Why we need "White History Month" Too

You're missing the point

You're missing the point

Easy answer:

We do not need "White History Month."

"White Pride" is not the same as "Black Pride."

I'm really sick of hearing this garbage, as we hear every February. And remember, I'm the guy who keeps screaming that political correctness and identity politics are out of control. So hopefully that keeps at least one person's attention here.

Let me explain this to you, if you're genuinely confused. If you're just a dick or a white supremacist, you can just jump down to the comments and call me names now. I'm neither getting through to you, nor trying.

Race is a political construct. You know who invented "blackness?" Slave traders. There was no concept of "Black" as an identity before slavery. But, in a world that wanted slaves, but the concept of slavery being completely fucked up, there had to be a way to justify it. It didn't take genius to say, "lets just enslave people who look really different from us."

"African American" is an "ethnicity" created by the institution of slavery, and then perpetrated by Jim Crow.

Let me explain this to you in Italian terms:

Before there was an Italian nation, Prince Metternich of Austria made remarked that Italy was just “a geographical expression”. When he said that in 1847, there was no “Italian” identity.  “We” identified with our town or province.  “We” were not a unified people, “we” did not speak the same language.  “Italians” had not all been under the same flag since ancient Rome.  
 
A more aspirational quote came from Massimo d'Azeglio.  After unification in 1861, he said “we have made Italy; now we must make Italians.”  At that time, only 2-3% of the population spoke “Italian,” and even the King and Cavour barely spoke it – speaking regional languages instead.  
 
Although Metternich intended his comment to be dismissive of Italian unity, he was in large part correct.  Someone from Palermo had little in common with someone from Torino. There was no common language, and “Italian” was no more an ethnicity than “Balkan.”  To make “Italians,” it was necessary to forge a unified identity.   
 
Strangely enough, this happened in Italian America even before it really happened in Italy.  Immigrants, arriving here from “the old country” were all looked at as “Italians” by the existing Americans.  In my home town, the “Italian” immigrants (mostly from Sicily) referred to anyone who was not like us as ‘medegani – Americans.  This artificial divide helped forge an “Italian” identity in America – in some ways making d’Azeglio’s dream a reality in Little Italy before it was a reality in Italy itself.

Similarly, but at the same time, really differently, Africans wound up in America from a mishmash of different places, traditions, languages, and ethnic groups. But, unlike the Italians, who didn't have their languages beaten out of them, didn't have their families forcibly broken up, and didn't have the choice to go back where they came from taken from them, the "Blacks" wound up mixing together — forming a "Black" ethnicity.

Now I really chuckle when I hear other Italian Americans say "yeah, well the Italians got treated like shit too." Fine, yes, they lynched some Italians in New Orleans, and Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, and went to the chair because they were Italians. If you think that puts Italians at the same level of getting-fucked-over and being the subject of generations of disrespect as the Blacks, you're out of your lasagna-slinging mind. At least "we" can go back to our ancestral town, if we're one of the Italians who bother to give a shit where our grandparents came from (and fucking shame on you if you're Italian and you don't know).

Meanwhile, the furthest back most African American families are going to trace there heritage is to some bill of sale in Savannah.

Point being, this is a "new" ethnicity, and even once Black America gained its freedom, at about the same time that Italy became a thing, it then found itself under the thumb of 100 years of Jim Crow and capitalism-cum-racism. So, while (for example) the Jews suffered under multiple attempts at genocide, they could reach back to 3,000 years of history and tradition to keep their shit together. Meanwhile, "Black History," almost didn't exist.

Duh

Duh

African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded. Because I can't think of any other group of people who were so thoroughly detached from their ancestry, then kept as chattel, and molded into an ethnicity by people who didn't treat them as human beings.

And meanwhile, your Czech-descended, or Irish-descended ass is worried about whether you need a little bit of "White Pride?"

There is no "White" — ok? "White" is actually a collection of ethnicities, all of which have their own history, their own languages, and their own trail and identity they can pick up. The most downtrodden Pole is still not wondering if anyone knows that Poland gave anything to civilization. We've all heard of Copernicus, we all know about Galileo, Nikolai Tesla is practically a folk hero. Anyone "White" who thinks they need "White Pride" or "White History Month" is forgetting that they're something other than "White."

And, if you only identify as "White" and not the underlying whatever-you-came-from, then shame on you, or your parents, or grandparents, or whoever decided to let go of the thread of your identity. Nobody cut that on you. Nobody forcibly severed you from that connection. Nobody created your identity. You either still have it, or you gave it up.

You're not oppressed this month. You may have had a shitty life. Your parents may have too. You may even come from five generations of imbeciles and losers, but that is hardly the same as the black experience. Yes, at some point, Black people have to take responsibility for themselves and stop complaining that white people caused all their problems.

That's not what Black History Month is about. Black History Month is about recognizing that there is this unique group of people here, who happen to be 13% of the population. They happen to have done at least 13% of the work in bringing America to where it is today. They also happen to have brought much more to the table than great basketball players and collard greens. The fact that some of us don't know that is something worth dealing with and fixing. Further, its not such a bad thing if the black community has a month to be a little bit more proud, since on average, most months in black history have been really really shitty months.

So please shut up about Black history month (well, at least if it bothers you). Black history month is not "unfair." Black history month is not racist.

Go enjoy it, show a little respect, and if you're not careful, you might learn something.

Last 5 posts by Randazza

Comments

  1. Scott Jacobs says

    Heck, us German-Americans used to have an entire cable channel to our history…

    But then it started showing nothing but ghost-hunter shows, pawn/junk shows, and conspiracy shows…

  2. Zrakoplov says

    Blacks may be 13% of the population now, but once Planned Parenthood gets done with them they'll be lucky to be 5%. Margaret's dream will be fulfilled.

  3. David Lang says

    Slavery existed long before America was discovered and included all races (both as slaves and as owners)

    Please don't pretend that slavery was the invention of whites to oppress blacks. What Americans think of when you say 'slavery' was the very tail end of things

  4. Scott Jacobs says

    David Lang, in Europe that was indentured servitude which isn't anything remotely like generational chattle slavery you found in the plantation economy in The New World.

  5. Brian says

    tell that to the irish, a people made into actual serfs and slaves for the better part of 800 years, who were systematically starved to death by their overlords who didn't care about a potato blight and forced them to keep exporting food they needed to England. when 90%+ of an entire nation is either wiped out or forced to flee to other parts of the world, THAT is far worse than "slavery."

    you also fail to note that those slaves were captured and sold BY THEIR VERY OWN PEOPLE. "Whites" didn't go into the interior of Africa for their slaves, they bought them from other African tribes who DID capture slaves.

  6. joshuaism says

    @David Lang
    Way to go being pedantic. Slavery in the US was definitely an invention of the white and powerful to oppress blacks. The fact that slavers in the US needed to find some bs justification for it shows that slavery was on the way out in the rest of the modern world. That bs justification made the injustice of slavery even worse.

  7. Steen says

    Is that the same 13% of the population that commits 49% of the gun violence in the US? Why YES, yes it is…

  8. freedomfan says

    Marc, this wasn't a particularly strong piece. Not that I have much sympathy for the "Where's My History Month" people or their notion of what is or isn't "fair". And, I don't think there is anything vaguely controversial about the idea that an inordinate proportion of black history has been a catalog of abuse.

    But, at some point, the question needs to be addressed as to whether these broad (and sometimes mandatory) commemorations are really doing any favors to anyone. Or, at least, to anyone who isn't in the business of maintaining a certain level of agitation as a form of reliable political capital.

    At some level, whatever benefit it may have, BHM keeps people focused on peoples' differences. And, while we might like to hope that enlightenment and tolerance will flow from that focus, I suspect that just as much stereotyping, fear, and (sometimes convenient) ignorance are the result. If a non-black person makes some effort and reads a book about black history and then comments to a black person, "You people have gotten the shit tartar of raw deals!", is that comment wrong? Is that what a typical black person wants to hear? Is the "you people" part of that comment racist or at least rude? If so, then is that not encouraged by a commemoration of the history of a particular people as its own thing? Hasn't enough time been spent thinking of people as separate?

    BTW, I try and keep up with Radley Balko's blog on police misconduct issues (and I suspect I am not alone among popehat readers, in that regard). Lots of those stories highlight abuse of which black people are the victims. The stories outrage me not because I think, "It's terrible what can happen to a young black man in today's world." (Though, I also think that's true, when I bother to consider it in that light.) It outrages me because I think, "That guy was just like me, an American citizen who ended up on the wrong end of an officer's bad attitude. The next time some cop forgets that he is a servant to the citizens and not their master, I could be the one getting the crap kicked out of me."

    (I am not sure I agree with him in terms of other politics, but Morgan Freeman had a pretty sound take on Black History Month. Google to find a transcript of his interview with Mike Wallace.)

  9. Moebius Street says

    I think you're off base here, Marc.

    First, I think you give short shrift to the experience of the Jews. Perhaps you weren't aware that, for example, "Jewishness" is inherited from the mother, rather than father as is traditional in most western cultures. The reason for that is because the history of Jews being subjugated is so vast, with crimes like rape being so widely committed against them, that the maternal lines were the only ones that it was possible to trace. If you're interested in American history, then you should also be looking at the Chinese, who were so systematically legislated against, lynched and reviled here from the mid-19th century for well over a hundred years.

    Second, as freedomfan says above, you're creating divisions when we'd be better not trying to find differences, but focus on our common ground. The color of one's skin, and experiences of one's predecessors (but not oneself) are a lousy foundation for building a community. Aren't there stronger ties we could look to if we feel a need for community (fans of team X; followers of religion Y; lovers of music; those who enjoy videogames; stamp collectors; etc.)? Focusing on historical wrongs puts the emphasis in a bad place, for something that's largely no longer applicable.

    And indeed, I think what really bothers the white folks on the other side of the discussion is that they're trying (still imperfectly, to be sure, but genuinely trying) to welcome other demographics into the fold. To have those overtures rejected, and thrown back as examples of further racism, discourages many who want to be inclusive.

    If we want to live in MLK's dream, where color is disregarded as we all live in harmony, then sooner or later, everyone really does have to let go of their hangups about color. The longer anyone – including blacks themselves – insist that they're a group apart, the longer they will in fact remain a group apart.

  10. Felix says

    Asians are just as racist against outsiders as anybody. Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, they all have racial attitudes about each other, and about whites and blacks too.

    America may have its own hellish variety of racism, but racism is not a white invention, or a slaver invention. It isn't even a human invention, if you want to get down to ants, but I think we can ignore that pedantry.

    To declare white pride bogus, because racism or slavery, is pretty short-sighted. To say that the KKK invalidates white pride is as bogus as saying the Black Panthers invalidate black pride.

  11. says

    First, I think you give short shrift to the experience of the Jews. Perhaps you weren't aware that, for example, "Jewishness" is inherited from the mother, rather than father as is traditional in most western cultures. The reason for that is because the history of Jews being subjugated is so vast, with crimes like rape being so widely committed against them, that the maternal lines were the only ones that it was possible to trace.

    While I know that Judaism is matrilineal, I have never heard that it was so because of mass rape. That said, I don't think that ever was the case in America, right?

    If you're interested in American history, then you should also be looking at the Chinese, who were so systematically legislated against, lynched and reviled here from the mid-19th century for well over a hundred years.

    And?

    I am sure that if we look at every single people, with the possible exception of the English and the Dutch, we'll find some form of bigotry against them. The point is not that African Americans are the only group to have suffered injustice, but that they are unique in the way that they were discriminated against. In fact, their history is quite unique, and too many Americans are ignorant as to their history and contributions. So, I'm fine with Black History Month, and I certainly see no need for White History Month.

    If we want to play "who was a bigger victim" I think that they "win." If that means that maybe we ought to just pay a little more attention to their history for a few minutes a day, for one month out of the year, that does not chap my ass.

  12. Sinij says

    "African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded."

    I disagree. Any conquered people in a long history of human civilization would be in the same 'fucked over' category (if not worse by becoming extinct). Every empire up to modern age operated like this. Do you think Golden Horde, Vikings, Romans, Aztecs, Zulus were any different to their conquered people?

  13. Elvis says

    Brian,

    I would say that Irish-Americans often are pretty proud of their ancestry, and I don't think that many people call them racist for being so. I'm not sure what you're getting at with your comment. I think that was sort of the point of the column, isn't it? That, due to the particular history of people of African ancestry in the United States, being a black American is much more akin to being an Irish American than it is to being a white American.

  14. Guy Incognito says

    "At some level, whatever benefit it may have, BHM keeps people focused on peoples' differences."

    Ultimately, the goal is for that focus to be temporary. By learning about our fellows Americans' forgotten (and/or willfully ignored) histories, maybe then we will feel empathy for each other. And eventually, from that empathy, Morgan Freedom's dream of ending BHM through lack of noticed color will come true.

  15. PonyAdvocate says

    @Mr. Randazza

    Thank you for expressing so well something that needs to be said, and that many (including some denizens of this blog), who, not being members of groups that have been subject to systemic oppression, seem not to understand.

    African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded.

    FWIW, this morning I heard in a news report an excerpt of a Chris Rock performance in which he said that American Indians are the most fucked-over group of people ever.

  16. PonyAdvocate says

    @freedomfan

    The stories outrage me not because I think, "It's terrible what can happen to a young black man in today's world." (Though, I also think that's true, when I bother to consider it in that light.) It outrages me because I think, "That guy was just like me, an American citizen who ended up on the wrong end of an officer's bad attitude…"

    But very often, black victims of such police abuse are victims because, and only because, they are black — a white person in identical circumstances, by virtue of being white, is very often treated much less harshly, or is not subject to any treatment at all, by a cop ("stop and frisk"). Do you not think that police abuse motivated solely by racial animus is even worse than "equal opportunity" abuse? Do you not say to yourself "It's terrible what can happen to a young black man that would not happen to a young white man in today's world."?

  17. Ben says

    To declare white pride bogus, because racism or slavery, is pretty short-sighted. To say that the KKK invalidates white pride is as bogus as saying the Black Panthers invalidate black pride.

    "White Pride" is bogus because it means nothing. White is not an ethnicity, nor is it place of origin, nor is it even a definitively distinct group of people. What are you taking pride in, exactly? You can't even say that there's a threshold level of skin pigment where someone stops being "white". My wife's family is Sicilian, and some of her relatives' skin tone is pretty damned similar to acquaintances I know who come from North Africa. Are they white or black? Who the crap knows? White means nothing, it is a meaningless term that doesn't differentiate any particular group of people. Take pride in your ethnicity/place of origin if you wish. African-Americans don't have that luxury. They have no idea what country or tribe their lineage comes from for the most part. So they've had to forge their own ethnicity.

  18. Zrakoplov says

    Blacks are lucky they don't know their heritage. If they did, they would divide themselves into different "ethnic" groups (Hutu, Tutsi, etc.) and proceed to kill each other just like they do in Africa.

    Humans are tribal. Get used to it.

  19. Felix says

    "White is not an ethnicity, nor is it place of origin, nor is it even a definitively distinct group of people."

    Indeed. You show some perverse patronizing racism of your own with that, implicitly lumping all blacks into a single group. They aren't even all African, but of course you can be forgiven for lumping Australian Aborigines in with them for their blackness alone.

    Then there's that whole matter of how much black blood it takes to be considered black. 1/32? One drop? Why do so many people call Obama black when he is half white and half black?

  20. Jerryskids says

    shame on you, or your parents, or grandparents, or whoever decided to let go of the thread of your identity

    And yet I don't feel the least bit ashamed about the fact that I know very little about my ancestry and really don't give a rat's ass, because it's not part of my identity. You may very well feel "proud to be Italian", but how can you take pride in something you had nothing to do with? Are you proud your name starts with an "M", proud to wear a size 11 shoe, proud you have one earlobe longer than the other? Would you be less proud to be Irish or Greek or Guacamolian? Pride should come from your accomplishments, I think. You can be proud to be a good cook or a professional guitarist or winner of a belching contest but proud to be left-handed? You're stretching for reasons to feel special, my little left-handed snowflake.

    Maybe I'm the oddball here who just doesn't get the whole "feeling connected to the rest of humanity through our tribal membership" thing or maybe you have some other definition of pride but "white pride", "black pride", "gay pride", "lion pride" – they all sound kinda silly to me. (But I did one time win a belching contest and don't you dare try to take that away from me.)

  21. says

    Sacco and Vanzetti were innocent, and went to the chair because they were Italians.

    -Highly dubious.

    "African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded."

    -LOL. Cambodians? Timorese? Ukrainians? Irish? Indians? Native Americans? Even North Koreans count.

    "Because I can't think of any other group of people who were so thoroughly detached from their ancestry, then kept as chattel, and molded into an ethnicity by people who didn't treat them as human beings."

    -That actually significantly helped them overcome tribalism. Compare Detroit or Barbados with any part of Black Africa if you don't believe me.

    " "White" is actually a collection of ethnicities, all of which have their own history, their own languages, and their own trail and identity they can pick up."

    -We know. Which is why SJWs condemn (say) Jews, they always blame Jews, right? Right? Right?

    In the Americas, White (and Black) ethnic differences disappear. Race becomes the most salient feature of the social hierarchy, rather than some purely socially-constructed ethnicity.

    "You're not oppressed this month."

    -Neither are most Black men.

    "They happen to have done at least 13% of the work in bringing America to where it is today."

    -Sure. In large part, not in a good way.

    "Further, its not such a bad thing if the black community has a month to be a little bit more proud, since on average, most months in black history have been really really shitty months."

    -Same with White history.

    The reason I like Black History Month is it shows us how truly pathetic Black history around the globe is. From Haiti to the Congo to Detroit, Blacks have never been able to build their own first world countries without being ruled by Whites. Ever.

  22. Ben says

    Indeed. You show some perverse patronizing racism of your own with that, implicitly lumping all blacks into a single group. They aren't even all African, but of course you can be forgiven for lumping Australian Aborigines in with them for their blackness alone.

    I did nothing of the sort. I specifically noted that the answer to the "white or black" question is "who the crap knows?" Because they're bogus constructs. However, the word "black" in Black History Month has become synonymous with African American. So obviously that isn't going to include Australian Aborigines or any other group of people just based on skin tone.

    Then there's that whole matter of how much black blood it takes to be considered black. 1/32? One drop? Why do so many people call Obama black when he is half white and half black?

    Obama self-identifies primarily as African American, and I'm not going to tell him he's wrong, that's up to him. I'm a mish-mosh of northern European ethnicities, but when people ask, I usually say that I'm German, even though that only makes up a quarter of my lineage. It's for a lot of different reasons, and I don't give a crap whether someone agrees with my self-identification or not

  23. says

    And yet I don't feel the least bit ashamed about the fact that I know very little about my ancestry and really don't give a rat's ass, because it's not part of my identity. You may very well feel "proud to be Italian", but how can you take pride in something you had nothing to do with?

    Fair enough.

    I'd say that my "pride" is more of a desire to remain connected to my past, than any feeling of superiority or achievement. But, you're right to criticize my view of "shame on you" to anyone who doesn't have the same desire with respect to their ancestry. That was ignorant and douchey of me.

  24. ShelbyC says

    "African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded."

    Is Obama African-American?

    Of course, the most fucked-over groups of people in history often don't have descendants.

    History is full of fucked over groups of people.

  25. says

    Caucasoids fuckin' rule. First to discover America (3 times over at least 20k years!). Damn near all of North Africa, most of the Indian Subcontinent. all of Europe, majority of N.A, today, a good chunk of Asia now, more in prehistory…

    We invented damned near everything from peanut butter to algebra. Sure those Mongoloids came up with paper and gun powder but we appropriated all their shit so fuck 'em.

    Identity based on cranio-facial morphology is kinda silly but if somebody wants to argue race I'm going to hold them to the only meaningful definition.

  26. Victarus says

    "White Pride" is bogus because it means nothing. White is not an ethnicity, nor is it place of origin, nor is it even a definitively distinct group of people. […] White means nothing, it is a meaningless term that doesn't differentiate any particular group of people. Take pride in your ethnicity/place of origin if you wish. African-Americans don't have that luxury. They have no idea what country or tribe their lineage comes from for the most part. So they've had to forge their own ethnicity.

    Of course, your later "I'm not going to tell [Barack Obama] he's wrong [to identify as African-American], that's up to him" makes the "White is dumb" spiel kind of… I don't know, silly? Americans with European ancestry are wrong to arbitrarily group themselves together, but the equivalent of having a half-Polish, half-Bantu guy calling himself an Afrikaner isn't? Aren't both of them just arbitrary groupings, no matter what motivations might be behind them?

    In fact, I think that's kind of the point of the dissenters here: The groups that we divide ourselves are arbitrary, and — more to the point — that division ultimately just hurts everyone.

    The rare bigot aside, most of the people I've heard who object to black/gay/etc. pride or talk about having a non-minority counterpart seem to be in a place where they genuinely don't think of all these divisions as being particularly meaningful. At most they see their ancestry/orientation/background/etc. as a neat trait, not something that defines who they are. You can say that's naive or shows a lack of understanding or whatever, that's purely academic and has nothing to do with the real world: This is how a large group of people thinks, and you can't just argue that away.

    Regardless of the intent, the result of all this emphasis on various minority groups to the exclusion of theirs is alienation. It doesn't matter that their culture/orientation/gender/etc. gets 90% of the airtime (which is an entirely different issue altogether); their attributes are never celebrated like that, and in fact are often demonized in the celebration of others'. That's where this first attempt of "How about me too?" comes from, but this innocent attempt to belong inevitably ends up getting shouted down with cries of "Bigot!" and "You don't understand!", or at best is greeted with a kind of smug "Oh you poor thing" (see also: the original article, some of the above comments). Eventually this attempt to belong (and/or include, depending on how you look at it) ends and the feeling turns into a kind of not-bigoted-but-resentful, where they don't explicitly believe they're somehow superior, but they've learned that other people have split themselves into these groups, and they know they definitely aren't a part of them. The result is someone who talks about "The Blacks" or "The Gays" the same way others talk about "The French" or "The Japanese" (as in nations, not ethnicities): If you divide people into us/them, then instincts kick in and all of the "them"s just turn into different tribes.

  27. Felix says

    "However, the word "black" in Black History Month has become synonymous with African American."

    Of course, we all know that pure black (mustn't include Arikaners, or the north-of-the-Sahara variety) Africans, or Australian Aborigines, suffered no bigotry or racism. No, the KKK was all too eager to leave them alone. Ditto for first generation Africans brought to this country as slaves, or even current-day Africans who visit here. They suffer no bigotry or racism.

    Yes, you still lump all blacks together in ways you deny to whites, but it is a very curious lumping together, since it excludes Australian Aborigines, pure black Africans, and, depending on whether you mean US-Africans when you say African-Americans, Latin American Africans.

  28. FTGE says

    Moebius Street says:

    "Jewishness" is inherited from the mother, rather than father as is traditional in most western cultures. The reason for that is because the history of Jews being subjugated is so vast, with crimes like rape being so widely committed against them, that the maternal lines were the only ones that it was possible to trace.

    Yet population genetics disproves this widely commited rape fantasy and Judaism became matrilineal in the 2nd century AD, when the later-to-be Ashkenazi and Sephardic (the two main categories of European Jews outside Italkim and Romaniotes who look genetically similarly like European-shifted Levantines) male Jews lived in the Roman parts of Europe and were taking Southern European wives as shown by mtDNA (their patriline is still Levantine).

    As for the topic at hand, I don't agree 100% with either this or your Nero articles but it's either the SJWs or the Freedumb Warrior reactionaries shitting up the comment sections with their trash godfuckingdammit.

  29. M. Alan Thomas II says

    You act like I'm really some single ethnicity that I'm ignoring when I say "White", but it's not that reductively simple. My best-documented line of descent stretches back over 1000 years, moving between countries on a regular basis and intermarrying the locals at every turn; where do you draw the line?

    I usually say that I'm a British Isles mutt (we think—a lot of traceable lineages peter out in the 17th century before you find whichever ancestor immigrated), which is itself a way of saying that I'm a bunch of different things that conveniently have some umbrella term to apply to their mixture. And some of those ancestors were Norman before that and no-one-knows-what before that, not to mention American for 200–300+ years afterwards, so where do you draw the line? Plus I always mention my fair bit of German, and there's also little bits of several others, including one Native American tribe whose influence is so small that I don't want to just appropriate the title under some perverted "one drop" rule.

    So, yes, I'm "white." I'm with you on everything else, but no-one decided to cut me off from my ethnic origin; a lot of my ancestors just weren't hung up on ethnic purity, so I've got so many different bits and pieces in me that to claim anything specific would be to insult everything I was leaving out. So I go with the nebulous, ill-defined catch-all. It's not much to be proud of, as a descriptor, and its history is the history of a privileged category turning into a catch-all for "the people we're not discriminating against right now", but I can best honor all of the different aspects of my ancestry by using the terms that include the most of them.

  30. Yrro says

    I agree with you that we don't need a "white history" month… but as someone whose lineage isn't so clear, I'm not sure I agree with you on the rest.

    Parts of my family has been in America since I think Jamestown. Others immigrated as recently as a hundred years ago. We have English, Irish, Scots, Dutch, German, French, and maybe even a little bit of Italian somewhere.

    My "ethnicity" and "culture" is sure-as-hell American-grown. It is also defined so broadly that the only really useful term for it is "white." And I would like to be proud of that.

    And we are allowed to be… as long as we don't name it. Farmer's markets, square dances, folk music and country, marching bands, log cabins… all have their origins in the "white" culture that emerged from the mishmash of European immigrants to the frontier.

    We can call it "American" culture, but it's not just that. And any way, any time someone try to call it "real America" they piss off a bunch of people, and I agree. It's not as big as that.

    So what can I call my ethnic identity without sounding racist?

  31. Gerry Quinn says

    Neither racism nor slavery are white inventions. One could make a better case that abolitionism is.

  32. Michael Gorback says

    "White is not an ethnicity, nor is it place of origin, nor is it even a definitively distinct group of people. What are you taking pride in, exactly? You can't even say that there's a threshold level of skin pigment where someone stops being "white". "

    There can't be "white privilege" if there's no "definitively distinct group". Thanks for settling that.

  33. Guy Who Looks Things Up says

    @Siv

    We invented damned near everything from peanut butter to algebra.

    Having some real trouble figuring out if this is sarcasm, white supremacist drivel or profound ignorance.

    Identity based on cranio-facial morphology is kinda silly but if somebody wants to argue race I'm going to hold them to the only meaningful definition.

    And what might that definition be? This is no echo chamber so it helps if you define your terms.

  34. Ben says

    Congrats Marc, you just moved me from 'we don't need a white history month' to 'why isn't there an Italian/German/Russian/Irish/etc history month' by incidentally teaching me more about Italians.

  35. MaxZ says

    Pride movements are fighting back against societies that say they should be ashamed of part of their identity. Anyone who thinks they are stigmatised for being 'White' has never really experienced stigma. So, I am not proud of being of European origin, and I don't want to defiantly declare I have a penis. No-one has ever genuinely persecuted me for these things. My identity as a disabled person is one I am very proud of, because I needed that pride to rise above a tide of scorn and pity.

    Anybody whinging that they need a 'White Pride' month in order to counteract some people snarking on Twitter is a total and utter wimp that can't handle the tiniest amount of pain. If such whiners are 'white' then colour me different.

  36. Argentina Orange says

    "Whiteness" is a state of mutual intelligibility and respect between members of differing cultures. This is why the number of different cultures under the umbrella of whiteness keeps growing with familiarity, integration and assimilation.

    It probably needs to be repeated, but this definition, like Marc's original post, only applies in the U.S.

  37. Yuval says

    We also don't need a "black history month" according to Morgan Freeman which I agree with http://www.snopes.com/politics/quotes/blackhistory.asp

    As for the "pride" question, I think for both white and black, skin color is too simple, because nowadays, there are many different shades of color. So we should have "European-American" pride or "African-American" pride

    Finally, I am a white man on the autism spectrum, and I was expected to live up to role models like Albert Einstein and Bill Gates, since they were falsely thought to be autistic. Needless to say, that didn't pan out and I am currently unemployed, so yeah, I am totally drowning in privileged by having been lied to about my racial expectations *sarcasm*

  38. Papillon says

    Very well written article.

    Except we already have a white history month — every month. When I was in school, we learned more about what tribes of white people were fighting each other thousands of miles away on the other side of the country, than the history of any of the native Canadian tribes in my own province. Because we learned nothing about First Nations history.

  39. AH says

    I think Papillon makes a solid point. I would be far happier getting rid of "Black history month" and seriously talk about the contributions of black people in the mainstream history classes. I think segregating black history into it's own little section where it can be easily ignored does a grave disservice to people like the the members of the 332nd Fighter Group, George Washington Carver, Martin Luther King, and Malcom LIttle, all of whom left large and undeniable marks on modern society.

  40. Edwin says

    Marc —

    You say,

    "Race is a political construct." and " "African American" is an "ethnicity" created by the institution of slavery, and then perpetrated by Jim Crow."

    This is just not correct, scientifically speaking. These would have been reasonable statements to make 20 or 30 years ago, but modern genetics has demonstrated these claims to be false.

    I would recommend the brilliant Bangladeshi American Razib Khan, who is quite possibly smarter than either of us, and who is much more up to date on the state of modern genetics.

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2013/05/why-race-as-a-biological-construct-matters/#.VroKJk32ZmM

    Briefly:
    Race groupings not only exist in reality but they are very easy to identify genetically. We can recall how Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, with the help of a genetics lab, is able to tell celebrities exactly what proportion of every ethnicity they have.

    African Americans are a specific genetic grouping, invariably being an admixture of the very specific Yoruba-Mandinka African genetic cluster and the European cluster. A geneticist would have no trouble distinguishing not only an African from a European, but also an African American from an African.

    I am in an interracial marriage (European/Japanese). I get confirmation every day that race is not merely some social construct.

    Race as a biological reality is not some crazy skinhead position. It is the position of Henry Louis Gates and is fairly conventional, and incidentally it is true.

  41. Vince Clortho says

    "You may even come from five generations of imbeciles and losers"

    Marc, as a lawyer, you surely know that three generations of imbeciles are enough….

  42. says

    @freedomfan:

    But, at some point, the question needs to be addressed as to whether these broad (and sometimes mandatory) commemorations are really doing any favors to anyone.

    1. Why does that question need to be addressed?

    2. Who gets to address it?

  43. Lokiwi says

    Great article, Marc. Ben already said most of what I wanted to say. I do think you could address all of the "but what about white slavery/asians/Jews/etc!" whiners by just drawing a plane flying over the heads of the comment section.

  44. Jesse says

    @Siv

    "We invented damned near everything from peanut butter to algebra."

    I think this is sarcasm, but the internets aren't very good at communicating sarcasm. So just in case – Algebra is a middle eastern invention. Probably Egyptian originally, but also early evidence in Babylon, and added to by the Greeks. But inventing it – white people can't claim that.

    Peanut butter is a great example. It was invented by Native Americans (evidence suggests the Aztez), industrial manufacturing was invented by white people, and it was popularized (and thus many believed invented) by a black guy. So I think everyone but the Asians get to celebrate peanut butter as part of their "pride."
    – – –

    "Black" in American is simply a reference to either a physical trait (like saying "blonde") or to a racially identified cultural subset. As pointed out above, most black people in the USA can't trace their lineage back to Kenya, or the Congo, or this tribe or that. "Black" is a stand in.

    Also worth noting that many of our proud white cultures have much less to do with their "native" cultures than they think they do. The classic Oktoberfest "Chicken Dance" was invented in Tulsa, Oklahoma, not that long ago. The concept of St. Patrick's day as a binge drinking holiday with green beer is pure Americana. And on and on and on.

    People not understanding history and trying to use their lack of knowledge to justify or explain something pains me…

    Slavery in the Americas was historically very different than most instance of slavery throughout the world. When the Jews were slaves in Egypt (or guest workers) or Babylon (or the elites were held as political prisoners) they retained their family units, their language, and their culture. When Rome conquered a civilization the conquered usually kept their language, their gods, and their local government – even those they enslaved had rights, the opportunity for advancement and freedom. And slavery was rarely based on race – in their minds, there was a reason you were a slave (crime, war, debt).

    African Americans are the only group that was removed from their homeland, treated as multi-generational chattel slaves, and actively stripped of their cultural in every respect to such a successful degree. Russia has screwed over a good number of people (Ukrainians, Poles, Roma). The Jews were (are?) absolutely discriminated against in Europe from the fall of Rome and Hitler's unprecedented crimes. And there was an active campaign to wipe out the cultural identity of Native Americans in the US. But none of that was as effective in destroying cultural identity as chattel slavery in the US of A.

    So if black people in the US feel like grabbing onto an identity, and having their own history month makes them happy – have at it. Maybe we instill some pride into black youth who statistically have a harder (or at least statistically less often realized) road to success. What's the worst it could do?

  45. stillnotking says

    African Americans are the only group that was removed from their homeland, treated as multi-generational chattel slaves, and actively stripped of their cultural in every respect to such a successful degree.

    This is not remotely true; genocide and mass enslavement have been quite common in history. ("Gendercide" was more common than genocide, meaning the men would be killed and the women enslaved.) See e.g. the treatment of the Ainu by ethnic Japanese, which closely parallels African-American slavery. The Mongols, Aztecs, Persians, Zulus, and many other kingdoms and empires succeeded in wholesale destruction and enslavement of other nations. There's considerable archaeological evidence of prehistoric tribal warfare ending in genocide, even without states getting involved. The number of cultures eliminated by conquest is literally incalculable.

    African slavery was always practiced primarily by Africans, and the European colonial empires repented of it before they did (see the West Africa Squadron). The only sense in which the trans-Atlantic slave trade was unusual was that naval technology enabled it to be trans-Atlantic. Oh, and that it was ended by the consciences of the slave-buyers… who, perversely, get to be remembered as history's greatest villains.

  46. BillE says

    Why feel proud of a history in which you did not participate? Why feel ashamed of crimes in which you did not participate? All of the above is racism.
    Here is a clue. You have no reason to gloat because Tesla came from your country! You made no contribution and share in no glory. The brilliance of Frederick Douglas is not inherited. Neither is the guilt of the slaver. You have no reason for guilt because some other white people committed atrocities here a century and a half ago. To blame me because I am white is racist.

    We move ahead by seeing people as individuals and judge them by what they say and what they do—not their racial makeup. How "black" do you have to be to take pride in BHM? Our nation is closer to cafe con leche than black java. Are we not beyond all that? If no, then how do we get there? Not by focusing on skin color?
    BHM may have been started with the best of intentions, but like Black Lives Matter and every other form of racial identity, it advances racism pure and simple and we should be moving forward, not backwards on this issue.
    It is not racist for me to advocate a colorblind society, yet that is where I seem to stand with some Black activists these days.. I was once in pretty good company with this, but it seems to be an outdated notion these days, especially among those who profit from identity politics.

  47. says

    *applauds*

    Bravo. This is stuff I've been saying for years. The very concept of a distinction between "race" and "ethnicity" is a pretty recent invention.

    Slavery in the Americas was historically very different than most instance of slavery throughout the world. When the Jews were slaves in Egypt (or guest workers) or Babylon (or the elites were held as political prisoners) they retained their family units, their language, and their culture. When Rome conquered a civilization the conquered usually kept their language, their gods, and their local government – even those they enslaved had rights, the opportunity for advancement and freedom. And slavery was rarely based on race – in their minds, there was a reason you were a slave (crime, war, debt).

    True too. Until comparatively recently, it was hard for people on different landmasses to enslave one another, and even when it became feasible, it was still far more inconvenient than just enslaving the people from the next territory over.

    The reason African chattel slavery worked differently was simple: the practice of slavery had fallen out of popular fashion by the time the colonies were established, and the plantation owners needed to concoct an excuse to keep perpetuating it after the rest of the civilized world had (legally) abolished it, so they changed things up and made it more businesslike and bureaucratic, IE, more dehumanizing.

  48. Dutch (I told you!) says

    Wow. So many people missed the point of the comment about Caucasoids and Mongoloids. The point is that there are really only a handful of primary branches of human ancestry, and that "white" and "black" aren't among them. These "races", as they are called, are defined by their unique facial-structure traits.

    To clarify: the Caucasoids invented peanut butter and algebra because Arabs (algebra) and everyone else that isn't Chinese (peanut butter) are Caucasoid. That includes black people. Derp on you all. (Note: I am not claiming to verify his statements, only that I understand what he meant and that all of you apparently didn't.)

    And as for the comment someone made about "only the British and the Dutch"… I'm offended. My name is Dutch, so I'm totally offended by your comment, whatever it was about. Because reasons. (Never mind the fact that it took me 30+ years to track down the correct Dutch spelling of that name or that I'm mostly German and Welsh in recent ancestry or that I have 1/128th Cherokee ancestry–which is not enough to get money from the US government–or that I think it would be funny to self-identify as a Minnesotan-American or that all of this is completely pointless and asinine.)

  49. asdf says

    Every month is white history month

    Straight white people don't need "white pride" because a white person that isn't rich and intelligent is considered "white trash". This simple fact proves that white people are expected to be "good", so there's nothing radical or transgressive about being prideful of their whiteness

    Blacks and gays on the other hand are constantly told they're"bad" and deserve to be treated unfairly.

  50. Gabriel Curio says

    Any ethnic grouping that combines my Irish-American grandmother with Prince Phillip is pretty much meaningless.

  51. Big Red says

    Doood. If black is a meaningless social construct, then, ergo, so is black history month. Hoisted yourself on your own petard.

  52. Ngarjuna says

    Huzzah. Of course in the case of this Jew you're preaching to the choir. But I see you already anticipated the polar responses.

  53. Matt L. says

    Ultimately the goal is to get to a point where there's just "History Month": a month to set aside time to look at the struggle of human beings to arrive at a place where we sit down and agree not to be in thrall of the past, that the malignity and virtue of previous generations can provide object lesson or inspiration to all humans with equal legitimacy. Identity politics turns heritage into intellectual property and denies use of the lessons of history to any who do not posses the 'blood license' to absorb them.

    The history of human cruelty, from ancient to present, from African Slavery to the Holocaust, teaches but a few lessons, which are that man has rights and they must be respected, that hatred is destructive and stupid, and that the use of violence and compulsion should not rest on any but the most morally legitimate grounds–certainly not upon artificially derived means of categorizing unrelated people. It teaches these lessons alike to all people, regardless of background. If instead the lesson you hear instead is "wow [we|they] were terrible to [them|us]," then you have failed to condemn evil, implicitly accepted it, and turned instead to the question of whose Ox was gored. In essence, if after all this, you think racism is wrong for any other reason than that there is only one human race and it's damned idiotic to create artificial categories to divide oneself and one's kin from the rest of humanity, you've missed the point.

  54. Telzey Amberdon says

    Corletto Mon Forte is the Italian town my mother's parents came from. She was born in Brooklyn but didn't speak English until she was in the second grade. She was called a "guinea" in school and it stung her so much, she changed her name from Chiara to Claire, completely negating her Italian heritage. I didn't find out her true birth name until I was in my late twenties.

    Another result was that when I was a little kid, I saw the "n" word written on a wall and asked her what it meant. She told me it was a word that was designed to hurt people, and that it said much worse things about the person who said it than the person it was said to. I always think of this whenever one of my elderly Fox-News-watchin' relatives bitches and moans that black people get to use the "n" word, so why can't they. My question is, "Why would you want to?"

  55. Murphy says

    Strictly speaking a minority of white americans are also only going to be able to trace their heritage to a bill of sale. It seems arrogant to say they should feel shame about that.

  56. Steve says

    Marc, I am usually in agreement with your posts, but this one doesn't really display enough depth of view in history.

    Every civilization category that exists today (whether race, nationality, tribe, etc) is here because of the corpses of the tribes and nations they conquered to keep whatever resource they chose to fight over. There is no person alive who can say of his ancestors, "They survived due to their peacefulness." If we are accepting some kind of responsibility for what our predecessors did, no one's hands are clean.

    Tribes fought tribes, ending in slaughter and slavery. This is true throughout the history of the world, and even happens in our times. Arguably, the slavery which occurred in America was the most benign form of slavery in human history. This isn't to say it was right, but it's a far cry from marking slaves by cutting off unnecessary extremities like ears or noses.

    As a Jew, being a member of a people who were enslaved by multiple civilizations (for hundreds of years longer than the Africans) and mass murdered by so-called Western civilization, I find the fact that Black people fall back on slavery and Jim Crow as an excuse for their disproportionate crime rate to be laughable. And the reason Jews maintained their identity through Babylon, Egypt, and Nazi Germany (among others)? We wrote down our history. We passed it on. Nothing was stopping Africans being sold into slavery in the U.S. from doing the same, but they didn't.

    But as one of the commenters already pointed out, that may have been a good thing. Black people in America don't kill one another for tribal affiliation like they do in Africa (unless you count gang violence, which is roughly the same). All this to say, your racial, tribal and ethnic identity should not be some kind of excuse. Have some personal responsibility for how you are acting in this time period. Having a "Whatever" History Month just reinforces differences. Let's just all be Americans.

  57. renosablast says

    I would take exception to the "done at least 13% of the work to bring America to where it is today", unless you are referring to the creation of a "gimme" culture and a huge number of non-contributors to society as being where we are today.

  58. says

    David, Classical Rome has zip to do with America on definitions of or understanding of slavery.

    You also overlooked that slaves could fairly easily buy their freedom in Rome and manumission was much more common. Man, there's some stupid burning on this thread.

  59. Zrakoplov says

    Of course. Only a wingnut would ask, "Why are 2/3 of Planned Parenthood offices in minority neighborhoods?" Silly of me.

  60. says

    Africa has, broadly speaking, three coasts (north, east, west). There was a slave trade on all three coasts. They each had their unique character. What makes the west african slave trade so fascinating that it's documented and discussed so much more than the other two? Why is the slave market at Savannah so famous while the slave market of Constantinople is hardly known at all?

    I happen to come from one of those little border ethnicities that used to not be white but now is by the US' counting. Some day, when it's politically expedient, no doubt it'll get calved off again, like the arabs just were by the US census. And when I say I come from, I mean I'm naturalized. I was sold as a child. My bill of sale was not historical but personal. I know who sold me and who bought me and I retain a personal debt to Richard Nixon who set me free. He bothered to ask for my liberty. Back in those days, there was a price list. This much for a jew, that much for a german. Nothing for romanians because who the heck wanted us. But as a treaty negotiation precondition, the four of us and a bunch more were bought out of captivity.

    Slavery isn't always what you think it is. Whiteness isn't always what you think it is either. And you know, if somebody decides to raise a flag and create an identity because grandpa bought into the melting pot, passed nothing on, and that's turning out not to be such a good idea, who the hell is anybody to spit on the effort?

    Second class citizens are people who are not allowed to do things that other citizens are allowed to do. People can make new tribes in america, no exceptions.

  61. Durandal says

    Thanks for settling that controversy for us, Randazza. Next can we hear your essay on why slavery is bad?

    Also apparently fuck Jews. Being the white man's nigger for 1700 years before they started importing slaves from Africa doesn't count for shit to Randazza, I guess.

  62. Max Blancke says

    I would be more than happy to forget about racial divisions, but the polarizing voices today are not that of the skinheads or the KKK. I have a son working on his degree in Medicine, but he can't get away from it. Last semester, he had BLM protesters screaming at his study group. He spent way too much of his time avoiding angry protesters, because he did not want to be screamed at, or denounced for his whiteness. This semester, his study groups have learned to meet in spaces where they can lock the doors. But now he cannot evade racial lectures in his required writing class. All of his required reading assignments are from Malcolm X, and various members of the Black Panthers. I am not worried about him being exposed to diverse opinions. He has already seen more of the world than most people ever will. But the loudest voices at his school are telling him that not only is he white, but because of that whiteness, he bears a large responsibility for everything bad in the world. He is a good kid, and dealing with it pretty well. He writes his essays about white prejudice, and does not take it personally or let it get in the way of his studies. But I expect that some of the White kids are going to want to push back a little.

  63. Rich Rostrom says

    You overstate your case WRT Italy. The Italian language was recognized as such long before 1860, just as German was – and Germany was just as divided as Italy. Yes, there were many regional dialects, but none of them were considered separate languages.

    One can find lots of references to Italy and Italian before 1860. (Emperor Charles V said "I speak Spanish to God, French to men, Italian to ladies, and German to my horse.")

    This was not true of the Balkan peninsula, which included populations with completely distinct languages: Greeks, Albanians, Romanians, Magyars. The Balkan Slavs (Bulgars and Serbs) have related but distinct languages (and national histories); both used to claim the Macedonians.

    As to how relatively "—-ed over" black Americans have been, you wrote: "I think that being completely severed from your past is worse… "

    Is an orphan adopted by strangers in a completely different country thereby "—-ed over"? I don't think so.

    Everybody is eventually severed from their [culture's] past. Many non-black Americans have no more knowledge of their ethnic "roots" than blacks do. It doesn't seem to hurt them much.

    There are people for whom "severed from your past" is liberation from stifling control or practices the rest of the world sees as wrong. Or the opportunity to participate in the larger modern world. Should !Kung children aspire to being just successful hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari? If those children choose instead to become a truckdriver in New Jersey or a housewife in Singapore, they are severed from their past (and their children surely are), but their lives could be enormously richer (and not just materially).

    Black Americans have been adopted into the wealthiest and freest society in history. The adoption came about through brutal exploitation, but is the final outcome the worst in history? There are many peoples who have been destroyed. I'd say that was worse.

    Oh, and Sacco was guilty, and Vanzetti knew it but preferred to join Sacco in "martyrdom".

  64. meximan says

    This article is pure click bait- like a thestir.com post. No knowledge of history, the slave trade, or much else for that matter. Is your next post going to be about micro-aggression and triggers?

  65. Quiet Lurcker says

    >> Your parents may have too. You may even come from five generations of imbeciles and losers, but that is hardly the same as the black experience. Yes, at some point, Black people have to take responsibility for themselves and stop complaining that white people caused all their problems.

    Really?

    Assuming 20 years per generation, something like seven generations have come and gone since lawful slavery in the U.S.. We've seen three, maybe four, maybe even arguably five generations since the beginnings of dramatic shift in the cultural attitude toward people with different skin color than the majority.

    That whole 'black experience' argument doesn't wash. The modern-day 'black experience' is living in a nation where people are (at least in theory) free to make of themselves what they will,, where even the poorest among us enjoy a state of living which would be kingly in other parts of the world, and being descended from people who have been doing the same, in some cases for as many as 7 generations.

    The people who are most vociferous as regards their supposed disadvantages owing to their skin color have, like Scrooge, been toiling mightily at their self-made and self-imposed bonds, and finding no less success than did Marley.

  66. ravenshrike says

    @ Papillion

    The problem with Native American history is that their isn't any. There's Native American pre-history, and then there's what we know of occurrences at our points of contact with them. The only First Nations(incidentally, they weren't, they tended to be the 2nd-4th Nations that had killed off or absorbed their earlier competition) culture that had ACTUAL history of any sort were led by a bunch of mass-murdering psychopaths and the Spanish pretty much destroyed all their written records. We do know that mere contact with Europeans, with NO overt action on their part, caused a biological apocalypse that probably killed anywhere from 70-90% of most First Nations populations. Which means by the time the Dutch, French, and English settled North America, they encountered the shattered remnants of earlier cultures.

    Regarding the myth that the black population is killed by police out of proportion compared to other ethnicities, well, it's almost certainly flat out wrong. If we take the only available metric of danger(The killings of cops by percentage of race not being available anywhere), namely the rate at which black, white, and latino people kill each other in the US and compare it to the ethnicities of victims of police shootings, the black population is in fact under-represented, even if you assign all cases of police killings where the race of the individual was not specified to the black category. Whites, OTOH, are always over-represented, and latinos are over or underrepresented depending on how you fudge the numbers. There is NO problem of police killing black people, there is a problem of police killing people period. And dogs.

  67. Tarrou says

    Allow me, Marc, in my overweening arrogance, to explain this to you.

    You are absolutely correct that "black" was invented. Just like "Italian" and "Palestinian".

    Every group is invented at some point in history. The question then is, how does this group maintain cohesion, does it subsume into some larger culture or maintain distinctiveness? At what point is it considered its own ethnicity? These are for the philosophers, but I take my guidance from an old battle buddy of mine, an african immigrant from Niger. During an argument over the term "african american", he had this to say to another black soldier.

    "You aren't african american. I am. Born in Africa, came to America. You were born in Cleveland. You're just black".

    And there is truth here. "Black" may have been invented to homogenize the different tribes of slaves, but it has an identity now. Four hundred years of separation from one's original tribe will do that. The question is, do black americans want to be black, or americans, primarily? No one cares if they have soul food restaurants and celebrate Kwanzaa, but things like creating a month where we all sit about and self-flagellate about shit we didn't do is pathetic, and only serves to deepen those tribal divides.

    We have a zillion other ethnicities who have integrated, and parts of the black community have integrated. African immigrants do quite well here. But native blacks don't, by and large. If your thesis is that modern black americans face some sort of "systemic racism", you're going to have to show how this systemic racism somehow magically bypasses (for instance) Nigerian immigrants.

    As to how badly the criminal justice system shafts black americans, I point you (and everyone interested in the subject) to Scott Alexander's investigation into the matter:

    http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/11/25/race-and-justice-much-more-than-you-wanted-to-know/

  68. Zoe Mack says

    White history does exist. It's largely the other side of the black history coin.

    The ability to more finely carve up other aspects of white history doesn't change the fact that whiteness exists and has created a set of largely shared experiences. After all, where else would white privilege come from?

  69. Justin says

    "And, if you only identify as "White" and not the underlying whatever-you-came-from, then shame on you, or your parents, or grandparents, or whoever decided to let go of the thread of your identity. Nobody cut that on you. Nobody forcibly severed you from that connection. Nobody created your identity. You either still have it, or you gave it up."

    Easy for you to say as an Italian-American, but don't forget that the majority of white Americans have several to many ethnicities in their ancestry. It's kind of meaningless (and unrealistic) to identify as, say, Polish-Italian-German-Irish.

    Not disputing your overall point, but this paragraph doesn't seem very fair.

  70. CJColucci says

    Several years ago, an undefeated irish-American heavyweight, Gerry Cooney, fought the undefeated heavyweight champion of the world, Larry Holmes, who is black. An Italian friend of mine and an Irish friend of mine, who were both knowledgeable boxing fans, were rooting heavily for Cooney. There was no objective boxing-related reason for this, as any knowledgeable boxing fan would know. Holmes thoroughly outclassed Cooney, who, in defeat, probably fought his best fight against a far superior boxer. I could understand the Irish fan rooting for the Irish Cooney, despite the lack of good boxing reasons to do so, but could not understand the Italian's thinking. "But he's one of us," he said. No, he wasn't. If Cooney had been Italian-American, he'd have been "one of us," and we could have rooted irrationally for him against all sorts of non-Italians, but he was Irish, not Italian. He was "one of us" only by virtue of being "white," which had no meaning except in opposition to Holmes's being black. So, generally, "whiteness" is not a meaningful trait in which one can take legitimate pride. A white man rooting for the white against the black is just not the same thing as an Irishman rooting for the Irish against the Italian.

  71. Eva says

    Like as not it appears that most people have preconceived notions about persons who are not like them physically, economically, geographically, or even their level of education or special expertise.
    If you don't think you have a shred of this you I believe you are probably lying to yourself. As far as I know there will always be some lingering ideas or notions about people who not like you pretty much in all people's mind. It is what you do with those "ideas", how you keep yourself from allowing those ideas becoming biases against certain groups that I believe we all have a chance of becoming more open to people who are unique to your own personal experience.
    I understand the experience of being a minority because of who I am. I am biracial (not African American) I know prejudice yet I do not know really what the Black experience is. Their history of oppression far exceeds anything I could even conceive of. Our country has a fairly significant number of African Americans incarcerated. That in itself is breath-taking.
    I do not believe that race is a construct, it is assigned by how society views you. (At the most part nowadays). As a biracial person I can tell you from my own personal experience that if you look more this way or the other people/society will assign you (or will try to) assign you to a particular racial population even if it is incorrect unfortunately. That is the way of it as far as I know.

  72. Colossu says

    Stopped at, "There was no concept of "Black" as an identity before slavery." The assertion is both untrue and inaccurate. In fact, every culture had/has it's own identity; culture is identity.

  73. AlphaCentauri says

    I agree with your article. My main objection to Black History Month is that it seems to sanitize the real evil. African slaves and their American descendants were very thoroughly fucked over. But humans have attempted to enrich themselves by exploiting the labor of others throughout history, and they have pushed the limits of doing so to whatever degree they could get away with. They just got away with a whole lot in the case of the African slave trade. Americans had such disproportionate control of weapons and navigational technology that they could openly carry on the slave trade on a massive scale without fear of shiploads of heavily armed Africans sailing over to "fight us here so they wouldn't have to fight us there." But there's still plenty of slavery, whenever people can hide it well enough while still keeping it profitable.

    If you treat slavery in America as a unique event in history, rather than an extreme example of a force of history, you treat it as an issue that is no longer important today. But Blacks aren't oppressed now because of events from the 19th century, any more than Irish-Americans are.

    There are ongoing systems to maintain a permanent underclass, and defining it by race allows the majority of people to escape being part of that underclass. Those of us who don't belong automatically benefit. Any parent of a lazy, mouthy teenager who doesn't lie awake every night worrying about their kid ending up shot or spending his life getting raped in an adult prison, who has honest confidence that that child will eventually grow out of it and end up with a good career and mouthy teenagers of his own, is enjoying the privilege of not being Black.

    Black history month teaches about a few Blacks who achieved success in the current system, as if we should be amazed that there ever were any Blacks who were successful. It needs to teach kids to analyze and fight the system that produces so many unsuccessful Black adults. I'm guessing that curriculum would never get approved.

  74. Chriscom says

    African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded.

    History is very long. I recommend you read more of it.

  75. John says

    It is interesting that all oppressed whites groups used in comments to show that article is wrong use groups that are super proud of their history, put great deal of effort and resources into remembering. Irish and Italians basically cant shut up about their history. French still remember French Revolution as bloody as it was. Poles did not forgot forced Germanisation nor Russification in 19 and early 20 century

    Jews put a lot of effort, lobbying and money into keeping pogroms and holocaust monuments intact. I don't see anyone except occasional actual neo-nazi complain. It makes perfect sense to me that Jews do that.

    It is interesting that when pretty much same effort is made by blacks in America, there is huge opposition to it. I would understand it if the historical facts were under dispute, but it seems that it is just the concept that makes people angry and a bit emotional.

    Historical evils are not competition where only the most oppressed group earns the right to remember or tell its stories. Irish being oppressed does not subtract from housing segregation of blacks.

    Another observation is that just about the same political groups who talk about how difference between blacks and white Americans outcomes are due to different culture or even genetics suddenly do 180 degree turn. Talking about blacks as distinct group is suddenly divisive as if there was some great unity before and blacks with whites were pretty much the same. You cant have it both ways.

  76. Peter Gerdes says

    While I definitely agree with you that black history month is a non-racist and important celebration the justifications you give don't seem quite right.

    It's not simply that blacks are 13% of the population and that their ancestors were recipients of lots of crap. If you are willing to go back far enough it's not at all hard to identify plenty of groups treated pretty horribly in history. Depending on how you choose to carve people up you can arguably find "ethnic groups" which have (perhaps not as recently) been treated just as bad or worse but if they are currently undiscriminated against that would hardly justify having a month in their honor.

    Moreover, your very denunciation of the notion of ethnic groups undermines your own justification. If ethnic groups are supposed to be meaningless and arbitrary why is it "black history month" not "descendants of slaves" history month? Besides, the idea that ethnicity is somehow entirely constructed is going a bit far…various accidents of history, geography and even human psychology probably made certain categories like "black", "oriental" and "white" inevitable even if they are fuzzy and the choice of dividing lines arbitrary.

    No, the reason black history month isn't a harmful thing is that our society still treats blacks with discrimination and blacks in our society remember times of even worse discrimination. Things like black history month are important social signals saying "blacks aren't lower class…they are important contributors to society" to both blacks and whites.

    It's not about what happened to someone's ancestors. It's about the lingering effects of past acts today.

  77. Maghavan says

    This is obviously something written by someone with race-seeing privilege. I don't see race. I only know what race people are based on what history month they celebrate. Because there is no white history month, I can never know who is white.

    .

  78. Siskel and Ebert says

    "African Americans are descendants of the most fucked over group of people that history has ever recorded. Because I can't think of any other group of people who were so thoroughly detached from their ancestry, then kept as chattel, and molded into an ethnicity by people who didn't treat them as human beings. "

    Ever, in history? Like ever, ever? Worse than Communism's 100 million killed? Worse than when the Mongols genocided a continent?

    They were fed and clothed, which probably put them way ahead of the average person living contemporaneously in Africa by living standard. Their life expectancies were almost certainly longer than they would have been in Africa.

    Consider the massive die-off of former slaves due to starvation and disease that was the first, immediate result of emancipation. This is as reported in The Guardian, that cesspool of skinhead extremism.

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/jun/16/slavery-starvation-civil-war

    I am no Southerner but c'mon, let's be real. At that time, and for the prior million years everyone was struggling against everyone else for survival.

    If you really want to talk to talk about guilt over the Atlantic slave trade, it is historically correct to lay more blame on Latinos. By a 10-1 margin, the Atlantic Slave Trade was more a Caribbean and South American phenomenon, and slaves died at far higher rates there.

  79. wysinwyg says

    @Brian:

    you also fail to note that those slaves were captured and sold BY THEIR VERY OWN PEOPLE.

    No, they were sold by rival tribes who took them prisoner during battle. Selling people from your own tribe would be really stupid because 1) they're your relatives and 2) they do some share of the farming and housework, so it's more work for you if you sell them. From the perspective of the individuals selling slaves, they were selling their traditional enemies into slavery, not their VERY OWN PEOPLE.

    And if they had known how much worse American slavery was than tribal slavery or classical slavery were then they might not have done so. You guys are all incredibly ignorant if you think all slavery is created equal. Even in America, we have to acknowledge the existence of both relatively humane and moral slaveowners (George Washington letting his slaves go free as part of his will comes to mind) as well as morally depraved tyrants.

    In ancient Greece and Rome, people would often sell themselves into slavery because they weren't able to feed and house themselves — slavery was the 3rd century BC version of homelessness. Slaves in the classical world usually had a great deal of autonomy. Often, the "owner" would live in the city while a particularly trusted slave would run a farm estate out in the country. They could marry and own their own property.

    Meanwhile, I'd be interested in finding a single case of an American free black selling him- or herself into chattel slavery.

    The historical ignorance on display here is overwhelming. (Though predictable.)

  80. wysinwyg says

    @Siskel and Ebert:

    They were fed and clothed, which probably put them way ahead of the average person living contemporaneously in Africa by living standard. Their life expectancies were almost certainly longer than they would have been in Africa.

    I'd bet $3000 on the opposite. It's well-established that hunter gatherers have and had longer life expectancies than low-tech agriculturalists with fewer signs of overwork and malnutrition in their remains. Their diets are more varied and they are less susceptible to disease since they live in lower population densities. Hunter gatherer societies tend to keep their populations in-line with what the local environment can support, so they are less likely to experience famines as a result of crop failures — which are inevitable, and inevitably result in famines. And you may not realize this, but clothing is not especially necessary in much of Africa in the first place.

    If you really want to talk to talk about guilt over the Atlantic slave trade, it is historically correct to lay more blame on Latinos.

    Sounds really defensive, which is silly because no one is trying to hold you personally accountable. The Spanish were perhaps more involved in the slave trade logistically, but the slave trade was outlawed fairly early in US history. Most of the story of American slavery is American plantation owners raising slave children to sell for profit (breaking up families in the process). Want to try to find a way to blame the Spanish for that?

  81. wysinwyg says

    Also, the fact that white people sincerely seem to think "we enslaved them for their own good" is a worthwhile defense of slavery makes me throw up in my mouth.

    Why are the people who argue for the superiority of the white race inevitably the worst examples of it?

    Also,

    They were fed and clothed

    It occurred to me after the fact that black slaves were fed and clothed…by themselves, because they were the ones doing all the farming, spinning, weaving, and cooking.

    The white owners were also fed and clothed by the black slaves.

    Once again, the most reasonable explanation is probably true: that white people enslaved black people for the good of white people, and it turned out to be a bad thing for black people in both the short and long terms.

  82. Carl Pham says

    Goodness, the level of historical ignorance here, aside from la bella Italia, is pretty amazing for an educated person.

    1. Slave traders in the Bight of Benin did not invent slavery, and did not even invent it in Africa. The Africans did that themselves. So there was no need at all to invent a linguistic pretext for slavery, as the institution and a whole raft of self-justifications predated the importation of Africans to the Americas by centuries. See if you can avoid projecting your own worldview on people 300 years ago, who thought differently and reasoned from a different set of facts and assumptions. (If nothing else, they were about 100x less concerned with linguistic issues and the supposed power of words — because in a pre-Internet pre-TV almost pre-writing world, words had much less power than guns, money, disease, wind and tide.)

    2. Jim Crow did not last 100 years, because it did not start right after the Civil War, but quite a bit later. Read some American history, for God's sake. Stuff actually happened in 1875, 1885, et cetera, that is not just some simple extrapolating backward from 1965.

    3. Slavery within the United States lasted 89 years. Sad, to be sure, but there are plenty of places where it lasted centuries, and even where it still exists today. To be sure, there are plenty of other ways in which blacks have been mistreated short of slavery, but there are plenty of other ways that other peoples have been mistreated short of slavery worldwide. Just ask the Armenians, the Jews, the Kurds, the Mongolians, the Gypsies, the Copts — and on and on. The tale of minorities being pissed on by the majority is as old a story as there is, and it's only historical ignorance (or preening social virtue signaling) that can claim the story of blacks in America is absolutely freaking unprecedented in its misery.

  83. Fabio says

    When I say I am proud of my roman ancestors, most descendants of the conquered territories feel attacked and belittled.
    >
    When I declare that I accept or even celebrate the slight overweight I have, or when an overweight girl sings a song about "the bass", there is outrage because some skinny people feel attacked and belittled.
    >
    After being told again and again that many african american families have no stability (or Zusammenhalt), the african american community in the USA tries to give the "aimless youth" an identity by creating the BHM, to further the understanding of oneself and eachother, creating stability for a prosperous future of coexistence.
    And the reaction of some non-blacks is; Why?? Where is MY history month? Why do you hate white people? Why do you hate jews? Why do you hate asian people? Why do you think you're special?

    "We" must be incredibly insecure if we perceive these shields raised for defense as spears ready to gut us. The human species' greatest frenemy, it's Ego.

  84. Spade says

    I don't want a "white history month" as I don't like being called "white".

    Calling me white implies that people with English and Northern Italian backgrounds are somehow my equal.

    And they are not.

  85. Spade says

    "Meanwhile, I'd be interested in finding a single case of an American free black selling him- or herself into chattel slavery."

    Actually, this kinda did happen. A free black in the South would sometimes buy or "buy" family members as this would give them papers and ensure his family members wouldn't be accused of being runaways and possibly be kidnapped.

  86. Castaigne says

    @Marc Randazza: Totally unrelated to the subject at hand, but I don't have another way of asking you. Has your client Roosh told you that the encounter he's denying is described in pretty good detail in his book Bang Iceland? If you're aware, then never mind, and if you can't speak on the subject, I understand. My only interest is in making sure you're not blindsided.

    (But you're a capable attorney and I'm more or less sure you've got that covered, but one wants to do the right thing, y'know?)

  87. smh says

    "Race is a political construct. You know who invented "blackness?" Slave traders. There was no concept of "Black" as an identity before slavery. But, in a world that wanted slaves, but the concept of slavery being completely fucked up, there had to be a way to justify it. It didn't take genius to say, "lets just enslave people who look really different from us.""

    Systematic persecution of the Jews in Sicily started in the 14th century. In 1310 the King of Sicily Frederick II of Aragon adopted a restrictive and discriminatory policy towards the Jews, who were required to mark their clothes and their shops with the "red wheel". Jews were also forbidden any relationship with Catholics. In 1392, Jews were ordered to live in ghettos and severe persecutions broke out in Monte San Giuliano (now Erice), Catania and Syracuse, in which many Jews fell victim. The next year strict decrees were directed against private ceremonies. For example, Jews were forbidden to use any decorations in connection with funerals; except in unusual cases, when silk was permitted, the coffin might be covered with a woolen pall only. In Marsala, Jews were compelled to take part in the festival services at Christmas and on St. Stephen's Day, and were then followed home by the mob and stoned on the way. At the beginning of the 15th century oppression was at such a level that in 1402 the Jews of Marsala presented an appeal to the king, in which they asked for: (1) exemption from compulsory menial services; (2) the reduction of their taxes to one-eleventh of the total taxation, since the Jews were only one-eleventh of the population; (3) the hearing of their civil suits by the royal chief judge, and of their religious cases by the inquisitor; (4) the delivery of flags only to the superintendent of the royal castle, not to others; (5) the reopening of the women's bath, which had been closed under Andrea Chiaramonte. This appeal was granted.[6]

  88. more smh says

    Is racial hatred of the lighter skinned a political construct or a primordial need to destroy out of inferiority?

    In 1147, King Roger II of Sicily, a strong and ambitious Norman ruler, invaded Greece. When he got to Thebes he pillaged that city’s silk factories and carried off the Jewish weavers of damask, brocade and silk, whom he brought to Palermo. Yet if Roger wasn’t exactly subtle in his tactics, life under Norman rule was generally good. In addition to working as weavers, Jews were traders, dyers, scribes who specialized in translation, and goldsmiths. A few of the wealthier Jews even owned small landed estates.

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