Monday, June 25, 2018

Hiding in Plain Sight

One of the oldest misunderstandings about racism (and bigotry in general) is that it must be explicit to exist.  If you are not walking around in a clan robe or posting swastikas on your facebook profile, you must not be racist.  If you are not explicitly stating that black or brown people are less intelligent, or aggressive, or lazy, etc. by nature, you are not a racist. 

The problem with this is that it ignores 99% of actual racism.  If you look at the things that explicit racists say and do, most of it will not be explicitly racist.  However, one can infer the attitudes behind the thinking.  For instance, take a look at this random twitter feed from an explicit racist:

They go by "White Rights Activist":

They routinely retweet posts from non-explicit racists.  But their interest in the dehumanization of minorities is clear.  They seek portrayals of them as unhinged:

Sexually dangerous and/or diseased.

They glorify cruelty.

But it's easy to write them off as "one of the baddies" because they are honest and explicit about their racism.

But what if they didn't?  What if they said the same things, posted the same pictures, and advocated for the same policies?

The modern Republican party is filled with people who do just this.  None of them admit to explicit racism, yet say, post and advocate for policies that are identical.

In the past couple of days, Trump calls Rep. Waters "low-IQ".  Huckabee tweets scary picture of MS-13.  Rep. King tweets picture of immigrant kids and brings up MS-13.  Andrew Sullivan decries the demographic change that (brown) immigrants will bring.

All the while actual policies are being enacted that are extreme violations of human rights.

I could go on, and on, and on.  But there's really no need.  The point is that racism does not need to be explicit to exist.  It can smolder slowly, softly in the background, a quiet voice that whispers the same old song: fear them, distrust them, they are less important than you.  It can always be plausibly denied.  Each instance merely a hint.

But when you take a step back, line up the comments, line up the images, perspectives and emphasis, a pattern emerges that cannot be denied.  It is a cacophonous beast that is well alive and snorting within the hearts of our fellow Americans.

Monday, May 28, 2018


There is a comic version of your life,
the way you fumbled through Aisle 2.
There is tragic version,
those things he did to you.

It is glorious and gilded,
would say the Apostles,
each breath a cosmic thread.
It is mundane and pointless,
as written by Camus.

In a scene today,
you reflect upon a line,
By tomorrow,
you'll have forgotten to take the time.

Famous and gifted players,
as if doing favors,
drift in and out of view.
Strangers fill in here and there to make things rhyme.

"Life", you type furiously,
But then you realize you had been daydreaming,
through two whole paragraphs.

"I don't read the reviews", someone once said to you.
"Thanks, I'll take that under advisement",
you say as you watch the falling rain make the ink run.

There is aversion of your life that no one will read,
written in an alien tongue by a castaway on a desert planet,
orbiting a star of one,
a star not unlike the sun.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Mapping Race

It occurred to me that it might be interesting to observe the correlation between voting patterns and ethnic geographic integration.  The results are not going to be completely in-obvious.  As we all know, there is a deep partisan divide between rural and urban regions.  Given that urban areas are more diverse than rural areas, one might expect to see a similar partisan pattern. 

What if there existed a number that identified one's level of proximity to diversity, a diversity number if you will.  You might have various breakdowns:

- proximity to non-whites in a 10 mile radius
 - proximity to non-whites in a 50 mile radius

But you might also add some weights, such that:

- depth of diversity (types of non-whites)

Or you might take class into consideration as well:

- proximity to annual income < $30k per family
- proximity to those with college degree

I browsed google for a bit but didn't come up with anything quickly.

However, I did come across this from 2015 in the NY Times.  A project called "Mapping Segregation", it is a tool that allows you to view geographic maps of the US by ethnic concentration.
Ethnic Groups in Coachella Valley, CA, 2015
It's quite fascinating.  Noting one of the sources, "", I'm off to gather more data in hopes of creating some of my intended weights.  Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Talking About Ideas

On the podcast To the Point today, Warren Olney interviewed Ibram Kendi, who had an op-ed in the New York Times recently titled The Heartbeat of Racism is Denial.

I took issue with very little of what he said.  But near the end of the conversation, he made a statement reflective of a common view among my fellow leftists.

“Evidence of racial inequities (whites have more wealth, are incarcerated) are explained by: Either those disparities that are all around us are the result of black inferiorities or they’re they are the result of racist policies.... the only other explanation for all these inequalities is that our country is racist.”

This is the false dichotomy I've been decrying on this blog for years, and unfortunately informs a view shared by both the right and the left when discussing racism.  Minority disparities are either genetic or caused by racist policy. 

The right-wing response is to argue that because very few people are explicitly racist, and no explicitly racist laws are on the books, that the cause must be be black people themselves.  However, they don't want to admit to any genetic inferiority, so instead say it is "cultural".

The left wing response is to agree that no genetic inferiority exists, but that no "cultural" problem exists either.  Instead, the answer must be racism.

Now, there are at least three words that need unpacking here: racism, culture, and policies.  Because each could be interpreted different ways.

Racism could mean explicit, active racism (not hiring a black sounding name, not moving to a black neighborhood, etc.).  But it could also be passive (not supporting policies with disparate impacts, not feeling as "generous" towards minorities, developing prejudices, etc.).  But it could also be historical racism, which is not currently active, yet has previously occurred and left a mark (discriminatory hiring, policing, red-lining, etc. could have happened a generation ago yet still be impacting family members today).  Or it could be all of the above.

Culture could mean the customs and traditions of an ethnic group (music, dance, conversation, style, etc.).  But it could also mean micro-level or family or neighborhood level norms (not cleaning up trash, engaging in risky behaviors, not doing schoolwork, etc.).  The latter type of culture is trans-ethnic, meaning it is less reflective of any particular ethnic group than a segment within that group, usually relating to class or privilege.

Policies could mean explicit laws pertaining directly to skin color, enacted for racist reasons, which actively target certain ethnicities for persecution (colored bathrooms, schools, profiling, etc.).  But they could also mean policies that create implicit effects through inaction, which cause disparate impacts.  For example, if majority minority neighborhoods are located next to polluting factories, and you pass laws eliminating regulations, the law is not explicitly discriminating, but the impact will be.

Now, to use the terms racism, policy and culture loosely is to cut conversation off at the kneecap.  And yet this is exactly what we tend to do.  I would argue that most conversations on race, policy and economics involve incredibly loose use of these terms.  Even when the subject is broken down, as Kendi did in the interview, his use of the term racism and policy were too loose as to be meaningful in any deeper, more functional way.

Because if we are ever going to get anywhere in understanding the divide between right and left on racism and poverty - two fundamental problems of history itself,  and to come together in our understanding of truth, we are going to need to dig into the weeds of what these ideas mean.  As readers of this blog will note, the question of why we behave the way we do is incredibly complex from an epistemological standpoint.  And how are we ever going to get to that if we can't agree on common language?  Furthermore, how are we going to take steps to solve the problem if we don't know how to properly discuss it in an objective, orderly fashion?