Thanks for fine steelmanning arguments in favor of racial identities - keeping them, but wearing them more lightly. We all have multiple identities. I in Slovakia, like John, am very much an American. I came in 1991 as a Free Marketeer (Libertarian from Silicon Valley) to help with the market transition from communism, especially coupon privatization. I don't know if John speaks mostly German or English in Germany, but when I visit, there's no problem finding Germans with excellent English - my main language identity; I can also converse with grammar errors in Slovak (hovorim po Slovensky). Spanish / English is one of the key identity questions for many Hispanics, especially first generation born from Spanish speaking immigrants. (Unless one is gifted in languages, it's really hard to learn a new one as an adult.)

Most of "White privilege" in America is, actually, "American privilege" - and there seem to be very very few Blacks who think any African Black majority country is actually a better place to live, today, than America.

Your prior talk on the Bass Motherf**ker problem points out the male identity, rather than female.

The elite today have the "college educated" identity, as well as far too much college indoctrination.

All humans have multiple identities - each person is an individual. Racism is a subset of Tribalism - like the Hutu tribe murdering over a million Tutsis in Rwanda. Not racism, tribalism. Individualism is the proper goal to avoid tribalism.

In Slovakia I was often asked what I missed most about America: Mexican food. The good future of race in America will be like ethnic food - everybody can try what they like, and choose. My wife doesn't like spicy food, but also loves guacamole (now that we can import avocados. Some from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Peru, and Israel - price tags say the country of origin).

One racial inheritance factor not mentioned is slavery in Africa. Most Blacks who became slaves were caught by other Blacks and then sold as slaves. It's quite likely that Obama, with no American slave ancestors, probably had African slave-owning ancestors. Similarly, most Blacks who became slaves had relatives and ancestors who were slave owners. The point of mentioning this is that so many humans, probably most, but certainly including most American Blacks, have slave owning ancestors. Slavery is a real, and often significant, part of human history. And all races are guilty.

Finally, thanks for using the n-word (which-must-not-be-said by whites). The fact that Blacks can say it be Whites can not is, itself, a part of a racist culture. I was hoping, since Blazing Saddles, that making fun of racists would get rid of most of it, which it has, but also reduce the ability of demagogues to invoke it, which it hasn't. By using it, you both reduce its power, and bring us closer a time of lighter racial, ethnic, sexual, linguistic, educational, and national identities.

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Loury and McWhorter seem to believe that a government-imposed "black" racial category is necessary to maintain their racial/ethnic or whatever identity. Gee, how do so many other ethnic groups such as Irish, Jews, Poles, Norwegians, Greeks, etc. still maintain ethnic institutions and affiliations WITHOUT GOVERNMENT HELP? Blacks have far greater numbers than the groups I've named AND also base their identity on physical racial differences that make them stand out from the majority of the American population. Yet, Loury and McWhorter seem to think that American blacks will quickly disappear without government-imposed racial classifications. I've heard this before. During the 1990's there was a political movement to force the Census Bureau to add a "multiracial" category and abandon the official position that "races" are mutually exclusive and people cannot have ancestors in more than one racial category. Black academics and Democratic politicians howled with rage, with the NAACP leading the charge for maintaining the myth of the "one drop rule." If your group identity depends on FORCE and STATE POWER, then there is something very wrong with it. Unfortunately, too many blacks seem to like this idea. Google the term "pass for white" and you will be deluged with black-authored denunciations of part-black whites and others who refuse to let themselves be bullied into pretending to be "black." I'm for freedom, not government-imposed racial or ethnic categories.

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This is a fascinating discussion, thank you for sharing. Comparing the Black identity to, say, and Irish one is informative, in the ways they are different. An Irish identity would be more like a Jamaican or African or even ADOS identity. It’s tied to a specific ancestry and the history and traditions thereof. Couldn’t one argue that a Black identity be more on par with a “white” one, which is to say it’s a forcibly broad brush? It gets to what you were saying about the identity being contingent on how you are seen by others, specifically white people. This problem is most salient with the “Asian” racial identity, which encompasses an absurd number of actually distinct cultural groups. It only makes sense to group them together if you say “well to white people, we’re all the same, so we have to stick together.” Which reinforces the perception among white people that all Asians are alike. It does seem like a circular trap. Turning down the dial on race and turning up the dial on ethnicity does seem like it could help break things up a bit. But I’m an Irish-y mutt so what do I know?

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As always, you and John are insightful and articulate. I enjoy listening to both of you.

Admittedly, I'm an outsider to the issue of Black identity, being an old white guy. But, having grown up in the Jewish community, I think I have a sense of what you're talking about.

And my sense is this - Black culture is tied to the black race, just as Jewish culture is tied to the Jewish religion. For Blacks and Jews, those ties were forced on their communities by the rejection of the majority communities. But it resulted in strong cultures that sustained their communities.

But those ties become less strong as discrimination disappears. Cultural differences fade. Young people spend time with young people from other racial and religious communities. And intermarriage results in families having to work out how they will share their different cultural backgrounds.

Ahad Ha'am, an important Jewish philosopher in Russia at the beginning of the 20th Century commented that he would prefer to live in a strong Jewish community in oppressive, Czarist Russia than the assimilationist Jewish community in the free US. Frankly, I'm very glad my grandparents didn't agree with him! But his point is correct - when people are free to associate with people other cultures, assimilation weakens the original culture.

Real social change occurs with the change in generational attitudes. My guess is that the Black community will go through the same changes that the Jewish community experienced over the past 30 years where synagogues have to decide how they are going to deal with families of mixed religion. I commented to a discussion group that 'racism' will disappear when Blacks see themselves more as an ethnic minority and begin intermarrying at the same rate as other ethnic minorities, including Jews. One of the women responded - "But we didn't want our children to intermarry. Both of our children married non-Jews." So it goes.

Young people in their 30s today are far more open to living interracially. What we will gain is a far more tolerant society less driven by racial discrimination. What we lose is a weakening of a culture that sustained the Black community in good times and bad. This is the same dilemma facing every ethnic minority.

I'm not in a position to judge for you whether the gain is worth the cost. But I'm pretty sure it's going to happen.

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I've heard of K. Foster before and today I like him even more. I'll have to follow up. The elephant in this room is the extent to which there exists, without even trying, a set of nominally black Americans whose black experience is so easily and casually outside of the mainstream understanding of blackness that it is a great relief to give up the existential burden of claiming whatever racial inheritance is granted by default. Imagine you were born in Denver, CO and grew up loving Western movies, and then you grew up with no identifiable 'black' accent and portrayed an Army officer on The Cosby Show. This is in fact the story of my friend Joseph A Phillips, a Christian Republican. He has constantly struggled with exemplifying the standup kind of person who wants to be judged by his scrupulously maintained character, but he must always face the 'black' benchmarks of Hollywood. How likely is it going to be that he could assert his black tradition as exemplified in the John A Williams book 'Captain Blackman' and be deemed authentic.

We all inherit a racial identity. It *must* be ours to choose how much to accept it, just as we inherit our American citizenship whether or not we 'represent' America as did those who suffered the irrational wrath of 9/11 attacks against 'the Great Satan'.

It seems to me patently obvious that the reality of black diversity always suffers the troublesome inheritance, and this is especially true of those who actually know their own family trees and thus are under no obligation to substitute anyone's definitions of blackness because they suffer no 'native alienation'. Whereas those who lack 'knowledge of self' always fall prey to hucksters. If the life of Malcolm X is not instructive of this then we have missed the entire plot.

McWhorter's elegaic praise of the first time he heard Porgy & Bess, I think very well illustrates how much of black culture suffers a postmodern memory hole. That's not considered black music any longer. If the black race cannot transcend its racial identity even as real black culture is buried and shallow ripoffs abound, what indeed are you anchored to, and how real is your struggle against the constraints of race itself? Why do atheists get this and you do not?

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