The Atlantic and New York Magazine present complementary features about racism in America. Jesse Singal points out that “Racism Doesn’t Work The Way You Think It Does” and Ta-Nehisi Coates, one of America’s foremost public intellectuals, makes “The Case for Reparations.” #longreads Get some coffee, take some deep yoga breaths, visualize our minds opening. OK. Ready?
Let’s start with NYM’s Singal and circle back to Coates later in the day when we’ve had a chance to fully digest his argument. Singal’s article points out that people in positions of power discriminate without meaning to, because they are more likely to help other folks like them:
an important new paper soon to be published in American Psychologist argues that “in present-day America, discrimination results more from helping ingroup members than from harming outgroup members.” In other words, racist outcomes can arise without much actual racism, simply through the very human tendency to help out people with whom you have something in common. …
Human beings have a deep, ages-old drive to help out those with whom they have something in common, even if it’s something as simple as living on the same street or going to the same church. The problem is that because of how stubbornly persistent segregation is in most facets of American life, “something in common” tends to have a racial component. In addition to putting these sorts of day-to-day experiences into a broader context, Greenwald and Pettigrew’s argument also helps explains why the national debate over race is so dysfunctional. If the question isn’t really about who is oppressing whom (whether explicitly or implicitly), but rather about how, through our acts of kindness, we are unwittingly driving segregation and other aspects of the racial divide, that’s a very different conversation, and potentially a less vitriolic one.
Is there anything to be done? The article doesn’t say, and neither do the psychologists themselves, at least not yet. But being conscious of the actions we take on a daily basis, and the unintentional way we prop up and perpetuate prejudicial systems, is a good first step.
Noting a paucity of women and POC among their engineers, Uncle Google has decided to give us a boost.
Google is paying for three free months for any women and minorities interested in tech to expand their skills. While Google is also offering the same vouchers to the women in attendance at its annual I/O developers conference this week, the search giant has released an online application that’s available to women everywhere. Google says its available vouchers for women number in the “thousands.”
So, better odds than the #AmtrakResidency! Go ahead, ‘folders, apply and let us know what happens. Goodness knows, if you’re a woman or a POC, you’ll do better studying #STEM than moving to NYC to try to be an artist, according to the rabid attention paid to writers like Emily Gould, who have the temerity to publish books, and this sad, sobering analysis in HyperAllergic.
Cord Jefferson has a really great and thoughtful essay about his dad, a black man and a lifelong Republican: “My father spent his whole life living up to the standards Republicans ostensibly expected of him, because that’s what came naturally to him. But he can never be white, and, more and more, that seems to preclude him from inclusion in the party where he once found a home.”
Cord Jefferson’s essay on gaslighting and crazymaking of minorities in America—mentioned: Kanye West, Jimmy Kimmel, Trayvon Martin, stop and frisk, and his own dark skin—is perfect. Everyone should read it. Let’s get everyone to read it. Print it out and leave in on your kitchen table. Leave it open on all of your tabs, then invite your friend to use your computer. Rent a small plane and drop copies from the sky.
(“There’s a form of mental torture called “gaslighting,” its name taken from a play in which a man convinces his wife that the gas lights in their home she sees brightening and dimming are, in fact, maintaining a steady glow. His ultimate goal is to drive her into a mental institution and take all her money, and soon the woman ends up in an argument with herself about whether she’s losing her mind. American race relations have a similar narrative: An entire set of minorities confident that the everyday slights they’re seeing are real and hurtful, and an entire set of other people assuring them that they’re wrong.”)