(Note/disclaimer and trigger warning: this blog article makes use of a dangerous element, called a sense of humor. This may be dangerous to many, so if you lack the equipment to venture further, I suggest you rush to your mouse clicker right now and click yourself out of here! Before it’s too late …..and you land in, of all things…reality!!)
It’s come to my attention that it’s high time to address racism as it relates to homelessness. Many of you will have realized the importance of this topic for quite some time, and wondered why it’s taken me so long to get to it. In fact, for many of you, on the very first day you began to be concerned with homelessness, the topic of racism would have been on your minds. Some of you may have reflexively asserted a truth that we often see reflexively asserted these days: namely that it’s not possible to have homelessness without racism, that in fact, racism is responsible for most all the homelessness we see in the nation, just as racism is responsible for most all the ills we see anywhere in the world.
Well, I’m finally here to explore this topic, albeit belatedly, but what I say may disappoint some of you who are devotees, nay, fanatical disciples, of the theory that there is a thick miasma of Institutional Racism that permeates the entire nation, nay, the entire earth, and that every unfortunate thing that occurs anywhere on earth, is readily traceable back to this toxic miasma, this progeny of white supremacy, and thus, really, this by-product of whiteness itself.
For instance, recently there was an opinion piece on Berkeleyside, see here
Unfortunately, less than 2 days after publishing that opinion op-ed, Berkeleyside shut down commenting on the article. This didn’t happen before a number of astute commenters tore apart the poor critical thinkings skills involved therein, but still, I think the shutting down of such commentary is just one more example of the illiberal left’s intolerance for open public discourse, and perhaps even for the insistence that we actually use logical arguments when we discuss issues.
This article asserted , in a statement demonstrating a stunning capacity for illogical thinking, that there can be only 2 reasons why blacks are so much more likely to be homeless not only in Berkeley, but across the nation: “either there is something wrong with black people, or there is something wrong with policies.” The author of this article stated:
Blacks are nine percent of the general population of Berkeley and 57% of the homeless population. Comparing black and white percentages of Berkeley’s total population, a black resident is thirteen times more likely to be unhoused than a white person.
Berkeley’s not alone. Across the United States, blacks are thirteen percent of the general population and forty percent of the homeless population. The National Alliance to End Homelessness cites several factors that contribute to this extreme disproportionality, including housing discrimination and higher rates of poverty, incarceration and untreated mental illness.
At a recent talk at Zellerbach to discuss his new book, How to be an Antiracist, American University historian Ibram X. Kendi presented a novel frame for examining racial inequities: They exist either because there’s something wrong with black people or because there’s something wrong with policies (historic and contemporary). Because I reject the notion that there’s anything wrong with black people, I turn my attention to policies and practices that have a discriminatory impact but persist due to racist rationalizations positing black inferiority. Housing policies and practices, lending policies and practices, education, health care, employment, criminal justice — in every one of these arenas, reams of studies show how blacks suffer discriminatory treatment, sometimes intentional but often as a function of the unconscious biases that virtually all Americans of every race carry to some degree.
One wonders why people like this book author would come to one of the most elite of educational institutions in the world, the University of California at Berkeley, to essentially broadcast and advertise their possible lack of capacity for coherent logical thinking. Aren’t such people afraid that if they stand up on stage arguing a false dichotomy (which, if you have a university education, and have any training at all in critical thinking, you would know is a logical fallacy) , people might make fun of them and declare that some of the arguments in their book are crapola???
Yet such authors, in their pursuit of bold new avenues in illogical thinking, have the great advantage on their side, that instead of educating university students in critical thinking skills, in logical thinking, in the ability to make sound and logical arguments, many universities, including the University of California at Berkeley, have somehow been transformed into centers for advanced indoctrination and brainwashing. Instead of being taught how to think, many students are now being taught that logical, critical thinking is dangerous, and in fact, that it could very well be a product of racism itself.
But a possible shortage of logical thinking skills is not the only difficulty that such authors apparently have, since it’s very well known, as it this material frequently appears in articles in various media and all over the internet, that very few intelligent observers are arguing “there is something wrong with black people”. Rather, the argument that one can see plastered all over the internet, is that “there is something wrong with some subcultures, and some people’s values.” There’s something wrong with some people who, when presented with two or more choices, pick the one that is more likely to lead them to poor health, obesity, failure, self-destruction, gang life, drug addiction, crime, imprisonment, welfare, poverty, dependency, homelessness, early death, as well as spending too many hours in front of a flatscreen TV watching talk shows. Why are we failing to do research on why people make stupid or self-destructive choices, when they are radically free to choose anything? This would be a far more productive direction to put our energy and resources, than into yet more racist policies which infantilize and patronize blacks, treating them as inferior, by operating on the assumption that they alone, in all the world and in all of history, are the only people who apparently lack the skills to run their own lives.
And more, the fact that some people make the wrong choices in life, is not a result of some invisible poisonous miasma enveloping the world, it’s not the fault of all white people, it’s not the fault of national policy, it’s not the fault of events that occurred in history 200 years or more before these people were born. Rather, it’s exclusively and solely the fault of those people who make those bad choices. That some people are disadvantaged, and do not have as many opportunities as others, does not mean they suddenly have no agency and turn into dependent infants. They can still make choices within the circumstances where they find themselves, and ethically, existentially, they are obliged to contend honestly with their circumstances, rather than give up on life and seek someone else to blame for them.
This is an existential truth: the truth that (on the inside, not in terms of external circumstances) each of us is completely free. We may not be very free in terms of all external circumstances, of course, but we are totally free both in terms of the choices that we make, and in terms of the attitudes and thoughtforms we create within ourselves, our attitudes towards our external circumstances.
Not all of us have the same choices, of course, and some have more opportunities than others do — or even, many, many more opportunities and advantages. No doubt some people are greatly disadvantaged. (Suggestion: let’s use the words advantaged/disadvantaged, and stop using the word “privilege, as in the racist term “white privilege”, as it’s not necessary to demonize whole groups of people to tell the truth, and it’s simply false that advantages or disadvantages fall totally along racial lines). Yet, I think we collectively fail to appreciate how important just the smallest healthy behaviors can be, the impact of even the smallest good choices. There is virtually nobody in this nation, who cannot make at least some choices that would be to their advantage, choices which would allow them to be healthy, instead of in poor health, eating better foods, instead of junk food, educated, instead of uneducated, skilled instead of unskilled, employed instead of unemployed, a decent citizen instead of a criminal preying upon others, living clean and sober instead of becoming a drug addict, housed instead of perennially unhoused, spending their free time to better themselves, versus spending their free time in ways that degrade themselves. And so on.
So, let’s now get to the matter of racism and how it relates to homelessness.
One form of racism that applies to homelessness, is this: it’s found in those, very frequently liberal, thinking of themselves as enlightened and progressive, congratulating themselves on their education in antiracism and their indoctrination into white guilt, who are quite unaware of the profound racism involved in their bigotry of low expectations. In essence, they engage in that dynamic of psychological projection so very often found in progressive liberals: blaming others for the very things that are found in themselves.
These individuals who seem to take pleasure in blaming others for racism, while blissfully unaware that its their own racism that, at least in terms of our national policies, and the enabling of crime and self-destructive behavior, can often cause the most damage.
This racism is enabling others in their dysfunctional behavior. It’s encouraging people in their irresponsibility. And it’s been at the basis of development of national policy for many decades now, all this is accomplished by the bigotry of low expectations. In essence, such liberals, as suggested by the author of this Berkeleyside article, would deprive black people of free will and agency, by asserting that blacks are incapable of success without white people to help them, in fact, to constantly develop new policies to aid them. Thus, the argument is essentially that the main reason that so many blacks have ended up homeless, is because of something that white people have done wrong.
This extraordinarily patronizing and condescending, and indeed racist approach, is built solidly into our national policy in the US. This “White Savior” racist and ultimately self-aggrandizing approach to black individuals has been part of our policy now for many decades, and it’s done incredible damage.
We dont’ need any more of this:
The damage has been, that we’ve encouraged black people that they are not responsible for their own actions, their own choices, their own lives. We’ve inadvertently encouraged boatloads of black people (for our collective patronizing, racist preaching along these lines has reached into all education systems, and is present in most all school systems) to be dependent upon others, to sit back passively on their heinikins with a giant chip on their shoulder, and hold out their hand, expecting to spend their lives being spoon fed by those they are being taught are the ones really responsible for every bad thing that has ever happened to them.
Quite ironically, those who are most tenacious in actions which demonstrate the racism and bigotry of low expectations, are actually ending up going in this direction, as they flee desperately from the fear of being seen as racist, called a racist, or accused of having some tiny bit of unconscious bias in their psyche. Put simply, White Guilt is a very powerful force, and people are turning themselves into pretzels in an effort to contend with their own White Guilt.
The most ironic aspect of this, of course, is that by allowing themselves being manipulated through assertions that they as white people are originally guilty (which is much like allowing yourself to be manipulated by a Christian fundamentalist who insists that because you have Original Sin, you therefore need to adopt their dogma and declare that Jesus is Your Personal Savior) , these individuals end up doing and expressing things that are patronizing, condescending and racist.
And that reveals, as well, that in contrast to liberals’ assertion that they are out on an antiracism mission, a mission to end racism, the facts demonstrate quite otherwise. Many whites suffering from manipulation of their psyches through the dynamic of “White Guilt”, are unwittingly quite invested in the continuance of some degree of racism, because if racism disappeared, their whole “mission” would collapse. If racism, and the massive (but, strangely, nearly totally invisible) phenomenon of “Institutional Racism” that they allege were to disappear, then something terrible would happen: black people would now be free, and responsible for their own choices and actions, just like everyone else.
In fact, things are indeed looking rosier for blacks around the nation, with more signs of success and more closure of racial gaps:
However, this good news might come as a threat to the disciples of White Guilt and the addicts of the delusion of interminable Institutional Racism, for whom any success would mean a degree of defeat for their babble about the deep intractibility of pervasive white racism.
I hate to break it to these disciples of this fundamentalist religion of White Guilt…but everyone is already free. Actually, that never stopped being the case. It was the case at the beginning of time, and it’s still true today. Thus, if not in terms of all external circumstances, at least within our own psyches, where it matters most, we are all totally, completely free: the problem is not our lack of freedom, but our unwillingness to accept and contend with that freedom, quite likely because in our heart of hearts we subconsciously understand that freedom imposes a great burden: it means we and we alone are responsible for what we do with our lives. This is Authenticity, to live responsibly, and it’s an existential expectation for all of us that we dare to live up to the promise of our own deep capacity to be radically free.
Yet, when you look around at how some people are spending their lives — eg, dependent for life on government handouts, as gang members, as criminals, as drug addicts, as people apparently content to be homeless and refuse services because of the demands for self-accountability that those services would involve, and their requirement that we take some small action on our own behalf — it would become quickly apparent why some would find it intolerable to be told that there are no barriers to them seizing their own total freedom. Because if they accepted this truth, it would not only require them to start making some effort, but would also burden them with the responsibility for their own bad choices.
The good news, though, is what is always good news about existential good faith and courage: by daring to take up the challenge of being fully human, fully authentic, we can all grow in pride and nobility, we become better and more radiant, fully alive human beings. And there’s simply nothing that can bring as much contentment and joy as this.
Simply put — and I think this is a particularly important point given all the arguments about the impact upon black Americans of a history of slavery — a great many people really don’t want to be free, and would prefer to be slaves: slaves to others’ handouts, slaves to other’s provisions for their own needs, indeed slaves even to others making their choices for them. If slavery really is so abominable to you, then quit being a slave, and stand up and seize your own freedom right this moment.
Freedom is very difficult. Shelby Steele makes this point at 1:06:33 into this (long but compelling video ) about identity politics, that people who dont’ know how to handle their freedom, will simply re-invent some type of slavery to keep themselves from being challenged by the difficult challenges posed by radical freedom.
So in conclusion, there is most definitely a racism related to homelessness. There may be more than one type, but this article is about this one type. It’s the racism of low expectations, whereby we are too quick to try to protect people from the consequences of their own actions and choices. It’s the racism whereby we assert that people aren’t responsible for their own behavior. It’s the racism whereby we reflexively assert, with no evidence at all but apparently just from our prejudice and hatred, and indeed our racism, that if outcomes are not identical among all races, that if more blacks than whites are imprisoned or are homeless, that this must be due to white privilege and white racism.
“White privilege” is a racist term, and it’s high time we dumped it. “White Guilt” is a destructive invention, and it’s high time whites abandoned the notion that they are “supposed” to feel guilt. Nobody need feel any guilt or shame about things that they have never done. There is no such thing as racial original sin, so nobody should be buying the nonsense that they are “supposed” to feel guilty on behalf of their whole race, like the nincompoop Rosanna Arquette. https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/celebrities/2019/08/08/rosanna-arquette-feels-so-much-shame-over-being-white-privileged/1962475001/
To feel that kind of guilty about who one is, totally unrelated to anything one has ever actually done, is neurotic, unhealthy: it’s actually perverse and bizarre. Even if you have done something wrong, continuing just to feel guilty or ashamed about that is not going to help: what will help is making a commitment to a different path. And, in contrast to what the NYT Identity Politics gurus assert, fixating on the racist concept of “White Privilege” is not going to be a solution either. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/14/style/white-guilt-privilege.html
It’s racist to make assertions about an entire race or ethnic group, which is why, as Jordan Peterson has pointed out, the term “white privilege” is racist. There are quite likely no universal statements we can make about entire groups of people. Hence we should dump identity politics, its superficiality, its bigotry, its innate racism that boxes people in according to very superficial characteristics. As Martin Luther King Jr argued, we should not be judged by the color of our skin, yet modern day Identity Politics fanatics appear quite happy to engage in just such racism.
We are not, collectively, merely the sum of a bunch of ridiculous pigeonholes. We are not to be categorized and dismissed with racist stereotypes. Rather, we live in a world of unique individuals, radically free individuals, who may not be able to choose what happens to them, or what circumstances they find themselves, but are free nevertheless to make choices, to choose their attitude towards their circumstances, to take positive action to better themselves. Bad choices can readily lead to homelessness — for instance, though some assert that “poverty leads to crime”, they fail to appreciate the other side of this coin, namely that “crime leads to poverty”. Dysfunctional cultures that encourage bad behavior and choices, such as spending years in public school but somehow, in spite of all that time spent, never getting an education or any skills, or preparing for any type of career, can cause individuals to fall into homelessness.
While I think most intelligent observers of social issues would reject the hypothesis that “there is something wrong with black people”, nevertheless, anyone who is paying attention to statistics on student achievement, disruptive behavior in students, gang problems among youth, gang murders, the murder rate in inner cities, the overall crime rate, the rate of incarceration of blacks compared to those of all other races, as well as statistics on poverty and homelessness, will have to admit that black Americans are doing poorly in all these areas compared to those of every other race.
And yet, if you observe children of recent immigrants from Africa in public school, compared to children of American blacks, you’ll often see a quite noticeable difference in behavior. The children from Africa are polite and well behaved, motivated to learn in school, while the behavior of the children from black Americans in inner city settings, is often frighteningly appalling and violent. Setting these 2 realities side by side, serves to demonstrate that the issues in question are not racial/ethnic issues, they are cultural issues. And I would go further, and say that the metaphor of a disease or pandemic could be useful. Because the social and psychological dysfunction that we see in inner city black communities is so severe, and so dangerous and violent in some areas, and the need for intervention so desperate, that I think to say that some entire communities have been devastated by a veritable plague of self-destructive, violent behavior, could better get at the truth than many other attempts to comprehend the issue. Such a perspective also allows us a compassionate approach and one that can offer hope, because when people are sickened by a pandemic, a plague, their sickness is not about who they really are: it’s about something awful that happened to them, that enveloped them. So, taking this approach allows observers, as well as those who are afflicted with this modern “pandemic”, to preserve their self-respect and hope, by coming to see the atmosphere of extremely dysfunctional behavior that they find themselves in, as something which can be surmounted and eventually overcome, overcome by nothing less than one small healthy choice after another. And our collective support to people trying to make good choices.
As evidence of this “plague” — we can find it everywhere— I’ll offer a little bit here. There have been many stories and videos about students coming to school and disrupting the classroom, screaming at the teacher, refusing to cooperate with the educational process. And this black teacher believes it’s mostly black kids who disrupt class and act inappropriately.
This teacher had to quit her job due to the incredibly disrespectful students
Here’s a black student assaulting a white teacher:
And another teacher who is saying classrooms have become unmanageable because the student behavior is so out of control
At the present time, both white and black teachers are terribly afraid to discipline such students if they are black, being afraid they’ll be viewed as racist. The result is enabling of dangerously self-destructive behavior in students. We dont’ need to be letting out of control black kids spending their whole day destroying the educational system like this:
We owe it to young people not to destroy them through our destructive condescension, our bigotry of low expectations, our racist idea that there is something innately “black” about students who are disruptive in school. No, that’s not “black” behavior, that’s disgusting, disrespectful and unacceptable, often criminal behavior, and the sooner students are held accountable for their appalling behavior, the less likely they will end up spending their lives in prison or in a tent on the sidewalk.
There have been many stories of troupes of young men doing dances on crowded BART cars. As seen here:
These young male dancers tote their boombox along, and illegally play loud music while doing joint-popping dances in the middle of rush hour crowded BART trains, attempting to collect tips in a hat, explaining (lamely) that because they grew up in a tough environment, they really have no choices other than things like this…..engaging in illegal behavior, and perhaps inadvertently, reinacting somewhat stereotypical “minstrel” shows, on crowded subway cars and sidewalks.
I dont’ know about you, but I hold high expectations of black people and like to think that they can do more than toss their limbs around and pull out their joints while begging for spare change. They have just as much potential as anyone else to become PhD scholars and professors, medical professionals, high powered attorneys, skilled tradesmen and women, psychotherapists, small business owners, car detailers, organic gardeners, restauranteurs, skilled auto mechanics or barbers, CEOS, entrepreneurs, federal court judges, presidents of the US, or really anything they set their minds out to do. And, there are a boatload of very successful blacks not only in this nation but all over the world, who can encourage high aspirations.
Some of you, particularly those so indoctrinated to think that white folks are to blame for everything that black folks do, may be taken aback at a suggestion that black people should be criticized for poor choices they make, or for aiming at “careers” which are dead ends, or for having no career plan at all. If so, please take a step back and ask yourself why, if your own white kids stated that they intended to avoid studying and doing their homework, so that they could go pull out their arm joints while begging for change on BART trains, you would be critical of such plans. While at the same time, you’d be found smiling and nodding, encouraging this same nonsense in black youth. I suggest that for you to expect so much less of black children than of your own kids, demonstrates your bigotry of low expectations, and it also points out how we collectively engage in enabling of self-destructive choices and poor life skills.
Many people make bad choices, even once they have started out well in life, so we can’t let up and stop trying. For instance, in this story of a man who was quite successful, we see that he took a really bad fall, and ended up a drug addict, a criminal, and homeless, because he chose to get involved with cocaine. https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/A-Tuxedoed-Sommelier-Joins-Homeless-Ranks-in-14475500.php#photo-18344113
Instead of more white navel-gazing and self-aggrandizing and racist delusions that every little thing white people do causes a terribly fragile black person to fall down somewhere, what is badly needed is to shine a spotlight on dysfunctional cultures and bad choices, and mount campaigns to encourage healthy choices and behavior.
I also want to take this opportunity to encourage people who are prone to illogical thinking, nay, the delusional dogma of the fundamentalist religion of identity politics, to study the skills of critical thinking, in particular, how to make a logical argument. Studying the logical fallacies is a great way to begin.
People can end up homeless for a variety of reasons, and all of the homeless should be offered help and assistance to get on their feet again. And at the same time, precisely because we want to really help these people, and not see them end up homeless yet again, it’s important to work with them so that they can be guided to accept responsibility for bad choices they made, that may have contributed to them ending up homeless. Choices such as criminal behavior and drug addiction. Drug addiction is not just a medical issue: it also reflects poor choices. People don’t end up as drug addicts if they make healthy decisions to avoid using drugs.
Also, we for those who refuse such help and services, it should be made clear that particularly if they refuse to take basic responsibility for getting out of the hole they are in, they have no right to blame others for their circumstances. By encouraging people to take responsibility for their own choices and actions, we can put an end to the problem of racism related to homelessness.
And more…perhaps we can put an end to the ludicrous “sensitivity training” that is now going on at Starbucks and elsewhere, which was well satirized in this hilarious video:
Bill Maher also always has good things to say which help skewer our collective twaddle and BS: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/09/30/magazine/bill-maher-interview.html
“I have actual black friends. I don’t think they want me to be always thinking: Black person. Black person. I’m talking to a black person. Look, I tried to drive a stake through political correctness in the ’90s.3 I obviously failed dismally. It’s worse than ever.”
And last but not least….not every claim of “racism” is based on something that actually happened. Wouldn’t you think it very likely that people would make up stories, if those stories gave them power and moral authority and the ability to manipulate others? Oh, I think so!! https://www.vox.com/2019/2/17/18228444/jussie-smollett-attack-hate-crime-arrest-hoax-empire