Jul 192021

Of course it does.

But let us go a little deeper.

First of all, does race really exist? It is notable that the Wikipedia articles on race (1 and 2) distinguish between biological race and the definition of race as it applies to humans. The later seems to be a rather vague term defined differently in different places or circumstances and as someone who likes clearly defined terms the temptation is to go with the biological definition of race and declare that humans are all one race.

But people do insist it exists. So lets take a look at the “white” race; a supposedly monolithic race. But in reality it subdivides up into different “racial” subgroups – the Irish, Finns, Arabs, Jews, and the Romani have all been at times classified as non-white. At what proportion does non-white ancestry qualify one as non-white? In the US, the standard varied from 1/4, to 1/16, or any African ancestry at all (which excludes every single person from being classified as “white”).

Nothing illustrates that US “whiteness” is a qualification for a privileged position (“white privilege”) more than the one-way one-drop rule which although no longer part of the law is still widely accepted socially. If you have one drop of non-white “blood” (ancestry), you are non-white; yet the opposite doesn’t apply – one drop of white “blood” doesn’t disqualify a person from being black.

Which means that racism is little more than an excuse to divide us all into “them” and “us”. Which neatly leads on to the second point.

Many of these ‘isms – racism, excessive nationalism (and xenophobia), … – are just means to an end. To divide us up into “them” and “us” so we can blame “them” for everything that is wrong. Just like the school bullies, we can pick anything to divide people into “them” and “us” – wear glasses, be too tall or too short, gender, a built-in tan, … just about any stupid reason can be used.

With this in mind, racism is using an invented means to divide people just to bully one category. Silly isn’t it?

Lastly some of us have a suspicion that the fires of racism are stoked by those in power as a means of distracting the proles from the real enemy – unrestrained capitalism. Next time you wonder why that immigrant is allowed to steal a well-paid job from you, instead wonder why there aren’t well-paid jobs for both of you.

Standing On The Board

Yes racism exists, but it is as childish as schoolyard bullying and based on little more than the arbitrary grouping of people. And those who promote racism might just have a hidden agenda.

Jul 172019

Trump’s twitch. No not that one, the tweet about certain congresspeople “going home” (despite the fact that of the four women targeted, three were born in the USA).

Quite rightly it has been labelled as “racist” but without meaning to minimise that criticism, that is a personal insult to the four women (and we can get outraged on their behalf). But something that has been less pronounced: it’s also an insult to every single voter who elected those four women.

Trump was criticising those four women because they are criticising US government policy; as duly elected representatives and part of the US government, they are doing what they were elected to do. Criticising those women for doing their job is essentially saying they are not entitled to do their job and in turn those who voted for them are not entitled to their say.

And this attack on democracy is as important to highlight as the racism.

Dec 282012

The US has long had an abysmal record in extra-judicial execution by the mob – the lynching – which is a peculiarly US foible. It is noticeable in the linked Wikipedia article that the authors were desperately looking around for non-US examples of lynchings. And some of the examples are not strictly speaking lynchings at all.

Extra-judicial punishments have been common throughout history, but have almost always been due to the absence of legal authority, or the inadequacy of legal authority. In most cases, US lynchings are in fact a perverse preference for extra-judicial punishment where the legal authority certainly was available – many lynchings involved breaking into courthouse jails to extract the “guilty”.

There are plenty of resources out there on US lynchings including :-

Practically all of these sites concentrate on the racial aspects of lynchings, which is perfectly understandable given that lynchings were one of the many weapons white supremacists used to keep the negro “in his place”.

Yet there is another aspect to lynchings that tends to get overlooked. If you look at the lynching statistics provided by the Tuskegee Institute covering the years 1882-1968, of the total of 4,743 lynchings a total of 1,297 were of “white” people. A total of 27% of all lynchings were of “white” people. Of course that simple classification into black and white may be concealing other race hate crimes – apparently asian and mexican-american people have been classified as white on occasions.

But reading the stories of lynchings shows that the victims of lynchings were from all parts of society – men, women, black, and white. But predominantly black, although the last lynching of a white person occurred as late as 1964 when 2 white people and 1 black person were lynched.

This page tries to explain the white lynchings as either under-reporting of lynchings of black people in the 19th century, or the use of lynchings to punish white people who opposed the repression of black people (such as Elijah Lovejoy). Both of which are true enough.

But it’s missing a point – lynching is a tool used by the racists to repress the black people in the US, but it already existed as a tool (and was used) before the racists felt the need to repress and control the newly freed former slaves. Lynching is a way of obtaining “justice” when a community feels that justice is unlikely to be obtained any other way.

What appears to have happened in the US is that some communities seem to have acquired an entitlement to extreme forms of justice and they are not placated by the perfectly reasonable level of justice provided by the state. After all, in many of the examples of lynchings, the state justice mechanisms were “working” perfectly well – certainly a black person in the South was likely to be flung into prison for almost anything on the flimsiest of evidence. Yet the extremists were not satisfied.

What this reveals is that some in the US feel entitled to impose a level of control on their community that is not sanctioned by the democratic majority of the country as a whole. And a willingness to resort to violence to get their way. Whilst lynchings may be a thing of the past (the last recorded one was in 1981, although there is a case for arguing that this was merely a random killing rather than a lynching), the attitude may still be around … and having an effect on the level of violence in the US.

The anti-gun control fanatics are right to an extent when they claim that “guns don’t kill” but criminals do. If you compare the US gun crime statistics with other countries with similar levels of gun control (and there are some; indeed in Switzerland a significant proportion of the population is compelled to store a fully automatic assault rifle in their home), it becomes obvious that the US has a significant problem with violence. Gun control may be necessary in the short term, but long term the US needs to look at it’s violent tendencies.

Dec 232011

In the news this week was the announcement that the Crown Prosecution Service will prosecute John Terry (apparently a famous footballer) for an allegedly racist verbal assault during a football game. Now I have no idea whether the alleged offence took place, whether John Terry is or is not the kind of person to make such remarks, or much idea on what football is.

What prodded me into thought was the potential fine he faces for his offence – as much as £2500. That’s quite a bit of money for me – certainly I’d think twice about doing something that might cost me that much. And there are those for whom such a such is much more significant. Yet for John Terry, such a sum is risible – according to one report, it is about the amount of money that he earns in an hour!

This is not the place to go into the ridiculously high salaries that some footballers earn for an activity whilst it brings enjoyment to some, is really just kicking a ball around. But to point out that the variation that a particular fine means to different people on different incomes, effectively means our criminal justice system punishes the poor rather more heavily than it punishes the rich.

Fines should be a proportion of our daily income – a racist remark should cost us 30-days worth of income whether that means 30-days worth of income support, of 30-days worth of John Terry’s salary. Similarly for other fines.

Feb 062009

Firstly I should point out this has nothing to do with Carol Thatcher’s use of the term or indeed a considerably less recent incident where Naomi Campbell was supposedly called one. It just so happened that the former has triggered the memory of a ‘story’ that I wanted to write.

Secondly this is not some kind of attempt to claim those who feel that the word (and the toy) is racists are wrong. If someone feels the use is racist that is a good enough reason to get rid of gollywogs. Besides which judging from the Wikipedia article on Gollywogs, most of the gollywog toys were pretty damn scary – too scary to be given to children anyway.

Way back in the distant past I would sometimes play with a gollywog hand puppet that my grandparents had in their house. Perhaps I was dumb (I was after all less than 10 at the time) but I always thought it was some kind of cartoon character or something. I certainly did not make an association between it and any kind of human; the toy I played with was definitely not that human!

Later at school when racist words crept in (at the some time I started getting called “four-eyes” and “lanky”), I do not recall the word “gollywog” being used to refer to anyone.

So back when I first heard about gollywogs being banned for being rascist (probably something to do with a certain jam), I practically fell off my chair in surprise. Did anyone seriously believe that there was any similarity between gollywogs and black people ?

I can distantly remember the “Golly” logo being used on certain jars of jam (“jelly” to any Americans tuning in), but again it never seemed to me to be anything other than some sort of cartoon character from the distant past. It also did not seem to bring to mind black people in any form.

Perhaps this was a case of people reading about the history of the word, and jumping to conclusions of how and why it was being used ? Taking offense at something that was not at the time intended to be used as a racist term ?

It would also explain why gollywog has apparently now become a term used by racists. I remain to be convinced that it was so used in the past … I do not remember it being used, and there are far more hateful words that were thrown around back then.

Of course having read up on it a little bit I now know that the origins were racist, but a word and an image that has originally racist origins can end up being used innocently. For example “Welsh” used to mean “foreigner” thus “Wales” meant “the land of the foreigner”, complete with a racist undercurrent. Now “Wales” is merely the name of a country we should really be calling “Cymru” (even if I’m not sure how to pronounce it).

On a side note, why do we have to use “black people” to use to refer to people whose African ancestors were rather more recent than others ? It seems rather insulting (to either “white” or “black”) to categorise any person by the colour of the dead stuff that keeps the squishy bits in. And it is not even particularly accurate. “Chocolate” would work so much better and be more inclusive – my skin is white chocolate, hers is milk chocolate, and his is dark chocolate.

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