Race and resentment

Given today’s inadvertent theme, here’s Thomas Sowell on Race and Resentment:

Recent stories out of both Philadelphia and San Francisco tell of black students beating up Asian American students.

. . . Resentments and hostility toward people with higher achievements are one of the most widespread of human failings. Resentments of achievements are more deadly than envy of wealth.

When a distinct group rises to prosperity — Sowell cites “the Lebanese in West Africa, the Indians in Fiji, the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire” — they’ve been hated for it.

Achievements are a reflection on others who may have had similar, and sometimes better, chances but who did not make the most of their chances.

. . . Many of our educators, our intelligentsia and our media — not to mention our politicians— promote an attitude that other people’s achievements are grievances, rather than examples.

Hard-working black students are attacked by black classmates for “acting white.” In Britain, high-achieving white students have been beaten up by lower-class white classmates, Sowell writes.

These are poisonous and self-destructive consequences of a steady drumbeat of ideological hype about differences that are translated into “disparities” and “inequities,” provoking envy and resentments under their more prettied-up name of “social justice.”

In the long run, the victims of resentment are the hoodlums, Sowell writes. The achievers get out and move up; the resentful are trapped.

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  1. Mike,

    Just out of curiosity, do you ever offer comments that actually relate to the topic presented by Joanne, or do ad hominems represent all you’re capable of contributing?

    I’m sure you’re a much deeper, enlightened, sophisticated thinker than Thomas Sowell, with a higher level of personnal achievement to prove it. Not burning with resentment for an individual that has accomplished more with his life then you seem to have.

  2. Walter_E_Wallis says:

    One writes about error and its consequences not out of surrender, but in hope of correcting. As I pack for my second trip to Korea, 60 years after my first one, I am reminded that there are conflicting opinions of almost everything. I consider it partly due to my efforts that a night satellite photo of the Korean peninsula shows the South ablaze with lights while North of the DMZ it is dark except at Pyongyang and Wonsan. I consider this photo a tribute to the freedom of unfettered growth, while Progressives consider the dark North as a tribute to the conservation possibilities of a genuinely involved leadership.

  3. There are progressives that admire North Korea?

  4. The topic of race is very important but it’s also a very sensitive issue which makes it difficult to talk about.

    If we say there is no racism, then conveniently, we don’t have to talk about it.

    And if we assert that there is racism by adhering to that which is politically correct, that too is mindless and doesn’t help the situation.

    James Fallow wrote an interesting piece on damaged culture a number of years ago and I thought it was very interesting. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one person to discuss it with. People I respected turned up their noses and said all cultures were equal, that the idea of some cultures being damaged was perhaps racist. And then there was the crowd who wanted to complain about Asian drivers and how they’ll steal your cat when you’re not looking to make soup. They had stories to tell and didn’t want to hear about James Fallows unless they were sure he agreed with them.

    We have problems and people are avoiding talking about the solutions if it has anything do to with race.

    Look the numbers. The drop out rates. The teenage pregancy. The people doing time in prison. What’s the reason that the last 20 people arrested in San Jose all have hispanic last names? Shouldn’t we be asking the reason? Has ignoring the question done any good?

    An hispanic colleague of mine had a teenage daughter who had a child out of wedlock and he was very upset about it–mostly because of the expense. I bet him 50 dollars that she would be pregnant again within the year by some other guy and he would have to deal with that too. Her brother found out about the bet and became very angry with my racist stereotype. He cursed and swore and accused me racial stereotyping. I lost the best because she got pregnant in 13 months. But somehow, it was all my fault.

    The subject of race is taboo yet it seems to be all around us. Unless sometime is done, the numbers are going to stay the same. And the numbers say, in this colorblind land of the free and home of equal opportunity, that race statistically is a determining factor.

  5. Jessica says:

    As I read this blog I couldn’t help but think of our local (98% white) high school. The unhappiness of students at that school has nothing to do with race, every thing to do with discrimination. Privileged students with connected parents receive almost all the “academic,” leadership, and service awards, including membership into NHS and placement in honors classes. Other students, who are almost completely ignored by school leadership, feel resentful. This has nothing to do with race, and everything to do with a harmful school culture.

    It is easy for those in power to point to public recognition as based on some type of objective reality, when, in fact, events that signify “achievement” are often nothing more than markers of membership in the elite group of society.

  6. Probably most people didn’t discuss Fallow’s piece because they knew nothing about the Philippines.


  7. Jessica, interesting comment.

    Kate, thanks for the link.

  8. Jeez Robert, whatever else the race issue is it sure isn’t difficult to talk about. To paraphrase Shrek, the trouble’s getting people to shut up about the issue.

    With regard to the specific issue taken up in this thread, it’s the uncomfortable realization that in more then a few cases the enemy isn’t the bigotry of the easily-identified and comfortably denouceable oppressors but those identified as the oppressed. Turns out that just because you’re having your ass kicked by “the man” you haven’t relinquished the capacity to conjure rationalizations to justify kicking someone else’s ass. Preferably someone in no position to retaliate.

    Sowell’s obviously, and uncomfortably, correct in that it’s easier to hate those within reach who are putting your own, self-inflicted failings in high relief by the simple act of getting ahead. That hatred is exacerbated by the endless reiteration of grievances that are past redressing. But if you don’t keep bringing up those historic wrongs the entire issue receded into history and that doesn’t serve the purposes of lefties who are so anxious to demonstrate their moral rectitude that they’ll keep pumping life into an issue that’s better dead.

  9. “Tall Poppy Syndrome” or “crab mentality” is nothing new. Still loathsome though.


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