteness” as the root of all evils they’re going to freak out because to them it sounds like a call to a fucking race war[/li][li]Even if you understand the term, even if you concede it’s a useful term, why “whiteness” and not “toxic aryanism” or some term that makes it clear through the term that the problem is not “you’re white”?![/li][li]The alt-right fuckin’ loves us using that term for some reason.[/li][/ul]

Hey, so y’know how there was this huge backlash in 2014-2016 against feminists and social justice warriors? And you know how something like half the country considers “SJW” a meaningful pejorative? This is part of the problem. When a substantial portion of the people you are trying to convince to sign on to your values sees your terminology and reacts with horror to the way you talk to them, something has gone wrong. You are not reaching them well. And if you respond with “fuck your feelings you oppressive shitbag”, it doesn’t matter how right you are - you just lost that audience. That’s a group of people you will not reach. And even here “whiteness” goes over poorly! You know me. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool liberal. So is BigT. Both of us dislike the term. So do the right-wingers Bone and Ditka, although that’s hardly surprising. It’s not a good term. Find something else. “Toxic white privilege”? Fucked if I know. But you know how many people have a problem with “Toxic Masculinity”? Imagine if it was instead called “Maleness”. Imagine how well that would go over.

Stop making our side look bad. The culture war is, ultimately, about winning hearts and minds. You can’t win without that. And “whiteness” doesn’t win us hearts and minds. It’s an easy punching bag for the nazis who want to pretend that the left hates white people. STOP IT.

Buddy, you could be some sick hybrid of the most charismatic and right people of the past 200 years, and if all of your speeches were accompanied by the brown note, nobody would listen to you.

I agree that the policies and practices in 18th and 19th century America had incredible destructive impacts on black people and communities, and those impacts are still widely prevalent today. That’s not broad brush generalizing. Calling it “whiteness” is. Here is what I get when I google the term:

Further down on the list of results are hits that are more in line with how you are using the term. Again, I understand your usage - I simply reject it. Adding the suffix “-ness” typically turns an adjective into a noun, meaning the state of being the original adjective.

This is what you said when another poster leveled essentially the same criticisms, but instead of calling it “whiteness”, just said “white folks”:

It’s clear you were using the term in the same way as the person you were responding to, white folks vs. whiteness, same utilization with the same message. But you saw fit to recommend against extremely broad brush attacks in one of those instances. Do you think there is some substantive difference in those terms where the use of one would merit a caution against broad brush attacks, and the other is totally immune to the same caution? Dude look in the mirror.

It’s basically a giant True Scotsman. This super broad generalized attack, but when there’s pushback, it’s oh no, I’m only talking about this specific other group. It’s ineffective because you are redefining words that generalizes about a broad group of people as a pejorative. Systemic or institutional racism, even White Supremacy are better descriptors, and have a more widely understood etymology. This isn’t tone policing - it’s using words in standard ways for effective communication.

He said it was “broad brush generalizing”, which means he doesn’t understand the term. It’s describing a system and phenomenon put into place centuries ago, purposefully, by those Americans and colonials in power, in order to solidify power and better manipulate the lower classes (white and black).

When you offer weirdness like “Toxic Aryanism”, which doesn’t relate to this concept in any but the most tangential way, as an alternative, or suggest that the opposite would be “bad things most typically related to being black”, it makes me think you don’t understand the concept. Again, whiteness isn’t about being white, or even about being a racist white person – it’s the specific system put into place centuries ago that broadly defined the modern (and recent historical) definitions of “white” and “black”, delineated who was “white” and who was “black” (which changed over time), how this related to slavery, and was deliberately meant to separate poor white and poor black people who otherwise (and previously) had been much closer and more intermingled communities. Seriously – prior to this deliberate phenomenon of “whiteness” in America, there were much larger numbers of interracial families, and there were actually a small but significant number of wealthy black landowners in Virginia, until they were expelled by the Virginia colonial government (~1700 or a bit before, IIRC). At roughly the same time, it became illegal to free slaves in Virginia, interracial marriage became illegal, and eventually all free black people were expelled from Virginia. This was a system and phenomenon deliberately put into place by early American/colonial leaders, mostly prior to the American revolution, even though the concept continued to evolve and expand through the 19th century.

It’s not “toxic aryanism”, or even as simple as white supremacism. And I use the term “whiteness” because that’s the term that academics and journalists who focus on this period and this issue use. If another term became broadly used to describe this phenomenon, I would use that new term.

As far as I can tell that poster was talking about something different (though related) and using different terminology than I am using. He was talking about people, while I am talking about a system/phenomenon/concept, when I use “whiteness”.

This is not what I’m doing. I’m sorry you think so. I’m using the term as TNC and many other writers and academics use it. It doesn’t describe people; it doesn’t describe a culture or community; it describes a system put into place that affects how society works and we interact with each other.

Because I think it’s important that this system/concept/phenomenon be discussed, I’m going to continue to talk about it, and I’m happy to explain and re-explain as long as people don’t understand it. If a better term comes about that better relates these ideas, I will be happy to switch to the new term. So far, all those suggested I find more confusing, and would lead to more miscommunications, then this one. So I use the term used by historians and journalists who focus on the field.

These are complex pheonomena and ideas and it’s no surprise that discussions like this piss so many people off. I welcome the chance to discuss these ideas further.

Correct -they aren’t that way by random chance. Some of it is circumstances, and some of it is the culture of the group.

Here’s the part you can’t seem to get past - dysfunction is a cause as well as a result of circumstance.

That’s the point about all the stuff about Vietnamese and Jews and Chinese and Nigerians and Japanese. Some of them were rich. Just like the people in Prince George county. Many of them were poor. Now they aren’t. Why don’t the rich people in Prince George have the same effect on black people that rich Jews or Vietnamese did on their groups? If poverty explains academic under-achievement, why are poor Asians in NYC so over-achieving?

Why do Jews over-achieve? Anti-Semitism is a thing - remember the Nazis in VA y’all were so exercised about? 30% of blacks have strongly anti-Semitic views, and the history of anti-Semitism dates back way farther than the history of slavery in the US by some hundreds of years. Why doesn’t “Gentile privilege” keep them down?

When you say “whiteness”, does that constitute a condemnation of a monolithic culture? Are you saying that every single white person is part of that culture?

And of course, how does “whiteness” or “racism” or “white supremacy” cause 72% of black children to be born out of wedlock, and that most black children grow up without the long-term presence of their fathers in the home?

The answer to that is, it doesn’t. It is part of a toxic culture that reinforces and propagates poverty. And the only ones who can fix it are those in the culture.


Systems **are **culture.


Would anyone object to “whiteness” if my usage was replaced by “whiteness/blackness”, since the concept is just as much about defining/delineating who is black as who is white, and how people should fit into hierarchical society? I don’t think it’s used in this way academically, but perhaps “whiteness/blackness” is a more natural-sounding descriptor, and I’m open to using it in these discussions if it would send us past these digressions of offense and fragility.

This is suspiciously similar to the argument white folks employ against Coates. “We agree on the facts you present, but the way you say those facts and your debbie-downer conclusions you draw from those fact, make us uncomfortable.” There is a term for this: White Fragility.

Take it from here, Robin.

Thanks, Robin.

You’ll never understand what whiteness is because you’re incapable of understanding. But for shits and giggles, let’s try. Pretend you’re the color orange and you exist in the world, where our heroes, our heroines, our cultural standards of beauty, our historical figures of significance, our great scientists and pioneers were all white. Pretend that our teachers, our government representatives, our rich and powerful, our role models are all white. Pretend that the media is white, the newscasters are white, the weather man is white, the people in movies are white, the video games are white. Pretend that even the religious iconography is white: God is white, Mary is white, Joseph is white, Jesus is white. Everyone that is good is white. Even the most benign good thing, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are white. “White” and “good” are so interchangeable that when one says “good schools” or "good neighborhoods, we know it refers to predominately white schools and neighborhoods. Pretend that whites (remember, you’re orange) avoid you, call the police you, and vilify you. Pretend whites label you as lazy, shiftless, and stupid. Pretend that whites (remember, you’re orange) deliberately choose not live near you and, instead, enjoy and choose to live, work, and play in segregation. This self-segregation of whites from you (remember, you’re orange) is culturally unremarkable as long as it’s not named or explicitly intentional. All of this writing is a waste of my time because it impossible for you to understand the depth of racism experienced by people of color. This is because whites rarely, if ever, truly experience of not belonging; and when white folks do experience not belonging, it is usually because they* choose *to put themselves in that situation. There is no analog for white people to compare this to.

I’ll end with a question. How many times of a year do you break bread with a person of color who isn’t from work? I mean, really break bread. Inquire about their families, their challenges, their fears, their aspirations. Call and/or text them regularly. Really engage a person of color as you would someone who shares your own skin tone? When is the last time a person of color stepped inside your house and broke bread with you? When is the last time you visited a home of a person of color and broke bread with them?

Or maybe all of it is circumstance. All of the disparity in the poverty of black people in America in the 1830s was circumstances; none of it had anything to do with the culture of black people. Things are significantly different now, including a much smaller (but still significant) disparity in poverty. It could still all be circumstance. Just saying “it’s culture” doesn’t mean it’s culture. Further, if 90% (or any amount) is circumstance, and circumstance is the only thing that us non-black people can affect, then us non-black people should focus on fixing the circumstances, since we can’t fix the culture (though I see no reason to believe culture is involved).

How do you know they don’t? Maybe those communities are having a very positive affect on broader society. It’d be very, very hard to measure in the short or medium term, and we might not know about it even while it was occurring.

Further, there’s a big difference between wealthy individuals in a large and spread-out society who’ve been in a place for a while, and wealthy individuals in a relatively small group who are just arriving in a place.

David Tran (founder of Huy Fong “Sriracha” Foods), a very admirable and impressive individual by all accounts I’ve read, and refugees like him, might have been able to hire dozens or hundreds of his fellow migrants as they were arriving in the US in the 70s, setting them up for enormously valuable ripple effects decades down the line. There was no such possibility for the vast majority (if not all) black people arriving in the US, or native Americans when America landed on them (and subsequently murdered, sickened, and shuffled them around the country).

I don’t believe poverty alone explains under-achievement or anything else.

There was no mass enslavement, mass brutality, mass torture, mass rape, etc., of Jews, in America. The circumstances of the Jews in America (and in Europe, like my Jewish ancestors), were extremely different from the circumstances of black and native people in America.

It’s not a culture at all.

These systems and interactions are highly complex. If a dad gets a longer jail sentence, or is unjustly arrested/convicted, or killed, then that’s another kid without a dad. If a kid grows up in a shittier environment, then that kid is statistically more likely to engage in less productive/more dangerous behavior. That’s just a couple of ways, among countless, in which various oppressive systems and forms of discrimination can lead to kids in less positive environments, and with less chance to succeed.

Some systems. Not all systems. There are indeed a wide variety of systems related to human behavior and society, and not every one is a culture.

(emphasis mine)

You’re doing the Lord’s work. But I wouldn’t put too much stock in what white folks object to.

Which is a shame for you to say since, in order to get the affected change(s) you might want, you would need cooperation, not castigation.

These damn 10%ers, amirite?

You want to cut off my what? :smiley:

BTW, Huey Freeman, I break bread two or three times a day on average with a “Person of Color”.

Who qualifies as a “person of color”?

Maybe they are, but there is no evidence of it. Blacks are disproportionately poor, and over-represented in criminal statistics. Asians and Jews are not.

I don’t recall an answer to my question - in what way does racism/whiteness/whatever cause black fathers to abandon their children, black women to become pregnant out of wedlock, and blacks to be over-represented among criminals?

Black kids grow up without their fathers. Why is this not the father’s fault? It is for Asians and Jews and white people.

All of them are part of a culture. Culture is what people do, and think, and believe, and how they interact with each other. If whiteness weren’t part of any culture, whiteness would not exist.

If nobody existed, would whiteness exist? Are you claiming that whiteness is like gravity or the law of entropy?




If those circumstances are influenced by whiteness/blackness, and those negative circumstances are more frequently encountered by certain groups, then the effects of those circumstances are to some degree 2nd order effects of whiteness/blackness.

In many cases it is, in many it is not, and it’s often a combination. These are very complex concepts and circumstances and it’s almost impossible to speak of them accurately as simply as you’re trying to do so here, IMO.

Whiteness/blackness strongly influences American culture, and most or all sub-cultures within American culture (and vice versa). There are extremely complex interactions between all of these complex concepts and phenomena.