KRISTOF VILLAGE: Condescension alleged!


Part 3—Columnist brings us together:
Back in 1968, an eighth-grader held up a sign at a rally for Candidate Nixon.

The sign became famous, so much so that it has its own Wikipedia entry. “Bring us together,” her sign famously said.

That didn’t occur under Nixon. But as of today, it seems that the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof has accomplished this worthwhile task.

Last Sunday, Kristof posted the fifth installment in his endless series, “When Whites Just Don’t Get It.” In this morning’s paper, a letter captures two of our own reactions:
LETTER TO THE NEW YORK TIMES (12/3/14): Does anyone other than me find Nicholas Kristof’s “When Whites Just Don’t Get It” series condescending?

Who made Mr. Kristof the spokesman for blacks’ justified anger toward racism in America? I certainly don’t feel that he speaks for me and the other 40 million-plus black Americans. I think his solutions—“a new commission,” a “national conversation”—are the old bromides that won’t have any real effect on the problem, at least not while the parties in power are not talking to each other.


D— G—
New York, Nov. 30, 2014
The letter writer is “black;” we ourselves are “white.” But like the writer, we have found Kristof’s series to be quite condescending.

We agree with the letter writer in a second way. We thought the start of Sunday’s column drowned us in tedious bromides.

This is the way the column began, nagging headline included:
KRISTOF (11/30/14): When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5

We Americans are a nation divided.

We feud about the fires in Ferguson, Mo., and we can agree only that racial divisions remain raw. So let’s borrow a page from South Africa and impanel a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to examine race in America.

The model should be the 9/11 commission or the Warren Commission on President Kennedy’s assassination, and it should hold televised hearings and issue a report to help us understand ourselves. Perhaps it could be led by the likes of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and Oprah Winfrey.
Part 5! Teacher refuses to quit!

A bit later, Kristof pictures this commission conducting a “national conversation,” just as the letter writer said.

Kristof said we’re a nation divided. But as he started his column, he chose a framework which was certain to divide people even more.

He suggested we pattern our national conversation on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa. Predictably, commenters found this suggestion insulting, offensive. People stopped listening fast.

Kristof imagined the panel could be led by Presidents Clinton and Bush—and by Oprah, of course. From what planet does such piffle emerge?

The last time we saw Oprah, she was asking Lindsay Lohan if she wanted to proceed with a kitschy reality show on Oprah’s cable channel. On Sunday, meanwhile, liberal commenters mocked the thought that a clown like President Bush could possibly lead this commission. And does Kristof think that President Clinton would tackle this task, even as his wife, Hillary Clinton, stages a run for the White House?

We agree with that letter writer! Kristof’s proposal struck us as a tired old bromide, dressed up in a way guaranteed to insult and offend.

Let us suggest the sheer absurdity of a “national conversation” on race—a gigantic topic in our tortured history, a gigantic topic which can’t be addressed in a mere conversation.

(In June 1997, President Clinton appointed an eight-member panel to conduct such a discussion. How many members of that panel can you name today? Can you remember a single thing they said in their final report?)

We agree with that letter writer. To us, a “national conversation” on race seems like a lazy suggestion out of the past, like the ultimate bromide.

That said, we aren’t sure why the writer, who is black, feels that Kristof’s columns have been condescending. Kristof is talking down to “whites” in his series, a group to which he himself no longer quite seems to belong.

Tomorrow, we’ll consider some of the condescension voiced in this endless series. We’ll look at (predictable) comments from readers who complained that they’ve been condescended to.

For today, let’s consider the kind of examples Kristof gave us in Sunday’s fifth installment. For this, we will refer to another letter in this morning’s Times.

What kinds of truths can our Truth Commission offer to clueless whites? The analysts groaned as Kristof cited a study they have reviewed in the past:
KRISTOF (continuing directly): We as a nation need to grapple with race because the evidence is overwhelming that racial bias remains deeply embedded in American life. Two economists, Joseph Price and Justin Wolfers, found that white N.B.A. referees disproportionally call fouls on black players, while black refs call more fouls on white players. “These biases are sufficiently large that they affect the outcome of an appreciable number of games,” Price and Wolfers wrote.

If such racial bias exists among professional referees monitored by huge television audiences, imagine what unfolds when an employer privately weighs whom to hire, or a principal decides whether to expel a disruptive student, or a policeman considers whether to pull over a driver.
Does racial bias remain deeply embedded in American life? In that example, Kristof refers to a 2007 study—a study whose methodology and results are disputed today in a letter from an NBA executive.

The analysts groaned when they saw this citation—not because they know the study to be flawed, but because they knew its findings to be quite minor.

In one way, Kristof seems to misstate those findings. But he never notes the degree to which rates of foul calls in the NBA were found to vary depending on the race of referees.

How “deeply embedded” was race found be in this particular study? According to the study, the rate of fouls seemed to vary by a factor of about four percent.

The authors said the change in the number of fouls mainly affected white players. They said they couldn’t tell if this was because white refs called “too few” calls on white players, or because black refs called too many.

Whatever! If we assume the study was valid, this is a minor distinction. It might be mildly interesting that such effects can be observed in one part of American life. But good God!

Given the sweep of societal problems connected to race and its history, we would be living in paradise if one group had two percent too much while the other had two percent too little. Given the size of our actual problems, that is a very minor bit of embedding.

Rightly or wrongly, that study found a rather minor effect. But like a magician yelling presto, Kristof amazed us with his description, failing to note how minor the observed effect actually was.

We readers were supposed to cower and cringe, ashamed of our fallen natures. This kind of paint-by-the-numbers citation strikes us as lazy and counterproductive.

Alas! There are many topics involving race which deserve careful discussion. That said, there is no point conducting such discussions unless we do so in a way to which different people will listen.

That letter writer from New York said he has found Kristof’s work “condescending.” We don’t know why he feels that way, but that’s been our reaction as well.

At least on this one basic point, Kristof’s columns have brought us together! That said, why have we found his columns condescending?

Tomorrow, we’ll try to explain. And we’ll look at comments from readers who feel condescended to.

Tomorrow: Advice from Olympus


  1. Kristof's proposed solution is pulled out of his a**. I think it's better to look at what has actually worked in the past. The US has discriminated against many groups of poor immigrants, who looked and behaved differently from the dominant culture. These groups overcame the discrimination by adopting the dominant culture and becoming a part of it. The process required several generations, but it worked.

    Many blacks today have successfully done the same thing. More and more blacks lead middle class lives. The big problem is the substantial minority who live in an anti-social culture of crime and dependency. To focus on understanding and appreciating thugs like Michael Brown and Travon Martin -- to make these people into role models -- is counter-productive IMHO.

    1. Trayvon Martin was a thug because......?

    2. . . . they were both young, black males!

    3. In general, I can never tell if someone is of Irish, Italian or Polish ancestry, but in almost every case I can spot someone of African (Black) ancestry. Could this be an impediment to becoming part of the dominant culture?

    4. That question can be answered empirically. African Americans who become educated and pursue well-paying careers are part of the dominant culture.

      David neglects to talk about the substantial minority of whites who live in an anti-social culture of crime and dependency. Meth is a big problem in rural areas where people are less educated, good-paying jobs are scarce and there appear to be no paths to success.

      Instead of expecting everyone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, regardless of their context, perhaps we should be focusing on poverty and how to help those for whom there is less opportunity, white or black.

      David is entirely ignorant about immigrant culture, so he doesn't understand the difference between today's urban or rural poor and the many resources that helped immigrants succeed, including family, social and community organizations, availability of jobs, access to public education, and prior experiences before emigrating.

      @12:47, in the early 20th century, the distinctions we now consider national ethnicities were considered racial. The Irish were considered a different race, as were Italians, Polish, etc., in the physical sense and inborn traits were ascribed to people on that basis. People were acutely attuned to the signs of racial membership, such as accent, facial features, hair and eye color, skin color. That these are now disregarded is a hopeful sign that skin color will similarly become irrelevant in the future. The large increase in interracial dating and marriage and the number of people identifying as biracial suggests this may happen. What better measure of inclusion is there than marriage?

    5. "David is entirely ignorant ..." FULL STOP!

  2. Trayvon Martin was a thug, because he had been suspended from school for stealing, because his background indicated a leaning toward violence, because he made an unprovoked attack on Zimmerman, and because he tried to cause great bodily harm to Z by bashing his head against the sidewalk.

    Anon 12:47, a couple of generations ago, you could have told if someone was of Irish or Italian ancestry. These groups overcame that stereotype by behaving and speaking like the dominant culture that was already here. Granted that blacks will always be recognizable, I don't think that matters, or not very much. Asians are also recognizable, but there isn't the same level of concern about the separation of Asians and Caucasians.

    1. People of Irish and Italian ancestry formed gangs that eventually became involved in politics, allowing them to make laws favorable to their groups. They did not learn to speak like the dominant culture -- witness the "New York" accent still spoken by those from the boroughs.

      You don't know anything about immigrant experience. You don't know whether Asians experience discrimination or not. You seem to think they don't but they do, and not in a good way. You talk about Mormon success while ignoring the large polygamist communities that subsist entirely on welfare payments, the rural poverty and low education levels outside SLC in Utah. You just don't know enough about this to be making the strong statements you want to make. Do more reading, talk to people from these subcultures, find out what it was actually like to be an immigrant -- what it is still like. Watch a few movies -- there are many good ones about recent immigrant experience (look in the Indie film section of Netflix).

    2. D in C, you show your worst side in baldly characterizing these 2 dead young men as "thugs."

    3. I know it's not nice to speak ill of the dead. But, I feel that it's psychologically wrong to promote people like this as black role models. There are so many high-achieving blacks.

      Most other groups didn't do this. E.g., Jewish children aren't motivated by bemoaning the long prison sentences given to Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. That idea would be regarded as crazy.

    4. There is a difference between a role model and a martyr.

    5. DAinCA, please leave "Jewish children" out of your musings. Haven't the Jews suffered enough?

    6. Trayvon Martin was a thug in your mind because he was shot to death.

      Martin was not suspended from school for stealing. He was suspended twice for tardiness and once because he had an empty plastic bag that school authorities thought might have once contained marijuana.

      Martin had no "background" indicating a leaning toward violence. He texted about MMA.

      There is no evidence except Zimmerman's own self-serving statement that Martin attacked him without provocation.

      There is no evidence that Martin tried to cause great bodily harm to Zimmerman by "bashing" or anything else. He got into a fistfight with Zimmerman, who sustained a bloody nose and bump on the head. There is no evidence except Zimmerman's own self-serving statement that Martin was trying to kill him.

      I only hope this doesn't result in an unprovoked attack on me by Hieronymous Braintree.

    7. D in C, the choices are not limited to "thugs" or "role models',
      You didn't know either of them. You come across as an ignoramus.

    8. Trayvon was found with jewelry suspected to have been stolen. He texted about fighting specific people not MMA. He texted about buying a gun with a friend and hiding it from parents. You seem to be putting some spin on his texts.

    9. Yeah, the jewelry was suspected of being stolen. So we can assume he robbed somebody?

      If we labeled as a thug, every kid who texted something about fighting or guns or something else inappropriate, how many thugs would we have?

      Trayvon's texts? Is that what you've got?

      Michael Brown's pre-leaded weight must be up to 350 pounds by now.

    10. You should be aware that possession of stolen goods is a crime. What scenarios can you concoct for a high school boy to innocently have a bunch of women's jewelry? Trayvon's texts, read in sequence, are disturbing. The unwillingness of African American people to admit that is part of our racial problem, in my opinion. I didn't exaggerate their content -- you downplayed it by mischaracterizing it.

      Michael Brown outweighed Wilson by 70 lbs. References to Wilson's height don't change that.

      This is one of the things Somerby regularly complains about -- the need people seem to have to exaggerate their positions until they become so black and white that no nuance exists and there can be no discussion because the polarized sides are dealing with different sets of facts.

    11. @11:17 - Look who's talking. Trayvon "might" have stolen something of small value and talked about a violent world. From that you conclude that Trayvon was a "thug". I would sooner conclude from this information that he was not that different from you or I or most of us. If you want the discussion to begin, don't begin by calling Trayvon a "thug".

    12. Minimizing again. He talked about fighting specific people, not about "a violent world." I didn't conclude he was a thug (David did that), but I also cannot conclude he was an angel doing nothing wrong when he was spotted peering in windows, off the sidewalk, in a manner suggesting he might be casing a vacant condo. I don't know what the value of the jewelry might have been -- although it tends to have sentimental value for those who own it no matter what amount it can be fenced for. Stealing is bad.

      David has the right to consider Trayvon a thug if he wants. I don't like putting those kinds of labels on youth because of their capacity to change their ways. However, I think his past behavior sheds light on the uncertainties about what he did on the day he was shot.

    13. I'm sorry, but you can't really get anything beyond the minimum from Martin's texts. The same goes for the jewelry, try as you might to spin some tragic tale of its "sentimental" value.

      Where do I deny DAinCA the right to be the obdurate ignoramus that he is?

      So you "don't like putting ... labels on youth because of their capacity to change." That's mighty white of you. But unless Martin's confrontation with Zimmerman involved some furious back-and-forth texting or a dispute over jewelry, then no, his "past behavior" sheds little light on the "uncertainties." At least about him.

  3. No white person can know what it is like to be black. No black person can know what it is like to be white. This leads to misunderstandings.

    One of the misunderstandings I believe black people hold about being white is that it is easier to be white. I think that is nonsense. There are advantages and disadvantages in every person's life that make it hard to say whose life is easier, whose harder.

    Consider education. It is an advantage certainly, but it takes great effort to acquire. It is not something bestowed on anyone, it is something people work for. Having the opportunity to do that work is only the first step. If that is missing, there is certainly a disadvantage, but beyond that, those who strive to become more educated sacrifice many other opportunities in their lives -- the chance to get good at a sport or musical instrument, the chance to hang out with friends, watch more TV or movies, do drugs or drink, be spontaneous and live in the moment. Getting educated imposes stress arising from meeting one's own expectations and those of parents, teachers, mentors. It is far easier not to try than to try with the possibility of failure. Getting educated is a relentless process that never seems to end. Does it make life easier? I don't think so. It is far easier not to care and to settle for less. When white parents impose unrealistic expectations on their kids, does that make their lives easier? Does it feel better to be a failure where no one has any expectations for you, or to be a failure where everyone has done well and expects you to do the same?

    This is one tiny example of the kind of thinking and discussion that never happens. There is a knee-jerk assumption that everyone black is worse off than anyone white. Thus everyone white shares a collective racial guilt that must be assuaged with deference to the complaints of anyone black.

    As long as our racial conversation is being conducted on those terms, no progress will occur. Fortunately, most people interact with each other on a personal level that enables us to treat each other like human beings and not like tokens of racial inequities who cannot possibly know what it is like to walk in a black person's shoes and thus owe him whatever he decides is the day's tariff.

    1. Couldn't have said it better myself.

    2. So how would you conduct a racial conversation that is free of the experience of being either black or white?

    3. Who says that is a goal?

      I think we need to start talking without preconceptions about whose life is easier or harder and whose fault our life conditions are. We all experience major injustice and have to deal with whatever life circumstances we find ourselves in. The failures of imagination (or charity or empathy) get in the way of figuring out how to behave better toward each other.

      In business, the goal is never to eliminate racism. It is to enact procedures that ensure that people to do make decisions based on bias. One way to do that is to remove names and personal info from applications or interview candidates without visual info (as when musicians audition behind a screen), or consider objective measurements of performance instead of subjective personal evaluations of productivity, and so on.

      If you stop calling people names and insisting that they "change" in some poorly specified way, then the mutual goal of fairness can be addressed together. That is the kind of conversation we need. I doubt many people disagree that fairness is a worthwhile goal. The question is how to achieve it.

    4. typo: "to do" should be "do not" -- sorry

    5. I grew up with white people. My parents are white people. I went to school with them, worked with them. I even married one. Trust me, I like white people, but when I read comments like @1:41P's, I just cringe. Trust me on this too, Sparky: on average, it's harder being black in this country than it is to be white. That doesn't mean that white people don't face hurdles in life; everybody does. But white people wake up in the morning by and large facing a day during which they don't have to deal with race. They don't have to because white is the norm. The norm defines the way things work, and when you're plugged into the way things work, life is easier than if you're not.

      You don't think having more education tends to make life easier? Are you seriously going to tell me how tough your life is because the time you spent on higher education meant you never had time to master the French horn?

      Whose knee-jerk assumption is it that everyone thinks that everyone black is worse off than anyone white. (Hint: it's yours.) Who is it who thinks that white people share "collective racial guilt"? Certainly not white people, and that's 72% of the population right there. You say that most people interact with each other other on a personal level. (How else would people interact with each other?) But they don't do it that often across the color bar. That's how you can imagine that black people think you owe them whatever they decide is "the day's tariff."

      Here's what the days' tariffs have added up to over the years. The median net worth of white families in 2009 was $265K; that of black families was less than $30K. Now, I hope you're not willing to go as far as DAinCA, who thinks that black people have dragged down society by refusing to get educated. But I also hope you don't tell me that there are poor white people. And Oprah.

    6. Every one deals with race daily, including white people (who are not the majority in many cities). They are not the majority where I work. I've never come anywhere close to that median, nor has anyone I know. I don't explain that in terms of race -- how can I when I am white, hardworking, but not wealthy?

      I am sick of hearing about racism, sick of protests when a cop shoots someone on the job (black or white) because it is hard to walk a line between self-protection and public-protection and people are human. If we ask people to put their lives at risk, we should support them when things go wrong. Mistakes are tragic but they will happen because people are not perfect. You don't have to be a racist to shoot someone in fear for your life. Ferguson is largely black, so the odds of a mistake affecting someone black are high.

      It hurts white people and race relations when protesters make this only about race, as if Brown were killed deliberately due to racism. Before you deny that is happening, read comments on other blogs. I've seen a lot of hate from people protesting hate.

    7. I don't know where you work, but there isn't a single city over three-quarters of a million people that's majority black. Detroit comes the closest with just north of 700K. There are three majority-black cities with more than half a million people. The other two are Memphis and Baltimore. There are four majority-black cities with more than a quarter of a million people. The fourth is New Orleans.

      There are 5.5M people in Minnesota. 5% of them are black. Too black for you? Move to Oregon, about 4M people. Less than 2% black. You can't find a state that's more than 40% black, and if you stay out of the south, 15%.

      So, no, everyone doesn't deal with race daily.

      You're sick of hearing about racism, eh? Figure how sick people are of living with it.

      It's tragic that white people are hurt when protesters make this about race. It helps to live with that pain to know that we own everything, though, including almost 95% of the cop jobs in Ferguson.

    8. deadrat --"we own everything"

      I reject the idea that humans are automatically subdivided into races, as if each race were a well-defined team, and the teams were competing with each other. And, I reject the idea that one can deduce a collective racial debt from the fact that people of different races have different amounts of wealth on average.

      deadrat, you don't own what I own, and I don't own what you own, even if our skin colors are similar. Blacks in general don't owe me something because a white classmate of mine was robbed at knifepoint by a black man in 1962. Nor do I owe black people something because some other white people mistreated some other black people in 1842. Nor do black people owe me something because hundreds of thousands of other white people gave their lives to help black people in 1862.

      Now, if you want to talk about what sort of public policy would be best, given people's current needs, their cultural background, etc., then I'm happy to have that conversation.

    9. Many cities in CA are majority minority, some Hispanic, some Asian, some black. Ferguson is majority black. Why impose that 3/4 million restriction? Boston has many areas that are majority black. Many people function daily in diverse areas, not all. I admit Idaho is pretty white, also not populous.

      I don't own much myself, so no, owning stuff doesn't help me. The top jobs where I work are not all held by white people. If you looked at the stats for StLouis and other suburbs you would have seen some police forces closer to 50% black, as they are in larger cities across the US. Pretending that doesn't exist is dishonest.

      Mock the struggles of others who are different than you but don't expect empathy for your concerns. You prefer to think all white people are like your parents. We aren't. We aren't all bigoted rednecks either. Maybe it feels good to direct anger towards such targets but I find myself wondering who messed up in Ferguson. Crump wants a payday and Brown's parents don't want to think about what they could have done differently, so Wilson is the handy scapegoat for those feelings, being white and all it must be his fault.

    10. I reject the idea that humans are automatically subdivided into races

      Yes, I know. That way you don't have to deal with the way we've subdivided our society. Problem assumed away.

    11. The claim is that everybody has to deal with race on a daily basis. So I chose large cities to get large enough areas to compensate for patterns of de facto segregated housing. Of course we can look at stats for some St Louis suburbs or some Boston neighborhoods, and we'll find that Ferguson is two-thirds black and Mattapan is three-fourths black, but these comparatively-small areas of concentration make it even clearer which people have to deal with race on a daily basis and which people can opt out. Certainly many people live and work in diversity. Most white folks don't or don't have to. Yes, Idaho is pretty white (<1% black). Try finding a state where the reverse is true. And yes, Idaho is small (population about 1.5M), but there are lots of Idahos. If you stay out of the south, you won't find a state with a black population above about 15%.

      You seem to have read a good deal into my comments. I don't see how I'm mocking the struggles of others -- I'm serious when I note that everybody finds obstacles in their lives -- and God knows I don't give a shit about empathy from ignoramuses. I have no idea what you think I've revealed about my parents because very few people are like them. And I don't think most white people are bigoted rednecks. Please believe me when I make my little joke and say that I like white people, but most of them have the luxury of living in the majority norm and of insulating themselves from issues of race.

      One of those luxuries is being able to tell people whom you don't know what they're thinking and feeling. So Crump can only be looking for a payoff, and Brown's parents aren't grieving. Instead they're trying not to contemplate their own failures as parents. Pardon my saying so, but you've got a helluva lotta nerve. Only you don't see it that way, do you?

      As usual in these things, there's plenty of blame to go around, but Wilson was the only one who killed someone over what should have been a discussion over a traffic infraction. He was armed, he should have been trained to handle the situation, and he killed someone. Upon his not-quite-voluntary departure from the Ferguson police force, Wilson announced that he'd like to begin a career teaching the proper use of force to others. He's got about as much nerve as you do. On the other hand, his departure will reduce the percentage of white cops on the Ferguson police force from 94.3% to 94.2%.

      Calling Wilson a scapegoat is more accurate than you probably realize. In the Bible, the goat that the priests of Israel symbolically load with the sins of the nation is deliberately and ritually set free. "Scape" here means "escape." If it makes any difference to you, I'll say that as bungled as the grand jury was, no reasonable petit jury could have failed to have found reasonable doubt to acquit him.

    12. deadrat - "...the way we've subdivided our society..."

      I disagree with the use of the singular. Society is subdivided in a great many ways: religion, profession, age, wealth, income, hobbies, intelligence, married vs. single, parents vs. childless, urban vs. suburban vs, rural, Bayesian statisticians vs. Frequentist statisticians, Giant fans vs. Dodger fans, etc., etc.

      deadrat, you have implicitly assumed that race is automatically dominant. I disagree. I have more in common with a typical black actuary than I do with most whites. Inter-racial marriages work because factors other than race are more important.

      IMHO the people and institutions that focus on race and promote the idea that race is determinative are unwittingly preserving racism. E.g., I don't like the government's policy of breaking down most demographic statistics by race. I think this policy actually promotes racism. YMMV

    13. "Yes, Idaho is pretty white (<1% black). Try finding a state where the reverse is true. And yes, Idaho is small (population about 1.5M), but there are lots of Idahos. If you stay out of the south, you won't find a state with a black population above about 15%."

      People don't live at the state level or the city level. They live and work in smaller communities. It is the people they encounter that affect their lives, not entire state populations. YOU claimed that white people do not deal with race on a daily basis. I know that many do. California is now majority minority. Many areas are close to 100% black, many are similarly close to 100% Hispanic or Asian. Most customers of businesses in LA are diverse, most students at schools, most coworkers and neighbors. It is easy to find cities with >95% minority, and even >95% African American populations. Your idea that white people are walling themselves off from diversity is not substantiated by demographics any place but lightly populated enclaves like Idaho. Even in the small and large towns of the Midwest there are substantial Hispanic groups due to the legacy of migrant farmworkers who settled out of the migrant stream. The idea of a white America separate from everyone else is a stereotype.

      If an African American college student says that every time he walks into a room he sees people stare at him, wondering why he is there and thinking he doesn't belong there. (This was described as an example of a racial microaggression.) Are white people really thinking that? If white students look at the the African American student, they are accused of such thoughts. If they do not look at him, they are accused of treating minority students as if they were invisible, not included in the group. There is no acceptable behavior for white students -- they are damned if they look, damned if they do not look. Fortunately, most students treat each other as people without overanalyzing whether they are looking properly or being looked at in the right way. But this is the level of analysis that I believe harms race relations and hurts everyone. Defining looking as a microaggression is idiotic.

      I'm not saying you did this deadrat, but this is what white people must deal with on a daily basis -- how to negotiate interactions without being accused of being racist or hurting anyone's feelings. It isn't about "It's Monday, who shall I lynch today?" It is about getting on with life to achieve mutual goals, just as it should be. Until something like Ferguson causes a rift that makes people forget their shared humanity.

    14. @10:58A, I'm going to try to drop my usual snarky attitude because I actually think you're serious. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised anymore, but I'm still astounded.

      People live at multiple levels. I've detailed elsewhere how at my state level, legislators guaranteed that black students couldn't attend my segregated city-level schools. And part of my point was that if your state is 98% white, then you can pretty much pick your all-white city or smaller community. Yes, in the southwest, the growing Hispanic population is making large areas close to "majority-minority," but even there white people can mostly live their lives without black people.

      And no, you can't easily find cities of any size with ">95%" black population. The areas you cite are what we used to call ghettoes, and they isolate. My point is not that we live in rigid apartheid. We don't. And neither is my point that white people wall themselves off in their lives. They certainly do for church and school, but by and large, they don't have to.

      But all this denial is minor compared to your observations of white victimhood. "There is no acceptable behavior for white students," you write. What a tragic burden we "deal with on a daily basis." It surely helps us cope that we own everything, eh? Including the right to declare ourselves the victims in racial unpleasantness without suffering any consequences of being the less powerful.

      Mutual goals are shared goals, and it's hard to reach those when we don't really share very much.

  4. OMB (Commissions? We Don't Need No Stinking Commissions. We Need BOB)

    If Brother Kristof wants to avoid the richly deserved scorn he has received in commentary on his multi-part series regarding the racial divide, he need look no further than the excellent multi-part series on the racial gap penned by our own, inestimable OTB Somerby.

    "It's time the gaps were explained and explored: Tomorrow, we'll start a month-long series about our nation's "achievement gaps"" started BOB
    back in May.

    Readers were energetic in anticipation. Two, one named David in Cal and another named deadrat, exchanged numerous comments in a lively discussion of the performance of federal employees in selected agencies. Others discussed Ted Bundy.

    BOB quickly (Four posts later) invoked the parable of St. Gregory of Hollywood, who taught us it was a sin to kill a mockingbird. This he told us, was also the tale of the gaps, which like the dead bird, had been suppressed by sinners in the media.

    "It’s a sin to withhold such information, about the gains and the gaps. ...

    In fairness, the mainstream press corps does tend to report the gaps, .... That said, some journalists have made it their business in recent weeks to avoid the gaps. Almost all our journalists hide the gains. These others are hiding the gaps.

    We’d call their conduct a bit sinful too." So preached BOB.

    This caused many a reader to comment on the unreported acheivement of one little birdie, a D'Leisha Dent. Commenter deadrat was back, saying:

    "No, I think TDH should make clear what actually happened, that Dent was accepted at Miles College."

    Many more readers preferred to avoid the morality of birds and discuss the Age of Golden Standards, when Thumbs ruled roughly over the land
    and nobody, least not liberals, said a word about them.

    Seeminging to sense his reader's appetite growing, BOB promised more on the Gaps as May ended:

    "Starting on Monday, we’ll examine the size of the achievement gaps which define our public schools and our student population.

    We’ll also look at the very large gaps which obtain between our white kids and our black kids.

    We’ll marvel at the very large size of those appalling gaps.

    Those gaps reflect our brutal history, a history no living person created."

    BOB's readers applauded his good work and discussed how D'Leisha's brutal history might have been different had she had a dad.

    At this point we'll pause. BOB began by invoking an exciting period in his history, the sixties, as did Kristof. We believe the Warren Commission report created a gap, as did Nixon's secretary, Rosemary Woods. But it was an exciting time. BOB went to Harvard and met Tommy Lee Jones and Al Gore. Both became famous because they inspired Love Story, found Love Canal, and intiated creating the internet.

    1. Confess, @1:56, you're really KZoD in sockpuppet.

    2. OK, I admit it. But you will have to put me in a mirrored room to get me to pick out deadrat.

    3. I am @1:56 and I am not KZ or @3:01.

      KZ is a mentally ill person who has fixated on Somerby as part of his delusional system. Somerby should not have to be targeted this way. It isn't cute or funny. KZ needs to stop harassing this blogger.

    4. I'm not expert at diagnosing unknown "commenters" but I must admit I agree with you. And you're right, it isn't funny.

    5. Personally, I find ZKoD damned funny and the best thing about this blog.

      But that is just my opinion. I will grant you the courtesy that you can't seem to bring yourself to grant to others and allow you to form your own opinion.

    6. The best solution would be for KZ to start his own blog and then you and he could have fun together and leave the rest of us to other discussions. BlogSpot is free.

    7. What makes you think KZ hasn't GOT his own blog??

      Of course he has!

      He's just too (chose one: embarrassed by its low quality / modest to self-promote it) for him to mention it here.

    8. Even though KZ is almost certainly an extremely disturbed individual, I must admit it's remarkable how deftly he has captured Bob's prose style. And as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

      Other possible KZ identities: 1) idiot-savant ; 2) Bob's jilted ex-lover; 3) one of Bob's many alternate personalities; 4) artificial intelligence that has recently become self-aware; 5) The real (kidnapped) Josh Marshall attempting to send coded messages about his captivity.

    9. He may have captured Somerby's style but he remains clueless about his substance.

    10. @ 9:46 do you really call repetition substance?

    11. Another commenter who cannot read. Is repetition substance? I am waiting to tell you. I am wanting to tell you. By God, I will tell you. It's a rhetorical device. If you were an educator (or worked in advertising), you'd know it is essential to learning or behavior change. So, yes, it is substance.

    12. I agree. Bob's work is far too repetitive. He goes over and over the same topics and targets. And then he starts over again. I agree. Much too much repetition around here by Bob. And his defenders.

      But what do I know? I only taught a few years before going into advertising. Many regular commenters will probably tell me to go away. Then analyze me.

      Call me @ 1:56

    13. We largely agree with the complaints about the repetitiveness. However, we must point out that he has largely stopped talking about Campaign 2000 of late, and he also seems to have reduced his fixation on Rachel Maddow. What we would like now is to get some sense that Bob is approaching this with some passion, that he isn't just watching the same shows over and over out of habit, and then coming here to type out the same complaints over and over, again out of habit, rather than as a product of genuine interest in the subject matter. Good bloggers, like good writers of any sort, have respect for their topic and -- this is really lacking in Bob -- write with the goal of learning as well as enlightening. That means expanding one's horizon, exposing oneself to new experiences and ideas. We are now curious to see where things go from here. It's extremely rare for people to change, in our experience.

    14. Might be time for the conglomerate that controls TDH to replace the highly overpaid Mr.S with a bright new blog-person

    15. How about Anonymous December 4, 2014 at 12:42 AM? Oh yeah, the repetition thing.

  5. I feel really, really bad when someone tarnishes Richard Nixon's legacy.

    1. Especially when you consider how spiffy Manolo Sanchez left it.

  6. "When most rural white voters who are criminally negligent in their use of firearms hear 'National Conversation on Race' they interpret it as 'Shut up and Be Lectured to About All the Terrible Ways You are Racist.'"

    FTFY - you're welcome.

  7. There seems to be an assumption that racism arises from ignorance. I think it arises from unpleasant experiences with people of other races. These may have had nothing to do with race, but because race is a salient characteristic of the people, the unpleasantness may have been generalized, especially if there have been multiple experiences.

    That suggests a different cure than lecturing and conversations. It suggests an effort to improve the quality of interactions between the races, to provide more pleasant and fewer unpleasant interactions. This will naturally occur in integrated environments. So, people can enhance racial progress by avoiding racial self-segregation. Integration of police and community services is similarly important, as is community policing.

    It seems obvious that trying to decrease hostile interactions between the races is also important. So, you have to ask whether the protests and name-calling are helping or hurting.

    White people do have opportunities to witness the hatred some black people feel toward all white people. African Americans may think they are concealing it, but they are not. They know what it feels like to be the recipient of such hate directed at them. It does not help when they reflect it back, in my opinion. Using these situations as an excuse to express hatred is majorly counterproductive. Nor is it cathartic, since expression of anger tends to increase not decreased the intensity of the emotion.

    1. Another unfair white advantage -- the ability to read black people's minds.

    2. You would need to have that ability yourself to say definitively that no black person has such things in mind. That isn't necessary because enough people say what they think.

    3. I asked above, what is racism? In the past, we had slavery. The slaves were freed, but segregation was legal, the Supreme Court made it's ruling in Plessy v Ferguson, then inthe 50's and 60's the laws changed. TV commercials and TV shows now typically have Black characters. Yet, there are still overt racists, and there is a divide, Blacks on average are much poorer, and a white person walking down the street might feel nervous if a gtoup of young Black males approach frmthe opposite direction. A middle class Black person driving a nice car in a white area might be pulled over where a white person wouldn't. Whites resent affirmative action. I think there is a limbic factor that's involved, in conflict between races, as in most other areas. Look at ethnic cleansing in europe, or unbelievably brutal massacres between different tribes in Africa. There are multiple angles you can view the issues from. Wisdom as always is a rare commodity.

  8. orecic, are you suggesting that (white people) = (rural white voters...etc)? That seems like an unfair stereotype given that more than half of the protesters I've been seeing on the streets have been white.

  9. Anon @ 1:58: Read comp fail.

    Actually majneb is who you should direct your query to.

  10. I think Kristoff should appoint a two person reconciliation committee of Mia Farrow and Soon Yi Previn.

  11. I understand what majneb wrote. I don't understand orecic. Can orecic please clarify? Is orecic trying to call majneb a redneck but being too oblique about it?

    @2:09 of course there was a fail. That's why I asked the question. The response should be to clarify, not point out there has been a failure to communicate.

  12. Actually, majneb, that interpretation is exclusive to most white people who ARE racist.

  13. Actually, most white people do not consider themselves to be racist.

    Those who go to college and learn about critical race theory are taught that all white people are racist because they benefit from institutional white privilege.

    Saying that all white people are racist on that basis means that racism cannot be used as a distinction among white people and the term then becomes meaningless except as a pejorative, which is exactly how most white people hear it.

    If you mean something different by the term racist, now is the time to explain what you do mean. Otherwise, it is entirely appropriate for white people to stop listening when someone starts throwing that word around. There is nothing that can be done to change the past and the label is inseparable from that past, so why listen further?

    Instead of labeling people with ugly terms like racist, why not point out specific behaviors that you think ought to be changed?

  14. "Kristof imagined the panel could be led by Presidents Clinton and Bush—and by Oprah, of course. From what planet does such piffle emerge?"

    I know the orifice from which it emerges.

  15. Thanks for all the thoughtful responses : )

    My main point, however, was that these purported "Conversations" are not intended to be actual conversations. Rather, they are intended to be one way diatribes against white people to inform them of all their alleged racial sins. The problems or shortcomings of black people are of course not permitted in the "Conversation on Race."

  16. How do you have a national conversation about "racism?", It exists, but what is the definition of it?

  17. In support of your excellent points, majneb and AC/MA, it would be unthinkable if the National Conversation included topics implying that blacks owe non-blacks. E.g.,

    -- What blacks owe whites for the Civil War and emancipation
    -- What blacks owe whites and Asians for trillions of dollars of government benefits, for affirmative action, etc.
    -- How blacks continue to harm whites and Asians by committing so many crimes
    -- How blacks have hurt all of society by failing to become better educated.

    I sure don't think these are the kind of topics Kristof has in mind for his National Dialogue.

  18. D in C, I wasn't looking for an answer so completely stupid

  19. AC/MA, There is no answer so completely stupid that DAinCA won't rush to post it here.

  20. What if you subtract back wages owed to slaves and punitive damages for their treatment from the costs of the civil war?

    I heard once that driving an unwashed car was considered a crime against community in the USSR. We haven't become a society yet where failure to maximize potential is a crime.

  21. David in Cal has the right idea.

    Unfortunately, since blacks were not allowed to participate in the government of those states which started the Civil War, but were instead enslaved by them, and such a condition was allowed by the other states in the union at the time, they bear no responsibility for that war.

    However, since the states were in open rebellion and defeated in war, I think it is fitting we revisit the outcome. I say give blacks Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and northern Florida. They can then decide whether they wish to be an independent nation, or apply for readmission to the United States as states or as commonwealths like Puerto Rico. White citizens can remain as residents with permits and gain partial voting status in 75 years provided they can pass a literacy test and show they had ancestors who could vote in 2014. Should they choose to relocate, they can be given public housing and a 40 horsepower car.

    I would like to give them Texas but the Mexicans who have reclaimed it might object.