The Way I See It!
Musings of an iconoclast.
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On White Supremacy and “Race”
By Lorin Robinson
One day about 20 years from now a special baby will be born in the United States. It will probably have brown skin. Or it may be of Black, Asian or Native American descent. The family will not know why its newborn is significant. The child will also grow up not knowing.
The significance of this baby will be demographic, statistical. Baby X will be the one who makes “people of color” the majority in the US.
Today, Whites represent about 59% of the population. The share has been dropping since the 1950s and will continue to decline. The Hispanic population is the next biggest followed by Blacks and Asians.
Eventually, demographers tell us, Whites will become a minority, dropping below 50 percent before 2045—perhaps earlier.
What will this dramatic demographic shift mean to our sociological and political landscape? Will it simply pass by unnoticed? Doubtful. What, for example, will White supremacists do when they find they are no longer numerically supreme?
Hold that question. Let’s first take a semantic sidestep to consider the term “race.”
While most people use “race” to make distinctions between humans in terms of physical traits—skin color, shape of eyes or hair type—or differences in behavior, most geneticists believe the idea of “race” is inherently naive or simplistic, arguing that “race” is irrelevant because all humans belong to the same species, Homo sapiens.
The reality is that the human species doesn’t include enough genetic variation to justify drawing “racial” lines. We are too alike to split into groups. Advances in genetics demonstrate that human physical variations do not fit a “racial” model. Instead, variations tend to overlap. There are no genes that identify distinct groups that accord with the conventional race categories.
In fact, DNA analyses prove that all humans have much more in common, genetically, than they have differences. The genetic difference between any two humans is less than one percent. Thus, scientists have concluded that the concept of race has no biological validity.
Differences in appearance and behavior of the “races” are not genetic. They are based on adaptation to climatic and geographic variations and cultural differences that evolved as far flung groups of humans adapted to new environments following the African exodus.
Further proof is found in breakthrough genetic research, a discovery that helps cement the notion that humans cannot be divided into different “races.” “Mitochondrial Eve” is the common ancestor of all living humans. In other words, she is the most recent woman from whom all living humans descend in an unbroken line tracked through the mitochondrial DNA of mothers and through the mothers of those mothers until all lines converge on one woman.
She lived in Eastern Africa approximately 200,000 years ago, well before humans began the long out migration.
In other words, if I traced my mother’s-mother’s-mother’s line and continued for thousands of years—and everyone else did the same—we would all eventually end up at the same woman, our common ancestor. She could be our shared 16,000th great-grandmother! (She, by the way, is not to be confused with the Biblical “Eve.”)
Thus the term “race relations” has no meaning. The correct phrase is “intra-species relations.” Instead “race” is used to encourage discrimination and scapegoating, to justify wars and genocide and to rationalize political, social and economic control because of meaningless perceived differences.
The causes of America’s tribalism are many. They include the coming loss of White numerical superiority, declining social mobility, a growing class and income divide, and media that reward hatred and promote conspiracy theories.
“Fear of ‘the other’ is clan mentality. It’s human narcissism in its raw, unadulterated form,” says Michael Schreiner, evolutioncounseling.com.
Now let’s return to that breakthrough baby a couple of decades hence. In what kind of environment will he/she be raised? Will it be one of justice and equality for all?
Clearly, human nature is not going to change any time soon, requiring that justice and equality be legislated. In 2021, we are at a tipping point. Legislation stuck in our dysfunctional Senate—The For the People Act and The George Floyd Justice and Policing Act—would get us started in the right direction.
But, it appears that progress can be made only if real Democrats are able to expand their numbers in the Senate in 2022. This will require an all-out assault on the “Party of No” and the Trumplicans. Without it, Baby X will be raised in a world much like today’s.
and Little Has Changed
by Lorin Robinson
I try not to dwell on the condition of the world. I am one of many who feel powerless to do anything meaningful to help solve the calamities and coming calamities of our times. But I do occasionally get overwhelmed and have a bad day.
Like the other day when it simply got to be too much.
I was able to go abroad mask-less since I’d been double vaccinated, but I couldn’t help but think about the more than 600,000 people in the country—many who died unnecessarily—who would never enjoy the freedom I’d just regained.
Meanwhile, mass shootings are becoming an almost a daily event as are murders of people of color by those sworn to serve and protect. And don’t forget the “Party of No” whose only purpose is to block Biden’s efforts to put the country back on its feet and to regain power by implementing voting restrictions across the country.
Add to that the increasing cyberattacks on our government, political system and infrastructure, presaging the cyberwars to come.
And, if all that weren’t enough, white supremacists —encouraged by our former Racist-in-Chief—are increasingly crawling out from under their rocks, making one wonder if we have to defeat Jim Crow and Hitler all over again.
That afternoon, my wife and I had headed out to run some errands. One stop was a tile shop where we hoped to buy tile cleaner. For the life of me, I couldn’t muster up any interest in tile cleaners. So I left Linda with the clerk to explore the benefits of the various products. Instead, I wandered into the empty showroom and sat at a coffee table graced with a single book—a massive, true coffee table book—titled "Ceramics in Turkey: The History of Earth and Fire." Its subtitle: "An 8,000-year history of ceramics in Anatolia."
Any other day the book might not have caught my attention. But I was looking for a distraction. So I randomly riffled through its pages, stopping at an early chapter about cuneiform writing. I was puzzled at first by its inclusion in the book until I remembered that clay was the medium for cuneiform —one the world’s first writing systems. It used wedge-shaped indentations made in wet clay tablets with a reed stylus. I was informed that cuneiform was invented by the Sumerians in Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago, predating Egyptian hieroglyphs.
But what got my attention was a translated example of cuneiform. The claim was that it came from a diary written about 2,500 BC by a woman named Lammasatum:
“It was always I who produced.
I who planted the Earth.
I who gathered the produce of it.
And when we were hungry we ate our fill.
And it was I who wove so we might be clothed.
And then it was cold, and we did not shiver.
And then it was hot, and we did not burn.
It was I who made vessels from the Earth.
And from them we drank.
In the wild country, it was I who toiled.
It was I who gave order to our home.
My nights I gave to my husband.
And to my children, I gave birth.
A gift to society.”
I was moved by the simple eloquence of the passage, by the intimate look it afforded into the life of this woman and her family, by the realization that this has always been the role of women, by the fact I was reading thoughts written 45 centuries ago. This also, it occurred to me, is what life was like before humankind became “smart,” before we layered on often destructive, disruptive technologies and imposed problematic social, political, economic and religious dictates and dogma—and called it civilization.
This is not to glamorize or romanticize Lammasatum’s life. It was, I’m sure, relatively short and brutish. There was war, genocide, disease, drought and famine. But 4,500 years later, billions on the planet still face war, genocide, disease, drought and famine—and live short and brutish lives. And to that we have added and continue to add enough greenhouse gas to the atmosphere to bring survival of our civilization — at least as we know it — into question.
No, there have never been “good old days.” And it seems likely there will be few “good new days” to come.
Well, at least the tile cleaner works. It might have made Lammasatum’s life a little easier.
Six Words Say It All by Lorin Robinson
You’re probably as tired as I am of viewing incessant video coverage of assorted protests, demonstrations and riots. I make only one exception. Footage of the January 6 insurrection. I’m all in favor of continued exposure since Republicans are doing their best to rewrite history and downplay the significance of the event.
Rep. Andrew Clyde, for example, recently said it was a "bald-faced lie" to call the riot an insurrection. He said the riot, in which hundreds of Trump supporters breached and trashed the Capitol—threatening lawmakers and injuring 140 capitol police—resembled a "normal tourist visit." Photos later surfaced of Clyde working alongside capitol police to barricade the House Chamber in order to keep the “tourists” out.
When clips of the insurrection are shown, I actually find myself looking for my “favorite” insurrectionists. Is there something wrong with me?
As a “word guy” I also can’t help reading banners and signs waved about during demonstrations. One, in particular, stands out.
I saw it during coverage of a protest in Michigan last spring in which comic-book camo “patriots” carrying semi-automatic phallic symbols stormed the capitol to protest Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s attempts to shut the state down and enforce the wearing of masks.
In the crowd was a MAGA-hatted young man sporting a scraggly neckbeard who enthusiastically waived a hand-lettered sign proclaiming: “I’m selfish and proud of it.”
Now, if this were a lecture, I’d probably pause here for effect. I might even repeat the phrase for emphasis.
My point is—Republican sloganeers would be hard-pressed to wordsmith a more appropriate motto to capture and communicate the essence of the GOP. Its rank selfishness was made abundantly clear, for example, when not a single GOP senator voted for the recent COVID relief package that has done so much to help get the nation back on track.
Republicans tell us that protecting personal freedoms is their paramount concern. That’s tied into another GOP mantra—“The government that governs least governs best.”
What this young man was protesting, of course, was the government’s efforts to restrict his freedom not to wear a mask, his freedom to infect himself, his family, his friends and strangers on the street. He was also feeling abused because he was being told he couldn’t hang out at his favorite bar.
Have you ever noticed, however, how few personal freedoms most Republicans actually rally around? They’re quite selective. It’s amazing how many personal freedoms don’t make the cut.
For one example—women’s reproductive rights. For decades since Roe v. Wade (1973), the GOP has actively campaigned to limit or abolish this freedom. But, hundreds of court cases since have upheld a woman’s right to choose. And, at the moment, 66% of Americans agree with Roe v. Wade. That includes 47% of Republicans.
Enter our now highly politicized Supreme Court. To date the Court has consistently refused to intervene in state-sponsored legal actions to chip away at Roe v. Wade. No longer.
In a recent announcement, the Court agreed to take a case that could end Roe v. Wade’s guarantee of abortion rights throughout the United States. Since September, the court has been considering whether to take on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a challenge to Mississippi’s law banning most abortions after 15 weeks. Some observers thought—because the Court did not take action on the petition for eight months—the new six-justice conservative majority had no interest in wading into the abortion wars. Apparently, they were wrong.
What other rights or freedoms don’t many Republicans support? Let us not forget the most basic of our constitutionally protected freedoms—the right to vote.
As of April 1, legislators in 47 states had introduced 361 bills with voting restrictions. The most heinous of these bills, some of which are now laws, are found in “red” states like Georgia, Florida, Texas and Iowa. This, plus the bald-faced gerrymandering practiced in many states, could significantly reduce Democratic voter turnout as soon as 2022, allowing a minority party—only 29% of voters identify as Republicans—to regain control of Congress.
The only hope for suppressing voter suppression is the unlikely passage of the For the People Act (S.1) that would override the voter suppression laws already enacted and that could be enacted.
Selfishly, as with the COVID Relief Bill, not a single Senate Republican is likely to support it.
What Happens When
Truth Catches Up with Fiction?
Lessons from Tales from The Warming
By Lorin R. Robinson
Novelist-poet-playwright Doris Lessing famously said: "There's no doubt that fiction makes a better job of the truth." It is interesting, however, that—at least in the case of climate fiction (cli-fi)—the truth is catching up with fiction much faster than anticipated.
In my book, Tales from The Warming, I tried to apply Lessing’s dictum to telling the truth through fiction about what I call “the warming.” Until recently, the warming has been framed primarily in scientific terms. What’s happening to our planet has been and is being thoroughly documented, described and defined by climate and earth science.
But the science-based warnings about the climate crisis have not resonated well with the public. Despite decades of red flags, recent polls indicate that only 66 percent of Americans believe global warming is real and that the phenomenon’s existence is supported by solid evidence. And, despite clear evidence to the contrary, just 59 percent believe its effects have begun, while only 45 percent think it poses a serious threat during their lifetimes. (Gallup, March 2019).
Writing Outside One’s Racial Box:
by Lorin R. Robinson
When I began writing The 13: Ashi-niswi I didn’t know I was blissfully wandering into a minefield. I guess I must live in a bubble.
The 13 is historical fiction—the tale of 13 Native American (Anishinaabe/ Ojibwe) teenagers who seek to restore the honor of their band by tracking down and savaging the Dakota war party that devastated their village.
When I described the project to a fellow author, she raised an eyebrow and said, “But you’re a white guy.” At the time I was unaware of the ongoing and heated conversation about the appropriateness of writers stepping outside their racial boxes to write about races other than their own.
My reaction was, “huh?”