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Culture War Roundup for the week of January 30, 2023

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A few weeks ago I linked to a discussion in the NYT about affirmative action. The most popular NYT comments were at least weakly supportive of the conservative Supreme Court's coming affirmative action ban.

Here's an NYT story from a few days ago about black New Yorkers being priced out of the city. I'm bolding sentences of interest.

2nd most recommended comment (427 Recommend)

NYC has always been expensive. One thing that was touched on in the article is that families are fleeing the NYC school system. That deserves a closer look by the NYT. It’s not just white families, but also black families. The reforms made by DeBlasio made it impossible for parents to be sure their kids would get a good education. It’s now mostly a lottery system. It was supposed to be more equitable but now provides a path for no one.

4th most recommended comment (338 Recommend)

I can already hear the New York naysayers saying "How can black New Yorkers move to somewhere like Georgia where people are so racist??"

As a former New Yorker who grew up there but has since lived in Texas, southern California, and now small city Georgia, I loved seeing this article. Georgia is the first part of the country that I have lived where I actually see real community and friendly interactions between blacks and whites as the norm rather than exception.

Others chime in with similar stories:

I’m a black woman from Texas but have lived in NYC for about the past decade. In my opinion, my home city in Texas was less racially (and socioeconomically) segregated than NYC. As someone else commented, middle/upper middle class black families were more of a norm rather than an exception where I am from in TX.

What does it take to achieve "friendly interactions between blacks and whites as the norm rather than exception"? What are the success stories of positive race relations (including in a non-American context) that we can learn from? I'm interested in scientific data, commenter anecdote, and everything in between. Let's identify and replicate successes like these.

What does it take to achieve "friendly interactions between blacks and whites as the norm rather than exception"?

Speaking from a longish life living in the the south, in generally diverse areas. I attended a high school that was 8% white, with the vast majority being black and Hispanic. I was never targeted with racial animosity and I can unironically say I had multiple black (and Hispanic, and Irish, and Pakistani, and Iranian, and Chinese, as it happens) friends. Worst thing that happened to me was getting my gym shorts stolen once. It was jarring but wasn't what I would call a hate crime.

So largely this is observation over time of situations where racial harmony was prevalent, and a few where it was less so.

On the one hand, having multiple things in common with another person that isn't race allows one to forge a relationship that is MUTUALLY BENEFICIAL.

Sharing a favored sports team, or a hobby, a favored hunting/fishing spot, or musical tastes. Now you're bonded with someone over some shared experience which breeds immediate empathy and camaraderie.

At a core this is just basic human tribalism, but instantiated in a way that ignores people's physical characteristics or even political ideology, and so allows for co-existence in happy peace, assuming that everyone feels treated fairly by the system. People will get WAY more worked up over a rivalry between College Football teams than they will over racial tensions, by and large.

What does a middle class white liberal in New York actually have in common with a middle or lower-class African American? I'd doubt they share taste in music, the white liberal probably isn't much of a sports fan, and I'd guess there's minimal crossover in hobbies. What's the groundwork for creating a harmonious interaction betwixt them? I know many New Yorkers view "living in New York" as a cultural touchstone. I honestly can't say how strong that is.

On the other hand, the culture of the south honestly does view race as a secondary concern to the overall need to be polite, helpful, and optimistic. I'd guess this traces to religiosity among other things, and basically results in an underlying assumption that everyone you interact with is going to be friendly, and thus you should default to friendliness until given reason not to. This is where the reputation for neighborliness in the South comes from, ultimately. If your first interaction with the neighbors is a friendly one, then the respective races of you and the neighbors won't even come up as a consideration. Indeed, it wouldn't be 'polite' to make a direct acknowledgement of it. You wouldn't ask a black dude who his favorite rapper is, just because he's black. Of course, if you're deeper into the friendship with someone, the comfort level might actually allow you to use race-based insult humor with them, when it's all in good fun.

And on the gripping hand, the South is more fundamentally tied to the "American" identity than your average white liberal is, I'd wager. History of rebellion notwithstanding, Southern culture is very directly tied to the agricultural land, the geographical features, and the people who occupy the actual territory that makes up the U.S.. although maybe less so to the government that lays claim to said territory. Perhaps it is a less 'enlightened' perspective than one which views humanity/earthlings as a whole and becomes less relevant with time as globalization dissolves territorial boundaries to a greater or lesser extent. But When you're deeply rooted to the land itself, then you can have a stronger connection with others who are also so rooted, and your group can feel that you're more authentically 'American' than people who live in cities and have minimal knowledge of/connection to the greater geography of the country.

So this all rolls into a situation where the people are much more likely to focus on what unites them than what sets them apart, and they're sort of culturally opposed to interpersonal animosity when it can be avoided, and has very little reason to single out race as a central part of their identity.

For my part, having grown up in the South makes me feel pretty uncomfortable in situations where people are actively choosing to center their identity on their race and drive a discussion (for some values of that term) about racial disparities and how to rectify them. My phrasing there is deliberate, as it applies to white supremacists AND hardcore lefty intersectionalists.

When I find myself in such a situation, my instinct is to say "bless your hearts, y'all have a good day" and just leave.

Anyhow, if you want a more scholarly take on this, I can say Thomas Sowell has done some strong writing on this topic: