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Racism — it is a matter of mind, not color.

April 12th, 2010 by Embedded I · 11 Comments · Culture

Morgan Freeman has made a truly insightful comment on racism.
He is absolutely correct.

In 1992, when teaching Biology at M_nt_r College, a private school in the Greater Toronto Area of Ontario, a sign was unexpectedly posted on my classroom bulletin board.   It called attention to Black History Month, and how teachers & students should find ways to recognize “Black History”.
Beside it, I stapled up my own sign, using very large font. (It was something like this):

This posting shows us exactly what racism IS!
History may be about the past actions & choices
of various cultures & ‘peoples’,
but real history is color blind.
“Black History Month” is a deliberate focus on Race…
by racists.”

A few days later, after 3:30pm, the art teacher and (Jewish) wife of the school’s (Jewish) owner, came to my classroom.  I was clearing up some notes, cleaning my blackboards etc.  She looked at the Black History Month sign, & at my responding post.

Her face, plainly, flushed red.

EJ turned to me and asked,
Are you calling me a racist?

I was utterly taken aback.  “Uh, no, I don’t think so [pause].”

[This is almost twenty years ago, so my re-creation of it is NOT word for word.  However, I DO know that my position was the right one, & that she had the strength of character to face her own racism …as a racism-of-good-intentions.]

She said, “I put up that poster for Black History Month, because I think Blacks should be recognized for their history.”

I could barely breathe. Whatever I said would surely reach the man who had hired me, and could fire me!  What to do, what to say?  A hundred ideas thrashed, turbulently, through my mind. [It might have been five ideas :-(  ]

Truth, truth, truth… I thought.  But how to present it?

Me: “Does skin color make people hate & fight, or is it their ideas?
How can one make sense of History, if every historical event is primarily taught as a function of race?
If it is race, then every ethnic war is right.”

Don’t you care about the suffering of Black Slaves?

Me: “Of course I care about suffering, but not because they were Black, I care because human minds were enslaved!!

Yes!  So shouldn’t Black Slaves be specially recognized?

Me: “300 years ago, Africans enslaved Africans, and they were all of the same color.  No living person, in America, today, was a slave, or a slave owner (exceptions are of other nations*).  No one alive is guilty of the slave culture.  Unless one thinks that every RACE should carry resentment, from generation to generation, against another RACE for past inhumanity, …it is all just water under a ghastly bridge.  Why blame a grandchild for the grandfather’s foul morality?”

But, but, don’t they deserve some sort of support?”

Me: “Do you mean they need support because they have the same skin color as their grandparents & great grandparents?  What if someone’s great grandfather raped a girl, does that mean their grandson is also guilty? Surely you understand that would be wrong!”

Of course!

Me: “So, why should free Blacks continue to blame free Whites?  Why should free Whites keep feeling guilty because generations ago WHITES once enslaved BLACKS… especially if you understand that Blacks once enslaved Blacks?

[Whites also enslaved Whites, across various parts of Europe.   Even N. American Indians routinely enslaved other Indians.]

What do you mean?

Me: “I mean that Blacks in Africa had Black Slaves, and sold them to White Slave Traders — African tribes routinely enslaved other Africans.  It is the same as N. American Indians enslaving other Indians.  They even cut the tendons at the back of the knees of their slaves, so the slaves could barely walk, let alone escape.”
[Consider ,…no anaesthetic was used… they just took a sharp blade and sliced any and all tissue, muscles and tendons at the back of the knee, until their slave had no hamstring pull on their lower legs.  Done to you, you could not run, at all.  Like a crude robot, you could fall forward and make your legs break your fall.  That was all you had, as a slave.]

So you think there should not be a Black History Month?

Me: “Absolutely not.  All it does is call attention to skin color (race) instead of human achievement. George Washington Carver (a black man) found many brilliant ways to use peanuts… and they were important.  He should be revered for his MIND, not his skin.”

But Carver was Black.  Shouldn’t Blacks know that other Blacks have done great things?”

Me: Scrambling, for my own knowledge, I said,
“Blacks should know that great things can be done by men of any color or race, …even if they are Jews!”
[long, long, silence.  After-all, E.J. was Jewish! …I waited]

So it is not a particular race of people that matters, but only what they do?

Me: “Oh gosh, yes, YES!!”
[Big sigh of relief, she had made the intellectual step I hoped for, but dared not expect!]

So, if we gave a History Month to every race, we would be stuck with hundreds of History Months.  Yet none of it would matter because it was not the race, it was the discoverers, who mattered?

“Absolutely!  —only the George Washington Carvers, of any race, that matter?”

So I am Jewish, but you are not.  I have Jewish beliefs, my beliefs are different from yours?  Why do you think yours are better?

Me: “Mine are NOT better unless they are Right.
If they are based on reason and not skin color and fit with Reality, then the ARE better.  Skin color is not what matters!  What matters is, …can we agree on the facts of Reality?

Me: In fact, we can only agree if you & I think of Reality as something that neither of us can dispute, …because Reality is Reality.  You are a woman, and you have smooth black hair.  I am a man and I have light, straight hair.  Does either feature make one of our ideas more right than the others?”

Of course not, but why are you saying that?

Me: “Because, every human has his own brain, regardless of how thick his lips are, regardless of his hair or skin color. Some brains may be compromised by mental illness, but overall, it is NOT skin color that decides what is in each man’s brain.  Each brain, which means each man or woman, thinks for his~ or her~self.

Me: “Look only at what that human’s thinking reveals.  Is s/he a mess, …fat, slovenly, sexually depraved, insanely avaricious, horrifically indifferent to suffering, misogynous, misandrous, misanthropic, manipulative, deceptive, wheedling, and so on?”

Me: “There is no such thing as Black History, any more than there is Albino History or Ingrown Toenail history.  Whether Black orAlbino, History is the study of human action over time.

Me: “Any focus on race or skin color IS racism. but every focus on ideas, is a focus on Mankind and on oneself.”

Me: “If you understand that, you are not a racist.  But, if you care for it, then you see race as important …as much as you want to eliminate it.

EJ removed all her Black History Month signs, from every classroom in the school.

On Salary Review, with her husband, my earnings jumped by $5,000/yr.  He understood.

THAT is what “human understanding” really means!  And my salary jump was justice.

*Update: added: “(Exceptions are from other nations”)

11 Comments so far ↓

  • madmax

    While I agree with the individualism that is at the heart of this post, I have some qualms with the idea that focusing on race inherently equates to skin color. Does that mean that correlating IQ according to race is inherently racist? Is making statistical breakdowns of crime by race inherently racist? Is looking at reproductive patterns of the various races (i.e. Rushton’s r-k sexual strategies) inherently racist?

    What I’m getting at is that race is not arbitrary and it is not meaningless. There are valid reasons to consider race. Today, white guilt is the dominant component of leftism. It influences nearly everything they do. It needs to be ended entirely. But that doesn’t mean that race should never be considered.

    For example there are important racial questions that just leap out. For example, the average IQ of sub-Saharan Africa is 75[!]. What can realistically be expected of Black Africa? Black Africa has never produced a high civilization. That does seem significant. To ignore the lower average intellectual abilities of Black Africa and some other non-white, not-Asian populations seems to be non-empirical.

    I understand that there is no ethical dimension to racial differences. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t exist. So, for me, the question becomes how to be an individualist without being naive about the very real differences in human populations. The average IQ for Ashkenazi Jews is 112, a full 12 points higher than other whites. Is this meaningless? Especially when we consider that Jews have been in the forefront of most ideological revolutions of the past 200 years. That includes a young Russian Jewish girl by the name of Alicia Rosenbaum.

  • madmax

    First sentence should read:

    While I agree with the individualism that is at the heart of this post, I have some qualms with the idea that focusing on race inherently equates to racism.

  • Embedded I

    Good Grief, I could not get the Morgan Freeman Video to show correctly, and already Madmax is onto the content…. :-/

    MadMax, you are quite correct… but generalizations are like that.

    If one were to consider Bell Curves of IQ by Race, then the peaks of each curve establish where each race’s statistical average IQ level lies.

    Consider these curves. Yes, the curves are impressive, and no doubt, they are statistically significant. However, conceptually, those peaks are of little practical, day-to-day meaning.

    Every Negroid individual, whose IQ is to the right of the peak average IQ of any other race, has an higher IQ than any individuals of any other race that is to the left of his position on the overall graph.

    How can one know, in moments, whether they are facing a Black Man with a higher or lower IQ than is to be statistically and racially expected?

    The entire notion is absurd —from the outset— especially if one considers that a man’s philosophical principles (say Objectivist vs far Leftist) can easily override IQ for real world value!

  • Fareed

    gotta fix those links

  • dang

    To ascribe race as a/the reason for some difference or distinction between groups of individuals is racist.

    To state that a group of individuals who happen to be of a given race, share a particular characteristic is not.

  • Embedded I

    dang – exactly.

  • Embedded I

    to dang,
    A re-think: where does race drop off and culture take up?? Bias on the basis of the former is wrong, but bias on the latter is valid!

  • dang

    Try this on for size:

    “Culture” is something learned, it may be unlearned, and is therefore a choice.

    Bias against some action or belief which is based on a choice (or something which may be chosen) is not racism, as the ‘chooser’s’ race does not determine the choice ultimately made.

    (I wrote the above 8-10 hours ago and although I like it, it doesn’t directly address your question. I have been trying to figure out how best to do so ever since – here’s what I’ve come up with…)

    I don’t believe there is a point at which race drops off & culture takes up – they are two separate & entirely unrelated concepts. Basically, you may be able to demonstrate a correlation between the two in some – or maybe even many – cases, but there will never be a case where one was the cause of the other. ..

    What do you think?

  • Jim May

    While I agree with the individualism that is at the heart of this post, I have some qualms with the idea that focusing on race inherently equates to skin color.

    Who’s saying that? As this is the same question that “O’newbie” recently posted at Noodlefood, let me re-use part of my answer to it.

    …. color is just another metaphysically given fact about people, like height. Like any other fact, it is relevant in certain contexts, and irrelevant in others, said relevance to be determined by basic objective examination of causality… and our moral assessment of a person’s choices [the social sum thereof is known as culture], here as elsewhere, will be based on how factual is the basis for their choices…..

    “Color-blindness”, in this context, means simply to ignore race when it doesn’t matter — not to ignore it in a contextless, Kantian “absolute” fashion.

    This is a slam-dunk, I’m really at a loss to grasp why this question should ever come up.

    Embedded I, GREAT post, thanks for this one. I just gained a HUGE amount of respect for Morgan Freeman. Racists like Harry Belafonte do not deserve to share the same planet with such men.

  • Harold

    Jim May: You may also enjoy this clip as well. I don’t understand the aforementioned poster’s need to post this type of thing repeatedly, seeing how it’s nothing that can’t easily be answered with even a relatively basic understanding of Objectivist principles which I’m sure he has.

    Anyway, good post and congratulations on the raise, lol.

  • Mike N

    My respect for Mr. Freeman just jumped an order of magnitude as well.