How to talk about race, productively


I do not hesitate to state that Jay Smooth is doing some of the most important work in race relations in modern day America.

And it’s all the more amazing because he’s an introvert who was never really cut out for this sort of thing, but who stepped up to speak out about highly controversial issues he’s passionate about in a clear, articulate, logical way. He takes topics that normally devolve into absurd bickering and instead puts out productive, insightful, meaningful discourse that cuts to the heart of the matter instead of getting lost in the peripheries and personal pitfalls.


Maybe I’m doing it wrong, but I’ve been making the point he makes for years and I haven’t found it to be productive at all. Attempts to make those distinctions are either ignored, or dismissed with a phrase like “racism is racism,” usually by people who insisted during the first half of the discussion that there is no more racism.


The other problem is that (like facts in an evolution “versus” creationism debate) it doesn’t sell as “sexy” enough to the media, so it’s rarely picked up.

Racism is racism, regardless of race.

The important distinction is that it almost always negatively affects minorities systemically.

For example, if a person of color goes around calling every white person honky or cracker, all of the white people he says that to will assume that all people of color are racist and that white people are justified in their own racism.

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Maybe your problem is delivery.

Two people can tell the exact same joke, but one can make a crowd bust a gut while the other elicits at best a groan. Likewise, your talking points can be exactly the same, but your delivery and subsequent reception can be wildly different.

What matters is that Jay is doing good things, and getting people to listen and to talk. It also helps that he’s a wildly popular hip hop radio DJ with a massive fanbase. He’s reaching many, many people with a good message delivered in a way that actually gets his particular audience to listen. I can’t praise his efforts enough.

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Another important facet of Jay Smooth 's delivery is that he doesn’t invalidate racism on an interpersonal level, but reminds us that is important to also consider racism in the systemic or institutional level.

He’s also very big on not alienating people. He’s sensitive to the fact that good, honest, “not racist” people can very easily be made to feel like they’re being attacked. He gets that this is a delicate issue, and that there are bad ways to deliver an otherwise good message.

Even if your message is good, your logic is faultless, and your intentions are pure, it can all backfire spectacularly if you accidentally offend people who would otherwise be staunch allies, simply because of a lack of delicacy or respect for their feelings (irrational as those might be).


Another great video by a great, great man. Almost as good as what’s probably his most well-known one (and deservedly so) –

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Video thumbnail is so doge


One might say… try to actually address the systemic racism issue instead of establish swear jars. Call me crazy, but it’s my opinion that swear jars do more harm than good. Anyhow, let’s just jump over to advocating the systemic racism bandwagon while being very PC about it…

/white flight exit

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Uh oh, looks like we got us a “race realist” over here!


What about out-of-control white crime problems, like sending most of the planet into a fraud-based economic downturn?

What about the achievement gap whereby white males are promoted well beyond their education, experience, and skill set in comparison to people of color and women?

Which all-white neighborhoods would those be? I see a lot more of those in rural (Republican) Indiana than I do in urban (Democrat) Chicago.


what? totally agreed that systemic racism negatively affects minorities, that’s the most important point, imo. but, i’m totally missing your example.

This sort of discussion never fails to bring out the racist trolls… How about some citation for your unfounded assertions… whoops, I mean “arguments” and “facts”?



Crime? Why, that’s not crime, it’s free-wheeling, laisse-faire, neo-liberal capitalism… it’s just the magic market doing its thing. These are FREE WHITE GOOD CHRISTIAN MEN exercising their GOD-GIVEN RIGHTS in the BEST COUNTRY GOD EVER GAVE THIS EARTH… (of course. I had to crib from Sean Hannity for this lovely bit of rhetoric, so you know it must be true…). It’s only unfair if you have affirmative action, which upends the true social order of those free white good christian men shitting all over the rest of us who had the misfortune to be born the wrong color, gender, religion, location, class, whatever… /s


I was hoping that was irony. Was that not irony? Wait, don’t tell me if @kevinharris611 was being serious. I don’t want to know.

Personally, I like to focus on ending systems that victimize groups that are not racially defined, but include disproportionate numbers of minorities. Groups such as the poor, and the poorly educated, for example. I want to move on to a post-racialist society, and I feel like I’m working against that goal if I accede to targeting reparative actions by ethnicity or skin color. If, just for one example, we were to shut down the school-to-prison pipeline (kind of surprising BB didn’t cover this) we’d be ending something that primarily harms people of color, and we wouldn’t have to become racist ourselves in order to do so - we’d help all children in the system, by reforming a system that is essentially cruel and counterproductive as well as racially discriminatory in practice. That’s the kind of action I prefer, action that doesn’t assign a stigmatizing “victim role” by race, action that recognizes bad policies and situations and attacks those things regardless of the race of anyone involved. If you find the problem by recognizing systemic racism that’s fine - I just don’t want to fix problems using the tool of racist discrimination.

Other people might not have my concerns, though. I don’t ever want to rhetorically split my family into dark-skinned victims and light-skinned oppressors, I want us to be one family and I will oppose any attempt to set us against each other. Language is powerful! Which I hope is the point of the report, although I haven’t read it yet… it’s definitely the point of the Jay Smooth video.

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When it comes to black people or minorities in general, the actions of a single member contribute to stereotypes of the entire group.

When you hear on the news that there is a black suspect in a crime there is always someone who will say,“I’m not surprised, that’s just how black people are.”

Whereas when a white person committed a crime people will say," I wonder what went wrong for them to turn to a life of crime?"


I agree with lots of what you said, and I feel you on this. However, if we dismiss issues of race, just because it doesn’t work with our own perceptions and world views, we are basically shutting out those for whom race is a real construct that impacts their lives–and this means both whites and blacks, as I think that racialist thinking is not only detrimental to African Americans, but to whites as well, albeit in a very different and probably less destructive way. Race might be social constructs, but it has incredibly real power within our society–if, as Smooth is suggesting here–we cant talk about it, then we will never be able to get out of it and move beyond it to craft the kind of society we actually want to have, one where skin color really doesn’t matter. Until we are past that, we have to keep talking about these things or it’s not going to get any better.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t talk about class too, because that is a very real thing that does impact people, regardless of skin color and class absolutely matters. But these racial (and to nearly the same extent gender) constructs we live in are very real and we can’t just bury our heads in the sand and pretend they don’t exist because we don’t view the world that way.


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