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Race In America And The Time Barack Obama Was Mistaken For A Waiter

obama-tuxedo-toast

Barack Obama was once mistaken for a waiter at an elite New York party hosted by Tina Brown:

On a warm weekday evening in 2003, a group that can fairly be described as representative of the media elite gathered at one if its favored venues: the garden behind the Manhattan apartment of journalists Tina Brown and Harold Evans.

The occasion was the publication of “The Clinton Wars,” by Sidney Blumenthal, a former aide to President Bill Clinton. Editors from the New Yorker and the New York Times were in attendance along with media figures like Steven Brill and Rolling Stone co-founder Jann Wenner. The guests mingled and sipped wine. Even Clinton showed up, instantly becoming the epicenter of attention.

(…)

Standing by myself I noticed, on the periphery of the party, a man looking as awkward and out-of-place as I felt. I approached him and introduced myself. He was an Illinois state senator who was running for the U.S. Senate. He was African American, one of a few black people in attendance.

We spoke at length about his campaign. He was charismatic in a quiet, solemn way. I told him I wanted to pitch a profile of him to a national magazine. (The magazine later rejected my proposal.)

The following year I watched as he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, and then won his Senate seat that fall. On Tuesday, Barack Obama was elected the 44th president of the United States.

But what I will always remember is as I was leaving that party in 2003, I was approached by another guest, an established author. He asked about the man I had been talking to. Sheepishly he told me he didn’t know that Obama was a guest at the party, and had asked him to fetch him a drink. In less than six years, Obama has gone from being mistaken for a waiter among the New York media elite, to the president-elect.

The above comes from a piece written shortly after President Obama’s victory in 2008 by Katherine Rosman that was linked on Friday by The Atlantic’s Garance Franke-Ruta, who comments:

[I]t’s her kicker that really stands out in light of Obama’s comment today that “there are very few African-American men in this country who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me.”

The obvious conclusion that we’re supposed to draw here, of course, is that the anonymous author that Rosman was engaging in some form of racial profiling when he assumed that the black guy was a waiter rather than a guest. Is that a fair conclusion to draw? More importantly, is it really correct to say that there’s a similarity between some anonymous person at a party ten years ago, when Barack Obama was a name virtually unknown outside Chicago politics, was engaging in the same kind of racial profiling that Obama was talking about in his remarks on Friday?

I’m not sure. Being a white guy raised in a mostly white suburban community in Central New Jersey I’m hardly one to consider myself an expert at understanding how then State Senator Obama may have felt when this person, who he likely didn’t know (indeed it seems from Rosman’s account that the author didn’t know who Obama was either at the time), asked him to get him a drink. Nor have I been invited to any New York, or Washington, cocktail parties that would give me a from of reference to know whether its even safe to assume that someone who happens to be African-American at a high-end party is part of the staff rather than a guest.

Notwithstanding those qualifiers, though, I think that its safe to assume that it would be less likely that an unknown white person would be mistaken for a waiter than that an unknown black person would. The fact that the person who made that mistake was someone who was both presumably well-educated and likely a political liberal may actually say more about how we still view race in this country than the Zimmerman case itself.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. JKB says:

    Who is this “we”? Sounds more like something a NY liberal would do than anyone I know. Oddly, down South we don’t assume the black man in the room is a waiter. Probably because there are more than one, often with more than one among the most well-known and powerful.

    But really, it may speak more to the expected privilege James wrote about earlier today. I seem to remember in Obama’s White House general officers are mistake for waiters. Oddly, if you actually look at people and don’t just put them in your little boxes for ideological exploitation, you don’t make these mistakes. Or you realize it quickly and apologize, such as mistaking someone for clerk in a store.

    Interesting thought problem. Do black people have a perception of racism being widespread because they spend an inordinate amount of time in the company or being lectured by “Progressives”? Or perhaps it is their exposure to our so-called “better” in the political elite?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 52

  2. An Interested Party says:

    Oddly, if you actually look at people and don’t just put them in your little boxes for ideological exploitation, you don’t make these mistakes.

    Oh? Terribly ironic coming from one of Zimmerman’s defenders…it’s a shame that Zimmerman didn’t follow this line of thinking, otherwise the hooded black youth might still be alive today….

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 4

  3. Gustopher says:

    I’d rather be mistaken for a waiter than shot to death.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 1

  4. bill says:

    wow, at a liberal elitist party no less…..so much for the theory of who profiles whom. bill clintons remarks to teddy k were even more telling of how they really feel about blacks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 10

  5. al-Ameda says:

    All I know is what conservatives tell me, and that it’s racist to even bring up the subject of race.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 32 Thumb down 2

  6. al-Ameda says:

    @JKB:

    Do black people have a perception of racism being widespread because they spend an inordinate amount of time in the company or being lectured by “Progressives”?

    Exactly – there is no racism, it’s all an illusion.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 30 Thumb down 1

  7. edmondo says:

    Perhaps he was mistaken for a waiter because he serves up everything Wall Street asks for on a silver platter?

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 14 Thumb down 15

  8. mantis says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Exactly – there is no racism, it’s all an illusion.

    And black people are too stupid to know it because they are held in the grips of the mind control powers of liberal slavemasters who keep them on the “Democratic plantation.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 29 Thumb down 2

  9. al-Ameda says:

    @mantis:

    And black people are too stupid to know it because they are held in the grips of the mind control powers of liberal slavemasters who keep them on the “Democratic plantation.”

    Yes, that’s exactly right, and the “Democratic plantation” is where Black people are brainwashed into voting 90% for Democratic Party presidential candidates.

    Seriously, based on the “dialogue” following the Zimmerman-Martin trial it is apparent that conservatives believe that there is no racial problem, and that the real problem is that “progressives” want to talk about a problem that does not exist.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 0

  10. anjin-san says:

    @ JKB

    if you actually look at people and don’t just put them in your little boxes for ideological exploitation

    You mean like the little boxes you have for liberals, college students, residents of urban costal areas, “elites”, and so on, and so on…

    I think the irony meter has had all it can take for one day.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 36 Thumb down 2

  11. anjin-san says:

    @ al-Ameda & mantis

    It’s simple. Black folks are too stupid and too ignorant to know where their own best interests lie. At least they are in the bizarro alternate universe conservatives inhabit.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1

  12. Latino_in_Boston says:

    Not sure the point of the post here, Doug. The point the President and others have made is not that it was directly comparable to be confused with a waiter to getting profiled as dangerous. The former is a petty grievance, the latter resulted in a tragedy. The point, however, is that there’s a certain image of black men: dangerous, angry, criminal and subservient that is not rooted in reality, and no matter how successful that person might be they have to deal with it. Moreover, it is so pervasive that it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I’ve experienced a version of this as a Latino before, but I’m sure that not nearly in the same amount as black men. But I can tell you from experience that these type of “confusions” are aggravating, especially when a certain part of the population believes that whatever success one might reach is as a result of “affirmative action” policies.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 27 Thumb down 2

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @anjin-san:

    @ al-Ameda & mantis
    It’s simple. Black folks are too stupid and too ignorant to know where their own best interests lie.

    And how do we know this? Well, it’s so damned easy and so obvious: Conservatives tell us that this is so, and so it must be true. QED!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2

  14. Latino_in_Boston says:

    And one other point, liberals of any sort, white, black, brown, asian are not immune to prejudice or falling into stereotypes, because they live in the same society as we all do, and that’s where prejudice and stereotypes come from. Anyone who claims otherwise is fooling themselves.

    That’s the point. Prejudice and racist stereotypes are everywhere. They are pervasive and deeply rooted in American culture. One cannot shake something so central to the American experience by calling oneself liberal. One has to work at it, because it’s much easier to judge people with preconceptions.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 34 Thumb down 0

  15. Woody says:

    @Latino_in_Boston:

    Exactly this.

    I believe few people are entirely racism-free. Our species invent patterns to explain the world about us and sometimes our patterns are wrong.

    Of course there are racist liberals, just as there are undoubtably non-racist conservatives. However, I’d submit that liberal leaders are far more inclined to try and confront this attitude, admit to it, and endeavor to change it. When I read or listen to conservative leaders, the inclination is to rationalize why racism is acceptable, deny racism exists at all, or throw up their hands and declare the problem unsolvable.

    This attitude is the real rope in the asphyxiation of movement conservatism. Climate change, health care, business regulation, income inequality. All completely inevitable and we are powerless, even foolish, to address or ameliorate any of them. Just accept it!

    This just doesn’t strike me as a terribly American attitude at all. But then, I actually think racism goes against the American way as well.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 24 Thumb down 2

  16. Gustopher says:

    I find it odd that the JKB’s and bill’s of the world latch onto something like this and say “this shows that the real racists are on the left!” as if there isn’t an ample supply of racism in our society everywhere.

    The difference is that more folks on the left will acknowledge that their actions are sometimes colored by racial stereotypes, and be embarrassed by it. The anonymous man at the party who asked Obama for a drink is described as “sheepishly” telling what happened.

    And far too many people on the right seem to hold the view that if they personally haven’t lynched someone this week, well then, racism is over and those black people really should just get over it already.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 1

  17. Steve V says:

    @JKB:
    Weird, I only visited the South once — a large Southern city — but I was stunned at the racial divide that I saw. Basically all the menial jobs seemed to be done by black people and the higher profile positions were held by white people. And it wasn’t that long ago. Where can I go to see this idyllic color-blind South that you speak of?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

  18. The obvious conclusion that we’re supposed to draw here, of course, is that the anonymous author that Rosman was engaging in some form of racial profiling when he assumed that the black guy was a waiter rather than a guest. Is that a fair conclusion to draw?

    I have on a number occasions been browsing in a store and had someone, apparently mistaking me for a staff member, come up asking me for sales assistance. Is this evidence of racial bias against middle aged white guys? Or just an embarrassing incident that happens to a lot of people?

    In this case, I wouldn’t be surprised if the misidentification has as much to do with the fact he was apparently lurking around the edge of the room, by himself, and not mingling with the other guests (that is, the way you’d expect one of the waiters to act) as it does with his race.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5

  19. john personna says:

    As a young engineer I got used to being asked for help if I ventured into a mall-store in shirt and tie. I got used to it, and just gave my best guess in answer to their “where can i find …”

    Possibly this was a youth and formal wear thing. But still, it is a less pernicious example of the same profiling.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  20. @john personna:

    For me, the weirdest thing is when it happens at someplace like Best Buy, where there’s a fixed uniform for the staff, and someone comes to ask me for help despite the fact I’m very clearly not wearing the uniform.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  21. anjin-san says:

    When I was going to Howard Dean rallies, I used to get asked if I was a Secret Service agent. Go figure…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  22. superdestroyer says:

    @Steve V:

    I had exactly the opposite experience while travelining on business In Alabama. Jobs like busing tables, working in convience stores, or being maids in a hotel were filled with blue collar whites. Yet, in a deep blue city like DC, you will never find whites working as maids, busing tables, or working in convenience stores.

    If having non-whites doing all of the menial jobs makes a city racist, then cities like the District of Columbia, Baltimore, of Philadelphia would be the most raicst I have always assumed that elite liberals find the south backwards because blue collar whites work close to blue collar blacks in such cities unlike New England, NYC, or Philly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  23. Grewgills says:

    @JKB:
    I grew in Alabama and go back nearly every year and have to say, you are certainly looking at things there through rose colored glasses.
    An example from a few years back:
    I was waiting tables. It was summer in central AL, so it was 100 degrees or so and 100% humidity. Barry and myself were working the outside, so would be in the heat, then pass through AC then to the kitchen and back all lunch. It was Friday, so we were going to be working dinner as well. After the lunch shift we were polishing silverware and prepping for dinner. Barry had heat exhaustion and needed to lie down for a bit. Once he went to the back dining room to rest, my boss without a hint of irony said, “I don’t know why Barry is having such a time with the heat, bein from the jungles and all.” I replied that I thought he was from Ensley. I didn’t last much longer in that job.
    That is one example among many that I found rather jarring after being away from the south for a few years. When you live in it, you tend to be desensitized and miss a lot of the subtle but pervasive bits of racism, homophobia, and prejudice against the non religious that is starkly obvious when you have been out of the fish bowl for a bit.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  24. Grewgills says:

    @superdestroyer:
    Which Alabama did you go to? Certainly not the one I have 40 some odd years of experience with. It is much better than it was, but it is not the place you describe.
    You are much more likely to hear things like, “I don’t have a problem with black people, it’s just the n!@@ers that I don’t like in the South than in those places you seem to think harbor all the real racists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Grewgills:

    First off: hello from a former fellow waiter.

    Second, back when I was waiting tables most restaurants wouldn’t allow black waiters at all. African-Americans bussed, did prep or cooked; Latinos ditto; white kids got the front of the house jobs where the money was.

    And waiters were very often poisonously racist, hating on blacks, Jews and Asians.

    As to racist progressives, yes, of course we suffer from the same racist tendencies. I don’t know many liberals who would deny it. Which is the point. We are aware that we sin, and we strive to be more virtuous. Conservatives deny the sin exists, then practice it on a regular basis.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 26 Thumb down 2

  26. Rafer Janders says:

    @edmondo:

    Perhaps he was mistaken for a waiter because he serves up everything Wall Street asks for on a silver platter?

    And that’s because he’s a socialist, right?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  27. Jenos Idanian says:

    @john personna: As a young engineer I got used to being asked for help if I ventured into a mall-store in shirt and tie.

    I would have taken you for a Mormon missionary. Or, possibly, a member of the Nation of Islam, if you had a bowtie.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 8

  28. Dave D says:

    I grew up in Milwaukee which is consistently in the top 5 lists of most segregated cities in the country. While in high school I worked a few different factory jobs and the only one that had more than ten white employees on any shift in non-management was a union job. I understand when people from the south see big northern cities that in a lot of sectors there is a real lack of integration in blue collar jobs. I think the segregation issues that cripple a lot of the rust belt area is a poverty issue. But in all of these jobs the only racism I consistently witnessed was between a group of Koreans towards some Hmongs we worked with.
    However, later while I was working factory jobs to put myself through college in rural Wisconsin in majority white workplaces that I saw racism daily. Between the numerous ex-cons proudly displaying their Aryan nation tattoos and what seemed to be a systematic blind eye towards what was happening was too much and usually only lasted a few months at a place before I said the wrong thing to the wrong bigot. Northern Racism is just as bad and just as ugly as in the South, which is easy to forget once you move into the white collar world where I think the lack of sometimes crippling poverty or now at best lower middle class existence. The lack of good paying blue collar jobs has left low skilled workers obviously frustrated, which I believe whites take more personally because they can look back 50 years to a time where they would be able to live the American dream through hard work. I also think that rural northern areas are more prone to systematic racism since the amount of interaction with minorities is always much smaller.
    I am not writing to excuse any of it, more just to say I understand sometimes why southerners might feel ganged up on whenever races comes up in a national discussion. Racism in this country is a huge problem and very repugnant, but it is in no way confined to the south. There however do seem to be more people outside of the south willing to accept that it is a big problem and at least try and have a discussion about it and it’s implications on our society. I think we as a nation can benefit by having an open discussion on some of these issues. It is just a shame that it always takes a tragedy before the first words are spoken and then just as easily forgotten a few months later when the next big news comes along, much like the debates over firearms. FWIW tribalism is a powerful force and as race relations continue to improve with each successive generation, I think that this animosity will just be shifted along economic divides.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  29. edmondo says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    And that’s because he’s a socialist, right?

    If only! We needed a socialist but all we got was Daddy Bush without the Mayflower roots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  30. john425 says:

    Being mistaken for a waiter and now being mistaken for the President. The Peter Principle in one big leap.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

  31. Latino_in_Boston says:

    Are we sharing our profiling stories? How about this one:

    I am from Arizona. Latino. Not particularly dark skinned, but would definitely not be confused for white. In my 30s I started moving around the country and in 2008 I moved from PA to MD, when I went to get a MD driver’s license, the woman at the DMV asked me: Do you have a green card? Annoyed that she didn’t think I was a citizen, I said no, wondering where this was going.

    She responded that I couldn’t get a driver’s license without one. I said: how are US citizens supposed to get green cards? She then looked at me skeptically: you’re a US citizen? Of course I am, I said. Well, you have to prove that you are, she said. I actually did have my SSN card with me, mostly because you never know when you go to the DMV, but, as some of you know, an SSN is not enough to prove you’re a US citizen, so she wouldn’t take it. The only way for me to be able to get a driver’s license, according to this woman, was to come back with a passport or a birth certificate (neither of which I had with me, of course). I was livid, but there’s nothing to do in a case like that, because no one cares. So I had to come back some other day and waste another few hours. And wouldn’t you know it? The second time it was a different woman and that time she did not ask me for a green card, or whether I was a US citizen (as neither had any other DMV ever).

    Now, do you think if I was white I would have been asked whether I had a green card. I don’t think so.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 2

  32. edmondo says:

    @Latino_in_Boston:

    Probably would have helped if you had read the rules before going to get your license:

    A new applicant for a learner’s permit, driver’s license, moped operator’s permit or identification card must present (1) document to prove age and identity, (1) document to prove they possess a valid, verifiable Social Security Number (SSN) or proof of ineligibility for an SSN, (1) document to prove lawful status in the United States and (2) Maryland residency documents.

    Original or certified copy of a U.S. birth certificate filed with a State Office of Vital Statistics (OVS) or equivalent agency in the applicant’s state of birth (U.S. or territorial)* NOTE: Birth documents issued by a hospital, notifications of birth registration, birth registration cards, and foreign birth certificates are not accepted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  33. Latino_in_Boston says:

    @edmondo:

    I wasn’t asked the second time for my passport, edmondo. But the point was not that the state of Maryland requires people to prove they are here legally, the point is that she assumed that I was not a citizen. How often do you think that happens to white people?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 23 Thumb down 0

  34. edmondo says:

    @Latino_in_Boston:

    Perhaps she assumed you weren’t a citizen because you didn’t bother to bring a birth certificate.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 14

  35. Tillman says:

    @JKB:

    Oddly, down South we don’t assume the black man in the room is a waiter. Probably because there are more than one, often with more than one among the most well-known and powerful.

    A couple weeks ago, a story made the Town section of the paper noting that the local country club had admitted its first black member. Three years ago, when invited to a country club in Rocky Mount to a rehearsal dinner for a cousin’s wedding, I recall being quite uncomfortable at the fact that a bunch of white people were being catered and served exclusively by black people. Just saying, the South isn’t that peachy.

    Although in terms of considering someone a waiter, I’d probably take into account how they were dressed more than the color of their skin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  36. Tyrell says:

    I doubt it had anything to do with his being black. It was most likely the six ink pens in his shirt pocket!! That happens to me all the time when I am in the grocery store and they think I’m the assistant manager!

    “They call me Bocephus!” (Hank Williams Jr.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  37. Tyrell says:

    @anjin-san: Well, actually that seems to be what most of our elected officials in Washington seem to think.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 3

  38. mantis says:

    @edmondo:

    Perhaps she assumed you weren’t a citizen because you didn’t bother to bring a birth certificate.

    Yeah, I’m sure that was it.

    Latino, I’ve been to the DMV with only a SS card (oops), and nobody asked if I was a citizen. But then, I’m white. I’m sure it never crossed their minds.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  39. Gustopher says:

    @edmondo: wouldn’t a social security card be proof of lawful status in the US? Are we handing out social security cards in Mexico or something?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  40. A.Men says:

    When obomba was dating White girls, was he mistaken as their servant?

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 18

  41. Todd says:

    I remember my time being stationed in Alabama in the mid 90s. I was at a small airport in the southern part of the state. When I first got there, I was looking for a house to rent, and wasn’t having much luck. So one day I mentioned at work how hard it was to find a house, and was told to go see Jim, as he knew of quite a few that weren’t advertised. When I asked why they weren’t advertised, I was told: “if it’s advertised, you have to rent to anybody”

    My wife at the time was white, so we found a place to live. If I had already been married to my current darker skinned Panamanian wife at that time, I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that we would have never found out about the house I ended up living in.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the misidentification has as much to do with the fact he was apparently lurking around the edge of the room, by himself, and not mingling with the other guests (that is, the way you’d expect one of the waiters to act)

    Never been to such a high tone party but I doubt very much that the waiters hang around the edges of the room. They had better get their asses out in the room catering to the guests every whim and fancy. At least, every lowbrow restaurant I ever ate at had that policy as a minimum. Seems unlikely that the higher up the food-chain one goes, the harder it is to get a drink.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  43. john personna says:

    For what it’s worth, and fairly related, I only just learned of “Poe’s Law.” A quick search in the OTB text box says that it has not been described here:

    “without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  44. Pinky says:

    I’m amused by Northerners who think that (a) that the South is racist and (b) that the North isn’t. The ongoing prejudice against Southerners is more common in the North than racism, but it’s the same flaw in thinking. The Northerner ranks people from best to worst as follows:

    Northern whites
    hispanics
    blacks
    Southern whites (because they’re racist)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5

  45. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    A weeks worth of ignorant in one morning. Nice work.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  46. al-Ameda says:

    @A.Men:

    When obomba was dating White girls, was he mistaken as their servant?

    When you were a greaseball, were you mistaken for a rational and sentient human being?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  47. John D'Geek says:

    @Latino_in_Boston: I’m conflicted. It’s kinda funny that backwards PA (I’m a Pennsylvania boy) gave you no trouble, but “civizled” Maryland did. On the other hand, it’s also quite disturbing.

    (Being a Geek, I have trouble with more than one emotion at a time).

    @michael reynolds: I don’t look at racism. Why? I’ve been accused of being Racist. Why? Because I’m White. Or Republican. Or Conservative. Or an abstract position. Never because of something I’ve actually said or done.

    If the color of my skin makes me racist then there’s nothing I can do about it. Why bother to try? The others are blatant poltics (“you’re not exactly like me, therefore you’re EVIL(TM)!”) and not worth my time.

    Sorry, folks. I know you want me to be Evil(TM) but I really don’t give a rat’s posterior about race. Race is an artifical divisor that exists “as is” only in our nation. Dont’ believe me? Ask Kenji — I’m willing to bet “race” is defined along different lines in Brazil than here. I know it’s different in South Africa.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  48. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Dude. Slow down. It is simply factual that non-whites have true stories of racial profiling in America. A non-racist is someone who can hear those stories and acknowledge them without a knee-jerk opposition. If your knee jerks, then you might be a racist. The color of your skin actually has nothing to do with it.

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  49. Caj says:

    No one is more qualified to talk about race than President Obama. He’s experienced racism first hand. We who have not, have no clue what that’s like to have to endure that kind of treatment solely because of the color of your skin! Racism should be talked about as it still exists no matter how many times some try to convince themselves it’s gone away.That is pure fantasy. Unless we’ve walked in the shoes of a young black/brown boy or man we cannot possibly know what it feels like to be profiled. It’s sad that it’s still around in 2013 but around it is. So much hate in this country still by some for those who are regarded as ‘other’s, not like us and shouldn’t enjoy the same rights as we white people do! My hope lies with the younger generation who have moved beyond race and accept people of all races and religions. The older generation are the ones who can’t get beyond the notion that ‘white is still right’ and that’s very sad.

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  50. bill says:

    @Pinky: i knew more “rednecks” up north than i ever ran into down south. although now that it’s ok to be a redneck i’m seeing more and more.

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  51. bill says:

    @Caj: stop it, he grew up extremely privileged. and being a first gen aa he technically has little to do with the general aa crowd ( the dreaded “slave” history).
    aside from not being raised by his natural father- just how much “racism/segregation/black experience” did he face? answer- very little. plus, he’s half cracka too!

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  52. Tillman says:

    @John D’Geek:

    Race is an artifical divisor that exists “as is” only in our nation. Dont’ believe me? Ask Kenji — I’m willing to bet “race” is defined along different lines in Brazil than here. I know it’s different in South Africa.

    Walls are also artificial divisors. Just because something is artificial doesn’t make it trivial.

    And it’s not that we want you to be evil — though some are certainly guilty of Manichaean thinking. It’s more that we want you to police your peers into being less racist, like how the Koran-burning pastor in Florida was talked down by sympathetic evangelicals (the first time, anyway).

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  53. Pinky says:

    @Tillman: Koran is a race?

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  54. John D'Geek says:

    @john personna: There’s a reason I addressed it to Michael instead of you or our President. We will often disagree, but you’re rarely abrasive. Michael makes it his life’s mission.

    I appreciated President Obama’s speech; I actually got quite a bit out of it. But it drives me nuts when people talk like Michael does. It causes more trouble than it’s worth.

    Re: Remember, I’m a Geek (it’s not just a cool name). In my Contextual History, attitudes like Michaels are always followed by (typically very nasty) strong actions.

    Shorter: neither you nor our President declared war on me. Michael did.

    @Tillman: See above.

    I am aware that there are conservatives who are racists. I don’t appreciate it, but I rarely catch it.

    Shorter: if you’re really opposed to racism, then you’ll have to confront it in non-partisan terms. Michael doesn’t — he still likes to pretend that he’s Saint Michael.

    Doesn’t work that way.

    Sorry, I had a bad weekend. My self-censoring ability is down a bit.

    A bit more productive: I am against EEO, but not because I’m racist — it’s because I consider the entire system (as currently implemented) to be founded on fundamentally racist concepts. There are non-racist ways to implement EEO, but that’s not how our system works.

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  55. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    Sorry, folks. I know you want me to be Evil(TM) but I really don’t give a rat’s posterior about race. Race is an artifical divisor that exists “as is” only in our nation.

    A quick note from geek to geek: you’re confusing institutional and personal racism. There are unfortunately several distinct concepts under the same descriptor.

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  56. john personna says:

    @John D’Geek:

    This was the offending paragraph?

    As to racist progressives, yes, of course we suffer from the same racist tendencies. I don’t know many liberals who would deny it. Which is the point. We are aware that we sin, and we strive to be more virtuous. Conservatives deny the sin exists, then practice it on a regular basis.

    You could say he runs a bucket sort there, and puts conservatives in the racist bin.

    That is unfair because it is not 100% accurate, but you know, even “rational conservatives” have really unfortunate history on their side.

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  57. Pinky says:

    If everyone’s racist, then the race game can go on forever. If there’s institutional racism, then there’s racism even when no one’s racist.

    Of course, on the other hand, there’s nothing worse than racism in our culture.

    The combination works thusly: The leftist is racist. He projects his racism onto others. If they feel as guilty as he does, they’ll shut up. If they don’t, they’re deniers, because after all, everyone is racist, so they should just admit it. Even if they dispute that, then there’s racism even in the walls, so we have to stay on guard against it (which for some reason means that we have to expand government). If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail – and if you’re a leftist, then everything looks like a problem.

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  58. An Interested Party says:

    When obomba was dating White girls, was he mistaken as their servant?

    Umm, probably not, but he was certainly pissing off people like you…

    The ongoing prejudice against Southerners is more common in the North than racism…

    The sad downtrodden Southerner…why, these poor souls face more discrimination than black people!!!

    It’s kinda funny that backwards PA (I’m a Pennsylvania boy) gave you no trouble, but “civizled” Maryland did. On the other hand, it’s also quite disturbing.

    Umm, not really…every state has its fair share of bigots…

    The combination works thusly: The leftist is racist. He projects his racism onto others. If they feel as guilty as he does, they’ll shut up. If they don’t, they’re deniers, because after all, everyone is racist, so they should just admit it. Even if they dispute that, then there’s racism even in the walls, so we have to stay on guard against it (which for some reason means that we have to expand government). If you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail – and if you’re a leftist, then everything looks like a problem.

    Hmm, how very white of you…

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  59. Pinky says:

    @An Interested Party: Yeah, that’s right, I’m a white Southerner. Great job labelling me lol jk

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  60. M. Bouffant says:

    @Pinky: What?

    And to JKB at the top: The guy in New York made an unfortunate assumption, but, sadly, not one that would be incorrect in many cases. (We don’t know the entire context: How the waitstaff were dressed as opposed to the guests’ attire, were most/all of the other servers non-white, &c.). BUT his making that unfortunate assumption does not mean that he believes anyone w/ skin darker than his should only have service jobs, or are only qualified for service jobs, as Paula Deen would have us believe. It probably means that he’s well aware of the racism that characterizes this country & limits people in their employment & other endeavors. And I wouldn’t be in the least surprised if many/most Southern conservatives believe exactly that, & do their best to see that things stay that way. And how many Southerners would tell that story “sheepishly”? They’d be proud to have insulted someone less white-skinned then they are, even if only by accident.

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  61. An Interested Party says:

    Relevant to this post…

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  62. Pinky says:

    @M. Bouffant:

    …does not mean that he believes anyone w/ skin darker than his should only have service jobs…

    The state legislature is a service job, no more inherently respectable than waiting at a party. From what I’ve seen, waiters are more likely to stay sober at work, and when they go home with extra money in their pockets, they earned it.

    And how many Southerners would tell that story “sheepishly”? They’d be proud to have insulted someone less white-skinned then they are, even if only by accident.

    Ridiculous stereotyping.

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  63. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    The state legislature is a service job, no more inherently respectable than waiting at a party. From what I’ve seen, waiters are more likely to stay sober at work, and when they go home with extra money in their pockets, they earned it.

    There are service jobs, and then there are service jobs.

    Do you really think that being a water is the same as being a state legislator?

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  64. Rob in CT says:

    Perhaps he was mistaken for a waiter because he serves up everything Wall Street asks for on a silver platter?

    LOL. Well played, sir. I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with you, but credit where credit is due.

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  65. Pinky says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Do you really think that being a water is the same as being a state legislator?

    Not the same, but I wouldn’t think to respect one person more than the other. I’d rather be known as a good waiter than an average state senator.

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  66. Rob in CT says:

    I’m amused by Northerners who think that (a) that the South is racist and (b) that the North isn’t.

    There aren’t as many of those as you seem to think. They’re a convenient target, I know.

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  67. al-Ameda says:

    @Pinky:

    Not the same, but I wouldn’t think to respect one person more than the other. I’d rather be known as a good waiter than an average state senator.

    I do not respect one person more than another, it’s just that, in reality, though both provide service, their position are very different. Speaking practically, I’d rather be a good state legislator than a good waiter – the salary and benefits are better.

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  68. wr says:

    @Pinky: “Not the same, but I wouldn’t think to respect one person more than the other.”

    Sure. Don’t matter what kind of airs they put on, they’re both still “boy” to you.

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  69. john425 says:

    @Pinky: Originally from Boston and while in the Air Force in the south, I learned a short descriptor about regional racism: “In the South they don’t care how close blacks get as long as they don’t get too high. In the North they don’t care how high they get as long as they don’t get too close.”

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