BRAVE NEW VOICES: Kristof decrees!


Part 3—The nation’s racial scold:
This morning, we punished ourselves.

We forced ourselves to reread all four parts of Nicholas Kristof’s series of New York Times columns, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.”

(Yes, that headline has appeared at the top of each column.)

The analysts wept in their carrels, sensitive to the punishments they knew we were absorbing. For ourselves, we were somewhat surprised:

Upon rereading, Kristof’s columns were even less impressive than we would have supposed. We were struck by how little he had to say about race that can’t be memorized.

Don’t get us wrong! Kristof possesses strong technique. In two of his columns, Part 2 and Part 4, he kicked things off by scolding readers who were rejecting his vision.

Those whites! Headline included, this is the way our racial scold started his second column:
KRISTOF (9/7/14): When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 2

In my column a week ago, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It,” I took aim at what I called “smug white delusion” about race relations in America,
and readers promptly fired back at what they perceived as a smugly deluded columnist.

Readers grudgingly accepted the grim statistics I cited—such as the wealth disparity between blacks and whites in America today exceeding what it was in South Africa during apartheid—but many readers put the blame on African-Americans themselves.

“Probably has something to do with their unwillingness to work,” Nils tweeted.

Nancy protested on my Facebook page: “We can’t fix their problems.
It’s up to every black individual to stop the cycle of fatherless homes, stop the cycle of generations on welfare.”

There was a deluge of such comments, some toxic, but let me try to address three principal arguments that I think prop up white delusion.
Nils and Nancy were at it again, exhibiting white delusion! Other white comments were toxic!

Last Sunday, Kristof started Part 4 in this endless series with a similar set of jibes aimed at delusional readers. We can think of few approaches which are less likely to be helpful about such a difficult topic.

Kristof is full of scolding remarks, seems to have few proposals. For ourselves, we’re always most struck by his vacuous comments about the nation’s schools, which he says should be improved, possibly even fixed.

Few people are going to say that our public schools shouldn’t be improved. On the other hand, Kristof never seems to have much to say about the ways we could do this.

Last Sunday, he offered his latest discussion of the public school problem. More precisely, Kristof said this:
KRISTOF (11/15/14): The inequality continues, particularly in education. De jure segregated schools have been replaced in some areas by de facto segregation.
That was the whole discussion! Oh sorry: a bit later on, Kristof added this:
KRISTOF: We all stand on the shoulders of our ancestors. We're in a relay race, relying on the financial and human capital of our parents and grandparents. Blacks were shackled for the early part of that relay race, and although many of the fetters have come off, whites have developed a huge lead. Do we ignore this long head start—a facet of white privilege—and pretend that the competition is now fair?

Of course not. If we whites are ahead in the relay race of life, shouldn't we acknowledge that we got this lead in part by generations of oppression? Aren't we big enough to make amends by trying to spread opportunity, by providing disadvantaged black kids an education as good as the one afforded privileged white kids?
If we’re reading that correctly, Kristof was suggesting that we should “provide disadvantaged black kids an education as good as the one afforded privileged white kids.”

We think that’s an outstanding idea! But how should we accomplish that task?

Having wasted space by scolding those whites, the Buddha didn’t say. Through the years, the truth has become rather plain—the Buddha doesn’t know.

In truth, Kristof doesn’t seem to have any real ideas about our public schools. (There’s no reason why he should.) This was his discussion of public schools in the first column in this series:
KRISTOF (8/31/14): All this should be part of the national conversation on race, as well, and prompt a drive to help young black men end up in jobs and stable families rather than in crime or jail. We have policies with a robust record of creating opportunity: home visitation programs like Nurse-Family Partnership; early education initiatives like Educare and Head Start; programs for troubled adolescents like Youth Villages; anti-gang and anti-crime initiatives like Becoming a Man; efforts to prevent teen pregnancies like the Carrera curriculum; job training like Career Academies; and job incentives like the earned-income tax credit.

The best escalator to opportunity may be education, but that escalator is broken for black boys growing up in neighborhoods with broken schools. We fail those boys before they fail us.
That was the whole discussion! Kristof seemed to say we should fix those “broken schools.” But he forgot to say how!

(By the way: Does Head Start really have “a robust record of creating opportunity,” whatever that means? We favor universal free early education. But as it’s been practiced down through the years, does Head Start have such a record?)

In his second column, Kristof started by scolding Nils, as shown above. Soon, though, he extended his discussion of schools:
KRISTOF (9/7/14): Slavery and post-slavery oppression left a legacy of broken families, poverty, racism, hopelessness and internalized self-doubt. Some responded to discrimination and lack of opportunity by behaving in self-destructive ways.

One study found that African-American children on welfare heard only 29 percent as many words in their first few years as children of professional parents. Those kids never catch up, partly because they’re more likely to attend broken schools. Sure, some make bad choices, but they’ve often been on a trajectory toward failure from the time they were babies.

These are whirlpools that are difficult to escape, especially when society is suspicious and unsympathetic...

So instead of pointing fingers, let’s adopt some of the programs that I’ve cited with robust evidence showing that they bridge the chasm.
We need to get rid of those broken schools, the cock said, crowing again. He seemed to think that he had listed “programs with robust evidence showing that they bridge the chasm.”

We’re not sure what those programs are. We didn’t see all that evidence.

In the third column in his series,
Kristof focused on the justice system. He said we need our own Mandela, even saying, somewhat oddly, that “Bryan Stevenson may, indeed, be America’s Mandela.”

It’s strange to think that we the people have never heard of our own Mandela, but that’s the way this series tends to work. Late in his column, Kristof briefly complained about underfunding for “public schools serving disadvantaged children.” He linked to an earlier column by Eduardo Porter to provide some sort of support.

Last Sunday brought Part 4 in the series. Once again, Kristof started by scolding whites for their white delusion. He proceeded to s scatter-shot series of claims, not excluding this:
KRISTOF (11/15/14): Of course, personal responsibility is an issue. Orlando Patterson, the eminent black sociologist, notes in a forthcoming book that 92 percent of black youths agree that it is a “big problem” that black males are “not taking education seriously enough.” And 88 percent agree that it’s a big problem that they are “not being responsible fathers.” That’s why President Obama started “My Brother’s Keeper,” to cultivate more prudent behavior among men and boys of color.
Our question: If 92 percent of black youth agree that it’s a “big problem” that black males are “not taking education seriously enough,” how many black males aren’t taking education seriously?

Such questions don’t occur to Kristof when he ascends his throne.

Kristof memorizes well, scolds enthusiastically. Beyond that, he seems to have little to say about race that anyone else couldn’t say.

He seems to know nothing about public schools except that we should fix them. He’s also eager to scold those whites who don’t accept his greatness.

Kristof’s columns on this topic strike us as very lazy. In the main, he provides a road map towards an angry, disjointed nation.

These columns are so easy to write that they virtually write themselves. Commenters then rush to the Times, praising our king for his greatness.

How do we fix our public schools? Kristof doesn’t seem to know.

He does know how to excite the tribes. Does this lead to progress?

Tomorrow: Another brave new voice


  1. Kristof and his ilk maintain that inequality of results is a result of past mis-treatment. If this principle were valid, it would apply to other minorities who suffered severe discrimination, such as Asians, Jews and Mormons. However, these three groups don't lag behind whites. On the contrary these groups far outstrip the white majority who oppressed them.

    My point is that we simply don't know why blacks perform worse in schools, on average. Nor do we have a perfect formula for bringing black performance up to the level of Mormons, Asians and Jews or even up to the level of whites.

    1. Sure we know why. Bob told us himself. Black parents don't move to Paris and teach their kids Croatian when they are five years old.

    2. So basically you have no idea why the white guy (who may be Mormon or Jewish, who knows) gets the job rather than the black guy. Or why the one black guy driving down the road gets pulled over driving through a "white" neighborhood. In your America, everyone is treated equally based on merit. How nice for you.

    3. Which, by the way @ 11:55, is evidence of why we have gaps. I remember Bob writing a multi part series on that topic. Unlike Kristof's work, his posts were not easy to write because he proposed multiple solutions that will allow us to quit crying over spilt milk like resegregation in the south.

    4. Unlike Kristof, Somerby has not claimed to have the answers. That means it is ridiculous to blame him for not providing them. Kristof says we know how to fix schools and other racial problems but just aren't doing it, for some reason.

      Take resegregation in the south. Unless you are willing to assign people to homes, how do you get people of all races to stop preferring to live with others who they perceive to be similar to themselves? This is self-segregation going on. How do you stop it? You tell me, since you seem to think this is a problem with an obvious solution.

    5. AnonymousNovember 19, 2014 at 12:29 PM -- Let's agree FTSOA that black drivers get pulled over more often than non-black drivers. Does this prevent a black person from excelling at school and on the job? I suppose it depends on one's personality. It's common for someone who's discriminated against to re-double his efforts.

      Here's something else to consider. Recent black immigrants from Africa and from the Caribbean out-perform native-born blacks, even though they're subject to the same discrimination.

    6. To answer your question, yes it does. When a student misses an exam because he was pulled over on his way to school, it clearly affects his education. When black males are more likely to go to jail for a crime that a white male gets probation for, his kids will be without a father and that will affect their lives disproportionately.

      Recent immigrants are (1) self-selected from among those with greater wherewithal to meet challenges, (2) are typically helped by immigrant organizations, churches and family upon arrival, (3) have not grown up in a minority subculture stigmatized by the dominant culture, (4) are not typically in dire poverty but are helped to find jobs by their sponsors, (5) have accents and other cultural identifiers that show they are not inner city (e.g., poor) blacks and are in fact very quick to let others know they are not indigenous, (6) may have attained high education in their native language and country or even have practiced a profession. So, they are not subject to the same discrimination and they do not meet it with the same resources. The same distinctions can be applied to immigrants from Mexico or Central America compared to those from Cuba (before the Marielitos) or to the Vietnamese who came to the US in the 70's after the Fall of Saigon compared to those who arrived later as "boat people."

    7. I've had this happen to students in my classes (college level). Their cars break down more often and they also have bus problems more often. They also miss class because their job doesn't have enough flexibility to let them attend regularly and they cannot afford to buy the textbooks and also pay their tuition so they cannot do the readings when assigned. I take these as explanations rather than excuses. I have a lot of students whose parents are unemployed or have serious medical problems (cancer etc) or who have family situations involving immigration problems. All of that interferes with their education.

  2. David in Cal, I don't have any personal experience, by my cousin was married to a descendant of original Virginia families (he briefly played Harmonica for the Byrds) and they tell me Mormons were no good at tobacco harvesting so most were set free before the turn of the 19th century. He does tell of their plaintive songs, sung in amazing choral arrangements, about the loss of their third and fourth wives to the auction bloc.

  3. "Jibes aimed at delusional readers?" Nothing proves the continuing dumbness of the melting liberal tribal mind better than jibes.

  4. Why are Bob's analysts always in tears?

    1. My guess is that the analysts cry in frustration as they try to explain mathematics to Bob.

    2. Somebody has to. Our nation's obituary writers have clearly abdicated their solemn responsibility to do so.

    3. He's just channeling George Wallace and complaining about "them pointy-headed intellectuals" again.

    4. Increasingly, It's a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad, World. And it's getting increasingly sadder, sadder, sadder, sadder, sadder, sadder, and sadder. Plus, Salon talks about sex, and Rachel Maddow panders to her audience. Increasingly.

  5. Our jaw dropped in amazement:

    "Kristof is full of scolding remarks, seems to have few proposals."

    Bob said this. Bob. Bob accused someone ELSE of being "full of scolding remarks," but having "few proposals." Bob. Fucking Bob.

    Regrettably, we at Rachel's Annoying Facial Expressions, or RAFE, (if you don't look closely, or maybe even if you do, it seems to spell "RAPE") have a particularly busy series of days ahead. Actually, perhaps it isn't regrettable at all. Watching Bob scold other people for being scolds, particularly over the subject of race, might be enough to cause our eyes to roll right out of our heads.

    1. If Bob were pretending he had many proposals, if Bob were commanding a large podium, touting his largely empty "proposals" -- as Kristof does -- you might have a point.

      Instead, you're just another douche troll.

    2. Don't worry. The three headed hydra that is DinC, deadrat, and KZ seem to have mysteriously reappeared together in a timely fashion to fill in during your absence.

      You have done an admirable job keeping a split upper lip with at least one jaundiced eye rolling around on this place while they (it?) played elsewhere.

      Wherever you go, keep those clown shoes handy. It is cold out there despite what that fatty Al Gore said.

    3. Anon. @ 2:07 we welcome back your old school use of feminine-hygiene-as-insult style of debate.

      We agree with you 100% on Bob not commanding as large a podium as Kristof. The largest podium he ever commanded was a 5th grade classroom in Baltimore, a task for which he apparently needed nothing other than a college diploma as qualification and an expiring draft deferment as motivation.

      And we are equally glad you agree with us, to whom you also have often applied the term douche, and our friend from RAFE, that BOB has few, if any proposals.

  6. OMB (Crying in the Carrels in Service to our OTB)

    BOB chides Kristof for "scolding readers who were rejecting his vision."

    We can travel the galaxy but cannot put toothpaste back in the tube for you BOBfans. If we could, we would you suggest you skim BOB's post first, looking for and following the links to Kristof's columns in the order in which they were written dating back ot August. Read them first, then read the pronouncements of the OTB for a lesson in the miraculous similarity in the body of works of Nick and BOB.

    Their vision, dear readers, is almost identical. As are their lack of solutions in BOB's imagined area of

    1. Rather like M. Facial Expression, ZKoD, you merely troll on, ceding the field of actual critique to Somerby.

      Almost like a toddler, you seem quite proud of your daily load. "Look at what I made!"

    2. We also welcome your return to the use of child-comparison-as-insult techniques. You, as BOB once said of the great Kristof, possess "strong techinque."

      We welcome your challenge to be more specific in our criticism.

      BOB, like Kristof, primarily places the blame for the status of blacks in this country on centuries of involuntary servitude.

      Like Kristof, BOB regularly chides people for not caring about blacks. Kristof does it with readers who contact him. BOB does it with media personalities for whom he frequently imagines places they are contemplating suicide.

      BOB says rereading Kristof's work he found them "even less impressive than we would have supposed. We were struck by how little he had to say about race that can’t be memorized." To make this comment BOB has to disappear the vast amount of statistical evidence which Kristof cites. BOB also frequently cites vast statistical evidence to make his points about race. He just as frequently resorts to that disappearing technique when the evidence contradicts his point.

      BOB calls these four Kristof columns over four months an "endless series." We might have to wait for our Interlude Comment to point out why this might demonstrate some similarity between these two Mid Century Harvard educated scribes.

    3. KZ, no one cares what you have to say here and no one wants you to comment. You are a nuisance and insulting others changes nothing about that.

    4. Let's see @ 3:18.

      Douche? Nope, that wasn't Zarkon.

      Troll/toddler? Nope, that was what a commenter called ZKoD.

      Nuisance? Well, that was your term.

      Sounds like you might have made the first two as well. I don't know if anybody wants your comments since I can speak only for myself.

      I will say nobody can find anything of value in them.
      If anyone differs they can comment for themselves.

  7. I object to Kristof's analogy between white privilege and a relay race. In a relay race, if one of the runners misses the handoff, the next runners must either make up for it or they will lose the race. In life, there is plenty of hardship to go around. Many of us had ancestors who missed that handoff and presented us with a handicap that made it impossible to catch up. The problem with "white privilege" is that it ignores those individual handicaps that we all struggle with, and it bars anyone from comparing their own disadvantages with those of race under the assumption that race trumps everything, including sex, physical disability or illness, poverty, abuse and neglect, and bias based on other ethnicities or religion. David in CA is trying to discuss this but ignoring the impact of race, which is clearly wrong. On the other hand, those who focus on race are ignoring other sources of disadvantage that white people experience and struggle with -- that too is wrong if either group is to listen to the other.

    When Kristof chides whites for complaining about the role of individual responsibility, he commits the same sin as David in CA, because he ignores the very real disadvantages that exist for those "privileged" whites who are not black but nevertheless experience systemic, institutionalized and pervasive obstacles to progress (as women do, as those with physical disabilities do) or who cannot cash in on the supposed advantage their society affords them (as those without an adequate education, coming from poverty or abuse or neglect cannot).

    So this is why it is correct for Somerby to be scolding Kristof today, in my opinion.

    1. And the reason why your opinion might be wrong is that you only read the scolding and not the columns?

      Somerby's version of Kristof is quite different than the author's original.

    2. The problem with "white privilege" is that it ignores those individual handicaps that we all struggle with....

      Absolutely true. Why just today they ran out of quiche at my Whole Foods.

    3. Fortunately, returning home in the hybrid, you left a smaller footprint in carbon.

    4. Elite whites are Whole Foods shoppers, not whites generally.

    5. Deadrat, I am white and I grew up (1) poor, (2) with a physical handicap and chronic pain, (3) with two alcoholic parents who couldn't cope with my problems and thus ignored them, (4) schools that ignored me and even told me they would do nothing to accommodate my needs because I was one student, (5) no encouragement or money to attend college, (6) sexual discrimination that decreed I should do clerical work no matter what my college degree, (7) credit laws that did not permit me to buy a house, have a loan with a co-signer, etc, (8) presumption that I was incompetent until proven otherwise. I did have some advantages but they had nothing to do with being white -- they had to do with being stubborn and angry and intelligent. Being white didn't seem to help except that people assumed I didn't need any help and ignored me when I did.

      Do you think this adds up to "white privilege"? In what universe? Because Liberals do not understand the subtleties of race, they are going to lose white voters if they persist in scolding people over generalizations that are no more true for white people than for black people as a group.

    6. stubborn and angry and intelligent

      Ordinarily my inclination would be to write that two of out of three ain't bad, but I'm gong to suppress my usual snark and take your biography at face value. Since you are evidently white, maybe you can answer a question for me. What is it about white people and race? I was brought up by white people, I went to school with them, I worked with them. I even married a white person. And I still don't understand it. Maybe you can tell me.

      Generalizations are by definition applicable to groups, and as such, are misleading to apply uniformly to individuals. You seem to have grasped this well, as you feel free to talk about what "Liberals" do not understand. This in spite of the fact that "Liberals" as a group don't understand things because only individual people understand things. I imagine that you would be unsurprised to find an individual "Liberal" who understood the subtleties of race, and I'd guess such a meeting wouldn't deter you from believing in your reification of "Liberals" overall.

      Why is it so hard for white people like you to understand that all things being equal, things aren't equal? That your life experiences with race aren't necessarily universal? No one is asking you to shoulder the blame for the way things are. No one is invalidating your own struggles.

      Since turn about is fair play, let me read you some of my biography. In all eight aspects, it reads diametrically opposite to yours. I went to a well-funded, all-white high school, one of five well-funded all-white high schools in my county. I worked hard, got good grades, aced the standardized tests, and went to a top-rated university. The students in the mostly-black city to the north of where I lived, not so much. I'm sure there were plenty of smart, hard-working black students in that city, but I didn't have to compete against them for college slots. Had their city been able to expand into my county, they would have been eligible to enroll in my school. But the mostly-white state legislature made it illegal for cities to straddle county lines, effectively keeping the schools segregated.

      That's what white privilege is, a nicely-tilted playing field in my favor. It doesn't mean that I didn't work for what I got. It doesn't mean that every kid (white, of course) in my school had an easier time than every city kid (black, of course). It just means that on average it's easier in the universe where you belong to the group that sets the norms, makes the laws, and owns everything; it's just tends to be easier when "flesh-colored" bandaids match your skin.

    7. Don't forget "flesh-colored" crayons. And usually only "flesh-colored" people could afford the size box they came in.

    8. And you missed my point -- that it isn't always easier when the bandaids match your skin. That it "tends to be" that way is no excuse for Kristol to scold white people as a group, especially those who point out that his generalization doesn't fit them (albeit as clumsily as David). This isn't any way to resolve racial animosities, so I find myself wondering whether race isn't being discussed for ulterior purposes.

      I think you make a good point that the concept of white privilege may make more sense to those who have experienced more privilege. It might be helpful to understand that pushback against that concept is not necessarily an expression of bigotry but can come from people whose lives have been too difficult to be considered privileged, and that response deserves respect not mockery. nOne of my privileges was having a sister who spent much of her childhood in detention and as a ward of the state. Without her example I might have walked her path, so I was fortunate.

    9. We have seen horses with what should be crippling weight handicaps still win the race. Therefore, adding weight to a horse isn't really making things more difficult for it. We are always puzzled when we see arguments that amount to this formulation.

      Spud Webb could dunk a basketball, so height doesn't give you an advantage in the NBA.

      Generally, the kinds of people who make these arguments / tell these kinds of stories are more interested in chest thumping that they are in making effective public policy. We ourselves came from circumstances that should have produced an early death from gunshots, a life in-and-out of prisons for drug offences, or some combination of these things. But we, and our siblings, managed to avoid them. We were lucky, and had the right combinations of genes (probably the biggest determinant), upbringing, and happenstance to avoid that fate. But we know many other people who were not so blessed. We do not fool ourselves that "it was easy, you just have to ... X, and if you don't it's all your fault. Why can't you just do what WE did?" We look at our relatives who are in prison for life, or killed in drug wars, some of them quite bright, and we wonder what would have happened had they been born elsewhere, under different circumstances, with different skin color. We don't know for sure, but we have our suspicions.

    10. You seem to be saying that exceptions don't disprove a rule (except in science, where they falsify a hypothesis). I wasn't saying black people should transcend their circumstances. I was saying that white people experience circumstances that don't resemble privilege. Like black people, many white people do not transcend either. Expecting such people to "own" their privilege strikes me as ridiculous. So I don't like this white privilege formulation, which largely arises from academia, a bastion of privilege, not necessarily white.

    11. Please excuse me if I suspect your bona fides as an expert on ways to solve "racial animosities." It's never about race with you, is it? Except of course for those awful people discussing the topic for "ulterior purposes."

      But I didn't miss your point. Because you make your point clearly and emphatically, and your name is legion: you worked for everything you got and it wan't easy for you. Your self-described self-reliance and victimhood stories give you license to ignore some of your fellow citizens when they tell you about their lives. And to excoriate people like Kristof -- not Kristol; he's somebody else entirely -- when they point that out. i'd have thought that having DAinCA on your side might give you pause. I don't see mendacious ignorance as clumsiness, but YMMV and evidently does.

      It is not my point that white privilege makes more sense to those with more privilege. In fact, the more privilege you have, the harder it is to see it. Neither is it my contention that "pushback" is an expression of bigotry. I'm not the White Person Whisperer, so I've got no insight into your motivation. I'm sorry that I don't have much respect for ignorance, and I understand you don't like my resulting attitude. As the man said, "Yeah, I've had complaints about it but it keeps getting worse."

      So your sister spent what must have been a miserable childhood as a ward subject to the mercies of your state's system of detention. But at least it was one of your "privileges," apparently because if she couldn't do anything else in her life, she could act as a bad example. That has to be one of the oddest things I've ever heard.

    12. Other things being equal, would you rather be born black or white? Skin color is the ONLY variable in our thought experiment. EVERYTHING else is the same. Height, weight, athletic ability, socio-economic background, parenting, IQs, all those things are identical. Only the race is different. Why would you make the choice you did?

    13. Also. our first post in this thread was meant for a different part of this messy comments section. We need to improve our multi-tasking, or stop trying to do it. The second post, however, was properly placed.

    14. Deadrat, you have managed to turn working hard into a bad thing. To return to my point, that's why we cannot talk about race. When ALL white success is reduced to white privilege, you create a "you didn't build that" moment that those who did work hard will reject. It gets everyone nowhere to denigrate the efforts that benefit black and white people in overcoming unfortunate circumstances, of which there are plenty to go around. That playing field is tilted for white people too, something blacks do not want to see. It is comforting to blame all failure on racism but that explanation prevents striving without which there can be little accomplishment. Your insistence that everything is harder if you're black is just factually untrue so you will have trouble gaining support for it among those whose experiences contradict it. Calling me ignorant because I disagree is another dubious tactic. No white person can know what it is to be black but the converse is also true. Some woman wrote a stupid essay about a backpack and now liberals think it should be used to beat up white students in social psych or sociology classes, who don't know any better than to apologize for being born. I think that whole exercise is abusive and self-defeating if your goal is to increase empathy for anyone's struggle.

    15. So much self-serving ignorance, so little patience. Let's take the points one at a time.

      1. Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, in what I've posted can reasonably be interpreted to mean that working hard is a bad thing. In fact, I even told you that I worked hard.

      2. "We" (and I mean you and I) can't talk about race because one of us thinks that the other has at best ulterior motives and at worst means to dismiss the one's accomplishments in life.

      3. "You didn't build that" has nothing to do with race, but is a reference to Obama's comment that individual success in this country necessarily builds on societal efforts.

      4. Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, in what I've posted can reasonably be interpreted to mean that I denigrate the efforts that people make to overcome misfortune.

      5. The playing field is not tilted for white people in the way it is for black people. Let me torture this metaphor a bit more by saying that the playing field for everyone is littered with obstacles. But the players on one team face a gradient that players on the other team don't.

      6. Nothing, and I mean literally nothing, in what I've posted can reasonably be interpreted to mean that racism is the cause of all failure.

      7. I have not insisted that everything is harder if you're black. On average, many things are harder. And that's just "factually" true. Your experience doesn't contradict what obtains in the rest of the world. You've just assumed that your experience can be extrapolated beyond your bad self.

      8. I don't call you ignorant because you disagree with me. I call you ignorant because you don't know things you probably should.

      9. Maybe no one can truly know what it is to be another person, but most people can understand what it's like to be another person. I can't feel the depths of pain from the indifference of alcoholic parents or the anger that goes with being dismissed solely on the basis of my sex, but that doesn't mean that I don't know what those feelings are.

      10. I assume that the "stupid essay about a backpack" is Peggy McIntosh's. From your description, my guess is that you haven't read it.

      11. Of course you think that talking about privilege is both abusive and self-defeating. If it's abusive, the no one can blame you for refusing to stand and take abuse. And if it's self-defeating, then you're actually doing those other people a favor by not considering the issue.

      My goal is not to "increase empathy." I don't think adults can learn empathy. My goal, if you can call it that, was to get an answer to my question "What is it with white people and race?"

      I'm guessing you're not going to give me an answer.

  8. No wonder Kristof only gets what he feels is hostile feeback from uncaring whites. The liberal world pays little attention to the interests of low-income kids. We quit on poor kids long ago. We don’t discuss these topics. Kristof should quit writing about them.

  9. "Kristof’s columns on this topic strike us as very lazy. In the main, he provides a road map towards an angry, disjointed nation.

    These columns are so easy to write that they virtually write themselves. Commenters then rush to the Times, praising our king for his greatness."

    Lazy, write themselves....And Kristoff's columns differ from posts here, how?

  10. A big problem is television. IT see the world in black and white (cops/robbers, cowboys/indians etc.) It's set up and entrenched in our minds a world of heroes and villains that doesn't allow for nuance. We have intellects but more of us don't ever use them. And, let's face it, most of us are addicted to some substance or another. It makes for a crazy world.

    1. Yes, more boilerplate Somerby logic blaming all those stupid people in the world.

      Unless of course, by your use of the wourd "us" you were also including yourself in your deep analysis of people made so stupid by popular culture of the day that it can't see nuance. Which I somehow doubt.

      But in case you consider yourself one of those fortunate few who sees nuance so clearly through all the cultural filters, perhaps you are open to the idea that pop culture might often be a reflection of who we are, rather than the always the cause.

    2. I include myself for sure! I just know this from experience. From using the medium to fool people.

      You don;t have to agree. I don't care. TV is poison though.

      I am different from some in that I'm not afraid of death. All the best you man!

    3. It's a reflection of the ego, the inner Iago - the worst part of us! We can rise above by using our intellect. I will say this sometimes on message boards - or comments or whatever - TV is and has driven us crazy. People react very violently to this notion. They don't like to hear it, I could be wrong but ...

    4. It feeds the ego. And feeds it and feeds it and feeds it and feeds it and feeds it. Which mucks things up completely. People start acting like the people they see on TV. Is our culture working well? Yes??

    5. 1030: it's not a reflection of who we are, it's a reflection of who corporations wants us to think we are. That is the problem. Corporations are not us. Everything you see on TV has a paid-for message behind it designed to make you think a certain way or buy a certain thing. It's massively soul corrupting. It's a reflection of corporations, it's their appeal to our lowest instincts, our most base desires. It is not in anyway a reflection of who we are - we are perfect and holy not arguing, fearful pigs!

  11. Because intelligence and level of education aren't necessarily the same, David?

    I offer as Exhibit A, the poster known as David in Cal, who claims to have all sorts of advanced degrees, but who routinely proves by his very words that he's still dumber than a sack of hammers.

  12. We no longer have a society in which there is a large and dominant white majority and a bunch of small minority groups. We have a society that more properly can be described as multicultural, in which there are two substantial subcultures (white and Hispanic), a large minority that is black (about 12%) and a bunch of smaller minority groups that together add up to a substantial nonwhite group.

    The problem is that most people don't live in the nation as a whole but rather live in localities whose demographics vary widely. Some are almost entirely white, some are almost entirely Hispanic, and some are almost entirely black. In some cities, people live in almost entirely Irish or Scandinavian or Italian or Vietnamese or Korean neighborhoods. They do not experience a largely white dominant culture.

    So the idea of it being easier when you are a member of the white majority that constitutes the dominant culture is only true for people who live in areas where the prevailing culture is white and non-ethnic (WASP). Even Salt Lake City isn't like that any more. You have to move to isolated areas like Idaho to find such an environment. So, I think we are all arguing about stereotypes based on a previous experience that doesn't typify the way most people are living these days.

    For myself, I live in Los Angeles, which is about as diverse as you can get these days. Does it help me to be white there? I can think of plenty of situations where it has not.

  13. Those damn Scandanavians. They'll never get white culture living all isolated like Swedish Bikini team members.

  14. Headline itself made me shiver. Honestly, I think that decent education can make a successful individual almost out of anyone. Of course there are exceptions (let’s not dwell into inborn conditions) but the color of your skin has nothing to do with it. The main problem is that decent education is a luxury today. No wonder some students apply to best essay writers online as they are unable to complete their assignments. They usually teach average student and disregard those who can do better than the majority as well as those who need additional assistance.