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September 05, 2005

"I'm gonna shoot at anything that moves and that is black"

So said a National Guardsman arriving in Detroit in 1967, charged with quelling the riots that year. As Digby points out, that attitude is nothing new, nor did it somehow evaporate after the 1960s:

Ever since 1791, there have been white Americans who get very nervous when they see a large number of angry black people in one place. That was the year that Haiti's slaves rebelled and killed almost every Frenchman on the island. The fear of slave revolt --- black revolt --- entered the consciousness of the American lizard brain and has never left.

Rumors of rapes in the Superdome that spread without corroboration, rumors of riots among the displaced in Baton Rouge, rumors of helicopters taking massive fire when trying to help evacuate perople or drop of provisions, rumors of whole neighborhoods in New Orleans becoming free-fire zones. They are still rumors, no matter how scarily Negrified the stories may seem to the melanin-deficient. Says Digby:

I have no doubt that there was criminality on the streets of New Orleans. ... But our history suggests that when we hear reports of cops gunning down looters, snipers and rapists in the street, we should at least maintain a normal skepticism. Far too often in our history it has been shown later that things were not as they seemed at the time.

And yet, and still, there are those who cannot comment on the immense loss of life - ongoing - without trashing the people of New Orleans for being rapists, thugs and thieves. As if the rumors were trustworthy without investigation. As if the people of New Orleans were guilty by definition, no need for trial. As if someone who steals a tapedeck has put his life in forfeit.

It doesn't matter how liberal a person is, it seems. We are still ready to believe the worst of Black people. The best among us cluck our tongues and bemoan the difficulties faced by the well-behaved Blacks, and lament their inability to control their neighbors. If only there were some way we could help the well-behaved ones, some sort of crusade for moorish dignity. The best among us place the backs of our hands delicately against our brows, and talk about how poverty breeds such ill-mannered youth. The worst among us say things more honestly.

Posted by Chris Clarke at September 5, 2005 10:06 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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God, VDare is such a den of viperous racists. And let's not forget the rumors of cannibalism -- can't forget that sort of behavior is also natural for our dusky lessers.

Guess the object lesson is this: when Republicans are in charge, and a disaster occurs, don't be a black person holding a bag.

Posted by: teh l4m3 at September 6, 2005 09:28 AM
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I have come to a couple of conclusions regarding Black America (maybe this is a side effect of living in 98% white Vermont):

1. There is a definite "Black" subculture in America

2. I don't understand it

I don't think #1 is bad; in fact, I can probably come up with a few reasons why it is good. #2 bothers me more than just being ignorant; while I am comfortable with my own ignorance, I suspect there is a sizeable community who is not, and fills the empty knowledge space with myth and anecdotal evidence.

On a couple of occasions I had the unbelievable opportunity to have serious conversations with gay men about homosexuality, which changed me from a Southern Redneck Homophobe to a supporter of equal rights for homosexuals. I say this is unbelievable because, when you think about it, why should anyone have to explain their sexual orientation? A straight person doesn't have to do this. Yet if the conversation had not occurred, I'd be a lot more ignorant than I am now, as implausible as that sounds.

Can we have that kind of discussion across racial lines? I think such a thing is sorely needed, but unlikely to occur, not only because a White Boy's Club is running things. While there are racist views out there, there are also demands that certain actions and words be used in "polite" society. These do not add to understanding any more than racism does. Indeed, polite verbal intercourse (I'm not talking here about Political Correctness here) is just racism with good intent.

I have this suspicion that racist views are more economic in nature than racial, but of course that is my experience which is anecdotal.

Look, I don't want some touchy-feely bleeding-heart can't-we-all-get-along town meeting. For most of my life I've been a pessimistic misanthrope. But now I believe that there is good potential in most folks, and many of the enjoyable aspects of belonging to certain cultures need not be limited to the people which belong to it.

In summary, I don't understand the cultural (and little more of the economic and social) causes for many peoples' actions, but would really like to. If we could just get the ignorant people like myself to throw away our cherished unproven beliefs and admit our ignorance, I think we'd have a good start. Sadly, though, our nation only values ignorance when it allows us to continue to do dumb things with a clear conscience.

Posted by: Robert at September 6, 2005 11:25 AM
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Excellent comment, Robert.

Posted by: Chris Clarke at September 6, 2005 11:49 AM
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Thanks for the VDARE link, I think. Oh My GAWD.

How did that make it through the County's "hate speech" filter? Eh?

I guess it isn't really racism if you write it coherently and have 8 billion links in the text.

Posted by: thingfish23 at September 7, 2005 01:22 PM
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Oh - and by the way...

Robert - everything you need to know about "black culture", racism, etc. is easily accessible in the James Earl Jones soliloquy at the end of "Soul Man" with Rae Dawn Chong and C. Thomas Howell. Check the bargain bin at your local thrift store for a Betamax tape of it. You should be in luck.

(please to know that I am joking)

Posted by: thingfish23 at September 7, 2005 01:38 PM
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You decide what discussions you have, Robert. Your government isn't going to do it for you. I've had those discussions. I had to leave my neighborhood to do it. You may have to leave yours. The people of color aren't going to come to you. Great comment, by the way.

Posted by: Korry at September 18, 2005 12:28 AM
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