Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Race (whites are still winning)

Recently a friend of mine suggested the only topics I haven't addressed are racism and sexism.
As it happens, I did write on sexism not long ago ("...feminism is nothing more than the "radical" notion that women are people. Not that women are men. Not that women are capable of being men...Claiming that women are capable of doing anything men are is also the suggestion that men should be the standard by which people are measured.")
I had my own ideas of what to write about next, but in light of another recent conversation, it looks like he was right. Its time.

I have a few (white) friends who have complained to me on different occasions about how unfair it is that ...insert some random instance of perceived "reverse" racism here...
I am, perhaps, the friend that people can point to and say "I am not racist, some of my best friends are black", and being that friend apparently my word carries extra weight if I support them in their argument that 'such and such' is unfair.
(Never mind for now what it implies about me that such a disproportionate number of my friends are white...)

Well, first of all, you are racist. You, reading this right now. Just admit it. I'm not saying you don a white hood on the weekends, but in the very first fraction of a moment you see someone new, you make some assumptions about them based on what they look like, and skin color plays a factor in that. You may not ever act on it in any way. You might be totally willing to look past that initial assumption and give each person a fair chance to show who they really are. But it is part of how the human mind works to seek patterns, and living in our society it is impossible to not be at all racist. I know I am.
Some researchers at Harvard built a test to try to get at subconscious initial reactions, and put it online where you can try it.
If you are one of the exceptions, and score neutral, it really doesn't change anything overall. The issue is bigger than you; and the fact is that the majority of people make the same assumptions we expect. And so long as its true in society as a whole, every white individual in the country directly benefits from it.

A most simple example of what some could see as unfair is Affirmative Action.
When I was younger I saw it as just that. If we want to get past racism, we shouldn't be using race as a criteria, for anyone.
Thing is, pretending that there is equality doesn't make it true.
To call affirmative action (or whatever else) reverse racism is to ignore both history and the reality of today. Being color blind does not, can not, will never, solve existing problems, because we aren't starting from neutral.

First of all (and I wrote about this years ago, but before I had any significant readership...) reparations were never paid. This country has virtually unrestricted inheritance.
(I thought about trying to summarize, but I actually wrote pretty much exactly what I wanted to say here back then. So take a moment to read that one)

Prejudice against blacks by whites has affected a dozen generations of people, and continues to have an enormous effect on millions of people right now, today. If we start from right now, and eliminate all racism, it would STILL have an enormous effect on us, because the effects are inherited.

If someone in your ancestry immigrated more recently the same issue of a non-level playing field applies, because the US generally does not admit immigrants who can't show some level of existing financial security. One way or another, they aren't starting from zero.

So suppose your own parents were drunks or gamblers and you got nothing from your family but food and shelter, left home at 15, had to fund your own education.
You then might get the mistaken idea that you didn't have any advantages.

But the truth is, although you would never notice it, you have had plenty.

You can't tell by just watching individual situations. Because it is more subtle than that.
But you can tell by looking at the overall trends.

You can see society wide racism in the fact that a black person is 5-20% (depending on the offense) more likely to be sentenced to prison time as a white person for the same crime.
(Many studies attempt to account for this by factoring in prior sentences, but this is a circular argument. If you are more likely to be convicted the first time, obviously you are more likely to be convicted the 2nd time too)
Once convicted, Blacks face 10-15% longer prison time.
For drug offenses:

"African Americans make up approximately 12 percent of the population and are 13 percent of the drug users, yet they constitute 38 percent of all drug arrests and 59 percent of those convicted of drug offenses...Nationwide African American males sentenced in state courts on drug felonies receive prison sentences 52 percent of the time, while white males are sentenced to prison 34 percent of the time...When sentenced for drug offenses in state courts, whites serve an average of 27 months and blacks an average of 46 months" - Justice on Trial: Racial Disparities in the American Criminal Justice System, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Leadership Conference Education Fund, 2000

You can tell from college admission rates - with or without affirmative action

You can tell from the Black unemployment rate: consistently about twice the average for whites.
Or from the percentage of Black CEOs or congress people (1% of the Fortune 500 - the highest # ever; 40 out of 435 in congress and 1 out of 100 senators - these numbers in comparison to almost 14% of the general population.)

There are two ways to explain that difference. Either Black people as a whole actually are less capable and hard-working, or else the affects of society-wide racism are still as relevant today as they ever were.

If we can point to these examples and show statistically that, even accounting for individual intelligence and work ethic, Black people are overall at a disadvantage, another equally valid way to say the same thing is, all other things being equal, White people have an advantage.
Every college application. Every job interview. Every time you walk into a store. In that very first moment that someone takes a look at you, somewhere in the back of their mind is a prejudice in your favor. You will never notice it. You will have no way to know. But it's there.

Having a (half) Black president (who's African ancestry didn't descend from slavery but immigrated here) doesn't change anything of significance, so long as there is that fraction of a second of assumption that people make when they see someone new for the first time.

It's no different than if an Aboriginal American were to make some blanket statement about Americans taking the Indian's land. I am an American. I was born here. I worked for what I have now and am a generally good person. I never harmed an Indian American, never took anyone's land, never deliberately spread disease.
But the fact remains that every day I directly benefit from the people who did do those things.
I have no intention of giving up my own property or abandoning my home on the grounds that Oakland should rightfully be inhabited by Aboriginal Americans, but I certainly have no grounds to be indignant or self-righteous about the issue. As far as the actual effects go, I benefit just as much from Europeans having committed genocide against the people who lived here before them as someone directly descended from them. And merely by choosing to accept that benefit which I was born into, in a way, albeit small and indirect, I share in the responsibility for the fact that Aboriginal Americans today are by and large confined to reservations of land that no one else wanted, living largely in poverty.

We may not be directly at fault, but we are all complacent in receiving the benefits, which are at someone else's expense. So if an American Indian makes a blanket statement about Americans (which includes me) which may be technically unfair, all I can say is "your right, and I'm sorry". I have no counter-argument. I have nothing to complain about. I have no right to be indignant.

And so to, if someone makes a blanket statement such as "white people are racist" or "white people repress others", you don't get to be offended. You don't get to point out the logical flaws in generalizing. You don't get to call double standard or reverse racism.
It may be "unfair" that you are born into being seen as an oppressor, but it is even less fair that I have to prove myself just that much more than you do.
I have had friends "jokingly" say that I am not "really" Black, or not "that" Black because of how I talk and dress and act. Those same associations, those stereotypes, they are racism, even if they aren't inherently negative, and accepting any one association implies all the others to be valid. The fact that I can trace my own family lineage directly to American slavery on both sides of my family makes me Black. The fact that every time I meet someone new, for at least an instant they will make certain associations and therefor assumptions about me makes me Black.

Have I experienced racism first hand? Not overtly. It would be hard to know for sure, since the person it was coming from is likely not conscious of it. Chances are, not so much. All it takes is a few minuets of talking to me and I can dispel any stereotypes pretty thoroughly, make a case for myself as an exception even with someone who is generally (subconsciously) racist, and I live in a place where it being overt is unacceptable (I learned in my travels that this is far from universal in this country).
But the point is I shouldn't have to.
Between being thought of as an oppressor and actually being oppressed, you have the better end of the deal. So suck it up and get over it.

Being color blind is not a solution. It is a cop-out. Pretending that slavery didn't happen, that racism has not been an enormous factor, and just focusing on the basic equality of man will not do anything to change things. If you need to here everything logical and fair, take a logic class, or a justice class, or a love everybody class. If you don't want to hear people say white people are racist and that's a bad thing, don't take a racial studies class.

Is it unreasonable for people to make blanket statements? Yeah, of course it is. But focusing on it isn't much different from telling a holocaust survivor that some Nazis didn't hate Jews, or stopping a conversation about rape because of improper grammar.

I don't want to end without offending everyone equally, so now is as good a time as any for another rant I have.

This one is directed to Black Americans.
Stop acting like jackasses.
We have centuries worth of stereotypes to put behind us.
Don't deliberately jaywalk extra slow just to make people wait for you.
Don't evade the fare on the train.
Don't drink or smoke weed in pubic.
Don't play music on the bus. When is the last time you saw a white person playing a boom box in the back of the bus?
Don't get into fist fights. People tried to make the shooting of Oscar Grant by BART police into a race issue. There were no white people involved in fist fights on the train. If he wasn't fighting on a crowded train, he wouldn't have gotten shot. Simple as that.
I have a 400watt stereo system with a separate powered sub-woofer behind the seat. I like my music loud, and to roll around with my windows down and my system bump as much as anyone. But when you are in a residential neighborhood at 11pm, turn that shit down. What the hell is wrong with you?
Years of oppression and poverty don't change the basic rules of being a decent respectful human being.
Remember earlier when I pointed out I have to prove myself each time I meet someone new? That's not because of a legacy of slavery. That's because of you.
People build impressions based on what they see, and each time you act a fool, it makes us all look bad.
Its true that Blacks are given disproportionate prison sentences, but it is also true that Blacks commit a disproportionate amount of (non-drug-related) crime
So when there is a statistic like 35% of the prison population is Black or 1/3 of black males between 18-29 has been, is, or will be imprisoned, part of that is systemic racism, but part of it is Black people committing crimes. It seems it has become un-PC to say so.
That's not OK. No amount of history or social issues can excuse individual behavior.
Obviously this behavior is the minority of the Black population, (although it is, inherently, a very visible minority). But if it isn't you, chances are its your friends, or your children, a family member or neighbor. And if you don't say something, no one else will. The single best way to change the perception of us is to eliminate unfavorable associations at the source.

I think its actually pretty simple and straight forward. We just need to eliminate all forms of inheritance, standardize education from preschool through university for everyone, make all hiring blind, and change young Black culture to emphasize respect of others. Those 4 steps and all this will become a non-issue in no time.
And when that happens, then we can finally have a purely logical and intellectual discussion on the subject.


  1. I just discovered your blog and I really enjoyed this essay. In fact it was one of the most cogent and succinct I have ever read on the subject.

    There is one editorial correction I would suggest, though: when you wrote "complacent", you meant to write complicit. Not that we aren't complacent about our complicity, lol...

    I don't think that saying you are reaping the benefits of oppression is in order for you to feel guilty (so in fashion a generation ago) it is so that we will have a workable starting point from which to progress, to move beyond and rediscover our common humanity.

  2. My goodness, thank you!
    I had to look up "cogent" and "succinct" - which makes me feel somewhat like an impostor, writing essays with my junior college education augmented with internet research, but in a way that makes it all the more flattering (once I found out what your comment actually means)

    I also had to look up complacent and complicit, and I can definitely see how complicit would fit well into the context, I think complacent is actually slightly closer to what I mean. It is not so much an indirect action which supports the problem, its just being satisfied with how things are. The fact of benefiting indirectly does not imply any sort of responsibility. Its a subtle distinction.

    my intention isn't to produce guilt. Wouldn't serve any purpose. Its an unfortunate side-effect which I don't know how to get around while still being straight-forward. I think its important to be honest about the problem and its causes in order to do anything about it. I myself once advocated color-blindness, and I see it all too often among other good, intelligent people.
    In order to "have a workable starting point from which to progress", we need everything out on the table.
    That was well put.

    I look forward to your feedback in the future.
    (btw, if you weren't directed here from my own blog server, most of my writing is on (or linked from) www.biodieselhauling.org/blog
    This site is only recently started, and is specifically reserved for social commentary.)

  3. Yes, so impt to confront that we're all products of a racist, homophobic, sexist society. Also hoping the implicit bias test helps broaden the understanding of racism as unconscious. Regarding your last section, no doubt we as a society are not acknowledging our indiv responsibility to our family, our community, our world. But we all play a role in creating jackasses everyday--our choices to not care for each other, to withhold opportunities, to ostracize & criminalize breeds anti-social behavior. I do believe an individual has the responsibility to act non-jackass like, but just saying we all share in the burden. And as I'm sure you know, the crime stats are skewed. All folks may be committing crimes in a neighborhood, but it is the people of color that will be targetted for police intervention. And they will more likely die for their behavior--see Oscar Grant. From what you've written, I wouldn't say we're on different pages, just wanted to re-emphasize all of our accountability in the world we've created. Thanks for trying to do something about.

  4. oh, you know i'm putting up a counterpost

  5. Is affirmative action the best way to restore the balance to neutral? Are there more "fair" alternatives? (I'm playing a little bit of a devil's advocate role here.)

    Also - what you describe about people judging others based on appearance including skin color is what I call prejudice and which I have no problem with. Once these opinions start affecting how you act is when it's racism, which I do have a problem with.

  6. I have no idea what the best way to restore balance is (well, actually my suggestions at the end, though I acknowledge they aren't realistic). I would like to hear any and all suggestions. I used affirmative action as an example because that the one thing which has actually been put into practice.

    When orchestras began doing auditions with the candidate behind a screen, the number of women accepted increased 5 fold practically over night. http://www.nber.org/papers/w5903
    Was it because all conductors are misogynist? Of course not. Its because that subtle unconscious prejudice inevitably affects how people act, whether or not they are aware of it.

    Making judgments about situations, people, everything, is automatic, and I have no problem with it either. With out it we couldn't make predictions about the near future and couldn't function. The problem is when we hold on to those initial prejudices even in the face of new evidence (she may look to small and weak to play tuba, but her playing was actually amazing - that big black guy looks scary, but he is actually soft-spoken and shy).
    Anyway, I don't actually care about racism per-say, so much as the society wide effects of systemic repression which exists, and how to undo it - more specifically I was inspired by the idea of people advocating color-blindness as a way to avoid the guilt of admitting their own privilege. If caring, aware, liberal Bay Area dwellers don't admit there's a problem, we obviously have a long way to go

  7. @Michelle
    I totally agree, if a society systematically marginalizes a specific group, and in addition that group has chronic relative poverty, the expected result will be a higher crime rate and a lack of acceptance of the larger societies morals.
    This can be found in many repressed ethnic groups throughout history (the gypsies in Europe, for example).

    However, I draw a very hard distinction between a sociological view of a group and an actual individual person. It is one thing to explain behavioral trends, but individuals still have free will.
    I definitely acknowledge that the stats are likely to be somewhat skewed, but I don't think that alone accounts for the magnitude of disproportion. For one thing, I have lived in a number of very mixed multicultural places, and I have seen it first hand. I use the Grant/BART example because, having taken Bay Area public transit all my life, I personally have seen at least 1/2 a dozen fist fights occur or start there between Blacks, and never once by any other ethnicity.
    I think one part of the problem is people trying to explain away or otherwise dismiss unacceptable behavior on the part of young Black people.

    As far as our joint accountability, totally, that was my overall point.

  8. Have you read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell? It's an easy, interesting read which is related to the website you linked for testing subconscious reactions.

  9. Just recently, as part of my book club.
    Its where I got several of my examples for this essay (though the idea of it has been brewing for a long time, the book did help focus it)

    Kind of scary going to Eastmont Mall in East Oakland where the closest library is to get the book. Got a little more inspiration there...

  10. I hear you, it's not useful to try to excuse people's cruddy behavior. But I think there's far too little compassion for folks as opposed to too great of leniency. What targetted groups are most subject to is, well, targetting. There is an overemphasis in the media on POC individuals screwing up as opposed to an understanding that each of us participates in creating alienated folks. So at least for me, my reluctance to focus on the bad behavior of a handful of POC folks is because they are already the scapegoats for all wrongs. I don't think that folks have a right to act badly because of their own suffering. But they do deserve a chance to make amends to their community and the chance for better opportunities. Maybe you can write a piece on prison reform. :)

  11. Michelle,

    There are so many real unjust phenomena and real discrimination taking place that it is not necessary to twist facts to try to invent additional discrimination.

    Fact: there is a horrible amount of mostly Black-on-Black murder in cities like Oakland & Richmond. Twisting the facts to say that everyone is doing it but only Black people get arrested does not help anything.

    Real racism & classism: segregated communities, unequal schools, unequal resources in poor Black communities including health services, mental health services and, yes, inadequate police!

    The effects of race-based slavery has horrible lasting effects which include both racism and internalized racism, wide-spread poverty & violence in the African-American community (particularly poor communities).

    Much needs to be done to change things, but hiding behind twisted facts will not help.
    It is true that a Black man is more likely to go to prison for the same crime than a white man. But it is also true that more young Black men kill each other than are killed by police officers or any one else. We must do all we can to intervene on this sad fact, and we won't get there trying to pretend it isn't true for the sake of image or "political correctness."

    Oh, and by the way Jacob Aziza, I like your article, but I do not think that the "implicit.harvard.edu" test on religious preference is valid for 2 reasons: 1) The test creates a conditioned response making it easier and faster to associate the words with which ever religion they start you off with. 2) The test seems to me to be more a measurement of which (religious) words you are most familiar with (which is a function of the culture you are raised in) rather than which you might like the best. 3) Most of all, it tests your ability to follow instructions requiring you to do things that are counter-intuitive, require quick reflexes, and force you to make associations that you disagree with. In any case, I don't think it measures what it claims to.

    Also, I still want you to inherit some of my hard-earned stuff when I die.

  12. @Michelle
    Depends on which group you're talking to. Among the media, the legal system, conservatives, and most politicians, yes, there is no accountability for societies role in creating anti-social behavior.
    Among the Black community and liberals we give too much leeway, as though growing up poor and around violence makes it inevitable. We are left with a chicken/egg situation where both groups are responsible, but neither does much to correct it as long as they can point to the in-action of the other. Both issues need to be taken on at once. If the Black community does not address Black crime, than "tough on crime" politicians will continue to appeal more to the middle class than reformers will.
    As to prison reform, I don't know enough about it. I am still asking myself and the world for answers about redeemability, forgiveness, personal change, responsibility, etc.
    Also, I already have 4 more things I need to write. Its too much for my little brain.

    I thought the same thing about those tests at first, but they randomly vary which association comes first. What they find, overall, is that independent of which comes first, people tend to have an easier time associating (for example) Black people with weapons, even if they are given that combination after having been "conditioned" by starting off with the opposite combination. The fact that it is counter-intuitive and requires quick reflexs is meant to eliminate conciously intellectually producing the results the test taker wants to.

    Incidetally, According to the test I have little to no bias - which I know isn't true - so I have my doubts about it myself...

  13. Anonymous, there is no twisting of facts. I think you read my piece as saying definitively that there are less blacks committing crime than other groups. I didn't say that. I really don't know the stats. I do know that racist attitudes are embedded in the media and our society and affect the stats, so they may not be as stark as they seem. What I did say is that as a society we too greatly emphasize that blacks and other POC groups are criminals. Also I believe there is too little compassion in our world. I do not discount that there is black-on-black crime or interracial crime. However, I don't think it's super productive to focus on the individual bad actors. I am more interested in creating opportunities for all, ensuring affordable housing, educational equity, etc. Saying POC folks are screwing up and it's their own darn fault in the media doesn't really encourage politicians and the public to provide support to all communities. Understanding folks as human beings that have suffered and deserve better opportunities and encouraging a humanist attitude I think does a better job of it. But that's just one strategy. Let's hope all our strategies can create a better world.

  14. hello all, i've been thinking about posting here for some time. Before engaging anyone on this article or thread, i am curious what people may think of these models of identity development for people of color and for people of European descent. Though these models are written in a linear fashion, it is definitely possible to skip stages, go back to a previous stage, occupy more than one stage at one time, etc.

    Helm's Model Of Identity Development For People Of Color:

    1. Pre-Encounter: Complete embracing of dominant culture. Bypasses issues of race, claims to be "just human". High internalized racism, accepts negative stereotypes about own race.

    2. Encounter / Dissonance: May be a life change (eg, going to college) or a specific event (experiences intense racist incident, great icon is assassinated, etc) that triggers Encounter with the fact that we are all human, but not everyone is treated human. Conflicting messages that dominant culture has of one's own culture are questioned. It is said that Gandhi as we knew him was born in this stage, when he was thrown off of a train in South Africa as a Brahmin lawyer.

    3. Resistance / Immersion: Rejection of dominant culture values, often rejection of those belonging to the dominant culture. Safety found in surrounding oneself of people of like culture and experience. Emblems of ethnic pride proudly displayed. Typified by self-education, looking for community, and anger.

    4. Introspection / Emersion: After being considerably nurtured by previous stage, extreme aspects of previous stage reconsidered. Conflict in experience of people of dominant culture (friends, colleagues, icons, etc) with generalization of all people of European descent. White allies considered. Self-Education deepens on more holistic level, more of an internal process as opposed to a displaying of ethnic pride. A good example of this is when Malcolm X took his pilgrimage to Mecca, and experienced Muslims of European descent interact with him in ways that honored his humanity. This awakening led him to the last stage.

    5. Integration / Awareness: Comes to an inner place of security around ones culture, and how one is located in the dominant culture. Secure enough to even reclaim aspects of dominant culture as ones own. One is clear that we are humans, but in a very different way from stage one. Typified by activism.

    and here is a link to the pdf file for the Helm's White Identity Development Model.


    People of color are simply referred to as Black people in this model, but its otherwise pretty clear. There are more stages for people of European descent, engaging ones Whiteness is apparently no joke.

    I would like to recommend that white folks read this model before critiquing/commenting on the people of color model. I would also strongly suggest that people use "I" statements, and not make claims as to where they believe anyone else is on any identity development model. Please.

    i hope people find this helpful. blessings.


    ps thank you Michelle!!

  15. In general, I encourage people to use whatever sort of language best communicates what they intend to, so long as it is honest.
    One valuable thing about the internet is totally unrestricted communication. Anyone is free to avoid reading the comments. The only comments I'll delete are outright spam.

    In this particular case most of my response is of my own experience.

    I don't doubt that this model mirrors the experiences of many. Obviously Brother Malcolm comes to mind, as well as President Obama.

    Myself, I grew up in an area of Richmond (CA) where there was representation of the 5 major continents within 1/2 a block. There was total racial integration among us kids. Once I was bullied at school and my mom and principal, in trying to figure out who had done it, asked me for a description. When they asked me the race, I honestly had no idea. I wouldn't have "claimed" to be color-blind, because I didn't know the term, but apparently I actually was.

    I have never embraced dominate culture - but I have never embraced any minority or counter-culture either. I object to the idea of culture. I don't see any way for culture to be about anything other than conformity. I think I'll write an essay about that...

    In junior high gangsta rap was the most visible of contemporary black music and it turned me off strongly to all rap, and the modern urban black youth culture it represented in general. I was consciously aware at the time that this was specifically modern urban youth culture, and not "black" culture as a whole. I didn't listen to any rap music, but did enjoy, for example, Parliament/Funkadelic, The Coasters, and Mile Davis' DooBop.
    While I rejected the culture of my peers, I don't think I held any internalized racism. I noticed the patterns of real people in front of me. For my own safety I was wary around groups of young black males, but this in no way carried over to my reaction around older black people, my self-esteem, or beliefs about race. I blamed the behavior I saw in my classmates on cultural conformity, not anything inborn. My own friends remained ethnically diverse.

    I was aware since elementary school age of the histories of slavery and the holocaust, and never doubted human cruelty or the existence of racism. I have not (to this day) witnessed any clear cut overt instances of racism in real life. (In fact, the only person I know who can claim to have been physically assaulted by a police officer who hadn't actually been doing anything wrong is white.)

    It always struck me as strange that anyone would be "proud" of their ethnicity or culture (or country). It is not an accomplishment.
    I grew up in the Bay Area, a special sub-set of CA, itself a unique subset of the US. It is no more African than it is European. I am no more African than I am Jewish Ukrainian - or Mongolian for that matter. I am Californian. I am Bay Arean. It is a very ethnically and culturally diverse place.
    I do not know what it would mean to embrace "my" culture.

    In high school I discovered Public Enemy, politically and socially focused rap music, and was able to finally embrace (a subset of) modern urban black youth culture. I was consciously aware of the significance on a personal level. I went on to Digital Underground, (not at all political, but consistently positive themes), and reframed the misogyny, greed, violence, and arrogance which had previously represented what I saw in the culture of many of my black peers as itself a sub-culture instead of the dominate one.

    As always, my own personal friends were those people who I connected with most deeply, and they continued to come in a variety of colors.

    It was in college, in taking political science and economic classes (which did not touch on race in any way) that I began to see the extent to which the legacy of long past events (most notably slavery in terms of racial issues) shaped the modern world. This reframed a number of beliefs and theories I had, much of which appears in the race essay I wrote here.

  16. I can't say that a single one of those "stages" really applies to any of my experience. I still reject all culture. I still feel that, to the extent to which I am a part of a culture by default, it is defined by my location, not my genes. I draw elements from what is around me to the extent I find it useful. I reject that which I find immoral in any culture, whether its misogyny in rap music or excessive consumption by the white middle class, street violence by black youth or war by white elites.
    Given the enormity of variation that exists even within the US, I find it ridiculous to suggest that there is a "culture" which represents an entire ethnic minority, or a single "dominate" culture.

    Also, I don't find the "people of color" shorthand to be useful in most situations, as there is easily as much variation of experience between a black person who grew up in America and a first generation Asian immigrant as there is between a black and white person. There may be more cultural variation between a European immigrant and a white American than between that same white American and a Latino neighbor whos family has been here for several generations and speaks only English. An African immigrant does not have the inherited issues of being only a few generations away from one's own family having been slaves.
    So, while I think this model probably does reflect very well the experiences of many individuals, I don't think it can be generalized to a population.
    Nevermind how many people never seem to get to the final stages...

    While I can see value in solidarity between all non-dominate peoples, I think drawing as two distinct categories "all white people" and "all non-white people" may ultimately serve to reinforce the default "us vs, them" mentality which is human nature - but not particularly productive.
    I find it interesting that the stages deal with personal growth, development, and awareness about race, while taking it as a given that "one's culture" is inherently defined by skin color.

  17. Been thinking about this more over the past few days, and I am liking it less and less.

    I have a friend who is genetically Japanese, but was born and raised in Mexico. She has lived for many years in LA. Which is "her" culture, Mexican, or Japanese?
    Where does a gay person fit into this model, who may feel more comfortable in the SF LGBT culture than any mainstream ethnic or national culture? Where does this model leave the black person who genuinely enjoys country music?

    I think it is generally dangerous to mix psychology and politics in this way, because it becomes very easy for people to use it as a weapon: "you hold the beliefs you do because you have not reached the same stage of development I have". It's a way to discredit the opinions of someone who disagrees.
    So while it clearly does describe the experiences of many individuals, I'm not sure how helpful it can be to the overall discussion.