When you have a hammer everything is a nail

A Racist Attack Shows How Whiteness Evolves
An assault at a New Jersey high school football game had an unexpected cast of characters
:

Two 17-year-old boys accused of harassing four African-American middle schoolgirls — using racial slurs and urinating on one of the victims — are facing charges including bias intimidation and lewdness.

The incident, which took place during an Oct. 18 high school football game in the New Jersey suburb of Lawrence Township and was partly captured on a video that circulated on social media, involves a cast of characters that has given some observers pause: Police say the boys are of Indian descent.

While it’s tempting to see the reported ethnicity of the boys suspected in the assault as complicating the story and raising questions about whether the assault should be thought of as racist, I look at it through a different lens. Instead of asking what the boys’ reported racial identity tells us about the nature of the attack, we should see the boys as enacting American whiteness through anti-black assault in a very traditional way. In doing so, the assailants are demonstrating how race is a social construct that people make through their actions. They show race in the making, and show how race is something we perform, not just something we are in our blood or in the color of our skin.

I want to emphasize the “complicating” aspect. Many American intellectuals don’t want to complicate an already tragic story, in black and white. Those of us of “Asian American” origin complicate that story (as do people of Latino background), so we are co-opted into the preexistent story that already exists. We are subalterns in a black and white story.

So these boys are brown kids in “whiteface”, to serve a particular narrative.

But, I believe literally every one of the South Asian readers of The New York Times that read this knows very well that anti-black racism is not something learned in the United States of America by Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc.

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25 Replies to “When you have a hammer everything is a nail”

  1. I have also seen first hand the reverse: Black kids taunting Indian American kids as “terrorists”.
    I dont think we need something so complicated as white-face to understand this. Racism is always specifically targeted (i.e. anti-black, anti-brown, anti-asian) despite wrong headed leftwing or liberal attempts to imagine wider identities. It does not spring from any imaginary self-identification.

    You also see this in the Indian context where every caste despises those castes other then itself.

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  2. I have also seen first hand the reverse: Black kids taunting Indian American kids as “terrorists”.

    a lot of asian immigrants have experienced pretty straightforward xenophobic taunts etc. from young black teens. just like from young white teens.

    we don’t even need to get into the relationship btwn asian american shopkeepers and the black community.

    no whites in sight…

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  3. Blacks are dalits to some S Asians. They are relegated to eternal inherent inferiority, existing only, at best, to complete menial tasks and serve as entertainment for their overlords. At worst, they are a nuisance that may rape women or trick them into out of wedlock sexual encounters, resulting in filthy mongrels.

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  4. Indian-Americans declare themselves co-equal with African-Americans in the fight against white racism. What these unmoored Asian-Americans are unwilling to acknowledge is the anti-blackness or anti-dark skin ethos that permeates their society. To be black or of very dark hue is to be sinful in India and among the Indians and other South Asians in America. Indeed, how many of these vigilante Indian-Americans or South Asians are willing to get married into a Christian African-American family, let alone an African-American family?

    I grew up in Chennai, India. I attended St.Mary’s near St.Thomas Mount. One day when I was returning from my first standard class, I witnessed a big commotion. I was near enough the commotion to witness members of that community stab an African student. This was the mid-1970s when many Eastern Africans came to study agriculture, medicine and engineering in India. I do not know why he was stabbed; all I witnessed was a stabbing of an African by Indians on a clear day.

    Then again: there are possible reasons underlying that stabbing of an African by the Indians: racism. For example, I had an aunt who rented houses to these African students and she always had a racist opinion about them. More recently, African immigrants in the north Indian cities have been exposed to racist Indian excess: Indians beating up the African men; Indians sexually assaulting the African women; Indians denying African men and women housing, or allowing them to live only in and around the slums, with the outcaste people. Then again, many of the drug dealers near my family’s home near coastal Chennai are Ghanians.

    Mira Nair might be the apotheosis of a progressive liberal, Westernized Indian. However, in my view, she did make a very good movie: Mississippi Masala. Broadly speaking, the movie explores that period in the 1960s when many African rulers expelled their African-South Asian descent citizens and its effects on one family. In the movie, one of those families move to Mississippi and the daughter (Saritha Chowdury) falls in love with an African-American (Denzel Washington). The movie goes on to explore the Asian family’s confunded behaviour as their daughter dates and eventually marries (?) the black man. The movie also reveals the Mississippi’s Indian community’s execrable behaviour towards dark skinned people, let alone the resident African-American community.

    What the movie does not explore is the historical bitter relationship of many Indian-Africans with the black Africans. The British had imported the Indians as plantation workers. These plantation workers eventually became successful traders and businessmen. They eventually occupied a liminal space: the go-betweens between the English and the black Africans. From this liminal space they were as racist towards the black Africans as the English were. Finally, the black Africans revolted and expelled the Indian-Africans. General Idi Amin seemed to exercise extraordinary vehemence towards this group of people. Some of his ire may have been an envious reaction to the prosperous Ugandan South Asian community, but there were other factors as well; the Ugandan South Asian community’s mistreatment of his.

    Indeed, an aunt of mine grew up in Kenya. She had married a black African. When her family was expelled, my aunt returned with her Indian-African son. Her husband stayed back in Kenya. Her son grew up in Bangalore, and we would visit them regularly. A few years ago, the young boy, now man, married into a well-to-do Malayalee family; he is doing well. He looked Indian and I wonder if this shielded him from Indian racism.

    As with any thing, the relationship between Indians and Africans is somewhat complicated. That is to say, not all Indians mistreated Africans. As a school boy in Chennai, I remember attending a local church also near St.Thomas Mount; a lot of Africans came to the Wesleyan church and co-worshipped with us; I remember Indians eating goat biryani and spicy chicken curry with these Africans on the holy days. As a fatherless boy, I remember being heartbroken when one of these men, with whom I was especially attached to, graduated from his medical studies and returned home. Our whole community was heartbroken when he left. I think he was Tanizinian. He was a very good man.

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  5. S Asians have five layers at least of hatred of darker and/or less caucasoid peoples

    1. IVC- a dominant group of iranian mesolithic related people started IVC and mixed with AASI, hard to say if any caste system was there though or effect this had, but generally tribes don’t treat one another well in that era, especially with huge differences in appearance

    2. Steppe people- migrating and putting themselves on top of dominance hierarchy of collapsing IVC, with AASI people at the bottom

    3. Various invaders from Central and West Asia conquering and subjugating the Indian people- most notably Mughals

    4. Europeans- Portuguese in Goa, French in Pondi, of course British- nuff said

    5. Globalization coinciding with dominance of White dominated America and Western Europe dictating much of the world order, that too unchallenged essentially post 1991, with some tide shift East finally now with rise of Chinese. Their beauty standards were exported via Hollywood and have contributed to Iranian nose surgeries, E Asian eye lid surgeries, and another contributing factor to S Asian use of fair and lovely.

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  6. T DOBZHANSKY – ‎1973
    “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution”

    T WARLOCK- 2019
    “Nothing in South Asia Makes Sense except in the Light of Steppe:AASI ratio”

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    1. “Nothing in South Asia Makes Sense except in the Light of Steppe:AASI ratio”
      That’s a pretty good summation, if one wanted the quick and dirty.

      Here’s another amusing / funny little quip I recall reading many years ago, which is true to a large degree: “The Indian will worship anything , the Chinese will eat anything.”

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    2. >T WARLOCK- 2019
      “Nothing in South Asia Makes Sense except in the Light of Steppe:AASI ratio”

      Looks like the poor old Iran HGs have been relegated to being a mere audience in that case.

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      1. Their numbers are relatively constant throughout. The kingmaker (a phrase I just learned with parli elections) is Steppe:AASI ratio.

        Happy Diwali

        Jai Shree Ameen

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  7. I wonder: if an African-American mistreats another African-American, would that be “enacting whiteness”? Can we imagine a future full of whiteness with no white people?

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  8. An aspect of racism, which many (including Razib?) have consistently missed, is how those who accuse others of it possess it themselves.

    The NYT author is actually being racist against whites because s/he is happy to declare them guilty without proof, just as commenter VeerWik above is being racist against Indians (e.g., “That is to say, not all Indians mistreated Africans” because his fellow church-goers were obviously an exception; how does saying “That is to say, not all blacks have a criminal bent of mind” sound?)

    Another very common example is many virtue-signalling Indians saying “We Indians are the most racist people in the world”, without a hint of self-awareness on the irony of how deeply racist such a statement is.

    But perhaps this is not a phenomenon just of racism – most of those who talk about womens’ rights are sexist against men (at least in the passive form of pervasive gynocentrism), and so on. Perhaps there are deeper patterns in how human thought works, with possible parallels in genetics, that one cannot ever be “genuinely pro-equality” – if you try to level one bump, a new bump has to form.

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  9. An aspect of racism, which many (including Razib?) have consistently missed, is how those who accuse others of it possess it themselves.

    i dislike psychoanalysis so i avoid accusing other people of ‘racism’ or ‘self-hatred’ when i can. how am i supposed to know someone’s ‘self’ better than they? (this is a common problem with a lot of commenters who think they have someone else figured out; they are just showing themselves to be idiotic morons)

    fwiw, the author of the ny times piece is married to a white man. her book is ok actually.

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    1. i dislike psychoanalysis so i avoid accusing other people of ‘racism’ or ‘self-hatred’ when i can. how am i supposed to know someone’s ‘self’ better than they?

      Abstractly stated, this is a fair view, I only wish that in aggregate the “larger community” applied this consistently.

      Think of that comment of VeerWik that you liked; he concluded that a particular stabbing incident was possibly due to racism, “Indians beating up the African men”, “Indians sexually assaulting the African women”, “Indians denying African men and women housing, or allowing them to live only in and around the slums, with the outcaste people” were all racism, that his African relative was “probably” shielded from racism due to Indian looks, his aunt’s opinions were racist unlike his own opinion about Indians’ racism etc.

      I too would be happy with non-application of psychoanalysis, provided there was consistency in its non-application; it is just the idea of just some groups of people being fair game for psychoanalysis and some others to be protected by political correctness that bothers me.

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      1. It is stupid to take some incident you read about in the papers (“white policeman shoots af-am man”, “indian crowd beats up african student”, “Muslim man killed by Hindu mob”, “Muslim doctor kills wife”) and read a political narrative into it. You dont have any of the details that go into such an incident and are simply projecting your prejudices into it.
        I recall a JNU dude writing about the Delhi ‘nirbhaya’ rape and building a whole narrative about Hindu patriarchal mentality denying women their sexual agency. This was before the religious identity of the lead murderer was revealed. Of course he didnt publish a retraction of his theory or anything like that.

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  10. Literally every one of the South Asian readers of The New York Times that read this knows very well that anti-black racism is not something learned in the United States of America by Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, etc

    I am glad you did not include Sri Lankans. I am not saying racism does not exist in Sri Lanka. I would go to say Sri Lankans are more racist toward Pakistanis and Indians compared to Africans. I am sure the favor is returned, Indians and Palistani’s lump Sri Lankans into the Black category .

    Anyway some anecdotal evidence.

    a) Maternal elder cousins (now past 70) generation (mid 1960’s), there were quite a few students from Africa in a premier Catholic school in the south. Never heard of assault on these students.

    b) My late classmate was married to a Somali, since mid 80’s. The sons went to the same school he and I attended. I gather the wife is a teacher in the same school.

    c) A African-American and Puerto Rican I met a few years ago lives in Colombo since late 70s (I think). Married to a Sri Lankan. Looks like a taller version of me. I didnt even think he was non Sri Lankan when I met him.

    c) Two children of my paternal Tamil conservative christian cousins are married to Afrrican Americans (Jamaican descent).

    d) There is a small village nearby. The residents are of African descent, Mozambique and Angola. No discrimination and intermarry with Sinhalese. Their problem, they are going to loose their identity as more of them keep marrying out of the community.

    Toronto
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhC06h270tI

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    1. ” would go to say Sri Lankans are more racist toward Pakistanis and Indians compared to Africans”

      What are the stereotypes regarding Indian/Pakistani in Sri Lanka?

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  11. They say the brown kids were emulating “Whiteness,” but given that they urinated on younger girls, it’s more accurate to say they were emulating “Blackness.”

    Specifically, they were emulating R. Kelly.

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  12. Do we know anything about the background of the perpetrators? This kind of behavior seems extremely atypical for Indian-American kids, however racist their families may be.

    There’s a big desi tech community in the Edison area, but I believe there a lot of Gujaratis, originally from East Africa, in the state too.

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