Streams

30 Issues: Race, Beyond Affirmative Action

Monday, October 27, 2008

Charles Blow, New York Times's visual Op-Ed columnist, and Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center and author of America Against the World : How We Are Different and Why We Are Disliked (Times Books, 2006), review American attitudes toward race, as evidence by polling.

Then
Dr. Cornel West, the Class of 1943 Professor at Princeton University, author of Race Matters, and most recently, Hope on a Tightrope: Words and Wisdom, (Hay House, 2008) and Maria Hinojosa, managing editor and host of NPR's Latino USA and senior correspondent for the PBS newsmagazine NOW, and Abigail Thernstrom, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute in New York, the vice-chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and co-author with her husband of No Excuses: Closing the Racial Gap in Learning (Simon & Schuster, October 2003), discuss the state of race relations in the U.S.

Then
Spoken word artist Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai asks why in "national conversations about race" the viewpoints of Asian Americans often are left out.

What specific topics should a national conversation about race include? Comment below!

Guests:

Charles M. Blow, Maria Hinojosa, Andrew Kohut, Abigail Thernstrom, Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai and Dr. Cornel West
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
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Comments [173]

Amy from Washington, DC

I appreciated this segment on race, but was disappointed with how the discussion about Asian (East, South, West) identities/communities/issues was separate from the larger discussion. I was also upset with the guest you had on to discuss Asian American issues. Not to take anything away from Kelly (a spoken word artist), but she is not an expert on Asians and racial/political issues in America. While on the other hand you had well known and respected academic and policy experts for the larger discussion (i.e. Prof. West and Maria Hinojosa). I would love to hear a broadcast where Asians-Americans are a vital part of a serious and in-depth discussion on race and the US political system. I can even suggest an expert in the area, Professor Jane Junn at Rutgers University.

Oct. 29 2008 10:55 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Part 2:

I can't say I've experienced or witnessed incidents like the ones you describe more than once or twice. From your description of them (being stepped on, etc.), I can't tell whether you were treated that way because the people who did it were racists or just jackasses. I've definitely never heard black people talk about stiffing an individual white person because "s/he owes us." But then, as you suggested about someone else, I don't eat out that much, or take cabs, either, for economic reasons. I did once go to an event at a hotel & say "Good morning" to the doorman, then corrected myself to say "Sorry, good afternoon," & was surprised when he said, "I'm just glad to have someone even say hello to me." I don't know how much he was ignored because he was black & how much because he was "just" a doorman, but it made me realize how much people in service jobs are taken for granted by the people they deal with on the job.

Oct. 29 2008 03:29 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Joe the Actor [125] (I like the name, btw!): Sorry not to reply sooner--I didn't get back to my computer until very late & almost didn't even realize it was my post you were replying to.

Part 1:

I can't say I've seen it happen personally, but there have been studies in which black & white volunteers go to look at the same apt., try to hail a cab, apply for the same job using resumes showing identical qualifications, etc., that have shown consistent tendencies toward bias against the black volunteers.

But my point was not that these things happen but that it's possible for white people who look at apts., hail cabs, apply for jobs, etc., to genuinely not know that black people trying to do the same things aren't treated the same (not all the time, certainly--I live in a very integrated, multiracial/ethnic building, for example--but often).

Oct. 29 2008 03:29 AM
Kate from Manhattan

I would love to hear a discussion on how young people are educated on the issue of race in America. Why isn't racial sensitivity a mandatory subject in school, given this nation's history? For starters we must look much more closely at our country's history of racial discrimination against many ethnic groups in order to (begin to) avoid repeating our mistakes over and over again. One only needs to look at the way Arab Americans are being treated at the moment to realize that we have a long way to go before we truly have racial equality in the United States.

Oct. 28 2008 02:40 AM
Mike from Inwood

oinnyc from Staten Island states: "This whole thing started with you going on about how you don't have any white privilege because you were born working class and worked your way the economic ladder. The corollary to that is that black people just aren't willing to... And black people aren't asking for your advice on how to behave. It isn't needed. What you need to do is not tell black people how to behave themselves -- which is indeed as patronizing as it sounds -- you need to work on your own very evident racism."

Maybe you should try to read a little more carefully. I said that I'm not optimistic about race relations changing in my lifetime. I'm only telling you how many White people will inevitable react to Blacks with your attitudes. You insist on lecturing to me (when you're not hurling insults).

Everyone has advantages and disadvantages based on their race & gender. Perhaps the average White person has more advantages, but not all Whites are average. Your failure to see this marks you as someone who is not prepared to live in a diverse society when unfortunately you do. Instead, you cope with your pain by clinging to your racist notions of 'white privilege' and insulting anyone who disagrees. I thank God I have somewhere to go when I need to flee your racism because I do understand how frustrated you are and I know if I could never get away I'd buy a gun and commit suicide by cop.

Oct. 27 2008 06:15 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

PS Leo: that was 100% as in I agree.

Oct. 27 2008 05:12 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Leo Wrote:I do think the very nature of this conversation demonstrates how much less you've been forced to think about race than many people of color."

100%. I do not, however accept your assertion that I am racist. I am not.

If Obama doesn't win, I want to leave America. I cannot love a country that would democratically elect Sarah Palin never mind John McCain. I HATE what they stand for. If there's even a whiff of a stolen election or Rovian doings, I will take to the Streets. If it comes to that maybe I will see you there.

Best
Joe Hussein the Actor.

Oct. 27 2008 05:09 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Look, I apologize for flying off the handle but cannot imagine the frustration many people of color feel when dealing with white people who are often quite clueless about their own racism. I respect the fact that you've hung out in this dialog for this long and I appreciate it. But I also stand by my earlier statement. White people just have too much work to do on their own issues, and still possess too much power in this society to be giving people of color advice or instructions on how to live or behave. It's just not appropriate. If you want to continue exploring this issue I recommend seeking out other white anti-racism activists. They are out there. A simple google search turns up a bunch of stuff. To start with:

http://www.edchange.org/multicultural/sites/white.html

http://www.gcorr.org/site/c.mwKWJ9NTJtF/b.4514915/

http://academic.udayton.edu/race/04needs/colorbli.htm

Good luck, Mike.

Oct. 27 2008 04:49 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

"There are too many posts to respond to them all individually, but a stereotype of Black people as lazy hasn't been seriously alleged by any number of White people in 50 years, at least. You are describing someone's grandparents.

This whole thing started with you going on about how you don't have any white privilege because you were born working class and worked your way the economic ladder. The corollary to that is that black people just aren't willing to.

And black people aren't asking for your advice on how to behave. It isn't needed. What you need to do is not tell black people how to behave themselves -- which is indeed as patronizing as it sounds -- you need to work on your own very evident racism. It isn't the job of black people to sit around and listen politely while white people work out their complicated, often ugly or just dumb feelings about race. You guys need to do that for each other. It's not our job, and as must be obvious we don't have a whole lot of attention for it. We need to work on our own problems. But I promise, Mike -- no one is asking for your advice.

Oct. 27 2008 04:31 PM
Mike from Inwood

Leo cannot help himslef: "You live a chronically racist society that has perpetrated the ugliest, most inhuman injustices against people of color but it's our fault because we aren't unfailingly polite? Are you that mind-bogglingly blind or just very stupid? Sigh... You people exhaust us.. Really."

You seem to be conflating all the White people who've ever lived or posted here. I guess we all look alike. This seems to be a problem to me: Black people say they want a conversation on race, but when you don't simply listen and tell them they're so insightful, you're a racist. This is part of what must change before the larger picture can.

Oct. 27 2008 04:16 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island adds: "And I just have comment on one thing, Mike. Black people conduct themselves just fine. Really. We do. Maybe sometimes not in precisely them manner that whites are used to, but just fine all the same. A small number of black people conduct themselves poorly."

Yes, Leo, most Black people conduct themselves just fine most of the time. It is a small number and my perception has nothing to do with the media (I don't own a TV, don't listen to right-wing radio or ebven read The Post). I work with Black people and am quite aware of behavioral differences and am not offended by them. But having spent a few years here and there as a minority in a sea of Black people, I think I have something to say about how things have to change if they are to go foreward. I have the benefit of my experience, I was trying to share it with you.

Oct. 27 2008 03:59 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island: "There are too many posts to respond to them all individually, but a stereotype of Black people as lazy hasn't been seriously alleged by any number of White people in 50 years, at least. You are describing someone's grandparents. Also, no one is denying that racism exists or that black & white people don't experience racism and its effects differently. Your posts all seem to repeat this as though someone is disagreeing. What I'm trying to add, and what you seem really ignorant of in your quest to let me know how it is to be you and exactly how I have to change, is that I'm telling you how it is to be me and that your ideas about why things don't change are predicated on an idea of me that doesn't exist.

Oct. 27 2008 03:53 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

And I just have comment on one thing, Mike. Black people conduct themselves just fine. Really. We do. Maybe sometimes not in precisely them manner that whites are used to, but just fine all the same. A small number of black people conduct themselves poorly. Making those people --perhaps over-represented in the media but a minority of a minority nonetheless -- making these people responsible for our entire race being treated with justice reflects the colonialist mentality of collective punishment mixed with an overtly racist view of the black community. You are literally saying that we, in our entirely as a people, aren't as, what, nice? As white folk? You live a chronically racist society that has perpetrated the ugliest, most inhuman injustices against people of color but it's our fault because we aren't unfailingly polite? Are you that mind-bogglingly blind or just very stupid? Sigh... You people exhaust us.. Really.

Oct. 27 2008 03:51 PM
Mike from Inwood

Follow-up to #158 & #122: One of the many good things about an Obama victory would be for these White people who are afraid of Black people 'taking over' and exerting revenge is that when there is no revenge exacted, it would be a great learning experience that would change their attitudes. Affirmative action has allowed people in racially-mixed areas to interact with each other on a daily basis in a face to face manner instead of being segregated and only knowing each other at a distance. Many rural White people are a bit befind the curve on this since there are no Black people in their area for them to come to know through affirmative action. An Obama administration that benefited all the disadvantaged could do wonders to remedy this.

Oct. 27 2008 03:43 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

I hope that you will work on listening to what people of color have to say about racism without feeling defensive or bad about yourselves. I hope that you will learn to analyze problems of race and apparent deficiencies in people of color in terms of their historical oppression instead of the racist trope that they are just lazy. The most important thing that you can do to help is to start talking honestly about your own racism from the the point of view that black people are all fully human, just as intelligent as you and just as likely to be filled with kindness and love as the next person. Since I haven't read one nice thing about blacks from either of you I am guessing this is a pretty good place to start. Finally I think a good reality check is to remember that this is the country that committed genocide against native americans, held africans in slavery for hundreds of years and as second class citizens for a century afterward. Most Americans didn't personally take part in these actions but all of them allowed it to go on. We have had our own holocausts in this country but the greatest crime that we are committing now is a refusal to fully acknowledge the impacts of this. Germany is still, 50 years later, involved in a massive soul-searching over WWII -- how could we do this? Likewise in South Africa. America, however, went directly from setting dogs on black children to, "it's ancient history -- just get over it." There's something wrong there.

Oct. 27 2008 03:38 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Anyway -- I have other things to do and I have to go. It's been fun people. I appreciate the fairly serious dialog. i am sorry for the racism you still have and choose not to really deal with. I don't want you to feel bad about it because that won't help anything. I don't think you're bad people. I do think the very nature of this conversation demonstrates how much less you've been forced to think about race than many people of color.

Oct. 27 2008 03:38 PM
Mike from Inwood

A Voter from Brooklyn comments: "Ahh, you’ve made a very important point Mike from Inwood, whether you realize it or not. Many white Americans are not going to vote for the Democratic ticket specifically because the top of the ticket is someone they feel will not have their best interest in mind while governing. Perhaps this is because, on a subconscious level, they realize there has been an advantage to having white government for the white people by the white people."

I really think you've missed my point, whether you realize it or not. Certainly the McCain-Palin ticket is trying this wedge out of desparation, but that's not where I was headed.

I meant something closer to not wanting to work for a Black person (as I have) because you know you'll have to be twice as good to get half as much and that your boss will feel justified in advancing the race given the history that your coworker has had to overcome. And your boss will be rewarded: Written into the policies where I work is the 10% of the managers bonus (very possible a 6 figure amount) is the ability to 'hire, retain & promote women and people of color'.

The mentality of these voters is not so much "government by White people for White people", it's more "Black people have made no secret that they hold a grudge and want reparations, whether I had any of this white privilege or not".

Oct. 27 2008 03:34 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island asks: "Mike and Joe and whoever else -- let me ask you -- what are you trying to convince me of? That there is no racism?"

Absolutely not. What I'd like Black people to realize is that the way in which they conduct themselves towards White people is an integral part of the problem. 'Integral' meaning it's one of the things that cannot remain the same if things are to change. I am not optimistic about changing anyone's attitudes, especially yours since you're already so 'informed'. I realize that no matter how 'non-racist' my own acts are, racism is not going away before I do. I cannot act differently and expect to see much (or any) change. It's like trying to bail against the tide with a thimble. Unfortunately, that is your lot, too. I take solice in knowing that everyone pulling together is the only answer I'm part of the solution and not the problem. I'm also convinced that the way I experience my life is better for the efforts, even though I'll never be rewarded with better behavior in return. I can only recommend this to you, too.

Incidentally, I don't think it's me that's getting defensive or exasperated. Maybe you should take a break.

Oct. 27 2008 03:24 PM
Simon

It is definitely a sign of progress in regards to racism if Obama is elected, but, as others have said, it is by no means a the end of the story.

Keep in mind if Obama wins Bush's historic low popularity ratings will have played no small part, and the same can be said for McCain's horrid campaign. A case can be made that Obama's presence in the race has brought out latent racism and that it may be on the rise for awhile.

Futhermore, his Obama's presidency will hardly inform Affirmative Action. Affirmative Action is not about any one person; it's about economic disparity per capita, by race - when that disparity has been eliminated, then we might be able to say it is not needed. Though there is never anything wrong with looking at alternatives to Affirmative Action.

Oct. 27 2008 03:16 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#149 Leo, I would never try to convince someone of there being no racism. There is, believe me. You think I am of an oppressor group? Yikes. Although, when you compare men and women, I do agree with the heart of what you're saying. If you were to see me that might strike you as amusing is all.

I wonder if what you want is an apology from the White community. Your question seems to imply that you think the disproportionate amount of responsibility lies with white people. I wonder if that is naive. A National Apology. How does a nation do that?

Please be well and if you're also supporting Obama in this election, then I join you in hoping for change.

I gotta get some work done.

Oct. 27 2008 03:13 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike -- "Then this is the problem; you fail to realize that the manner in which Black people harrass White people on a face to face basis is one of the legs that keeps Black people down. Many White people are resisting voting for Obama because they think that one of these people that obviously does not have their best interests at heart will now be able to make decisions that do affect them. It's only when they come to see him as not being of this ilk that he can make inroads among these White people.

This is pretty good example of the racism that I am talking about. The difference between being white in this society and being black. The generalizations and classification of people based on race and nothing else. having to constantly be on "your best behavior" in a way no white person ever would because somehow you represent the race. the stupid equivalencies between 'black racism" and white. Can you not see that in what you just typed?

Because I deal with rude white people all the goddamn time. Every time I take the subway at rush hour, for instance. But no one talks about the epidemic of "white harassment." If some drunken jerkoff makes a pass at my wife do you worry that it will reflect badly on John McCain? Or the idea that somehow the power of a black person to "harass" a white person somehow equates with, say, the power of the state or other mostly-white-run-institutions to effect black peoples lives over the past 200 years.

Oct. 27 2008 03:12 PM
Dan from new york

Waah! It's their fault.
You have only one life. It's time to love yourself and stop waiting for other people to make amends for something they didn't do and frankly, don't care about anyway. Do what you can to show pride and teach your children. But most importantly, vote next Tuesday. You hold this power, as imperfect as it might seem, in your hands.If you keep waiting for apology you will die without delivering the promise of a better world.

Oct. 27 2008 03:10 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Ahh, you’ve made a very important point Mike from Inwood, whether you realize it or not. Many white Americans are not going to vote for the Democratic ticket specifically because the top of the ticket is someone they feel will not have their best interest in mind while governing. Perhaps this is because, on a subconscious level, they realize there has been an advantage to having white government for the white people by the white people. No I am not saying government only cares about white people… It would be a gross generalization and rather offensive. But look at the McCain Palin campaign as of late. “he’s not like you and me” “Real America” “he doesn’t see America the same way you and I do” It implies he will not be for “people like us” he’ll be for people like him. And what “people like him” means is written all over his face.
I was watching some back and forth punditry once on don’t ask, don’t tell. Someone on the panel made a very insightful comment (paraphrasing) “the reason [male] soldiers reject the idea of having gays in the military is because they fear another man treating them they way they treat women.” That’s the same brand of fear Gov. Palin stokes at every rally.

Oct. 27 2008 03:09 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Alec Baldwin wrote an interesting article for the Huffington Post. It stated that should Obama win this would change race relations in America forever. I don't know if it's true.

Voter #146: If you were to see me on the street or if we were to have contact with each other as strangers, I truly wonder what you would assume about me.

I do want to say to all of the intelligent people with whom I have been conversing, and have conversed over way too many workdays on this site, that I do enjoy reading and replying to your posts. It's caustic to be this frank, I accept that, but I think we all are reporting on issues just as we see them.

Oct. 27 2008 03:03 PM
Mike from Inwood

Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York: "Mike, I hear ya...I know what you tried to do by speaking with the child in your class but, it is not a pain that is transferable. I would have rathered fall on my sword than have to explain to my daughter why it is/was nothing to be ashamed of being of African heritage and that, her ancestry and heritage is/was nothing to be ashamed of...I really would like to hope you could imagine that conversation with an 8 year old. I don' the words in my vocab to describe."

I can only imagine. What I didn't realize as a child was why she had this reaction since it seemed obvious to me that whatever happened close to 100 years ago (at that time) was no reflection on her. I have friends in Germany. Even though they were all born after 1945, they have a similar reaction when the topic of the holocaust arises.

Oct. 27 2008 03:00 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike and Joe and whoever else -- let me ask you -- what are you trying to convince me of? That there is no racism? That white people don't share disproportionate amount of responsibility for this racism? Or that white people shouldn't play a central role in ending it?

I don't think I've ever put forward a simple view of race in this country. Yes, a few blacks owned slaves. And..? A few jews collaborated with the nazis. The holocaust didn't happen? Or should we blame jews equally with germans? What is your point here?

Get over your desperate, reflexive defensiveness for a moment and listen. That's what I meant, joe. Badly worded on my part. I meant that, to be frank, we all have a lot of listening to do -- not defensive, not judgmental -- listening before we're going to get anywhere with this. (Assuming you want to get anywhere -- I am giving you the benefit of the doubt here.) But people in oppressor groups, to be frank, have MORE listening to do, at least to start with. Men have to listen to women on sexism, heterosexuals have to listen to homosexuals on gay oppression, etc. Because at the end of the what makes oppressor groups oppressor groups is that we have the power to substitute our judgment for others should we so choose.

Oct. 27 2008 02:57 PM
Mike from Inwood

A Voter from Brooklyn asks: "Mike from Inwood, I find it curious that you have attempted to explain away or show parity with the poor white American experience when others have sited white privilege, but not with me. What of the examples I’ve given when doing something as simple as going to the market, driving, applying for a job (if you have an ethnic sounding name)? What about being in the “wrong neighborhood” or (from out lynching past) looking at someone the wrong way?"

I can only type so fast and you are not the center of my universe. I did reply to your example about the police, but there're just too many disparate items to address in your post. Incidentally, when I lived in rural, all-white upstate, the police certainly did harass people and they obviously weren't Black. It seems to go with policing. But back to NYC: When I lived in Bed-Stuy, I would be charged different prices in these mom & pop stores that have no prices. How do I know? Because I'd get the same item as the uy in fromt of me. Don't even get me started on how many times some Black person I haven't even noticed has chosen not to like the way I supposedly looked at them. If you cannot see the Black racism that surrounds you, you either think it's justified or are simply so used to it that you no longer notice because it's normal to you.

Oct. 27 2008 02:54 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#143 then answer my question: What is it that I am supposed to acknowledge to bring me out of my supposed cloud of priviledge and misunderstanding? Seriously. Lip-service here on WNYC's posting board? I'd like to know. I really would. I am truly asking.

And again, shocking as it may be for you to hear, comment #144 is sadly true. This is industry-wide.

Oct. 27 2008 02:53 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

I will tell you #134 what (possibly) you and many other white people need to do. It the simple acknowledgment of both Institutionalized racism, and the so called white privilege it affords. It is uncomfortable, but a necessary step. The problem is denial. I’ve had this conversation far more than I’ve cared to with close friends. And, it is uncomfortable having to confront a friend with questions like “have you ever been asked to leave a shop because they were “uncomfortable” having you there?” (This happened to me in 2004 in Manhattan.) My white friends see me as white collar with two professional degrees and a higher than city average salary, unfortunately, that also helps them forget that others may just see me as black (and all that implied).

Oct. 27 2008 02:51 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island: "I have heard racism described as a two-legged table with primarily white oppression as one leg and internalized oppression among people of color as the other leg."

Then this is the problem; you fail to realize that the manner in which Black people harrass White people on a face to face basis is one of the legs that keeps Black people down. Many White people are resisting voting for Obama because they think that one of these people that obviously does not have their best interests at heart will now be able to make decisions that do affect them. It's only when they come to see him as not being of this ilk that he can make inroads among these White people.

Oct. 27 2008 02:47 PM
Mike from Inwood

Also leo "owe us for slavery" was the expression the the Black person advocating the 'no tip' used on both occasions. Incidentally, when you're a waiter, you become pretty good at sizing people up. You have to deal with lots of people and you have many opportunities to test your ideas. White waiters routinely report receiving lower or no tips from African Americans. To the point where many don't really want to wait on them. Of course, that raises the possibility that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy, but I don't believe so because a waiter who refused to wait on tables would be fired. It's just part of the 'White Tax'.

Oct. 27 2008 02:41 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Joe: "What responsibilty does the White community need to assume (and I am assuming you think the only problem here is White people - never mind the rest of America)? I'd like to know. Do you think equality between Black America and White America is solely, 100%, ONLY in the hands of the White population

No. Not at all. I have heard racism described as a two-legged table with primarily white oppression as one leg and internalized oppression among people of color as the other leg. It takes both to hold up the table. So yes, people of color have plenty of work to do to overcome the wounds of racism, including racism between different communities of color. But to hear someone ask, "what responsibilty does the White community need to assume [to overcome racism]?" is just the sort of incredible statement that only a white person can make. And takes that kind of stunning obliviousness to one's own place in the world to keep racism going. And let me be clear -- I think Joe genuinely doesn't know. I think you don't what to do or why you should do it. And you probably don't feel privileged in any way. But that's the key -- the kind of invisibility of whiteness. The endless problems and questions you can choose not to ask (what connection could I possibly have to racism?) without suffering any consequences.

Oct. 27 2008 02:41 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

leoinnyc: You tell us to look at statistics instead of our own personal anecdotes and then tell us to listen to the people around us. Those two comments seem to be in conflict with each other. I have listened to the people around me. That's the point of relaying 'anecdotes'. And everytime I bring up some experiences as a White person in contact with Black Americans in this sort of caustic discussion, I am often told that these are isolated incidents with one specific and lone ignorant person. It's not true and shocking as it may be to have this illuminated for you, it is very very common. Maybe most White people ignore it and there-in lies the problem.

Oct. 27 2008 02:40 PM
Mike from Inwood

Leo states: "to solve it will require all white Americans to confront their own racism. The thing is that if they choose not to -- as they do most of the time -- they won't really suffer one iota. That is white privilege."

Wrong! I could stay in rural America where there has been a depression for the last 40 years and be marginally employed? How does that not hurt me?

Oct. 27 2008 02:37 PM
Mike from Inwood

leo, at least in both cases, some of the Black people at the table disagreed.

Oct. 27 2008 02:33 PM
Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York

Mike, I hear ya...I know what you tried to do by speaking with the child in your class but, it is not a pain that is transferable.

I would have rathered fall on my sword than have to explain to my daughter why it is/was nothing to be ashamed of being of African heritage and that, her ancestry and heritage is/was nothing to be ashamed of...I really would like to hope you could imagine that conversation with an 8 year old. I don' the words in my vocab to describe.

Oct. 27 2008 02:33 PM
Mike from Inwood

As far as the experiences waiting on people, I have sat next to tables of Black people on more than one occasion and listened as they debated whether to leave any tip at all because the white waiter 'owed them for slavery'.

leoinnyc from Staten Island replies: "Wow. I've never heard that one before."

Perhaps you don't eat out much. The first time it happened, I dismissed it as a one-off. The second time, I thought it coul;dn't be coincidence. If you do eat out much, perhaps you're just inured to the racism of your own kind. Many White people are too.

Oct. 27 2008 02:32 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island notes: "This is one of those things that drives many black people crazy. White people don't want to feel guilty or that they are being blamed for things that they didn't do. A white person who never wished a single bad thing on a black doesn't want to feel implicated in the actions of their ancestors and that's perfectly reasonable."

The large waves of immigration came after the Civil War when there was no slavery. I, like many, if not most, White people, have no ancestors that lived in the US before the Civil War. Many of the poor Irish that came during the Potato Famine and dug the Erie Canal weren't paid enough to afford a roof over their heads and died of exposure in the harsh upstate winters. The people who waded into alligator infested waters to drain the Louisiana swamps in the Antebellum South were white; it was too expensive to send slaves in but poor whites could easily be replaced. Most Whites didn’t own slaves before the Civil War; they were poor. Black and Native Americans were slave owners. When the Cherokees were expelled from northwest Georgia in the 1830s (the trail of tears) with only the things they could carry, some had their slaves do the carrying. I could go on, but you get the point: There is no simple history and no groups that are uniformly victims or perpetrators. Perhaps if Blacks should find out about this country's real history instead of the generalizations they imagine and reconsider.

Oct. 27 2008 02:26 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike - As far as the experiences waiting on people, I have sat next to tables of Black people on more than one occasion and listened as they debated whether to leave any tip at all because the white waiter 'owed them for slavery'.

Wow. I've never heard that one before. But both you and "the Actor" should know better that to think about these things in terms of your own anecdotal experiences. Just use common sense and statistics when necessary. And Listen to the people around you. Look, if someone is saying that their "white waiter 'owed them for slavery'" then you can infer that these people are a) stupid, and b) so genuinely hurt by racism that they would even say something like that. . And again, it's a mistake to think of it in terms of tit-for-tat -- the feeling of being wronged sits very deeply in many people of color, and just the feeling is itself a real, negative effect of racism. But I think this is something that again most white people just don't think about. With the result being a tendency toward that, "forget the past," "if you can't get ahead you only have yourself to blame" mentality.

Oct. 27 2008 02:24 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#132 - Street harassment. This is where people are living! The attitudes run deeper than someone's bad day. I have saw a Hassid and an African American man get into a verbal fight on the subway from a careless and accidental foot-stepping incident. It went to race in about 2 comments.

Oct. 27 2008 02:20 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#131 "But there is a problem here -- The Race Problem -- and it needs to be solved. To let it remain unsolved is to perpetuate institutional racism just as surely as if we still had segregation. And to solve it will require all white Americans to confront their own racism. The thing is that if they choose not to -- as they do most of the time -- they won't really suffer one iota. That is white privilege"

Please, please, please tell me what you think I need to do to confront what you are so sure is my racism? I'd be interested to know. Because what I am looking at in your comment, as I often see in similar comments is such a generality that I cannot agree with. What responsibilty does the White community need to assume (and I am assuming you think the only problem here is White people - never mind the rest of America)? I'd like to know. Do you think equality between Black America and White America is solely, 100%, ONLY in the hands of the White population (again, let's ignore everyone else)?

Oct. 27 2008 02:15 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike said: "Quite right. But short of calling it a personal problem and dismissing it, what can be done?

Well I think that lots of things can be done, but now we're getting into particular political prescriptions which I am sort of trying to avoid in order to find more, rather than less common ground.

I think, for a start, though, that we can make eliminating poverty a priority in this country for the first time 40 years. Right now we are so hamstrung by partisan ideology that we can't seem to even talk about class as a legitimate issue. So I think thats someplace to start. We also have to start looking at what I call "emergent systems of oppression" by which I mean systems of oppression with an oppressor. People tend to shy away from language like "oppression" because it implies an evil cabal keeping people down. Which is of course not usually the case. But through all sorts of socio-political mechanisms whole complicated systems "emerge" that serve to purpose of disadvantaging certain groups and we have to start thinking about it in terms of injustice or else we won't really be able to correct the problem.

Oct. 27 2008 02:15 PM
Mike from Inwood

Joe the Actor from Manhattan comments: "As an actor in New York I have worked extensively in the Food and Beverage industry and in particular at a wonderful Soul Food restaurant in Manhattan. I think you see people at their most raw when you wait on them and I, as well as other waiters at many of the restaurants at which I have worked, experienced serious hostility from Black clientele that in 2 instances in my case resulted in me being point-blank called a racist. I was so hurt by this but it was a learning curve for me in New York. I have been 'accidently' bumped in the street (pretty hard too), stepped on on the train, tutted at when I stepped out of the elevator first even though I was closer to the door, and sneered at by Black shop assistants when I've been out shopping."

As far as the street harasssment is concerned, get used to it. It's part of diversity. In a large number of people, there will always be some who are having a bad day and who will consider their behavior justified. And there are always some who have mostly bad days.

As far as the experiences waiting on people, I have sat next to tables of Black people on more than one occasion and listened as they debated whether to leave any tip at all because the white waiter 'owed them for slavery'.

Oct. 27 2008 02:05 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike: "Well, you are correct, people, white people too, are thinking about themselves and how they can get ahead. They're not thinlking about you and how you can get ahead. Unless they're very reflective, they're not wondering why they started where they started or why you started where you started. And I think you know this instinctively.

yes -- I do. And I don't hold it against people. Like I said, white privilege doesn't make you a bad person. None of this is supposed to be a character indictment of the white race.

But there is a problem here -- The Race Problem -- and it needs to be solved. To let it remain unsolved is to perpetuate institutional racism just as surely as if we still had segregation. And to solve it will require all white Americans to confront their own racism. The thing is that if they choose not to -- as they do most of the time -- they won't really suffer one iota. That is white privilege.

In the meantime it fall to people of color to deal with racism which has all sorts of implications. But the biggest is that the problem just won't get solved. Again -- whites aren't bad people because of this. But they are living with a convenient, comfortable ignorance on this particular issue that has a tangible, negative effect on people of color.

Oct. 27 2008 02:02 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike from Inwood, I find it curious that you have attempted to explain away or show parity with the poor white American experience when others have sited white privilege, but not with me.
What of the examples I’ve given when doing something as simple as going to the market, driving, applying for a job (if you have an ethnic sounding name)? What about being in the “wrong neighborhood” or (from out lynching past) looking at someone the wrong way?
I’ve mixed the issue some, with the examples I’ve given, but the fact of the matter is there are many ways blacks in America are overtly and negatively affected solely because of race. Growing up poor and white, I don’t know if you’ve ever heard this or not, but it goes something like… the reason you don’t hear blacks referred to in the same way as you do poor white trash is because once you say black, the poor and trash are givens.
Going back to immigrants, the issue is this. When immigrants come to the United States, they see themselves as being part of that uniquely American experience; coming to the new world to start anew. Now, when some of those American-feeling immigrants step off the boat, so to speak, and encounter black Americans (and all they have heard or learned about them), they don’t see fellow immigrant Americans like themselves, they see the slaves imported to serve the immigrants of this country.

Oct. 27 2008 02:01 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island: "Poor people of all races have been deeply hurt by poverty and class and this affects them as much as race affects blacks. There is no need to compete -- unfortunately society makes us feel like we have to sometimes but this is part of race and class oppression. I would not want for a moment to belittle the struggle of poor whites. But you're crazy if you think that this hasn't hurt you guys. Of course people born into struggling poverty grow up hurt by it. There is a tendency to see gaining wealth as wiping out the hurt of poverty. But I intimately know poor people now living middle and owning-class lifestyles and they carry that stuff with them. And it holds them back in all sorts of ways. They don't trust their intelligence. They defer to people raised middle and owning class because of a subconscious assumption that they're smarter. They have a lot of guilt because of the still-poor people -- friends and family -- they've "left behind" as they move up the income ladder."

Quite right. But short of calling it a personal problem and dismissing it, what can be done?

Oct. 27 2008 01:56 PM
Mike from Inwood

And, leoinnyc from Staten Island, it's not just that the concept of some uniform advantage enjoyed by all White people is racist, it's that it does not lead to any productive solution to changing the situation that we find ourselves in.

Oct. 27 2008 01:54 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Poor people of all races have been deeply hurt by poverty and class and this affects them as much as race affects blacks. There is no need to compete -- unfortunately society makes us feel like we have to sometimes but this is part of race and class oppression. I would not want for a moment to belittle the struggle of poor whites. But you're crazy if you think that this hasn't hurt you guys. Of course people born into struggling poverty grow up hurt by it. There is a tendency to see gaining wealth as wiping out the hurt of poverty. But I intimately know poor people now living middle and owning-class lifestyles and they carry that stuff with them. And it holds them back in all sorts of ways. They don't trust their intelligence. They defer to people raised middle and owning class because of a subconscious assumption that they're smarter. They have a lot of guilt because of the still-poor people -- friends and family -- they've "left behind" as they move up the income ladder.

Oct. 27 2008 01:49 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island continues: "If every white person were making confronting racism a central mission in their lives America just wouldn't look the way it does and I thing that you know that instinctively."

Well, you are correct, people, white people too, are thinking about themselves and how they can get ahead. They're not thinlking about you and how you can get ahead. Unless they're very reflective, they're not wondering why they started where they started or why you started where you started. And I think you know this instinctively.

America looks they way it does because the people who run things, and who are White for all the historical reasons noted here, want to pass their advantages on to their children. And by and large they succeed.

And as far as all they positions they cannot possibly fill because their numbers are too small, they don't give a rat's butt whether I get one of them simply because I have the same skin color. And if it helps them believe they have their position because of 'merit' to see themselves as part of a more diverse set, that works, too. Especially if it can prevent law suits that threaten their position.

And if you can give yourself an advantage for getting one of the left-over positions by talking about race, all the better for you, but don't expect the white who are among the dispossessed to buy into your logic.

Oct. 27 2008 01:49 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#46 The thing about this kind of comparison/analysis is that it is hard to prove and dangerous to challenge. Do you KNOW this about the apartment example you give, or are you supposing? Was this a specific example or is it a generality? As an actor in New York I have worked extensively in the Food and Beverage industry and in particular at a wonderful Soul Food restaurant in Manhattan. I think you see people at their most raw when you wait on them and I, as well as other waiters at many of the restaurants at which I have worked, experienced serious hostility from Black clientele that in 2 instances in my case resulted in me being point-blank called a racist. I was so hurt by this but it was a learning curve for me in New York. I have been 'accidently' bumped in the street (pretty hard too), stepped on on the train, tutted at when I stepped out of the elevator first eventhough I was closer to the door, and sneered at by Black shop assistants when I've been out shopping. This is not all the time, this is on occasions that I can specifically recall. I think a lot of white people could honestly report the same.

Oct. 27 2008 01:45 PM
Mike from Inwood

AWM from UWS replies: "Snarky? I was just pointing out how you took a stand against the racism of one group and rationalized the racism of another in one thread. It seems you need to have a dialogue on race with yourself."

Yes, SNARKY. It assumes that there is no way these two statements cannot be reconciled without contradiction. Given the limited means of interaction here, it seems incredibly naive (or willfully and therefore SNARKY) to expect full explanation.

It seems you are having a conversation with yourself.

Oct. 27 2008 01:39 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

This is one of those things that drives many black people crazy. But I understand why we are so ahistorical. Look - our past is ugly. No one wants to look at it. White people don't want to feel guilty or that they are being blamed for things that they didn't do. A white person who never wished a single bad thing on a black doesn't want to feel implicated in the actions of their ancestors and that's perfectly reasonable.

But if you are saying that, well, Colin Powell did it, and Obama did it so we should all be able to.. Welll then what you're really saying is that black people are Lazy. And if, as we all agree, black people have been an underclass in America for a long time -- well then we're what, genetically lazy? Or just stupider than whites?

I don't think you believe that. So then where else might the answer lie? This is a little like PTSD for veterans. For a long time the struggle was just to convince people that it was something real. Because otherwise you were just a whiney, lazy soldier afraid to fight. Well we are a strong, resilient but also traumatized people, trying to convince you NOT that we are incapable, but that we are going to need help to achieve what we are capable of. Help that we deserve because we suffered injustice for a long, long time, and because we are human.

Oct. 27 2008 01:37 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island asks: "basically, do we want to live in a country with a permanent underclass, defined by race, as we have for the last 222 years? And if not, what are going to do about it, and whose responsibility is it to fix the problem?"

Certainly not. But there has always been a White underclass, too, and within 30 years of the Civil War ending, there were Black millionaires (back when a million dollars meant something more) indicating that there was some mobility. Has the mobility been equal? No. Have Black people been particularly hampered because of an inherited mentality that has its roots in the slave experience? Yes.

But back to affirnmative action: it's just not always the best remedy to the problem, although there are instances (NYFD & NYPD, for example) where its effects have been largely beneficial. In the corporate world, results have been spotty, at best. One thing I will say though, is that for all its faults, affirmative action has resulted in people of different races thinking about each other based on face to face experiences rather than just seeing each other from a distance and this has been a great advance.

Oct. 27 2008 01:35 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island continues: "Are you starting to see what I'm getting at? These traits are sunk deep into African-American culture. And every day is a battle -- not only with the oppression on the outside but the Internalized Oppression that comes with our cultural heritage."

Point taken, but this is a large and very diverse nation. Most people are ignorant about the coal companies paid a pittance to workers who were often maimed or killed working dangerous jobs and who were shot by company goons when they tried to organize. Do all White people have these cultural memories and live with the sense of inferiroity that has been handed down? No. There is a great diversity among White people. This is why the concept of White privilege, as though there's some advantage that's conferred simply because of skin color is so lame and frankly, racist.

Oct. 27 2008 01:25 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike -- nowhere did I say anything about being excused from anything but you acting "classic white privilege" right here because you are blind to the real disadvantages that most blacks face in this country. You can always point to success stories like Obama and Colin Powell -- no one is saying that it is impossible to achieve if you are black. And everyone has an uncle who smoked their whole life and lived to be 100. It proves nothing.

The question is, basically, do we want to live in a country with a permanent underclass, defined by race, as we have for the last 222 years? And if not, what are going to do about it, and whose responsibility is it to fix the problem? And if you answer is, well Colin Powell succeed I submit to you that our grandchildren will be having this conversation 100 years from now because that's not an answer. And the solution begins with a recognition of the REAL WEIGHT of THE PAST on this country, and on blacks in particular.

Oct. 27 2008 01:24 PM
Mike from Inwood

Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York adds: "Good Job Voter! Here's another scenario. How many of you, non-white, have had your children ashamed to be in history class in the 1980's because they were ashamed of the black american history topic of slavery? Never the Kings and Queens of Africa."

And hopefully this will change. I remember growing up in my rural almost all-white and poor town. I have a strong memory of my only Black classmate becoming upset when learning about slavery in class. I was at a loss why as to what was upsetting her so I asked her and she replied, "Well, how would you like it if your family had been slaves?" The teacher was at a loss or at least did nothing. I tried to assure her that our ancestry didn't matter and she was just as good as anyone, but I remember thinking that I was not too successful. While the curricula never included European history, certainly American history should be taught in a way that is sensitive to all Americans.

Oct. 27 2008 01:20 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Second, you, and all people of all races, need to accept that you are racist. That is, that you have feelings about other people based on their race. It's just a fact. We all do. We have all been damaged by racism. But for various reasons calling someone racist has become just about the worst insult in America. It's not really a fair insult. You're a racist, but it's not your fault and you're not a bad person. It's just the society we live in. So don't feel bad if I'm calling you out. You're not color-blind -- that's a fiction. But if we start looking at our privileges around race, gender, heterosexism, class, etc. we can help each other create a country that works of all of us.

Oct. 27 2008 01:13 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike from Inwood:

Ironically, because I am black I hear less overtly racist stuff because people are usually uncomfortable talking about this kind of thing in front of me.

What I have to confront is the constant pull to make the white people around me comfortable with my presence -- whether they are uncomfortable or not isn't really the point -- that need is central to black success in America.

But I didn't mean to make you feel defensive although that's an understandable reaction. You don't need to prove that you're not racist for two reasons. One is that my point sort of proves itself just by looking at the structure of most institutions in America. If every white person were making confronting racism a central mission in their lives America just wouldn't look the way it does and I thing that you know that instinctively.

Oct. 27 2008 01:13 PM
Mike from Inwood

A Voter from Brooklyn continues: "I’ve heard interviews on this very station where Latinos have said, when you come to America, it is far more advantageous to socially align yourself with white America over black Americans. Many countries and cultures have their own biases against people with darker skin colors."

If immigrants come here with their own racial prejudices, that's hardly being inculcated by the larger White society. But what about the South Asians & East Asians? a different history with skin tone where they came from and yet they often do not like Black Americans.

Oct. 27 2008 01:12 PM
AWM from UWS

Snarky?

I was just pointing out how you took a stand against the racism of one group and rationalized the racism of another in one thread.

It seems you need to have a dialogue on race with yourself.

Oct. 27 2008 01:09 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island comments: "Another thing worth discussing are the reasons poor whites often succeed in America where blacks in particular fail. Whites, however poor, have mostly been raised with the fundamental assumption (esp. in the 20th Century) that, however hard, they CAN make it. Through hard work and perserverence the sky is basically the limit. You know this is true because all of the successful people you see around you are white. Ergo..."

Ergo Black people are excused from trying? Black people can make it, too. Not just Colin Powell, Obama and C. Rice, but many others too. And many Whites do not. If you're poor and rural you don't have the advantages of convenient public tansportation to the local community college & library. Have you ever lived where it was a 30 mile dirve to further your education. If you could afford the car, insurance & gas?

Oct. 27 2008 01:06 PM
Mike from Inwood

Snarky AWM from UWS asks: "have you asked the non-white immigrants in your mostly black neighborhoods to "recognize their own racism?"

I don't ask them to recognize anything, but I know what I see.

Oct. 27 2008 01:02 PM
Mike from Inwood

Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY asks :Please post a link to statistics that show the accelerated advancement of women and minorities over white men in Fortune 100 companies."

Thats a little more specific than I claimed. Try getting any numbers from Fortune 100 compnaies; they guard this information because they know that the only thing that can result is a law suit. There is a GEO study of government employees that shows that middle management in the Frederal government is disproportionately female, though. I don't have a convenient link and I'm not looking now.

Oct. 27 2008 01:00 PM
hjs from 11211

when I worked at a manhattan private girls school (for rich white girls) I found it a bit strange that a black student was always elected class president.

Oct. 27 2008 12:58 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Inquiring Minds for some reason thinks that his Jews For Guns stuff will "tie it all up for me." Except this is a discussion about race. So nope -- as usual I have no idea what your weird hitler stuff has to do with anything anyone is talking about. But, since I am sick of talking about this nonsense I'll just say that Obama is going to be President. And everything is going to be fine. He isn't going to do anything to your precious White Race -- which is more than you've ever done for us. And the only that can prevent that is one of your freakish right-wing gun nut compatriots and his Carcano.

So please just go away....

Oct. 27 2008 12:57 PM
Mike from Inwood

leoinnyc from Staten Island asks: "...when was the last time you gave to the NAACP? (Maybe you do, I don't know -- i'm just guessing here.) When was the last time you... I don't know... directly confronted racism against minorities that you observed somewhere?"

While I have given token amounts to the United Negro College Fund, (among other charites) I wouldn't say I've funded racial parity. On rare occaions when I've heard racist comments among an all-white crowd, I do challenge people because I think that if I let it pass for the sake of 'getting along' it will send a message that I agree. Do you do the same?

Oct. 27 2008 12:57 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

sorry if I double-posted. To finish:

Are you starting to see what I'm getting at? These traits are sunk deep into African-American culture. And every day is a battle -- not only with the oppression on the outside but the Internalized Oppression that comes with our cultural heritage. It plays out differently for each different person. But it's real. And the general ignorance of that fact; "Just get over it!" "Pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!" This mentality is part of white privilege too.

Oct. 27 2008 12:51 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

On race, Mike from Inwood (#89)… I am first to say that black people can be as, and in some cases are even more, racist as non-white people. That should be a given. But black racism is racism without the power to negatively affect the lives of those whom you are racist against. Look at it this way… Jewish Israelis and Muslim Israelis. Heterosexuals and homosexuals. Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites. White immigrants and native Africans in apartheid South Africa. In all of these cases but one, the majority population has the upper hand in determining the fate of the minority population. In the latter case, the group with the political and military power had the upper hand.
And as for the opinion of immigrants being formed by experience… I am sure some immigrants do have negative experiences upon arriving in the US, but the racial dynamic is a known quantity before they arrive. I’ve heard interviews on this very station where Latinos have said, when you come to America, it is far more advantageous to socially align yourself with white America over black Americans. Many countries and cultures have their own biases against people with darker skin colors. This is more than a “that black guy took my purse, so now I don’t like black people” issue.

Oct. 27 2008 12:46 PM
Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York

Good Job Voter! Here's another scenario. How many of you, non-white, have had your children ashamed to be in history class in the 1980's because they were ashamed of the black american history topic of slavery? Never the Kings and Queens of Africa.

Oct. 27 2008 12:41 PM
AWM from UWS

By the way, Mike from Inwood...

"Perhaps nothing will change until people who aren't white can learn to recognize their own racism and start to deal with it."

Then...

"I think the reaction of immigrants to Black Americans is based mostly on bad experiences with Black Americans, not inculcation by the media or some larger white culture."

So... have you asked the non-white immigrants in your mostly black neighborhoods to "recognize their own racism?"

Oct. 27 2008 12:39 PM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

Please post a link to statistics that show the accelerated advancement of women and minorities over white men in Fortune 100 companies.

Oct. 27 2008 12:37 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Another thing worth discussing are the reasons poor whites often succeed in America where blacks in particular fail. Whites, however poor, have mostly been raised with the fundamental assumption (esp. in the 20th Century) that, however hard, they CAN make it. Through hard work and perserverence the sky is basically the limit. You know this is true because all of the successful people you see around you are white. Ergo...

The experience of African-Americans has been altogether different. You can divide our history in this country into "BHE" and "AHE" -- Before Hypothetical Equity and After. And "After" starts in 1965. Before goes back hundreds of years. For most of our history we absolutely COULD NOT make it, no matter how hard you tried. Nothing -- absolutely nothing you did because of your own personal initiative would move you out of the circumstance of your likely miserable life. People held in slavery (not "slaves" -- people) were not allowed to learn to read -- often on pain of death. Parents taught their children to fear learning to PROTECT THEIR LIVES. Don't be curious -- be subservient. Don't stand out (the central trait of the American success story), hide.

Oct. 27 2008 12:36 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Mike from Inwood, etc., on White Privilege.

It is completely understandable that raised-poor and working class whites do not see white privilege around them. They have had very difficult lives and fought for everything they've ever gotten. This is absolutely true. No one should tell you different.

But let me ask you -- when was the last time you gave to the NAACP? (Maybe you do, I don't know -- i'm just guessing here.) When was the last time you... I don't know... directly confronted racism against minorities that you observed somewhere? What have you done lately to effect the end of global racism? Maybe you're an exception, but for most white the answer would be, not a lot. Yes, we know that whites worked in the Civil Rights Movement and that is a wonderful window into what can be. But they were still a minority, and that was a long time ago.

The fundamental feature of white privilege is that ending racism is someone else's (minorities') problem. Because at the end of the day, you don't have to. The fundamental struggle in you life is personal -- to overcome your class background if your poor, or embrace it if your rich. But it isn't communal and it definitely not about confronting racism. That's for people of color to do -- it's our problem.

Oct. 27 2008 12:35 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Mike from Inwood, I think you’re missing the point on white privilege in the United States. Yes, there is a huge number of unemployed, under-employed, uninsured, hard-knock lived white people in this country; however… Are you routinely shadowed when you go shopping? Are you asked to show receipts, or walked back to the cash register as proof of purchase when you buy an item and refuse a bag? Are you or your relatives routinely stopped by police when on the road? When you ride the subway, do you watch people do the mental calculus of deciding to sit beside you, or the person of another race? How many unarmed people of your race have be shot/killed by the NYPD? I could go on. You may not have been advantaged economically, but you have had the advantage and luxury of being ignorant to the realities of race.

Oct. 27 2008 12:31 PM
Mike from Inwood

Ayanna from Brooklyn replies: "Mike from Inwood, thanks for your contribution. While I don't think your assumptions about professional advancement are born out by statistics, I do think that the experiences of whites from less advantaged backgrounds is an important part of this conversation."

Thank you. I am currently pursuing an MA part time that involves the use of statistics in social science, and I do think the numbers show what I'm talking about. The US is a large and diverse place and it's difficult to simply isolate two factors (race and income) and show any uniform imapct.

Oct. 27 2008 12:31 PM
Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York

Hurt feelings are the only result of a racial conversation in this country. Somebody was a slave and somebody owned slaves for profit! There is no good memory on either side of that fact!

Oct. 27 2008 12:31 PM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

"The minds of Black Americans are filled with their own stereotypes and racist attitudes."

Okay, you've lost me here. The minds of Black Americans are filled with many things, just like your mind, just like my mind. You are undermining your valid arguments about the selectivity of white priviledge by making blanket statements about Black attitudes. Please try to resist stereotyping; it gets us nowhere in the conversation.

Oct. 27 2008 12:30 PM
Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York

Yvonne, he is NOT a descendant of American Slaves and your POINT??? White America does NOT diviy us up like THAT. Not even you (try as you might) can separate yourself from us, carribean born or NOT.

Back on topic, race cannot be discussed in this country! It is a hot button for fingerpointing! sand slander.

Oct. 27 2008 12:29 PM
Inquiring Minds

@81 Leo

Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership
www.jpfo.org
"In the 20th Century:
* Governments murdered four times as many civilians as were killed in all the international and domestic wars combined.
* Governments murdered millions more people than were killed by common criminals.
How could governments kill so many people? The governments had the power - and the people, the victims, were unable to resist. The victims were unarmed."

They've got a nice brief in the DC vs. Heller case, btw.

As a bonus for this thread, there are also briefs amici from gay and black civil rights advocacy groups pointing out the racist and discriminatory origins of gun control.

http://dcguncase.com/blog/case-filings/

That should tie it all together for you.

Oct. 27 2008 12:28 PM
AWM from UWS

"I think the reaction of immigrants to Black Americans is based mostly on bad experiences with Black Americans, not inculcation by the media or some larger white culture."

Do these this experiences justify a dislike of Black Americans as a whole?

It is a way for people who come to this country to feel better about themselves in a country where theirs is not the dominant culture. It's taking on a part of what it means to be an American. Do you want to emulate the successful class in this country? Look down on someone. Perceive yourself as better than someone. This includes African immigrants as well, by the way.

Meanwhile, if it weren't for Black America taking a two and a half century beat down and the civil rights movement that followed they may have felt the wrath. Someone always does.

Oct. 27 2008 12:27 PM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

Mike from Inwood, thanks for your contribution. While I don't think your assumptions about professional advancement are born out by statistics, I do think that the experiences of whites from less advantaged backgrounds is an important part of this conversation. You remind us that the ridiculous outdated formula that White=rich and Black=poor is nonsese, and, in fact, gets in the way of creative problem-solving. Ditto for absurd comments like "There is something pernicious about modern black urban culture."

If we want to understand how to improve racial inequalities in this country we must first disentagle the conflation of economic class with race. Many of the difficulties facing black communities stem more directly from poverty than they do from race, and have equally negative effects in poor white, Latino and Asian communities.

Oct. 27 2008 12:25 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Stefan Keneas [52]: I hope you're as willing to work *before* the elections (like poll-watching, voter-rights protection, through either the Obama campaign or nonprofit groups like People for the American Way) to *prevent* suppression of votes as you are to riot afterwards if it happens.

Oct. 27 2008 12:25 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Inquiring Minds: Seriously, you REALLY think that this Bill Ayers is relevant? You think he's shaping Obama's policies? So you think Obama couldn't have done what he's done without Bill Ayers??
You think Ayers is the same person now as he was 40 years ago? Vietnam was an explosive political time.

Some of the people who were witchhunted during the 50's were Communists. Except back in the 1930's when that was what young and politically passionate Americans were doing as a reaction to the fall of Capitalism as they knew it.

Do you think, and I want you to actually give a thoughtful response, that Bill Ayers is the same as someone like Timothy McVeigh?

I have worked with and am friendly with a Political theatre artist who has been an anti-war and self proclaimed "Pacifist Activist" for 60 years. This person does not vote because they don't believe in the American political system, and at one time in their life they had their passport taken away and jailed. I don't share this person's views. I respect this artist and am proud to have worked with them. By McCain's Ayers-Litmus-Test, I wouldn't pass as an American either and would be a Person of Interest.
C'mon!

Oct. 27 2008 12:23 PM
Mike from Inwood

A Voter from Brooklyn states: "For non European and African people who come to the United States, they are confronted with the reality and history of black/white racism in the country; and they may feel pressured to pick a side. Guess what side they will pick, the oppressors or the oppressed? I’ve met many Asians, South Asians, Spanish speaking People and Middle Eastern people who take on the same animosity towards black Americans that comes from some white Americans."

The minds of Black Americans are filled with their own stereotypes and racist attitudes. How could it be otherwise, given where they live? I'm white and have lived in predominantly Black neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Manhattan that also included immigrants. I think I see what you're referring to, but I think the reaction of immigrants to Black Americans is based mostly on bad experiences with Black Americans, not inculcation by the media or some larger white culture.

Oct. 27 2008 12:14 PM
Nico from Crown Heights

Fantastic conversation (leaving aside the occasional bombast of Dr Thernstrom, which our host and other fellow guests handled with exemplary grace). And THANK YOU, THANK YOU, Ms Hinojosa for making such a critical point about identity.

While Brian Lehrer, like many other intelligent folks, opposed "economics" and identity, you rightly insisted that the two intersect. Socio-economic background, race, citizenship, gender, and so many other aspects of who we are become important at different times. And this is how Dr West reminded us of the complexity of Obama's, and everyone else's, "black identity."

Oct. 27 2008 12:11 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

[66] em from nj, re: statistics.

Wikipedia -- always suspect, I guess. They are using Federal Reserve Data. Maybe somebody got their means and medians mixed up. (140,000 or whatever does sound more like a mean income, yes?) But I think your stats prove the point just as well as mine. Whites make way more than non-whites.

Oct. 27 2008 12:11 PM
Yvonne from Brooklyn, New York

As an American born child of Trinidad born US citizens who IS the descendant of slaves what intrigues of me is that no one talks about what it means that Obama is NOT the descendant of slaves. Yes, wakling down the street, he is equally vulnerable to anti-Black discrimination ... but, in the home, even if he had been raised by his father instead of his mother, the mindset would have been different. Part of the discrimination I received as a child was from African-Americans who, even between African-Americans and West Indians, perceived a difference in mind set ( I am 61 born 1947). There was a difference and one could spend eons discussing why but, whatever it is, it is why so many of the prominent "African-American" public figures were, like Shirley Chisolm, actually West Indian-American. This difference is even more so between the mind set of a descendant of America's African slaves and the descendant of an actual African. This adds to the complexity of his racial identity and I don't see it addressed.

Oct. 27 2008 12:09 PM
Mike from Inwood

Scott from Manhattan states: "Until white America realizes that we have a built-in privilege in our society which ultimately disadvantages all other groups (whether we directly discriminate or not), nothing will change."

Scott: Perhaps nothing will change until you acknowledge that white privilege isn't some advantage uniformly distributed to everyone with a certain skin color. Perhaps nothing will change until people who aren't white can learn to recognize their own racism and start to deal with it.

Oct. 27 2008 12:08 PM
Kai from NYC

@ 12, et al.

You are assuming that people like me and many millions more don't want some sort of economic "redistributive change."

Essentially, it's your methods (which you've had in every administration since Carter) vs. my methods (which we are beginning to poorly undertake through the Bush Admin. and Paulson in this financial crisis).

Let's get it on bro

Oct. 27 2008 12:08 PM
AWM from UWS

"There is something pernicious about modern black urban culture."

One of the problems with the dialogue on race is the dependence on sweeping generalizations and the labeling of a culture according to the parts that are most focused on because of this country's infatuation with negative imagery (The Sopranos, anyone?).

The symbols of urban culture and the horrible and destructive behavior it encourages thrive because of money. It is encouraged by the need to market a defeatist mindset that sells to people (mostly adolescents) who have few options financially. It mirrors pornography which relies on the need to see the objectification and destruction of women to sate the relentless desire for caricature, violence and domination… for profit no less. It is dependent on the dependence of this country on easy answers, easy labels, instant gratification, and myopia. Rather than focus on the development of individuals, rather than make an effort to investigate and inform ourselves about what makes a poor urban child behave against his or her best interests and that of society as a whole it is easier to just wave them off as part of an inferior culture.

Oct. 27 2008 12:08 PM
Mike from Inwood

Sorry, my previous post [#76] was somewhat garbled. Let me try again:

BORED states: "The biggest topic on race is white privilege. The history of white privilege needs to be taught."

I'm a 51-year-old white male who was raised below the poverty line. I worked at near the minimum wage for 9 years to earn a BA part-time. I've worked for five Fortune 100 corporations. I've never had a job where a woman or a minority who was less skilled and less educated was not promoted before I was. In my current job, I was actually demoted during a merger to allow a minority candidate to advance. I'm not alone on this. What I've never seen is a white male who had the right connections being brushed aside to achieve a modicum of racial parity. Disadvantaged whites, the ones who did not have white privilege, we are the ones who are further disadvantaged by affirmative action. Can you start to understand why there's resistance to affirmative action among the white lower class? It's not just some angry white male syndrome or the last vestiges of racism.

Oct. 27 2008 12:04 PM
Tiffanee from Upstate, NY

Some wisdom on race/color: a little boy questions grandmother about the difference in her and his other grandmother's "color." Listen to a media player audio snippet from the 'person' "claude robert" (author and artist) by visiting: http://mywilliespress.com/index_files/page0004.htm

A MUST HEAR!

Oct. 27 2008 12:03 PM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Inquiring Minds - from today:

The argument you lay out is analogous to the one Hitler used against the Jews. This scares me.

From a couple days ago about gun control:

‘‘The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subjected people to carry arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subjected peoples to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.’’ -- Adolph Hitler

Man, you sure obsess a lot about Hitler. It appears to be your only comeback. Also, it's always a complete non-sequitur (look it up). Nothing I said has ANY analog in the philosophies of Hitler. Why are we even talking about Hitler!!!?? What are you talking about!?

(But you know the funny thing is that I see this all over right-wing dicussion boards. For some reason there is this weird Hitler-lust. It is the comeback to EVERTHING! Pro-Choice? Eugenics! Hitler! Universal Health Care? Socialism! Hitler! Gun Control? Hitler!

Here's a brain-teaser for weird, right-wing gun-nut types: "I love jews!" - A liberal. (Now find some way to make that a sinister, Hitler-ian statement.)

Why am I talking about Hitler at noon? It's too early for this....

Oct. 27 2008 12:03 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#66 Thanks Em from NJ. That makes more sense.

Oct. 27 2008 12:02 PM
Scott from Manhattan

White privilege--the idea that American society was built around the ideas and values of white people, specifically WASPs (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants), and continues that way. The assumption in "American values" is the word "white", not "black" or "Jewish" or anything. The result is that white Americans benefit from in all aspects of life in America. Until white America realizes that we have a built-in privilege in our society which ultimately disadvantages all other groups (whether we directly discriminate or not), nothing will change.

Oct. 27 2008 12:01 PM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#68

What about Sarah Palin, Todd PAlin and the Alaska Independents? This is far more current, and far more alarming.

Oct. 27 2008 12:00 PM
Lisa from Queens

John Sidney McCain was born in the Panama Canal Zone. Barack Obama was born in Hawaii -- it was a state at the time. They are both running for president because they are both qualified to run for president.

Oct. 27 2008 11:59 AM
Mike from Inwood

BORED states: "The biggest topic on race is white privilege. The history of white privilege needs to be taught."

I'm a 51-year-old white male who was raised below the poverty line. I worked at near the minimum wage for 9 years to earn a BA part-time. I've worked for five Fortune 100 corporations. I've never had a job where a woman or a minority who was less skilled and less educated was not promoted before I was. In my current job, I was actually demoted during a merger to allow a minority candidate to advance. I'm not alone on this. What I've never seen, is a white male who had the right connections be brushed aside to make room. The disadvantaged whites, the ones who did have a white privilege, we are the ones who are further disadvantaged by affirmative action. Can you start to understand why there's resistance to affirmative action among the white lower class? It's not just some angry white male syndrome or the last vestiges of racism.

Oct. 27 2008 11:59 AM
BL Moderator from Varick St. Studios

[[BL Moderator Writes: Please remember to stay on topic to the discussion on the air. Thanks!]]

Oct. 27 2008 11:59 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Brian's guest from Racialious (sorry, didn't catch your name & it's not given above--monitor, can you have it added?):

Green? Blue? Silver? What about the polka-dot-Americans? How could you forget about the polka-dots? (Are members of national minorities as tired of references to purple & polka-dots as I am? How about "happens to be [black/Asian/Latino/female]"?)

Oct. 27 2008 11:58 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

#44, Obama perfectly fits my definition of African-American (he can also call himself Kenyan-American) the same way we have Chinese-Americans, Korean-Americans, Irish-Americans, or Mexican-Americans. I prefer using the work Black when referring to Americans of African descent who are also descents of slavery in the United States. I find the term African-American repugnant when referring to black Americans because it wipes out all cultural identity and paints everyone with the broad continental brush of Africans. That’s like saying all Europeans, South Americans, Middle Easterners, or Asians are culturally all the same.

Oct. 27 2008 11:58 AM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

brian--correction:

"gooks" was used not just for North Vietnamese, but for all Vietnamese.

Oct. 27 2008 11:58 AM
Yes We Can! from Atlanta/New York

The conversation should include, Asians, Germans, Scotts, Japanese, Chinese, Swiss, Italians, Jews, Greeks and ALL of the other immigrants groups that arrived her via the Atlantic Ocean.

Oct. 27 2008 11:58 AM
Anne from Jersey City

I have heard Obama mention Asians and Native Americans several times in his stump speech. It's lovely to hear an inclusive list that doesn't devolve into "purple, green..."

Asians vote at a very low rate, the lowest acc. the NYT editorial on Acorn & the need for INCREASED voter registration & participation.

In any conversation about race, I think it's important to teach young white people how to participate. My white students are interested but feel disqualified.

Oct. 27 2008 11:57 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#61 I think the point was someone told her this at school.

Oct. 27 2008 11:56 AM
Inquiring Minds

@56 AWM

sorta like denying the existence of gravity...

B.H.O.s ties to Ayers are numerous, lengthy, and strong.

How many Americans know that Michelle worked at the same law firm as Ayer's wife, Bernardine?

Did you know that?

Wanna bet that is how the Obama's met!?

Woods, Annenberg Challenge, fundraising parties, Chicago Lab School...

One must be in denial to hold the view that they aren't fast friends! Apples still fall from trees!

Oct. 27 2008 11:55 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#43. I am White so I will not pretend to truly understand any other kind of experience in this country. Since I am able to respond somewhat anonymously, my knee-jerk reaction is that there is an inherent group self-hatred among certain communities in Black America, perhaps namely those who are descendents of those Blacks who came from the legacy of slavery. I feel it's caustic to say this but sometimes I feel it's so true and necessary to look at otherwise we'll continue to have this disparity in wealth, income, and achievement. How does this work in a simpler sense? What happens to your mind when you carry abuse, hatred, mistreatment and a belief you are not beautiful because you were told that? How do you move on as woman in an abusive relationship? Is this group of Black America needing to recover from a violently abusive domestic relationship? I can understand that, by the way.

Oct. 27 2008 11:54 AM
em from nj

To leoinnyc (#22):
Not sure where you got your figures, but the US Census Bureau reports the following re household income:

Black households had the lowest median income in 2004 ($30,134) among race groups. Asian households had the highest median income ($57,518). The median income for non-Hispanic white households was $48,977. Median income for Hispanic households was $34,241.

Oct. 27 2008 11:53 AM
arthur from ny

This woman again is playing the victim card. When she talks about the high rate of suicide among hispanic girls, she totally forgets the research that has been done in the area. There are cultural explanations that explain why hispanic girls "act" out of impulse in what is know as "el ataque". Unfortunetely many of these actions end up in death. Ms. Hijinosa, stop being a "victim" and putting all us hispanic in your race plate

Oct. 27 2008 11:53 AM
peter pacheco from brooklyn

I fail to see why McCain's use of racial slur of Asian-Americans are not important in this context
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/opinion/hongop.shtml

Oct. 27 2008 11:52 AM
mark Brown from sos-newdeal.blogspot.com AND markbnj.blogspot.com

#48 (inquiring minds? I wonder...)

sounds quite racist now that I think of it.

Bill Ayers and Wife, are NO longer relevant.

And it was the VIETNAM war, as I am guessing you wouldn't know.

AND I too, protested against the war.

but was too YOUNG (as was Obama) to
take MORE action against the war as some people did.

Go crawl under a rock, and pray that the republican operatives split this country
and cause a new uncivil war in the country
by electing McCain...

In other words, Ayers is a NON-issue.

how about wondering how SARAH will govern if John drops dead?
How about admitting you dont make $250,000 a year, but STILL support the republican BS line about trickle-down because you're too afraid of a black man in the white house.
How about admitting you;d rather have mccain instead of having someone who actually understands economics make VALID proposals.

and most important, how about having someone
who wants to FIX the problems caused by republican DEREGULATION instead of saying he wants to Deregulate MORE...

ehh.

Oct. 27 2008 11:50 AM
Tiffanee from Upstate, NY

Some wisdom on race/color: a little boy questions grandmother about the difference in her and his other grandmother's "color." Listen to a media player audio snippet from the 'person' "claude robert" (author and artist) by visiting: http://mywilliespress.com/index_files/page0004.htm

A MUST HEAR!

Oct. 27 2008 11:50 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Brooklyn

Abigail and Cornell and Maria all began to have an INCREDIBLE conversation on education and mionorities and innovative approaches away from the mainstream and "no Child Left Behind," but the segment ended. Please tackle the subject at another time ...

Oct. 27 2008 11:49 AM
Mike from Inwood

The woman of Mexican descent who grew up in Hyde Park (Chicago) whose child is now attending the Bank Street school on the upper west side remarked that her daughter came home and asked why she was the only immigrant in her class. Where did she get that idea? If she was born here, she's not an immigrant.

Oct. 27 2008 11:49 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Brooklyn

Brian: Could you please do a show about innovative theories on education and alternatives for the traditional public schools and minorities?

[[Rob: You may want to check out the recent interview with Geoffrey Canada and the rest of the 30 Issues on education policy. It aired on 9/29 and can be found through the archives link on our show page.]]

Oct. 27 2008 11:48 AM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

31 -- mgdu: "Crucially, regarding Barack Obama, although he identifies as “black”, he was brought up as “white”. To me, his identification as “black” seems to be the educated white meaning of “black” rather than the black meaning of “black”, which I expect to show up in the policies of his presidency.

As a biracial person who grew up in a white household, (and as someone who has read Obama's autobiography) I can say that your statement is nonsense.

You can't be "brought up as white." You can only be brought up as yourself. You will absorb much of the cultural capital of your parents, you will absorb the culture around you (your neighborhood, town, city), and you most certainly absorb the dominant culture's opinion about people who look like you. It's not as if you can grow up not noticing that you are Black by anybody's standards. No matter whose house you live in.

I don't know what the "educated white meaning of 'black'" is. I don't know what "the black meaning of 'black'" is. I don't know what policies would follow from that. I don't know really think you've given this serious thought.

Oct. 27 2008 11:47 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

I disagree with your guest, we cannot throw out the black and white conversation, especially when immigrants to this country (whether they have been here 60 years or 6 days) adopt the same view towards black Americans as have been endemic to American for the past 400 years.

Oct. 27 2008 11:47 AM
AWM from UWS

"Obama's buddy/mentor has a new book coming out:

Race Course Against White Supremacy by William C. Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn

Certainly, THIS is newsworthy."

Only to people who refer to Ayers as "Obama's buddy/mentor."

Please evolve...

Oct. 27 2008 11:46 AM
Gail A. Rivera from montclair, new jersey

I would like to see a conversation about the complexities of race within the latino community. The experience of "black" latinos
or indigenous looking latinos is far different than caucasian looking latinos even when you adjust for economic differences.

Oct. 27 2008 11:45 AM
Linda from NYC and Warwick,NY

That last clip of Obama's shows how common sense- pragmatism and reason- can in fact be injected into politics. The simple rightness of his assessment is a breath of fresh air. He looks past the simple knee jerk response of 'For or Against' to identify real issues and causes.

Oct. 27 2008 11:45 AM
HC (aka Gramsci) from nyc

Vouchers clearly create more disparity unless EVERYONE is going to go to private schools. Since this will likely not happen it seems to me that if we relly want to claim equality in education them all children should go to public school and everyone should get behind the public schools and support them.

Oct. 27 2008 11:45 AM
Stefan Keneas from Brooklyn, NY


If Obama were to lose, due to supression of votes by the right, I feel a riot may ensue, and as a white male, would feel more than happy to partake.

Oct. 27 2008 11:44 AM
Isabelle from Brooklyn

10:19AM
Why aren't East Asians and South Asians part of this segment?

Because in this country it has always been about black and white. Immigration makes it a latin, black and white issue.

Oct. 27 2008 11:42 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Thank you #32! One benefit of Obama being young is that the record is short. He isn't someone who's jumped in and out of politics, in and out of business dealings, has anything other than this country's system of government and citizenry at heart of his life's work

Oct. 27 2008 11:42 AM
mark Brown from sos-newdeal.blogspot.com AND markbnj.blogspot.com

interesting series of comments here.

Yes, it tends to show that there STILL is some racism on the part (of what I think are) of white voters/commenters here.

President Obama will be a beginning of the end of racial predijuces, not the end

(and go see my markbnj blog for today;s entry if you want more on this topic...

Oct. 27 2008 11:42 AM
Inquiring Minds

Obama's buddy/mentor has a new book coming out:

Race Course Against White Supremacy by William C. Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn

http://www.amazon.com/Race-Course-Against-White-Supremacy/dp/088378291X/ref=sr_1_11?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1225121924&sr=1-11

Certainly, THIS is newsworthy.

Oct. 27 2008 11:41 AM
Eliot from Queens

A meaningful advance in the discussion of race can be accomplished if people acknowledge that whereas racism -- that is, the ongoing discrimination on the basis of the concept of race -- is a legacy that needs to be seriously addressed in the US, that race is an utterly false and baseless notion left over from the 19th century which has no basis in truth and has been proved scientifically to be false.

Oct. 27 2008 11:41 AM
Amy from Manhattan

It might help to recognize that whites in the US have the luxury of ignorance. If a white person gets into the 1st cab that comes along, s/he isn't standing there long enough to see how long the black person has been trying vainly to flag one down. A white person can be shown in to look at an apt. & never know that 15 minutes before, a black person came to see it & was told it was taken. So it can be hard for many whites to understand that the point of view they hear from a lot of blacks is based on their actual experience when most of the time they literally don't see it, & it can be hard for many blacks to understand that the POV they hear from a lot of whites is based on literally never seeing the racism they experience every day.

I think it's also important to acknowledge that combating racism will mean a genuine loss to whites who have benefited from it for so long--loss of an advantage that isn't fair, that they didn't earn or do anything to deserve, but that they take for granted because it's always been that way. For some whites, esp. in the working class, it may be the only advantage they have, & it may feel threatening to see it change, even though it needs to change.

Oct. 27 2008 11:40 AM
BORED

The biggest topic on race is white privilege. The history of white privilege needs to be taught. White's have grown up believing that the world or at least america has always been this way. White America was benefited for affirmative action from 1929-1955. If the knew this then there might not be such a bad taste for Affirmative action.

Oct. 27 2008 11:40 AM
Lauren T from Brooklyn NY

What tells me most clearly that as a nation we haven't progressed very far in our understanding of the issues of race and prejudice is the fact that Obama is always referred to as an African American when in many ways he doesn't fit the standard definition: his mother was white, his father was African (not African American), and he grew up in a variety of cultures and settings, not in what would stereotypically be considered black culture (i.e. urban, with southern family history and dialect). His background is not what most would consider stereotypically African-American, yet he his still treated as if representative of African Americans. We are talking about him as if melanin were destiny. How sad.

Oct. 27 2008 11:39 AM
Michael from Park Slope

I am an old friend of Professor West's from our undergraduate days at Harvard (and a black Republican supporting Obama).

One salient issue that is rarely acknowledged is that on almost every index of achievement in America, it is clear that black people of immigrant backgrounds far outstrip "native" blacks whose roots lie in the ancient American slave culture.

Obama, Tiger Woods, Colin Powell, and countless others have this characteristic.

Comments?

Oct. 27 2008 11:39 AM
Lance from Manhattan

Abigail Thernstrom is (surprise!) wrong -- in this case re what Obama said about his grandmother:

"I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/18/us/politics/18text-obama.html?pagewanted=all

Oct. 27 2008 11:39 AM
Leshka from UES

Cornell West was very correct in saying that that there is no one "black experience". As a mixed-race young woman, I get flak from white people saying that I'm too black and flak from black people assuming I should have the "black experience". Can't I have my own experience?

Oct. 27 2008 11:39 AM
Ron Mwangaguhunga from Brooklyn

To Abigail Thernstrom: There is a debate among conservative scholars about how public schools can do better by minorities and how taking kids out of the context of their neighborhoods and boarding them during the week might be "better". Should municipal districts consider boarding schools in order to boost minorty performance in public schools? And what do Maria and Cornell think about that and the effects on black and brown families?

Oct. 27 2008 11:38 AM
Chicago Listener

[[What specific topics should a national conversation about race include?]]

a national conversation on race is a squishy concept and largely unnecessary. there should perhaps be regional conversations, or perhaps local communities should just own up to their own messes.

in chicago, we have insane amounts of gang violence and most of it is INTRA-racial, blacks killing blacks, latinos killing latinos. we (black people) can't really expect whites to empathize with what's going on in our community unless and until we take ownership of the problem.

a national conversation won't resolve the underlying issues. from a distance, chicago just looks broken. just as, from here, L.A. looks broken.

fix the schools and society will fix itself.

Oct. 27 2008 11:37 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Obama WAS born in the USA. He couldn't run for president otherwise. Presidents MUST be US born.

I am 100% voting for Obama. Mainly because he's young, fired up, have a plan for a majority of Americans and is in politics for the right reasons. He has demostrated this through the work he has done in his life and the world view he expresses.

Oct. 27 2008 11:37 AM
jaded_me

Seriously, in light of all the grave issues this country is faced with today - is it enough that we elect someone because they are black, and that will redeem us of our racist past?

Oct. 27 2008 11:37 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Obama WAS born in the USA. He couldn't run for president otherwise. Presidents MUST be US born.

I am 100% voting for Obama. Mainly because he's young, fired up, has a plan for a majority of Americans and is in politics for the right reasons. He has demostrated this through the work he has done in his life and the world view he expresses.

Oct. 27 2008 11:36 AM
CB

It's likely Obama was not born in the USA? Do you really believe that? Don't you think McCain, if not Hillary months ago, would have brought that up, since, if true, he would be constitutionally barred from serving as President? Come on!

Oct. 27 2008 11:36 AM
Veronica from Westchester

National conversation must include recognition of white privilege. Many white Americans simply do not recognize that their skin color offers them any advantage, including the privilege of thinking that there is no racism and that our society and culture have somehow transcended race. There needs to be more information about the history of African Americans from slavery onwards and about the current disparities that persist in health, education and income.

Oct. 27 2008 11:35 AM
Ann Hall Every from Forest Hills

No one knows living in a multi-cultural environment better than Barack Obama - remember he grew up in Honolulu - with many mixed races - inter-racial marriages, mixed race marriages, or whatever label is used.

Growing up in Honolulu gives Barack Obama a very unique perspective on the racial aspect of this election.

He is an extraordinay man - period.

Oct. 27 2008 11:35 AM
Jesso from White Plains

I fail to understand why these conservatives continue to voice the canard that we "know nothing about Obama"... the man has written TWO AUTOBIOGRAPHIES! He is a know quantity! What makes these hacks repeat this is that they are afraid of the very fact that we who are voting for him know FULL WELL who we are voting for. Why, incidentally, is the Manhattan Institute the go-to place for this show? This is yet another instance that shows the intellectual flaccidity of this so-called "think" tank.

Oct. 27 2008 11:34 AM
mgdu from hell's kitchen

Doesn’t any fruitful discussion of the impact of race in American life and politics have to start by addressing the fact that what we mean when by ‘race’ is shifting, unclear, and discordant?

Shouldn’t we do everything possible to extirpate the slave economy definition that one drop of black blood makes a person black, which only made sense in a slave economy that wanted to insure constantly growing supply of salable product. Certainly we’ve all known people who came from mixed genetic backgrounds who passed and lived as white.

Aren’t “black” and “white” not genetic but cultural constructs?

Crucially, regarding Barack Obama, although he identifies as “black”, he was brought up as “white”. To me, his identification as “black” seems to be the educated white meaning of “black” rather than the black meaning of “black”, which I expect to show up in the policies of his presidency.

Oct. 27 2008 11:34 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

#22 Where's that statistic from? I, and everyone I know lives WAAAAAY below that median income. I am wondering if a more accurate reporting of that statistic might be that of those who earn $141,000 a much larger percentage are White. That I believe.

Oct. 27 2008 11:34 AM
Lance from Manhattan

Inquiring Minds [17]:

"Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama opposes offering reparations to the descendants of slaves, putting him at odds with some black groups and leaders.

The man with a serious chance to become the nation's first black president argues that government should instead combat the legacy of slavery by improving schools, health care and the economy for all."

http://www.usatoday.com/news/politics/2008-08-02-304478546_x.htm

Oct. 27 2008 11:33 AM
Inquiring Minds

@22 Leo

The argument you lay out is analogous to the one Hitler used against the Jews. This scares me.

Oct. 27 2008 11:33 AM
HC (aka Gramsci) from nyc

Talk doesn't change anything? Isn't that like saying thinking doesn't change anything?...like saying discourse doesn't change anything? I mean words can prevent wars for example. Very strange...

Oct. 27 2008 11:32 AM
Harry from NYC

Haha, Obama's father was an immigrant? That is a laugh and incorrect. He was an African student who went back to Africa after his schooling. Barack himself may be the immigrant as it is likely he was not born in the United States. Maybe that is why he doesn't bring it up! Liberals can't even get your own story right.

Oct. 27 2008 11:32 AM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Oh, and neither Obama nor I are talking about that ridiculous fool's errand, "reparations." But it's interesting that in your mind the word "redistribution," the underlying principal behind all modern tax systems (except that silliest of fantasies, the flat tax) has morphed into that racial spookeyword, "reparations." Why is that?

Oct. 27 2008 11:30 AM
Robert from NYC

On a number of occassions I've heard Obama talk about his immigrant identity. He may not dwell on talking it but he has and does acknowledge that part of him as well as his biracial side which he lives. I don't know what Ms. Hinajosa is talking about.

Oct. 27 2008 11:29 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

It's a small scope when one looks at racism towards Black America through only a White/Black screen. I have heard very racist, in fact more pre-Civil-rights-style, things coming from people who are not Black American.

Why is that?

Oct. 27 2008 11:28 AM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

I think "Inquiring Minds" is scared of the: "the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change."

Like that's a bad thing.

One of the revisionist tendencies of nationalist Americans -- especially conservatives -- is to forget history. As if there was a switch flipped in 1965 after which there was nothing but perfect equity between the races and any other problems you might have were of your own making. As if there aren't deep cultural wounds hundreds of years in the making among both Whites and people of color, especially African-Americans and Native Americans. As if the vast base of wealth in this country isn't based on slave labor and using genocide to take land and make money. As if the exploitation of sharecroppers or illegal immigrants is some whisper from the distant past that could possible have any effect on our lives today.

One quick statistic:
2004 median income among Whites (non-hispanic) was $141,000. Among Non-Whites? $25,000.

So yeah, a little redistribution is in order.

Oct. 27 2008 11:27 AM
Josh from Mountainside from Mountainside, NJ

I think that simply having a black president will do more than any policy can. For black people, having a black president will instill new confidence and transform their views about their potential. For all races, having an effective president who is black can only improve any subconscious and/or overtly racist views. The event in itself will cause profound changes.

Oct. 27 2008 11:26 AM
Ayanna from Brooklyn, NY

I notice that the primary focus of the show so far has been on racism as a social phenomenon, and shies away from more concrete manifestations of America's difficult history around race. Glaring gaps between blacks and whites, measured by any quality of life standard, remain stubbornly in place, despite major strides in the attitudes of many Americans. Why is that? This interests me much more than what polls say about how much people THINK we have progressed in race relations. Let's talk about the intractable links between poverty and race in this country, and how that falls out in terms of income, assets, health care and education. MUCH more important a topic, in my opinion.

Oct. 27 2008 11:24 AM
terence McKenna from dover nj

re racism and preferences, which is potentially the biggest issue, whites with a working class background are sometimes tired of all the excuses for poor performance on the part of black kids in school. it may very well be that what is going on IS the legacy of discrimination, but every time someone reminds us that it would be better if black kids copied behaviors that they believe are "acting white" and that parents need to take a more involved approach to their kids (read early etc) - when this happens (ala cosby) a hew and cry comes out of certain elements in the black community. and to be frank, it makes people like me say, if you can't help your own, what the H do you expect out of people like me.

Oct. 27 2008 11:23 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Yes, you are correct #13 (Alex from Brooklyn), but there is a flaw, or actually oversight, in your argument. For non European and African people who come to the United States, they are confronted with the reality and history of black/white racism in the country; and they may feel pressured to pick a side. Guess what side they will pick, the oppressors or the oppressed? I’ve met many Asians, South Asians, Spanish speaking People and Middle Eastern people who take on the same animosity towards black Americans that comes from some white Americans. There have been several stories nationally about this affect and whether Senator Obama will have a problem with non European white Americans, specifically Jews, Spanish speaking people, and Asians.

Oct. 27 2008 11:22 AM
Inquiring Minds

original source for WBEZ interview

http://apps.wbez.org/blog/?p=372

adn the YouTube version which has, already, been viewed a half million times

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iivL4c_3pck

Barack believes in reparations; this is newsworthy.

Oct. 27 2008 11:21 AM
Joe the Actor from Manhattan

Susan~

Where are you getting your information?

Oct. 27 2008 11:17 AM
Myriam from New York


Dear Mr. Lehrer,

Any national conversation about race must begin by honestly asking about being "white" in America. In what ways is being white a form of privilege? I would then that we should look at THE FACTS: what are the conditions of people of color (black, latinos, native americans, asian americans) in terms of educational achievement, income distribution, poverty levels, and other indicators? How are MINORITY communities doing? How are WHITE communities doing?

Oct. 27 2008 11:17 AM
leoinnyc from Staten Island

Criminal. Justice. Reform.

It is the huge, shameful issue that never gets talked about because it means appearing to stand up for criminals, and because it disproportionately affects young black men. Which is also exactly why it NEEDS to be talked about. It is really, really a crisis, especially in our inner cities and it sits at the center of a lot of things. Because in order to fix this we'd need to work on a lot of other aspects of urban poverty, racism, policing, the "war on drugs" and the structure and goals of the justice system -- really important stuff.

Whether or not it is too much to ask Obama to carry this load -- to be the first black president and be seen as going out on a limb for convicted drug dealers -- that is another question.

Oct. 27 2008 11:12 AM
Alex from brooklyn


I think that a national conversation about race cannot have assumptions from the 1950's.

* It is not just about black and white.

* It is not just about oppressors and oppressed.

There are ethnic groups -- even racial groups -- that are neither black nor white, many of which had not significant presence in the United State 50 or 60 years ago. How do we account for Korean-American -- or the wider East Asian-American -- community? What about the South Asian-American community. These are groups that played no role in slavery or even Jim Crow.

Jews are another group who were only in the US in the smallest numbers during slavery, and were also oppressed during the Jim Crow era -- albeit differently and less than blacks.

And so, recognizing that there are many in this country who were not oppressors and whose ancestors were not oppressors, yet were not members of the two groups who were so ridiculously oppressed in American history -- blacks and Native American. They need to be part of the conversation, and a part of the subject of the conversation.

Oct. 27 2008 11:09 AM
Inquiring Minds

"I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was, um, because the civil rights movement became so court focused I think there was a tendancy to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalition of powers through which you bring about redistributive change."

Barack Hussein Obama, 2001, interview on WBEZ radio

Oct. 27 2008 11:04 AM
Micheal from Manhattan

If Obama is elected, one cannot make a valid argument that racial discrimination has been eliminated and that we do not need to monitor and encourage an affirmative action towards relieving inequalities based on physical differences. There is still a great number of people in decision making positions that are in a position to or retain an anti social bias.
Affirmative action will still be needed to address these problems. Somewhere in the back of the minds of those whites that are racist is a fear that "the other" will replace and exceed them. That fear has always driven white supremacy. If that were to come true affirmative action will protect their position in society as well.

Oct. 27 2008 10:59 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

#4 (RC), The reason East and South Asians aren’t highlighted as part of this segment is because the United States has historically had a “special” relationship with peoples of African descent. Though there is a history with Asians, especially on the west coast, that is quite long, people of African descent have been considered sub-human property, then proportionally human (3/5 human), then human, but a different kind of human, and on. Also, people of African descent are the only people who were imported into the United States as cargo, they were not immigrants, they were not workers hoping for a brighter future, they were not people seeking political or religious freedom.

That leads to my proposed topic: The universal acknowledgement of, and attempt to rectify institutional racism.
I think a lot of people who are uncomfortable with, suspicious of, or just plain hate Barack Obama are not actively racist, per se, but are products of intuitional racism. Similarities (though not necessarily parallels) would be homosexuality in the United States, the historic roles of women in ultra-patriarchal societies, or animosity between people with different religions beliefs.

Oct. 27 2008 10:53 AM
Lance from Manhattan

That racism is still alive and well in American life, even if its expression is not as overt as it was when lynchings were commonplace, is something that African Americans and others who are not white have been saying for years. Yet many (perhaps the majority of) white Americans have refused to acknowledge the continuing impact of ongoing racism.

The documentation (eg by Maria Hinojosa on NOW last week) during this Presidential campaign of the blatantly and unabashedly racist feelings of some white likely voters leaves me, as an African American, with a very strong sense of wanting to say, I told you so.

Oct. 27 2008 10:47 AM
SRP from Harlem

I really think the idea of "a national conversation about race" is outdated. It is a relic of the 1990s: political correctness and the Clinton-era. (Remember that rousing "national conversation"? A national council that produced some lame report) I say this as a very liberal African-American female. It takes for granted that there is some way to institutionalize self-reflection, empathy, and curiosity, which are--in my opinion--the necessary elements in the interpersonal work required to tame what headline-writers love to call our "racial demons"...

On the other hand, there are lots of issues involving race that can be addressed through "policy" and not "conversation": the prison-industrial complex? Black and Latino and poor students being targeted for military recruitment?

Oct. 27 2008 10:42 AM
Dan from new york

I think it is that affirmative action must be revisited especially if Obama wins. If a black man can not only run for president but actually win, well that tends to undermine the underpinnings of affirmative action and the frankly, negative reasons for its existence.

On another level I had a letter published in the Star-Ledger recently that read as follows:
"I am not voting for Barack Obama. But I will cry if he is elected. I will cry because I will be so proud of my country. I will be humble at what this will mean to so many people around the world. And I will smile because we don’t just talk the talk.

I came to this realization a continent away. It says everything you need to know about America and Americans because I know I would not be alone. We will pray for the president no matter who he is and we will hope that he can succeed for us."

America is the dream. Everyone, everywhere wants and needs the dream. With apologies to Obama, why change?"

Race has mattered in this country for over 400 years. This is our chance, finally, to make it matter in a positive way.

Oh, and by the way, my vote, my wife's vote, my son's vote is going to who we hope will be the next president, Barack Obama. I hope to cry on election day.

Oct. 27 2008 10:35 AM
mark Brown from sos-newdeal.blogspot.com AND markbnj.blogspot.com

Here's a relevant question (from a White listener)

If the (Y2000) BS vote in florida (proven wrong the next year...) votes a state republican

Does anyone else have the fear of a MUCH much more vocal backlash?

I for one, this time, will NOT go and accept a McCain victory in this manner silently.

interestingly enough, there was a ATC piece last week in which white voters from York, PA, expressed concern of riots...

What concerns me is that in 2000, as well as 2004 there were documented lapses/black hat tricks performed by republican leaning operatives.

If this happens, will we have a new "un-civil" war?

hmmm

Oct. 27 2008 10:27 AM
Michael Whalen from Crown Heights

Any useful conversation about race in America must start with the acknowledgement that in 20-30 years white people will not be the majority in this country.

Once we can be honest with ourselves about this fact - that today's white children will not be entering adulthood assured of their demographic dominance - the assendecy of, for instance, a black president, becomes something more than feel-good symbolism.

Oct. 27 2008 10:25 AM
RC

Why aren't East Asians and South Asians part of this segment?

Oct. 27 2008 10:19 AM
jack from Brooklyn

Hey, did you see Barack's "redistribution" record in a public radio interview posted this morning on the Drudgereport.com. I think this will hurt Obama more than Joe the plumber did.

Oct. 27 2008 10:14 AM
levjosh

I've got a 7 year old and a 1 year old -- obama's candidacy makes my kid sized explanations to the 7 yo of the narrative of "black america" different than the one my 1 yo will get... Much more in line w what we consider "american values" to be.

and each sentence of explanation of this race to the 7 yo is one i'm proud of and relieved to deliver.

Oct. 27 2008 10:05 AM
Susan

Basically, I have a rather different take on Obama: I disagree with him on virtually all the issues that matter to me: he's pro death penalty, anti universal single payer health care, anti gun control, pro faith-based initiatives, voted for FISA, wants to send more troops to Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan), and more. The only reason I can think of to vote FOR him is that he is black--I think it would be good for the country to have a black president. Nonetheless, at the moment I am tending toward Nader, in my Don Quixote effort to move the Democratic party back from the right, where they have followed the Republicans. (If it matters, I am a white middle-aged woman.)

Oct. 27 2008 09:55 AM

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