T Nation

The Race Thread - 2021

Hey @tlgains, I wanted to continue the convo, but in a maybe more appropriate thread. Also, @Chris_Colucci - is this cool? I didn’t want to derail the other one any further, but I also didn’t know if this really fit in other threads and I didn’t see any race threads that weren’t from 10+ years ago…let me know if I should change something.

@twojarslave, @zecarlo - if you care to discuss any further…

I don’t think history is being sugar coated. I think some things are glossed over. For example, and I mention this a lot because…I don’t know why, I don’t think people really ever hear about it, Native American history. The Trail of Tears, Wounded Knee (both Wounded Knees), etc. I do think you hear plenty about slavery, the Holocaust, segregation, etc. so I don’t think anything is being sugar coated, just that some groups are…I don’t know, paid more attention than others?

But I also think we should be learning about good things, not just the bad. Black people aren’t only perpetual victims of racism - a lot of them have contributed to every aspect of our society. Maybe this gets covered more during Black History Month, I don’t know. I had horrible social studies teachers in high school, so they didn’t teach me much of anything. I think other minority groups have good things we should learn about - whether it’s their contributions to science, literature, music, art, etc.; their activism for their communities (because yes, some activism is needed sometimes); their languages and cultural practices, or whatever else you wanna learn about. I personally have not been emotionally affected by hearing that Native people were mistreated, but I do think it is good for children to hear that all people have both good and bad aspects to their cultures and history.

In short, I don’t think “sugar coating” is happening, just that some are, like I said, paid more attention than others, but I also think let’s go beyond learning about the bad and more about the good. If I was a racist kid who hated some group, I think I’d be more likely to stop hating them after learning that they have good food, cool artwork, and are people just like me, rather than being told that my ancestors did something wrong over and over. (Which maybe they did, but I don’t think this solves racism.)


We will never achieve utopia, and since I believe racism is an issue of the heart and soul, we can never fully “rule” it out of existence or develop a policy that will stop true racists from actually hating people.

Maybe focusing on race so much…leads to more racism. I don’t know. Something I’ve thought of over the past year or so, is that MLK wanted his protestors to be peaceful and nonviolent, and specifically called for them to face the punishments that may be enforced upon them for their “unlawful” activities. It would allow them to appear as blamelessly as possible before people who either hated them, or weren’t so sure of how they felt about them. Abraham Lincoln, in a speech to a religious group, basically said that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. Convince a man that you’re his friend, and you’ll have an easier time persuading him.

I don’t know how many Americans are truly racist these days, but I do feel that the intense focus on race these days may be what pushes some people away from not being racist. Or perhaps more importantly - the people who aren’t sure how they feel. True racists are probably a very small crowd, but the people who are on the fence about blacks, immigrants, Muslims, etc. are a probably larger crowd. Anywhooo, what I’m saying is, is that people are probably feeling pushed away or distanced from people, and all this CRT and discussion on race probably isn’t helping them feel more united. It’s divisive.

How poor is poor? How would we quantify that? I understand what you’re saying, but consider that - who makes that decision, and how is it made? And, who is black? Is a person with one black parent as black as someone with two black parents?

Natives run into this issue a lot, since we are the only creatures on earth besides horses and dogs that have our blood quantum measured. Is someone who is 7/8’s Native more Native than someone who is 5/8’s? What about 3/8’s? Is that person really Native or not? What about people who are actually enrolled in tribes or people who are Native but not enrolled in a tribe? Who makes these decisions, and who gets to decide how “colorful” someone really is?

Skin color isn’t even always accurate. Some black people are actually quite light. When summer hits and my dad is working his outdoor job, he gets darker than some black people. Some white people are darker than some Asians, and some Asians are darker than some blacks. I see Natives and Latinos who range from basically white to almost black.

I’m getting redundant here, but this is what I’m getting at: basing everything off of race is hard to actually do because people don’t just fit into little boxes. They can rarely be reduced down to one characteristic, like their race, and to do so, and to make decisions regarding their lives based off of this, is complicated, and perhaps even actually kinda racist.

Because it depends on people making smart decisions. Some people would use money to pay off debt, buy a home, set aside some to invest and put towards their kids’ college funds, etc. and some people would blow it all on clothes, cars, drugs and iPhones. Some people would create long term change for their families, and some would find themselves right back where they were within a year. You can’t say “all poor people get this amount of money and it will fix everyone’s lives” because some of those people will make bad decisions (because we’re all flawed humans) and their lives won’t get better and then they’ll blame others for their poor decision making.

@twojarslave gave an example of this happening in his own family.

Yeah. Like, Latinos may be victims of racism from people, cops, whoever, but has the U.S. government actually done large scale acts of harm to them like other groups can claim? I do think that some Latino woman were sterilized along with some Native and black women, but I don’t know much about it.

Why? I see people say this a lot. And listen, I love modern society. I love cars, heat, A/C, TV, fast food, Netflix, modern medicine, etc. But what have I done to deserve this? Why should I not have to struggle as much as my ancestors? That’s my thing. I currently don’t have to struggle, but I see no reason why I deserve to not struggle.


I just noticed this thread:

@Chris_Colucci - should this just be moved there?

The Irish, Jews, Italians, Chinese, Japanese, and others were also victims of racism, some of it government sponsored or approved. And like I said, Latinos are descended from colonizers and slave owners. They committed genocide. Many European immigrants came from places that did not have slavery. Some came from places where they faced the possibility of enslavement or genocide. Why should they be forced to pay reparations for something that their people not only did not engage in but they were victims of? AOC has the blood of slave owners and colonizers in her veins. You have white Americans who have none yet, she could get reparations? Talk about history not being taught.

makes things awkward, for me. puts it at the forefront of everything when it wouldn’t have been.

1 Like

It used to be, if someone said so and so is my black friend, it was seen as wrong because you categorized friends by race. Now, if you say so and so is my friend who happens to be black or worse, so and so is my friend (with no qualifiers), you are not only wrong but a racist. Race has to be the most important dynamic within the relationship. So if you treat your friends who are black the same as your friends who are white, you are a racist.

They don’t say race like this one but the forum has been beating up the race debate over multiple threads for months now. It’s been by far the most talked about thing.

That said Chris will morph it into another one if he feels the need.

Yeah, I mean, race is such a giant topic that it’ll seep into plenty of other discussions, for better or worse. A standalone thread, or recurring threads, aiming to treat it as the main topic of discussion isn’t a problem.

  1. General observation: many of the comments made in PWI don’t actually address the topic. They just lament the notions / actions of the perceived bad actors on whatever the other side is. Just saying . . .

  2. Reparations are an overly volatile topic because people automatically conjure the craziest possible implementation (ie whites arbitrarily writing checks to blacks). For a more lucid idea of what a good start might look like, check out what the City of Evanston did to help combat the lingering effects of redlining. 100% effective? Nope. Perfectly balanced solution? Probably not. Popular? Meh. Pushing down on one side of the scale? Sure. But subsidies have always been a part of American economics and they’ve rarely gone to those who actually need assistance. If you don’t agree with the concept of reparations to the descendants of American slaves - fine. But we’ve funneled trillions in subsidies of one variety or another to people and organizations who have never been wronged by the US government in any way, so it seems weird to all of a sudden draw the line on individuals whose lineage was affected by slavery, 3/5s, Jim Crow, redlining, etc. and start preaching rugged individualism. I’m a fan of rugged individualism as a personal ethos by the way, I just think it’s a terrible way by which to judge society as a whole.

1 Like

To me it seems your argument is dependent on someone being okay with those other subsidies to businesses, people, whatever. How would you convince someone who is against those things too?

FTR, I am not against reparations, I just haven’t seen anything that is sensible yet.

I do think making subsidies available based on race may be a mistake. I think we should do more to help out those at the bottom regardless of race. When you do that, you will disproportionately help the groups that would be the beneficiaries of reparations, but I think you end up helping more people, and making less people upset.

1 Like

Fair point, though the idea of government paying damages to a group of people who have been negatively affected by its actions has many precedents. I’d categorize this the same way. I held it in contrast to the other subsidies to illustrate the dissonance with a certain type of thinking that, for instance, might justify tax breaks and subsidies to large corporates (because capitalism) while throwing up on this idea.

Also a fair distinction. I think a lot of people would take issue with Robert F. Smith getting a comparatively menial check from the government. The issue would have to be more narrowly defined for it to work. The Evanston example I citied does a decent job of this, though that’s of course a very localized solution.

When I think of stuff like the Japanese internment, I can see a more direct link between the damages and payments. I can also more easily see the direct link to who should be paying the reparations (the government was recently directly responsible, and most of the populace was onboard).

I think the differences between slavery and the internement make it less clear cut for most people. I think many people are in the camp of “I never owned slaves, redlined, set up past racist policies”, and don’t see why they should be on the hook (which if you are not the race receiving reparations, you are paying for them).

I don’t think many would take issue with reparations if they are funded by the people who benefited from stuff like slavery (owners of historical plantations, the sellers in Africa, etc). Problem is that just isn’t going to be very much money.

The Japanese example is an interesting comparison because the government actually did pay out reparations to the descendants of interned Japanese and did so within only a few decades of the actual internment (perhaps you were already referencing this - but I just thought it was worth spelling it out). While the Japanese suffered at the hands of the US government, I would challenge anyone who thinks their damages approach that caused by the sanctioned treatment of slaves and their descendants over the course of centuries.

Most people may not have owned slaves but most people didn’t round up their Japanese neighbors either, so I think the rationale of “I wasn’t personally involved” needs applied consistently. I get it too - it was not long ago that I held this point of view myself. But I think there’s a distinction between being blamed for a problem and being responsible to help solve a problem. Regarding where the money comes from, there’s no way to get around the fact that this is a form of wealth distribution. But our tax dollars always go to solve problems we may not have caused directly and we all end up sharing the burden of paying for the missteps of our government and our fellow citizens. I don’t see much difference between federal taxes paying for reparations and local taxes paying for damages when a person is wrongfully killed by the police.

I think the difference is that the government mostly paid out to those directly impacted by the internment (they were the interned). It is more difficult for most to see direct impact on those in the Black community. I think most can see indirect impact, but in that case it is harder to justify IMO.

I still think it is more direct. The leaders they elected choose to do it for example.

I guess on this, I would say we all have a problem to solve with poverty. We don’t have only poor Black people, we have all types.

Aside from arguing about reparations, which might be the right thing to do, but I think we may be a long ways off from having most people agree on it, I think we should be focused on helping out those at the bottom. I think often times doing so is an investment, not a cost. It will disproportionately help some groups more than others, while not being nearly as divisive. It could be a sneaky way of doing reparations, without hardly anyone knowing it’s happening.

I agree that the connection is much more direct, but I think it’s because the issue was rectified more quickly. When the entity that caused the problem voluntarily delays restitution, it seems backwards to use the complexity that has evolved with time as defense to not provide a solution.

Understand your point - disagree though.

Completely agree. Not to dig up the White Supremacy thread, but I agree with your assessment of the broader issue and agree that it doesn’t fall perfectly along racial lines.

Responding to myself here: virtually everything that I said above regarding slaves and their descendants is also applicable to Native Americans, IMO. In my mind it’s an important distinction to carve out groups of people that have been legally subjugated from the broader discussion around generic racial topics.

1 Like

When the countries from Africa that sold the slaves and the countries that benefitted from slavery in North America before 1776 kick in for reparations, I’ll think more about it.

1 Like

A big difference is that many of those Japanese were not Japanese but Americans. Slaves are not citizens.

And the majority of blacks are not poor.

The reality about reparation rhetoric is that it is all a political con job. Tell people they will get a payment from the government to buy their votes. And it would be irresponsible to give poor people a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are poor for a reason and being good with money is not one of them.


[quote=“jshaving, post:1, topic:274683, full:true”]I do think that some Latino woman were sterilized along with some Native and black women, but I don’t know much about it.

This is a bit of a tangent but it does point out that it wasn’t only people of color who were sterilized and it’s also relevant to discussions about reparations for past wrongs:

It’s notable that North Carolina and Virginia are ahead of California in the effort to offer some relief to those people who were subjected to forced sterilization.

I don’t understand this logic. It’s either the right thing to do or it’s not, but it’s not contingent on whether someone else admits that they did something wrong.

I agree with the first half of this: this discussion is hypothetical as I don’t think any sort of large-scale reparations will ever come to fruition. I disagree with the second. Reparations, which are essentially a form of damages, aren’t given on the merit of the intended future usage. That would be philanthropy. Yes, if this were to happen some people would do dumb shit with the money. But we don’t vet what someone’s going to do with the proceeds when a city pays an individual damages for a wrongful death, so I don’t see any difference here.