Are We Racists?

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Are we racists? You decide.

“Bill, I can’t believe you said the wrong side won the Civil War.
People are going to think you’re a racist…” warned a colleague
yesterday.

The same subject came up on our flight down to Johannesburg. On our
last trip, we were seated next to a pilot’s wife. She explained that
the NEW South Africa was being ruined by affirmative action, that
is…a kind of compensatory, racial discrimination-in-reverse. Her
white husband was being forced out of his job, she said, in order to
make room for black pilots who lacked sufficient training or
experience.

Even before we got on the South African Airways plane we noticed what
looked like the new South Africa at work. All the ground staff were
black. Friendly. Apparently competent. Efficient and courteous. This
was not NWA…in fact, it was much better than the frumpy, disagreeable
treatment we usually get from US based airlines, black or white.

Then, once we got on the plane, same thing…nice looking, professional
staff…all black. We began to wonder about the pilot.

Then, we saw him. A solid white man deep into his 50s. He looked like a
stiff-necked Boer…at least as we imagined them. But he looked like a
fellow who knew how to fly a plane. We gave an inward sigh of relief.
“No affirmative action pilot on this plane,” we thought to ourselves.

Of course, that’s the trouble with affirmative action; it undermines
its beneficiaries. You never know whether a pilot got his wings because
of who he is…or because of what he can do. And you feel guilty for
wondering.

South Africa has many of the same obsessions with race as America. And
bigger potential problems.

But this little circumlocution is about your editor and his alleged
racism, not about South Africa. He pleads neither guilty nor not
guilty…but ignorance.

In the early 1960s, the authorities desegregated the Anne Arundel
County schools. Your editor was 12 years old. He was there when three
little black girls showed up. After 300 years of being schooled
separately, Maryland decided to put black and white students together.

Sentiment out on the tobacco flats ran hotly against it. The tidewater
was George Wallace country. Of course, in the 7th grade, we were
unaware of the politics or history behind desegregation. But we had no
trouble picking up bad ideas from our elders.

On the first day the girls arrived, the boys felt they should make some
kind of remonstration. This took the form of pressing their backs to
the hallway walls as the girls walked by as if they were afraid they
would get cooties. To his everlasting regret, your editor joined them.

In a flash, however, even at 12 years old, a boy understands when he is
being a jerk. It was not that he is afraid of being labeled a ‘racist.’
As near as he can tell, being a racist could be a good thing. But if he
is lucky he has a deeper compass to guide him.

In the case of the little boy now writing this remembrance, he knew
that what he was doing wasn’t very nice. And he knew that if his mother
could see him she’d be ashamed of him. After a second, he pulled
himself together. So did the other boys. The clouds of desegregation
gathered at 9:AM. By 9:30 AM the storm had blown over. Boys and girls,
blacks and whites, lived happily together at Southern Jr. Sr. High
School ever after. Or at least until we left in 1966.

Human beings, like animals, feel an urge to separate themselves into
herds, tribes, groups, cliques, economy class and first class. That’s
just the way they are. They are a competitive species, always angling
and butting heads, trying to get an advantage. Why do they do it?

Even blubbery walruses come ashore and try to gouge each other with
their tusks…hoping it leads to a dominant position and a chance to
mate. Girls like winners; there is no getting around it. There must
have been plenty of tough times in the dark beginnings of man and pre-
man. Perhaps only the fastest, smartest, toughest males were able to
get the food…and the girls. Their genes survived. Those who had no
competitive drive may have died out. We don’t know.

But we know individuals compete. So do groups. They compete in
commerce. In sport. And in war. Most wars, as we mentioned yesterday,
are little more than violent sporting contests…with no more
significance than a game of football for mortal stakes. The ‘reasons’
for war are little more than claptrap.

In the War Between the States, both sides probably deserved to lose.
The South had its slaves. But the North had the South. The desire to
boss someone around seems irresistible. While the Southerners whipped
their field hands, Lincoln suspended the Constitution and began bossing
everyone around. Marylanders, who maintained a Swiss-like neutrality,
were rounded up and sent to prison camps. Irish immigrants…who were
little better off than the slaves…were rounded up in New York and
forced to fight against the yankee’s enemies. The Southerners, being
good shots, laid many of them in their graves.

But racism? They were probably all racists. Lincoln surely was. The
reason some were slave owners and others weren’t was based on
economics, not prejudice. The North had no cotton fields. In the stony
ground and primitive workshops of the North, slave labor didn’t pay. It
was cheaper to pay skilled workers slave wages than keep them in
chattel slavery. In Maryland at the time, slavery was disappearing
fast. Out in the tobacco fields, it was still a paying proposition, but
Baltimore’s factories were only a short distance away. In the little
village where you editor grew up, surrounded by tobacco fields, there
was nevertheless a railroad station…on the ‘underground railroad,’
this is. Slaves knew that if they could get to that big white house in
the village, they could get away. An abolitionist lived there.

Property that can run away so easily loses much of its property value.
Slavery was dying out everywhere…all over the world. Slavery was
unsuited to the industrial age. Within a decade of the end of the war,
it had been extinguished almost everywhere – without war.

Then, the war over, the southerners put on their sheets, nursed their
wounds and passed their Jim Crow laws. The North, having defeated the
most sacred principle of the American Revolution, continued on the road
to empire.

Regards,

Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning Australia

Bill Bonner

Bill Bonner

Best-selling investment author Bill Bonner is the founder and president of Agora Publishing, one of the world's most successful consumer newsletter companies. Owner of both Fleet Street Publications and MoneyWeek magazine in the UK, he is also author of the free daily e-mail The Daily Reckoning.
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Comments

  1. I’ve thought for a long time that “affirmative action” (aka: reverse discrimination) is a short-term fix, very much like focusing on quarterly results rather than the long term.

    Over time, it forces the discriminated-against group to hide their intentions and passive-aggressively thwart the movement, rather than openly embracing equality.

    I’ve never met a black conservative that I don’t LOVE, including Kevin Jackson, Thomas Sowell, Larry Elder and my new favorite friend, Allen West. (See his video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VP2p91dvm6M)

    Reply
  2. I must admit, as an Austrlalian, I’m fascinated by the American Civil War. Both sides fought for one kind of freedom and at the same time against another kind of freedom.

    I wonder if I had have been there back then which side I would take. If I was a White Southerner I would have fought with the South because my country had been invaded. If I was Black then of course I would have sided with the North. But if I was a White Northerner then I probably would have tried to stay out of the whole mess.

    There is soemething I gues you could call ‘romantic’ about the Southern casue but the bottom line is that the South fought to keep slavery and that pretty much cancells out any of the right casues they also fought for.

    So… the South fought the right war but for the wrong reasons, and the North fought the wrong war but for the right reasons.

    Reply
  3. don’t forget the “sneaky f&*cker” theory. while the big bad tough guys were out fighting and hunting, the more gentle guys were slipping a few in on the quiet…. helps to explain why gay guys exist at all. (got this from the ABC science show btw). I suppose that was some kind of affirmative action too

    Reply
  4. They had affirmative action for whites too. It was called apartheid. Didn’t work either, look at the productivity mess they got into with too much unsustainably cheap “funny money labour” if you will. Same in south america. The European chauvinism thing runs deep and while everyone recognises that “liberals” have it in spades, it is the issue that when applied to conservatives sorts out the real measure of intention and character. Ron Paul passes in this territory where most fail.

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  5. South Africa didn’t get into a “productivity mess” under apartheid, it was the economic sanctions imposed by santimonious moral supremacists that limited economic growth. Even so, the SA economy was in much better shape then than it is now. South Africa is now on the Zimbabwe path, just 10 years behind.
    It’s interesting that the outraged human rights activists lost their outrage when they installed Mugabe and he committed the Rhodesian genocide.
    These days a racist is defined as anybody who is winning an argument against a liberal.

    Reply
  6. White South Africans by and large are not bad people. Black South Africans by and large are not bad people. Everybody admits at least to some extent that apartheid was wrongful and unfair, BUT South Africa was better for the vast majority at that time – health care, for example, was more equitable then than it is now (as unfair as it was even then). Today, South Africa is experiencing a brain-drain. White South Africans are leaving or thinking of leaving, because they are experiencing reverse apartheid. Unemployment is no better, and the oppression of poor blacks is unabated – the only change is the colour of the masters. Murder rates are sky-high, and the police force is useless. Private security is the only real security.

    It’s all a real shame, because all people deserve a bit of peace and prosperity – but in their anger they broke South Africa, whereas apartheid was merely reinvented.

    Reply
  7. Slavery has always existed and always will only it’s name and method will change.

    Reply
  8. And todays freedom is Claytons freedom like the kind of freedom you experience in the Matrix…as supplied by Australian MSM.

    Lachlan Scanlan
    December 13, 2009
    Reply
  9. The main reason for the american civil war was not the abolition of slavery. It was economic. The north didn’t have slavery and the south did. The south had an economic advantage because of free labour and the north couldn’t compete. Hence let’s put a moral imperative in there and go to war. Sounds better if you go to war to free people from oppression (and I’m not saying the slaves weren’t oppressed). Sound familiar?

    Reply
  10. Generally one can’t fight a war and win without some kind of moral high ground. If you can appear to be right, then your people will believe in you and you have a chance of winning. It doesn’t really matter if you _are_ right, as long as you control the newspapers and TV, because you can show ten people holding a banner and report that thousands marched the streets in support of war X, and put posters promoting “us versus them” everywhere. If there is nothing concrete to pin on the enemy, then you can blow something old or useless up that people can relate to, blame it on ‘them’ and get right into it. This recipe is so old, as you point out annie, and still people can’t recognize it.

    However the Internet is undoing a lot of this, because people on the scene can all communicate and say “There were only 10 protesters, not 10,000”, or “Actually they are using white phosphor and the casualty numbers are utter BS”. Over the past few years I’ve noticed that people are arriving sooner and sooner to this kind of information and are just not buying the lies as easily as they used to.

    So I’m interested to see just how the practitioners of dubious statecraft will get their agenda items ticked off in time when people cotton on so quickly.

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  11. The narratives that drive civil society, nation and empire harness righteousness and universal societal values. The emphasis between individual and collective right aside, such drivers expose the hypocrisy in practice of the self interested elite’s autocratic political hegemony. One enduring and noble feature of human nature is that throughout history people have tenaciously fought for their personal and collective rights and that ultimately they prevail. Just because they often implement even worse system of governance than that which they cast aside doesn’t change the fact that the greater the hypocrisy and subjugation of majority will, the more unsustainable the regime (sometimes white anted from within in the tradition of William Wilberforce rather than overtrown by uprising alone). Such is the case with slavery, South American gringo rule, or English colonial white minority rule from Asia to Africa.

    In the case of Zimbabwe and South Africa the tragedy is that poor disenfranchised rural workers were not able to be structurally adjusted to the realities of modern low labour input economic farming practice . The low wages and conditions together with personal security at the micro level subject to the provision of jobs in the local community it gave no impetus to farmers to reduce farm labour sufficiently, and even when they did the masses turned up at suburban ghettoes with the country’s economies focused on extracting wealth from its primary and resources sectors for the benefit of the few with insufficient effort on building a trickle down industrial and services economy. The longer and stronger the resistance of minority regimes the worse the

    China has done a better job at this since the 70’s but the process is fraught and difficult. Malaysia has had some success whereas Thailand is in a mess. There are all sorts of positive and negative examples on sustainability and productivity with emancipation.

    Reply

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