As nice as it would be if it weren’t, our empathy is finite. From family, outward to acquaintances, from neighbours to the rest of our city or town, from our country out to people on the other side of the world, we care more about issues that affect “our tribe” than we care about issues that don’t.
This doesn’t mean that we’re mean or heartless or selfish, just that we’re human.
But it also means that if we learned to think in humanistic instead of tribal terms, we’d recognise the flaws in this way of thinking. After all, in our increasingly connected world, there aren’t any problems that don’t affect us, only problems that don’t affect us yet.
In my article, The Racism Arms Race, I point out that racism has officially become everybody’s problem. As black people gain influence in society, we’re seeing first hand that discrimination is a human problem, not simply a white or a black problem. And while there is still work to be done in our society, there’s also work to be done in each of our minds and hearts.
Daniel doesn’t seem to be ready for that work.
I’m not going to debate whether white people can experience racism (they can) or whether black people are capable of inflicting it (they are), because, in the end, it’s just a word game. Call it racism or discrimination or prejudice or whatever you like, bigotry by any other name smells just as bad.
This article is intriguing and infuriating in equal measure.
One thing that black people should realise by now is that you cannot placate the Devil or it’s acolytes.
You used the term ‘I will not “sugar coat”’ repeatedly, yet, that is exactly how your article could be described. An effort to avoid poking the dragon, in case you incur its wrath.
Emmit Tull’s mom faced the reality of her situation boldly and with admirable realism. She called a spade, a spade. She was not hampered by a predictably futile attempt at magnanimity. The concept of being charitable to one’s antagonist is for perpetual victims. She claimed her dignity in the most taxing circumstances.
Specifically I take issue with the paragraph highlighted. Of course white people CAN experience racism. But the proportion that will ever be subjected to that human-cancelling experience at any time in their life is so negligible, as to be unworthy of mentioning. It just doesn’t happen, and if it did, they have access to resources that they have carefully stashed in case of such an eventuality. The have crafted an environment, selected a scapegoat whose function is to be a foil for all they choose, as insurance.
If black people are weary of white people, it is not racism. Its a natural resources to centuries of abuse. Unimaginable abuse.
Racism is an irrational hatred of people because of their racial characteristics. Deliberately targeting such people for cruel and inhuman treatment with unscrupulous disregard for their basis humanity and the denial of any opportunity for rehabilitation. Perpetual subjugation and inferiority. Black peoples’ disdain is justified.
Magnanimity is an insult to the ancestors who were enslaved, born into slavery and those of their descendants who continue to have their lives blighted by the legacy of such an evil institution.
The Transatlantic slave Trade falls into the category of evil that only our creator has jurisdiction over.
That said, I found your article interesting and informative. Thank you.
There’s a lot I could highlight in this reply, but I cover most of it in the conversation, so let’s just focus on this line:
“But the proportion that will ever be subjected to that human-cancelling experience at any time in their life is so negligible, as to be unworthy of mentioning.”
This is another feature of our lack of infinite empathy; a tendency to make injustice a competition.
I mean, yes, Daniel has a point. In the aggregate, white people in America will never experience the level of injustice that black people in America have faced. Slavery alone sees to that. But human beings are not the aggregate of the experiences of everybody who has ever looked like them.
Daniel never experienced slavery. Nor did I. None of the white people we ever met were slave owners. If we can’t stop judging people by the worst actions of anybody who shares their skin colour, we’re all in deep trouble.
One thing that black people should realise by now is that you cannot placate the Devil or it’s acolytes.
I honestly don't know how to engage with a comment like this. Or rather a sentence like this. The critique of the article I'm fine with, I'll get to that. But seriously, is this really how you see the world? I mean, I know this is hyperbole (or at least I hope so), but what are you hoping to achieve here?
Whether or not you believe that black people are capable of racism (I'm guessing not) you sound exactly like the worst of the worst racists throughout history. Ironically, if you were white and said something like this about black people I'd simply have blocked you instead of replying. But let's give this a try.
First off, yes, Mamie Till wasn't attempting to be magnanimous. I didn't suggest that she was. She wanted to force white America to come face to face with the ugliness of racism. Not to stay nestled in their bubbles of ignorance (a bubble that even she recognised that she'd been living in to a lesser degree). What she did was incredibly brave and selfless. It changed America. I'm not sure what the distinction you're trying to make is.
And yes, as I said, the proportion of white people experiencing racism pales in comparison to the number of black people experiencing racism today. Never mind the generations of racism that black people have already experienced. I state that explicitly in the article.
But given that I don't view white people as "acolytes of the Devil" (or devils themselves), I've noticed that something is shifting right now. Go back ten years and I wouldn't even have been able to find the examples of anti-white racism that I point to here. I see white people outraged at the treatment they're receiving in the public arena. I see them complaining about how unjust it is to be treated as racists or "fragile" simply because of the colour of their skin.
And they're right to feel that way. Racism, as I'm sure we'd agree, is wrong.
But the silver lining of this moment, if we stop leaning into racist rhetoric like yours, is that we can point to how this is a tiny taste of what black people have been experiencing for years. We can take this problem, that until now the overwhelming majority of white people have had no experience of, and therefore less empathy for, and say "Look, this is what it's like. This is what we’ve been talking about. Let's fix this for everybody."
I'm not naive enough to imagine that we'll get through to everybody with this approach. But the people we can get through to, people who do care, like those I’ve already had conversations with here and elsewhere, let's keep getting through to them. Let's humanise each other instead of demonising and attacking each other. Let's live up to the ideals we demand of others and refuse to judge people by the colour of their skin.
And for people like you, people who so casually call an entire group of people devils simply because their skin is a different colour to yours. Ask yourself if you'd really have been any different to all those white racists who denigrated black people for so long. Ask yourself if you are any different. Ask yourself if comments like these don't signify an irrational hatred based on racial characteristics.
We're getting a really good look at each other at the moment. We're getting the tiniest glimpse of how the world looks from "the other side". I suggest that we also take a good look at ourselves.
“Ironically, if you were white and said something like this about black people I'd simply have blocked you instead of replying.”
This line kept coming back to me in the days that followed our conversation. On reflection, I’m not sure it’s true. If a white person popped up in my comments claiming that black people were “acolytes of the Devil”, I’m sure I’d find it just as hilariously ridiculous as I find it from Daniel. I’d be far more likely to push them to think than block them.
But it’s true that I try harder to convince black people.
It’s easy for me to dismiss a white racist as an idiot. They’ve absorbed a bunch of stupid ideas to mask their own inferiority complex, and repeat them because they’re too dumb to see how nonsensical they are. There are a thousand voices in society telling them they’re wrong. If they’ve ignored all of those, chances are, they’ll ignore mine too.
But a black racist, while I guess they have more justification for their anger, knows perfectly well how awful racism is. They’ve personally felt the injustice of it in a way most white people haven’t. And in 2021, there are numerous voices in society actively encouraging the idea that it’s okay to embrace racist ideas as long as they’re directed at white people.
Seeing some black people lean into the very thing we all hate is just so saddening to me.
Your take on White America Racism is reminiscent of “ Stockholm Syndrome “. Each generation produces its share of black apologists. Individuals who find it more noble to sympathies with white people than empathise with the blighted lives of black people, Lives that never realised their potential because of systemic racism.
Einstein once said, it’s a sign of madness if you persists with a strategy that fails every time expecting a different result. Your philosophy of appeasement, while noble, has never worked. And it will never work, because it is interpreted as weakness and justification for exploitation and subjugation. It fascinates me though, that with four hundred years of history to reference, you are optimistic about a future where black people will be accepted as equal, despite the colour of their skin.
So you think that white Americans are acolytes of God. Do you?What does the evidence show?
How would you describe people who enslaved humans, defile and degrade the said humans. Breed and sell the offspring of said humans , murder said humans with impunity. , all because they of the colour of their skin?
What would you call people who claimed to be Christian yet, saw no contradiction in mass hanging black men and taking their own children to witnesses the spectacle; going to Church the following day to worship?
If you could find a more appropriate collective noun, I’d like to see it .
My conclusions were based on historical facts not sentiment and unsubstantiated optimism. But I respect your position.
We all have to find a strategy by which ti negotiate our way in the environment we inherited.
So you think that white Americans are acolytes of God. Do you? What does the evidence show?
What is wrong with you?! 😅 I think white people, like black people and brown people and all other people are people. I think they are capable of being just as good and bad as everybody else. Acolytes of God?! You might need to take a few deep breaths there my friend.
Nobody is denying the evils of slavery or lynchings or any of it, least of all me. But you act as if every white person past, present and future is equally guilty of those things. This is an insane position.
Are all Germans, past, present and future, guilty of the Holocaust? Are all Hutu, past, present and future, guilty of the Rwandan genocide? It's so crazy to me that you can't see past this collectivist nonsense with just a moment's thought.
And by the way, if you look at that four-hundred year history and don't see that black people have made progress or you think their efforts failed, you do an enormous disservice to the brave men and women (some of whom were white by the way) who fought and died so that you could wax lyrical about an oppression you'll never have to experience directly. Slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, I loathe all of these things, but we don't suffer them today. Yes, I'm angry we ever did. Yes, I'm also proud of and grateful for the progress that our ancestors made so that we could have a better life.
I'm making no effort to appease anybody. I'm making an effort to communicate. Because I'm not racist, I'm able to see what racists don't see, and what you don't see, which is that grouping people by the colour of their skin is a game that everybody loses in the end. Martin Luther King saw this perfectly clearly, even in the midst of oppression that we've been spared. And frankly, I'd take his side of the debate over yours 101 times out of 100.
As I’ve noted before, everybody knows Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech. So much so that the words have become synonymous with the man. But fewer people are familiar with his other speeches. Even as he spoke out against anti-black racism, MLK warned the black community against seeking dominance instead of equality:
We will not seek to rise from a position of disadvantage to one of advantage thus abrading justice. By adhering to this method, all of the Negro people in the United States, all of the colored people of the world will seek democracy for everybody. They will not seek to substitute one tyranny for another.
But I am convinced that black supremacy is as dangerous as white supremacy. God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men but God is interested in the freedom of a whole human race and the creation of a society where all men can live together as brothers, and every man will respect the dignity and the worth of human personality.
Martin Luther King had the foresight to speak these words during segregation. When black people were treated as subhuman by law in the United States. No doubt he saw and understood and felt the anger in the black community. But he also saw that those feelings mustn’t turn into hatred.
Sixty-five years later, despite the amount of progress that’s been made, this wisdom seems too difficult for some to accept.
Yes, I'm also proud of and grateful for the progress that our ancestors made so that we could have a better life.
I am suffocating in your piousness. I envy you.
While you revel in the unnecessary, unimaginable suffering inflicted on enslaved people and the intergenerational resistance of the descendants of the perpetrators, not only to acknowledge a debt of justice, but to modify the original ideology over decades, to facilitate the perpetuation of the myth of superiority and the reality of subjugation of people, because of the colour of their skin, so that they could revel in the privileges plundered, without consciously having to confront the moral ramifications.
That old chestnut. Generalisations are a useful, (if vulnerable to perverse misinterpretation) feature of communication. Vulnerable because it allows virtue signallers opportunity for faux indignation.
No one with a modicum of reasoning ability could conclude that there’s such a thing as the perfect human. There are always exceptions. I have met some exceptional white people. I too am aware that white people have not been given enough recognition for their contributions to the emancipation of black people. Not only in America but South Africa. That’s an injustice. Too many have paid the ultimate price.
One of Hitler’s right hand men, one of twins, is a notable example that not all Germans were Nazis. One twin was strategising the industrial genocide of the Jews. The other twin was strategising their escape. Of course not all Germans were complicit.
The German population generally were Nazis supporters and parallels white Americans today however, in their complicity with an unjust and morally bankrupt society that benefits them at the expense of others they represent a majority.
“All it takes for evil to triumph, is for good men (women) to do nothing”.
The Aztecs said “ The white men came with their Bibles. They taught us to pray. When our eyes were closed, they murdered us and stole gold and our land”. Black Americans never opened their eyes.
The civil rights movement would have achieved permanent, lasting impact if they had emulated their antagonists instead of adopting the role of sitting ducks. I f you feel the Civil Rights efforts in America is a success why are black people denied their basic right to life, liberty and happiness? Why is legislative ‘advancement’ always eroded over time. Why settle for three steps forward and two back? Black Americans must stop begging and demand real equality. Time for sanguine acquiescence has long past.
I take your point that all “races” are capable of evil acts. But why has no other proved capable of the kind of protracted, genocidal, sadistic, wanton unscrupulous, satanic, inhuman cruelty, all the while claiming to be civilised and Christian. Ask yourself: Which group has killed more humans and animals in history than any other?
When the Haitian first saw Europeans approach they welcomed them. Within fifty years they were none left. The entire population were killed by enslavement and disease.
Native Americans welcomed the Europeans initially, even ensuring they survive the first Winter. Even you know how that worked out. History recorded that the Europeans approached the Natives with weapons demanding provisions. The Natives asked “Why do you try to force us to do what we would have done anyway, had you asked?”
The Tutsi and Hutu is a red herring. If you spent some time researching the effects of colonialism on the African Continent you would see that doing so in the context, has limited value in supporting your argument. The majority of inter tribal stresses in Africa are a direct consequence of European Administrative arrogance.
On another level this discussion is academic. The fact is, white people occupy a unique place in human history. They were uniquely placed to advance humanity and our potential for survival as a race. You obviously think they’ve made a success of it. I’m sure if you’re around when the full impact of their despotic indulgence is felt, you’ll console yourself with the thought of general human imperfection.
While you revel in the unnecessary, unimaginable suffering inflicted on enslaved people and the intergenerational resistance of the descendants of the perpetrators
Okay man, I'm happy to have a conversation, but if you're not going to even attempt to honestly engage, it's a waste of both of our time. "Revel in the unimaginable suffering inflicted on enslaved people"? What the f*** are you talking about? This is the most idiotic, childish attempt at misrepresetnation that I've ever seen.
As for Germans being Nazi supporters, I think that's a gross oversimplification. Most were simply too afraid to speak up or felt powerless in the face of the regime. But even if I grant that they were all active supporters, does that make all Germans today equally complicit? Is this a "German" flaw? Or a flaw of those particular German people?
Yes, generalisations are useful, but when we don't apply a basic level of thought and reason to them, they very quickly become bigotry. In fact, that's what bigotry is. White people have been behind the vast majority of enslavement and brutality of the colonial eras and beyond. Yes. This is largely because they arrived at the system of capitalism first and imposed it on the rest of the world. Yes. In fact, that's why Asia was less affected by colonialism, because they also had capitalist struuctures in place during colonialism. We can recognise all of this without claiming that every person with white skin did all of this.
After all, 100% of these colonial efforts were carried out by men. Are you therefore complicit? Are you "revelling in the unnecessary, unimaginable suffering" inflicted on women during the colonial era because you're a man? Are you actively denigrating women because systems built by men still make life harder for women today? Are you a "devil" because of your maleness? Do you still think "generalisations are useful" when applied to you?
Black Americans have never been begging. I have no idea where you got the idea that there's a need to stop doing something that was never done. In fact, I think it's offensive. Black Americans have been demanding equality for years. And succeeding in those demands. Progress has been slower than it should have been. I couldn't agree more. Some people have actively resisted it. Again, agreed. But as frustrating as it is, it's just not a simple as you want to pretend it is.
For example, what in your mind is the finish line? What needs to happen, precisely, for you to say that we've reached MLK's promised land? And what's your plan for achieving it in an instant, instead of the undeniably frustrating "three steps forward, two steps back" process that it's been? Because let me be clear, if you have such a plan, I'm all ears. If you have a clear, measureable, sensible standard for when equality has been achieved, I'll devote all my future writing to shouting it from the rooftops. I don't think any black person wants racial inequality to last another second.
But achieving the goal of ending racial inequality will take more than strident, melodramatic talk and calling white people “devils”. That is actively not helping.
So if you consider anything other than empty, inflammatory rhetoric to be pandering to white people, then I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. I'm wide open to constructive ideas that can make things better. Sincerely I am. But so far you haven't come close to presenting any.
I’m always a little hesitant to share the most unreasonable black voices I come across, because I don’t want to give the impression that this is a common way of thinking amongst black people. Especially the overwhelming majority who don’t spend a lot of time reading stupid ideas online.
For every Daniel I come across, there are countless other intelligent, reasonable and perfectly sane black people in my comments. It’s just that there’s usually such broad agreement that there’s not much point in posting them. Two people going back and forth saying, “yes, you’re right,” doesn't make for very compelling reading.
Still, as I said to Daniel, this moment requires that we all take a good look at each other. And also at ourselves. And there’s no denying that some black people have allowed their anger to turn them into exactly what they claim to despise.
You will be shocked, shocked, to learn that the moment I asked Daniel to suggest something productive and to think about the ways he might be generalised, is the moment he stopped responding. It’s almost as if the vitriol and whining is all he’s interested in.
But never be fooled into believing that people who lean into rhetoric like this want progress or that they actually care about the issues that affect black people less fortunate than themselves. They simply want an excuse to say hateful things whilst using other people’s suffering as justification.
But hatred hasn’t worked. Tribalism hasn’t worked. Ignorance hasn’t worked. Maybe it’s time to try a little more empathy.