Americans do a better job discussing racial issues than most other places. Americans are advanced on this stuff, compared to many other places. But there is a wall they cannot breach in their discussion regarding this stuff, there is a hard limit to the egalitarian ideas that are allowed. The reason is the philosophy of human inequality that the country is founded on.
The American revolution was designed to replace rule of a hereditary elite by rule of a merchant elite. Instead of people selected to rule by their class position, they would compete for money, which would give them power, and those that rise to the top will be the rulers.
To explain why this would be better, Jefferson made a philosophy that says some men (he meant males) were born leaders. The leaders are the ones who accumulate wealth for themselves, or persuade a lot of people to do what they want.
Having lived in this Jeffersonian society, I can tell you exactly what these leadership traits are all about. The born leaders, the "natural aristocracy", consist of men who are:
perceptually attentive to cadences of speech, extremely sensitive to social cues
can judge talents in others, and use this to build a team.
Notice that these traits don't include any actual skills at doing anything. That is not required. A natural aristocrat doesn't do stuff, he hires other people to do stuff.
We have a name for these people in science. We call them "idiots". These are the ignorant pointy-haired bosses, the politician type people, who think that talking persuasively and wearing the right clothes gives them the right to boss around the people who have the actual knowledge.
The social skills listed above are very time consuming to acquire, and if you decide you want them, you will have no time to learn anything else, in particular, you will be ignorant. This is why some science fields enforce a draconian code of slovenly dress and required rudeness. If you want to be a physicist, don't wear a suit, and learn to curse, otherwise you are revealing yourself to be a natural aristocrat or a wannabe natural aristocrat, and such people are not needed.
So a class of political idiots with no actual knowledge run society, and generally, everyone knows it, except for people who are part of this class, and those that aspire to join it, who purposefully blind themselves to this.
But in America, this is considered a good thing. So the traits of the natural aristocracy are considered God-given talents that make a person deserving of power and privilege and wealth.
When you think such traits are parcelled out by nature, you have no reason to think that they will be statistically distributed equally. Like blue eyes, or upper body strength, or a long penis, different ethnic groups will have a somewhat different distribution of these traits (not just different ethnic groups, but even different families). This means that, taking this view, a certain amount of ethnic power-segregation is expected, simply from the different distribution of natural-aristocrat traits. The Americans expect this segregation, and always worry they will undo it by overly egalitarian wealth-sharing measures.
This idea is self-reinforcing, because it is only those groups which are shut out of political power that comes to disvalue these social traits, because they are worthless in and of themselves, they only acquire value in a society that puts people with these skills in power. Those groups who are allowed to have power rely on honing these social traits so they cannot disvalue them--- they want individuals to spend all their time trying to acquire these skills! So white people spend an awful lot of time learning to talk nice, and how to look a person in the eye, they learn how to hypnotically suggest things to people, how to project confidence, how to schmooze. These people learn everything there is to learn, except how to do something actually productive, like write a program or fix a sink.
This situation makes it that there is a racial gap in American society. Among blacks, hispanics, native Americans, socialists and also scientists, there is no sympathy for the natural Aristocracy, they are looked down upon. This means these cultures actively dissuade you from joining the natural Aristocracy, and call you a "sell out" if you do. This is why scientists don't like popularizers of science. It's why black culture has little sympathy for the grade A student who speaks white English and listens to classic rock. These activities reveal that a person is vying to join the natural Aristocracy.
But if you think the natural aristocracy is a God-selected group of great people, the true talented folks, and this is the general myth of American society--- that people with well-honed social skills are the ones who deserve to be in power--- then you are generally hostile to the racial egalitarian idea, or even to the equality of different families from the same ethnic background. Because you see that there is a huge cultural gap between different ethnic and family groups in acquiring these social skills.
This racial gap means that White Americans, who view the social skills of the natural aristocracy as God given gifts, rather than anti-social acquired skills, they end up believing that these gifts are just unequally distributed among humanity, because it seems that mostly white people have them, and even among white people, strangely enough, they are anti-correlated with being a scientist or a computer person, or having any technical skill, or with being poor.
You might be thinking, what's the problem with acquiring these skills? One problem is that to acquire them, you need to do social drinking and occasional drug-taking which will, as an unavoidable side effect, completely wipe out any mathematical or technical skills you might have. The drugs will erase your mathematical knowledge, and you will need months and years of study to reacquire it. This is not a worthwhile trade-off.
This is why Americans have a hard time fully rejecting racism. It's because they want the natural Aristocracy to come out on top, and the natural aristocracy idea is fundamentally wrong. But, wrong or not, among black people, there is a tradition that has developed in the U.S., starting with DuBois, of creating and nurturing and tolerating the antics of a black natural aristocracy. So you can have a black media figure, a black CEO, or a black president, since you can now sample the pool of black natural aristocrat dipshits.
It is in reaction to this rule by the natural aristocracy that many scientists were generally sympathetic to socialists. But the socialist solution, making the government run everything, is so terrible, that it must be rejected even more strongly than the rule of the natural aristocracy. So you are basically left with this impasse, which requires a new idea of social organization.
> But, wrong or not, among black people, there is a tradition that has developed in the U.S., starting with DuBois, of creating and nurturing and tolerating the antics of a black natural aristocracy.
Can you elaborate about DuBois creating and nurturing the natural aristocracy? I never studied American history, so this is not obvious for me.
It wasn't just him personally, but he wrote about "The talented tenth", the idea that 10% of black folks were talented enough to join the white bourgoisie, and should be given special leniency and allowed to do so. In the bourgeoisie, this leniency is expected, a rich boy will be allowed to do some naughty things, because he is part of the ruling class. The idea here was to create a class of entitled black folks, who would be allowed to do the same naughty things, so they can later infiltrate the bourgeoisie and gain political power for people who have been excluded. It's something that other groups didn't do, it's like a plot to infiniltrate the bourgoisie, and it worked. This idea struck me as strange and primitive in duBois, it seems to suggest that 90% of black folks are lacking in talent! But I understood later it was an echo of Jefferson's natural aristocracy.
The black bourgeoisie developed earlier, more organically, even before slavery ended. You can see, for exmple, in 12 Years a Slave, the memoire of Solomon Northup, not just the slavery, but how much a bourgeoise Yank Northup is! His inventions, his enterprise, his feeling of separateness from the born slaves, who he empathizes with in a condescending way, even though he is in their shoes, and with the exception of Patsy, who he seems to admire for her cotton picking skills--- again it's a bourgeoise thing. He gains experience of slavery, but he is obviously a high class guy, he writes high class too.
The black bourgoisie expands throughout the 20th century, and duBois actively encourages this, even though it produces inequality, and even though it is opposed to the socialists. This is why socialists consider black leaders who are insufficiently socialist as sellouts, because they are just encouraging the formation of a black bourgeoisie, where all that happens is you get to be told what to do by a rainbow coalition of rich dipshits.
You hear it too, in Chris Rock, talking about "There are black people and then there are niggers". This is an appeal to class separation, to create a class consciousness and to identify with the ruling class. I hate it. But this is historically is what succeeded to produce the racial progress in the US, creating a racially diverse bourgeoisie. The bourgoisie are torn here, because it is attack on white priviledge, but it is an acceptance of bourgoise priviledge, and it doesn't challenge the economic order. So in the end, it forces the bourgoisie to choose "keep racism, or keep capitalism?" and they choose to keep capitalism, and get rid of racism.
and get rid of racism--except they forgot to do that part.
> Americans do a better job discussing racial issues than most other places. Americans are advanced on this stuff, compared to many other places.
I agree, Americans nurtured a culture of reflecting and discussing race, that is lacked in my country, i think. This culture is needed, because otherwise you don't know how to raise an ethnicity issue without enraging or giving wrong impressions to anyone.
I think you have an erroneous picture of what Jefferson had in mind. He was against hereditary aristocracy, that's true. I suspect that (being, as he was, an intelligent and well-educated-for-his-time man) what he meant was something like the Ancient Greek "philosopher-king"--someone who is intelligent and persuasive (i.e., doesn't just say "Do it because I say to!," but says "This is why you should do it." Not necessarily attractive or well-dressed or "perceptually attentive to cadences of speech, extremely sensitive to social cues," although admittedly these have *become* the criteria in recent (msotly since-the-invention-of-TV) times. Which is hardly Jefferson's fault; he probably never imagined such a thing as television!
Freedom of speech doesn't necessarily generate informed or intelligent discussion. Jerry Springer provided a platform many times to discuss race and racism.
Freedom of speech + access to all, that does work. That's the internet. Jerry Springer had a monopoly media position.