January 24, 2014

The phrase "the Color Line."

The NYT has an opinion piece titled "Cousins, Across the Color Line," about present-day Americans of different races who trace their ancestry to the same white person, for example, those who see themselves as descendants of Thomas Jefferson.
At one point, Gayle [who is black and considers herself a descendant of Jefferson] asked me [a white woman who also considers herself a Jefferson descendant] if I was looking for absolution for what my family did, and we both agreed the word was imperfect. I think instead we are both looking for some present-tense reconciliation. We acknowledge our desire to feel connected to our shared history, and appreciate the fact that we can sit together, looking at the mystery of the past and trying to articulate what it means....

There is something radical in knowing Gayle....
The author, Tess Taylor, doesn't use the term "color line" in her text, though she does mention  reaching "across racial lines." The word "line" is also used in the essay to refer to ancestral lines, but put that to the side. I want to examine the inference, in the headline, that if a black and a white person today are connecting, they are crossing something called "the color line."

Here we have a white lady enthusing about doing something "radical" by interacting with a black person about shared lineage. There's plenty of shared lineage in America, and tracing yourself back to somebody historically significant might make you feel special, special enough to go out looking for your co-descendants to celebrate this actually rather dubious specialness. (I'm a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, but I've never found any of my "cousins," who, I assume, at this point, 3 centuries later, include plenty of people of all races.)

People today have their habits and inhibitions about interracial socializing, but when they rouse themselves into such "radical" activities, should they claim they've crossed the "color line"?

Wikipedia, ever helpful, has an article titled "Color line," which traces the lineage of the phrase to an 1881 article by Frederick Douglass titled "The Color Line." At the beginning of the 20th century, W. E. B. Du Bois asserted, more than once that "the color line" was "the problem of the 20th century." These were references to the segregation and other severe racial discrimination of the time.

In his 1940 book, "The Big Sea," Langston Hughes wrote:
"In Cleveland, a liberal city, the color-line began to be drawn tighter and tighter. Theaters and restaurants in the downtown area began to refuse to accommodate colored people. Landlords doubled and tripled their rent at the approach of a dark tenant."
You see the meaning. A line was drawn — evildoers made and enforced that line — it was felt, and it was tight

What are we to make of the term "color line" today? The Wikipedia article has a short section labeled "Use in modern journalism." It cites this 2004 article by Anna Quindlen, "The Problem of the Color Line," which I found reprinted at a blog that calls it "idiocy." Decide for yourself. Quindlen — who was once called a "monster of empathy" and doesn't seem to say much anymore — said:
America is a nation riven by geographic apartheid, with precious few truly integrated neighborhoods, particularly in the suburbs. The great divide between black and white yawns wide with the distance of ignorance, and the silence of shame.
So now this line is drawn by... the failure of people generally to notice that they are acting as if there is a line? It's one thing to emote over the continuation of the effect of a line that was once drawn, which is what Quindlen is doing, quite another to congratulate oneself for crossing that line, which is what Tess Taylor is doing.

The Wikipedia article also cites the PBS series "America Beyond the Color Line with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.," about which Slate's movie critic (a white female) wrote in 2004:
Though I wouldn't go so far as to call Skip Gates a suckup, [the "Black Hollywood" segment] illustrates the weakness of Beyond the Color Line, which sometimes seems too comfortable settling for easy answers. When Gates asks comedian Chris Tucker, sitting in his palatial mansion in the San Fernando Valley, "Do you think you owe anything to the black community?" he responds with a comically exaggerated, "Hell no!" Gates laughs along with him—and then, at the very moment that we expect the two to wipe away the tears of mirth and get down to Tucker's real answer, the camera cuts away to the next segment. In his interview with Gates, director John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood, 2 Fast 2 Furious) proudly boasts that he's ascended to the top of the Hollywood echelon: "And I ain't had to kiss nobody's pale ass to do it." Having made it to the zenith of mainstream American success—Ivy League tenure, name recognition, and his own TV show—Gates shouldn't have to pucker up either, no matter the color of the rump in question.
To be fair, Gates's show's title used the preposition "Beyond," not "across," so the implication is, perhaps, that the "color line" existed in the past, and the racial landscape today is more complicated. Whether that's what Gates or whoever wrote the title for the show intended to express, it is certainly the case.

To draw a line is to make a clear distinction, and to speak of a line that was once drawn as if it still applies to a situation that is important and real but no longer a matter of a drawn line is to obscure and fuzz over the present reality, the opposite of trying for clarity.

Can we speak clearly?

67 comments:

Gabriel Hanna said...

those who see themselves as descendants of Thomas Jefferson

If they count from Sally Hemings, there's no evidence. Sally Heming's children are proved to have descended from a male of Jefferson's family, but there is nothing that proves they are descended from Jefferson himself.

Tarrou said...

Unearned white guilt is the disease of the 21st century. No one alive in America today has been a slave, and I've never owned one. Not that it matters to anyone currently kicking, but my ancestors died in their dozens to end the "peculiar institution". I have no debt to pay to anyone on racial grounds, white, black or purple.

As an aside, I've found it interesting how racial tensions are so rarely a result of "ignorance", but of direct competition. The Hughes article of how some places got worse on racial segregation in the '30s and '40s is instructive. When blacks began to push for equality, there was pushback. The old KKK died in the early 20th century from its own success in instituting Jim Crow, before being resurrected to fight the Civil Rights movement. There is less racial antagonism where one group is clearly in charge.

I grew up in small towns, where the number of minorities was always small, and I never saw or felt a hint of any ill-will toward them. I live in a city that is majority black now, they're about 60%, and this place is the most racist place in America I've ever seen, on both sides. It's certainly not because people are ignorant of each other, but precisely because they know so well.

traditionalguy said...

A defense line for northern Europeans to defend their tribal groups existed in their languages and accents among whites. Swedes/Norwegians and Scots/English are famous mutual dislikes to draw a boundary line.

But extending that trick to a skin coloration became inherently evil as the cousins lived side by side for generations in agricultural areas after inheriting most of the same basic DNA other than the same skin coloration from great, great grandfathers sexual lives.

Skin color assumptions are too easy to get it all wrong as are hair color assumptions.
A whiter than usual blonde is assigned a stupid tag by some.

We are cousins.


MadisonMan said...

I am somewhat sympathetic to people who try to go back in time to find where their family came from, because I really like genealogy, and can trace my own family line back generations.

But there are things you cannot know, and never will know, and you have to accept it. This is especially true if your birth did not arise in a marriage. But who cares if other people doubt you?

It's nice (heh) that the NYTimes runs this piece so we get the additional entanglement of different races; would the story have been published if it were two white women, one from an affair, and one not? Somehow I doubt it.

If the NYTimes could stop lecturing me on race, I'd appreciate it, and consider subscribing.

Anonymous said...

"and trying to articulate what it means....
"

It means, ladies, that lots of people in the past did the best they could. All of them failed pretty regularly to live up to what they knew or believed to be right. And most, at one time or another, even acted under a delusion that they could hurt other people and still get gain. Some where plain scoundrels and knaves.

In other words, ladies, it means they were about just exactly like you are now.

Ipso Fatso said...

"America is a nation riven by geographic apartheid... The great divide between black and white yawns wide with the distance of ignorance, and the silence of shame."

What is amusing to me is that Quindlen and her fellow guilty white liberals never do the one thing that would give them the diversity that they say they crave and that they believe is good for all: move to an all black area. I’ll take Al Sharpton seriously when he starts calling out black people when they do wrong to whites , I will take liberals and their calls for diversity seriously when they start behaving like they mean it and move to 71st & Racine on the south side of Chicago. Ain’t ever gonna happen.

EDH said...

Today, the relic of power isn't so much on which side of the color line you're born on, but in the ability to draw the line and its contours of absolution and shame.

Hence, the NYT's persistence.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

At one point, Gayle [who is black and considers herself a descendant of Jefferson] asked me [a white woman who also considers herself a Jefferson descendant] if I was looking for absolution for what my family did...

Since Gayle is a descendant of the same family, doesn't she need just as much absolution for the very same acts? Or is the sin gene carried on the same chromosome as the skin color gene, and therefore only passed down to white descendants?

Anonymous said...

"America is a nation riven by geographic apartheid... The great divide between black and white yawns wide with the distance of ignorance, and the silence of shame."

In the Ivory towers, classrooms, and intellectual worlds envisioned in the Ivy League.

Meanwhile, nearby here at Tigers Stadium and Ford Field, and at similar recreational, work, and social venues and locations across America (including the south), we routinely sit next to each other, work together, travel together, wait in lines together, have substantive conversations or merely trade pithy lines about this or that, go to lunch, open the doors for each other, and generally have a productive, relaxing and enjoyable time together.

Given the history of ethnic relations and divides in the world, to say that America is other than an amazing success story is to be either uninformed or recklessly (or willfully) wrong.

It is all just more American left provincialism.

Tank said...

Gayle should get down on her hands and knees and kiss the earth and thank God that her descendants were brought here as slaves so that she could grow up here in America instead of some Godforsaken hell hole in Africa.

Different way of looking at it.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

I sure hope her descendants are never slaves.

But I do get your point.

Lyssa said...

Gabriel Hanna said If they count from Sally Hemings, there's no evidence. Sally Heming's children are proved to have descended from a male of Jefferson's family, but there is nothing that proves they are descended from Jefferson himself.

I was curious about that claim a few weeks ago, and went researching it. It appears that, while there is no clear DNA evidence showing who within the family fathered the children, the records at Jefferson's residence do indicate that he was around when they would have been conceived, while the other suspects were not. So, it's not ironclad, but it's pretty strong evidence that he did father at least a couple of the children in question.

I find it interesting that people kept records of who was visiting their residence back then.

I agree that the idea of seeking absolution for your family's centuries-old misdeeds is insane, particularly when only family members of certain appearances are expected to do so.

Tank said...

@ Ignorance

LOL, of course.

Idiot (me).

SeanF said...

Ignorance is Bliss: Since Gayle is a descendant of the same family, doesn't she need just as much absolution for the very same acts?

I'm pretty sure that the answer to that would be that Gayle has suffered through the continuing "institutionalized racism" of today, so has already had her absolution.

Not saying I agree with that answer, mind you, just that it would be the answer given. :)

Conrad Bibby said...

Regarding Hemings, while I'm hardly an expert on the subject, isn't it far more likely that Thomas Jefferson was the father rather than another Jefferson relative? After all, TJ owned Sally Hemings; is it all that likely he would have permitted his brother/nephew to have sex with HIS slave? I mean, I don't know what the etiquette was at the time, but I would imagine that if TJ were morally aghast at the idea of impregnating his slave, then he wouldn't go along with letting his kinfolk impregnate her either.

ALso, we obviously have some fairly contemporaneous Hemings family tradition that identifies TJ as the father. I'd be interested to know when the allegation that it was another Jefferson who sired Hemings' children first appeared.

Finally, there seems to be no question that Jefferson and Heimngs were quite close, and it seems relevant that she was the half-sister of his deceased wife.

Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like the effort to lay the blame on someone else ignores a fair amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to TJ as the father.

Hagar said...

To what extent has "institutional racism" been used - past and present, just differing in which groups being targeted - to keep a demographic voting Democrat?

jacksonjay said...


Maybe I'm missing something, but it seems like the effort to lay the blame on someone else ignores a fair amount of circumstantial evidence pointing to TJ as the father.

Hillary said it best! "What ...."

John said...

Dick Gregory in his autobiography "N!gg3r" (1960s) says that in the 50s he found the north, especially northern cities, to be far more racist than the south.

Chicago had cross burnings aplenty. Indiana had a very strong KKK Humphry was appalled at the racism in Minneapolis. NY, LA, other cities had serious problems as well.

Even today nice, progressive, Madison is one of the most racist cities in the US according to the stats.

Let's not forget that most of these cities were democrat owned cities. As Instapundit never tires of reminding us, Bull Connor, Birmingham's vicious police chief was a member of the Democrat National Committee. Gov Wallace was a Dem. And of course the Senator from the KKK, Byrd, was a dem.

Northern democrats have a lot to apologize for in this area.

John Henry

John said...

BTW:Dick Gregory's bio was not really called N!gg3r The title was spelled correctly. I am frightened to write the title because if I do, at some point the actual word will turn up next to my name in a Google search.

If I ever run for president again, this could sink me.

You can buy the book through Ann's portal at Amazon. I read it in the 60's and remember it as a pretty good read. No idea how it holds up today.

John Henry

exhelodrvr1 said...

Has Gayle researched whether any of her black African ancestors were from the tribes that captured and sold other blacks to the slave traders?

exhelodrvr1 said...

Conrad,
I believe the evidence points towards Jefferson's brother as being the most likely father.

Ann Althouse said...

"If they count from Sally Hemings, there's no evidence. Sally Heming's children are proved to have descended from a male of Jefferson's family, but there is nothing that proves they are descended from Jefferson himself."

That's evidence.

Maybe you think "evidence" means conclusive proof, but it doesn't.

In any case, it's pretty substantial, and I believe the white descendants of Jefferson have embraced the purported black descendants. That is, they've stopped the questioning.

That's what I remember being told by the docent at Monticello when I visited over a decade ago.

Ann Althouse said...

"I am somewhat sympathetic to people who try to go back in time to find where their family came from, because I really like genealogy, and can trace my own family line back generations."

But why do you really like genealogy? That's the unexamined assertion.

Ann Althouse said...

Who, ultimately, decides?

There's an issue of who gets access to the gated cemetery plot at Monticello.

There's any historian who wants to write about it.

At this point, what difference does it make?

People believe what they want to believe.

Why don't you want to believe? Why does someone else want to believe? I'm more interested in those questions, which relate to the minds of the living, than the less than 100% chance that Jefferson fathered children through Sally Hemings.

The Godfather said...

It's been probably a decade since I read a serious analysis of the Thomas Jefferson/Sally Hemmings issue, so the evidence may have changed, but at that time my impression was that a plausible conclusion was that Thomas Jefferson was more likely to have been the father of one or some of Hemmings's children, and less likely to have been the father of others of her children. So if you are a descendant of Sally Hemmings, that doesn't necessarily make you a descendant of Thomas Jefferson, even if he did father some of her children.

I mention this only because it highlights the fact that certainty in such matters is impossible after so many years.

David said...

Hello Cousin.

Michael said...

John Henry: There is the old saw about Northerners loving the black race but hating black people while Southerners hated the black race but loved black people. There is probably much truth in this because the people in, say, rural Wisconsin are unlikely to know any actual black people but are quick to support black causes and sling the race card at others. Small town whites live among and marry, by the way, blacks who they might not like as a group but love those they know well and deeply. It will take time but it will sort out. Faster here in the South than elsewhere.

William said...

It seems to me that owning a slave is a more grievous moral offense than having sex with one. In like way, the act of cannibalism is the sin, not deep frying the liver.

William said...

The color line exists because of the significant differences between the black and the white cultures. For a number of reasons – most of them painful to observe – the demarcation line between the races has grown wider.

Our country was built on the idea of everyone pulling together, everyone working to assimilate one culture, the American (i.e., United States) culture. E pluribus unum: one from many.

The natural coalescence of the people who live in this country is gone, probably never to return. Every group wants what it thinks it as a group deserves, regardless of whether that “want” is good for the country or not.

I see nothing on the horizon that will reverse this phenomenon. It’s a damn shame.

Laslo Spatula said...

When I was a child it was very important to only color within the lines. If there was a black-lined circle in a picture of the sky you colored it in yellow, careful to keep all color within the circle. Coloring that went outside the lines was the mark of a much younger child, and to be avoided. They also had a Crayola color called 'flesh' back then but I liked to color people blue at the time, even though I had no awareness of Picasso and his period of the same hue.

David said...

The black descendants of Hemmings with Jefferson blood are part of the Jefferson family, even though they can not be proved to be a descendant of Jefferson himself. That is the basis for acceptance, and it's a perfectly valid one.

There is one branch of the Hemmings family whose members claim a direct line from Jefferson based on oral tradition. Thus far they have declined DNA testing. Some have criticized them for that. I do not. They are entitled to their beliefs and to their privacy. Part of genealogy is the creation of an emotional connection to past times. Why should they be required to surrender their connection to satisfy a group of strangers who are fighting (in part) a contemporary political battle.

William said...

The fault line of American society is the color line, but, as fault lines go, it's relatively quiescent. Look at Greek/Turk, Serb/Croatian, Bantu/Watusi, or Shiite/Sunni lines to see how malign such lines can be........With the exception of our civil war--and that was mostly between whites--our fault line has never resulted in wholesale slaughter......It is the peculiar conceit of liberals that white black prejudice is the most form of prejudice that there is.

David said...

"It appears that, while there is no clear DNA evidence showing who within the family fathered the children, the records at Jefferson's residence do indicate that he was around when they would have been conceived, while the other suspects were not. So, it's not ironclad, but it's pretty strong evidence that he did father at least a couple of the children in question. "

I do not think that is correct. One of the other possibilities is Jefferson's nephew, his brother's son, who was usually around and who was notorious for partying in the Quarters. The records of Jefferson's travels are quite detailed but those of the nephew are not. He probably had access to Sally at the times of all her conceptions.

Sally seems to have had children by several fathers, some black and some white.

It depends on whose account you research too.

William said...

The William who posted at 9:37 is not the same William who posted at 9:33. I know because I'm the William who posted at 9:33. And that's the way it goes. The white people who enslaved blacks in 1814 are not the same white people who exist today, although they look alike. Ditto with blacks.

David said...

"In any case, it's pretty substantial, and I believe the white descendants of Jefferson have embraced the purported black descendants. That is, they've stopped the questioning.

That's what I remember being told by the docent at Monticello when I visited over a decade ago."

I think it may be a little more complicated than that. There's an official line, which you were given, and an unofficial line.

But it is true that era of horrified denial and suppression seems to have ended.

I first visited Montecello in 1960, on a pre college tour, and believe me there was no discussion of Sally Hemmings then.

Laslo Spatula said...

Does this mean that the word 'octoroon' will be back in common usage?

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

William,

The color line exists because of the significant differences between the black and the white cultures. For a number of reasons – most of them painful to observe – the demarcation line between the races has grown wider.

You think? It seems to me all the other way. To the extent that there's a "black culture," a lot of whites are emulating it. To the extent that there's a "white culture," a lot of blacks are emulating it. We seem all to share more than we don't.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Laslo Spatula,

Does this mean that the word 'octoroon' will be back in common usage?

I'm kind of surprised that it isn't already, what with all the obsession with blood quanta of late (e.g., exactly how Cherokee is Elizabeth Warren? Exactly how Peruvian is George Zimmerman? &c.).

Wynton Marsalis wrote a string quartet titled At the Octoroon Balls, in the late 90s. That's the most recent instance of the word I've stumbled upon. (Not a bad piece, actually.)

Laslo Spatula said...

The earlier monolithic color line is now left up to the individual to draw as he or she sees fit. Some draw big circles and ovals around themselves and believe all our inclusive. Some draw tight small squares that their elbows touch and believe no one else can ever experience the uniqueness of their existence. In between are triangles and rhomboids.

David said...

"America is a nation riven by geographic apartheid, with precious few truly integrated neighborhoods, particularly in the suburbs. The great divide between black and white yawns wide with the distance of ignorance, and the silence of shame."

Spoken like a true Yankee. Certainly not true in my very small southern city or my neighborhood. In fact the greatest perpetrators of that arrangement are the Yankees who have come down to live in the gated communities that are sprinkled all around here.

That said, there is definitely a color line. While whites and blacks interact cordially day and night in public areas and the workplace, there is not the same mixing socially in homes or in churches. It's way too complicated for a short post like this, but the predominant view of the arrangement is acceptance with some regret (by some but certainly not all.) It's not shame. The whites do not feel shame for the slavery and the segregation, though they acknowledge that it was terribly unjust. The blacks certainly feel no shame for having been victims of these arrangements.

A big page has been turned in most parts of the south, though there are more pages to go.

The elite Yankees seem stuck in a previous chapter. Why? Because it makes them feel superior? To whom? On what basis? Or are they reflecting their own present society? Just why do so many Yankees like the gated communities when they come down here?

Michael said...

David: Further to your point, the northern suburbs of Atlanta are filled with transplants from the North. People who came for the opportunity and the weather and the relatively cheap real estate. They have clustered as far as possible from the center of Atlanta as they are able. Again, they love the black race but aren't inclined to sidle up near actual black people. Funny, actually. A limo liberal friend of mine recently visited and while out for lunch in town he asked if there were a black convention in town or something. He looked a little nervous. No convention, dude, this is the south and these are our neighbors and friends.

MadisonMan said...

But why do you really like genealogy? That's the unexamined assertion.

I like learning about people in my family who were more important than I will ever be :)

There's still hope for me however.

Fen said...

but when they rouse themselves into such "radical" activities, should they claim they've crossed the "color line"?

That puts the Left's need for "racism" into better perspective. They need "racism" so they can "overcome" it and pat themselves on the back for "evolving".

Hey, I'm going to pretend I was once addicted to crack and "struggled" against it. Wow, I'm so strong and courageous. Good job Fen!

Stephen A. Meigs said...

As I mentioned earlier, there is much evil done by not discriminating wrong stupid behavior from right unselfish behavior. It's very important that natural lines be recognized. But another approach is to drawn lines in wrong places, and use them as red herrings to distract from natural lines not having been drawn properly.

In regards to slavery, white trash could conflate slavery with the sort of sordid domination nasty men can have over the females they abuse. By maintaining the appearance of the acceptability of dominating slaves white trash could make it seem more acceptable to dominate their wives, etc., with sodomy. At the same time, they could draw a mostly artificial line between black and white people, and pretend that the line drawn is the philosophically important line between graceful refinement and brutishness (rather than the line between sex and sodomy).

Another red herring happened with McCarthyism. Nothing bad about communism as a philosophy had any chance in hell of taking over in the United States. The Soviets should have been treated with the same mindset as other dictatorships. Instead, nasty people went after communism as though the line between communists and capitalists is the line between sodomy and sex, only more recklessly. Probably the silver stake through the vampire heart of McCarthyism was Ray Kohn being outed as gay. Ordinary people who might have been confused then mostly realized intuitively that the fanaticism of McCarthyism was probably just a red herring people were using to distract from the important nasty sodomy/clean sex distinction. The situation wasn't exactly like that with slavery--anti-communists were not arguing that there was something appropriate about communists being subservient to capitalists and that communists should be enslaved, though come to think of it there might have been an element there of something similar, namely that the rich should excessively rule over the poor.

It seems like drawing unnatural lines as red herrings is an approach especially effective when society is so much against blurring appropriate distinctions that it is a real sacrifice to publicly admit that one does not believe in the natural, appropriate distinction. Nowadays, people tend to be so unusually clueless about sodomy that the pro-sodomy types seem more intent on directly confusing sex with sodomy than to make red herrings. Still, people have a natural need to draw a line around nasty evil, and so those not wanting such a line will want to fill that need wrongly. The mentally ill are maligned, though not probably as much as in the last century. And young female sexuality is derided now to an unprecedented extent (most particularly, in my opinion, by pedant males wanting to sodomize fallen adult women).

Sometimes there can be wrinkles, for which I have no general classifying theory (yet). For instance, gays are mostly arguing for the right to marry. But it also serves the interests of sodomizers to be viewed as like unselfish females who put sex ahead of money (and thus, possibly, commitment), which might make them argue that marriage is stupid. And indeed, you don't hear gays arguing that it is wicked for them to have sex outside marriage. And in fact, though selfish women tend to conflate what marriage gives respectability wise with what marriage gives financially, what selfish women want is what it gives financially. Whereas what gay males arguing for marriage probably want is the air of respectability that marriage might confer. Selfish cunning women want money from marriage while pretending they want respectability, while gay people wanting the right to marry want it to seem respectable but often pretend they want the marriage for some sort of utility in making financial arrangements.

Fen said...

Since Gayle is a descendant of the same family, doesn't she need just as much absolution for the very same acts?

Gayle's black ancestors sold their children into slavery

Gayle's white ancestors bought them.

Guess which is worse in Gayle's mind? [and every other black who whines about slavery]

Ann Althouse said...

"I like learning about people in my family who were more important than I will ever be :)…"

But why? Why does it make a difference that people who are now dead, whom you never knew, are in your genealogical line?

Why not read about the best human beings who have ever lived or the dead humans that seem interesting for other reasons? Why is their being in your line something to be liked?

Anonymous said...

"What is amusing to me is that Quindlen and her fellow guilty white liberals never do the one thing that would give them the diversity that they say they crave and that they believe is good for all: move to an all black area. I’ll take Al Sharpton seriously when he starts calling out black people when they do wrong to whites ...."
1/24/14, 7:46 AM
-------------------------

Al Sharpton, The Knockout Games--The Biggest Form of Cowardice

SGT Ted said...

My 21st Great(etc.) Grandfather was Robert the Bruce. What you won't see me doing is demanding that I be buried in Iona, or invited to their family reunions.

Anonymous said...

It fascinating learning about how my ancestors lived, where they lived, what their names were, where they migrated to and when. Pure curiosity. If one enjoys history, its interesting to picture people who you descended from doing the same things that the people pictured in history books may have been doing.

One's ancestors don't make or break the person one is in today's world. It's up to us to make our children and grandchildren see us as interesting or worth claiming.

MadisonMan said...

Why not read about the best human beings who have ever lived or the dead humans that seem interesting for other reasons? Why is their being in your line something to be liked?

In my case, it was because my packrat family kept all the letters, so I got to read the original letters, all written horizontally and vertically in precise 19th-century penmanship. That was a fascinating and very tactile experience.

It was also instilled in me, by Dear Mother, that the Family Must Be Venerated. (Hence the never throw anything out mindset)

Illuninati said...

Someone up above asked "what difference does it make now"? In my opinion it makes no difference. Americans need to get over their obsession with race.

Althouse said:
"But why? Why does it make a difference that people who are now dead, whom you never knew, are in your genealogical line?"

Compared to eternity, human life is infinitely short and has no meaning in itself. Some people depend upon God and eternal life to make our own short lives meaningful. That is good but the Judeo-Christian perspective has always been that life on this earth is valuable in itself not just as a ticket to the real life somewhere beyond this earth. Jesus himself taught us that we can show our love to God by treating other people kindly. The story of life, all life, including our own lives is what makes life meaningful. That means that the lives of our ancestors are still meaningful for us just like our own lives will be meaningful to others after we are dead.





paul a'barge said...

...if I was looking for absolution for what my family did...

Note: these people are family (allegedly).

This is how Lib-tards talk to others in their family. No wonder no one likes these people.

Unknown said...

"But why? Why does it make a difference that people who are now dead, whom you never knew, are in your genealogical line?"

To the extent that it makes a difference, it makes a bigger difference when the dead folks are famous and historically-documented - many folks feel that this tells them something about themselves. It's not entirely unreasonable, given what's known about trait heritability: http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev-genet-111212-133258

Sigivald said...

It's the Times.

For the Times it will probably always be 1963.

traditionalguy said...

The missing factor in your analysis is inheritance.

We are what we inherit at birth and start to become vested with about 20 or so. That applies to physiognomy, community standing, spiritual blessings or curses, and last some property.

The injustice is when an heir's inheritance is stolen by others who replace him by hook or crook.

In The New World, we left those struggles behind us and headed to a frontier of opportunities.

But skin coloration was too easy an out to usurp another's inheritance.

Which reminds me of another well known inheritance right to Judea and Samaria, even if the Cohens did not get land per se.

Brian said...

"America is a nation riven by geographic apartheid, with precious few truly integrated neighborhoods, particularly in the suburbs."

Quindlen needs to write "New York is not all of America" on the blackboard as many times as it takes her to believe it.

William said...

Slavery and Jim Crow were great crimes, but they were far from the greatest crimes of their era. There were a series of politically motivated famines in Communist lands that killed millions. I'd rather have been a black under Jim Crow than a Ukranian under Soviet rule. Starvation is a worse hardship than discimination.....it is no accident that we are aware of the racial crimes in our country but ignorant, for the most part, of the far greater crimes in Communist lands. The descendants of Paul Robeson should apologize to all Ukranians for their father's complicity in Soviet crimes.........And it's fair to say that white America has done far more to overcome their racial prejudices than black Africa has done to transcend thir tribal and sexual prejudices.

Tarrou said...


You think? It seems to me all the other way. To the extent that there's a "black culture," a lot of whites are emulating it. To the extent that there's a "white culture," a lot of blacks are emulating it. We seem all to share more than we don't.


This is correct, but there is nevertheless a "black" culture, or more precisely a ghetto one. More than just blacks adhere to it, but it takes all touchstones from the black experience. Just as there is a white culture which many blacks adhere to. My battle buddy in the service was a lanky black guy from the hills of West Virginia who had been a coal miner, loved country, hated rap and drove a fifteen-year-old Ford pickup. Black, but not ghetto. And one need look no further than such luminaries as Eminem to realize the converse is also possible. The differences are still cultural rather than precisely racial.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

In which Althouse adds to the list of harmless things that others enjoy but she thinks it's somehow worth sharing that she thinks they are stupid.

shorts

plane travel

genealogy

But why? Why does it make a difference that people who are now dead, whom you never knew, are in your genealogical line?

Why not read about the best human beings who have ever lived or the dead humans that seem interesting for other reasons? Why is their being in your line something to be liked?


What's it to you? It's childish to demand explanations for others' interests.

Anglelyne said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anglelyne said...

But why? Why does it make a difference that people who are now dead, whom you never knew, are in your genealogical line?

Why not read about the best human beings who have ever lived or the dead humans that seem interesting for other reasons? Why is their being in your line something to be liked?


It's called "kinship", Professor. Inexplicably, these meaningless relationships have absorbed human beings since before we were even human beings. Why do adopted children so often long to know their biological kin? Why is the "search for the father" such a common theme in myth and life? Why do mothers show more interest in their own ordinary offspring when obviously there are better and more interesting babies out there? Why do people burn with shame and the desire for vengeance because dead people kicked around the ancestors they never knew? Why do uninteresting ordinary people give a crap about the uninteresting ordinary grandchildren that their uninteresting ordinary children produce? Or hope that their great^n grandchildren will help populate the future, even though they will never know them.

I'd say you do think it's interesting that you're a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, because the point you were trying to make did not at all require your mentioning it. Seems like a normal thing for a person to find interesting.

Also, I had no idea that genealogical interests precluded taking an interest in non-kin.

Eric Jablow said...

Isn't the usual term the “Color Bar?”

John Constantius said...

Althouse does seem to have a habit of insisting that other people's utility curves are wrong. Megan McArdle used to do this too, but as she has some economics training she eventually realized it was foolish and stopped.

navillus said...

What I find fascinating about color lines in the US is the notion that America has numerous perks for blacks, but very little objective data for deciding who meets the criteria for being black. There was the Boston firefighter AA case back in the 80s where the Malone twins claimed they were black based on having a black great-grandmother. IOW, they were 1/8th black. They ended up getting fired for fraud. However, Homer Plessy of Plessy v Ferguson fame was also an octoroon & the judicial system never questioned his blackness. We've repealed the "1-drop rule" as a matter of law, but haven't replaced it with anything objective. If Obama had married a white lady like his dad did, his kids would be 75% white. Are you still "black" at 25%? We know if you claim to be black at 12.5% the Boston FD fires you! The judge in the Malone used 'visual observation of their features' as one kind of evidence to make his ruling. By that logic, a black person fair enough to pass for white actually isn't black! Is it possible to bolster your claim by eating lots of soul food & putting spinning rims on your car? How about if you rock a nice jew-fro, does that help? Where would Navin R. Johnson fall under our racial set-aside scheme? He was born a poor black child. The mind boggles.

Ann Althouse said...

"I'd say you do think it's interesting that you're a direct descendant of Cotton Mather, because the point you were trying to make did not at all require your mentioning it. Seems like a normal thing for a person to find interesting."

That's the only time I've mentioned it, in 10 years of blogging. I mentioned it in the context of saying it's not remarkable.

I realize that human beings are interested in their own group, especially their own family. But as for dead ancestors that you've never known, why do you care? The answers all sound close to: I care because I care. Some add a fillip of: And who are you to ask?

I'm inviting people to reflect on why they care, not challenging them for caring. I find it an interesting subject and I find it interesting that people are defensive about being invited to reflect on it!

John Constantius said...

Althouse, I suspect it's less defensiveness and more that the Socratic method, on the whole, is annoying.

What's that, someone is trying to lead me to wisdom through their insightful, penetrating questions? The only reasonable response to that kind of thing is a crotch grab and: "I gotcher wisdom right here."

Law students put up with it because they have to and because it can be good training for the cut and thrust of legal argument. Normal people just find it obnoxious (I suspect most law students do as well).

"Why not read about the best human beings who ever lived...?"

Don't feel like it. Now shoo, Socrates.

Anglelyne said...

AA: I realize that human beings are interested in their own group, especially their own family. But as for dead ancestors that you've never known, why do you care? The answers all sound close to: I care because I care. Some add a fillip of: And who are you to ask?

I'm inviting people to reflect on why they care, not challenging them for caring. I find it an interesting subject and I find it interesting that people are defensive about being invited to reflect on it!


If by "defensive", you mean "expressing puzzlement at why you are apparently puzzled at a well-nigh universal area of human interest (ancestry)", then, OK, I'm "defensive". Though I'd say my intent was probably more of an offensive "wft kind of a deracinated sperg honestly doesn't understand why humans invest emotions in dead people they've never met?". And, I would add, not yet living people whom they will also never meet. (If it's possible to be both on the offense and scratching one's head at the same time.)

You write: "I realize that human beings are interested in their own group, especially their own family." Well, there's part of the answer to both your puzzlement and mine. Why do you believe that "your own group" comprises only living persons whom you do (or could) meet? That is a very, very unusual way for a human being to conceive of his kin group, so "why don't you care?", or, "why would someone have such an anomalously 'horizontal' view of kinship?" would be the questions that interested me. It's an odd conception of a kin-nexus that has only a spatial, and not a temporal, dimension.

If you "...realize that [and, I assume, understand why] human beings are interested in their own group, especially their own family", why is interest in the former entirely different from taking an interest in one's ancestors? You're never going to have any personal interaction with most of them, either.