I’m forever intrigued by products that receive half wildly positive reviews and half crazy negative. Nobody questions a 5 out of 10 on anything. It’s hard to argue against mediocrity as that is the natural state of the man-made world. As a species, we tend to divest ourselves of things that are horrible, like, say, polio, and yet we are never capable of achieving lofty goals such as world peace or defenestrating coworkers who steal lunches from the office fridge.
Exaggerated exasperations are the current Yelp state of America. Excessive and jaunty jingoism versus Opus Dei self-flagellation over America’s atrocious indecencies. Many of the bottom score judges chicly cite widespread racism as prime among the sins of the nation. Generally, there’s no context or specificity behind these charges. This runs counter to our jurisprudence tradition wherein we insist upon specific allegations backed by evidence. A prosecutor can’t simply charge El Chapo with being a bad guy and insist we take him out back and pop a cap in his ass. Prove to us he murdered dozens of people by firing bullets into their privates. Then we can force him to watch basic cable and eat processed meats at our expense for the next four decades.
Beyond the generalized slander, is America a racist nation in deed, and what might be the evidence?
Before diving into an audit of racism, it’s worth establishing the ground rules for the word itself. In the waning days of 2018, laymen and laywomen toss around the word “racist” in the place of the more genteel, “Pardon me, but I think you’re misguided”. As a for instance, one social media user posts, “We ought better control the flow of illegal immigrants into the nation’s Southern border” and another commenter retorts, “Racist!” If that first person explains that large flows of low skilled workers from Central America have depressed working class wages and predominantly hurt Black Americans, they’re referred to as a “racist” with three exclamation points; a dozen minions immediately second the libel.
My high school English teacher referred to words such as racist as “charge words”, wherein the meaning of the word is entirely subordinated to its provocative intent. Like how the word asshole has nothing to do with the rectum. That’s no way to run a dictionary.
For the purposes of argument, let’s employ the practical definition of racist as a person who blindly detests others of a different race. Racist is not to be confused with racialist, somebody who views the world through the prism of race but has expressed benevolent intentions. Those would be your government employees and liberal arts majors from Northeastern colleges who insist on identifying everybody by race for what they assure you is a noble intention. Are you Hispanic, non White, White, non Hispanic, Pacific Islander with a splash of Mahogany Winter, etc. etc. Those pencil pushers for a perfect world aren’t racists. They are sickly obsessed with race, but they believe demographic tagging makes the world a better place. God have mercy on these sad morons. They’re not malicious, though far more destructive in their own ill-advised crusade.
Racists are clearly racist. They don’t have to be exposed in 140 characters or less by a interior designer from Shaker Heights. They’re obvious. They don’t want their kids playing with kids of other races. They prefer to live in segregated neighborhoods. They despise people of a different color or race; it’s hate they hold in their heart. No different than the people with the nooses and the hoods. Perhaps less overtly violent, but no less ignorant. I’ve come across a few in my travels. But not a ton.
If you’re not sure if somebody is or is not a racist, they are not a racist. Much like if you see something in your Taco Bell burrito and you’re not sure if it was meant to be there, it wasn’t. It’s probably a finger. These matters are per se. You know them when you see them. Frat kids in black face aren’t necessarily racists. At least not suddenly that very night. They’re morons. It’s important to maintain the distinction between ignoramus and racist if you want people who think about things before they form conclusions to believe you are one of them.
The dominant media denizen on the coasts find themselves burdened by eons of guilt from ancestral oppression of minority groups. Maybe you and yours got here in ’82 by way of a coyote bribe and a leaky Kon-Tiki level watercraft, but many of these folks came on the Mayflower or in the sequel ships and they have the burden of an Ancestry.com binder chock full of human rights violations. Ben Affleck’s ancestor literally sold slaves in The Antebellum South. Is that a real burden to carry five generations later? It is if you’re up for the Nobel Prize for Awesomely Enlightened Rich Celebrity year after year in your social bubble. So much so that Affleck had the news of his lineage squelched by PBS on their Finding Your Roots TV show. Solid play. It’s okay to be an alcoholic gambler who cheats on his wife, but not the distant descendant of the guy who sold sarsaparilla to slavers.
These desperate ninnies serve the role of the angry girlfriend, listing things about America they can’t stand or that needs to be fixed. A 10 Things I Hate About You directed at the purple mountain’s majesty. Openly hating your country and its traditions (or your parents or quaint home town or people who actually like living in Nebraska) instantly makes you a numbskull. It’s a red badge of discourage; quite different than being a apathetic realist, such as myself.
As an apathetic realist, I find little thrill in politically driven patriotism with which we stoke the fires of constant overseas wars. I can’t cry at the fifteenth record drop of I’m Proud to Be An America because it’s a convention and you’re the least sublime people I know and you’re covered in buttons. But I’m generically proud to be an American. Or, in the least, happy I was born here versus anywhere else in the world save for Samoa, where my belly would be considered moderate to trim. I appreciate football and support the underlying need for our nation’s military, and still mock how the Department of Defense and its key contractors pay the NFL for stars and stripes displays. You can love America not-blindly. It’s a real option.
In contrast, the news media and actors and 20-something senior marketing managers on the coasts find catharsis and ratings grabs in constantly ripping America a new one. Clearly this has ramped up exponentially since the 2016 election. Obama’s foreign policy failures were “good tries” while Trump’s are “heinous bumbling”. Hence, current recurring headlines about the awfulness of America that we simply didn’t see before the 2016 election while we were still bombing Sunni weddings in desert cities I can’t pronounce. Trump’s a man of questionable character, to say the least, but in terms of somewhat important stats like killing people, he’s done less than his two immediate predecessors.
Before Trump, flyover country to the cosmopolitan elites were merely disparate populations to be largely ignored, save for their whole grains contribution to plant-based dieters in Brentwood and Manhattan. After Trump, these big broad states are hot beds of hate, borne of alt-right crosses ablaze and David Duke leaflets ingrained into their toothless children’s grey matter; the white toothless children at least. (As a matter of fact, Blacks and Hispanics and Asians are no more or less generally racist than Caucasians. Stats show Caucasians are underrepresented by population in terms of hate crime acts. Nevertheless, whites are the majority demographic in the U.S. so the fact that black people rage on Korean grocers in urban neighborhoods isn’t relatively as big a social ill, unless you’re the Korean grocer targeted for harassment, then it truly sucks.)
“Racist” is that slur you employ in arguments when you have nothing intelligent to offer. Search the Internet for the million and one conversations where this accusation arises. Review the first few hundred thousand interactions and report back. You’ll find people casually tossing around the word because somebody has an opposing opinion on Immigration, Abortion, or whether or not the local park should have a separate area for skateboarders. It’s a popular rhetorical charge word.
As first noted by Godwin’s Law, calling somebody a Nazi will eventually come up in any online discussion. These Germanic doozies will often be substituted for racist, though even the people who casually charge others with racism to win debates are slightly embarrassed to go full Hitler, with the understanding that they themselves are largely Caucasian and Holocaust references are not to their benefit. You’ll note that black people rarely use Nazi references in discussions of racism. Hitler doesn’t exist in the A-list pantheon of evil white racist guys. He wasn’t a slaver or a plantation owner or a Republican, and, by point of fact, Hitler killed millions of entirely non-black persons in his quest for Aryan supremacy. Not ironic, but certainly demographically convenient.
For all the accusations and attention paid to racism in America, and the dozens of anecdotal cellphone videos of idiotic white ladies or drunk guys without shirts calling the cops on black kids for selling lemonade or playing hopscotch in a suspicious manner, is this nation founded by white imperialist Manifest Destiny pledgers really one of the more racist lands on the planet? Nah, not really.
My last science class was at age fifteen and I scored a B-minus against a landscape of extensive grade inflation. Still, I value even middling quality science over political statements, cable news rants, or diatribes from the guy who thinks because he follows Alyssa Milano on Twitter that he’s highly informed. I’ll take a loosely objective global survey from the Washington Post over what Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity proclaim based on the poorest of hidden agendas. Conveniently, I just happen to have such a study.
The study is two years old now but assume there hasn’t been a massive swing of tolerance and understanding in either direction in any nation in the world in the past 24 months. Racism isn’t like a rash; it’s not resolved in a couple weeks with the application of a topical ointment.
Insider Monkey, a hedge fund and financial data outlet, combined the Washington Post study with a Swedish survey to create what they felt was a more on-point score basis for racism in the 61 countries that participated in both surveys. These were questions directly about experiences of racism, as well as the more amorphous question, would you be comfortable living in a neighborhood composed of different racial backgrounds than your own. Netting this thing out, Insider Monkey came out with a 1-61 ranking, noting importantly that notoriously racist countries such as Austria and Syria were not part of the survey domain, so presume some likely top offenders did not make the list.
By way of shortcut, the United States did not make the Top 25 most racially intolerant nations. In fact, in one of the underlying studies, the one performed by the two Swedish social scientists, the United State came out as one of the least racist nations, again, relatively speaking. The evidence suggests heavily that the nations of the American continents, both North and South, were relatively racially tolerant. Not absent of racism in the least, but compared to many mostly Middle Eastern and Asian (both East Asian and Subcontinent), relatively better. In fact, even looking at a “most intolerant of black skinned persons” map of Europe put together by Harvard researchers, the more South and East you travel in Europe, in the direction of the Middle East and Asian continent, the less tolerance exists.
This not entirely settled bit of social science does jibe with world news and events, especially focused on the levels of sectarian and ethnic violence in many of these “more racist” nations. We simply don’t have rape gangs in the United States roving the streets looking to breed dominant culture babies into minority women. Let alone tribal riots, racial bombings, conflagrations set in minority neighborhoods, or three dozen guys in 1980’s Adidas t-shirts with crude blades looking to settle scores with different-colored villagers.
Part of this is simple economic development and standard of living. People with basic cable and air-conditioning are far less likely to pick up machetes for a race war in the first place. Lucky bastards with premium cable won’t even leave their couches if their apartment is on fire. Whereas poorer nations tend to have far more general unrest, angry sweaty people, and very little entertainment, let alone the availability of casual sex and booze. I hate inventing an adage on the spot, but let’s admit that guys who are getting some tend to be less inclined to random acts of barbarism. Also, being in prison in the U.S. stinks compared to being not in prison, whereas the distinction is tougher to discern in many nations of the world.
It’s worth noting that Latin America scores well in terms of racial tolerance, and it’s not particularly wealthy. While Japan and Pacific-Asian countries are what you might politely refer to as, super-freaking racist and they’re doing super by GDP standards. A recent study by Japan’s Justice Ministry found that more than one in three foreigners living in Japan experienced racism. In Japan where there really is but one race, racism and hating-foreigners is pretty much interchangeable. The Japanese hate the hell out of the Koreans, who they brutalized during the war, kidnapping and raping their women who they considered sub-human sex slaves. We Westerners might not see much difference between ourselves and our closest neighbors, but that’s because we’re not epically racist like the Asians. We may battle Muslims in the U.S. over the right to have separate foot baths in airports, but we aren’t rounding up a million of them for reeducation labor camps like in China. We may talk a bunch of ugly crap in this country in various quarters, but we’re not China, or Japan, or India, or Syria; nobody’s going to sleep tonight wondering if they’re to be rounded up en masse and burnt alive by flaming tires or gunned down before dug out burial ditches.
In the past couple of years the sweeping accusations of widespread racism in America have ratcheted up to an eleven out of ten on the hyperbolic social media scale, there’s simply little evidence to suggest the United States is a relatively racist nation. Not not racist, and not without a wicked stain on its permanent record, and not without current problems, simply, one of the better ones. This is why you don’t see minorities fleeing the United States for, well, for anywhere. There’s nowhere to go. A smidgeon of people will pack up for Canada, and Madonna once left for England for three years, but in general, the oppression of minorities traffic pattern is entirely leaving elsewhere to come to the U.S. (The United States has 46 million immigrants currently, the vast majority of them non-Caucasian. There’s not even a close second to us in the world. Market choices do tell you quite a bit. Every poor troubled soul is buying America, or Sweden or Norway or England, etc.)
While American is clearly, relatively un-horrible, there remains strong evidence that minorities, especially black persons in the United States, continue to suffer various forms of institutional racism. And here is where racialism versus racism is worth re-addressing. Because while you can picture in your head the Bull Connors and the George Wallaces of the Deep South with their segregationist, openly racist views on the social contract, you can’t earnestly look at the modern numbers and see statistically meaningful white violence or assaults against minority populations. They exist, in smallish numbers, very smallish compared to other nations. (Visit a soccer game in Europe some time featuring a prominent black athlete and read the signs, the same if, in the rare case, there’s a Jewish member of the team. Now go to the Meadowlands for a football game and count how many times somebody in the stands shouts out an angry N-bomb. There’s a difference. )
There are approximately 125 million minorities in the United States. There were approximately 4,000 minority hate crime victims (attacks on property or person) in 2017. That’s a rate of 1 per 31,000 persons of color, even assuming all of these attacks on minorities are by white persons, which they’re not. If you’re the one, it stinks. But you’re far more likely to be the one in other countries. And if you’re a minority in the U.S., you’re far more likely to be the victim of violence by somebody of your own race or ethnicity. Again, that sucks, but it’s not racism.
This is not to say that even one, let alone four thousand racist acts is tolerable, let alone laudable. It is to say that all matters of crime and social ill require perspective. The first being, it is harder to be a minority than not a minority in every country on this planet, or simply any neighborhood. Listen to the Everclear song, Father of Mine, for scientific evidence:
I was ten years old
Doing all that I could
It wasn’t easy for me
To be a scared white boy
In a black neighborhood
Okay, that’s not scientific evidence, but it’s anecdotal and connotes some universal truth. I was once the only white guy at a ten-person company working in a minority neighborhood. I was ripped on mercilessly, though mostly in good fun. Except for the small penis jokes. But I get it. The different guy always gets picked on. And when that is threatening in intent, it’s all the worse. And when it’s part of a historical context of real oppression, segregation and slavery, even worse. But violent crime across the board is descending in our nation, and most people who live in non-drug and gang infested quarters, live in relative peace. In contrast, as violence descends, full-tilt media coverage of salacious stories fitting a certain America-sucks narrative skyrockets. Hence, a kid in Jersey is forced to cut his dreads if he wants to wrestle and it’s a worldwide story seen by tens of millions within six hours. Before the Internet, how much such stories did you read about Jersey high school wrestling in your local paper if you were in Yuma, Arizona? Are we better off for all knowing there might be a racist wrestling referee somewhere in Jersey? Yes and no. Yes to the information, no to the inordinate lack of context. Most high school wrestling referees are decent people. I don’t know that for a fact, but it seems likely enough.
In contrast to personal accounts of racism per se realistically on the decline, institutional and government sanctioned racialism remains in pandemic proportions across the United States. What came out of the Civil Rights movement of fifty plus years ago in this country’s struggle over race was a drastic move toward racial profiling and racial identity as key indicators of treatment. The Reverend Dr. King preached for a color-blind society, but the legacy of his time was an intense push by many in this country, and most of the leading academic and government institutions, to make color a preeminent marker of a person’s identity and interface with society at large. Indulge in an hour on any given day of MSNBC and you’ll see nothing has changed.
The upshot of this racialism was a new form of segregation, the kind where separate but equal was replaced by something that sounded so much better but resulted in so much worse, and still separate. Affirmative Action was established for minorities but was quickly overtaken by white women in its infancy, the demographic of whom to this day continues to dominate all real and practical benefits of the program. Large scale urban housing was constructed to effectively re-segregate blacks, welfare systems were devised that encouraged the dissolution of low-income, largely racial minority family units, and a war on drugs was commenced that heavily targeted black neighborhoods and massively enhanced young black male incarceration rates. There are far less Bull Connors running around with hoses these days, but there remains a massively imprisoned and underemployed black population that is harassed by police officers of all colors and genders.
These and similarly widespread racially destructive programs are pushed incessantly by well-meaning, well-intentioned, racialists who would swear to you they have many black friends and marched against Apartheid while attending SUNY Binghamton. Non-racists damaging the hell out of a race beyond anything some redneck with a bunch of obnoxious curse words could drunkenly utter outside a Little Rock pool hall.
As a child, my older brother taught me the neatest of tricks in dealing with our parents. Never say “no” to anything they ask, say “yes’ and then simply don’t do it. He was a sinister kid. Now he’s a lawyer. Not much has changed. But he hit on something powerful even at age eight. Human beings are simple creatures. If you present yourself in opposition, there’s going to be a fight. If you present yourself as a friend, you can get away with all kinds of abuse. This is why you can only truly be betrayed by somebody you love and trust. The person you know as the biggest jerk in your world can never hurt you, not really. You’ve already discounted them. It’s always Fredo out on the boat.
Such is the case of these racialists controlling vast levers of power in our nation. A racist you can handle. You know where they stand, on opposing battle lines, to be dealt with directly, as needed. But these people with earnest smiles and degrees in majors that didn’t exist a generation ago, they’re very dangerous. In the name of good, you can do so much bad, simply because nobody stops a man or woman with a decent sounding set of talking points and a confusing job title.
By way of disclosure, I am a cis white male who doesn’t deny this nation’s abysmal history of slavery and systemic racism, though I did take less part in each than, say, Ben Affleck’s great-great-grandfather. The fact is, admitting you have a problem may be the first step in fixing your problem, but the second step has to be figuring out entirely what that problem is. My immigrant Grandma used to make us sit on the toilet whenever we didn’t feel well, no matter the symptoms. This led me to being told to sit on the potty for twenty minutes after I broke my tibia skateboarding. To this day, I have a crooked bone and I’m now developing hemorrhoids. Her remedy wasn’t incorrect for some occasions, merely incorrect for all occasions. Things worth fixing are things worth investigating honestly.
Bowing our heads in collective shame as a racist country isn’t going to solve a thing save for more HuffPost clicks. Calling all white people racists and running exclamatory headlines about the cultural appropriation in a stupid Marvel movie can’t possibly be the road to wellness. Donald Trump may be a racist a-hole, I don’t know for sure about the first part. He’s certainly not the cause of intergenerational poverty, broken schools, and spiked incarceration and unemployment rates among urban minority populations going back decades. Blaming this figurehead only feels good. Pummeling him won’t solve any problems. It’s a carefully designed distraction from the reality of our situation.
Remember that there are far more people making a living by pointing out racism than there are people earning off of being openly racist. Try to deeply discount both and we’ll all be better off. I’m sorry to report: America isn’t that bad.
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Lex Jurgen is the co-host of the mightily popular Last Men on Earth podcast, the author of Man Rules: The Beginner’s Guide to Manhood, the former editor of WWTDD and current owner of CaseyAnthony.com, and a regular social and media commentator on radio. Feel free to call him a Nazi, or even Hitler, even though he’s Jewish and has the precise opposite of a micro-penis like Adolf had.
Terrible Words is an entirely donor-funded free speech unsafe space. If you’d like to support Lex and his cause of freedom for man and some birds, become a lost cost supporter on his Patreon podcast page. Bless you, good citizen.