The Politics Of Grievance

racist flow chart

Before there was Touré Neblett, there was Race-Pimp Ta-Nehisi Coates:

The Good, Racist People

Last month the actor Forest Whitaker was stopped in a Manhattan delicatessen by an employee. […] The employee stopped Whitaker, accused him of shoplifting and then promptly frisked him. The act of self-deputization was futile. Whitaker had stolen nothing. On the contrary, he’d been robbed.


The idea that racism lives in the heart of particularly evil individuals, as opposed to the heart of a democratic society, is reinforcing to anyone who might, from time to time, find their tongue sprinting ahead of their discretion. We can forgive Whitaker’s assailant. Much harder to forgive is all that makes Whitaker stand out in the first place. New York is a city, like most in America, that bears the scars of redlining, blockbusting and urban renewal. The ghost of those policies haunts us in a wealth gap between blacks and whites that has actually gotten worse over the past 20 years.

But much worse, it haunts black people with a kind of invisible violence that is given tell only when the victim happens to be an Oscar winner. The promise of America is that those who play by the rules, who observe the norms of the “middle class,” will be treated as such. But this injunction is only half-enforced when it comes to black people, in large part because we were never meant to be part of the American story. Forest Whitaker fits that bill, and he was addressed as such.

I am trying to imagine a white president forced to show his papers at a national news conference, and coming up blank. I am trying to a imagine a prominent white Harvard professor arrested for breaking into his own home, and coming up with nothing. I am trying to see Sean Penn or Nicolas Cage being frisked at an upscale deli, and I find myself laughing in the dark. It is worth considering the messaging here. It says to black kids: “Don’t leave home. They don’t want you around.” It is messaging propagated by moral people.

The other day I walked past this particular deli. I believe its owners to be good people. I felt ashamed at withholding business for something far beyond the merchant’s reach. I mentioned this to my wife. My wife is not like me. When she was 6, a little white boy called her cousin a nigger, and it has been war ever since. “What if they did that to your son?” she asked.

And right then I knew that I was tired of good people, that I had had all the good people I could take.

I don’t know what happened that day in Manhattan, but the only evidence we are given that the deli employee was motivated by racism is the fact that Whitaker is black. If that was indeed his motivation that would be wrong but that is a big assumption to make. I would really like to hear the employee’s side of the story because I used to make my living catching shoplifters and Winona Ryder is proof that wealth and fame are not proof of innocence.

But let us assume for the sake of argument that the deli employee stopped Whitaker solely because of the color of his skin. What does that prove? It proves that the deli employee is an ignorant bigot. It proves nothing about the other deli employees, the deli’s owners, the other residents of New York City or the rest of the United States.

Mr. Coates cannot conceive of wealthy/famous/powerful white people being treated rudely or wrongly suspected of a crime. First of all, wealth, fame and power mean little if your identity is not recognized. You are just another person. Celebrities often try to conceal their identities in public. In this case I think it’s fairly safe to say that the deli employee did not realize who he was dealing with.

I can personally attest to the fact that white people are sometimes treated rudely and/or wrongly suspected of crimes, sometimes by other white people, and sometimes by people of color. But when it happens to a white person it is no big deal because shit happens and that is just part of life.

I found it really interesting that Mrs. Coates is carrying such a grievance from a couple decades ago. A little white boy called her cousin a vile racial epithet. But did the boy even understand what the word meant? Do we know where he learned it? Perhaps he learned the word from watching a Quentin Tarantino movie or from a different little black boy.

When I was in junior high a couple black guys beat me up after school one day. I wasn’t seriously injured but their words made clear they jumped me because I was white. Should I have carried that grievance with me in the four decades since then and let it color all my interactions with black people?

That was not the first nor the last time that I had unpleasant experiences with black people. But then again I have had many more unpleasant experiences with white people over the years than I had with people of color. Not fights necessarily, but arguments or brief encounters. I’ve had guns pointed at me four times in my life, once by a cop and all four times by white people. That doesn’t count the time I was robbed (home invasion) by three white people. The scar running through my right eyebrow was put there by a drunk white guy in a bar who sucker-punched me and took off running.

I am not into the politics of grievance. I always see people as individuals. What those three white individuals did to me was no reflection on the rest of the white people on the planet. What those two black kids did all those years ago was on them, not the rest of their race. I don’t even carry a grudge against them. I still see one of them from time to time (he used to live around the corner from me until his mother died) and when we run into each other we usually stop for a moment to laugh and talk.

Forest Whitaker had an unpleasant experience at a Manhattan deli last month. Boo-fucking-hoo. He needs to pull-up his big-boy panties and move on. So does Ta-Nehisi Coates.

About Myiq2xu - BA, JD, FJB

I was born and raised in a different country - America. I don't know what this place is.
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34 Responses to The Politics Of Grievance

  1. myiq2xu says:

    After re-reading this it occurs to me that someone might get the mistaken impression that I have difficulty getting along with people.

  2. myiq2xu says:

    Ed Driscoll:

    Most of the items we link to here are bread and butter examples of media bias, misguided energy policy, or Obama, Biden or another member of the left putting his proverbial John Lobb wingtip in his mouth and twisting.

    But every once in a while, something that a prominent “liberal” says, when he or she believes he’s making a Profound Statement on the State of Mankind just jumps out as being remarkably misanthropic. Even more so because it’s not a hit piece on conservatives (we’ve become increasingly inured to those, if only out of their sheer volume), but an attack on the writer’s fellow liberals.

    (As they colloquially define themselves. Or at least used to, from around the 1930s, when Progressivism became a dirty word after the excesses of the original Progressives, particularly during WWI, until about five or six years ago, when Liberal had become a dirty word, after the excesses of the previous 50 years, when they decided to be called “Progressives” again.)

    When I started my post I had intended to discuss the fact that this all took place in the enlightened city that is allegedly the intellectual center of progressive thought.

    • myiq2xu says:

      And then there is this:

      Of course, as one of the commenters at Ann Althouse’s blog note, there’s no proof that the clerk who lit the fuse on what Coates dubs “the Whitaker affair” of shoplifting was white. Blogger Steve Sailer quotes an email from a reader who claims:


      Coates never mentions the name of the place. I had to find that out somewhere else.

      It’s the Milano Market. Too pricey for me. Everyone who works there is either Hispanic, or Muslim – or perhaps, African. But that’s true of ALL the small markets in all of Manhattan, not just the UWS. There are no white deli help, cashiers, stockers, etc.

      If he was stopped, it was not by a white person.

      Also, as another commenter at Althouse’s blog adds, actors have been accused of shoplifting before, such as Lindsay Lohan and Winona Ryder, without causing international incidents. I don’t recall critic Rex Reed being arrested on shoplifting charges in early 2000 as being the catalyst for any Grand Statements on the State of Manhattan at the Dawn of a New Millennium.

  3. elliesmom says:

    I get tired of the “accumulation of wealth” grievance. If they’re talking about massive wealth, then there’s a huge gap for most of us no matter what color our skin is. But if they’re talking about one generation of a family having more “wealth” than the one before it did, no one is keeping how you do that from the black community. You work hard, you save some even if it hurts, you educate your kids better than you were educated, and you help them get started just a little bit ahead of where you were when you started out. They repeat the process, and in a few generations, your family has accumulated some “wealth”. But it means you have to stay around and support your kids, you have to value hard work and education, and you have to live a little bit “below your means”. Accumulating “wealth” is hard for a single, uneducated mother no matter what the color of her skin is, and the process doesn’t happen in one generation even if the family stays intact. Black families of the 50’s were well on their way to “accumulating wealth”. What happened along the way? Bueller? Bueller?

    • DandyTiger says:

      Yep, that’s another one, wealth. People need to get a grip. It’s not all about them. Someone accumulating wealth doesn’t mean anything unfair happened. And if there is some unfairness, that’s life. There’s no secret group of white people keeping black people down. There’s no secret group of wealthy people keeping poor people down. People aren’t that well organized or secretive to pull it off for one thing. And people accumulating wealth just don’t have the time. You know, because of that wealth accumulating work. It sort of takes all of your time.

  4. Lulu says:

    It is the outrage du jour. I think they are addicted to the high they get from being “outraged”. If they could not be angry about this or that they would find something else. They must live in an agitated state or their brain doesn’t feel right. If they are not spewing this stuff they are unhappy. It is living in a perpetual state of “pissed off” and they have targets that are socially acceptable with race, police brutality, economic inequality, or guns, etc being some of them. If that became socially or culturally unacceptable they would just switch to something else. Obama et al are very good at agitating the low serotonin crowd.

    • lildoggy4u says:

      He won by agitating, he governs (pretends to govern) the same way.

      • Lulu says:

        Without a doubt. But I think some people are especially susceptible to it. Are they biologically or socially susceptible? Or are they conditioned to be outraged because it seems almost like a drug for some. It is like some form of rage-a-holics. It almost seems like some type of depravity. It takes more and more to stimulate them and it gets crazier and crazier. They are looking for fights to keep them “up”.

        • yttik says:

          It is like a drug! Where I live people are driven to find something you are allegedly persecuting and to step in and rescue it. They seem to think EVERYTHING is being victimized, the environment, your pets, plants in your yard, and their job is to step in and stop YOUR persecution. Only they know what’s best and only they care. Everyone else is a perpetrator of some evil.

        • myiq2xu says:

          I was once briefly engaged to a woman in her mid-30’s who was still upset she wasn’t elected HS prom queen.

          That was one of many red flags I ignored. (Love is blind but hindsight is 20/20.)

        • foxyladi14 says:

          Low self esteem is the problem. 🙂

  5. DeniseVB says:

    My only political grievance is that Obama lied about transparency and other fluffy promises to get elected. Turns out, he’s more batsh*t crazy than GWB, and nobody on the left is calling him on it. It’s the Republicans’ fault, so shut up 😉

  6. swanspirit says:

    Well , we have this nonsense dialogue going on .
    If bad things happen to white people and they are done by black people , we are absolutely NOT supposed to hold a grudge and judge all black people , because that is definitely racist . Also , for some incomprehensible reason, white people are supposed to assume all responsibility and carry the guilt for everything any white person has ever done to any black person.

    If bad things happen to black people and they are done by white people or black people or people of any color ; they have a righteous imperative to not only judge , but hold that grudge , develop a lifelong attitude , hold all white people responsible , discount anything good any white people have done , and live their lives with hatred and resentment , and not only is that not racist , they are completely absolved of any taint of racism by nature of the color of their skin .

    This absurd paradox is obviously not working out well for our society.
    It does not bring people together , but creates a huge abyss in relationships .
    if i have to assume guilt to have a relationship with someone , I am not going to bother , just as in the same way black people should not have to assume a lesser place in any relationship ,personal or societal ,because of the color of their skin.

    • wmcb says:

      if i have to assume guilt to have a relationship with someone , I am not going to bother

      This. If you view the relationships between races (or genders) as just that, a relationship, then since when has ceaseless unexpiable guilt ever, EVER helped a relationship?

      If your wife cheated on you 40 years ago, then you had every right to be mad at the tiime. If she stopped, tried to make amends, and you wish to continue the marrriage, then holding the grudge, throwing it in her face, reminding her of it constantly on every occasion you can is not going to work.

      Not if you want a relationship. Of course, if what you want is to stay in the marriage, but use that guilt as a lever for power and punishment and the coercing of advantage, then it works just fine. Until it doesn’t. Then she gets sick of it and walks away.

      The reality is that most white people have no interest in oppressing or mistreating black people in any way, and in truth will bend over backwards not to even appear to do so. If I am being told that the standard is now that I am irredeemably guilty so long as one single even mildly bigoted person remains on the earth, then guess what? You’ve just told me that reconciliation is completely unobtainable.

      If it’s unobtainable, then fine. Why fight a losing battle? I’m done. Fuck off. Don’t care anymore.

      • myiq2xu says:

        Even worse is someone who lets a bad previous relationship ruin all the ones that follow. Don’t blame the new ones for what the old one did.

        • wmcb says:

          THIS. Sympathy and compassion for what went before is healthy. Demanding this person be punished for what previous ones did is not.

  7. yttik says:

    Something that has been completely dismissed in the recent racism obsession, is any discussion of power. Racism doesn’t just float in the air waiting to attach itself to someone, it is a system that requires power behind it. For example, we can’t be racist against the leader of the free world, the guy with the private jet, the money, the highest office in the land. We don’t have the power! We’re at the bottom. At most, people can express some weak bigotry. We cannot “oppress” the President.

    Here we have a deli employee versus a fairly well off actor and producer. Who holds the power here? Certainly not the deli worker who risks losing his low wage job over this incident. This isn’t a corporate CEO, they’re likely a minimum wage employee with few resources, no media backing, no means to hire lawyers. What does Whitaker stand to lose over this incident? He’s inconvenienced, perhaps embarrassed, but then he goes back to his status, his power, his success.

    • myiq2xu says:

      Even if it was a lowly police officer that did it he has power over other citizens. A deli employee has no more power than any other person and less than many.

      BTW – The deli employee is no longer employed there. The owner says he quit.

      • yttik says:

        Yes, cops have some power even if it’s temporary. They’re armed and they have the entire system behind them.

        • myiq2xu says:

          Deli Nazi – “No sandwich for you!

        • yttik says:

          LOL! That’s what made the soup Nazi joke so funny. It’s comical to think of a deli employee having the power to oppress anyone.

          So now the deli employee doesn’t have a job. Whitaker however, has his money, fame, and an assortment of bloggers celebrating his “victimization.” Who has the power here?

        • wmcb says:

          yttik – Exactly.

  8. wmcb says:

    My son, just last month, was wrongly suspected of shoplifting at our local Michael’s craft/art supply. He talked to the store security, cleared up the misunderstanding, and while a little pissed off, was not overly traumatized.

    He didn’t write a blog post on how Michael’s has deep hidden animosity for 6’2″ young white men with blonde hair and blue eyes.

  9. myiq2xu says:

    • DandyTiger says:

      Ouch. Right in the kisser.

    • wmcb says:

      Funny you should say that, because Mississippi and several other southern states have a much higher percentage of their blacks voting than NY and Massachusetts do. Mississippi also has the largest number of black elected officials in the entire country.

      Why are liberal northern states oppressing their black people and not letting them vote and hold office? We need to oversee their elections, see what’s up with that. Step up, NY! You need to catch up to Mississippi on this whole race thing.

  10. Propertius says:

    I can personally attest to the fact that white people are sometimes treated rudely and/or wrongly suspected of crimes, sometimes by other white people, and sometimes by people of color.

    When this happens to me, I just attribute it to antisemitism ;-).

    Or half of it, anyway.

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