What is a Racist?

DadfroI found the case of Rachel Dolezal, the former head of the Spokane, Washington branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) who allowed people to believe she was Black for many years when she was actually White very interesting on a personal level.

The photo I have used to illustrate this blog is my favorite picture of my dad. It was probably taken around 1974, when we lived in Nairobi, Kenya. That is not a perm. That is his natural hair. It’s grey now, and not as much of a ‘fro, but it’s still pretty much the same.

My grandmother, my dad’s mom, had the same sort of hair, although she worked hard to make it look straight. The story passed down in the family is that this hair was because our ancestry included “curly headed Indians.” Only later did I learn that there are no “curly headed Indians.”

The most likely explanation is that someone, not too many generations back in my family was “passing.” In America, you were – and still often are – defined as Black if you had any African ancestry at all. If you were Black it meant you were denied many of the advantages afforded to people who were defined as White. People with African ancestry whose features and skin tone allowed them to deny their African ancestry often did so. If you could pull it off, you got to live in better neighborhoods, go to better schools, get better jobs and blend in with the privileged classes.

Two different times in my life I have lived in places where being defined as a White person meant I was part of a minority. In Nairobi, I got used to the fact that most of the people around me were Black. The police were Black, the politicians were Black, the celebrities were mostly Black. I was in Africa. That made perfect sense. A number of years later I moved to Japan. Comedians in Japan like to put on blond wigs and big rubber noses, do funny nasally voices, and pretend to be White people. I was denied housing at a number of apartments I applied to rent because I was White. In Japan you don’t even have to make excuses about that. It’s perfectly legal.

But I also spent a lot of my growing-up years in Wadsworth, Ohio, an Akron suburb so White that neither my high school graduating class nor the ones before or after mine had any Black people at all. Not even one. You could use the word “nigger” in that town with total impunity, without fear that anyone would call you on it. But I never did. I found it disgusting and stupid. Many of the people I heard use that word when I was in high school had probably never encountered a real Black person in their lives.

My outlook on matters of race may be a little different from most folks who can check off the “Caucasian” box on their census forms. People who don’t know my background take a look at me and assume I’m just a regular White guy and treat me accordingly. In America, that’s usually to my advantage.

I find the subject of race and racism fascinating. I’ve noticed that there is a strong movement in the US these days to define the word “racist” as broadly as possible. The definition has become so broad sometimes that it seems like everyone is a racist. Which means that no one is a racist.

To me, you’re not a racist because you’re a white person who gets nervous when you’re in a convenience store late at night and a male Black teenager in a hoodie walks in. As human beings, we are biologically programmed to try to determine who is in our tribe and who is not. We feel nervous when confronted with those who are outside of our tribe because we do not know if they might also see us as outside of their tribe and therefore be a danger to us.

To me, you are a racist when you take that biological programming and build it up into a complex narrative about superiority and inferiority. You’re a racist when you refuse to engage with anyone outside of your race. You’re a racist when you join with others who share your narrative and together you spend your energy reinforcing the collective ideology of superiority and hatred.

I’ve been seeing a lot of articles bemoaning the phenomenon of “white fragility” when it comes to racism. It is said that we Whites – if I may be so bold as to call myself one – refuse to even listen when told about all of our privileges and our unconscious racism. But I wonder if maybe Whites are so fragile because the definition of racism has changed too much.

I really think we should restrict the word “racist” to cases where people are consciously and deliberately promoting an ideology of superiority/inferiority based on skin color. We shouldn’t be calling people “racists” because, like Louis C.K. said on SNL, they walk into a pizza place, see it’s run by four black women and go, “Hmm.”

Real racists are dangerous, nasty, stupid people. They should be shunned, marginalized, and restricted. When they are police officers and they use their authority to oppress those they consider to be of inferior races we should remove them from service.

But there are also White folks who grew up in places like Wadsworth, Ohio where genuine racism is the accepted norm, who are trying to overcome the prejudices they were raised in but maybe they haven’t quite gotten there just yet. It’s unfair to label them with a word that lumps them in with Nazis, Klansmen, and the asshole who shot up that church in Charleston last week. Of course they’re not going to want to hear that.

That doesn’t mean everything is fine as it is. That doesn’t mean I think racism is over in America. That doesn’t mean we should not try to get better. It just means that I think the word “racist” is far too strong to be applied as broadly as it is often applied in America today.

I don’t feel like I’m going to win this argument, though. I’ve yet to hear anyone else make it (though I might have missed it of they did). Maybe there are sociologists already working on this. But outside of academia we’re calling all sorts of people “racists” who, I think, really don’t deserve it – even if they (we) do need to work on their attitudes. At least if we’re not going to start being more selective about applying the word “racist” maybe we can be a little more understanding about why so few people appreciate being labeled as one.


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107 Responses

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  1. sfigato
    sfigato June 22, 2015 at 2:34 pm |

    Thank you for the post. My issue with the way we use the word “racist” is that it has become akin to labeling someone a rapist or pedophile. It is a word that makes you an awful, awful person unlike any of us in polite society. And so no one wants to be labeled that, so everyone denies that they are racist or there is racism, and nothing gets solved. But just because you aren’t drugging women and having sex with them doesn’t mean that you can’t do things that are sexist or misogynist – it’s not a binary thing, and being generally a good guy doesn’t mean you can’t also be a racist, sexist jerk at times. Also, “racism” is often used to shut down conversations or completely dismiss people – they get labeled “racist,” as if it is a permanent trait that taints everything they’ll ever do. And sometimes it is, and sometimes people are just being jerks, or being ignorant, and they can change. Part of the push back that you get with white people against concepts like “micro-aggressions” etc. is not wanting to be lumped into this category of the evil, hood-wearing, swastika-sporting racist, not because we are privileged crybabies but because we know it isn’t accurate, and we know how that word has been weaponized. Maybe one step is focusing on labeling behavior as racist rather than people, unless they are actual card-carrying, confederate flag waving racists.

  2. Yoshiyahu
    Yoshiyahu June 22, 2015 at 3:04 pm |

    I think a lot of this is the same general issue as with arguing about whether Buddhism is a religion. We’re dealing with a question of labeling more than anything e,se.

    You want to make racism dependent upon there being personally-held racist views by individuals before they are labeled racists, but your question is actually what is Racism, not Who are Racists. And a lot of Racism is supported and furthered by people who have a sort of soft racism, rather than the hard stuff of the KKK or Stormfront. There are many people who hold racist views who aren’t aware that they are racist views. Many racists will deny that they believe that Blacks are inferior to whites. But they’ll justify disproportionately higher rates of incarcerated Black men by claiming that Black culture is defective, that Black people are rasised to live on government assistance and to be lazy, etc etc. When these attitudes are questioned, they’ll bring out their favorite conservative Black person saying something negative about poor Blacks, and point to some Black people behaving in a manner more agreeable to them. You can argue that well, they can’t be racists, because they don’t think they’re being racist, but that is kind of irrelevant, because the damage done through these ideas being spread and enforced is the same.

    I think there’s a continuum of racism, and that the folks you think of as racist are on one end, and that there isn’t a bright shining line you suddenly cross and then suddenly become racist.

    However, I think it’s probably not productive to call people racist, just like telling white people they are Privileged seldom results in anything productive.

  3. Jinzang
    Jinzang June 22, 2015 at 6:30 pm |

    “Real racists are dangerous, nasty, stupid people. They should be shunned, marginalized, and restricted.”

    No, like everyone, they should be treated with kindness and respect. You put it nicely, yourself:

    “To have no rank means you not only don’t regard anyone as your superior, but you don’t regard anyone as your inferior either.”

    1. lukeman
      lukeman June 23, 2015 at 9:10 am |

      I agree. What happens to a person when he/she is “shunned, marginalized, and restricted”? It pushes that person away. To deal with dualistic and destructive beliefs and attitudes, we have to open up.

      Over the years I have met a few individuals who have been involved with racist organizations. One of the things I have noticed is the amount of shame they carry with them. This shame can drive them right back into the ranks of those groups that they no longer want to be part of. Of course, they are worried that their racist baggage defines them in the eyes of others, and they seem shocked when they realize anyone is capable of still being compassionate towards them. And I think it makes it easier for them to examine their beliefs, fears and hate. Which makes it more likely that they will let some if it go.

      Brad’s article refers to the introduction Louis CK gave on SNL. CK got a lot of flack for his discussion of pedophiles. He suggested in that monologue and during previous standup performances that demonizing pedophiles does not actually make the situation better. People such as counselors and religious teachers who do work with prisoners probably understand this well: marginalizing and demonizing a person only promotes destructive emotions and behavior.

  4. anon 108
    anon 108 June 22, 2015 at 6:32 pm |

    There’s racism and there’s prejudice. I’m know I’m prejudiced but I only admit it to people I believe I can trust, for fear of being labelled racist. My prejudice extends to just about any recognisable, identifiable group of people. But the most prevalent and problematic prejudice in Europe and the USA is the prejudice of white people (me) against black people…

    When I worked in a criminal law firm I could predict with 80%-ish accuracy which racial/ethnic group was responsible for which crime as news of arrests came into the office. Theft (partic. shoplifting): white males. Robbery (theft with use or threat of violence): Afro-Carribeans. Fraud: Nigerians. Domestic Burglary: white British. Murder (most often gang-related in London): Afro-Carribeans. There were exceptions.

    Some people say that figures, and hence perceptions, are distorted by arrests reflecting institutional police racism. My experience doesn’t bear that out. Witness/victim reports don’t bear that out. The fact is that young black males, despite being a small percentage of the population, are/were disproportionately responsible for a great deal of violent crime in London and other urban centres (less so now than was the case 10/20 years ago). When Brad was mugged, he was mugged by young black men. When I was robbed at knife point…young black men. Significant numbers of young black men are/were trouble.

    Of course there are reasons for this state of affairs. There are reasons for everything. But whether inherited, socially conditioned or both, general racial/ethnic/tribal characteristics exist and express themselves in positive ways and negative ways. You can’t blame people for noticing and fearing the negative.

    Here’s a black person talking about ‘Niggaz’ in the USA in 1996. Things are not so different in the UK, except we’re not allowed to be honest about it…the white community that is; the black community is facing up.


    (I have one black friend who I’ve known a long time and like a lot. I see him only when we bump into each other on the street. We talk about life, poetry, cricket. I have never visited his home and he hasn’t visited mine for 30 years.)

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 22, 2015 at 6:38 pm |

      I can see my post starting with

      “Warning: sprintf() [function.sprintf]: Too few arguments in /home/content/98/10537698/html/hardcorezen/wp-content/plugins/simple-comment-editing/index.php on line 153”.

      Can anyone else see that? I can’t edit it out. Is somone trying to tell me something?

      1. mb
        mb June 22, 2015 at 6:48 pm |

        Nope, can’t see nothin’.

        As far as “Is someone trying to tell me something?”

        Yes, you are being criticized for having “Too few arguments”. I think this is a subtle attempt on the part of the independent AI entity behind this blog to incite more violence and racism.. Let’s have more arguments. We are being commanded to do so. We will obey….

        1. anon 108
          anon 108 June 22, 2015 at 6:54 pm |

          What – you can’t see a post at all? Or you can’t see my “too few arguments” warning?

          The post starts “There’s racism and there’s prejudice. I’m know I’m prejudiced but I only admit it to people I believe I can trust, for fear of being labelled racist.” It then gets seriously argumentative and controversial. Honest.

          1. Fred
            Fred June 22, 2015 at 7:05 pm |

            Warning: sprintf() [function.sprintf]: Too few arguments in /home/content/98/10537698/html/hardcorezen/wp-content/plugins/simple-comment-editing/index.php on line 666

            Geez, I never noticed that before. I better generate some arguments.

            OK I don’t agree with you about this race thing. It’s just not right.

          2. mb
            mb June 22, 2015 at 7:08 pm |

            I see the post – it looks normal. I don’t see any of the computer code that you reported. The computer gods are trying to tell you something. Waiter, can you please bring us some more arguments! Thank you.

          3. Fred
            Fred June 22, 2015 at 7:12 pm |

            Warning: sprintf() [function.sprintf]: Too few arguments in /home/content/98/10537698/html/hardcorezen/wp-content/plugins/simple-comment-editing/index.php on line 1040 good buddy

            There it is again. Damn.

            I think that it’s obvious that Rachel Dolezal is a hot black woman, and the ugly white people are trying to frame her.

          4. anon 108
            anon 108 June 22, 2015 at 7:15 pm |

            Yeah, reloaded, it looks normal to me now too. Thanks. mb.

            Excellent point, Fred!

  5. Fred
    Fred June 22, 2015 at 7:17 pm |

    Warning: sprintf() [function.sprintf]: Too few arguments in /home/content/98/10537698/html/hardcorezen/wp-content/plugins/simple-comment-editing/index.i’d.like.an.argument.please

    There it is again.


  6. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 22, 2015 at 7:46 pm |

    “Don’t hate the black, don’t hate the white, if you get bitten, just hate the bite.”


    “We got to live together.”

  7. Shinchan Ohara
    Shinchan Ohara June 22, 2015 at 7:59 pm |

    There’s something real messed up about the way identity politics works. Whether it’s race, or immigration, or religious background, or sexuality, or gender identity, or social class, or whatever. The pattern just always seems to go like this:

    1) A section of a society get discriminated against because of something different about them (call it X).
    2) The X-people suffer in silence for a while, try to hide their X-ness where possible. They may feel powerless and ashamed to be X.
    3) At last, they come together to highlight the discrimination and campaign for respect and equality. They begin to take pride in their X-ness.
    4) Over time, and through a difficult struggle, a majority of non-X people come to support the demands of the X people, discrimination against X becomes taboo, and maybe illegal.
    5) A minority of non-X’s refuse to give up their prejudices: these bigoted people are now ostracized by the majority of society. Everyone adopts a new word for X-haters [x-ist, x-phobe, miso-x-ist] … being one makes you a social reject.

    [After that, you might hope that X-ness would gradually become a non-issue in public life. Life would be uncomfortable for X-haters, and they’d gradually die out. But no, what happens is…]

    6) Some of the X’s have an investment in being a persecuted minority: either because they’ve become leaders of the X community, with perks; or because it’s an excuse to not deal with other issues in their life.
    7) The career X’s attack other X’s who are too eager to integrate with the general community, and who don’t identify with their X-ness enough. A new reject-word is found for them [Uncle Y, plastic X, X traitor].
    8) X-haters use the actions of the career X’s to ‘prove’ that the X community doesn’t really want equality. The haters say that X’s hate non-X’s, and that the X’s are exploiting their protected status to gain unfair advantage.
    9) The majority of X’s and non-X’s don’t really believe that X-ness should be a factor in who they choose as friends, colleagues, lovers, etc.anymore – and want to co–exist and mingle. But mostly it doesn’t happen, because they’re all afraid to get labelled with a reject-word.
    10) This situation persists for generations.

    Humans are duuuuummmb!

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara June 22, 2015 at 8:08 pm |

      How long til there’s a new multi-reject word to cover Rachel? Or maybe it will just be, ‘you dirty dolezal’

    2. buddy
      buddy June 22, 2015 at 9:42 pm |

      I’m going to make an assumption here, which if I’m wrong please forgive me: you’re implying that #5 is where the U.S. is basically at, what with segregation etc being made illegal and outright racists like Dylann Roof being condemned even by social Neanderthals like Mitt Romney. And that 6-10 describe all the contentious black people who just won’t take responsibility for their lives.

      But… what your whole scenario fails to take into consideration (as does Brad’s post to a significant degree) is the whole notion of systemic racism which creates white privilege which renders non-black people from appreciating that what they can dismiss as having ‘an investment in being a persecuted minority’ or ‘an excuse to not deal with other issues in their life’ is just the way that the cards are stacked in their favor and against people of colour.

      Which is not to say that identity politics is not a way more complex issue than that, and that there aren’t individuals who take advantage of it. But it’s an exceptional thing, and not the overarching situation as your model would suggest.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 5:10 am |

        Hi Buddy, I’m not making any assumptions about the race situation in the US. In fact, I’m not qualified to even discuss that: I should have made that clear. I live in Britain, although I lived for a while in the US, and other countries in the past. I’d say that Britain is probably close to what I’d call #5 in terms of how racism is treated.

        I have seen the pattern I was describing over the years in various different identity politics, not just race. In some of those cases, I would have been seen by myself or society as part of the minority (X) group, sometimes I would have been part of the majority. I’ve also been in situations where I’ve been attacked by members of my own community for being integrated into the mainstream of society, and not believing that every non-X was a persecutor.

        Forgive my ignorance: what is systemic racism? I mean, how is it actually manifested, how does it affect the life of Black person in the US?

        My own experience has always been that when a person is prejudiced against me, but I choose to treat them consistently with respect and kindness, despite their prejudice, they usually come around, and we can get on well, even form a friendship, or do business. People respond better when you don’t relate to them as the enemy.

        But maybe something about systemic racism prevents that? I genuinely don’t know. If it does, and it’s a good description of the current situation, what steps can be taken to change it?

        1. buddy
          buddy June 23, 2015 at 7:47 am |

          Shinchan, thanks for your gracious response to my assumptions.
          Here are a few links that may answer some of your questions, from people more informed and articulate on the subject than I am.




        2. mtto
          mtto June 23, 2015 at 9:03 am |

          There are racist policies built in to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. American housing and mortgage policy has had racism built in to it since the New Deal.

          An employee at Housing and Urban Development in 1980 might not think racist thoughts, but would still be implementing racist policies, probably without thinking about it or really understanding the implications, even a black employee. That is systematic racism.

          George Romney (Mitt’s dad) tried to turn things around during the Nixon administration, without Nixon’s approval. When the mayors of cities across the country complained, Nixon forced him out.

  8. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 22, 2015 at 9:08 pm |

    Brad’s got some brother! Last I checked, an amazing percentage of Americans have some brother or some first nations somewhere in their background (except Rachel, apparently- has she had her DNA tested, she might be able to claim more than identification as black, although those freckles seem to indicate otherwise).

    I like thinking that everybody may be hiding a small percentage of everybody else in their blood; it makes all the prejudice seem like a simple mistake in understanding, like, oh, didn’t anybody tell you?- and it makes my family the entire country.

    I think it’s becoming increasingly clear, though, that we have a problem with young men who drop out of society, drop into web surfing, find conspiracy theories that justify their lack of social skills and restore a sense of purpose and belonging, and are given guns or access to guns by their parents.

  9. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 22, 2015 at 9:12 pm |

    Hope you survive, anon 108. It’s probably not helpful for me to say, but we want video (or at least audio)! 😉

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 23, 2015 at 5:33 am |

      Thanks, Mark. I’ll get by somehow : ) Yes, I want video, too. I believe someone is bringing a camera…

  10. Michel
    Michel June 23, 2015 at 12:15 am |

    There is prejudice and there is “post-judice”.
    What Malcolm (Anon 108) is mentioning is rather “post-judice”, because it’s AFTER observation. I also observe that, about 500 meters away from my place, where the North African community is concentrated, the normal rules of correct behaviour do not apply. Heath inspectors need not check the conditions of food outlets (for fear of being threatened and persecuted), policemen need not insist against double file parking in a heavily circulated road, etc.
    It’s annoying, and some friends living in one of the equivalent zones in Paris tell me that girls ought even to be not too elegant in those boroughs for fear of being hassled.
    If I state this, I shall be immediately branded as “racist”. And the general trend, now, is that you can’t even criticise Islam as a religion, being that also considered as “racist” (you may criticise Catholicism, Calvinism, etc., but not Islam).
    Someone once said that “Everything that’s exaggerated is insignificant”. That ought to be the rule.
    But we forget one important element: European culture took a decidedly important turn in the Middle Ages when, with the support of the more enlightened elements of the Church, a culture of deference and gentleness towards women was developed. Just take some brutally fearsome warriors (just try to wave a three pounds sword for hours in battle…), men that had biceps big as my thighs (all right, I only weigh 80kg), and tell them that the ultimate in good manners and elegance was to be considerate with women, that flirting with them yet in a perfectly chaste manner was the best in society (you can read some hair raising tales of vengeance for cheating, see Gesualdo), and that has had a tremendous influence on our general behaviour.
    Africans have an exceedingly macho culture, and although women are the entreprising ones in Western Africa, Western Africans still display a pronounced machism in everyday life. So do Northern Africans with a more pronounced still negative attitude towards women.
    There you see how culture, and internal culture influences people. Macho cultures tend to privilege violence, period. It’s not a matter of race. It’s a matter of civilisation (strictly etymologically speaking).

    1. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 10:53 am |

      Michel, I agree with a lot of that… but like I often do, I feel I must intervene on the side of nature, as opposed to nurture/culture.

      Your idea that Europeans developed the ideal of courtly, genteel, chivalrous love – as opposed to barbarous rape and misogyny, is incorrect. The ideals of chastity and respect for the idealised Lady by the courteous Gentleman, arrived in Europe via the Arab world: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troubadour#Etymology_of_name

      … before that, European manly culture was all about brutality and capturing sex slaves. The word ‘slave’ comes from the Slavs, who the Frankish emperors were always capturing to sell as serfs. And even after Europe adopted the Arab ideal of respect for women, there is little evidence that it was put into practice beyond romantic poetry.

      If North African cultures today are macho and misogynist, can we ignore their history of colonisation and exploitation by Turks, French, British, etc?

      It has been observed in other social mammals, and in other species of ape, that when a group is stressed, social hierarchies are strictly enforced and aggression and frustration are transferred from more dominant animals to less dominant ones: males assault females, and females assault the offspring of other females.

      We are not simply apes, but I think it is foolish to believe that our cultural forms and language have more effect on how we behave than the instincts that developed over millions of years.

      When acceptance and kindness are expected – aggressive behaviours become unnecessary, and culture will change automatically, over time. Cultural conflict just perpetuates hostility and hatred.

  11. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 23, 2015 at 4:00 am |

    Some prejudice is based on personal observations of behavior that was caused by previous decades (or even centuries) of prejudice, discrimination, and racism.
    When people of a particular race or ethnicity are more likely to be unemployed because of widespread prejudice and systematic racism, those people are more likely to commit robberies, commit burglaries, sell illegal drugs, etc. They are not more prone to crime because of their race or ethnicity, they are more prone to unemployment because of discrimination against their race or ethnicity, which can lead to illegal methods for obtaining money and material possessions, which can eventually lead to criminal subcultures dominated by particular racial and ethnic groups.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 23, 2015 at 5:04 am |

      I’m sure there’s some truth in what you say, TGC.

      But where does the initial prejudice come from? A hard-wired tribal fear of strangers? Very likely. But then why do some strangers react to the host community’s fear and prejudice differently from others?

      Why have significant numbers of the descendants of the Afro-Carribean community that arrived in Britain in the 50s (no slavery to blame there, not then) reacted aggressively, criminally, to the prejudice they and their parents faced?

      When Jews arrived in Western Europe and America in the late 19th/early 20th century they also faced discrimination, but – by and large – didn’t resort to criminality or violence. Neither, by and large, have more recent immigrants from the Indian sub-continent. Why do we find so many first-generation descendants of poor Oriental immigrants doing well in Western Universities – and playing the violin so nicely? Have they not been subject to racism/prejudice? Is it a different kind of prejudice? Why might that be?

      What causes the prejudice in the first place? Why does it – and the reaction to it – differ so much, I wonder.

      1. Shinchan Ohara
        Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 7:35 am |

        Hi anon 108,

        I’m always reluctant to get into this type of discussion, because it’s so easy to cause offence, either by over-generalising or by being ignorant of important factors. But I sometimes dive in anyway, for no better reason than I find it interesting.

        I’ll take you up on a couple of your questions:

        “descendants of the Afro-Caribbean community that arrived in Britain in the 50s (no slavery to blame there, not then) reacted aggressively, criminally, to the prejudice they and their parents faced?”

        …Maybe because they have a cultural memory of being enslaved by British whites (only a few generations back)? Being a slave is going to tarnish anybody’s attitude to the concept of ‘work’. If I’d been a slave labourer, I’d likely equate freedom with leisure, and see living by peaceful employment as only a step up from slavery, and living by armed robbery as justified ‘payback’ to the ‘oppressor’, and pass these attitudes to my kids, even unwittingly. Also, Afro-Caribbeans in the UK had arrived in ‘Babylon’: the home of the empire that had originally enslaved them, and kept their countries as colonial possessions post-slavery. So it would have been an enormous step for them to accept complete cultural assimilation in Britain. Add to that the well-publicised civil rights struggle in the US, and the Independence movements in Africa, the rise of Black Consciousness, around the same time – small wonder many 2nd generation Afro-Caribbeans didn’t have much ambition to become respectable Englishmen.

        (Pre-war) Eastern European Jews had a history of oppression in their countries of origin, but the new country (USA, Britain, France) had played no part in this: they could see the new country as a land of opportunity. Also, the tactic of ‘passing’ as an assimilated citizen of the destination country was more available to European Jewish immigrants, than it ever could be to someone of African appearance. (without discounting the huge prejudices faced by Jewish immigrants). So fitting in peacefully was a more viable strategy.

        I suspect that for many Oriental (Chinese, Vietnamese) immigrant families, the recent cultural memory is of apocalyptic-scale tragedy: mass starvation; mass murder; forced labour. If that’s true, I’d speculate that they self-enforce a culture of panic – an unconscious belief that if their children don’t utterly excel and over-achieve, they’ll starve. If the unspoken, felt impression that a child receives from her parents is, “we’ll all die horribly unless you you get a PhD from Cambridge”, you betcha she’ll excel at school. Massive trauma leaves a trans-generational adverse effect on the nervous system – words and culture can just accelerate healing, or retard it, imho. I know a few third generation Chinese guys. They’ve moved up the Maslowian hierarchy of needs towards ‘self-actualisation’: they cruise about in fast cars their parents bought them, smoke pot and chase girls, and don’t work too hard at all.

        “What causes the prejudice in the first place? Why does it — and the reaction to it — differ so much, I wonder.”

        I’m convinced that we all respond to other people viscerally first, and culturally second. If I’m healthy, secure and relaxed, I find the company of desperate, angry people disturbing – and then I look to rationalise the experience, maybe in terms of race. For example, I have a general expectation that young 2nd/3rd generation Pakistani-origin males who live near me will be up-tight and hostile, which is based on a lot of experiences. I can see that my reactive wariness is unproductive, and if I can manage to work against it, things work out better.

        That’s why I’d say that in these situations, progress depends on members of both the majority and the minority group being able to resist the temptation to ‘otherize’ people they meet. The attitude, “I’m the victim here, so only the other guy has to change his behaviours” may have some moral justification, but it will never work to solve racism: if I’m prickly, I’ll be disliked – it’s about biology, not ethics.

        1. anon 108
          anon 108 June 23, 2015 at 7:40 am |

          Shinchan – I’m just rushing out the door. Read you later!

        2. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 7:48 am |

          A small salient point that I left out of that rant. 1st generation immigrants often have no choice but to keep their heads down and work hard. The next generation are neither immigrants nor completely integrated to the society: so they tend to be a bit schizoid and touchy about their identity, and willing to be vocally angry about the prejudice their parents suffered.

          (Shut up now, Shinchan. Get your own blog if you want to write essays 😉 )

        3. Yoshiyahu
          Yoshiyahu June 23, 2015 at 8:17 am |

          Symptomatic of the many problems in your fact-free speculation is applying Maslow’s theory to groups. In addition, you’re taking Maslow’s heirarchy which is built around individualistic culture and trying to apply to people from more collectivist cultures, and that’s a fail too.

          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 9:15 am |

            Yes, it’s just speculation: that’s why I used expressions like “I’d speculate that…”. Understanding and fact-finding begin with speculation based on prior experience, followed by discussion or experiment. Or can no thought be expressed now until it’s appeared in several peer-reviewed journals?

            I didn’t apply Maslow’s theory to groups: I speculatively applied it to a couple of individuals who I’ve known personally for many years. I mentioned specific behaviours, and suggested that those could be explained in terms of Maslow’s ideas. And those people aren’t part of a “collectivist culture”: they’re live within a western consumerist society. So no, the fail is on you.

            The ultimate fail is the fail of postmodernist idealism, which says that everything people do is cultural and relative. If you cut us we bleed: if you starve us we die: if you traumatise us – we fight back or escape if we feel strong enough, hide or dissociate if we feel too weak. These are universal human realities, culture only partly conditions the response.

            That’s why I like Buddhism: it doesn’t get stuck in idealist-stupid or materialist-stupid.

      2. Yoshiyahu
        Yoshiyahu June 23, 2015 at 7:45 am |

        well, you’re wrong about when Jews arrived in Western Europe. You’re also being rather stupid by lumping in what we used to call “West Indians” with Jews and wondering hmm, what’s to explain the difference in their behavior?!

        Behind a lot of prejudice and bigotry is a laziness and ignorance that is odd to me in this age of Google. Or maybe your google searches took you to conspiracy sites.

        1. Shinchan Ohara
          Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 7:57 am |

          Hi Yoshiyahu, not sure if that’s aimed at me or at anon 108?

          Anon 108 has stated in the past that his mother was a native Yiddish speaker: I bet he has an extremely good understanding of the multiple phases of Jewish immigration into and within Western European countries, over many centuries.

          And why is it “stupid” to compare Jewish immigrants with West Indian immigrants. Of course these two groups have vastly different histories and cultures. Why would that prevent discussion or comparison???

          1. Yoshiyahu
            Yoshiyahu June 26, 2015 at 4:47 pm |

            Well, his mother was a native Yiddish speaker. I guess that means he knows all about when Jews arrived in Western Europe, doesn’t it?

            Fuck, MY Mother is a native Yiddish speaker. I guess that means I TOO have an extremely good understanding of the multiple phases of Jewish immigrtation into AND WITHIN(!) Western Europen Countries. OVER MANY CENTURIES!

            If you want to do a detailed and considered comparison of the immigration and assimilation experiences of Eastern European Jews vs Afro-Carribeans, that’s fine. But throwing those two groups out there as Anon108 does, without any of that detail and context, and wondering why Jews didn’t act “aggressively” and “criminally” like the Afro-Carribeans alledly did… that’s lazy at best. Because first, Jews are well represented in both the UK and US when it comes to criminality and aggression (and to not know this makes me wonder that perhaps your assumption that having a mother who speaks Yiddish may not confer upon one the levels of knowledge and understanding that you think it does). And secondly, the two groups are about as different as one can get when it comes to important factors like the support structure immigrants found when arriving, wealth, culture… not all Jewish immigrants to the UK were wealthy matzoh barons like my ancestors, but even the poorest Jewish immigrant came to the UK with far more in the way of resources than Afro-Carribean immigrants did, and we’re not even touching on the ability to ‘pass’ that became increasingly important for Jews later.

    2. Fred
      Fred June 23, 2015 at 5:09 am |

      Wow, some great deconstructive criticism of culture and identity in this thread.

      And Buddy, Shinchan’s model was born from living the life.

  12. anon 108
    anon 108 June 23, 2015 at 7:06 am |

    So although I’m suggesting that racial/ethnic/national group stereotypes aren’t merely the fanciful inventions of born haters, I also know that ‘there are good and bad in all sorts’ (well done, me!).

    If I believed every black person to be innately and irredeemably stupid, aggressive and prone to criminal behaviour, I’d call myself a racist. But I don’t believe that. Even better, I know from experience that it isn’t true.

    1. Yoshiyahu
      Yoshiyahu June 23, 2015 at 7:51 am |

      i hope you’re being facetious, because arguing that “not ALL [minority group] are [stereotype]” is a standard racist trope. You’re happy with those whose behavior conforms to your demands. Only those who don’t stay in their place get assaulted, arrested, or lynched.

      1. anon 108
        anon 108 June 23, 2015 at 3:46 pm |

        Yes, I’m aware that “not ALL [minority group] are [stereotype]” is a standard racist trope. And so I presented my observation including, parenthetically, a little flippant sarcasm.

        But I wasn’t arguing anything. Neither am I demanding anyone conforms to anything (though it would be nice if everyone got along). I was just trying to clarify why, despite my acknowledged prejudices, I don’t consider myself a racist. If by doing so I’ve invited the accusation “RACIST!” – so be it.

  13. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs June 23, 2015 at 8:22 am |

    Is it just me or do the headlines of racist violence and terrorism in this world fill you with boredom more than anything else? Greed, anger, and delusion have been the universal constants throughout human history and there is no talking your way out of the problem. The arguments on every side are consistently boring, predictable, and useless. Of course if you admit this to other people you’re labeled as being selfish. You can recommend zazen as some kind of cure, but again, that will be viewed as self-serving to most people out there. I do believe the best social engagement in regards to Buddhism is non-engagement through self-cultivation. But of course, doing zazen doesn’t draw so many headlines, and Buddhist leaders do love being in the headlines every now and then.

    1. buddy
      buddy June 23, 2015 at 8:41 am |


      Yes it’s just you.

      You’re equating zazen with a quietism which at best fails to integrate one’s practice into daily life/the ‘real world’ and at worst justifies apathy and therefore passive endorsement of instances of injustice, violence, and oppression which, while maybe being ultimately unsolvable are at least capable of being addressed and ameliorated in some small ways.

    2. Shinchan Ohara
      Shinchan Ohara June 23, 2015 at 8:49 am |

      Used-rugs, Used-rugs.

      Arguing against arguments: a double bind.

      Sit zazen,
      on zafus,
      and bind-mending rugs.

  14. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs June 23, 2015 at 8:51 am |

    Quietism? Perhaps. Some times you have to be quiet for a while before you can help anyone. The Buddha didn’t leave his life of luxury and go and join the Peace Corps right off the bat. He did years of “quiet” meditation first.

    1. buddy
      buddy June 23, 2015 at 10:28 am |

      By Quietism I was referring to the specific belief system, named after a heretical movement in Catholicism but not limited to any spiritual tradition, that says that all we need do is remove ourselves from the world and meditate in a totally passive way that excuses us from our intellectual, moral, and social responsibilities. Of course I believe periods of silence (daily and extended) are of great value, or I wouldn’t be reading a zen blog in the first place.

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 23, 2015 at 9:27 am |

    He did spend a lot of years under a tree, for which pursuit, since he was no longer an ascetic, he must have had support from the people of a local village.

    Takes a village to raise a Buddha.

    He spoke often of the virtues of the Aryan race, although the order was open to members of any caste (just not those with mobility or other challenges).

    There are sermons in the Pali Canon where he expressed misogynistic views.

    At one point, his teaching led scores of monks a day to commit suicide. No wonder Brahmins feared for their sons to become followers of the Gautamid; besides, the Brahmins despised begging.

    I think it’s important to focus on Gautama’s teachings concerning his own way of life, and separate them from his pronouncements regarding morality, reincarnation and the social order. He was a superstitious a-hat who came up with the equivalent of the calculus, in the abstraction of the theory of zazen, but as we’ve seen scientists can adopt eugenics as easily as anyone else.

    The Gautamid was a racist, if we go by his constant references to the Aryan race. I think we need to focus on the calculus outside of particular cultural and religious heritages; there is a well-being in zazen, but the context matters, and the more we have to appeal to faith the deeper the doo-doo. IMHO.

    1. minkfoot
      minkfoot June 23, 2015 at 10:53 am |

      The Gautamid was a racist, if we go by his constant references to the Aryan race.

      How so, Mark? I doubt “Aryan” meant anything to him like it meant to Himmler.

      Did “Aryan” come to mean “noble” because Aryans conquered the locals and became the aristocracy, or did the aristocracy claim their ancestors were Aryan (i.e.: “noble”) in the same way many Native American peoples called themselves by their term for “human beings”? In either case, it seems to me the Shaky sage was usually not referencing his genetic kin and forebears when he used the term, but as “noble”, “commendable”, “praiseworthy”. As corroboration, consider how he used the word “Brahmin” to describe people who may or may not have been of the caste.

      You call the protagonist of the Brahmajala Sutta “superstitious”?

    2. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon June 23, 2015 at 11:31 am |

      Buddha must have been a racist. Why else would he get a swastika tattoo?

    3. mtto
      mtto June 23, 2015 at 11:36 am |

      One of the Buddha’s teaching tools was repurposing words. Someone would ask “how can I become Aryan (noble)?” or “how can I go to heaven?” and he would turn the question around to mean what he wanted to teach, rather than the literal meaning the questioner had in mind.

      It is just flat out wrong to interpret the “Arya” in “four noble truths” as a call for white supremacy.

      The Assalayana Sutta is the Buddha dismantling the caste system in debate. The caste system was and is similar to our race system. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the author of the Indian constitution, born to the untouchable class, decided that the best solution to untouchability was to convert to Buddhism.

      1. Used-rugs
        Used-rugs June 23, 2015 at 11:41 am |

        Yes, but the Buddha was undeniably a socialist, perhaps the first National Socialist. It’s hard not to see the connection here.

        1. tremoe777
          tremoe777 June 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm |

          Less talk more meditate. I think labelling Buddha as socialist is irrelevant and manipulative. I don’t believe the Buddha is capable of being partial to anything, that is still just another vain pursuit of permanence in an impermanent world that invariably leads to vain suffering. Less talk less doing. More sitting… Staring.

          1. Used-rugs
            Used-rugs June 23, 2015 at 1:20 pm |

            Wow, according to the views on this blog, Zen Buddhists can believe in God but Buddhism itself is not a religion (?) and it also turns out that Buddha was not one of the founders of National Socialism. Gee, I wonder what ridiculous falsehoods we can spew out next. It looks like the Buddha didn’t stand for anything at all, much like Brad.

            Nope, can’t pin nothin on these guys.

          2. The Grand Canyon
            The Grand Canyon June 23, 2015 at 4:10 pm |

            Buddhists obviously believe in at least one god because Buddha was an avatar of Vishnu. Allegedly.

          3. The Grand Canyon
            The Grand Canyon June 23, 2015 at 4:13 pm |

            More information about the ten avatars of Vishnu

  16. lukeman
    lukeman June 23, 2015 at 3:22 pm |

    Oh, shit…please don’t tell me someone out there is actually reading this crap. I just had to Google Used-rugs’ “Buddha was not one of the founders of National Socialism” and found:


    Just seeing this site made me want to go take a long shower (if we weren’t in the middle of a drought here). Is this the brain of someone who used-rugs a bit too much?

    As one old punk song said, “In a real fourth reich you’ll be the first to go.”

  17. anon 108
    anon 108 June 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm |

    Shinchan – I’ve just got back home and it’s a bit late… I’ll properly consider your thought-provoking speculations tomorrow : )

  18. Wedged
    Wedged June 23, 2015 at 4:32 pm |

    For all the “white people” whining about not being able to complain for fear of being labeled a racist, etc. Ahhh…maybe that’s what we get for enslaving a f*cking nation of people for centuries. Deal with it. Now we complain about ISIS…had America not built their empire on the backs of slaves or had we left Iraq alone…we wouldn’t have these issues would we? (drop mic)

  19. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote June 23, 2015 at 8:03 pm |

    “It is just flat out wrong to interpret the “Arya” in “four noble truths” as a call for white supremacy.”

    Did someone offer such an interpretation?

    “The term ‘arya’ here is particularly difficult to translate, though the difficulty does not (or should not) affect the actual doctrine. Its original meaning is the Aryan people, a meaning which it still retained in and long after the Buddha’s time (the proper name for northern India being Aryavarta, the ‘sphere of the Aryans’). Evidently by the Buddha’s time it had developed a group of secondary meanings: a ‘noble’ or ‘honorable’ person, or ‘gentleman’ (which is used for polite address) and anything ‘excellent’ or ‘good’ or ‘proper’ or ‘best’. Undoubtedly it originally expressed that prejudice in favor of itself which every people and every nation seems to have, and it is remarkable that the Buddhists, and presumably the Buddha himself, should have been driven to use it. However, it did not impede appreciably the later spread of Buddishm, among the ‘barbarians’: the schools interpreted the term as meaning simply ‘excellent’ and forgot its origin.”

    (“Indian Buddhism”, A. K. Warder, pg 101)

    ok, who’s a barbarian here!

  20. anon 108
    anon 108 June 24, 2015 at 6:12 am |

    Shinchan – speculation, as you’ve said, is fine, it’s good, it’s necessary. Thanks for yours. What follows rambles. It needs editing. But you’ll get the gist. I’m not as well-read as you; much of what I’m saying is uninformed by knowlege of important factors. FWIW…

    What is a cultural memory? Have I got a cultural memory of being accused of drinking baby-blood, driven from my home by Cossacks and disposed of in a concentration camp? If so, it hasn’t made me any more socially maladjusted than your average smartarse dropout. (Point taken about the greater possibility for Jews to ‘pass’ in white Britain, but it didn’t always work…)

    Did first generation Afro-Carribean (1950s) immigrants see Britain as Babylon? Didn’t they revere it as the Mother Country? The first generation were — on the whole — grateful and respectful, even in the face of provocation and hostility, weren’t they? Sure, I’ll guess many must have become jolly pissed off at the reception they received in some quarters, but that doesn’t fully explain to me why so many of their children and grandchildren failed to ‘achieve’. (Things are changing, I feel. Increasing numbers of young black Britons — and I live among many in Hackney – are fed up with the negative stereotype and old-skool/gang lifestyle choices and are making an effort to – yes, I’ll say it – integrate. It’s going down well in the larger community. There’s hope.)

    I haven’t got much to say about your Oriental speculations, except that I have encountered one Singaporean guy who cruises about in fast cars his parents bought him. No pot-smoking or girl-chasing in his case — one live-in partner, lots of champagne and regular trips to Klosters, though. Same difference?

    Any attempt to isolate the causes of effects – particularly societal/social effects – may be doomed. There are so many to choose from. The ones we choose may say more about our hidden (from ourselves, even) agendas than they do about the hoped-for facts of the matter.

    But I think I know what I feel, and I have a strong feeling that any solution to the conflicts caused by racist beliefs and/or ingrained prejudices depends in large part on each of us acknowledging our feelings, rather than adopting and professing the analysis we’d prefer to believe we feel (not saying you’ve done that at all).

  21. Michel
    Michel June 24, 2015 at 6:40 am |

    On my part, I am quite aware that some will hasten to label me a racist for what I wrote, just like the Anglosaxophone media went to great lenghts to label the Charlie Hebdo team “racists” because they poked fun at Muslims on the same basis that they poked fun at Catholics, Protestants and, yes! religious Jews. And yet, they were the spearhead of the fight against racism in France. But I think that the point is, it is too easy to dismiss any sort of unpleasant data with the accusation of racism, and what Malcolm (Anon 108) writes corresponds in almost all points to what we see here.

  22. PatDolan53
    PatDolan53 June 24, 2015 at 7:24 am |

    “Racist” gets thrown about in a lot of vague and unproductive ways. I get called “zen” a lot because I don’t get mad at faculty meetings. Of course, that’s not insulting, but it’s got nothing to do with my zazen practice, at least not directly.

    Lots of people have tried to get around the imprecision of the language that’s arisen from a half century and more of overuse. On African-American said we should go for what “anti-semiticism” conveys and use “anti-black,” “anti-Asian,” and “anti-Native American.” And it’s always good to remember that the United States’ development of racism leading up to the Civil War and during the genocide of the indigenous peoples made our racism very different from that in Britain, Canada and Mexico.

    Here’s what I do. If it’s a person, I don’t call someone a racist unless he/she explicitly identifies with an explicitly racist organization or set of beliefs. There are more of those people than you might imagine, but it’s a tiny majority of the whole.

    The rest of us have racist thoughts occasionally (and I mean all of us), we do racist things, and most importantly we live in a set of systems–cultural, psychological, social, economic, educational–that are profoundly racist. The important thing then, when confronting someone is to remember that the confrontations we engage in are designed to address the underlying causes of injustice–at bottom, suffering, filtered through the illusions we experience the world through.

    I work on a campus, and I do social justice work. Almost everyone doing that work has seen this multiple times, and it’s useful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b0Ti-gkJiXc.

    1. Fred
      Fred June 24, 2015 at 11:45 am |

      “I’m comfortable with being a black woman.”


      1. Fred
        Fred June 24, 2015 at 12:03 pm |

        As a white man in a white man’s body, I played on an all black basketball team.
        My white friends who played basketball, talked like black guys with a Detroit accent, and listened to black music. My role models were black men.

        1. Mumbles
          Mumbles June 24, 2015 at 4:19 pm |

          Me too, Fred. Well, everything you said except the basketball team part. Jimi, Sly, Malcolm, Dr. King, the Harlem Globetrotters, and whole bunch of others, Miles, Charlie Parker, and, oh, this guy….


          1. Shinchan Ohara
            Shinchan Ohara June 24, 2015 at 8:36 pm |

            My dad took me to see the Harlem Globetrotters world tour when I was about 4. It’s one of my happiest childhood memories. I didn’t know they were black… they just seemed really tall, like magic.

            Then, about 6 years later, I bought some Muddy Waters and Howlin Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson cassettes for pennies, and woke up my mojo.

            One day, I’m sure white America will contribute something to the human race too ;P

    2. doc_blauvelt
      doc_blauvelt June 26, 2015 at 3:07 pm |

      The stupid thing is .. people are way too easily offended. Some of the jokes that are now considered “racist” are just that .. jokes. Jokes rely often on stereotypes, and stereotypes are based on some reality. In any case, if we can’t laugh at ourselves, we are losing our humanity.
      And even if you don’t find a joke funny (some really are not) .. what happened to “sticks and stones will break my bones .. but words will never harm me”
      Wikipedia: It persuades the child victim of name-calling to ignore the taunt, to refrain from physical retaliation, and to remain calm and good-natured.

      Have we lost all sense of proportion ?


  23. anon 108
    anon 108 June 24, 2015 at 5:33 pm |

    In case it looks like I’m backtracking or being mealy-mouthed (talking about acknowledging feelings and such)…

    Earlier this evening I watched the 3rd part of a BBC series on the Metropolitan (London) Police. For those who can access it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b05zt9kp/the-met-policing-london-episode-3

    The episode featured the arrest of 20 of the most senior, active members of the GAS (‘Guns and Shanks/Grip And Shoot/Grind And Stack’?) gang – one of the most vicious gangs in London. All but one of the 20 are black. The rest of the gang, the soldiers, are also overwhelmingly, if not exclusively, black. Yes, that’s a guess.

    Also shown: A large crowd (200 people?) gathered in an Estate following a stabbing. All but one or two were black/mixed-race. Generally a pleasant, chilled crowd of witnesses and onlookers. But not one would give the police any information. One member of the crowd did speak, on camera, to a police officer: “You’re not an annoying person. But the police in general are annoying….Not everyone’s the same” he added, referring to the black community. She (the officer) said: “You’ve just done the same to us. You’ve generalised us all. You say ‘I hate the police, I don’t trust any of em.’ That’s a generalisation…” Hmm.

    The programme also showed efforts being made to stop drive-by robberies by helmeted youths on stolen mopeds. After hours and hours of surveillance one suspect was arrested for vehicle interference – an 11 year old white kid. No actual robbers were caught. The fatal stabbing of an Asian youth by a white youth over a pushbike deal gone wrong was also shown.

    What am I supposed to do with this information? Tell myself that the black community’s contribution to urban crime is the work a few bad apples suffering the aftershock of slavery, and that to consider the possibiltity the phenomenon has something to do with nature as well as with nurture is unthinkable?

    Michel wrote “it is too easy to dismiss any sort of unpleasant data with the accusation of racism.” I recall watching a documentary about “youth knife crime” a few (5?) years ago. Mug shots were shown, people were interviewed, statistics were cited. It was very clear that this wasn’t simply a “youth” problem” but a black youth problem. 98% (guess) of those intervied were black. Yet the word black wasn’t mentioned once (I listened hard). That would have been racist, right?

    Whatever causes and conditions bring us to where we are, can we please be honest about what’s happening now? Or at least not pillory those who are.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 24, 2015 at 5:55 pm |

      I just got that

      “Warning: sprintf() [function.sprintf]: Too few arguments in /home/content/98/10537698/html/hardcorezen/wp-content/plugins/simple-comment-editing/index.php on line 153”

      thing again. It stops me from be able to edit. OK. I hear you, Lord.


      Dear Brad/Brad’s tech dept,

      In case it means anything to you and you can fix it… Clicking on the [function.sprintf] hyperlink (is that what you call it?) opens up a ‘404 not found’ thing in a new window which says:

      Whoah! You broke something!

      Just kidding! You tried going to http://hardcorezen.info/what-is-racism/3684/function.sprintf, which doesn’t exist, so that means I probably broke something.

      and then gives me links to the last 20 of Brad’s posts.

      1. The Grand Canyon
        The Grand Canyon June 25, 2015 at 3:45 am |

        “Warning: sprintf() [function.sprintf]: Too few arguments in /home/content/98/10537698/html/hardcorezen/wp-content/plugins/simple-comment-editing/index.php on line 153”

        Oh no! That means that your computer has been infected with “The Afro-Caribbean Virus.” Unfortunately, the only way to get rid of it is to move to a more expensive neighborhood and buy a new computer.

  24. mb
    mb June 24, 2015 at 7:00 pm |

    (I’m not a member of Brad’s tech dept), but clicking on an error message isn’t meant to go to anything but the default page you got. I know you’re trying really hard not to have too few arguments! “sprintf” is shorthand for “Screen Print Formatted”, which is a software function that all user posts and edits get fed into that produce the final product: your post. I haven’t encountered this myself but obviously there’s a bug loose in there somewhere, at least for the idiosyncratic way you might be using it. If you can duplicate it by following the same series of steps every time, then it should be fixable by a programmer or knowledgeable WordPress administrator, probably neither of which Brad has on staff!

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 24, 2015 at 11:45 pm |

      I kinda get that, mb. I’ll re-examine just how idiosyncratically argumentative I need to be. Thanks!

      I am resisting the urge to cite the many black musicians, actors, comedians, writers and sportpeople I’ve admired over the years for fear of employing what I understand is a standard racist trope…in the wrong hands.

    2. Jinzang
      Jinzang June 25, 2015 at 9:42 am |

      “sprintf” is shorthand for “Screen Print Formatted”

      Actually, it means STRING Print Formatted. This PHP function apes the C function of the same name. The first argument to the function is a format string, a string containing format specifiers that begin with a %. The function marches through the format string, replacing each format specifier with the following arguments to the function. If the function call has a different number of arguments than format specifiers, you get the message you see here.

      Presumably the error is not in the WordPress code, it’s in the (broken) WordPress template or some WordPress plugin.

      1. mb
        mb June 25, 2015 at 12:41 pm |

        Thank you – I stand corrected! Brad needs to hire you to replace his old webmaster!

        If the string print formatted call has fewer arguments than format specifiers, wouldn’t this error happen for everybody (as opposed to just Anon108)? I’ve noticed some posters have been successful in embedding fancier formatting into their posts (block quotes, italics etc), so maybe it’s that kind of activity that is vexing the WordPress template/plugin?

        1. Jinzang
          Jinzang June 26, 2015 at 9:56 am |

          It’s a bug in the simple comment editing plugin. They’re using sprintf to embed the user’s comment in html. The problem is, they don’t check if the user’s comment contains percent signs. If the comment does, you get that error. The code should check for percent signs and double them. I’ve raised an issue about it on the plugin’s Github site.

          1. mb
            mb June 26, 2015 at 10:29 am |

            Testing testing testing testing testing testing testing testing testing




          2. mb
            mb June 26, 2015 at 10:34 am |

            yup that was it! Another side effect is that having percent signs in the body of the comment prevents the edit function from working.

            Anon 108 – problem positively identified (but not fixed)! It’s a defect in one of the WordPress plug-ins used here.

          3. anon 108
            anon 108 June 26, 2015 at 1:07 pm |

            So the argument’s all about percentages? I should have known. Thanks guys.

        2. Jinzang
          Jinzang June 27, 2015 at 8:42 am |

          The updated version of the Simple Comment Editing Plugin is now available.


  25. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 24, 2015 at 7:18 pm |

    Wow, and I thought waiting several minutes between opening the post, waiting several minutes opening the comments, waiting several minutes to comment, waiting several minutes commenting, waiting several minutes for the comment to drop, and then… was bad 108, at least I’m not experiencing that bullshit -yet.


  26. Michel
    Michel June 25, 2015 at 1:49 am |

    One of the tropes on jewish people (sorry Malc! :)) is that they are everywhere in the show business and that they monopolise it by fostering each other in it.

    And it is true that the numbers of people from Jewish families are quite large in the various branches of show business, from pop music to more snobbish venues.

    But then, I observe one seemingly negligible thing: when a kid shows any sort of talent in a Jewish family, this talent will be nurtured, encouraged, and given maximum support. When a kid in a Xtian family shows any sort of talent that is not directly related to a sound income, like doctor, lawyer or the like, they tend to be discouraged, an told to look for a “real” job and so on.
    Worse, I know for sure that the Catholic culture profoundly distrusts intelligence, even in a country like France where it is the Republican culture that had (that’s been over for a number of years, now) fostered any sort of talent that might be a pride for the Republic; but still those were profoundly mistrusted by the Catholic (always staunch enemies of the Republic), — and their general arrogance doesn’t help with the rest of society.
    This sure is much more marked in Quebec, where the suspicion of being an educated person can easily mark you for social rejection. So it may well be that some cultural traits found in some groups are due to nurture.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 25, 2015 at 7:31 am |

      One of the tropes on jewish people (sorry Malc! :)) is that they are everywhere in the show business and that they monopolise it by fostering each other in it.”

      No need to apologise, Michel. Show-biz is for sure replete with Jews. I only wish some fellow kike would have fostered my musical career, but it never happened. Not once did I get a call from a co-religionist offering me work or a helping hand up the ladder.

      “…when a kid shows any sort of talent in a Jewish family, this talent will be nurtured, encouraged, and given maximum support.”

      Didn’t happen to me either. But my mother was a twice-widowed wage slave in the rag trade until a few years before her death – a poor Jew – so no money for instruments or tuition (the school sorted those for me). Also she was aware of the precarious nature of music/the arts as a way of earning a living. She’d much rather I’d become a lawyer (she died before I did). Uncle Harry tried to reassure her: “Let the kid do what he wants to do.” But she worried…

      So my circumstances weren’t typical. Hey – we’re not all the same, you know ; )

      1. Yoshiyahu
        Yoshiyahu June 26, 2015 at 5:12 pm |

        Seconding Anon108 here — i think the reality is a lot less rosy than that.

        My grandfather had a good voice, and wanted to pursue opera. He was not supported at all, and ended up becoming totally alienated from his family, who wanted him to take up the family business. He ended up comparatively poor and destitute. But one of his brothers had a daughter who could sing, and he DID support her and nurture her, and she grew to become an operatic soprano and noted British classical music critic.

        My mother supported and nurtured my brother, and my brother is a professional musician playing 150 or so gigs with his wife a year.

        As to the impact of being Jewish with the show business… I had a longterm relationship with a woman whose ex was a comedian and actor, and I ended up at a lot of weddings and bar mitzvahs and seders, etc with Hollywood execs and celebrities. What I think really did matter was when you went to the same shul as someone else. Your kids went to hebrew school together, you davened together, you ended up at the same functions, and that ended up making a difference as far as who you knew and who you worked with and who got opportunities. But only to an extent.

        1. anon 108
          anon 108 June 27, 2015 at 2:40 am |

          Good point.

          I rebelled. I distanced myself from my family and the larger Jewish community in my mid teens. I started to refuse to go with my mother to Weddings etc around the age of 17, so I denied myself the opportunity to take advantage of any available mutual support networks. Sorry, Mum.

  27. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 25, 2015 at 4:33 am |


    Somebody has heard my incessant whining and FIXED SOMETHING because I am accessing this blog with LIGHTENING SPEED this morning!

    THANK YOU powers that be.


    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 25, 2015 at 7:35 am |
      1. Mumbles
        Mumbles June 25, 2015 at 10:11 am |

        Very nice of you, Malcolm, thank you!

        As we Swiss say, “May the sweet chocolate rain upon you.”

        Okay, I’m not (so much) Swiss, know no Swiss sayings, and mean nothing racist by that remark.

        Bloody wanna be Swiss!

  28. Used-rugs
    Used-rugs June 25, 2015 at 9:40 am |

    “I am free of all prejudices. I hate everyone equally.”

    W. C. Fields

    1. Fred
      Fred June 26, 2015 at 5:14 am |

      “replacing each format specifier with the following arguments to the function”

      The problem with arguing with a function is that the function is unfolding in its own time outside or inside the format of the illusion, and the argument gives the illusion legs to stand on.

  29. doc_blauvelt
    doc_blauvelt June 26, 2015 at 2:52 pm |

    The USA … to my chagrin .. is a racist country.
    I am quite old-ish in real. Came to the USA in the early 1970s after growing up and being educated in Western Europe.
    I was .. and I am still .. offended by ANY “official” form that wants to know my “race”. My initial reaction (40+ years ago) was .. what is this here ?? South Africa ??
    So ever since .. I always check “other” and fill in “HUMAN”.
    Now last week I heard on a radio station that doing this makes me a racist .. smiles ..
    Oh, and the woman who “identified”as being black? Somebody defended that saying .. well that is her “truth”. So sad. We used to call that a “psychosis” and I am quite sure that is what it is.
    This subject probably deserves more discussion that this, just my two bits 🙂

    Namaste, Doc

  30. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 26, 2015 at 6:48 pm |

    Well shit. Now I’m waiting on everything again. Took forever to open the blog, open comments, drop this in… That Mozel Tov WAS premature, Mal! Well shit.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 27, 2015 at 1:45 am |

      On behalf of The Chosen I can only express regret, John. Maybe a little empathy?

  31. anon 108
    anon 108 June 27, 2015 at 3:13 am |

    Replying to Shinchan (way up there somewhere), Yoshiyahu wrote:

    Well, his [me: anon 108’s] mother was a native Yiddish speaker. I guess that means he knows all about when Jews arrived in Western Europe, doesn’t it?

    Fuck, MY Mother is a native Yiddish speaker. I guess that means I TOO have an extremely good understanding of the multiple phases of Jewish immigrtation into AND WITHIN(!) Western Europen Countries. OVER MANY CENTURIES!”

    I didn’t say “When the Jews first arrived in Britain…” Still, you make a fair point (but why so angry?!). Of course the fact that I’m Jewish doesn’t mean shit when it comes to what I know and don’t know…about anything. But, as it happens, I do know a little about the history of the Jews as they/we wandered from here to there over many centuries. I’ve even got a book on it! But sure, I could have been clearer: I was referring only to the most recent wave of late 19th/early 20th Century East European Jewish immigration to Britain.

    “If you want to do a detailed and considered comparison of the immigration and assimilation experiences of Eastern European Jews vs Afro-Carribeans, that’s fine. But throwing those two groups out there as Anon108 does, without any of that detail and context, and wondering why Jews didn’t act “aggressively” and “criminally” like the Afro-Carribeans alledly did… that’s lazy at best.”

    Well I don’t want to do “a detailed and considered comparison of the immigration and assimilation experiences of Eastern European Jews vs Afro-Carribeans”. I do want to ask the question, though. I’m looking for explanations.

    “Because first, Jews are well represented in both the UK and US when it comes to criminality and aggression.”

    Are we talking Bugsy Siegel et al here? If so, I get that.

    Whatever… I’d be grateful if you would please supply some statistics comparing the numbers of Jews involved in criminality as a percentage of the total Jewish community versus the number of A-Cs (particularly as regards violent criminality. So 2 sets of statistics please – one set for violent crime, one for non-violent. In fact, you may need to provide 4; one set of both for the USA and one for the UK…and Europe?. In fact, it would be helpful to show changing trends over time; from 1900 to the present day, maybe? How many sets of statistics is that?). Not to do so would be lazy, at best, no? If it turns out the trends are broadly similar, I’ll have a big re-think; a big re-examination of why I have the pre/post-judices I do have.

    “And secondly, the two groups are about as different as one can get… “

    Yes they are different. Why? (More than 60 words please.)

    …when it comes to important factors like the support structure immigrants found when arriving, wealth, culture even the poorest Jewish immigrant came to the UK with far more in the way of resources than Afro-Carribean immigrants did.”

    I’m most familiar with the situation of the Russian/Pale of Settlement Jews who escaped pogroms and ended up (like my forebears) in places like Whitechapel in the East End of London (I that know most of them – 80 percent? – ended up in the USA)…

    My maternal grandfather could read and speak Yiddish and Russian, but not English. He was a barrel maker, a cooper. My father worked in a paint factory, mixing paints until he died from a brain tumour at the age of 39. I’ve already discussed my mother’s circumstances. (I believe my paternal grandparents may have had Polish roots. I don’t know much about those roots, but I know they also arrived in the UK very poor people.) These poor people settled in a poor, often hostile, neighbourhood of London without the advantage of writing, reading or speaking the native language. In what ways were their resources ‘more’ than those of the A-C immigrants of the 1950s?

    I’d really rather not see things the way I do. It’s inconvenient, at best. I’m open to persuasion.

    1. anon 108
      anon 108 June 27, 2015 at 3:21 am |
    2. Michel
      Michel June 27, 2015 at 11:35 pm |

      I’d also like to mention that the covert hostility that Jews would meet in that society was not something that ought to be overlooked. And I say “covert”, but very often it was not covert at all!!!

    3. Yoshiyahu
      Yoshiyahu June 29, 2015 at 10:36 am |

      Anon– I am having an interesting spate of idle speculators requesting data that doesn’t exist. More laziness on your part.

      For breaking out criminality of Jews, it’s very difficult, in that most countries didn’t and don’t categorize people in ways that allow us to filter to Jews only. In the US and the UK they never have, and any estimates people come up with are based on informal counts of prisoners and estimates of Jewish population, which isn’t very accurate. Likewise, in the UK, they don’t have a breakout of the Black category. And I’d think this would be especially problematic in the UK, as you have significant immigration from Carribean and African countries, so you’d have a hard time differentiating.

  32. anon 108
    anon 108 June 27, 2015 at 3:41 am |

    (Deleted)…annulled….blacked out…crossed out…cut out…eliminated….exluded….expunged…

    1. Fred
      Fred June 27, 2015 at 12:31 pm |

      The best way not to see things the way you do, is to drop the you.

      Then the world continues on its merry way, and whatever happens is what is happening. Since things have always been happening and will continue to happen, how the you thinks things should be, is irrelevant.

      “(Delete)…annul….black out…cross out…cut out…eliminate….exlude….expunge…the sense of a self.

      1. The Grand Canyon
        The Grand Canyon June 27, 2015 at 2:23 pm |

        No te preocupes, sé feliz.

  33. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 27, 2015 at 6:15 am |

    Mind Control Made Easy (How to Become a Cult Leader)

  34. Mumbles
    Mumbles June 27, 2015 at 10:08 am |

    “…all through the 19th century a growing number of Germans and Swiss found themselves forced to emigrate for a life in the diaspora…For this reason, no doubt, in Ferdinand Kurnberger’s novel of emigration the Germans are referred to as the Jews of America.” -W.G. Sebold, discussing the writings of Gottfried Keller in (Sebold’s) A Place In The Country

    That’s one side of my family, and here’s the other (we just kept coming!):


  35. Michel
    Michel June 27, 2015 at 11:50 pm |

    When I was at University, attempting to go from a Master’s degree to something more, I did some research for a Professor about the Jews in Montpellier. In the course of that research, I learned that Jews were present in Southern France even before the arrival of Xtians, and that they were mostly converts. That is, ethnically Gauls. And there are documents which show that the first Xtians were already quite hostile to them (the one I read about Arles in the 3rd or 4th c.)
    Their conditions through the ages could greatly vary, from near indifference to extreme hostility. One of the most renowned rabbis of the Middle Ages, Rashi, was a wine grower in Champagne. He wrote French in Hebrew script, which helps understand the pronunciation of the speech in those times.
    Twelfth to fourteenth c. saw four cities of Southern France be the main cities for Jews in the Western World. Narbonne was pronounced the “New Jerusalem”. But then “Saint” Louis, when he conquered the South, just expelled them (that’s his reason for being a saint…)
    The reason I expound this is that the hatred/mistrust of the Jew has been nurtured by the Xtian religion for quite many centuries, and the recrudescence of antisemitism in modern day France has everything to do with Islamism, because they too never forgave that religion for being there before them.
    So, to say that they had it easy anywhere is grossly overstated. Just remember the odyssey of the Saint-Louis, for which all the Western countries refused the entry of Jews, in 1939.
    The modern immigrants from Africa do not have that “slave” background and yet they tend to display an extreme machismo and a good deal of violence which incites me to think that that violence is a bit nurtured in their culture.

  36. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 28, 2015 at 2:30 pm |
    1. The Grand Canyon
      The Grand Canyon June 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm |
  37. anon 108
    anon 108 June 28, 2015 at 3:21 pm |

    3rd time lucky, TGC? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_PYl_nSfYtg

    Expunge any prejudices you may have against Prog and its rockers… Chris was a genius. A major influence on my younger self.

    1. Yoshiyahu
      Yoshiyahu June 29, 2015 at 10:56 am |

      My friend’s college roommate entrusted him with his prog-heavy record collection over the summer of 2004, and we spent an awful lot of time listening to music while copying onto Maxell XLII 90s. I ended up listening to a lot of the eponymous Yes, Close the to Edge and Fragile. The Chris Squire stuff was a big part of this, as I would always be riding my bike everywhere with my cheap headphones playing my on my cheap non-walkman player, and the bass was sometimes pretty much all that made it into my ears over the noise of the traffic. And the bass was worth listening to on its own.

      Come to think of it, Who cassettes were also a staple of this time period. Probably same reason.

  38. Fred
    Fred June 28, 2015 at 4:14 pm |
  39. The Grand Canyon
    The Grand Canyon June 29, 2015 at 9:31 am |


    (Comments etc., etc., etc…)

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