Category Archives: Race and Racism

I shall not presume to dwell at length about the associations that cluster about this day….

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And if you like that kind of talk, I’ve got more for you in a minute.

The person who said those words was the Vice Presidential running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket (though he did not ask to be). He was a criminal; born a slave, but escaped. He’s on a stamp. Two stamps, I think. He wrote this book, this book, and this book. And, he gave a few speeches.

Here are some great kids, and by “great” I mean “great, great, great, great, great!” kids giving his Forth of July Speech, originally delivered on July 5th, 1852. By Frederick Douglass

Don’t be fulled by the children’s brevity. Nobody was brief in 1852. Here is the full speech: Continue reading I shall not presume to dwell at length about the associations that cluster about this day….


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Republcian Rep Matthew Grossell: Be prepared to defend the Republic!

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Representative Matthew Grossell, of the Minnesota Legislature, tells us to “be prepared to defend this republic” from protesters calling for racial equity and criminal justice reform.

Ex cop Grossell calls for citizens to take up arms against anti-racism protests.
Grossell is a rep from District 2A, which is one of the most famous districts in Minnesota because it is where we find International Falls, often cited in national weather reports as having the lowest temperature in the connected 48 states.

Grossell has deemed the George Floyd Protests Are “Evil” & “Not About Race,” “a coordinated attack on our God given freedoms”, “a springboard for an alter agenda to destroy this republic and any other free nation around the world”, “not about race”, “an attempt to divide us as Americans”, and “the lies and deceit of evil.”

Grossell’s gross sell is being criticized by the Minnesota DFL (Democratic) party, who call this an “unhinged social media tirade … in which Grossell attacks the protests calling for justice and reform that erupted in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and appears to call for violence to be used against protesters.

We know Grossell is a typical Republican, and he proves it with his remarks. My question is, does his expressed point of view reflect the thinking of the good people of his district? I know several people who live in 2B, and no, it does not as far as I can tell. Grossell is out of step and needs to be replaced.

Just so you know I’m not cherry picking, here is the full text of Grossell’s Facebook post:

What’s on my mind is this folks, as I look at what is going on across the state, across the nation and across the world. One thing stays in my heart and mind, this is a coordinated attack on our God given freedoms as written in the Constitution of these United States. The tragic death of one man has been used as a springboard for an alter agenda to destroy this republic and any other free nation around the world. This is not about race though it is being used in an attempt to divide us as Americans. We must not let the lies and deceit of evil divide us and we must stand ready to defend this nation, this republic, the land of the free the home of the brave. I took an oath as a soldier, a law enforcement officer and now as a state representative to uphold the Constitution and I have never been relieved of that oath nor will I ever give it up. I call upon my brothers and sisters across this state, this nation and around the world to stand ready to face this evil, which will never be appeased by compromise nor will it ever stop taking until it has taken every freedom we hold dear, and stop it dead in its tracks. It was said somewhere by a wise individual ‘all evil needs to get a foothold is for good men to do nothing’. So I call upon my brothers and sisters to first and foremost pray and secondly to be prepared to defend this republic, the land of the free the home of the brave! We are one nation under God and it’s time for us to stand ready to defend this nation this republic which God has so graciously given us. Please share this as far and wide as you possibly can. Thank you, God’s blessings and protection cover us all.

This is a state representative calling for his fellow citizens to take up arms against those who want change. I think he should be censured.


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American Racism, Confederate Trappings, And this, too, shall melt away

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A pottery cone is a cone-shaped object made of a pyro-sensitive material (in the early days, some kind of clay) so when a pottery kiln reaches a certain temperature, the cone droops. Pottery kilns are made with a tiny window one can look through and if your eye doesn’t melt (don’t worry, there are provisions for this) you can see which of a series of different cones have melted, and thus estimate the temperature of the kiln. You then add fuel if necessary, and keep a record and an eye on the clock, and over time your pottery fires just right.

The pottery cone, reaching a certain level of heat and then falling over, is a metaphor for Confederate monuments in America. The perennial racism-fueled conflict between white supremacists and everyone else flows and moves, waxes and wanes, and always generates heat. Every now and then enough heat is generated, and some sort of civil meltdown occurs in relation to one of these statues. This has happened since the very first months after the Civil War. It has happened more frequently, it has been more widespread, and it has been accompanied by much greater heat, in recent years. So, the statues are drooping, in their own way, like the pottery cones.

The falling statues are the direct result of activism, but they are also metaphors in their own right. They are metaphors of a changing demographic. The racist and classist cancer that infects society in the United States is perpetuated mainly by less educated white men, and although it appears in other societal tissues to some degree, that is currently the main source of the disease. Progressive minded people have been engaged in an open conspiracy for decades now, consisting of two parts: 1) Educate more, and 2) make sure “education” remains education and does not become indoctrination (or it wont’ work). This conspiracy has been only modestly successful, so the number of metastasizing cells, as it were, has not diminished much via liberal education.

But racism is becoming unfashionable, and that is probably the best thing that could happen to it. What was once de riguer, or at least, not something one complains about, in all areas of white or white-ish society, is now widely recognized as bad. Active racists know this, and they revel in its badness, with the new war cry of “make the liberals cry.” The key difference between now and 50 years ago is this: Out of fashion, racism is not recruiting from the young as much as it could, and is withdrawing rapidly from many areas it once held sway. This means the source, less educated white men, are aging as a demographic.

Racism in America will ultimately be addressed by the death of most of the racists.

Most people will react to this idea with the following, or something like it: “But racism will always be there, because of the basic nature of human beings.” This is one of the great lies of racism, that racism is natural, inevitable, and therefore, possibly, normal and even good. This is the Naturalistic Fallacy being used to excuse or underwrite nefarious behavior. Don’t be fooled by that fallacy. Also, despite the fact that we find racism of one sort or another in many societies, you need to know that American racism is it’s own thing. Racism in modern America grows out of American history. American slavery, American immigration, American isolationism, the American frontier, and many other things American are either unique, or at least, very different in America than any other place or time, and the combination is utterly unique. It is not some sort of demented American exceptionalism to claim that running a physically large country (or set of closely interactive colonies) for centuries on the back of widespread slavery, so that most of the people in the slave regions were the slaves themselves, is unique. (The Caribbean of course is part of this story, but lets not give this discussion over to the professional historians until we hit the comment section below.)

To understand this better, consider just one aspect of racism against East Asian people in America. In the 19th century, Chinese people, usually imported workers, were viewed, literally and unabashedly, by most white Americans, as subhuman. There wasn’t even a little apology there. They were a form of monkey that could talk in a lot of white people’s minds. The legislation to keep them out, the norms and regulations that gave Chinese workers less protection than the mules that died along with them building railroads across the mountains, clearly document this, as do the depictions and writings of the time.

Today, a different belief about East Asians pervades American culture. While many of the White Supremacists may view East Asian people as subhuman (I don’t put much past them), today East Asians are more often viewed as superior (like how well the kids do in school), of a more effective or demanding culture (how the parents of those school kids keep things under control) of greater physical prowess (East Asian marshal arts have redefined American fighting) and more gentile and artistic (see all the Asian influence in all the arts) all at the same time. Now also consider the plight of the Irish, considered sub human (again, monkeys that can sort of talk), or the Italians (monkeys that can talk very loudly) or the Polish or other Eastern European groups, and so on and so forth. All of these groups went through a period of intense denigration, were the subject of attack and murder, and economic disenfranchisement. Until the weren’t. That all went away. We see almost no remnant in day to day life of any of that.

American Racism is centered on, and consists mainly of, disdain for African Americans, the descendants of kidnapped Africans bred as a slave population on which our economy was based, and from which our country grew strong. This core of American racism is different from the other, just mentioned, racist historical trends, let alone racism among humans in general.

Yes, American Racism is big, bad, ugly, utterly unique, and most importantly, American racism exists because of its own specific history. Anything that arises from context and history can be put down with new context and future, if that future is unfriendly to it. White supremacy reproduced itself generation after generation in America not because it is innate, but because it is very large and very strong, very convenient, money-making, and desired even by those not directly engaged in the most obvious forms of it.

But now, the cones are melting. The reasons racism is good are melting away. Racism against African Americans is no longer economically neutral or convenient for an increasingly large part of the white dominated business world. In fact it can be downright damaging. It is hard to find a city or state where a wink and a nod in favor of racism increases your vote count. Individuals with histories tied to the American racist model are politically doomed these days, but not in the old days, where the “old days” were five years ago or so. Prosecutors who rode the law-and-order wave of recent decades are increasingly inviable as candidates for executive office, because that “law and order” movement is what made Americans the most incarcerated population in the world, with a strong racial bias. An up and coming mover and shaker who wore blackface to his frat party is no longer seen as a mere doofus. The societal and cultural feedback loops have been breaking for some time, but in recent years, they are being systematically identified and ripped asunder. This is one of the key roles of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” It is an ironic statement designed to pop the racist mole so it can be solidly, and with finality, whacked.

I am not suggesting that racism in America is suddenly over, or that it is going to become unimportant any time soon. Rather, I’m saying these three things. 1) Racism of the kind we see in America is not a mere reflection of human nature, and to see it as such is not only factually wrong, but defeatist; 2) while American racism is big and complex and should not be underestimated, if it was a disease, it would be best cured by cutting out that one element of society that keeps it going, less educated white men; and 3) we need to keep up the pressure, to stop them from recruiting or spreading their culture, over the next 30 years while most of them die off. Under current conditions, with Covid-19, the tendency of these very men to also disdain science may speed the process. We can talk about that after a 30 day period following the upcoming in-person Republican National Convention sans mask.

Of course, we speak here in statistical generalities. Lots of less educated white men are not contributing to this problem. But the demographic of less educated white men has a lot of ‘splainin to do.


“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words, “And this too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!”

  • Abraham Lincoln

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Racism and Related Books for Kids

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New Kid by Jerry Craft.

Class Act by Jerry Craft.

I Am Not a Number by Dupuis, Kacer, and Newland.

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester.

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Celano, Green, Collins, and Hazzard.

That’s Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo!: Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia (Spanish and English Edition) by Tafolla, Tenyuca, and Ybanez.

Sulwe by Nyong’o and Harrison.

Where Are You From? by Mendez.

Hat Tip: Sam Fredrickson, Birchview.


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Browner Nation USA

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My family recently moved into what was long known to be the bestest of all public school districts in Minnesota, and also, long known to be the whitest in the Twin Cities area. We moved here because it is where my wife works, and we got lucky, tricking the owner of a run down old town house to sell it to us for about 30% off market value. So, whitest, most privileged, in what is considered to be a white state by people who have heard of Minnesota but never been there.

Every morning I go to the bus stop with my blond and pale-skinned Nordic son, who goes to the elementary school in this district. He is the token white kid born in the USA at that bus stop. The other kids are: Indian, of an Indian family, he was born in the US but none of his family were. Ironically, he has a thick Indian accent while his older brother, born in India, talks like a standard American teenager. Funny how that works. Two kids whom I had guessed were from Indonesia, not really English speakers a year ago when they moved here, but now are very American-English savvy. “Yes, everyone thinks they are Indonesian” their born-in-China mom told me. “But I’m Chinese and my husband is from Somalia.” Indonesia is, of course, about half way between the two, so that makes total sense. Then, one kid from Russia, speaks very little English, but it is fun to hear her speak Russian every day with one or two additional English words thrown in. Today it was “Bla bla bla kid’s play area bla bla bla.” Then, the little girl who speaks mostly French, just moved here from Quebec. My son’s school is white-minority, but probably plurality, with Asian (mostly south Asian) probably being second, with African-American, African-from-Africa, and Hispanic rounding out most of the rest. But, as noted, about half of the “white” kids are not from the US, or at least, their parents are not.

How many teachers and administrators are there in the school system who are not white? I’ve personally never met one but there is a rumor of an African American woman in the High School admin, and one of the teachers at my son’s Elementary school is African American, and maybe another one is kinda Hispanic. Not the Spanish Teacher, Mrs O’Reilly, though. She’s Irish American.

We hear about how “America will be not white majority in” some future year kinda far off. Most recent projections say 2045, but don’t believe it. It will be sooner. And, now there is a report that non-Hispanic white kid ratio has risen to about 50-50. From what I see, don’t believe that easier. That transition is happening too fast for demographers, who are always a few years behind in their data, to measure. The results of the 2020 census will be very interesting!

White supremacy is one of this country’s major problems. It is rearing its big ugly head these days for the reasons cited above. I think that problem will get worse before it gets better. But, in 20 years from now when the US is a very brown nation, most of the White Supremacists will learned to shut up, or will have died off. Or both.

We’ve been here before. This was once a white minority sub continent. Our brief history of mighty whiteness was a mixed bag, to be sure.

See: Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History (2018)

Children of color projected to be majority of U.S. youth this year (2020)


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Why is no one immune to having racial biases?

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I’ll just put this here:

Racism is a phenomenon that emerges from our individual lived experiences and the culture in which we grow up and participate in as adults. A humanistic perspective or a logical mind does not obviate biases in how we know things, and thus, how we perceive or perform as actors in it.

Anthropologist Greg Laden will discuss North American racism as a phenomenon in science and society, its history, and how it is maintained. How do racial, or similar, biases form at the individual and societal level? How are they affected, or not, by societal fixes, great speeches, or education? How can Humanists be better humanists by grappling with this difficult area of human behavior?

Greg Laden is a biological anthropologist, educator, and science writer. His PhD work (at Harvard) was with the Efe Pygmies of the PR Congo, and he has contributed to research on the key features of human evolution, the initial chimp-human split, and the rise of our genus Homo. More recently, Laden studies, speaks, and writes about climate change and race and racism. He is working on a book on falsehoods we know and love.


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Make America Gullible Again

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What is the meaning of this photograph? I see several young folk, maybe high school or college age, walking along the street. The woman in front is wearing sunglasses, so maybe it is sunny, and she’s carrying what looks like a book and a binder, so maybe she is a student going to class. I see a man in the backgrouind who is smiling at his friend. The woman on the far right, just on the edge of the shot, seems lost in thought. This could be, in black and wight and with dress and hair styles suggesting some antiquity (1950s? 1960s?), a photograph of a bunch of kids who just got off a school bus and are on their way into class.

Continue reading Make America Gullible Again
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Is White Supremacy and Lynching People Racist?

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Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith got all titillated the other day when she thought about sitting in the front row of a public hanging. In the context of her race to be Senator of Mississippi. Which is the state in which the most recent well known lynchings took place, and that probably had more lynchings per capita than any other state. Her opponent, Mike Epsy, is a black man. Continue reading Is White Supremacy and Lynching People Racist?


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Difference and Disease: Excellent new book on medicine and race in the 18th century British empire

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Suman Seth is associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, at Cornell. He is an historian of science, and studies medicine, race, and colonialism (and dabbles as well in quantum theory). In his new book, Difference and Disease: Medicine, Race, and the Eighteenth-Century British Empire, Seth takes on a fascinating subject that all of us who have worked in tropical regions but with a western (or northern) perspective have thought about, one way or another.

As Europeans, and Seth is concerned mainly with the British, explored and conquered, colonizing and creating the empire on which the sun could never set no matter how hard it tried, they got sick. They also observed other people getting sick. And, they encountered a wide range of physiological or biosocial phenomena that were unfamiliar and often linked (in real or in the head) to disease. A key cultural imperative of British Colonials as to racialize their explanations for things, including disease. The science available through the 18th and 19th century was inadequate to address questions that kept rising. Like, why did a Brit get sick on his first visit to a plantation in Jamaica, but on return a few years later, did not get as sick? If you have a model where people of different races have specific diseases and immunities in their very nature, how do you explain that sort of phenomenon? How might the widely held, or at least somewhat widely held, concept of polygenism, have explained things? This is an early version of the multi-regional hypothesis, but more extreme, in which god created each type of human independently where we find them, and we are all different species. (Agassiz, with his advanced but highly imperfect geological understanding, thought the earth was totally frozen over with each ice age, and repopulated with these polygenetic populations of not just humans, but all the organisms, after each thaw).

Seth weaves together considerations of slavery and abolition, colonialism, race, geography, gender, and illness. This is an academic book, but at the same time, something of a page turner. Anyone interested in disease, colonial history, and race, will want to re-excavate the British colonial world, looking at disease, illness, and racial thinking, with Suman Seth as your guide. I highly recommend this book.


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Andrew Gillum Greg Laden's Blog

Gillum for Governor, and Racism Everywhere

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Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum just won his party’s endorsement to run in the general election for Florida’s Governor. He is a strong candidate, a progressive, and we all hope he wins.

He also happens to be African American, which would be a great thing for Florida.

I have two observations, though, that I want to point out.

1) If you google around for the names of candidates that are referred to by name as “Sanders-backed [name of candidate]” you will find pretty much none. Except for Gillum. He is the “Sanders-backed gillum.” His name, today in the news, appears most of the time with Sanders’ name attached to him. Its like he is owned by Sanders. He can’t be his own candidate. He has to be the northern white guy’s candidate.

2) Ron DeSantis, the Russo-Republican Trumpian candidate running against Mayor Gillum, made a horrid racist comment. In case you didn’t know, when an African American speaks in an articulate and intelligent matter, the racist thing to do is to call him articulate. (In the old days, add in “He’s a credit to his race,” but we don’t do that so much any more.) DeSantis did that. You probably know that referring to an African American as an ape, gorilla, or monkey, or making a vaguely indirect reference to such, is also racist. DeSantis did that too. From NBC News:

“You know, he is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views and he’s a charismatic candidate,” DeSantis said. “The last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state. That is not going to work. That’s not going to be good for Florida.”

We are not surprised. But I thought you should know.

Send the guy ten bucks.


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Donald Trump and the Bell Curve

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The infamous policy book, The Bell Curve, relied on the false claim that people of African ancestry are of low IQ (and some other things). That was based directly on the work of J. Philippe Rushton and it is false.

The Bell Curve became, in the 1980s, the intellectualized version of pseud-scientifically based racism. The Bradley Foundation, which paid for the book’s publication and printing, made sure there was a copy of it on every politically relevant person’s shelf, from elected officials to potential candidates to staffers to faculty involved even marginally in politics or society.

When those of us who study pseudo-scientific racism and works such as the Bell Curve hear the phrase “Low IQ person” we know exactly what it means. It means a white supremacist is referring to a black person.

Here is Eugene Scott commenting on this phenomenon:


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