Tiger and Obama Tell Us: Get Past the Idea of ‘Race’

US Politics
on 18 Comments

The fourth round of the Masters starts in an hour or so and Tiger is right where he wants to be, a stroke off the lead. Meantime Obama is stalking Hillary in the money race.

The prominence of these two men in our public life is significant. Right now, everyone insists on calling them "half-black." As if racial categories were ironclad just a generation ago. They weren’t. There’s been mixing forever. The "science" of race that we grew up with, the books by Carlton Coon (hope that’s right) measuring nostrils and springiness of hair to demonstrate X number of races, is being torn apart by the genetic science that shows we’re all pretty similar, and Thomas Jefferson is in the woodpile. When Prince said, "I wish there was no black and white," he was expressing a universalist human impulse.

I’m not saying that this consciousness is winning. It isn’t. Not when Shi’a have been set against Sunni and Jew against Muslim in the Middle East. But it’s the leading edge in the affluent west. Just ask a smart young person. They despise all our wise racial divisions.

18 Responses

  1. Reader from Germany
    April 8, 2007, 9:24 pm

    Hello Philip,

    I'm sorry if I just misunderstand what you are saying, but you seem to contradict yourself to some extent. Here you write that we should "Get Past the Idea of 'Race'", but in that other article about Nadler, you say "Nadler is a brilliant honest guy, who makes me proud to be a Jew".

    So aren't you actually embracing the idea of race as in identifying with other, similarly people?

    Or do you view your Jewishness not as a racial but a cultural etc issue?

    No offense here at all, just something that strikes me as odd.

  2. Robert Hume
    April 9, 2007, 10:47 am

    Smart young persons may despise our racial thinking; but they are not thinking scientifically. For example see NYTimes science reporter Nicholas Wade's book "Beyond the Dawn" which was enthusiastically endorsed by Post columnist Richard Cohen.

    Evolution has proceeded apace since the ice age, leading to substantial differences between inhabitants of different continents; and likely even to significant differences between the geographically isolated English-Irish-Welch-Scots and the socially isolated Jews and other nearby peoples.

  3. Robert Forbes
    April 9, 2007, 1:23 pm

    This is a great topic on which I hope there is some fruitful discussion among the many posts that this issue should attract.

    I believe that large segments of our global society are finally moving beyond race as a dividing issue. The main force that is making racism go away is, quite simply, the prevalence of racial blending that has resulted in success stories such as Mssrs. Obama and Woods among others. The success of these role models in their fields have in turn made racial blending socially acceptable to most educated people of the world, and that acceptability also tends to be stronger among our youth, as you noted. This trend shows that as a species, we humans continue to evolve socially as well as in other ways, and that to me is very encouraging in terms of our chances for surviving on this planet.

    Anyone who has studied world history should recognize what a huge turning point this kind of social acceptance represents for the future of the human race. It is an attitude and outlook that is largely unprecedented in most societies throughout history, and it makes the evolutionary argument presented by Commenter #2 largely a non-issue for the future, even though his comments are historically and scientifically accurate as far as I know.

    So how does today's "blurring of the races" affect our separate and unique cultural identities and ethnicities, as alluded to by Commenter # 1? That's an interesting question and worth debating in my opinion. I think it will relegate a lot of our ethnic (and potentially even our religious) differences to history. When you look at all the atrocities that have been committed in the name of ethnic superiority and/or religion, I'd say that day couldn't come too soon.

  4. Lynn
    April 9, 2007, 1:25 pm

    Fuck off Nazi pig!

  5. Sue
    April 9, 2007, 3:50 pm

    If race doesn't matter why do they want to know it on job and college applications?

  6. Reader from Germany
    April 9, 2007, 4:20 pm

    @Robert Forbes:

    An example for racial considerations still influencing people in high places, reportedly Eva Mendes was chosen for the female lead in the movie "Hitch" because the producers thought it would be unsuitable if Will Smith had some white chick to set his nasty eyes on.


    This blurring not only of the races, but of different social backgrounds in general will in many cases lead to some kind of identity loss. I can't say wether this is in general a good thing or not. But I want to let everybody have the freedom of prefering to live with people of his social background.

    As long as nobody proclaims his identity superior over others (you're totally right on the issue of having a history full of havoc wrought in the name of superiority), in my view he has the right to maintain his identity and not let it be blurred beyond recognition. Of course just as long as this identity doesn't collide with basic human rights. Saying it is your identity to cripple all girls or all boys is criminal for example.

  7. Robert Forbes
    April 9, 2007, 10:26 pm

    Sue – Race & gender certainly do matter on college and employment applications as you point out, but that's almost solely because of society's efforts to recover the ground we've lost to the racial and gender inequalities of the past. But recover it we will, and in this increasingly "flat" world, I expect neither gender nor race to be of much concern to college or jobs by the end of this century.

    As to our identities, German Reader, I would rather my identity be tied to my own personality and character rather than some kind of ancestral baggage others may want to saddle me with. And I'd rather choose my friends among people with a variety of backgrounds and thought processes rather than some homogeneous social or ethnic agenda that I'm conforming to for no known reason other than tradition.

    Most of our prejudices today have little to do with race and much more to do with social class. Personally, I doubt those prejudices will change much, any more than the prejudices we bear against people whom we consider upon first glance to be unattractive or who make us uncomfortable in some way. The Internet has become somewhat of an equalizer in that respect, or at least, buys us a little time while we try to express our true colors with these words…

  8. LanceThruster
    April 10, 2007, 3:53 am

    No comment yet other than glad to have found your new site. Good to see you in print again Philip.

  9. Reader from Germany
    April 10, 2007, 8:08 am

    @Robert Forbes:

    "As to our identities, German Reader, I would rather my identity be tied to my own personality and character rather than some kind of ancestral baggage others may want to saddle me with."

    Me too, me too. I'm actually of Indian heritage, but I do not feel myself strongly associated with other people of that heritage. I do feel myself associated with people I like from whatever background they have, just like you do.

    I'm just saying that I'm not that much offended by someone who says he wants to have a white wife or whatever, as long as he doesn't beat up non-whites.

    So I don't have a problem myself with this blurring of identity, but I think others have and to some extent I think they have the right to feel that way.

  10. Robert Hume
    April 10, 2007, 9:44 am

    It's pretty clear that there is a lot of self-segregation of the races.

    There is no legal reason in most towns why whites and blacks live in different parts of town, but they do.

    For example, Prince George's County near DC has morphed from almost all white to almost all black.

    North West DC (DC is the most liberal jurisdiction in the US) is almost all white, while the rest of DC is almost all black.

    It has been extensively shown by Monte-Carlo statistical simulation that if persons want to live immediately surrounded by 50% or more of people of their own race that this will lead a completely mixed population inexorably to solid blocks of single races.

    Most people would think that someone willing to have 50% neighbors of a different race was fairly progressive, I think.

  11. Reader from Germany
    April 10, 2007, 12:20 pm

    "There is no legal reason in most towns why whites and blacks live in different parts of town"

    What with financial reasons?

  12. Robert Forbes
    April 10, 2007, 1:13 pm

    Yes German Reader, I agree it's economics by and large that dicate who lives where, which feeds into my prior statement that our prevailing prejudices are not about color or race — they are all about money, which is the primary factor that governs social class. The only color that really matters, in the U.S. at least, is GREEN.

  13. Anonymous
    April 10, 2007, 1:15 pm

    Another good example Phil may add is Lewis Hamilton, the Formula One MacLaren's driver.

    Low class people have an imperative to maximize solidarity, that's why race is a key factor there, more so than precision at clubbing golf balls. Living in a third world race-mixed country myself, I can assure you american liberals are people devoid of understanding of the real world. Unfortunately while unaware of their own extreme prejudices they also seem to think society is no more than the byproduct of their own careful choices of friends in friday night parties.

    Looking from afar the only purpose there seems to exist in the coverage of race in american media is the pouring of scorn upon white people. One must admit it's all a form of endless blackmail with no connection whatsoever with "recovery of ground lost to inequalities". Of course that's not the point raised by mr. Forbes, to whom I shall reply it's a sad fact that were all professional categories to create their own "bar exams" then affirmative action would be seen for what it really is: a means to cruelly waste somewhat intelligent black youngsters who otherwise might have done pretty well at technician level, and a way to thwart the advancement of low class whites to a deserving upgrade in their hopes for the future.

  14. Robert Hume
    April 10, 2007, 5:56 pm

    Responding to Reader from Germany: Financial reasons do not explain the self-segregation. There are many very expensive houses occupied by blacks in Prince George's County, in North East DC, and in Anacostia. These folks could live anywhere in the DC metropolitan community but overwhelmingly chose to live in high-majority white areas.

    And there are low-cost Hispanic enclaves within white blocks where it will be noted that almost no blacks live.

    It's clearly race, not wealth.

  15. Robert Hume
    April 10, 2007, 5:58 pm

    Sorry: mistake in last line of first paragraph above… should say "high-majority black areas".

  16. Reader from Germany
    April 10, 2007, 10:22 pm

    @Robert Hume:

    What you say only proves that race is also an issue, but not that money isn't an issue at all.

  17. Robert Forbes
    April 11, 2007, 5:52 am

    I think Mr. Hume and Reader from Germany both have valid arguments on these issues regarding how race and money affect the segregation in our lives. I think we all segregate our lives to some degree to maintain some perception of order and security. This segregation is a combination of choice and social standing, both of which are dictated primarily by discretionary wealth. The choices that people with African, Asian, Hispanic, Caucasian, etc. ancestries to live with people "of their own kind" have much more to do with culture, tradition, and social class than with some definition of race. "Crossovers" by choice are also accepted in practically all sub-groups of today's society, as long you have the money or fame to grease the skids!

  18. Sue
    April 11, 2007, 5:15 pm

    Why aren't Jewish schools racially diverse? When I see these children playing they all look the same color to me especially the wealthier schools.

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