Stuff White People Say

July 23, 2008

“Yes, racism exists… BUT”

Filed under: Stuff White People Do — nquest2xl @ 10:07 pm

The sentencing laws had the desired effect of reducing crime. Are there flaws in the system and would I like some of the drug laws changed..? Sure, *but* I am not buying the idea that the majority of the disparity is related to a racist system.

In my experience in internet conversations, whenever there’s a *but* whatever coming after the *but* will effectively cancel out whatever came before the *but*. Those are the words from an anonymous poster over at Stuff White People Do. The poster must have been intent on making Macon D a prophet as s/he, ironically, commented in the thread titled, “Overlook the Racism of the Justice System.” As you probably guessed, the anonymous poster did just that.

The poster responded, in part, to the following video featuring renown anti-racist Tim Wise:

At the beginning of the clip, Wise basically makes the following observation:

In 1964, two thirds of Americans incarcerated in local, state and federal jails/prisons were White with only a third being people of color. By 1994, the numbers “flip-flopped” with two thirds of the people incarcerated being people of color while only one third were White.

Prior to the link to the Tim Wise video, that anon poster tipped his hand when he was asked directly about what he thought were the causes of the post-60’s skyrocketing out of wedlock births figures in the Black community and what that said about Black men and their character. The poster, Karen, who asked the question did so after characterizing the Anon poster’s position as denying the impact of racism “because there was more racism in 1940 [when the percentage of Black, out of wedlock births was low] than now.”

In fact, Anon responded to Kandee’s remarks about Whites who embraced Obama’s “tough love” talk to the Black community and Black fathers, in particular, during his 2008 Father’s Day speech with excited relief. Kandee suggested Obama’s warm reception among Whites for giving the talk had a lot to do with him saying things those Whites always wanted to say. Kandee added that those Whites forget how racism, and classicism, contribute to the social situation the castigated Black men/fathers find themselves in. Anon, someone who professed belief that racism exists, begged to differ stating “blaming them [the causes] on racism seems a little absurd.”

A whole string of denials followed. When Karen told a story about the manager/owner of an ice cream shop she worked at repeatedly turning down Black teenage males who responded to the shop’s “help wanted” sign, Anon insisted that it was a matter of class, not race/racism, at play. When I stipulated to the intergenerational wealth transfer that baby boomers and, specifically, their parents began accumulating when discrimination openly gave Whites clear, undeniable advantage… he dismissed that, too, as a class issue and not one of race/racism because somehow out of the 76 + million Americans referred to in the baby boom stats, mostly/all White mind you, only the top 1% or 5% would receive transfer significantly more than their debts. Anon even tried to maintain the position after I cited how Whites always had an Asset Poverty Level 20% or more less than Blacks with as many as 66% of Whites living above the APL even in the worst time in the period studied.

Anon even polished up the old, tried and truly racist Model Minority rhetoric as he tried to use Asian American immigrants and, later, Black immigrants from Africa and Haiti as reasons to question whether racism exists in the criminal justice system:

Since we are citing Tim Wise, if you go to his Myspace page he makes the argument that Haitian immigrants commit crime at lower rates than whites. I have read elsewhere that African immigrants commit crimes at very low rates. I wonder why they aren’t so affected by the racist system..?

On another occasion, Anon said:

It doesn’t sound like it’s because of a racist system. (although it doesn’t preclude racism in the justice system..)

Of course, Anon never expounded on the idea. Instead of identifying where racism seemed to exists, Anon constantly denied its existence whenever and wherever other posters said it was.


  1. Anon tried to subtly suggest that it was the moral character of Black men that turned for the worse after 1940 or so. Responding to Karen’s question, Anon said:

    Well I’d say the moral character for all men has changed for the better and worse to some degree. Better in that most men generally accept more equal footing (at least in the work place..) with women than they did in 1940. The opposite side of the coin that exists in all races is that more m[e]n are willing to not deal with children that they assisted in producing and are more willing to shirk responsibility. I have spoken to more than one elderly Black man who blames this on the welfare system, in so far as it affected the Black population. I know that sounds like a right wing ideology but that is what I heard from multiple sources. Whites are certainly not free of this but it seems to have struck the Black community more deeply. I do not know the exact cause for the difference. From 1940 to the mid 70s there was also a very large migration within the Black community from the rural Southeast to Northern cities. Racism may be the reason or one of the reasons but I would like to hear a detailed explanation as to why this is the case.

    A couple of things Anon said are problematic. And that’s before dealing with the denial of racism. First, when he talks about the positive changes, it’s pretty clear the idea of accepting women in the workplace when the American workplace was overly dominated with White men is, by and large, a credit given to White men. Then, when it comes to a social institution like welfare which Anon conveniently invokes an unknown, elderly Black guy, somehow whatever happened because of welfare is supposed to say something about the character of Black men. Anon says he doesn’t know the causes for the difference between Black and White men — Black men greater willingness to shirk their responsibility as fathers — but he knows it’s not racism.

    I’ve yet to figure out how someone can claim not to know something but at the same time say “it’s not that.”

    Simply, it’s just a way of avoiding the consequences of coming out and fully stating a position Anon figures will get him into trouble. Of course, no one wants to sound racist. So what better way to do that than to say you believe that racism exists?

    It’s just another box people have learned to check.

    Back to the idea of not-so-subtly crediting White men with “changing for the better” while Anon suggested the moral character of Black men changed more “for the worse”… Well, that’s classic implicit association racism — which is, perhaps, connected to or an expression of aversive racism — which is marked by a White person, e.g., who can acknowledge both good and bad in Blacks and Whites but when making direct comparisons the person will likely associate Whites with more positive attributes but find it hard to associate the Black person with positive attributes, even when both the Black and White being evaluated have positive and negative virtues.

    Beyond that, (focusing on the last sentence in Anon’s quote) how can someone say they acknowledge something (racism) exists but need a “detailed explanation”, convincing by any other name, that it exists?

    It simply doesn’t make sense. Neither did Anon’s repeated attempts to claim instances where race/racism were implicated were not a matter of racism but class. It’s clear how, with some people, it’s more important to pay lip service to the idea that racism exists than to actually identify where racism exists and speak out against. Instead, with sparkling irony, they almost always end up being people whose only conversation is to say racism is not here, there or anywhere people who actually speak out against racism say it is.

    Oddly, people like Anon who insist that they have checked that box and admit that racism exists… oddly, they never get around to saying where it is and where it has anything beyond a negligible impact on people’s lives or contributes to or maintains racial inequality. So the effect of Anon’s composite argument was:

    “Yes, racism exists…. *BUT* it’s nowhere to be found in the places actual anti-racist see it.”

    Which is to say, nowhere at all. Oh well, as long as Anon (i.e. an anonymous poster in already anonymous medium) can avoid being seen as a racist…

    (Note: During the discussion on Stuff White People Do, Anon insisted that intergenerational wealth transfers made by mostly/all White baby boomers and their parents was a significant instance of racial inequality.)

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 23, 2008 @ 11:56 pm | Reply

  2. You can use the ‘more’ tag in WordPress to get the “(more…)” link.

    Comment by Restructure! — July 24, 2008 @ 12:49 am | Reply

  3. Thanks.

    Comment by nquest2xl — July 24, 2008 @ 12:53 am | Reply

  4. The thread is more than 100 posts strong and the anon poster still hasn’t identified, point to where racism exists, in any area.

    Comment by Nquest — July 24, 2008 @ 11:30 am | Reply

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