Unmarked categories

by John Quiggin on September 1, 2020

Following on from the discussion between Chris and Kenan Malik, I thought I would take another look at this post from last year, where I used the term “default identity”. Since then, I’ve seen that this idea is more usually phrased as the “unmarked category” a term originating in linguistics[2]. An example, where both the linguistic and social senses are present is that of the distinction between “hyphenated Americans” and the unmarked category of Americans in general. This post by Paul Campos at LGM makes the point that much of the support for Trump comes from white men who were once the unmarked category and are now marked as a distinct category.

Being in the unmarked category represents more than “not being discriminated against”. For example, we might consider a situation where one religious group is subject to discrimination, but others are not. That does not, in itself, make the other groups privileged. Now think about the case when one group, say Christians, is taken as the unmarked category whenever religion is discussed – for example, by using the word “church” to cover religious meeting places in general. That group is privileged even if there is no active discrimination against others, or if some groups are given (implicitly, given by the dominant group) apparently equal status, as in formations like Judaeo-Christian[2]. Even where members of the marked categories receive equal treatment, it is always provisional. Conversely, a situation where discrimination is unthinkable (say, discrimination based on shoe size) is one where there is no unmarked category.

fn1. Interestingly, there’s a similar usage in econometrics, where categorical variables are represented by “dummy variables”, coded as 1 if the observation is in the relevant category and zero otherwise. If the categories are mutually exclusive and exhaustive, their sum will be equal to 1 for all observations and therefore identical to the constant term, with the result there is no unique solution in a standard regression model. This is the “dummy variable trap”. The solution is to omit the dummy variable for one category, and the standard choice is to omit the “unmarked” category if there is one. The result is that the estimated parameters for each of the other categories represent the effect of being in that category relative to the unmarked or default category.
fn2. Of course, the mask often slips, as when Fox News denounces the phrase “Happy Holidays”, coined to include (among other things) Jewish celebrations like Hanukkay, as an attack on “our Judeao-Christian heritage”

{ 167 comments }

1

sean samis 09.01.20 at 7:39 pm

For example, we might consider a situation where one religious group is subject to discrimination, but others are not. That does not, in itself, make the other groups privileged.

I think that it does make groups not discriminated against “privileged”, or at least probably. The distinction might rest on the reasons behind the discrimination. To live in a society which unjustly discriminates against some but not all, and to be among those not discriminated against is a privilege pretty much by definition.

It is important to remember that having a privilege is not fault worthy in and of itself; no guilt attaches for the privilege.

I cannot tell if this comment was successfully submitted, I saw no acknowledgement that it was. Sorry if this is a dup.

sean s.

2

L2P 09.01.20 at 8:05 pm

“That group is privileged even if there is no active discrimination against others, or if some groups are given (implicitly, given by the dominant group) apparently equal status, as in formations like Judaeo-Christian[2]. Even where members of the marked categories receive equal treatment, it is always provisional.”

Usually with privilege we’re looking some advantage. This is instead looking at the potential for losing an advantage. That’s a kind of advantage in itself, sure enough, but it’s derivative. It seems like an odd way to look at something like “white privilege” and trying to see how that’s different from “racism.” That privilege only matters to the extent racism might justify getting rid of that “provisional” equality. But without racism why would anyone care enough to exclude someone from some right or privilege? That’s why the Irish are now “white” in American, instead of “others.” They didn’t used to be, but then anti-Irish racism disappeared and nobody cared anymore.

This also assumes a lot for what means to be “unmarked.” A christian church is a “church” only until some large enough group thinks it isn’t. The “Church of Satan” isn’t protected much because it calls itself the “Church of Satan” instead of the “Mosque of Satan.” “Christian” being a default for “religious” is fine enough until you’re a liberal Episcopalian fighting evangelicals who think you are not, actually, Christian. There’s a reason “default” terms keep changing all the time; people are constantly being included or excluded from them.

Being “unmarked” doesn’t seem to add anything to white privilege that “racism” doesn’t completely answer. “White privilege” still is a useful way to talk about things because people are more willing to own up to benefitting from “white privilege” than racism, but does it add anything to the concept of “racism?”

3

M Caswell 09.01.20 at 9:06 pm

“to be among those not discriminated against is a privilege pretty much by definition”

I would have said that whatever is owed by right, or is required by justice, is no privilege. Cf the expression: ‘that’s not a right, it’s a privilege.”

4

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.01.20 at 9:13 pm

John,
“For example, we might consider a situation where one religious group is subject to discrimination, but others are not. That does not, in itself, make the other groups privileged.”

I don’t understand. How could this be anything other than “the one group is discriminated against”? I mean, maybe there are legitimate reasons, but that’s extraneous. One way or another, they’re treated worse than groups in the otherwise-same position.

I -do- agree that being in the default-unmarked category is more than merely “not being discriminated against”. I remember reading of many, many studies that show that women are not enrolled in medical studies at the rates that men are, that diseases that attack women are less-studied and their study is less-funded.[1] There have been many articles about this, right down to the lack of attention to the neuromuscular anatomy of women’s genitalia (which leads to gynecologists just cutting-and-slashing, and real horror stories).
I’d bet the “default patient” is a white male, age (let’s say ….) 30-65. Or something like that.

[1] I could have written this about Black Americans, but felt it was more obviously a constructed thing with no basis whatsoever in anything other than privilege, to describe the state of women in this regard. I mean, everybody has a mother.

5

marcel proust 09.01.20 at 9:29 pm

RE: fn 1 & dummy variables, The solution is to omit the dummy variable for one category, and the standard choice is to omit the “unmarked” category if there is one.

See here for alternatives to the standard choice, in particular section 5.6 on deviation coding. Deviation coding returns parameter estimates for each category that measure how different each category is from the average across all categories (weighing each category equally, so e.g., in the US, if whites, African-Americans, Hispanics and Asians are the relevant categories, all would receive equal weight).

6

Bob 09.01.20 at 11:25 pm

Thanks John.

Your discussion of multivariate regression reminded me that I had thought of you when I was reading Chris’s last two posts. Is there a straightforward way to separate effects of class versus effects of racism, such that one could compare how much variation in killings by police, or incarceration rates, say, is explained by class and how much by race? I kept thinking when I read the OPs and the comments that surely we were debating questions for which there were empirical answers.

7

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.01.20 at 11:26 pm

Relevant: https://www.eschatonblog.com/2020/09/the-implied-we-implied-you.html
He’s got an excerpt, and it’s quite relevant to this discussion.

And also, a personal observation. I grew up “culturally white”. The child of a successful doctor, the smartest kid in my town by a country mile (that wasn’t much of a stretch, given we’re talkin’ Weatherford, TX Goddamn), etc, etc. And every time I looked in the mirror, from at least my teenage years, I was surprised to see a brown guy staring back at me. All my life, all my life, this has been the case. The “default category” is “white”, and as a successful highly-educated technologist, I definitely felt myself in that default category. Until I looked in the mirror, and was reminded that I wasn’t. It wears on you, has an effect on the way you look at yourself, and the way you look at others. The way you approach the world.

And then I came to San Francisco, where there were so many nonwhite people, that white was no longer the default category. And eventually, bit-by-bit, I learned to not be surprised, and learned to be comfortable in my skin.

Once upon a time, I used to find only little white children endearing (in their antics). After living amongst nonwhites for long enough, now I find all children, even brown South Asian children [1], endearing in that same way. White people have no idea what it’s like, none at all, for even the most successful people of color, living in a white world. They. Have. No. Idea. And whatever successful people of color experience, those who are less successful (say, only at the median of the income distribution (remembering that the median income for Black Americans is well below that for all Americans, or white Americans)) experience far, far, far worse.

So again: White people have no idea. The best you can do, is be thankful for all the many gifts you are given by your skin, be a little respectful for what others experience, others suffer, and try to end the tyranny of the “default category”.

[1] Yes, I know what I’m writing. And yes, part of feeling yourself a member of the default category When. You. Are. Not. is that you end up being racist against your own kind, against yourself.

8

John Quiggin 09.02.20 at 4:56 am

Bob @6 That’s what multivariate regression is designed to do. But when variables are highly correlated, and other effects are present, it isn’t always straightforward to disentangle effects.

9

Moz in Oz 09.02.20 at 6:03 am

A minor attack of pedantry… in many places men’s shoe sizes are the default category. Often specifically men’s US shoe sizes, because the EU ones don’t have gender. Viz, if your shoe size is 45 you either have really big feet or you’re using EU sizing. This is a huge pain in the ar.. foot for people importing shoes, because you have to know what exactly a “size 6BB” means if you are trying to get an EU “36 wide”. And while US sizing technically doesn’t have gender for unisex footwear it’s often the case that a size 8 womens will be smaller and narrow than the “exact same” size 8 mens. No, I’m not crying, why do you ask?

http://www.sizecharter.com/clothing-fit-and-measurement/understanding-shoe-sizing

10

nastywoman 09.02.20 at 6:46 am

@
”Following on from the discussion between Chris and Kenan Malik, I thought I would take another look at this post from last year, where I used the term “default identity”

Ahhh! –
that was the post – where in comments was the following comment:

”One thing that I don’t think is so obvious to a lot of people, is why people from certain minorities make such a fuss about their ethnic/religious identities. And I think the answer is actually pretty simple. First, nobody wants their children to grow up handicapped in life. And this includes immigrants. So of course they want their children to be completely conversant in (e.g.) American culture, and even in those cases where they do not (I know of such) the children want it anyway. So why do these children (who often are extremely immersed in American culture) reach for ethnic identities? I think it’s a reaction to the racism they see every day”. Every day they’re taught that they’re not the normal American, that they’re different and by implication less worthy. And so, they reach for attributes from their ancestral ethnicity, as something they can be proud of — to push back against the racism they receive every day…”

Yes – as traveling a lot with ”(mixed) minorities” who can’t be ”identified” that easily anymore – and always get asked:
”What – or who are you – woman or man? black or white – or perhaps – even ”asian”?

The only solution is – to completely ”mix” it up – with no possibility anymore to say that – for example – likbez – is the –
”tough guy –
chest always so puffed guy”
(in the green shirt at TC 1:01)
of –

https://youtu.be/DyDfgMOUjCI

11

nastywoman 09.02.20 at 6:59 am

AND – that was the post – where in comments was one of the ”saddest” comments on a CT comment thread –
EVER!

From ph:
”The levels of bigotry, hatred, and intolerance expressed towards MAGA people in general, and a few individuals in specific, over the last three years has been breathtaking”.

which made me finally realise – that it is perfectly okay to HATE the bigotry, hatred, and intolerance expressed by MAGA people.

12

nastywoman 09.02.20 at 7:14 am

AND sometimes I think –
we should make every white man only marry black woman – that would help –
a lot!

13

gregory byshenk 09.02.20 at 8:00 am

Related to this, I think, was Mike Pence’s comment during the RNC:

“The American people know we don’t have to choose between supporting law enforcement and standing with our African-American neighbors.”

On the one side we have “the American people” and on the other “our African-American neighbors”, as if they are two different sets of people.

14

faustusnotes 09.02.20 at 8:58 am

Bob, that would have been easy for the author to do with a Poisson regression model, but the author did not have access to specific data on the population of black, white and latino people in each census tract, which makes it impossible. Also, even if they did, the author does not know the income of the individuals, so the analysis of the confounding effect of class and race is necessarily ecological. The counterfactual presented is a nice attempt to work around that (a kind of simple version of direct standardization) but not quite sufficient due to the lack of data.

Wealth and race in the data presented in the other thread are not that heavily correlated, so the problem JQ alludes to in comment 8 is unlikely. It’s a classic, absolutely perfect example of the task of distinguishing between confounding and effect modification, and then building the correct model to handle whichever one it is. It could easily be handled if the population data were available, but in this case it’s not.

15

Richard Melvin 09.02.20 at 9:15 am

White people have no idea what it’s like, none at all, for even the most successful people of color, living in a white world.

As has been pointed out, white people can actually get at least a a good approximation of that by going and living in a foreign country. You can refine the experience by making it one where you visibly stand put, are stereo-typically disliked, and are not notably richer than the local average. Japan is probably the best match.

What’s actually harder to reversibly simulate is being a different class. You can’t travel to an alternate reality by a jet.

16

hix 09.02.20 at 9:54 am

But it has always just been the married with children white protestant middle class men that was “unmarked” in the sense of being the ideal, the societal norm of whats supposed to be normal even so it always just represented a small minority. No one could ever win that. Not now and never before.

17

Gerhard Kleinhans 09.02.20 at 10:01 am

Growing up in apartheid South Africa in the 1960’s I had to reconcile various levels of privilege. My mother was quite dark skinned for a ‘white’ South African, and I remember that she stressed that I must not let people at school see my nails (as the shape of your lunula could determine your racial classification). I was therefore quite aware that the fact that being classified ‘white’ gave me the privilege of attending a proper school, and of not being assaulted by random white people as was often the case with black people. In highschool I realized that my white privilege was insignificant compared to the lack of privilege for being born on the wrong side of the railway track. Class was a level of privilege on top of race. And then, when I admitted to myself that I was gay I experience yet another level in the onion of privilege. In the 80s I emigrated to the Netherlands where I am considered to be an ‘allochtoon’. But my Dutch sounding surname meant that I got invited to job interviews that my fellow allochtonen of Moroccan descent did not. Somewhere along the line I stopped feeling quilt for the privileges I have or angry about the privileges I lack. I do however think/hope that my awareness of privilege made me a more empathetic person.

18

engels 09.02.20 at 10:46 am

Being in the unmarked category represents more than “not being discriminated against”… That group is privileged even if there is no active discrimination against others… Even where members of the marked categories receive equal treatment, it is always provisional.

I think there’s some truth in this but it’s also true that white supremacists and fascists organise and campaign on the basis of their white identity. By this kind of reasoning you might think they’d want to play it down.

19

sean samis 09.02.20 at 12:01 pm

M Caswell;

Regarding, “whatever is owed by right, or is required by justice, is no privilege.

If a right is owed or required by justice but routinely denied; then to escape that denial is a privilege.

sean s.

20

ph 09.02.20 at 12:33 pm

With the greatest respect, John, you no longer have the right choose your own category, or those of others. https://twitter.com/roddreher/status/1300897705858928646

Ritual self-denunciations are the new order of the day.

Remember about not speaking up when they came for ? This how the end begins.

Good luck holding on to your academic freedoms.

21

Emma 09.02.20 at 2:56 pm

This is an excellent concept. Bookmarked.

Being “unmarked” sounds a lot like wearing those “white goggles” my man Otto Kerner talked about in ’68.

It shouldn’t be a privilege to be free of racist interference — but it is. We live in a world that divides itself into weird, arbitrary racial categories, even within and among the racial groupings everyone can agree on generally (the colorism that’s still prevalent in many African-American subcultures, forex, or the now comical-looking anti-Gaelic racism that the British government used as a pretext for committing pogroms against poor Scottish people in the 19th century). Even more than the privilege of freedom from that struggle, the ability to just not think about it for awhile is a white gift that keeps on giving. The freedom to split rhetorical hairs & operate under the pretense that racism is something other than the fundamental structure upon which American culture is erected is part of white privilege, too. There is no level of thought or existence (in the US, at least) at which being white doesn’t give you a beautifully-wrapped cultural present every day of your life — even if you’re poor, or socially-disadvantaged in some other way (“Women For Trump”). Wishing that fact away won’t actually make it disappear. (This doesn’t mean poor white people don’t need and deserve compassion and help from the state, ofc. It just means they aren’t in the same boat as poc.)

Now that I think about it, the “unmarked category” idea would also explain why GamerGate happened, too. The minute brown/black, queer, female, etc. characters (or creators) are introduced into the World of Gaming™, everybody gets a label — including socially-inept white guys who proudly retreat into fantasy because they unironically regard themselves as members of the most-victimized group in world history. As long as they have the subculture to themselves, they’re not only in charge of its trends and aesthetics, but they’re also able to maintain the pretense that they’re somewhat worse off than Holocaust survivors because they don’t have girlfriends.

Interesting!

@1: “It is important to remember that having a privilege is not fault worthy in and of itself; no guilt attaches for the privilege.” Imo, this is how ‘white privilege’ is different than ‘racism.’ Racism is a thing you do, more or less on purpose. White privilege is something American culture gives you, whether you want it or not. It’s not an accusation of personal misconduct, but a description of the social climate. I have white privilege, relative to my darker-skinned relatives. I didn’t do anything to earn it, and it’s not my fault. But pretending that a racially-ambiguous person like myself lives the same life as a darker-skinned poc is, in fact, both racist & absurd. Pretending that a white person lives the same life as a racially-ambiguous person like me is also racist & absurd. No matter how you look at it, it’s racism all the way down (or up, if you’re an optimist).

@7: “Yes, I know what I’m writing. And yes, part of feeling yourself a member of the default category When. You. Are. Not. is that you end up being racist against your own kind, against yourself.” If I ever do anything noteworthy before I die, I intend to name my autobiogprahy The Struggle To Not Just Pass (Even Though It Would Have Made My Life So Much Easier). I don’t really want to be reminded of Donald Rumsfeld’s existence this early in the morning on a weekday, but white people don’t know what they don’t know (& their determination to remain ignorant is always astounding). I found your comment both moving and relatable. Thank you for posting it.

22

engels 09.02.20 at 2:57 pm

much of the support for Trump comes from white men who were once the unmarked category and are now marked as a distinct category

Yes but they’re not motivated by their loss of “unmarked” status. In many cases it is they who are choosing to “mark” themselves as white. While I think there is some truth in the idea at being “unmarked” can be an advantage, emphasising this tends to be part of a liberal politics of foregrounding ethnic and other divisions, which isn’t necessarily progressive.

23

bianca steele 09.02.20 at 3:16 pm

It’s interesting that the linked posts notes that men feel they’ve been put in a marked position when something that’s statistically certain to happen in a case where participants are selected randomly (all members on a panel of the same gender), as noted that they assume someone conspired to make it an all affirmative-action panel.

It would also be interesting if global liberal politics shifted from “we can only talk about statistically visible differences in income, crime, and other factors traditionally measured by the state,” to “we can also talk about whether or not the typical member of a group feels himself able to dominate the space around him,” but in both cases without permitting discussion of details, which continue to get discussed as “rhetoric.”

In such a situation it would not be surprising to see a theocracy of evangelical white Protestants who’ve managed to claim the mantels both of “freedom for all” and of “protection of ordinary people,” with small groups of members of other religions permitted to translate the ideology to other terms, but not permitted to advocate for their family members to have equal rights against the majority. Maybe a few could also protest loudly against fascism without trying very hard to make a case.

24

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.02.20 at 9:01 pm

engels @ 10: “Yes but they’re not motivated by their loss of “unmarked” status.”

Of course: they’re motivated by the loss of the privileges that come from enjoying that unmarked status. Look at SF&F for an instructive case study: I remember, growing up, there were few writers who wrote with a “female voice”. As a boy, I didn’t seek them out, and didn’t care that they even existed. Today? Heh, so many, so many, so many. And now I can look back into the past, and see Joanna Ross, and Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr. and so many others. You can see how ANGRY it must make (also white) males, to see all these WOMEN foregrounding their stories, and their points-of-view, and their VOICES. Why, it makes them FURIOUS! What is that, if not loss of privilege? And yet, all those white male writers are still out there. I’m sure there’s a latterday Jerry Pournelle, churning out his libertarian fantasies of Welfare cities and upright Businessmen who save the Galaxy …. sure of it. But that’s not enough: these guys want those smelly women to SHUT UP!

One last thing: If there were no racism, then “multiculturalism” and “ethnic divisions” today would be as salient as “Italian culture” was 20 years ago: that is, interesting, and used-to-be-somewhat-problematic, but today, just picturesque and mostly useful for culinary variety.

Engels: oppressed people reach for things like their ethnic roots, because when confronted by the vast mass of the majority culture and its interlinked state, with its power and brutality, they need something to cling to, in order to bolster their spirits and their resistance. The idea that you think somehow this “isn’t necessarily progressive” is pretty damn disturbing. It’s a shameful characterization and you should be ashamed of it.

25

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.02.20 at 9:32 pm

I want to come back to engels@10 ‘s comment “emphasising this [marking ethnic categories] tends to be part of a liberal politics of foregrounding ethnic and other divisions”

The implication in that quote is that this is done not as a reaction to oppression, but as some sort of cynical strategy to gain advantage of some kind. But the entire history of nonwhite/oppressed people in America, is that as they gain a foothold in American life, their children try as hard as they can to become “respectable”. There’s even a term for it: “respectability politics”, after all.

I live in San Francisco, and decades ago, LGBTQ people had to fight for their rights, fight for their safety, their ability to live their lives without bigots beating them to within an inch of their lives [and it still happens, even here, ugh]. And so there was lots of flamboyant gay culture here. But now that that battle’s been won, what do you think happened? Do you think those gay men, lesbian women, transpeople, etc, all kept on with their politics of difference? Sure, some did. But lots didn’t! Many bought houses in the Castro and elsewhere in SF, settled down, got jobs, raised kids, and became completely “respectable”.[3]

How respectable? about ten years ago, some guys got the idea of sunbathing naked at the corner of Market & Castro. Our supervisor got an ordinance passed to ban it (except for a few times of the year, IIRC). And guess WHAT? A veteran gay rights campaigner was quoted in the paper, talking about how he lived in the area, walked thru the area with his two small children, and how was he going to explain these things to his children, etc, etc. This was a stalwart guy, well-known as being a serious advocate for the gay community in SF. And -he- is saying this. And he can, because in SF, for the most part, as a gay person you don’t have to literally fight for your apportioned slice of humanity — others (including Dufty) fought for it, for you.[1][2]

Ethnic minorities, gender communities, women, have to fight for their rights every day all over America. They cling to their “identities” the same way that American soldiers clung to the flag when they were under fire — because symbols matter. The idea that somehow minorities are “different” (and there is definitely the hint of “and disloyal”) for doing so, is despicable.

And one last thing: when it comes to Black Americans, the idea that somehow they’re clinging to a minority culture ….. is laughable. Don’t you think Italians are proud of Joe DiMaggio? Why shouldn’t Black Americans be proud of Sister Rosetta Tharpe? And why is the former merely quaint, while somehow the latter is a sign of insufficient fealty to the Class Struggle?

[1] every victory is provisional, so I don’t mean to imply that we can stand down from that battle.
[2] there are lots of other oppressed people in San Francisco, just like there are everywhere else in the country and the world. Go on NextDoor, and you see the oppressors and their filth.
[3] unless maybe you think seeing two young men canoodling on a streetcorner is somehow flamboyant and transgressive, rather than merely a scene from a 21st-century version of a Doisneau photograph. That is to say, almost bone-wearyingly respectable.

26

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.02.20 at 9:41 pm

More on unmarked categories: We’ve all been taught that the reason that the civil rights campaigners all came out in their Sunday best, was to show White America that they were just as respectable, just as trustworthy, as any White American. What else could this be, except their attempt to present a pass for admission into that unmarked category?

The one that gets the “WHITE CARD” — the one that Dylann Roof had, that Robert Dear had, that Kyle Rittenhouse has, and that Jacob Blake, Sandra Bland, Tamir Rice, John Crawford, Philando Castile, Mike Brown, Laquan McDonald, Stephon Clark, Oskar Grant, Eric Garner [ok, fingers getting tired] most definitely don’t have.

The WHITE CARD, that guarantees that you won’t be murdered by the police, no matter what you do. That WHITE CARD.

27

MisterMr 09.02.20 at 10:12 pm

But presumably it is impossible to not have an unmarked category, the only thing one can hope for is for the categorisation to become irrelevant.

28

John Quiggin 09.03.20 at 3:49 am

MMr @15 As I mentioned, there’s no unmarked category for shoe size. As a slightly more consequential example, I’d say there’s no unmarked category for “state of residence” in Australia, even though, at various time, some states have been seen to be doing worse than others in various ways, and their advocates would argue that they have been treated unfairly.

Marcel Proust, thanks

More generally, I’m finding the comments really valuable, particularly from Bianca, Chetan and Emma. Please keep it up.

29

faustusnotes 09.03.20 at 4:02 am

Chetan, have you read Hanley’s respectable? I think I came to it through a post by Chris Bertram (my review here). It’s a very good attempt to understand the phenomenon you write about, of people from an out class having to come to terms with changing to the in class. It’s about working class British people so not directly relevant to the experiences you describe, and it has its flaws, but if you haven’t read it already I recommend it for its attempts to understand what happens when you move among a society you were only recently barred from.

30

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 4:41 am

Two further thoughts about “unmarked categories” and oppressed classes of people.

TL;DR These “class above idpol” types reserve for themselves the right to decide who is “in with the revolution” and who is a “class enemy”. They are setting up their own “unmarked category” — just one that excludes (for the moment) the rich (but George Orwell had their number, and we know how Animal Farm ends).

(1) setting aside racism and minority gender communities, to focus on the giant elephant in the room: women, and let’s go ahead and just say “cis-het women” to make really, really simple. Is there anybody in the “class supersedes and obviates identity politics” crowd (like “engels”) who will argue that men in our stipulated Communist of Socialist or what-have-you utopia will not rape? Will not sexually harass and assault their underlings (and any society will have overseers and underlings) ? I mean, just to ask the question is to already answer it: NO, arriving at your posited Communist Utopia will not change that some men are pigs, and some men are unlucky in love AND pigs, and some men are fundamentally broken.

Going on from there, nobody explains how in the passage to a Communist Utopia, somehow magically all workplace discrimination against women vanishes. Nobody has anything like a credible story for how this happens.

The travails of men are what matters, and those are the ones privileged. Just as (as a feminist once noted) Every Month is Men’s History Month. Every Month.

(2) There’s a deeper and more deplorable thing about all these “class above idpol” people: they simply refuse to even -credit- the lived experiences of people of color, gender communities, women. I’ve noticed that every time anybody brings these things up, the “class crusaders” just skip past it, and get back to banging on their drum, arguing that anybody who wants to address other iniquities is somehow a class traitor, a member of the PMC (“professional managerial class”) etc. Not to put too fine a point on it, we’ve heard this story before: we hear it from the Trumpist Fascist populists, who accuse anyone with an education of being an elitist, even when those people earn a pittance, and laud anyone without such an education as a working-class hero, even though we know from extensive social science research that in fact, the Trumpist base might be less-educated, but they’re hardly poorer — it’s a Poujadist rabble of one-truck contractors, inherited small-chain restaurant owners, and other assorted well-off small-business owners. That a poorly-paid teacher is an “elitist” to these Trumpists, isn’t so different from the way that women trying to get an education, get a job, and not be groped or raped for wanting to keep that job, are treated as “class traitors”.

It makes taking these people seriously very difficult, and after a while of hearing them bang that damn drum over and over, and ignore the lived experiences of oppressed peoples over and over, it becomes inevitable that one starts to hold these people in contempt.

31

bad Jim 09.03.20 at 4:49 am

Chetan @ 14 reminds me of another unmarked category: male business attire. News reports routinely describe how a woman was dressed; never do they note that a man wore a white shirt and tie.

32

John Quiggin 09.03.20 at 5:09 am

“the Trumpist base might be less-educated, but they’re hardly poorer”

This is a crucial fact. It was a shock to me to discover in 2012 that, in US political parlance, “working class” meant “no college degree” (that’s mostly been corrected, but the underlying assumptions are still strong.
https://crookedtimber.org/2012/09/10/the-white-working-class/

The inner core of the Republican base is the 1 per cent of the population who are high-school educated whites with incomes over $150K. 81.7 per cent of them supported the Republicans in 2008, and I imagine it must be close to 100 per cent by now.

33

Hidari 09.03.20 at 5:31 am

@20: ‘It was a shock to me to discover in 2012 that, in US political parlance, “working class” meant “no college degree”’.

This category includes such horny-handed sons of toil as Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Evan (Twitter) Williams.

34

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 6:06 am

bad Jim @ 19: Indeed. A female politician who isn’t well-coiffed, -dressed, and perfectly made-up, is automatically suspect, thought-less-of, roundly criticized. Whereas a man ….. well …. he can look like Donald Trump, and be accorded respect. There’s this recent scandal involving Speaker Pelosi and a hairdo (happily, it appears that the salon owner was both duplicitous to her (and the actual hairdresser) and was breaking the law flagrantly, opening to business when her salon should have been shut. If Speaker Pelosi had appeared before the media in any sort of disheveled state (say, after months of not going to hairdressers) her appearance would have dominated the news cycle.

“Gym” Jordan can show up without a suit coat to Congress, but no female congressperson can afford to; when Rep. Ocasio-Cortez dresses as required by her job, has her hair cut as required by her job, she is adjudged to be wasting the people’s money. If she’d instead dressed like any tourist visiting the Capitol, she’d be pilloried for conduct unbecoming of a Congressperson.

It’s the most blatant sort of privilege.

35

MisterMr 09.03.20 at 8:00 am

@John Quiggin 16
“MMr @15 As I mentioned, there’s no unmarked category for shoe size.”

I think that in strict sense this is wrong. Unmarked categories are the consequence of the use of prototypes by the human minds.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prototype_theory
You probably all know this but, basically:
linguists up to a certain point (i think in the ’60) took for granted that concept could be split into a subset of traits, each trait could be later split into other traits etc., so that at the end there would be a set of fundamental traits, the basic of semantics, that linguists were searching for.
But at some point some cognitivists made an experiment about what traits distinguished a “cup” from a “mug”, and came to the conclusion that people do not think in terms of categories, but rather everyone has a prototypical mug in his mind, and a prototypical cup, and classifies stuff in baste to how similar a certan item is to the one or the other prototype.

When we go to unmarked categories, we have a similar situation: if we speak of a person, we have a prototype in hour head, and this prototype is apparently white, around 30-40, male, middle class etc., so that for example if I have three friend, Tom who is gay, Jim who is black, and Emily who is a woman, I generally don’t carachterize them as Tom who is white, Jim who is male, and Emily who is a woman, but I’ll use the qualifier that mark their difference from the prototype that is in my mind, which acts as the “unmarked category”.

People generally have different but similar prototypes in their mind, and presumably the reason we use clearly defined traits and categories in philosophical and scientific discourse is that prototypes are fuzzy and messy, however the way the human mind naturally works is through prototypes, not strictly defined categories (there are, in my opinion, evident evolutionary reasons for this).

So when we go to shoe numbers, what happens is that everyone will have his own prototype shoe in mind (for example in my case a male shoe, not a sport shoe but neither exceptionally posh, brown, whith a certain shape etc.), so tht while I do not have a specific shoe number in mind, my prototype shoe has a certain size. Otherwise we could never speak of big or small shoes: these terms imply the existence of the normal shoe, which is the prototype.

What happens instead is that as shoe size isn’t that relevant, so that everyone probably has a different shoe prototype in mind, but this will not cause political problems.
On the other hand, the fact that the prototype person is white, male etc. can cause a lot of political problems.

But I think that in the OP you conflate the existence of this prototyping/unmarked category thingie (that is a natural and in my opinion unavoidable fact in day to day thinking) with the fact that in some situations this prototyping has big political and social impacts.

Basically since prototyping per se cannot be avoided, we have to find a way around it, IMHO.

36

John Quiggin 09.03.20 at 9:25 am

It looks as if I left a bunch of comments in moderation, which has messed up the numbering. All released now, I think

37

John Quiggin 09.03.20 at 9:28 am

Hidari. I used almost the identical formulation in the linked post “such horny-handed sons and daughters of toil as Bill Gates and Paris Hilton.” I’m flattering myself that it made its way into your unconscious and was triggered by my allusion to it.

38

Tm 09.03.20 at 9:52 am

JQ 20: (repost from the other thread) Most poor people don’t vote, and those who do favor the Democrats (e. g. https://edition.cnn.com/election/2016/results/exit-polls; note there is no breakdown by race and income). It is however true that many poor whites do vote right wing and that the trend has been pointing rightward. One remarkable fact about the 2016 election is that income wasn’t a meaningful predictor of voting behavior any more. The strongest predictors are now: race, religion, urban/rural divide, age, education, gender

Since many analysts conflate education and class, Trump’s success among rural whites of low education has been interpreted in terms of class (more precisely, SES). But education is highly correlated with age, which I suspect explains much of the discrepancy. There are also widespread misconceptions about Trump-supporting white rural areas being predominantly poor, which is not the case. Rural poverty exists but generally less pronounced than urban proverty, furthermore many rural poor (e. g. in the Mississippi delta) are African American. It is misleading to compare urban and rural average incomes without controlling for cost of living, nevertheless this is often done.

One further aspect about the income variable. In your 2012 post, you tried to define class by income and found that lower income Whites were about evenly split between the parties. I stated above that income has almost ceased to predict voting behavior, based on the national level exit polls. I don’t have the time and the data to really verify this but income is also confounded with age (most retirees have low incomes but still vote right-wing), as well as geography as mentioned. It would be interesting to disentangle these variables, for example analyze voting behavior vs income on a county level while excluding retirees and students, but I doubt we have sufficiently detailed data. I suspect that if we could look at income without the confounding variables, some predictive power would be restored.

39

engels 09.03.20 at 11:11 am

Chetan, I’d like to come back to that properly if I have time but I can just say that my final sentence doesn’t convey my point very well (I typed it too quickly after my first comment disappeared). I’m certainly not trying to claim that anti-racism, gay liberation, etc aren’t justified causes.

I can not logically see how white racists who are actively choosing to “mark” themselves can be doing so because they want to be “unmarked” (psychoanalytic explanations aside).

40

engels 09.03.20 at 11:18 am

This is an interesting piece.

Among other things, whiteness is a kind of solipsism. From right to left, whites consistently and successfully reroute every political discussion to their identity. The content of this identity, unsurprisingly, is left unexamined and undefined. It is the false foundation of the prototypically American model of pseudo-politics. The most insidious form of white pseudo-politics is white guilt. Whether it is as dangerous or as ethically reprehensible as the open racism of white supremacy is a misleading question. Both reinforce the delusion of whiteness….

https://www.viewpointmag.com/2017/01/06/white-purity/

41

M Caswell 09.03.20 at 12:28 pm

“If a right is owed or required by justice but routinely denied; then to escape that denial is a privilege.

sean s.”

I wouldn’t say, for example, that a man who escapes slavery is thereby privileged to live free. But maybe you’re using “privileged” as just a synonym for “lucky”?

42

Donald 09.03.20 at 1:32 pm

43

notGoodenough 09.03.20 at 2:37 pm

This does rather nicely encapsulate some important points – such as the way these things can be explicit or implicit, and that “unmarked” may well offer you some advantages which you (and the people around you) can be completely unaware of. Discrimination takes many forms, and sometimes it isn’t being considered a category which may be discriminated against – it is simply being a category which does not get to be considered at all. I also think this framing is a good way to include the situational aspect – whether or not you are “unmarked” can change depending on which “circle” you’re moving in, the attitudes of the people within that circle, the degree of acceptance, etc.).

To borrow (from Courtney Ahn, I believe), being “unmarked” doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard – it just means that (observable characteristics) aren’t (typically) one of the things that makes it harder.

(well, perhaps a clumsy way to express the concept, but hopefully – this time – not too controversial).

44

notGoodenough 09.03.20 at 2:42 pm

Richard Melvin @ 15

A perhaps minor point of pedantry.

”white people can actually get at least a good approximation of that by going and living in a foreign country”

Having the means and opportunity to do so is far from universal, and may even be less available to those who might benefit most from it.

“What’s actually harder to reversibly simulate is being a different class.”

Perhaps, but also perhaps not – do you have any data on this?

”You can’t travel to an alternate reality by a jet.”

Why would you need to visit an alternate reality in order to simulate being a different class? My experience (and take this as purely anecdotal) was that many class markers are things which can be simulated (at least sufficiently for a while, though of course with pitfalls), such as (in the UK) adopting a RP accent, extending your vocabulary, knowing the correct order of cutlery to use, etc.

I would agree that simulating a different wealth might be incredibly difficult (and perhaps with consequences far more extreme than most would risk), but my understanding is that wealth (though often correlating to) does not necessarily equal class.

(to avoid any more “misunderstandings” let me just state for the record I am in no way offering a comment of the relative impact or importance of any of these factors on one’s actual experience, nor am I suggesting that anyone thing is easier to simulate than another – I am merely slightly surprised that you seem to think the only way to simulate the experience of being a different class is to visit an alternate reality).

45

Trader Joe 09.03.20 at 2:56 pm

As an unmarked person through and through (so many categories) I have absolutely nothing add – I’m here to learn and learn I have.

CHETAN R MURTHY – you have been my guru and perceptor throughout your many posts…..kindly continue.

46

engels 09.03.20 at 4:33 pm

Engels: oppressed people reach for things like their ethnic roots, because when confronted by the vast mass of the majority culture and its interlinked state, with its power and brutality, they need something to cling to, in order to bolster their spirits and their resistance. The idea that you think somehow this “isn’t necessarily progressive” is pretty damn disturbing. It’s a shameful characterization and you should be ashamed of it.

Well I didn’t actually say that (although I admit I wasn’t very clear) but I wonder if you’d make this argument about nationalism? I take it you’d at least agree that white people adopting an explicit white idenity isn’t necessarily progressive though…

47

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 6:34 pm

Poor ph @ 20: reduced to citing the noted misogynist, homophobe, and fascist Rod Dreher as evidence. It is to laugh.

This Prof. Speta of whom Dreher writes might be amused to learn of what is called the “one drop of blood” rule, whereby someone his black if any ancestor is determined to have been black. Truly, there’s a category you don’t get to choose for yourself. Maybe he is unaware of the dangerous act of “passing” that some black people performed, in order to choose their own category.

48

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 8:26 pm

engels @ 39: “I can not logically see how white racists who are actively choosing to “mark” themselves can be doing so because they want to be “unmarked” (psychoanalytic explanations aside).”

When all cereal commercials feature cis-het non-interracial families (and let’s face it: mostly white families), then white racists feel that they are the unmarked category. And they can see that all of society is structured to make that so and preserve it. When they start seeing interracial families, when they start to see LGBTQ families, in those same commercials, and see them celebrated, they start to see that they are being dislodged from this position of being the unmarked category. And then, well, they need to re-assert their position.

I mean, can’t you see it? When White racists argue for the preservation of “White culture”, they’re noticing that their dominance is threatened, and they’re pushing back. I mean, it’s pretty simple, isn’t it? They want all those scurrilous brown people (and weird pink people, and the uppity wimminz) to go back to being silent, so they can return to being the dominant category.

Dude, it’s not a special badge you get from your local “unmarked category lodge”. It’s a very real assumption on the part of society that you are the norm, and that others are the outliers. And when that assumption starts to change, what do you think these folks are going to do? They’re going to argue that this is an unjust change, and they’re going to attempt to restore the prior state of affairs. And you don’t do that by walking around with a sandwichboard saying “Make Whites The Default Again!” You do it by arguing that “White culture is valuable and under threat”.

49

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 8:48 pm

TL;DR it’s been said by others, far better than I can, so here’s a quote I found on the Net: ‘When You’re Accustomed to Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression’

I wrote: “oppressed people reach for things like their ethnic roots, because when confronted by the vast mass of the majority culture and its interlinked state, with its power and brutality, they need something to cling to, in order to bolster their spirits and their resistance.”

engels @ 46 replied: “Well I didn’t actually say that (although I admit I wasn’t very clear) but I wonder if you’d make this argument about nationalism? I take it you’d at least agree that white people adopting an explicit white idenity isn’t necessarily progressive though…”

Why yes precisely. When men ask “why isn’t there a Men’s History Month,” when White people ask “why isn’t there a White History Month,” they are reacting to the perception of oppression. When Abigail Fisher sues because their university of choice has an affirmative action program, and they feel they were denied entrance because some “less-deserving minority” got their place, they’re reacting to that feeling that they no longer have it as good as they did before.

You might want to read the Jezebel article “All the Greedy Young Abigail Fishers and Me”: https://jezebel.com/all-the-greedy-young-abigail-fishers-and-me-1782508801

[I’m no economist but] There is no way to redress these sorts of injustices by a short-term Pareto optimization — for somebody to do better, somebody else must do worse. Let me put it in terms of some scenarios:

(1) [pre-affirmative action] White people have lots and lots of ways to be privileged (e.g. legacy admits, those certain sports that make no money, but require lots of equipment and expensive coaching, etc) and they view this as a racially-neutral, fair playing field. And of course, the better schooling, with more resources, available to white people, then to many people of color.

(2) [affirmative action] we don’t remove those thumbs on the scale for white people, but we do put another thumb on there for under-represented minorities. White people feel oppressed by comparison to situation #1.

(3) [a truly equal world] In a truly equal world [unless you really do believe that some minorities, some races, are dumber, or less-hard-working, or whatever, than other races] there would be no such thing as under-representation. And yeah, it’s quite possible Abigail Fisher wouldn’t get into UT, and she’d have nobody to blame but herself.

50

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 9:28 pm

Once upon a time, when I thought I was a feminist, a friend told me this saying: “What’s mine is mine, now let’s divide yours equally.”

At the time, I thought I was all liberated and shit. And I wasn’t. I had so completely assimilated the above saying, that I thought women’s rights activists were the ones using that slogan as a plan. Shocking, but true. Eventually, I wised-up: it took reaching a point where I knew I no longer wanted to contribute to the gene pool, in order for me to actually confront my misogyny, and I no longer call myself “liberated”; just “recovering from misogyny.”

That phrase is another way of talking about “unmarked categories”. “What’s mine is mine”: we’re not going to discuss the many, many injustices that were built-into the system by our grandparents and their grandparents; let’s instead talk about deviations from that “norm” which might disadvantage me, and hence are injustices.

In case it’s not clear [b/c it probably isn’t] I thought I would lay it out point-by-point:
(1) I used to believe that that saying, was what some feminists practiced
(2) not realizing that in fact, it was what I was practicing at that very moment

And just to give you an example of what I mean, I used to believe shit like “well, if women don’t want to have abortions, why do they have sex; when a man has sex, he signs up for being a father, after all, and with no further input into the process at all”. [no, I’m not defending that — it was stupid and bigoted at the time, and nothing can defend it.]

51

PatinIowa 09.03.20 at 9:54 pm

“The WHITE CARD, that guarantees that you won’t be murdered by the police, no matter what you do. That WHITE CARD.”

“Guarantee” is too strong, as the stories of gay life in San Francisco, and murdered white civil rights advocates suggest. The white card is powerful, but not omnipotent.

I know of two young white men, one a high school acquaintance of my son, who were stark naked and unarmed at the time they were shot and killed by police. “Mentally ill” is one of those markers that will get you killed. “Race traitor” is another.

Here’s the thing, though. If we devote our energy to stopping the cops from murdering Black and Brown people, a lot of white lives will get saved as well. Being anti-racist is a moral imperative in my mind, and that’s all the argument that should be necessary, but I strongly believe ending these kinds of oppressions will benefit more people than we commonly imagine.

52

PatinIowa 09.03.20 at 9:58 pm

Nastywoman at 12.

“we should make every white man only marry black woman – that would help –
a lot!”

I’ve seen the theme, “Black women are asked to do too much to solve what are, really, white men’s problems,” in a few things I’ve read lately, and I’ve heard it said among my acquaintances.

This? No way. That’s too much to ask of anybody.

53

J-D 09.03.20 at 10:54 pm

Adolph Reed on class vs race

https://nonsite.org/article/the-trouble-with-disparity%5C

The authors of that article have constructed an elaborate argument for the conclusion that anti-racism is not necessary and not admirable, and then embedded in one early paragraph an assertion that anti-racism is admirable and necessary.

What is the explanation for this dishonesty?

54

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.03.20 at 10:57 pm

nastywoman @ 12: “we should make every white man only marry black woman – that would help – a lot!”

Sadly, it would not change a thing.[1] Every Black American who can trace their lineage to actual enslaved Americans is already the descendant of such marriages. I cannot do justice to this; so instead I turn to my betters. Recently Caroline Randall Williams, a poet, wrote about her body being a monument to slavery: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/03/opinion/slavery-rape-confederate-monuments.html

Because I recognize no rights of FTFNYT (fascist enablers that they are) I would encourage you to read what bits of the essay are available elsewhere, e.g. at LG&M: https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2020/06/i-have-rape-colored-skin

Here is what LG&M quoted:

It is an extraordinary truth of my life that I am biologically more than half white, and yet I have no white people in my genealogy in living memory. No. Voluntary. Whiteness. I am more than half white, and none of it was consensual. White Southern men — my ancestors — took what they wanted from women they did not love, over whom they had extraordinary power, and then failed to claim their children.

What is a monument but a standing memory? An artifact to make tangible the truth of the past. My body and blood are a tangible truth of the South and its past. The black people I come from were owned by the white people I come from. The white people I come from fought and died for their Lost Cause. And I ask you now, who dares to tell me to celebrate them? Who dares to ask me to accept their mounted pedestals?

You cannot dismiss me as someone who doesn’t understand. You cannot say it wasn’t my family members who fought and died. My blackness does not put me on the other side of anything. It puts me squarely at the heart of the debate. I don’t just come from the South. I come from Confederates. I’ve got rebel-gray blue blood coursing my veins. My great-grandfather Will was raised with the knowledge that Edmund Pettus was his father. Pettus, the storied Confederate general, the grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, the man for whom Selma’s Bloody Sunday Bridge is named. So I am not an outsider who makes these demands. I am a great-great-granddaughter.

[1] I recognize that you mean more than merely that all white men should marry Black women. That what you really mean is, that white men must learn to value and cherish children of Black parents, in the same way they cherish children of white parents. But what I’m saying is, this change in the mental attitudes, is the hard part, and it won’t be made any simpler by facts of paternity. Those facts of paternity have been evident for centuries, to no positive effect.

55

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.04.20 at 12:11 am

Another example of the general idea of “unmarked categories”:

I remember it once being reported that umarried women made 94% of what unmarried men made.[1] And from this, at the time, many “liberated” men argued that all women needed to do, to earn the same as men, was to remain single, not be burdened with domestic responsiblities [ignoring all the other causes of women’s failure to advance in their careers, that men don’t suffer, like sexual harrassment, but hey, let’s keep going]. The real problem with this prescription is (of course) far more obvious: married men don’t suffer this penalty, because their wives suffer it on their behalf. But somebody has to raise the children, somebody has to maintain the household in livable shape.

The assumption (on the part of these men) is that their wives will maintain the household, will raise the children, and THEN, ONLY THEN will we discuss the various arrangements for gender equity in the workplace. All of the work, all of the injustice, inherent in these wildly unbalanced domestic arrangements, is assumed to be part of the default, and hence, these men do nothing for it. They can rest easy in the knowledge that the oppression of women is thru no direct action on their parts: after all, each man is just living his life, raising his family, running his household, in the normal default way. And (of course) benefiting from the general injustice that their actions all subtly perpetuate.

[1] selecting for people early in their careers (b/c single), hence less time for the longitudinal effect of persistent and cumulative gender discrimination to show up.

56

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.04.20 at 1:05 am

nastywoman @ 12: “we should make every white man only marry black woman – that would help – a lot!”

I don’t want to be hectoring about this, but …. I’ll just note that you didn’t switch the genders around, to wit “we should make every white woman marry a black man”. The …. dehumanization of black women and their bodies continues — right thru to living memory (search “Recy Taylor”). I have read accounts that many black families in the South made the Great Migration when they first noticed white boys paying attention to their daughters, and knowing what would come soon thereafter — rape. And right alongside of that is “fear of a black penis” — and the racist libel that black men rape white women, when in fact it was the opposite that was the norm. The two go hand-in-hand, the latter a cover for the former.

57

J-D 09.04.20 at 5:02 am

Look at SF&F for an instructive case study: I remember, growing up, there were few writers who wrote with a “female voice”. As a boy, I didn’t seek them out, and didn’t care that they even existed. Today? Heh, so many, so many, so many. And now I can look back into the past, and see Joanna Ross, and Alice Sheldon/James Tiptree Jr. and so many others.

Joanna Russ, not Ross.

For those who don’t know: Alice Sheldon was published for many years under the pen-name James Tiptree, Jr. I think it was generally known to be a pen-name, but I understand that it was generally thought that a pen-name was being used because of the author’s sensitive occupation. Also, while some guessed openly that ‘Tiptree’ might be a woman, others (most notoriously Robert Silverberg) emphatically rejected the suggestion on the grounds that the style/voice of ‘Tiptree’ was (they thought) so masculine it couldn’t possibly be a woman’s.

Also interesting is that ‘Tiptree’ corresponded under that name with other SF writers for years; when it became known that she was a woman, some of them broke off the correspondence–but only some of the men, none of the women.

58

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.04.20 at 6:01 am

J-D @ 57: oops, sorry, typo, I swear. Gettin’ old, and I make more spelling errors than I used-to.

The idea that Silverberg thought Sheldon/Tiptree wrote in a masculine style …. well, I guess I can see it … somehow … ok, I can’t. I remember reading my first Tiptree story since reaching …. “real adulthood” (45yo), and wow, I was blown away with the difference in the viewpoint. “Houston, Houston, Can You Read?” And so many of her works speak of just a different way of approaching the world, than what a man would write. I used to be a big Marion Zimmer Bradley fan, back in the day. [now, well, can’t read that shit, for the obvious reason] When I re-read a little of that around the same time I started re-reading Tiptree, I was dismayed at how she basically wrote using a male voice. Or, y’know, a man’s idea of what a female voice should sound like. It was all from the point-of-view of a horny 16-year-old. Which is about when I read ’em the first time, so maybe that accounts for why I really liked all her work back in the day.

59

hix 09.04.20 at 10:19 am

Guess about half my annoyance with this kind of topics comes from the predictable copy and paste way the reasoning is also applied to a central European context. But black Americans typically speak the same mother language as anybody else involved to point out the most obvious difference.

Which brings me back to my originally rather cryptic example about tutoring a foreign student with let’s say distinctive non-Caucasian skin features in Germany in response to another example suggesting one should take into account in particular the crudest form of racism – the skin color based one* when giving career advice in the US.

The Zeit, an educated liberal middle class* paper with some redeeming qualities like not being owned by Springer or Bertelsmann, really ran an opinion piece in the college category where an immigrant from some Arabic nation was arguing that Germans cannot speak Arabic. They are getting all those jobs Arabic immigrants should get anyway. They are doing so by lying on their CVS which could not be revealed because everyone doing the hiring speaks no Arabic. We then learn that some female personal department head half agreed. It was only the men of course that were inflating lingual skills! Even the locals that do get degrees in Arabic are not able to speak Arabic. That is supposed to be fixed by a new standardized test. And on it goes. The sad part is the clearly rather young and confused author has one or two good points that could have been made convincingly in a more nuanced peace with less obvious inconsistencies. Those were lost among acculturation struggles and the cultural misunderstandings that come with it. A good editor would have made that good piece possible. Too bad confused trolling from a very distorted and very subjective perspective is cheaper and gets more clicks. What it does not is move societal perception in the right direction, if one can correctly laugh off half the claims as unrealistic, unsubstantiated, or just showing cluelessness about CV writing code.
https://www.zeit.de/campus/2020-07/sprachkenntnisse-arabisch-bewerbung-job-muttersprachler
Another piece in TAZ, which is about as far left as one can get in decently financed journalism https://taz.de/Gaslighting-und-Rassismus/!5693141/ argues that if someone sees the crudest racism or sexism he is right even if everyone disagrees with him. There is a scientific paper linked about the US and Canadian situation with all the right culture warrior vocabulary, that proofs it! The piece then goes on to explain gaslighting, quite literarily including the word in its original language to the audience, enlightening us about the newest trends in adopting things that were not even helpful in their original cultural context. Hard to see any paleo conservatives hiding anywhere in a position of power in that media world.

Thing is: You can have conversations with white Germans, and they will quite often acknowledge that some result like not getting a job is based on illegitimate discrimination, even using that R word to describe it. Complaints about the racism in getting harsh words from strangers that have to do a sharp break for driving on the wrong side of the bicycle lane or nonspecific complaints about the taxi drivers lack of niceness while one was vomiting drunk on his seat are a different story. Those two are not hypotheticals. In particular during struggles with cultural adaption to the new environment, it is very common for immigrants to see racism in many places where that just is not true at all. Or maybe it really is racism, just at a slightly, more subtle one than the skin color only based kind. The obvious danger here is that this will push them into isolation and depression. Or at least push them into an English speaker bubble. The one containing Erasmus students, expats, and some local students with a very particular background. While my personal confused writing is just about the same in German and pretty much an ADHD thing, comfort with spoken English sometimes up to the point of pushing English conversations on a group where another language would be more useful, is still very much both a class thing.

*Also predictable: Someone will tell for example the poor Italian upmarket store salesperson trashed by an Operah caused tabloid shit storm that there is only the skin color based type, which concludes that Italians in Switzerland know nothing about racism from personal experience.
**In the the 15% below the top 1-5% sense

60

engels 09.04.20 at 10:24 am

61

nastwoman 09.04.20 at 11:40 am

@56
”I don’t want to be hectoring about this, but …. I’ll just note that you didn’t switch the genders around, to wit “we should make every white woman marry a black man”.

As I posted the general… ”proposition” as – obviously? – some kind of ”nasty joke” –
AND I’m a marked ”White” American Indian Woman with a ”Black friend ” –
I don’t want to give the impression that the ”dehumanization of black men and their (beautiful) bodies continues —
(and for sure just joking – AGAIN)

BUT otherwise you couldn’t be more – right –
seriously! –
as NOT ”marking” the comment as some kind of effort AGAINST the …. dehumanization of black bodies – is all MY BAD.

And I apologise!

62

Cian 09.04.20 at 12:29 pm

There’s a town in I think Virginia where the locals identify as black, and are seen as black by other local black and white communities. But in terms of skin color they’re unambiguously white. Racial politics in America has these weird complications due to the legacy of slavery.

It’s hard to know what really happened with the Oprah Winfrey thing. She was in a different culture, the Swiss tend to be pretty rude, etc. But I’ve often wondered if the marker in that particular situation was what she was wearing. Wealthy Europeans tend to dress the part, wealthy Americans typically don’t (at least not in a way that a European would recognize). I suppose it’s possible that a shop assistant in Zurich, international destination of choice for African oligarchs and looters, might not have encountered a wealthy black person before, but it does seem a little unlikely.

63

Cian O'Connor 09.04.20 at 12:48 pm

The authors of that article [Adolph Reed] have constructed an elaborate argument for the conclusion that anti-racism is not necessary and not admirable, and then embedded in one early paragraph an assertion that anti-racism is admirable and necessary.

What is the explanation for this dishonesty?

The explanation is that you misunderstood the conclusion. It’s fine to disagree with their conclusion (though an argument would be nice). But to straw man him is kind of contemptible.

Adolph Reed is black, was very active during the civil rights era and has been involved in a ton of organizing work since then (most recently very difficult organizing work in South Carolina).

64

sean samis 09.04.20 at 12:53 pm

M Caswell;

Regarding, “I wouldn’t say, for example, that a man who escapes slavery is thereby privileged to live free. But maybe you’re using “privileged” as just a synonym for “lucky”?

There is no analog to slavery in the “White privilege” debate. My error was using the word “escape”; White people don’t DO ANYTHING for their White privilege. They don’t “escape” it.

So, let me correct myself:

If a right is owed or required by justice but routinely denied by our culture; then to be spared that denial by our culture is a privilege.

If the oppressive regime selects you to be spared oppression; then that is a privilege.

sean s.

65

Tm 09.04.20 at 1:37 pm

Hix 60: I read your Zeit article and I don’t think it is confused at all (tbh it is your comments that I find confusing; must be my fault). To the contrary it is very clear and the tone seems entirely appropriate. I cannot judge the factual content of course – I assume the editors verified it. So perhaps you want to explain your objections?

Here’s an article from the WOZ (another left newspaper but Swiss) about racism in schools that I recommend (paywalled). Perhaps you’ll like that one better. Uszleber is a black German, a teacher, talking about his experience. Interestingly, he recommends the book by Robin DiAngelo.
https://www.woz.ch/2035/rassismus-im-bildungswesen/uszleber-haelt-dagegen

66

steven t johnson 09.04.20 at 2:57 pm

The original post is vitiated by equivocation between “marking” and “stigmatizing.” None of the discussion is valid.

This post is a defense of the personal abuse of individuals for attributed sins and the endorsement of abuse of people for disagreeing with this. If you must announce your revelations from God about other people’s morals, it is still advisable to attribute moral faults for what people do to get these so-called privileges and when they exercise them, and never, never forego the opportunity to show how they can actually abjure them. If white privilege is a matter of white skin, the inescapable consequences of this supposed fact is, flaying is the only cure. All I can say is, you first.

It is a poor standard of morals that condemns people for their birth, rather than what they do. As for condemning them for what they do not do? Morals do not stop at the border. There are many people who make these religious damnations who support the US foreign policy that kills—surprise, surprise!—so many more people of color than fellow “whites.” This should be very curious to anyone who is sincere in their claims.

The OP is on the face of it copied from Paul Campos. This is poor judgment. Campos, like all the posters at Lawyers, Guns and Money is an unholy tangle of malice, stupidity, dishonesty and a hack political agenda astounding for its shameless corruption. Campos’ personal low may have been endorsing the Michael Epstein conspiracy theories, where Epstein never made any money but just used spy funds. Campos was too cunning to announce that the money was Jewish, because LGM is all about making it sound left. Yes, the anti-Semitism and crypto-fascism of Epstein conspiracy theories is a valid generalization. Like Ukraine, though, the superior lifestyle left prefers fascists to tankies. The anti-Communist imperative is common ground with Trump too. Taking Animal Farm, with its pretense that capitalism didn’t bring us the Great War, as honest, much less profound, matches Trump’s IQ too.

Sadly, there’s no point to reviewing the comments. Outrageous nonsense has already passed as more than pompous malice, with the necessary mindless abuse of people who dare to argue. But futile as it is to expect common sense and common decency, I can’t help but say: If I were the son of parents who went to a wealthier country to have a better life, I would not ignore a son of privilege myself. (Being myself, I am inclined to think that blaming the child for the parents’ moral—or immoral—acts is morally wrong. If the child takes up reactionary causes in their own person, well, that’s another matter.)

Equally, it is futile to expect that people with such diminished empathy could possibly have the imagination to realize that feeling outnumbered and hopelessly pressured by the majority culture is a feeling religious Christians or Jews or Muslims can all feel in the determinedly secular culture. (Being myself, I am inclined to think such narcissistic agonies may be pitied but simply cannot determine public policy, or justify personal abuse.)

In particular, if black people have attacked you, if you take the concept of white privilege serious, you should draw the proper conclusion: They have your number. If they despise you, it is because you are contemptible. Getting called on your privilege makes you feel “abused” only because you perceive yourself as privileged but deny it consciously. I think this is useless and stupid and worst of all, too often malicious and deceitful way of talking and acting. But you should follow your own principles.

67

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.04.20 at 5:43 pm

engels @ 60: I have -no- idea what relevance this has to anything we’ve been discussing. Sure, there are white people (though Jewish people aren’t White) who pretend to be people of color, for various reasons. If you can’t see how that’s different from people of color who pretend to be white, …. well, y’know, maybe you might look into the history of “passing” in America. And the much-more-recent accounts of white supremacists when they learn thru a DNA test that one of their ancestors was precisely someone who “passed”.

Nearly-invariably, Black people “pass” as white in order to escape oppression. White people suffer no such oppression, engels.

It seems like you need to be reminded of that famous Anatole France epigram: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids rich and poor alike to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal their bread.”

A formal equivalence can often obscure what’s really going on.

68

Sebastian H 09.04.20 at 6:57 pm

““The WHITE CARD, that guarantees that you won’t be murdered by the police, no matter what you do. That WHITE CARD.””

This is an interesting inversion of reality. White people get murdered by the police all the time in the US. In fact a majority of the people killed by the police are white. But police violence is marked black in the US anyway.

Which is an interesting issue in itself. If the issue MIGHT be race or class, race is marked while class is unmarked. This is especially odd because the unmarked class for police interactions is “rich” but the huge majority of police actions are against poor people. I fully agree that we should have the police treat all people the way they treat rich people, but we should understand that poor white people don’t get treated that way (and indeed poor black people even worse).

Nearly all markers in the US function to erase class. If it might plausibly be anything else at all, the class issue is erased. This is true even in very clear examples where class predominates. If a person is black, female, trans, and rich living in SF and negotiating for a raise, she has a much better chance than a white, male, cis, poor person living in Detroit.

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lurker 09.04.20 at 8:11 pm

@60, engels
There have been people who did something like this honestly, never pretending they were born Black, like Johnny Otis: ‘As a kid I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black.’ One thing to pick a side, another to fake your origins.
I’m reminded of fake Holocaust survivors like ‘Binjamin Wilkomirski’ (who won book awards with his fake memoirs).

70

sean samis 09.04.20 at 8:13 pm

Sebastian H;

Regarding, “White people get murdered by the police all the time in the US. In fact a majority of the people killed by the police are white. But police violence is marked black in the US anyway.

I’m sure you’ll be getting a number of responses pointing out that your comment ignores the size of the populations from which the killed persons come. When measured per capita, Blacks are something like 5 or 6 times more likely to be killed by the police than Whites.

The rate is even higher among Indigenous Peoples.

sean s.

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CHETAN R MURTHY 09.04.20 at 8:54 pm

Sebastian H: “White people get murdered by the police all the time in the US. ”

Oh, excellent! Please do find the list of white people murdered by po-po, who are in every measurable way behaving perfectly normally and legally, with no aberrations like, y’know, psychotic behaviour, etc. Really, I’ll wait. Oh, and maybe go look up the population demographics. Dude, better men than you have analyzed this data and concluded that, yeah, po-po treat black people in a manner vastly more oppressive, than how they treat white people. And of course it’s not just murders. It’s also the oppression of constant and unrelenting police harrassment and the inevitable fines that come with it — harrassment that, again, doesn’t descend upon white people.

What bullshit.

72

notGoodenough 09.04.20 at 8:55 pm

General ramblings:

I’m can conceive that various forms of categorising can occur, that sometimes that discrimination can result from categorising, and that this can constructively or destructively superimpose, and that sometimes sorting into one category can lead to being sorted into another. But I think that sometimes it can also be useful to take a step back and try to deconvolute the concept a bit.

As I’ve previously attempted to explain, for me there are a broad swathe of ways in which we categorise other people (for example, by sex, or sexuality, or gender, or, etc.). One possibility may be, as previously suggested, that – to an extent – we have a “prototype” and note the differences between our “model” and the people. I’m sure other possible explanations may also exist – I don’t pretend to be an expert on the psychology of such matters.

Regardless, it seems to be fairly self-evident that this sort of categorising does indeed happen. It is often carried out on the basis of a range of different “factors” which can include many different things (for example, it might include accent, cultural references, body language, etc.). While sometimes the categorising gets it wrong (for example, it may be predicated on faulty assumptions – someone might be believed to be “posh” simply because they like opera, when of course opera could be enjoyed by anyone) and can be fooled (for example, someone might pretend to love football when in fact they don’t and prefer opera, just to make themselves seem more “relatable”). Sometimes the categorising may not result in any differences in how you are treated, sometimes it might.

For me, when there is discrimination it can happen along many different lines (and, I suspect, the degree, importance of category, selected markers, etc. may differ depending on many different things, such as where you are, when you are, etc.). Often these might overlap – for example, it may be a society which discriminates (even if only to a small extent) against a certain category, could see people in that category on average become less wealthy (which might be another factor determining treatment in society). In this way, it is possible for things to feed into each other – a sort of “categorising by means of unnatural selection”.

To give one example of how this might occur – if it is generally believed that women will want to raise children, therefore will not be “reliable workers” and so should be paid less (regardless of the actual facts), women will liekly – on average and overall – be less likely to be as financially stable as men (all other things being equal). That doesn’t mean there will be no wealthy women, and it doesn’t mean there will be no poor men. It doesn’t mean that no other factors exist – a woman who is a medical doctor from a middle class family may well be relatively better off than a man who is an unemployed alcoholic from a working class family. But it does mean than in a situation where everything else is adjusted for, there is a for of inequality. But what can be concluded from this? For me the important point is address the issue. There could be a number of way to do this – for example, we could pass a law making it illegal to pay people differently based on gender (everything else being equal), we could point out that many women do not want to have children, we could change the stereotype that women should/must/will be the ones to raise children (e.g. men and women are equally likely to raise children and or share responsibilities), and many other approaches besides, we could abolish the concept of money so that being paid is a concept which no longer exists, etc. etc. Some of these approaches may be more beneficial than harmful; some may be more harmful than beneficial. Some of these approaches may have a range of consequences – more beneficial than harmful; some may be more harmful than beneficial. Some of these approaches may be more likely to be successful than others. Some may be more likely to take longer to implement than others. And again, I’m sure there are many other factors too which should be worth considering. But as it is addressing the issue which is important, perhaps what we should do is find the “best” approaches and use those to try to address the issue.

As far as I can tell, one benefit of being “unmarked” is that you are assumed to be the default in society, so these are things which mostly pass you by. If you are talking to someone, your voice doesn’t affect how they think about you. If you get a math problem wrong, it is because you struggle with math (you aren’t reduced to a stereotype of a group). If you are walking around a supermarket, you won’t be followed by security who are suspicious of you purely on the way you are presented. Etc., etc.

It also seems possible that whether or not you are “unmarked” may be situational – for example, the factors associated with being “unmarked” in Oxford’s Young Conservatives Club may well be (and I suspect likely are) quite different to those associate with being “unmarked” in the Liverpool Capoeira studio. But this should also be considered carefully – the implications of being unmarked for a book-reading club in Rotherham may well be significantly less than being unmarked for politics in Westminster, and it would be perhaps unwise to equate the two as being equal.

Personally, I would like to live in societies which are fair, equitable, and treat people with dignity and respect. I would also quite like to be able to fly using the power of my mind (it would be useful for avoiding traffic, at the very least). At this point, both seem equally likely to ever happen.

It is possible that, by working together to address issues as we can, we can slowly move towards a better society. If there is a “one magic trick which will solve all problems”, then it has yet to be presented to me – so it seems likely that it will be slow and demoralising work which will have to be undertaken along many different lines. I find those who insist otherwise confusing, as they seem to have a perspective which they do not attempt to justify (except by means of insults and acusations, which I find less than convincing).

As someone who currently is focussed on the environment (no, that doesn’t mean I ignore other areas, I just currently have a particular focus because I’ve yet to discover how to fit 3,000,000 hours of work in one day) I think there will be big changes in the coming years – and it is possible that civilisation as we understand itwill cease to exist (rendering some speculation somewhat moot). So, while in the long run we may have a fair and just society, we should also remember that in the long run (and maybe even in the not so long run) we are all dead.

Perhaps that too is a form of equality, but sadly one doesn’t tend to be in a position to appreciate it.

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CHETAN R MURTHY 09.04.20 at 8:59 pm

steven johnson @ 66: “It is a poor standard of morals that condemns people for their birth, rather than what they do. ”

Why, yes, it is. And that is precisely what’s happening to Black Americans, to other people of color, and to women.

Your comment is a wonderful encapsulation of the tyranny of the unmarked category. You’re almost a poster child for it. Your argument is that you cannot be held liable for a malicious regime that you benefit from, as long as you do nothing to perpetuate it directly by your own hand. Electing officials who maintain that regime, paying them well, ensuring that they’re never prosecuted for their malicious actions …. well, that’s all 100% OK.

The moral bankruptcy and decay is so extreme, I can smell it from all the way over here.

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engels 09.04.20 at 9:12 pm

I have -no- idea what relevance this has to anything we’ve been discussing.

I just thought it was extremely weird. Why would people do this? I’m not claiming it’s equivalent to anything.

75

engels 09.04.20 at 9:55 pm

““The WHITE CARD, that guarantees that you won’t be murdered by the police, no matter what you do. That WHITE CARD.””

It is statements like is (and there are many other examples above), which everyone is expected to nod along to, which makes me think this stuff is more like a religion than anything else.

76

notGoodenough 09.04.20 at 10:05 pm

Sebastian H @ 68

This is true even in very clear examples where class predominates. If a person is black, female, trans, and rich living in SF and negotiating for a raise, she has a much better chance than a white, male, cis, poor person living in Detroit.

Surely you are including too many variables to make that determination based on two data points? To make a proper comparison between all those variables you would need to conduct a full factor expansion (if we were to only compare a “high” and “low” value difference for each variable, that would require 2^5 data points – which of course then would require reproducibility). While this might be preferable (we could then start drawing conclusions regarding the interactions between each variable), I suspect the magnitude would be a little overwhelming when considering the necessary sample sizes.

Instead, might I recommend taking a one-factor-at-a-time approach?

i.e. compare black, female, trans, and rich living in SF to white, female, trans, and rich living in SF; compare black, male, trans, and rich living in SF to black, female, trans, and rich living in SF; etc.

While it will miss fully exploring the whole manifold, it will at least give some ability to compare. Otherwise, how will you determine which variable was the key deteminer?

77

Kiwanda 09.04.20 at 11:16 pm

The real problem with this prescription is (of course) far more obvious: married men don’t suffer this penalty, because their wives suffer it on their behalf. But somebody has to raise the children, somebody has to maintain the household in livable shape.

For many people, raising their children is not a penalty to be suffered.

78

Paul Davis 09.04.20 at 11:23 pm

The many discussions of these matters resolve little in me except for the feeling that I need to read and know more about history and culture in India, Southeast Asia and China.

We constantly frame the discussion about these matters in the context of the relationships between people of European (Caucasian) descent and those of African descent, and the mixed race ancestries that arise from those relationships. It’s right and proper that we continue to dive deeply into this and hopefully drive policy and cultural changes.

But it also seems that we could perhaps gain some excellent perspective on how matters like these play out in cultures and geographies that do not really overlap with either Europe or Africa. Yes, I know about the silk road and I know about the global world that we’ve lived in for 50-100 years now. But realistically, the relationships between “races”, tribes, religions and so forth that have existed in India, SE Asia and China evolved for thousands of years without reference to anything going on in Europe/Africa (I think! Maybe I should learn more!)

To be fair, the same is true of the Americas before 1491, but that has the problem that there seems to be essentially no written history from the Americas. For better or for worse, I find oral history traditions suspect (if only because the oral histories of my own lifetime are clearly flawed beyond usability).

What can the history of the rest of the world tell us about these matters? What happens when we start considering class, priviledge, “race”, discrimination, oppression etc. etc. in cultures where “white” and “black” are not meaningful terms, and where the philosophical and cultural foundations are theoretically so different?

79

Kiwanda 09.04.20 at 11:29 pm

Apparently Adolph Reed was de-platformed by the NYC DSA last May: he’s too much “class reductionist”, not enough “intersectional socialist”.

80

J-D 09.04.20 at 11:45 pm

The authors of that article [Adolph Reed]

‘The authors of that article’ and ‘Adolph Reed’ are not synonyms. I wrote ‘The authors of that article’ and not ‘Adolph Reed’ because I noticed, as apparently you did not, that it has authors in the plural, two of them. That you have incorrected me in this way justifies some doubt about how carefully you have attended to the article’s content.

Adolph Reed is black, was very active during the civil rights era and has been involved in a ton of organizing work since then (most recently very difficult organizing work in South Carolina).

I take your word for it. That would make him somebody who has far more admirable achievements in the cause of anti-racism than I have, or ever will have. But it still wouldn’t change the text of the article.

It is impossible to maintain honestly that

antiracism is both admirable and necessary

at the same time as maintaining that

antiracism functions more as a misdirection that justifies inequality than a strategy for eliminating it

and

antiracism and antidiscrimination of all kinds would validate rather than undermine the stratification of wealth in American society

and

antiracist politics rejects universal programs of social-democratic redistribution in favor of what is ultimately a racial trickle-down approach

and that

antiracism as a politics is an artifact and engine of neoliberalism

and

It does a better job legitimizing market-based principles of social justice than increasing racial equality.

and that

contemporary antiracism presumes the Thatcherite ideological victory

and

the emptiness of antiracism as a political agenda

If you genuinely believe that antiracism is empty, how can you also genuinely believe that it is admirable and necessary? Answer: you can’t.

81

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.05.20 at 4:26 am

J-D @ 80: I read a good bit of an article about Adolph Reed and his being disinvited from speaking, etc. And one thing that came thru, is that his analysis is almost entirely based on economics, and economics strictly construed. And sure, economics is important. But (a) there are a lot more harms than economic ones, and (b) as Ta-Nehisi Coates has cogently argued, non-economic harms are also economic, because they constrain the universe of economic options for victims.

This is and remains a general problem with the “class not race” left: they refuse to engage with the facts on the ground about police harrassment and murder of people of color.

engels @ 75: “It is statements like is [ed: about the WHITE CARD and police murder] (and there are many other examples above), which everyone is expected to nod along to, which makes me think this stuff is more like a religion than anything else.”

engels, is a great example. By blissfully remaining unaware, he can write things like the above. But even a cursory familiarity with the news over, say, the last decade is enough to convince a good-faith reader, that Black Americans are subject to an authoritarian siege that is wholly out-of-proportion to that experience by White America.

XKCD had a great comic, that put it really well: https://xkcd.com/1235/

He demonstrates many things besides what he claims: for instance, that there is no wave of police brutality against white people that matches that against black people. How do we know? Because if there were, WE WOULD HAVE THE VIDEO, AND WE DO NOT.

82

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.05.20 at 4:28 am

Just to add a little more to my last comment: we would have piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people. We would know their names. Instead, the only one that comes to mind is that pretty Australian lady, Justine Diamond. Yes, she was unjustly murdered. But guess what? She’s the exception that pretty much proves the rule! There isn’t some epidemic of this shit goin’ down.

83

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.05.20 at 4:34 am

And it’s not just police brutality. It’s also White people calling the po-po on Black people just living their lives. We have (again, following along with XKCD) ample evidence of the existence of Barbeque Becky, Central Park “SWATter” Karen, etc, etc. Lots and lots evidence.

Where, pray tell, is our evidence of Barbeque Beyonce, Central Park Keshia, etc? If such behaviour were as endemic to Black people as it is to White people, we’d have the fucking videos.

84

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.05.20 at 4:47 am

nastwoman @ 61: no worries, I also have said and written things that were …. well, let’s say, somehwat insensitive. I was corrected, and learned something each time. It’s all good.

BTW, I’ve always read your nym as “nastywoman” and thought “oh, an homage to Hillary!” Only just now do I realize that there’s no “y”. grin

85

nastywoman 09.05.20 at 7:00 am

”The Trump administration has issued a memo ordering federal agencies to end racial sensitivity training, declaring it “un-American propaganda,” according to the document obtained by The Washington Post.

The two-page memo released Friday notes that President Donald Trump seeks to prevent federal agencies from spending “millions in taxpayer dollars” on the training sessions — and that any contracts involving instruction on “white privilege” or “critical race theory” be canceled immediately if possible.

“The President has directed me to ensure that federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions,” states the memo, written by Office and Management and Budget Director Russell Vought.

The memo says trainings that mention white privilege or asserting that racism is part of the country’s foundation “engender division and resentment” and “undercut” the federal government’s “core values.”

It also directs agencies to end contracts for sensitivity training which teaches that America is an “inherently racist or evil country.”

86

lurker 09.05.20 at 7:05 am

@Paul Davis, 78
I love looking for historical parallels, but the potential for derailing and whataboutery and so on is just terrible.
E.g. ‘slavery’ is a huge historical subject, but the only slavery relevant here is the enslaving of Black people in the US and the colonies that became the US, and bringing up anything else will not, in my experience, improve things.
Nothing wrong in keeping the discussion focused on America, as long as people understand its limitations.

87

Tm 09.05.20 at 7:43 am

Chetan 81 and others: everything you say is correct and still it’s wrong to claim that white people are “guaranteed” never under any circumstances to be murdered by the police. I for once have to agree with engels. Hyperbole is not our friend.

88

J-D 09.05.20 at 8:08 am

I used to be a big Marion Zimmer Bradley fan, back in the day. [now, well, can’t read that shit, for the obvious reason]

Another brief tangential note, again for the benefit of those who don’t know: the reference here is to revelations of Bradley’s involvement in the sexual abuse of children.

89

engels 09.05.20 at 8:51 am

engels @ 75: “It is statements like is [ed: about the WHITE CARD and police murder] (and there are many other examples above), which everyone is expected to nod along to, which makes me think this stuff is more like a religion than anything else.” engels, is a great example. By blissfully remaining unaware, he can write things like the above. But even a cursory familiarity with the news over, say, the last decade is enough to convince a good-faith reader, that Black Americans are subject to an authoritarian siege that is wholly out-of-proportion to that experience by White America

Er no it was specifically the statement that white people in America won’t be shot by the police no matter what they do (which I quoted directly above my comment), not that their chances are lower, which I agree with. But do carry on with your righteous Aunt Sally game, you seem to be enjoying it!

90

faustusnotes 09.05.20 at 9:05 am

I think I can answer Paul Davis’ question at 78 a little, because I live in Japan and have lived here for 15 years, where I am now in the marked category. There are many forms of privilege that Japanese people have over me, and more so over some of my foreign friends. What’s interesting is how quickly foreign white men arriving here discover the concept of privilege and also micro-aggression once they are the marked category. Of course they can’t become aggressive about the shift in category the way white men in America are because they chose to come here and the decision to come here has benefited them, but they are still suddenly aware of how privilege works and the minor unpleasantnesses of navigating a world where you stand out.

You can even have the experience, once your Japanese is okay and you’re used to the world you live in, of feeling like you’re unmarked, and then suddenly and unexpectedly being reminded in an interaction that you stand out like dogs balls. An experience I think black people in America have a lot, and white people in America don’t understand at all. It can be a shock when you’re living in a country you chose to for your own benefit; I’ve no doubt it is very unpleasant, grinding and dispiriting when it happens in the country you were born and comes with the threat of institutionalized violence on top of everything else.

91

engels 09.05.20 at 10:50 am

Illuminating thread on Jessica Krug by a Schomberg Center colleague: “Somehow she manages to remain ultra woke and strident, still on her political moral high horse, calling for white scholars to be cancelled –in this instance her own white self.”
https://mobile.twitter.com/yarimarbonilla/status/1301610199405531136

92

M Caswell 09.05.20 at 1:29 pm

“If the oppressive regime selects you to be spared oppression; then that is a privilege.”

Ok, the idea emerging seems to be something like: privilege is an advantage arising from a third party’s unjust conduct. (see your “White people don’t DO ANYTHING for their privilege.”)

That is interesting to me, because it implies that no one can seize privilege for themselves. This sort of fits usage: if someone steals from me, we wouldn’t say they enjoy the privilege of using my stuff; or if they enslave me, we wouldn’t say they have the privilege of using my labor. But you would say that my neighbor, from whom they chose not to steal, or not to enslave, is privileged to still have their stuff or their freedom? (I would say, ‘lucky.’)

One question I still have is whether this is general enough. Don’t some privileges arise without any unjust conduct on anyone’s part?

93

Starry Gordon 09.05.20 at 2:51 pm

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.05.20 at 4:28 am @ 82 —
I was involved in a discussion about this very subject a few months ago and was told (1) the likelihood of being killed by the police corresponds closely to class (which also corresponds to race, of course) and (2) the police, FBI, etc. don’t keep any records about the class of those who are killed by the police. Obviously these two statements are somewhat at odds, yet they’re not contradictory. Why don’t poor White people demonstrate, make videos, and so forth, when any of their number suffer police abuse? A question about whose answer we can only speculate. But based on personal experience and observation, I sure wouldn’t conclude the abuse doesn’t happen.

94

anon/portly 09.05.20 at 4:30 pm

80

If you genuinely believe that antiracism is empty, how can you also genuinely believe that it is admirable and necessary? Answer: you can’t.

Really? Those quotes (in 80) all seem to reinforce the point that antiracism, by itself, is not an effective strategy for achieving black economic equality specifically. I would assume they believe that and still believe that less racism is a good thing for many other reasons, or in and of itself.

95

anon/portly 09.05.20 at 4:44 pm

82

Just to add a little more to my last comment: we would have piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people. We would know their names. Instead, the only one that comes to mind is that pretty Australian lady, Justine Diamond.

If the name “Tony Timpa” doesn’t come to mind, this suggests to me that Chetan Murthy isn’t particularly well-informed on the general subject (treatment of whites vs. blacks by US police) to which he is devoting so many comments.

I’m not making any claims about what the Timpa case means, or doesn’t mean, nor making any claims on the general subject (not that I expect by saying this to avoid being denounced, and/or offered a path to wisdom), but the Timpa case has gotten a lot of (retrospective) attention, because of the similarities to the George Floyd case.

96

Kiwanda 09.05.20 at 6:44 pm

Sebastian H, sean samis:

Again, race and class both matter, whites are killed about 40% as often as blacks (greater than 20%, less than 100%), and there are plenty of gruesome videos and accounts of white men being murdered by police, I give some at the link.

A clarifying question might be: what reforms of the police, courts, and local government would be most effective? I would think reform of qualified immunity, cash bail, civil asset forfeiture; firing bad cops; not re-hiring bad cops; stopping the use of fines to finance local government; electing better DAs. Many of these have broad support, and that support would not be made broader by invocation of the WHITE CARD.

I wonder if endless use of the term “po-po” by the non-BIPOC constitutes cultural appropriation?

97

Paul Davis 09.05.20 at 9:19 pm

@lurker 86 thanks for the comment. I know what you mean about the risk of derailment etc. I don’t think I agree that “the only slavery relevant here is the enslaving of Black people in the US and the colonies that became the US”, particularly not when I read people connecting the general concept of colonialism, and sometimes even specific events (typically around the British Emptire), with the story of slavery within the US. In addition, as important as I think the history (and future) of slavery in the US truly is, there’s the question of how much it is also connected with the genocide perpetrated against native Americans (and natives of the Americas in general). These things are frequently said to come out a European, colonial, racist mindset, and I’m not convinced that this is actually the most useful way to understand what Europeans did when they came to the Americas (and soon started bringing Africans here as slaves).

I don’t know this to be true, however. I just have the impression that human history, long term, tends to rhyme as you look at it around the globe. It could be that what was done to native Americans, and what was done through slavery truly have no precedent and really do arise from the philosophical and (im?)moral underpinnings of western Europe. But it might also be the case that similar stories happened across the world, in which case trying to characterize them as somehow the purview of white Europeans is a bit silly.

98

J-D 09.06.20 at 1:40 am

If you genuinely believe that antiracism is empty, how can you also genuinely believe that it is admirable and necessary? Answer: you can’t.

Really? Those quotes (in 80) all seem to reinforce the point that antiracism, by itself, is not an effective strategy for achieving black economic equality specifically.

That’s a fatal understatement. Those quotes go well beyond suggesting that antiracism is insufficient by itself (a judgement which would be consistent with a qualified but positive evaluation of antiracism) to an evaluation of antiracism which is definitely negative. Somebody who says that antiracism is empty is not merely saying that there are some things it can’t achieve but also saying that there is nothing it can achieve (that is, nothing worth achieving).

I would assume they believe that and still believe that less racism is a good thing for many other reasons, or in and of itself.

Nobody can stop you assuming, but the question for the rest of us is whether there is any basis for your assumption. The text doesn’t specify any reasons why antiracism should be considered a good thing; on the contrary, it affirms that antiracism is a misdirection that justifies inequality, a validation of stratification, an artifact and engine of neoliberalism, all reasons for considering it a bad thing.

99

J-D 09.06.20 at 1:43 am

A clarifying question might be: what reforms of the police, courts, and local government would be most effective? I would think reform of qualified immunity, cash bail, civil asset forfeiture; firing bad cops; not re-hiring bad cops; stopping the use of fines to finance local government; electing better DAs. Many of these have broad support …

Some of the support comes from people who use the term ‘white privilege’ and some of it comes from people who do not; but no evidence has been produced that the people who do use that term are, by doing so, undermining support for these reforms.

100

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.06.20 at 2:36 am

Tm @ 87:

way to not actually engage and refute anything. I’ll assume, then, that you agree that Black Americans are disproportionately targeted and oppressed by police.

Starry Gordon @ 93: “Why don’t poor White people demonstrate, make videos, and so forth, when any of their number suffer police abuse? A question about whose answer we can only speculate. But based on personal experience and observation, I sure wouldn’t conclude the abuse doesn’t happen.”

The idea that somehow white people, and esp. young white people, who put -everything- they do on Instagram, somehow do not put this one thing on Instagram/Twitter — police brutality visited on them — beggars belief. You’ll have to try a little harder than that.

101

lurker 09.06.20 at 8:56 am

@Starry Gordon, 93
There are local protests (here’s one: https://www.abc17news.com/video/2020/06/18/watch-live-protesters-gather-in-sedalia-after-deputy-fatally-shoots-woman/ ), but they do not take off like the BLM.
Most of the white victims are no angels, and only perfect victims get this kind of reaction.

102

nastywoman 09.06.20 at 9:32 am

So in conclusion:

”Sociologists have a very useful concept: the unmarked category. An unmarked category is present when the category is considered so normal or ordinary in a particular context that it goes unnoticed. The category is the default setting in regard to social expectations, and it in a sense remains invisible precisely because it’s so dominant. Being black in Boulder is a marked category, which means (white) people won’t see a man picking up trash, they’ll see a black man picking up trash. They see something, so they say something”.

Which finally also solves the problem about ”race” or ”class” – FIRST!
Right?

Or do I really have to repeat – that all of you (white) guys – who believe ”class first” – NEED to travel with a ”Black” companion – in order to find out – that if both of you show the same ”class” (marking”-”lot’s of dough”-”clothes”-”Lancia Delta”) –
the weird… thing? –
and that happens even in Italy –
when for example a ”white” (marked) person is driving the Delta – or a marked ”Black” -(in the same Beanie) – the reaction of ”police” or ALL kind of (white) people is – ALWAYS:

”Race FIRST”.

103

engels 09.06.20 at 10:34 am

Or do I really have to repeat – that all of you (white) guys – who believe ”class first” – NEED to travel with a ”Black” companion – in order to find out – that if both of you show the same ”class”…. – the reaction of ”police” or ALL kind of (white) people is – ALWAYS: ”Race FIRST”.

And what do you think would happen of they were the same “race” but different classes?

104

Richard A Melvin 09.06.20 at 1:00 pm

@102

A perfect example of how race-first doesn’t always mean race-only is illustrated by this short clip:

http://welovemediacrit.blogspot.com/2009/10/oh-im-sorry-maam-i-thought-you-were.html

Or the lyrics to this song (third verse is the relevant one):

https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/specials/blm.html

In both cases, the common factor is that the american lacks any language other than race to talk about what they mean.

105

Callum 09.06.20 at 1:07 pm

An interesting article by Coleman Hughes where he does pick up the stories and videos of white people being unjustifiably killed by police: https://www.city-journal.org/reflections-on-race-riots-and-police The relevant passage starts below “Two things changed my mind: stories and data.” (it does contain descriptions of the violence, fyi)

@Chetan @starrygordon @engels this provides many examples where the white card made little/no difference. I don’t know if it bares one way or the other on how useful white privilege is useful in explaining and combating police violence.

106

Sebastian H 09.06.20 at 2:15 pm

Chetan Murthay, you’re exposing the problem right now. White people get murdered by the police for completely stupid reasons, while not resisting arrest all the time. The fact that you are so shocked by the fact, all the way into denying that it is true, just shows how silly the discourse around the topic has gotten. US police are far too violent. It is absolutely true that they are EVEN more violent against black people. But even if they were treating black people just like white people, both would be subject to far too much senseless police violence in the US. Rhetorically turning this into a race only or race mainly problem is cutting off huge avenues of common ground for no reason. Most of the reforms don’t need a race only/mainly approach. Qualified immunity doesn’t need that. Bail reform doesn’t need that. Incarceration reform doesn’t need that. Being able to track cops for misconduct doesn’t need that. Being able to interrogate cops like regular suspects doesn’t need that.

As for why similar white videos haven’t gone viral? I don’t think I understand why anything goes viral while other things doesn’t enough to explain that. I’m not one of the people who assumes that the existing ones don’t go viral because “they don’t fit the narrative” though maybe that is part of why. Maybe it was the length of the Floyd video, or how super clear that he was well under control. But you repeated insistence that similar encounters and similar videos just don’t exist for white people is just factually incorrect and I have no idea why you find the need to erase them.

notGoodenough

“Instead, might I recommend taking a one-factor-at-a-time approach?

i.e. compare black, female, trans, and rich living in SF to white, female, trans, and rich living in SF; compare black, male, trans, and rich living in SF to black, female, trans, and rich living in SF; etc.”

You can recommend it, but it doesn’t help the race first side in a vast number of cases.

Black/female/trans/rich living in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google.

Black/female/trans/poor WORKING in SF (because obviously she has to live 2 hours away) negotiating for a pay raise at Google. Class predominates. (and also note that this person will have an additional 3-4 hour a day commute to make things harder).

White/female/trans/rich living in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google.

White/female/trans/poor working in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google. Again class predominates.

Black/female/trans/rich living in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google.

White/female/trans/poor working in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google. Class predominates even though we now have introduced white privilege.

Black/female/trans/rich living in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google.

White/male/trans/poor working in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google. Class predominates even though we now have introduced white AND male privilege.

Black/female/trans/rich living in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google.

White/male/cis/poor working in SF negotiating for a pay raise at Google. Class predominates even though we have now have introduced white AND male AND cis privilege.

The logic of privilege (excluding class) strongly suggests that switching to white, or cis, or male should have been important. But it often isn’t because the power differential based on class is so enormous.

That is why these discussions always insist on holding class the same. Because when class is different, the privilege by class is enormous. Does it ALWAYS overpower racism? No. But very often it does. And there is a lot of class oppression that is erased in these discussions which doesn’t need to be.

107

nastywoman 09.06.20 at 4:04 pm

”And what do you think would happen of they were the same “race” but different classes”?

What do I ‘think?
You meant – what do I know?

As I know – when I’m traveling with the same “race” (all ”white”) – but different classes –
it’s ”white privilege” all the way.

As the doormen at the ”privileged hotels” let US (whites) ALL in – even if all of our appearances might appear similar underprivileged – while for our Black and Brown companions it’s always ”Race FIRST”.

108

Sebastian H 09.06.20 at 6:55 pm

Nasty woman, I travel with black and Hispanic people all the time (and we code as middle class at best). We’ve never had problems at any hotels in NYC, SF, Dallas, Minneapolis, Denver, or even Gatlinburg Tennessee. I’m sure there are some cities where that isn’t true but you’re proposing a universal that just isn’t reality.

109

engels 09.06.20 at 6:57 pm

As I know – when I’m traveling with the same “race” (all ”white”) – but different classes – it’s ”white privilege” all the way.

Since I’ve had the opposite experience in numerous situations I guess this just proves that anonymous people trading anecdotes online isn’t going to settle this.

110

notGoodenough 09.06.20 at 7:43 pm

Sebastian H @ 106

You can recommend it, but it doesn’t help the race first side in a vast number of cases.

I didn’t suggest it to “help the race first side” (whatever that means, I suggested it because I care about making decisions based on data. Because, as a scientist, that’s kind of what I’ve dedicate my entire life towards. That sort of thing just gives you ridiculous ideas like that sometimes.

I would also refer you to the fact that literally the first post I made on these topics said [modifiers] “there can be others (which may or may not be more or less significant), such as sex, gender, sexuality, class, length of time family is established in country, etc.” I literally said that class oppression is important. How is that erasing it?

It may be the case that class is a more impactful factor in some situations, it may not. It may be that many other factors can be important. It may be the case that class is the most important factor in most situations, it may not. It seems likely that what is important and to what degree is probably dependent, somewhat, on the society about which you discuss. I try not to get into too many details because I don’t want to generalise from my specific experience to the whole world, and because other people may disagree with me (and they may be right to do so!).

I have, to the best of my memory, never proposed “let’s solve class/race/sex/gender/etc. issues first”, because I don’t think that it is a useful approach. What I propose is to engage in activism by acknowledging that we want to improve things for everyone, looking for areas of synergy, and trying to remember that people may prioritise things differently to us and that that doesn’t necessarily make them monsters.

Personally, I focus a lot on environmental issues. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about race, or class, or sex, or etc., it means I am focussing my efforts predominantly on where I can make the most impact, and where my skills and knowledge are most applicable. It doesn’t mean I won’t support other areas as being equally important, it just means I would prefer – if it isn’t too much of a bother for everyone else – not to see the end of civilisation in my lifetime. Yet, somehow I manage to contain myself and not demand that everyone drop what they’re doing and prioritise talking about what I want to talk about right now.

My perspective (which I by no means hold as absolute, but seems to be not unreasonable to me) is that people are likely to be motivated to address the problems which they care most about. By building bridges and looking to support each other, we can be a formidable force to change the world for good. Or, we can people can keep making rude and condescending remarks, gatekeeping supposed moral and intellectual high-ground, and demanding that people abandon things they prioritise in order to prioritise what we prioritise in the order we prioritise it. I would suspect that one approach is better than the other – I’ll leave you to contemplate which.

Social change and positive activism is, as far as I can tell, self-reinforcing – does being a feminist mean you can’t care about race or class? No, of course not. You can focus your efforts and still help out with other causes too. I mean, do people really think that no-one who cares about race also cares about class issues? Really? Or is it just that they don’t care in the way class-first activists want them to care…therefore they are evil, or stupid, or….

To be honest, this sort of thing is rather irritating – because it seems that rather than working together to do anything effective, people are more interested in engaging in circular firing squads. And while I try to remember that people are passionate, and look to advance the things they care about, demanding that people who are at the sharp end of these things aren’t allowed to care or do anything about them until we resolve something else seems….unlikely to be convincing.

And now for the punchline – I actually think that (for where I lived) class is likely to be more impactful than race on many people’s lives (though again, it is only a tentative guess, as I haven’t had time to delve too far into the literature – and because, guess what, I’m going to be biased because of my experiences!). But because I won’t demand that people who care strongly about race activism renounce their interests, people tar me as not caring about class (or not knowing anything about “real” left / class politics). I’m someone who should in fact be an easy sell on this – I already agree with much of what people seem to mean. In pretty much every post on this I’ve talked about the importance of intersectionality. I’ve repeatedly said I think that we need to solve both race and class discrimination (and all the others too). Yet the majority of class-first posts have been combative, accusative, condescending, hostile, and just plain rude.

Personally I care about effective activism which results in meaningful change. And I think the best way to do that is to get people on side. And a good way to do that, is to work alongside each other in order to adress injustice as a whole – because I have this crazy notion that there does not have to be opposition between people working on racial issues and those working on issues of class, or sex, or gender, or even the environment. And that it is perhaps more productive to find solid goals that everyone can agree on, rather than getting exercised because someone cares slightly more about one particular thing than you do.

Just a thought.

111

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.06.20 at 9:08 pm

Callum @ 105: City Journal? Are you going to cite Rudy Guiliani next? The National Review? Really?

Sebastian H: Really? Class dominates? Really? Maybe you should tell that to all the Black people, Black professionals, stopped by po-po for nothing.

Look: you guys clearly don’t want to engage with the evidence of your eyes. Hey, go ahead and believe your theories. We have a word for your kind:

Racists.

112

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.06.20 at 9:24 pm

Callum @ 105: It’s not even uecessary to impeach this Coleman Hughes article at City Journal merely by the publication. One can go further, and nearly-as-easily. Just google “coleman hughes police brutality” and notice the hits you get: Quillette and Daily Wire [alt-right dumpster-fires]. Look at the Newsday column, and notice that the column cites “professional Black Conservative Pundits”[1] The guy isn’t cited by any reputable social science folks. Tells you all you need to know about him.

[1] following Brad Delong, these are people, like “professional conservative economists”, who earn their living by being conservatives, not professionals who happen to be conservative.

113

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.06.20 at 9:25 pm

Chetan, please keep the temperature down a bit. Thanks, JQ

114

nastywoman 09.06.20 at 10:29 pm

@108
”We’ve never had problems at any hotels in NYC, SF, Dallas, Minneapolis, Denver, or even Gatlinburg Tennessee”.
+109
@
”Since I’ve had the opposite experience in numerous situations I guess this just proves that anonymous people trading anecdotes online isn’t going to settle this”.

That’s why we played ”candid camera” with a few doormen of luxury Hotels –
(after the Oprah Incident) – in order to check what these doormen saw first – ”class or race” – and there never was a ”problem” – ”problem” as all of them were very professional and polite –
BUT – as ”Sociologists have this very useful concept: the unmarked category. An unmarked category is present when the category is considered so normal or ordinary in a particular context that it goes unnoticed.

And so –
all of us – sometimes very ”classless” and sometimes very ”classy” marked ”whites” were very obviously considered ”so normal or ordinary in this particular context” – that we went ”unnoticed” – while most of our Black and Brown friends were (always politely) noticed like ”the black in Boulder – as ”a marked category, which means (white) people won’t see a man picking up trash, they’ll see a black man picking up trash.
So –

”They see something and so they say something”.

In our case mostly –
and very politely:
Can I help you sir?

115

J-D 09.06.20 at 10:30 pm

Most of the reforms don’t need a race only/mainly approach. Qualified immunity doesn’t need that. Bail reform doesn’t need that. Incarceration reform doesn’t need that. Being able to track cops for misconduct doesn’t need that. Being able to interrogate cops like regular suspects doesn’t need that.

That’s true as far as it goes, but there’s still been no evidence produced that progress towards any of these goals is being hindered by people talking about white privilege.

116

Callum 09.06.20 at 10:34 pm

@Chetan, you can just read the paragraph and follow some of the links to different sources and stories, you don’t need to agree with anything in the article.

I actually thought about adding the caveat “needless to say I don’t agree with most of his views” but just thought that was unnecessarily defensive and didn’t need saying. But, needless to say I don’t agree with most of Coleman Hughes’ views.

117

nastywoman 09.06.20 at 10:52 pm

AND –
we picked for the ”candid camera experiment” – luxury hotels because –
because doormen at lesser luxurious hotels often have a very hard time hiding their disappointment – if after a (cute blond) ”white” has checked in – the double room –

suddenly TEH BLACK MAN –
appears!

Booh!

118

Callum 09.06.20 at 11:09 pm

@Chetan, I understand that you might be finding this conversation frustrating and I’m sorry for my part in that, I have actually found lots of what you’ve written very instructive. But your accusations of racism seem pretty off base. Please refrain.

119

Kiwanda 09.07.20 at 2:25 am

J-D:

Some of the support comes from people who use the term ‘white privilege’ and some of it comes from people who do not; but no evidence has been produced that the people who do use that term are, by doing so, undermining support for these reforms.

No evidence is likely to be provided for claims that have not been made.

120

nastywoman 09.07.20 at 3:19 am

@
”Look: you guys clearly don’t want to engage with the evidence of your eyes. Hey, go ahead and believe your theories. We have a word for your kind:

I am a ”class warrior” too – just NOT like Angel or Sebastian -(or Callum?) with the luxury – or luck – of having had their ”opposite experience” or ”no problem in numerous situations” – and so we always HAVE to engage with the evidence of our eyes –
we on the other hand –
also could decide to ignore –
as some of our fellow ”class warriors” – who believe there is class before race…

121

nastywoman 09.07.20 at 3:39 am

AND what’s so great about ”this very useful concept” of the unmarked category.

That you suddenly begin to see something which had gone ”unnoticed” – before.
BUT – not everybody.
Not everybody –
and can you guys believe – I have this ”black” friend –
who – when – one night – in a supposedly ”very dangerous” US city – a few of ”his brothers” came our way – He made US change the side of the street – like anybody who believes in ”white privilege”…

122

engels 09.07.20 at 7:13 am

I am a ”class warrior” too – just NOT like Angel or Sebastian -(or Callum?) with the luxury – or luck – of having had their ”opposite experience” or ”no problem in numerous situations

That isn’t what I said. I haven’t had the uniform experience you say you have of “race” causing problems and being noticed and class not.

123

lurker 09.07.20 at 7:47 am

‘how silly the discourse around the topic has gotten’ (Sebastian H, 106)
When the other person’s actual position (‘po-po treat black people in a manner vastly more oppressive, than how they treat white people’) is not something you can reasonably object to, nitpicking one instance of hyperbole might not contribute to the quality of the discourse.

124

Tm 09.07.20 at 10:51 am

Chetan Murphy 100 etc, I find your hostile demeanor quite regrettable. Your are defending an indefensible claim, period. I am aware of a number of police killings of white victims. The police usually get away with egregious behavior, period. That is true even in countries where these incidents are orders of magnitude less frequent than in the US.

Sebastian 106 “the race first side”: I don’t know what exactly that slogan is supposed to mean but in my understanding, intersectionality is not consistent with such a view and in my understanding, most commenters here are not on “the race first side”. I can only speak for myself, I am certainly not.

125

nastywoman 09.07.20 at 12:02 pm

@122
”I said. I haven’t had the uniform experience you say you have of “race” causing problems and being noticed and class not”.
BUT you added –
”I guess this just proves that anonymous people trading anecdotes online isn’t going to settle this” – thusly (kind of) – questioning as you called it ”anecdotes” of people who had a different experience as you are – and that’s ”the thing” – which made this… ”conversation” so confusing – while the concept of the ”unmarked category” is actually as simple – as saying:

”An unmarked category is present when the category is considered so normal or ordinary in a particular context that it goes unnoticed. The category is the default setting in regard to social expectations, and it in a sense remains invisible precisely because it’s so dominant. Being black in Boulder is a marked category, which means (white) people won’t see a man picking up trash, they’ll see a black man picking up trash. They see something, so they say something”.

And so – in our experiment with the doormen – not unlike with some other experiments – where we had to figure out – what people noticed first in different ”packages” – we actually took a tip of Billie Eilish in consideration.

She once explained in a Interview – that she even can’t go to the market anymore if – she wears her usual colourful outfits – BUT when she is dressed in Black NOBODY ”notices her”.

And she/we thought – how ”ironius”?
if most ”White” wearers of Black Hoodies go unnoticed – while ”Black” wearers of Black Hoodies nearly ALWAYS get noticed.

And somehow – the same -(according to the many ”expirements” we made) applies to:

Do you look at the eyes of ”the woman FIRST” -(or somewhere else?)
Using –
”the eyes of a woman” – as a poetic synonym for – ”RACE”
and
”somewhere else” as the synonym for – ”CLASS”.

126

nastywoman 09.07.20 at 12:12 pm

AND so –
AGAIN!!
– in an effort of some kind of conclusion – when CHETAN R MURTHY wrote:

”Class dominates? Really? Maybe you should tell that to all the Black people, Black professionals, stopped… ”
WE actually don’t have to tell that to any ”Black people, Black professionals” –
as they know – what the majority of the ”White” commenters here –

Don’t know!

127

J-D 09.07.20 at 12:41 pm

J-D:

Some of the support comes from people who use the term ‘white privilege’ and some of it comes from people who do not; but no evidence has been produced that the people who do use that term are, by doing so, undermining support for these reforms.

No evidence is likely to be provided for claims that have not been made.

I was picking up a very strong impression that more than one commenter was taking the stance that talking about ‘white privilege’ is a bad thing because it’s counter-productive, or something very like that. Maybe I was right about that but you weren’t one of those commenters. Or maybe I was wrong entirely and nobody’s taking any stance like that. If nobody has any objections to people talking about white privilege, what do you think this discussion is about?

128

engels 09.07.20 at 1:07 pm

intersectionality is not consistent with such a view

Intersectionality doesn’t seem to have very precise meaning (to put it mildly) but I think part of it is:
1 there are multiple, independent systems of oppression which “intersect”
2 race and gender are among these
And this is perfectly consistent with class denialism, and definitely with assigning class a relatively low importance, even if class-as-identity is sometimes bolted on as a third or subsequent factor. (Ofc as MisterMr has been explaining quite well, this isn’t really how socialists conceptualise class anyway.)

129

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.07.20 at 1:16 pm

“Maybe you should tell that to all the Black people, Black professionals, stopped by po-po for nothing.”

In regards to “race and class”, this is it: people belonging to higher strata are misidentified as belonging to lower strata. Especially by various servants: cops, store clerks, doormen. And because of that, they sometimes don’t get all the respect (‘privilege’) they deserve by the virtue of their real socioeconomic status.

The ‘Oprah in Zurich’ story is perfect in this respect: she asks for the handbag that costs $40,000. The clerk suggests a cheaper one (only $5,000?) instead. Ms Winfrey feels insulted: she was profiled, by a stupid servant, as a lousy multi-millionaire, far below her real status of multi-billionaire.

The essence of the complaint is that the class structure has this glitch, imperfection. And yes, it does. Even our soon-to-be-president noted, after meeting Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man” (Barack Obama is not, of course, ethnically African-American).

130

CHETAN R MURTHY 09.07.20 at 7:02 pm

Callum @ 116: “you can just read the paragraph and follow some of the links to different sources and stories, you don’t need to agree with anything in the article.”

There’s a thing, it’s called “sealioning”. Look it up. Polluting a conversation with citations that only circulate in the alt-right and associated wingnut communities is not good-faith engagement. You cite a guy who gets approving writeups from alt-right and fascist outlets, and expect me to take you serioiusly.

Tm @ 124: way to not engage with my argument at all. Really, bravo.

This is actually excellent, all of you. All of you. You have your own reality-distortion filter, and that filter excludes ALL of the mainstream consensus. Because while you’re rapidly repeating to yourselves these “home truths” (“black people aren’t disproportionately targeted by the po-po, nosirree”; “class not race”), out in the streets Americans are showing that they don’t agree with you, in the mainstream press, in almost all the mainstream cultural icons of our time, the intellectual and cultural leading lights of our society are showing that they don’t agree with you.

The massive demonstrations of this summer didn’t start because of some economic injustice; they didn’t start because of some class-consciousness. They started because Americans are fed up with police brutality towards Black Americans and people of color.

There’s only one class of Americans who agree with you: Trumpists. Think on that.

I’m done here.

131

nastywoman 09.07.20 at 7:56 pm

@129
”The ‘Oprah in Zurich’ story is perfect in this respect:…”

Not if you confuse ”class” with ”race”.

132

Tm 09.07.20 at 8:53 pm

engels 128: I have never heard an account of intersectionality that doesn’t at least include the three dimensions race, class and gender. (There’s also the related concept of triple oppression). Furthermore, in my understanding, a slogan like “class first” or “race first” is inherently incompatible with the concept. I cannot exclude that somewhere on the internet somebody uses the concept differently but I’m quite certain that such usage is not representative. As evidence I’ll just point to wikipedia since it’s easily accessible. If you have contrary evidence, please let me know.

“how socialists conceptualise class”: It used to be very clear how socialists, or at least those inspired by Marx, conceptualized class. Not in terms of income and education – that is how bourgeois sociologists define social strata and is different from class – but in terms of a person’s role in the production process: there is essentially one class consisting of people who own the means of production and one class of people who are forced to sell their labor. One can make some adjustments and try to define intermediate classes. But it is very clear that the way you for example (and most others) use the term class in this comment forum is absolutely unrelated to Marxian class theory. So please refrain from lecturing me about “how socialists conceptualise class”, unless you are able to provide an actual Marxian class analysis of the topics discussed here. Also, see https://crookedtimber.org/2020/08/27/on-an-objection-to-the-idea-of-white-privilege/#comment-804214.
[Corrected the second paragraph]

133

notGoodenough 09.07.20 at 9:22 pm

My understanding is that the concept of intersectionality could be expressed, in essence, as

1) all forms of oppression should be opposed

2) one person’s experience of oppression may be different from another’s, depending on one’s location within the manifold of oppression and exploitation

3) that oppression intertwines, and can be shaped by other forms of oppression – e.g. racism could be sexualised, misogyny racialized, etc.

As someone once said “the human essence is no abstraction inherent in each single individual. In its reality it is the ensemble of the social relations.”

Intersectionality is not, in fact, necessarily an explanatory theory in and of itself. It is, in its most basic form, merely a description of how mingling of different forms of oppression expresses itself in a nuanced way.

Some might argue that underpinning all forms of oppression is the that which is resulting from capitalism itself. I would certainly agree inherently exploitative systems will be a factor which makes things worse. I am sceptical, for reasons I’ve described previously, that a system without class cannot have racism/sexism/etc. – though, to be clear, I do not assert the opposite, I just think that the case has yet to be proven sufficiently.

Some socialists think that intersectionality is a good thing, and argue that by expanding “the tent” to include people who are fighting their own issues is a sensible way to demonstrate the importance of unity in the face of injustice – and that by leaving out issues regarding race/gender/sex/etc. not only means you are not acting in the interests of many members of the proletariat, but you are actively leaving them open to exploitation. Some certainly think that protecting those who are standing against a tidal wave of societal inequality is important, and that – even if you do not agree with someone on every issue – you owe it to society to stand shoulder to shoulder in order to act as a powerful force for good. Some think that this is an important way to strengthen activist movements and to not only take concrete steps to a better world, but also to lay the foundation of a bigger movement which may one day change the world – that once there is a collective power, it will be impossible to break.

But hey, they probably aren’t real socialists – I mean, do they post condescending remarks on the internet?

134

Faustusnotes 09.08.20 at 1:04 am

Gorgonzola misrepresenting the Oprah story, Kiwanda et al refusing to accepted settled facts about poverty, race and police violence, and now were told Obama isn’t African American when his dad is from Kenya…

Hmm I wonder what all this denialism has in common?

135

nastywoman 09.08.20 at 9:24 am

and@129
If you finally post such a stunning example for ”Race First” –

”Even our soon-to-be-president noted, after meeting Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”.

How can you misidentify it in the beginning as:
”belonging to higher strata are misidentified as belonging to lower strata”?

136

nastywoman 09.08.20 at 10:33 am

AND –
AGAIN:
”Even our soon-to-be-president noted, after meeting Barack Obama: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”—
is perhaps the best example – for the ”Unmarked Categories” – and how ”not noticeable” the ”Race First” -(or ”White Privilege”) truly is.

BUT if you find out – that doormen of Luxury Hotels prefer to ask ”Blacks” – who are trying to get in the hotel about ten times more often than similar dressed ”Whites” –

May I help you Sir?

Something get’s noticed –

Right?

137

nastywoman 09.08.20 at 10:55 am

@126
”The massive demonstrations of this summer didn’t start because of some economic injustice; they didn’t start because of some class-consciousness. They started because Americans are fed up with police brutality towards Black Americans and people of color.

There’s only one class of Americans who agree with you: Trumpists. Think on that.

I’m done here”.

Please – NOT!
as there is this really Nasty Racist and Science Denier running for President – and at the last elections he managed to fool so many of the… am I allowed to say: ”Confused Types who post here” into NOT voting against him – that we need your help!

And as there is a bottle of Champagne waiting – for every ”Trump” -(the German Word for ”STUPID”) – WE can get on CT to vote against ”Trump” – let’s keep on rapping!

138

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.08.20 at 11:14 am

“How can you misidentify it in the beginning”

I believe I identified it correctly. When Mr Biden (or your doorman) see someone with a dark skin, he might misidentify them as having a lower social status than they actually have. For example, a man with a briefcase, wearing a suit and tie is — Mr Biden would probably assume — a clerk of some sort. When in fact the man might be a lawyer.

It’s a case of intuitive profiling based on the life experience; error-prone, because the times a-changin’.

139

Callum 09.08.20 at 11:27 am

Chetan, I’ve never heard of sealioning before, I certainly was not doing it intentionally.

notgoodenough @133 I actually find that really convincing. It certainly seems desirable for intersectional anti-oppression movements to work and have a real impact. It so happens that I personally believe that focussing on ownership of capital is where the biggest changes will happen, but nothing follows from that about what other people are mobilising for, or the specific rhetoric they use.

140

engels 09.08.20 at 11:35 am

But it is very clear that the way you for example (and most others) use the term class in this comment forum is absolutely unrelated to Marxian class theory.

Er how is that clear? Most of my comments have been snarky one liners.

I have never heard an account of intersectionality that doesn’t at least include the three dimensions race, class and gender.

Try reading the paper where Crenshaw coined the term:

Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics

141

Callum 09.08.20 at 11:44 am

For what it’s worth I think part of my scepticism around the language of WP is that my perception of the leadership of the Democratic party is that it does not care at all about the issue of massive wealth inequality or class politics. The enthusiasm with which much of the left corporate media, Democratic establishment, and private sector have embraced the language of WP without hesitation has made me think hold-up, something isn’t right here.

But perhaps this is just a real case of everyone working for a good thing, rather than yet another way not to ignore underlying wealth inequalities. And I guess ‘the squad’ and Bernie are able to convincingly advocate for both these things simultaneously. This thread has changed my mind about something, how nice.

142

sean samis 09.08.20 at 1:01 pm

Kiwanda;

In my humble opinion; elimination of qualified immunity is necessary; hiring more women as cops; a federal registry of Bad Cops (like registries of sexual offenders); and response to calls by social workers and mental-health professionals instead of police would all be effective.

sean s.

143

engels 09.08.20 at 2:35 pm

So please refrain from lecturing me about “how socialists conceptualise class”, unless you are able to provide an actual Marxian class analysis of the topics discussed here.

This seems to translate as: don’t lecture me on Marxian class analysis and lecture me on Marxian class analysis. I’m a pretty obliging guy, TM, but I do draw the line at violating the law of non-contradiction.

144

nastywoman 09.09.20 at 7:00 am

@138
”When Mr Biden (or your doorman) see someone with a dark skin, he might misidentify them as having a lower social status than they actually have. For example, a man with a briefcase, wearing a suit and tie is — Mr Biden would probably assume — a clerk of some sort. When in fact the man might be a lawyer”.

That’s why – in our ”experiment” – we dressed the ”Whites” and ”Blacks” – who tried to enter ”Luxury” – very much alike – in order to make sure – if they got ”noticed” – they didn’t get noticed because because of the ”class” of their clothes or briefcases…

145

Tm 09.09.20 at 8:06 am

engels, according to Marxian class analysis, an upper middle class (“middle class” here referring really to a stratum, not a class) university professor and a Walmart shelf stacker are both working class. None of your comments or those of other “class reductionist” commenters here are consistent with the basic Marxian distinction. I made that same point more than a week ago (https://crookedtimber.org/2020/08/27/on-an-objection-to-the-idea-of-white-privilege/#comment-804214):

“The term class is mentioned close to 100 times in this thread but no attempt at an actual analysis. It seems that class only gets invoked for two purposes: to deflect debate from racism and sexism, and to discredit academics and intellectuals (who are alleged to be privileged by definition, “because education” (cf. 65 and 77 [referring to engels], also cf. Matt Taibbi and others)), thereby reproducing classic right-wing inti-intellectualism.”

I never got a response to this. I also got no response from callum to some obvious questions I asked him. (https://crookedtimber.org/2020/08/30/white-privilege-and-class-a-reply-to-chris-bertram-by-kenan-malik/#comment-804685) So there is one side in this debate that constantly invokes class and accuses the other side of ignoring or underplaying the importance of class. But they never give an account of their understanding of class, beyond vagueries and hand-waving. You can do what you like. You don’t have to “provide an actual Marxian class analysis of the topics discussed here”, it’s up to you. But why then should I take you seriously?

146

Tm 09.09.20 at 8:38 am

Of relevance:
https://www.vox.com/21418125/biden-harris-pelosi-defund-the-police-criminal-justice-reform-2020

“In terms of concrete policy proposals, the bulk of the platform’s policing agenda focuses on preventing officers from abusing their power and holding them accountable when they do. Drawing on the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020 — which received unanimous support among House Democrats but has since been stymied in the Senate — it proposes policies like reining in qualified immunity, banning chokeholds, developing stricter use-of-force standards, creating a national registry of officer misconduct, and limiting no-knock warrants.
It also outlines specific mechanisms for holding state and local departments accountable to these reforms, namely tying federal law enforcement funding to implementation of these measures and strengthening the Department of Justice’s ability to investigate police misconduct in individual departments (which can often result in concrete reforms). …

The 2020 platform specifically calls for “reorienting our public safety approach toward prevention and away from over-policing” in order to “prevent law enforcement from becoming unnecessarily entangled in the everyday lives of Americans.”

Democrats propose two ways of doing this: First, by decriminalizing marijuana use and diverting those struggling with substance abuse away from the criminal justice system and into treatment-based interventions. Second, by investing more resources into underserved communities to prevent the problems typically associated with law enforcement from arising in the first place.”

147

notGoodenough 09.09.20 at 9:29 am

Callum @ 139

Thank you for your kind comment. While I can be a bit irritable and frustrated (and, no doubt, frustrating) at times, I do genuinely want to try and have productive conversations where people aren´t talking past each other (although I don´t always succeed, as I am far from the best communicator).

These are topics which people are passionate about, and rightly so. And naturally tempers will flare, and sometimes ungenerous readings of each other will happen. Sometimes it is good to take a step back, and remember that mostly people are on – broadly speaking – the same side. I´ve found some of the comments here a bit tiresome and offensive, but I do try to remember that we can all feel a bit on edge – particularly given how frustrating and horrifying this last [year/years/decade/bicentennial/delete as applicable] has been.

It is quite possible that some people will use the issue of racial oppression as an excuse not to address other forms of inequality – though I suspect if it wasn´t race, it would be something else. But there are passionate advocates of an intersectional approach – and certainly I see no necessary conflict between focussing on race/gender/environment/etc. and addressing underlying class and wealth inequality.

My perspective, for what it is worth, is that we have to all work together, and that it is going to be a slow and painful process. I don´t want to comment too much on the US situation (as a non-USian I find it equal parts baffling and horrifying), but it seems there are some passionate people starting to find their way into the arenas. And while I doubt any single person will make much difference, it will at least help slow societal decline – and by pushing more and more people, and advancing more and more changes, I think it will show people it can be done – and when there is momentum is when significant changes happen.

I come from a long line of leftwing activists – one of my grandparents was one of the first union organisers in London (Anglo-Irish Marxist Socialism is a pretty powerful motivating force!), and although my own contributions in such areas are small I am quite passionate about fighting all forms of oppression (though, as I say, I have my own focus).

I doubt there will be a “just” society in my lifetime. It may never happen. But although societies may be unjust, some are more so than others (and sometimes in different ways). Incremental improvements are still improvements – and a better society is always worth fighting for, even if it is a bit like fighting a hydra.

I doubt I´ll make much more contribution to this thread (I risk boring people by repeating the same points!), but I would like to thank you for your courtesy, and for taking the time to read what I´ve said – I think even if we all may disagree in some ways, it is good to take the time to consider each other´s views. Certainly I appreciate it when people consider what I´ve said, and offer a response – even if it is only to discuss where we might disagree – as I can be (and often am) wrong about things (and I appreciate thoughtful correction and discourse).

Even if we do disagree (though I don´t think I have to any significant extent), it is important to support each other in the fight against oppression and injustice. I believe “Workers of the world, unite” is good advice, even in these days – for surely it is only through unity that we will make any lasting change?

Un salud,

148

engels 09.09.20 at 9:48 am

engels, according to Marxian class analysis, an upper middle class (“middle class” here referring really to a stratum, not a class) university professor and a Walmart shelf stacker are both working class

Did it ever occur to you that you don’t really know what you’re talking about?

149

Tm 09.09.20 at 10:47 am

engels 140: Crenshaw is a legal scholar and her 1989 paper is concerned with discrimination law. This doesn’t preclude activists using the term intersectionality in a broader sense than that used in her strictly legal argument. But observe that the paper is concerned with employment discrimination (https://www.vox.com/the-highlight/2019/5/20/18542843/intersectionality-conservatism-law-race-gender-discrimination). The black women at the heart of her argument are working class women who have suffered from emplyoment discrimination. The question of class is implicit in that discrimination. If you took Marxist class analysis seriously, that should be obvious to you.

150

Callum 09.09.20 at 11:02 am

TM, Apologies I didn’t reply, it was a lot of different questions and I didn’t think the thread would benefit from my personal views on them. What I was trying to do in that comment was frame the disagreement more starkly in an attempt to create better understanding of where each side is coming from in response to what I thought was a good observation from Richard (who is on ‘your side’, so to speak). I think I occupy a more nuanced somewhere in between the two framings I gave.

For what it is worth:

Wow, that statement does sound class reductionist! Which is it, exacerbated or caused? [sometimes both, sometimes just one] And what is the “underlying economic inequality”, the one between rich and poor, the one between white and black, between men and women? [wealth inequality] Or is that all the same? [they overlap in complicated ways] Do you mean to suggest that racism and sexism mostly affect the lower class? [no] Are mostly perpetrated by lower class people? [no] That they shouldn’t distract from class struggle and will go away on their own after the revolution? [no]

151

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.09.20 at 4:34 pm

@144,
Doormen are supposed to sense and identify people who are likely to cause troubles. Again, it’s intuitive profiling. What you look like is part of it for sure, but how you behave is probably far more important. It’s like the customs agents, or security at Ben Gurion airport. They sense your anxiety, like a lie detector.

This reminds me of something Viktor Pelevin wrote in Generation “P” (although that probably was mostly a joke). Here it is:
While he was working in the kiosk (it went on for a little less than a year), Tatarsky acquired two new qualities. The first was a cynicism as boundless as the view from the Ostankino television tower; the second was something quite remarkable and inexplicable. Tatarsky only had to glance at a customer’s hands to know whether he could short-change him and by exactly how much, whether he could be insulting to him, whether there was any likelihood of being passed a false banknote and whether he could pass on a false note himself. There was no definite system involved in all this. Sometimes a fist like a hairy water-melon would appear in the little window, but it was obvious that Tatarsky could quite safely send its owner to hell and beyond. Then sometimes Tatarsky’s heart would skip a beat in fright at the sight of a slim female hand with manicured nails.

152

notGoodenough 09.09.20 at 8:13 pm

Argumentum ad hominem is a term that refers to several types of arguments, most of which are fallacious.

Typically this term refers to a rhetorical strategy where the speaker attacks the character, motive, or some other attribute of the person making an argument rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

For example, if someone says “my understanding of X is Y, because of reasons A, B, and C” and the response is “you just don’t know anything about X” without ever addressing the argument or justifying the response.

This avoids genuine debate by creating a diversion to some irrelevant but often highly charged issue. While comments regarding attributes of a person may be useful if it is relevant to the point, where it is not this represents a logical fallacay.

Ad hominem fallacies are considered to be uncivil and do not help creating a constructive atmosphere for dialogue to flourish.

153

notGoodenough 09.09.20 at 8:30 pm

“Quod grātīs asseritur, grātīs negātur”

154

engels 09.09.20 at 8:54 pm

TM 132: I have never heard an account of intersectionality that doesn’t at least include the three dimensions race, class and gender.

Screeching goalposts

TM 149: This [analysis in terms of race and gender] doesn’t preclude activists using the term intersectionality in a broader sense…

155

J-D 09.10.20 at 12:27 am

They sense your anxiety, like a lie detector.

Does ‘like a lie detector’ mean ‘like a lie detector, it doesn’t work’?

156

Tm 09.10.20 at 8:14 am

Nothing of substance is forthcoming from the “class reductionist” side. Big surprise.

Callum thanks for explicit answers but they are … vague. “racism and misogyny(?) are social pathologies that are [sometimes] significantly exacerbated and [sometimes] even caused by underlying [wealth inequality]”? And what does that mean for the struggle?

157

engels 09.10.20 at 10:23 am

Nothing of substance is forthcoming from the “class reductionist” side. Big surprise

You mean you often get this reaction? I wonder why.

158

nastywoman 09.10.20 at 10:53 am

@151
”This reminds me of something Viktor Pelevin wrote in Generation “P” (although that probably was mostly a joke)

Ahhh – I loves jokes!

So – joking back:
Did Tatarsky ever see a BLACK or BROWN hand –
or only ”white” ones?

And if Tatarsky never had seen a BLACK or BROWN hand – do you realise how… hilarious your quote – truly – IS?

159

Callum 09.10.20 at 11:52 am

@Tm

It would mean that for the general cause of social justice focussing on fixing wealth inequality generally should be the highest priority. But as I’ve said on this thread(?), I’m not sure we need to rank order the lefts political priorities so that they have to compete with one another for attention, I thought that notGoodenough painted an attractive picture of why we should do all of the above. So what I think is more important/impactful is a matter of personal preference rather than some claim about ranking the absolute importance of the different items on the left’s agenda, in fact having different groups with different priorities is probably a good thing. I’m not terribly good at debating to reach firm conclusions, slightly disorganised exploratory comments are more my style, which might go some way to explaining why I have the feeling we’re talking past one another a little (I’m not sure if you have that feeling too).

@notGoodenough thanks for your thoughtful comment, it’s definitely making me think a little more expansively. Your background sounds a lot more exciting than mine in terms of political involvement. My family are all relatively apolitical working class or professional types up until me, so I’m an outlier, so to speak. “Anglo-Irish Marxist Socialism” sounds like a great energy to be around, I recently re-read the first chapters of Gerry Cohen’s “If you’re an egalitarian” where he discusses his own background and I imagine growing up in a socialist politically minded environment must be very cool. I picture a lot of cigarette smoke, intergenerational mirth, and opinionated table thumping… Re just societies in our lifetimes, it would be nice to see the progress of some sort of organised movement with a strategy, regardless of where it gets too in our lifetimes, and that seems possible. Thanks!

160

Richard A Melvin 09.10.20 at 1:42 pm

Back in 1949 the black communist Paul Robeson gave a speech in Paris in which he said (per wiki):

We in America do not forget that it was the backs of white workers from Europe and on the backs of millions of blacks that the wealth of America was built. And we are resolved to share it equally. We reject any hysterical raving that urges us to make war on anyone. Our will to fight for peace is strong…

Person’s unknown, presumably the FBI or some such, changed that to:

We colonial peoples have contributed to the building of the United States and are determined to share its wealth. We denounce the policy of the United States government which is similar to Hitler and Goebbels….

Those historically unknown actors would have had a reason to make that change.

Society is complex, confusing and politically controversial, with ambiguous boundaries, anomalies, and exceptions. Any description of it that entirely loses those aspects can be dismissed as obviously wrong.

And what does that mean for the struggle?

It means that if you fail to understand them, you fail to understand what the struggle is about, what the stakes are, and what can be done. You might even be wrong as to which side you are actually helping. Politics is not easy.

The Fox News version of the narrative of ‘white privilege’ is close to the core of the reasons why those who voted for Trump choose to do so. It has been argued here a bunch as to whether it is the #1 or #2 reason; the point is it is unarguably up there.

No-one can predict the future. But publicly pushing that narrative, in the belief it is so obviously wrong no-one would actually act on it, does seem perhaps unwise.

161

sean samis 09.10.20 at 3:16 pm

Richard A Melvin, well said.

sean s.

162

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.10.20 at 3:31 pm

“And if Tatarsky never had seen a BLACK or BROWN hand – do you realise how… hilarious your quote – truly – IS?”

No. What difference does it make? You feel “BLACK or BROWN” hands are different somehow?

163

Tm 09.10.20 at 4:16 pm

engels: yes, in fact this is not the first time I have encountered the phenomenon of people on the internet claiming to be socialists or anticapitalists or Marxists spouting pseudoradical rhetoric without substance.

Callum: to answer your question, yes.

Richard Melvin: “Politics is not easy.” Well yes. The rest of your comment I’m afraid is inscrutable.

164

J-D 09.11.20 at 1:35 am

The Fox News version of the narrative of ‘white privilege’ is close to the core of the reasons why those who voted for Trump choose to do so. It has been argued here a bunch as to whether it is the #1 or #2 reason; the point is it is unarguably up there.

No-one can predict the future. But publicly pushing that narrative, in the belief it is so obviously wrong no-one would actually act on it, does seem perhaps unwise.

It’s not clear what you mean by ‘The Fox News version of the narrative of “white privilege”‘.

165

engels 09.11.20 at 1:55 am

engels: yes, in fact this is not the first time I have encountered the phenomenon of people on the internet claiming to be socialists or anticapitalists or Marxists spouting pseudoradical rhetoric without substance.

And what, pray, have I been “spouting” that you regard as “pseudoradical” and unmarxist?

166

nastywoman 09.11.20 at 3:40 am

@162
”You feel “BLACK or BROWN” hands are different somehow?”

Unmarked categories.

167

lurker 09.11.20 at 6:45 am

@151, 162
It’s a Russian novel, and in Russian, ‘black’ is a slur for an immigrant from Caucasia or Central Asia, not a neutral word for people from Africa or the African diaspora.
In the quoted passage, ‘a fist like a hairy watermelon’ feels suggestive: hairiness, association with water-melons, low social status. Not Black in the American English sense, but perhaps black in the Russian sense.

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