Quick, Who Is a Racist?

A few years ago, I arrived early on the first day of the term to my classroom, and was organizing my papers while waiting for the class to start. As usual, about 2/3 of the students were Asian-American (NOT Asian foreign students). But then in walked three chirpy, blonde female students. They could have been right out of Central Casting for some sorority movie. But one of the Asian students thought they looked out of place, and said to them, “Are you sure you’re in the right room? This is a computer science class.” Turned out that they had indeed wandered into the wrong room. They thanked the student and left.

So was that Asian-American CS student a racist, for his stereotyping blonde white sorority women as English or psych majors?

I of course am writing here about President Trump’s alleged profanity in describing African nations. If I were forced to guess, I’d say he probably made the remark. But so what? Should we be shocked that Donald Trump uses profanity? Press reports quoted a source as saying the entire conversation was “salty,” on the part of everyone present. Or should we be shocked that Trump was blunt in (what he thought was) a private setting? Hey, he’s blunt even in public. 🙂

What would shock me would be if any of Trump’s accusers don’t share his view that on the whole immigrants from some countries contribute more to the U.S. national interest than from others. The difference, as usual, is that Trump actually voiced that view (and again, in a context in which he had a reasonable expectation of privacy).

I have a Chinese-American friend, not a close one but one whom I am proud to know. He has been in devoted public service, mostly in nonprofit community organizations, all his life. Let’s call him Jim. He is quite liberal, proud to call himself a progressive, and probably would not resent being called a leftist. Jim has spent most of his career in San Francisco, and would be considered liberal even in that progressive haven.

One day about 10 years ago I was interviewing Jim for an op-ed I was writing on immigration. At one point he said, “We [the U.S.] could take a lot more Chinese immigrants” — as opposed to immigrants that we could not afford more of, from,uh, well who did he mean if not Mexico? In other words, Trump’s Norway is Jim’s China.

So, is Jim, the heartfelt, self-sacrificing, tireless advocate of ALL people of color, a racist?

It sickens me to see how Senator Durbin is seizing upon an incident of no importance for crass political gain. Frankly, I doubt that he cares any more about the DACANs than does some white supremacist. It’s all about knocking down the other side, especially when the referee isn’t looking, and getting more — as Jay Leno once put it — “undocumented Democrats.” Same for the CNN crowd, I regret to say.

Kirstjen Nielsen in 2020.

 

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26 thoughts on “Quick, Who Is a Racist?

  1. The current Democrats are all, by party policy, crazier than anything in American history. I wouldn’t trust Durbin if he said hello. Trump likes hyperbole, it’s more that than obscenity. If the Democrats are ready to shut down Congress because they heard a dirty word, then that’s what they are today.

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  2. Obama was applauded for engaging Americans and ‘starting a conversation about race.’
    Trump should be applauded for having started a much needed conversation about immigration.

    We need few Norwegians, fewer Haitians – fewer whatevers. Immigration levels should be halved and the country given a break from decades of runaway immigration. All the media talk in reaction to ‘Shithouse-gate’ is sanctimonious blather about the past with little looking at the numbers.

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    • Human trafficking, for record profits. Since the 1970s change to incentivize invest offshore, as escape valve for rising US wages. “Runaway inflation” in the 1970s, because illegal employers lost their primary source of ultra cheap labor when Civil Rights passed.

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  3. Ummm. Except Donald Trump is a racist. Your point might stand in isolation, and I use similar examples trying to distinguish between racism and situational awareness.

    In this case, however, we have the response of Lindsay Graham, from the south, with considerable lived experience with racism. Senator Graham had the presence of mind, judgment, and voice to call out Donald Trump point out his [Graham’s] own humble background. Senator Graham said exactly the right thing, in a hostile context, without hesitation.

    In that moment, in that place, Lindsay Graham heard a racist making racist statements.

    Lindsay Graham’s character was on display and so was Donald Trump’s.

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    • I am a little confused on your point. I’m sorry, but could you spell it out for me, step by step? I often tell my students that if they have a program bug that they can’t solve, just explaining the nature of the bug to someone else often is the trigger for them to get the necessary insight to fix the bug. I believe you are making assumptions here without realizing you are making them.

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      • Norm – Sorry. I am obviously thinking in my own head, and maybe did not convey all of this properly. I may still not understand your question.

        First, I was in a training recently and was called out for borderline racism for a comment I had made, which I thought of as situational awareness. Since then, I’ve recalled many other personal experiences where I made judgments about other people, which I can defend as situational awareness, without regret, that others might interpret as racism. That’s their problem, not mine. If that was your point, great. We agree.

        But that’s not what happened in the White House meeting with Donald Trump and the Senators.

        Lindsay Graham grew up in the south, accustomed to racism. He can see it, hear it, smell it, stick his finger in it, and know it for what it is.

        We might lack context from the meeting regarding tone of voice, body language, vocabulary, intent, and reactions. Lindsay Graham was in the room. He heard and felt all he needed, to know Donald Trump’s meaning was racist.

        So I take from this, among other things, that Lindsay Graham is a woke white man of privilege and power, that he is an authority on racism, that he had no doubt that he was observing racism, and that he would speak out against what he saw to the President of the United States, in that moment filled with tension and risk.

        Furthermore, and this puts Lindsay Graham well above me for quick wit, his challenge to Donald Trump was exceptional. Graham pointed to his own modest origins – that his family had come from a place arguably as bad, given the times, as Haiti is now. To characterize Haitians as “less than,” was no different from characterizing Lindsay Graham the same way.

        This moment was a definitive face-to-face confrontation of values and behavior.

        Maybe I missed your point. If so, please disregard all this, and we can try to start over.

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        • The problem with people like Sen. Graham is that they have to be “more Catholic than the Pope,” bending over backwards to find racism under every rock. Frankly, I have always discounted comments by that kind of person.

          Concerning Graham’s background, he has a great life story but to say he comes from roots that are similar to Haiti in terms of poverty is just plain false. His parents had to work hard, but they owned a business and apparently did OK for themselves. Graham never had to worry where his next meal was coming from or whether he’d get a new winter coat. For him to make the comparison to Haiti is insulting to the Haitians.

          It is also irrelevant. Do we accept the immigration of the entire world of poor but honest people? I don’t believe that you feel we should. So we have to drive a line somewhere, of some kind. Remember, I oppose the RAISE Act on those very grounds — I don’t want an elitist policy — but I concede that the Act might be economically beneficial to the U.S.

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    • Graham, like Durban, feels that his self worth is directly tied to us knowing/thinking he isn’t a racist.

      That said, what Graham has to say is of no concern to many because he isn’t trustworthy.

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  4. In the Left’s current version of the world, we Americans don’t get to have any say in what kind of people we want to admit into our country. This incident also illustrates that the only group you are allowed to abuse and disparage is that of the straight white male.

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    • In order to promote all “immigration” is good “immigration”, yes, they did paint white and white communities as defective, starting with “white privilege” and furthermore, defective by means of lack of “diversity”.
      The political parties and the press has made it all the muddier calling temporary protected status refugees, illegal and legal foreign workers and legal permanent residents all “immigrants”. They aren’t. It’s the manufacture of a second class, compromised legal footing and legal rights.

      The politicians have no _public_ definition of what they’re trying to _achieve_ with immigration, just propaganda platitudes.
      While Wall St is quite blunt about their goal with “immigration”: “easiest” way to grow business.

      Historically, long view, US and the West, has been fabulously effective at killing off their own population with wars, toxic chemicals, drugs, and look for replacement population. The elite are losing control, as the levels of inept governance, corruption and illegitimate exemptions from “the law” become more and more visible.

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  5. Quite simply, I have felt… ever since -before- day one… that our Cheeto In Chief is one of the world’s greatest assholes, and an embarassment to the whole nation. So that’s my starting point for considering whatever ludicrous new thing he spouts on any given day. But regardless of that, I’m willing to cut him slack when slack is due.

    This thing he said about “shithole countries” is a good example. Well, he shouldn’t have said it, but he is the walking verbal equivalent of a bull in a china shop. And everyone knows this about him by now. So no matter what team you’re on, blue or red, we all know to just shrug by now when he makes yet another pointlesslly uncooth public comment. Because that’s what he does. It just means he’s an uncooth asshole who actually ENJOYS saying things that will make other people uncomfortable. But we already knew that.

    In this case however, if we just look beyond the fundamental uncoothness of his manner of expressing himself, I find reason to fault *both* the Dems, like Durban, who are making hay out of this, *and* also Trump’s comment, not because it was uncooth or racist… and it was probably both… but because the *totality* of what he was saying, and his POLICY PRESCRIPTION vis a vis the “shiholes” was and is simply misguided and stupid.

    The Dems are up in arms because Trump called out some “shithole countries”, but that is ridiculous for the simple reason that the countries he called out *are* in fact shithole countries, and everybody knows it. Their per-capita income levels are far below the world average. They -are- shitholes. They have absymal social and health services, and are, by and large, both impoverished and corrupt. I am speaking now -only- about THE COUNTRIES and NOT about THE PEOPLE within those countries, most of whom, I am quite sure, are undeserving victims of their corrupt leaderships (and also of shamless exploitation by multinational corporations).

    So anyway, the Dems are shamelessly making hay out of what amounts to an accurate (if uncooth) statement on Turmp’s part. That is disgusting on their part, but that is what is called “politics”. All I can do is to shrug. I -do- fault the Dems for pandering and debasing themseleves in this way.

    On the other hand, I also find plenty of reason to fault Trump and his comment. Even if we totally ignore the fact of its uncoothness, *and* also the possibility that it was motivated by some deep seated racisism on his part… which it may well have been, given his comments after Charlottesville… for me, the bigger issue is just the pragmatic one: Trump apparently wants to exclude or reduce the number of PEOPLE who come here from shithole COUNTRIES, but that is a provably idiotic long term strategy… for both this country and the world.

    Terrorism and evil grow and fester in places where the general populace feel they have no voice, i.e. in corrupt “shithole” countries. What is the solution?

    It may take decades, but my humble suggestion is that we allow in *more* PEOPLE from these shithole COUNTRIES. Let them stay here, build lives, raise families, pay taxes, vote, serve in the armed forces, etc., etc. Over time, they will communicate back to their friends and families back in their “shithole” counties and they will tell them “You don’t have to put up with the corrupt leaders that are keeping your country down and backwards and impoverished! You should take a lesson from the U.S.A. Get out in the streets and demand your rights and an end to corruption!” (This is actually happening, as we speak, in Tunisia, Iran, and Venezula.)

    Less impoverishment, less corruption, better law enforcement, health services, etc. in these “shithole” countries will, in the end, not only be good for humanity. It will be terrific for America too.
    And the best way to make these kinds of changes happen is by example. Let a reasonable number of peiople from each of the shitholes not only come here to visit and see what we have got here. Let them come and stay here and relly get to know the place.

    No, I really *do not* want *all* of (as the song goes) “… your tired, your poor, your huddled masses…” but I do believe that these days we are accepting only a tiny trickle from each and every shithole country. We could accept a LOT more, and without having any real or material effect on the ethnic makeup of this country (if you care about that, which I do), and I say that we -should- open the gates wider, perhaps even ESPECIALLY to the “shithole” countries.

    So fugget about whether or not Trump is or isn’t uncooth. (Hint: He is, in spades.) And fugget about whether or not Trump is a racist. (The evidence, post Charlottesville, suggests that he either is or else he is REALLY stoopid, ill-informed, and insensitive… and I don’t think that we can or should discount the latter possibility.) The *main* reason to fault Trump for his “shithole countries” comment is that prgamatically, and strategy-wise, as a matter of long term national policy, the actual policy proposal he was making (i.e. excluding more people from the “shitholes”) is counterproductive, ill-considered, and fundemantally short-sighted and stupid. In short it was everything we have come to expect from our current Cheeto in Chief.

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    • I do not care about the demographics of “ethnic diversity”; I do care that we cannot adequately care for our own underclass.

      We have hungry and homeless in the country both born and immigrants. In my community recently there have been several deaths from fires caused by makeshift heating in structures that are in no way adequate but reminiscent of Fourth World countries. An individual living under a bridge froze to death within the last week. The simple truth is Americans are dying. People attempting to immigrate are more often economic migrants and are not on death’s doorstep.

      Our shelters are overwhelmed, School buses stop there on their routes. Our vets are committing suicide at an alarming rate without adequate care and dying because of lack of care in our VA hospitals. The number od students receiving free lunches in the schools is so great in my district that they gave up counting and are giving all elementary students free meals.

      Then there are those who have been hurt by government policies like the coal miners. Don’t forget the Native Americans on reservations. Too many Americans are being forgotten in the immigration debate. In years past, immigrants added to the countries human resources; today they diver services from Americans needing them.

      Family first! Until we have addressed the needs of our own, we cannot solve the problems of the world.

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      • I can only agree that we are doing a perfectly awful job of taking care of our own people… people who were born and raised here, completely legally… and Cathy has hit the nail on the head in identifying two specific groups of such folks who have been, and are, really getting the shaft, i.e. native americans and veterans.

        Ideally, it shouldn’t be an either/or choice. We shouldn’t have to choose between doing right by our vets, to whom we all owe a great debt, and the native people of this land, who have been consistantly screwed (by the white man) for something like 400+ years.

        I’ve often thought that one possible way that we, as a society, could at long last work our way past all of the endless political animosity and bickering and posturing that takes place with respect to the really large numbers of illegals from South Of The Border would be for us all to agree to let them all stay, permanently, but then tax the living bejesus out of them. (I mean hey! SOMEBODY’S got to pay for my soon-to-be Social Security!) And as I think about it just now, the same solution could be used to automagically limit legal imigration, e.g. from “shitholes” and Norway and all the rest.

        With John Lennon’s “Imagine” playing in the backgound, I can shut my eyes and imagine a U.S.A. where we would let lots more folks in… or let them stay… from both the “shitholes” and from South of the Border… and then tax all of these folks agressively and partition out the resulting revenue, fairly and compassionately, to vets, to native americans, and yes, to pay for my Social Security too.

        But of course, such an idea would never fly, politically, because it makes too much sense.

        Legally, I don’t see a problem with the idea however. The Dems would scream and curse that “You can’t unfairly heap taxes on (what we hope will be) OUR people!” But that argument is provably nonsense. “Equal Protection Under Law” doesn’t actually mean, in practice, what most people think it means. If it is possible to selectively tax the living bejesus out of smokers… as they DO do here in California… and if it is possible to economically FORCE people to buy health insurance… as it apparently is… then it would damn well be legal to do a bit of selective economic/social engineering by taxing ALL immigrants at a higher rate than non-immigrants (at least until they become card-carrying “citizens”, if ever).

        I frankly don’t know why nobody ever even talks about this possibility. There’s a long history in this country of “fixing” various perceived social ills (e.g. smoking, health insurance) by taxation, which is almost always preferable to criminalization and brute force police action. (Historical reference: Prohibition.) So why not address immigration the same way?

        If we just simply taxed all immigrants (*including* the illegals) at triple the rate of everybody else, the federal coffers would be filed in no time, the federal deficit would disappear, and all of the immigrants who are being paid under the table at less than minimum wage would “self deport” (as Mitt Romney put it) in no time flat, leaving only the immigrants who really have advanced enough skills to make this social bargain worth it to them, and/or the ones from “shithole” countries who would be glad to pay any price to get out of where they are and live in a “free” country with indoor plumbing.

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        • Ron, the second Indian tribe to immigrate to North America “consistently screwed” the first tribe, long before your 400-year-old era.

          So much for PCness. Concerning “either/or,” of COURSE it is either/or. There is no way we could take all the poor people in the world who wish to come here. So we have to make some tough decisions as to how many we take, who we take, and under what conditions we take them.

          I have always felt that a good argument could be made for giving some priority to taking natives of our neighbors, Canada and Mexico.

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    • Hey Ron, nice post. I don’t agree with it all, but I understand your position. I just want to add one more kind of defense for Trump. His uncouthness – is mostly assumed. It is an act, more than the real thing. He could probably sound like your typical Wharton grad if he wanted, but he doesn’t want. That doesn’t make what he said a good thing any more than it fixes his hair, but if you want to understand him, it may just be a little more complex than meets the eye.

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      • I think you give The Donald a bit too much credit. Yes, as Norm commented, the Trumpmeister can occasionally be taken out of his cage and into polite society, and if his trainers tell him not to, then he won’t even spit at anyone during such forays. But any such occasional interludes of apparent decency should not delude anyone. They do not change the fundamental facts of his life and upbringing, He’s a New Yorker, through and through, which is to say that his natrual default mode is to treat other people like dirt. And his father instilled in him a deep and abiding respect for the “killer” mentality. I have no doubts whatsoever that he would happily walk across a carpet of bleeding soldiers if he felt that doing so would help him to get ahead. And if none of that is enough to clarify his real and underying persona, then consider this also: His good friend and personal attorney for many many years was one Roy Cohn… the same Roy Cohn who originally rose to fame as the #1 lackey of “Red Scare” promulgator Senator Joseph McCarthy. (Both Cohn and McCarthy achieved infamy for the way they both made routine use of lies, slander and intimidation as integral parts of their shamless attempts to advance their own careers and political fortunes, regardless of the costs to others, innocent or otherwise.)

        And now Trump is threatening to try to change the libel laws…

        As I often say: Those who fail to learn from History are doomed to repeat it… usually in the Spring Semester.

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  6. I try to self-censor myself constantly, anticipating that any word carelessly chosen can (and will) be twisted by somebody somewhere into an insult or at least a bias.

    Trump has never done this and won’t do it. It’s not the “New York Way”. Anybody who’s heard jokes about the stereotypical New Yorker (the city type, not the upstaters), knows that a direct and harsh word is the *norm*, not the exception. Do you think Tony Soprano was portrayed as foul-mouthed just because he was a mobster?

    I like to use the example of Haiti vs. the Dominican Republic in discussing whether race is a key issue or not. These two nations share the island of Hispanola in the Caribbean, and have similar ethnic makeup (majority are descendants of mixed African/native heritage, with some African/Euro and African-only populations as well). But the western side of the island (Haiti) is consistently poor, has been largely denuded of trees, and has crime and unrest often. The eastern side (Dom. Rep.) is more stable, more prosperous, and exports baseball players to the U.S. regularly. ;*)

    The difference is not race and not geography; it’s government and culture. Haiti has been dominated by strongmen with goon squads (Tonton Macoutes) and a history of voodoo priests keeping people in fear. The Dominican has been managed, if not well, at least less oppressively.

    When a President or anyone else notes this kind of distinction, he/she is going to have to be awfully careful if they don’t want backlash, because some elements of American society assume that every statement making such distinctions is going to be tinged with racism. These kind of distinctions were not so long ago made about the South versus the rest of the U.S., and they were merely laughed at — and still are. Stereotypes work both ways, but people tend to be blind to their own biases — and even more so, to their own sensitivities about bias.

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    • Growing up in South Florida, I always found the Haiti/DR dichotomy fascinating. In the early 2000s, I was working at a large telecom in Miami who provided service throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. I had the opportunity to work with several guest workers from the DR over a period of three years. I don’t remember what crisis was going on in Haiti at the time, but over the course of several weeks, there were boats filled with Haitian refugees washing up on various South Florida beaches almost every day.

      I asked my DR colleagues why the Haitian refugees would risk a 700-mile trip to the US in a barely-seaworthy vessel when they could just cross the mountains into the DR (a much more prosperous country than Haiti even 15 years ago)? They all gave me the same basic answer, but the response from a 30-something female graphic designer, who was one of the most gentle and compassionate people I’ve ever met, disturbs me to this day. With an uncharacteristic look of seriousness on her face, she said simply, “Because they know that we’ll kill them.” While the responses of the other Dominicans I worked with at that time weren’t as harsh, they made it clear that Haitians are not welcome in the DR.

      I noted last week that Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), who was born in the DR, attacked Trump for his s-hole comment, specifically referencing Haiti. I would like to ask him the same question I asked my DR colleagues 15 years ago. Would he answer honestly? Or would he try to sell the claim that only white Americans can be racist?

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  7. I came to the United States from the Soviet Union some 40 years ago.

    The USSR was a shithole country with nuclear weapons.

    Here, I said it – I came from a shithole country.

    And I love this country.

    However, the question is – had this country benefited from me coming here?

    I hope so…

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  8. The risk with Trump is normalizing his malignant behavior. I don’t see Dubin using this for “crass political gain.” I see it principled pushback.

    Two U.S. senators probably lied to support Trump’s version of events. That goes well beyond crass, so what’s more problematic? Senators who lie to support to cover up the truth, or Durbin’s hammering on this issue? There’s no contest.

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