Monday, December 14, 2009

China is dealing with race issues now -- and it's not pretty. Hooray to the least racist nation in the world.


  1. To a Canadian, the idea that America is the least racist nation on earth smacks of American myopia. Can you explain why America is less racist than the Canada, Australia or the UK? To us, America seems absurdly racist for a world power.

    Barack Obama said something similar when he said that his story could only happen in America. Maybe there hasn't been a visible minority in charge of Canada yet, but that's sort of like arguing that Pakistan is ahead of America in women's rights because of Benazir Bhutto.

  2. If the Korean was not myopic about America, how could he call himself an American? :)

    In all seriousness though, the Korean thinks that America is the least racist because America has the most significant percentage/number of minorities. The pressure to be racist rises if and only if there are a lot of minorities appearing to take over what the majority used to have. More minorities, more racist tension. And the fact that America keeps racism (mostly) in check while having a lot for racist pressure, in my book, makes it the least racist.

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  5. Sorry, that argument holds water. You can mitigate American racism by saying that it has to do with the larger share of minorities in America, but you can't use that to turn America into a model for race relations, because it's not. Consider the arrest of Harvard professors in their own homes for being considered burglars, the racist attacks hurled at Barack Obama, the relatively frequent shootings of blacks by police officers, the bleak living conditions of blacks compared to other Americans, and so on.

    Sending me one link to a website proving that racism has occurred in Canada doesn't mean anything. No Canadian denies that racism is and has been a part of our country, and neither would a Briton or an Australian. Your task is to show that not only is America equal to these countries when it comes to race relations, but that it is better.

  6. The first sentence, of course, should say "that argument holds no water".

  7. Adeel: America is certainly not the 'ideal' model for race relations. But if we are going to use that as a metric, then Canada, Australia, and the UK are even less so for exactly the same reasons that the Korean talks about. I think the main difference is the degree of exposure of so-called racist events in the media. I don't know much about the other countries, but I might daresay that this exposure is the highest in America.

    Although, this might change, with the influx of immigrants from Arab countries in the UK and Europe, it would be interesting to see how they deal with it. So far, however, it's not really encouraging.

    If anything, it would be hard to deny that America is at the forefront of dealing with multiculturalism, racism, etc. and whether or not it's doing a good job is left to the countries following in its footsteps to evaluate and adapt for themselves. But to say that any country that hasn't been in the lead as America has is any less racist wouldn't be a fair assessment, since they haven't been there yet.

  8. I'm guessing that all of you who say that America is the least racist nation on earth is American. Because if you were Canadian, there is no way you would say that. Canada is a cultural mosaic, not a melting pot, because each culture thrives in peaceful and friendly co-existence. Of course, there is still some racism here, but there are a lot less racist people that I've encountered here than in the US.

  9. I tend to agree with the Korean and Eugene here.

    The Korean made an excellent point in urging the reader to judge America's multi-cultural success in the context of the immense, centrifugal racial pressures that exist. Eugene then made another splendid point in emphasizing that those uncommon manifestations of egregious of racism in America becomes particularly conspicuous, because of the tendencies of its extraordinarily open/self-critical culture.

  10. Eugene, sorry, this boggles my mind. The history of racism in America is well-documented and exists to this day. Canada has two major cities that are majority minority, with a fraction of the race-based incidents that occur in America.

    If anything, it would be hard to deny that America is at the forefront of dealing with multiculturalism, racism, etc. and whether or not it's doing a good job is left to the countries following in its footsteps to evaluate and adapt for themselves.

    Slavery was outlawed in Canada in the 1830s, as elsewhere in the British empire. America did this 30 years later.

    Voting restrictions against natives were removed in 1960 in Canada. America removed its restrictions against blacks in 1965.

    Let me know what exactly it was that America did that Canada, Australia or the UK didn't do. So far all I see is people saying "yes, America has done some Godawful things to black people, but hey, we have a lot of them."

    Yes, more minorities equals more racism almost tautologically, but the degree and extent of racist thought in America blows Canada out of the water. Like I said, you might want to argue that both countries have shameful pasts and that it's really all a wash, but to hold up America as a paragon of race relations, largely on the basis of being American, is grossly inaccurate.

  11. Adeel,

    Canada's black population is around 2 percent according to Wikipedia:

    In contrast, the same number for the U.S. is 15 percent:

    That's a pretty significant difference, and I don't think I need to detail the ramifications.

    As for the following question you posed:

    "Let me know what exactly it was that America did that Canada, Australia or the UK didn't do."

    How about electing a black head of state?

  12. Won Joon Choe you mean a biracial head of state, if Obama was all black he would not be the president of the United States we need to quit telling ourselves otherwise.

  13. I think tallying the number of publicly reported 'racist incidents' is not a great way to figure out how 'racist' a country or a society is. For one, it completely ignores the historical context... how can one talk about the black-white relations in US without talking about slavery, Jim Crow laws, civil rights movement etc. or Hispanic-white relations in US without talking about Mexican-American war, illegal immigration and its impacts on social discourse, etc.?

    A more appropriate way, in my opinion, would be to simply understand how the society in question deals with the issue of minority relations/racism. United States is the least racist country in my opinion because

    1. The society generally recognizes racism as something extremely taboo to the point where calling someone "racist" has become a popular ad hominem.

    2. The majority is not only aware of the historical context enough to feel some sort of social pressure (i.e. "white guilt"), it is also aware that such social pressure is not a correct way of dealing with racism & diversity

    3. The minority is not only actively and peacefully pursuing the ideal goal of acceptance (and NOT "co-existence"), it is also aware that it is incorrect approach to go overboard with the race relations discourse (i.e. "playing the race card"). In addition, it is more than comfortable/confident enough to self-criticize and reflect (Cosby comment, every minority comics ever).

    4. Racial discourse now rejects the previously cherished idea of "co-existence" ("you can live next door, exotic-smelling/dressed colored man, but easy with your voodoo magic and strange-smelling foods, all right?") and is looking for something better. This critique is perhaps best summarized by this clip:

    The reason America is this way is as the Korean had said previously - we simply have higher racial pressure than others.

  14. "The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults."

    -Alexis de Tocqueville

  15. With all things considered, I would still have to say that Canada wins.

    But then again, I suppose the judgement on "the least racist nation in the world" is an objective one. There is no black-and-white set criteria for such a title. It's like trying to determine which countries in the world are the "best", "worst", "happiest" or "scariest". It all eventually does come down to personal opinion.

  16. don't know if you'll allow me to keep this post up but won't you allow me to make an announcement for my new blog?

  17. SarahLee123,

    No, just because you cannot obtain precise answers in the human things as you can in the sciences does not mean all human judgments are relative or subjective.

    Surely, there is a way to navigate through the human things without succumbing to either the Scylla of absolutism and the Charybdis of relativism.

  18. Pawikirogii,

    I know we are dealing with a small sample, but your Blog entries are conspicuously restrained compared to your comments on Mr. Koehler's Blog. I suppose people tend to their own houses with greater care, eh? :)

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