Race in America Right Now

I live in Northern California where Indian restaurant food and French restaurant food taste alike. That’s because the first is Mexican Indian food and the second is Mexican French food. All the cooks are Mexican. That’s an interesting economic fact. That’s not the whole story by a long shot. America is a great country where menial jobs have for generations led to entrepreneurship and in time, to dignified economic independence. So, Mexican cooks sometimes become Mexican-American restaurant owners.

In my town, there are dozens of Mexican restaurants and taco places. One full-fare restaurant stands among all others. It’s located downtown. It’s spacious and clean. The food there is reasonably good and moderately priced. The restaurant is also perfectly organized for the kind of fare it serves. Scarcely more than five minutes elapse between the moment you place your order and the moment it’s brought to your table. The table is cleaned within one minute of your leaving it so that the next customer does not have to wait.

This Mexican restaurant does not belong to a junior college drop-out, aging surfer as is often the case around here. It was launched and it is staffed by Mexicans immigrants and by their grown children and their buddies. You might say that it’s a great American entrepreneurial ship with a wholly Mexican crew.

One day, I noticed there an old Chinese man bent over a broom, laboriously sweeping the restaurant’s floor. It would have been hard not to notice him in the middle of the team of young, fairly loud Mexican workers. Discreetly, I inquired from the Mexican manager, who the old guy was. “We have been warned,” he declared mysteriously.

Apparently, the California bureaucracy in charge of such things had counted racial heads in that obviously successful, proudly Mexican establishment. It must have been decided that an all “Latino” crew violated some law or other. And twisted arms to force greater “diversity.” I would guess there aren’t two hundred permanent residents of Chinese extraction in the whole town. There are other Asians but who do you count in that category for “diversity” purposes? There are plenty of Indians but I think they don’t count. Is it because of a particular historical experience, real or imagined, their ancestors did not have? Or is it simply because they don’t look right for the part. Would Filipinos count then? Often they have brown skin but they also sport somewhat slanted eyes, although, in general, less markedly slanted than most Chinese.

I am getting confused although I have good credentials as a social scientist.

For twenty years, I drove on a narrow but fast mountain road to and from work to cross the chain of hills that separates living from working. At the top of the hill, overlooking a grandiose panorama there is a restaurant. There has always been a restaurant there, always facing the same problem: By the time they reach the summit, drivers want to gun their motor to fifty miles an hour to be home sooner. The compulsion is almost irresistible. It kills whatever impulse there might be to stop for a snack, and especially for a drink. Since there is speeding on that road, it’s often crawling with highway patrol. (Bless their heart!) That’s one more reason to not stop.

Seven years ago, a Korean restaurant replaced whatever other kind was there before. It struggled for two years. Then, the owners threw in the towel, realizing that native-born Americans don’t stop to eat exotic food on their way from work. Neither are they likely to drive up twenty minutes from either side of the mountain for a formal dinner at a restaurant of unknown reputation leaving behind on both sides towns with a wide variety of eating places.

I am more curious about food than most people, I am sure. (I used to be a Frenchman, that’s why.) Yet, I never stopped to sample the Korean fare at the mountain top although I must have driven by a couple of thousand times. This Asian enterprise just failed, I would venture.

A youngish Iranian couple took over and turned the place into a shish-kebab restaurant. They were obviously recent immigrants. The husband staid in the kitchen and said little. The wife served in the restaurant where she spoke sufficient but hesitant English. I know because I stopped there for breakfast with my daughter on a Saturday morning, when the traffic was light.

Although there were no other customers, the fried eggs were late in coming and cold upon arrival. The proprietress did not look right to me. I would not say she was dirty but she lacked the scrubbed-up, coiffed, and made-up appearance one expects of a female breakfast waitress anywhere in America. The room was decorated with a profusion of plastic flowers, reminding me of a discount funeral parlor. There was no music. The silence in that restaurant was deadly. The bill was on the high side, as one might expect maybe in a “scenic” restaurant.

Driving back, week by week, I could read the couple’s growing desperation in the ever increasing size of the signs they put up to draw speeding drivers’ attention and interest. The last sign was built squarely on the side of the restaurant. It advertised, “Best lam-shops in California.” It was as tall as the restaurant building and a third as wide as it was long. Steadying it in the wind must have required good carpentry skills. Then, the sign disappeared and the place looked deserted. This other set of immigrants from a less-developed country had lost its battle, apparently.

Nowadays, there are often dozens of cars in the parking lot. On nice weekends, it’s nearly full of motorcycles. The new owners have invested in a new large sign they placed on top of the building. The restaurant is now called, “ The ‘X’ Road House.” It sports a massive redwood sculpture of a bear, or of an eagle. I don’t even remember what the subject is. All the same, it cries out, “Redneck.” Rednecks will get out of their car and off their bikes for a bacon omelet with other rednecks.

Whites: 1; people of color: 0. Smacks of racism, right?

I hear the following news on Fox News, that cesspool of progressive sentiment: A privately owned swimming club in a white town in Pennsylvania abruptly canceled its contract to give access to its pool to a summer camp with many black children. It seems that everyone cries “racism.” Nothing is less obvious.

First things first: Depriving children of bathing and swimming they have been promised is crappy behavior. The swimming club decision-makers deserve a special place in Hell for this action, whatever their motivation.

The victims’ minders and all commentators I have heard assume the motivation is good old-fashioned racism, in the manner of Alabama circa 1940. It disturbs me that no one seems willing to consider other explanations. I think it’s because people are afraid of where it would take them. Racism may be involved but it’s also a lazy and cowardly explanation. It lets all of us who are not racists off the hook.

Here is a ready alternative: The lazy press gave no details about the social identity of the black children who fell victim to this decision.

Suppose many of them, even some of them, were the children of ghetto mothers who have never worked and who have had four children from three different men, none of whom is around. Suppose further these children live normally in the midst of drive-by shooting over drug turf. If both my suppositions are correct, is it possible that the children’s behavior would be judged much more disruptive than is considered acceptable in a middle-class suburb?

Low tolerance toward disruptive behavior may say something about the intolerant but it’s not racism. It ‘s not the same as past racial segregation. And yes, there is still racial prejudice in America, amazingly little considering this country’s history. Recently, an entertainer who was a also a freak and almost certainly a drug addict received a more grandiose national funeral than Abe Lincoln. It’s a mathematical certainty that most of the mourners had to be white although the deceased was black (or still kind of black, a little, anyway).

I am referring above mostly to white racism. Judge Sotomayor is a racist, of course.

I don’t know if any of my speculations above about the black children in the pool incident is correct. They are all plausible, however. It would have been easy for the lazy media to investigate and report. There are always alternative explanations to a given behavior. Deciding that one is correct without examining the others is bad social science. It’s also irrational and intellectually dishonest.

It disturbs me that liberal and progressive low-level intellectual terrorism seems to have won in America. I don’t like a world where some thoughts may not be thought and hardly anyone breaks the rule.

Pres. Obama is in Ghana as I write. I think he chose Ghana because it’s one of four or five democratic countries in sub-tropical Africa.

He is trying to burnish his image as the first really black President without getting splashed by the genuine self-inflicted horrors of the African continent.

Black Africa watchers are up in arms about his inaction concerning aid to Africa. His budgets decrease aid to Africa in general. I think that part of the world needs aid less than it needs honest ways to make a living. That requires trade fairness. American agricultural subsidies are killing African agriculturists in world markets. They can’t compete against cotton, for example, that earns money before it’s even come out of the ground.

The President owns both the bully pulpit and absolute majorities. The press believes he walks on air, like Jesus, except more graciously. The Republican Party is busy trying to sort out its (heterosexual) sex scandals. Why doesn’t the President do the obvious against a practice – subsidizing large farming corporations – that has no ethical justification whatsoever? It’s certainly not good capitalism.

This is a real question.


Please keep it civil

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