Grandma’s Folksy Racism

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“Whenever Colin Powell is on the news, white people give him the same compliments: ‘How do you feel about Colin Powell?’, ‘He speaks so well! He’s so well spoken. I mean he really speaks so well!’ Like that’s a compliment. ‘He speaks so well’ is not a compliment, okay? ‘He speaks so well’ is some shit you say about retarded people that can talk. What do you mean he speaks so well? He’s a fucking educated man! How the fuck did you expect him to sound, you dirty motherfucker? ‘He speaks so well.’ What are you talking about? What voice were you expecting to come out of his mouth? ‘Imma drop me a bomb today’, ‘I be Pwez-o-dent!’.” – Chris Rock

The general consensus among the world’s leading genetics researchers is that race is more of a social construct than a genetically unique biological classification.  Physical attributes such as skin tone, facial features and hair develop according to adaptations most advantageous for survival within the geographical area in which a group originally settled.  In other words, if an ancient group of people originating in mainland China had decided to journey across a hemisphere and put down roots in the heart of the African continent, the modern-day descendants of those original Chinese settlers would be what we call black.  Had they instead set up camp in the region that now constitutes Europe, their modern-day descendants would be what we call white.  The only way for them to have retained the attributes of what we variously call Asian, Oriental or Mongoloid would have been for them to stay put.

So what does this mean?  It means that the racial boundaries we so routinely draw around segments of the population don’t have any real significance.  It means that ideas like white supremacy have no scientific or even logical basis since the cosmetic differences between “the races” are not related to differences in intellect or ability.  It means that I don’t give a flying fuck what Rachel Dolezal’s Ancestry.com results might yield and neither should she.

According to Svante Pääbo, a biologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology: “What the study of complete genomes from different parts of the world has shown is that even between Africa and Europe, for example, there is not a single absolute genetic difference, meaning no single variant where all Africans have one variant and all Europeans another one, even when recent migration is disregarded.  It is all a question of differences in how frequent different variants are on different continents and in different regions.”  There you have it.  This basis upon which we continue to judge, hate, persecute, subjugate and kill one another is simply a matter of the migratory itinerary of one’s ancestors.

That being said, I must now return to the world of ignorantly delineated racial battle lines and plead with those who share my general skin tone to SHUT THE FUCK UP.  Obviously, the facts I just summarized above have done nothing to sway people to drop their precious identities that only seem significant in contrast to those whose appearance make us erroneously assume they are of a virtually different species.  Listen: every single one of us has some small amount of ingrained racism, but in its original instinctual form (before being strengthened by social and cultural myths), it is no more significant than the survival-based wariness that a brown bear might have upon encountering a black bear.  It is a part of animal instinct – “oh, here comes a thing that doesn’t look like me.  I don’t know what it is.  I better bare my teeth.”  But this instinct should be well on its way to evolving out of our species since its usefulness to survival is long past.  Why isn’t it on the decline, then?  Why is racism still such a prominent force in our social and political institutions?  Because we keep feeding that ancient and obsolete survival instinct with false information.  Why do we do this?  Because for the better part of the last thousand years, this game has skewed heavily in favor of those with lighter complexions and is therefore still very advantageous for the descendants of Europeans to keep alive for their own greedy and undeserved privilege and benefit.

Neo-Nazis and Klan enthusiasts make very clear with their rhetoric that they are not open to discussing anything that may challenge their view of themselves as superior.  As such, the only way to deal with them is to publicly marginalize their “cause” and keep them in check – physically, if necessary – until they recede into obscurity.  But what about those racists who don’t think of themselves as such?  You know the kind, and they are generally to be found among the more senior members of the populace.  My mom is one of them.  She does not belong to any white supremacy groups, doesn’t use racial slurs, and has never advocated for any sort of racial segregation.  But she does say things like this: “Oh, this new family started coming to our church.  They’re black – but very, very nice!”  or “I used to work with a black woman, but she was very smart!”  The operative word exposing my mother’s true feelings is “but”.  The implication of its inclusion in her statements is that if a black person is nice or smart, it is despite their skin color and therefore more admirable in its rarity than your run-of-the-mill nice and smart person.

People who harbor such “innocent” racism in their hearts also seem to be the first ones to cry foul at what they consider instances of “reverse racism”.  I need to set the record straight for those who feel this way: there is no such thing.  If a person decries the racially-motivated actions of his persecutors, this is not racism, it’s self-defense.  If a person is tired of being treated like a second-class citizen and getting hassled by cops purely on the basis of his skin color, this is not racism, it’s a basic desire for dignity and equality.   To every fair-skinned individual whining about being on the receiving end of racial hatred, I ask you to really think about why you feel this way.  Who convinced you that you’re being treated unfairly?  Was it Donald Trump?  Sean Hannity?  Your Uncle Pat?  Whoever it was forgot to remind you that you and your ancestors have never had to put up with public lynching, police harassment and brutality, slavery, gentrification, ghettoization, lack of opportunities and general suspicion owing to nothing more than your appearance.  If and when you and several generations of your kin start to experience such things firsthand, get back to me and we’ll talk.  But until such time – and until our species finally overcomes its self-defeating habit of eating its own – I must reiterate to those who base their sociopolitical views on the ridiculous notion of reverse racism: SHUT THE FUCK UP.  To quote my mother once again, you might just get what you wish for, idiots.

18 thoughts on “Grandma’s Folksy Racism

  1. My mum is Irish when she first came to England shops and pubs had signs saying no blacks or Irish……when I was young I asked her if I married a black man how she’d feel. She said if you’d married a pink and purple spotting alien I wouldn’t care as long as you were happy…….so as an adult now I just don’t understand racists

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I once asked my mother that very same question and though her answer wasn’t nearly as reasonable as your mum’s, at least it was honest. She said, “I would be upset if I found out you were marrying a black woman. But I would be wrong for feeling that way.” Of course, the fact that she didn’t ever try to analyze why she DOES feel that way isn’t excusable just because she owned up to it.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I think that’s a bit odd not to question it. I don’t buy into politics.left or right bs….i buy into people. So I can’t understand why someone wouldn’t question themselves of their humanity

        Liked by 2 people

  2. A truly excellent post, Paul. Good points, well reasoned, and with your usual succinct, light-hearted style. What more could we want? (Well, for racism to disappear I guess, but sadly that is beyond even your capabilities.)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Caroline! Perhaps a more widespread understanding of the inherent unity of everyone and everything that I’m always crowing about will find its way into standard educational curricula some day. But that won’t happen while those in power continue to benefit from inequality.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Growing up in an suburb of New Orleans I was around a lot of bigots. Luckily none were in my immediate family. One saturday morning I , the extrovert extreme, walked into my parent’s bedroom to introduce my new best friend. He happened to be black. My folks, a little surprised and thankfully covered, smiled and said that was great. It would probably be best, however, if we wait in another room. I didn’t have black or white friends. I had friends. And I still do just have friends. I have been treated differently in certain situations just because I am white. It’s not fair.I don’t like it since the only thing about me that made that happen is I am white, and I have never been part of anything that should have made me the target. I do, however, understand why it happened. I had just thought that with all the decades behind us since I was a boy, we would be in a different place. I also thought my flying car would fold up into a briefcase. Foolish boy.

    Liked by 4 people

  4. I grew up with racism, especially from my uncle who was a cop, the mean one that I wrote about.
    I’ve told my daughter that I don’t care who she ends up with, as long as they treat her well. Like sexlinestories said above, all people are equal in my eyes.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. The term Aryan originates from the Proto-Indo-Iranian language root *arya which was the ethnonym the Indo-Iranians used for themselves. Its cognate in Sanskrit is the word ārya (Devanāgarī: आर्य), in origin an ethnic self-designation, in Classical Sanskrit meaning “honourable, respectable, noble”.

    Indo-Iranian or sometimes referred to as Indo-Europian. What do you think the likelihood that either of those translates to white? Racism is ignorant. Hitler was trying to recreate a race that only in his fantasies was white. Especially blonde hair blue eyed (Which he didn’t even have) which would have been Nordic. White supremacist have ignorantly latched on to this idea and would also like to recreate an Aryan nation. Isn’t it kind of ironic that if they actually succeed in doing so, they would be brown! I don’t think there is a single White supremacist or Nazi that even has a clue what an Aryan is.

    The Buddha often referred to the Aryans with reverence. This is because they were thought to be a noble and highly ethical people. He felt that they were a people who we should all strive to be like. I don’t think Nazi’s or White supremacist come close in either regard.

    I agree that whites do not have a clue what it is like to be a minority or truly understand what they have have gone through. So it is a little ridiculous that they cry foul the first time they experience anything that the perceive as such. But I must say that there should be no laws that favor someone based on any race. If race is the deciding factor then it is by it’s very nature racist. Let’s work to change and remove any laws that discriminate against any race.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent points! It’s funny that you brought up the actual origin of “Aryan”, because that’s something I just recently learned when I read the book Sapiens. And I agree that laws designed to reverse-discriminate, if you will, are a form of condescension. But I also think that, within reason, the existing institutional racism does need to be addressed somehow. I’m just not sure what would be the best way to go about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t like to get into political discussions to often. One of the reasons for this is that there is in the general public such a lack of historical knowledge that you really cannot have a constructive discussion. They like to use their version of history to support their position. One example of this is the fore mentioned Hitler. Hitler was directly responsible for killing some six million Jews. There is no argument of how evil that is. In fact if you ask anyone on the street who is the most evil man that ever lived they will likely say, “Hitler of course.” Why do they not mention the Bolsheviks leaders who killed some 20 million, Stalin who killed some 40 million, or the champion of evil Charmin Mao who killed some 70 million? In the weird world of political discussions if you mention the others people seem to think that you are standing up for Hitler! They are all evil! It is just history.

        When I first saw a Swastika on a Buddhist statue I was shocked! I did not know how to correlate what my experience told me that symbol was (Nazi) and what my experience told me Buddhism was about. I had a similar experience the first time I saw the Buddha mentioning how the Aryans were a culture to be revered. I had to do a lot of research to get my experience to match up with the history behind it. History has much to teach.

        To rid our country of racism I think we need to learn from the past to see where we went wrong but focus the future and eradicate any form of discrimination based on race.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Just wanted to give a hoo-rah to Sapiens, which I am 75% through at this point in time. Harari is a god. Can’t wait to read Homo Deus when I finish Sap’s. I’m also enamored by his personal articles. What a brain!

        His Guardian article covering a possible dystopian and extremely unequal future for mankind led directly to a blog entry of mine back in June (http://www.tombeingtom.com/the-future-is-unwritten/). It was one of my favorites and I think it got lost (on some) in my post-every-day-in-June challenge. It was before we met but I’d love to hear your thoughts on it!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I come from a family that has always carried covert, and sometimes overt, racist tendencies. Around the campfire the easy jokes (really, about everyone) can lead to some unfiltered rhetoric about race, particularly from my brother (and his family) from Mississippi. They just see race differently. They cast a net on “all of them” that might be true of some, and is certainly true of many from all racial identities. It’s a shame, but it’s ingrained and my protests, which will sometimes lead to confrontations, provide no relief. The only great change I have accomplished is that, for the most part, such things are kept silent when Tommy is around.

    Another commenter lamented the reverse discrimination that has become a part of modern society, but I think it’s important (if it is not abused). For so long, as you so eloquently iterated, there was racial bias, racial preference. There still is. There still is white privilege. As long as that is so we certainly need some form of equalization in the law if we cannot yet find it in our hearts.

    A great article. One of the best I’ve read. You continue to surpass even yourself, my friend. #Word

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Tom! You know, I think that even the silence among your family members about racist opinions when you’re around is an improvement. Because if they understand that you don’t want to hear it, then they know there is a reason you don’t want to hear it…and if they’re being polite enough to avoid such talk in your presence, this means they are at least a little self-conscious about their own views — and that’s where all self-analysis begins. I wasn’t always very progressive-minded about such things, either — but when those I most respected called me out on my crap, it made me think. And in some way or another, you are making people think.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’d like to think that, too. I’d also like to believe that the reason they hardly say the word “Trump” at reunions anymore is because they know I’ll keep my political opinions to myself for the sake of family civility, but the moment they bring it up the game, as they say, is afoot. And I know how to play the game. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

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