Why capitalize “white”?

November 2, 2020 at 5:01 pm (By Amba) (, )

The Washington Post does it, and it drives me crazy.

Why? Why kowtow to the belief of white nationalists such as VDARE that “White” is an identity, a people?

Suppose it were an identity, what would define it? World domination?

European culture, you say? That’s pretty funny considering that European peoples fought each other tooth and nail from prehistory up through 1945 (and didn’t stop then). Here’s a list of European wars, starting only in 1112 BC. I literally don’t have the time to count them. You’ll be amazed.

You may argue, with reason, that Black people too descend from many diverse peoples and cultures—some of whom unquestionably fought each other as well. African people would have been harder to enslave had local enemies not captured and sold one another. Where there is a buyer, sellers appear. Europeans exploited traditional rivalries among Native Americans in similar ways.

Conflict and bids for dominance are a proud and shameful part of our common “human potential” (“one in 200 men are direct descendants of Genghis Khan“), but it’s a part that Europeans magnified to an unprecedented global scale, with a fevered drive to expand and exploit, more-advanced technologies for doing so, and a conviction of entitlement based on divinely bestowed superiority. In 2020, you still wanna base an identity on that? Basically, on “might makes right”?

Technology is only one field of achievement, the one that confers material power and enables its possessors, if so inclined, to overwhelm, expropriate, and even obliterate other peoples’ achievements. It’s far from Europeans’ only achievement, but technology of one kind—the technology of extraction, manufacture, and domination—is the only one in which they were inarguably superior. Technology has its wonders, but it’s a two-edged sword that eventually wounds its wielder. It makes life both better and worse. The balance sheet is a work in progress.

Ironically, “Black” is an identity Black people didn’t ask for. It was welded together out of diverse materials—genetic, linguistic, cultural—by slavery, discrimination, and a disdainful lack of discrimination in the other sense. Just as white police and passersby often can’t tell Black people apart, slave traders and owners couldn’t tell Black peoples apart—didn’t bother to.

But that capital letter is earned. It’s recognition and reparation. It’s Black Lives Matter in one letter. White people, meanwhile, need to retire from their implicit capital letter. What bad timing to make it explicit just as growing numbers are growing sick, really sick, of having the world on their shoulders and their knee on its neck. White people need to explore the freedom of being generic, of losing themselves in the crowd, of being among, not above. Capitalizing their name, meanwhile, is not placing Black people above white people. It’s shining a light.

Maybe a day will come when we can see and speak to each other as individuals with a whole palette of skin tones and a whole panoply of ancestries and influences. We’re just not there yet, but it’s a good place to be going.

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Worrying Race Like an Old Bone

September 14, 2009 at 11:18 am (By Amba) (, , )

The discussion between me and my bro continues, although I don’t know that either one of us is saying anything new or different, prompted by MoDo’s column and James Pinkerton’s response to it.


See, I think there’s a difference between shouting “racism” — which I agree these days is little more than just a sharp object to throw under the tires of your opponent — and realizing what it is and actually, quietly doing something about it.

There’s a difference between pointing at someone who’s intolerant and shouting Bigot!, and recognizing what you’re up against and either negotiating with it or (preferably) kicking its fucking ass.

There’s a huge problem, which I identified (a couple of days before Dowd): there’s a significant minority in this country that may just be too uncomfortable with a black man in the White House. You don’t shake your head and tsk-tsk at that, but you do have to either proceed carefully in tacking huge, ambitious projects with a narrow majority, or you have to kick ass and take names. Obama has vacillated somewhere in the middle, which I think has emboldened conspiracy theorists and wingnuts who now see themselves as the base of the Republican Party.

I think Obama missed a golden opportunity to kick ass, right then and there. He looked almost as shocked as Pelosi behind him did (I loved how Biden just looked down and shook his head in disgust).

I wish he’d looked at Wilson and said, “No, Congressman, I’m not lying. I’m telling the truth. And later in the speech I’m going to talk about ways to approach this significant issue without losing sight of the civility needed to reach a positive solution. I hope you’ll pay special attention to that portion of my talk.”

Or something like that. Call the bastard out! Be the velvet hammer! Then come out swinging in the aftermath of the talk.

Because if you don’t, you lend credence to people who cloak fear of The Other in all kinds of other goofy shit.

The only reason that discussion of racism would be useful would be to call the collective bluff of people who think a black man in the White House must be sinister. Go after their bullshit and compel them to – er – call a spade a spade.


Heh heh.

What’s really upsetting me is that it’s interfering after all, with his ability to function as President.  Others can refuse to deal with him because of it, and he can take cover and be failure-proof behind it.  In my opinion, it was a huge mistake (and pure Chicago-style politics:  whatever might give you a hold over your opponent) to ever use it, even by implication, to discredit opposition to the health plan.  The health plan is scary to conservatives ALL BY ITSELF and would be equally so with a white big-government-friendly liberal pushing it.  Implying with a broad brush that racism is behind the opposition (which a lot of Obama’s supporters are resorting to, even if he isn’t) drags race into the foreground instead of giving it a withering look and banishing it to the background where it belongs.  Frankly, I don’t give a shit whether, what, as much as 20% of the country can’t stand having a black man in the white house (sexual implication intended), as long as the Secret Service keeps them and their guns far away from him.  He should be ignoring them, writing them off as hopeless dinosaurs, and having an honest discussion (as he keeps claiming he’s having) with the people who have an honest disagreement with him.  But he is a Democratic machine politician, beholden to a base that wants a public option badly enough to force it on the near-half of the country that doesn’t.  Race aside, his mandate isn’t big enough for that and he’s going to have to compromise, or else things are going to get even worse than they already are.

It’s the failure to recognize the legitimate (even if you think it’s misguided) opposition to the health plan per se — in the belief that it is NOT gonna be deficit-neutral, for starters, no way — that I find dishonest and politics as usual.  Racists should be IGNORED, not used as human shields.  All this talk of race is a DISTRACTION from that and those who treat it as anything else are guilty of helping to inflame it.  I even think the convenience of that could be one reason the backroom boys and girls of the Democratic party decided to elect him.


Or, it could be repeatedly used as a smokescreen by far-right Republicans (or Whatevers) behind which to hide a determination to make him fail at the good he could really do — not because he’s black, but because he’s a Democrat.

I really do think in a weird way that the invocation of race as an issue is something that the right is encouraging, because they see it as drawing the scared to their side — regardless of how kooky the scared may be. After all, what does it matter who’s on your side, as long as there’s more of you than there are of them?

There’s nothing more cynical than a machine politician. Problem is, machines come in all colors. I don’t think Republicans are focused on the evils of a public option — where were they over most of the past quarter century, as this problem was getting worse and worse? W’s prescription benefit was the only attention health care really got from Republicans — until now. That they missed their chance to craft reform without a public option — especially after the 2002 mid-term elections — and to create a new era of fiscal responsibility, has now caused them to want to undermine, at all costs, the only, or best, hope we’ve had at some kind of reform, in our lifetime.

Now it’s not gonna happen — not in any meaningful way. And if it’s not meaningful, it means it won’t keep the problem from getting worse.

But of course, if it gets worse on a Democrat’s watch, that’s OK.


This is why the people in what’s so often called, with contempt, by both sides, “the mushy middle” should not be written off.  They’re the only ones who care more about getting something done that everyone can live with than about beating the other side.

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Facelifts Are for White People.

April 30, 2009 at 7:14 pm (By Amba) (, , )

Really, do people of any other skin tone and ethnicity ever even get them?  Remodeling of facial features — plumper or thinner lips, rounder Asian eyes, deboned Jewish noses, less flared African American noses, like Denzel Washington’s — is another story.  But facelifts?  All white people.  Is it an accurate observation that a lot of Caucasians, particularly the fairest, have fragile skin that dries, wrinkles, and sags easily, and that therefore we age much more noticeably and unattractively than other ethnic groups?  If so, then the thorough mixing of races that some fear and loathe about the future will be a net aesthetic gain (and monetary saving) for the entire species.

That’s one thing that gets my attention about the cosmetic-surgery craze.  The other thing is that it is a trade-off between youthfulness and individuality.  You can continue to look youngish indefinitely provided you’re willing to give up looking like you.  Among the movie and commercial stars who no longer look like themselves, or like anyone in particular, for that matter:  Sally Field (in Boniva commercials), Lindsay Wagner (in Sleep Number bed commercials), Sharon Stone, and to an extreme, Faye Dunaway (all white people!).  Can you think of some more?  Even someone as relatively young as Nicole Kidman has begun to make the tradeoff.

Just idle thoughts.

~ amba

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