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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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102 Responses

  1. A Pang
    A Pang January 28, 2007 at 5:37 pm |

    From the article:

    I don’t know a single white person who isn’t ashamed to be of the same race as these vicious cretins.

    I’m not ashamed of my race when I hear about white criminals, because my race isn’t routinely discriminated against and stereotyped.

  2. Alex
    Alex January 28, 2007 at 5:45 pm |

    Um,

    Woah.

    When we finally stop patronizing loafers, louts and criminals, stop encouraging people who were born 120 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 20 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, to pretend that their sloth and ignorance are the fault of whites, only then will blacks come one step closer to having that colorblind society they claim they want

    The only ‘sloth and ignorance’ I see here is that of Burt Prelutsky. If he’d bothered to review his 6th grade history book before excreting his racism under the guise of a quasi-legitimate approach to American history, he’d have at least noticed that reconstruction was scuttled under the presidency of Andrew Johnson; forming the conditions necessitating a ‘civil rights movement’ in the first place.

    er, I’m confused by one aspect of this ‘article’, however….

    According to Bert, ‘whites’ are ‘cowards’ for failing to do what, exactly, to those ‘annoying..black kids’?

  3. N.
    N. January 28, 2007 at 5:47 pm |

    He does touch upon a good point, however, and that is that we often tend not to hold black people to the same standards we hold our white neighbors, co-workers or kids to. That’s another subtle form of racism, IMO.

    As far as the music goes, in all fairness, some of the lyrics of the more chilling rap songs are pretty violent and brutal — and are especially demeaning to women — some of the lyrics actively encourage violence towards women in particular. Some of the lyrics are specifically and overtly racist towards white people, too. I don’t think his objections are merely an echo of the parents of the fifties protesting Elvis’ dance movements.

    Which brings us back to my first paragraph — funny how we think it’s shocking for a white family to raise their kids on the songs of Prussian Blue, which encourage racism, but if someone dares to complain about the kind of music young black kids are listening to on a regular basis, now we’re racist.

  4. Heraclitus
    Heraclitus January 28, 2007 at 5:59 pm |

    I cannot believe that someone actually wrote that.

  5. Anne
    Anne January 28, 2007 at 6:14 pm |
  6. Joe
    Joe January 28, 2007 at 6:16 pm |

    The way he refers to black politicians as conmen is pretty funny in a “what the christ” sort of way.

  7. Joe
    Joe January 28, 2007 at 6:19 pm |

    Also, I bet Chris Rock regrets ever having done that “I don’t hate blacks, I hate niggers” routine, consider how many racists have co-opted it to excuse their own prejudice lines of speech and thought.

  8. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate January 28, 2007 at 6:22 pm |

    Are Bill Cosby and Chris Rock racists too?

  9. Marksman2000
    Marksman2000 January 28, 2007 at 6:24 pm |

    Now would be a good time to chime in and present your plan for curing the social ills that so many black Americans deal with.

    Bolstering educational programs in the inner-city is a good place to start, but education ain’t everything. I think so many of the problems start at home, and family isn’t easy to correct. Legislation can only do so much.

    I actually went to high school with a guy, Howard, Jr., who is bunking with his father, Howard, Sr., in prison right now. The fact that Howard, Jr. has three kids through three different girls (read: crack addicts) really makes things look grim–for all of us, really.

  10. Lesley
    Lesley January 28, 2007 at 6:27 pm |

    He does touch upon a good point, however, and that is that we often tend not to hold black people to the same standards we hold our white neighbors, co-workers or kids to. That’s another subtle form of racism, IMO.

    What? I mean, unintentionally you’re right. We hold blacks to higher standards in order to compete with whites. But I don’t think that’s what you meant. At a minimum, you need to check your privilege, because that is not the reality lived by POC. You must not work in corporate America, because you could not write that if you had a real clue who populates the C-suite and how many of them got there. Hint, not just on merit. And when it isn’t just white men in the C-suite, you can’t know how much more stringently the women and POC are judged and scrutinized.

    It’s also clear you’re either not familiar with the concept of “power differential,” or you just completely dismiss it as untrue or irrelevant. (This goes to your third paragraph).

  11. ako
    ako January 28, 2007 at 6:34 pm |

    Which brings us back to my first paragraph — funny how we think it’s shocking for a white family to raise their kids on the songs of Prussian Blue, which encourage racism, but if someone dares to complain about the kind of music young black kids are listening to on a regular basis, now we’re racist.

    Complaining about specific music, such as particular songs or artists sending a bad message isn’t racist (although you could do it in a racist way). If a complaint gets thrown at an entire genre of music, especially by someone who only has a passing familiarity with the genre and isn’t interested at looking past the shock value into the message being spread is prejudiced. And if this kind of prejudiced targeting of a genre is done by white people at music that’s mainly performed and listened to by black people, there’s a good chance racism is involved.

    Most of the criticism I’ve heard of Prussian Blue is from people who’ve looked at the music and the stated beliefs of the performers, and aren’t trying to use them as an example of the values spread by folk-rock groups in general. However I’ve heard a lot casual criticism of hip-hop and rap in which people pretty comfortably blame the entire genre for the most shockingly negative message they find. Not saying you’re doing any of this; I don’t know you or what you’ve said. But (leaving aside that some idiots will accuse anyone of anything) that’s the line between legitimately criticizing bad messages in music and simple prejudice (or racism if race is involved).

  12. norbizness
    norbizness January 28, 2007 at 6:40 pm |

    I don’t know that Chris Rock regrets the routine, because he knew who his audience was, but I’ll bet he regrets systemically terrorizing and oppressing the black race for hundreds of years. That WAS him, wasn’t it?

  13. Scott Eric Kaufman
    Scott Eric Kaufman January 28, 2007 at 6:43 pm |

    Jill, how dare you criticize this column. Don’t you realize W. Burt Prelutsky is an accomplished, well-rounded writer?

  14. Dianne
    Dianne January 28, 2007 at 6:48 pm |

    Only slightly off topic. In case anyone was under the misimpression that racism–at least direct, “we won’t hire you because your skin is too dark” racism–was dead.

  15. Lesley
    Lesley January 28, 2007 at 6:57 pm |

    Are Bill Cosby and Chris Rock racists too?

    See norbizness’ comment (which, awesome!). Try to grasp the difference between criticism coming from people who suffer the racism and that from those who have perpetrated and benefited from it. It’s not that difficult.

  16. N.
    N. January 28, 2007 at 7:42 pm |

    So white people have no voice? No one is ever allowed to criticize black American culture besides other black Americans?

    Fine.

    Let me know when that starts to open doors for unintelligible, uneducated, personally irresponsible black kids.

    ‘Cause right now, I’m not seein’ it.

    And, oh, yeah, I’m intimately acquainted with corporate America, and I’m also intimately acquainted with poor, inner city black America, too.

    And what I know is that the kids I see on a daily basis, the ones with their gangsta clothes and their more-than-offensive music and their unintelligible version of English, aren’t hireable by anyone, much less corporate America. Period.

    So what are you going to do about it?

    Are you going to admit that there’s a huge problem with the way these kids are being raised, the expectations that our society has for them, and the lack of opportunities that this creates? Or are you going to keep on making excuses and saying that anyone who says it’s a problem is a racist just because of the color of their skin or their political stance on other issues?

    Which one of you is heading on down to Irvington tomorrow morning and hiring a bunch of these kids off the corner to answer your phones or represent your companies?

  17. Alex
    Alex January 28, 2007 at 7:49 pm |

    “Which one of you is heading on down to Irvington tomorrow morning and hiring a bunch of these kids off the corner to answer your phones or represent your companies? ”

    Me.

    ‘these kids’ (meaning young males of color who aren’t sporting their pin-striped suit, top-hat and emarald encrusted molacle when N happens to burn past them in her Lexus) In my experience, have a better attitude and work ethic than the stoned prep-boys I’m so tired of.

  18. Alex
    Alex January 28, 2007 at 7:51 pm |

    oh crap, I really am tagtarded. (my bad zuzu)

  19. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate January 28, 2007 at 7:51 pm |

    Try to grasp the difference between criticism coming from people who suffer the racism and that from those who have perpetrated and benefited from it. It’s not that difficult.

    It is for me. I’ve never understood double standards.

    Bill Cosby (who I’m sure has encountered racism in his life) says that blacks are responsible for many of the problems that plague their communities.

    Burt Prelutsky (who may also have encountered racism – I believe he’s jewish) says the same thing.

    Either it’s true or it’s not. Why do they deserve different treatment for making the same claim? Why is the messenger more important than the message?

    The same goes for criticism of rap or hip hop. How come when Oprah criticizes Ludacris’ lyrics, she’s just stating her opinion, but when Bill O’Reilly makes the same criticisms, he’s a racist?

  20. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate January 28, 2007 at 8:00 pm |

    And what I know is that the kids I see on a daily basis, the ones with their gangsta clothes and their more-than-offensive music and their unintelligible version of English, aren’t hireable by anyone, much less corporate America.

    That’s not a black only phenomenon. There are plenty of white kids up here who dress and act that way too.

    Last year at my son’s high school (approximately one third of the students are black), they had a black speaker (vp of his company, and an alum of the school) come in and tell the kids that this way of dressing and communicating is going to hurt them in the long run (teachers were complaining that many of the kids were refusing to speak proper English, preferring to emulate the jargon of their favorite rappers).

    Does that make him a racist for criticizing white kids?

  21. zuzu
    zuzu January 28, 2007 at 8:34 pm | *

    Shorter N: How come Chris Rock can call them niggers and I can’t?

  22. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe January 28, 2007 at 8:39 pm |

    For me, the best part of the column was the credit line at the end:

    W. Burt Prelutsky is an accomplished, well-rounded writer…

    —by his own admission!

  23. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe January 28, 2007 at 8:42 pm |

    When I saw Chris Rock launch into the “I love black people, but I hate niggers” routine on that HBO special, I laughed, but I was also disturbed. What bothered me, and still does, is that one of the worst racists I ever had extended contact with (a former boss) expressed those same thoughts, in almost the same language.

  24. Lesley
    Lesley January 28, 2007 at 8:44 pm |

    Oh please. Whites have no voice? Did I say that? Whites have the biggest voice in this country, you know it, so drop it. For example, whites have the voice that judge all POC by the actions of some. Neither Bill Cosby nor Chris Rock ever did that. Ever. Again, grasp the difference.

    Obviously there are huge problems. Wow, who denied it? Nor did I ever say we can’t critique the problems. I was talking about criticizing a culture*. Yeah, when the perpetrators of the injustice criticize the culture of those who suffer the injustice, a large part of which is a result of the injustice, that is a fucking problem. That just further instills the injustice in society. You’d think no one could tell the difference between a problem and an entire group.

    I will also note the huge difference between a critique and a criticism. We can evaluate the problems and figure out how to ameliorate them. We can’t just criticize blacks for the problems. Which is what Prelutsky is doing by saying that 99% of problems that blacks face are self-inflicted.

    I’d also like you to specify how whites hold blacks to lower standards? What the hell are you talking about? If you’re talking about racist stereotypes (e.g., stupid, lazy), then sure. But that isn’t a subtle form of racism, so I don’t think that’s what you meant. It sure as hell isn’t anything Prelutsky was talking about either. Not even close. I hope you’re not talking about his trope re: giving kids a pass on baggy pants and loud music, because that is totally not limited to or even predominated by black kids, and Prelutsky’s implication that it is is part of his racism. Ditto for “loafers, louts, and criminals.”

    The lack of access and opportunities are, in large part, a direct result of the racist stereotypes, so on the chance that’s what you meant by lower standards, fine. They are not a direct result of some other kind of lower standards, and not self-inflicted a la Prelutsky’s claim. Further, shockingly, there are a lot of POC who are educated who cannot compete in corporate America anyway. If you’re so intimately familiar with corporate America, then you already know that. Look, I happen to believe that an education is a good end in its own right, but at some point the investment isn’t going to be feasible if there isn’t a monetary recompense to offset it. That’s first assuming that your school has enough funds to buy books for all the kids to give you enough of a background to even get a decent education and/or go onto post-secondary study. Again, this is not a problem that’s “self-inflicted.” It’s a problem we could also easily fix, but we don’t care enough to do so. That has nothing to do with giving kids a pass on loud music and baggy pants either. It’s totally not-subtle racism, and it’s something whites should criticize ourselves for. Not blacks.

    *I’m not even sure what “black American culture” is, with the possible exception of a shared history of racist oppression. Outside of that, it’s not like there’s some monolithic “culture” that black Americans all participate in, any more than there’s some monolithic “culture” shared by all white Americans.

  25. Lesley
    Lesley January 28, 2007 at 8:47 pm |

    Oy, RM. I don’t suppose it has anything to do with the fact that Bill O’Reilly’s motivations and assumptions are suspect due to other shit he’s said, do you? Whereas Oprah’s are not. That isn’t a double standard. It’s a recognition of different motivations and underlying beliefs. Sorry if you don’t believe they exist or something.

    Further, different motivations alter the message. You assume the message is the same. In reality, not so much. Bill O’Reilly isn’t just criticizing Ludacris’ lyrics in a vacuum. He’s doing it as part of a larger context that helps to promote racism. Oprah isn’t.

    Lastly, are you familiar with the concept that you can make fun of or criticize your family because you know you’re doing it from a background affection, but let an outsider do it who isn’t and “Whoa Nellie?” Because, you know, why the double standard?

  26. zuzu
    zuzu January 28, 2007 at 9:16 pm | *

    Bolstering educational programs in the inner-city is a good place to start, but education ain’t everything. I think so many of the problems start at home, and family isn’t easy to correct. Legislation can only do so much.

    I actually went to high school with a guy, Howard, Jr., who is bunking with his father, Howard, Sr., in prison right now. The fact that Howard, Jr. has three kids through three different girls (read: crack addicts) really makes things look grim–for all of us, really.

    You live in Arkansas and you can’t imagine any white people this might apply to as well?

  27. ako
    ako January 28, 2007 at 9:27 pm |

    And what I know is that the kids I see on a daily basis, the ones with their gangsta clothes and their more-than-offensive music and their unintelligible version of English, aren’t hireable by anyone, much less corporate America. Period.

    Why is it that we’ve had decades of teenagers dressing oddly, using non-standard English, and listening to music that bothers the older generations (at least back to the 1920′s) and people still manage to be horrified by it? It just seems to be such a trivial thing to focus on. People can change their clothes. People speak differently in different social situations. It’s hardly inevitable that every black kid you see standing on the street corner in baggy jeans, speaking slang-ridden English is going to act exactly like that at an interview or on the job; and if some do, they solution is to teach the difference between formal and informal behavior, not to freak out every time someone goes out in public not dressed for a business meeting.

    Also if I tried to justify a hatred of country music, wearing cowboy boots in public, and saying “Y’all” by citing statistics on rural meth usage and domestic violence, it would be more than fair to point out the cheap stereotypes I was relying on. The whole baggy jeans,gangster rap, and ghetto slang=using crack and committing drive-by shootings is every bit as feeble.

  28. Christopher
    Christopher January 28, 2007 at 10:53 pm |

    First, I enjoy the conceit that a single generation is enough to completely destroy all vestiges of racism and racial inequality.

    I’ve thought, from time to time, that one of the reasons white people can be so racist is that they don’t really think about how recently it was that blatant, state-sponsered racism completely pervaded our nation.

    I’m 23, and my dad remembers segregated drinking fountains.

    But here we have somebody who claerly knows how recent racism was, and still doesn’t get it.

    It’s made me rethink my assumptions.

    Okay, second, a serious question:

    When was the last time you saw anyboy with a boom box.

    It’s been years for me. Is it different in some other cities?

  29. exangelena
    exangelena January 29, 2007 at 12:47 am |

    I’m Asian and sometimes I do make dumb jokes about Asian stereotypes … because of course I know they’re a load of crap, and I do so more to make fun of the stereotypes than the Asians. I have to live with the harmful stereotypes every day and I might as well have some fun, whereas other people who might make jokes about Asian stereotypes don’t have to live with those stereotypes and may not even get that they’re NOT TRUE.
    For what it’s worth, I never make ethnic jokes about other groups of people (or about religious groups, socioeconomic classes or sexual minorities) and doing so would make me pretty uncomfortable, because I would be “othering” their culture from an outsider’s perspective. If that makes any sense …

  30. MARes
    MARes January 29, 2007 at 1:28 am |

    Let me know when that starts to open doors for unintelligible, uneducated, personally irresponsible black kids.

    Uh, yeah. I live in a depresed rural area and go to basically an all-white high school. Unintelligible, uneducated, personally irresponsible, throw in illiterate and that pretty much describes our entire student body and most of our parents. We don’t seem to find it utterly impossible to get hired, though somehow I suspect it might be just a little bit harder if we had exactly the same recommendations and qualifications or lack thereof but weren’t white. But, you know, that’s okay because I’m sure we’ve been invaded by that “black culture,” and that’s certainly not our fault, so there’s no reason why we should miss out on any opportunities just because we don’t live up to the obligations we demand from others. Paging Senator Moynahan.

  31. mythago
    mythago January 29, 2007 at 1:49 am |

    Burt Prelutsky (who may also have encountered racism – I believe he’s jewish) says the same thing.

    FFS. I’m Jewish, and I’ve encountered anti-Semitism, and I don’t think that gives me a free pass to go around wagging fingers at The Black Community for having insufficiently failed to overcome the effects of living in a racist culture. So kindly don’t sit there and bloviate about how it’s OK if somebody who is MAYBE Jewish can’t possibly be racist.

    As for the schools, if these kids are spending the majority of their waking hours at a school and still don’t know proper English, that’s hardly the fault of The Black Community, is it?

  32. karpad
    karpad January 29, 2007 at 1:53 am |

    And, oh, yeah, I’m intimately acquainted with corporate America, and I’m also intimately acquainted with poor, inner city black America, too

    as a high school student who works at McDonalds and whose high school regularly plays that mostly black school from the poorer part of town, I am qualified to comment on those crazy darkies

    fixed that for you. if you’re claiming for a second that some black kid who digs The Roots is less employable than some mumbly, mullet headed metal fan, I am required by Guild of Calamitous Intent bylaws to laugh at you. loudly. for a very long time. Because you seem to think “Metallica Rules! woo!” is some kind of anthem of employability.

    it also makes you a racist. because the only distinction such a musical affiliation has is on skin color, not work ethic, timeliness, or likelyhood of theft.

    of course, now you no doubt response that YOU aren’t a racist. you’re a realist and know that there are racists out there. “racists won’t hire you because you act black, so stop acting black” is as non-racist as “rapists are out there, so stop acting female” is non-misogynist.

    and re: Chris Rock:
    I seem to recall hearing somewhere he actually dropped the “I just hate niggas” routine because he got fucking disgusted from all the clueless white guys who’d come up to him and tell him how “you’re so right about those niggas!” So that sounds like he regrets it, at least.

    one last aside: does anyone else have an actual response to “cracker ass motherfuckers who quote Chris Rock routines?” I actually have a standard response: reciting in meter (though not pitch) the chorus to “Your Racist Friend” by TMBG. because I’m a bit of a nerd, and it makes my fucking point crystal clear.

  33. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax January 29, 2007 at 2:16 am |

    I’d also like you to specify how whites hold blacks to lower standards? What the hell are you talking about?

    I actually do think there’s a sense in which – in some situations – whites hold blacks to lower standards. Meaning, if I think of cases where I’ve seen an adult say to a kid, “You know, I expect better of you than that,” or “You’re smart enough to do better than this assignment,” or that kind of thing, it’s more likely it’ll be addressed to a white kid than a black kid.

    I certainly don’t think white people hold blacks to lower standards in any sense that’s going to get black people hired or promoted for a performance that wouldn’t make the grade for white people. And I don’t think that black kids are somehow free of criticism for things white kids would be criticized for – if anything, I’d say the opposite.

    As far as the music goes, in all fairness, some of the lyrics of the more chilling rap songs are pretty violent and brutal — and are especially demeaning to women — some of the lyrics actively encourage violence towards women in particular.

    I don’t know; country music seemed to me like a vast sea of celebration of drunkenness and sexism until I took a closer look at it and realized there were some performers I liked, such as Emmy Lou Harris and Patsy Cline. (And I still think “Coward of the County” – with it’s plot of having a woman raped so her man winds up fighting and proving his manhood – is pretty vile.) I suspect the same thing may be true of rap; if you don’t look at it closely, and just hear the most awful lyrics, you may get a different picture than if you’re a fan. So, when my nieces told me they wanted rap CDs for Christmas, I sought advice from Lauren on finding rap that wouldn’t be misogynist, instead of telling my nieces they should dislike the whole genre.

  34. Heraclitus
    Heraclitus January 29, 2007 at 2:47 am |

    Your decision not to respond at length was obviously the wise one, but, as so often, I couldn’t let it go.

  35. JM
    JM January 29, 2007 at 3:39 am |

    RM, this isn’t rocket science.

    I live in a primarily Lithuanian area, and like many, perhaps most, communities, there are lots of problems here. In fact, many people in our (small) city are afraid to come here even for a visit. We’re considered the dregs of the dregs, basically. (No, I’m not kidding or exaggerating for effect. My cousin wouldn’t even let her son play a gig with his band because he’d have to come ove here.)

    Now, let’s say that Lithuanians formed some kind of group to help address some of the probems in their community.

    Alternatively, let’s say that I, as someone who knows nothing about Lithuania, Lithuanians, Lithuanian history or culture, stood up and said, “You people need to shape up. You’re inferior, genetically, intellectually, and culturally. Your problems are unique and they’re all due to your innate inferiority and cultural defects. They must be because that’s how I look at it, and knowing nothing about you or your community or your experience in America, that’s enough. Lithuanian culture is synonymous with poverty, drug addiction, shiftlessness, general anti-social behavior and fuckupedness. You guys speak gibberish, you wear stupid clothes, I hate your music. You’re just not like me, and you should be. Act more like me and my group’s model of perfection, and you’ll be fine. What works for us will work for you regardless of different circumstances and perimeters, shape up!”

    Now, who is more likely to be listened to? A member of the group who’s genuinely concerned, or some ignorant loudmouthed outsider who, from all appearances, doesn’t really care about Lithuanians, but is making gross exaggerations about their situation and trying to define them as some uniquely abhorrant culture that represents all the bad things his own culture is supposedly free from?

    And let’s say that his only reason in poining out how awful Lithuanians are is to stir up hatred against them for his own political advantage? “Oh,those Lithuanians, they really are just lazy drug addicted criminals. Bill O knows what he’s talking about. We need to vote for the guy who’s going to save us from them, because they just can’t face up to how screwed up they are and take care of their own problems. All the rest of us who aren’t Lithuanian are fine, they’re just different from us regular folks, so we just have to vote for the guy who’ll tell them they’re on their own and won’t do silly things like create economic incentives in Lithuanian Village. Give us the econmic incentives instead, they’d be wasted on those animals. We need someone to protect us from Lithuanians.”

    And you know, if the guy is also a sexual harasser who writes books with sexually explicit pasages that insult women, who then calls out other people for writing songs that have sexually explicit, insulting lyrics as emblematic of this uniquely dysfunctional alien clulture, well yeah it’s a mystery why nobody takes him seriously when he’s so concered about everybody else’s screwed up culture.

    “Double standards” often look a whole lot like “common sense.”

  36. tzs
    tzs January 29, 2007 at 4:34 am |

    The question is whether kids who “act black” know any other language/behavior. I think poor white kids may have better access to other role models for “normal” speech than poor black kids do.

    And anyone who thinks that NOT knowing Standard Spoken English will open his employment possibilities in the US has got to be a friggin’ idiot.

  37. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 7:46 am |

    I actually do think there’s a sense in which – in some situations – whites hold blacks to lower standards. Meaning, if I think of cases where I’ve seen an adult say to a kid, “You know, I expect better of you than that,” or “You’re smart enough to do better than this assignment,” or that kind of thing, it’s more likely it’ll be addressed to a white kid than a black kid.

    OK, fair enough. That’s kind of what I had in mind when I mentioned racist stereotypes, because I think that’s where that stems from. That particular incidence might be subtle, in that it isn’t an outright declaration of “You’re too stupid to get this because you’re black,” but I think it derives from blatantly racist unspoken premises. So maybe that’s what N. meant, but I still doubt it. He/she said Prelutsky had a good point, and Prelutsky didn’t say anything like that. Prelutsky’s column boils down to “blacks are the cause of 99% of their problems, and whites pretend that ‘black culture’ is as good as ‘white culture’ out of guilt and cowardice.” He denies that racism even exists, outside of a small minority of skinheads. Based on Prelutsky’s column, the only real interpretation I can give to N.’s ceding him a “good point,” is that N. thinks there is a monolithic “black culture” (or nearly so) that is inferior to a monolithic “white culture,” but that whites refuse to call that out (i.e., these “lower standards” N. refers to).

    This makes it so much more comfortable for a racist asshat like Prelutsky, because he doesn’t have to accept that poverty and racism are the cause of so many of the problems he decries. If we can dismiss the problems as being caused by some fictional “black culture,” then we don’t have to do a damn thing about alleviating poverty or addressing racism (the latter of which he denies even exists all the while trafficking in racist stereotyping himself). More or less, he can throw up his hands and say “It doesn’t matter what *we* do, because the real problem is blacks themselves. If they would just act like whites, all their problems would magically disappear!” Of course, the real problems stem from poverty and racism and a total unwillingness on the parts of whites to actually do anything about them.

    We have this dangerous notion in this country that poverty is a moral failing, and if those poor people could just “lift themselves up by their bootstraps,” everything would be wonderful! Never mind that when you’re growing up in extreme poverty, you’re so beaten down wondering if you’re going to actually eat that day. Never mind that schools in poor neighborhoods don’t have enough books for the students. Etc., etc. There are barriers to entry to lucrative careers in this country, and if you’re busy just worrying about surviving day to day, you’ll by necessity be much less focused on clearing them.

    Couple that with the very much still extant racism in this country, and you’ve got a lethal combination. If you’re fortunate and overcome the effects of growing up in poverty to go on and get the base level of education you need to work white-collar, and you’re white, you have a good shot at landing a job in a well-paying career. If you’re not white, your options are far more limited. Racists like Prelutsky pretend that’s not true, by saying the real problem isn’t skin color but “character.” They say this in the face of studies that show just the opposite. Studies that show that even having a “black-sounding” name will increase the likelihood of your resumé being rejected.* Studies like the one linked in a comment by Dianne above that the darker your skin tone the greater the chance you won’t be hired and/or equally compensated. But people want to think they aren’t racist and that they judge people as individuals. They manage to convince themselves they aren’t, even though they will regularly find reasons why a white candidate is more qualified than a non-white one. [This will impact even people who seek work in one of the higher-paying blue collar careers, where the base level of formal education isn't a prerequisite.]

    This also brings to mind how much more stringent professional licensing conditions have become. Once upon a time, for example, you could “read law.” You could work for a lawyer, pass the bar, and be a licensed attorney. You didn’t have to go to college or law school. Ditto with accounting. Nowadays, the formal educational credit requirements are such that you either have to be rich, be fortunate enough to get a scholarship, or go into hock before even being able to pass the licensing exams. This is a very regressive barrier to entry.

    *And seriously, how can anyone pretend that a name is indicative of character is beyond me. What, are people with names like “Willie Smith” all fine, upstanding human beings?

  38. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 8:18 am |

    Alternately, you can ignore everything I said about poverty in my above comment and just read this post by Black Amazon instead. It is far more powerful than anything I have said or could say.

  39. N.
    N. January 29, 2007 at 8:27 am |

    The article doesn’t condemn an entire genre of music. It condemns crude and lewd lyrics, IIRC. There are terrible lyrics in any genre – heavy metal, country, whatever.

    But if you live where I live, on the borders of Newark, East Orange, and Irvington, and you hear what these kids are listening to on a regular basis — blasting, actually, to the point where my car vibrates if their car is near mine — then you know what I’m talking about.

    The other difference is that the parents of these kids are listening to the same music. I’ll turn to look at one of these cars that’s got the superbasss going and the rap lyrics blasting, thinking it’s kids, and it’s an adult with little kids in the back. When you look at the kids on the corner swearing and behaving badly, one or two of the girls inevitably has a toddler in tow. This is not good.

    But we can’t say that. If we do, we’re racist.

    With white kids, the parents, the schools, employers, society tend, for the most part, to be on the same page when it comes to expectations. With black kids, there often isn’t much real parental influence going on, the schools have written them off after a certain point, employers shy away from them, and society just rolls their eyes and says “it figures” when a black kid screws up. Of course we have lower expectations for the kind of black kids this guy is talking about.

    But don’t say that. If you do, you’re a racist.

    And the author is not talking about black college students who may be under more pressure to perform because of their ethnicity. He’s talking about kids who don’t even have a shot at getting into the competition to begin with. These kids probably won’t even graduate high school, much less get into college. And it’s because they have no support system — no parents and grandparents who tell them that it’s one thing to behave one way with your friends, but you have to clean it up for school and job interviews and the workplace and, yeah, church, and family gatherings, etc.

    But if you mention that, you hate black people.

    The schools are tapped out as far as helping these kids. They’ve invested their budgets in ridiculous programs that don’t work while sacrificing common sense and basic standards.

    But only a racist would suggest a practical notion like educating these kids and giving them the skills that would open doors for them.

    Employers are gun shy. You can’t blame them. They’re not social services entities. They’re in business to make money, and if employees who can’t be understood negatively impact their profit line, then they’re not going to hire people who can’t speak English properly.

    Guess that makes them racists.

    But keep making excuses for these kids. Keep telling them that they have no control over their own lives, that their past history has rendered them incapable of being anything. Why, that’s not racist at all…

  40. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 10:03 am |

    With white kids, the parents, the schools, employers, society tend, for the most part, to be on the same page when it comes to expectations. With black kids, there often isn’t much real parental influence going on, the schools have written them off after a certain point, employers shy away from them, and society just rolls their eyes and says “it figures” when a black kid screws up. Of course we have lower expectations for the kind of black kids this guy is talking about.

    If you read Prelutsky’s column and got that out of it, we read two very different columns. About the only thing you wrote that you could conceivably infer from Prelutsky’s column is the part about parents. Aside from that, you aren’t talking about subtle racism. You’re talking about blatant racism that stems from stereotypes like “blacks are stupid and lazy,” especially with respect to “it figures.” Prelutsky outright denies that exists in his column, outside of the small minority of skinheads. Seriously. Reread the column.

    And the author is not talking about black college students who may be under more pressure to perform because of their ethnicity.

    Oh no? So when he denies that racism exists, when he outright states that white prejudice has “nothing to do with race, and everything to do with character, culture, and values,” he’s not dismissing the additional pressure that black college students are under relative to whites as non-existent? The only way to get that interpretation is if you think that the additional pressure black college students are under is due to “lack of character” and “inferior culture and values,” and not due to racism.

    But only a racist would suggest a practical notion like educating these kids and giving them the skills that would open doors for them.

    Yeah, because no one in this thread has said that except you! Oh, wait

    But keep making excuses for these kids. Keep telling them that they have no control over their own lives, that their past history has rendered them incapable of being anything. Why, that’s not racist at all…

    Well, there’s a nice strawman. I’m glad you said that outright, because I figured that’s where you were going. Unlike you, though, I didn’t want to put words in your mouth. Well, I didn’t have to. Saying “Poverty and racism make it more difficult to succeed” != “You’re incapable of being anything.” and/or “You have no control over your life.” No matter how many times you make the claim that it does.

    Here are some choice quotes from the original column that you are completely eliding in your effort to twist it into having a “good point.”

    …that in 2007, 99% of black problems are self-inflicted…

    Self-inflicted problems != the problem is that whites hold blacks to a lower standard.

    When blacks say they wish to have a dialogue with whites, it only means that they want a forum at which to bash whites, while their victims provide a Greek chorus of mea culpas, provide the coffee and Danish, and drop a little something in the collection plate on their way out.

    Whites are the “victims” of blacks?

    There is such a thing as white prejudice. No doubt about it. But it has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with character, culture and values.

    In other words, racism effectively doesn’t exist, so virtually no problems faced by blacks can be caused by racism. Only by a lack of character and inferior culture and values.

    Actually, what most whites are is cowardly. When we see black kids with the top of their baggy pants drooping somewhere south of their butts, annoying people with their ear-splitting boom boxes, saying “they be” when they mean “they are,” and we pretend that theirs is a different, but equally fine culture as our own, we’re no better than those enablers who give money to drug addicts or booze to alcoholics.

    First, baggy pants and loud music (I’m ignoring the way out-dated reference to boom boxes; I’ll pretend he’s talking about loud car stereos instead) are not peculiar to black kids. That is a racist stereotype. Further, the presumption that we’re less tolerant of that behavior in white kids is simply unrealistic. We just don’t assume that white kids who wear baggy pants and listen to loud, crude music are indicative of “white culture.” We may criticize them for it, but we don’t criticize them for it AND make sweeping assumptions about their character and/or culture.

    Second, what you wear or listen to in your leisure time is not some kind of tautology to what you wear in a professional capacity, nor is there any reason to assume that blacks are incapable of knowing there’s a difference. [To the degree that some minority of people of any race might not know that, they should be so informed.] If I dressed for work the way I do in my leisure time, I’d be sent home. If I did it continually, I’d be fired. If I listened to loud punk rock at work, I’d be told to stop. Nobody assumes when they see me walking around in jeans listening to punk rock on my iPod that that is how I’d behave at work or that I’m displaying poor character or attributes of an inferior culture. It’s just me wearing jeans and listening to punk rock. I escape an association between my choice of leisure wear and activities and my race and/or culture. Prelutsky doesn’t give blacks that option.

    When we finally stop patronizing loafers, louts and criminals, stop encouraging people who were born 120 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 20 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, to pretend that their sloth and ignorance are the fault of whites, only then will blacks come one step closer to having that colorblind society they claim they want.

    “Sloth and ignorance?” Those are just fancy ways of saying “lazy and stupid.” “Loafers, louts, and criminals?” He’s outright trafficking in racist stereotypes. Note, please, that there are whites who are “loafers, louts, and criminals.” Note also that no one goes around thinking this is a sweeping indictment of “white culture.”

    No, but it’s the people who think that blacks aren’t sharing a culture made up of “loafers, louts, and criminals,” who recognize that poverty and racism make it more difficult (not impossible) to succeed, who think that it’s not a self-inflicted problem that schools in predominantly poor and/or black neighborhoods are ill-equipped and that we need to invest in alleviating the poverty and improving the schools, who recognize the very real hiring discrimination that blacks face based on their skin color, who are the racists.

    The funny thing is, I’ve always thought that if you scratch the surface of someone who actually believes that “blacks are incapable of being anything and/or controlling their lives” for any reason, you’d find someone who really believes that “blacks are lazy and stupid.” Then again, I have this wacky notion that believing that poverty and racism make it more difficult to get into a decent-paying career and, therefore, we should do something about alleviating the poverty and ameliorating the racism is not the same as thinking that “blacks are incapable of being anything and/or controlling their lives based on their history.” And that the people who say it is the same are the ones who are actually sending the message that “blacks aren’t capable of being anything,” because if you are constantly told “You should be able to overcome these structural barriers,” and you don’t, you’re bound to believe that something is wrong with you, not with the existence of the structural barriers in the first place.

  41. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax January 29, 2007 at 10:28 am |

    The article doesn’t condemn an entire genre of music. It condemns crude and lewd lyrics, IIRC. There are terrible lyrics in any genre – heavy metal, country, whatever.

    The article talks about “crude, lewd and loud” lyrics as if all black kids, and only black kids, listen to them all the time (on boomboxes rather than iPods, for some reason I can’t fathom). Here in Orange County, California, when I hear rap music blasting out of the car next to me, it’s not necessarily a black driver, and I haven’t noticed that the black drivers are listening to worse lyrics than the white ones. But maybe that’s just me.

    But keep making excuses for these kids. Keep telling them that they have no control over their own lives, that their past history has rendered them incapable of being anything. Why, that’s not racist at all…

    Who ever said that black people have no control over their own lives, and are incapable of being anything? Not me, that’s for sure, and not anyone else in this thread that I can see. Especially, “past history” renders black kids “incapable of being anything”? Give me a break. Current poverty makes it more difficult to succeed. Current racism means that it will be that much more work to get to the same place, sometimes.

    And, come on, we’re talking about an article that talks about hating niggers, that says that 99% of black problems are self-inflicted, and that tries to paint an imaginary world in which white people (except for a very few Aryan gangs) have no race prejudice at all, just a perfectly natural desire to avoid the criminal behavior that’s apparently rampant among black kids but rare and exceptional among white kids. I can’t believe you’re defending that article, N. It’s an entirely different thing from what you’d get from someone like Bill Cosby, and it doesn’t exactly take a close read to figure it out.

  42. Peter
    Peter January 29, 2007 at 11:03 am |

    The point’s been made, but it seems usually to be buried in other stuff.

    It is definitely true that there are geographical and social areas with serious problems, and that many of those problems are reinforced by the people who are in them and products of them.

    It isn’t inherently racist to note that, whether one is working toward changing it (or even cares) or not.

    But the racism kicks in when, say, urban Detroit or Gary has those problems because of “black culture” or “black people causing their own problems” but, say, Appalachia or rural Alabama do NOT have problems because of “white culture” or “white people causing their own problems.”

    Now, Bill Cosby may have some personal credibility having overcome his own childhood situation, as might, oh, Dolly Parton, when she speaks of people still living in the conditions she grew up in.

    But if you look at it, we still just take for granted that a black person, no matter how successful, is still a part of “black culture” in ways we don’t with white people. Now, Bill Cosby’s kids may well be being raised with social consciences, but they will still be raised as children of privilege.

    As a broader culture, we need to stop talking about “black culture” and more about things like “inner city poor” when we are talking about poverty and bad schools. The term “black culture” may mean something once we do (though I’m not sure just what), but it cannot remain the catch-all it has been up until now.

    And it is probably inevitable that a term roughly equivalent to “white trash” turns up – and it will be just as invalidly applied to hardworking, intelligent people from those backgrounds who are working to overcome it.

    But it is highly racist to decide that ethnicity trumps everything else in defining culture, as though the kids of a black Beverly Hills dentist have more in common with poor urban black kids in Philly than the kids of white Beverly Hills dentists.

    We need to let subcultures that happen to have mostly black (or Asian, or Latino, etc) have their own names. I think you could make a case that there is a “rap culture.” And that most of those who would be identified with it are black, just as a “square dance culture” will have a majority of white people in it.

  43. N.
    N. January 29, 2007 at 11:12 am |

    I’m defending the article because I live right next door to the black kids whose lives have been destroyed by decades of patronzing, pandering, liberal thinking.

    If you don’t like the guy’s politics or his tone, fine.

    But pointing out that black family life has deteriorated to the point where no one is telling these kids that it is NOT okay to not know how to speak English properly is EXACTLY what’s standing in the way of these kids succeeding at anything at all is not racist, nor is pointing out that, for these most disadvantaged of the nation’s youth, the expectations are pretty much non-existant.

    The difference between (and, yes, I get that these are all huge generalizations) the black kids he’s talking about and white kids is that no one jumps on your ass if you tell a white kid to clean up his language, learn to speak properly, dress properly and behave properly, but if you dare to suggest that to a black kid, you’re not being appropriately appreciative or sensitive to all the burdens black people have had to bear over the centuries.

    These kids are getting one life. They get one shot at this, just like everyone else. And they deserve better than a lot of excuses for them to not succeed.

    Do poverty and racism create difficulties? Yes. But the expectation should be to rise above, not to perpetuate the cycle.

    You seem to assume that these are all middle class black kids from stable families who are going to good schools and have fab summer jobs caddying at the local country club, and the mean white man is making fun of their extracurricular activities and street jargon because he’s a big bad racist.

    Uh-uh.

    He’s talking about kids who are incapable of speaking basic English, who have never experienced stable family life, and for whom the majority of their social lives consists of hanging out listening to music with extremely negative messages.

    If you don’t think that exists, you come on over and I will personally drop you off in East Orange or Irvington or some of the more, uh, flavorful nabes of Newark, and you can see what day-to-day existence for these kids is, and you can witness for yourself that NO ONE is telling them that this is not good and that they need to cut it out and educate themselves and learn to communicate with the rest of the world and to dress in an acceptable manner. Not the barely-present parents, not the schools, and not the Al Sharptons of this world who have a vested interest in maintaining an “oppressed”, illiterate, unemployed underclass of black Americans.

  44. mythago
    mythago January 29, 2007 at 11:26 am |

    the black kids whose lives have been destroyed by decades of patronzing, pandering, liberal thinking.

    Once upon a time, blacks in America were free. They were in the Land of Opportunity where everything was open to them, if they just worked hard enough. And then evil liberals swooped down and ruined everything!

    He’s talking about kids who are incapable of speaking basic English, who have never experienced stable family life, and for whom the majority of their social lives consists of hanging out listening to music with extremely negative messages.

    BLACK kids. Because in your little world, apparently, there are no white kids whose parents listen to Judas Priest or shoot meth, nobody in their families goes to college, they don’t learn proper English and they think school sucks.

    Please don’t bother lecturing me about dysfunctional black communities until you get it through your racist head that the issue is poverty, and in the case of black Americans it’s magnified by centuries of racism that is only beginning to dissipate.

  45. zuzu
    zuzu January 29, 2007 at 11:29 am | *

    But if you live where I live, on the borders of Newark, East Orange, and Irvington

    This explains so much.

    And what town do you live in?

  46. zuzu
    zuzu January 29, 2007 at 11:31 am | *

    Actually, let me guess: West Orange.

  47. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax January 29, 2007 at 11:44 am |

    You seem to assume that these are all middle class black kids from stable families who are going to good schools and have fab summer jobs caddying at the local country club, and the mean white man is making fun of their extracurricular activities and street jargon because he’s a big bad racist.

    I do assume, yes, that if a guy writes a whole article about how black kids can’t speak proper English, black kids listen to awful music, black people are apparently lazy and looking for white people to give them handouts, that such an article, and all the many white people rants like it will affect how people treat, say, my bright nephew (who reads just fine), if he goes into a store. Because, you know, it’s so much easier to tell at sight that he’s a few shades darker than you are than it is to tell that his father’s in the Foreign Service, and that his parents do too give a damn what he does.

    But beyond that, even for those black people who are being irresponsible in one way or another, I don’t see how it helps them to describe their failures as black culture.

  48. Frumious B
    Frumious B January 29, 2007 at 11:49 am |

    But we can’t say that. If we do, we’re racist.

    It’s not the saying that makes us racist. It’s the exclusive focus on these problems in black people that makes us racist. Many people in this thread have pointed out that white people have multiple generations in jail, that white people have children with many different partners, and that white people use street language which is not standard English.

  49. N.
    N. January 29, 2007 at 11:57 am |

    No, Maplewood.

    And those of us who experience, on a daily basis, the black kids he’s talking about understand what he’s saying.

    He said millions of black kids, and he described the kids I see every day. He didn’t say all black kids. Nor did he criticize all hip hop or rap.

    He spoke to something very specific and very real.

    But please don’t acknowledge that. You might have to do something about it, and that would entail getting your hands dirty. You might actually have to ~gasp~ talk to a black kid who doesn’t go to NYU. .

    This is reality. Those kids are real. And you’d rather dicker and moan and bitch and be cute and clever rather than acknowledge that there is a specific set of problems that affect a specific set of black people, and that no one is doing anything real or substantive about it.

    Frankly, you sound like a bunch of rich, overpriviledged white girls with very expensive educations who read about a lot of stuff in some books but who don’t know jack, when you get right down to it.

    Don’t worry. I’m sure all the nasty non-NYU niggas will stay in the hood and leave you alone. I mean, you’re hell bent on keeping it that way, aren’t you…?

  50. shannon
    shannon January 29, 2007 at 12:09 pm |

    You can say bad things about black people if you want, but people here are going to think you are a racist. Actions. Consequences. Yea, and nothing drives me nuts more than the idea that somehow magically black people can’t codeswitch. My mom goes around speaking ebonics at home, but she’s still a reading teacher out in the world. There’s no rule that says that you have to talk the same way all the time.

    Anyway I think the whole anti ebonics thing is just racist anyway. Who says that speaking in one way makes you stupid or unemployable? I see plenty of white folks who can’t even spell simple words correctly, but because they have the right accent they are automatically better than black folks who can spell and have some skills? I say not.

  51. N.
    N. January 29, 2007 at 12:18 pm |

    Okay. One more time for the terminally retarded.

    He’s talking about black kids who can’t speak any other way.

    No one gives a shit how you speak at home.

    But if you can’t make yourself understood on a job interview, you’re fucked.

    Simple enough?

  52. piny
    piny January 29, 2007 at 12:35 pm |

    You can say bad things about black people if you want, but people here are going to think you are a racist. Actions. Consequences. Yea, and nothing drives me nuts more than the idea that somehow magically black people can’t codeswitch. My mom goes around speaking ebonics at home, but she’s still a reading teacher out in the world. There’s no rule that says that you have to talk the same way all the time.

    Most people do this, don’t they? I don’t use words like “douchebag” at a job interview.

  53. N.
    N. January 29, 2007 at 1:06 pm |

    So kick me out, Jill. And…?? This is a blog. Duh. No one cares.

    Why don’t you ask your roommate about this, then? Ask her if these kids’ problems are real, or if they’re just a recreational activity, and the kids “codeswitch” back to middle class lives on the turn of a dime, ‘k?

    Ask her how the lack of stable families, the lack of societal expectations, and the constant inundation with really bad cultural messages has impacted these kids.

  54. Heraclitus
    Heraclitus January 29, 2007 at 1:14 pm |

    Speaking of poor English skills, hate to break it to you, N, but “impact” is not a verb. I’m so sick of these stupid white people with their corporate-speak. This shit makes us all look bad, like a bunch of illiterate, money-grubbing philistines.

    You know that in addition to being an ignorant and obnoxious jackass, you’re also a cliche, right?

  55. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 1:34 pm |

    No, for the terminally stupid, he isn’t talking only about black kids who can’t speak any other way. You’re ignoring what he actually says in favor of what you want him to say. He outright denies the existence of racism and says that “black culture” is inferior to “white culture,” full stop. He never makes any provision that it’s only a problem in a job interview or environment. The closest he comes is by discussing “abysmal language skills,” which, duh, will decrease your employability in a white-collar career. Aside from that, he just doesn’t make that distinction. He also conflates taste in clothes and music (neither of which decrease employability unless you wear baggy jeans to a job interview), and those language skills you think he’s mostly focusing on with “black culture.” You can pretend he said something he didn’t, but don’t refer to us as “terminally retarded,” if you’re having trouble reading his words. We’ve quoted to you to back up our positions. How about you now quote to us Prelutsky’s actual words that support YOUR interpretation of them. Because continuing to say “This is what he really means” without offering any evidence of that is so old and tired right now that it puts Dorian Gray’s portrait to shame.

    Oh, and by the way:

    Do poverty and racism create difficulties? Yes. But the expectation should be to rise above, not to perpetuate the cycle.

    Fuck that. Rise above other people’s racism? Pray tell, how do you do that? Do you do a Vulcan mind-meld and brainwash them? Do we tell kids “Change your names and bleach your skin!” No, the expectation should be for people to rise above their racism. Not those who suffer because of it. Nice victim-blaming there, though. “If they only fought harder, they could have stopped those racists from discriminating against them.” Sounds a lot like “If she’d only fought harder, she could have stopped that man from raping her.”

    As for poverty, my Lord, you’d think the history of minorities and poverty in this country was that whites had expectations of them that they’d overcome it. Only, you know, that isn’t what happened. The poor of other minorities had help to succeed, but it wasn’t by white people having high expectations of them. Quite the opposite.*

    You seem to assume that these are all middle class black kids from stable families who are going to good schools and have fab summer jobs caddying at the local country club, and the mean white man is making fun of their extracurricular activities and street jargon because he’s a big bad racist.

    Yeah, sure, that’s it. We’re all so stupid that we don’t know that there are poor black kids with dysfunctional families! We just don’t live in the “real world” like you do! Get a fucking grip. You’re not special.

    *Obviously no one should consider another person incapable of succeeding because of their skin color, ethnicity, or socioeconomic background and history. Wow, what a fucking revelation! Just as obviously there are real problems. No one here is denying that. No one here is saying “Ooh, suggesting that educating black children and helping to stabilize their environments is racist!” No one is saying it’s racist to have expectations that black people can succeed. (Ha!) What we are saying is the way to fix the problems isn’t just to say “Bad black people!” That’s what Prelutsky is doing, and if that isn’t a negative social message, what is? Again, if you think he’s really saying something else, back it up with quotes already.

  56. mythago
    mythago January 29, 2007 at 1:35 pm |

    Oh, Heraclitus, don’t be so mean. Nobody at all on this blog IS black, or is related to someone black, and only N. of anybody who posts here at all ever spends any time with anyone black. N is, like, the expert on black!

  57. N.
    N. January 29, 2007 at 2:32 pm |

    No, I’m not.

    But I’m also not a knee-jerk liberal who automatically rejects everything someone says because he’s not on my team.

    But you’re all very shrill and predictable and you’re just making me yawn now, so whatever.

    Just let me know when you actually do something other than screech and yammer and shriek, ‘k?

  58. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax January 29, 2007 at 3:00 pm |

    Because, you know, it is so “knee-jerk” to reject an article that says both that most white people hate “niggers” and that they’re right in doing so. That does translate into rejecting everything anyone says who’s not on our team.

    We all need to be open-minded enough to recognize that an article that goes on about how especially horrible black people are is, you know, just saying this stuff for their own good. Take up the white man’s burden, and all that.

  59. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 3:01 pm |

    But I’m also not a knee-jerk liberal who automatically rejects everything someone says because he’s not on my team.

    Dorian Gray has been pronounced dead. He’s being replaced by a strawman.

  60. Meagan
    Meagan January 29, 2007 at 3:03 pm |

    Certainly the kinds of personal responsibility that the author, Bill Cosby, and N. refer to exist– and should exist. However, the position that the only thing that matters is personal responsibility reveals a failure to see how American society works. Here’s a helpful quote from philosopher Charles W. Mills:

    [I]n a racially structured polity, the only people who can find it psychologically possible to deny the centrality of race are those who are racially privileged, for whom race is invisible precisely because the world is structured around them, whiteness as the ground against which the figures of other races– those who, unlike us, are raced– appear. The fish does not see the water, and whites do not see the racial nature of a white polity because it is natural to them, the element in which they move.

    What that means is that words like “correct” and “proper” actually become code words for “white.” For example, when someone observes that black teenagers often don’t speak correct English, what they’re really saying is that the teens aren’t speaking white English. That code isn’t recognized as such, because the people who historically have benefited from the system (white folks) have no motivation to look for it. It has always been the case that the victims of a system are far better at identifying the system than are those who benefit. Why question what works for you?

    That does not mean that an individual cannot work against the system, but it does mean that in a just society we must work to create a system which does not disproportionately hinder the chance of success of any group of people.

    One more quote from Mills:

    Whites will then act in racist ways while thinking of themselves as acting morally. In other words, they will experience genuine cognitive difficulties in recognizing certain behavior patterns as racist, so that quite apart from questions of motivation and bad faith they will be morally handicapped simply from the conceptual point of view in seeing and doing the right thing.

    This means that it is entirely possible (even likely) that white folks who want the best for all people– who genuinely want everyone to be able to succeed– will still not see or understand that telling blacks that they have to change (to shape up, to learn correct English, etc) is a solution that at best is shortsighted because it does nothing to address the root problem and at worst is another way to keep nonwhite folks from succeeding.

  61. Regina
    Regina January 29, 2007 at 3:23 pm |

    N., you are totally decompensating and it is time for you to shut the fuck up now.

  62. Regina
    Regina January 29, 2007 at 3:26 pm |

    oopsie, i submitted before I was done.

    N, STFU. You’re making a lot of assumptions about who people are that don’t hold. For example, everyone on this thread is not white, and some of us spend plenty of time in Maplewood and the Oranges, too, and still totally disagree with you.

  63. micheyd
    micheyd January 29, 2007 at 4:07 pm |

    Oh damn, I missed the opportunity to ask N. why we’re “shrill”, and we “screech” and “shriek”. No, never heard that one at a feminist blog before, no siree…

  64. Regina
    Regina January 29, 2007 at 4:19 pm |
    we’re “shrill”, and we “screech” and “shriek”. No, never heard that one at a feminist blog before, no siree…

    I was gonna say… I was trying to read the whole thread before commenting, but by the time I got to the bottom all I could think was “Marvin K Mooney, would you Please Go Now!”

  65. Peter
    Peter January 29, 2007 at 4:54 pm |

    Megan: What that means is that words like “correct” and “proper” actually become code words for “white.” For example, when someone observes that black teenagers often don’t speak correct English, what they’re really saying is that the teens aren’t speaking white English.

    I will agree with what you say as far as it applies to the conversation about black kids, but disagree with it in the general case. Because “correct” and “proper” also apply to work against specifically Southern, or Appalachian, or Valley-Speak, strong foreign accents or other “non-standard” usage, even when they are used by white people.

    I don’t think it is fair to conflate all the objections to non-standard usage with racism. I think it works the other way – where racism is already present, the language issue is a convenient thing to hang racism on.

    Further, deciding that something is “white English” sort of implies that there aren’t any black people for whom standard English isn’t what they speak on a regular basis, at home or otherwise, which simply isn’t true.

  66. Meagan
    Meagan January 29, 2007 at 5:20 pm |

    Peter- thanks for your refinements to my statement.

    I definitely used “white English” too broadly–but I’ll continue to stand by my assertion that what gets called “standard English” (in the US) is the English that follows the set of rules set by white, middle- and upper-class, heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied, native-English-speaking men. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions, but the generalization holds true, I think.

    That particular English– the one I’m following right now as I type these words– isn’t any inherently better than any other English, be it British English or African American Vernacular English. Those are similarly rule-bound, complex Englishes.

    The practical reality of right now, though, is that if you want to be successful in this society, one way to smooth your path is to make sure you’re speaking “standard English.”

  67. auntiesocial
    auntiesocial January 29, 2007 at 5:30 pm |

    this is kind of “out there” but to me Eldridge Cleaver-the man who wrote “Soul on Ice” really emblemizes the problem.

    back in the 60′s Eldridge raped a white women as a “political act” -against the “white man”. Eldridge perfected his “modus operendi” on black women. I don’t how many black women he raped-but even if he’d raped a million-he probably wouldn’t have been made Minister of Defense of the Black Panthers.

    I’m not old enough to have been around and cognizant at that time-but from what I’ve seen-when white feminists critisized Eldridge they ran a risk of being called “racist”-and if that label sticks your done. And black women who criticized Eldridge’s ran a risk of being called “uncle Toms” and “betrayers of the cause”- and when that label sticks your done.

    it put black women in a situation of being caught between white women’s racism and black men’s sexism

    it put white women in a situation of having to be very careful about criticizing black men’s sexism in order not to appear “racist” and piss off women of color

    So what Eldridge symbolizes to me is the moment in time that the good fight against racism became hijacked and started being used as a way to mask bile spewing contempt for women. It’s like “women hatred” leeched onto the good fight against racism-sucking it’s blood and becoming stronger.

    if a white women “went on” too much about Eldridge-someone would say, “why do you ONLY care about a black rapist when there are so many white rapists? “. And the answer is-because there is something more to what Eldridge did.

    You would think hatred is as bad as it gets. But imagine destroying a white woman’s life because you hate the white man. That’s a perversion of hatred itself. IT’s like at least have the decency to look a woman in the eye and tell her you hate HER while raping her-but to be looking at the white man saying “I hate you” while you rape a woman is downright evil.
    And as evil as that is try to wrap you brain around what Eldridge did to the black women he raped….it’s evil to the tenth power. I mean imagine raping who knows how many black women just as “practice” for the real goal of raping a white women for the purpose of expressing hate for the white man.

    The invisible man aint got nothing on the invisible woman. And this man Eldridge was made Minister of Defense of the friggin Panthers-how insane is that?

    Eldridge didn’t hate the white man-he LOVED the white man he put on an impressive show for the white man. Eldridge raped a white woman because he hated women in general and he raped bunches of black women because he hated black women in particular. But he didn’t call it “woman hatred” he called “fighting the power” or whatever.

    and still today-it’s like, well I better be careful if I critisize the Ice- T lyric about raping a woman with a flashlight to see if her tits light up. I better understand the cultural context from which such a lyric evolved. And I must be sure to note sexist lyrics by white performers lest I appear racist in any way. I must also duly note the popularity of rap with young whites etc etc etc. And after all that-in the end I will probably be told to shut the hell up since I am white and ipso facto a racist.

    I think the important thing is to really not BE racist. But sometimes people are more concerned about APPEARING as though they aren’t racist, so they keep quiet when faced with “Eldridge”. Or they are so busy running a fine tooth combe over their every criticism looking for every nit that can be picked that by the time they actually say anything-it’s far removed from what REALLY needed to be said.

    It would be racist for me to call Eldridge Cleaver the n-word. But if I call him a scumsucking woman hater that is not racist. And what if I slip and use the n-word, maybe in outrage and despair after reading Eldridge’s book? Does that null and void everything I’ve said or ever will say? People act like it does. IT’s like sometimes people are scanning waiting for the slightest bit of racism so they go “WHOMP there it is!”- your a racist nyaa nyaa! nothing you say matters cuz yer a racist!!! You cant critisize at all because that’s racist. Racist Racist Racist. Who cares HOW many women Eldridge raped what matters is your a racist racist racist! Who cares how many Jews were killed in a cafe or bus-racist!don’t you dare critisize palestinians of color-your a racist -Jew hatred -that’s another hatred that leeched onto the good fight can’t be pro-Israel that’s racist!

    but re: the right wing people-my philosophy is take the best leave the rest. If they something that is right and true I hear it-if they say stupid hateful stuff I leave it.

    re: Chris Rock’s schtick-that’s why I just use the term “asshole” everyone has one and everyone can be one. “Asshole” is gender,race, religion and sexual preference neutral.

  68. Lorelei
    Lorelei January 29, 2007 at 5:49 pm |

    I hate this shit about how the way inner-city black kids stereotypically dress is going to hurt them in the corporate world. This whole dress-code bullshit is just yet another push by the upper-class to keep poor people down, and everyone just says ‘oh well, whatcha gonna do about it’ and just accepts it. Dress codes are completely and absolutely classist. If it weren’t, those inner-city black kids who dress ‘gangsta’ would have nothing to worry about if they got themselves the necessary qualifications. I hate it so much.

  69. Lorelei
    Lorelei January 29, 2007 at 6:24 pm |

    Okay. One more time for the terminally retarded.

    Let’s hear it for ableism! Asshole.

  70. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 7:12 pm |

    and still today-it’s like, well I better be careful if I critisize the Ice- T lyric about raping a woman with a flashlight to see if her tits light up. I better understand the cultural context from which such a lyric evolved. And I must be sure to note sexist lyrics by white performers lest I appear racist in any way. I must also duly note the popularity of rap with young whites etc etc etc. And after all that-in the end I will probably be told to shut the hell up since I am white and ipso facto a racist.

    OK, seriously, there are feminist critiques of hip-hop and rap lyrics. There are lots of them. No one here is saying don’t criticize sexist lyrics of any sort. I do think that if someone said that sexist lyrics are peculiar to black songwriters, that would be racist. It’s just not true. I also think that if someone said that black kids listen to sexist music, but white kids don’t, that would be racist. It’s just not true. Lastly, I think if someone said that rap and hip-hop were attributes of an inferior “black culture,” while completely ignoring sexist music that’s popular with whites, that would be racist. It is, in fact, racist, to take bad things that cross racial boundaries and act as if they are only existent in one race.

    And, yes, because you’re white, you have to be more careful to make sure you do put your critiques in the proper context (e.g., noting the “popularity of rap with young whites etc etc etc.”) On the scale of “injustices,” that doesn’t really rank. Why is it even worthy of mention? It’s just not unfair.

    And what if I slip and use the n-word, maybe in outrage and despair after reading Eldridge’s book? Does that null and void everything I’ve said or ever will say? People act like it does.

    I don’t know. What would you do after you used the n-word? Would you apologize and admit you fucked up? Or would you just say “I don’t give a shit, he was an evil rapist, so I was justified?” Because I think if you sincerely did the former, most people would move on. But if you just went “La la la, I don’t care, my justifiable anger at his actions excuse my using a word that is a judgment of his race, not his actions, and would be hurtful to a lot of other people who aren’t evil rapists,” then, no they wouldn’t. Why would you expect them to?

    Who cares HOW many women Eldridge raped what matters is your a racist racist racist!

    And anyone who actually said that would be a misogynist and poisoning the well. How many people here do you think would really dispute that?

    I’m really not sure what’s behind your comment. No one here said not to criticize sexist rap and hip-hop lyrics. This thread was about something totally different. It was about not conflating music, clothes, and language skills with an “inferior black culture” and pretending racism doesn’t exist. Not at all the same.

  71. Erika
    Erika January 29, 2007 at 7:17 pm |

    Similarly, Ebonics gets mocked and “concerned” white folks wring their hands about how it makes black kids unemployable. But you know, I can barely understand some people with thick Southern accents, and a whole lot of people in the North hear that accent and associate it with “stupid,” consciously or not. Same for the Appalachian accent. I have no doubt that those stereotypes and speech issues have an impact on the kinds of jobs that some white people get. I also have no doubt that a lot of these white people speak with stronger accents and with more regional slang when they’re around friends and family than when they’re interviewing for a job. Just like people who speak Ebonics at home and with friends. But again, no hand-wringing about the white people who don’t speak proper, unaccented English.

    I’ve never heard of school districts adopting policies not to correct the speech or writing of Southern or Appalachian students. I have, however, heard of school districts adopting those policies re: ebonics.

    This whole dress-code bullshit is just yet another push by the upper-class to keep poor people down, and everyone just says ‘oh well, whatcha gonna do about it’ and just accepts it. Dress codes are completely and absolutely classist

    Most people respond better to professionals who present themselves well…including, or especially, with their appearance. It’s not just employers who set these rules. They have to worry about clients not taking their businesses seriously if employees are wearing whatever they want, or, going back to the standard English issue, speaking in whichever way they want. That is something that will take a long time to change, assuming it ever does. I personally hope it doesn’t because, however racist or classist I am for feeling this way, I think there are many benefits to having a standard of professional behavior and appearance and to having a standard English dialect.

    I’m not even sure what “black American culture” is, with the possible exception of a shared history of racist oppression. Outside of that, it’s not like there’s some monolithic “culture” that black Americans all participate in, any more than there’s some monolithic “culture” shared by all white Americans.

    Mainly due to my education and class, the only African-Americans I know personally do not fit into any stereotypes of black people. However, since those friends, acquaintances, and in-laws don’t fit into the mold of black culture, they have few to no black friends and they’ve expressed a feeling of alienation from other African-Americans on more than one occasion. This is entirely anecdotal evidence, but it seems as though black culture is more “monolithic” than white culture.

  72. DAS
    DAS January 29, 2007 at 7:18 pm |

    I’m 23, and my dad remembers segregated drinking fountains. – Christopher

    I’m 30 and my gf was born in a segregated hospital: evidently her father, a Jamaican immigrant and engineer, knew some doctors there, so they let her mother give birth there. But her mother’s family were too afraid to visit her mother in the hospital (there were some complications of the delivery — it was botched actually … run of the mill malpractice and no long-term harm done to either my gf or her mother, but my gf’s mother still believes she got mistreated because she was a black woman who dared give birth in a white hospital) because it was a white hospital and they’re not.

  73. ako
    ako January 29, 2007 at 7:19 pm |

    and still today-it’s like, well I better be careful if I critisize the Ice- T lyric about raping a woman with a flashlight to see if her tits light up. I better understand the cultural context from which such a lyric evolved.

    Depends on the point you’re making. If it’s a serious critique it’s a good idea to understood how that’s seen by the intended audience, and why people listen to that. Also how serious it’s taken, especially since it’s pretty obviously not a literal expectation. But that’s more of a “serious critique” rule than a “talking about a black performer” rule.

    And I must be sure to note sexist lyrics by white performers lest I appear racist in any way.

    Either that, or avoid actively and repeatedly referencing “black kids” and “their music” as if the problem were both universal to and exclusive to black people. If you want to talk about what’s wrong with what Ice-T says, and the message he’s spreading without bringing a blanket category of people of similar ancestry and skin color into it, that works.

    I must also duly note the popularity of rap with young whites etc etc etc.

    You don’t need to, but it’s a good point to bring up. If you’re concerned about the harm the lyrics do, looking at the whole audience and how they respond to the lyrics is fairly sensible.

    It would be racist for me to call Eldridge Cleaver the n-word.

    Probably, yeah. I can think of situations where it wouldn’t be, but they’re fairly improbable.

    But if I call him a scumsucking woman hater that is not racist.

    Right.

    And what if I slip and use the n-word, maybe in outrage and despair after reading Eldridge’s book? Does that null and void everything I’ve said or ever will say?

    No, but it suggest some racial prejudice on your part, if you’re particularly inclined to use his race as an insult when you’re most angry at him. Doesn’t make him any less of a woman-hating, scum-sucking, rapist asshole, though.

    People act like it does.

    Some people will throw around any insult to demonize the other side, and avoid questioning their own assumptions. This isn’t particular to any one ideology.

    but re: the right wing people-my philosophy is take the best leave the rest. If they something that is right and true I hear it-if they say stupid hateful stuff I leave it.

    Cool. Are you half as interested in hearing what a bunch of liberals and feminists have to say about racism? Because if you read this blog taking what each person here says on their own merit, and don’t lump it in with some general liberal leftist position that you seem to be pretty angry about, then you might find some good stuff.

  74. Nanette
    Nanette January 29, 2007 at 7:22 pm |

    auntiesocial

    And what if I slip and use the n-word, maybe in outrage and despair after reading Eldridge’s book? Does that null and void everything I’ve said or ever will say? People act like it does.

    Well, of course it does. Because you’ve then “slipped” and gone from criticizing the actions of one man, who is Black, to using a racist and demeaning term to his emphasize” Blackness” (and your apparently White view of Blackness) as opposed to, or in addition to, I guess, condemning his actions.

    back in the 60’s Eldridge raped a white women as a “political act” -against the “white man”. Eldridge perfected his “modus operendi” on black women. I don’t how many black women he raped-but even if he’d raped a million-he probably wouldn’t have been made Minister of Defense of the Black Panthers.

    I have no particular affinity for Cleaver who, from what I understand, was pretty sexist and abusive towards women for a good portion of his life, but do you have any documentation for this? For this particular part, I mean: “back in the 60’s Eldridge raped a white women as a “political act””.

    If you are referring to his Soul on Ice book, it’s my understanding that that was written in 1954 or so, when he was 18 and in prison serving out his terms for rape and other things. I am not, in any way, attempting to justify rape, or why he says he did it, or anything like that – either by his age or his upbringing or whatever. It’s just that by placing this in the 60s, it makes a really big difference in the timeline, especially considering his involvement in the Black Panthers, and his supposed repudiation of his past actions as a rapist. So, was there something else, or were you just confused as to the timeline of events?

    Well, I was going to go through the rest of your comment and point out some issues I had with it, regarding the history of the civil rights movement, the various feminist (Black and White) organizations and movements and so on, but … no. It’s tiring. Plenty of stuff out there to read, lots not having a thing to do with Cleaver, I’m sure you’ll come across some eventually.

    On the original post:

    Most whites in this country are not racist. In their heart, they agree with black comedian Chris Rock when he says, “I love black people, but I hate niggers,” even if they themselves are not allowed to make such an honest declaration.

    I’ve never watched Chris Rock – well, I won’t say never, I’ve probably caught bits here and there – still, I am not sure how he was using this. I can only imagine that he did it as a send up of White racists because, even though now whenever anyone makes that statement they preface it with “like Chris Rock says”, as if they got it from him and he invented it, in reality it’s definitely the other way around. That saying has been a staple of White racists (as well as those who like to pretend they are not racist) for decades and decades. Rock, unfortunately, seems to have just provided some with the opportunity to rewrite that history and make the words his instead of theirs.

    The practical reality of right now, though, is that if you want to be successful in this society, one way to smooth your path is to make sure you’re speaking “standard English.”

    Well. I speak “standard English” only, as that is how I was raised… but a habit I picked up when job or apartment searching is to put a little “Black” English or intonation into my speech, when speaking over the phone to someone excited about a resume or whatever, in preparation for an interview. That way, it saves me a bunch of time so that instead of showing up and watching their eyes frantically searching for the person who really called, while they tell me, in essence, “So sorry, the (position, apartment, whatever) has been filled in the 5 or 10 minutes since I spoke to you on the phone”, they can just tell me right then and there and I’ll move on.

    I am not unsuccessful, but in general navigating through all the “but if you’d only do this, it would be better!” stuff that sometimes very well meaning people put forth sort of reminds me of one of those games at the fair, where those cards keep flying up and your’re supposed to shoot them down, but when you do another one with a different picture flies up, and then flaps down, and on and on it goes, one flies up, another flaps down, another you shoot down and usually it just goes on and on like that til the person running the game finally says “game over!”

    Except sometimes you win.

  75. Lesley
    Lesley January 29, 2007 at 7:34 pm |

    but re: the right wing people-my philosophy is take the best leave the rest. If they something that is right and true I hear it-if they say stupid hateful stuff I leave it.

    Oh, I missed that one before. That’s basically the exact same strawman N. foist on us before her/his departure. I think most of us believe that if someone with an opposing viewpoint says something right and true, we hear it and accept it. We don’t poison the well. I don’t think most people are that unreasonable. However, in this case, Prelutsky didn’t say something right and true. We dismissed it on its merits, not because he’s right wing.

  76. Natalia
    Natalia January 29, 2007 at 8:16 pm |

    You’d think that there weren’t a ton of people (academic, non-academic, black, non-black) who have both explored and criticized mainstream rap music and its often profoundly disturbing lyrics.

    There’s no such thing as an “evil black culture.” There is an evil popular culture – or, at the very least, there are aspects to popular culture that are extremely evil. We all feed into it – we all contribute.

    If you want to change society for the better, how about starting with yourself instead of lashing out at “them black kids on the corner”? What have YOU done? Who have YOU helped? That’s what I’d like to know…

  77. zuzu
    zuzu January 29, 2007 at 8:18 pm | *

    I hate this shit about how the way inner-city black kids stereotypically dress is going to hurt them in the corporate world.

    This assumes that they’re completely unfamiliar with other kinds of clothing. I wear suits to work and jeans at home. And nobody thinks that I don’t know the difference. Granted, there’s always some idiot who can’t figure out professional attire, but for the most part, people know to put on a clean shirt when they come to work or go to a job interview.

    It’s just like the whole “ebonics” thing — people can and do speak, dress and behave in completely different ways in different situations.

  78. Bolo
    Bolo January 29, 2007 at 8:19 pm |

    I’m defending the article because I live right next door to the black kids whose lives have been destroyed by decades of patronzing, pandering, liberal thinking.

    What?

    Yes, it was “misguided” attempts to help black people over the last few decades that destroyed their families. Not white flight to the suburbs, taking all the jobs and wealth with them. Not the economic structure that encouraged massive privatization and the burning of oil (and money) to escape the cities and leave the poor behind. No, instead, over the last few decades, it was all those programs that tried to help the poor–they did it. (Note: I admit that a large number of so-called liberals supported the economic regime that I highlighted above. But to call that regime “liberal” would be going way too far).

    And, you know, the last 2 to 3 centuries really could have been overcome as soon as the Civil Rights Act was enacted–but it was all that liberal pandering and patronization that held people with darker skin back. Because it wasn’t not the slavery, lynchings, segregation, race riots, sundown towns, racist government policies, red-lining, and exclusion that supposedly destroyed the lives of black kids. Oh no, it was the feeble attempts at providing aid that our government and civil society conducted over the last few decades that did it. The feeble attempts that were completely overcome by the economic regime that was put in place right around the time of the Civil Rights Act–sprawl and oil.

    Even with equal rights, its hard to help when all the moneyed and connected white people move away to suburbs that have charters that expressly forbid black people from moving to them. There is a HELL of a lot more to history–both long ago and recent–than you seem to know.

  79. Laser Potato
    Laser Potato January 29, 2007 at 8:36 pm |

    Remember, jazz was once called called the Devil’s music as well…

  80. Lynn Gazis-Sax
    Lynn Gazis-Sax January 29, 2007 at 8:50 pm |

    I’ve never heard of school districts adopting policies not to correct the speech or writing of Southern or Appalachian students. I have, however, heard of school districts adopting those policies re: ebonics.

    Specifics? Are you talking about the almost immediately overturned Oakland school board Ebonics resolution, or something else? In just what circumstances are the school districts encouraging teachers not to correct ebonics to standard English? Creative writing assignments? Research papers?

  81. Nanette
    Nanette January 29, 2007 at 9:39 pm |

    Mainly due to my education and class, the only African-Americans I know personally do not fit into any stereotypes of black people. However, since those friends, acquaintances, and in-laws don’t fit into the mold of black culture, they have few to no black friends and they’ve expressed a feeling of alienation from other African-Americans on more than one occasion. This is entirely anecdotal evidence, but it seems as though black culture is more “monolithic” than white culture.

    Um – your black friends, acquaintances and in-laws… whose culture are they living in?

  82. MARes
    MARes January 29, 2007 at 11:57 pm |

    With white kids, the parents, the schools, employers, society tend, for the most part, to be on the same page when it comes to expectations With black kids, there often isn’t much real parental influence going on

    WTF? Okay, maybe that’s true in East orange or wherever, and maybe in Leave it to Beaverville, but not so much here. Where are you getting this stuff? Do you honestly believe that there is a culure of evil rap music and congenitally irresponsible parenting that’s “black America” and a culture of Eagle Scouts, Pat Boone, church potluck picnics with shiny hush puppies and joshing the girls for a cherry phosphate down at dear Mr. Dawson’s soda fountain where we learn our work ethic that’s “white America”?

    Employers are gun shy. You can’t blame them. They’re not social services entities. They’re in business to make money, and if employees who can’t be understood negatively impact their profit line, then they’re not going to hire people who can’t speak English properly

    If you speak standard American television English and think you can come to my lily white neighborhood and understand one word anybody says, good luck. And yeah, that does tend to make employers who aren’t from around here think we’re somewhat stupid overall, yet we’re still not generally dismissed out of hand as unemployable, bad music fans, indifferent absentee parents, or worthless, clueless kids who obviously can’t manage to master basic life skills. Odd, that.

  83. Lorelei
    Lorelei January 30, 2007 at 12:03 am |

    What I was trying to say was that I think it’s ridiculous, on the whole, to judge someone’s ‘professionalism’ by the way they dress. I’m not even going into the way they speak. I know a lot of businesses do it in response to the prejudices of other people — I intended to speak of it broadly, so it includes that aspect, too. It’s nonsensical and it *is* classist. Yeah yeah yeah, you can buy a suit at Target, but depending on the field, it may not be good enough anyway, but also, can someone explain to me how wearing a suit as opposed to baggy jeans shows how ‘professional’ and qualified you are at anything except conforming?

    Yes I totally went off-topic! Sorry about that.

  84. JM
    JM January 30, 2007 at 2:01 am |

    “The difference between the black kids he’s talking about and white kids is that no one jumps on your ass if you tell a white kid to clean up his language, learn to speak properly, dress properly and behave properly, but if you dare to suggest that to a black kid, you’re not being appropriately appreciative or sensitive to all the burdens black people have had to face over the centuries.”

    OMG! That’s JUST what I plan to say the next time the old white guys hanging out on the stoop tell he passing white kids that they need to learn respect and how to act and dress. This time, instead of the usual two block wide screamfest and/or brawl complete with swinging baseball bat and and a bunch of trips in an ambulance, it’s going to end up with a group hug and celebration of our superior racial culture! All thanks to you and your insights! Thank you much!

    “Frankly, you sound like a bunch of rich, overprivileged white girls with very expensive educations who read about a lot of stuff in books in some books but don’t know jack, when you get right down to it.”

    Books are bad for learning stuff. If you’d skipped school and gone to see New Jack City V 24 times like N and me, you’d understand how to tell when a young black girl with a kid is going to devilishly undulate to slamming beats and let her kid play in the street while she turns tricks for a rock and then moves up to letting him play in the crackhouse and trading him to a pimp at age 3 for two rocks, and he can’t even fetch three because he can’t speak any other way but bad because black culture remove his larynx. (Um, you can tell that because she HAS a kid, duh. And because she’s a young women who, freakishly, listens to the same music as all other people in their teens, twenties, and thirties. And also because she never spent enough time with him to tell him how proud she was when he learned to fetch the crack pipe, even though she totally was).

    That’s real. That’s hardcore. Dig it, man. You can’t handle the truth, but that’s life in the hood and no place else. It’s a cultural thing.

  85. lizzie bee
    lizzie bee January 30, 2007 at 10:46 am |

    they need to cut it out and educate themselves and learn to communicate with the rest of the world and to dress in an acceptable manner.

    I’d REALLY like to hear your plan for how they do this. What, are you gonna go door-to-door and tutor them? I’m sure you’ll be greeted as a liberator.

  86. Regina
    Regina January 30, 2007 at 2:12 pm |

    I’d like to take this opportunity to direct everyone to this post. I think she says pretty much all that needs to be said.

    Not only was the post informative, so were the slew of comments from “anonymous”…

  87. Matt T.
    Matt T. January 30, 2007 at 2:16 pm |

    Late to this, but I do want to add one thing, inre: the “I love black people, but I hate niggers” bit Chris Rock. On the album where the bit appeared – but not the HBO special – there were little audio plays inbetween the comedy bits. Lots of comedians do this. Anyhow, one was about the “I hate niggers” bit, and had a bunch of folks come up to Chris “one the street” and tell him how sympatico they are with it. The first few people are, obviously, black. The last guy sounds like a white dude from the Bronx or maybe Long Island (I’m from Mississippi, so forgive the confusion on my part). The guy loads up a “I’m not racist” fastball, covering his ass, and then says “I hate niggers, too”. The next sound you hear is the previous speakers kicking the current speaker’s ass.

    The moral of this story is: just because Chris Rock says it doesn’t mean you can say it, Whitey. Deal.

  88. shannon
    shannon January 30, 2007 at 3:36 pm |

    Mainly due to my education and class, the only African-Americans I know personally do not fit into any stereotypes of black people. However, since those friends, acquaintances, and in-laws don’t fit into the mold of black culture, they have few to no black friends and they’ve expressed a feeling of alienation from other African-Americans on more than one occasion. This is entirely anecdotal evidence, but it seems as though black culture is more “monolithic” than white culture.

    Your friends are douchebags. Now, I speak ‘proper’ english, watch anime, read books, and all the standard shit. But I still have black friends and don’t go around being like “Oh I am so alienated from black culture!”. Sorry pet peeve. I actually wrote a whole mini comic on that actually. I’ll return to the subject later.

  89. Natalia
    Natalia January 30, 2007 at 3:41 pm |

    I agree with Matt; This entire “why am I not allowed to say certain things if Chris Rock is allowed to say them waah waah waah” deal is pretty ridiculous.

    A number of my girlfriends jokingly refer to me as “Russian slut” – this doesn’t make it OK for John Doe on the street to holler “slut” at me as I walk by. A number of women, females I don’t necessarily know too well call me “honey” (I’m in the South) – this doesn’t make it OK for John Doe to call me “honey,” especially if we’ve just bloody met.

    Deal.

  90. auntiesocial
    auntiesocial January 30, 2007 at 4:14 pm |

    re: #77 Nanettte-yeah thanx the book is from the fifties-I was referring more to the zeitgeist of the 60′s -which had it’s good and bad, Flower Power and Charles Manson. And Cleaver was part of that zeitgeist . But yeah I should really choose my words more carefully before I write cause ya know….

    so lets rephrase that to – “Eldridge Cleaver raped a white women as a political act” (and he raped bunches of black women as practice) but apparently this was no problem for the Panther Party of which he was Minister of Defence – afterall we all make mistakes so he raped some women in his younger days- no biggie.
    (If that’s no good-I’ll go to the library and research so that my way of saying this is completely perfect, because you know things like the book being written in ’54 is what really matters-political rape is secondary.)

    re: #76 Ako said- “Cool. Are you half as interested in hearing what a bunch of liberals and feminists have to say about racism? Because if you read this blog taking what each person here says on their own merit, and don’t lump it in with some general liberal leftist position that you seem to be pretty angry about, then you might find some good stuff.”

    take what I said on it’s merit -if you think it sucks fine but don’t lump it in with some general conservative rightest position-I have NEVER voted republican and I never will. I’m not angry-at least not the way YOU think

    #78-Lesley-re: the take the best and leave the rest comment-I was speaking generally, not specifically about the Prelutsky article and I wasn’t implying that you guys dismissed him simply for being a right winger.

    re: #77 Nanette-you answered the question- “if I slip and use the n-word does that null and void everything I say?”
    like this-
    Well, of course it does. Because you’ve then “slipped” and gone from criticizing the actions of one man, who is Black, to using a racist and demeaning term to his emphasize” Blackness” (and your apparently White view of Blackness) as opposed to, or in addition to, I guess, condemning his actions.

    So if someone was critisizing Eldridge Cleaver for raping who knows how many women and the n-word slipped out of his mouth- that would null and void everthing he said? It would null and his critisism of the rapes ?!! Of course not-he would be right in critisizing the rapes and WRONG in using the n-word. Maybe he let his outrage at injustice and violence against women turn into racism. OR maybe he ONLY cares about rape when it’s a black man and a white women. But -his protesting against rape is correct.
    But that’s why Eldridge Cleaver was intense. Rape was used as THE reason for lynching black men. That’s WHY Eldridge raped a white women-yet he raped black women too-and they were treated like NOTHING like they mattered not at all. But hey-whatever…

    by the way in case it’s not clear I would NEVER use the n-word there is never a right time for such a word to be used. That word has a history of violence behind it. I feel similarly about the c-word, and the b-word too a bit. Actually ALL violent hate words, but the n-word is at the top of the list.

    But when it comes to the charge of racism-sometimes SOMETIMES it reminds me of how people call feminists “manhaters”. I agree that hating men is wrong and sometimes they make a valid criticism. But sometimes they say it to silence feminists-or to ignore and distract from what is actually being said, or to cause feminists to be SO careful about how they phrase it-that the message is completely blurred.

    please note-I ‘m saying this as a generality and not about the Prelutsky article which was a very stupid article

  91. Therapist1
    Therapist1 January 30, 2007 at 4:23 pm |

    I am a 32yo white male that has lived and grown up in a black american area my entire life. My schools were 85% black most of my friends were black until I went to college. There is something broken in black america!!! When you are called oreo for speaking your native tongue [English] and ridiculed and/or beaten severly for getting good grades. Latinos in the same community are now scoring higher on standardized English tests!! When the thug life is all that is portrayed and those that are not “hard” are not considered black by their peers, there is a problem.

    I know I am not a racist, I am however a subject of my environment. I n my neighborhood I witnessed the white flight of the 70′s and 80′s, but it is now black flight due to the black-on-black crime perpetrated in my area. As of ten years ago 40% of my brother’s graduating class was dead or in jail. Two years after graduating 15 of my classmates were dead, and during my senior year, a kid i grew up with was found executed after being bound and tortured behind my highschool. You cannot blame the system anymore!! This is the most affluent middle class black community outside of Atlanta in America, and it is middle class blacks of which I am speaking. I am exasperated at times, but I still live here to try and change things, but the change must come from within the black community itself.

  92. curiousgyrl
    curiousgyrl January 30, 2007 at 7:45 pm |

    Bill Cosby was being classist, holding poor black explicitly responsible for white people’s racist stereotypes. His comments fed “color blind” racism. See RM above for an example.

    Chris Rock, same, though I think his joke in context is less obviously bad. The way its been recuperated by racist whites is much more obvious however.

  93. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred January 30, 2007 at 8:27 pm |

    Chris Rock, same, though I think his joke in context is less obviously bad.

    Not really, he’s still using nigger as an insult, which is precisely why the racists latched onto it “oh look! a black person used nigger in the same sense we use it! It must be okay and anyone who says otherwise is the real racist!”

    Rock described a libertarian conservative, then racialised the status of libertarian conservatives into “niggers”. And as nigger basically just means “black person” it somewhat obfuscates the fact that being a major league disengenuous asshole is the actual problem with being a rockian “nigger”, not the skin color of the neighbour who comes round your house the day after they burglarised you and says “I heard you got robbed!”

  94. ako
    ako January 30, 2007 at 10:52 pm |

    take what I said on it’s merit -if you think it sucks fine but don’t lump it in with some general conservative rightest position-I have NEVER voted republican and I never will. I’m not angry-at least not the way YOU think

    I wasn’t trying to suggest you voted republican. I also wasn’t intending to lump you in with some conservative rightest positions.

    My impression of your specific comments was that you were angry about some people who’d treated you unfairly in the past (insisting a rapist is above criticism because he’s black and blamed his rapes on anger at white men is both bigoted and sexist) and were expecting to be treated the same way here. Since at the point you originally commented I hadn’t seen anything in this thread to suggest that people here would react that way, I thought you might have been responding to what you expected to see from people of a certain political bent. This was my assumption, and if I’m wrong, I’m sorry, but it has nothing to do with assuming your political affiliation.

    That’s not the way you’re angry then? Okay. I do take commentators as individuals, but I’m not immune to mistakes and misunderstandings. I can assure you though, I was responding to your comments (and my own opinions about them), and not treating you as a category, or even a conservative, actually.

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    dtfatqzs February 1, 2007 at 9:22 am |

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  97. auntiesocial
    auntiesocial February 1, 2007 at 4:33 pm |

    this thread is dead but if your out there-that’s cool AKO

    angerwise I guess I’m angry at how racism and sexism and other hatreds interact-it’s not something I’ve personally experienced it’s more abstract. But I don’t like to see anyone who speaks out against hatred and violence silenced with the charge of “racism”-even if the charge is true, in part or whole (that goes for other isms and hatreds as well)

    -the article got me started because essentially saying “I just hate n-words” is like saying I distinguish between good black people and messed up black people. But this distinction should be applied to ALL peeps, not just some-it goes for EVERYONE. It sucks to have a word just for “bad” blacks or “bad” women etc. But making distinctions between good people and not so good people is okay to me

    and also I’m pissed off that the only people who are speaking out against Jew hatred are a bunch of right wing woman hating assholes-I’m pissed off that the hatred directed at Jews is considered justified because they are “racist white colonialist imperialist oppressors of the darker skinned native palestinians ” . And this demonization is given a free pass by many people who supposedly care about evil and social injustice-

    and I’m pissed off that NOW rightwingers are acting like they are they great bastians of feminism-it pisses me off that they only care about women in so much as that enables them to hate Muslims . Only now do they crow about how amurica has “rights for women” even as they crap on women with their lying prolife mania. NOW they feign concern for the treatment of Afghani women as if THAT”s why they to go to war . Now they suddenly care about FGM-hmm I wonder why? And it pisses me off how they gloat and say “where are the feminists”?

    I guess I’m pissed because there is no easy formula to sort this out-so I mentioned the Eldrige Cleaver thing because I think it pefectly illustates a problem -it’s like do we have to CHOOSE which hatred matters more? Do we put certain hatred on the front burner others on the back burner. IF we see Eldridge’s act primarily as a protest against racism we’re putting the woman hatred on the backburner . If we focus focus on the woman hatred we’re putting the history of lynchings and racism on the backburner.

    I thought it was a good contribution to this dialogue?!!

  98. ako
    ako February 2, 2007 at 1:08 am |

    -the article got me started because essentially saying “I just hate n-words” is like saying I distinguish between good black people and messed up black people. But this distinction should be applied to ALL peeps, not just some-it goes for EVERYONE. It sucks to have a word just for “bad” blacks or “bad” women etc. But making distinctions between good people and not so good people is okay to me

    The thing for me is that the words for bad black people or bad women seem to focus on the race or color, which is totally not the problem. I mean if a guy runs around going “I don’t hate women, I just hate cunts” then he’s getting why he might hate a woman tangled up with the fact of her womanhood. And it kind of sounds like her being female is an essential part of her defect. Similarly, if the intent is to distinguish between black people who make a mess of their lives and neighborhoods, and those who don’t, then labeling one group as “niggers” is at best, needlessly distracting. Because assholes come in all varieties, and the fact that a guy’s a rapist has nothing to do with the color of his skin, even if he’s excusing his violence and hatred of women by attributing it to racial politics. Calling him a “nigger” instead of something like “vile, gutless, rapist bastard” gets people looking at the wrong problem.

    So while I don’t think anything someone says should be inevitably disregarded due to racist language, I do think it’s something worth criticizing, even when it’s not the main message. And the article at the top of the page looked kind of racist even if I ignored the offending paragraph.

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