Racism Northeastern Style

Interesting post by Dave Winer (who basically invented all this blogging, RSS software we’re using these days) about “northeast-style” racism.   I think he’s spot on with this bit:

I grew up in the northeast, not far from where Geraldine Ferraro lives, and I recognize the racism of the northeast, where people nod knowingly that blacks who are competing with whites have been given some kind of advantage that makes it possible for an inferior person to compete with a superior one.

It’s easy to trigger this kind of logic in a northeastern white supremicist, just say that a black guy wouldn’t be there if he weren’t black.

You can say “It’s True,” in a tone that says that disagreement is naive. “Of course,” you are supposed to say.

I’ve seen Jews and Catholics do this, two types of people who have themselves been victimized by stereotypes.

I grew up with Southern-style racism, which is the most popular and recognizable kind of racism in the U.S.  (Indeed, some could make the argument that it’s been fetishized through cultural products such as this, but that’s a subject for another post.)   So, I appreciate it when someone who grew up with the Northern version of racism names it in the way that Winer does here.    He goes on to repudiate that sort of racism as  “lunacy” and references the Ferraro comments.

Winer concludes his otherwise insightful post with an unfortunate, and unfounded, prediction:

Someday America will grow out of this lunacy, and will stop judging people based on their race. That Obama is a very serious candidate for President says a lot about him, but it says even more about us, that the racism of Ferraro and the northeasterners who reason as she does, is falling into the background.

This just sounds like more of the Tony-Snow-type rhetoric about racism not being that big a deal anymore.   It’s wishful thinking though, not supported by sociological research.  We have to do more than simply wish it away.


  1. I don’t doubt it sounds like that to you, but that’s not what I was saying.

    20 or 30 years ago Obama wouldn’t have gotten as far as he has, because this kind of racism was stronger. Enough people have died since then, and new ones come along who don’t have the fear the old ones did.

    Ferraro is in her 70s. In 20 mre years, the attitudes of her generation will not stand in the way, with this kind of racism.

    I don’t know if other forms will replace them. I don’t know if this year, Obama can overcome them. I do however think we should pause for a moment and reflect positively on all that has been accomplished.

    BTW I went to college in the south so I know a little about the southern style of racism and recognize it in what Bill Clinton was saying about Obama during the South Carolina campaign. It backfired on Clinton, her support among blacks went from 40-50 percent to 10-20 percent. Another cause for optimism. Blacks aren’t accepting their “place” so much. Good!

  2. Jessie Author

    Dave, I appreciate what you’re saying about “pausing for a moment to reflect on all that’s been accomplished.” I do see Obama’s run for president as a sea change. And, I know that people – huge numbers of white people – will vote for him that wouldn’t have in a previous generation. (My own father and mother would never have voted for him for a variety of reasons, including but not limited to the color of his skin.) That’s all good, and I think, the heart of your post. The part that I was taking issue with is the sense of inevitable progress from statements like this: “Enough people have died since then, and new ones come along who don’t have the fear the old ones did.” It’s a common enough sentiment, I just see it through years of social science research (and experience with white people) and the data don’t support it. You go on to say: I don’t know if other forms will replace them. I do; I see a lot of evidence that racism (or white supremacy or the white racial frame) is pretty resilient. So resilient in fact, it’s actually a core feature of American culture. And, another generation of whites dying off isn’t going to change that.

    Uhm, and thanks for all the cool software. 😉

  3. I agree with Jessie and think David WIner is optimistic. He seems to believe when the “greatest generation” of racist white American people die that racism will self-correct. David do you think that the views of G. Ferrarro’s kids and grand-kids will be that much different from hers just because they will have more contact or at least see more non-white people milling about in this society and attaining – hopefully – higher places on the wrungs of this society? I am an Obama sjupporter but I don’t think his being elected president will eradicate racism in this society – in fact, I think it will be used by many people as evidence that “racism doesn’t exist anymore, see, we have a blck president!” Racism is endemic to human societies. The dominant group in power whether white or of color is going to negatively stereotype and denigrate those it desires to keep subjordinated, because their subordination serves their dominance.- Negative racial stereotyping and outright racial bashing serve a function for those on top and in “control” – it’s an outlet for aggression and makes the basher feel higher up in the pecking order than the bashed. Look at both the Michael Richards and Don Imus “eruptions” – these were puerile, cruel, disgusting racist remarks. But what purpose were they serving for those men who claimed to be unaware of the own racist beliefs?? Let me break it down in case it’s not self-evident: they were feeling threatened by people they considered their race inferiors and they used racist put downs and denigration techniques aggressively to regain their sensee of control and dominance. That these comments were “unconscious” and not “thought-through” is indicative of how handy racism is when one is feeling aggressive after being threatened by a person from a racial or ethnic groups considered subordinate.. In the aftermath, both guys kept proclaiming “i’m not a racist” – well yes they ARE because they certainly hadn’t even examined all the racist stuff that’s in their heads – they haven’t analyzed it and considered it, obviously because they just ACCEPTED IT. It wouldn’t come spewing out of their mouths unconsciously IF they’d ever questioned its veracity in the first place! In sum, racism will always be with us as sure as aggression and dominance – driven behaviors will always exist in a packs of dogs. Albert Memmi’s brilliant analysis of racism across societies and cultures, a book I highly recommend that all read, Racisme, makes the ubiquity of racism very clear. Where we make a HUGE mistake is in being so blithely IGNORANT and mitigating of its destructiveness and pervasive evil. We seem to have this idea that it’s some kind of “HATE” that we learn from our parents and that the cure is “not-hating.” While I think there’s something to be said for forgiveness, there can be no forgiveness without KNOWLEDGE of our country’s racist history and without accepting the truth of racism’s continued presence o in our society. Rather than DENYING racism exists, PATTING OURSELVES ON THE BACK about what a great job we’ve done to eradicate it, or PRETENDING it will SELF-CORRECT with time, why don’t we CREATE a K-12 curriclum for our schools that really teaches people all the GREAT STUFF on this website about what RACISM is and HOW it functions. Many of the bloogers on this site speak about the incredible ignorance of what racism is like the total lack of understanding of it by Tony Snow and G. Ferraro’s totally un-examined/unconscious racist remarks.But why would they not be completely stupid about racism? It’s like expecting people to understand how to fix a car engine just because they drive a car. Of course, if you’re a victim of racism on a daily basis like people of color are in this society, you get an education about it just walking down the street. But there are many whites living in society who don’t have a clue. They’re swimming in it, and not even aware of it until racism comes spewing forth from their tongues! As an educator I can tell you that attempts to truly deal with racism in schools have been abysmal. Black history is 1/12th of the year, and the same old “greatest hits” of blackhistory are re-played like golden oldies year after year. That’s good that we have black history month but we need to be taling about the history of our treatment o people of color YEAR-ROND. Februrary’s black history prormas are for the most part very shallow due in large part to teacher’s lack of knowledge and awareness, but also due to adminstratiors’ fear of trouble among the students and parents. It’s still a MAJOR DEAL to tell the truth about our racist history for fear it might “make the white kids feel bad and guilty and the kids of color feel ashamed and frightened” So instead we tippy toe aroud the subject and we get a lot of “feel good” curriclua about “Tolerance” and “appreciating differences” that really don’t deal with the fundamental issues ofo why racism exists and contineus to thrive. So what is the result ? Unexamined racism abounds. Even when we have HUGE eruptions like the Michael Richards or Don Imus scandals we aren’t really educated about “racism” as a result o these fleeting scandals. Maybe the blogs elucidate what’s going down, but the knowledge is not out there in the general public. Racism will exist wherever there’s not vigilance and the courage to confront it – even at the risk of being called a “racist” which of course is what is keeping most mouths shut in the first place.
    If anyone out there would be interested in developing a K-12 curriculum on the 3rd R, Racism, I’d be very pleased to speak to you . I THINK IT COULD BE A PROJECT ON THE WIKI-UNIVERSITY SITE which provides opportunities for collaborative development of educational programs/curricula. That way many voices could be involvd and many perspectives. I believe that Memmi’s ideas have much to offer as the foundation for a multi grade level curriculum.The terrific ideas on this web page should be given voice in a curriclum for our schools. We who are thinking about racism, studying it, and debating it have a moral responsibility to get this information in a form teachers and their students at the K-12 levels can understand and learn from. We could save a lot of kids from pain and dropping out of school with such a curriculum.

  4. Seattle in Texas

    Alright Laurel, I was going to lay low on responding as nobody likes jabbermouths…but found I had to address your post~ so, I have to say that it is much appreciated and will most certainly pass the site on to others who would be interested. My goodness–you speak of collectivity, collaboration, interdisciplinary, empowerment, working towards finding solutions and implimenting them through action, etc.–refreshing, very refreshing!!! Though my own focus is and will be on higher ed, I have been inherently involved with the K-12 curriculum development and would love to help when time allows.

    In terms of history, I couldn’t agree more…yet, find that I have to take breaks. One of the ways in which we are both teaching and learning is through many field trips that are not so pretty, but very sobering. On these, we allow the locals to teach us–I do believe it is important to allow locals to share their own historical and collective memories and take them seriously…and to not laugh or mock their beliefs. Example, today we are visiting some rural areas that are believed to be haunted and the tales go back to slavery and the brutalities (today we are visiting a very old cotton refinery, some silos, and so on)–the white folks are afraid to enter into some of these places. We are not going to them to see if they are haunted, but to learn about a history books won’t teach, and from underprivileged perspectives….I have little faith in many things–especially our history books (even at the college level)….

    Anyway, I think your idea above is excellent and will pass on the site–thank you!

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