Tag: ethnic minorities

Subtle Subtext

“The implications are bizarre.”

That’s certainly true.

But what are we talking about? Perhaps the fact that the president of the United States doesn’t know basic facts about American history? Or that millions of Americans still believe climate change is a nefarious liberal plot? Or that Eric Thames in leading the league in homeruns?

No, we’re talking about a recent study that concluded racism motivated Trump voters more than just about any other factor.

This study has jolted those Americans — whether liberal or conservative — who insist that racism is dead, and that Trump won simply because of his brash tough talk or pro-business views or patriotic fervor or blah blah blah.

The immediate rebuttal to the study’s damning assertion is that Trump’s predecessor was a certain African American gentleman, whom you may remember fondly. So how could a nation of racists have elected Obama in the first place?

 

Well, here are some theories that explain that apparent contradiction:

First, the report implied that “a lot of racially bigoted people were willing to vote for Obama [but] flocked to Trump when he made ‘political incorrectness’ central to his pitch.” Basically, many former Obama voters aren’t overt racists, and may not even be aware that they harbor negative feelings about ethnic minorities. But once someone gave them psychological cover for their negative perceptions, they could justify pulling the lever for a guy who was endorsed by the KKK, without thinking that they were bad people. Yes, this is a spinoff of the old (and increasingly pathetic) defense of “I’m not racist. I’m just not PC.”

These voters who got mindfucked had their deeply buried prejudice activated when a candidate — say, an egomaniacal sociopath — reinforced their racism. There are various ways of doing this, mostly of the dog-whistle variety. But the gist is that “if you want a racist’s vote, you have to make an appeal directly to their racism. Without it, he or she just might vote for a racial minority.”

A second factor is moral licensing. This is a fancy term for a psychological self-defense mechanism where “any act and any thought that you consider to be ‘good’ can license a subsequent ‘bad’ behavior because we feel that we deserve a reward for being so righteous.” For example, if we voted for Obama, we may feel that this is proof that we are not prejudiced. It therefore gives us a moral license — a sort of free pass — to be bigoted in the near future.

Moral licensing is our psyche’s way of saying, “Look, you voted for the black guy. That gets you off the hook. Go ahead and put that Trump sign on your lawn.”

A third reason why some Obama voters switched to Trump is the discomfort many white Americans feel over the nation’s cultural changes. A decade ago, white people were just starting to feel their decline. But by 2016 — with the opioid crisis in full swing and a black guy calling the shots and more Latinos popping up on television — it was undeniable that the good old days were over for white people.

During the Obama era, push very quickly came to shove for white people, who saw their numbers dwindle and their power slip (albeit slightly). This was enough for many white Americans to declare that enough was enough. After all, it was one thing for ethnic minorities to make some progress, but it was another to see so many dark-hued people doing better than they were. Indeed, “the achievements of black Americans, those who have become CEOs, scholars, scientists, artists, doctors, lawyers and politicians—and now even president—have fueled the resurgence of intolerance and anti-immigrant sentiment.”

In other words, many white Americans sincerely didn’t believe that blacks and Latinos, by gaining just a modicum of cultural and political power, would actually do that much better. It was alarming, and it provoked them to call for taking their country back and making America great again and otherwise returning to a glorious past where ethnic minorities knew their place.

Finally, there is the fact that Obama’s election in the first place was — and this is disturbing to admit — a bit of a fluke. After all, in our nation’s history, no other ethnic minority has even gotten close to being a major-party nominee. And it must be acknowledged that Obama’s first campaign in 2008 came amidst an economic meltdown and the waning days of a Republican president widely regarded to be an incompetent frat boy. In other words, one reason that Obama won in the first place was because shit was so horrible that the country was willing to take a chance on a black man. Eight years later, with the worse over but vague dissatisfaction lingering over Obama’s “socialism,” it was much more acceptable to embrace white nationalism.

So there you have four pretty good reasons why many bigots voted for Obama but then switched to Trump. And these handful of closeted racists were enough to decide the election.

And how will they vote in 2020, when their savior, the Orange One, fails to improve their lives and make all the minorities go away?

That’s an excellent question.

 


Bursting

Because we’re all fond of metaphors, let’s conjure up an image of America as if it were a person.

In this scenario, we see that — like everyone — America has her virtues and her flaws, her good days and her bad days. Lately, America has nursed the nagging suspicion that she’s past her prime, but she’s not giving up just yet.

All she has to do is lose ten pounds, give up smoking, and… what was that last thing? Oh yeah, end widespread and systematic racism that disenfranchises millions of ethnic minorities.

But what happens when America — or any person — tries to change a bad habit?

Well, contrary to popular belief, negative behaviors usually don’t fade away. They put up a fight, and then they either die out forever or (more likely) come roaring back with a vengeance.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to give up devouring that daily tub of ice cream. You might go weeks without so much as a spoonful of Chunky Monkey. But then you allow yourself a taste of Cherry Garcia. Bam — your “diet ends in a catastrophic binge, and you look at the empty containers and ask, ‘What the hell. How did my smooth transition from comfort food to human dumpster happen?’”

That’s an extinction burst, which is “a predictable and common blast of defiance from the recesses of a brain denied familiar rewards.”

Basically, an extinction burst is your brain’s last-ditch effort to return you to your old ways. It happens, weirdly enough, when you are closest to your goal.

Your mind is saying, “Shit, this behavior might actually take root. Time to panic.” And you pig out, or smoke three packs one after another, or binge watch nine hours of porn, or indulge in whatever behavior you are trying to banish.

And you were so close… and doing so well… sigh.

Well, you can see how this relates to our metaphor of America, the person.

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No, We Don’t All Need to Get Along

Good intentions abound. That’s the only reason people still embrace misguided ideas like “colorblind society,” despite the powerfully negative connotations that such phrases conjure up.

The latest nicey-nicey concept I’ve encountered (and no doubt you have as well) is the absurd notion that, for America to succeed, we need to put aside our differences. In essence, we all need to get along.

Where in the hell did this strange idea come from?

For the overwhelming majority of American history, we have not all gotten along.

For example, Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t say, “let’s be pals” when they were hashing out what kind of government we should have. They had more important things to do.

Even during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, America’s many slaves weren’t feeling the love and joining in group hugs.

Speaking of slavery, America didn’t even reach its centennial before we started shooting at each other over that touchy topic. And it was another century of violence and antagonism before the government said, “Maybe we should be nicer to ethnic minorities.” At no point in that process did we all get along.

Yes, one could argue that the country was united during World War II, but even in that case, all it took to bind us together was a global conflagration where millions of people died and the very survival of democracy was in question. In other words… good times.

More recently, we’ve come to blows over Vietnam and Iraq, over abortion and affirmative action, over gay rights and healthcare.

So when was this mythical time when Americans were of one mind? And why does anyone think this is a necessary condition in order for the country to thrive? Obviously, we’ve found a way to work around our internecine loathing.

The truth is that a nation as vast as ours — with its myriad subcultures, each enjoying a large degree of freedom — is never going to be truly united. To believe otherwise is to embrace the thinking of a child.

However, this Kumbaya concept is more than a pathetic pipe dream. It features an insidious aspect snaking below the surface.

We see this in the earnest pleas, even demands, for liberals to shut up and support Trump. Of course, conservatives would like nothing better than for progressives to give Trump a chance (which many liberals, inexplicably, are quite willing to do).

But why would leftists agree to a right-wing agenda that goes against every principle we have, and that could lead America into chaos? Apparently, we should do so out of blind patriotism and for the sake of the vague, abstract concept of “unity.”

According to this idea, striving to be friends supersedes the threat of decimating the country.

“Yes, thousands of people are dead now because Obamacare was repealed, but at least we’re all getting along, and that’s the most important thing. Yup.”

This is clearly insane.

And aside from the specifics of the current era — where a wannabe fascist seeks to make the nation great again for white supremacists — the fact remains that striving for unity at all costs is spectacularly naïve, even destructive.

The US Constitution is the result of Founding Fathers threatening to duel each other to the death. Slavery was abolished through warfare. Civil rights came only after decades of people refusing to back down, and not settling for getting along.

One of the virtues/flaws of American culture is our hyper-competitiveness. As such, one idea or principle usually emerges triumphant. Sometimes it’s a good idea… and sometimes it’s not. Still, as we know, the moral arc is long but bends toward justice (at least we hope it does).

However, progress is delayed even more when we smile and act polite in the face of idiocy or fanaticism or demagoguery. And there is no need to do so.

Because we have never all gotten along.

And we never will.

 

 


All an Act

Yes, it’s a unique issue for ethnic minorities. Questions about authenticity hound, pester, poke, and prod us.

You see, many of us constantly face accusations of whether we are Latino enough, or black enough, or truly Asian, or a real Native American. I’m pretty sure nobody ever asks if someone is white enough… unless of course, there is an Aryan Nations initiation rite going on.

For nerdy ethnic minorities, the problem can be even more pressing. After all, we know full well that African American students who academically excel are ostracized for “acting white” — right?

Well, it turns out that we don’t know that.

A recent study has debunked this myth, showing “there’s no research that explicitly supports a relationship between race, beliefs about ‘acting white,’ social stigma, and academic outcomes.”

In fact, “studies suggest that the highest-achieving black students are actually more popular than the lowest-achieving ones” and that “black students have more positive attitudes about education than white students.”

Well, that’s a plot twist.

Now, the study didn’t examine whether Latino students are mocked for “acting white” if they get good grades. However, from my personal experience, I can answer this question.

And the answer is…

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A Grim Start

Well, here we are in 2017, and a new era of hope and peace and love and…

What’s that?

The cycle of hatred that crescendo in 2016 continues to careen onward, claiming new victims in ghastly ways?

Yes, scratch that opening line.

We are not even a week into the new year, and we have a fresh horrific example of humankind’s malevolence, courtesy of Chicago.

That’s where some Trump-hating teenagers assaulted a man, live on Facebook, while yelling slurs about white people.

I’m not going to show the video because, frankly, there’s too much violence porn out there already.

But I will point out that conservatives have responded with a certain sort of glee, thrilled to finally have some evidence that ethnic minorities are beating up on white people. And liberals have responded with outrage tinged with defensiveness.

I’m not going to get into all that, primarily because it should be perfectly clear that everyone — regardless of political affiliation or ethnicity — is repulsed by these acts. So there is no need to state the obvious about how grotesque these morons are. It’s like denouncing the Ebola virus.

Instead, I just want to point out that hatred feeds upon itself, and it is a base universality of human nature that many people will use the fact that they are being oppressed as perverse justification for their sick abuse of others.

It is Orwell’s vision of the future: Imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.

Happy New Year…


Quack Quack

Among the stranger aspects of this bizarre election season is the tendency of Donald Trump supporters to insist that their candidate is not racist. The hyper-defensiveness goes something like this:

When he referred to Mexicans as rapists, he didn’t specifically say, “all Mexicans,” so it’s ok. Right?

And building that wall isn’t xenophobic. It’s a practical way to keep out all those immigrants… I mean, illegal immigrants… wait, I mean, undocumented people… he’s got nothing against immigrants. And neither do I. Ha ha ha.

Banning Muslims would just be temporary. That’s key. And not bigoted at all. Nope.

OK, he wasn’t the quickest about disavowing the KKK, but we’ve all been there… I mean, he said they were bad guys… eventually… after being criticized for days… but yeah, he did it.

And all those unfortunate cracks about “the blacks”… well, he meant, um… Hey, you’re just being PC!

And so it goes. La la la la, not listening to you.

hands-on-ears

 

Oddly enough, liberals seem to have no problem identifying Trump’s many prejudiced remarks. And Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are pretty clear on the fact that the guy is a racist.

On the other end of the spectrum, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are lining up to endorse the GOP nominee. They also appear to have no illusions about where Trump stands on race relations.

Only two groups of people seem baffled about this issue. First, there are moderate conservatives who are struggling to maintain their fiction that racism is dead in America (and who are also striving to justify their votes for a blatant bigot). And there are stray ethnic minorities who explain away or ignore the obvious for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend (although I presume some self-loathing is involved).

Let’s be clear about this. The truth is that if you support Trump, you are aware on some level that the guy has tremendous hostility toward anyone who isn’t a white straight man. And as you stand in that voting booth, sweating through your rationalizations, you will be saying that you are fine with that.

Remember, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a megalomaniacal billionaire pushing a racist agenda.

 


The End of All the Horribleness?

If there is one thing that the candidacy of Donald Trump has taught us, it is to never count him — or his followers — out.

The man emerged as a joke candidate last summer, who was supposed to have collapsed into his own hubris by August… or October… or Christmas at the latest… but certainly no later than spring 2016… right?

Well, despite recent troubled times for his campaign, Trump is still the unquestioned frontrunner for the GOP nomination.

Therefore, we must be skeptical of the latest analysis that “without an extraordinary reversal — or the total collapse of whoever becomes his general-election opponent — Mr. Trump could be hard-pressed to win more than 200 of the 270 electoral votes required to win.”

However, let’s assume that sanity will finally grip the American people, and they will decline to elect a megalomaniacal racist with misogynistic tendencies who has no idea of how the government actually works.

Whew — that was a close one!

But then we will have to confront another issue, which is “where will all that anger, which has been slowly building among America’s white working class for half a century, go once it is left without a viable political outlet?”

It’s a valid question, and one that has led some commentators to theorize that “we may already be getting a chilling preview of a possible post-Trump future in the spasms of seemingly random gun violence” and that we may be forced to endure “a flood of white violence and anger” starting in 2017.

skinheads

OK, that doesn’t sound so good.

Unfortunately, it’s also quite possible. As we know, Trump rallies are to violence what Taco Bell is to college students with late-night munchies.

And when it comes to guns, studies show that “racial prejudice influences white opinion regarding gun regulation,” implying that bigoted people are more likely to be carrying.

So will we see hordes of angry racists strolling around cities, taking shots at ethnic minorities?

Maybe, but probably not.

You see, another possibility — the far more optimistic one — is that we are witnessing the final pathetic spasms of overt bigotry in American life, or at least prejudice on a grand scale.

Yes, racism will always be with us. Trump losing isn’t going to make it magically disappear.

But I’m talking about the death of right-wing demagoguery that baldly appeals to Americans’ worst natures. After Trump’s expected flameout, will any other candidate seize upon the man’s failed ploy to inflame racial tensions? More likely, the GOP will finally listen to the advice of political experts who point out that the infamous Southern Strategy has reached the end of its obnoxious lifespan.

With the GOP of 2020 playing nice, right-wingers may finally realize that the game is over, and that all their efforts to “take America back” are futile.

Once they see they are outnumbered and cannot win elections against moderates and those damn liberals, they may finally give up and accept a changed America, albeit with an angry and sullen fury that makes teenage girls seem like calm and rational debaters. Reduced to a dwindling demographic of cranky elderly people who miss the good old days, they will, with each passing year and each fresh batch of multiethnic babies, become less relevant, to the point of political and cultural impotence.

It bears repeating, of course, that most of Trump’s supporters aren’t racists. But the man’s appeal to white supremacists is undeniable, as is his connection to Americans who have issues with blacks… and Latinos… and Muslims… and a few others.

It is those individuals, the proudly prejudiced and the so-called politically incorrect, who will pack up their Make America Great Again signs and whimper off into oblivion.

Well, that’s the hope, anyway.

 


Fading Into Insignificance

This weekend, Chris Rock will host the Oscars, during which he will — maybe, possibly, in all likelihood — address the fact that the last 40 acting nominees have all been white. He may also mention that the track record of behind-the-scenes nominees (e.g., writers, cinematographers, and so on) is even more dismal.

Now, many people have hyperanalyzed the reasons why the Oscars are so white, and why the film industry lags behind other art forms in projecting America as it actually exists, and whether or not this is all a misunderstanding or deeply ingrained racism.

I’m not going to recap all the backlashes and counter-backlashes that this mess has conjured up. But I do want to point out one very telling, almost universally ignored aspect of this controversy.

BRENTWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24: Nate Sanders displays the collection of Oscar statuettes that his auction company will sell online to the highest bidder on February 24, 2012 in Brentwood, California. (Photo by Toby Canham/Getty Images)

 

You see, the Academy has announced that it is changing the rules, and eliminating people who are no longer active in the film industry from its roster of voters.

This has predictably riled up those long-time Academy members who are in the twilight of their lives, many of whom are crying, “Ageism!” They may have a point.

But what I find interesting is that, in the reasons and justifications for their opposition to this rule change, more than one Academy member has said that it is unfair to ethnic minorities. As many commentators have noted, “if there’s a black Academy member out there who agrees, please do get in touch.” And yet, many people still embrace the idea that altering the status quo to increase diversity is actually a bigoted response.

What does this tell us?

Well, for starters, it shows once again that people who are accused of being racists will often turn around and shout that their opponents are the real racists. It’s a nifty bit of swift-boating.

It also reveals that acknowledging an institution’s biases — and by extension the touchy topic of white privilege — causes people to freak the fuck out and get more than a little defensive.

But more than anything, it serves as direct evidence that white people in positions of privilege, such as rich Hollywood types, feel that they can pontificate on any issue and shout down any viewpoint different from their own.

Think about it. Here you have a wealthy white person deciding what is and isn’t fair to ethnic minorities. He or she isn’t concerned with whether or not ethnic minorities perceive it that way. Privileged individuals are used to having their voices heard, so why should this subject be any different?

In this way, they prove, unintentionally of course, that there really is a racial problem in Hollywood. After all, this is a case of rich white people saying, “There, there, all you struggling blacks and Latinos. We’ve decided that your proposed solution is actually harmful to you, and in our great magnanimity we’re going to fight against it — for all of you, of course.”

It doesn’t get any more arrogant.

 

 


Not Exactly a Golden Age

So here’s a question: Are you among the half of Americans (49 percent, to be precise) who say racism is “a big problem” in society today?

I know I am.

And I also know that I would prefer to be among the 7 percent of Americans who say racism is “not a problem at all.” When referring to those people, I speak for the rest of us when I say, “I’ll have what they’re having,” because they clearly possess some serious alcohol.

Drunk-guy

The recent survey revealed that prejudice and bigotry remain societal ills, and “in every demographic group surveyed, there are increasing percentages of people who say racism is a big problem — and majorities say that racial tensions are on the rise.”

The percentage of Americans who feel this way is higher than it was 20 years ago, when 41 percent said racism was a big problem. As recently as 2011, that percentage was down to 28 percent, suggesting a rebound effect, or perhaps racial good feelings simply plateaued a few years back.

Of course, Americans may agree that racism is worse, but as the report states, they often “disagree profoundly on who the targets and victims are.”

Ethnic minorities have historically been the objects of racial prejudice. However, white Americans often feel that they are being discriminated against, a perplexing development that, according to the report, can be traced to “simmering rage fueled by the backlash of Obama’s election, the economic struggles of lower- and middle-income whites, and demographic shifts across the country.”

Because of this, the report says, “latent racism is becoming more open, because a lot of people are feeling threatened.”

Now to be clear, most white Americans do not feel that they are the targets of racial scorn. In fact, just 43 percent of white people say racism is a huge concern.

But 64 percent of my fellow Latinos say racism is a big problem, slightly less than the 66 percent of blacks who say the same thing.

Those numbers should tell you all you need to know about how race is perceived in America.

So is there hope for the future? Well, supposedly, the Millennials were going to eliminate racism once and for all because they’re all, you know, ethnically mixed and down with diversity and come from multiracial families, and are in general far hipper than Gen X or the Baby Boomers could ever dream of being.

Um…but another recent study showed that “despite the Millennial reputation for inclusiveness, young white Americans don’t have especially multicultural friend groups.” In fact, two-thirds (68 percent) of whites age 18-34 say, “they overwhelmingly associate with other whites.”

By the way, the same is true of just 37 percent of Millennial Hispanics and 36 percent of Millennial blacks.

So this might take a while.

 


Nice Try

So for two years in a row, the top individual prize in the entertainment pantheon — the Oscar for best director — has gone to a Latino.

birdman

That’s great. And Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu took time in his speech to give a shout out to immigrants, which was classy.

But of course, much of González Iñárritu’s triumph was overshadowed by a truly tone-deaf chiste from that master of humor, Sean Penn (as an aside, is there any artist who is more respected but less liked than this guy?).

Now, González Iñárritu has pointed out that Penn’s comment was an inside joke between friends. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, then, and say that Penn isn’t a straight-up racist.

But perhaps inside jokes aren’t a very good idea when millions of people across the planet are watching. And maybe tossing racial jabs isn’t very bright when you’re representing an organization that is hypersensitive about its horrible record on diversity.

All Penn’s joke did was make every white liberal in the audience uncomfortable, confirm the bias that many ethnic minorities believe lurks within the system, and “underscore the problem the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences has been trying desperately to disprove.” Namely, that the Academy has a racial issue.

The stunning lack of diversity in the entertainment industry is a well-known facet of American culture, and I’ve written about it more than once.

And it is not, as many right-wingers seem to think, just blacks and Latinos clamoring for jobs they haven’t earned. It’s about equal access and opportunity. One could argue this is all that any fight over civil rights is, at its core.

But when it comes to the entertainment industry, specifically, it is about something more. As González Iñárritu has proved, different perspectives lead to new ideas and new stories. It is essential for any art form that, to remain relevant, it continue to grow.

And to be blunt, there are only so many more movies that we can take about an upper-class white family gathering together for a funeral/wedding, or a white guy’s attempt to bond with his elderly and uncommunicative dad, or the adventures of white prep-school kids coming of age.

We want something else.

 


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