Race is the elephant in the room of U.S. life. Political schisms over it led to our bloodiest war, and most of our domestic political issues are a product of it.
There’s really no understanding of our American political culture without race at the center of it.
What is race? Is racism still a problem? If so, how? Why should you care? What can you do?
These questions, and more, will be answered here. Please click as many links and watch as many videos as you’re able, and keep an open mind.
- Heroes who got us where we are today
- Non-whites in power positions
- Racism today
- Progressive media
- PAQ (Possibly Asked Questions)
Heroes who got us where we are today
In 1900, a post-racial world seemed a hopeless goal. Amazing how things change!
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Non-whites in power positions
Accelerating the erosion of race is the increasing inclusion of non-whites as politicians and CEO’s in nations built on centuries of race-based enslavement and colonization. Here are my favorites.
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The world map
The map they taught us gives two-thirds of the world to the North and one-third to the South. Europe is shown as larger than Latin America, even though Latin America is actually twice the size of Europe. India appears smaller than Scandinavia, even though it’s three times as big. The United States and Canada fill more space on the map than Africa, when in reality they cover barely two-thirds as much territory. The map lies. Traditional geography steals space just as the imperial economy steals wealth, official history steals memory, and formal culture steals the word.
— Eduardo Galeano, Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World
Mess around a little with this fun tool for a glimpse of the undistorted world.
The U.S. prison-industrial complex
In the U.S., we have over two million prisoners, disproportionately black, making our goods.
Idaho potatoes are grown, packed, and shipped by inmates.
Corporations that profit from prison labor and from building prisons pressure lawmakers to imprison as many people as possible. Said lawmakers capitalize on American cultural fears of black criminality to pass racist laws that force 1 in 3 black men and 1 in 6 Latino men into prison at some point for their slave labor.
The prison-industrial complex has transformed our criminal justice system since the 1970’s. Almost no cases go to trial, so much of our prison population is likely innocent.
There’s probably a new Kalief Browder every day, especially in the South.
Cutting U.S. public welfare programs
You start out in 1954 by saying, “Nigger, nigger, nigger.” By 1968 you can’t say “nigger” — that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites. “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.”
— Lee Atwater, advisor to President Reagan
American anti-welfare rhetoric is racially motivated (which is ironic, given which race has the most folks on welfare). U.S. elites have a proud history of exploiting racism to con poor whites into voting against their own self-interest. Our refusal to give the non-white third of Americans their due as tax-payers is regressing us into a developing nation.
If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the Southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
Can you spot the real-world stereotypes being reinforced in these media clips?
Note the pattern of sympathetic white protagonists being juxtaposed with savage non-whites who exist only to be exploited or killed. You’ll never see the converse.
Remember, the average American watches 5 hours of TV a day, so it’s disingenuous to claim that it’s “just TV”. Humans are territorial apes obsessed with maintaining a pecking order, and we force ourselves and the people we meet into the boxes TV suggests we belong in.
We should consider the poverty on Native American reservations a national embarrassment.
The U.S. has completely erased the Asian-American cultural identity, and anti-Asian racism is largely accepted. Remarkably, an Asian-American has a lower chance of promotion to a management position than his equally-educated black or Latino counterpart.
In recent decades, we’ve plunged tens of millions of Mexicans into poverty through NAFTA, yet still demonize undocumented immigrants for seeking a better life here than the one we forced on them. We know deporting them would badly hurt the U.S. economy, so maybe we should give Steve Dutch’s proposal a try.
What can you do?
Does the status quo upset you? If so, good. Unfortunately, our opinions mean little. Life is unfair, and the circumstances of your birth and childhood decide everything. Just be good to the people you meet. That’s about all you can do.
It is a bit embarrassing to have been concerned with the human problem all one’s life and find at the end that one has no more to offer by way of advice than “Try to be a little kinder.”
— Aldous Huxley
Great anti-racist songs and short films
Trailers for incredible English-language media with non-white leads
Great feminist songs and short films
PAQ (Possibly Asked Questions)
I really enjoyed reading this! I have some suggestions and questions, or just want to tell you how it made me feel. How can I contact you?
Thank you! I look forward to hearing from you!
I’m always on the look-out for more songs, trailers, short films, and clips to add to the playlists here, as well as public figures for the photo galleries. Please feel free to send recommendations!
So, Dan, what's your race?
My parents are from Rajasthan, India. I speak conversational Hindi, grew up watching Bollywood, and spent two years in Hyderabad as a kid. Though my whole family’s Desi, AncestryDNA reveals I’m part Asian and Melanesian. So like just about everyone, I’m mixed.
Most non-whites have been heavily oppressed by the U.S. (slavery, Jim Crow, mass incarceration, Native American genocide, Mexico/Philippines/Hawaii colonization, coups in Latin/South America, Middle East oil wars, Vietnam War, Chinese Exclusion Act, WW2 Japanese-American internment), so Americans are conditioned by decades or centuries of propaganda to label and abuse them. Race is a product of violence, an obsolete, obviously absurd justification for theft and murder.
But neither India nor Indian-Americans have ever been attacked by the U.S., and I feel accepted and sincerely patriotic. American stereotypes about Desis (small business owners, physicians, spelling bees, tech tycoons, call center workers, taxi drivers) are neutral or positive.
People I meet are kind to me, and I’ve had a relatively easy life. That’s all anyone can really ask for. The U.S. is my favorite country, and I doubt I’d be as happy living anywhere else.
What experiences have shaped you racially?
Watching The Prince of Egypt as a kid had a profound impact on my self-worth. Its willingness to show Moses as the very brown man he actually was meant the world to me, and I’ve had a deep love for the Jewish people since. Fellow Christians, please take notes!
The “Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” worship a brown Arab without knowing it. I love it.
You people just don’t get it, do you? The war was over fifty years ago! Your ideas didn’t work, even in the much simpler world we had back then! You lost. I suggest you get over it. Do you know how much detectable genetic difference there is between you, a Japanese businessman, a Madagascan fisherman, or a Hassidic Jew? Precisely none! The racial purity that you’re defending doesn’t even exist!
— Tom Strong, Alan Moore, Tom Strong: Deluxe Edition, Vol. 1
There was no doubt now in Ender’s mind. There was no help for him. Whatever he faced, now and forever, no one would save him from it. Peter might be scum, but Peter had been right, always right; the power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to kill and destroy, because if you can’t kill then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever save you.
— Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
There is no such thing as a new beginning, Roman. With every day we live we pick up new baggage, baggage that we must carry with us for the rest of our lives. There’s no dropping it and pretending we are fresh and clean just because we get off a boat in a new place.
— Niko Bellic, Grand Theft Auto IV
Is there anything I should know about India?
It’s a very diverse country. If the British had never invaded, it would be around 40 different nations. Think of India like the EU, a peaceful collection of cultures with a shared currency. It was mostly Vallabhbhai Patel who kept more than two nations from forming after 1947 independence.
Geographically, South Asia’s in a pretty interesting position. The Tibetan Plateau and Himalayas separate it from China and Central Asia, the Arabian Sea separates it from East Africa, and dense jungles mark its border with Southeast Asia.
This is why there’s little cultural overlap between India and China, though they border each other, and every attempted large-scale invasion (the Aryans in ancient times, then Alexander the Great, then the Mughals, then the British) has come through the Middle East.
India will be the world’s most populated country by 2020, and its high population density is a product of its warm, humid climate, which allows for lush, fertile fields well-suited to agriculture. This climate is a product of the Tibetan Plateau, which blocks the hot, dry winds of Central Asia that turned Iran, Afghanistan, and much of Pakistan to desert.
I’m about to throw a lot of unfamiliar locations at you, so please cross-reference them with this map. (My dad’s from Udaipur. My mom’s from Ajmer.)
Until 1911, British India’s capital was the Bengal city of Calcutta (now Kolkata), and consequently, Bengal suffered the worst abuses of the British, including 30 million Bengalis starved to death. Churchill personally murdered three million.
Punjab was ripped apart in the 1947 British partition of India that made Pakistan, and a million died. Uttar Pradesh was the home of Lakshmibai of Jhansi, the queen who led the Revolt of 1857, and of the million Queen Victoria murdered in reprisal. (UP is also home to Agra and its Taj Mahal.)
South India relatively escaped British genocides, and so today is India’s most prosperous region. Bengaluru (once Bangalore), Chennai (once Madras, home of Ramanujan), and Hyderabad, the tech hubs of the country, are in South India.
By the end of World War 2, India had contributed 2.5 million soldiers to the Allied war effort, who were now more than happy to fight for freedom from their oppressor.
Britain, decimated by the Luftwaffe, was too weak to fight a large-scale war to hold onto India. This was the biggest factor in independence.
As the Cold War loomed, Jawaharlal Nehru (who later became India’s first prime minister), made clear that India wouldn’t host British military bases. Wanting an ally is what led Churchill to support creating Pakistan. Hindu/Muslim tensions would have blown over otherwise.
Pakistan’s alliance with the West later proved instrumental to the costly Soviet-Afghan War that toppled the USSR. Unfortunately, as our post-9/11 war in Afghanistan has dragged on for the better part of two decades, they’ve largely ditched us in favor of China.
The British also split Bengal into West Bengal and East Pakistan in 1947. After a war in 1971 where West Pakistan murdered three million East Pakistanis, East Pakistan became the independent nation of Bangladesh.
While the British ruled most of India, Goa was held by the Portuguese until 1961 and Puducherry by the French until 1954.
Nehru wanted to build an “Asian axis” consisting of the USSR, China, and India, and the Sino-Soviet split provided a compelling opportunity for an India-China power bloc.
Relations between India and Mao were strong, with no border disputes until 1959, when India provided refuge to the Dalai Lama. The insulted PRC leadership claimed they were paranoid that India intended to conquer Tibet, and renewed territorial claims.
The 1962 Sino-Indian War put an end to any possible alliance, and led to Mao taking over Aksai Chin, part of the disputed Kashmir territory. This led India to develop nuclear weapons and China to give Pakistan nuclear know-how, which Pakistan then passed to North Korea.
(If you Google “India map”, every map shows India in control of all of Kashmir. This was the map I grew up associating with India, so I was shocked when I learned Pakistan and China controlled half. It’s like if I suddenly learned Florida was really part of Cuba.)
Much of the temple was destroyed, 700 were killed, and priceless manuscripts were burned. In retaliation, Indira Gandhi’s Sikh bodyguards assassinated her, prompting the murder of thousands of innocent Sikhs with the government’s tacit approval.
A year later, Sikh separatist terrorists murdered more than 300 people on Air India Flight 182. It remained the deadliest terror attack involving an airplane until 9/11.
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Thanks! But how do I pronounce all these names?
- India – In-dee-ah
- Iran – Eee-rahn
- Afghanistan – Ahf-gah-niss-tahn
- Pakistan – Pah-kiss-tahn
- Vallabhbhai Patel – Vah-luh-bye Puh-tale
- Udaipur – U-day-pur (“U” and “pur” like “put”)
- Ajmer – Uhj-mare
- Rajasthan – Rah-juh-stahn
- Bengal – Ben-gahl
- Kolkata – Coal-kuh-tah
- Punjab – Puhn-jahb
- Uttar Pradesh – U-thur Pruh-daysh (“U” like “put”)
- Agra – Ah-grah
- Taj Mahal – Tahj Muh-hell
- Lakshmibai – Lucksh-mee-bye
- Jhansi – Jahn-see
- Bengaluru – Ben-guh-loo-roo
- Hyderabad – Hayd-uh-rah-bahd
- Chennai – Chen-eye
- Madras – Muh-drahs
- Ramanujan – Rahm-uh-noo-juhn
- Jawaharlal Nehru – Juh-waah-hur-laal Nuh-hay-roo
- Bangladesh – Bahng-luh-daysh
- Goa – Go-ah
- Kashmir – Kuhsh-meer
- Puducherry – Pu-doo-cherry (“Pu” like “put”)
- Indira Gandhi – In-dhee-rah Gahn-dhee
- Sikh – Sick
- Amritsar – Uhm-rit-suhr
- Mumbai – Moom-bye (once Bombay)
- Jaipur – Jay-pur (“pur” like “put”)
Try saying these aloud to get a feel for Desi names. Note the lack of a sharp a (like in “cat”).
Also, a few great English-language movies set in India, if you want to see more of a location –
- Slumdog Millionaire (Set mostly in early 2000’s Mumbai, and partially at the Taj Mahal)
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Set mostly in 2011 Udaipur and Jaipur, but starts in the UK)
- Life of Pi (Set mostly on the Pacific Ocean, but starts in Puducherry)
- Lion (Set half in 1986 Calcutta, half in 2007 Tasmania)
I'm Indian-American. Any advice?
Hindi and Urdu are mutually intelligible, but after Partition, Hindi was labeled a “Hindu” language and Urdu “Muslim”. So if you speak Hindi, you can actually talk to most Afghanis!
A shared non-English language wins you immediate solidarity and respect. When you meet another speaker of your native language in an informal context, casually switch from an American accent to your variant of “क्या आपको हिंदी आती है ?” to elicit a wide grin.
People can get a bit touchy talking about race, religion, and nationality, since they’re so often used as poor excuses for discrimination.
However, in a multicultural society like the U.S., not discussing these leads to an incomplete understanding of people you meet, and keeps your relationships with them surface-level.
So when asking personal questions, it’s a good policy to volunteer the same information you’re asking for. Simple things like –
My parents are from India. Where’s your family from?
I’m Muslim. Are you religious?
Remember, humans are far more similar than we are different. Try to constantly expand your comfort zone, and avoid chauvinism. Race is idiotic, and people are morons for believing in it. If you’re able to dismiss it, you’ll be happier than most people you meet.
Some suggested reading I couldn’t cram into the rest of this PAQ –
- Amar Chitra Katha comics
- “Why the Indian Soldiers of WW1 Were Forgotten” by Shashi Tharoor
- An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India by Shashi Tharoor
- “What Will Happen to India as Temperatures Soar?” by James Ayre (Bonus map and movie.)
Created on March 31 2017, last modified on October 21 2017.