Trying To Make It Right | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Trying To Make It Right

photo

The e-mail about the Jackson doctor came all the way from Canada. Hollis Brown, a singer/songwriter in Saskatchewan, wanted to know if an e-mail he had received, calling New Orleans evacuees in the Astrodome ungrateful "n*ggers," had really been written by Dr. Richard L. Johnson of University Medical Center. "It sounds like some KKK Krap if you ask me," Brown wrote.

The e-mail he had pasted indeed had Johnston's signature, including a Woodland Hills address and his home, cell and pager numbers. It was long, supposedly written by someone who had volunteered at the George R. Brown convention center in Houston.

The author described his supposed experience among "ordinary Houstonians" the Saturday after the hurricane, giving out cold water, sub sandwiches and clothing to the evacuees getting off the buses from New Orleans. They were rude, he said. They wanted sodas rather than water, McDonald's instead of Jason's Deli, beer and liquor. "They refused food and laughed at us," the volunteer wrote. "They treated us volunteers as if we where SLAVES (sic)." They said things like, "Ya Cracker, you got a home we don't," he wrote.

Then: "I saw only ONE white family and only TWO Hispanic families. The rest were blacks. Sorry 20% to 30% decent blacks, and 70% LOSERS!!!!" He added, "I would call them N*GGERS, but the actual definition of a n*gger is one who is ignorant, these people were not ignorant… they were ARROGANT A**HOLES. The majority of which are thugs and lifetime lazy ass welfare recipients."

Dr. Richard Johnson, a Vicksburg native and Mississippi State grad known as Ricky, did not answer his home phone when I called. Instead, a recorded message explained that he had just copied the post off a Web site and e-mailed it to friends—with his e-mail signature typed at the bottom. I left a message.

Johnston called back the next day, eager to set the record straight. "I definitely wouldn't do it again," he said. "It was a mistake, a lack of judgment. My intent was not malicious, not to promote racism. I'm not a racist."

Since he hit "send," the doc has been hearing from people from all over the world. Many people are distressed that he might have written such a thing—which is similar to other false blame-the-victim urban legends circulating the Internet since Katrina—while others are calling to congratulate him. "Many said, 'Way to go, Man," Johnston said.

The doctor said he originally saw the posting on a Myspace page that at least looks like it belongs to a young Syrian libertarian in Houston. Indeed, the posting dated Sept. 4 is still on that site, and http://www.snopes.com (the urban-legend-buster site) says someone answering to that name claimed the original posting and maintains that it is true. (Read about this urban-legend e-mail here.)

The hard question is why Johnston copied the shocking post and pasted it into e-mails to about 20 of his friends. He told his friends: "It's long, but worth the read. Pretty sickening attitude and I hope not representative of all of those who were evacuated."

Johnston said, in the Katrina aftermath, he was tired of "watching the big race issue get made over and over and over. I don't think it was a race issue; it was a poverty issue." Then he saw the post. "I couldn't believe it," said Johnston, who offered that he is Republican. "It made an interesting point about the mentality of groups that have been given things their whole lives and don't have the impetus to do anything different." He passed it on without confirming it. "I should have, in hindsight. I was just so overwhelmed when I read it."

He said that the author's "objective observations" seemed important: "I think there's probably a degree of truth to it. Whether it's relevant or not is the question." Johnston had volunteered to help evacuees in a free clinic at the Mississippi Coliseum, many of whom were black, and had "wonderful experiences."

Dr. David Hilfiker, an M.D. who moved his family to the inner city of Washington, D.C., to work with the poor, was also shocked when he read the e-mail, which I sent him after hearing him talk about "Seeing Poverty After Katrina" the Sunday before on NPR's "Speaking of Faith" program. Hilfiker said by phone that the e-mail is "pretty virulent stuff."

"He's talking about a person being 'objective'," he said of Johnston, "but goes down to the shelter and didn't have any of those experiences. I'm no psychologist, but we're clearly talking about people with certain predispositions to believe such things. If you don't understand how deeply your attitudes have been shaped by underlying centuries-old racism of this country, you think that what you're seeing, you're seeing objectively; in fact, you're filtering through these old stories."

Hilfiker, the author of "Not All of Us Are Saints: A Doctor's Journey with the Poor" and "Urban Injustice: How Ghettos Happen," used the e-mail as an example of how people are taught to believe the worst about poor blacks—especially since the Reagan '80s when political strategists promoted mythologies about "welfare queens" and the breeding of inner-city "thugs" to gain racist votes.

"A marked war on the poor has been carried out largely for political reasons that has spread so that most of the information, most of the stories support these stereotypes. Most people see what they're ready to see," he said.

Hilfiker, who started a center for homeless men with AIDS, said poverty is both a class and a race issue. "You're right; it is both. … There is a great deal of classism going on. I don't think the classism approaches the virulence of racism." He warned about today's sneaky race coding. "People who are supporting the wealthy people, who believe the function of government is to take money from the poor and give to the wealthy, are quite consciously manipulating these images. That is a class phenomenon, but all the code is about race."

Even the anger at the alleged lack of gratefulness—in this case from people who likely had been ignored and stranded for days in New Orleans, stepping over dead bodies and scrounging for water—fits the pattern, he said. "If you go a couple layers deeper, people who are very poor and who are in a lot of pain don't always act the best. People who are not poor and in a lot of pain don't always act the best. I don't know whether the e-mail has any truth to it at all, but clearly, the guy is expecting to be so overwhelmed with appreciation within the first two or three bottles of cold water he gives out. When he doesn't get that, it apparently reinforces all of his preconceptions."

These preconceptions, which lead to uninformed stereotypes and ultimately anti-poor and racist policies, result from people who simply do not know enough about the plight of the poor. "People can be highly educated, but most of us middle-class white people have zero contact with people who are poor, especially poor and black, Hispanic, minority. All we know is what we know. We don't have any first-hand experiences," Hilfiker said. That problem is compounded by increasingly re-segregated schools and children growing up without any contact with people in different socioeconomic classes, he added.

"These are really deep issues. Unless you live in pretty close face-to-face relationships with people who experience the other side of life, you're just not going to get it. The issues are too deep; you are not going to learn about it in a course on racism," Hilfiker said.

But try we must, he said. "What's important is that you start where you are. If that means going down to a soup kitchen once a week, serving soup and not saying anything for 10 weeks until you're ready, that's a good place to start. One of the best things to do for people who are kind of scared of this is to get them working with kids from the inner city. Suddenly finding out what's happening to children through no fault of their own will change you quick. It does take consciously putting yourself in a situation with face-to-face relationships, but you don't have to live in the streets with them." He said of the poor, "ultimately we're not going to fix any of this until we are inviting them into our neighborhoods."

To fix the problem, he emphasized, it is helpful to "take the blame out of racism"—and realize that susceptibility to racist stereotypes isn't just about old KKK-type behavior.

"I had to recognize that I don't have to be a bad person to be racist; I don't have to intend to be racist. Just by growing up white in this culture, I am going to be racist," Hilfiker said.

Dr. Johnston—who loves the diversity of living in Jackson and hates the suburbs—said his 15 minutes of fame is giving him pause, and making him think. "I don't want to run. I want to stand up and admit I make a mistake and try to make it right," he said.

Read the full original e-mail/posting here.

Previous Comments

ID
134508
Comment

I think I know that kid. He used to live above some friends of mine in an apartment in North Jackson when he was in med school. He was angry. ;) I couldn't SWEAR that it was him, because I can't seem to get past the LAB, the CIGAR, and the SCOTCH. yeah, yeah, I'll slap my own hand....

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-29T09:43:14-06:00
ID
134509
Comment

What this guy said and did was idiotic and racist, but, this statement was just as idiotic and racist: ìI had to recognize that I donít have to be a bad person to be racist; I donít have to intend to be racist. JUST BY GROWING UP WHITE IN THIS CULTURE, I AM GOING TO BE RACIST,î Hilfiker said. Is this not prejudging an entire race and culture as a whole instead of individually? If I were to say anything derogatory about another race, using these same words, I would be labeled a racist. PS--Donna, I finally changed my screen name (brandon/jade) to just brandon.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-09-29T10:02:07-06:00
ID
134510
Comment

For the record, the doctor I talked to was personable, polite and contrite. I admire that he is trying to get out in front of this, and not just change his phone numbers. And he provided the photo for us.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-29T10:03:29-06:00
ID
134511
Comment

Correction, I just read the actual email. It is one of the most racist and idiotic things I have ever read. The other quote does not belong in the same category, but it is still racist and wrong.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-09-29T10:06:03-06:00
ID
134512
Comment

Good on the name change, Brandon. You are your own man. ;-) OK, you're going to have to do better than simply calling Dr. Hilfiker's statement "idiotic and racist." Just because you don't like it does not mean it's racist. Try to explain *how* it's racist. And, take a breath and try to understand what he's saying. You're still approaching this from the standpoint of being "blamed" for being a racist. He is not doing that. I am a racist, Brandon. I grew up in a white culture of privilege that is very different from cultures other people grew up. That is not my fault, personally. It also does not harm me in any possible way to understand that I have inherent prejudices, just as people who grow up in minority cultures have. The difference is that "racism" is a system of oppression, and the beliefs that I was taught are the tools of that oppression. This is how Jim Crow was built. Yes, it was legally stopped, Thank God, but we're not far away from it. Each white person has to work to ensure that we let go of preconceived tendences and assumptions about races that, until very recently, we used the law to force oppression on. That is, it is up to each of you to face those assumptions and get rid of them. I believe Dr. Hilfiker is saying that we each have them, and it is up to us to rid ourselves of them. If not, we feel perfectly justified in copying and frantically sending around what amounts to a racist and ugly attack on people based on their skin color. That is racism. The shame isn't about being it, or being born white into a racist culture; it's about not working to get rid of the stereotypes that we don't, too often, even know are stereotypes because we are too busy denying that we could possibly harbor racist thoughts. If you have ever once driven down a street with your doors locked, Brandon (or avoided one), because only black people live on it, you have racist tendencies, Brandon. That's just a fact. Does that mean you're a terrible person? Absolutely not. It means that you need to work to recognize those tendencies and consciously overcome them. Otherwise, you might send around, or believe, such an ugly, hate-filled e-mail just because it fits your stereotypes.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-29T10:11:42-06:00
ID
134513
Comment

I know, I know...I'm all about people trying to "make things right." I've said and done enough stupid things in my life to warrant being VERY forgiving to most everyone I meet. ;) That being said...I do hope there was a small part of that photo that was tongue in cheek. Now, onto Dr. H.....this is the BEST thing I've heard regarding healing race relations...and understanding differences in culture One of the best things to do for people who are kind of scared of this is to get them working with kids from the inner city. Suddenly finding out whatís happening to children through no fault of their own will change you quick. It takes all the "attachments" we have to race away. Children are children. Or, at least, that's what I have learned. And from there, I've grown to conclude that families are families...whether they be white, black, or any other color of the rainbow. They each have the things they've found works for them, they all have their dysfunction and they all have their way of showing love. I would go into my spiel about how religious intolerance leads us to think there is only ONE way someone can be a "family", or a "deserving person"....but I won't. I will only say that much is to be learned in this country around fearing that which is different. As far as institutional racism (which I believe is what Dr. H is referring to by just 'growing up in white culture'...and that of which you speak, Donna) there is truth that in some part I internalized the fact my grandfather's business still had two separate restrooms when I was growing up. Whether or not I agree with it now, the very fact that played a foundation in my youth has shaped me in some way. It isn't MY fault...and I refuse to be blamed for it. But, its my responsibility to look at how that shapes my current beliefs and behaviors...and to make sure I let them have no influence over the way I treat others NOW. I never knew hunger. I never knew not having ENOUGH. For that reason alone, I have no right to judge someone in that situation. Because the day may come, and *I* may be the one shooting people, or stealing....I can't say I wouldn't. I think that is the point he was trying to make. Or at least, that is what I took from it BASED UPON MY LIFE AND EXPERIENCES. ;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-29T10:35:18-06:00
ID
134514
Comment

It isn't MY fault...and I refuse to be blamed for it. But, its my responsibility to look at how that shapes my current beliefs and behaviors...and to make sure I let them have no influence over the way I treat others NOW. Ali, those words are downright quotable. ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-29T11:08:16-06:00
ID
134515
Comment

Also, Dr. Hilfiker suggested that we host a public forum with this e-mail as a topicóand both black and white members of the panel. I've told Dr. Johnston I'd like him to consider being on the panel, and I would love to find some way to get Dr. Hilfiker down for it (any groups reading this want to buy him a plane ticket for him? He's incredible.). Ray Carter, I'd love you on it if you're willing. And Kamikaze? Ali, perhaps you would like to participate? We're about to introduce what we're tentatively calling a "Race, Religion & Society" series of events, involving public discussions, films, performances and other ways to bring people together to think and talk about topics that matter -- in a non-threatening, non-blaming way but honest way.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-29T11:13:04-06:00
ID
134516
Comment

"non-blaming way"? Hah! I've been on the end of that stick one too many times to believe it again. Anyway... I'm working on my second reading of the article... Can you tell me what happened, cause it's not clear. Did he copy an article and leave himself as the supposed author?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-09-29T12:17:14-06:00
ID
134517
Comment

I believe he copied and pasted it into an email with his signature at the bottom. I don't think he was actually trying to pass it off as his own. He was just sending it along to friends....

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-29T12:53:28-06:00
ID
134518
Comment

Right, Ali. As I say above, he read it on Myspace, then copied it and mailed it to friends. He left his signature at the bottom, so along the way people who got it thought he wrote it. Then people morphed it themselves to say things like, "look at this doctor's experiences in the Astrodome!" One of the many lessons here is how chain e-mails can come back and bite one squarely in the a$$.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-29T12:58:27-06:00
ID
134519
Comment

I will participate despite enjoying the fact that most people can't put a face to my name.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-29T13:09:04-06:00
ID
134520
Comment

I would love for you to set up a forum to let Dr. Johnston express himself and have him LISTEN to others. Let him explain to me how he could circulate such hate and claim to like living in a diverse city- (For what the coolness factor?). He is exactly the reason why many of my friends of color don't trust many white people- which yes is prejudice. I try to explain that all people should be judged as individuals and then you have some DOCTOR who should know better sending this out. If it hadn't been for bloggers asking to fact check it, this would have been just another email to be discussed ("yeah- see how THEY are") between friends. Would he have felt the need to apologize then? I can't tell you how angry this makes me. Wow-I picked the wrong week to try to give up Mochas and Tab.

Author
urbangypsy
Date
2005-09-29T13:16:33-06:00
ID
134521
Comment

I'm 100% behind the "Race, Religion, and Society" series, and I want to be on board for all of it! I have a lot to learn myself. As for racism, Brandon... Picture yourself walking alone on the sidewalk to your car late on a Saturday night. You are the last person you know of in the area. Five strangers, all young men, are walking behind you with a sense of purpose. Imagine they're white. Then imagine they're black. Even Jesse Jackson once said: ìThere is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robberyóthen look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.î We're all bozos on this bus, and we need to own up to that. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-29T13:23:34-06:00
ID
134522
Comment

I'd love to be involved with anything related to the discussion of "race, Religion, and Society." Can I come as a Buddhist in High Heels? ;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-29T13:48:19-06:00
ID
134523
Comment

Tim, I was just thinking about the Jessie Jackson incident that you described. A host of educated and talented black professionals tried to get Jessie to expound on and explain that statement but, like a chump, he refused. He changed the subject on every occasion that I'm aware of. I lost a lot of respect for him for running from this subject. Black people who escape poverty and live in affluent and middle class neighborhoods also have to avoid becoming estranged from and fearful of other blacks and poor people of all races in general. Jessie in all his self-imposed majesty failed to reconcile, tackle and/or explain his fear. One of my favorite stories about foolishly relying on race or racism involved 2 criminals, one white and one black. They would go to strip malls to pick out thier victims. On one occasions the black guy would sit on top a white lady's car and refuse to move. The white guy would then approach the white lady and say ", mam, you want me to get his black a$$ of your car? Give me your keys." After the white guy cranks the car, the boy guy would get soff the car and get in it, then they both drive off with a car they didn't actually steal. They would reverse the roles for black victims. Fortunately, it didn't take the legislature long to fix the kink in the law for this crime.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-29T14:08:04-06:00
ID
134524
Comment

Terrible errors in my last post. I meant the black guy would then get off the car and get in. As usual, I'm not proofreading enough. Maybe I should just read and not comment in writing.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-29T14:15:48-06:00
ID
134525
Comment

No worries, Ray, and I for one am very glad to have you here; as you can see from my four-emdash sentence in the abortion thread, I'm not immune to this sort of thing myself. I wish Jackson did more to explain and own up to the feelings he expressed in that quote, too, but I suppose I'm so impressed that he said it to begin with that I'm more than willing to overlook his lack of followup. It's not something you expect to hear coming out of the mouth of a civil rights leader of his caliber; clearly it took incredible guts to say that, to make himself that vulnerable. And you can tell by the way he worded it that this was no Bushism--it was something he'd thought hard about. I love the car thieves story! Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-29T15:12:52-06:00
ID
134526
Comment

Ah! Okay. So he's an idiot twice over, eh? Maybe he'll learn.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-09-29T20:09:13-06:00
ID
134527
Comment

I just read the email, and an eerie parallel presented itself: "Only people who want to help themselves should be helped, the others should be allowed to destroy themselves." -- forwarded email "4. Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates! ... 6. Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!" -- from the Nine Satanic Statements (Anton LaVey, The Satanic Bible) Hey, I'm just saying... Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-30T02:49:02-06:00
ID
134528
Comment

Tom, your posts in this thread rock, but particularly that last one. And to think that the people I hear this crap from (and believe me, I do) think they're "good Christians." I'll have to tell 'em they're actually following Satanist principles! :-P Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-09-30T04:31:57-06:00
ID
134529
Comment

I've met a few who were surprised to find some so-called "Christian priciples" came from Dante's Inferno, rather than the bible. Amazing what people don't know sometimes. Like this genius.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-09-30T07:51:23-06:00
ID
134530
Comment

For those of you interested in the notion of discussions on "Race, Religion and Society", you might be interested in the upcoming seminar from Millsaps and the Dykes Foundation. The Seminar is titled, JESUS & PAUL and ROME & AMERICA: Disaster Comes From Nature; Injustice Comes from Empire. Dr. Crossan, who focuses his research on Christian biblical text, contemporary non-Christian documents and cutting edge archeological research, shows that the Mediterranean world of the first century was dominated and shaped by Roman Imperial Religious and Economic agenda. He says that it was against this background that early Christians offered their alternative program for community and society. Indeed, he says, early Christians understood that it was not Caesar that was the Son of God and Savior of the world as the Empire taught, but in fact, it was Jesus of Nazareth, a Jewish peasant from Galilee in Judea. Crossan recently remarked that the disaster of Hurricane Katrina reminds us again that while natural catastrophes are unavoidable, the systemic poverty that has been exposed in Katrinaís aftermath, has been a historical fact in each of the domination systems that have occurred in human history. Should be an interesting series. Happens Thursday evening, Oct 27 through Saturday afternoon, Oct 29. No web site, but: To register call, 601-354-0767 or 800-882-7424.

Author
kate
Date
2005-09-30T08:00:50-06:00
ID
134531
Comment

JUST BY GROWING UP WHITE IN THIS CULTURE, I AM GOING TO BE RACIST,î Hilfiker said. Is this not prejudging an entire race and culture as a whole instead of individually? If I were to say anything derogatory about another race, using these same words, I would be labeled a racist. I still hold to this opinion that the last part of his quote was racial stereotyping. His saying that all white people are inherently racist is no different than saying black people are better athletes or criminals. I agreed with 99% of what he said, but I just do not agree with the last statement. Tom, concerning your example: Picture yourself walking alone on the sidewalk to your car late on a Saturday night. You are the last person you know of in the area. Five strangers, all young men, are walking behind you with a sense of purpose. Imagine they're white. Then imagine they're black. Whether or not you believe me I do not know (and I swear I don't mean this arrogantly or condescending) and do not care because I know my own heart, but I would be afraid in either situation. Not because of the skin color but because of the circumstances and situation. I do not understand why people have such a hard time believing that there are a lot of people in this country who were actually raised to judge people based upon their character and not their color. I grew up in a "black" neighborhood. I put that in quotes b/c I am obviously white, yet it was considered a "black" neighborhood, whatever that means. Additionally, we were very poor (16 year old parents have to raise their kids in housing projects usually, which mine did). All that being said, my parents never taught me in word or example that there was a difference between "us and them." I was taught, and am doing my best to pass on to my sons that, the boy next to you at school isn't a "black boy", he is a boy, period. My whole reason for responding to that quote was my frustration with those who do what they claim to oppose, pre judge based upon stereotypes instead of individuals. Don't tell me what I am when you don't know me at all and don't know anything about me. Maybe he is, but I was not taught to think like that. PS-I am not so naive as to think this is not true concerning a lot of people.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-09-30T08:28:18-06:00
ID
134532
Comment

No, Brandon. To understand what Dr. Hilfiker is saying -- or, frankly, the racism that exists in the country today -- you are going to have to put aside your own kneejerk defensiveness at Dr. Hilfiker's statement. He is right, and he is not stereotyping: White people in the U.S. have been, and are, born into a privileged society that is racist. Our culture teaches us to be racist. That is what is in front of us when we are born. That is just true. Now, that does not mean that we are all racist scumbags who follow what that racist culture teaches us every minute. But what it does mean is that we have to work at overcoming the culture. And we HAVE to recognize the signs of racism in ourselves, and a HUGE ONE is not wanting to be the "only white face," or the "I see black people" response as Emily called it on here one time. The fear of going to Metrocenter because there are lots of black folks. The fear of driving through West Jackson, including the neighborhoods that have no worse crime than anywhere in the city. The fear of going to an event because it's all-black. The fear of sending your kids to a majority-black school -- just because it's majority-black. The tendency to sensationalize crime by black people and to call young black criminals (or would-be criminals) "thugs." Assuming that the inner-city "breeds" criminals. And so on. Being "racist" does not mean that you're a card-carrying member of the KKK. And there is nothing wrong with admitting that the white culture in America is still very racist -- because so many people live in denial of what racism is that they will not recognize the things in themselves that still need to be exorcized. That's how stupid e-mails like the one above get passed around as truth by people who could not possibly see themselves as "racist." It sounds like you've made some great strides to overcome this racist culture. Be proud of that. Likewise, I have made strides. Dr. Hilfiker has made strides, as he describes (I'll post more of his comments later today). But we are recovering racists, living in a recovering racist culture, you could say, and there is every reason to be proud of that. But there is no reason to deny that those problems do exist, and have existed for all of us. If we live in denial, we will never complete the recovery and because a country where white people are NOT automatically born into a racist culture. But this tendency of anyone to be oh-so-offended because someone else points out, say, that someone has posted something terribly racist on his Web site that went unchallenged is not helping us progress. I had that very thing happen two years ago; I pointed out to someone that he had not challenged a terrible assumption about blacks that someone had posted on his site, and the man still despises the ground I walk on. He tells people I called him a "racist," which I did not. He cannot see the difference because he is blinded by his defensiveness. He couldn't even think about it long enough to understand that the whole point isn't to call someone a "racist" (which I did not do, and seldom do because of the very "blame" thing that Hilfiger talks about), but to challenge them to think about what they do, and do not do, that contributes to racism. ALL of us have to think about those things in order to make this problem go away some day. The harsh reality is that slavery and then Jim Crow, which lasted into the 70s, mind you, has built a strong legacy that will take a long time of deliberate efforts for us to break down. There is pride in the efforts to dismantle it; there is shame in denying that the effects of it still remain. And here's the real rub: It is in the very defensiveness that racism still exists where much of the racism hides. The technique of getting all offended simply because someone tries to have a conversation about race issues is the most obvious way to cover up racism. It's a sign every single time that someone is in denial. Thus, those are the very folks who need to face the truth about what they're doing, no matter how much it hurts them. But the first step, as Dr. Hilfiker says, is to realize that you're not a bad person because you've been raised in a racist culture. It says much worst things about you to deny that you could possily ever do, or think, a racist thing. I'm not saying that is true about you, mind you. You're here trying to have the conversation and that is a sign that you care about these issues. I applaud you for that.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-30T08:53:16-06:00
ID
134533
Comment

Donna, truer words haven't been spoken than the Sept. 30, 2005, 9:53 am post. It's no one's fault what they're born into but it's their fault for refusing to extricate themselves upon learning they're in a bad place. The whole world knows the United States has a racist history and legacy. I can't imagine any adult American being in the dark about this. Clearly we made great strides in the Sixties and beyond to alleviate elements of white supremacy in this country. It took over 300 years for this country to do anything measurable, but the committment, many would argue, was never really sincere or wholly embraced. Something palpable and far-reaching (but not real far) was done only when tensions were at a boiling point and a great loss of life was imminent with the world watching and probably on our side. We humans have the power to send racism to its final resting place but we won't do it because we're insecure and scared of the truth. And yes, too many people want the advantages of racism. If any person is truly superior than another then why does he need racism as an ally? Hitler was a Satanic and mentally unstable fool long before and after Jessie Owens ate up the tracks that telling day. We've seen countless evidence that no race is superior to another. And I liked the "Hick from Frenchlick," Larry Joe Bird, who showed us (white and black) that once the door was opened the the NBA to all, white men could still walk through and kick butt as he and many other white men have done before and after him. Once you fairly and sincerely open the doors, people of all races will run through. Man can never be smarter than the creator who made us all. "What the world needs now is love, sweet love". "Love is sincere, long suffering, not puffed up, endures all things, forgives all thing; love never fails", etc.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T10:21:28-06:00
ID
134534
Comment

Anyone care to discuss Bill Bennett's statement that if you aborted every black baby the crime rate would decrease? Transcript here (I hope)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-30T10:38:55-06:00
ID
134535
Comment

Well, that is a transcript of his "rebuttle" with the original statement at the top.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-30T10:40:31-06:00
ID
134536
Comment

I have to say that while I agree with the spirit of almost all of the comments here, including Dr. Hilfiker's, I do NOT agree with the application of the word "racist" to every white individual. "Racist" is a very loaded term that, in this case, classifies and defines someone instantly on the basis of their membership in a group. It's all very well to use qualifiers about what Dr. Hilfiker "really" meant, and I believe them, and as I said I agree with the spirit of what he was saying. But not everyone is going to understand that shorthand, on both sides of the equation, and using the word "racist", to me, shuts off debate between people who might otherwise be able to start to understand. Now, maybe one could make the argument that it takes hyperbole to jolt people out of their subconscious and/or ingrained thought patterns. Could be. But to me, calling someone (even oneself) a racist just denies the reality that there are people of good will on all sides who really are trying to make progress. Maybe it's just semantics. But I think there is a difference between growing up in a culture with preconceptions (which we all do) and taking those preconceptions for granted in such a nasty way as to assume negative things about other individuals on the basis of their ethnicity (which is what racism means to me).

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-09-30T11:29:35-06:00
ID
134537
Comment

excuse me... I meant to say "shuts off conversation between people who might otherwise be able to start to understand each other" instead of "shuts off debate between people who might otherwise be able to start to understand."

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-09-30T11:30:54-06:00
ID
134538
Comment

Just for reference, here is the Merriam-Webster definition of racism: Main Entry: rac?ism Function: noun 1 : a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race 2 : racial prejudice or discrimination - rac?ist /-sist also -shist/ noun or adjective

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-09-30T11:32:32-06:00
ID
134539
Comment

Just three remarks - first, I had an instructor at Hinds actually mention that "they wanted Cokes, not water" story. It did not sit well with me at the time, and now I see where it came from. These rumor/stories are everywhere, it's insidious. Second - thanks Kate for the notice about Crossan being here - that is EXACTLY the kind of ideas I need to hear about, because this world is spinning so badly out of control, I feel ill. I am so glad he is coming here. Well, Joan Baez might be my first choice... Third, Mr. Bennett cannot get away with saying such things, outloud, and then saying 'oops.' the Fourth Reich is getting too brave for me, downright creepy.

Author
sunshine
Date
2005-09-30T11:43:08-06:00
ID
134540
Comment

I hope I haven't said anything to indicate that I think all white folks are racist. I know too many who aren't. And I know there are countless other ones I don't know who aren't racist. Brother William Bennett must have gone completely off his rockers. I wouldn't be surprised at all to learn he has been hitting the pipe, or on some other heavy drugs, like Rust Limpbaugh. (Misspelling intended for a change). I take it he feels we no longer have anything to offer America or the world. This makes me want to pack up the family and head on back to West Africa to find the Carter's homestead there. Those kind of comments are so idiotic I don't even get mad anymore.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T11:48:20-06:00
ID
134541
Comment

This makes me want to pack up the family and head on back to West Africa to find the Carter's homestead there. uhhh... isn't that what they hope?

Author
Rex
Date
2005-09-30T12:23:30-06:00
ID
134542
Comment

Mr. Bennett comments reminded me of Bob Marley's hit song, "I Shot the Sheriff." "Sheriif John Brown always hated me For what I don't know Ev'ry time I plant a seed He said, Kill it before it grows old He said, kill them before they grow Freedom came my way one day And I started out of town All of a dudden I saw Sheriff John Brown Aiming to shoot me down So I shot, I shot, I shot him down And I say, if am guilty I will pay I shot the Sheriff, but I didn't shoot no deputy. I shot the Sheriff and I swear it was in self defense Reflexes had the better of me And what is to be must be Ev'ry day the bucket goes to the well One day the bottom will drop out." I'm out. Stay up everybody.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T12:27:26-06:00
ID
134543
Comment

Rex, I was only joking. I wouldn't dare make Bennett, Limpbaugh, and others that happy.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T12:29:23-06:00
ID
134544
Comment

You know, if I were an evacuee, maybe I would want Coke and McDonald's instead of water and sandwiches. I'm not saying we should go out and buy Coke and McDonald's, but I'm saying that if I lost everthing I ever owned in the flood, and had absolutely nothing, and knew people (most likely family members) who had vanished, I might not be the best choice for a character sketch. That anyone would judge an entire group of people based on how some folks behave when they've lost absolutely everything and are greeted by a man who's there for the "warm fuzzies" is really kind of disturbing. But even if the story were true, it would say nothing bad about black folks in general, and very little bad about the specific people described. Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London does a great job of explaining the psychology of "ingratitude," and it's compelling. Reading that book changed my life, and everybody who takes a dim view of the suffering should read it. Brandon, your answer does not surprise me, and I don't think you're lying. But I don't think you're being adequately self-critical. In this culture, conservatives are encouraged to think that if they don't consciously hold racist beliefs, they can put a bow on it and call it good. And to a certain extent, they can--but if you don't make that deeper examination of what lies in your subconscious mind, you'll have a hard time getting rid of it. I want to go into my mind and kill that alligator. I agree with Hifilker that all whites, and all members of other ethnicities for that matter, are probably racist according to the broadest definition of the term. But I think we need to be careful about this--remember that when a troll came on board a few weeks ago, we drew a sharp distinction between conscious or institutional racism and unconscious prejudice, and then he successfully hung us up in the semantics of the word "racism." It's tricky. I think the vast majority of whites in this culture do not consciously believe that whites are genetically superior to those of other races--the classic definition of racism. But subconsciously, I think something that can be called racism is present in everybody, especially whites, and that, because whites are disproportionately powerful in this society and have been for centuries, that plays into a very insidious, very sinister institutional racism. You have to FIGHT your own participation in that matrix, just like you have to FIGHT, as a man, your own participation in the sexist matrix. I am a radical feminist; I believe in the abolition of binary gender. But subconsciously, do I have feelings, do I have reactions, that could be called sexist? Probably. I'm male, and I don't think I'm perfect enough, as a person, to wash all that sludge out of my mind in a single lifetime. (I suppose I can take some comfort in the fact that even women are programmed with this garbage. Nobody is pristine.) Same goes for racism. Same goes for homophobia. Brandon, these are the things we liberals believe in instead of original sin. I posted about Bennett in the forum, but for some reason it didn't show up in the new posts list. Oh, well. Gist of it: I'm sure he had this kind of conversation in private a thousand times with other conservatives, so I'm glad he slipped up and let us all know what he thinks. Now he should go away. Permanently. This has destroyed any future prospects he might have as a career politician, as well it should. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-30T12:33:44-06:00
ID
134545
Comment

Oh, and I should add: I went to the coliseum to volunteer when it was housing evacuees, and just about dropped my jaw at how NICE, how loving, everybody seemed to be. It was like a big picnic. The kids were outside playing basketball and throwing around paper airplanes--and there was no fighting. The adults were sitting there with their air mattresses, sleeping in public five feet away from strangers... I know they'd been there a little while by the time I went, but I couldn't help but think of how well these folks handled losing everything, and meanwhile I had gotten cranky from time to time because I lost air conditioning for six days. These folks inspired me. That's cliched, but in this case I can't think of a better way of putting it. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-30T12:45:11-06:00
ID
134546
Comment

This is COMPLETELY off the subject, but it speaks to cultural differences. Every year at Thanksgiving the residential facility for which I work (community based) has a huge meal for all the families we've worked with thru the year. For the past two years some of the kids refused to eat the turkey and dressing and all the good "home" food we had cooked. They looked at it and said, "We want McDonalds". They had never seen cornbread dressing or black eyed peas before. They weren't ungrateful, they were working off their experiences.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-09-30T13:23:29-06:00
ID
134547
Comment

Good point, Ali. How many poor and working-class folks in New Orleans lived on a diet of bottled water and deli sandwiches? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-30T13:46:34-06:00
ID
134548
Comment

Scott et al. ... I've been pondering the whole concept of "racist" and "racism" a whole lot since we started the JFP, with so many of us are trying to talk honestly about these issues. I agree with you that it is an emotional word, and have tried to avoid using it as much as possible. But, damn, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. If you try to have a conversation that's even remotely related to race, but without mentioning racism outright, the ones in the most denial shut down the conversation immediately by screaming that you called them "racist." (Uh, didn't.) And if you don't ever say the R-word about people's words and action because people are so thin-skinned about it, then you run the serious risk of just letting the racism go over and over again ... and calling it everything but what it is. (We're REAL good at that in our dear old Missislop, as my Mama called our state.) Thus, to me, there is something refreshing about Dr. Hilfiker's approach, although it has not traditionally been my own: OWN OUR RACISM. There could be something to help get past the fear of the R-word, and the resulting polarization, if we all simply say, "yeah, I have racist tendencies. I was born white in a white racist society. I have to overcome my cultural training." That way, we are not pointing fingers at other people the whole time; we are saying that "we are all in this together; let's help each other." There's something wonderful and brilliant about that -- and I promise you that Dr. Hilfiker knows a whole more about this than most of us do. He's devoted his life to trying to bridge race and class gaps. I figure he's worth at least giving a listen to on this. Thus, the idea is that by owning the concept of "racism," we make it easier for ourselves and others to say, "well, yeah, I have had racist thoughts. I have irrational fears of certain people just because they're not white." But, see, that isn't the end-all, and then everyone starts jumping up and down and blaming that person. That is an opening, not an indictment. It's what happens next that is important. If someone reacts in this context with, "how dare you call me racist!" they are likely not willing to look at their own tendences, and at least who they are and know to either try to avoid them or what to expect in their presence. Listening to Dr. Hilfiker, I'm starting to comprehend the need to own our racism, I guess you would call it, in order to truly get past it, rather than watch people tiptoe around the word (and watch racists use it to shut down conversation) and never really discuss anything because they fear being called "racist." Ultimately, I think the word "racist" has, rather ironically, been taken over by those who are the most racist in our society. What I mean by that is that they throw back the "how dare you accuse me of being racist!?" at any attempt at a conversation about race dialogue (or even one about the poor that doesn't mention race). In my experience, simply by challenging people's words and thoughts you get accused of calling them a "racist." Of course, the ones who do that are the most suspect, inevitably -- and, ironically, precisely because they're so paranoid about it; what are they trying to hide? Doth protest too much, and all that jazz. I hope all that is making sense, but I do think that Dr. Hilfiker is onto something here. It's a very interesting concept that one can admit to being "racist" or even point out that someone else is without hating them or "blaming" them for being racist. Ultimately, the blame perhaps should only come against people who refuse to take an honest look at themselves. Or, perhaps pity and compassion are better responses. I don't know. I also think that some "tough love" is due toward those people to make them face their own demons -- especially if they are in positions to hurt or influence groups of people. The Buddhists talk a lot about compassion even (especially) toward those who confound you the most, but they also warn against "idiot compassion," which in many ways, as I understand it, means exactly what it sounds like. The trick, though, is that you can still be compassionate toward people who do not understand the need for self-examination even as you do not accept the tricks they use to try to deflect criticism of their words and actions. Allowing such deflection because their feelings might be hurt strikes me as "idiot compassion."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-30T14:06:21-06:00
ID
134549
Comment

We good Mississippians are proud of you, Donna, for giving the issue of race and class as much thought and consideration as you are doing. I know you're having far greater impact than you might realize. Lots of people are reading what you're writing. Yes, some people are angry that you're saying it but they can't deny that you're zeroing in on the issues with passion and truth. I have mentioned your name to white folks you don't even know and who wouldn't want their friends to know they secretly support your endeavors. They sit up at the mere mention of your name. The truth has this freeing, cleansing, empowering, embracing, and energizing quality to it - even when its tentacles aren't easily seen. Don't worry about the Satanic haters out there, they can, and will, go to hell.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T14:51:22-06:00
ID
134550
Comment

Thank you, Ray. This isn't a partisan issue, and we have readers and supporters with all sorts of political views -- who believe, as I do to the tips of my toes, that a small band of idiots (as my mama used to call 'em) have held this state hostage for too long. We. Are. Better. Than. That. Keep the faith. Love your neighbor, regardless of race. Screw the idiots.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-09-30T14:55:14-06:00
ID
134551
Comment

Enjoying the dialog though reluctant to participate. As a Black (tri-racial =black) girl adopted transracially with 2 white parents, 2 white brothers and a black sister, there was no "us" vs. "them". How could there be. But our parents taught us that racism was alive and dangerous. And we needed to be armed (emotionally/intellectually) to fight against it. Like you, Brandon- I can honestly say that I would be nervous if I saw several people behind me in an alley, white or black, male or female. I do believe it is possible for me and Brandon to truely feel the way we do-especially because of the way we were raised. And to be clear- I do identify myself as a black woman- not some messed up Jerry Springer who-am-I? chick. But we must remember the world we live in- a scary, racist, classist, Bushie world. And why did I hear too many apologies for Bennet today?! Also- check out BLINK- new book by Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the Tipping Point.

Author
urbangypsy
Date
2005-09-30T15:12:54-06:00
ID
134552
Comment

Urbangypsy, you bring up the reason I got mad at Jessie for not speaking to his comments. When in an alleyway, I'm concerned about anything moving and present. I won't trust anything or anybody I don't know and can't control, and race has nothing to do with it. I just want to make it out safely. I'm looking at everything and everybody as carefully and suspiciously as possible. I'm acutely aware that anybody and too many things can #$%* you up.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T15:23:20-06:00
ID
134553
Comment

I hear you-Ray. And no more talk of moving-even in jest- we need folks like you in Jackson to keep the conversations going.

Author
urbangypsy
Date
2005-09-30T15:43:37-06:00
ID
134554
Comment

Ray and urbangypsy, I suppose you have a point. I can't say I would be "relieved" if I were in a deserted alley and a white person was creeping up on me, or if five young white men were moving purposefully in my direction. I suppose I used a bad example. But the point I'm trying to get at is that I don't think it's possible to be color-blind, and to the extent that we're not, we should be aware of that. I think we also need to be aware of our complicity in institutional racism. This doesn't mean that everything has to come down to "us" and "them." My best friend growing up was biracial, and I grew up in an environment with a near-perfect 50/50 racial split; one of my co-authors, and his wife (both white), have adopted two adorable girls--young women, now--from Ethiopia; and I consciously do everything I can to promote antiracism, that is to say, to dismantle institutional racism. So let me be clear here: There is no "them" for me as far as race is concerned, and there is no "us." I think race is a social construct, and I think one day it will cease to exist--racial background will play a determining role in physical characteristics, but will ultimately be as irrelevant as eye or hair color. I look forward to that world. I work for that world. Don't misunderstand me here. But I also think that, as a white man, I am not 100% free of prejudice. I am not color blind. And when other whites claim to be, I think I'm justified in my suspicion that they haven't been sufficiently self-critical. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-30T16:11:22-06:00
ID
134555
Comment

BTW- Gotta second urbangypsy here, Ray. But if the Carter homestead needs an occupant, I can think of a former education secretary I'd like to send there...

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-09-30T16:15:17-06:00
ID
134556
Comment

I think race is a social construct... Me too. When I took Social Problems at Millsaps in 1981, the professor told us, among other things, that race is not a valid scientific concept in terms of the physical characteristics of human beings, because there is more physical variation within each so-called race than there is between races as a whole. Given that, the inevitable conclusion is that race is a social phenomenon. Obviously race has cultural significance in the world we live in, but it is not a physical phenomenon at all. Best, Tim

Author
Tim Kynerd
Date
2005-09-30T16:29:52-06:00
ID
134557
Comment

I understand your comments,Tom. You have done a wonderful job of setting forth your positions. I just wanted Jessie to honestly discuss his feelings. If he thought too many or all black kids were becoming criminals, he should have said it. If he was unfairly streotyping the ghetto, he should have been man enough to admit and apologize for it. If he saw the black community destructing to a point of no safety, he should have told the unknowing and sought help to fix it. Jessie ran and I don't want my leader to run and/or remain screwd up. I'm for facing a problem and trying to fix it. You see, I realize Jessie is just another man. I also expect him to be honest, to fix himself, then lead, like Dr. King did. Dr. King had lots of fears and imperfections that he overcame and some he never did. Dr. King was man enought to be real, and he tried to do the right things although often very uncomfortable when doing them.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-09-30T16:35:41-06:00
ID
134558
Comment

Oh good. I'm white, therefore I'm racist. I've been accused of that since seventh grade when I didn't talk to anyone. Wonderful. Can I quit the human race now?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-10-03T09:06:33-06:00
ID
134559
Comment

Ironghost, you're kneejerking. Think a little harder about what's being said, please. Meantime, if you are willing look me in the eye and tell me you have never had a racist thought in your entire life, I will believe you. Really. I, however, cannot do that, and I am willing to look you in the eye and tell you that.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T10:03:25-06:00
ID
134560
Comment

Regarding the seminar that kate mentioned at Millsaps, I saw Jon Dominic Crossan speak years ago at Villanova and he is incredible. This guy used to be a monk and now he's a very controversial historical Bible scholar. His book The Birth of Christianity made some of the same distinctions, to wit: you had two (at least) competing divine birth stories in 1st century rome. One was for caesar, whose mom said she fell asleep one night in the temple of Apollo, got it on with a snake (Apollo's avatar), and then had little Octavian, who was then semi-divine. The other divinity story was Jesus. Both are equally plausible from a historical perspective. The difference is in your ethics. One story furthers the agenda of an occupying military power. The other lifts up the oppressed. Anyway, Crossan is a genius...

Author
Brian C Johnson
Date
2005-10-03T10:25:42-06:00
ID
134561
Comment

This is a fascinating example of how young people can take actions without fully thinking about the consequences. However, I would like to offer a slightly different approach than the previous comments. I am 30 years older than Ricky Johnson. I met him when he was a freshman in college and have seen him grow up. He is a very intelligent young man who always displayed a sensitivity for others. He never displayed any indications of an attitude of racism or a less than caring attitude for others less fortunate than him. He is now an impressive young doctor with a great career ahead of him. It is very much in character for him to have not ran from your article and to have told you candidly that he should not have forwarded that terrible email and that he would do what he could do to learn from his mistake in this matter. Not everyone has this strength of character. Larry Jones

Author
Larry Jones
Date
2005-10-03T10:46:42-06:00
ID
134562
Comment

Would you say that anyone who lived in the former Soviet Union must be a Communist? Or anyone who lived in Nazi Germany must be a Nazi? Individuals can and do rise above their environment all the time. Again, I agree with the spirit of almost all the commentary here, but I do not see how the use of a loaded word like "racist" is either accurate or helpful. Words and their definitions matter.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-03T10:57:42-06:00
ID
134563
Comment

You know, Ironghost, I was just thinking about your comments, and it struck me that you are actually bringing up, purposefully or not, a really important point to talk about. That is, the way people are so defensive about being called "racist" or "a racist" or even accused of saying something that is "racist" even if they didn't mean to be. And most frustrating, and which happens all the time, is the way people accuse you of calling them "racist" even if you're trying to have a non-accusatory discussion about race. They shut down the conversation immediately by saying, "you're trying to call me a racist, aren't you, aren't you?" That is, the person trying to have the conversation is the demon, not the people who make the assumptions in the first place. Now, that's back-a$$-ward. I used to think, like Scott Albert, that it was better to avoid using the word at all because it was so "divisive." Now, I'm just not so sure. The truth is, the people who have taken it back as a "reverse weapon," you could call it, to shut down any discussion about race, use the word whenever they feel like it to shut down conversation. And if you try to talk about race, and don't use the word "racist" or "racism," very often the discussion is so watered down that it doesn't do any good. No one listens or takes it seriously. It's a bit of a quandary. I guess that's why I'm liking Dr. Hilfiker's comments so much. What's so painful about saying, "yeah, I've had racist thoughts. I might even have beliefs, or tendencies to believe unsubstantiated insults (see evacuee e-mail) because it fits belief systems shaped by racist forces and traditions." Truth is, it's OKóno, imperativeóto look inside and examine our own beliefs that are based on cultural teachings *that may well be no fault of our own.* That is, racism doesn't have to be on purpose. As Dr. Hilfiker also says, if you keep reading, we need to take the "blame" out of racism. No, not out of the actions that result from it, necessarily. See the difference. So, no, Ironghost, no one is asking you to "quit the human race" because you're white. If anything, you are being asking to participate in it more fully, to share the lessons you've learned along the way, to periodically re-examine your own assumptions about other humans -- which is asking no more of you than of any of the rest of us. Honestly, no one should be lambasted merely because they have racist ideas or assumptions. They should be taught. Each one, teach one, and all that. It is what happened AFTER someone points out to you that some of your assumptions might be racist, thanks to our whites-are-supreme culture, that really matters. Do you (not meaning just you, Ironghost; everyone) kneejerk automatically and shut down further discussion? Do you disparage and ridicule the person trying to get you to examine your assumptions? Do you proclaim that no way, nuh uh, are you, nor have you ever, been a racist in any form or fashion? Do you proclaim that racism is a thing of the past? To me, those kinds of responses is where the really disturbing racism/denial lies, not in the fact that one has racist assumptions. It's about your actions, stupid! My suggested alternative is to say: "Let's talk about this thing and make some progress." I'll be honest: I've been shocked and awed at learning which of my words or actions were considered "racist" by black friends and co-workers. On the other hand, had we not had the conversation, I wouldn't have gotten the chance to defend myself against what I thought were unfair characterizations of me , either. I don't know. I kinda think it's a no-brainer. Admit that we are part of a racist culture, and then talk about what to do to make it better. But I also know that cultural teachings and stereotypes run way deep. And no one says this is going to be a cakewalk.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T11:23:57-06:00
ID
134564
Comment

Would you say that anyone who lived in the former Soviet Union must be a Communist? Or anyone who lived in Nazi Germany must be a Nazi? No, Scott, that is not a parallel example. I also don't believe that everyone who lives in the U.S. is a capitalist, or even a Republican, just because those people are in charge right now.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T11:25:55-06:00
ID
134565
Comment

Larry, I agree with you. Dr. Johnston did show strength of character in his response to this, and I don't think he should be demonized. That hasn't been the point of all this. I think the wider context is to try to understand why someone with such a character has the kind of blind spot that would allow him to forward such an e-mail. And that question is not about himóit is about the questions we're talking about, the unexamined assumptions that we carry around, well, until we don't anymore. But, again, I salute Dr. Johnston for facing this thing. I suspect he will have a much richer life because he did, even if the short term sucks for him.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T11:29:03-06:00
ID
134566
Comment

I can't claim to have never had any racist thoughts toward white people and some other races of people. After spending 18 years in a horribly race conscious and white dominationg Mississippi society then finally being taught truthful and honest black history at Tougaloo College, I became very angry and hateful of white folks in general. For a period of time I couldn't really see how any white person could be any different than the usual. I even started to think that Ernest Borinski, Steven Rozman, and Dick Johnson, three white liberal teachers at Tougaloo, were a part of some clandestine governmental's or other agency's scheme to further control and cloud black minds even at a private college. I brazenly told Professor Dick Johnson this one day as he tried to teach me Logic and Effective Thinking. Mind you, Profeesor Johnson, Borinski (a renowned and widely known sociologist) and Rozman had, unbeknown to me at the time, had dedicated their lives to teaching and opening the eyes of youngsters just like me for little or no monetary or professional benefits. Professor Johnson got real mad at me which resulted in my cowardly dropping his class. I later learned his anger was only short-lived. I inadvertently ran into him 28 years later and he didn't remember me or what I said. I thank God for that. He didn't realize it, but his anger and protest were the restart of my judging people on the basis of their personal character and deeds instead of race. Had I not learned the necessity of judging people as individuals rather than group connections, appearances, or learned or taught prejudices, I would not have had the life and career that I have had. And yes, I would have missed out on many new friends and relationships.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-03T11:29:33-06:00
ID
134567
Comment

Donna, I can' t compliment you enough for your clear comments here. If a person isn't racist, and can honestly say he has never had any racist thoughts, then, no one is talking about or to them. And so, I don't understand the anger.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-03T11:43:40-06:00
ID
134568
Comment

Thanks, Ray. I honestly wasn't sure how clear they were when I wrote them. Agreed: I don't understand the defensiveness, either, franklyóbut I am trying to, especially being that some people's defensiveness blocks a vital discussion about race issues in America. Then they fester under the surface, and everyone distrusts each other. Then e-mails such as the above piece of poo gets passed around, and people get ridiculed for trying to have vital discussions. It's a cycle that must end. And it won't if we don't talk about it. Onward, my friend. And thank goodness for your Professor Johnson. ;-D

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T11:53:34-06:00
ID
134569
Comment

Ray, I also like to remind people that members of the KKK and the White Citizens' Council, and today's Council of Conservative Citizens, denied/deny til the cows came home that they were "racist," or hated black people, or anything so awful. They were just trying to protect us white girls from harm and miscegenation. And keep anyone from demanding, er, "special rights." And do what the Bible said to do. (And lest we forget all those politicians caught pandering to the CofCC who denied they knew what the group is all about: horsesh!t to that one.) That is, we have a long, long history of the most racist folk in our midst denying they are racist, so it won't be overcome easily. That doesn't mean, of course, that everyone's racism rises to those kinds of levelsóit just means that denials of racism are pretty empty when your words and/or actions show the world otherwise. So we must focus on the words and actions to make sure the word itself doesn't cling to us.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T12:00:01-06:00
ID
134570
Comment

To me, the underlying point is, as the Buddha would say (in Karen Armstrong's translation), "life is gone awry" (as opposed to the more usual "life is suffering"). We're not in the Garden anymore, and things are just plain mucked up. One of the many ways we're messed up, collectively, is that we have a long history of violence and fear towards other races. In this case, given the history that we've all grown up with, one of our collective issues is going to be racism. We all are equipped with a certain level of self delusion and fear, and that's going to manifest in ways that we may not like - like racist thoughts. The trick is to become more self aware, not less - especially when words like "racism" get thrown around. I think we can all agree that we've not achieved Nirvana, nor have we achieved god's kingdom on earth, so something's clearly not right. To me, it seems pretty clear that systemic racism is one of the manifestations of that fact. Heck, we're only human. Of course we're completely screwed up. I'm not really sure Donna and others are going to be able to "take back" the word racist, but it's an interesting path to pursue. Iron, I think you may just be a misanthrope. In the immortal words of Jane Austen, "There are few people in the world who I really love, and even fewer who I think well of."

Author
kate
Date
2005-10-03T12:37:57-06:00
ID
134571
Comment

I don't understand why it isn't a parallel example. The insinuation was that people who grow up in a certain environment are slaves to their background or environment, and that it is okay to generalize about them because of where they are from or who they grew up around. Would a better example be to assume that anyone who grows up in Egypt or Iran is anti-Semitic? In other words, as Dr. Hilfiker said: "Just by growing up white in this culture, I am going to be racist." I think this sentence is absolute nonsense and assumes that the group one supposedly "belongs" to is more important than who one is as an individual. Isn't this what we are trying to get away from when it comes to racism, the idea that color of skin is more important than content of character? (Yes, I know that phrase has been co-opted by some people with non-MLK motivations, but I think you know what I mean.) Donna, you said (and I agree): "The truth is, the people who have taken it back as a "reverse weapon," you could call it, to shut down any discussion about race, use the word whenever they feel like it to shut down conversation. And if you try to talk about race, and don't use the word "racist" or "racism," very often the discussion is so watered down that it doesn't do any good. No one listens or takes it seriously. It's a bit of a quandary." That's all true, but I don't think the answer is to use the word as a reverse-reverse weapon. If we can't have a discussion about these issues without calling people racists just by virtue of what color they are, then we have what may be a truly insurmountable problem. If we are not smart enough to have a substantive discussion about the real and persistent problem of racism, without resorting to these kinds of generalizations, then we are really in trouble.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-03T13:19:46-06:00
ID
134572
Comment

(You know, folks don't realize this, but I've known Ironghost since I was about 12.) I think a lot of the defensiveness about "racism" comes from a binary, zero-sum-game understanding of the concept. According to the fairy tale version of the civil rights struggle...


There were once two types of whites: racists, who supported segregation and slavery and whatever else and were generally nasty people, and non-racists, who marched for civil rights and were generally good people. The south is full of racists and the north is full of non-racists. One day, inspired by Dr. King, white northern non-racists in Congress passed laws taking away the white southern racists' power to keep society segregated. Now most southerners and northerners are both non-racists, and a small segment of white racists impotently cry for us to return to the days of segregation.
This is the same simplistic model of the civil rights movement, incidentally, that presents all black folks--even Dr. King and Malcolm X--as being ultimately victims crying for help rather than prophets who forced their agendas to be heard, and places the salvation of allegedly passive black folks in the hands of allegedly benevolent whites. So from this comes Mississippi Burning and the defensiveness about the word "racist." Before we go any further in criticizing this model--which is obsolete, which does need to be discarded--let's acknowledge what's good about it: 1. It marginalizes professing segregationists from the larger community, essentially driving them underground. The CofCC may still be safe stomping grounds for Republicans, but Richard Barrett and the Klan are not. If it were not for this model of racism, then our state legislature would still be arguing about busing to this day. 2. It correctly honors folks who took risks in the civil rights movement, and faced all kinds of penalties--including possible death--for doing so at the time. But that said, the model is faulty: 1. It fails to make normal people of their own racist lapses. I don't think anyone has ever walked the planet who has never, ever had a racist thought. 1a. In particular, if I ever had a nickel for the number of times I've heard "I marched with Dr. King, but I still think..." No, being on the right side of "the War" does not make your obnoxiously racist ideas non-racist. 2. It lets ideologues propose obviously racist ideas and strategies--"if we aborted every black baby, crime would drop"; "Jackson is breeding subhumans"; etc.--and get off the hook as long as they're not advocating segregation or a specific doctrine of racial superiority. 3. It completely ignores the contributions black folks made to their own liberation. The civil rights movement was not Mr. and Ms. White doing Mr. and Ms. Black a favor. It was Mr. and Ms. White and Mr. and Ms. Black working together, and the real impetus of the movement came from Mr. and Ms. Black. But yeah, if I bought into the simpler version of the story (and I used to), then I'd have exactly the same knee-jerk reaction Ironghost is having. I'm certainly not a white supremacist, a Klansman, a segregationist, or anything like that; I never have been. Neither, I'm sure, has Ironghost. I strongly suspect we'd both march against a segregation bill if it somehow became law. But remember the armbands story; given the opportunity to sort people into neat little categories, we are pushed to do so. That's what we've evolved to do. It's not because we choose to be racists, or promote a racist ideology. It's because we're human beings living in a society where race is still a powerful identity-marker, so there's no point in pretending there's no elephant in the room. Does that mean that our relationships with those of other races are somehow stilted or inauthentic? Well, we all have violent ideations, too, and sometimes they play a role in our policy beliefs (for most of the afternoon of 9/11, I really wanted Bush to declare war on Saudi Arabia); do they prevent us from ever doing nonviolent things? No. You can work with folks of other races; you can have friends with folks of other races; you can even date and marry someone of another race. You can be closer to specific people of other races than you are to any members of your own race. You can identify with a race other than your own (I know of one woman who I strongly suspect feels solidarity with whites, Hispanics, and African Americans, because she has a background in, and lives in, all three cultures). But that doesn't mean that the very human flaws that society gave you, that exploit evolutionary conditioning vis-a-vis group identification, are gone. I doubt they ever totally go away. I don't see how they could. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-03T13:31:11-06:00
ID
134573
Comment

That should read 1. It fails to make normal people aware of their own racist lapses... SAJ, you may be right that using a word other than "racist" would be less difficult. But what word would you recommend? Can you come up with an equally accurate alternate term? Because I can't. Kate (good to hear your voice the other day, BTW!), I seem to remember Ironghost embracing the misanthrope label at one point, but I personally I think he's just a little shy. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-03T13:36:40-06:00
ID
134574
Comment

TH: It's not about finding another single word to describe someone. It's about framing the argument/discussion in a way that pushes it forward rather than degenerating into name calling. There are people out there, perhaps of more conservative leanings than myself or most of the people on this board, who might be willing to examine their own beliefs and actions, but who will just shut down if you say that they are racist just because they are white. In fact, that is the crux of my objection: the blanket statement that whites are racist just because they are white. I am not about to contend, nor have I, that racism doesn't exist or that there aren't many people who deserve the title "racist". I just disagree with the generalized use of the term.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-03T13:42:32-06:00
ID
134575
Comment

I will the first to proclaim to the world that old racist or racism has finally died. I'm watching it very closely. It's suffering from vertigo, old age, stubborness, and is awful to look at; but like Strom Thurmond, apparently has some real good doctors. Also like Strom Thurmond, it publicly hates people of other races, but when no one is looking, secretly dates and have intercourse outside its group. It a walking and talking anomaly. After all, how can you say Vivica Fox, Hallie Berry, Jennifer Lopez, Selena (God rest her beautiful soul. I even said how could a bullet penetrate the body of somebody who looked that good), Lucy Lu, Jessica Iba, Racquel Welch (even at 98), and many more of all sizes, hues, races, classes and cultures ain't all fine and desirable. Even racist or racism ain't that blind. I imagine the same can be said of various men althought they're all ugly to me.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-03T13:48:21-06:00
ID
134576
Comment

Ray, I once ran across a white supremacist web site that actually dissed Halle Berry's looks (shortly after her Oscar win). Is that pathetic or what? SAJ, I'd still like to hear how you would frame the very serious institutional racism problem we're talking about here without using the word "racist" or "racism." I don't think it can be done, or at least not done well. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-03T13:59:30-06:00
ID
134577
Comment

I'm sorry I wasn't more serious since most of yall are. I must admit I have some affinity for Scott's argument. However, isn't the premise still largely correct. Perhaps "many" or "most" or "some" rather than the implied "all" will solve any discrepancies. I might add, yall are some smart people. I'm glad I went to college.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-03T14:04:32-06:00
ID
134578
Comment

Some fly-by comments/responses because I don't have much time. Scott: e insinuation was that people who grow up in a certain environment are slaves to their background or environment, and that it is okay to generalize about them because of where they are from or who they grew up around. You're misreading, Scott. No one said anything about being "slaves" to a background; in fact, quite the opposite. We do have control, even if we've been indoctrinated in a racist culture; thus the need to understand what that culture has taught us and change it. Some are further along than others on this. Scott: Would a better example be to assume that anyone who grows up in Egypt or Iran is anti-Semitic? Yes, in fact, it would be better than using a political association as a parallel example. There are some surface similiarities, but that won't work in a rigorous discussion. And it rather assumes that people choose to be racist, which I am questioning. I believe more that people must choose NOT to be racist in a culture that teaches racism and white superiority. And to fully complete that cycle, one must be willing to explore what racism is, and how we may make assumptions that people tell us are not racist, but surely are ó like blanketly blaming the "welfare state" (even with its wrinkles) for the problems of the inner city. Hell, the "welfare state" (as they are shaping it) is itself an outgrowth of racism -- lest they forget. As for your earlier Nazi analogy, I was going to suggest at least going past that to question how even good Germans went along with the degree of anti-Semitism that the Nazis pushed and took advantage ofóchoosing to believe that it was good for them, until it was apparent that, well, evil isn't good for anybody. That would get much closer to the heart of what we're trying to discuss here than the Nazi/Communist example. Scott: I think this sentence is absolute nonsense and assumes that the group one supposedly "belongs" to is more important than who one is as an individual. No, it doesn't, unless you rewrite it to mean that. You are zooming so closely in on one sentence outside its context that you are rewriting it to mean all sorts of straw men you can knock down. Clearly, if you think this through, "who one is as an individual" depends in large part on how they react to prejudices, the prevailing culture, peer pressure and the overall group dynamic. I'm all for rugged individualism just like the next American, but it's only as good as how you treat your fellow man. And that depends heavily on how you respond to negative influences in the culture. Scott: That's all true, but I don't think the answer is to use the word as a reverse-reverse weapon. Me, either. I didn't say to do that. Actually calling something what it isóand then demystifying that a bit by admitting that we're all capable of it, so you're not a devilódoesn't exactly sound reverse-reverse anything to me. If we can't have a discussion about these issues without calling people racists just by virtue of what color they are, then we have what may be a truly insurmountable problem. I think you're not listening. Why does it hurt so much to think that we can all declare ourselves "racists" and then get on with it a real conversation about how not to be -- without all the two-steppin' about how awful it is to be called a "racist." I. Am. A. Racist. You know what? I'm no different now than I was two seconds ago. I don't think you're listening to what we're trying to say, Scott (and, yes, because that word bothers you so much, which does prove at least one of your points, and at least in one instance). I suggest not being so fixated on one short sentence when there are a whole lot of others around it to help explain it. And I do need to find the rest of Dr. Hilfiker's remarks and post. They're great. As I've said already, Scott, I feel your pain about how the word "racism" is divisive. But it's not going to stop being if we shy away from it all the time, rather than talking about it, defining (even in a multitude of ways), examining our selves for its signs that we didn't recognize and so on. And I've already stated my reasons for believing that the whole shying-from-it thing hasn't worked. We've tried that, and it's failed miserably.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T14:27:08-06:00
ID
134579
Comment

Kate, I don't want to take the word back, but I do want to have a long conversation about it without it being mis-defined and boomeranged back anytime it comes up -- and that won't stop happening if we leave the word in the closet. I'm starting to feel very strongly about that. However, and this is important Scott, taking it out of the closet does not mean using it as a weapon (reverse-reverse, or otherwise). It truly means demystifying it, so that people are able to face their own racism without feeling like they have to leave the human race, as Ironghost put it. (I should mention here that I really dig Ironghost; nothing was meant in a mean way.) And I believe that reactions such as his and Scott's are vital to this discussion--because it's just this reticence to talk about "racism" in its various forms that is keeping it around. And when it does come out of the closet, it tends to be angry. Out for now.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T14:28:41-06:00
ID
134580
Comment

OK, one more point. I should add that when Dr. Hilfiker made that statement that has Scott Albert roiled, I recoiled from it a bit, too. But I had listened to the interview with him on NPR, and had been thinking a lot about how the word "racist" is being used as a weapon against people who want to discuss race issues, and then I thought about all this a lot over the weekend with some self-examination thrown in there. By the time I wrote the story on Monday, I realized that he was onto something. It's also important to note that it's not about whether he's right per se -- I mean, everyone defines "racism" differently and who's going to be the McCarthy of the racism trials? -- but it's about the bigger pointóthat we can talk about the causes and cures of racism and, in the same breath, not blame or excoriate people for growing up in a racist culture. It's really important to include the second bookend with the first one, Scott, to understand the idea that this approach might just get as much farther down a road of understanding than tiptoeing around the word "racist" will. After all, as I said, we've been trying it that way for a long time, and what we've got for thanks is a bunch of folks who deflect responsibility and blame the "welfare state" for the immense poverty of the inner cities. We need a new plan here. And if that means getting re-acquainted with the word "racism" in order to make it easier to talk about it, then I'm game. Now, I'm really out.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T14:38:51-06:00
ID
134581
Comment

Folks, I have been overwhelmed this time. Donna, if I had an award I'd give it to you for your effort with this story. Your follow up emails were just as insightful and critically acclaimed as the article. I would give you a hug, too, I wasn't scared of Todd. Thank you too, Tom, and everyone.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-03T14:52:48-06:00
ID
134582
Comment

I think both points are valid. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that Scott is saying that by using the word, we alienate a lot of people who should be "in" on this conversation. I also get Ladd's point about "acknowledgment" is the first step. I don't have an answer. But, until someone comes up with a different vernacular...seems that we are stuck with the word. Hmmmm...I can see the headline now "Liberals in MS unhappy with use of the term 'racist' wish for new term with happier and nicer connotations." ;) Its an ugly word. Its an ugly history. I don't blame people for not liking it. What I do know, is that Bill Bennett's (after his illustrious statement concerning aborting black babies) first statement after being called on that snafu was "I am not a racist." I beg to differ. I would assume that we all would. It was also one of Dr. Johnson's first statements when asked about forwarding the email. At what point do we get people to understand that they ARE racists...but that isn't necessarily something they can't change, or have even been doing ON PURPOSE? I don't know. All I do know is that I understand that I have been influenced from birth by family and friends who were racist...some not even realizing it. At this point in my life I feel there is no shame in admitting that I have been racist before and will probably do something that is racist again in my life. I'm desperately trying NOT to. I'd like to think I was perfect. But, I can't. The one thing I CAN do is the be vigilent, aware, and not scared of learning new ways to think.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-03T15:02:36-06:00
ID
134583
Comment

White Americans have been blessed in a mighty way to not have the world judge them all by a few bad acts of a few of them. We haven't, and are unlikely to ever enjoy this monumental benefit. The fact that we are judged this way has caused untold anger and psychological damage to us. I guess Mr. Bennett don't believe anymore that great human beings can still come from black folks. How can a Harvard educated man have a lapse of this magnitude if he hasn't been socialized in this fashion. I think he can have a lapse like this for the reason Donna and the doctor talked about earlier. I have been fighting the temptation to tell the Franklin Ajaye tale for a while now. Anyway, here it is, and I hope no one is offended by it. If so, I'll just take the heat like a man. Mr. Ajaye said he and a another black male friend were walking along a lavish neihborhood filled with various stores and a beautiful ocean front. As they walked along the area two elders women of another race in front of them kept starring back at them and grabbing their purses. He said he and his friend thought the 2 old ladies would after some time eventually see they were law abiding citizens and stop acting this way, but they never did. Finally, Franklin said he and his friend started to think they were disappointing the old ladies, and went ahead and robbed them. He said since they were supposed to rob them, they went ahead and did it. Now this was a joke but it does capture how too many, if not all, black males are perceived by some although the overwhelming majority of them are quite moral and law abiding. I can't count the number of times this happens to me as a teenagers and young adult. Even when white folks are casted and connected as one, the casting or stereotyping isn't comparable to how we're stereotyped and maligned.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-03T16:00:59-06:00
ID
134584
Comment

Even when white folks are casted and connected as one, the casting or stereotyping isn't comparable to how we're stereotyped and maligned. Ray, I can't even imagine. I know how bad it feels to be assumed an ignorant hick because I'm from Mississippi, or dumb because I'm blonde(ish, now), or weak because I'm a woman (or, more often, these days, an angry b!tch because I'm an opinionated woman). Stereotypes of all sorts are painful and stupid. However, I truly, truly cannot imagine going through life with people assuming I'm a criminal due to the color of my skin until I prove them otherwise, and to their satisfaction. I'm really sorry that you have to go through that. It's not right, and we need to change it.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T17:53:18-06:00
ID
134585
Comment

While I'm here, I should add that I think Scott's point is valid, tooóI'm just not buying that the well-meaning attempt to not alienate certain people by never saying the R-word is working, especially when they cynically use the word to attack any attempts to talk about these issues, including the ones that avoid using the R-word! Now, what is VITAL is *how* we use the word racist. Here are two ways: 1. "How dare you blame everything on the friggin welfare state! You are just a racist scum pig." As tempting as it can be sometimes, probably won't help. 2. "You know, blaming all the problems of the inner city on the fact that they receive welfare is blaming the victim. And, whether you mean it to or not, it is furthering racist stereotypes. What about all the other factors that contribute to the conditions? What do you think we as society can do about it? How can we help change things?" Won't work on everybody, but it is a way to be honest, while calling for positive actions and more discussion. Now, I won't say it will work everytime; I think of the time that I criticized someone for not challenging posts saying that Jackson criminals are black, and the problem is ascerbated by black politicians. Now it's hard to miss the inference being made there, but you'd a thunk I accused the guy who ran the site of being in the Klan to even point it out. And I don't even think I said that it was a "racist" statement, although I might have. I'd have to go dig out the copy to see for sure. Suddenly, he was telling everyone I called him a racist, but I didn't. Conversation shut down simply because I tried to talk about something very offensive. The question is: How do you guys think one would challenge something like this without saying, or implying, "racism." How do we get people to face what they're saying if we tiptoe around the R-word? I'd love to hear suggestions that we can all use in our daily lives. This is an evolving science.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-03T18:03:40-06:00
ID
134586
Comment

I think it's a bad decision to stop using the word. Why act like something stinking doesn't stink as bad as it does? Those people alienated by the use of the word are already estranged and probably closed minded to the ideas of the other side. If they want to change and come to the other side, the door is wide open and our arms are extended. This issue doesn't need the grades curved to accomodate those who don't really want to make the high grade. You can't cure an drug addict by giving him half of the drugs you used to give him. The enabler or giver becomes less opposed to drugs themselves. Is the R word as bad as the N word. I can tell you as a black person that I decided to not let the N word offend me into fighting or doing something stupid as far back as a teenager. I eventually asked myself what is it I'm trying to accomplish in life. Those things turned out to be racial freedom, overall happiness, a good education, friendships with those worthy of my friendship, financial wherewithall, peace. etc.. As far as I'm concerned, I took the power out of the word as used against me personally. A teacher at Noxapater High School was the last person to call me (us) the N word. In that same discussion, as we were integrating the school, he also said we black kids couldn't compete with the white kids. Witthin a month's time I had caught completely up with them and was out peforming 99 percent of them. Some of the white kids who weren't totally blinded by race were trying to copy from my paper. This same Mr. Webb mentioned my performance in a newspaper interview a year later while discussing his students. I opened his racist eyes.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T08:42:29-06:00
ID
134587
Comment

Ray, That story about the two black males and the two elderly white women reminds me of the scene early in the movie Crash where Ludacris and another young black male are walking in an affluent white shopping area. Ludacris is complaining about the white people staring at him like he is a criminal, even though he is not dressed like a gangster or hoodlum. He gets angry b/c Sandra Bullock's character looks away and draws near to her husband when she sees them. He asks why she would do that? To which his friend replies, "Maybe because we're going to rob them." They immediately pull out guns and car jack them. That movie, if ya'll haven't seen it, is very provocative and similar to this discussion. However, it considers it from the broader context of many different races exhibiting stereotypes and racism. Whites who fear and judge blacks and Hispanics; blacks who consider all whites to be racist and all Hispanics to be "mexicans"; blacks, Hispanics and whites all consider Arabs to be terrorists etc, etc. It deals with Asians, Whites, Hispanics, African Americans, "Arabs" (actually Persians). Interesting movie. BTW, I still don't like that blanket statement that being born white is America automatically means your are racist. The way this word is being used seemed to be painting with a very broad brush. By the definition that has been given EVERYONE is a racist, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Arabic, etc. If a black man has ever thought that white people think he is a criminal, he just had a racist thought. If a Hispanic man ever thinks that Asians are good at math, he just had a racist thought. If an Asian every thinks an Arabic man is a terrorist or hates America, he just had a racist thought. And by the definitions given thus far, they are all racists.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-10-04T09:12:28-06:00
ID
134588
Comment

Brandon-I just saw that movie and thought the exact same thing when Ray told that story. It sounds just like it. That movie does a good job of showing how racist we ALL are. I, for once, wish to not point a flame thrower at you. ;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-04T09:25:58-06:00
ID
134589
Comment

Thanks Brandon for your comment and reminder that I need to watch that movie. I will have to check out Crash, Hustle and Flow, and a few more movies. I enjoy watching those kinds of movies. They make us examine ourselves. For the same reason, I loved School Daze, Jungle Fever and so on. The Samuel Jackson, Ozzie Davis and Queen Latifah scenes in Jungle Fever were great scenes I will never forget. I'm the only black lawyer in my firm and am the only black person in the office most of the time. Often I'm riding up and down the road with white female lawyers and interns. Just as often, I'm in hotels around the state with the same people. Because I'm a very perceptive person, I notice the looks we all get from everyone including black females. I have had black female waitresses who can't even stand to look at me. These white woman are only my co-workers. I imagine it would be worse if I were dating them. There are no stares or other problems when I'm with my white males co-counsels. Had I not been as open minded as I am, I don't know if I could handle the situation that I'm in. I work with a great group of people who have dedicated their lives to helping the poor, the damed, and the hated. I guess we're all a little crazy to be death penalty lawyers. I have this awesome opportunity to face and confront people, including many whites about their views on race. So far I have been very successful despite racism. I have been able to convince 11 whites and 1 black not to kill a black person for killing a wonderful white person. Most people don't believe this can be done in Mississippi. And I have been able to convince many mad black folks not to vote to kill a awful human being. I couldn't do this if I ran from the issue of race or other pertinent issues.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T09:38:11-06:00
ID
134590
Comment

I don't tell people where I'm from, unless I know them. I know that if I mention I'm from Mississippi, I'll be judged. I can't see a way to drain the hate and venom out of calling someone "racist". It's been used in the most perjorative way for years, after all. It's been built up to mean the most vicious things about certain people of any race, that their hate is illogical, mean, venomous and evil. It's no wonder people get defensive when they're called it, because of the emotional weight the word carries. We can't simply say "As of October 2005 'Racist' isn't that bad anymore!", because it won't work. Like someone alluded to earlier, we can't call someone Nazi without meaning certain things about them. Thus it is with racism. People are going to be defensive when being called it. If we are to have a debate on "Casual Racism" as it exists in culture today, we're going to have to find another way to refer to it. Without calling people names, at any rate. :) Tom: Geez, it has been ages, hasn't it?

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-10-04T10:27:47-06:00
ID
134591
Comment

Brandon, I forgot to add that I'm convinced we're all prejudice in some ways. I'm not sure about racist. After all I've seen and experienced, I still sometimes get mad at other races of people about certain incidents, and for a moment think prejudice and/or racist things about them. However, I'm convicted that I must do the right thing when faced with a situation involving race. So, I think the matter over before acting. I have always said Orenthal James killed Nicole Simpson and Ron Goldman. I have made lots of black folks mad about this. Yet, I don't complain about the verdict, and I ain't mad at Johnnie Cochran, Barry Scheck, Peter Neufeld or F. Lee Bailey. I understand full well what happened in that case and many more. As Al Sharpton told O. J. at Johnnie's funeral, we were cheering Johhnie's talent, not necessarily O. J's acquittal. The same can be said of Michael Jackson. I know there are other opinions on this. I beleive I have the great God-given duty to get people to make their decisions on factors outside of race. I don't want to waste this great opportunity that to few have. I will tell you that I have had some white people to tell me that I don't work hard enough to assimilate with them. They foolishly think my goal is to become one of them, to distance myself from other blacks, to gain acceptance from whites, or to be seen as a different kind of black person. I have none of these goals. All I'm trying to do is the right thing and open eyes when I can. I'm proud of you for studying these issues for yourself. None of us know everthing or have all the answers. We're trying to overcome too. I studied the issue of race for myself then took my place.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T10:32:37-06:00
ID
134592
Comment

I think you all are missing my point... or maybe I am not explaining it very well. I do not object to the use of the words "racist" and "racism". If the shoe fits, make 'em wear it. What I object to is the idea that ALL whites are racists. I thought I made that pretty clear, but maybe I didn't. And no matter how much you implore me to read between the lines, that's what the good doctor said. He also said a lot of other things that make perfect sense to me. And Donna, you can call yourself a racist if you want, whether to make a rhetorical point or whatever. I think you are very, very far from being a racist. I mean that as both a compliment and also as a plea to change the debate. To call yourself a racist would be like saying that any man who ever had a lascivious thought is a rapist, or any Egyptian who ever had a bad thought about an Israeli is an anti-Semite. To reiterate, I am not at all reticent to talk about racism, and it is wrong for you to suggest that this is what I am arguing. On the contrary, I think it is one of the most important topics in American culture, probably THE most important historically, and I believe that to paint entire groups with the "R" word, based on the color of their skin or where they grew up, moves the discussion backward and not forward. Saying people need to examine their own prejudices is fine and accurate. Saying all white people are racist goes way beyond that. Ray, it is a terrible thing that you or any other African-American would ever be assumed a criminal because of the color of your skin. It is despicable and a stain on our history and our present society that this generalized prejudice was ever allowed to fester. But two wrongs do not make a right, and while I am not saying it is anywhere near as bad for whites themselves to suggest that all whites are racist (or for Afircan-Americans to say it), I *am* saying that it is still not right and does not move us anywhere closer to a productive discussion of the problem. I almost feel like am in a funhouse version of the whole political correctness debate. I don't want to be the word police. But I think that the intelligence and good intentions of most people on this board are subverted by your use of this word *in this particular way*.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-04T11:18:06-06:00
ID
134593
Comment

I happen to agree mostly with you on your biggest point, Scott. I said earlier that I have feelings for your argument. There ain't no perfect way to deal with the issue of race. We're all fumbling, but the worse fumble is to ignore it. I still don't understand my Donna's imperfect position, if you want to call it that, is keeping other who would come forward out of the discussion of race. Ain't the wrong source being blamed?

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T11:31:21-06:00
ID
134594
Comment

I meant to say I don't understand why Donna's imperfect position, if you want to call it that, is keeping others who want to join the discussion and cure from coming forward.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T11:38:27-06:00
ID
134595
Comment

Scott, if William Bennett's comments about us being innately criminally inclined isn't making us (blacks and whites) run from the issue of blacks and crime, why are whites running from debate and discussion when the word racist is used against them as a group. We all know all blacks aren't criminal and we know all whites aren't racist. Isn't there being too much focus placed on that word? Aren't those people you speak of just looking for excuses to stay as they are? I bet if Donna said no white folks are racist, the silence would still be there.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T11:56:09-06:00
ID
134596
Comment

Ray: you are acting as if only the two extremes were possible: "all whites are racist" or "no whites are racist". Both are equally ridiculous, if not equally harmful. William Bennett's comments were ridiculous (he is a ridiculous man, in my view) and should be condemned as such. There is plenty of ridiculousness to go around when people use hyperbole or hold extreme views. I understand the need to spark people to discuss these things, but I think we need to be coming from a place where progress can actually be made. I know plenty of good-hearted people of all races who could learn to develop a little understanding of other cultures and ethnicities. I don't think answering one stereotype or generalization with another is the road to understanding.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-04T12:01:23-06:00
ID
134597
Comment

I'm not trying to sterotype but maybe I am. It's hard to know what people think when they're silent. If I asked my wife whether she loved me and she said nothing, I would feel pretty confident she may not or doesn't. And if I kept asking her and she said nothing I would soon see her silence as an affirmative no. If her actions showed love despite her silence, I would be ambivalent. When silence and behavior are in agreement, ther is no reason for doubt. Yes, I agree there is a big middle ground somewhere. I don't claim to fully understand it. I have too little facts and evidence of what it contain. I couldn't accept Mr. Webb's conclusion that none of us could compete with white kids. So, I couldn't wait to jump out of the gate and prove otherwise. I'm glad to learn these silent and in-the-middle-people are holding back on racial progress over being classified incorrectly. I'll bet you my last dollar that if Donna and the doctor changed their premise or position to most or even some white people, nothing different would happen by way of discussion or admittance. But believe it or not, those silent and middle-of-the-road folks speak their true convictions all the time at the polls and elsewhere. I wish they would come forward more often so we can talk to them but I'm not totally blind as to why many are so silent. I will gladly change this stereotype once I see evidence to the contrary.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T12:26:45-06:00
ID
134598
Comment

Ray, I am not saying that people are holding back on racial progress because of being classified incorrectly. I am saying that it doesn't help. I agree that the vastly bigger problem is racism, but I still think there are ways of dealing with the issue and generating the conversation that are more productive and inclusive than saying all white people are racist. And the thing is, in this case it's white people who are saying it! I am not sure much more discussion about this is productive, because I really think there's not much disagreement here on the main issues, and I am sorry if I unduly distracted from that.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-04T12:33:14-06:00
ID
134599
Comment

I agree in part, Scott. You need to tell us more convincingly these productive and inclusive ways you speak of. If I knew them I would tell everybody asap. I doubt anyone was distracted. If I or Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton or Cornell West, Colin Powell or Condi Rice said what the doctor and Donna are saying, we would likely called racist and/or be vilified and overlooked as another ungrateful and complaining black person who hasn't gotten enough affirmitive action and handouts from the majority. Not to mention some of us would be called a race pimp or hussler. While I'm thinking about it, I enjoyed your article a few weeks back. Sorry I forgot to comment on it. There are several black conservative talk show hosts, syndicated columnists, educators, commetators and the likes, who talk about black folks in general, and poor blacks in particular, like we're dogs or savages. I don't get mad at them before listening and critically studying what they have to say. I know many of them are nuts and are doing it for the money or supposed acclaim. I listen and read a little anyway just to see if the truth will accidentally show up on the shows or in their columns.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T13:06:49-06:00
ID
134600
Comment

Ray: thanks for the props on the article. What I am suggesting is pretty simple. Don't say all ____ [insert ethnicity here] are ______ [insert generalization here]. I think that's a pretty fair place to start. The other elements of what Doc and Donna are saying, not only do I not have a problem with it, but I actually agree. I am not sure why it is so controversial to say that all whites should not be branded as racist, any more than it would be to say such a thing about any group of people.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-04T13:17:30-06:00
ID
134601
Comment

Agreed. Cheers. God bless.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-04T13:20:37-06:00
ID
134602
Comment

Wow. This is a hell of a discussion. Definitely one of the best we've had on this site. I can't even pretend to respond in a single post. What I might do is post a blog entry tomorrow linking to this thread. Four points I have to make in advance: - What I meant to say, and what I believe Donna meant to say, is that racism is part of human condition--not limited to whites. But what makes white racism particularly heinous is the devil's bargain it maintains with institutional racism. - I see "normal racism" as more of a disease than a belief system. - I agree with Ali that the "Is everybody a racist?" question is more of a word problem than a philosophy problem. - I despair of a world where a man like Ray Carter could ever be called a "race hustler" for saying something I just said, though I suspect he's absolutely right that this is how it would be interpreted by many. That makes me sick, and IMHO demonstrates exactly why white racism and institutional racism are as insidious, as dangerous, as they are. They silence wisdom and embolden foolishness. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T01:25:02-06:00
ID
134603
Comment

Someone up above, I don't recall who, worded this in a way that really resonated with me in a positive way. Someone stated (perhaps Ray) that we all have our PREJUDICES. I think that word is a little more accurate, true and helpful to this debate. To say that being born white in this culture makes me a racist is: #1-not true and #2-racist (by indicting an entire race as a whole). It is essentially a racial stereotype to say all whites in America are racist. However, if I insert the word prejudice, I think the entire discussion becomes more logical. Being born white in this nation makes me prejudiced is a more viable statement that I am racist. Certainly all people have preconceived notions, but does that mean they are racist? I don't know. These are just a few thoughts. We may be just arguing semantics. Tomato, Tomahto?

Author
brandon
Date
2005-10-05T06:56:03-06:00
ID
134604
Comment

I agree with Scott that it's ridiculous, and in the long run unproductive, to say that all whites are racist because of the culture in which we grew up. I think we all have prejudices and are all to some degree ethnocentric. The key is to not fall prey to these assumptions and treat a person as an exemplar of a particular race rather than a person with dignity, fully deserving of respect.

Author
Justin
Date
2005-10-05T07:42:27-06:00
ID
134605
Comment

Whoa, where to jump back ... This is a game of semantics, and a purposeful and welcome one. Why? Because the word "racism" needs to be discussed inside and out. A HUGE problem we face, by evidenced by Dr. Johnston's sending of this racist e-mail, is that too many define "racism" as only the most extreme actions that society has already rejected -- by, say, a Klansman back in 1964. They simply will not, or cannot, examine their own actions within the prism. For instance, someone who flippantly says that the urban "ghettos" are the result of the "welfare state." This is a dumb and ignorant statementóand it is also ultimately racist, although the person saying it doesn't necessarily mean it to to be. Now, if they had said the welfare system has problems we need to fix, while we look at all the conditions that created and sustain the ghettos, they are not blinded by the insidious racism all around them. Or, another example is someone who assumes that inner cities are *breeding* criminals, a la Bill Bennett and his ilk. Note what is at play here. They are using language that implies that criminals are *born* -- not created by their surroundings, which happens in families of all races, and is influenced greatly by the society they live in, especially the poverty levels. These kind of, er, thinkers like to point to black-on-black crime, which indeed must be examined, but not in a vacuum without understanding that factors *far outside poor communities and the welfare system* are creating and/or exacerbating those problems. It is *racist* (meaning, to me, participating in systemic, and therefore harmful, thinking about a race of people) to say and promote those kinds of ideas. Frankly, I have *never* met a white person who has not played into that in some way at some point in their lives. I certainly have believed, at points in my past, that blacks were naturally more prone to commit crime because there are more black criminals. If I had been told at some point that that idea was racist to its core, I would not have taken time to figure out what's severely wrong (and convenient) with the logic. Now, and here's the second vital part of Dr. Hilfiker's words that are vital to this discussion (and that those of you who are protesting his one statement, out of context, are ignoring). If we are going to widen the discussion and the definition of racism, in order that we can actually understand what it is (and I'm not mixing it up with simple prejudice here; neither is Dr. Hilfiker, if you listen), then we need to lose the condemnation tone, at least at the beginning of the conversation (save the vitriol for the people who steadfastly refuse to face the truth and keep hurting people based on it). For instance, I have no condemnation for Dr. Johnston. I truly believe that he did not know what he was doing was racist, or that his simplistic beliefs about the welfare state are racist. I wouldn't have called him "a racist"óI'm not going back and saying to do that, despite Scott's misreading of my comments to try to make it sound like that's what I'm saying. In fact, notice that several of you are misquoting Dr. Hilfiker, even Scott in your fill-in-the-blank example. He said in the story: ìI had to recognize that I donít have to be a bad person to be racist; I donít have to intend to be racist. Just by growing up white in this culture, I am going to be racist,î Hilfiker said. It's funny, first, how so few of you protesters are focusing on the second sentence, but not the one that reads right into it; it's not like anyone is asking you to "read between the lines," Scott. You are simply cherrypicking part of a thought that he made about himself based on what the culture does to white people. He is white; therefore, he is talking about experiences with which he is familiar. What is vital here is to consider your definition of "racist." I'm not trying to get you to water it down, so it applies more widely to everyone. No. The point is to (a) get everyone to realize that we have allowed racism to be defined by determined racists; i.e. for them to tell us that if we're not a Klansman, or some such extreme example, that we're not "racist." Truth is, that's not true. (b) To then get us to realize that we don't have to withdraw from the human race, as Iron said much earlier, in order to face our own racist tendencies. This is a far different expression that some blanket: "All whites are racists," lifted far out of context in order to scold people for something they weren't trying to say.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T08:56:18-06:00
ID
134606
Comment

And I appreciate the compliment, Scott, about my personal race-related tendences. It would probably be more accurate for me to say "I. Was. A. Racist," although you were lifting me out of context a bit, too; with "I. Am. A. Racist" I was showing someone how easy it is to type those words and not immediately be thrown in the gallows somewhere. But, since you brought it up, I certainly have come a long way, and I was fortunate to start young and be very deliberate about it along with my mother as she traveled her journey of trying to reject racism, stop saying "nigger," stop assuming that blacks are lazy and so on. But I would be a liar if I said I had never had any of those thoughts, even as I was on my deliberate journey. As an adult, when I first moved to NYC, I had to confront thoughts about other cultures I hadn't dealt with as directly, including Latinos and Jews. Humans aren't perfect, and as Dr. Hilfiker says, that's OK. The key is whether we try to see it in ourselves and then fix itóand if we assume that racism is only something that the proverbial redneck muttering to himself in the corner displays, then we're not going to do that. Ultimately, I knew when I included that quote of Dr. Hilfiker's that there would be this outcry from a few people, and I relished that thought because I felt strongly that it would lead to such a discussion about the meaning and application of the word. And *that* is what we really need in order to get people thinking and demystify (not weaken) the word, so that we can deal with the kinds of racism that are all around us today. And I thank Dr. Hilfiker for giving us the words and phrases to help us along that road. He's a very wise man. *eyes twinkling* Carry on ...

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T08:58:40-06:00
ID
134607
Comment

Also, Justin, it would be helpful to understand that you can treat individuals of another race perfectly respectfully and still be an utter racist. There are examples galore of white people treating individual blacks very well throughout Jim Crow and even slavery -- but then supporting policies that would hurt African Americans. Of course, treating individuals shoddily can certainly be a *sympton* of racism, but it's not necessarily an indicator of whether someone is racist. And treating certain people of other races well -- the old "But I have friends who are black" excuse -- is often used as cover for very insidious ideas and actions.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T09:03:00-06:00
ID
134608
Comment

"Just by growing up white in this culture, I'm going to be racist", is a powerful statement. As I focus on just the above statement, I'm compelled to ask the following questions: (1) What white person doesn't agree that there is an advantage to being born white in America ? (2) What white person hasn't gladly accepted or taken advantage of being white in America? (3) How many whites, if any, as soon as they realized there were advantages to being white in America, have said, "hell nall, I don't want these unfair advantages?" (4) How many whites can honestly say there aren't any disadvantages to being black or a minority in America? (5) How many whites can say they have spent some of their personal time trying to eradicate the racism they clearly see as institutionalized? (5) And, how many whites can honestly say they presently see no signs of any types of racism in themselves or other whites? Now, I realize we minorities have our own set of problems to deal with also. It seems to me that Doctor Hilfiger and Donna have just about locked all the doors of escape. Can you breathe the marijuana saturated air then honestly say I know nothing of it and have never been affected by it? Even if somebody else was holding it and blowing the smoke.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-05T10:28:20-06:00
ID
134609
Comment

brandon writes: To say that being born white in this culture makes me a racist is: #1-not true This is a tad circular, isn't it? and #2-racist (by indicting an entire race as a whole). It is essentially a racial stereotype to say all whites in America are racist. It's also a racial stereotype to say that Japanese folks are, on the whole, shorter than Kenyans--but it's also true. It's a racial stereotype to say that whites sunburn more easily than those of other races--but it's true. Racial stereotypes, in and of themselves, are not necessarily racist. Now, I'd agree that if you said there was something intrinsic about having white skin that makes people racist, that would be a dubious proposition. But we're not talking about white skin; we're talking about white culture. However, if I insert the word prejudice, I think the entire discussion becomes more logical. Being born white in this nation makes me prejudiced is a more viable statement that I am racist. Certainly all people have preconceived notions, but does that mean they are racist? I used the term "prejudice" in another thread, but I think it's a little euphemistic. Besides, racial prejudice is, by definition, racism. I don't know. These are just a few thoughts. We may be just arguing semantics. We are arguing semantics, but semantics are sometimes very important. I think this is one of those times. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T10:42:11-06:00
ID
134610
Comment

All, this story, thread of comments and photo are right now the top featured piece at the top of Altweeklies.com. Welcome to the new readers this will bring to the discussion; please feel free to log in and participate if you wish. Thanks to all for such a respectful, and productive dialogue.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T10:51:29-06:00
ID
134611
Comment

Donna writes: Also, Justin, it would be helpful to understand that you can treat individuals of another race perfectly respectfully and still be an utter racist. There are examples galore of white people treating individual blacks very well throughout Jim Crow and even slavery -- but then supporting policies that would hurt African Americans. Of course, treating individuals shoddily can certainly be a *sympton* of racism, but it's not necessarily an indicator of whether someone is racist. And treating certain people of other races well -- the only "I have friends who are black" excuse -- is often used as cover for very insidious ideas and actions. This is true. And on the flip side, I have met white liberals who have very progressive views on race and are fully aware of their white privilege, but subtly manifest racism in the way they deal with those of other ethnicities in their day to day lives. There are lots of white people in the world who support affirmative action, but freeze up when they see black folks because they're afraid of manifesting racism by mistake. As a teenager, I once belonged to a group that was all-white. Not intentionally, or at least not intentionally as far as I could see (people later said a few things that made me wonder), but I noticed a subtle dynamic that took place whenever a black visitor came in: Half the group would stammer, and then the other half would overcompensate. And then, inevitably, the visitor would not come back. It took me years to realize what was going on. In discussions of race, all too often we're all naked emperors walking around complimenting each other on our fashion sense. It would have horrified everybody, especially me, if I'd later called one of those non-returning black visitors up and said "I know this is going to sound awkward, but let me lay it on the table: We live in a city that's 74 percent African-American, and yet we seem to be stuck with an all-white membership. I have no idea why the heck that's happening, but it freaks me out." Would I have been singling out the person's race? Yes. But folks, I promise everybody already knew she was black, and everybody already knew the rest of us were white. I wouldn't be saying anything we didn't already know, and maybe I'd have learned something. I wish now that I'd done that, even though bringing up the question of race would have made me very uncomfortable, even though I'd run the risk of conveying the impression that I myself was trying to promote racism. There should be no shame in honesty, in forthrightness. It's time to melt down our idols and build altars of rough-hewn stone. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T11:10:56-06:00
ID
134612
Comment

Ray Carter writes: "Just by growing up white in this culture, I'm going to be racist", is a powerful statement. As I focus on just the above statement, I'm compelled to ask the following questions: (1) What white person doesn't agree that there is an advantage to being born white in America ? (2) What white person hasn't gladly accepted or taken advantage of being white in America? (3) How many whites, if any, as soon as they realized there were advantages to being white in America, have said, "hell nall, I don't want these unfair advantages?" (4) How many whites can honestly say there aren't any disadvantages to being black or a minority in America? (5) How many whites can say they have spent some of their personal time trying to eradicate the racism they clearly see as institutionalized? (5) And, how many whites can honestly say they presently see no signs of any types of racism in themselves or other whites? Now, I realize we minorities have our own set of problems to deal with also. It seems to me that Doctor Hilfiger and Donna have just about locked all the doors of escape. Can you breathe the marijuana saturated air then honestly say I know nothing of it and have never been affected by it? Even if somebody else was holding it and blowing the smoke. I think you've summed things up here. Whites are victimized by this. They are forcibly wrestled to the table and injected with this stuff. They are not just sitting in towers rubbing their hands together with glee and going "How can I be racist?" I was born into a world I didn't make--as a man in a sexist society, as a white man in a racist society full of white privilege, as a heterosexual man in a homophobic society. This is the role the genetic lottery has handed me. I can never change that. I will never be anybody else. So with these white, male hands, I try to fight racism, I try to fight sexism, I try to fight homophobia. But most of the time I don't even know where to start. Platitudes are helpful, but it's no longer good to say that I don't have a racist bone in my body, or a sexist bone in my body. The bones are all racist and sexist, and if I'm serious about all this I have to break those bones and re-set them, one by one. And I have to do this knowing that I'll probably never finish the job. Life is not long enough. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T11:24:33-06:00
ID
134613
Comment

To be honest, I have too many questions about the assumptions being tossed around here to continue. Ya'll have an agenda, and I wish you well. I have this feeling creeping up on me that no matter the self-deconstruction or self-critisism sessions I conduct, I'll never expunge the taint I seem to bear.

Author
Ironghost
Date
2005-10-05T11:59:46-06:00
ID
134614
Comment

I am going to make one more comment and then I am out of this discussion... it appears we will have to agree to disagree. My comment is actually a quote by someone else, that I think sums up my position: "All collective judgments are wrong. Only racists make them.î --Elie Wiesel

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-05T12:02:03-06:00
ID
134615
Comment

Ya'll have an agenda, and I wish you well. You're right, we do, Iron: To have an open, honest, below-the-surface discussion about race and racism in a state that has never fully faced these issues. (Others haven't, either, but that's their problem.) There is no shame there in that agenda, I assure you. I have this feeling creeping up on me that no matter the self-deconstruction or self-critisism sessions I conduct, I'll never expunge the taint I seem to bear. Oh, don't be so hard on yourself. It's funny what a difference it make to one's self and to others when we put aside our fears of being called a name, fairly or not, and just talk. There is also no shame in that.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T12:04:01-06:00
ID
134616
Comment

It's too bad that a "collective judgement" is all you're seeing here, Scott, because you're wrong. You seem so fixated on one line or thought that you can't progress past it in the conversation and, in fact, are slamming the door on a chat that you, as a very intelligent person, could offer a whole lot more to. Why not simply stipulate to the fact that you don't agree with one sentence -- we all can clearly see that already -- rather than leaving in such a dramatic fashion? Instead, what you're doing, it seems, is declaring that nothing good can possibly come out of it because you don't like that characterization. With due respect, all tough discussions are going to lose some folks who don't want to fully engage in them. Come on: When's the last time you had a good conversation in which you agreed with every statement made? It's a trick of the closed-minded right to respond in such a way to a statement out of context and then walk away from the context itself. I'm a bit confused here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T12:13:54-06:00
ID
134617
Comment

Ironghost writes: I have this feeling creeping up on me that no matter the self-deconstruction or self-critisism sessions I conduct, I'll never expunge the taint I seem to bear. Dude, this is the human condition; we are territory-grabbers, child-starvers, corpse-eaters. I'm going to resurrect that Dawkins quote again (this is all going into a blog entry one of these days): -- If we were told that a man had lived a long and prosperous life in the world of Chicago gangsters, we would be entitled to make some guesses as to the sort of man he was, We might expect that he would have qualities such as toughness, a quick trigger finger, and the ability to attract loyal friends. These would not be infallible deductions, but you can make some inferences about a man's character if you know something about the conditions in which he has survived and prospered. The argument of this book is that we, and all other animals, are machines created by our genes. Like successful Chicago gangsters, our genes have survived, in some cases for millions of years, in a highly competitive world. This entitles us to expect certain qualities in our genes. I shall argue that a predominant quality to be expected in a successful gene is ruthless selfishness. This gene selfishness will usually give rise to selfishness in individual behavior. However, as we shall see, there are special circumstances in which a gene can achieve its own selfish goals best by fostering a limited form of altruism at the level of individual animals. 'Special' and 'limited' are important words in the last sentence. Much as we might wish to believe otherwise, universal love and the welfare of the species as a whole are concepts that simply do not make evolutionary sense. This brings me to the first point I want to make about what this book is not. I am not advocating a morality based on evolution. I am saying how things have evolved. I am not saying how we humans morally ought to behave. I stress this, because I know I am in danger of being misunderstood by those people, all toll numerous, who cannot distinguish a statement of belief in what is the case from an advocacy of what ought to be the case. My own feeling is that a human society based simply on the gene's law of universal ruthless selfishness would be a very nasty society in which to live. But unfortunately, however much we may deplore something, it does not stop it being true. This book is mainly intended to be interesting, but if you would extract a moral from it, read it as a warning. Be warned that if you wish, as I do, to build a society in which individuals cooperate generously and unselfishly towards a common good, you can expect little help from biological nature. Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish. Let us understand what our own selfish genes are up to, because we may then at least have the chance to upset their designs, something that no other species has ever aspired to. As a corollary to these remarks about teaching, it is a fallacy--incidentally a very common one--to suppose that genetically inherited traits are by definition fixed and unmodifiable. Our genes may instruct us to be selfish, but we are not necessarily compelled to obey them all our lives. -- I think people are still basically good. But they carry a lot of nasty baggage with them--both biological and cultural--and we can't just set that baggage down. It's who we are. "Call no man good"; "There is no righteous man, no, not one"; etc. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T12:17:33-06:00
ID
134618
Comment

SAJ, you're a good egg, but this is not your usual modus operandi. You were much more patient with those jokers on the Other Blog. And I can appreciate why--it's less dangerous to argue with people with whom we have less in common. I will concede one point to you, which is that the unqualified word "racism," if we are to use it to describe both the Klan and folks reading this, could be a little broad. Should we acknowledge that there's such a thing as normal (or basic) racism, from which abnormal (or ideological) racism may be distinguished? Does that make the term more useful for you? Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T12:31:27-06:00
ID
134619
Comment

No, Tom, I don't think you should redefine it that way. What is important about Klan violence is to realize that the violence and extremist resulted from societal racism, not just from a group of extremists. Had the Citizens Council, the state of Mississippi and the people allowed to vote at the time not supported the Klan, actively or with their silence, the violence would not have erupted in such a way. Fortunately, for the most part, society has decided that racism should not be enforced in such a way today -- but that does not mean that the underlying assumptions about non-white inferiority, laziness, tendency toward crime, etc., are not informing much very harmful policy. If that weren't true, Barbour et al.'s southern strategy just wouldn't work, and they wouldn't code their speeches and campaign materials. In essence, a major reason it is so vital to talk about all forms of racism without giving it a pass -- but also without saying that it means one is a useless human being -- is for society to make it less acceptable to act on the racism as we do, whether it is gutting the public schools, treating black criminals more harshly or passing along an execrable e-mail. In the 60s, it was acceptable for people to turn their backs on Klan violence. Today, it is acceptable to spread myths about welfare queens and superpredators and evacuees that, in turn, keep down efforts to help people. So I think you can say that people act on their racism in varying ways, depending on what they're comfortable with, but that doesn't mean that racism isn't racism. That's why, to me, it is all-important for the rest of us who believe smugly in our inability to be racist need to examine our selves from time to time and realize that we live in a still-racist culture that we have to fight -- which, of course, was Dr. Hilfiker's exact message in the statement that is rankling a few folks here. It is fully expected to rankle a few folks, but that doesn't mean it's not important to consider. Bear in mind, all, that no one is getting beaten up by Dr. Hilfiker's remarks or in this discussion. It is the word "racism" that is scaring the bejeezus out of people, and the point is that it doesn't have to.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T12:44:15-06:00
ID
134620
Comment

I think part of the divide here between you and SAJ is that he's speaking exclusively about personal racism, and you're speaking primarily about institutional or societal racism. The word that I think is scaring him is not the adjective "racist," but the noun. Let me make an obvious example: If someone on the Other Blog said "Donna Ladd is a racist" or "Tom Head is a racist," we'd be ticked off. Justifiably, I think. Is this because we bear no complicity for racism, that we falsely believe that we have "no racist bone in our bodies," or is it because we're not comfortably being labeled in such a way as to suggest that we have an ideological commitment to racism as a philosophy, that we consciously affirm and propagate the belief that we are genetically superior to others? I think that's what bugs SAJ. It doesn't bug me so much, and I think for the most part I'd continue to use the terminology we've been using in this discussion. But I think the phrase "You're a racist," in this culture, usually suggests more of a conscious effort in the direction of racism than what we're talking about here. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T12:52:12-06:00
ID
134621
Comment

Or to put this a different way: I agree with you that we're talking about one kind of race-ism--it's all the same, whether it's me feeling differently around black folks than I do around whites, or a Klansman burning a cross on somebody's front yard. They're two expressions of the same problem. But I can also sympathize with SAJ's point that we are talking about more than one kind of race-ist. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T12:57:03-06:00
ID
134622
Comment

Don't leave us, Scott. We collectively love and need you. We need and love you too, Ironghost. Who knows better than you whether you need much self-criticsm or self-deconstruction? Perhaps you're ahead of the game and have already reconstructed yourself into an exemplary exception. The battle requires a fight to the end. No one is ever totally without taint. No such standard is required to be a good and righteous human being. All that's required is playing the hand you're dealt the best you can.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-05T13:28:25-06:00
ID
134623
Comment

I think this is the best conversation I have been involved in since joining this board. My favorite part is that no one seems to be insulting anyone else or condescending with academic snobbery. It's a good ole fashioned discussion. But I think I have to drop out. I have said my piece, listened to some strong and provocative thoughts and have plenty of cud upon which to chew.

Author
brandon
Date
2005-10-05T13:33:32-06:00
ID
134624
Comment

Justin, it would be helpful to understand that you can treat individuals of another race perfectly respectfully and still be an utter racist. There are examples galore of white people treating individual blacks very well throughout Jim Crow and even slavery -- but then supporting policies that would hurt African Americans. You can be polite or even kind. But if you're a racist and advocate racist policies, than you are not treating each individual as a person, one with dignity equal to any other human being. That's what I meant by respect: moral respect, not mere politeness. But manners are important too... I think part of the divide here between you and SAJ is that he's speaking exclusively about personal racism, and you're speaking primarily about institutional or societal racism. The word that I think is scaring him is not the adjective "racist," but the noun. Agreed Tom. These are two different things. What worries me, though, is the proposition that seems to be emerging in this discussion: a society is racist; therefore all members of a society are racist (which, by the way, is a logical fallacy). I realize that this is probably not what Hilfiker or ladd is trying to say, but it easily comes across that way. Maybe I'm not grasping the nuance in their use of the word racism, but I think I still agree with the overall sentiment. We live in a society with a long history of racism and in which racism still exists in some instances. We need to be cognizant of the effects that this societal racism can have on our personal life and ethics.

Author
Justin
Date
2005-10-05T13:42:01-06:00
ID
134625
Comment

My brevity in my last post is partly a function of time. I have meetings all day, am teaching a harp lesson at 3:45, and I have a music gig in McComb tonight. It's times like these when it's good to have quotes by the likes of Elie Wiesel to do your talking for you. :) But, I also think it might be better to drop my point. I haven't changed my mind, but I also think that by harping on it I am distracting from the bigger issues. But Donna, it is not fair or legit for you to imply that I am not using my intelligence or am cherry-picking words. I would be cherry-picking if I ignored the Doc's larger point, or Donna's, or anyone else's. I didn't and I am not. I absolutely agree that it is eminently important for all people to examine their own prejudices. I just don't think it is right or productive to do that by saying: "Just by growing up white in this culture, I am going to be racist" [Dr. Hilfiker] -or- "I am a racist" [Donna] I simply do not agree with either of these pronouncements and I think they are part of the same dualist mindset that led us to where we are now in the first place. In fact, they undermine your argument, because you are using a stereotype to argue against stereotyping. RE: Dawkins' quote, "If we were told that a man had lived a long and prosperous life in the world of Chicago gangsters, we would be entitled to make some guesses as to the sort of man he was." Yes we would, because he came from a relatively narrow subculture defined by behavior, not by skin color. Donna, you say: "It's too bad that a "collective judgement" is all you're seeing here, Scott, because you're wrong." and "It's a trick of the closed-minded right to respond in such a way to a statement out of context and then walk away from the context itself." Donna, that is NOT what I did. I have acknowledged the context at every turn. It's just that I *don't* think that context means it is okay to generalize about whites, and that it undermines the contextual argument... I think words matter, and they can destroy what otherwise might have been the beginning of a fruitful discussion. You think it *is* okay to say that you and other white Americans by virtue of their circumstance alone, and that it is in fact somehow necessary to acknowledge this if we are even to have a conversation about race. (Forgive me if that is a mischaracterization, but that is how I am reading it.) We disagree about this, and that's fine. I agree with most of you about most of the rest, so how is it that I am closed-minded? This all points to why I think it is time to move on to discussing the broader issues. But if you guys want to keep discussing why it is permissible to generalize about, fine, and I'll chime in when I can. But I have to go now... :)

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-05T14:01:23-06:00
ID
134626
Comment

You know, I think I was inarticulate in the way I distinguished "personal" from "societal" racism, because that isn't really the divide I'm talking about. Personal racism is an expression of societal racism, and vice versa. What I think I mean to say is that philosophical racism, which is what comes across when we issue an accusatory "You are a racist" (as opposed to a penitential "I am a racist"), should be put in a category of its own. A good metaphor came to mind a little while ago. I am, as many of you know, a radical feminist; I believe that binary gender is an obsolete social construct, a relic of patriarchal power structures that have become obsolete in an era where physical size and brute strength mean very little. I am a committed radical feminist. But I am also sexist, because I'm male, and you can't be born and raised male in this culture without being sexist. Can't be done. I don't think I'm as sexist as many--dare I say it, most?--men. But I'm still sexist. Am I a sexist, one who believes, as a point of doctrine, that women are inferior to men? No. It's not possible to be both a sexist and a radical feminist. But it is quite possible to be sexist and a radical feminist. Likewise, I am not a philosophical racist. A philosophical racist is someone who believes that some races are genetically superior to others. I do not. I think that race is a clumsy social construct used to classify a wide range of physical differences into tidy little categories, and has no bearing on "superiority" or "inferiority." I am actually more radical on race than I am on gender, because while I acknowledge that gender role is somewhat dependent on biological characteristics, I do not believe that race is. I am not committed to abolishing gender, but I am committed to abolishing race. But I am quite racist. I mean, my attitude on this front is that of Dr. Hifiker: I was born white in a racist culture. I was born male in a sexist culture. How could I not be racist and sexist? What kind of god do I think I am? So my job, as I see it, is to take this racist, sexist person and do things that combat racism, that combat sexism. We are all, to borrow a Jungian term, wounded healers. As we try to bandage this torn and broken world, we are ourselves bleeding all over it. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T14:04:19-06:00
ID
134627
Comment

I think part of the divide here between you and SAJ is that he's speaking exclusively about personal racism, and you're speaking primarily about institutional or societal racism. I agree, Tom ó although obviously you kinda can't have one without the other. Still, they deserve a degree of different treatment on the road to eliminating both. The sad thing is that a lot of people have done a great job of eliminating their personal racism, but haven't focused nearly enough on the institutional, or societal, or collective even, racism. The irony, of course, is that it takes a whole bunch of individuals to fix that problem, too. The word that I think is scaring him is not the adjective "racist," but the noun. Agreed again. That's why I was asking Scott to pay closer attention to what both I and Dr. Hilfiker are saying. I said specifically that I know it is very divisive to outright call someone "a racist." That's why I haven't done that much in my life, and didn't not say that "all whites are racists." I did say, "I am a racist," which is my right to do. And, hell, I can beat myself in a battle of wits any day. ;-D Seriously, also note that in Dr. Hilfiker's statement at issue, "racist" is also used as an adjective. Subtle, but important, differences. If we are forced to remove the word "racist" from our vocabulary because it might hurt somebody's feelings, then damn. We might as well give up the fight. And I ain't gonna. I second what Ray said. And, brandon, thanks for participating so far; you've been great as has everyone. And dip back in whenever you'd like. You're welcome. Justin: But if you're a racist and advocate racist policies, than you are not treating each individual as a person, one with dignity equal to any other human being. This is true, except that we all know people who pretend to be very open-minded and non-racist, etc., and are lovely to people's faces. But they are still racists due to the policies they support and the myths they spread about groups of people -- oh, except for the lovely exceptions they have chosen to befriend who have, somehow, risen above who their race would have them be. a society is racist; therefore all members of a society are racist (which, by the way, is a logical fallacy). That is a fallacy, so it's good that no one here said that, eh? ;-) I realize that this is probably not what Hilfiker or ladd is trying to say, but it easily comes across that way. To that, I'd suggest then challenging your own assumptions about what we're saying, as well as try to listen to everything we're saying. That could help clear it up. We need to be cognizant of the effects that this societal racism can have on our personal life and ethics. Agreed, totally. But it still begs the quesation of how we can do this, and encourage others to do it, who are not cognizant that what they are doing is "racist," if we do not talk directly about "racism" and admit the role we ourselves play in spreading the racist myths and assumptions. Truthfully, I realized a lot about myself in my lengthy conversation with Dr. Hilfiker. And I never would have had I shut down on him simply because he has the courage to say to me that white people are born into a racist culture, and we each have to work to overcome racism of various forms. I thank God that he did not sugarcoat with me. We need people like him to move us forward, even if we don't like every single thing he says. BTW, he said he would love to come down and participate in a panel discussion. We just need to take up a collection, one way or another, to get him a plane ticket and a hotel room.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T14:04:27-06:00
ID
134628
Comment

Don't worry, Scott. I only think you're being "closed-minded" on this particular point. ;-) Otherwise, I can't see why you hammer away, mischaracterizing what other people have said in order to prove how wrong the original statement was. Obviously, it was not "wrong," whether or not you have personally declared to be, because it has spawned a wonderful discussion about race that has been respectful and thought-provoking. I do believe you cherry-picked, and mightily, to try to make your point that both my statement and Dr. Hilfikier's were WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. And that is fine; I'm quite happy to note your dissent. And my disagreeing with your handling of this point doesn't mean I don't think you're intelligent. Obviously, I do. However, I and others are encouraging you to keep on with the larger discussion, rather than fixating on one statement and repeatedly telling others (including those you said it) what it meant. That's not helping anything, and is at least as harmful as your attempts to twist those statements into something that, er, inhibits discussion. I don't see that happening here, and we have people with vastly different ideologies participating in this very discussion, and in a respectful and enlightening way. So I couldn't possibly agree with your sentiment on it, based on that alone.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T14:11:31-06:00
ID
134629
Comment

I think this whole "racist", "racism" thing might be along the same lines of why (in therapy) we tell someone to never characterize another person by a simple action. Its why you do not call someone that lies, a "liar". People are MORE than a "liar". They may have "lied", but that does not sum up their entire personality or actions. This is done in therapy because (as has been mentioned countless times on here...and actually SHOWN) when you make a sweeping generalization about someone's entire character based upon one action...they have a tendency to shut down. Its more a function of being very clear that someone committed a "lie". A simple action. So, technically (if we look at it from that view point), someone committs racist acts. They are not a "racist". I hope that makes sense. If not, forgive me, I try not to think after 3pm. ;)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-05T14:20:25-06:00
ID
134630
Comment

A perfect time for a therapist to show up. ;-D Actually, Ali, you are saying something I've been trying to say -- but you're qualified to say it, and know more than I do about it. That is, there is a difference between calling someone a "racist" and saying they do "racist" things. Likewise, there is a whoppin' difference between saying, "I was born into and grew up in a racist society; therefore, I must work to shed my racist tendencies" and "All whites are utter, hopeless racists." And there's a helluva difference between the pronoun "I am" and "all whites are." Read carefully, folks, before you attack and declare ideas wrong and dead. Or dead wrong.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T14:25:17-06:00
ID
134631
Comment

Donna, with all due respect, just because someone disagrees with you doesn't mean they are twisting what you are saying. I haven't mischaracterized what ANYONE said. I said I do not agree with this generalized statement: "by growing up white in this culture, I am going to be racist" I don't agree with that. I've said that, and why, very clearly. As for you saying that you have a right to call yourself a racist... of course you do. I also have a right to point out that, by my own definition of racism (which is a pretty close reading of the Merriam-Webster definition), you are, in my opinion, anything but. You said: "And there's a helluva difference between the pronoun "I am" and "all whites are." Duly noted. But you still based it on the fact that you grew up in a white culture and that, therefore, you are racist. I am sorry, but I don't buy that. Do you have a cultural history that, in some case, might have presented a challenge in terms of seeing people as individuals? Sure. So do I... no argument there. But that doesn't make you or me a racist, IN MY OPINION. (I thought we were beyond having to qualify things as being "opinion" before being accused of saying others were "dead wrong".) Where you are getting the idea that I am shutting down on the larger discussion is beyond me. I have said repeatedly that I disagree on this point, I agree on the larger issues, and let's move on. It seems that you have an aching need to get me to say you are right... when I have already said that I agree with you on most of what is being discussed here. If anyone is twisting another's meaning, you are the one doing that to me. But I do think it is important, and not trivial, to say that answering generalizations with generalizations is the wrong way to go. I do not consider myself a racist, based on the M-W definition. But this is not about me being defensive about whether or not I am a racist... I know where I stand and am quite comfortable with it. What this specific debate is about -- for ME -- is making it an inclusive discussion. Saying to someone that he/she needs to examine their prejudices, preconceptions, and advantages before making pronouncements about race is great. I completely agree with that. But if you tell Joe Smith, white insurance agent from north Jackson, that not only is all that true, but he is a racist just by virtue of growing up a certain way, I don't think you are going to get very far. Maybe that doesn't matter to you, but it does to me. I want things to move forward. I don't question that that is what Donna, Tom and everyone else on this board wants as well. But if we can't disagree about certain aspects of the discussion, then what's the point of having it at all?

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-05T14:41:31-06:00
ID
134632
Comment

Or wrongly dead. Or wrong, but in the dead kind of way. Or dead, but in the wrong kind of way. Don't declare them wrong, or dead; or dong, or read; or... Okay, now I'm just getting silly. Ali, I'd love to argue with you sometime because it's probably a heck of a lot of fun, but the trouble is that I have the darndest time finding a post of yours that I don't not only agree with, but wish I'd written myself. And this is another case in point. Well said. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T14:42:26-06:00
ID
134633
Comment

I loathe to give "professional opinions' in discussions where I ain't gettin' paid.... ;) I enjoy debate. Love it, actually. I think there is a great one going on here. But, with all debate there should be ground rules. If there are no ground rules people do not feel safe to discuss issues that are close to their heart, thus actually getting "good work" done. Now, that being said, ground rules have another function. They are a way of honoring where people stand. Its the same reason (in martial arts) you bow before a fight. You must honor someone else's stance before you attack it. If I look at this entire discussion....we cannot begin to bow...because people do not know the parameters of the fighting arena (forgive me the analogy here, I hope it makes sense). I see a lot of bickering about semantics and basically what I professionally call "bullshite". ;) This isn't speaking about ANYONE in particular. Now, its easy for me to say that because I come from a different position. I think the ground work has not been properly laid for this debate. In this debate, it is both my job to honor where *I* am and to honor the position of everyone else who has decided to take part. That being said.....Here is my stance and my bow. I am not a racist. But, I believe our culture is racist. I believe that I commit racist acts unintentionally. I hope to end these with vigilence and thru education. I wish to have a discussion about "racism" which is defined........(insert agreed upon definition here) and how it effects MY life, MY reality, and those around me. I wish to be respected for my right to disagree. I wish to be respected for my right to remove myself at any time that I become uncomfortable and I wish for my opinions to be heard without judgement for the duration of my time in this debate. I think that maybe this might be the best way to get things moving....or not. I guess its a decision to be made by the group. :)

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-05T14:49:02-06:00
ID
134634
Comment

SAJ, I'm not going to speak for Donna, but my point is not that you or I are racist-s. I think I was pretty clear about that. I think we are racist. Starting with an "r," ending with a "t." I also think we're sexist, but I would never say that we're sexist-s. I don't think you're shutting down the discussion, either; I think you're contributing mightily to it. Because obviously if you don't get this, as intelligent as you are, then some other people reading this probably aren't getting it, either. But I do think you're mischaracterizing both me and Donna, and I think you're also not paying attention to the subtle differences in our terminology, or to the attempt we've made over the past half dozen posts or so to clarify what it is that we're trying to say. In particular, I'd call yoour attention to Ali's post, which both Donna and I ditto'd--and which seems to be saying something not terribly unlike what I suspect you're trying to say. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-05T14:51:16-06:00
ID
134635
Comment

Actually, Scott, with due respect, you did twist my, and Dr. Hilfiker's words, earlier in the discussion and used that as a basis of showing how we are "wrong." But that's OK; I'm not mad at you about it just because I pointed it out to you. I am happy to see, too, that you are coming back around to repeating what we actually said now. Now, I've already said that we have stipulated that you don't agree. The dead horse is dead. However, we still want you to be involved in the larger discussion past the pissing contest over the one statement that roils you so. I kind of like Ali's summary. It truly suits the points I have tried to make nicely. I do not believe that committing racist acts (or thoughts) makes you a lowdown scum "racist." Dr. Hilfiker says that, too. However, I do believe that growing up in our white culture instills racist thoughts, values and beliefs in us that we have to actively work to remove i.e. what Dr. Hilfiker said. And if I want to say I. Am. A. Racist., that is not up to anybody but me to decide whether that's correct for me to do. Note I didn't ask permission of the collective. ;-) And I really don't know how to repeat that same thing in yet a different way, so I'm not going to. I'm starting to repeat myself here. So let's move forward as Ali is trying to get us to do. This discussion is amazing, but it is at risk of getting a flat tire. Onward, cowboys and girls.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T15:08:11-06:00
ID
134636
Comment

I'm now wondering how the good doctor would be treated if he came here and expounded further upon his ideas and opinions? I wonder further whether his presence will have a greater impact than he has already had? Would gunfighters or hatchet people from the right and extreme right show up to partake in trying to slaughter him verbally? Or would most people ignore him altogether? What venue would he use? And what would be the total cost for all of this?

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-05T15:25:42-06:00
ID
134637
Comment

One way we might shoot the conversation forward is to discuss the idea that because so many criminals are black that blacks are more prone to commit crimes. In a few minutes, Pat will have my editor's note up this week, which discusses these types of assumptions, using Bill Bennett disgusting comments last week as a jumping-off point.. I invite everyone to jump over there and continue this discussion on that point there. But I do hope this particular discussion continues here as well. Ray's questions about Dr. Hilfiker are interesting. I think this entire thread shows the pitfalls we face when we dare to use language about race that makes people remotely uncomfortable. I still go back to my original premise: If the tiptoeing hasn't worked, and it hasn't, what else do we do? I personally find it kind of interesting that my attempts to say that people should not feel like demons for having racist thoughts, because well we all do in this culture, actually cause so much grief to some people. I really think we have been so programmed, at this point, to believe that "racist" is the worst possible thing we can be that we are shutting down any discussion about what it really means. For months, probably years, I've tried to tease out real discussions about what "racism" and race inequities (such as in education) really mean, but it's been hard. Maybe we're making some progress now. Anyone, feel free to suggest a specific angle on the topic to discuss, so we can get much more specific than the debate over the word "racist" itself, which is interesting, but can only get us so far.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T15:33:05-06:00
ID
134638
Comment

OK, my column about "Bill Bennett and His Black Boys" is now up. Enjoy. Or not.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-05T15:44:48-06:00
ID
134639
Comment

this comment may not be liked or supported by any of you BUT i do have the right to free speach so here goes... I believe that everything written in the email was correct. As politicaly incorrect as it may be for me to say that I dont care. I mean i know that deep down inside we all feel this way. FACE IT NO MATTER HOW MUCH OF A TABOO IT IS OR HOW MUCH WE TRY TO FIGHT IT RACISM IS HUMAN NATURE. I dont believe that it was even a color thing that bothered to aurthor of the email. I believe that if the people that lived in new orleans were white and he went to help them he would have refered to them not as nigers but as something along the lines of NEW ORLEANS SCUM . I do believe that it would have been said in the same disgusted way. The face is that new orleans is a black city. and the news on t.v. disgusted me also. people demmanding help and then shooting at it when it came. Come on. I know that someone is thinking the same think i am but i am the only one with balls enough to say it

Author
Ginniep
Date
2005-10-06T12:31:06-06:00
ID
134640
Comment

Wow. Free "speach" (sp) invades the JFP site. Who'da thunk? Ginniep, racism is no more human nature than is violence or sexual crimes or Tourette's syndrome. It's a disease with which some people, like you, are afflicted. Donna: nice piece on Bennett. The hypocrisy of the gamblers and Oxycontin freaks on the right wing never ceases to amaze me. Can you post a link to more info about the Dilulo study, both for the study itself and the refutation? As I remember, even Dilulio quit the Bush Administration in disgust.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-06T12:45:47-06:00
ID
134641
Comment

Wow, I wouldn't exactly call those "balls" Ginnie. I would call it idiocy. I can appreciate you feeling this way, but I would like to clarify that NO everyone else did not. I did not. I saw those pictures and stories and cried. Wanna know why I cried? I cried because I thought about how desperate those people must have been, how absolutely fearing for their life they had to have been, to have acted that way. So, no I don't think that deep down inside we all feel this way.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-06T12:48:04-06:00
ID
134642
Comment

SAJ- I see ya beat me to it. ;) Why did what I wrote come out so absolutely inarticulate? I need caffeine.

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-06T12:50:13-06:00
ID
134643
Comment

Leave Ginniep along. We people who can't spell have to stick together. I'm gonna be dangerous if I ever learn how to use spell or grammar check. Anybody really knows what the hell she's talking about?

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-06T12:58:53-06:00
ID
134644
Comment

I suppose I'd say that racism is human nature--in much the same way that rape, child molestation, serial killing, and so forth are technically "human nature." They all play into some fundamental parts of our evolutionary baggage. And they're all moral evils that don't necessarily dominate the minds of most people, however unavoidably natural they might feel to their devotees. So no, I didn't react the way you did to the news reports. I knew that the "they" who were shooting at helicopters were a few people, and the "they" who were suffering and dying and homeless were many, many people. And it really affected me. It affected me more after I went to the coliseum and put faces on these painful stories. But you can take comfort in the fact that you're obviously not alone. All you have to do is look at the international inaction on the Sudanese genocide to know that black skin and poverty are enough to turn off many people's empathy switches. I suspect many folks on the other blog are impressed by your "balls." I am not; I find your post repulsive. But at least you're being honest, and that puts you way ahead of many of your ideological brethren. Cheers, TH

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-06T13:05:40-06:00
ID
134645
Comment

(Uhm, that last post was directed at Ginnie. Speaking of inarticulate...)

Author
Tom Head
Date
2005-10-06T13:07:02-06:00
ID
134646
Comment

Thanks, Scott. I don't have links at my fingertips; the research for this is from primary sources in binders on my shelves because it was research I did during a six-month fellowship in 2001 on zero tolerance for kids (and came from a detailed book proposal I put to the side in order to start the JFP; maybe I should resurrect it in light of all this). Most of my research was from academic and other sources; thus, I don't know that it's all a quick Google a way. AND, today is Todd's birthday and a day off for me; thus, I'm not in the mood to go chasing Bill Bennett sorry ass through the Internet. However, if I run across anything useful, I will post the links. And we will have more such research/stories coming in the near future; this is kind of a foreshadowing. So hang tight. As for Ginniep, I'm with Ray: I don't even know what that post means. I do believe it's bad netiquette to harange posters for spelling, punctuation and grammar issues, but good golly, woman, go back and make your comments remotely readable before you hit "submit." Personally, I don't care that you are being "politically incorrect" -- that phrase is so bastardized that it means nothing these days -- as long as you follow the user agreement while doing it. However, I do suggest that you think, and edit, before you post, or you're just going to make yourself look silly and uncredible, as you did here.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-06T13:19:23-06:00
ID
134647
Comment

Sorry about the bad netiquette. Happy birthday Todd!

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-06T13:22:17-06:00
ID
134648
Comment

I can't believe I am writing this, but this EXACT topic (in context of the movie Crash) is being discussed on Oprah right now, and it's great. (I mean the topic of race assumptions and whether we live in a racist society). 4:19 PM, WJTV.

Author
Scott Albert Johnson
Date
2005-10-06T15:19:51-06:00
ID
134649
Comment

Thanks, Scott. I'm checking the show out right now. I saw Crash two days ago after Brandon and Ali mentioned it. Don't be ashamed of watching Oprah. Big boys watch Oprah, too. Her show isn't as good Springer, Maury or WWF but it's good anyway. Ha, Ha.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-06T15:39:32-06:00
ID
134650
Comment

This story made me cry and helps to make up for the jerk in Houston who supposedly wrote the post that Dr. Johnston passed around. (I still think the author was Karl Rove, or Scooter Libby, maybe, but I can't prove it.) Definitely read this story, though to help restore faith in human nature.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-07T13:30:25-06:00
ID
134651
Comment

I JUST read that a few minutes ago. The napkins I had swiped from Keifer's got put to good use. I LOVE her laughing about them making her 15 years older than she was...

Author
Lori G
Date
2005-10-07T13:39:01-06:00
ID
134652
Comment

Certainly a good story. I didn't cry though. Too macho! We'll see if any men did. Tom, I just learned from David that you're a young man. I'm shocked you're that young. I have been reading in your comments and writings wisdom and understanding far too steep for your youth. I didn't know how to fix a hot dog at your age, not to mention discuss with any sense difficult issues.

Author
Ray Carter
Date
2005-10-07T14:11:38-06:00
ID
134653
Comment

Dr. Hilfiker e-mailed us this link to a Washington Post article and the following comments about it: The willingness of the news media to believe these reports coming out of New Orleans are quite akin, I think, to the good doctor Johnston's thinking that the vicious e-mail "sounded right." Would these reports of crazy, violent behavior have "sounded right" to the reporters if they'd been coming out of wealthy white suburbs? Would somebody have double-checked? Again, I am not into the blaming game; I suspect I would have played along, too. But that would have been mostly because of my racism, not because it would have been fair or professional. The reality is we (whites) are quite prepared to believe that poor black people will do just about anything including "raping babies in the Superdome."

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-07T18:06:49-06:00
ID
134654
Comment

Earl Ofari Hutchinson's column this week picks up on these myths, too. I'll run this one in the print edition if I have room next week: A week after Katrina hit, a reporter for the British Guardian newspaper was curious whether there was any truth to the wild, gossipy and hysterical reports of murder, rape, incest, and stacked corpses at the New Orleans Superdome. He closely examined police reports, records, statements of city officials, and eyewitness accounts. He didn't find anything to substantiate the press reports, or official claims of the bedlam. His story was ignored in the mainstream press and lightly mentioned on a few obscure websites. A number of web respondents sneered at the story as a lie, or an apology for black crime by a left-leaning tabloid. New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin quickly jumped into the fray, slandered his own city, and reinforced the worst racial stereotypes with his violence-is-everywhere rant on Oprah and national talk shows. The Guardian may have been an isolated, and to some suspect, media voice with its counterspin on the mythical violence, but it wasn't the only press skeptic that tried to separate fact from fiction about alleged Katrina violence. Reporters for the Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune, which could hardly be tagged left-leaning, also found no credible evidence that marauding gangs terrorized anyone, or that they even existed. A month after these lonely press voices took the time to check facts, rather than run with gossip, a few newspapers did a tepid mea culpa and admitted that the apoplectic frothing tirades by a legion of talking-head commentators and their bloodthirsty headlines about "Baghdad on the Bayou," rape, murder, incest, stockpiled bloated corpses, mass looting, the breakdown of civilization and the dark side of America were exaggerated, or more bluntly a pack of lies. The media's mea culpa, however, came a month after New Orleans and the black crime fixation had been firmly pile-driven into the skulls of millions nationally and worldwide, and becoming an urban legend created that the press's belated, gentile damage control could never shake.

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2005-10-07T18:09:06-06:00

Like independent media outlets around the world, the Jackson Free Press works hard to produce important content on a limited budget. We'd love your help! Become a JFP VIP member today and/or donate to our journalism fund. Thanks for considering a JFP VIP membership or one-time support.

Comments

Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

comments powered by Disqus