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America makes more sense when you consider that Civil Society (as in the third sector) is mostly dead, and what is left is extremely fragmented. There is no cohesion, very little shared culture, and a lot of outright animosity between groups. They aren't countrymen, they just happen to live in the same legal boundaries.

When people in this mindset see homeless they don't think "This is a member of my society that is suffering", they see an Other. Put another way, plenty of old men want to plant trees, they just only want their own group using the shade.




I think a lot of this mindset is also driven by the fact that the loudest members of society aren’t generally reflective of society as a whole.

The Trump supporters at rallies, and the cancel/call out culture on Twitter are two examples that come to mind which bias an individual towards large groups of people who mostly aren’t such caricatures.

It’s like the whole LatinX thing, where no Latinos really identify as LatinX but it’s this narrative pushed forward by an extremely vocal super minority.

Or that whole uproar about white women wearing Japanese clothing that happened.

At the end of the day, I think most Americans are more connected than we think culturally and it’s a bit of a shame but we mostly don’t hear the opinions of the people who’re working, taking care of children, and otherwise enjoying life by partaking in hobbies, social events, and cultural activities.

What we do hear are the people so invested in X or Y as to be extremely strongly opinionated enough about and invested in it that they may drive culture one way or the other without the contributions of most individuals.

Of course there is xenophobia, and strong prejudices and biases out there, but I’m hardpressed to describe Americans as being that way as a whole and in general I think we mostly move forward on social issues even if we take a couple steps back.

We’re seeing one of the most unequal periods of American history come to a head right now, exacerbated by tax cuts for the wealthiest, globalization, unfettered money in politics, and a whole slew of other factors.

But I have a feeling we’re going to come out of it okay, and I’m especially hopeful for Generation Z which seems to be all about achieving universal healthcare, affordable education, the freedom to be yourself in nondiscriminatory ways, and tackling climate change.


This is your opinion, and a bit insulting considering you have taken a broad brush stroke across a country of 300+ million people, including myself. Perhaps you should get off the twitter bubble and go get involved in your community.

A few issues with your argument:

1) "plenty of old men" is almost certainty referring to the common portrayal of "old white men" and more broadly speaking all White Americans.

Let's just pick this one apart. I cannot speak for all the various religions in the US and their relative charity work, but I know that every church I have ever been apart of has done a tremendous amount of charity work not just in their local community but across the globe, mainly in third world countries - of not "white people". I will make the responsible assumption that other religions do the same. Considering more than 40% of US citizens attend some religious congregation weekly, that means more than 150 million Americans are contributing physically, and likely economically, to global organizations that have shared culture and do "goodwill" in the US and abroad... most often for the "suffering", and a large % of this group of Americans are white, many of which are old - as it's well known that religious observation is significantly greater among pre-Millennial generations.

2) Speaking to the remaining 60% of the United States, more than 62 million Americans volunteer, it's growing every year, and more than half of American's contribute to charity. Again, even assuming 50% overlap with the active-observant religion 40% of the population, we can assume almost every American contributes to an organization either through labor or charity to help those who suffer, and the delta of those who are likely not contributing physically or economically are probably those receiving said charity, and not a huge swath of millions of racist anti-American "countrymen".

3) To your point about a "disconnected society of mostly old white men", I have lived in South Florida for most of my life, where there is a HUGE influx of immigrants and refugees such as Cubans, Haitians, Central Americans, and most recently South Americans, i.e. Venezuelans - where these communities often represent double digit % of the population, and majority of the population in certain large geographic areas. You cannot "drive around" without seeing a car displaying a flag of their country of origin. From the tone of your comment it sounds like YOU have a problem with that behavior? You are essentially calling them un-American.

Frankly speaking as someone who has gone to public school with the children of these people, most of which the children were born outside the US, many of which are "Dreamers" - I know many might "long for their homeland". I know many have immense pride of their heritage. But these people that I know most often have joined the military, police, or other government service - because that is more often then not a stable, often guaranteed, step up in society both economically and I believe from a respect perspective which by your argument they apparently still have to earn. I assume you do respect those vital national and local services, regardless of the "Americanism" of those carrying out the services.

4) American Culture is defined by "shared culture", it is unique compared to every other country in the world BECAUSE OF THAT, not in spite of that. It is constantly changing and evolving. And the fringe that you speak to is simply ignorant of that fluidity that makes this country so unique and grand. I won't make the assumption of generalizing you and putting you into that fringe, but you certainly are amplifying that group by accusing all others of being apart of it without any evidence or scientific fact.


Racism. It's mostly driven by racism but we're not allowed to call it that.


Not allowed to call it that since when? It seems to me that we’re allowed to call everything racism these days. E.g. Warren talking about “environmental racism, economic racism, criminal-justice racism, health-care racism.”

I don’t disagree with your point in a certain sense, but your framing is fluffy and unsatisfying. America is one of the least racist countries in the world. For example, 82% of French support banning Islamic head coverings, versus just 28% of Americans: https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2010/07/14/french-supp.... I’m a Bangladeshi married to an Oregonian. (Not like Portland, like rural Oregon coast.) I’ve lived in red states, visited rural parts of the country, and currently live in a precinct that voted for Trump. The degree to which Americans are willing to accept you into their communities, given minimal attempts to conform, never ceases to amaze me. (And when I hear about how “profoundly racist” America is, I can’t help but think sheepishly: “man, what would they say about Bangladesh?”)

So how much explanatory power does leveling charges of racism really have? Clearly racism exists and is a bad thing and produces many problems. But racism is also a structural problem endemic to humans, not anything unique to Americans. How much can you really rely on racism alone to explain the level of division within American society?


A lot of divisions in America are driven by generations of policy based on racism - from redlining, white flight and zoning policies that changed the structure of cities and are now used as weapons against newcomers and change, to the very existence of many cities and governments that were created in order to be a separate white space from the larger cities nearby, and the use of these boundaries to avoid funding the basics of society for everyone (school districts, libraries, roads, etc).

The vast majority of Americans are not racist in the sense that they are personally antagonistic to an individual of another race. But many of them are racist in the sense that they think black people on average are poorer because they have shitty culture, not because white people historically prevented them from buying land, prevented them from being educated, prevented them from using opportunities like the GI bill, etc.


> A lot of divisions in America are driven by generations of policy based on racism - from redlining, white flight and zoning policies that changed the structure of cities and are now used as weapons against newcomers and change, to the very existence of many cities and governments that were created in order to be a separate white space from the larger cities nearby, and the use of these boundaries to avoid funding the basics of society for everyone (school districts, libraries, roads, etc)

I've got some bad news: when you solve racism, these problems will still exist. Because the elites will never want to live nearby poor people and zoning laws ensure they don't have to


If you "solve racism", then redlining and white flight still exist? I mean, that's true in the sense that even after the next generation stops being overtly racist, there will still be a systemic bias against black people by dint of their parents and grandparents having been confined to disinvested neighborhoods. Other than that, I don't see how your rebuttal makes sense.


> If you "solve racism", then redlining and white flight still exist?

I think he means that it will be replaced by something else and the end results will be the same. A lot of problems we attribute to racism will be there due to some other cause. Problems have multiple sources, and solving one will not solve the problem. A common debate in society is precisely about how much of a given problem is due to racism. Some people assume it's very high, and others say it is just one amongst many.


Right, but the comment above addressed that directly, and was met with a dismissive response. In fact: the roughest neighborhoods in cities like Chicago are a direct result of racism. It's not controversial or even disputable: you can look at a crime map, superimpose the redline boundaries, and see the correspondence immediately.

Is everything a result of racism? I have no idea. I kind of doubt it. But the comment above gave specific examples of things that impact us to this day that are clearly based on racism, and that won't be solved simply by a generational shift in attitudes (which has largely already occurred in the US).


The powers that be love us fighting among our races because it prevents the poor from revolting against the rich.


Hey rayiner, love your contributions to HN. I think you're missing a big piece here that I have very recently started to see myself. I would be delighted to share with you.

Are you aware of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's book "Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America"? I am just about done reading it. Before I may have side-eyed "criminal-justice racism" "health-care racism", etc. After, it is clear as day how racism in America should be a first-order question when examining any social issue/problem.

I really hope you check out the book!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25898216-stamped-from-th...

As for "health-care racism" I even caught that in the news recently. "Racial bias in a medical algorithm favors white patients over sicker black patients"

https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2019/10/24/racial-bias...


If you cherry-pick data, you can advance a narrative even if there are lots of counter-examples. Coleman Hughes argues that Kendi cherry-picks data quite a lot: https://www.city-journal.org/how-to-be-an-antiracist


I look forward to reading this.


I gotta say one of the three top articles on City Journal is a big bag of 'yikes'.

"The Administration’s First-String Team Two of Trump’s top lieutenants have their eye on what’s crucial." https://www.city-journal.org/william-barr-mike-pompeo - This in reference to Attorney General Barr and Secretary of State Pompeo who I hold in no esteem at all.

So I will certainly read this critique of Kendi's work albeit with my eyes wide open for right leaning bias.


I can't speak to City Journal at all, but I find Coleman Hughes to be a very fair-minded person who certainly has no love for Trumpism.


> The book is weakest in its chapter devoted to capitalism. “Capitalism is essentially racist,” Kendi proclaims, and “racism is essentially capitalist.”

Oh Geez.


I read Hughes' article set it aside and read again then wrote out my thoughts. A point first:

1) Hughes' critique is of Dr. Kendi and both of his books "Stamped", which I referenced above, and "How to Be an Anti-Racist", which I have not read so if you would like to critique my critique of Hughes' critique, there are items I ignore because they reference ideas I know are not from Kendi's book that I have read.

I recommended the book Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America in my earlier post because it paints a clear picture how racism is alive in well in America in 2019, both in overt, covert, and systemic forms.

Hughes' critique shows errors Kendi made, and discredits unsubstantiated claims Kendi made. Yet in the end Stamped from the Beginning, and its central tenets are still standing.

Hughes' critique of Kendi suffers from some of the same issues he charges Kendi with. Hughes cherry picks facts and claims from Kendi's work to critique, and takes a broad brush to make some unsubstantiated claims of his own. Unfortunately this gives Hughes' work the air of pseudo-intellectualism.

In Stamped from the Beginning, Kendi weaves the ideas of racism, anti-racism, and other forms throughout his book as major ideas in America's past and present. Those include assimilation, segregation, "uplift-suasion" (the notion that black people could gain equality in the eyes of white people by being model minorities), and others. As core themes of the book Hughes neglects to mention them or in some cases discusses them in isolation from each other and not in reference to Kendi's core idea of racism/anti-racism.

For example, when countering Kendi's claim that "capitalism is racist" Hughes cites Plessy v. Ferguson

The most famous is the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case, when a profit-hungry railroad company––upset that legally mandated segregation meant adding costly train cars––teamed up with a civil rights group to challenge racial segregation.

Here, Hughes conflates anti-segregation with anti-racist. This is an unfair treatment of a core idea of Kendi's work. It belies either ignorance or intellectual dishonesty on the part of Hughes. One of the biggest take aways from Kendi's history is that one could be against segregation, slavery, or other ideas we associate with racism, and still be racist.

The latter chapters of Stamped from the Beginning show just how the language we hear today around "law and order" and other political slogans emerged from Richard Nixon knowing exactly how to appeal to racist voters without saying the n-word. The lineage is traced from Nixon, to Reagan, Bush I, and up to Clinton (could go further, but I have a few chapters yet to finish).

So if you are considering Stamped from the Beginning, I don't see Hughes' critique as one worth keeping you away from it.


What is the proper interpretation of “capitalism is racist?” My first inclination, as a brown person, is that this notion is incredibly problematic. (See: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyssaayres/2014/10/28/banglade...). Capitalism is the great equalizer. It’s why former colonies like Singapore are now richer than their former colonizers.

The great crime of America is excluding African Americans from the benefits of capitalism by systematically eliminating their ability to build and protect capital, businesses, etc.

What am I missing?


Thank you for the reading recommendation. To be clear, I credit concepts like "criminal-justice racism," "health-care racism" as applied to African Americans. I just disagree that there is any taboo against talking about it. The U.S. has never squarely dealt with the fact that it enslaved a group of people that now make up 1 in 10 americans, and even after that ended denied them political participation, access to capital, etc. Lots of problems follow from that.

My point of disagreement is about the assertion that the decline of U.S. civil society is "mostly driven by racism." Our civil society and institutions are declining, but systemic racism against African Americans is, if not better, not worse than it was decades ago.


> Not allowed to call it that since when?

It's not politically correct to call it racism. According to the powers that be, we should call it "economic anxiety"


Heh.

Throwaway account of sorts here. I too am a South Asian who has been in the US for quite a while, and have lived in both red and blue states. I used to live in South Asia and the Middle East.

In my experience, Americans (of all races, including whites), are a ton more welcoming than I've seen anywhere else (well, except Canada of course). In fact, the most welcoming community I lived in was in a red state.

In contrast, people in the countries I lived in are much, much more overtly prejudiced. Here in the US I have no problem having a conversation with pretty much anyone - be they of another race or wealthy or in poverty. In South Asia those who were of a different social class were simply invisible. You don't get to interact much with those higher than you, and everyone pretends the poor simply don't exist.

And so much is dictated by your ethnicity/tribe.

I remember the situation in the US after 9/11. There were bad things happening across the country against people of Muslims or those suspected of being Muslims. But the majority were supportive. I remember my Saudi friend remarking "You know, if white people had done something like this in our country, it would not be safe for them to leave their home. And here I am not worrying at all about being outside. I know the majority has my back."

In over 20 years of living in the US, I've never had someone overtly treat me in a racist manner. Yet back home being treated in a prejudicial fashion was the expectation. Life's simply a lot better in the US.

Clearly, the US has lots of prejudism/racism issues. And it's visible. And you can see it in the statistics. And in my experience it has gotten worse in the last few years. We're not saying the US is alright. But when I look globally, the US is definitely in the better half, and probably pretty high in the better half.

Oh, and if you want an idea of how bad things can be even in Western Europe, I strongly encourage you to listen to Epsiode 684 of This American Life ("Burn it Down"): https://www.thisamericanlife.org/684/burn-it-down

You can see the transcript on the site.

Some of the stuff described there would be pretty outrageous/scandalous in the US. The difference isn't that sutff like this doesn't happen in the US (it probably does), but how the public reacts to it when it becomes mainstream news in a major city.

Oh, and just on the side: We South Asians are not really any better. I can't tell you how many times a fellow South Asian in the US complains about racist white people, and then has no problem making racist remarks about Chinese and African Americans. And when called out on it simply dismiss it with "Well that's just the reality!"


You are crushing this thread with sensibility. Thanks.


In my experience the case is exactly the opposite. The term "racism" is so overloaded at this point that you can call someone a racist if they've mentioned anything even tangentially related to race. It's an insult more than a descriptor.


How so? Do you mean that people "would" help if they weren't racist? San Francisco, which has one of the largest homeless populations per capita, has a homeless population that is 35% caucasian (the largest represented racial group).

(Edited to add: Caucasians make up 40.2% of the city population)

https://sf.curbed.com/2017/6/16/15818104/homeless-sf-count-2... https://datausa.io/profile/geo/san-francisco-ca


Across the West (where I travel the most) see that most homeless is white. I would say too, that, even in places with much higher Mexican or migrant populations, such as Tucson, AZ - the homeless population is also mostly white. At least visibly. Homelessness doesn't seem to be related to racism, it seems to be a very white specific thing (at least in these western states - CA, WA, OR, MT, CO, UT, NV, AZ, NM, WY).


“Visible” homelessness is often quite a different demographic to overall homelessness - for instance women and children tend not to be visible. There may be a similar effect with race.


The actual counts generally back this up.

https://www.library.pima.gov/content/homelessness-statistics...

It's kinda hard to find, but Tucson's homelessness was 72% caucasian, 19% native american.

I don't think there is any interagency that is putting these numbers in one place yet... that's probably desperately needed for this country to start tackling the problem.

There may actually be a reason why white people are specifically affected- and it is probably related to family processes.


No, they don't.

To start: of course this is tracked federally, it has been for years. Here's a recent report https://files.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2018-AHAR...

You will note that it calls out that African Americans are extremely disproportionately represented in homeless groups (13% of population, 40% of homeless people), and in the overall demographic table we can see that white people make up about 50% of homeless people vs ~70% of the population. It also mentions that among the population of unsheltered people, which are the group I'd call more visible, white people are slightly less under-represented, at 60%.

The only place '72%' comes up in the report you linked is the BoS counties, not Tucson, so I'll assume you meant that. That seems well out of proportion to the total population so I'd ask some questions about how well the counts cover tribal lands, etc (since it's actually a count used for federal assistance, which is handled differently on tribal lands). There is increasing attention given to the lack of attention to homelessness on tribal lands, and they definitely used to not be counted - this report gives some info on how they can be undercounted even if included http://www.ruralhome.org/storage/documents/rpts_pubs/na_home...


That may be true, but I was specifically talking about Western states. I definitely agree there is a huge variance as you shift east that African American homelessness is much higher.


At this point I wonder if you’re really just striking the trivial observation that the west is majority white and so are the homeless people there. In literally every state, black people are over represented among the homeless and white people are underrepresented. However, in most states, the majority of homeless people are still white, because the state population is mostly white. It is, in any state, a complete falsehood to say that homelessness is “a very white specific thing”.

Talking about Hispanic homelessness is much harder, because there are many variations on how studies count white/Hispanic, and because it’s a less visually identifiable group than black people. Let’s look at Tucson. Pima County was ~37% Hispanic in 2015 (https://www.tucsonhispanicchamber.org/uploads/5/8/0/4/580457...) Tucson homeless population in 2016 was 30% Hispanic. Among adults without children, it was much lower: just over 20%. So non-Hispanic people are actually a little overrepresented, but probably looked very overrepresented among the visible population. And if we look at why there is that difference, my first thought would be that the Hispanic population is weighted towards children (about 50% of school enrollments, from that doc above) who are less likely to be homeless. So I would still disagree that it is at all a “white-specific thing” even in that location. (calculated from here - https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/apitl/1/AOcbyEzOLNSVbwFWOs... )

And if we just look at white/not-white: you do realize that Tucson is over 70% white people, right? And the homeless population is also just over 70% white. That’s not any kind of argument for it being a “white thing”.


Anything to prevent us from feeling sorry for white men, am I right?


While probably part of it, I don't personally believe that to be a primary cause. America is probably at or near the least racist it has been in its history. I think the entities driving narratives that make people believe racism is rampant, and cause people to make flippant accusations of racism, have more to do with it.




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