BRING US TOGETHER: The eternal need for an Us and a Them!

FRIDAY, APRIL 28, 2023

The disconsolate experts' tale: Friend, please riddle us this:

Suppose you learned something very surprising. In fact, suppose you learned the following things:

Suppose you learned that the teacher of your fifth-grade child had been telling your child and her class that some individuals, by virtue of their race, are inherently racist.

Also, suppose you learned that this teacher, who you've always generally liked, had been telling the class that one race is inherently superior to some other race.

Beyond that, suppose you learned that the principal of your child's school had told the teacher that she had to stop saying these things. Suppose you learned all that!

Friend, suppose you learned all those things! Would you think that the principal had "moved toward restricting your child's education on race?" 

Would it even cross your mind to think something as weird as that?

We're going to guess that you wouldn't think that! We're going to guess that you might even wonder why the teacher in question hadn't been removed from her post.

At this point, we'll make a confession:

We don't think that public school kids should be taught that any "race" is inherently superior to any other "race."  We also don't think that public school kids should be taught these things:

That any individual, by virtue of his race, is inherently racist.

That any individual should be discriminated against, or receive adverse treatment, solely or partly because of their race or sex.

That an individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex.

We don't think kids should be taught such things—but how odd! 

In March 2021, a state representative in the Rhode Island legislature introduced a bill which sought to prohibit teachers from teaching such "divisive concepts." 

For the text of that bill, click here.

As far as we know, this bill was never passed. But on Wednesday, a report in the New York Times seemed to describe the mere proposal of this bill (and the mere proposal of other bills like it) meant that Rhode Island (and other states) had "moved toward restricting education on race" in recent years.

Why would a major newspaper publish such a weird statement? Experts have come to us with an answer on several occasions this week.

 According to these major experts, the odd formulation in the Times represents a deeply seated human impulse. It represents "the eternal need for an Us and a Them," these disconsolate experts all said.

Before we continue, let's state a few points about the bills concerning "divisive concepts." Such bills have been introduced in many state legislatures, by Republican legislators, in the past few years.

We'd like to state these points:

We're not saying that these bills should have passed into law. (In some states, they have been. Florida is one such state.) 

We're not saying that Democrats should have worked with their colleagues to amend these bills in various ways, perhaps by cleaning up fuzzy language or by adding additional provisions.

We're not saying that these bills were needed. We're not saying that these bills would have been helpful in some way.

We aren't saying those things. Instead, we're asking a question today. Specifically, we're asking this:

Why in the world would a major newspaper describe these bills as the New York Times did, especially without making any attempt to describe what the bills contained? Why would the New York Times say that provisions like these represent an attempt to "restrict" your second, fifth, or eighth grade child's "education on race?"

Why would a journalist say that? The experts who spoke to us addressed that and other points.

According to these world-class scholars, this behavior by the Times (and others) involves what they call the "Eek, a mouse" human instinct. It's an instinct hardwired in human brains and deeply bred in the bone, or so these experts say. 

At one time, it was a survival instinct, these despondent scholars acknowledge. Today, this instinct leads us on toward tribal war, and makes it very hard to survive as a large and diverse major nation.

According to these future experts, "Eek a mouse" works like this:

We human being are strongly inclined to divide into tribes, and to fear rival tribes. As part of an ancient survival instinct, we're strongly inclined to start demonizing tribes of Others, thereby hardening our own tribe's resolve in the face of their threatening presence. 

So it goes in our modern world at this highly polarized time. In their most shocking revelation, these experts say that our own blue tribe behaves this way on a regular basis.

Our instincts tell us that our blue tribe newspapers shouldn't even interview the Others! Also, that every behavior by the Others must be described in the most negative possible way.

This is what the experts said. For ourselves, we'd offer the following point:

On occasion, we think it's hard to have sufficient contempt for the way our corporate tribal leaders urge us in this destructive direction. They're paid large sums to behave that way, and the very large money spends good.

Last week, a former president spoke to Joe Scarborough and made an odd remark. Tucker Carlson hadn't been fired yet, and so our tribunes were still pretending to care about the children and teens who had recently been killed in certain shooting events.

Bill Clinton made a very odd statement about our nation's gun deaths. As we've noted several times, this is the start of what he said:

SCARBOROUGH: You were president when Columbine happened. And at the time, obviously we were all horrified, but almost thought of that as a one-off. It's now become a regular occurrence.

You and I grew up in a culture where everybody we went to church with, everybody that was in our neighborhood, they all went out hunting. You've talked about shotguns growing up? Same here.

But it's gotten so extreme. What do we do?

CLINTON: Well, one thing that's pretty clear is, whatever we do, we need to do it more together. And I think we need to start talking across this divide.

I remember when Jack Brooks, who was a congressman from Texas and enjoyed the support of the NRA in every election he was ever in, and Tom Foley, the Speaker of the House from Washington, they both told me that when the Senate put in the assault weapons ban into the crime bill, which I wanted, that if I signed it, we would lose the House. 

And we did! And they lost their seats, because of the ability of the NRA to terrify people, but also because we were beginning to lose touch with each other across cultural divides that had always existed but hadn't been barriers you couldn't breach.

Say what? It almost sounded like he was suggesting that we should speak to Others! 

Later in his colloquy, that's exactly what he said! Clinton suggested that we should pursue state-by-state referendums concerning guns. Fair enough, but here's the way he framed it:

CLINTON: I have argued that we ought to just put it all up for referendum. Let people vote on it. Let them—then neighbors have to talk to neighbors. They have to treat each other like people.

On my side, there are too many people who favor a lot of these gun measures who don't know any of these country people. And they don't understand that, you know, most of them are people you would be glad to have as neighbors if your house caught on fire, because they'd come over and take your kids to safety and come back and help you put the fire out. 

But this whole thing has come to stand for something that's not what it's about. It's crazy. And we need to start asking each other for help on this. It is not rational that we should have a dramatically higher death rate among school age children than any other country in the world...

On the gun thing at home, the only thing I'll say is, I think that the people like me who think we ought to limit gun clips to ten bullets, for example, we just need to start asking these people for help. Ask them to come to meetings. Ask them to talk to us. Because you don't have to win them all... 

Clinton went on from there. But when he said that people like Us would have to speak to people like Them, it became clear that he's way out of touch.

For the record, the experts who have spoken to us have made one point quite clear. Nothing is ever going to change our tribe's reactions or its behaviors. Our tribe's too far gone for that.

Still, the experts say this:

When we find ourselves describing provisions with which we agree as "moves toward restricting education on race," we've passed what these scholars refer to as "the gong-show point." 

There will be no turning back. We'll be taking this path to the end.

During his successful career, we'll guess that Clinton might have said that he agreed with most of the views contained in those "divisive concepts" bills. He might not have supported those bills, but he might have found something nice to say about the basic concepts being expressed in those bills. 

He might have said that we're all in this together, that we don't have a single person to waste. That seems to be one of the ways you peel votes away from opponents.

He got elected by six points, then got re-elected by eight. In fairness, things were somewhat simpler then. As he started his campaign for re-election, Fox News and MSNBC didn't exist.  The political Internet barely existed. Social media didn't.

We don't believe in having contempt for people. If we did, we'd tell you this:

It's hard to have sufficient contempt for the way our multimillionaire blue elites insist on guiding us through this game. We expect to focus a bit more on our own tribe's possible errors in the weeks ahead.

(Even one by Reverend Sharpton, who we've long admired!)

There is no way to change any of this, those experts despondently said. Our blue tribe will continue finding ways to construct an Us and a Them while insisting that the tribe known as Us is transplendently moral and right.

It's hard to be this dumb: Last October, Education Week published a report about the sorts of proposals which were discussed in yesterday's New York Times. 

It's extremely hard to be this dumb, but here's how the folderol started:

Since last year, states have passed legislation restricting discussions about race and racism in the classroom or limiting professional development about anti-racism, and many more have proposed similar laws.

...Most of these laws have the same eight or so “divisive concepts” listed, which, in many cases, are so vague it’s hard to tell what exactly they’re banning, educators and experts across the country have said.

Under the new laws, teachers can’t tell students that anyone because of their race or sex is “inherently racist, sexist or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously,” that anyone “bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex,” or that they “should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish or any other form of psychological distress” because of their race or sex.


“School districts are having great difficulty just explaining to educators what educators are supposed to be doing or not doing in response to these bills. And, you know, educators need support,” said Alice O’Brien, an attorney for the National Education Association, which was involved in the lawsuits in two of the four states.

“They don’t need to spend their time trying to split hairs about what a legislative enactment means,” she said. “It’s impossible to understand exactly what conduct is prohibited and isn’t prohibited.”

Under these laws, teachers are forbidden from telling students that anyone, because of his race, is inherently racist.

It's impossible to understand what that means, our blue tribe's experts have said!


  1. Bob SEEMS to think there is some validity to this bill, or bills like them, but it’s kind of hard to tell. He doesn’t seem to want to come out and say it is hard to tell. My question is why would someone think a bill like this is necessary? It SEEMS like snowflake right wing stuff, but whatta got?
    But Bob goes back once again to the Clinton quote framed oddly in Nixon nostalgia. What Bob is trying to say here is hard to say. He should come out and say it.

  2. Republicans should support statehood for Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

  3. 1. I would worrying about the accuracy of anything repeated second-hand that a teacher supposedly said in class. Kids garble things.
    2. I would worry about a principal or administrator interfering with classroom teaching.
    3. The prohibitions hinge on the word “inherently” because people certainly have different experiences, attirudes and beliefs depending on race and some white men do believe they are superior, and racism and sexism are real and need to be addressed by teachers. These restrictions make it hard to do that without being misunderstood by political operatives posing as parents.
    4. These laws are unnecessary.

  4. The second amendment is evil.

  5. Florida’s book-ban frenzy targets Nora Roberts, and she’s not happy


    That’s hard to square with what just happened in Martin County, Fla. The school district there recently decided to yank from its high school library circulation eight novels by Nora Roberts that are not “pornography” at all — largely prompted by objections from a single woman who also happens to be a Moms for Liberty activist.

    “All of it is shocking,” Roberts told us. “If you don’t want your teenager reading this book, that’s your right as a mom — and good luck with that. But you don’t have the right to say nobody’s kid can read this book.”

    1. Meanwhile the Mom's for Liberty kid is at home watching pornography on the internet. The stupid in these people.

  6. Working in middle management, I learned that an honest manage has less power than one might expect. Not only must a manger obey all laws and all company policies, he must make the decisions that he believes to be in the best interest of the company. E.g, he can't use his power to hire his friends.

    It's similar for newspapers. An honest newspaper has little power to shape public opinion. They must report the important news fairly and accurately. They can influence public opinion only in their editorial as op-ed pieces.

    That's too boring for today's New York Times. They want the power to affect public opinion. They gain power by selecting or ignoring stories based on whether the story will affect public opinion in their desired direction. They gain power by reporting stories unfairly.
    news organ.

    1. Does Fox News do this, in your estimation?

    2. Nora Roberts is famous. Of course her response to being banned is going to be considered news. She writes women's fiction, so you might not be as familiar with her as Tom Clancy, an author read by men.

      "With more than 500 million copies of her books in print, it's no wonder The New Yorker has dubbed Nora Roberts "America's favorite novelist." She is the bestselling author of more than 200 books, including The Liar, The Collector, The MacGregors trilogy, Dark Witch, and many more."

    3. "Does Fox News do this, in your estimation?"

      I don't watch Fox News. Their news may be OK, but of course, the huge bulk of their time is opinion, which is very slanted to the right side.

    4. DinC, you're a liar. You came here and told us to watch Tucker because he was the only one reporting on the Antifa riots being planned that never happened, you lying jackass.

  7. "During his successful career, we'll guess that Clinton might have said that he agreed with most of the views contained in those "divisive concepts" bills. He might not have supported those bills, but he might have found something nice to say about the basic concepts being expressed in those bills."

    Bill Clinton is a Democrat. He is not going to be supporting or saying nice things about bills written by Ron DeSantis or the cabal that has written the boilerplate Republican being introduced all over the country. This is a Republican culture war fake issue and Bill Clinton is too astute politically to offer even good-natured nice-guy support for it.

    When Somerby uses a fondly remembered Democratic president to give a stamp of approval to awful legislation, he is doing more than stealing copyrighted songs and poems. He is attributing to Clinton something he would not say or do. Neither Bill nor Hillary supports Moms for Liberty either, and they do not condone book-burning or book-banning or censorship of school materials by right-wing know-nothings.

    If anything, both Bill and Hillary Clinton have better things to do with their time, but both would recognize the politically charged nature of this issue and they WOULD NOT BE SUPPORTING THE RIGHT WING IN ANY FORM.

    Here is what Clinton actually said about racism and the divide between black and white people, on the occasion of the Million Man March in 1995:

    Note that the concern about crime and gangs was because of a drug-driven crime rate that has greatly decreased since then:

    "Using the BJS statistics, the declines in the violent and property crime rates are even steeper than those reported by the FBI. Per BJS, the overall violent crime rate fell 74% between 1993 and 2019, while the property crime rate fell 71%."

    The rest of Clinton's speech, despite trying strongly to appeal to both black and white audience members, does not support today's right-wing efforts in any way. He talks about honest conversations about race and NOT stifling discussion in the classroom. He also supports the Democratic party's social justice agenda while urging black men to be more involved in their families and help their children more.

    We don't have to buy Somerby's fantasy of what Clinton would have said. His words are right there.

    1. These are the views that you feel Clinton would not support:

      16-22-34. Prohibition of teaching divisive concepts.
      5 (a) For purposes of this section, divisive concepts shall mean and include the following
      6 concepts:
      7 (1) One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex;
      8 (2) The state of Rhode Island or the United States of America is fundamentally racist or
      9 sexist;
      10 (3) An individual, by virtue of their race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive,
      11 whether consciously or unconsciously;
      12 (4) An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or
      13 partly because of their race or sex;
      14 (5) Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect
      15 to race or sex;
      16 (6) An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by their race or sex;
      17 (7) An individual, by virtue of their race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed
      18 in the past by other members of the same race or sex;
      19 (8) Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of
      LC001895 - Page 2 of 3
      1 psychological distress on account of their race or sex; or
      2 (9) Meritocracy or traits such as hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a
      3 particular race to oppress another race;
      4 (10) Divisive concepts includes any other form of race or sex stereotyping of any other
      5 form of race or sex scapegoating:
      6 (i) “Race or sex stereotyping” means ascribing character traits, values, moral and ethical
      7 codes, privileges, status, or beliefs to a race or sex or to an individual because of their race or sex;
      8 (ii) “Race or sex scapegoating” means assigning fault, blame, or bias to a race or sex, or to
      9 members of a race or sex because of their race or sex and similarly encompasses any claim that any
      10 particular race or sex is responsible for society’s ills.
      11 (b) All state and municipal contracts, grants and training programs entered into after the
      12 effective date of this section shall include provisions banning the teaching of divisive concepts and
      13 shall prohibit making any individual feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of
      14 psychological distress on account of their race or sex

    2. Right, because I don't believe that Clinton would support interfering with teachers in the classroom, even if conservatives think their restrictions are innocuous. And because Clinton advocated discussing racial issues head on, not avoiding them, as this legislation encourages.

    3. @12:00 am -- read what Clinton actually said. It is clear you have not done that.

    4. 9:33 - Look at Clinton's deeds, not his words. His Crime Bill of 1994 significantly increased in the number of people in prison, particularly black and Latino men. And provided funding for states to build more prisons, which further perpetuated the cycle of mass incarceration. The negative effects of smooth talking Democrat Bill Clinton's crime bill continue to impact communities of color to this day.

    5. 11:07, ah yes, this bullshit smear is exactly what the Russians were using against Hillary in 2016. The goal was to --- what? Say it with me.

      Suppress and divide the black vote.

      Thanks for reminding us, Boris.