A few more white guys talking about Black Lives Matter

The Deseret News just published a column by Ralph Hancock, a Harvard-trained BYU professor of political science. Hancock suggests black people in America would be better off if they could learn to see the world through his white male eyes. “Black stories matter,” the headline says, and the substance of the piece is that the biggest problems facing black people are ultimately their own fault, or at least the solution to their problems are chiefly in their hands. 

I was surprised to see Hancock say we should judge stories largely according to their “practical effects.” How well do our stories help us accomplish the things we want? If black people have problems, they must consider the fact that their stories are at fault. Those stories include things like the fact that racism still walks the streets, that by virtue of the color of their skin they are more often burdened with greater risks and fewer opportunities than others. We gave you the Civil Rights Act, Hancock says in effect, the rest is on you. America opened the doors of the cage but black people stubbornly shut themselves back in again. The legal and sometimes extra-legal actions they take to address those problems (why are they blocking streets? That doesn’t seem like a civil thing to do) will fail because they are rooted in the wrong story.

Hancock’s solution is for black people to think like he thinks, to absorb his story:

If I am a young black person who believes that America, despite its flaws and its checkered past, is on the whole a just society where talent, effort and the content of one’s character are honored and rewarded, regardless of race, then it makes sense to build my personal story as an effort to play by the rules and to have some confidence in the goodwill of my white fellow citizens. If this is my story, then I will see both my failures and my successes as mainly my own responsibility.”

This can come across like this: “if I was a black person who saw the world like a white person, I would agree with me.”

Hancock seems bothered when black Americans express cynicism about the American dream which says if you “play by the rules” you’ll receive your just desserts, regardless of all other variables. He asks: Which of the big stories about America makes for a healthier soul and society? I suggest it’s the story that doesn’t assume that the fallout from centuries of systemic racism, exploitation, violence, and degradation, was all erased during one decade of the twentieth century, as important and remarkable as that decade was.

I agree with Hancock especially on one point. Our American ideals and the stories we tell about them do matter. And Hancock gestures toward a crucial point with this caveat: “Every story is of course an approximation; no story can be conclusively proved by any set of facts.” At the same time, he seems to invite us to accept a story that requires the least from him, from me, and it’s a story that requires the most from those who are hurting the most right now.

The Deseret News also published a piece by Richard Davis today, also a BYU professor of political science. It’s hard not to read it as one among several possible rebuttals of Hancock:

Some may blame all of these problems on African-Americans themselves. That attitude ignores the history of discrimination that has led up to today. An inability to recognize the roots of our difficulties is one of the biggest challenges Americans face today with race relations. It is not surprising that many African-Americans are angry about how they have been treated and how they are still treated today.”

Of course, the common denominator between Hancock, Davis, and myself is that we’re all white males. If we’re going to say black stories matter, maybe we could actually start listening to them much more than any of us already have, rather than offering our own stories as preferable replacements. Where can we start?

*

*P.S.—I recently spoke with Julius Bailey about the history of African American religion. It was a fascinating discussion that helps complicate the simplistic narrative of America simply being a land of opportunity, home of the free. It’s more complex than that, as things usually are. You can listen to the interview HERE, or read the transcript HERE

Comments

  1. This is such a good, reasonable, intelligent, and *true* response to that Hancock piece. Thank you so, so much Blair. I definitely need to *listen* to black stories much more than I have in the past. And, without a shadow of a doubt, #blacklivesmatter.

  2. I am dismayed but not particularly surprised that a conservative culture warrior like Hancock believes that black America’s chief problem is its lack of positivity regarding the American project. Mind you, this sort of stupid optimism has been elevated to doctrine among perhaps the majority of American Mormons.

    Or, in other words: “Well, Mrs. Lincoln, yes, that was unfortunate, but it was an awfully good play!”

  3. Angela C says:

    Fantastic response, Blair. I hope that Hancock’s myopic views aren’t shared by many LDS people, that we aren’t so blind to our privilege to say such ludicrous things. But Deseret News did publish this, leading me to believe that it made it through some vetting process.

  4. john f., I’d be willing to put money on Hancock not having had a conversation with a single African-American in the past 30 years who isn’t a self-selected black conservative who thinks of him/herself as something of a special snowflake. Not one.

  5. I have no idea — you could be right. But even absent such speculation, the article is literally specious.

  6. Oh, sure, this doesn’t surprise me since this article about Ralph Hancock was already published a couple of days ago.

  7. Maybe I am crazy, but I tend to agree that that the vast majority of our problems start with the stories we tell ourselves and our attitudes and choices. That realization is the only way I have ever personally found to overcome problems, forgive myself or others, or to be healed.

  8. That’s true, ABM, and Ralph’s problem is that he’s told himself a story that is pure “dreamer” (in the Coates sense) fantasy in which (conveniently!) he is the perfect blameless hero who deserves all the good things he has because he earned them all on his lonesome.

    Appalling lack of empathy. Blair, this was a kind, measured, and very reality-based response.

  9. Blair, I appreciate your response, and just as importantly, your example of charity in disagreement and humility.

  10. ABM, I think you’re right that the stories we tell ourselves determine a lot. Part of telling ourselves reality-based stories, though, is the ability (the humility, really) to try to understand what it’s like to live in somebody else’s story, and to see that where we tell opposing stories, the reality is often somewhere between the two, so we can’t just reject out of hand the stories that other people tell and replace them with our own stories, we need to work together to find the truth.

  11. ABM, you’re leaving out the possibility that the context in which you find yourself plays a pretty profound role in shaping the stories you tell yourself, your attitudes, and (above all) the universe of choices that you perceive as being available to you. If you know anything about the history of black America since Emancipation, it’s one of raised hopes of the possibility of getting ahead through hard work that have been shattered again and again and again. That’s gonna make optimism pretty hard.

    I’ll give you an example: my old housemate in my days in Los Angeles served his mission largely in Kern County, CA, in the southern tip of the San Joaquin Valley. The southern SJV is not a wealthy place, and once you leave Bakersfield and go into towns like Delano and Wasco, it’s poor. Since he was a Spanish-language missionary, most of the people with whom he interacted were low-income Latinos–some immigrants, some first- or second-generation, pretty much all out in the fields weeding/picking crops. (Honest work, to be sure, but with crushingly low pay, and it leaves you crippled in your fifties.) Later, while living with me, he worked as a tutor in South Central Los Angeles for low-income Latino kids, most of whom were immigrants or the children thereof.

    The huge difference he perceived in the two populations is that kids in South Central could go to the museums at Exposition Park, could see the skyscrapers of Downtown L.A. out their windows, were a bus ride from the beach, etc. Their lives were hard, crammed into dumpy apartments in dangerous neighborhoods, but they knew that there was a much bigger world waiting for them beyond their current vale of poverty. They (and their parents, who often worked 60-70 hours/week to cover rent) had hope. Even though they attended grossly under-resourced schools, they knew (and were told by speakers, regularly) that if they studied hard and kept their grades up, they could get a into a UC, and almost certainly into a Cal State. Play it right, and they had a ticket out of poverty.

    The kids in Delano and Wasco and Shafter? They were bored. All the time. In the summer, when you’re poor and don’t have a car or a computer, you can only play soccer on a vacant lot or watch TV so often before you get into (Boyd K. Packer voice)…mischief. Two of America’s most majestic national parks (Sequoia and Kings Canyon) are just to the east–but you can’t even see the Sierras because the smog is so thick, and anyway you’d need a car to get there. The kids and their parents had no hope. Odds are, the kids would end up picking grapes, or as a labor contractor (read: pimp) for the farmers. If they kept out of trouble, they might become a guard at one of the prisons that for a while were the area’s only growth industry. The most successful ones might go to Cal State Bakersfield and become schoolteachers back in one of those wretched Valley towns. (Leaving the San Joaquin Valley, as deprived and polluted as it is, seemed an utterly alien idea to many of them; the UC System built a new campus in Merced, at pretty substantial expense, for this very reason. Time will tell if this was a prudent investment.)

    During his time in L.A., my housemate went back to Kern County and visited a bunch of the families he knew and taught on his mission. Pretty much none of them had stayed active in the Church (normal), and the kids were pretty much all on the path back into the fields–impregnating and getting pregnant at 15, day-drinking, etc. I remember him telling me about the looks of incredible longing he saw on the faces of some of the younger kids as he headed out the door to go back to the big city, and the lingering sadness he felt.

  12. pconnornc says:

    It is an interesting point about our stories – perhaps painting the two extremes of stories is how he is trying to illustrate his point. It is like the story of the two brothers who come from the same experiences, wind up at complete different ends of a spectrum and conclude that because of their backgrounds (their story), there was no other option.

    I wonder how many of our positions in this forum (especially about the church) are deeply rooted in our stories. Everyone is convinced of their being right, but we fail to recognize or respect that we may be wrong (or both right), because of our stories.

    Personally I see truth in both the stories laid out by the Hancock. Maybe his point is that on the individual level we are best served by choosing a story that has more optimism. But then again, I just see that because of my own story ;-)

  13. pconnornc says:

    APM – love your example. Makes me appreciate how our church congregations tend to intermix us socio-economically and expose us to paths beyond where we have come from. Having practical examples of a “story” are probably key to being able to base decisions off of it.

  14. We have to ask ourselves why black people tell themselves a particular story.

    Like domestic violence, this is a community problem. None of us can wash our hands of it.

  15. CS Eric says:

    I remember the stories of a friend of mine, a young black Air Force officer who bought a big, shiny new truck when he started his first job after graduating from law school. Nearly every Monday morning he would tell us about how over the weekend he was stopped by the police in west Texas or southern New Mexico for being a young black man driving a shiny new truck. Often his military ID card was the only thing that enabled him to be able to drive home that night. He was telling himself those stories about being able to live the American Dream, because he was. But those stories didn’t stop his being pulled over on a fairly regular basis for the offense of driving while black.

  16. IMO this is a terrible summary/analysis of Hancock’s piece. He doesn’t lay any blame on anybody as the OP suggests, nor does he suggest others need to adopt his worldview. “Hancock’s solution is for black people to think like he thinks”… this isn’t accurate at all. He offers up ZERO solutions at all.

    What he does do is point out two very typical “stories” the people believe; the “USA was ultra-righteous at its founding” one and the “USA was ultra-sinful at its founding”. Rather than suggest one is right and the other wrong, he states that the truth is somewhere in the middle. The point of his piece was basically the same as what JKC had to say… “Part of telling ourselves reality-based stories, though, is the ability (the humility, really) to try to understand what it’s like to live in somebody else’s story, and to see that where we tell opposing stories, the reality is often somewhere between the two”

    The OP quotes this “If I am a young black person who believes that America, despite its flaws and its checkered past, is on the whole a just society where talent, effort and the content of one’s character are honored and rewarded, regardless of race, then it makes sense to build my personal story as an effort to play by the rules and to have some confidence in the goodwill of my white fellow citizens. If this is my story, then I will see both my failures and my successes as mainly my own responsibility.” The OP states that this is Hancock telling black people to ” think like he thinks”. But Hancock’s next paragraph addresses the other point of view. He doesn’t suggest or recommend that his way is the only way to view things. He uses both points of view and suggests the truth is somewhere in between.

    And how can we be upset that he suggest we use the “practical effects” to measure/judge our stories, when this is nearly identical to Christ’s counsel to judge “by their fruits”?

  17. john f. says:

    He was telling himself those stories about being able to live the American Dream, because he was. But those stories didn’t stop his being pulled over on a fairly regular basis for the offense of driving while black.

    Such an important comment.

  18. Thanks Blair. I believe there are two fundamental errors in Hancock’s editorial. First is his conclusion that “every story becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.” (Obviously false, else Satan would have won the war in heaven). Second, his framing that there are only two possible stories – one being unrealistically optimistic and the other unrealistically pessimistic. (Polemics just don’t help at a time when people are being shot).

    I agree with you that – both individually and collectively – our best course of action is to listen to the actual stories told by african americans (like the one from CS Eric above). I’d also add that we should listen to the actual stories told by police. Rather than peddle a prosperity gospel where a person’s “failures and successes” are a direct result of the type of story they choose to tell themselves, let’s open our eyes to the truth. Or in Jacob’s words, “things as they really are.”

    Also, spoiler alert for anyone taking Rel 121 (BOM) from Hancock next semester. Here’s the answer to mid-term question number 47:

    Q) What was the primary error committed by the Zoramites who were burned before Alma and Amulek?
    A) They failed to read and apply “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

  19. BHodges says:

    Hi, Jax. I disagree with your reading of the piece. Hancock ends with a rhetorical question: “Which of the big stories about America makes for a healthier soul and society?” I don’t see any proposed middle ground and his framing suggests there isn’t one. And he has given the answer to that rhetorical question in the way he set it up throughout the column. He offers a caricature of the “progressive” (his word) narrative compared to the “traditional” narrative. He notes that individual stories complicate things, but that ultimately they can be bent to fit one of these two stories he laid out, and that one of the bigger narratives is better than the other in the effects he says they have. I don’t see him suggesting other possibilities.

    You also say offers us “ZERO solutions at all,” but then you say he is claiming that in the face of these two big narratives “reality is often somewhere between the two.” He’s suggesting that accepting the narrative he sketches here would emancipate black people from the ghost of racism that only they can see. He’s claiming “white America” has done all it needs to do, and it remains for black people in America to accept the opportunities they’ve been given and they will rise according to their good efforts. (In other words, he’s offering a brand of prosperity gospel. We can tell one’s righteousness to the degree that that they don’t complain about racism, to the degree that they fulfill his presumed American dream.)

    I don’t see him offering a middle path between his paragraph about if he was a young black person. I see him offering a false dichotomy whereby one can either believe America is completely racist and lost, or that it has done enough to eliminate racism and so everything is up to black people now if they want to succeed. If there’s a middle ground in the piece, that’s it.) I don’t see him addressing real and actual continuing systemic racist problems in America. He suggests that America has already “substantially succeeded” in eliminating racism more than 50 years ago. This is astounding, given the fact that the Republican frontrunner for president has made some of the most racist remarks of any candidate in recent memory, and has seemed to benefit thereby.

    Above all, he doesn’t represent an actual black person’s voice or experience, and nowhere does he suggest anything white people might think about doing to improve circumstances, other than implicitly to keep setting the example of success through their own hard work.

    I’m not upset that he suggested a pragmatic evaluation. I’m surprised about it, based on other things he’s written about how to measure ultimate truths.

  20. Kristine A says:

    The biggest thing we can do to defeat white supremacy is to believe black people when they tell their stories.

    Centuries ago white Americans planted the seeds of generational poverty; since then they’ve continued to nourish those weeds (providing former slave owners w compensation but not slaves, share cropping, Jim Crow, redlining, establishing interstates that decimated thriving black communities and created ghettos, white flight, war on drugs, mass incarceration, etc.). And then when the roots were so deep, in the 60s they pass the Civil Rights Act and Voting rights act and then pretend racism is over and everyone’s colorblind. To just walk around pretending these legal systems we had in place didn’t have any generational effect of the black community is ludicrous. We all know kids from homes w higher levels of wealth and education are more likely to succeed. When we hold a segment of the population down for centuries and then blame that group for all of their problems? That’s white supremacy.

    Like Chris Rock says, white people keep getting nicer. As a whole were the nicest we’ve ever been, but that doesn’t make us perfect.

    PS Meritocracy is a myth

  21. DaveK: if your appointment at BYU is joint between the Religion department and PoliSci, you don’t get to call yourself a serious academic, even if you long ago did a political science PhD at Harvard. Looking at Hancock’s vita, though, I don’t think he actually would be interested in a legitimate academic job at this point. (Indeed, he’s written about how his BYU colleagues are “too secular,” because they have the temerity to suggest that a faculty at an accredited, federal-funds-receiving university ought to prioritize intellectual inquiry over religious indoctrination.)

    The Religion Department at BYU is a combination of nepotistic jobs bank (e.g., Ezra Taft Benson’s son who humiliated my wife in a BoM class because, having joined the Church at 19 and read the BoM only a few times, she didn’t remember what the Rameumptom was) and a depository for kooks favored by various members of the Brethren (e.g. Skousen, Randy Botts). There are, of course, good people there, but most of them have no business calling themselves scholars.

    BTW, having a PhD from Harvard doesn’t necessarily mean all that much, as demonstrated by the guy at the Heritage Foundation whose dissertation on immigrants having lower IQs than native-born Americans got through a disinterested committee interested more in his econometric wizardry than the locomotive-sized holes in his underlying theoretical claims.

  22. “He’s claiming “white America” has done all it needs to do, and it remains for black people in America to accept the opportunities they’ve been given and they will rise according to their good efforts.” He says nothing about this at all!

    “I don’t see him address real and actual continuing systemic racist problems in America.” No. He doesn’t address them and offers no solutions to them. That’s what I’m saying. the OP makes it sound like he is suggesting that all the continuing systemic racism will disappear if blacks will just think like he does, but, as you say, he doesn’t address that at all.

    “He suggests that America “substantially succeeded” in eliminating racism more than 50 years ago” Again, no he didn’t. He says that the “Ultra-righteous USA” story says that racism was cured. He doesn’t offer it as fact, he offers it as how he thinks that story is told. But, as pointed out, He says the truth is actually something different, something in between the stories.

    “This is astounding, given the fact that the Republican frontrunner for president has made some of the most racist remarks of any candidate in recent memory, and has seemed to benefit thereby. . ” Agreed. I couldn’t think of Trump with more contempt than I do.

    “Above all, he doesn’t represent an actual black person’s voice or experience, and nowhere does he suggest anything white people might think about doing” Agreed and that’s my point… He doesn’t give any actual voice to anything. He recounts no actual experiences. He tells no real story. He suggests no paths/suggestions/solutions to blacks or whites, latinos or orientals. He gives what he thinks are two common stories that people tell themselves about ‘American Values/History’ and suggest that neither is accurate; that truth is somewhere between them. He simply explains two ends of the spectrum as he seems them, says the truth is in between them somewhere, and that we should use a “by their fruits” system to judge each REAL story we encounter. That isn’t how the OP portrays his piece though.

  23. BHodges says:

    Jax:

    “But, as pointed out, He says the truth is actually something different, something in between the stories.”

    Jax, his whole point is that if black people would only try to bend their stories into the narrative of American meritocracy (which he depicts as being more true according to its fruits, they would discover that their white fellow citizens aren’t oppressive and that they can rise above their poor station:

    “The little story of each person’s life must bend to fit the big story he or she embraces, knowingly or not. If I am a young black person who believes that America, despite its flaws and its checkered past, is on the whole a just society where talent, effort and the content of one’s character are honored and rewarded, regardless of race, then it makes sense to build my personal story as an effort to play by the rules and to have some confidence in the goodwill of my white fellow citizens. If this is my story, then I will see both my failures and my successes as mainly my own responsibility.”

  24. Jax, the preference is pretty obvious for the “ultra-righteous USA” narrative in his piece, even if he acknowledges that it’s an extreme. Most of the readership of the DN is going to be very, very close to that pole. Saying “the truth lies somewhere in between” in this case is about as meaningful as saying that Provo is somewhere in between Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

    Also, the Howard Zinn view of the US as hopelessly tainted is, right-wing histrionics notwithstanding, not all that popular. If it were, there’d be a lot more left-wing political violence, and not just a few wackadoodles in various college towns and squats in Oakland talking about fomenting revolution.

  25. BHodges says:

    Jax, I wish very badly that Ralph was doing what you read him to be doing. Even then, I would have significant problems with his construction in that such a depiction would suffer from false equivalencies. But I read his piece several times. Then after finishing my response I read it two more times because it was hard to believe he was making the argument I believed he was making. I read it again when you commented, looking to see what you are seeing. I just don’t see it there. I see what I’ve described and I believe it is a very reasonable reading of the column. Nothing you’ve said in response has included convincing evidence otherwise.

  26. Yes, you’ve quoted that paragraph now a few times. But notice that “IF” he uses. He is saying “if you view the world as A, then your actions will be B” then the next paragraph is “But if you view the world as C, then your actions will be D.” He doesn’t say that A is more accurate a world view then C is. He doesn’t say it is more positive. He is using both paragraphs to reinforce this sentence. “The little story of each person’s life must bend to fit the big story he or she embraces, knowingly or not.”

    Rather than quote 1/2 of his point, why not quote the entire section…

    “The little story of each person’s life must bend to fit the big story he or she embraces, knowingly or not. If I am a young black person who believes that America, despite its flaws and its checkered past, is on the whole a just society where talent, effort and the content of one’s character are honored and rewarded, regardless of race, then it makes sense to build my personal story as an effort to play by the rules and to have some confidence in the goodwill of my white fellow citizens. If this is my story, then I will see both my failures and my successes as mainly my own responsibility.

    But if I accept the story that America is unjust to its core, then I will see no point in playing according to the rules or accepting white society’s view of what qualities are to be honored and rewarded. If I am living under systematic oppression, then every failure or slight I experience is the fault of the system, and the only meaningful action I can take is to strike out against the racist white establishment in some way, violent or not.”

    I also think the truth is somewhere in between these two positions. I don’t think “playing by the rules” is advisable; I don’t think people are rewarded because work hard (all the hardest workers I know are poor); and I have almost no confidence in the goodwill of my fellow citizens. This is unbelievably Pollyanna-ish. Pure fantasy.

    But I don’t think every failure is the fault of the system nor that every slight is because others can’t see how awesome I am (I have faults like everyone and I deserve plenty of slights – many of you oblige often). This is also fantasy. Anyone adhering 100% to either of these views has got to be non-functional in society. That is why he doesn’t suggest one is true and the other is false. The line “The little story of each person’s life must bend to fit the big story he or she embraces” sounds a lot like “as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If we think the world is racist, then we fight against racism. If we think it is just we trust in its system/justice. Our lives, led by our choices, are made according to what we believe to be true. Is that not axiomatic?

    You keep saying that he is “claiming” such-n-such, or that he favors one view over another. I don’t think this is an accurate reading of his piece. I don’t see any negative caricature of either point (he doesn’t make one sound good and the other bad to me)… they were both ridiculously extreme. His only claim is that the stories we believe affect our lives, and the only really good way to judge where the truth lies in between those two extremes is to judge the REAL stories we experience by the fruits they bear, by their practical effect.

  27. I guess we really do see things through different eyes. I do not agree with your essay at all as to the meaning of the Deseret News piece. I think he is not denying the reality of prejudice but pointing out that adopting a victim worldview has never helped anyone. That view can never change anything for the better. And if I hear one more time that being white makes me privileged I will scream.

  28. BHodges says:

    “Rather than quote 1/2 of his point, why not quote the entire section…”

    Because I described the other section instead of quoting it. And that paragraph I quote is clearly offered rhetorically as the advantageous perspective to have.

    “But I don’t think every failure is the fault of the system nor that every slight is because others can’t see how awesome I am (I have faults like everyone and I deserve plenty of slights – many of you oblige often).”

    Are you suggesting that by and large black people have literally no sense of personal accountability in the face of systemic racism? Why not address the systemic racism? Why would a Harvard-educated white man in America deign to lecture black folks about their lives rather than making an effort to understand their perspectives and to consider the possibility that maybe there are systemic issues that still, today, need to be addressed? If Hancock doesn’t believe black people are largely to blame for their problems (and I believe his column is in fact veiled blame in the form of advice) it is especially odd that he would single out their stories (as he perceives them) as the thing to critique.

    Does Hancock believe America has serious racist issues to reckon with in 2016 but chose to focus his column on a smaller problem that exists within individual black people (and “progressives”) in the form of cynical stories? That would be like offering advice on how to repair a broken faucet on the sinking Titanic. I don’t think he’s offering advice on fixing faucets here. And if he is, then my critique would turn to the notion that such advice (and it would still be misplaced) won’t stop the ship from sinking.

  29. Nathaniel says:

    Having conversed with the author of the DN piece at length — although I’m confident that such insider knowledge was not necessary to understand the spirit of Hancock’s editorial — “I know beyond the shadow of a doubt” (thought you’d appreciate that) that JMax’s interpretation of the DN article is leap years ahead of the OP here. But in any case, when you lead with bashing age, whiteness, and masculinity, you don’t exactly claim to be open to listening to another point of view — in essence, in order to have a valid opinion, you must fulfill certain criteria. This is both divisive and utterly unhelpful; what’s more, I am confident that even if one fulfilled the criteria the OP implies is required for one to be taken seriously (a young black female, perhaps?), even she would be summarily dismissed if she didn’t fit the mold of the Black Lives Matter partisan. Condoleeza Rice comes to mind in this connection; the very people who demanded that more women and more Aftican-Americans accede to positions of power dismissed Condi because she didn’t embrace their progressive worldview. To me, it is clear that Hancock is the one who is open to a more “nuanced,” “thoughtful” position here; the OP feels like a “my way or the highway” view (that rejecting the tenets of the BLM website proves that one hasn’t listened to black people and necessarily puts all the blame on them). Speak to a few more African-American friends, and you just might learn that *many* are uncomfortable with the BLM positions and strategy. (Then again, I’m white, so feel free to dismiss this comment.)

  30. john f. says:

    “And if I hear one more time that being white makes me privileged I will scream.”

    Being white definitely makes you privileged. To deny that is to subscribe to an epic fantasy.

    Wisdom from a FB meme that’s going around:

    “If I say, ‘White privilege is real and it means white people have some unearned social advantages just because they’re white,’

    and you think I mean, ‘white privilege is real and it means white people should be ashamed of themselves just because they’re white,’

    we’re having a misunderstanding.”

  31. BHodges says:

    Tom H:

    “I think he is not denying the reality of prejudice but pointing out that adopting a victim worldview has never helped anyone.

    You think he is not denying it, but I don’t think the column says otherwise. On such a sensitive topic we must be as careful and clear as possible. This isn’t just fun conversation.

    If prejudice exists and if it causes real pain and results in real violence, why not speak directly to that issue, then?

    I could meet you part of the way in saying that a “victim mentality” can have damaging consequences in some circumstances. But what if someone actually is a victim? Simply telling them not to have a victim mentality without addressing their ongoing victimization does nothing to alleviate it. In fact, it contributes to their victimization.

    PS: I believe, by and large, being white in America gives you and I types of privilege that others don’t enjoy. Being male is another factor.

  32. BHodges says:

    Nathaniel:

    “But in any case, when you lead with bashing age, whiteness, and masculinity,”

    I don’t believe it is bashing to keep contextual elements in mind when speaking about matters of race, generation, gender, etc. Since I agree with Hancock that “stories matter,” these elements are indispensable. You incorrectly assume I use them as insults, so let me clarify that I don’t. Instead, I assume these factors are limiting in some ways and liberating in others. (As further evidence, I included myself in the white male club at the end of the post because that’s what I am. I’m not trying to bash myself.)

    More importantly, I bring this up especially because Hancock is the one who attempts to transcend his white male perspective by speculating about what it’s like to be a young black male. I think such an exercise, when informed above all by empathy and which tries to grapple with the complexities of black communities and perspectives, is crucial. But instead of trying to get into the mind of a young black male, Hancock imagines what a young black male might think were he to “bend” himself into Hancock’s narrative of American meritocracy. So I’m not saying, as you claim, “in essence, in order to have a valid opinion, you must fulfill certain criteria” which equates to actually being black. I would, however, make a similar claim of someone who is representing the perspective of a black person, which you seem to recognize can’t be done firsthand by people who aren’t black, which is why you bring up Condoleezza Rice, etc.

    The rest of your comment falls under the weight of your faulty setup which I just responded to. BLM positions and strategies are larger than any website, protest group, or single person, for good and ill. I’ve noticed some people tend to focus more on the potential ill than on the potential good in a way that not surprisingly demands nothing on their part.

  33. It was mighty white of you to post this, BHodges.

  34. Mark N. says:

    My favorite Archie Bunker-ism.

  35. pconnor says:

    It would seem to me that reminding a white male of his “privilege” and a black female of her race/sex helping her get into a university probably stirs up the same emotion from both parties – “hey, I earned where I am!”

    I think the truth is that we are both a meritocracy and a nation where race/class/sex continues to factor into “success”. They are not mutually exclusive.

    For us to make comments like “we are not a meritocracy” only shows how steeped in our biases we are.

  36. BHodges says:

    Ok, to be more precise: “We are not [simply] a meritocracy.”

    Conceiving of ourselves as living in a simple meritocracy contributes to structural imbalances that favor some people over others.

  37. pconnornc says:

    And that bhodges is the rub – we assume that our statements are balanced, even if we leave out an adverbial qualifier, but often times we aren’t so charitable to those who have differing views (that are just as true based on their stories)

    There are lots of digs at Hancock (and others), but if we realize that acknowledging the truth of their points does not have to diminish other truths, maybe that is a place where we can start (since you asked). Our dialogue becomes less divisive and more wholistic.

    We can acknowledge that forms of racism still plague us, even while we live in a society that allows paths to prosperity to all (though not equal).

    If you look at Hancock’s two “stories”, the first does offer a more optimistic approach that many people confirm as matching their stories. So let’s acknowledge the truth in something like that, and contribute that it might not be totally inclusive, help in all situations, or be realistic in and of itself.

  38. Loursat says:

    The way Hancock presents the “progressive” story is not good. After describing his preferred “traditional” story of overcoming prejudice, Hancock writes in contrast, “According to this big progressive story, the traditional story has been a lie from the beginning. The American founding was not a noble, if incomplete, blow against inequality, but just one more episode in the white man’s oppression of everyone else.”

    I’m politically liberal, and that is not the story I believe. Hancock should have written: “According to this big progressive story, the American founding was a noble, if incomplete, blow against inequality. Personal racism and institutional racism continue today despite our efforts. In fact, those who idolize the American founding sometimes turn the founding into a rhetorical weapon in their efforts to oppress others.”

    It is disingenuous of Hancock to ignore the hope and belief that are part of a movement like Black Lives Matter. Of course there is desperation in BLM—the situation is, in fact, desperate! But BLM also expresses the American founding’s ideals; there is nothing more righteously American than demanding justice for all. Disregarding that fact puts Hancock on the wrong side of this issue.

    As an aside, this discussion makes me think of how much I love Miranda’s “Hamilton.” I often feel more jaded than I used to about American ideals, and the racism and other bigotry in our current politics is a huge downer. “Hamilton” is a joyous renewal of hope in the American project, enacted by a beautiful, multi-racial group of young people. It reclaims the hope of the founding for the next generation, and it makes me choke up every time I think about it. Even better: it has the same effect on a lot of conservatives that I know. Now, if only Ralph Hancock would listen . . .

  39. “But BLM also expresses the American founding’s ideals; there is nothing more righteously American than demanding justice for all.” This is comically ironic given that we just had a post telling us that the least acceptable thing to do is to say that all lives matter. The last thing that BLM is demanding is justice for “all”, they (and the permas here) have made it unequivocally clear that that what they are interested in is justice for “us”; and any suggestion that getting justice for “all” would also include “us” is hateful and hurtful.

  40. BHodges says:

    Pconnornc:

    “We can acknowledge that forms of racism still plague us, even while we live in a society that allows paths to prosperity to all (though not equal).”

    I would have really appreciated it if this was the column Hancock wrote. But unfortunately, it isn’t what he communicated. That’s closer in essence to Davis’s column, though.

    I appreciate the desire to foster charitable discourse. I made serious efforts to take a measured but specific approach in the post.

  41. BHodges says:

    You misunderstood the previous post, Jax. That post was about how BLM is not opposed to the claim that all lives matter, but that those who started saying “all lives matter” didn’t understand that fact. No BLM supporter I’ve seen suggests that only black lives matter, but rather that black lives matter *too*.

  42. Loursat says:

    “The last thing that BLM is demanding is justice for “all”, they (and the permas here) have made it unequivocally clear that that what they are interested in is justice for “us”; and any suggestion that getting justice for “all” would also include “us” is hateful and hurtful.”

    The only person who could write this is one who has utterly failed to hear what Black Lives Matter is actually saying. This is a perfect regurgitation of the way racists have tried to recast the BLM message. Jax, they have duped you.

  43. On American meritocracy — take a look at the research on the (low) levels of intergenerational mobility in the US.

  44. For a discussion that’s not behind the pay wall — https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Socio-economic_mobility_in_the_United_States

    A good attitude (story) gets you farther in some places and times than others.

  45. Sleepless says:

    Senator Tim Scott’s (R) recent discussion of the personal racism he continues to face demonstrates that there is more to the problem than the stories we tell. He certainly lives by the rules, yet he still faces frequent racist challenges. http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/us_5786bfffe4b08608d332eaa0

  46. “The last thing that BLM is demanding is justice for “all”, they (and the permas here) have made it unequivocally clear that that what they are interested in is justice for “us”; and any suggestion that getting justice for “all” would also include “us” is hateful and hurtful.”

    This statement reveals either a profound ignorance of what BLM stands for, or a persistent willful desire to not understand what it stands for. It is either the result of not being interested and generous enough to understand BLM, or an intentional misstatement of BLM’s aim. It seems to reveal a desire to not understand, and to view BLM is the worst possible way.

  47. stephenchardy says:

    Let me also say this:

    Brian Hodges: You are one of my heroes. I don’t know where else to put this bit of fan-mail. I have been listening to the Maxwell Institute Podcasts, and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy them. Although I am a life-long member and a very “active” one, I sometimes feel that there isn’t really a place for me. Your podcast, and your essays here, provides the light, the hope, that I need. Please keep up the good work, and thanks for all that you do.

  48. stephenchardy says:

    I said Brian… I meant Blair. I assume that BHodges is Blair Hodges of the Maxwell Institute.

  49. Elizabeth says:

    I do not believe being white makes you privileged and I question why anyone ever wrote that it was. Is it to make me feel guilty? Is it a label to discount my ideas if I disagree with whatever argument comes after this assertion in the conversation? After all, how could I understand if my views are clouded by my privileged birth?
    I do believe being born rich gives you privileges or access to them. I believe being born into an educated family makes you privileged. I believe being born to two married parents who love each other, no matter what their educational background or economic circumstances, is possibly the biggest privileged birth anyone could have. I believe being born in America or any other democracy in the modern world where the water is safe to drink, you are vacinnated as a child and you have access to good health care, makes you privileged. I believe you are privileged if you have ever felt the Spirit of God and if you know He loves you because you have heard His voice. I believe you are privileged if you are born with good health and you keep it.
    Yes, I am privileged and I am unprivileged in many different ways. The color of my skin makes me neither.

  50. Apparently my comment about self-flagellation for the sin of whiteness, and prayers to Malcolm X for forgiveness, has been deleted. Since being white definitely makes one privileged, it is only natural to want to know how to absolve oneself of the guilt of white privilege. Any other recommendations?

  51. Elizabeth’s perception of privilege is actually empirically testable. Imagine selecting a representative sample of white kids and black kids. Measure their life outcomes (education, income, employment history, etc). You would find that those black kids grow up to do worse on a bunch of outcomes. Then, in order to see if these different outcomes are due to race or to some other privilege, you would add parent education, parent income, etc. into your statistical analysis. If the effect of race disappears when you add these other factors, then there is no privilege associated with race — what looks like an effect of race is really something else. If the race effect persists when you add these other variables, that would be evidence that race provides privilege. You could also do an experiment. For example you could create resumes that are identical except for the race of the participant and randomly submit them to different job opportunities. If employers choose the white applicant more frequently than the black applicant, that would provide evidence of racial privilege/discrimination. Check out what the data show……

  52. Xen it’s not about guilt. The issue is how we, as a country, do a better job creating a level playing field.

  53. Just a thought…

    Does Bro. Hancock’s thoughts on the importance of perception (which, by the way, I am inclined to agree with in principle) apply to those whose perceive that their religious liberty is under threat from an increasingly hostile and secular America? Does that count as a cynical victim story?

    In other words, could we extrapolate the following from his stance?

    “If I am a RELIGIOUS person who believes that America, despite its flaws and its checkered past, is on the whole a just society where talent, effort and the content of one’s character are honored and rewarded, regardless of RELIGION, then it makes sense to build my personal story as an effort to play by the rules [things like anti-discrimination laws, Supreme Court rulings, and tax exemption rules maybe?] and to have some confidence in the goodwill of my NON-RELIGIOUS fellow citizens. If this is my story, then I will see both my failures [Proposition 8? The new handbook exclusion policy?] and my successes [welfare program, humanitarian aid, missionary work—there really are so many!] as mainly my own responsibility.”

  54. B. Hodges,

    It sounds like you’re saying that a white person can’t see the world like a black person because he’s white — and vice versa. If so, the only way that that doesn’t come across as racist is if you’re implying that there must be some other reason like cultural disparity.

    Now I’m all for walking a mile in another man’s moccasins. But at the end of the day if we can’t have an open discourse about the evils of culture or societal dysfunction *regardless* of skin color then we’re buying into a racist narrative.

  55. As a black man in America, I find vigor and sheer number of comments in this section fascinating.

  56. BHodges says:

    I ended my post by asking about where we can start listening more to black voices talking about these issues. One place I strongly recommend people go is the Code Switch podcast from NPR. It features journalists of color talking about race and identity. Their most recent episode, “Black and Blue,” talks about black people, police officers, and black police officers.

    Sleepless: I saw that. Painful.

    Stephen: thank you for you kindness.

    Elizabeth: I can understand why the idea of white privilege is unsettling, especially to a white person like you or me. There are countless research studies, alongside personal anecdotes, that have convinced me that white privilege exists and that I’m a beneficiary of it myself. I appreciate how you identified privilege in your life, but there may be elements of white privilege that you haven’t considered. Peggy McIntosh’s list has helped people become aware of white privilege. She says white privilege “takes different forms in different lives,” it’s not equal across the board, and there are other confounding variables. But please take a look at the list here and consider the possibility that you’ve overlooked something.

  57. Xen: Your trolling exhibits white privilege and egotism in the way that you mockingly express concern about racism by asking what you can do to yourself in repentance (in a way that doesn’t resonate at all with LDS theology about repentance), rather than asking what might be done to improve race relations. Your trolling is all about you, and if you continue I’ll delete.

  58. As to “playing by the rules” — the point of #blacklivesmatter, which Prof. Hancock seems to want to ignore, is that because of profiling, even if you are playing by the rules, you are more likely to get pulled over if you are black. And when you’re pulled over, you are more likely to get shot for behaviors that white people virtually never get shot for displaying, such as arguing with the officer or protesting having been pulled over for pretextual reasons, etc.

    “There is absolutely nothing more frustrating, more damaging to your soul than when you know you’re following the rules and being treated like you are not,” said [Republican] U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina.

    http://www.npr.org/2016/07/14/485995136/watch-black-gop-senator-says-hes-been-stopped-7-times-by-police-in-a-year

  59. Jack:

    “It sounds like you’re saying that a white person can’t see the world like a black person because he’s white — and vice versa. If so, the only way that that doesn’t come across as racist is if you’re implying that there must be some other reason like cultural disparity.”

    I suggest it’s strictly true that no human being can see the world exactly like another human being. If we grant that, then we can start to think about where some of the possible differences in perspective stem from. The way we see the world is mediated through a physical body with particular characteristics, and the way those characteristics are valued or not is mediated by environment, culture, society, etc. Seeing the world is deeply experiential. People who have the ability to imagine and reason can extrapolate and think about other perspectives, and we can test our conclusions by talking with each other, but even then we’re always operating on faith and there remains a gap between us, and between the world and us.

    A plain definition of racism is “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Because people of different races (a culturally constructed category, yes) are each limited to their own perspectives, none are necessarily inferior or superior, just different. If you believe difference must always be weighted according to superior and inferior, I could see why you think my view is racist. Since my view about human perception applies across the board I believe it’s not racist at all in the sense of setting up hierarchies of worth.

    “Now I’m all for walking a mile in another man’s moccasins. But at the end of the day if we can’t have an open discourse about the evils of culture or societal dysfunction *regardless* of skin color then we’re buying into a racist narrative.”

    I think we can have such discussions regardless of skin color. (We should be aware of the risks such a conversation would entail, of course.) We can also (and should also) have such conversations taking skin color into account. If you’re suggesting we should exclude entirely discussions of race and its relationship to cultural dysfunction, I would disagree.

    Rock: Thanks for reading. Apologies for the #allwhitepanel. How did you find BCC? Regular reader?

  60. BHodges: No apologies needed. It was an observation, not a slight. I’m sure the majority, if not everyone other than me, are white and/or LDS. I am neither.

    No, I’ve not been a regular reader. Not sure how/why, but yesterday BCC popped up on my FB feed under an article (I don’t remember what it was or about). I’d never heard of BCC before and I’m pretty sure the article was unrelated to what it was advertising. The BCC article was Abinadi on the Godhead and Atonement in Mosiah 15. Seemed like an interesting topic so I clicked, read, and commented.

    I skimmed the other topics and found this one. It was of interest as well. The comment section is worth the price of admission.

  61. Ha, awesome, Rock. Since admission was free I’d say the comment section has definitely been worth that much.

    By the way, in going back over some of the comments it seems to me that Jax, Nathaniel, and a few other people failed to respond to a single question I asked them. Did I miss a place where they answered anything I’d asked them? They came here to correct me but didn’t seem to participate in a give and take where we actually attend to what others are saying and respond when they ask questions. In contrast to those comments, other people posted some great comments with personal stories, etc. I really appreciate those comments.

  62. Last year I was employed as a nanny/personal assistant to a wealthy white LDS woman. Her husband’s financial situation placed them in the top one percent in the country. They lived in a lovely home in a vibrant community with every cultural advantage. The schools the children attended were excellent. There was money to pay for good food, clothing, extracurricular activities and full time household help. She was a convert to the LDS Church. He was an atheist. But she was also mentally ill, severely so at times. To say their children were privileged would be entirely false. The situation at their home was frequently a nightmare of screaming and lying and false accusations. The children would just become attached to one nanny when she would be thrown out, vilified heartily and if possible, accused of a crime. The father was not stepping up the way he should have to protect the kids or the employees. The children alternated between rage, immitating their mother, and despair because they could not get their most basic needs for emotional closeness and security met.
    Privileged because white? So far from it as to be laughable if the situation were not so sad.

  63. Gina, the circumstances you describe are terrible. But their situation could be even worse. Having white privilege does not prevent someone from experiencing other disadvantages. Try this piece:

    http://qz.com/728812/how-much-white-privilege-do-you-have-a-checklist-from-1988-is-still-relevant-today/?utm_source=qzfb

  64. LMaffKipp says:

    Words of a random Utah Saint in the 18880s? Discuss.
    “If I am a young Mormon who believes that America, despite its flaws and its checkered past, is on the whole a just society where talent, effort and the content of one’s character are honored and rewarded, regardless of religion, then it makes sense to build my personal story as an effort to play by the rules and to have some confidence in the goodwill of my Christian fellow citizens. If this is my story, then I will see both my failures and my successes as mainly my own responsibility.”

  65. LMaffKipp says:

    That would, of course, be *1880s*

  66. “By the way, in going back over some of the comments it seems to me that Jax, Nathaniel, and a few other people failed to respond to a single question I asked them. Did I miss a place where they answered anything I’d asked them? They came here to correct me but didn’t seem to participate in a give and take where we actually attend to what others are saying and respond when they ask questions.”

    This claim is just plain intellectual dishonesty. I posted my first comment at 1:18 yesterday. You responded at 1:47 with a disagreement. At 2:09 I had a 5 paragraph response; each paragraph started with one of your quotes followed by my responses. at 2:19 you respond again, and I respond at 2:45. We quote and respond to each other. How exactly does a “give and take” work in your mind?

    Prior to the post from which I took the quote above the last response you had made to me was at 7:45pm. I posted a response late last night after getting home from YM/YW with my kids. That post was deleted. How can you claim I don’t respond if you delete the responses?

    The only questions you asked me were in your post at 3:09. Your questions consisted of asking me what Mr. Hancock is thinking, what his motivations are, etc. How do I know that? I am not a expert on the doings or thinkings of Mr. Hancock. All I know is what he wrote, which you twisted and misrepresented. I make no claim to know why he didn’t address systemic issues or what motivation he had. He probably didn’t address them for the same reasons you didn’t – the article/post was narrow in scope.

  67. BHodges: I’m not sure you missed it. However, I am sure I’m not going to go back to reread to check. Over the years, I’ve heard every version of the basic negations of white privilege, so I won’t subject myself to looking for more of it. It’s tiring.

    The negation is that racial prejudice and its flip side of racial privilege are phantom, harmful ideas created by a victim society that shifts responsibility instead of taking it. That is usually followed with examples of whites who experience hardship of some sort, thereby falsifying any idea of privilege – as if having hardship in one area means you cannot have privilege in another. Or by some seemingly glaring issue in the black community that blacks themselves neglect – as if they really care or an have an inkling about black communities.

    While logically fallacious and dismissive, because people either want to hide their desire to remain comfortably privileged, or because they hold no personal perceived prejudice against blacks, that reasoning feels sound to those who espouse it. Sadly, all too often, those who oppose systemic racial prejudice the loudest are those who name the name of Christ. It’s not a good look.

    I too was intrigued by some of the personal stories – for good and for ill. Thanks for speaking up.

  68. I meant to say, “those who oppose SPEAKING AGAINST systemic racial prejudice the loudest are those who name the name of Christ.”

  69. BHodges says:

    Jax: See specifically my questions in this comment, which I didn’t see you respond to. Especially the opening questions: “Are you suggesting that by and large black people have literally no sense of personal accountability in the face of systemic racism? Why not address the systemic racism?” I also gave two possible scenarios accounting for what you call Hancock’s narrow scope and suggested that either he misdiagnoses the problem, or he chooses to focus on an element of the problem that he ultimately can’t change anyway. If you don’t want to speak to that, you could at least answer those questions for yourself. Instead of accusing me of twisting and misrepresenting things, perhaps you might suggest that I misunderstand. I don’t think an accusation of bad faith is going to get us very far.

  70. BHodges says:

    LMaffKipp has of course identified one of the chief ironies of Hancock’s position—a position that could perhaps reasonably be taken from a presumed position of cultural power, a position that Latter-day Saints lacked in former times.

    Rock: Thank you, I’m glad you stopped by. You’re more familiar with the dynamics than most here, so it must be surreal to watch the same conversations happen yet again here in 2016.

  71. Having white privilege doesn’t mean that your life is never hard. It means that your life is not hard *because* of your skin color.
    The only way I can wrap my head around a white person saying there is no privilege in being white is if they say that racism does not exist in this country. Elizabeth @ 8:32 am – I’m very curious. Do you think that racism is a problem in the U.S.?

  72. ““Are you suggesting that by and large black people have literally no sense of personal accountability in the face of systemic racism?” I think the diversity among black people and their sense of personal responsibility varies just as greatly among them as it does among other races. I don’t think there is anything about being black that makes you more prone to one end of the spectrum or the other. For every extreme person saying “You all owe me” you will find one saying “I did this to myself” … and the typical bell curve of positions in the middle.

    Answering for myself, I think all people should feel personal responsibility for how their lives turn out (all men will be punished for their own sins) AND that they should feel responsible for the well-being of others around them (we might be held accountable for blood and sins of our generation).

    Also, I assume you misrepresented Hancock’s piece BECAUSE you misunderstood. I’m not maligning your motives. I don’t know them. I’m no more expert on your thoughts than I am on Hancock’s. I don’t know his motivations or yours. That was the point of my first few posts that the topic we DID have a give and take on, that you are misrepresenting what he is saying. You ended this by saying you just don’t see it the way I do. So we moved on. I think you read him wrong. Nothing personal about that. Sorry if you took offense.

    I do think it was disgusting to suggest that we didn’t have a give and take when that is exactly what happened. The implication you made was that I was unable to defend my positions, too scared to face an opposing voice, just here to troll the OP??? It was a personal insult and insinuated a lack of character to me and Nathaniel and others. You directly said we did not have a give and take, which is factually wrong. Yes, you found a question I didn’t answer… should I go back and check to see if you addressed everything I brought up? to make sure you didn’t dodge even one point? We had a discussion and I thought agreed to see things differently… you said you just don’t read Hancock the way I do… and I let it drop. When multiple questions are posed in a single post how often is EVERY question addressed? Rarely. Responders always select a few of the highlights and respond. Every commenter here knows that that is what they do, and what people do in responding to them. That is why it was intellectually dishonest to make the claim you did, and everyone here knows it.

  73. Rock Blackwell says:

    BHodges: Actually, my experience tells me that, while sad, it’s not surreal. It’s par for the course.

    Thank you for having me. I’ll stick around .

  74. BHodges says:

    Jax, thanks. I apologize for writing my frustrations into that comment. Especially in an extended discussion like this it can get easier and easier to miss a question or observation here or there. I don’t see intellectual dishonesty in my remark, though. Just frustration, which I do apologize for even though I stand behind my understanding of Hancock’s column.

    Rock, glad to have you.

  75. Thanks for the apology. Accepted.

    We disagree on the piece, and that’s fine (I hope). It’s frustrating for all of us to have inadequate words to explain our views, to be outnumbered in our opinions, to be misunderstood, or to have to confront ideas that make us uncomfortable. We all encounter this I suspect. However, the commenters here are often warned about, or censored for, making personal attacks or disparaging remarks about others… Permas need to exercise the same restraint expected of us.

    Let’s move on.

  76. It appears to me that Hancock uses absolutist terms when describing progressive views and contrasts it to a “traditional” story.

    Ralph Hancock:
    “progressive” story insists, ironically, that there has been no meaningful or at least no decisive progress…… In fact, according to this big progressive story, the traditional story has been a lie from the beginning. The American founding was not a noble, if incomplete, blow against inequality, but just one more episode in the white man’s oppression of everyone else, or, in the eloquent words of the Black Lives Matter website, one more chapter in the story of “a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage … and that is state violence.”

    Actual passage from the Blacklivesmatter:
    “How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.”

    In elementary school we get a simplified–“traditional” version of history. The problem is, as we mature, we don’t learn the more complex history and that gap results in ignorance and stunts our growth as individuals and as a society. Recently I learned more from a very interesting program:
    http://www.npr.org/2015/05/14/406699264/historian-says-dont-sanitize-how-our-government-created-the-ghettos

  77. I have no doubt “driving/walking etc while black” is real. We don’t stop to think about the toll it takes on the psyche of people who are black. I can even understand the belligerent (though not wise) behavior–I would be “grumpy” and angry too, if I had been stopped multiple times for no apparent reason. Racism continues to exist to a greater or lesser extent. . For example I was deeply ashamed when leaders–legislators etc-remained silent when, during the 2004 election and thereafter, Obama’s citizenship status was repeatedly challenged.
    We still have so much work to do.

  78. Nathaniel says:
  79. J. Crown says:

    Great piece, Blaire. Made me think of this excellent TED talk by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, titled “The Danger Of A Single Story”. Here’s the link:

    Here’s a snippet:

    “It is impossible to talk about the single story without talking about power. There is a word, an Igbo word, that I think about whenever I think about the power structures of the world, and it is “nkali.” It’s a noun that loosely translates to “to be greater than another.” Like our economic and political worlds, stories too are defined by the principle of nkali: How they are told, who tells them, when they’re told, how many stories are told, are really dependent on power.

    Power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person. The Palestinian poet Mourid Barghouti writes that if you want to dispossess a people, the simplest way to do it is to tell their story and to start with, “secondly.” Start the story with the arrows of the Native Americans, and not with the arrival of the British, and you have an entirely different story. Start the story with the failure of the African state, and not with the colonial creation of the African state, and you have an entirely different story.”

  80. Jax, thanks. I also updated the post to reflect a better spirit of engagement with Ralph’s column.

    J. Crown, thanks for posting that video.

  81. B. Hodges, thanks for this thoughtful post. The checklist you referenced, at http://qz.com/728812/how-much-white-privilege-do-you-have-a-checklist-from-1988-is-still-relevant-today/?utm_source=qzfb was an eye opener for me.
    B. Hodges, July 14 10:23 a.m. “A plain definition of racism is “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.” Sincere question: Does that make me racist if I believe African Americans are in general superior athletes in most sports (ie. NBA, NFL, track and field) if I don’t believe that about ALL members of that race?
    Personal anecdote: I got pulled over driving home late on a Sunday evening. I felt some trepidation as the officer approached my car, after all, I wasn’t speeding. My wife and I were talking with my millennial generation son on speaker phone, and he asked to stay on the line and listen, out of curiosity, which we let him do. The officer was laughing heartily as I rolled down my window. He said, “I really didn’t have a good reason to pull you over. You just have a light bulb out over your license plate, but I really wanted to tell you that I love your bumper sticker!” (It’s about the Presidential campaign. In red white and blue with stars: “2016 – We’re Screwed!”) He then said he could tell by looking in the car that there was no reason to run my plates, etc. and that we could go. We left, and my son’s comment on the speaker was “Phew, nothing like white privilege!” I felt a wave of relief, but I did have the thought that if I were black, and in a different part of the country, that might have gone very differently. At the very least, I didn’t have the inconvenience of having him run my license plate.