eleven things tagged “racism”

Candyman (2021) IMDb B+

Saw with BE and NN. Eh. Clear messages about creatives’ struggles and temptations, and the importance of continuing to tell past and present stories of horrific pain and suffering.

I suppose I just lazily wanted to watch a well-made scary movie without actively engaging with it, without searching for the clever and occasionally deep symbolism that has come to characterize a movie with Jordan Peele’s name on it. It was adequately scary.

The title of Anthony’s piece [“Say His Name”] also is recognizable as a play on the Say Her Name slogan meant to memorialize victims of anti-Black violence and police brutality such as Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland. The recognition of that inference is the only point of connection to it.

Beyond that, little about the plot makes a statement about over-policing or the socio-economic violence that gentrification creates by destroying and displacing low-income communities. Its characters blithely discuss these concerns over drinks or Brianna’s well-appointed living room, but only as part of a litany of urban ills. The sequences are the film’s ways of throwing a message that’s on-brand for 2021 behind a horror movie meant to speak to an audience that supports protests against racial injustice and biased policing in principle without having any actual skin in the game.

To those impacted in a real way by these issues or savvy enough to recognize when they’re being used as mechanisms to impart a sense of relevance, they come across as didactic nonsense. All that noise strangles the twin melodies that make up the Candyman character’s siren song: seduction and legacy.

Melanie McFarland, “No sweets for the sweet in new “Candyman,” which neglects the legend’s seductively scary legacy”, Salon

Speaking of these “twin melodies”: I haven’t seen the 1992 original and it’s on my list. Didn’t know that Philip Glass did the score for the movie.

On Spite

In his book Dying of Whiteness, Metzl told of the case of a forty-one-year-old white taxi driver who was suffering from an inflamed liver that threatened the man’s life. Because the Tennessee legislature had neither taken up the Affordable Care Act nor expanded Medicaid coverage, the man was not able to get the expensive, lifesaving treatment that would have been available to him had he lived just across the border in Kentucky. As he approached death, he stood by the conviction that he did not want the government involved. “No way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens,” the man told Metzl. “Ain’t no way I would ever support Obamacare or sign up for it. I would rather die.” And sadly, so he would.

Isabel Wilkerson, “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents


You might wish to let that simmer for a few minutes. With his health as shaky as a Jenga tower, with his very life ebbing away, Trevor’s greater concern – his greater fear – was of undeserving “Mexicans or welfare queens” benefiting from his taxes, however much that might be on the wages of a used-to-be cab driver eking out his last days in a low-income housing facility.

If that’s sad and ridiculous – and it is both – it is also predictable. From the beginning, white fear has been a great, unspoken driver of this nation’s sins against difference. So Trevor is just a link in an unbroken line that binds Lincoln fretting about retribution from newly freed slaves, to Roosevelt worrying about treachery from Americans of Japanese heritage, to Trump seeing terrorism in brown-skinned toddlers on the southern border.

Decade after decade, election after election, so much of the white conservative appeal is an implicit promise to defend whiteness from blacks and browns. Metzl argues that white people themselves have borne and are bearing a terrific cost for this “defense,” that they are, in effect, killing themselves.

Leonard Pitts, “Dying of Whiteness

Paraphrasing a comment I read on Instagram: “You will let your Orange Highness shit on your head if it means that the liberal standing next to you has to smell it.”

On The Intellectual, Artistic, and Cultural Wealth of Pre-Colonial Africa by RegularCockroach More Pasta

The Alt-History YouTuber Whatifalthist decided to dip his toes into real history again and made a YouTube video in which he supposedly breaks down his top 11 historical misconceptions, in which he says a section entitled “7: All of Pre-Colonial Africa.” As a massive enthusiast of pre-colonial Subsaharan African history, I decided I’d take a look at this section, I thought it would be interesting to take a look, but what I saw was very disappointing.

He starts by making the claim that Africa was not a monolith and that the development of urbanized societies was not consistent throughout the continent.

Africa was simultaneously primitive and advanced. You could find places like Tanzania where 100 year ago, 60% of the land was uninhabitable due to disease, and the rest was inhabited by illiterate iron age societies.

Now, this section is true in a hyper-literal sense. However, the problem is that this statement also applied to pretty much the entire world in the pre-modern age. Every continent has large swathes of land that are either unoccupied or inhabited by peoples who could be considered “illiterate iron age societies” by Whatifalthist’s standards. In short, the presence of nonliterate societies is in no way unique to Subsaharan Africa.

Then, he posts the cursed map. I don’t even know where to begin with everything wrong with this image. Supposedly displaying levels of development (whatever that means) before colonization, the map is riddled with atrocious errors.

Maybe the worst error in the map is Somalia, which he labels in its entirety as “nomadic goat herders.” Anyone with a passing knowledge of Somali history will know how inaccurate this is. Throughout the late middle ages and early modern period, Southern Somalia was dominated by the Ajuraan sultanate, a centralized and literate state. While much of rural Ajuraan was inhabited by nomadic pastoralists, these pastoralists were subject to the rule and whims of the urban elites who ruled over the region. Mogadishu was one of the most influential ports on the Indian Ocean throughout the medieval and early modern periods. In modern Eastern-Ethiopia, the Somali Adal sultanate was another example of a literate, centralized, urban state in the Eastern horn of Africa. Ok, maybe he was only referring to Somalia in the era immediately before European colonization. Well, even then, it’s still inaccurate, as there were plenty of urbanized and literate societies in 19th and early 20th century Somalia. In fact, the Geledi sultanate during its apex was at one point even capable of extracting regular tribute payments from the Sultan of Oman. (Read about this in Kevin Shillington’s History of Africa, 2005).

He also insulting labels the regions of Nigeria and Ghana as “urban illiterate peoples.” This is especially untrue in southern Nigeria, considering that the region literally developed a unique script for writing in late antiquity that remained in use until the late medieval period. Northern Nigeria being labelled as illiterate is equally insulting. The region, which was dominated by various Hausa city-states until united by the Sokoto Caliphate, had a long-standing tradition of literacy and literary education. Despite this, Whatifalthist arbitrarily labels half the region as illiterate and the other half as “jungle farmers”, whatever that means. In modern Ghana, on the other hand, there existed a state called the Ashanti kingdom. How widespread literacy was within Ashantiland in the precolonial era is not well documented. However, during the British invasion of the empire’s capital at Kumasi, the British note that the royal palace possessed an impressive collection of foreign and domestically produced books. They then proceeded to blow it up. I’d also like to mention that he arbitrarily designates several advanced, urban, and, in some cases, literate West African states in the West African forest region (such as Oyo and Akwamu) as “jungle farmers.”

He also questionably labels the Swahili coast as “illiterate cattle herders”, and just blots out Madagascar for some reason, which was inhabited by multiple advanced, literate states prior to colonization.

Now, with the cursed map out of the way, I want to get onto the next part of the video that bothered me. Whatifalthist makes some questionable statements in the section in between, but nothing major, and actually makes some good points in pointing out that many of the larger, more centralized states in Western Africa were just as advanced as those in any other part of the world. However, he then goes on to say this:

“However, as institutions went, they were quite primitive. No African state had a strong intellectual tradition, almost all were caste societies without any real ability for social advancement. You never saw parliaments, scientific revolutions, or cultural movements that spread to the rest of the world coming out of Subsaharan Africa.”

Just about everything in this statement is incredibly wrong, so I’ll break it down one piece at a time.

“No subsaharan African state had a strong intellectual tradition”

This is grossly untrue. The most famous example of intellectual traditions in West Africa comes from the scholarly lineages of Timbuktu, but intellectual traditions in the region were far more widespread than just Timbuktu, with Kano and Gao also serving as important intellectual centers of theology, philosophy, and natural sciences.. In Ethiopia and Eritrea, there is a longstanding intellectual tradition which based itself primarily in the country’s many Christian monasteries. Because of this monastic tradition, Ethiopia has possesses some of the oldest and best preserved manuscripts of anywhere in the world.

“Almost all were caste societies without any real ability for social advancement.”

Keep in mind, this was true in pretty much every settled society until relatively recently. Even then, the concept that pre-colonial African societies were any more hierarchically rigid than their contemporaries in Europe and Asia is questionable at best. Arguably the most meritocratic civilization of antiquity, Aksum, was located in East Africa. Frumentius, the first bishop of Aksum and the first abuna of the Aksumite church, first came to Aksum as a slave. The same is true for Abraha, who was elevated from slave to royal advisor and eventually was given a generalship, which he then used to carve out his own independent kingdom in modern Yemen. These are, admittedly, extreme and unusual examples. Like in the rest of the world, if you were born in the lower classes in pre-colonial Africa, you’d probably die in the lower classes. This was not necessarily true all the time though. In the Ashanti kingdom, a common subject who acquired great amounts of wealth or showcased prowess on the battlefield could be granted the title of Obirempon (big man), by the Asantehene.

You never saw parliaments

Yes you did. Just for one example, the Ashanti kingdom possessed an institution called the Kotoko council, a council of nobles, elders, priests, and aristocrats.This institution is pretty similar to the House of Lords in Great Britain, and possessed real power, often overruling decisions made by the Asantehene (Ashanti King).

“You never saw scientific revolutions.”

I’m not sure what exactly he means by “scientific revolution”, but there were certainly numerous examples of scientific advancements made in Subsaharan Africa, some of which even had wide-ranging impacts on regions outside of the continent. The medical technique of innoculation is maybe the most well known. While inoculation techniques existed in East Asia and the Near East for a long time, the technique of smallpox inoculation was first introduced to the United States through an Akan slave from modern-day Ghana named Onesimus. This may be only one example (others exist), but it’s enough to disprove the absolute.

“Africa had no cultural movements that spread to the rest of the world.”

Because of the peculiar way it’s phrased, I’m not sure exactly what he meant by this. I assume he means that African culture has had little impact on the rest of the world. If this is indeed what he meant, it is not true. I can counter this with simply one word: music.

In the next part of the video, Whatifalthist switches gears to move away from making embarrassingly untrue statements about African societies and instead moves on to discussing colonialism and the slave trade.

“Also, another thing people forget about pre-colonial Africa is that Europeans weren’t the only colonizers. The Muslims operated the largest slave trade in history out of here. Traders operating in the Central DRC had far higher death-rates than the Europeans. The Omanis controlled the whole East Coast of Africa and the Egyptians had conquered everything down to the Congo by the Early 19th century.”

So, I looked really hard for figures on the death-rates of African slaves captured by Arabian slavers in the 19th century, and couldn’t find any reliable figures. Any scholarly census of either the transatlantic or Arab slave trades will note the unreliability of their estimates. Frankly, the statement that “the Islamic slave trade was the largest slave trade in history” sounds like something he pulled out of his ass. Based on the estimates we do have, the Arab slave trade is significantly smaller than the transatlantic slave trade even when you take into account that the latter lasted significantly longer. Regardless, is it really necessary to engage in slavery olympics? Slavery is bad no matter who does it. Now, I would have enjoyed it if the YouTuber in question actually went into more details about the tragic but interesting history of slavery in East Africa, such as the wars between the Afro-Arab slaver Tippu Tip and the Belgians in the 19th century, the history of clove plantations in the Swahili coast, etc. But, instead, he indulges in whataboutisms and dives no further.

The root of the problem with the video are its sources

At the end of each section, Whatifalthist lists his sources used on the section. Once I saw what they were, it immediately became clear to me what the problem was. His sources are “The Tree of Culture”, a book written by anthropologist Ralph Linton, and “Conquests and Cultures” by economist Thomas Sowell.

The Tree of Culture is not a book about African history, but rather an anthropological study on the origin of human cultures. To my knowledge, the book is largely considered good, if outdated (it was written in the early 50s), as Linton was a respected academic who laid out a detailed methodology. However, keep in mind, it is not a book about African history, but an anthropological study that dedicates only a few chapters to Africa. No disrespect to Linton, his work is undeniably formative in the field of anthropology. I’m sure Linton himself would not be happy if people read this book and walked away with the impression that it was remotely close to offering a full, detailed picture of African history.

Sowell’s book is similarly not a book on African history, but is better described as Sowell’s academic manifesto for his philosophical conceptions of race and culture. Ok, neat, but considering that the book only dedicates a portion of its contents to Africa and that most of that is generalities of geography and culture, not history, it’s not appropriate to cite as a source on African history.

This is ultimately the problem with the video. Instead of engaging in true research with sources on African history, Whatifalthist instead engaged in research with anthropological vagueries and filled in the historical blanks with his own preconceptions and stereotypes.

TL;DR: I did not like the video. I can’t speak for the rest of it, but the parts about Africa were really bad.

Sorry for the typo in the title

Thanks for the gold and platinum! Much appreciated.

Citations (in order of their appearance in the post):

  • Cassanelli, Lee V. Pastoral Power: The Ajuraan in History and Tradition.” The Shaping of Somali Society, 1982. https://doi.org/10.9783/9781512806663-007.
  • Chaudhuri, K. N. Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean: an Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • Mukhtar, Mohamed Haji. “Adal Sultanate.” The Encyclopedia of Empire, 2016, 1–3. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118455074.wbeoe145.
  • Luling, Virginia. Somali Sultanate: the Geledi City-State over 150 Years. London: HAAN, 2002.
  • Nwosu, Maik. “In the Name of the Sign: The Nsibidi Script as the * Language and Literature of the Crossroads.” Semiotica 2010, no. 182 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2010.061.
  • Mohammed, Hassan Salah El. Lore of the Traditional Malam: Material * Culture of Literacy and Ethnography of Writing among the Hausa of Northern Nigeria, 1990.
  • Lloyd, Alan. The Drums of Kumasi: the Story of the Ashanti Wars. London: Panther Book, 1965.
  • Kane, Ousmane. Beyond Timbuktu: an Intellectual History of Muslim West Africa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016.
  • Bausi, Alessandro. “Cataloguing Ethiopic Manuscripts: Update and Overview on Ongoing Work.” Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.csmc.* uni-hamburg.de/publications/conference-contributions/files/bausi-text.pdf.
  • McCaskie, T. C. State and Society in Pre-Colonial Asante. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  • Brown, Thomas H. “The African Connection.” JAMA 260, no. 15, 1988.
  • Berlin, Edward A., and Edward A. Berlin. Ragtime: a Musical and Cultural History. University of California Press, 2002.
  • “The Mediterranean Islamic Slave Trade out of Africa: A Tentative Census.” Slave Trades, 1500–1800, 2016, 35–70. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315243016-8.
  • The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Uprooted Millions. Accessed March 22, 2021. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/the-trans-atlantic-slave-trade-uprooted-millions/ar-AAG3WvO.

The Diabetic Racist

Matt Rowan is a family man, a Christian, and a former youth pastor (so we’re off to a fantastic start.) At a high school basketball game, this pillar of the community called children “f****** n******s” for that grave sin of actually kneeling during the national anthem.

On the video, Rowan is heard to refer to the players as “f****** n******.” He added, "I hope Norman gets their ass kicked,” and then "I hope they lose. C’mon Midwest City. They’re gonna kneel like that? Hell no.”

Brian D. King, “Local man apologizes for racist remarks caught on hot mic at basketball game”, Tahlequah Daily Press

Now in what has to be the most shameless excuse for reprehensible behaviour I’ve read to date, he blames his MAGA1 outburst on his blood sugar!

I will state that I suffer Type 1 Diabetes, and during the game, my sugar was spiking. While not excusing my remarks, it is not unusual when my sugar spikes that I become disoriented and often say things that are not appropriate, as well as hurtful. I do not believe that I would have made such horrible statements absent my sugar spiking.

He helpfully adds:

While the comments I made would certainly seem to indicate that I am racist, I am not, I have never considered myself to be racist, and in short cannot explain why I made these comments.

I think most reasonable people would have a simple one-word explanation. And to quote Conservative Hannibal Lecter: “While the body parts in the fridge would certainly seem to indicate that I am a psychopathic murderer, I have never considered myself to be one.”

No word has been issued as far as repercussions for the Hulbert employee.

In Rowan’s statement, he said he believed the microphone to be off, but “that is no excuse; such comments should have never been uttered.”

Like almost all this-is-really-not-who-I-am people, he’s only sorry he got caught.

  1. One guess as to who Mr. Rowan voted for. ↩︎

On American Meritocracy by BaldKnobber123 More Pasta

I find even many people who don’t vote Republican and don’t see themselves as conservatives use this type of response when discussing programs like Affirmative Action. They see themselves as arguing for the “meritocracy”, yet don’t recognize how fraudulent the idea of the US as a meritocracy is.

To keep with the Affirmative Action example, since it is one of the most prominent, they tend to get tons wrong about affirmative action, what it actually does for minorities, and the large amounts of “unspoken” affirmative action that exists for the wealthy and alumni (both of which are more likely to be white due to racial wealth gaps and the historical legacy of admissions):

At 38 colleges in America, including five in the Ivy League – Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown – more students came from the top 1 percent of the income scale than from the entire bottom 60 percent.

Roughly one in four of the richest students attend an elite college – universities that typically cluster toward the top of annual rankings. In contrast, less than one-half of 1 percent of children from the bottom fifth of American families attend an elite college; less than half attend any college at all.

At elite colleges, the share of students from the bottom 40 percent has remained mostly flat for a decade. Access to top colleges has not changed much, at least when measured in quintiles. (The poor have gotten poorer over that time, and the very rich have gotten richer.)


The children of the rich and famous received special treatment, as did the children of alumni. If your parent or grandparent had gone to the university, your admission chances were greatly enhanced. The thought was a family’s loyalty to the institution should be rewarded even though it created unfairness for first-generation college students. Ultimately, there would be a book by Daniel Golden entitled “The Price of Admission” that explained how Brown and other Ivies had risen to prominence in part based on “affirmative action” for wealthy donors and famous celebrities.

Documents unsealed during that litigation showed how Harvard privileged the applications of the wealthy, donors, legacies (that is, alumni offspring), and faculty children. As an example, the admission rate for legacies was 33.6 percent, compared to 5.9 percent for non-alumni applicants.

Under oath, the Harvard dean of admissions was forced to explain emails he had sent “suggesting special consideration for the offspring of big donors, those who have ‘already committed to a building’ or have ‘an art collection which could conceivably come our way.’”

At Brown, I saw similar practices firsthand. When the children of prominent people came to campus for admissions tours, the development office would call me and other faculty members to set up individual meetings with them. On many occasions, I met the children of famous politicians and media celebrities who wanted their son or daughter to get into Brown. I talked with them about the university, and sometimes wrote letters on their behalf describing the meeting. It was standard operating procedure at the university as well as other elite institutions to provide special treatment for offspring of the prominent and well heeled.


Last year’s survey of college admissions directors by Inside Higher Ed found that 42 percent of admissions directors at private colleges and universities said legacy status is a factor in admissions decisions at their institutions. The figure at public institutions is only 6 percent.


A new study notes that in the six admissions cycles between 2014 and 2019, 43% of white students admitted to Harvard were either legacies, recruited athletes, children of faculty and staff, or students on the Dean’s Interest List—a list of applicants whose relatives have donated to Harvard, the existence of which only became public knowledge in 2018. By contrast, no more than 16% of admitted students who were African-American, Asian-American, or Hispanic fell into one of those favored categories.

The Wall Street Journal reports that over the past five years, Princeton University admitted 30% of its legacy applicants, compared to 7% of the general applicant pool, while the acceptance rate for legacies at the University of Notre Dame, Georgetown University, and the University of Virginia is roughly double the rate for the overall applicant pool.

Since Ivy League schools were overwhelmingly white for the bulk of their histories, giving special status to the descendants of previous attendees would seem to perpetuate an unjust history of discrimination. (Indeed, legacy admissions policies were invented to justify discrimination against Jewish students at elite schools.)


Meanwhile, the competiveness of these institutions has greatly increased over the past few decades

What race is most likely to have legacy to Ivy League universities? Racial wealth gaps? And racial income gaps? All this not even getting into the indirect benefits, such as better schools, repercussions of a racists justice system faced disproportionately by other racial groups, higher places on the racial wealth and income trends leading to more resources for test prep, the effects of poverty on development, etc.

Racial affirmative action and “racist unmeritocratic admissions” is a beautiful issue to tactically push as a wedge, yet there are more Ivy Leaguers from the top 1% than bottom 60% - as if the portion of smart kids in the bottom 60% is that drastically lower.

In face of that, some argue that affirmative action should just be income or wealth based (which should be included), but when there has been decades of de jure and de facto racial segregation creating living conditions, it becomes necessary to take into account the historical, and current, racial structures.

Poor whites tend to live in more affluent neighborhoods than do middle- class blacks and Latinos, a situation that leaves those minorities more likely to contend with weaker schools, higher crime and greater social problems, according to a new study.

The new research by scholars at the Stanford Graduate School of Education found that the gap separating black and Hispanic neighborhoods from white ones persists up and down the income ladder. A black household with an annual income of $50,000 lives on average in a neighborhood where the median income is under $43,000. But whites with the same income live in neighborhoods where the median income is almost $53,000—about 25 percent higher.


A recent, large study examining the effects of California’s ban on racial affirmative action for public schools found that the ban hurt Black and Hispanic students quite badly, while providing relatively little benefit to White and Asian-American students:

A comprehensive study released Friday finds that by nearly every measure, the ban has harmed Black and Hispanic students, decreasing their number in the University of California system while reducing their odds of finishing college, going to graduate school and earning a high salary. At the same time, the policy didn’t appear to greatly benefit the white and Asian-American students who took their place.


This isn’t to say the current affirmative action is perfect: for example, American Hmong and Chinese applicants both get treated as “Asian”, despite having different historical background in America and the average test scores and wealth differing dramatically between groups. As well as other inequalities between different Asian ethnicities. But, there are strong reasons for programs that recognize past discrimination and try to level overall playing fields for the future generations.

Given the racial inequalities in the US, the playing field is not equal, and if you treat everyone as equal, when some have significant advantages (on average) for their educational development, then all you do is strengthen the future divide by rewarding the current divide.

Dorothy Counts

04 September, 1957

Dorothy Counts, the first and at the time only black student to enroll in the newly desegregated Harry Harding High School in Charlotte (NC), is mocked by protestors on her first day of school. Bystanders threw rocks and screamed at Dorothy to go back to where she came from.

The man walking beside her is probably Dr. Edwin Tompkins, a friend of the family and a professor at the black college Johnson C. Smith University. After a string of abuses, Dorothy’s family withdrew her from the school after only four days. Children had been enrolling for the new school year and tension was particularly high in the south for districts trying to comply with the US Supreme Court’s ruling that states should desegregate their schools with deliberate speed.

World Press Photo

I cannot imagine what she must have felt.

“There was unutterable pride, tension and anguish in that girl’s face as she approached the halls of learning, with history jeering at her back,” he later said. “It made me furious. It filled me with both hatred and pity. And it made me ashamed. Some one of us should have been there with her.”

Michael Graff, quoting James Baldwin, “This picture signaled an end to segregation. Why has so little changed?”, The Guardian

Photos by Douglas Martin.

Dorothy Counts by Douglas Martin
Dorothy Counts by Douglas Martin
Dorothy Counts by Douglas Martin
Dorothy Counts by Douglas Martin

Schrodinger’s Douchebag

One who makes douchebag statements, particularly sexist, racist or otherwise bigoted ones, then decides whether they were “just joking” or dead serious based on whether other people in the group approve or not.

Urban Dictionary

They’re always “just joking.” About pandemic response, about requesting foreign interference in their country’s elections, injecting disinfectants to treat disease, asking for more police brutality, mocking the disabled, treason, dangling pardons like a mob boss, asking foreign governments to investigate political opponents, calling onself “The Chosen One”, calling a former president the founder of a terrorist organization, or condoning violence against journalists. Just look at your face, bro 😆

And then there’s Schrodinger’s Asshole:

A person who decides whether or not they’re full of shit by the reactions of those around them.

Via Mark.