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When slaves and free men were shipwrecked together (economist.com)
247 points by I-M-S on Dec 28, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 131 comments

Fascinating tale. But why no pictures at all? Just a drawing.

Here's google maps' view:


I like how the island is in a teeny little spot of hi-res imagery in a low-res ocean.

Why does an island which is barely long enough to support a runway need a runway?!

Because flying a three-man team to such an island is often much cheaper/easier/safer/faster than boating them in. And when people are hurt, getting them out by plane is the only life-sustaining option. Broken bones do not do well in small boats. (See the OP for issues surrounding getting people in and out of this place by boat.)

A more extreme example would be oil rigs (tiny island) that are serviced more often by helicopters than boats.

Because even small islands in the Indian Ocean have strategic value (especially one with a permanent source of water). And because flying in is a lot easier than getting there by sea.

Such runways are built in order to provide an emergency landing zone for trans-oceanic flights.

> One of [the women]—oddly, on an island with no men—held an eight-month-old baby boy.

What oddly? There were men on there just a year prior, in August of 1775:

> Why had only seven castaways survived, when 14 had been spotted weeks before? It seems the newly marooned sailor had tried his luck as a latter-day Castellan. With the help of the now-natives, one assumes, he had salvaged whatever could still be used from L’Utile’s wreck and built his own Providence. Sails were improvised from birds’ feathers. Unlike Castellan, the unnamed sailor had taken some of the slaves: the last three men and three women. Also unlike his predecessor, he failed to reach Madagascar.

The article even speculates that the white sailor was the father.

I'm also not sure why it says "14 spotted weeks before" - according to the article, over a year had passed since the 14 were spotted.

I think the "oddly" was meant to be from the perspective of those who first encountered the women, not from the perspective of the writer or the reader. Maybe it would be clearer as "surprisingly" or "at first surprisingly".

I find it incredible that they maintained a fire for 15 years, just from wood from the shipwreck.

It is indeed incredible, given the tiny wood supply, but maintaining a fire continually has historically been a very common practice. Simply put -- starting a fire is a pain. The easiest way to light your own fire was off your neighbor's fire; the easiest way to light a fire when traveling was to preserve a smoldering ember of your previous fire and carry it with you.

Yes, but like the parent comment I would not expect a single ship's wood, of which a portion was used to make a 33-foot raft and some must have been lost to sea or be in unreachable locations to be sufficient to keep the fire going for 15 years. I suspect there were other sources, such as the shrubbery, or dried seaweed, or something. That they would have any original wood left to burn at that time to even make it look like they've been using it as a primary source for 15 years seems amazing to me.

It just so happens that over the last 2 winters I've been burning a scrapped wooden boat in my fire stove so I know how much fire you get out of a boat.

The boat in question was a 15 meter long oak on oak boat. It lasted 2 winters for 2 homes with a fire stove, and we didn't even burn it all.

There's an amazing amount of wood in a boat, particularly around the keel. The framing, keel and other structural elements are made of really heavy timber. On top of that good wooden boats are (were..) built of slowgrown oak that is incredibly dense. One large piece would last for 6-8 hours in my stove and give off a lot of heat.

It doesn't seem unlikely to me that a 25-30 meter boat would last for 15 years if you the goal was primarily to keep the fire going, only getting it really big/hot when needed.

"It just so happens that over the last 2 winters I've been burning a scrapped wooden boat in my fire stove"

Well played, sir.

Definitely (but not as well as this[1], which is pure gold). I left it open that I could be wrong, and I'll graciously accept the word of someone with real boat burning experience that my expectations are way off. ;)

1: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=35079

The orders of magnitude don't look so bad.

Some quick Googling puts the weight of three masted schooners at 300-400 tons; a cord of firewood weighs 2 tons, so that's between 150 and 200 cords of firewood. Some of that was reused in the escape-raft and some of it was presumably unrecoverable, but if they were able to recover 25% of it, that's somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 cords of firewood, or around 3 cords per year of the 15 years.

3 cords is a reasonable amount for a house to use for heating in a heating season in the US. That's less than a year, but you're probably burning it faster than you would if you were carefully husbanding a fire and occasionally using it for cooking or warmth or light.

So it's totally plausible (which is good, considering it happened), but the numbers are close enough that I couldn't guess whether you'd expect the average shipwreck in similar circumstances to run out of wood after ten years or have enough for a hundred, without having more information about the burn rate in this particular situation or how much wood they actually were able to recover.

Bear in mind that the ship was likely made of heavily pitched timber, which will have had a very high energy density. Also, ships are big. You'd be surprised how much lumber goes into one. For instance, the hull would be feet thick towards the keel.

Remote islands are usually filled with several tons of bird droppings

One word: driftwood.

Another long running fire (1,545 years!) still burns today.



> It was Castellan who had made the decision to scupper L’Utile by cutting her rudder in the hope that more men might be saved.

Why would that improve their chances? That intuitively seems like a bad idea, but the people who know what they're doing thought otherwise.

That sentence as written is nonsensical. I think they meant "scuttle" (intentionally sink), not "scupper" (a hole in the side wall at deck level to drain water off the deck).

The principle of scuttling the ship is to remove the buoyancy so that the ship settles firmly on the bottom (which is shallow because it is grounded) and does not get pounded to bits as the waves pick it up and slam it back down. This helps keep the ship intact and allows the people more time to get off.

A contemporary account states "Il y a eu de si violents coups de talon que la barre du gouvernail a fait sauter le tillac de sa chambre, malgré six barreaux en plusieurs endroits, et qui fit déterminer Mr. de Castellan a L’aller couper luy meme." which roughly translates to "There were such violent blows to the rudder, the tiller burst through the deck of its room, despite six bars holding it in place, and Mr. Castellan made the decision to cut it."

(From the document linked at the bottom of this page: http://www.histoire-genealogie.com/spip.php?article1533&lang...)

That makes even more sense. The waves would be slamming the ship onto the bottom which would be attempting to drive the rudder through the ship every time. This would threaten to break the ship up very rapidly.

By cutting the rudder free, it would no longer be breaking the ship up, but it would leave a major hole where the rudder post came in, resulting in scuttling the ship.

I think the part about "scuppering" is just some nautical-sounding nonsense that the author of the article threw in. If you read the account I linked to above, it's saying they jettisoned the masts, then cut the rudder, then threw the cannons overboard, but despite these the ship eventually broke apart. Like you say, it sounds like they were trying to stabilize it to reduce the damage, but my impression is they were trying to make it lighter and less top-heavy rather than intentionally sink it.

In British English if something is 'scuppered (often someone's chances) it is destroyed or sunk. I assume the author was going for this verb usage.

In British English, 'scupper' can act as a verb effectively a synonym of 'scuttle'. The Economist used British English.

> I think they meant "scuttle" (intentionally sink), not "scupper"

When used as a verb, "scupper" means to destroy or thwart.

If it was intended that way it's an extremely poor choice of words given the very likely confusion in a nautical setting.

That makes a lot more sense than anything I could come up with. Thanks!

I think that was meant to provide access to men trapped in the ship, which was not going to go anywhere with or without the rudder.

This island provided the basics for life and yet could not sustain it. It's sobering when we consider sending people to a planet that is entirely hostile to our existence.

> This island provided the basics for life and yet could not sustain it.

The very bare minimum of basics - hardly any water, and hardly any food. But it did sustain over a dozen people for over a dozen years, with basically scraps of the ship they came in!

That is a difference of degree not kind. Without modern technology (shelter, heat, clothing, potable water, easily obtainable food) I'd quickly perish where i sit as would most others of our species. Sending people to a planet that is entirely hostile to our existence is only a variant of sending people to Antarctica or undersea for months (years?) at a time.

The floor of a deep sea trench provides the basics for life, too (and is covered with living things), but we would die instantly if left there. "Basics for life" and "basics for human life" are two very different things.

The basics for life, provided you are a nesting seagull.

They did not plan to live on that island. If they had, they would probably have done fine.

Here's a French documentary about the island, with plenty of video footage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzKblzJBz6U

This article is full of misnomers.

First of all, the "slaves" were actually kidnapped Africans. They had yet to do a day of forced labor and had not yet undergone the years of conditioning it took to turn a free man into a slave.

Second, the "free men" were actually slave traders. Yes, there was a ban on slave trading at the time, but that didn't stop them.

If you're interested in learning about what happens when kidnapped Africans and free men come into contact, study what happens when slave ships came into contact with pirate ships. As a general rule, pirate ships were egalitarian, as it helped preserve social harmony on the ship. And the composition of the crew was usually multiracial. Over 60% of Blackbeard's crew was black. Oftentimes, when the pirates took control of a slave ship, they would take the goods they wanted, free and arm the kidnapped Africans, and let the ship go on its way.

Well, if you want to get into misnomers, calling all the "free men" slavers may be going a bit far. The vessel was not nominally a slave ship, it was a side business of the captain, and speculating on whether the other crew and/or passengers that signed on to a ship sailing in seas where slave trading was banned knew that slaves would later be brought on board at a separate port is hard to do accurately without a lot more information.

No, not at all. Freedom does not occur in isolation.

Commemorating the end of WW2, German president Joachim Gauck said, "On May 8, 1945, we were liberated — by the people of the Soviet Union." The crew on the slave ship were not "free men," even if they were well-meaning.

Ignorance is not a defense. Also, it would still be considered aiding and abetting. https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aiding_and_abetting

Ignorance is a defense against aiding and abetting. You can't abet something if you don't know about it. You can unknowingly aid it, but any legal system that prosecutes people for their role crimes they had no knowledge of is not a just system.

Some non-enslaved/kidnapped people of the ship may have had no knowledge of the cargo, or if they did, may not yet have had an opportunity to notify authorities at a port after learning. Calling them slave traders before they've had an opportunity to show their side one way or another is no different than calling the kidnapped people slaves before they've been actually put into slavery.

To be clear, I believe most the people on the ship probably would not raise any alarm over the situation, at least not enough to cause legal trouble, but if you are going to be pedantic about terminology in this way, it only makes sense to do the same in all cases brought forth, unless you are using terminology to manipulate the perspective (this is not an accusation).

Note: Edited slightly for clarity and typos.

Notice the "Also" in my original comment. It is meant to be read as 2 distinct sentences.

I am not a lawyer but I do know that people are held responsible for the personal belongings they carry, say on a plane. I know that I cannot carry a prohibited item on a plane and claim that I didn't know how it got there. Which is probably why they make you say that your bag was not touched by any strangers before you board your flight.

The captain of a ship should be held responsible for the ship and it's cargo.

Of course the captain of the ship should be held responsible. An ignorant ship hand should not.

> "I do know that people are held responsible for the personal belongings they carry"

Actually there's strong legal precedent in the opposite direction. From page 14 of [0], "a defendant cannot knowingly acquire or possess that which he or she does not know exists". This sentiment is common in US law -- you can claim to not know how something got into your possession, and if that claim is reasonably credible, you'll typically be let off the hook.

[0] http://www.nycourts.gov/ctapps/Decisions/2012/May12/70opn12....

>"a defendant cannot knowingly acquire or possess that which he or she does not know exists"

I read the above line several times carefully.

Here is the meaning I made out of that sentence, one cannot claim that they knew exactly how they got a certain object and then say at a later time that they did not even know such an object exists.

This is a different scenario than accepting responsibility for your personal belongings (say while flying) and then claiming that you don't know how it got there.

In the former case there is evidence that you got that object.

To summarize, my understanding of in flight carry on rules are you are aware of the things you are carrying and would be held responsible if you are later caught with a prohibited item.

> "one cannot claim that they knew exactly how they got a certain object and then say at a later time that they did not even know such an object exists"

But it can happen in the opposite order. I recall at least one professional athlete [0] getting caught with drugs in his bag at the airport, and having the charges dismissed because (supposedly) his friend had used his bag and left the drugs in it, without his knowledge. The claim "I didn't know that existed" (ie, drugs in the bag -- knowing drugs exist in general is not the same as knowing drugs exist within your bag) is compatible with the later claim "given that it does exist, I'm certain as to where it came from" (knowing someone else had used that bag during the prior week).

In the context of this thread, it's quite possible for (some of) the crew of a ship to be in the dark as to what cargo might be onboard, and therefore to not knowingly possess contraband or be involved in slave trading. "Ignorance of the law is no defense; ignorance of crime is one." [1] As kbenson rightly pointed out, it's not "aiding and abetting" if you don't know crime is happening; it's only "aiding and abetting" if you're trying to help someone commit a crime. As the link you yourself posted says, "It is necessary to show that the defendant has wilfully associated himself with the crime being committed" -- not merely that he helped someone who happened to have committed a crime, but that he intentionally, knowingly, chose to participate in crime.

[0] http://espn.go.com/nba/news/story?id=1906525

[1] http://www.nbcnews.com/id/40709114/ns/us_news-weird_news/t/i...

Hmmm... I read the espn article and nowhere it says that the drug possession charges were dismissed.

So my statement that passengers are held responsible for thier possessions in their carry on still holds.

> "nowhere it says that the drug possession charges were dismissed"

Type "Carmelo Anthony drug charges dropped" into google [0].

Your statement is mostly correct, but the ways in which it's wrong are significant and relevant for this thread. As kbenson and I have both pointed out, ignorance is a valid defense in US law, and was a valid defense in many legal traditions of the past. You may have heard the phrase "harboring a known fugitive" -- someone who provides shelter to someone they know is running from the law can be held culpable for aiding and abetting, while someone who provides shelter to somebody who happens to be running from the law (unknown to them) is treated as a victim. The generalization holds -- a person who knowingly helps someone pull off a crime is culpable, while a person who happens to help someone but didn't know they were helping a criminal is innocent.

Without more detail, we don't know how much of the crew of the ship in question might fall into either category.

[0] http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/sports/basketball/nba/nuggets...

Age of Sail pirates were fascinating in many ways. Some of them had workers' comp, equal pay and voting rights for blacks and other minorities, constitutions designed to limit autocratic power on the ship (unlike legitimate merchant ships), and fairly flat payouts of booty (one documented ship gave the Captain two shares while the lowest crew members got one share).

Right, and many of the pirates become pirates because they were fleeing the autocracy of legitimate merchant ships.

And the newfound freedom of pirates was a direct threat to the state. It's no wonder that in a span of 50 years, as mercantilism developed, pirates went from being knighted (Francis Drake), to being the worst kind of criminals (Blackbeard).

Obviously I don't know about this crew but lots of slave ships were crewed by press ganged seamen who were themselves kidnapped from English ports and forced to serve for three years. It was the desperate rise of press ganging that was behind the anti-slave trade movement in England.

Trying to put history in the terms of today is a futile effort.

The tales of piracy aside, In 1761 the kidnapped Africans would be universally regarded as slaves, and the sailors manning the vessel as free men.

Yea sure, those terms were used by Westerners in 1761. I bet the Africans would have seen it differently.

Nevertheless, it is our duty to correct the terms they used to better reflect the reality. And this is common practice. If it weren't, Socrates would be remembered as a corrupter of the youth and Galileo as a heretic.

> Yea sure, those terms were used by Westerners in 1761. I bet the Africans would have seen it differently.

Why do you suppose the Africans would see it differently? They were in fact confined to belowdecks in anticipation of being sold into slavery by white men. Do you think they weren't cognizant of this? Do you think they would have rejected the institution of slavery on the basis that they were getting the short end of the stick? Slavery exists to this day and is generally recognized where it is seen. Attitudes towards it vary, but it's not a matter of belief or conjecture.

> Nevertheless, it is our duty to correct the terms they used to better reflect the reality. And this is common practice. If it weren't, Socrates would be remembered as a corrupter of the youth and Galileo as a heretic.

Socrates is remembered as an instigator of rebellion, and Galileo as a heretic in the eyes of the church. As it so happens, predominant Western culture cares much more about Socrates' other contributions to culture than his relationship with Athenian politics, and regards heresy as something of an unreasonable charge.

I really fail to see what the big deal is. Certainly attitudes towards slavery have changed dramatically over the years. Much as attitudes towards many historical facts of life have changed. That doesn't make them cease to be facts. Are you objecting to the article's use of "free men" and "slaves" as primary identifiers? The point of the article appears to be primarily about race and the institution of slavery, when in isolation shipwrecked on an island. The labels are not false, neither are they inappropriate in a historical context.

For a more (leftist) perspective on the motley composition of pirate crews, The Many-Headed Hydra by Linebaugh and Rediker has an entire section on pirating, as well as discussions of other slaving ship wrecks and anti-slavery mutinies.

I also recommend Of Captain Mission by Daniel Defoe.


Thanks, added to my reading list.

When I saw the headline (including the publication) I expected a reference to The Admirable Crichton. But the story didn't really support that, and the tone was too somber anyway.

Sounds like a good plot for a movie :)


I'm curious what exactly you think a French ship sailing from Madagascar in 1761 has to do with African Americans in 2015.

The inclination to take from people of color at the cost of their own existence and then offer little, if anything, in return is the parallel. This has changed little 250 years later in European and American societies because just as before, people of color have to fight to justify their equal worth and right to exist. It's a partial takeaway from the OP.

A valid point, but the post were replying to is making the mistake of simply lumping together groups of people due to their race (and across times, which makes it worse) which is a particular form of hatred known as racism. This is the same hatred Blacks face which is arguably the ultimate cause of the injustice they faced in the 1700s and today. More racism isn't going to help alleviate this issue.

EDIT: I want to emphasize that I really think that persistent racial injustices is a worthy topic, even though I just said it's a "valid point". Also, eevilspock is, I think, making a good point about the current injustices against blacks in America in a comment further down in the thread. He also distinguishing in that comment that it isn't whites as a race but that it is their culture and their place of power over blacks in history...and that in some alternate history, it's possible roles can be reversed. A first reading of his post seems like he is lumping all whites into a bin which is racism in my view, but after reading his second comment, I can see he might have not meant to come across in that way.

Racism was invented to provide an ideological justification for the African slave trade and colonialism. The institutional racism faced by African Americans today has direct and traceable roots to the African slave trade of the 1700s. It's not racist, and certainly not hateful to make this connection.

Pretty sure racism predates colonialism and the slave trade of the era. Slavery and racism dates to antiquity at least, and probably back to prehistoric tribal days.

This is actually a pretty well researched and established thesis. Whether you accept it or not is up to you. Take this quote from a mainstream American publication, the Atlantic:

"there is nothing particularly "natural" about viewing people with darker skin and curlier hair as inferior. Drake surveys all perceptions of people with darker skin, curlier hair, or both across history. He finds very little consistency and concludes that racism, as we know it, is basically a product of the slave trade, which is to say the seizure of power." [1]

This isn't saying that racism didn't exist before the European enslavement of Africans. It's saying that the racism that exists today, and the concept of racism is linked to slavery, and is very different from racism that occurred in different eras, cultures, and regions of the world. You could say racism has been invented many times by different people, for different reasons.

[1] http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/06/the-case...

I can't speak for the original commenter, but I can't agree with the the idea that we can make racism go away by pretending race doesn't exist (as in, not acknowledging and correcting for the huge historical and ongoing impact it has on groups of people). In fact, I would argue that in lots of liberal cities today (SF, NYC), almost no one hates blacks. But economic inequality is still rampant, precisely because we're not doing enough to acknowledge and correct centuries of injustice.

Centuries of injustice have probably never been corrected in all of human history.

> This has changed little 250 years later

Surely it's changed more than a little. I think it's possible to say there's still work to do without having to claim that race relations remain essentially unchanged from the 1700's.

>The inclination to take from people of color at the cost of their own existence and then offer little, if anything, in return is the parallel.

It is the inclination of the average (wo)man to take from all those who are at a disadvantage and offer little, if anything, in return. Race was just one metric used to justify and control this behavior, but it is not inherent to it.


Please don't post uncivil and unsubstantive comments to Hacker News, no matter how stupid another comment seems.

Because things haven't really changed, deep down. Whites as a whole still put themselves first, deservedly or not. Whites who gentrify neighborhoods are moving up in the world at the expense of blacks who have no choice but to move out.

In the previously black Brooklyn neighborhood where my ex-girlfriend lives, where whites now equal blacks in numbers, the playgrounds of public schools are filled with a sea of black children, and I have to look hard to find the 3 or 4 white kids. Where are all the white kids? In private schools. Blacks left behind, stranded, yet again. Any chance that the public schools will get better when the those with power have abandoned them? Fat chance. Blacks, you are entirely on your own to level the American playing field. It's the law of the jungle. It's all about power and self-interest. The Matthew Effect is the true invisible hand.

The numbers of whites who speak out against police brutality against blacks is far too few. As MLK said,

> It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, "Wait on time.”

I could go on and on, but how do I do battle with cognitive dissonance? Just look at the top four comments under this story about racism and slavery and moral failure. One focuses on the use of "oddly". The next laments the lack of photos. The next wonders how scupping the rudder makes sense. The next takes from it a lesson on the difficulty of colonizing another planet.

This is not at root a color problem: roles reversed blacks would behave the same as whites. The problem is that those in a position of privilege and power choose to use their privilege and power to amass more, quite unwilling to sacrifice much in the name of fairness and sticking up for the under-powered, the underprivileged. Except perhaps with some Facebook likes on anti-racism articles.

I don't mean any insult, eevilspock, and I think you make some good points, but I think your comment is a bit myopic and doesn't address the full problem here in America.

I currently live in America, where I'm considered the privileged majority, but that hasn't always been the case. I've also spent a large portion of my life in homogeneous places like India and Japan, where I was definitely a minority. In fact, I rarely ran into another caucasian in Japan, outside of Tokyo, and I never once saw another caucasian during my time in India. I was the only one around. You simply cannot be a smaller minority than that.

In Japan, I was a "gaijin," or outsider. I could not get a loan on my own, so I could never buy a car. I could not vote. I was banned from even walking into some establishments, so I've experienced segregation first hand. I could not rent an apartment unless a native was willing to take legal responsibility for "the great white ape." I was also illiterate there. Nevertheless, I succeeded. I mingled with the people who lived around me. I learned to speak the language. I worked. I made Japanese friends. No, I was not allowed to enjoy every aspect of life in Japan, and yes, I was actively discriminated against at times and there were no laws to protect me. Some people liked me and some people hated me, and I was physically attacked on more than one occasion simply because I was different. Nevertheless, I enjoyed my life in Japan, I worked within the system provided, overlooked the things that weren't fair, and I succeeded.

I think the biggest problem for black people in America isn't white privilege, but rather the victimhood mentality that many have, which has largely been propagated by the Democrat party and other organizations for the sole purpose of gaining wealth and power. In Japan, I got up and worked within an unfair system and made it work for me, but it seems in America, many black people sit around, shouting catchy chants, waiting for someone else to solve their problems for them. I know it is politically incorrect to tell someone, especially someone who is a member of a minority group, to get off their ass and do for themselves, but honestly, if you don't get up off your ass and do for yourself, you're never going to get anywhere. It may not be fair, but it certainly is fact.

Cognitive dissonance is defined as "The state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change." I cannot think of a greater example of cognitive dissonance than to want something, to think that the world owes it to you, and that, because you think you deserve it, someone is going to give it to you. When has that ever worked? Indeed, the behavior is inconsistent with the desired outcome and will always fail. In fact, we, as a society, publicly denounce white people who behave this way and call them "white trash," yet we embrace it in minorities as a reasonable pairing of behavior and expectation? Why? How is that fair or even remotely intelligent? Such attitudes are childish and are revealed as such by the many noble, intelligent, and highly successful black men and women that live throughout America.

Regarding law enforcement, for every murderer in uniform who shoots a black man in the back, there is a black man who attacks law enforcement, hoping to brute force his way out of an arrest. Yes, there is a problem, but it isn't a single-faceted one. I do agree that the white community should speak out more and that more bad police officers should be fired and imprisoned. On the other hand, the black community needs to speak out more against the thuggery and murder that is taking place in their own communities, often times against their own people.

Finally, I think your statement regarding those in positions of privilege and power using that position to amass more is inaccurate. For one thing, it assumes that wealth is finite. It isn't. Just because I earn a nice thing through the rewards of my labor doesn't mean that I've taken away the right or ability of someone else, regardless of color, to do the same. We can all succeed. Second, it offers a platform of failure, which deceives people and keeps them from living up to their full potential. Why deny someone that pleasure based solely on the ever-retreating carrot of hand-out promises? It is dehumanizing, in my opinion. Why eschew "white priviledge," then turn around and say, "The only way you can succeed is if we, the majority, give you success?" It is a lie!

All I can say—from my own personal experiences, not only a minority, but also as an illiterate one—is that if you see your neighbor has something nicer than you, asking them how they succeeded and then working to replicate that success will get you a lot further than kicking and screaming and crying into your political pillow will. I succeeded in spite of the discrimination against me. I did not allow myself—and again, I was alone and I had no community to support me—to be crippled by it. Fortunately, there are many noble black men and women across America who have done the same. I think the best thing the black community could do for themselves would be to implement and replicate that template of success far and wide.

Thanks for an honest if likely unpopular viewpoint. I tend to think, personally, that there is some truth to both sides. There is a race problem in America, but it's with the culture and values of both white people and black people, and it cannot be fixed by focusing on just one side. Yes, white people and society have done many objectively terrible things to black people both individually and as a culture. Those centuries of discrimination have created their own cultural backwash into black culture, quite understandably. But while it's understandable and justifiable how that cultural legacy has crept into black culture, it still has to be removed before we can truly integrate everyone, just like how white racism and discrimination has to be removed. Nothing will ever really be accomplished along these lines while we whitewash (sic) all of the issues with black culture and deny any need for it to actively change itself.

It's kind of like many other issues where most everyone decides to be a partisan on one side or the other. Each side can find plenty of justification for thinking that the other side is evil and deserves everything it gets, while ignoring the many sins of their own side. It makes for many bitter arguments and perpetual conflict. The only way towards peace and harmony is for both sides to abandon all claims to righteousness, own up to their own issues, forgive the other side's many sins, and meet in the middle.

Well said! The biggest hurdle I see to this vision being realized is political correctness. We'll never fix the problem by stifling conversation or by only letting one side say anything about the issue.

Yes, that's a big part of the problem. The problems with white society are blasted as far as the eye can see on nearly every mainstream media outlet, bazillions of blogs, etc. Meanwhile, it's tough to find any discussion of the problems with black culture outside of openly racist websites and some niche black-run news pages and blogs.

It is surely tempting to reduce the issue of race relations in America to a binary debate between two reasonable viewpoints and argue for a compromise somewhere in the middle, but that would be a mistake, here. It would be an instance of the logical fallacy Argument to Moderation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_to_moderation). You frame the "race problem in America" as a problem "with the culture and values of both white people and black people" as if some intrinsic qualities of white and black cultures lead them to conflict. Does some cultural trait lead black people to subject themselves to ongoing discrimination in every step of the justice system. Does some value held sacred by white Americans lead them to segregate their children from those of blacks?

The problem of race in America is not symmetrical. The relationship between whites and blacks is not like that of rival nations who might simply set aside their differences and compromise. Blacks are literally victims of hundreds of years of white oppression, oppression which continues to this day in subtle but pervasive forms. Witness, for example, the failure to indict Tamir Rice's killer, today.

Systematic housing and banking discrimination throughout most of the last hundred years has held back blacks as white families accumulated wealth through the remarkably effective mechanism of home ownership. Relegated to inner-city ghettoes, black children today attend schools funded by property taxes levied on crumbling infrastructure, while their white counterparts enjoy educations funded by the largesse of wealthy suburbs.

The wealth disparity means that black parents must spend more energy just to provide the essentials, and cannot provide the same guidance and resources to their children that their white counterparts take for granted.

A justice system stacked against the poor further exasperates these economic injustices, and racist laws, policies, police, and administrators conspire to incarcerate black men far out of proportion to their culpability for crimes. As a result, black children too often lack the support of fathers altogether.

Acknowledging these grievances to blacks does not do blacks any disservice, as if they are inherently lazy, shiftless people looking for an excuse to give up. But to deny these inequities is to deny struggling blacks the respect their efforts deserve. The deck is stacked against them, making every achievement that much more impressive.

If we must reduce the issue to two sides, the other side is simply white indifference. It is not a malicious hateful racism, which exists but only in the margins of society. The other side of the race coin is just blissful white ignorance and indifference, such as showcased in this thread.

What folly it is to self-righteously exhort the oppressed to stop making excuses and meet their oppressors half-way! The way forward is to overcome the unending indifference and bottomless ignorance of far too many whites. The impetus is on us as whites to make reparations, to make blacks whole to whatever extent possible, and to ensure, if nothing else, that blacks enjoy full equality of justice and opportunity going forward.

A perfect example of exactly what I was talking about, even including the standard laundry list of things that the other side has done wrong while whitewashing the problems in black culture. This way will never lead to peace.

To see a little bit of the point, consider why modern Black African immigrants tend to do well for themselves. They may face some discrimination and disadvantages, and certainly aren't all wild success stories, but don't seem to have the widespread issues that American Blacks tend to have. What's going on there?

If you follow the standard pattern of a partisan, you will talk about the institutional memories and issues ingrained in American Black society due to centuries of mistreatment. And on this, I agree 100% - those issues absolutely are there for exactly those reasons. But I will mostly likely disagree on the way forward. These issues were caused by White people, but they cannot be solved by any action White people might take. Reparations and affirmative action type things lead to entitlement and self-hatred in blacks and justified resentment in whites - the exact opposite of peace and mutual respect by all of both themselves and the other side.

Whites absolutely have their own problems with racism that we must solve, but the problems in black culture can only be solved from within black culture. That's one of the problems with white culture itself - we believe that we are responsible for everything and are capable of fixing anything by our own direct actions. This one isn't our problem and we, as white people, can't fix it. We can show them the way, but they must take the steps of their own free will.

You say that "these issues were caused by White people, but they cannot be solved by any action White people might take." But then you admit that whites continue to "have their own problems with racism that we must solve." At the least, wouldn't ending that white racism help blacks going forward?

Your claim that reparations and affirmative action lead to entitlement and self-hatred in blacks is unsubstantiated armchair psychology that, surely you'll agree, would sound awfully convenient -- not to mention condescending -- to an aggrieved black. The follow on assertion that it would also lead to JUSTIFIED resentment in whites betrays your inability or refusal to see that blacks have suffered concrete, economic damages for which justice requires reparations. Any resulting resentment from whites is simply sour grapes.

Your unsubstantiated claims that any efforts by whites to unring the bell of hundreds of years of slavery and discrimination will only aggravate difficulties for blacks is not the get out of jail free card you want it to be.

No, perhaps the bell cannot be unrung, but that does not obviate the moral obligation to make blacks whole in whatever ways we can. The truth is that the magnitude of the injustice is gigantic and far beyond the ability of whites to redress in full, but it does not follow that we should do nothing. There are many reasonable steps we can take to redress black grievances. For one, we could fix the enormous discrepancy in the quality of public education received by black and white children. We could address the huge underfunding of public defenders that tips the scales of justice in favor of anyone with the resources to hire a private attorney. It is not even necessary to resort to explicitly racial reparations like affirmative action. A huge amount of good can be accomplished simply by addressing poverty since it has been one of the primary consequences of white prejudice.

If anyone cannot imagine reparations that would move blacks in America forward beyond the racial divisions of our past, it is for lack of imagination or effort. The true obstacle is UNJUSTIFIED white resentment that reparations might engender, which is why some black thinkers have suggested that black inequality be addressed by tackling inequality writ large.

Suggesting that whites can do nothing is sleight of hand that shifts responsibility for the black plight from white racism to an implied black shiftlessness. It is victim blaming, simply put.

I love the thought that you have put into this comment. I would like to caution you about two things though:

1- The situation that you endured is a lot closer to the one that immigrants face which, although similar, has fundamental distinctions from the history of African-Americans in America.

2- If a _wealthy_person/male_ said "I think the biggest problem for _poor/female_ people in America isn't _rich/male_ privilege, but rather the victimhood mentality that many have..." I think that you'll see the inappropriateness of the statement. Which, I hasten to add, isn't just the particular criticism leveled, but also the identity doing the criticizing. I am hard pressed to think of a substitution that isn't fraught with baggage...

> 1- The situation that you endured is a lot closer to the one that immigrants face which, although similar, has fundamental distinctions from the history of African-Americans in America.

I agree that there may be distinctions, but as a rebuttal, without outlining some of those differences there is no way to examine and/or agree with/rebut them.

> 2- If a _wealthy_person/male_ said "I think the biggest problem for _poor/female_ people in America isn't _rich/male_ privilege, but rather the victimhood mentality that many have..." I think that you'll see the inappropriateness of the statement. Which, I hasten to add, isn't just the particular criticism leveled, but also the identity doing the criticizing. I am hard pressed to think of a substitution that isn't fraught with baggage...

Which points towards a problem with the conversation, and actually supports the idea that a level argument is not being made by one side. If an argument can't be examined based on it's own merits rationally, but is immediately discounted based on the race, sex, sexuality, nationality or political leaning of the speaker, then that is a very good sign the argument itself is no longer rational. I have zero expectation that policies and their outcomes that come from an irrational argument will just, useful, or even end up as those arguing would expect.

In the end, whether the parent to your comment's views are correct or not makes no difference to the above. If we can't rationally discuss this topic without it devolving into name calling then it points towards something gone very, very wrong.

Thanks for furthering the discussion!

I'm not rebutting anything, so there isn't really a point to examine or agree with. I'm merely pointing out that the parent is conflating two different situations, perhaps without realizing it. If the parent, or you, believe that the two are the same, simply state so, and perhaps we can have that entirely different discussion... instead of threadjacking here.

You mention devolving into name calling, and it initially confused me, as I didn't see it in my statement. Then I realized that you must have meant the GP's usage of "victimhood mentality" which is clearly a pejorative and one of the reasons for my post.

Duly noted.

Really, my comment was part asking for more information to continue the discussion (1), and part soap-box which was less a critique of what you said and more a critique of the broken social situation which has led to you commenting on the inappropriateness of a statement which you admit "isn't just the particular criticism leveled, but also the identity doing the criticizing." The name-calling I was referring to is actually more along the lines of calling someone entitled, not because "victimhood mentality" can't and isn't use pejoratively, but because in the current social context it's less likely to be dismissed as acceptable and or correct, while I think "entitled" may be dismissed as okay in exactly that way.

In other words, I think the social capital of this discussion is so heavily one-sided that it's having a negative impact on discourse for the majority of people.

I purposefully ignored caution. It is hard to have an honest conversation if you stifle yourself based on your own sex, gender, or other distinguishing features. How can we ever eliminate prejudices unless we acknowledge our differences and weaknesses and talk our way through them?

Why deny someone that pleasure based solely on the ever-retreating carrot of hand-out promises? It is dehumanizing, in my opinion. Why eschew "white priviledge," then turn around and say, "The only way you can succeed is if we, the majority, give you success?" It is a lie!

I don't think people have been saying "The only way you can succeed is if we, the majority, give you success" at all, certainly not the "only" part. Of course people know that success is possible without it, and inferring that the other side said that is very dishonest. Getting help is not dehumanizing at all, unlike what you say. I have seen various alterations of this sentiment spruiked by politicians to remove aid from people. I am pretty sure that the people receiving aid would not say that it dehumanizes them.

Disadvantage and advantage is compounding in almost all real life areas (social competence being a stand out one), which is why people worry about schooling for their young children and other such things that may give them advantage from a young age. The correct sort of aid could have a very large positive effect over time, unlike not giving aid.

I disagree. I have volunteered to help religious organizations, both in the United States as well as other countries, who provide aid to those in need. In all cases, aid was offered to help people get back on their feet and to become self reliant. In these cases, the aid was not only greatly appreciated, but was given in a way that was ennobling. In the United States, government aid often becomes a multigenerational lifestyle, and it is indeed dehumanizing because it keeps people from living up to their full potential. It sends the message, "You can't survive without us," and that simply isn't true.

innocentoldguy, I believe you when you say you don't mean to insult. I mean no insult to white people either (see the end of my prior comment). I wholeheartedly respect that you "purposefully ignored caution" and agree that

> "It is hard to have an honest conversation if you stifle yourself based on your own sex, gender, or other distinguishing features. How can we ever eliminate prejudices unless we acknowledge our differences and weaknesses and talk our way through them?"

In all honesty you are making straw men arguments.

Yes, there are many aid programs that don't help in the long run. But in my point I'm not asking whites to give aid. I'm asking them to first recognize and then stop taking advantage of their unfair privilege, privilege that came on the backs of the disadvantage of others, privilege that perpetuates privilege. And to call out unfairness when they see it. Too many do not. That is the tragedy of the shipwreck, both the one in the story and the one that is racial relations today.

Keep in mind that being a single minority person is not the same as being a member of a minority population. Individuals of other colors or countries are often treated as guests, or even royalty, when they number very little. It is only when the minority population is large enough does the prejudice of the dominant population start to get ugly. My family was the sole one of its "race" in the farm town I grew up in. You were a sole white guy in Japan. Now go talk to the Korean population there and ask what their experience was and is.

To deny the Matthew Effect is to deny reality. As Aloha and omegaworks discussed, there are serious structural issues stacking things against part of the population. That a small percentage of people can overcome it does not prove that it doesn't exist or that it should be ignored.

I hope you read and reply to istjohn's excellent comment.

Hi eevilspock. Thank you for your reply.

Regarding the Matthew Effect, I don't deny that it is real. The rich do get richer and the poor do get poorer, but that is a principle of economics, not race. When the Matthew Effect enters a discussion on racial injustice, it seems to me the conversation has taken a sharp turn away from equal rights, and has started driving down the path of greed and envy. I'm a staunch supporter of equal rights. I am not a supporter of equal stuff.

It wasn't me that downvoted you, but the Matthew Effect is not limited to economics. It governs social status; the distribution and concentration of power, whether in politics or elsewhere; the education of children and their self esteem, and whether they feel they are a welcome member of society or persona non grata; and many other things in life. Hell, it even effects who succeeds in Canadian Hockey[1]. It was critical to Bill Gates's success[2].

You also failed to answer the moral point I made above. Using your wealth to accumulate more power and wealth at the expense of others, making it harder and harder for them to escape the hole they are in, or even worse, pushing them further into the hole, to disregard their suffering and structural oppression, is a serious moral issue. That is my point about public vs private schools in my first comment. It is also my point about people advantaged by the cultural and structural issues staying silent, often because speaking up will threaten their advantage. Or perhaps even worse (or maybe not worse. It is good we are talking about it and bringing it out into the open), actively discounting the issue as you are here.


[1] http://blogs.ausd.net/users/thearchofthesky2010/uploads/thea.... See also: http://sportsscientists.com/2009/01/the-matthew-effect/

[2] http://gatorshockey.ca/articles/the-matthew-effect-and-the-1...

Hi eevilspock. Don't worry. I don't vote people down. I think everyone has something worthwhile to say, even if I disagree.

I'm glad you brought up Outliers. It is one of the most interesting books I've read this year.

I'd like to discuss this further with you, but I feel like I need to get on the same page. First of all, how are you defining "economics?" A lot of people think "money" when they hear the word, but I'm defining it as "opportunity costs," for this discussion; which can relate to money, but often times doesn't. Also, how are you defining "pushing them further into the hole?" Can you describe the scenario you're talking about? For example, I make a lot of money writing software as a full-time employee. I also make even more money by writing freelance code, articles, and books. How am I pushing others into a hole?

Please don't misunderstand the point I'm trying to make. I realize, from personal experience, that it is more difficult to succeed in one condition vs. another (which is why I wrote my original post the way that I did). I am also aware that race, birthplace, etc. play into our conditions (again, refer to my original post). My point is that it is entirely possible to succeed in spite of that condition, rather than succumbing to it. In fact, I think it is very important that we do.

Using one of the articles you posted as an example, let's say we have two boys, one born in January and one born in December. The January kid knows he's the star, and so does the December kid. Which scenario is psychologically better for the December kid?

SCENARIO 1: The coach comes up to December kid and says, "You were born in December, which means that you don't have an equal chance to succeed, so I'm going to go ahead and let you play this game instead of January kid in order to make things fair."

SCENARIO 2: The December kid practices twice as hard as the January kid, camps out at the rink while all his friends and teammates are living their lives, demonstrates better skills, and is placed in a game over January kid simply because he is better.

My point is that I think black people in America (or white/Korean people in Japan, etc.) should practice the 10,000 hours to succeed, rather than lamenting the fact that their dad isn't William H. Gates, Sr. It is a tougher road, but much more rewarding. It also isn't the only thing that needs to happen; just an important one, which is why I mentioned it in the first place.

Thank you for the civil discussion, eevilspock.

Likewise, innocentoldguy. Happy to continue. Send me an email.

While I agree that victimhood is an issue, I disagree that the democrats alone are perpetuating victimhood, or for that matter than all discrimination is gone, and people are not honestly victims either.

I'm going to use you as an example - you sir, are exceptional, you're a unicorn among men, you're aware of your limitations, of your status in the world you lived in, and yet moved beyond it, and went for the brass ring. Most people even with simply exceptional parents (skin color doesn't matter), can't do this - never mind the cultural bonds (dare I say submissiveness) that descends from over a century of slavery.

Don't fall into the fallacy of assuming what you can do, anyone can do, not everyone has the chops for it, but you know, a significant minority of any community can, and they can lead the others theoretically to the promised land.

>never mind the cultural bonds (dare I say submissiveness) that descends from over a century of slavery.

You (and the parent) completely discount the structural deficiencies present in our society to this day.

In the 50s and 60s with soldiers moving into the middle class on GI bill funding, banks systematically denied access to home loans to blacks looking to move in to suburban neighborhoods, literally trapping people in certain sections of the city. These were enormous infrastructural investments on the part of governments. Suburbs wouldn't exist without fast highway and expressway access to the urban core. Black neighborhoods were literally bifurcated to make way for these huge infrastructure projects. These broken and divided neighborhoods were left to rot. Nobody invests in a place politicians put first on the chopping block. We built these ghettos.

This blight of a suburbia built on exclusion will continue to burden America for generations to come. We as a society continue to divest from education and funnel billions of dollars towards war and incarceration. With mandatory minimum sentencing and zero-tolerance punishments for minor drug possession we house 22 percent of the world's prison population; we have more of our citizens locked up then any other country on Earth. 1 in 3 black men are behind bars.

This is a societal failure, and framing it as "failure of individual responsibility" is one of the most malicious distortions of reality one can muster.

No disagreement from me in any part - I don't disagree with you about institutionalized racism, not at all, but I also believe that accepting the role of the victim (until very recently) was (largely) the status quo (the acceptance of the status quo is the cultural bods I spoke of). The African American community only in the last 5 years has stood up and said simply "this state of affairs is neither fair nor right, and must change".

I also agree with Mandatory minimums are a pox on our civil society as are things like offender registries and a the lack of real representation for the accused - our justice system is based around the idea of free and fair trials, and the punishment discharging the debt to society.

>only in the last 5 years has stood up and said simply "this state of affairs is neither fair nor right, and must change".

I'm not sure what you're trying to stay here. The Civil Rights movement grew out of the 60s.

I don't consider the historical civil rights movement and the black lives matter movement to be deeply linked, they had different goals, and different means of accomplishing those goals

I agree that there is a societal aspect of it, but individual responsibility is the one thing each and every one of us has ultimate control over. You can whine about century-old affronts and complain about societal deficiencies for centuries to come, but the one thing that each of us can change today is our own personal behaviors. It isn't a malicious distortion. It is an alterable reality.

Why not control what you can control first before you try to tame the impossible?

Thank you for your reply, Aloha. Just to clarify, I didn't say the Democrat party was the only one perpetuating the notion of victimhood. Other organizations do as well, but the Democrat party are the biggest, in my opinion. Here's why I feel that way:

The Democrats like to hoist around this big banner of Civil Rights and claim that it was them who brought equality to America in 1964, but this is a lie. The Democrats set civil rights back by almost 100 years. During the Reconstruction era, it was Republicans (Thaddeus Stevens and Charles Sumner, in particular) who steamrolled Democrat president Andrew Johnson and got huge civil rights bills and the 14th Amendment passed over Johnson's veto. These Republicans granted the freedmen citizenship and the right to vote, much to the chagrin of the Democratic party. They also outlawed segregation, made it illegal to deny public services and amenities to the freedmen, and attempted to pay restitution to the freedmen in the form of 40 acres of land and enough money to build a house. The Democrats blocked that from happening though. Basically, the freed slaves were given every civil right that black people enjoy today back in the 1800s, but when the Republicans lost power in Congress, the Democrats took it all away.

Some like to distance themselves from this history and claim that during the early 20th Century that the Democrats and Republicans switched roles, but this is also an attempt to rewrite the facts. In truth, Lyndon B. Johnson, a Democrat, did sign the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but the Democrats didn't want it, and it was only because of the Republicans in Congress that the act passed and became law. Ever since then, especially right before an election, you'll notice that it is the Democrats who race-bait and try to get everyone all stirred up again. It is Democrats who preach the false narrative that Republicans hate black people. In other words, they are using, as they always have, racial prejudices, or at least the illusion of such, to get votes. I was born in the 1960s, and I've seen a lot of Democrat candidates promise the moon to black voters, but I've never really seen them deliver. The state of equality between blacks and whites has largely gone unchanged. In my opinion, The Democrat party uses and abuses black people to get power.

Please don't misunderstand. I know that Republicans have screwed things up too, and I know that there are segments of the nation where racial prejudices are still thriving. I'm simply giving my reasoning for calling out the Democrat party in my original post. If you'd like to discuss that further, or point out where I'm wrong, I'd be happy to have that discussion. The entire purpose of my original post was to open up a dialogue and offer some things to think about.

I'm not really going to comment on the motives of the radical republicans, as they were very much outside the mainstream of american politics at the time. While they did seek to help the black man, it was not because of their belief in equality, but rather to punish the south, which in my opinion doomed the effort to failure from the start.

LBJ was probably the most politically skillful president politically we've ever had - he knew where all the hidden levers were in Congress and used them to his full advantage to get the Civil Rights Act passed. I'm not a huge fan of LBJ's politics (I'm more on the libertarian side of the street), but I'm in awe of his abilities.

The story as it goes as to how LBJ changed from someone with little opinion on race to a champion of civil rights is amusing, purportedly LBJ, Lady Bird, and their cook Zephyr were on a trip thru rural Texas, LBJ and Lady Bird stopped to use the restroom at a service station, about 5 miles down the road after, Zephyr asked LBJ to pull over, so she could use the restroom - he asked her why she didn't use it previously at the service station, she responded that there were no colored restrooms there, so he pulled over and did her business on the side of the road - that was purportedly the catalyst moment for him - he'd also had experience as a schoolteacher at a segregated mexican school in the 30's, which also shaped his view.

Your statement about Thaddeus Stevens isn't correct. Yes, Stevens did want to punish the south, but he was staunchly opposed to slavery and was a strong proponent of civil rights (even more so than Abraham Lincoln was).

Early in Stevens' legal career, he was hired by a Maryland slave owner who wanted him to represent the slaver in a court case to retrieve a runaway slave named Charity Butler. Stevens used his wit and skills in the courtroom to win the case, by proving that Charity Butler had not lived in Pennsylvania for six consecutive months, thereby failing the legal requirement to declare herself free. Stevens won the case, but was then distraught over having cost three people (Charity Butler and her children) their freedom. After that, he became a powerful force in the abolitionist movement. You cannot dismiss Stevens' actions as just wanting to punish the south. He wanted to eliminate slavery in America and fix the damage that had been done to those who were slaves, and he did an extremely good job.

As others have pointed out more delicately, there is no reason to think your experience as a white "minority" in Japan and India gives you any special insight into the black experience in America. I don't know your life story except from the small bit you have shared, but I do know that Japan was conquered by the US roughly seventy years ago, and India gained its independence from Great Britain fairly recently. So in both societies your caucasian ethnicity mirrored that of foreign invaders and conquerors in their recent history. This does not parallel the experience of blacks in America. Quite the opposite. I suspect the ostracism and discrimination you experienced, while no doubt real and burdensome, was drastically different in almost every way from the racial disparities in America. Frankly, you are comparing apples and oranges.

You say that the biggest problem for black people isn't white privilege but their victimhood mentality. I'm assuming that when they worked the fields in slave camps, you would agree their mentality, victimhood or no, was the least of their problems. I would allege that remained the case under Jim Crow, which lasted for 90 years after slavery was abolished. When did their oppression stop being mostly externally imposed and become majority self-imposed through a victimhood mentality?

Perhaps the shift occurred after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Discrimination officially became illegal, so the playing field was now level, mostly. Sure redlining would continue into the 80's in many cities, and it would take years to integrate schools. Legislation was not able to extract racism from people's hearts. But after 1964, would you say the bulk of black's problems stopped being racial persecution and started being an endemic victimhood?

A third of black men are in prison today. Could it be that the same system that refuses to indict a police officer for shooting a black boy carrying a toy gun in his waistband in an open carry state would also unjustly funnel blacks into prisons, or is that incredible statistic the manifestation of an errant mentality in the black community?

A further question. If hundreds of years of slavery followed by decades and decades of open racism and oppression followed by years and years of subtler but systematic discrimination has somehow caused blacks to internalize a self-defeating hopelessness, who should be held to account? I say the society which created hopelessness can and must replace it with hope. The nation which brought a race to expect adversity can also take the steps necessary to share the sense of careless ease they enjoy.

Blacks want to be treated fairly and justly, and to have an equal opportunity to succeed. They believe the world owes it to them, and they're right. We do owe it to them, even if, nay, especially since we have such a long history of depriving them of it. As you say, they "want [it], [they] think that the world owes it to [them]." I would argue that they don't think they necessarily will get it, at least not anytime soon. But they will not stop demanding it, and that spirit driving them is not irrational cognitive dissonance as you would have it, but the same irrational hope that drives every struggle for equality and dignity.

I don't think your views are maliciously racist, but they are woefully ignorant and lacking empathy and understanding of the black experience in America, as is the case for so many whites. If you are up to the intellectual task of attempting to truly understand what it is like to live as a black person under the legacies of racism and slavery I highly recommend the writings of Ta-Nehisi Coates. You can find many of his essays online. I particularly recommend his Atlantic article, "The Case for Reparations," for a fresh attempt to show the continuing reverberations of racism in the black community. His book, "Between the World and Me," relates his personal experience of racism as a black man who grew up in the Baltimore ghetto.

>I think the biggest problem for black people in America isn't white privilege, but rather the victimhood mentality that many have, which has largely been propagated by the Democrat party and other organizations for the sole purpose of gaining wealth and power.

You are so ignorant of your privilege.

Which doesn't speak one way or another as to whether his assertion has some truth to it or not. he could be Donald Trump and it would make no difference as to whether his statement held some truth. The failure of people to separate the usefulness of the arguments on this topic from the people making the arguments is one of the biggest problems around this, IMHO.

I've never seen any use of the word "privilege" that didn't map directly to "shut up," and sadly this comment is no different.

If you disagree with the parent comment, make an argument, don't just throw out a buzzword that's only meaningful to a tiny political fringe and think that's going to convince anyone of anything.

Parent post used privilege without truly understanding or defining it. I'm merely stating an opinion. If you'd like to talk silencing, which is a false and misleading interpretation of my comment, let's talk down votes. The down votes on my post are actual attempts to silence my opinion, and you don't seem as vociferously defensive.

This while a great opinion - is a comment of no substance. Statements like this without substance to back it up or explain it, have no value.

There's very little substance in the original post as well. Anecdote after anecdote. I'm far too incensed by the latest example of legalized institutional destruction of black bodies[0] for me to take the time to carefully address his post point by point. The evidence that he is living in a fantasy is plain as day.

0. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/29/us/tamir-rice-police-shoot...


> What a bunch of BS you talk.

This comment breaks the HN guidelines. Please (re-)read and follow them when commenting here:



Doesn't your comment also break the guidelines? I believe you're supposed to simply flag the parent comment, not comment on the inappropriateness of his or her comment.

dang runs the site.

Bay area tech companies are hardly representative of hiring practises (or of anything really) in the economy at large

And even then, when Bay Area companies hire minorities, it's usually Asians. Blacks and Latinos are still severely underrepresented, and upper management has next to none.


It is the plight of a people. The same relation that the Holocaust has to the Jews of today. Perhaps you also think Jews should stop complaining about the Holocaust?

> It is the plight of a people.

Modern African Americans have no more in common with the slaves on that island than I do with a random German or Spaniard from the same time period. That is to say the only commonality is skin color.

> The same relation that the Holocaust has to the Jews of today.

The parent comment to which I was replying is the equivalent of saying "hey look at this bad thing that happened to some Jewish people in 1710. Isn't the Holocaust terrible Germans should feel bad." It is nonsensical and ridiculous, and has no bearing on reality.

> Perhaps you also think Jews should stop complaining about the Holocaust?

The guidelines of the site and common civility prevent me from replying to this.

No, but I would expect them to stop complaining about current day Germans as a whole nationality, or more accurately, current day Japanese. It's a few hundred years and a different people. Sure, there were similar crimes, but to connect this specific event to them just because of some tenuous connection, such as the color of their skin, is inherently racist in itself.

You should think in terms of communities and their histories, not in terms of individuals.

Do you want to blame modern Assyrians for the excesses of the Assyrian empire? Do you expect the people of Botswana to be held responsible for the actions of Mauritanians? When you define your 'communities' purely in terms of race without regard to distance or time or nationality or even individuality, it's those kinds of absurdities that you end up with.

Because that narrative allows for blaming others for personal failings.

While the GP's offhanded connecting of the dots between a slave ship and African-Americans might be unnecessary, implying that the plight of minorities in the United States stems solely from their personal failings is no less simplistic or naive than the original statement.

Socioeconomic status and race are a whole lot more complicated than "minorities need to work harder", which is what "personal failings" typically translates to. Entrenched poverty and the effects of legalized second-class citizenship don't simply disappear in 60-70 years.

That is not what I meant. Of course racists exist in modern society.

I had a few African American roommates years ago. They would espouse beliefs that the slave trade is the reason they were in the position they were in financially. They were all enrolled in college, did not work and everything was paid for by their parents. I was washing dishes and going hungry. Now I own a house and was told by one of them it was due to my 'white privilege'. It's utter bullshit. Poverty is the problem, racism is the smokescreen the powerful hide behind while they run off with all the money.

The concept of "privilege" can both exist and have been misconstrued and misapplied to your case by your friends. Also, slavery and Jim Crow can both leave an unfortunate legacy of poverty amongst many African-Americans, and not have prevented your roommates from getting into and affording college. You seem to be saying that since you had black roommates in college (and they could afford it), while you (presumably non-black) endured through strife, discussing racism today is BS. I am not sure how that follows.

If poverty is the problem to be solved, where do you believe the poverty problem comes from? Why is the concept of racism a smokescreen? I can't say that I've seen many people decrying the legacy of institutionalized racism making millions off of that rhetoric. Do you have particular examples in mind?

The poverty problem in the united states mostly stems from the fact that the income distribution is insanely screwed and politicians are bought too easily by corporations. It has very little to do with racism. If racism were the cause appalachia would be the garden of Eden.

You are drawing false conclusions up and down this thread. Both of the following can be (and are) true: Appalachia is a nexus of white poverty (and industrial decay), and institutionalized racism has lingering effects through the present day. The fact that racism existed (and continues to exist in some ways) does not preclude white people from ever being poor. Just like how your roommates' forefathers may have been discriminated against, but their parents managed to pay for their college. At the same time, your forefathers may not have been discriminated against, but you did not end up with a nest egg to work from. Local exceptions do not mean that systemic issues can be dismissed offhandedly.

While the income distribution may be screwed, in part, because "politicians are bought too easily by corporations", how one could deny that institutionalized racism in the past has lingering effects on socioeconomic status for members of particular races into the present day is beyond me. You are pointing out real issues, but none of these issues mean that racism doesn't (or didn't) exist.

EDIT: Also, where are those people that make millions off of the discussion of racism? (Do you perhaps have Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson in mind?) Even if there are some small number of people whose brand personally benefits from discussing racism, their existence does not erase the socioeconomic disparity between races (today) that stems, in part, from institutionalized racism of the past.

Who profits from racism? A single example. Call it "Black lives matter" and a small segment of the population gets involved. Call it "Human lives matter" and the entire population gets involved and demands police reform. In this example what do you think the owners of for profit prisons (the ruling class) prefer? What narrative do you think the media they control will parrot?

Yet another false dilemma! Racism can both exist and have ineffectual movements (what you are claiming #BLM to be) that use it as a rallying cry.

I think it's folly to talk of #BLM as a cohesive movement, and paint a hashtag's actions with a broad stroke as you have, but saying that "human lives matter" is leaving things at the status quo. And as I've been pointing out all along, the status quo is impacted by the legacy of historical (and on-going) racism. It's not clear to me that we can expect all races to get a fair shake now in a "human lives matter" world, when merely 50 years ago unfair shakes based on race were codified into American law.

Unless you can give reasons why you think "personal failings" or 'false-flag racism' (as you've described your neighbors or roommates) are greater contributions than past actual, systemic racism to generational poverty, I can't say that I have much more to discuss.

I point to a provable, objective cause of poverty and you still wish to blame white people. Who's the racist again?

60-70 years? Redlining[0], and it's spiritual offspring, continue through the present day[1]!

0 : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redlining

1 : http://www.consumerfinance.gov/newsroom/cfpb-and-doj-order-h...

I use 60-70 years as a conservative number, so that even the most fervent believers of "it's not because they are black, it's because they are poor" (or similar opinions) can see that people still alive today were likely legally discriminated against based on the color of their skin in ways that most people take for granted.

I would agree that things like redlining and discretionary funding appropriations are still an issue worth discussing today.

A French ship sailing from Madagascar is 1761 is an agent of the colonial system and slave trade that brought Africans to the Americas and "initially" allocated them their socioeconomic standing, which turned out to be largely heritable and for many (say, those murdered by police without consequence) still sticks.

Only a racist hates someone because of skin color. Are you saying blacks as a group are racist?

Edit: I guess the answer to my question is "Yes".

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