Facebook Racism Reaches New Low with Assassination Poll

I’ve written here before about the various permutations of Facebook racism. Over the weekend, it appears that Facebook racism reached a new low with a poll asking “should obama be killed?” Here’s the screen grab from TPM:


The response categories available for those who clicked on the poll to take it were: “yes, maybe, if he cuts my health care, no.”     The good news, if one were looking for it in this story, is that the poll has been removed from Facebook and, according to Greg Sargent at WhoRunsGov, the U.S. Secret Service is investigating.

So much for social media offering a new path to world peace and an end to racism.

The fact this sort of thing appeared on Facebook is connected to the rise in death threats against President Obama (up 400%) and the kind of vitriolic hate speech spewed by radio and tv-talk show hosts such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs and Bill O’Reilly.   This sort of speech creates an environment in which extremists are emboldened to act and ‘lone wolf’ assassins feel empowered by the collective hatred of the president.  This kind of speech is rooted in racism and clearly threatens the life of the president.  There can be no first amendment defense for such speech and legal action should be taken against those who created and published this poll.


  1. This angered me far beyond what I thought it would – besides the fact that this is extremely wrong and morally upside down, people seem to have lost a few levels of decency and respect through social media.

    This man is the President of our country – no matter how you feel about that, it should nowhere near get to this point. I’m sure the people responsible would question what the big deal was – and therein lies the problem.

  2. Jessie Author

    Hey Andre ~ Good to see you here. Yeah, upsetting. I’d say my reaction was more in the range of ‘sick to my stomach’ and ‘fear for Obama’s life’ – but I think we’re mostly agreeing. It’s really disturbing.

  3. The presumed anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in people. But in this instance I would be foolish to say that race had anything to do with it. I mean, all these protests recently are all about policy and race is not a factor, right?

  4. Wyllie

    There is no racism rooted here, just sheer madness of the person who placed the poll and the moron who suggest racism, than insanity. When will the left get over their racist past? I grow tired of the race card, since it is all used up!

  5. Dave Paul

    Unfortunately, race will always be a factor for people of color, as much as us White people want to “put it behind us.”

    You can “blame us Lefties” for talking about race, but the fact of the matter is we are talking about what is really happening. We are not pushing it under the rug.

    We are so far from “post-racial” it is scary. The fact that we have a Black President does little to mitigate this fact. He won on White terms. I would argue, he won because he made many Whites feel “good about themselves” by voting for a moderate-left, half-Black, eloquently-spoken, White-mannered candidate.

    And the fact that individuals feel at ease talking about assassinating the President is testament to the latent racism of this country.

    Many see Obama as an “illegitimate” President, as someone who did not deserve the post he was democratically-elected for. The striking thing is that many judge him more unfavorably than Bush, who clearly won in 2000 through election fraud (not necessary intentional on his part).

    Why do people view Obama this way? Because they see him as “an interloper” and not a “real” American. What is a “real” American anyway? Many would say White, hetero, patriarchal man-figure with moderate-conservative leanings and small-government, big military policies.

    The fact that Obama is Black, the fact that he overturns many of the stereotypes people hold over the Presidency, and the fact that he is fighting an uphill battle to make our nation more equitable turns many people sour. They don’t see him as a “real” President, and they feel little regard for spouting bombastic death threats his way.

    Perhaps what we really need is to take the right-wing fear-mongers off the air, in order to cut off some of the haters where they are fed…

  6. JoeB.

    You hit everything on the spot, DavePaul, until you got to the very end, suggesting that, “Perhaps what we really need is to take the right-wing fear-mongers off the air, in order to cut off some of the haters where they are fed…”
    You know you cannot remove the right-wingers. It doesn’t do for a democratic society. Everything else is spot on

  7. Mom

    I don’t now about that David Paul. I know a lot of white people that knew what color our President was and they are glad he won. They did not like the Bush’s period, and did not like John McCain.. I think Obama won because he was the better choice out of what was running, or he would not of won. I have to disagree with “making the white feel good about themselves” I say this because there are whites that don’t feel good about themselves no matter what you say to them. I don’t think anybody can talk somebody into something, unless, that person wants to listen..I don’t know, maybe I’m wrong, but wouldn’t that be brainwashing? No, I feel white people, in general, truly wanted change, and President Obama was that change they wanted..As far as face book, do you all realize that a lot of “kids” go on there and make a lot of these polls up? I’m not making excuses, but I do feel who ever made the poll should be confronted and fined? It’s an absolute disgrace not just because he’s our President, but a good human being, as well. What is America? I really think that it’s a melting pot of different races that mix, and there are no pure ethnic races to speak of. Now, this is happening with inter-racial couples, as well. We are going to be a bunch of loyal mutts, I hope LOL:)i

  8. JDF

    @Mom, unfortunately the number of interracial couples aren’t as large as we’d like to think; it’s one of those things where people see something unique (i.e., stands out in a crowd) and we think there’s a lot more of it than in actuality. Many couples put off marriage and cohabitate instead due to (at least perceived) family opposition to the relationship. This serves as just one good example of how color-blindness makes us whites think things are better than they actually are…concerning Obama, we must not forget that he won just 43% of whites nation-wide, while cleaning up significantly with Blacks and Latinos. Without their overwhelming support, he would have lost. Sorry Mom but you’re simply wrong when you say “white people, in general, truly wanted change, and President Obama was that change they wanted.” As far as this “post-racial society” meme goes, there are huge chunks of the white population who harbor anti-black prejudice, NOT just in the south. Hate speech, if defined as such, should NOT be allowed to continue on the public airwaves, right-wingers or not.

  9. MOM

    JDF I’m looking at the census when I talk about race ,and Obama, regarding, the south.. Take a good look at the map and see how many of those southern states Obama won, something’s wrong with that picture. As far as, some white people wanting change, you better believe that to be true. Also, I don’t know, maybe city people, are more liberal then most of the conservative southern states, and really don’t care who they are seen with walking down the street. And, if true, that white population holds the majority of votes, and if ture, that all white people hate “people of Color” then chances are that President Obama will not get re-elected. I need to ask a question? Were those 43% demorcrats? Then that would mean the are 56% precent are Republicans. Now, with that being said, we didn’t take into account all the whites people that did not vote at all.. I just wish, that people would understand the concept that regardless of what skin color a person maybe that does not make the person good or bad. What people, in general, need to do it focus on is the character of any person.. Do you think this may be possible one day? I hope that I’m alive long enough to see that day don’t you? I’m tired of defending “people” in general.., If people want to feel better about being different then they will always be different. If people want to fit into society then people will fit into society. As far as right wingers? I don’t listsen to political properganda too much . Now, there are some people who thrive off that negative energy, but I don’t. I like to make up my own mind..And, as far as being wrong ,it would not be the first time:0) LOL

  10. Jenni M.

    I don’t want to speak for Dave Paul, but it seems to me that part of point is that, yes, Obama may have been seen as the better choice among candidates to those whites that voted for him, but he is the “kind” of black candidate that whites would feel comfortable endorsing – think, for example, of whites views toward Al Sharpton – many people see him as self-serving, but a major part of his “public relations” problem is that Rev. Sharpton is unflinging in his critique of racial matters.
    Consider, too, that perhaps some of the “change” that whites who voted for Obama wanted was the supposed “evidence” of racial change – not that that can encapsulate all of the reasons why those whites who voted for Obama did, but simply that he was “convenient” in this regard.
    I’ll say lastly that I think Obama’s election represented a sort of “perfect storm” of convergences. I’m not convinced that had W and his administration not royally messed many things up and become so unpopular; had we not had a global financial crisis of extreme proportions (this was a huge factor); had we not been fighting an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq; had John McCain not had one of the most poorly run campaigns in history, and Obama one of the best; (there are a few other “had we nots” but you get the idea) – that had these things not converged that we would be talking about a President Obama – I don’t mean to disrespect or sell the man short of his own talents as a politician, but I do believe the stars were aligned in this regard.

  11. ellen says

    Some people have made comments on this blog that Obama ‘acts white’ or is ‘the kind of black man that whites would vote for’. I really would like some clarification on this.
    What Specifically constitutes ‘acting white’? What Specifically constitutes ‘acting black’ ?
    I don’t understand the implied concept that Obama isn’t ‘black acting’ enough? Please explain what Obama could do to make himself more black.

  12. ellen says

    Dave Paul said Obama was a ‘White-mannered candidate’. Again, please explain what a white-mannered candidate behaves like? What would a black-mannered candidate behave like?
    Obama is a Harvard educated, articulate, extremely intelligent individual. Does this imply he acts white? If so, then the opposite of Obama {uneducated, not very articulate, and not intelligent} is what would exemplify the typical black man? Is education ‘a white thing’? Is being articulate ‘a white thing’?
    Unfortunately, many black teenagers agree with this. I’ve read several articles that black teenagers think ‘being intellectual’ is not being black. My feelings: being intelligent and articulate is Something Every Race should aspire to. It’s not a white thing, it’s a goal many people who seek education work for.
    To equate education and intellectualism with white people is a mistake that can permanently harm young blacks. I’ve also read articles wherein black teens are reluctant to excel in school, sometimes, because it can be seen as a betrayal of their black friends. Intellect=White so this means young blacks are ‘sell-outs’ to aspire to this?
    These are not facetious questions because many anti-racists feel that to ask blacks to excel in white dominated schools with white dominated teachers is to take away their culture. In a society that must function together, inevitably everybody’s ethnic roots will be somewhat over-shadowed. Otherwise, everyone would {for example} speak the language of their ancestors and nobody would understand each other. I’d be speaking Italian and Hungarian!
    My definition of anti-racism is to judge people by their character..and some part of that means the effort they put into education…which opens the mind so it can more effectively make judgements and decisions based on history and collected fact. An uneducated person is a blind person.

    With all due respect, please explain. I really don’t want young black children {because I was formerly a teacher} to feel that Obama is ‘too white’ and therefore not a rold model. Again, what do commentators on this blog mean when they say Obama acts white?

  13. Danielle

    Jenni M.–I totally agree with your last comment, but everyone looks at me like a crazy person when I voice it…
    It was interesting to note that the first time we (or our two-party system) ever seriously considered having a woman or a person of color in office, she or he would literally inherit a world of trouble. My concern throughout all of this was that if either one of them could not enact a series of monumental miracles (that I don’t think anyone could fix in four years, let alone eight), their inability to fix all of these problems would be attributed to their race or gender and we would use this as a lesson that the only people who can run this country are white men of power.
    Oh the power of social amnesia…
    I feel as if the two parties put out sacrificial lambs in the last election, knowing that it would be impossible to tackle any of the problems ahead.

  14. ellen says

    This was written by a teacher on the website listed below.
    “Interesting research in a problem I had noticed among the children I teach (grades 1-5) and from what I see in middle school and high school with my grandsons and friends. This is a problem no one seems to want to talk about and especially to me, a white woman. However, as a supporter of civil rights and equal educational opportunities as an activitist since 1963, I am particularly concerned to see bright African-American males sink as they progress educationally instead of rising to their innate potential.

    One contributing factor I see daily is the peer pressure on little Black boys not to “act white” and in elementary school part of acting white is academic achievement. I think the media contributes heavily to the growing achievement gap when the lowest strata of society is what is shown in the movies, on TV, or glorified in music. The popularity of the hip-hop culture contributes to the problem as it denigrates achievement, women (teachers?) and non-violent settlement of disagreements.
    The higher the grade level the more peer pressure is put on young Black males and females to be “street” or to be an outcast. I teach in an inner city school and most of our students have no positive role model around them or in the media to inspire higher academic achievement. This has to play a part in the achievement gap.
    A concerned teacher.”
    This is why I believe it’s So Important for Obama to be revered as a role model for blacks, instead of commenting that Obama ‘acts too white’. Black children really need positive male role models. Black children need to aspire to be like Obama. Obama does not need to be {less articulate? less intellectual? less educated? is that what’s being suggested?} to Fit In with what anti-racist whites believe he should be. Again, if Obama ‘acts too white’ then please explain specifically how he should act ?

  15. siss

    “This is why I believe it’s So Important for Obama to be revered as a role model for blacks, instead of commenting that Obama ‘acts too white’. Black children really need positive male role models.”

    Exactly. He is an amazing role model to black youth, and should be treated as such.

    @Jenni: To say that his success could paritially be attributed to the “alignment of the stars” is disrecpectful. That statement, taken out of contex, could be mistaken for a rightwing lunatic’s rant. I think he was choosen for a good reason-at the right time.

  16. MOM

    I just saw the Forbes list regarding the 400 riches people in this country, and the person that created facebook is on that list. Imagine That! Money! I’ve been talking to many people from all ethnic backgrounds about this blog. One person stated that you’re all nuts, “black” person said that. “I don’t think you people are all nuts, I truly believe you are all brilliant people”: ) I really enjoy your “new outlook” concerning racism”. Another person from Enland stated that there are about 12 people that run the world. I do consider this man to be a genious because of the last job that he held on Wall Street NY. He is my age, semi retiered, and we work together, and we have many conversations about the world, people, and politics. He also loves being in this country because he stated that Enland is more discrimintory, regarding social class. He also stated that when this country falls apart, because people, in general, do get along, that the
    next “global” country that will fall apart will be China. I may not have site for everybody to look up, but I talk to many people about this site. I also, will tell you that when I read some of the posts, I do agree. One post was talking about “Whitopia” America. I believe that people buy their houses wear they can afford to buy their home, However, I do know of places where a lot of “whites” buy their homes, which are very expensive, and where there are “blacks” that live there, but are wealthy enough to buy into those same neighborhoods. When I moved back to the nothern states I did not buy into those communities.. I bought a home in a neighboorhood that was mixed with differnt race, sexually orientations etc. In fact, my neighbor happens to be a Mozart Scholar who travels the world and plays piano concerts, and he and I are good friends. My other neighbor who happens to be black is my favorte neighbor, and we talk alot about the other snotty neighbors LOL. Most of the homes in my neighborhood are Victorinan and Tudor etc. In other words, our homes are as differnet as they people that live in them.. I didn’t want to get caught up in “keeping up with the Jones”, which happens a lot in mostly white neighborhoods…I am in search of another home now, and will be looking at a home with a little more land, so I could do some gardening, and also to get away from the hussel and bussel of the city. Does this make me a racist? I think not, it makes me a person that has their heart set on what and where I want to live in, rather then what society dictates me as a “white” woman should live. Anyway, I’ve learned a lot by just reading different posts and truly enjoy all the views concerning racism at it’s finest.

  17. Kristen

    @ ellen,
    I don’t want to speak for Dave Paul, but I think you are misunderstanding what he wrote about Obama’s win. He said (comment #6): “I would argue, he won because he made many Whites feel “good about themselves” by voting for a moderate-left, half-Black, eloquently-spoken, White-mannered candidate.”
    This statement does not indicate that Dave Paul thinks Obama is “too white” or “not black enough.” Seems to me that he is observing that Obama’s presentation of self was palatable to white Americans. Check out racial attitudes polling data or research on implicit bias, and it’s crystal clear that whites have a lot of negative beliefs & stereotypes about African Americans. Thus, a black Pres candidate is swimming against a extremely strong stream (to use a metaphor badly) when attempting to appeal to a large proportion of whites. As much as Obama can avoid cuing “blackness” in whites’ minds, the more likely he is to retain their favor.
    The “acting white” phenomenon in schools is interesting. What the research shows us is that when schools are structured in such a way that white students are clustered in the higher tracks and black students are relegated to the lower tracks, this “academic achievement=acting white” phenomenon tends to occur. (And a lot of research also indicates that white students are likelier to be placed into higher tracks, even if their academic record is no better than black students… which shows some bias on the part of the schools in racializing achievement.)
    On the other hand, if a school is structured differently, where there is no stark racialization of upper- and lower-level courses, this “acting white” thing is not even an issue. Here’s a 2005 sociology journal article on this: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/students/see/events/Darity_et_al_Understanding_Burden_Acting_White.pdf
    By the way, I identify as a white antiracist, and I know a lot of other antiracists. I don’t know which white antiracists you’re referring to, but you’re not representing our stance(s) accurately.

  18. ellen says

    Hi Kristen,
    Thanks for the post. And I do understand what you’re saying.
    I really related to this part: ‘Thus, a black Pres candidate is swimming against an extremely strong stream (to use a metaphor badly) when attempting to appeal to a large proportion of whites. As much as Obama can avoid cuing “blackness” in whites’ minds, the more likely he is to retain their favor.’ You’re right. If he wore an African robe, for example, instead of a Brooks Brothers suit, yeah..white America would not accept this. However, I still maintain that Obama is a superb role model for black children.
    I just want to make an interesting {hopefully lol} point. Every ‘cultural’ group that enters America from foreign soil has been put through the indignity {nothing like slavery though!} of having to give up being ‘ethnic’ in public. I remember my father spoke with a thick accent and he worked on pronouncing English correctly to make his business work better. I Know He was A Little Miffed at the way people made remarks about ‘ferenners’ but he did what he had to do to support his family.
    One author {actually forgot his name} discusses the difference between people who willingly immigrated to America and those who were unwillingly dragged here. He said Africans who willingly come to America work very hard in school and don’t mind working hard to speak Standard American English. They feel happy to be here.
    However, he said, descendants of slaves who were {obviously} brought here Unwillingly really don’t have as much motivation to achieve. I am wondering: if African Americans born here investigated other countries, would they choose America as their home place? Maybe not. I don’t know.
    I work with immigrants and the ones I work with are extremely amenable to doing Whatever it Takes to 1.educate their young 2. learn everything they can about survival in America 3.earn a good living for their family even if it takes working 7 days a week.
    They feel the racial prejudice. I know they do..but they’re willing to trade this pain for the chance to be financially secure in America.
    So I think there’s validity to this Willing Migration as opposed to Forced Migration. Any thoughts here?

  19. ellen says

    This is from The Black Star Project website. It discusses the problem of 6,000 black and Latino young men murdered per year in America.


    While some say these murders are just a serious local problem, the approximately 6,000 mostly young Black and Latino males murdered in America annually points to a national crisis–a catastrophe that demands federal attention. The genocide of 6,000 youth is an international embarrassment–especially when compared with the federal response to the swine flu epidemic, during which the White House took the lead in managing the national response. It must be noted that only eleven Americans died from complications associated with swine flu versus approximately 6,000 American youth who are killed every year by street violence. In Chicago, three-fourths of the 39 youth killed so far in the past year were murdered less than eight miles from President Obama’s Chicago home.

    Eradicating this pandemic of violence will take resolve, resources and leadership, but it is fixable with presidential attention.
    Scientists at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, have studied the problem of youth violence for 70 years, and they have great evidence-based recommendations for preventing such violence–but those effective solutions are being ignored by Jarrett and the White House. Those evidence-based recommendations are:

    1.Build strong-functioning family units. Strong families and good parents are the best defense against youth violence.

    2.Provide mentors and role models for young men and young women. Young people will become what they see.

    3.Teach children conflict-resolution skills and anti-violence philosophies at a young age. It is easier to build a child than to re-build a man.

    4.Ensure that children have solid educational foundations and real economic opportunities. Education and economics are the two keys to preventing youth violence.
    My feeling is that to break this genocidal cycle, black children need good role models whether they are Black or White. It’s become a true national crisis. As long as a role model has decent Christian values, that’s enough at this point. Let’s solve the problem with the Most Direct Route possible and not waste time arguing about whether Ebonics is a legitimate language or not. Or if black kids are being asked to neglect their black cultural heritage. I think we’re So Beyond this.
    If the money spent on these kinds of academic issues were spent in providing 1. More social workers in these crime-ridden areas 2. More mentors for these children 3. Counseling for single family homes 4. Job opportunies linked with staying in school..we could make some real progress.
    I think the time for debate is over really. We Are Running Out of Time.

  20. Jenni M.

    @ Siss – I must say this is the first time I’ve ever been confused with a right wing lunatic – seems to me the difference is that I’m not suggesting that Obama was not an exceptional candidate – indeed I think he was, and that had he not have been (another one of those “had nots” I left out) then he would not have been elected. In other words, the “black” version (for lack of a better way to state it) of a George Bush, for example, would never have stood a chance of being elected – at least that is my belief. So, my comment really is intended to speak more about what I think about the racialized context (i.e. white supremacy) of the U.S., which of course includes politics and how white racism constrains candidates of color and their potential for being elected, than it does about Obama and his impressiveness as a man and politician. And I doubt you’d find any right wing lunatics who’d endorse this position – indeed, they’d call me a left wing lunatic.

  21. ellen says

    Kristen said:
    “On the other hand, if a school is structured differently, where there is no stark racialization of upper- and lower-level courses, this “acting white” thing is not even an issue. Here’s a 2005 sociology journal article on this: http://www.tc.columbia.edu/students/see/events/Darity_et_al_Understanding_Burden_Acting_White.pdf
    Thanks for this article. I read it and discovered certain things that rang true here for me.
    1. Black kids reported feeling intimidated in regard to taking AP classes cause they didn’t think they could get could good grades in these classes even though their ‘average’ classes weren’t reflective of their nationalized test scores. As I see this, we have lack of self confidence.
    2. Black kids didn’t want to take AP classes because they were afraid it would bring down their GPA if they didn’t do well. They wanted to maintain higher GPA’s so it wouldn’t ruin their chances of getting into college. Again, lack of confidence.

    3. High school kids can indeed be snobby when it comes to dress. White affluent kids wear Abercrombie and Fitch clothes and All High School kids make a big deal out of how their peers dress. {Teenagers are Shallow!}
    Some black kids reported not having the money to dress like their white peers. Why is this significant in terms of under achieving? Cause black kids reported feeling isolated when put in Advanced Classes where mostly white kids were. This was a bit of a deterrent cause the black kids were a little self conscious about their own attire plus lack of the material possessions more affluent white kids had.

    4. A few of the black kids reported black peer pressure to not take the higher level classes because, “That’s too hard! You’ll be working all the time”.
    So, in terms of the black kids interviewed, you’re right Kristen, peer pressure From Blacks was not the Significant Factor in keeping them academically a few steps behind their white peers.
    However, the interviewers did not seem to interview the black kids from impoverished neighborhoods but rather black kids from middle class neighborhoods.
    I do see, however, a great Lack of Self Esteem in Middle Class Blacks from these studies..and yeah..the snobby white adolescents seem to definitely be contributing to this. None of the kids reported experiencing bias from teachers or administrators though.
    My conclusion of what I’ve read:
    1. Black kids from all socio-economic groups need some strong mentors and a good dose of self confidence. Even if parents are supportive, it’s true black kids face snobbism from White Affluent Peers when trying to achieve.
    2. Black kids are intimidated by the prospect of battling these more demanding classes. They think, ‘I don’t know if I can do it.’ They need someone {mentors, maybe group counseling in place in schools for black kids} where they are told and it is demonstrated that “Yes you can!’
    I know high school is a crummy place if you’re Confident. It can be a miserable environment if you’re not. I tutor high school kids and am told this myself.

    3. Anyway, let’s concentrate on solutions instead of belaboring the obstacles. Mentors and in-school confidence building counseling. More Black Professionals hired by schools {Affirmative Action here.} so kids can see for themselves, ‘Yeah, I can do this.’

  22. siss

    Kristen: [“Seems to me that he [Dave Paul] is observing that Obama’s presentation of self was palatable to white Americans”]

    And why is it so bad to want to choose a candidate that has a “palatable” demeanor? For example, I choose Obama over Clinton because she came off too abrasive for my taste. If policy stance is equal or a non-issue between choosing candidates, then, another standard of measurement has to be implemented. Is that wrong (or unintentionally racist)? I don’t think it is.

    Also, [“As much as Obama can avoid cuing “blackness” in whites’ minds, the more likely he is to retain their favor.”] What is your definition of “cuing blackness”……?

    @ Kristen and Jenni: With all due respect, I’m not trying to be difficult. B & MO are so inspiring that any negative connotation with respect to them triggers a defense response and compels me to investigate further : )

  23. Kristen

    @ siss,
    Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are good role models for a lot of people, no argument there.
    As for your question “why is it so bad to want to choose a candidate that has a ‘palatable’ demeanor? . . . Is that wrong (or unintentionally racist)?” what I’m talking about is the fact that, for whites, “palatable” = whiteness. This reality is problematic, and yes, intimately tied to racism and the negative associations most whites and many people of color have with blackness.
    To quote Jenni:
    “So, my comment really is intended to speak more about what I think about the racialized context (i.e. white supremacy) of the U.S., which of course includes politics and how white racism constrains candidates of color and their potential for being elected, than it does about Obama and his impressiveness as a man and politician.”
    As for your “cuing blackness” question, I imagine most anyone could make her own list of the kinds of things that would cue blackness in whites’ minds, but here are a few: wearing clothes associated with African American dress, speaking a form of African American English, a fist bump with one’s loving wife, claiming support for affirmative action or African American reparations. Note that it’s not only black politicians who avoid doing these things if they depend on whites’ votes. And that says a lot about how whiteness is valued and blackness devalued in our society.
    And, Jenni added the good point that George W. got a lot of passes from our society because his whiteness shielded him. He butchered the English language umpteen times, and he spoke in a southern/Texas rural accent that isn’t particularly revered by mainstream society. But despite his accent, pronunciation problems, and speaking errors, he became President and got a second term. He was considered fun-loving, or cute, or down-home – a regular guy. Certain accents are accepted as legitimate in our society, and others are not, and this has a LOT to do with race.

  24. Kristen

    @ ellen (comment #20),
    Willing vs. forced migration, as you described it… A lot of times we chalk up certain immigrants’/ethnic groups’ successes to their hard work and sacrifices. There are cultural factors at play when ethnic/nationality groups attempt to adapt the the U.S. However, what I understand to be the major factor in how quickly and successfully immigrants achieve is resources brought, not cultural values or work ethic. There’s a complex socio-historical context for each group’s immigration wave, but in general, if those people immigrating have a decent economic status, or educational credentials, or some valued job skills, and hopefully not too much discriminatory treatment upon arrival, they thrive. Whether these factors are at play is related to whether groups come willingly or not, but African Americans have been here way too long to be spoken of as an immigrant group. Yes, they came unwillingly and Africans now come willingly, but African Americans endured centuries of forced labor and virtually zero access to education or asset-building. Surely this is the bigger explanatory factor in their current status than the fact that they didn’t want to come here a few centuries ago.

  25. siss

    @Kristen: I’m curious about your “cues” – When you say “dress”, are you referring to Traditional African garb or American casual wear?

    African American English, while legitimate, is an extensively less used form. It isn’t the type of English that a) we teach in primary education b) used in professional settings 3) made itself the most known language around the globe. So why would he use it? I like to speak French but don’t expect it be acceptable in a board meeting.

    Fist bump? I have never equated that with blackness…

    I cant speak for Aff. Action, but with regards to reparations, no argument that it’s directly tied to blackness.

    Blackness is not necessarily devalued or disrespected in this situation, it just isn’t the standard. Now whether that standard is good/bad/needs to be modified/replaced is a whole other subject.

  26. ellen says

    I am of the opinion that individuals/ethnic groups/countries need to ‘pick their fights’. In other words, nobody can Solve All Their Problems, and an attempt to do results in solving Nothing.
    Thus, prioritize. What’s most important?
    1. Getting more black kids to stay in school so their job opportunities are expanded.
    2. Diminishing this slaughter of minority young males {6,000 a year}.
    3. Providing counseling for single-parent black families.
    4. Providing job opportunites and child day care for young black parents.
    None of these crisis issues involves making Ebonics a legitimate second language. Standard American English is taught in schools, is required to do well on the SAT’s, is expected of college students, is expected in the business world, and {as Siss pointed out} is the best known language around the world.
    At this juncture, I don’t think it matters that whites made this language prominent folks. It’s in place now and probably here to stay. Plus, I don’t see it as problematic for Any Ethnic Group to speak in the vernacular with friends and family. Just not with teachers, business associates, in scholastic settings. Learning Standard American English would tremendously aid poor black children in their ability to achieve academic success and therefore achieve financial success. Saying it’s ‘not fair’ that kids have to learn this language in Addition to Ebonics is like saying it’s not fair that a child who is suffering from a cold be asked to take liquid Tylenol. The solution requires some action..yes..but well worth the price.
    The Asian kids do it with the full parental support and Asian characters are Vastly Different than our alphabet. What’s fair about that? It’s necessary and this should not be negotiable.

  27. Kristen

    @siss #27 & ellen #28 on the topic of African American English:
    siss, I never said Obama should or would speak Ebonics (many African Americans don’t speak it, and most who do can code switch), and ellen, I did not say that it wasn’t fair that African American children learn white, middle-class English (it’s the fact that we associate that particular dialect with lack of intelligence or motivation or good parenting that is problematic). I don’t know if you’re trying to put words in my mouth or if you’re just trying to make tangential arguments.
    siss said: “I like to speak French but don’t expect it be acceptable in a board meeting.”
    The issue here, siss, is that the other people at the board meeting are likely to be impressed if you spoke some French, but they’re probably going to think less of you if you spoke some Ebonics – especially if you’re African American. This is not simply a matter of nonracialized “standards.”

  28. Kristen

    siss asked: “@Kristen: I’m curious about your “cues” – When you say “dress”, are you referring to Traditional African garb or American casual wear?”
    Either. Both.

  29. Kristen

    ellen said:

    I am of the opinion that individuals/ethnic groups/countries need to ‘pick their fights’. In other words, nobody can Solve All Their Problems, and an attempt to do results in solving Nothing.
    Thus, prioritize. What’s most important?
    1. Getting more black kids to stay in school so their job opportunities are expanded.
    2. Diminishing this slaughter of minority young males {6,000 a year}.
    3. Providing counseling for single-parent black families.
    4. Providing job opportunites and child day care for young black parents.

    Looks like what you’re advocating is a black community-focused social services-type approach, which no doubt could bring some level of positive outcomes. But the problem with this kind of approach is that it essentially lets the larger society off the hook. It doesn’t address racism and discrimination at all – not the contemporary stuff, and certainly not the historical legacy. Off the top of my head, I’d offer these alternative suggestions:
    – Stop discrimination in housing and jobs (the laws are there; stiffer penalties & more checks are needed).
    – Stop allowing school officials/teachers to funnel black kids into lower tracks for no apparent reason.
    – Raise the minimum wage/create a living wage.
    – End racial profiling.
    – Use antiracist curricula in schools.
    – Locate/relocate toxic waste facilities away from the communities of color.
    – Stop imprisoning nonviolent offenders; rethink the war on drugs.
    – Consider a reparations policy for black Americans denied housing/loans due to redlining and restrictive covenants in the mid-1900s. Consider another one for black Americans who received lower “black wages” under legal segregation in the 1900s.

  30. distance88

    Ugh. I really hate the term “ebonics”–it’s not as if all Afr. Ams. all speak in the same manner. Just like all American dialects, they differ depending on where you are in the U.S.
    I don’t think anyone is calling for standardizing “ebonics” (whatever that is)–it’s more about recognizing that you shouldn’t attach value judgments to language, especially when the rules governing SAE are pretty much arbitrary; teaching kids that some manners of speech are ok in certain settings and not in others (i.e. social capital) seems the most appropriate approach.

  31. ellen says

    Kristen said: ‘ellen, I did not say that it wasn’t fair that African American children learn white, middle-class English (it’s the fact that we associate that particular dialect with lack of intelligence or motivation or good parenting that is problematic).’
    Kristen, I was just stating my beliefs in post # 28. I was not at all suggesting that you said this. Plus, I agree we shouldn’t associate that dialect with negative images. I am just addressing the Particular People {and nobody on this blog is one of them} who is taking {in my opinion} Ebonics and lack of judgement regarding kids who speak this, too far. Just because we’re not judging doesn’t mean kids don’t need to work strenuously in school. Kids need to work hard to achieve. All kids from all backgrounds.
    I know it’s harder for blacks socially, but it’s tremendously challenging {in terms of language} for Asians with their written language in visual characters instead of our alphabet also. Motivation can compensate for alot in education.
    Also, Kristen, your list of ideas is admirable but It’s a Big List. How fast could this be implemented? With 6,000 minority kids a year being murdered, don’t you think we need action now? I suggested my programs because the logistics of implementing them would be easier than your ideas. I’m not critizing your suggestions, just addressing time frame. The results from some of your ideas will take a long time to materialize. Let’s hit the problem areas hard and fast first..triage.

  32. ellen says

    Kristen said: ‘Stop imprisoning nonviolent offenders; rethink the war on drugs.’
    Casual recreational drug use is a contradiction in terms. Teenagers are especially vulnerable in this regard. You can’t concentrate in school if you’re high. Many thousands of studies have attributed lack of motivation in academic settings to drug usage. The problem is kids Don’t Know When to Stop. Getting high on Friday and Saturday nights turns into getting high on Monday and Wednesday also etc. Soon, all the kid wants to do is ‘smoke a bud’ and nothing else matters.
    Schools have religiously tryed to educate kids to avoid illegal drug use. The ‘Dare to Say No’ program etc. It’s like giving kids a loaded gun and telling them never to ‘accidentally’ pull the trigger. My feeling is there shouldn’t be any compromise on dealing drugs to children. This may not be a violent offense, but it ruins lives. Drug dealers do this to make money. The lives of their customers is their least concern.

  33. Mom

    Get use to it ladies. There are approx 7,000 languages spoken around the world, and about every 100 years our dialect changes, or we would all be speaking to each other in Shakespearean. Hark, Hark, I do believe that so and so has sent thou message, with words to thee that don’t compare, with thy own self. Imagine That! LOl I feel that our country/culture is going through of some sort of metamorphosis right now, and that is why we all feel the tension, in regards, to our youth’s changing the way that way that words are spoken.. I remember when I was young we spoke a different language then our parent’s did..We would use words like groovy or cool, and my parents would use words like nifty and smart.. However, usually with a little growing up teens come back to the English that would help them to “get by” in life. Especially, if they want to make it in some kind of communication business. LOL

  34. ellen says

    According to a recent report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a young person’s average day often includes drinking, smoking, or using illicit drugs.

    On an average day in 2008, about 1.2 million adolescents, age 12 to 17, smoked cigarettes, 631,000 drank alcohol, and 586,000 used marijuana.

    In addition, about 49,000 adolescents used inhalants, 27,000 used hallucinogens (e.g., Ecstasy and other club drugs), 13,000 used cocaine, and 4,800 used heroin.

    On an average day in 2008, nearly 8,000 adolescents drank alcohol for the first time; 4,300 used an illicit drug for the first time; 4,000 smoked their first cigarette; 3,600 smoked marijuana for the first time; and 2,500 used pain relievers for non-medical reasons for the first time.

    In 2007 (the most recent data), more than 76,000 youth were in outpatient treatment; 10,000 in non-hospital residential treatment; and 1,000 in hospital inpatient treatment.

  35. Jenni M.

    @ Ellen – Although I think uou may be right that Kristen’s list includes matters that may be difficult to address, I would argue (being also in favor of the all of the suggestions she makes) that if we were to actually tackle these larger issues we might reduce those problems that are actually “symptoms” of these larger, structural matters. To use another healthcare metaphor, doesn’t it make more sense to try to cure the disease than to just to alleviate symptoms one by one. That’s not to poo-poo the suggestions you made, but as Kristen said, it treats these issues as if they are disconneted from the larger racial/social/historical context in which they occur. Ultimately, I think we need to work at problems from both ends and treat both symptoms and sources.
    Now, the question always remains as to whether there is the political/civic will to actually tackle these larger matters, and therin lay the problem, because as we know when we target the source of the problem – which is the the fact that our society is built upon and continues to be structured around white supremacy – there is extreme backlash. But, we must continue to push the agenda in whatever way we can, with whatever resources we can. Interestingly, if you look at Black nationalist movements over the course of U.S. history, such movements have always embraced black self-determination as a central tenet because of the foot-dragging and unwillingness of the larger white society and its power-brokers to acknowledge and address the legacy of historical and contemporary discrmination and racial oppression.
    Finally, a word on motivation – there is no question that motivation is an important aspect of success, certainly moreso when you are disenfranchised within the larger society (in other words, when you are privileged motivation may be less critical because you will often still have access to much opportunity even if you only “average” or less than average via access to key social networks, assets, etc.). The question is where motivation intersects with those matters that lay more outside of your control (e.g., the institutions that you interact with, such as education). in this regard, I think it is exceedingly important not to simply boil issues down to people’s motivation (or other personal characteristics) – (I’m not suggesting you are doing this since you are recognizing some issues outside people’s control, but I just felt it was important to really emphasize this in my response since it is so common in our regular discourse to just chalk social problems up to individual matters). The point I want to make here is that motivation alone will not solve these issues, as there are many students of color who are very motivated but face structural (not just social) obstacles to their success. There is a lot of research I could cite to help support this point, but for the sake of brevity let me address just a couple of pieces. One study done by Dee Royster (“Race and the Invisible Hand”) looked at men who had graduated from a vocational high school – the men, black and white, were the “cream of the crop” at the school in terms of vocational skills and performance, highly motivated, and were those who, on paper, would be most likely to be successful. Despite having similar achievements in common, being trained in the same school, in the same trades, by the same instructors, the black men she interviewed trailed significantly behind their white peers – they were employed less often in the skilled trades, earned less per hour, held lower status positions, received fewer promotions, and experiences more and loner periods of unemployment. Based on analysis of her data (and the fact that the men were matched in the areas of education, skill, performance and other personal characteristics), Royster concluded that the disparities resulted from the men’s racial status and the way that situated them in racially exclusive networks during their transition from school to work. For example, she found that while teachers often verbally encouraged black students, they provided a great deal of *active* assistance to white students in securing positions, etc. These in-school patterns repeated neighborhood and community patterns of social connections (there is much research that documents that most people secure jobs, directly or indirectly, through their social networks – because we live and ciruclate in largely segregated networks this tends to replicate patterns of white access and opportunity). Jay MacLeod wrote another of the most popular books on the topic – “Ain’t No Makin’ It” – where he found that despite being *more* likely to internalize beliefs about their ability to be successful and achieve the “American Dream”, etc., young black men from lower class communities had significantly poorer outcomes than their white counterparts.
    I often like to show a “Trading Schools” clip from the Oprah show to my class (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JEczvyM3Boc) – I think one of the most compelling lessons from this clip is how even when black students are high achievers, highly motivated for success and have internalized great aspirations for themselves, the tragedy of our vastly unequal, segregated educational system is that they will often be ill-prepared to actually achieve the success they seek. Those are structural problems that require structural solutions.

  36. ellen says

    @ Jenni,
    I went to that website about the Oprah program comparing those two schools! All I can say is Oh My God. That suburban white high school {with the 2 Olympic Sized Swimming Pools!} looked like ‘little Versaille’. The school in the black section of town didn’t even have band instruments? Unbelievable. I highly recommend this video to Everybody.
    Oprah pointed out part of it had to do with the institutional ‘expectations’ of black versus white students as in ‘well, the black students won’t achieve much anyway so we’ll just give them sub-standard resources’. The black girls who visited the white high school were blown away at the gorgeous facility. The white kids who visited the black school were saying things like, ‘Yuck. This is horrible.”
    This Was Indeed A Glaring Example of institutionalized racism Jenni. I’m going to show this video to my son. It’s Very Convincing. Thanks for pointing it out to me. I suggest Everybody see this Video..will definitely 1. bring tears to your eyes 2. blow you away!

  37. MOM

    In my area we are going though a process where 5 school districts are combining. Now, with that being said, do you remember the “white” upper middle class neighborhoods that I’ve stated in my recent posts. Those people are fighting this because they feel that the value of their homes will drop by the integration of the 5 school districts, which will include people of lower social economic neighborhoods. Where I come from what neighborhood a person lives dictates what school district your child attends, however, they all end up at the same high school.. I feel that any government/state subsidized learning institution should have the same buildings, facilities, and qualified teachers. I also feel, just because you are able to afford a “better” neighborhood to raise your child in should not dictate the level of education that your children receives, especially, if that learning institution receives money from state/ government. In fact, any government institution should be the same and too me I see a lot of building that go up that is just wasteful spending by the states/government. I also feel, that children should be made to where uniforms, as to avoid social peer stress that most of the children feel when they end up at that same high school, as mentioned above. As far as “drug” usage children from a “upper middle class” are more prone to experiment because they have the money to afford the drugs. However, and unfortunately, children that are raised in lower social class find out very quickly that it’s a fast way to earn a buck, so they could enjoy some of the luxury’s that the “upper middle class” is just given. A lot of the “lower social” economic children don’t use the drugs they sell them to the “upper middle class”. I have known people in both classes that are still addicted to the same drugs that were popular back in the 1970’s, and are still today dying from overdoses of those same drugs, which effected a lot of people from both upper and lower classes. Who do you think has been supplying these drugs to those people? There are so many sinister people involved in the upper social norms of today and yesterday that should be investigated, and have made billions of dollars of the sufferings of all people that get addicted to the drugs that are allowed into this country..

  38. Mom

    In fact, most of the posts that I have been reading are based on study and research.. Now, I have to tell you that what I’ve been posting is on experience and some research.. I guess, it’s true because of my lack of catch words, nobody listens, but let me tell you again. Violence in American correlations to the foods that you eat. There are more impurities in our foods today then ever, which changes the chemistry in our bodies, which creates irrational thinking, sleeping disorder, lower IQ’s etc. There are FIVE major food companies that hold the seeds to what we eat and have put many, many, farmer’s out of work. Do you really think that I’ve made this up? Research! These are scary facts. There will be more crime, deaths, violence, etc. until people in general wake up to what is going on in this country. Where I live they found tons of pharmaceutical drugs that is dumped into our water supply antibiotic, anti depression meds, narcotics etc. I don’t drink the water in my house. This is serious and alarming. Children being born with mild forms of brain damage more today then 30 years ago because of the impurities they are putting into our foods. President Obama even stated that we should try to grow as much food as we can.. Prince Charles in England only eats what he grows and that includes meat. Do you think that maybe these people know something that we don’t? Alcohol is legal. LOL Alcohol is responsible for 1,000’s and 1000’s of deaths each year in our country. If they were going to legalized a drug it should be pot. Drug usage. Now this is real interesting not only are the drug cartels making billions, but rehabs, mycologist, or any medical profession that’s out there to “help” the poor addict. Now, let’s take a look at the prisons, courts, police, lawyers, and everybody that is associated with “controlling” the crime committed because of drugs. Apparently, everybody has there hand in the cooking jar making money off the suffering off of people’s misfortunes. I know this all sounds a little “Greek”, but I really think a lot about these kind of topics, and we blindly except what’s told to us, rather then looking at the whole picture for what it is, and that is people/money/greed/. And, again, truly apologize for throwing this way off topic, but I stand strong and firm in my beliefs.

  39. Jenni M.

    @ Ellen – When I watch this video, I often think, too, if you knew you were getting “screwed” like this (I mean, really, is there any other way to think of it?), then how would that affect your motivation and desire to achieve? Obviously, we don’t want young people just throwing up their hands in the face of such huge obstacles, but can we really be surprised and/or blame them if they do? The truth is, if we want to believe that education is the great equalizer then we’ve got a long dang way to go. A very readable and devastating critique on our segregated, unequal educational system is “Shame of the Nation” by Jonathan Kozol – he is a master ethnographer and beautiful writer.

    Re: Mom’s good point about white families fighting integrating their neighborhoods and thus schools – this is a very common phenomenon, and one of the main reasons that residential and educational segregation persist (they go hand in hand of course). White families often use what would seem a very rational “racial calculus” by which they move to certain neighborhoods in the interest of housing values or to access better educational opportunitites for their children. Because white families tend to have greater assets (because of historical legacies we’ve discussed other places on this site), they are often able to engage those options in ways that black families and other families of color cannot. The result, however, is persistant segregation with devastating effects on tax bases and thus infrastructures which fund education (since as Mom rightly notes) and other public services.

  40. ellen says

    Jenni Said: ‘When I watch this video, I often think, too, if you knew you were getting “screwed” like this (I mean, really, is there any other way to think of it?), then how would that affect your motivation and desire to achieve?’
    Definitely! In the very large city where I live, we actually don’t have this type of extreme inequity. In housing it exists, but in actual school facilities, it does not. Probably because our city is actually Literally 50 % black and 50% white. So, all races attend the same schools because black ‘sections’ of town are mixed in with white ‘sections’ of town all over the city.
    However, in this video, and probably in other parts of the country no doubt, I can see Extreme Variations in Resources. And yeah for sure..I was thinking about this all day yesterday..if I were one of the black kids who went to those broken down old high schools…I’d absolutely feel Discouraged and Disheartened. How could I ever hope to compete with white preppies who have state-of-the-art Everything?
    Plus, I know school districts have a ‘reputation’ among colleges..as in ‘Oh..that’s a good district..his SAT’s aren’t that great..But he went to so-and-so school and the guidance counselor there recommended him and Yes..he’s Allowed in the Club..Accepted!’
    Then they see a black application from such-and-such school and say, ‘Hmmm..well..his SAT’s are just average, but his grades are excellent..But it’s at so-and-so school district which doesn’t mean much cause their standards aren’t that high..so…Rejected!’ I get it.
    You’re right. This is a Perfect example of Institutionalized Racism. I’m going to check that book out of the library by the way.

  41. MOM

    Thanks Jennie – For acknowledging my posts.. I will also tell you that I have zero sympathy for those neighborhoods. Those schools maybe nice on the outside, but some of my own children attended those very same schools, and the quality of teaching and the administration did not match the facility. In other words, Ive had many “battles” with them over my son, who I ended pulling out of school, and now he’s planning go to grad school next year because he’s so brilliant.(again I may be a little bias:0) However, he does not and will never fit into the “mold” of a regular student. I truly believe he fits in better with his University because he’s able to make friends with a lot of his Professor’s, and they really enjoy his level on enthusiasm, when learning, and he does have some great insights about his field of study..So, I “kinda” argue”with some of those people, and tell them what’s on my mind about their snooty school district. Also, I’ve been thinking a lot about this site. Since I’ve been here, and sometimes, I guess it must be the way that I’ve been raised, I kind off get “wow they hate white people” feeling. However, after being on this site for about 5 months I’ve come to understand a little more about the subject, and my opinion is “wow these people are really nice/great people” I wish there were more people in the world like all of you, and I sincerely mean that..
    @ Ellen, there are ways around what you have posted regarding SAT’s because of the situation that I had experienced with my own son. In our State we have a program called STARS. I do believe if you graduate from regular high school within the 10 or 20 top of your class, the State will pay for the first two years of a junior college. My son had to start in a junior college then he could of transferred into any college in the country because of his GPA, but choose a local University because, I think, he really needs to be with me a little longer, but he said it was cheaper to stay here. LOL I wonder about this, but anyway, the point I’m trying to make that if somebody really wants to continue with their education they can, but unfortunately, they have to start at the bottom, and work their way up just like my son had to. No, I don’t think it’s fair, but it had worked out for my son for the better because when he attended junior college he also taught as an adjunct teacher, and guess what, he went back into the very same school district as mention above to help teach some subjects to some of the other labeled children. I could only imagine the look on some of those teachers’/administration faces when he walked through those doors as a “teacher”. He also volunteered for some great programs, which looked really good on his application, when it came time to apply to some of the University’s of his choice. I guess, sometimes what does not seems fair to many people could actually be a blessing in disguise. 🙂

  42. ellen says

    I found an article that illustrates a premise I have defended repeatedly on this website: Ethnic Groups are Diverse Within Themselves and Cannot Be Categorized and Labeled neatly in convenient alphabetized filing systems.
    African Americans overwhelmingly supported Proposition 8 which reversed same sex marriages in California. Why was this? Here’s an interesting article on the subject.
    The reason I like this article is because it points out That No Ethnic Group is One Dimensional…not Whites, Latinos, Asians or African Americans. I’ve posted innumerable comments on this site claiming this exact premise.By maintaining this opinion, I am not excusing by any means cruel overt white supremacy/racism, but rather making an observation about how inaccurate it is to place all ethnic groups into one Basket. Many whites are Not White Supremacists. They care about minorities and racial injustice. An old meme but true: If not for the White Abolitionists who were Constantly urging congress to take action regarding freeing the slaves, Lincoln would most likely have not issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a white woman, Harriet Beecher Stowe who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin which Galvanized the Country over the Slavery issue. Lincoln shook her hand once and said,’So you’re the little lady who caused all this fuss!’
    This is why I have consistently argued with some commentators who consistently demonize whites. Every Ethnic Group is a conglomeration of idealogies and Factors and it’s simply naive and Simplistic logic to demonize such a huge section of any population. Here’s the article:

    ‘So on the surface, these findings about religion among African Americans may seem rather contradictory, at least from a political point of view. Specifically, it is understandable that African Americans tend to be more religious than the general population and as a direct result of that, they overwhelmingly oppose same sex marriage.

    ‘But with that in mind, how can it be that African Americans are also consistently and overwhelmingly Democratic in terms of political identification? In other words, how can a group be so strongly opposed to same sex marriage but at the same time, so strongly support the political party that tends to favor same sex marriage?

    ‘There is likely a variety of reasons for this apparent paradox, but my purpose here is not to delve into them in great detail, nor to explore the morality of the opinion among many African Americans in opposition to same sex marriage — other academics and commentators have much more expertise than me in that regard.

    ‘Instead, I would just point out that this phenomenon shows us that the African American community is not simplistic and unidimensional. Rather, it is quite complex and even at times, contradictory. In this sense, it is much like the White population, the Asian American population, the Latino population, and pretty much all kinds of human social groups.

    ‘That is, much of American society can be accurately categorized and predictable but on the other hand, much can also be quite contradictory and confusing at times as well. In either case, studies like this should prompt us to look beyond simple generalizations and instead, to recognize and examine the multiple dimensions of characteristics, experiences, and attitudes among African Americans or any other racial, ethnic, or cultural group in contemporary American society.’
    I am a strong anti-racist and you don’t enter into the profession I’m in if you Are a Racist…suffice to say.
    I know so many compassionate whites that work so hard in the persuit of educating children of all ethnic backgrounds so they can obtain the Precious Gift of an Educated Mind…that it is unsettling for me to hear All Whites lumped into some ogre Enemy Camp. Once again, let’s look for Commonality among races instead of Drawing Lines in the Sand in a ‘them versus us’ stance.

  43. siss

    I think that video was tragic. However, this would be an excellent opportunity for so-called “reparations”. To give these students a fighting chance, academically speaking.

  44. MOM@SIS

    And, that is the difference between MLK “Man of the people/great spritual leader” and Jessie Jackson “Man for himself” In fact, because of his love of thy self, I really don’t know which side of the political arena he stands, but I do not believe he’s not and Man of for anybody, but himself, and a trouble maker at that. Although, I will admit, that he did calm down a lot throughout the years. Maybe it has to do with the fact that his son is a Senator or Congressman. I also have done an in dept study of this man and he is the one that came up with the “Reparations” word. Tell ya what we can put everybody on a reservation in the middle of the dessert and they could get all the education they want and not pay taxes. Do you really think that would go over with some of the professional “black” people today, including Jessie? I think not, and what about the reparations for everybody that has been brainwashed in this society into thinking that we actually live in a free country. I know many white people that have suffered under the whip of the elitist white men in this country, and now are dead. I think everybody could use a break.. What about women reparations when in fact we did not get to vote in this country until 1920 and were encouraged to stay home and be homemakers and have children? What about reparations for the “white” people that suffer from the same lower social economic class as many of the black people do. Apparently, there whiteness does not do anything for them to survive in this country. And, how about reparations for all minority classes? Spanish, Asian, Italian, Etc. HUMMM? LOL

  45. Mom

    I like what Ellen wrote because one of the many things that I admire about the “black” women is that most of them that I know have a very strong faith in God. I truly believe out of anybody else in this country they are the ones that deserve any kind or reparation. Especially, the women of the lower social economic class. I really believe that beside the Native Indian people they have suffered the most out of any other minority group of people..And, I am drawn to them because I admire their strength as human beings. Also, I will tell you how I feel about Mrs. Obama. I feel that Michelle Obama is the true change/historical event that took place in this country the day that her husband was elected into office. And, I hope that she will be able to mark the change for all African American women in this country. Also, I hope, she will help all people of the lower social ladder, so that there will be some fairness for all people.

  46. siss

    @Mom: as you have probably seen by now, is that I am opposed to monetary reparations, which is what most people think of when that term is dropped. And because of this common connotation, I try to avoid the subject all-together. I’m not sure if that was what you had in mind when I mentioned it and thus the reason for your response. As far as reparation for whites and other non-black poc – this is where it gets tricky. So my solution is instead of “reparations” per se, I think we could solve education inequities (which usually leads to income gaps…which leads to many other problems that reparations in designed to address) by focusing on improving education across the board.

    Our government needs to direct a larger portion of our budget to education – not just for “reparations” sake but for our country’s competition in world knowledge. Within that scope, they need to target failing school (like the one referenced in the clip) and bring them up to acceptable levels; finally after stabilizing the new base – then begin adding other perks (large swimming pools, etc) if the budget allows.

    Even with these lofty goals/dreams, I do wonder about the scenario that will ensue when children formally from a run down school get dropped into a brand new facility – will things change? Will having better computers, better books and maybe even better faculty ensure that the attitude will change? For some students, it most certainly will. But for others, who have been exposed to a degenerative environment and revel in it, will their attitudes and motivations change? Maybe, maybe not.

    Having said that, we shouldn’t base our decision to grant better educational opportunities on the percentage of students positively affected. .. but it’s just something I think about.

  47. Mom@SIS

    I agree with you about the education. However, and unfortunately, because of the extreme oppression in the ghettos, and where there is “Gangs” it probably would be very difficult to rehabilitate the older teens. However, I truly believe the younger the children are, and if exposed to a better environment it could work.. I just watched another documentary about prisons/gangs/ and most of those people in there are from lower social economic areas. There are a lot of problems from those areas that I don’t think I would like to discuss on-line, but what I truly believe is that there are people in those areas that may have a chance, and the younger the better. Also, I feel, that our prisons are over run with people that if given a chance they would make dam good Marines. There should be some kind of rehabilitation for them, and the prisons do nothing, but sit back, and watch how they act like animals with each other, and then spend millions of dollars each year for special forces to go into those prisons for “shake downs”. Just think if some of those people could actually be rehabilitated they would not need half of those prisons. There is a prison out west the name of it is Wasburn, and they have been trying to rehabilitate their prisoners, so that when they get out they would have a chance in life. However, I feel, that all non-violent offenders should be sent into the Army or Marines at least that is what they did years ago, and it helped a lot of people turn their lives around for the better..Money/Greed/Control

  48. MOM@SIS

    I’m not saying this to be mean, but have you ever visited a ghetto? Some of those kids are in gangs from the age of 10 years old, and sell drugs, and are exposed to things that you couldn’t imagine. I believe a lot of their parents need to be rehabilitated as well.. There needs to be a whole “shake down” of the environment not just better school facilities.. This is what I think may help. I feel that the people in the ghettos not only should get better education, but better housing, and there should be teams of people talking to some of the older adults and help to rehabilitate/training opportunities etc. I feel, rather then pumping new money into more prisons they should be taking all non-violent offenders and putting them into the military like they did in the 1970’s, which saved a lot of people’s lives, and they became successful people after the service. In prisons they have gangs. The prisons do nothing to, but sit back and watch these people act like animals, however, once in a while the prison with spend millions to have “shake downs” to make sure there are no weapons. There is something very wrong with the system today. If we did not have criminals we would not need as many prisons, right? Money/Power/Greed/Control! I guess, my outlook on things are a little different, but I watch what’s going on, and the hardest hit are the lower social economic class. However, without those people there would not be as many jobs for the “justice” system. Sorry this is how I feel. I’ve actually sat in court one day and watched a Judge do a TV interview with a prisoner, and the Judge was trying to explain to the prisoner his rights, and everybody in the court room was laughing at this prisoner, but me. Do you know why because every time the Judge would say “Sir” you do have a right to a court appointed attorney, the prisoner would say, that’s alright Judge I’m fine were I’m at. I suspect that prisoner was living better inside that prison then he had it out on the street, or in his place of residents, which was a ghetto part of town. Now, with that being said, do you really think a better learning facility with a pool and better teachers would of make a difference to that kind of a person. There needs to be reform not only were these people attend school, but also in how they live, and sometimes when the “police” get to know you they always have it out for that person. It’s a never ending merry-go-round for some poor souls who are again brought into this world be chance, and not by choice.

  49. ellen says

    I agree with Siss regarding the reparations issue. It would be impossible to calculate monetary value earned by ancestors {slaves} of black citizens today.
    Instead, let’s put money into better educational facilities for black children.
    As far as ‘how many blacks would benefit from state of the art educational resources’. Well, that depends on their home environment. If their parents are insisting the kids do homework and read for pleasure and take them to the library etc…yes, it makes a difference. It doesn’t matter if the parents have a college education. What matters is if parents place a high value on education, period.
    That said, this is sometimes hard to do in a poverty stricken environment. It means {of necessity} keeping children Away From Other Kids who are trying to sell them drugs, enforcing curfews, taking an unpopular stance as in ‘Do what I say or else.’ Parenting ain’t easy. I oughta know.

    For middle class ‘working class’ blacks..I think with more money spent on education.. a difference can be made. For blacks in housing projects..this is Tough. How can you keep your kids clean when so much of their environment is trying to drag them down?

  50. ellen says

    I work with Asian students whose parents can’t even speak English. Many of them do not have college educations, even from their country of origin. Yet, they Insist on Their Kids Being Stuffed With as Much Information as their little heads can hold.

    Plus, Asians are very supportive of Each Other. They form strong social networks {I’ve seen this in operation!} in which they, as a unit, Support Education and Intellectualism in their kids. For a teenager to oppose one parent means they are opposing the whole group..so the kids pretty much stay in line.
    By the time they’re in high school they’re Sold on the education philosophy and start aiming at an Ivy League college. And they are ferocious in this persuit. Community Solidarity. But everybody’s gotta be on the same page or it won’t work! For Asians, failure is not an option. We can All learn from this philosophy.

  51. siss

    @mom: I think military rehabilitation is an excellent idea, at least for non-violent offenders. And as far as the ghetto… I grew up in one, but was lucky enough to be funneled into an amazing school (the best in our district at the time) and subsequently did very well : )

    @ellen: You are correct, much of the child’s success is contingent on their environment. This is the part that government money can’t really fix. We can’t mandate that parents be interested in, or make education a priority, even though we probably should. With all the motivation they can muster, if a child’s achievements are ignored (or worse, ridiculed), you will see them begin to disengage and ultimately give up.

    As for the Asian-Americans, their familial network is unbelievably strong. In my experiences, it boils down to cultural differences. This may seem like the “white frame” in action, but it really is not, otherwise Asian-American students wouldn’t be whipping our @$$ in academics. If African-Americans, Whites, Latin@s, etc. could tap into that determination, imagine what our country could become? Now, that’s not to say that if you’re Asian, you’re educationally-centered, but it is a reasonable conclusion. It is something that we should try and emulate.

  52. distance88

    Hmm, we can all learn from the ancient, wise, inscrutable, no-nonsense Asian philosophy, can we?
    What about all of the Asian immigrants who come to this country and struggle? Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, and Laotian immigrants don’t fare as well as, say Japanese, Chinese, and Korean immigrants do. The data simply don’t support your anecdote–many Asian immigrants come to this country after achieving some level of success in their native country–the rags to riches meme just doesn’t fit.
    This whole model minority myth does a huge disservice to all parties involved–it glosses over the actual discrimination that Asians have faced in the past and currently, and it reinforces the misguided notion among whites that “if Asians can come to the U.S. and succeed, what’s wrong with the blacks and Hispanics?” Other minorities may start to buy into this false notion and begin to resent Asians and their “model minority” status.
    While having a strong work ethic and a commitment to education are important, these aren’t the sole factors determining one’s success. Comparing one immigrant group who came to this country of their own volition with another group who was brought here in chains does not make for a credible argument or fair comparison.

  53. ellen says

    distance 88 said: ‘Other minorities may start to buy into this false notion and begin to resent Asians and their “model minority” status.’
    You’re right! We wouldn’t want other minorities to buy into the work ethic. It might make them Resent Asians. Excellent point. This work ethic might rub off on school aged children..and then there’d be the devil to pay!
    Also, the fact that I’ve worked with Asians from all different countries in Asia {one man from Vietnam came here..actually escaped from the Khmer Rouge Regime when he was 19} and taught himself English {but don’t tell anybody!} He then put himself through the University of Rhode Island and received 3 Degrees: one in physics, chemistry and mechanical engineering. However, this had Nothing to Do with being a Wise Asian..as you pointed out.
    Also, I previously posted a comment that stated a study I read that Willing Immigrants Do Much Better in America than Immigrants who were Brought here in Chains. The blacks did not Choose to be here. Right again.
    However, the next commentator told me that black citizens can hardly be called immigrants since they’ve been here for 400 years. Good point. I wonder if blacks visited other countries..which place would they choose to live in? I am very serious. Maybe Africa, Canada? What do you think?

  54. ellen says

    distance 88 said:’What about all of the Asian immigrants who come to this country and struggle?’
    I don’t know if you misread my post or not. My point was that All the Asians do come to this country and Struggle 7 Days a Week until they live in a $300,000 house and their kids go to Yale. What about them? What exactly was your point?

  55. MOM@SIS

    @ SIS- You go girl! We have a couple things in common..I’m glad you are in agreement with me about the military. I’ve known several people that when the Vietnam war was going on that had a choice Vietnam or Jail.. Well, needless to say, they choose Vietnam, and now are getting ready to retire as Engineers from the military..So, anyway, things have changed a lot, but really, in some areas not so good..Also, I am glad you had the opportunity to go through a good school. I was not as lucky. I didn’t start school until my thirty’s, and have been in school ever since. Although, I stress to my own children the importance of school and try to encourage them to continue even when they think they are done. I feel that they would also have a better chance to survive in this world with an education then without one, so that’s why I kinda “harp” on them every chance that I get. LOL

  56. siss

    @distance: which child or parent that we referred to was brought here in chains? None. While their ancestors might, that petty jab adds nothing to the discussion. We acknowledged that because of past injustices (like slavery, etc), disparities have arisen in schools.

    And while some Asians come here by their own accord, AA’s still have advantages newly migrated peoples (of all nationalities) do not (knowing the language, having family here, established access to community networks). Both face struggles, albeit different ones – no one is arguing that. As for the model minority myth, it’s not all false. I do agree that it glosses over some (i.e. hmong) and places them into one “can-do-no-wrong” category, but the only way to combat that is through exposure to the hardships they face.

    Myths in general are just people’s perceptions, reinforced with passed down misinformation. However untrue they may be according to the statistics, simply pointing that out doesn’t always debunk the myth. Until you introduce the correct perceptions into people’s reality, people will still think “If Asians can do it, why can’t (insert ethic group) do it?”. And as you pointed out: if [others feel resentment towards Asians for receiving praise for their achievements] (and thus being used as an example), then shame on them. That’s how people learn, through examples. The Asian community is not a perfect example but still serves as a gauge of what can be accomplished when faced with barriers.

  57. ellen says

    @ distance 88:
    Thought you might find this interesting. Another Asian-American does it again!STOCKHOLM – Three Americans whose 1960s research laid the foundation for today’s world of computerized images and lightning-fast communication shared the 2009 Nobel Prize in physics Tuesday for their work developing fiber-optic cable and the sensor at the heart of digital cameras.

    Charles K. Kao, 75, was cited for discovering how to transmit light signals over long distances through glass fibers as thin as a human hair. His 1966 breakthrough led to the creation of modern fiber-optic communication networks that carry voice, video and high-speed Internet data around the world.

  58. Jenni M.

    Although I truly don’t mean to be disrespectful, I have to say I am troubled by some of the opinions being passed back and forth in these most recent comments because there are many that seem to be stereotypical generalizations and, at a quick glance, appear to be supported by mostly anectdotal evidence at best. Indeed, there is much research evidence that would contradict may of the points being made here, but in the interest of time and space let me address what I see as one major, over-arching issue. I want to urge us to move away from the tendency (which is admittedly very common in the larger society) to assume that all life outcomes are simply the product of people’s individual choices, and move toward understanding more completely that people’s personal choices interact heavily with the social context in which they are made. I thought in our discussion of schooling above (re: the Oprah clip) we were moving in this direction, but now I feel we’ve lost that a bit. Regarding Asian American success, research documents, as siss and distance88 pointed out, that social-structural factors typically play a large role in that success. So, for example, even if Asian immigrants come to the U.S. with few material resources (and many come with some financial assets), they often arrive with educational credentials, work experience or elite status in their countries of origin which facilitates their adaptation and success here. Of course, when the story gets told of how they achieved success, both they and the larger society tends to suggest it was simply individual or even “cultural” characteristics (“we had nothing – we worked hard, and poof – we have our $300,000 house”). This totally overlooks the structural influences on their success. Also overlooked is that fact that while there is no doubt much discrimination against Asians and Asian Americans (and I do not at all want to invalidate the reality of this fact), public sentiment towards Asians often accents more “positive” stereotyping (the model-minority stuff), and so the racial hostility directed toward them (e.g., in searching for jobs, housing, etc.) tends to be less intense than say, anti-black hostility (e.g., an employer may be more inclined to extend an opportunity to an Asian/Asian American, whom s/he attributes “positive” stereotypes to, than a black American, whom s/he attributes “negative” stereotypes to; ditto for a white family’s reaction to an Asian family moving into the neighborhood versus a black family, etc.). Again, as they may influence a person’s achievement, opportunities or success, these are factors outside an individual’s control, but which can constrain (or enhance) a person’s opportunities, and yet, are often left out of the accounting of what leads to success (or failure) altogether – and so the story, and admonition remains – just work harder!
    Now, to connect this with the issue of how Asians/Asian Americans may interact or be perceived by other groups of color, let’s not lose what the key issue is here. There is some research that documents hostility between Asians/Asian Americans and other groups of color – nonetheless, this hostility tends to originate not so much from, say, petty jealousy or cultural differences as it does from these larger, structural issues. Maybe more importantly, we need to appreciate how the model minority myth is part of the dominant white racial frame that we often talk about here on the site (and, to be clear, although I can’t speak for all the comments made on this site, when race scholars discuss whites, whiteness, white framing, etc., the goal is not to “demonize” whites, or to neglect the heterogeneity of racial groups, but rather to document and analyze predominant *patterns* of behavior, and the socio-historical reality of racial oppression and white privilege that we find ourselves in both in the U.S. and globally) . So, let’s ask ourselves, how does a “model minority” ideology support the reproduction of racial oppression and white supremacy? Whom does this ideology ultimately serve? The myth is part of the dominant discourse in society *because,* among other purposes, it suggests that racism and racial oppression are NOT REAL – it “punishes” other groups of colors by saying, “see – Asians made it, racial oppression must not be an issue – why don’t you do better?” And, because it totally overshadows the structural forces that have facilitated the success of many Asians (the resources I discuss above), and those that have hindered black success (for example, the institutionalized racism of our educational system, which we all seem to agree is significant), it makes it look as if success or failure really does just come down to personal choices.
    Additionally, it encourages Asians to accept a “middleman” position in the society, because while they do face much discrimination and racism, they are encouraged to see themselves as different from other groups of color and not “rock the boat” lest they face a placement closer to blacks, as opposed to what some have termed “honorary white” status. And, of course, because this ideology can alienate groups of color from one another, it also often prevents their coalition-building against the true enemy, which is white supremacy (not neo-Nazis, but the white supremacy that has and continues to organize all major insitutions in the U.S., etc.).
    I know there’s more to say, but I’ll close for now cuz this is already gotten too long . . .

  59. MOM

    I’ve never realized that Asians were discriminated against. I have always know Asian people to be very quite and family oriented. However, I’m sure that maybe the Vietnamese people maybe looked at hard by some of the men that served in the Vietnam, and for good reason. I know men today that also suffer from PTSD from that war, and the only brother I have had been shot three times, and is paralyze in his left leg, and permanently disable. I guess, maybe because of World War Two and the Vietnam war there would be a little weariness from some of the Men in this country towards those classes of people. However, most people that don’t go through those kinds of experiences would not understand. In fact, my favorite neighbor is one of those sufferers as well, and he lost both legs from that war.. I don’t understand how people would not understand the feelings of some of these men. And, I’ve said many times before nobody will take the time to understand another persons plight unless is hits home. It seems that maybe research does not take into consideration of the “why” are these some of these people discriminated against, because there are as many reasons as there are people. We all do not fit into the same MOLD. We are a different and unique individuals because of our unique and different experiences. However, I may look at Asians different because I never had any bad experiences with those people because I did not stand in a jungle all day long, in a tree, dressed like at tree, waiting for them to come walking by, so we could shoot at each other. Imagine! I did not see my best buddy get blown into pieces after I just shared my last cigarette with them. Imagine! So, again, maybe there would be a little weariness from some of the MEN in this country towards those people, and I’m sure those people may “feel” the same way towards the MEN in this country as well. Imagine!

  60. siss

    Thanks Jenni for your response. I agree that there is probably a ton of research out there that contradicts some of what we have been discussing. Somewhat recently (within the last several months if I recall) another post got side tracked into the Asian/model minority topic. I don’t remember the research presented but I what I walked away with was that their seemingly ‘perfect’ status in society – wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. Like I said, I don’t remember the specifics about the study, maybe crime or something, to it left a lasting impression.

    However, like you pointed out, much of our world views are based on anecdotal evidence, at best. From a scholar’s prospective, I can see were it is flawed to base an argument, and subsequent judgment, on one’s personal experiences. This is another thing that I have learned on this site to try and temper down those “personal stories” so they don’t get in the way of me seeing the larger picture. Having said that, I do think that airing out our experiences (not using them as weapons in an attempt to invalidate scientific research) is useful in that it offers a safe space to confront issues, such as stereotypes like the one we are discussing. In my mind, what causes a point of contention is ‘Why are my [and come whites] experiences and the research correlating?’ ‘Why has it almost never correlated?’

    When you speak about not “demonizing” whites, I don’t think that it’s the intent of this site or the scholars that write here. But much like racism that is unintentional, is still racism – this too is very akin to demonizing, in that no positives regarding race-relations are mentioned. I know, I know. This site isn’t intended for that purpose. But, don’t be surprised when people feel that way.

    Getting back to Model Minority Theme: Imo, this is a just a stereotype. In my previous post I mentioned that it’s not all false, as some stereotypes are not totally false. My point is that why would we give a positive light on Asians and not other minorities? I have a few ideas but would be interested to here yours, Jenni, or any others.

  61. Mom

    Mose of the Asian people that I know don’t collect food stamps and welfare. Most of them own their own businesses and are very dependent on their families if they need help. Most children are either encouraged to go to school or get a job. There is a big difference in some of the Asian religions depending on what part of Asia you are from. The Asian people’s religious views plays a big part on how they view themselves and the world around them. I know HINDU Asian people that are some of the most interesting people that you would want to talk to, and I do. LOL However, there are Asians that believe in other religions like Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, which like I said, depending what part of Asia they are from may be why they are viewed differently, and in a much more positive way. I like to read about all the different religions of the world, and have found that HINDU are about the most open minded people on our planet. However, some of the other religions like Buddhism is a spiritual religion, as well, as the HINDU. I find, that most Asian are very in tuned with what they believe in. I don’t edit my writing that much, so I can only imagine what y’all think, but I really do try to get my point across..

  62. ellen says

    @ Jenni and Siss:
    Love Both you guys..so don’t anybody take anything as ellen’s a creep..{even though sometimes I do think about strangling my ex-boyfriend.lol}
    Siss said: ‘When you speak about not “demonizing” whites, I don’t think that it’s the intent of this site or the scholars that write here. But much like racism that is unintentional, is still racism – this too is very akin to demonizing, in that no positives regarding race-relations are mentioned.’
    I have to say Jenni, this exactly reflects my sentiments. I don’t think the administration’s intent is at all to demonize whites, but rather to ask us to view Racism as a construct and ‘whiteness’ as a construct that can lead to robotic sometimes subconscious racism. However, many commentators on here seem to truely Hate White People. I have had numerous altercations with people who Would Not Cut Me the Slightest Slack..as in ‘You just said that cause you’re white’ {and I hadn’t even been talking about race!} and ‘You just think that cause you’re white’ etc.
    Not everything out of my mouth is due to my ‘whiteness’ as not everything out of a black person’s mouth is due to his/her ‘blackness’. Truth to tell, black citizens would be up in arms if anyone said to them, ‘You just said that cause you’re black’, ‘You just think that cause you’re black’.
    Personal experiences, as Siss pointed out, will Never Be Dismissed by individuals. You can’t ‘Erase’ what somebody observes and has felt on a daily basis. This site staunchly supports what blacks Feel and Experience on a daily basis; are a white person’s experiences any less valid? I have personally experienced Asians who I work with Vehemently Push Their Children toward educational persuits. This is an admirable trait.
    For whatever reason, I have seen approximately 50% of the white students I’ve worked with really push themselves in the classroom. The other half are relatively indifferent. I have also seen approximately 50% of the black kids really push themselves in the classroom. The other half are relatively indifferent. In regard to Asians? 95% push themselves in the classroom. Studies are perfectly fine, but as long as I’ve been in this profession, it’s impossible for me to discount Years and Years of observation.

  63. Jenni M.

    @ siss – Thanks for your thoughtful response. To your questions as to why create “positive” stereotypes around Asians, the seeds of that answer are in my response above (i.e. it encourages Asians to accept a “middleman” position in society, it distances Asians from other groups of color to prevent coalition-building, and most importantly, it is used against other people of color to invalidate their (legitimate) claims re: racism).

    One scholar, Claire Jean Kim, argues that Asian Americans are “racially triangulated” in the U.S. racial hierarchy – that is, whites (as the major power and dominant ideology brokers in society) grant them a place above blacks and Latinos on the hierarchical “ladder,” but still position them below whites, particularly as regards their “foreignness” (hence Asian Americans who’ve been here for generations being asked “where are you from?”; or the figureskating headline back in the 2000 Olympics, “American beats out Kwan” – although Michelle Kwan is an American, the headline “otherizes” her as outside the American umbrella, etc.). Again, this triangulation serves to protect and maintain white power while also invalidating the reality of racial oppression. It cannot be overstated how powerful the “if Asians made it why can’t blacks and Latinos” sentiment is in perpetuating the belief that racism is not a major factor in American life.

  64. ellen says

    Jenni Said: “if Asians made it why can’t blacks and Latinos”?
    Despite what some may have inferred from my post: I am actually Not an advocate of this type of thinking. It’s much too simplistic and simply not fair. Plus, the triangulation theory was interesting. Thank you.
    I think it’s hard for me {because of the way I was raised} to visualize whites deliberately placing Asians on checkerboard square # 2 and Blacks and Latinos on checkerboard square # 3..as if whites had this God-like power.
    I was raised in a business family where the World of Business dominated the discussion at the dinner table. The only thing that won respect in our house was ‘Entrepreneurial Smarts’. This meant that my parents admired Any race that worked in our town and ‘made it.’ They started out with nothing..no accumulated wealth..and became relatively successful. But They Were White of course.
    They never made racist jokes, very much encouraged education in {especially } history, and pretty much held the philosophy ‘you get whatever you’re willing to settle for’ and ‘if you want to make it, you’ve got to work harder than the average guy’. No sympathy was alloted to the ‘whiners’. I did not see ‘Power Brokers’ cause my parents obviously did not have this kind of power! Thus, when I think of institutionalized racism, there’s a voice inside of me that says, ‘yeah..but my family did not do this.’
    I think this is the problem with trying to sell many well-intentioned whites with feeling guilty regarding racism. They come home exhausted from working and then are asked to feel guilty. I understand your points Jenni, I’m merely stating another observation.

  65. Mom

    Question? If anybody could answer, I’d really appreciate this and I’m not being a smart b***, but I would really like to know who are the “whites” that your always talking about. Is it all whites? Is it whites in politics? Is it white men? Are they whites from a certain ethnic group? (I think this may be the answer). I know a lot of white people that don’t put as much energy into half these topics because they really don’t have the time, but obviously, some white people do. I would like to know who these people are. Again, I come to you with a question of curiosity or lack of understanding and not with contempt. Thanks

  66. siss

    I guess I was heading in another direction in re to positive aspects. Those things you mentioned both now and in your prior post seem to be unconscience motives (from white supremacy), ie the postion on the latter.

    What I was getting at was the conscience and tangible traits that are more appealing to whites than other persons of color. Since we are discussing education, I’ll use that as an example. Why does it *seem* (key word)that Asians do study more, do better on exams, have better discipline in the classroom and home, etc. Why would we think this if at least some of it wasnt true? Granted, I’m certain that there is a lot we don’t see….

  67. ellen says

    OK..here’s what’s problematic when discussing racism. Where does the institutionalized racism Stop and the personal responsibility Start? This is a Huge and Perplexing Challenge.
    I think black students should receive Every Possible Break. They should have beautiful facilities, an abundance of text books, first rate teaching staff. Agree wholeheartedly..always have. However, black kids have to do their homework, pay attention in class, not be disruptive and actively participate in the teaching process. There’s a point at which nobody should assign blame as in ‘well,where they live isn’t conducive to doing homework’ or ‘well, his/her mother doesn’t help with homework’ or ‘well, in his/her family scholastic achievement isn’t a priority’. Well, who’s going to make it a priority?
    Aren’t blacks responsible for Any of their Behavior or should we look the other way at all problematic actions? Because we can do this in an academic setting Forever. Fact is, this is infantilizing millions and millions of adult black Americans.
    I had a commentator on here state once {after I pointed out that slavery existed in Africa for thousands of years before white Europeans brought it to America} that ‘slavery in Africa was kinder than the slavery practiced in America.’ So, when black men practice slavery, it’s kind. But when white men practice slavery it’s cruel? Slavery is Slavery. Ask the poor individual who’s enslaved. I think he’d agree.
    I pointed out that the ACORN video was revealing of government monies being poured into an organization that was {in some instances..3 different tapes shown in 3 different cities} abusing and mis-using funds. I suggested investigating {not Closing Down!} Acorn.
    Also, would it have hurt the employees One Iota to refuse service to the prostitute? No. I was criticized repeatedly for taking this stance. I was accused of ‘helping the Right’. If the Right uses this for political castigation, then shame on them. However, I will not condone Human Trafficking..that’s Personal Responsibility. The ACORN employees had a choice..they chose to aid and abet human trafficking of under-age girls. Would you want these women to babysit your children? Why? Cause you’re a Racist, or because their personal values don’t reflect your personal values?
    I think ACORN is a great organization. But it needs to help the citizens it was intended to help. I want my tax dollars to support the ACORN that was instituted to help poor people obtain loans, not aid prostitutes.
    Again: where does racism stop and personal responsibility kick in? Any responses? Time and again, this issue arises.

  68. Mom

    I feel personal responsibility kicks in when the individual has no other choice then to be responsible. Unfortunately, not many people of all races know the true meaning of be responsible for themselves. I am not talking about responsibility with the world, I’m more inclined to think being responsible is on a personal level like your behavior with other people. Meaning the only person that can be responsible for you, is you. I see so many people from all class, race, religions, etc including, scholars etc. that eagerly point the finger at someone for their misfortunes, and not look at themselves for any thing that they may have done to aggravate the situation.. There are so many, many people from all social class and race that do this that it is a normal reaction for most human beings on the planet. There are not too many people that sit back and analyzes a situation, and try to figure out if they had done something wrong, and try to correct what they did wrong to make it a right. NO the average person don’t care, as long as they feel they are right even though they may be wrong, so they can win money, fame, or a useless argument with a friend, family, or anybody else. This all has to do with the ego of a human being. Unless a person feels enough personal pain on a personal level they will always be right, and never look at themselves in any other way, until proven wrong. This is “human nature”. However, as far as ACRON those people have lived that was since they probably were born and what they are doing in normal to them. Unless, of course they are told it’s wrong or suffer from the consequence of their actions, (this involve pain), so they could be more responsible for themselves, otherwise, they will continue to behave that way because it’s normal for them. I see many people that live in upper society all over the world that do things to people that are wrong, but nobody will say your wrong, so they continue to behave that way. Being responsible for yourself is a very personal decision that a persons makes for themselves, unfortunately, it takes great pain for a person the “wake up”, and change the way they are treating other people, and the start living a more responsible life. Responsibility comes on many levels not just paying bills, going to school, paying taxes etc. Those things will following after a person learns how to be responsible for themselves first. 🙂

    I guess, nobody answered my question, maybe, because I must search for it myself? That’s OK I am used to doing research. I will come back an tell you the answer when I find it. Thanks:)

  69. Mom

    Correction: Responsibility comes on many levels not just paying bills, going to school, paying taxes etc. However, for some people, those things will follow after a person learns how to be responsible for themselves first. 🙂 Those people that learn this simple thought of responsibility turn out to be the best that society has to offer. Maybe this is what Jesus was talking about when he said “And the last shall come first” 🙂

  70. siss

    @ellen: That is a great question that often gets overlooked when proposed in an anti-racist conversation. I, too, have thought about this. As for an answer, I don’t think we will find a cut and dry one.

    Some may argue that a child’s personal environment has a serious influence over other factors like discipline, motivation, etc. While I agree, and have seen those effects first hand with one of my nephews, that still doesn’t exonerate the child from all responsibility. I think that in the grey area of when, like ellen mentioned, is what needs to generate more discussion and analysis.

    If each child is different, in terms of maturity, degree of environmental degradation, personal self-worth, etc., how do we set a standard of when racism stops and responsibility starts? And in additional to how, should we draw a line? My answer is yes we should, but as for how we go about tackling this problem…. That’s where I get stuck!

  71. Mom

    Most court rooms in this country take into consideration of “mitigating circumstance”. In other words, a lot of Judge’s use this when they make the final judgment of a persons sentencing. Mitigating Circumstance should be used when addressing a persons level of responsibility as well. I feel this would be the fairest way when looking at the person/child/individual. The problem is that most people do not look at a person’s mitigating circumstance. Maybe this could be a way that we as a society could look at the responsibility level of a persons behavior in all fairness. There are no “bad” people, however, there are bad behaviors, of some people. Unless, of course, the people are criminally insane. There are a lot of techniques that could be used to change the behavior of a lot of people, but the way I see it, is that most people don’t really want to take the time and help. I’ve seen many teacher’s that observe a child with some hyper behavior, and complain about that child then the next thing you know the child is medicated/labeled for the rest of their lives. A lot has changed over the years, and there are many people labeling children that are not qualified to do so. However, if they actually looked beyond the child’s behavior, and found out the way the child was living, then maybe, there could be a behavior modification programs set up to help those children cope with stress in their lives that they have no control over as child. Also, that would avoid the labels, which I feel, destroys a child self esteem, and on top of what that child may be going through at home. Geez! I feel it’s a lose, lose situation for a lot of children, especially, for children born into lower social economic environments. I guess, what I may be suggesting is to simple, but in all honesty, there are pharmaceutical companies making a lot of money off these labels that they place on a person…And, the quality of some of the teacher’s out there is very poor, and they would rather see a child medicated, as to avoid some work on their part then to actually help a child to achieve their fullest potential.

  72. Kristen

    ellen said OK..here’s what’s problematic when discussing racism. Where does the institutionalized racism Stop and the personal responsibility Start? This is a Huge and Perplexing Challenge.
    I have heard this type of question many times, and I think I understand the sentiment. But I’m going to address what I think are some problematic assumptions and implications of this question.
    First, institutional racism doesn’t “stop” anywhere. Preferences for whites are embedded in the normal operating procedures of every institutional force in our society. (Joe Feagin explains this well in his books Racist America and Systemic Racism.)
    Second, this question implies that people of color are sorely lacking in personal responsibility and this contributes to their lesser outcomes. Personally I’ve never felt comfortable telling people whose lives I’ve never lived that they’re doing a bad job dealing with their circumstances.
    Third, the question implies that people of color don’t assume responsibility for their outcomes. Ethnographic studies consistently demonstrate that poor folks and people of color tend to attribute their failures and difficulties to their own shortcomings. This is the great tragedy of your question – people of color blame themselves nearly as much as the mainstream society does. You can bet that every Sunday countless sermons are preached in black churches about the need for black people to fix all the problems plaguing black communities. People *are* taking responsibility.
    Fourth, the question gets confused over where power lies and how it operates. Let’s not let ourselves naively believe that people in destitute situations have a huge ability to control their life chances.
    (Regarding my second, third, and fourth points, I highly recommend Jay MacLeod’s ethnography Ain’t No Makin’ It. It illustrates very acutely how institutional racism can throw up insurmountable barriers in front of the most motivated, achievement-oriented, inner-city black males.)
    Fifth, what about white people’s “personal responsibility?” Say, responsibility to start giving black men a fair chance for jobs, or responsibility for addressing our racial privileges. The question implies that white people’s outcomes are not in fact directly tied to people of color’s – for example, for centuries wealth has flowed from communities of color into the hands of white families and white institutions. We are all personally invested in the current state of our racial affairs. You can’t ask people of color to “take responsibility” unless you ask it of everyone.
    Sixth, the question assumes that, even if we do everything we can to address institutional racism, it may not be enough. I believe it will. Take a good look at the history of white ethnic immigration to the U.S. – the experiences of Irish Americans, for example. It becomes clear that when people are given access to opportunities enjoyed by the mainstream and stop being discriminated against, they adapt accordingly, and their outcomes rise slowly to rival the dominant group. In other words, it is causal in one direction.
    Last – and most important – it is a fine question for philosophical pondering, I suppose. However, when it comes to deciding what we are going to do as a society to address racial inequality, this question can distract from the *known* task at hand – namely, that institutional racism is real and we have a responsibility to work to eradicate it. Period.
    Along this line, we must acknowledge that (white) institutions alone hold the power to root our institutional racism. People of color, through their efforts at personal accomplishment, cannot accomplish this.

  73. mom@Kristen

    Your last question was very interesting. I suppose by identifying a problem first would be the answer. Only when people find out there is a problem; then people can try to find a solution. Most average people walking around don’t know anything about these topics. However, how do you propose to “spread the word”. As far as institutional racism who are the people responsible for dishing out equality? Are they the same people that don’t know about the “white racial frame” of thinking? I am for all people not just a chosen few, so how could you expect the millions of people that are born into this society that don’t have a clue about being brainwashed into a certain way of thinking, and try to fix the problem.. However, I feel that any person that discovers this problem has a responsibly to try to make a difference in the way that they behave, but to expect millions of people to change that don’t know that a problem exist is kinda wishing on a star. I don’t mean to be rude, but this is the reality of how society is. And, there will come a day that this discussion will not matter anymore. However, when you stated that Black people go to church every Sunday and try to act like responsible people, that’s good. There are many white people that do the same, but do know about what’s going on outside their own lives. There is no philosophical answer to the question, but some common sense may be all that is needed. The answer how do you expect society to change a problem when society dose not know that there is a problem . And, no fault of their own if they have been brainwashed from birth. Maybe the answer is as old a man himself. Until people wake up and realize that we all need each other for our own survival there will always be problems between people. The “white frame” is not a moral issue it’s a control issue. There are a lot of good people walking around out there that would treat everybody the same. I guess they are the ones that think for themselves. Patience!

  74. ellen says

    @ MOM:
    Wow! President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize! Are you thrilled or What! This is so huge..I’m still trying to digest it. Well, this will Make a Huge Difference in the way he’s perceived by racists, don’t you think? I mean, they Have to Acknowledge this! I feel very gratified. There is Good in the World After all. 🙂

  75. Jenni M.

    First, I want to thank Kristen for chiming into our conversation – I haven’t had a chance to respond to some of the points that ellen and Mom and siss posted, but one of the things I wanted to respond to was the question ellen raised about where personal responsibility and structural matters meet. I think Kristen’s “unpacking” some of the blind spots to these matters is entirely spot on – while I, like Kristen, understand where the sentiment comes from – as I said in one of my previous posts, it is part of the common discourse of society to focus most strictly on personal responsibility because of the belief that we have an open system where hard work=success with no accounting for the structural issues we raise here. Because I know this in the sociology and race courses I teach I always say that “hard work” is always gonna be important but that we are going to focus on the places where structure reinforces or fails to reinforce our hard work – the irony is, of course, that racial, gender, class and other privileges often mean that hard work and responsibility are *less* important for some people because they have important social connections, favorable status in the larger society, wealth, etc. (so, e.g., George Bush gets to be president of the U.S. despite being highly mediocre; white boys who get into trouble as teenagers are often excused under the reasoning “boys will be boys” while black boys are rarely excused so easily, etc.)

    I also wanted to address one the concerns that ellen and siss discussed, and particularly ellen’s sentiment regarding white guilt. @ ellen – I appreciate the points you make, and I think a lot of white people relate to what you are saying – I want to be very clear that most people of color and antiracists are not asking whites to feel guilty. Guilt tends to be unproductive and stiffling, and thus, most people I talk to see it as an obstacle to progress. I believe most people of color and antiracists at a minimum simply want white people to acknowledge that racism exists – to acknowledge the importance of our racist past, to acknowledge the prevalence of contemporary racial issues, the reality of everyday racial oppression and the fact of institutional racism – to stop resisting that these things are real, and, even better, to work toward delivering on America’s promise of equal opportunity.

    I’ve often wondered why, when I was first learning about racism and white privilege, I did not feel personally defensive about it, as a white person – I wish I knew, because I find it to be the most common reaction from white people that I talk to, and creates intense resistance – I believe we have demonstrated we are beyond that in our discussion here, but I do generally believe that these defensive reactions from many white people are part of the white racial frame that Joe discusses. It becomes a way to shut down conversation and worse, action.

    Now, to tap into mom’s point above, when I’ve heard Joe speak he often responds to white people re: this issue of guilt by saying something like the following: “It’s not our fault that we’re in this mess we’re in – we didn’t create the racist foundation of this country, but we’ve inherited it, and so now we have the responsibility of making things better.” (he’s much more eloquent than I’m being here, but this is the general sentiment).

    Mom raises the important point that one of the major obstacles is that many people are not aware of these matters – I would agree but add that unfortunately many people are not simply ignorant and unaware, but are actively resistant. ellen also added the point that some white people don’t feel connected to these issues because they don’t see how they or their families are personally complicit – I grew up in a white family that operated much as yours, ellen – but as Kristen well-stated, to recognize that racism is institionalized means understanding that white privileges are embedded into the normal operating procedures of the institutions of society – as whites we do not have to engage explicit racist behavior to nonetheless receive the “spoils” of living in a racist society. My comment is getting too long, but there are many examples I could provide of this if it would be helpful.

    Nonetheless, the reason we come here and blog, or teach and research on racism and white supremacy, or go out and work toward ending racial oppression is because we have to keep sounding the gong. We keep talking about it to “spread the gospel” so to speak.

  76. Mom

    I always say that “hard work” is always gonna be important but that we are going to focus on the places where structure reinforces or fails to reinforce our hard work – the irony is, of course, that racial, gender, class and other privileges often mean that hard work and responsibility are *less* important for some people because they have important social connections, favorable status in the larger society, wealth, etc. (so, e.g., George Bush gets to be president of the U.S. despite being highly mediocre; white boys who get into trouble as teenagers are often excused under the reasoning “boys will be boys” while black boys are rarely excused so easily, etc.)

    Bravo! Bravo! However, what your touching on everybody from all races suffer. I am going through something right now regarding these “good old boys”. This is what I’ve been trying to say when I talk about “the white elitist men” in this country.

    Mom raises the important point that one of the major obstacles is that many people are not aware of these matters – I would agree but add that unfortunately many people are not simply ignorant and unaware, but are actively resistant.

    I feel, I know what your talking about, however, rather then being resistant wouldn’t be more like survival?.. If a white person got a job because he was white, and the black person did not get it because he was black doesn’t the white guy still have the same responsibility to raise his family as the black person does? Does this make any sense? LOL .However, because of the post above not all white men fall under that category and are out trying to survive themselves, and take care of their families. I think this really is a matter of survival on this level. I work with a real mix of people. My company does not discriminate when it come to hiring people. In fact. they are looking to hire more Spanish people because we need interpreters. However, I don’t get chosen when it comes time to work cases because some “people”may know somebody that works in the front office. I got my job because of my work ethic, and that’s why the Company keeps calling me back, but me, and other people, don’t get a lot of the same hours, which we need to live, as maybe some other people that do because they “know people”. I feel that’s kind of discriminating. Believe me when I tell you this that I and other people work very hard for are money in comparison to other people that work there. (the ones that know people) Wouldn’t this be a form of racism? I am grateful that you teach the course, so maybe you could help me understand a little better. Maybe a few examples would be nice.

    Now, to tap into mom’s point above, when I’ve heard Joe speak he often responds to white people re: this issue of guilt by saying something like the following: “It’s not our fault that we’re in this mess we’re in – we didn’t create the racist foundation of this country, but we’ve inherited it, and so now we have the responsibility of making things better.” (he’s much more eloquent than I’m being here, but this is the general sentiment).

    This sounds to me when people find out about the topic of what’s being discussed. Really there are not many people that know about “white racial frame” However, I do know people that are racist. I know people that don’t like people of color because of many other things maybe this is what you are talking about…Most racist people will say things like black people are lazy, don’t want to work, dress funny, etc. And, in reality too me it’s for immature reasons. However, that’s how I perceive racist people to be. My Mother is not a racist person period. My Mother sees good and bad in people like right now she’s having some problems with her “white” neighbor, but loves her “black” neighbor. My Mother may judge a person by their character before the color of their skin. I think she would have a hard time with this topic because of the fact that she has buried five kids. How do you suppose that I tell her that she is racist/brainwashed from birth. I believe a person is the way they are from past experience, and not all people may fall into same mold. However, that does not mean that there in not institutionalized racism, but a few examples as mentioned before would be nice. Thanks

  77. NeoplasmSix

    I’ll give my opinion on Racism and bow out:

    I believe that racism is a “Divide and Conquer” tool that has proved useful time and time again to divert from what would be more serious issues.

    Racism will not end whilst there are illegal wars to fight, unelected politicians in positions of power, lobbyists dictating to politicians what their policies should be.

    I believe it to be a real shame that the current POTUS couldn’t have been an honest man, but skin colour/race is irrelevant here, and if you find it relevant then you are part of the problem.

  78. Illusions

    I know some here are going to assume I am yet again trying to “undermine evidence of racism” but, I like to fact check. Everything that is reported in the media is not accurate. So, here is another perspective.


    You may not like the leanings of the “politico,” so I deliberately am not quoting from the article itself. The video is what I am actually pointing you towards, it is short, but enlightening.


  1. racismreview.com » Blog Archive » Disappointing, Incomplete ‘Primer’ on Racism
  2. racismreview.com » Blog Archive » ‘Your Comment Here’: Racism in Online Comments
  3. Not So Post-Racial After All :: racismreview.com

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