I have spent almost all of my life trying to deal with the problem of race. But as a result of some back-and-forth with AFW on DL, I have in the last week completely rethought my thoughts of more than half a century on race. I now feel that race is a far less profound difference than heretofore.
If you slash my arm, I bleed red, white, and blue. And I have always known that my country’s most profound internal conflicts consisted of race from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement.
I grew up in Northern Virginia where there were zero black people in my elementary school and two in my junior high of ~1200 (with whom I never spoke). In the northern part of the county, there stood a two mile long fence preventing Black people from walking into white neighborhoods. When I got to Wakefield High School which was 30% black, it was a major culture shock. I can still recall saying to a white boy into the jv football locker room –“that was might white of you.” I was and am mortified that I could have been so insensitive, but transitions do take time.
Wakefield was an incredible high school. It was deeply tracked, such that I had fewer black students in my academic classes than the fingers upon my hands. One year, they tracked gym class as well, and despite my overwhelming klutziness, I was in the top track there because of my ADD. That class was two-thirds black.
After High School, I went to college in Jacksonville, FL – then one of the most benighted cities on the planet – we were #1 in venereal disease, cop’s shot per capita., and divorce.
Both Arlington, Va. and Jax were forced by the federal government to bus for integration. Arlington was a relatively civilized place, and Wakefield worked while I was there. In Jax, they began to provide chalk for the blackboards of black students.
When I moved to Boston, that most racist of all American cities, I endeavored to live in places where both black and white persons were welcome. In my last few years there, I lived in Jamaica Plain near the Green Street Station on the Orange Line. Black people were in danger at Forest Hills (the next further station) and White people took their lives in their hands if they walked to Eggleston Square (the next nearer to downtown). This was in the days of the Boston busing crisis where adults would avert their eyes towards the ground if they should pass a teenager of different race.
I resolved that I should make a difference. There is reason why I post as “from Queens.” My first wife said that she was unwilling to live in an all-black neighborhood. We moved to the materially-integrated Waverly neighborhood in Baltimore, near the intersection of 33rd and Greenmount. There were a couple of all-night businesses at 33rd Street and three at 32nd. The neighborhood had the best Chinese in all of Baltimore. It was at least a reasonable bet as I spent the next decade and one-half of my life in rehabbing an ancient building. Reasonable or not, it was an unsuccessful bet. The neighborhood collapsed under crack cocaine as I lived and labored there, and each all-night business closed. At some point I realized that I had the last white children in the neighborhood. One day the police came by and showed my ex and I (the parents of a 15 year old boy) photographs of a 15 year old boy lying on the street two blocks from our house with his guts extruded from bullets. The black kids in the neighborhood were utterly terrified. I have never before nor since seen such scared persons. They were also afraid of me, despite the fact that I always treated each of them with respect.
Racism has not cost blood of me or mine. I have twice been threatened with murder for purely racist reasons. My ex was once fire-bombed by the Klan and once stoned by black nationalists. I have borne several tens of thousands of dollars in cost to racist vandalism.
My new conclusion (with some thanks to AFW) is that racism is not the fruit of the following phenomenon:
When my Persian high school sweetheart returned from a summer in Teheran, she told me things – among them was how relaxing it was to be among person who looked like her, unlike Wakefield HS where she was a brown snowflake.
Up and until now, I have always thought that this was the root of racism. Persons desire to be around and to support persons who look like them – and this can get extrapolated to unbelievable evil.
I no longer feel that this is the correct answer, and I invite DL to beat me up and prove me wrong.
Let’s go back to St. Paul, who said that “the love of money is the root of all evil.”
Affinity based upon appearance is profound and immutable. My new theory is that racism comes from and only from the love of cash.
Prior to 1750, Americans were not particularly racist. There was much interracial marriage, particularly in the mountains. As I have said, I believe that Saint Abe Lincoln was African-American.
In 1750, Pennsylvania (gotta love those Quakers) became the first major jurisdiction in the history of the planet to ban slavery. William Penn owned slaves as well as other stuff, but the Quakers reasoned through their Bible to slavery’s underlying immorality.
People, however, made lots and lots of money from slavery. You could make boatloads of cash in the 1800’s by stealing persons’ lives to raise cotton for you. These people did not wish to think of themselves (nor for other persons to so think of them) as moral cretins. The old justification for slavery was that everybody did it. And in fact they did. When Pennsylvania killed this justification dead, a new justification was needed. And serious racism was born. In 1750.
It became an abiding philosophy after Darwin’s “Origin of Species” in the 1850’s (although there is zero evidence that Darwin was personally racist). Jim Crow and its associated murders and oppressions remain a deep blot upon American history. I have many friends from the Caribbean Islands, and racism is a far shallower shadow upon their lives than for American Blacks. Although slavery was far harsher in the Islands than in America, Jim Crow tortured. And southern politicians (although not businessmen) reaped a large reward.
There is the question of the Irish-Irish (as opposed to the Scots-Irish who have historically been outstandingly non-racist). When they arrived on these shores in the 1840’s, they were incredibly racist. The Irish overseers of the South were notorious for their cruelty – uneconomic cruelty. Irish New York City gave serious thought to joining the South in the Civil War.
In my Southern History classes, the professor posited that Irish racism came from the fact that Africans wore fewer clothes and were thought of as licentious. I thought and think this explanation weak. Why were the Irish so much more racist than the casually racist Swedes or Russians or Germans – whose racism seems much more akin to the feelings of my Persian girlfriend?
Here is an hypothesis which has three facts, but zero actual evidence.
Muslims took an enormous number (probably a couple million) of slaves from Europe.
Ireland lies a short sea-journey from Moorish Spain and was weakly-defended from 800 to 1500.
The Moors, who are historically depicted as black men, ruled Spain.
The Scots-Irish inhabiting the north shores of Ireland would have been unafflicted.
I hypothesize that the racism of the Irish grew from being constantly raided for slaves by black men for 700 years, although I have no evidence that such slave-raiding occurred. FWIW, I have twice married an Irish lass and have enormous, though mixed, admiration for the Kennedy clan who helped lead the civil rights movement.
Racism remains today a source of cash. While there is some real remaining resentment, Black and White people in America do generally treat each other as humans. There is an enormous hunger for race to just be over. The Jeremiah Wrights of the world are on the other hand well-paid. His congregation just built him a two million dollar house. There are still bucks to be made from racism. Ask Al Sharpton.
In conclusion, the root of racism is cash and not difference of appearance.
You may prove me wrong in the following ways – by showing that serious racism antedated 1750 outside of Ireland; by showing me a non-cash-motivated racism, other than random resentment, since 1750; or by something which I have not yet imagined.
Cash or immutable difference?
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