TED Conversations

Joshua Lee

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Is the language we use perpetuating the racial divide?

When I started working at the University I was asked, "Who do you relate to?" I answered unawares of their intention, "My wife." To which there was a pause... an irritated pause... ,"No, What race do you identify with?" Response, "The human race."

This only provides a small example into the plethora of ways that language contributes to how we perceive ourselves and others. This example illustrates how language shapes identity or at least perceived identity and its association with our race. It gives clues to how society contributes to a divide that no longer should exist. I believe that we can move beyond defining ourselves through race. We can rebuild ourselves through language and allow growth to truly take place.

Perhaps then a lack of opportunities wouldn't be presented as a racial issue but an economic issue, perhaps stereotypes would disappear and we would be able to characterize each other based on work ethic not racial stigmas, Perhaps we would be able to address the social issues from a less jaded perspective. Maybe now is the time that we stop making up for our ancestors mistakes and start working together as true equals.


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    Jun 29 2013: Are you employed at a public or private university? I ask this only because every public school or institution at which I have worked over the last twenty-five years engages in very extensive and almost continuous discussion of such issues of race and diversity.

    I sense from the way you pose your question and from your discussion that this does not happen where you are?
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      Jun 29 2013: Re: " I ask this only because every public school or institution at which I have worked over the last twenty-five years engages in very extensive and almost continuous discussion of such issues of race and diversity."

      Fritzie, don't you think that this "continuous discussion" perpetuates the issue? May be, it's time to stop teaching children that they've "got to be nice to ..." (fill in the blank). Doesn't this also imply that one can be mean to ... (fill in the blank)? When I was a kid, I did not understand why people even mention issues like that because I would never had thought on my own that this could be an issue.

      "You've got to be carefully taught..."
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        Jun 29 2013: Yours is an interesting question. The answer those who do diversity training typically offer to it is that thinking discussions about race are not necessary or no longer necessary is typical of those who enjoy "privilege" in the society.

        I was talking about trainings and discussions among adults rather than children. Is the sort of message you describe here how this has been discussed with your children at their schools? I believe you have school-aged children still?

        Of course adults who have been engaged in discussions with identical content over several decades do start feeling it grows old.
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          Jun 29 2013: Re: "The answer those who do diversity training typically offer to it is that thinking discussions about race are not necessary or no longer necessary is typical of those who enjoy "privilege" in the society."

          The same can be said the other way: those who think that discussions about race is necessary are those who are interested in perpetuating the idea of racial inequality.

          I have school-aged children. I do not discuss the issues of race with them. And I will not unless I would see that I need to address it (if they get wrong ideas from somewhere else).

          I have an Elmo disc with a song teaching kids that they "should not be afraid of the dark", how to overcome the fear of the dark, how things we are afraid in the dark are not scary, etc. It sounds outlandish to me. My kids have NEVER been afraid of the dark. I just put them to bed, turn off the light - and that's about it. They don't even KNOW that they SHOULD be afraid of the dark.

          Teaching these subjects to people who are unaware of them is like showing pornography to children saying "this is the stuff you are not supposed to look at" or teaching them profanity saying "you are not supposed to know these words".

          My son has finished his freshman year in high school. In health class, he had to write long papers on various drugs and what interesting effects they have on the mind. I had no idea that there are such wonderful mushrooms! Thanks for teaching that stuff to my kid!
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        Jun 29 2013: Oh, I know. I am just sharing what those who do these trainings argue.
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      Jun 29 2013: There is a primary and a secondary decision at play here.

      The reason they need to teach diversity (secondary decision) is the primary decision that there is racism.

      Black unemployment was lower than white unemployment until the nanny state passed the Davis Bacon act (secondary decision). Because of the primary decision that Blacks were discriminated against in employment. The truth is that this meme was started after blacks were used in construction jobs that would work cheaper. The unions did not like this so came up with Davis Bacon and prevailing wage which in reality cost Blacks jobs.

      Black graduation is higher without affirmative action. Because of the primary decision that there was racism so they had to institute the secondary decision of affirmative action to give black students a fair chance. This forced schools to accept students they would not ordinarily accept of course these student were not qualified to go to these schools and flunked out.

      The government decided poor people were being discriminated against in house loans so they decided that they need the CRA to force banks to make loans they would not otherwise make. The primary decision was that there was discrimination against poor people regarding home loans. The secondary decision was that there needed to be the CRA. You know the rest of the story.

      The government decided there were too many unemployed people (primary decision) so extended unemployment to 99 weeks (secondary decision) The result was more unemployed people.

      The government decided that illegal aliens did not get enough to eat, support for children, get health care, get housing (primary decision), the secondary decision was to give them section 8 housing, WIC, child support for single mothers, education. Result more illegal aliens. Exacerbated by Reagan and Amnesty.

      We are ALL different to think otherwise would be liberal (non thinking).

      Where is the aid for white people who are not good at sports or good students?
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        Jun 29 2013: Pat, could be nice if you provided references for all the info. You refer to numerical data such as graduation rates, unemployment rates, minimum wage. Not that I disagree or don't believe you, but all of that stuff can be anecdotal and you wouldn't even know it yourself. Numerical data and facts are in a different category than moral beliefs.

        I disagree with affirmative action for a different reason. If we are to stop discrimination, we need to stop taking race into consideration for employment, college admission, housing, credit, etc. - period. Giving advantage to people of color seems to violate that principle. Moreover, it emphasizes the fact that these people need special treatment because they are "underprivileged" or "disadvantaged", essentially, implying their inferiority. Looking at the current U.S. president, it seems to me that it's time to leave these ideas in the past. Affirmative action seems to be adding insult to the injury emphasizing inequality. Do black people object? Does anybody say "hey, we don't need special privileges! we can qualify for college better than whites without your stinky privileges!" Of course, I say this just to keep "MY privileges".
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          Jun 29 2013: Black Unemployment;


          Affimative Action:


          Economic facts and fallacies pg 179


          Affirmative action which began in the 1970s produced little or no effect on the size of black income

          It is hard for me to coax the actual stats out of the BLS tables but these guys are adept at it. They are both Black economists.


          Households headed by illegal aliens imposed more than $26.3 billion in costs on the federal government in 2002 and paid only $16 billion in taxes, creating a net fiscal deficit of almost $10.4 billion, or $2,700 per illegal household.

          Among the largest costs are Medicaid ($2.5 billion); treatment for the uninsured ($2.2 billion); food assistance programs such as food stamps, WIC, and free school lunches ($1.9 billion); the federal prison and court systems ($1.6 billion); and federal aid to schools ($1.4 billion).

          From this:


          It is easy to find read about the CRA.

          The 99 week unemployment extension will be hard to prove. But I have read that whenever it is extended the people tend to stay unemployed longer.
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          Jun 29 2013: Read your own link again this time for time for comprehension.
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        Jun 29 2013: Pat, thanks for the links.

        @pat re: "Read your own link again this time for time for comprehension."

        Pat, this comment does not add any content to what you say. I see it as a personal remark.

        @Lamar re: "I am sure you did not expect anyone else to see through that and cherry picking your data is not a way to provide evidence for your opinion because it will be pointed out."

        Lamar: what Pat expected does not matter. If you disagree with Pat, it's sufficient to explain why you disagree with what he said.

        I say this because I like discussions with both of you, but last time you talked to each other in my own conversation, nobody wanted to comment in it for 3 days and moderators deleted half of the remarks. We need to learn from that.
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          Jun 29 2013: It is a personal remark. I take the trouble to back up my comments at your request and Lamar starts assuming. This is annoying. My policy has been to ignore his trolling except this time, a mistake I will not repeat.
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          Jun 29 2013: I appreciate, Arkady, your encouraging respectful conversations that are about substance rather than personal attack. Personal attacks have ways of snowballing and making thoughtful people start to avoid the whole thread.

          It is particularly unfair effectively to sabotage other people's threads in this way.
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      Jul 1 2013: I work for a state run university in Pennsylvania. I am not saying in any way that the conversation doesn't take place but perhaps not as widely publicized as one would wish. I find it interesting that at other institutions that this topic is discussed with rigor. I am interested to know how some of those conversations play out and what they may directly be related to.
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        Jul 1 2013: Look up "Courageous Conversations" as an example. Also Lisa Delpit of Stanford, I think, and Peggy McIntosh of Wellesley.

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