A Downward Spiral of Dehumanization

My understanding is that modern humans, living on any continent with any ancestral history, have truly minor differences in genes. Whether we consider physical traits, intelligence, or other factors that we might contribute to genes, humans average out when you look at populations on a whole. This means that ultimately, we really are not any different from anyone else, regardless as to whether we live in the United States, Mexico, or on an Asian Pacific island.
 
 
But that doesn’t stop humans from discriminating against others or from insisting that the group of humans to which they belong is inherently superior to all other humans. We see this when we look at populations across the globe and how we respond to refuges in Syria, people in the Indo-China region devastated by floods and storms, and how we treat low-income minority groups in the United States. Decades and centuries of discrimination, exploitation, and dehumanization have a long reach and influence the way we see people and groups that are less successful than our own group.
 
 
Steven Pinker writes about this in his book The Better Angels of Our Nature and explores what it means for violence and for humanity as we try to move forward and become less violent as a species. “The philosopher Jonathan Glover,” Pinker writes, “has pointed to a downward spiral of dehumanization. People force a despised minority to live in squalor, which makes them seem animalistic and subhuman, which encourages the dominant group to mistreat them further, which degrades them still further, removing any remaining tug on the oppressors’ conscience.
 
 
When this happens, oppressors feel justified in using violence, even in committing genocide, against those who have been discriminated. This downward spiral of dehumanization is like a self fulfilling prophecy, where a positive (in a negative way) feedback loop leads to more and more discrimination, less opportunity for the oppressed, and continually diminished well being for those who are discriminated against. And none of it is justified. It all stems from initial discrimination and minority status, not from actual genetic differences between peoples.
 
 
Another point that I think is important to note is that unfair treatment, or blatantly discriminatory treatment, becomes justified in this downward spiral of dehumanization. This is what happens in the United States when we dismiss real acts of violence against black people because a group of unhappy black people acted as a mob and vandalized buildings. We dismiss actual rights and legal protections of the individual because we devalue the group to which the individual belongs, justifying unfair and discriminatory behaviors.
 
 
There are largely no differences between humans. And saying that we dislike a group not because of racial differences but because of cultural differences is just as evil. Saying we dislike their inferior culture plays into the downward spiral of dehumanization. We discriminate against people because we feel threatened by them and their identity group. We discriminate to prop ourselves up, and we lean into a downward spiral of dehumanization to justify our discrimination.
Racism & Culturism: Beliefs in Western Superiority

Racism & Culturism: Beliefs in Western Superiority

I have spent a decent amount of time thinking about the racial disparities we see in American society. I think there is pretty clear evidence that we generally underrate the historical importance of blatant racism and discrimination in the outcomes of people’s lives today, and that has created substantial racial challenges that many people fail to acknowledge. Red-lining had a serious impact of people’s ability to build wealth through home ownership. Andre Perry at Brookings has argued that black business to this day are still undervalued due to segregation, difficulties in accessing the best locations, and continuing implicit racism. Issues which seem like they belong in or only took place in the past still have influences that linger today.
 
 
Many people discount these historical factors and turn their argument toward the nebulous construction of “culture” when explaining racial disparities in the United States. This feels uncomfortably close to blatant racism to me, but is hard to argue against, especially with people who are smart and wise enough to avoid explicitly racist and discriminatory language. It is not hard to hide arguments that may be racist in nature behind a veil of cultural critiques. Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens suggest that this has been an important aspect in the ideology of many Western societies. He writes,
 
 
“Racist theories enjoyed prominence and respectability for many generations, justifying the Western conquest of the world. Eventually, in the late twentieth century, just as the Western empires crumbled, racism became anathema among scientists and politicians alike. But the belief in Western superiority did not vanish. Instead, it took on new forms. Racism was replaced by culturism. Today’s elites usually justify superiority in terms of historical differences between cultures rather than biological differences between races. We no longer say it’s in their blood. We say it’s in their culture.”
 
 
I think that what is key to recognize is that both racism and culturism is used to explain and demonstrate the superiority of one group over another. That means both become a justification for discrimination and disparities. Racial discrimination and disparities are dismissed through a lens of culturism. After-all, we are accepting that black, brown, or other people could be just as good as white people (or whoever is in the majority) but they simply choose not to be as good for peculiar cultural reasons. Culturalism in this way seems to be a form of supercharged racism with a shield.
 
 
However, the result is the same. One group is celebrated over another with discrimination and disparities justified and even praised. Culture is a broad term, and it is hard to argue against. It is hard to see where modern cultures have roots in historical inequalities and discrimination. It is hard to understand why cultural practices that deviate from – or deliberately eschew – the dominant culture persist when you yourself are part of the dominant culture and have found success through such practices. It is easy to use culture as a shield for arguing that you and your group is better than another, even when your argument is essentially a lightly cloaked racist argument.
Complexity and Cultural Decisions

Complexity and Cultural Decisions

In the United States, and in much of the world, people are reexamining the histories and cultures that built the lives that people live. There is a push to disavow ancestors who were brutal to other people, to disavow groups that committed genocides and atrocities against others, and to disavow the cultural practices of people’s who dominated other groups. Whether it is the Black Lives Matter movement and the 1619 Project in the United States, countries formerly dominated by the British Empire working to redefine themselves beyond their colonial past, or native peoples trying to reestablish a culture that was oppressed by explorers hundreds of years ago, people across the globe are attempting to make difficult decisions about how to understand their culture of oppression and celebrate that culture moving forward without becoming as bad as their former oppressors.
 
 
In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes about the dilemma such people face. He writes, “whatever path we take, the first step is to acknowledge the complexity of the dilemma and to accept that simplistically diving the past into good guys and bad guys leads nowhere.” History is challenging. For example, while we generally dislike the history of British colonization, arguments can be made that countries colonized by the British had better outcomes than countries that were not colonized. Additionally, it is hard to separate what is truly derivative from one culture relative to another, especially after decades or centuries of cultural dominance and back and forth cultural influence. Simply arguing that history would have been better one way or another, or arguing that a culture should get rid of everything associated with “bad guys” is an insufficient way to think about how a culture should relate to its past.
 
 
In the United States this seems to be part of the problem with the sharp divide over the Black Lives Matter movement or Critical Race Theory. White people see these movements and fear that their cultural history is immediately tainted as bad and evil. Rather than feeling as though their cultural heritage has anything worth celebrating, they feel as though people are turning on their cultural heritage and disavowing anything that came from it, ultimately threatening the lives of white people today. If we want to address the cultural problems of white slave holders, it is important to recognize how difficult and thorny our cultural histories in the United States are, and to recognize that we cannot simply say that white people are evil (or have been evil). We cannot paint with a broad brush and must instead consider the nuances and complexities as we think about how American culture can move forward. In the United States this means that black people must be considerate of how their culture was influenced by white dominance, but also how their culture persisted and influenced the United States in positive ways. White people must also look back and not see their ancestors as purely evil. We can eliminate statutes and monuments to people who do not deserve to be praised, but we can also still celebrate aspects of our historical culture that propelled us to where we are. It is a difficult path to navigate, and probably doesn’t lend itself to a solid sense of balance, because cultures are too complex for dichotomies and balance. 
Imperialism's Influence as Humanity Shifted Away from Ethnic Exclusionism

Imperialism’s Influence as Humanity Shifted Away from Ethnic Exclusionism

I have written a lot about our tendency to view the world through a lens of in-groups and out-groups. We look for people who are like us and form coalitions and groups with those individuals. We exclude those who are not like us. The inclusion and exclusion factors can be skin color, cultural customs, languages, favorite sports teams, and other trivial factors. In the United States, this in-group and out-group sorting has often resulted in segregated neighborhoods and schools, was present at the founding of the nation with slavery enmeshed in the cultural and economic practices of the time, and can still be seen in the hiring practices of many modern companies and organizations. With at least one area of in-group versus out-group sorting, however, humanity generally seems to be moving in a direction to be less accepting. Sorting by ethnicity is becoming more taboo and less tolerated in politics and workplaces.
 
 
This shift away from ethnic exclusionism truly began with large scale religions that saw all people as children of a deity. When all people could be brought under the same religious tent, there was a reason to break down some of the in-group and out-group barriers between people of different ethnic backgrounds.  People could be proselytized, expanding who was part of the in-group, at least from a religious perspective.
 
 
Imperialism also played a role in shifting humanity away from ethnic exclusionism. Once people could potentially be brought under the same religious tent it was not too far of a jump to believe that people could be brought under the same political tent. Imperialism certainly wasn’t perfect and had innumerable downstream consequences, but can be seen as a stepping stone along a pathway of reduced ethnic exclusionism. Yuval Noah Harari points out the marginally inclusive nature of imperialism in his book Sapiens:
 
 
“Imperial ideology … has tended to be inclusive and all-encompassing. Even though it has often emphasized racial and cultural differences between rulers and ruled, it has still recognized the basic unity of the entire world, the existence of a single set of principles governing all places and times, and the mutual responsibilities of all human beings.”
 
 
Imperialism came with an inherent first class and second class citizenship framing, but it did bring people under the same political banner. Rather than seeing others as barbarians who could only be conquered or eliminated as the dominant group spread, imperialism recognized a value and a shared (if unequal) sense of humanity between people.
 
 
I hope that our world can continue to eliminate ethnic exclusionism. I don’t know if doing so means we simply become more tolerant of differences or if it means that differences disappear as more cultures merge and unify, but I hope that humanity moves in a direction where all humans are seen as connected and part of a grand human experiment. Religions brought people under the same religious tents, imperialism brought people under the same political tent, and I hope we can continue to push toward bringing people under the same tent that values the humanity of everyone. 
Sociopolitical Hierarchies and Biology

Sociopolitical Hierarchies and Biology

In the book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari makes the argument that studying biology is insufficient for understanding human society. We cannot understand the complex human societies and different cultures of the world purely by studying the biology of humans. Testing humans on physiological and psychological metrics does provide us with interesting information, but it doesn’t explain exactly why so many differences are seen across cultures and places. It also doesn’t explain why certain hierarchies exist within different cultures across the globe.
 
 
To understand complex societies, Harari argues, we have to understand history, context and circumstance, and power relations. By doing so, we can begin to understand the structures within societies that shape the institutions that humans have created, and that ultimately shape the behaviors, opportunities, incentives, and motivations for humans. “Since the biological distinctions between different groups of Homo sapiens are, in fact, negligible, biology can’t explain the intricacies of Indian society or American racial dynamics,” writes Harari.
 
The two examples that Harari uses to demonstrate culture and society relative to biology demonstrate how chance historical events created unique circumstances that shaped different institutions that are highly influential within certain societies, but are unrecognizable outside those societies. Brahmins and Shudras are not understood as different races, but as different castes within Indian society, with substantial discrimination between the two groups. Racial discrimination has been a driving factor of American economic and political society. However, caste systems are nearly completely absent in the United States and the racial discrimination in the United States is not present in India. The explanations for the caste system and the racial dynamics are not biologically based, but culturally based – dependent on power and institutions.
 
Harari writes, “most sociopolitical hierarchies lack a logical or biological basis – they are nothing but the perpetuation of chance events supported by myths.” We see this when we look at recent challenges in the replication of psychological studies. Many of the findings from the field of psychology have come from studies involving college age students in the United States. Such individuals represent a very small segment of humanity. Generalizing from studies involving American college students will give us an inaccurate picture of the world – a picture that is not based on true biology, but on chance cultural factors specific to a unique population. We can easily make the mistake of believing that what we observe, either through a psychological study of American college students or through our own experiences with people in our community, state, or country, reflects a biological reality. However, what we observe is often the result of cultural differences or institutions and power structures that we are not consciously aware of.
 
Harari explains that this is what has happened with the Indian caste system and American racial dynamics. Cultural factors, chance historical events, and subsequent policies and institutions have created differences among people that we can observe and measure. However those differences are not based in biology. It is a mistake to attribute those differences to something innate in Homo sapiens or to assume that the way things are is the way that things should be. Quite often, our sociopolitical hierarchies have no logical or absolute reason for being the way they are.
Circular Arguments in Racism, Sexism, and Other Forms of Discrimination

Circular Arguments in Racism, Sexism, and Other Forms of Discrimination

The myths which supported slavery were hard to eliminate in part because they created environments for circular arguments and vicious circles. The myths created situations where black people were discriminated against, and the outcome of that discrimination became a justification for the discrimination. Yuval Noah Harari describes the lasting impact of such circular arguments generations after the civil war in his book Sapiens by writing, “trapped in this vicious circle, blacks were not hired for white-collar jobs because they were deemed unintelligent, and the proof of their inferiority was the paucity of blacks in white-collar jobs.”

This type of circular thinking is common in many arenas of discrimination. We see an outcome that likely has a long history of cultural norms, discrimination, and bias yet fail to recognize the context. We see the end result and assume that it is not a cultural biproduct of discriminatory views and practices, but somehow reflective of the true nature of the universe. Examples go beyond the lack of black business owners and CEOs in the United States. Women historically have been shut out of math, computer science, and engineering fields on discriminatory grounds. However, the same circular argument around their inability to do the work as evidenced by their low representation in such fields is used to justify their absences from STEM and computer industries. The biased and discriminatory explanation is that women are not good at math and science, and that is why women are not represented in such fields, but this argument fails to recognize the cultural factors at play.

In the instances above, with specific attention called out to the circular thinking, the role of unjust bias and discrimination can be obvious and infuriating. But it is often harder to see and recognize circular arguments in the real world. Asians are viewed as being good at math and the evidence is the high proportion of Asians in math and science fields in American Universities. White people are not viewed as being as good at sports as black people, with representation in major American sports being used as evidence for the argument – although quarterbacks in college football and the NFL are more white than the rest of the teams, often supported by the circular argument that black athletes are not smart enough to play the position as evidenced by the fact that so few quarterbacks are black. Quite often some sort of bias, discrimination, or other cultural factor is at play, but American’s have an easier time attributing outcomes to individual factors and hazy notions of biology than to cultural biases, discrimination, and other factors. Circular arguments may ultimately be vacuous, but they are hard to always recognize and denounce – especially when the results of discrimination and bias are in our individual self-interest.

Pollution & Purity

Pollution & Purity

“Throughout history, and in almost all societies, concepts of pollution and purity have played a leading role in enforcing social and political divisions and have been exploited by numerous ruling classes to maintain their privileges,” writes Yuval Noah Harari in his book Sapiens.
 
 
Humans are amazingly good at identifying the in-groups and out-groups to which  they belong or do not belong. We are also capable of incredible acts of in-group kindness and generosity as well as out-group nastiness and unfairness. I think that JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books can be read as an example of our incredibly powerful in-group versus out-group nature, and within those stories we can also see how purity and pollution play a role in how we understand our in-groups relative to our out-groups.
 
 
In the books, an evil and powerful wizard, the son of a magical witch and non-magical (muggle) man, attempts to rule the world on the premise that magical individuals are inherently superior than non-magical individuals. Purebloods, those whose family line is entirely magical rather than half-bloods or mud-bloods, those whose family line includes muggles or is entirely muggle, are seen as superior and more valuable. Mud-bloods and half-bloods are viewed by the evil wizard and his supporters (and tacitly accepted by many characters) as somehow polluted, or at best diluted. That becomes the basis for out-group hostilities, biases, discrimination, and general nastiness.
 
 
Harry Potter may be a fiction, but the books reflect real world struggles that do take place between arbitrary groups and real world discrimination that occurs based on appearance, social class, talent and skill, religion, and other factors. The United States was founded as a country that discriminated against black people because of the color of their skin and their seemingly savage or backward tribal lifestyles in Africa (and also because white plantation owners stood to benefit from the free labor and exploitation of captured Africans). People born with mixed race parents were called mulatto, and were quite literally seen as less pure than people born to white parents. Ability, skill, and intelligence did not differ in a material way between black slaves and white slaveowners, but in-group and out-group dynamics founded a country based on an imagined hierarchy and real world discrimination between white and black people – a hierarchy and system of discrimination that was legally upheld and perpetuated long after slavery ended.
 
 
Other countries have had similar challenges. In India, a caste system was built almost entirely on ideas of purity. A certain segment of the population was referred to (and still is  to some extent) as “untouchables” for fear of contamination. This group was (and still is) isolated and outcast within the larger society and the results of the discrimination shown to such people has later been use to justify the unequal treatment they receive.
 
 
In some ways fears of pollution and desires for purity are rooted in biology. Pigs can carry dangerous parasites that can infect humans. For early Jews – before sanitary cooking methods were developed, dietary restrictions possibly helped ensure there was less parasite and disease transmission. Isolating sick individuals, people with sores, or people who were hired or charged with handling dead bodies, possibly helped reduce disease transmission among early humans. However, from these reasonable precautions came the biases, fears, and unjust discrimination which became part of our in-group and out-group dynamics and ultimately contributed to the ideas of pure ruling classes and polluted lower classes. Something that was biologically prudent took on a narrative that was exploited and abused over time for political ends.
 
 
When we sense ourselves being fearful of ideas of pollution, whether it is genetic, racial, sanitary, or other forms of pollution, we should try to be aware of our thoughts and feelings. We should try to recognize if we are simply acting out in-group versus out-group biases and prejudices, or if we do have real health and sanitary concerns. If the latter is the case, we should find ways to uphold health and safety while minimizing and reducing bias and discrimination as much as possible.
hierarchies and unjust discrimination

Hierarchies & Unjust Discrimination

In his book Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari writes, “unfortunately, complex human societies seem to require imagined hierarchies and unjust discrimination.” This idea seems grim, and my first response is to begin thinking about a just utopia that I hope the United States is working toward. The idea that even my idealized utopia would still be based on imagined hierarchies and tacitly accept unjust discrimination is an idea I would want to reject.
 
 
However, political science theories such as Social Construction and Narrative Policy Frameworks seem to suggest that Harari is correct. Our understandings of how we relate to others within society is often based more on narrative than something objective. Movie stars may entertain us a lot, but few would argue that their work is truly more important and valuable for the future of humanity than the work of a teacher, but we clearly reward movie starts with much more money and status than teachers. Additionally, our world has limited resources, meaning that we cannot provide everyone with everything they want. We have different concepts for dividing things in an equitable manner, and we often argue over what values are used when making such decisions.
 
 
In the United States, children have no political power, because they don’t vote. Veterans are celebrated, but are relatively few in number and similarly lack political power, though they are a powerful rhetorical tool and audience. Business owners are also celebrated while drug users are denigrated. While we say that all men are created equal and strive toward equality among all people, our imagined hierarchies make true equality impossible. We may have good reasons for valuing retirees and small business owners more than drug users and community college students, but at the end of the day, the hierarchies in place are based on a host of social and cultural factors, not entirely on objective differences in merit and value between people. Within complex societies with limited resources, hierarchies seem inevitable, with some people being advantaged and others being discriminated against.
Nihil Sub Sole Novum Series: Fat Shaming

Nihil Sub Sole Novum: Fat Shaming

[This is a new blog post series of mine. The idea for this series is partly from Tyler Cowen’s blog where he does informal series such as That was then, this is now or Markets in Everything. The idea is to have an ongoing discussion through blog posts tied together by the Latin phrase Nihil Sub Sole Novum – There is nothing new under the sun. Each day is a new day, but so many of the problems we face have deep roots and historical precedence. We constantly face new challenges and it can feel as if no one has faced what we or society face today, but the reality is that much of what we deal with has been part of humanity for centuries, and this series will explore that long past.]
– – –
In 1901 Frank Andrew Munsey purchased a newspaper in New York called the Daily News. Around that time Munsey was purchasing a lot of newspapers in an effort to compete with Pulitzer and Hearst, two titans of the news industry. Michael Tisserand writes about Munsey’s purchase of the Daily News in his biography of George Herriman titled Krazy because Herriman had recently started at the paper as a cartoon artist and illustrator. Herriman was born in New Orleans to mixed black and Creole parents, but passed as white, giving him a precarious position in a newspaper industry that was brutal toward its employees. To demonstrate this brutality, Tisserand shares a quote about Munsey who purchased the paper which employed Herriman:
Tisserand quotes Allen Churchill in writing, As soon as Munsey purchased a newspaper, he ordered all fat men on the staff fired, for he considered them lazy as a breed. Munsey even demanded that no smoking signs be put up, as he considered smoking a waste of time.”
Tisserand offers this quote to show that Herriman, who would not have been able to get his job if he could not pass as white, was always on edge about his identity and appearance. What I want to focus on, specifically for this article, is the idea of fat shaming in the quote regarding Munsey.
I am a fan of Marvel’s movies, and I admit that I found Fat Thor from the Avengers Endgame movie pretty funny. I am guilty of repeating the line “You look like melted ice cream” which was issued to Thor to criticize his appearance. However I am able to recognize the fat shaming, prejudice, and mockery which takes place in that scene and with Thor’s character through the movie. I recognize how an innocent joke can be quite harmful to individuals who find themselves in a similar situation in real life.
In our world today, we put a lot of emphasis on our weight and appearance. One aspect of Neoliberalism, a term used characterize the general political and philosophical approach of most people in the United States today, is a sense of hyper-responsibility of the individual. The individual is responsible for maintaining good health, for being productive at all times of the day, for paying taxes, walking the dog, playing catch with their son, attending every dance recital, and having an opinion on all current events. Society is not expected to provide anything, the individual is expected to be responsible for all of their affairs. Thor, facing PTSD and survivor’s guilt, couldn’t handle the personal responsibility that his failures placed on his shoulders, and his outward weight gain reflected his inward tragedy, but was played for laughs more than it was used to really explore the pressures he was crumbling beneath. Thor was fat shamed rather than counseled and supported by society.
Fat shaming is receiving more attention today (the name itself is relatively new) but it has existed for a long time. Munsey’s quote shows that fat shaming and the personal responsibility of Neoliberalism were present at the turn of the 20th century. Being fat was taken as a projection of laziness by Munsey. A person was judged from their body shape and weight, without regard for who the person was, what factors contributed to their health, or how hardworking the person actually was. Munsey may not have had anyone around to call his behavior fat shaming, but that is clearly what he was doing by firing the fat people at the newspapers he purchased – nihil sub sole novum.
We will see in future Marvel movies if Thor returns to being the muscular manly-man that he was prior to Endgame, or if he retains a body weight and shape that is not typical of superheroes. Either way, Thor can help teach us that our weight and body shape doesn’t just reflect how worthy we are but is influenced by trauma, by challenging life circumstances, and by complex social factors. Fat shaming is something we should be aware of and something that we should recognize has been a problem for a long time. We can continue to display coarse prejudices against fat people, or we can think about what being healthy really means and requires, what our body shapes say about us, and work to build more healthy communities that integrate healthy spaces for activity, healthy communities to appropriately work through trauma and stress, and healthy systems for eating. These are complex areas, and the struggles around them and resulting fat shaming is nothing new.
The Long Lasting Legacy of American Racism

The Long-Lasting Legacy of American Racism

If you are white and don’t make an effort to study the history of racism in the United States it can be hard to imagine just how serious the country’s racist past is. In an age where a black man has been president, where black sports stars have multimillion dollar contracts, and when clear outward displays of racism are (almost) universally condemned, it is easy to believe that racism is a problem of the past. In our country we place a lot of weight on the idea that the individual is responsible for their own success. Whether it is their financial success, their physical shape and weight, or their intelligence, we put the determination and responsibility of the individual at the center of how we understand people, and that doesn’t leave room for racism. We look at successful black people and argue that racism can’t be a problem now, because clearly some black people have become successful. Racism, our current ideology says, can’t be holding people back anymore. The only thing that can be holding them back is a failure to take responsibility for their own actions. Racism is simply an excuse in this view.
However, if you are not white or if you make any effort to study racism in the United States, you see the long lasting legacy of American racism and how it continues to shape the lives of people today. Exclusionary housing policies of the past, policing policies, and education policies are areas where racism deliberately impacted the lived experiences of black people in the United States, clearly limiting opportunity and less clearly limiting the potential to pass on wealth and knowledge to future generations. The results of this discrimination never truly left us.
In his biography of 20th century cartoonist George Herriman, Michael Tisserand explores how the long lasting legacy of American racism can be seen in the life and work of George Herriman. Writing about New Orleans around the Civil War, a time when Herriman’s grandfather and father lived in the city, Tisserand writes, “From 1879 to 1917, there were no city-run public high schools available for blacks. Robert Mills Lusher, the state superintendent of education, infamously declared that the purpose of education was for white students to be properly prepared to maintain the supremacy of the white race.”
Herriman’s family left New Orleans for Los Angeles when he was 10, but throughout his life he hid the fact that he was of black and Creole descent. His light skin color allowed him to pass as white, and opened the door to a career in newspapers and comics. Without having light skin, and without having a family that could move him away from New Orleans, Herriman certainly wouldn’t have had the opportunities he did in California, and racism would have been the limiting factor.
Without studying American racism, it would be easy to look back at a time when there were no city-run public schools for blacks about a hundred years ago and dismiss that fact as irrelevant for the world today. If it had simply been an omission to teach black children, then the situation could have been rectified relatively easy, and black education could have gotten underway to prepare black children for the future. However, the quote shows that benign neglect was not there reason why there were not any schools for black children. It was deliberate racism, in full force from the highest levels of education in the state, that limited the educational opportunities for black people. This malignant attitude created the lack of schools, and it was not simply a matter of establishing schools to facilitate black education.
Opening schools would have been step one, but this would have been done 100 years ago in a climate that was actively hostile toward black students. It is not hard to imagine that high quality materials, resources, and educational opportunities, the things we would all want in our own children’s education, would have been rare among any black schools opened in this type of climate. Once you see the type of animosity that American racism fostered, by influential individuals like Robert Mills Lusher (who there is still a school named after), it is not hard to understand the long lasting legacy of such racism. Deliberate efforts to hold people down and create a system of supremacy for white people is not easily overturned, even 100 years later. The deliberate delays of educating black people has long-term consequences, as it takes time for educational opportunities to come along and for the people who receive good education to grow, accumulate wealth and power, and further invest in their communities. White people had this opportunity starting well over 100 years ago, but black people did not. Black people could not pass on their knowledge, could not connect their children with people to help advance their careers, and could not take on jobs that would help them build wealth that would support their families for generations to come. Instead they were constantly put down, blamed for their own failure, and never give the public support that while people developed for themselves and over time restricted under the premise of conservatism.