All you need to know about racism in America is in this one amazing Chris Rock interview

Just not going to sit here and accept your accusations. Now if y’all want to discuss the issues, I’m game for that. But if you’re going to continually veer off into assumptions and accusations, then I’m going to treat you like you’re acting, which is like children. But feel free to engage in a respectful adult conversation at any point.

Shortly, he can claim to be whatever he feels like claiming to be. People will accept his claim or not depending on their own views on what he is. There isn’t a “real” answer because race isn’t a “real” thing.

That can be a counter-intuitive idea, so let me try and break it down a bit: when you think of “a white person,” and “a Native American person,” it is likely two different images leap to your head, and those two imaginary people have different physical qualities (such as skin color), and those physical qualities have a genetic basis, so you can see that clearly there is an actual biological and genetic difference between these two people. You could even pick two people, say, Sherman Alexie and George W. Bush, that are clearly in those two different categories.

Of course, the actual biological and genetic difference that would exist between those two people isn’t any greater and is often less than the actual biological and genetic difference between, say, George W. Bush and, I dunno, Donald Trump.

We call the differences between Sherman Alexie and George W. Bush racial differences – they are different races. We don’t call the differences between George W. Bush and Donald Trump racial differences – they are the same race. The reason we do the former and not the latter is because this is what our society teaches us to do, not because the difference is meaningful in any biological way.

So when someone who is 1/8th Native American wonders if they are white or Native American, the real answer is that you are whatever society says you are, and that might be different in different subsections of society and it might also be different depending on what you tell people you are. Because “race” isn’t a thing you are, it is a thing other people tell you that you are. A tribe might claim you if it has interest in doing so, as might white people. You might claim tribal affiliation if you have an interest in doing so, and you might claim whiteness in the same way. Because the difference between you and George W. Bush and Donald Trump and Sherman Alexie might be less than the difference between you and that cute redheaded barista, or the difference between you and Treyvon Martin.

I saw that he was comparing his experience of prejudice to the black experience of racism and lectured him on how those are not the same thing, and that if he’s hoping to help fight against racism, he should be aware of how they are different, because that’s actually a pretty important part of fighting racism: acknowledging that others have experiences that you won’t.


All (American) white people have inherited the same wealth and debt of which Chris Rock is speaking of. There is no “some white people” - it’s all of them. They all share in it equally regardless of their personal circumstances, including whether or not their ancestors were even in the country when it happened. Because most of it is baked into the fabric of society and not related to the actions of a person or persons at all, and accessed by something as superficial as your appearance.

It’s not about judging a person on an individual level. It’s about an individual reflecting and saying “yes, as an identifiable group we have historically short-changed pretty much everybody else to our own advantage whether consciously or unconsciously, through intent or ignorance” and then taking that acknowledgement and choosing to live their life as best they can - not to necessarily balance the books, but to at least not incur any more debt.

Individual people shouldn’t be judged based on the actions of other people in their racial grouping, it’s unfair. But that’s part of the problem - groups of people are judged collectively constantly, and a lot of the unfair advantages white people enjoy are because of institutionalised judgements of other races in the past or the present. I would honestly say that my skin colour leading me to being judged as a perpetrator and benefactor of centuries of racial discrimination by a minority is a much better option than my skin colour causing me to be judged as criminally dangerous by a majority.


@marilove [quote=“awjt, post:91, topic:47228”]
adjust your style.
Good advice. FTR, further above you can see me liking the other folks arguing against awjt…


Hell yeah. Aaaannd…probably where this thread should have been snipped.

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The idea that people who have lived in grinding poverty for generations and the country’s wealthiest plutocrats - the country’s powerless and most powerful - share an equal inheritance of benefit and debt from America’s history of racial oppression is an absurd and shameful notion.

[quote=“FirstLast, post:89, topic:47228”]

It’s about an individual reflecting and saying “yes, as an identifiable group we have historically short-changed pretty much everybody else to our own advantage whether consciously or unconsciously, through intent or ignorance” and then taking that acknowledgement and choosing to live their life as best they can - not to necessarily balance the books, but to at least not incur any more debt.
[/quote] It perfectly possible to aware of your history and lead a good, humane life without having to except (or even contemplate for a second) the notion that all white Americans - regardless of personal or cosmic circumstances, share in absolute equality an inheritance of benefit and indebtedness from the oppression of black Americans.

OK I am not Falcor but since this topic is currently Flagtown, USA I’m telling you guys Falcor is going to come in here and make with a lot of deletion soon. Everyone chill out, don’t feed the trolls, just flag the inappropriate stuff to hide it.

(I wonder @falcor and @beschizza, should we have a flags-in-topic threshold where the entire topic is just automatically paused for intervention?)


That would certainly leave less of a … stain on the carpet. >.<

Well, wouldn’t, ‘No, you don’t have a licence’ have been enough for that conversation? It’s enough to get me to disallow someone driving my car…


That sounds like a great idea, biped.


Now that was a tasteless breakfast.
Cool it or I’ll be seasoning some accounts for lunch.


Unfortunately, the most important “qualification” for being a top politician in any (more or less) democratic country these days consists of

  1. to be accepted in powerful circles
  2. to be able to get votes

The ability to make the decisions required by the office comes a distant third. I assume there have always (well, since 1776) been black Americans who were qualified for the office in this third sense.

But with few exceptions, people had to be male WASPs to qualify for points 1 and 2.
It was definitely not black people’s fault that they were not “qualified” in this way.

That is true. But also, black people have kept reminding white people that they have to change. There’s nothing wrong with calling that an achievement.
Only, that’s the other “uni-directional direction”, and it wasn’t necessary for Chris Rock to mention both directions.

That’s fair. FWIW: I’m not saying anyone should be self-indulgent with guilt, but that guilt is a good sign, it means you actually have a decent moral compass, as opposed to people who try to pin culpability on the victims and/or deny white guilt even exists. It’s a start.


That might have been too subtle to get across.

My grandmother is a genealogist. I can trace my family’s ancestry back to a dozen Mayflower families. In all that time, we have … maybe one single Native American ancestor. Or I should say, First Nations, as they’d have been up in Canada.

So I’m a little suspicious whenever people claim “1/16th Cherokee” or whatever. I’m going back 400 years here and I’ve got none.


Not quite. Chris Rock assumes a few things that are incorrect. That all Whites inherited profits off slavery or Jim Crow. This is patently false. Many families have gone through bankruptcy, the great depression, come from somewhere else or descend from poor people who did not have any types of profit or savings to give from that era. Furthermore, many Afrodescent people who live in the US are migrants from elsewhere and do not have families that were exposed to slavery or Jim Crow. FInally, not only have many people started in very similar playing fields, but are exposed to similar racism, as ‘whites’ are not immune to being recipients of racism, discrimination, etc., in the form of assaults, workplace discrimination, and social shaming, among others.

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Chris Rock again shows that he’s not only a brilliant comedian, but an unexpectedly unbiased thinker. His thoughts on Obama are about the most clearheaded, insightful ones I’ve seen. He doesn’t go for cheap shots, easy accusations, or blanket statements. Those would be easy. Chris Rock looks at things one level deeper.

I’m a white American whose father is a genealogist; I’ve spent my whole life knowing my whole background as well as my immigrant ancestry (mostly German, 1/4 Welsh, etc, like a lot of white Americans). There’s always been a couple of small blank areas on our family tree, though, and when a relative got a DNA test recently, we discovered significant Native ancestry. All of a sudden, overnight, my father became about 1/6- 1/8 Native. I could technically become an official Native American if I was a descendent of certain tribes (I can’t, because I’m descended from Shawnee, and they’re more strict about membership). I look so little like a Native American that the idea is just bizarre to me, but I can’t lie and say that it didn’t change the way I think of myself, a small bit.

Well my mom was on the minority board of Mass Mutual in the 80s for being 1/4 Mohawk. My fathers mother’s last name was Neil, the race of the white n-word.

What’s your point?

This American Life did an interesting story on why different tribes might be motivated toward different thresholds for membership that drives home the arbitrariness of race pretty nicely:

Radiolab also has an interesting story about a family that identified as “negro”…until one didn’t… (it starts going about 9 minutes in):