August 28, 2013

King's Dream Perverted

This is one of the most unintentionally racist things I've read in recent memory, and it made the home page, even:

Why don't whites have black friends?

Right off the bat, you just know this is going to be a doozy.

Editor's note: Tanner Colby is the author of "Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America."

See also: "The Strange Story of Tanner Colby's Logic"

(CNN) -- "So, how many black friends do you have now?"

It's a question I get asked a lot, ever since I set out five years ago to find out why I, your typical middle-class white person, had no black friends at all.

Got it. You set out to find out why you're racist.

I do have black friends now, actually. Several. But I rarely offer that information when asked, because to ask white people how many black friends they have is to pose the wrong question.

After five years of intensive black friend harvesting, Tanner now has several black friends. Nothing racist about setting out on a five year quest to specifically make black friends, nosireebob.

Recently, a Reuters poll came out showing that 40% of white Americans have zero nonwhite friends, and only 20% of white Americans have five or more nonwhite friends. People seemed shocked that the numbers were so bad.

Nothing racist about a Reuters poll asking white people how many nonwhite friends they have, nosireebob. Maybe, just MAYBE, Reuters shouldn't be asking the question at all? And, what PEOPLE seemed shocked the numbers were so bad? Internet commenters, perhaps, who are as easily "shocked" by static cling out of the dryer?

Personally, I was surprised that they were so good.

Because Tanner Colby's racism dictates they should be MUCH WORSE.

America remains a deeply segregated and divided country.

Thanks largely to racist guys like Tanner Colby who inhabit the mainstream media narrative.

Even accounting for institutional and socioeconomic barriers, in the places we have the opportunity to integrate—the high school cafeteria, for instance—we largely don't.

I wouldn't be one bit surprised if Tanner Colby wrote this on a laptop from a high school cafeteria.

The Reuters survey itself is misleading, lumping all minorities together under the vague heading of "nonwhite." Depending on what part of the country you live in (e.g, anywhere but Minnesota or Wyoming), it's not uncommon to have Asian or Hispanic friends.

Yeah, Tanner. It's not like Minnesota has the largest population of Somali immigrants in the nation or anything. We're as white as the driven January snow over here in Minnesota. Pretty sure our Asian and Hispanic populations are thriving as well. There's a word for your assumption about Minnesota's ethnic makeup, by the way. I can't think of it off the top of my head. I think it starts with an "R." I'm sure it will come to me eventually.

But the social divide between whites and those groups is more a function of the slow-rolling, generational process of immigrant assimilation. That is a wholly different phenomenon from the social divide between whites and blacks, which is the product of 400 years of slavery and segregation. That's the social divide we should worry about, and if the poll had focused on that, the numbers would surely have been much worse.

Words, words, words, wordswordswords. More words. I'm Tanner Colby, and I like words.

The reason why "How many black friends do you have?" is such a terrible question is because it shows how we typically talk when we talk about race.

No, it's a terrible question because people who ask it and people who receive it are ignorant racists. I have never, ever, in my life received or proferred such a ridiculously racist question, because I DON'T CARE about the skin tone of anyone. You could be mauve, for all I care, just so long as you're a decent person who doesn't piss me off.

Even when we try to talk about race in a constructive way, we usually make black people the object of the sentence, rarely the subject.

Well, maybe Tanner Colby does, racist that he is. Those of us in the real world generally don't talk about race at all, constructive or otherwise, because to do so would be RACIST.

Black friends are the things to be acquired to prove one is not racist. The way the question is asked accords black people no agency, nor does it reveal anything about the real character of the white person being queried.

Tanner Colby just perfectly described his own racism without realizing he was doing so. That takes a Herculean disconnect.

What you really want to know is not "How many black friends do I have?" but rather, "Have I become the type of individual that a black person might choose to be friends with?"

Or, to paraphrase JFK: Ask not "Am I racist?" Ask "How do I try to appear to be not racist while being condescendingly racist?"

Or, to put it in Tanner Colby logic: let a non-white approach you first, like a deer in the wild. Be gentle with the non-white creature and encourage it; don't scare it away. A black person thinks it's a person, too, so we shouldn't hurt its feelings.

That's a real question. Poll a couple thousand white people with that and you might start to get some interesting answers, or at least some confused and befuddled looks.

This is the first and only thing that makes sense in this entire column.

White people are products of their own whitewashed, sanitized environment.

Tanner, dude, the environment I've inhabited is far from whitewashed and sanitized. Look up "redneck" and/or "white trash" and you'll see a picture of me in the background, waving proudly. Oh, and both those terms in quotes are racist, just so you know.

Black people have been systematically excluded from white neighborhoods.

Really? My neighbors 80 feet away are, now that I look closely, of a darker skin hue. Why wasn't I dutifully excluding them when I moved in next door?

Black stories rarely surface in popular culture.

Uh huh. Besides "Black History Month," "Black Entertainment Television," Oprah Winfrey, pretty much all of Hip-Hop and Rap music and, oh, our current sitting PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

Pointing all that out was racist, by the way. Sorry.

The history of race in high school textbooks has been boiled down to a handful of bedtime stories about Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks.

Ah, yes, fondly I remember my mother telling me about Jackie Robinson and Rosa Parks making out at the front of the bus. It was a weird bedtime story, in retrospect.

Try to tap into the average white person's feelings on race and you won't necessarily find feelings of hate and antipathy.

Or their feelings on race, for that matter, because they're too busy trying to find a job, or make a house payment (if they have a house to make a payment on). Oh, hey, you won't "necessarily" find feelings of hate and antipathy about race? How miserably disappointing for Tanner Colby.

You just won't find much of anything, no fully formed or well-considered thoughts about race of any kind. There's nothing really there.

See also: anything written by Tanner Colby.

Even white people who want black friends don't know where to start.

Who sets out looking for black friends? Or Hispanic friends? Or Asian friends? Or Martian friends? Racists, that's who. Ordinary, non-racist people take friends where they appear and are grateful for them.

America's lack of integration wouldn't be such a big deal except for the fact that relationships and social networks are vital to economic advancement.

Yes, many is the day I look at my bank account and think: "I clearly need more Indian friends."

Even when programs like school busing and affirmative action give black people access to white spaces, . . .

OK. STOP. Access to "white spaces?" What is this? Backgammon? Can Tanner Colby be more freakin' racist?

. . . "when those people go to climb the social ladder there's nothing there for them to grab onto, because there's very little reciprocal effort coming from the other direction."

Ladders? Ladders? There are no ladders in backgammon. And, if there's nothing to grab onto, it's not a ladder; it's called stilts. And since when do ladders require reciprocal effort? That's called an escalator or an elevator and, you know what? Fuck it. Tanner Colby sucks at analogies.

It's high effort and low reward.

It's also called "life."

The result is that black people end up with integration fatigue.

It's like jet lag, only racist.

Many black writers responded to the Reuters poll with essays on why they didn't want white friends, and didn't need them. White friends weren't worth the bother.

"Many black writers." Which is to say, Internet commenters, in Tanner Colby-speak. You know, "Internet Commenters:" that long throat goober that's hocked on the end of virtually every news article or piece of online "content" nowadays.

This is their prerogative, but ultimately, it's to society's disadvantage because white people control the access to, well, just about everything.

Our sitting president, and most of the political and business leaders of Asia and the Middle East nothwithstanding. . .

If you don't have white friends, you might have a decent job and a comfortable life, but all the doors of opportunity in this country are not open to you.

I have news for Tanner Colby: ALL the doors of opportunity in this country will NEVER be open to you. If you're not a plumber, you'll NEVER be the best plumber. You're not a politician? You'll NEVER be president. You're not a decent writer and critical thinker? Well, you might make it to the opinion section.

"I may do well in a desegregated society," the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. said, "but I can never know what my total capacity is until I live in an integrated society."

I can't rip on that, because it's the RMLKJ speech anniversary and all that.

Interracial friendships, social bonds across the color line, are a key factor in putting the sins of America's past behind us.

"The sins of America's past." You know, like tallying up your "interracial friendships" and using them to gauge whether America's "sins" are far enough behind. It's like using "racism-lite" to gloss over "racism-heavy."

But it's not something that's accomplished by white people knowing lots of black people. It helps if white people know how to be better white people.

Or, perhaps if you don't give a flying fuck what color somebody is, including yourself.

Posted by Ryan at August 28, 2013 02:29 PM | TrackBack
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