Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Least Racist Nation

As with many topics, I don't go looking to beat the drum how many people are wrong, but I do rather lie in wait around the accusation that America is a particularly racist, or even most-racist nation in the world. They are stunned, angered, shocked to have the idea even challenged.  Their claim is ludicrous, among the least-reflective things a person might say, yet I do have clear understanding how people might get to that idea.  The key is in that word reflective. If one simply follows the prevailing news and conversation, I don't see how one could come to any other conclusion. America leads the world in news stories about racism. We are probably well up there in incidents of racism as well, partly because there are 330M of us. The Chinese may rack up bigger numbers, which we seldom hear about, of racist incidents against the Uighurs, but in most of their territory there aren't any incidents of clear racism at all. Because there's only one race there.  Stay tuned.

But why so many stories of racism? Real stories, not made up.

It is a relatively simple exercise to stand back and say "compared to whom?" but it is difficult because it is not natural to most of us. Just because something is simple does not mean it is easy. Prayer for one's personal enemies, for example. Dieting and exercising would be another. Once one can get to the second half of that sentence and say "America is a racist country...compared to whom?" the ground suddenly changes.  In one simple sense, America is a racist country.  We have racist comments, racist incidents, and racist attitudes all over the place, all the time. Yet there is a simple reason for that, and it's not just because we have horrible white people here.

If we are going to measure countries in terms of how racist they are, I propose we start by asking "Do they actually have different races there?" Okay, that just changed the whole discussion completely, didn't it? Before looking at my examples, consider your own.  Take your time.

Consider less-racist country X.  What is in their population?  Are they homogeneous?  If they have different groups, do their Walloons or Frisians, those radically-different races, believe everything is nice and equal?

Finland. They keep everyone out except Swedes. Even those they have friction with.  They don't have any of the same riots and troubles, and right-wing racist incidents that the rest of Europe has - because they haven't accepted immigrants in. (Update:  Comments say they have accepted a bunch of Somalis. I looked this up and it is still not a huge group by American standards.  And, as the commenter notes, they don't seem to be acting like Finns. Not so far, anyway.) So, no problems.  OK, fine. (Look, I like the Finns very much.  But I like not pretending even more.)

Let's look at Japan and ask "Why are there only Japanese people here?" Even Koreans have been regarded as less-human, and don't even mention Filipinos. The Japanese kept everyone out. So internally, if you are just walking down the street in Osaka, the whole place doesn't look racist at all. What lovely, unprejudiced people! Or China.  Ask them what the word gweilo means and see if you can get anyone to expound at length on the topic. Don't bother to even ask about the Uighurs, BTW. The Chinese people know nothing about this. How do the Chinese regard other races?

Or hey, Latin America. They have more of blended populations, without sharp lines between the native, slave, and colonising-descended populations, so it's all much more equal than here. Think of Pele! Except the lighter-skinned people pretty much rule the darker ones.  Here's the Supreme Court of Brazil:
And Mexico: just for comparison. (Link is to a page with separate photos of each.  I couldn't find a group shot.)

They look whiter than this photo of the Supreme Court of New Mexico, below, never mind the SCOTUS:

Europe? Without even looking at the intemperate statements some are making about the new immigrants...I don't even need to mention Jews, and a minor unpleasantness in the 1930's.  I will only say "Gypsies."  Tsigani, Cigan, Gitano, Zigeuner.  Class dismissed. Oh, and no comments over your shoulder about how racist America is on the way out, okay?

The Middle East, of course, has done a wonderful job with its guest workers in Saudi Arabia.  Or the treatment of Jews in general throughout. As with most places, they don't even like each other very much, never mind people of a different color from somewhere else.

The Canadians may do better.  Oh wait, the Norman French, The East Anglians, and the Scots still haven't fully worked things out yet.  Still, people seem to like Toronto.  Or maybe the Australians and New Zealanders.  Take up the discussion with the First Nations, Aborigines, and Maoris and get back to me. I will cede credit with their permission.

Nominate those non-racist nations we can learn so much from.


Sam L. said...

You need a photo of the NM supreme court members. Otherwise, you have done very well!

Assistant Village Idiot said...

That's New Mexico there, I'll make it more clear. Mexico's SC is a link instead of a a photo because it's separate pictures of each of them, not a group shot.

RichardJohnson said...

I was twice invited into homes in South America - one in Bolivia, the other in Argentina- that featured prominent portraits of Adolf Hitler in the living room. In one case, I was told, "that's crazy Grandpa's doing." In the other, the Hitler portrait was there at the behest of the middle-aged head of the household. In neither case was there any German ancestry in the household.

I could go on, but will stop here.

My time working in Latin America showed me that racism/ethnocentrism/what have you is universal. The US didn't seem so bad in comparison.

When I was in grad school, I had some Chinese roommates. Suffice it to say that the KKK wouldn't have been displeased at what some Chinese had to say about blacks.

Grim said...

Yes, the Chinese do not like blacks. We lived in China in an international dormitory for a while, and the Africans we lived with were treated horribly whenever they went out.

The Chinese are intensely racist. Han is the majority ethnic group (on the order of 95% majority), and their oppression of minorities should be legendary. Currently they have moved about a million Han into the homes of Muslim Uighur, to report on whether they show proper loyalty or are too religious. They make them eat pork, drink alcohol -- which is not the worst punishment, either one, but a major violation of their human dignity. The ones who show any reticence are recommended for the gigantic concentration/re-education camps.

They're also intensely sexist. I found the treatment of women in China to be a constant affront. I nearly beat a few men with a brass-capped oaken walking stick I carried with me there over their treatment of pregnant women. Would have, I think, except they backed off because they somehow understood my intent (if not at all why I would object to such things).

They are making a hell for themselves, the Chinese.

lelia said...

You posted this a few days after I read the headline about the Filipino maid was beheaded by Saudi Arabia for killing her boss while he was raping her. I imagine she had no right to complain because she wasn't Muslim.

charlie said...

There is a nice quote from the Jamaican-born Harvard based sociologist, Orlando Patterson, on how the USA is relatively non-racist and offers more opportunities to Blacks (both native born and immigrants) than any other country. The quote is 10 or 20 years old now, let me see if I can dig it up.

America... “is now the least racist white-majority society in the world; has a better record of legal protections of minorities than any other society, white or black; offers more opportunities to a greater number of black persons than any other society, including all of those of Africa."

I cannot find the origin of that quote but believe it to authentic rather than a fabrication. I have seen it quoted by Dinesh D'Souza (yes, him) in a big book on the end of racism. The exact quote I've pasted above is from the transcript of a Larry Elder video at PragerU.


Charles W. Abbott

charlie said...

Having gotten the above quote out of the way, I live in Rochester, NY and it is a place that is sometimes described by newcomers as "The most racially segregated place they have seen." Which is kind of standard for the cities of the Greak Lakes area--most of them are highly racially segregated. Not every setting fits that description, but many do.

Also, the Rochester City School District (heavily minority) may have some of the worst educational outcomes in Upstate New York. A report on this topic was released a few weeks ago under the leadership of Jaime Acquino. And it's not for lack of money--if throwing money at the problem were enough, things probably would not be as bad as they are.

There is still a lot to do. It's easy to argue about the glass being half-full or half-empty. It's also easy to argue back and forth about who is to blame, and for what, and who needs to take what action to make things better, and who is standing in the way.


Charles W. Abbott

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Educational outcomes for any district track racial percentages more than any other variable you can find. When we refuse to acknowledge that, we end up blaming nice teachers and policemen, who work very hard and try harder to be fair than just about anyone in the country.

Roy said...

I have lived in 11 countries on five continents. Every one was more racist than the U.S.

BTW: Finland actually let in a large group of Somali refugees. It has been a disaster for both the Finns and the Somalis.

Aggie said...

I have lived in 9 countries on 5 continents and I echo your sentiments: Every single one was more openly racist than the U.S. Six of those countries have population demographics where Causasians number less than 10% of the population. The racism dynamics are quite strong, quite close to the surface, and quite openly expressed - and not directed just towards whites, either.

Texan99 said...

Living in the South, I suppose I've chafed all my life over the casual assumption of Northerners that they're free of the racism that blights my region. The ones who offended in this way always struck me as more concerned with the perception that a culture is racist than with how anyone, near or far, actually acted towards any disadvantaged minorities.

RichardJohnson said...

Living in the South, I suppose I've chafed all my life over the casual assumption of Northerners that they're free of the racism that blights my region.

I grew up in New England, the product of a North-South marriage. Having been a friend since 2nd grade of a person of the colored persuasion (that was meant to be humorous, folks), I was well aware that the South had no monopoly on racism. At the same time, the friend is still living in our hometown, which indicates that certain uncomfortable childhood incidents were not repeated in adulthood.

In addition, experiencing and observing additional group dynamics showed me before I got out of high school that we all form our in-groups and our out-groups. For example, the regional high school I attended didn't talk about "Dumb N**"- those at our high school were few and far from stupid- but "Dumb Farmers."

DCE said...

I have traveled all over the world, have worked in 37 countries, spent considerable time in 5 others, and short spans in 9 more. In most of those I have seen blatant racism, some of which was government sanctioned institutional racism.

Most of the clueless idiots accusing the US of racism have never been outside the US, have never seen or experienced actual racism, yet feel qualified to tell us we're a racist nation. For those who have managed to venture outside the US, visiting the tourist areas of other countries doesn't count because most visitors are shielded from the realities that exists in those countries.

We are not a racist nation. We haven't been for a long time.

RichardJohnson said...

For those who have managed to venture outside the US, visiting the tourist areas of other countries doesn't count because most visitors are shielded from the realities that exists in those countries.

Going as a tourist, with translators available while looking at the monuments etc., gives one a rather superficial view of a country.
If you don't speak the language of a country, you aren't going to get to know that country very well. In addition, it takes time to get more familiar with a country.

I am reminded of the Sandalistas, lefty political tourists to Sandinista Nicaragua in the 1980s, who believed that because they had been given a guided tour with translators, they knew the real Nicaragua. They knew the Nicaragua that their Sandinista guides wanted to show them- I will grant them that. (They never got close to the war zones where the Contras operated.)

By virtue of working around the same time in the Guatemalan jungle when it was a war zone, I got some views from the locals of the conflict that political tourists wouldn't have gotten. Suffice to say that the viewpoints I got, in varying shades of grey, weren't the black and white views that tour guides would have given.

charlie said...

I think accusations of racism have been weaponized to the extent that the term racism is becoming partly emptied of meaning.

Racial disparities in life outcomes and "access to opportunity" are still pretty common in the USA. How much of it is easily amenable to policy variables is a tricky empirical question. I am reminded of Peter Schuck's discussion of "Hard Problems," as in his book _American undecided: Five hard problems..._

Schuck spends a lot of time defining the notion of a "Hard Problem." It's worth reading.

Megan McArdle had an essay about the new term "White Supremacy" being tossed around rather casually to attract attention, partly because of the overuse of the term racism.

It seems to me that our stone age brains don't easily think about such issues correctly.

One of the many things to be concerned about in America is that it's pretty easy to take a divided country and divide it more. We've seen it done elsewhere. It's easy to do.

A parlor game for those with morbid tastes can be this project: searching for America's trends and risks and pathologies. Pat Buchanan said we would become "The Brazil of North America," and he did not mean it as a compliment.

20Committee penned this blog entry "Yugoslavia's Warning to America." Let's see if the link works.


Kind Regards,

Charles W. Abbott