Let’s Talk About Race and Racism: The End Game for Racism

How can racism ever end? Do other countries show us a better way than the United States? How can speculative fiction help?
on Oct 29, 2020 · 13 comments

I haven’t had a clear idea how I would end this series. I considered spending more time talking about “the rise of White Supremacy,” that is, detailing the time “scientific racism” (explained in a previous post) was at its height (late 1800s through early 1900s), when many people believed it was credible to imagine different races had separate origins (were in effect separate species or varieties), which had major effects on many aspects of society of the time and which had lasting consequences. I also considered talking about the shifting attitudes towards Hispanics, the majority of whom were documented as “white” in first Census records of Texas and Puerto Rico and other places–that the very term “Hispanic” is a product of the 1970s. Another potential topic worth addressing before coming to the conclusion would be shifting attitudes towards Native Americans/American Indians–attitudes which were always complex and still are. Yet another topic would be to talk about how policing in the USA shows a complex relationship with African Americans that only in small part stems from racism. Among other potential topics–but instead I’ve decided to come to a sooner rather than later end to this series. To end with talking about how racism can end. And how speculative fiction can help.

A Look at Less Racist Societies

While there’s a lot of racism to be found throughout the world, it should be a no-brainer than the United States has more problems with racism than many other countries. I say “should be” because I have heard occasional defenses of the USA as less racist than most other places. Ironically, such statements come from both very patriotic right-wingers and also from certain Progressives who believe by calling out “white supremacy” we have actually made progress in the United States which other countries haven’t made.

But some other countries don’t ever have race riots or protests or show such sharp divisions that frequently fall along racial lines.  Some other countries don’t have our history of slavery or segregation, either.

I will mention three examples of such countries. Note that my observations of these countries in each case has a personal element. I’ve spent at least a little time in each of the countries I’m naming and the observations I’m making on each are my own.


Kenya of course was a former British colony, one that in several waves encouraged white European settlement in the colony. Though the vast majority of Kenyans always were black.

The white minority in Kenya consists largely of very successful farmers who do not involve themselves much in Kenyan national politics ever since Kenya’s independence from the UK in 1962. Unlike continuing tensions between white farmers and black Africans in South Africa, Kenya’s white and black communities live in peace. Though that’s no doubt in part because white Kenyans never inflicted an Apartheid-like regime on black Africans.

Kenya also did not decide to systematically take land from white settlers or otherwise deny their rights after the black majority gained power, as happened in Zimbabwe, former Rhodesia. Perhaps that’s because they saw the benefits of what the white minority could bring in economic output outweighted the benefits of seizing land. Though as a point of fact, Kenya has maintained good relations with the United Kingdom and followed British legal traditions as a matter of principle, which wouldn’t allow seizing the lands of people simply because they happen to be wealthier than average.

Traveling through Nairobi, I decided to take some pictures to remember my stop in the country one late evening in 2012. I took a photo of a building I thought looked interesting. A security guard saw me and called the police. The building was the Kenyan National Archives Building.  The police questioned me and I spent an hour explaining that I was a US military officer (I had a military ID) travelling with a United States official passport, who just happened to be curious and who took a picture. It dawned on me during the conversation that as a white person, I looked basically the same to the Kenyans as someone who might be a Jihadist terrorist, an Arab or Central Asian.

It might seem strange to list my experience getting racially profiled in Kenya as an example of how the Kenyans are not racist. But notice that being white or from the United States conveyed no automatic priviledges on me. I was not released or treated with extra respect because I’m white, not that I could determine. Nor was it assumed that I must be doing something wrong because of my race, even though I fit a profile of someone who might be a problem. My race triggered the attention of the authorties, but then they proceeded with the merits of my case. Did my story make sense? Did my credentials check out? Always treating me with respect and dignity, the Kenyans checked my story–and then let me go.

To say there is no significant white-black (or other) racial tension in Kenya is not the same as saying the society is completely united. There are various ethnic groups and languages in Kenya. There’s also a split between the Christian majority and the Muslim minority. Most significantly, Muslims who are also ethnic Somalis who’ve fled into Kenya to escape the violence in Somalia are a continual cause of problems for Kenya and Kenyans. The Somalis are often involved in crimes–and terrorism–and inhabit large refugee camps. Yet they are black Africans and so the problems Kenya has with Somalis can’t be considered a racial issue.

Though even with Somalis, the Kenyan commitment to rule of law and their ability to look at individual situations based on individual merit shows their nation to be ahead of many others.


Based on the fact significant racial tensions exist within the United States between Hispanics and blacks in some places, you might think black people are generally hated in Mexico. Black people do get profiled as “not Mexican” but so do Asians and light-skinned people like me…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a bit of status that comes with being from the United States and to a lesser degree East Asia–a presumption that you are wealthier than the average Mexican.

My experience with Mexican people–and I’m referring to the year I spent living in Mexico and what I know from my wife (who is a Mexican citizen, with a green card to live in the USA) and other people I’ve known in Mexico, is that they don’t hesitate to use racial or national terms, as opposed to a reluctance to use racial terms that sometimes happens in the United States. So the neighbors down the street are “Koreanos” (or “Asiaticos”) and I got called a “Gringo” plenty of times and black people are usually “Morenos” (roughly “darkies”). But from what I observed, such terms are usually employed without hostility.

There is a recognition though that most Mexicans look a certain way–what is properly called “Mestizo,” someone of mixed racial ancestry. While Mexico has colorism in that lighter-skinned Mexians are often assumed to be more elite and plenty of women dye their hair in lighter shades, it’s not a given that ligher skin always equals higher positions of power or that a darker-skinned person cannot advance. There’s a general middle in terms of racial identity that almost everyone belongs to and everyone in that middle is evaluated based on things that indicate social class, like clothing and dress and manner of speaking. Yes, being lighter-skinned also helps create an impression of wealth, but there are plenty of darker Mexicans who are also wealthy. (The big exception to this is how indigenous people are treated in Mexico–mostly not well at all.)

What’s extraordinary about this from the point of view of the United States is we may not realize that some 200,000 Africans are beleived to have been taken to New Spain (what Mexico was called prior to its independence). While most of them obtained freedom before the official end of slavery in Mexico (proclaimed in 1810, not enforced until 1829), at one time there was a significant population of Africans in Mexico. Generally it’s considered that the majority of these Africans intermarried with other Mexicans to the degree that only a small percentage of modern Mexicans have any visible African ancestry, though on average Mexican people have about 5% African DNA. There’s around 1.2% who consider themselves Afro-Mexicans, as per the linked article, but note that number is not an official government statistic. Since 1829, when Vincente Guerrero was president of Mexico, himself an enforcer of the earlier commitment to liberate slaves and also having African ancestors (like Abraham Lincoln and Barrack Obama rolled up into one person), it’s been illegal in Mexico to identify Mexicans by race, other than marking who are “Indios” (speakers of indigenous languages).

Notice how intermarriage over hundreds of years created a situation in which most Mexicans consider themselves members of a single racial group (though class differences are real). They in fact tend to see their nationality as a race, so that having a certain mixed-race look marks a person as Mexican in the popular imagination.


Note I was an exchange student to France during the summer of 1985 and worked with French troops in Togo, Africa in March of 2010 and in Djibouti, Africa during 2012-13. It’s not fair to say France has no racial tension–less that us, but it does, though the strongest prejudice I ever encounted in French society was directed towards the many immigrants in France from former French colonies in North Africa, people who are Arab and who are considred “white” in modern racial classification systems (though on average darker than most French people). North Africans are also usually Muslim, something officially secular France has trouble grappling with. French society permits freedom of relgion…but expects that religous freedom will not affect people in their ordinary lives. Such as whether girls from Muslim families will cover their heads in school with a hijab, which French officials have overall opposed.

France also historically did not hesitate to engage in imperialism and to this day remains one of the most active countries in the world in its former colonies. Let’s not forget, as well, that France ran a sugar plantation hellhole in Haiti that greatly contributed to the mess that Haiti remains until this day.

Still, the French attitude towards interracial marriage has always been permissive–even approving. French culture can rightly be said to admire the exotic and while there have been plenty of white French women admired for their beauty, the French never hesitated to admire women of other races as well (I’m saying “women” rather than “people” because I’m relating the situation as I see it–the French love of the exotic relates more to women than men). But the French love for the exotic isn’t limited to feminine beauty.

After World War I, France collectively fell in love with American music, especially Jazz, and proved to be much more accepting of Jazz musicians like Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong than the United States was. Eventually, French nationals would imitate the style. Black Americans and musicians are still very much welcome in France.

Note that France didn’t ever segregate its society so that troops from Africa couldn’t serve in French military units or have separate bathrooms or anything like that. While it’s true that no French president has been black, it’s not unthinkable that one would be. Many other French political leaders have been.

Note also that in France, ever since the French Revolution of 1789, it’s been illegal to categorize people according to race or to consider race a factor in any official government policy–which contrasts with the policies of the United States, which didn’t make an offical constitutional law against racism until the 13th Amendment in 1865 (not fully enforced until a century later) and which continues to count racial groups in the US Census to this day. In France, unlike the USA, it is not even possible to say for certain how many black people live there (estimates are between 3 and 5 million). The government does not count along racial lines.

We can’t say a refusal to count races is the only reason France is less racist than the USA–it’s not even close to the only reason–but it points to something I think is true. Official government policies that downplay the importance of race seem to decrease actual racism over time.

Principles of Less Racist Societies

I see in Kenya a commitment to rule of law and a commitment to examine individual cases individually, in spite of a recognition of patterns that can fall along racial lines. I see in Mexico a willingness to notice racial differences, but also a willingness to consider those differences unimportant and to oblitterate those differences over time through intermarriage. I see in France a genuine interest in and passion for minority cultures, coupled with a willingness to intermarry and an insistance that even minority groups have to conform to certain norms for the whole society (for France, no hijabs in schools).

Both Mexico and France have laws forbidding counting people by race. I personally don’t think that measure would be a good idea in the United States. In a land in which racial tensions are already high, not counting race could well have the effect of covering up abuses that fall along racial lines. We need to be aware of race, for sure.

On the other hand, de-emphasizing separate racial identities seems like a good idea. A non-racist government would not put race as the single most important identifier of who a person is. And the USA tends to do that. For example, I worked for the Census Bureau during this year’s recently-ended 2020 US Census. Ennumerators like me were instructed to find out was how many people lived in a house, then their genders, ages, and races (“Hispanic” was asked about as an “ethnic origin” but not a race). The only income-related question was if they owned or rented their house (or otherwise stayed without paying). We asked no questions about religion or beliefs. Race, age, and gender wound up being the most significant data we gathered. As if race really does define a person more than almost anything else.

The USA would be well-served to find ways to de-emphasize how important race is–not becasue we want people to have their head in the sand about racial realities, but because we want to create expectations that what is real now doesn’t have to define our future. If Kenya, Mexico, and France (and numerous other nations) can have less racial tension than we have, our current situtation doesn’t have to be our eternal destiny.

The End Game For Racism

The end game of racism is one in which people see themselves as human first and then look at other factors like religion in what defines them far more than race. Part of this will come when interracial marriage and appreciation of past interracial marriage is so common that the majority of people don’t consider themselves coming from purely one race in the first place.

The end of racism would not only be hastened by a blending of human colors, Mexican-style, it would not be hurt by celebration of ethnic culture, French-style. These two principles would seem to be in contradiction, but they aren’t. We can love Italian food and celebrate great Italians without creating some kind of separation in which Italians don’t freely intermarry with everyone else or are looked at with suspicion. In fact, the celebration of and acceptance of Italians represents a change that already happened in the USA, because back in the late 1800s and early 1900s (but not before that), Italians were often regarded as not fully American or not fully white. Yet that’s not an issue now.

Also, in the end game of racism, society will also have gone out of its way to demonstrate that no particular racial groups are denied opportunity at the expense of everyone else.

Note that the end game of racism as I’m describing it is not a utopian plan. I don’t think it’s possible to eliminate all tensions or produce a society that’s 100 percent happy about everything. But a better society would involve people being looked at based on individual merit–that you’d have to get to know someone before deciding to dislike him or her. As opposed to hatred at first glance. 🙂

The Road to the End

How do we get from where we are to the end?

  1. Promote the idea we are all individuals. Refuse to accept a person’s race or class or any other group feature is the most important thing about him or her. In addition, emphasize that race in particular is a lousy means of knowing something meaningful about a person. 
  2. Insist on working to solve economic problems that often fall along racial lines, but non-racially: Should we as a society work to fix the cycle of poverty that especially afflicts Native Americans and African Americans? Yes–because some of the causes of these problems relate to how hard it is to get out of poverty and how easy it is to fall victim to substance abuse and then criminality under certain circumstances. In other words, our economic system is not fully fair and it should be fair as much as is humanly possible. The system was made even worse by racism of the past–but the official racist laws are gone. Some ghosts of these laws still remain, but the main problem is the need to fix economic inequality. Fairer access to opportunity will help people of all races. Addressing economic opportunity needs to follow the needs, not look at races. (Note that fairer access to opportunity would include school reform of various kinds, most especially including access to better schooling for anyone who seeks it and shows academic merit.)
  3. Make any reparations address opportunity: Of course there are calls for reparations for slavery. Who would get reparations gets to be an extremely sticky subject because there probably are millions of white Americans who are at least partially descended from Africans brought to the Americas as slaves. Still, in spite of that issue, I can agree there’s some fairness to the idea of reparations because many white Americans benefited from free or very cheap land as from the various Homestead Acts, an opportunity to succeed either partially or wholly closed off to black Americans (note these acts were to the direct detriment of Native Americans). Would it be fair for the government to likewise give extra opportunity, perhaps literally as land to farm or property to develop, to modern African Americans (and Native Americans)? I see a fair way to justify something like that–because land or property isn’t guaranteed money. It’s something you have to work on to develop–and that element of “work in order to benefit yourself” is the real boon white Americans received that enslaved people were denied. Note though, I am not wholly endorsing reparations–they might be part of a solution if done right, but are not required in my opinion.
  4. Investigate imbalances in law enforcement along racial lines and promote successful policies: One of the biggest killers to the idea that we are all individuals is when law enforcement outcomes are dramatically different. I don’t believe this problem is exactly the same throughout all places in the USA–our balance of races isn’t even the same throughout the country. But the Federal government should place special emphasis on investigating and correcting racial bias in law enforcement by use of federal charges when appropriate. This could require changing some laws but it a good idea because different regions and states are so different and could benefit from some uniformity on this one issue.
  5. Don’t settle for mediocre law enforcement in high-crime areas: Possibly the most racist policy in American law enforcement is we in effect let certain areas have high crime, with no expectation things will get better in such places.
  6. Set expectations for improvement: Put in people’s minds that what’s happening now or what’s happened in the past isn’t destiny. The system of races invented by Europeans to justify colonialism was a product of an historical time and place. That system was not the origin of all prejudice or hatred, but it certainly made things worse for a long time. The system of racism can end–race doesn’t really matter. Someday human beings will see one another without the old categories of race mattering all that much.

Some Contrasts Versus Critical Race Theory and “All-American Patriotism”

Both modern Critical Race Theory and what I might call a highly patriotic interpretation of American history will disagree with me. I’m noting some of these disagreements.

What I understand of CRT is that it would say that racism was always central to the United States. Not that it became central and is starting to fade from importance. Racism is always central, CRT would say, and the only improvement we are going to see is if we have a sort of national day of reckoning, in which all white Americans recognize their guilt in benefitting from a system that white Americans in the past created. Then, after properly recognizing the depth of the problem, then the society can be re-structured so that via direct payments or investments, the differences in racial outcomes can be erased.

This is a response that shows a failure to recognize dramatically different outcomes that affects the majority culture as well as racial minorities. It also calls for radical change, when radical change in terms of economic system usually brings more harm than good. Certainly giving people direct payments hasn’t been a great success when it’s been tried before (for example, payments to Native Americans have not been a rousing success). Real improvement includes a generally good economy–which means a capitalist base. Just one with what I would call “chutes and ladders”–ways to lose wealth for those engaged in white collar crime and ways laid out to help people improve who work hard and want to do better who are at the bottom.

The “All-American Patriot” view of course is that racism was wrong, but we have dealt with the unfair laws that caused harship and suffering for racial minorities. We aren’t perfect, but we are improving.  Just give us more time and we’ll keep improving! We are not a racist country now and never were all the way racist. And the CRT people are just secretly over-emphasizing racism for purposes other than dealing with racial problems!

Well, it’s true improvements will take time, that’s for sure. We have removed blatantly racial laws, but have to keep an eye out for subtly racist laws and policies, like in effect fencing off high-crime areas. Improvement is by no means guaranteed–in fact things can stagnate or get worse. We can’t afford not to deal with racism, even though not all of America was ever wholly racist. And it’s also true that Critical Race Theory carries with it the idea that society needs to be restructured in a major way, which effects aspects of society other than racism. Which tends to support Socialst utopian aggendas. So? That doesn’t mean everything CRT enthusiasts say is wrong. Again, we can’t afford to ignore racism as a society, including the more subtle effects of racism.

Though at the same time by painting in broad brush strokes with racial generalities, CRT de facto creates an impression that all black people are in one common situation and all white people are in another common situation (and so on with other races). Which isn’t at all true–individual results vary widely. Which doesn’t mean race doesn’t matter at all. It does. But we can over-emphasize it and wind up sending the message that race really is some super-important thing! No, CRT supporters don’t claim race is so important because of real racial differences that the scientific racists used to believe in, but because of the legacy of past and current racism. Still, they make race extremely important–“Central,” as Derrick Bell put it. An importance it does not merit.

How Speculative Fiction Can Help

There’s a Progressive wing assumption that promoting the works of people other than white writers–specifically works other than white male heterosexual writers (let’s throw “cisgender” in there too), is very important in creating a better future society. It certainly isn’t a bad thing to give a writer from a background other than your own a chance. It certainly can be a good thing to learn new perspectives.

While not entirely disagreeing with the general idea that promoting diverse backgrounds is good, I however object to the idea that gender, race, and sexuality are the most important markers of what makes up diversity. Especially by promoting sexual/gender diversity, the Progressives are losing the empathy of anyone with the idea that Biblical standards on sexuality are actually good. Which may cause religious conservatives to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” and think that all diversity is a waste of time.

Let’s show interest in African American writers, writers of other non-white races, writers from different countries and cultures, and writers of both genders. That doesn’t have to be part of a Far Left aggenda. Learning more and seeing new perspectives is good in general.

Potraying a Better Future

But there’s something else specultive fiction can do, something much more important, in particular in science fiction set in the future. Like Star Trek, it can demonstrate a future in which the issues that plague today have been put aside. In particular, I think it’s important to show that if humans ever come in contact with aliens (or fantasy demihumans, in an urban fantasy setting), what we call “racial” differences now will become laughable.

This type of setup can be sliced in various ways–all bipeds could find common ground when faced with winged or legless aliens. Or all biological species could put aside their differences when faced with technological enemies. As a reminder that what we consider different is a variable term, not absolute. And the future world–or altogether different worlds of fantasy–will have different issues from what we have or have had. Portraying human races as vitally important in other worlds is not a good thing in my view.

Speculative fiction in many ways can show the end of racism. Can make that end imaginable and seem real. Or conversely, can portray dystopian hellholes of racism, warning us what could happen if we aren’t careful about the future.

Star Trek DS9 undermined racism by showing its disappearance in the future. Image copyright: Paramount.

Note I think Star Trek Deep Space 9 did a very good job of handling racism. It promoted diversity without making diversity itself a big deal. Mostly, human racism was an element of the past in the story world that was not important enough to talk about–except when time travelling either in reality on the holodeck. The program showed the end of racism, without pretending it never existed. It created the expectation that racism would end someday, mostly by not focusing on it.

Note also that a writer of a “diverse” background who portrays human racism as inevitable and who is not deconstructing racism via dystopia is probably someone we shouldn’t support. Because we want racism to end and want to portray it as something that can end. So a diverse background does not in fact outweigh what a writer actually says.


Even though we will not obtain utopia in this world, this particular issue doesn’t need to be around. Racism can end. Let’s help it die.

Let’s start by doing what we can to get rid of the effects of past racism. And let’s put emphasis on the importance of individualism–and not judge anyone by who they are in terms of race and background. Even as we remain curious and interested in people with backgrounds different from our own.

Let’s read and write stories that prod society in the right direction–the direction of alternate worlds in which the problem of racism as we know it has come to an end.

Dear readers, I’ve said quite a lot in this series–a series I’ve decided to end here, with what I believe is a roadmap to the end of racism. What do you think about my notions? Please share your ideas in the comments below:

Travis Perry is a hard-core Bible user, history, science, and foreign language geek, hard science fiction and epic fantasy fan, publishes multiple genres of speculative fiction at Bear Publications, is an Army Reserve officer with five combat zone deployments. He also once cosplayed as dark matter.
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  1. Julie Dick says:

    My first thought at that picture: “In the Discworld, black and white lived in perfect harmony and ganged up on green.” DS9 might show a society without human racism, but prejudice and species bias are alive and well, especially on the Bajorian question.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Julie, it’s certainly true that racism still existed in the world of DS9…and very interestingly Major Kira goes through a long process of getting over her racism about Cardassians…

  2. notleia says:

    Have you gotten around to the White Trash book I recommended, Travis? Isenberg talks about some of the same stuff you have in here, like the Homestead Acts as government handouts to white people.

    Government handouts is a pretty timely topic, what with the unemployment rate still being jacked up from the COVID stuff. A lot of my thinking involves a book that I’ve also plugged here, Bullshit Jobs by David Graeber, which asks a lot of questions about the relationship between how many hours are worked versus how productive they are (spoilers they are not actually all that productive).
    Apparently by the end of WWII we could have had only 25-ish-hour work weeks yet still been paid a living wage, and still produced everything we need to have a modern society. And our capacity for efficiently has only gone up, but our work hours are the same while wages have stagnated.

    How much do people actually need to work to survive? Why should it be 40 hours a week? What about rural communities that have no jobs? That topic is a bit nearer to me because that’s the main justification I had for moving halfway across the country from my family, because there are no feckin’ jobs in the country and non-giant agribusiness farming is basically gambling with your entire income. What if small farmers got a universal basic income? Heck, what if they just got what little more stability that guaranteed health insurance would give them? [shameless plug about my peeps in the Land Stewardship Project]

    • Travis Perry says:

      Personally I think Universal Basic Income is optimistic dreaming that won’t really work. There is a moralistic element to my objection–I think in general work is good for people and being required to work is character-building. Giving money to anyone without requiring anything from them in exchange might be nice under certain exceptional circumstances, but in general, it causes moral corruption.

      I know you’re either shaking your head or laughing at my old-fashioned insistence that hard work is good for a person, but I speak from the experience of being in a family that received unhelpful government aid.

      On the other hand, I do not hold to a Libertarian view or strong anti-Socialist view that government has no business in intervention in the economy (that bridge was crossed long ago). I am in favor of government sponsoring jobs when appropriate. So instead of UBI, why not bring back something like the Civilian Conservation Corps of FDR days?

      Why couldn’t this corps provide re-construction of the American infrastructure? There’s a massive amount of roads, bridges, and waterworks in the USA that need upgrading. Politically why not is because Republicans don’t want to use government power in that way and Democrats don’t want to because labor unions want to ensure infrastructure jobs are reserved for unions. But if we are going to pay people, why don’t we get a societal benefit out of what they get paid for?

      Note the various Homestead Acts required someone to inhabit a piece of land and work it for years (like 5) before they could turn sell it for cash. So as a giveaway, it was linked to work before someone could get a direct benefit from it.

      Why shouldn’t a modern “giveaway” have a linked work element as well? It should. I can think of a lot of other important tasks that can be completed in addition to infrastructure… (yes, I know some people would gripe about an anti-poverty program requiring work mirroring slavery–but it would not).

      • notleia says:

        Ha, Graeber talks about that in his book, too, about the terms and conditions people want to put on aid and how we feel about people “deserving” aid. He frames a lot of it in terms of the people in power being afraid of what the masses might get up to if they weren’t put to responsible work, but he also questions what constitutes a reasonable work ethic vs the weird Puritanical thing that’s a relic of a specific societal setup with apprenticeships that hasn’t been relevant since before the Industrial Revolution.
        He also talks about how it is perfectly possible to support a noncontributing percentage of the population even up to, IIRC, 25-30 percent, if only because that’s a similar percentage of jobs that functionally contribute nothing of value to society, like stock brokers.

        Gov’t guaranteed jobs is also brought up in lefty circles, belieb it or not, but there’s probably even more moving parts in that one. How are jobs assigned? Are they salaried or hourly? How many hours would be expected as reasonable (related to the concerns about a 40-hour workweek being unreasonable/outdated)? What about people with disabilities who can’t work/can’t work very much? What about artists or handicrafting people who do weird crap that is more valuable in a cultural than economic sense?

        And there’s also arguments that it’s literally cheaper to just hand out free apartments to the homeless than the homeless currently cost us in social services as-is. I think Finland(?) literally just ended homelessness with that method. So my compatriot lefty anarcho-catgirls just extend that logic further and say, why not give people a UBI of at least (dang what’s the poverty threshold?) 15,000 a year, which might be more effective and possibly sustainable than patchwork social programs. It’s a lot of the same logic as M4A. (Granted, when my peeps talk about UBI they usually have an income of about 75,000/year in mind, which is based on studies about the point at which increasing income stops contributing to stats on well-being.)

        • Travis Perry says:

          First, Finland and the Scandinavian nations rarely offer a good model for work for the United States. Why? They have a culturally ingrained belief that it is shameful not to work and they will shame people, culturally speaking, who do not work who can. Is the USA like that? Barely.

          In the USA, work has been linked to reward. Blame the Puritans if it makes you feel better, but the real issue is individualism. The USA is much more individualistic than Northern Europeans or the Japanese (or lots of other people). Other societies have norms built into the culture, but our fellow citizens tend to be, “I don’t care what you morons think, I’m gonna do what I want!” (Remember, this is the land of Jerry Springer.)

          Such an attitude actually benefits us in some ways. A lot of very creative ideas come from the United States–and I think that’s tied to our individualism (yeah, plenty of shame-based cultures have brilliant ideas too, such as the Japanese, but the overall cultural output of the USA outweighs Japan by a long shot). But a consequence of individualism is we must individually work to receive benefits as individuals, because otherwise, far too many people will collect the check and sit around and watch TV. (Our nation is much more shameless than most other places.)

          As for the 40 hour work week being obsolete, I don’t agree. Only 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. That’s barely working at all. I think 10 hours a day, 6 days a week is more what people can realistically do without getting too stressed out. Plus, the 40 hour work week hurts the working poor, because they’d gladly work 60 hours, but the boss won’t pay overtime. So they go get a second job and work 30 hours per week at one and 30 hours per week at the other, working harder with two jobs because neither gives healthcare and the poor sap has to juggle schedules not designed to be compatible. There are lots of people like that, killing themselves with overwork–and they should be at the top of the list of people our society helps get better paying jobs. But we don’t even think along those lines–neither right nor left.

          By the way, as soon as Graeber or people like him start talking about work being the way it is because people in power wanting to maintain power blah blah blah I know he has no idea what he’s talking about because I’m not in power and never have been very significantly, but I know what is a smart idea and what isn’t. Giveaways are not smart in general (with certain exceptions). Really not anywhere in absolute terms, but especially not in the USA.

          Especially in regard to racial reparations–I’ve heard some self-appointed genius on NPR say the reparation for slavery ought to be cash payments with the intent of making black wages equal white wages. Pfft! That would have the effect of making the majority of black Americans forever dependent on the government and never able to get out of poverty on their own. Compare with payments to enrolled American Indians.

          The best anti-poverty program the United States has ever had is the US military, even though that was not the intent of the military. But, to bring in enough people into the service the post-draft era, the military recruits a lot of folks below the poverty line. The military offers home loans, health benefits, education benefits, teaches physical fitness, in exchange for hard work, taking personal risk, and being responsible for yourself an others. Practically everyone who enrolls in military service for 20 years leaves poverty behind permanently–and not just for themselves, for their children as well. And even some with shorter enlistments tend to leave poverty behind.

          All anti-poverty programs in the USA should be along the same lines–thinking how to get people to work, to value education, to produce something valuable, in exchange for home ownership and healthcare and education benefits.

          Such programs may indeed cost more in the short term and would have difficulties with certain particular individuals with various kinds of disabilities. But it would make our entire society more productive in the end–which would in the end put more wealth in the government coffers.

          • notleia says:

            Uhhh, I wouldn’t really call the poverty draft a good thing. Do you watch Starship Troopers as played straight or as being satirical?

            Most people like having something meaningful to do with their time. But there are questions we ought to ask about what work our culture rewards.

            Just go read the Bullshit Jobs book. I guarantee it is less squishy than you’re imagining it. Go hit up the library.

            • Travis Perry says:

              The movie Starship Troopers was satirical. The book was not. However, while Heinlein has a few ideas I actually like, his enthusiasm for war was so over the top in Starship Troopers that Paul Verhoeven wasn’t all that much off in his satirical film version.

              And I’m not proposing a poverty draft. Just a work requirement for most government aid. I actually realize it’s impossible to apply a work requirement to all government aid, but it should be arranged that way as much as possible.

              By the way, you didn’t seem to mind the CCC echo from FDR days I voiced until now. It wasn’t a draft, but it was like a poverty army. It had ranks, taught skills, demanded work. The pay wasn’t all that great from what I recall, but I’d pay better and have benefits. So an all-volunteer poverty army.

              Those who don’t join don’t get nothing. But joining has such obvious advantages and would be set up to bend over backwards to accommodate disabilities etc, that most people would /want/ to join.

              That plus some targeted, intelligent scholarships and talent developing programs. Plus more emphasis on fitness and eating healthy–I’d change food stamps to be more like WIC, if you’re familiar with that. (Food stamps lets you get whatever you want for food–and lots of poor people buy Little Debbie and similar snacks; WIC requires selections from off a list of healthy food.) Oh, yeah, plus a government program to help by cars for hard-working poor people. And a program making most rental housing into rent-to-own. And government backed low-interest loans and mandatory savings programs for people who get loans and scholarships.

              Not bleeding-heart liberalism. Not let ’em make it on their own conservativism. Actual, no-kidding help out of poverty that would make for a richer and more prosperous country in the long term.

              • notleia says:

                I keep rolling over what you said about the working poor wanting to go 60 hrs a week, and that’s most likely just another symptom of the problem.
                Do they want the work for the work’s sake, or do they want it for the extra money? The most benign motive would be wanting to get a specific project done, but most other motives seem unhealthy.
                Have they wrapped up their ideas of self worth into paid labor? Pretty unhealthy. Do they have nothing to do with themselves outside of work, no hobbies or social life? Pretty unhealthy.
                But most likely it’s because of stagnant wages, which is a different kind of unhealthy.

              • Travis Perry says:

                Yes, people who really want out of poverty very much are willing to work extra hours for the money. Though some people do enjoy working and would put in long hours in any case.

                Many working poor people already DO work 60 hours a week or more, without overtime, because they juggle multiple jobs. That was what I actually focused on, not enjoyment or non-enjoyment. That you apparently don’t know that is a pretty strong indicator to me that you don’t know very much about the working poor–or poverty. For many of them, being able to work 60 hours at one job would be a relief.

                As far as the health argument goes, it’s an interesting approach but stress is worse on a job than long hours worked. Stress is increased by having to game a system in effect designed to protect middle class workers, but which is not beneficial to poor people in all cases. By the way, lots of wealthy people in certain kinds of jobs work long hours, too. (Yet overall, for multiple reasons, wealthy people tend to have better health.)

                Yeah, it’s true that certain nations work fewer hours than the USA with more productivity, such as Germany. But Germans work hard when on the job–they aren’t surfing the Internet or doing anything else other than working during work hours. Germans also do a number of other things Americans don’t do–observing them is fascinating.

                You need to travel the world a bit. I know you consume a good deal of foreign media, especially Japanese, but that’s not the same as actually observing a country like Germany in person. Germans, almost without exception, work hard. That’s why they are an economic powerhouse. And why their brand of Socialism-lite functions.

                Americans indeed might be able to work less hours overall–but we’d need to be more effective on the job if we were to succeed at that (which would require a cultural transformation). But your calls for less hours kind of miss that–it seems you actually have don’t know how nations are or are not economically successful.

              • Brennan McPherson says:

                Copying another country’s social structure/political structure doesn’t work. Just ask Toyota. Western countries tried Toyota’s structure, and it failed because the culture is different. Europe is not America, and there are many different functional economies/structures, but they interact with the culture, and are formed in part by that culture, and the same in reverse, rinse and repeat. A certain amount of trust needs to be put in that process. Rather than reform American structure completely (like the crazy lefties or psycho right-wingers want), I think it’s better to try to solve the issues within the current structure. Again, I think non-profits and non-governmental, citizen-run initiatives are key to solving issues of homelessness, crime, etc. If we organized more as citizens, we could solve these issues. It doesn’t HAVE to be the gov. Although the gov. is obv an important part, and there does need to be changes.

                Honestly, I think a lot of the social-media-full-time-job-fetish ala Twitch-streaming and YouTube-ing, along with online course gurus, pyramid scheme beauty gurus, etc., has done a lot of damage. I’m in a group with other full-time creatives (I normally don’t join this kind of thing, and only did so reluctantly), and they talk a lot about 80/20 stuff, and spending one hour per week on a $1,000 per hour, or $10,000 per hour activity, and honestly, it grosses me out and is completely unattainable and unsustainable on a societal level. It’s bogus. Some people can do it, but they’re literally just standing on the shoulders of other people doing the hard work. And that’s exactly the kind of thing that contributes to poverty, unless the person at the top truly cares for those beneath them and treats them fairly/gives them raises first. Which is almost never the case.

                I felt lied to when I finished college and found out an electrician in the first year of work, or an auto-repair mechanic, could make more than me with less than half the schooling. And honestly, so much of an economy, including the weight of currency, is tied inextricably to GDP, which is value-adding, substantive jobs where people do/make real things. All the get-rich-quick schemes have a similar allure to selling drugs in poor-income areas.

                I do think individualism is an issue. Selfishness ruins everything. If we worked 30 hrs a week, lived at a lower income level rather than chasing a comfy house, and spent 10 hrs a week helping other people rebuild their homes, get access to food, get haircuts, get medical advice/financial advice, tutor kids with no access to good schooling, the world would change massively overnight. That’s why, to this date, I’ve resisted debt/buying a house/etc., because it strangles you/keeps you from being flexible in this arena. Perhaps some sort of gov. incentive could trigger that sort of mass movement. Idk. But it seems clear that it would be helpful.

  3. Hm…well, unfortunately being a melting pot is probably part of the US’s problem with racial and other tensions. The diversity of our nation is GOOD, I’m not saying otherwise. But when there’s a ton of people from many different groups interacting in the same nation over a long, dark and complex history, it’s really not surprising to have conflict. Obviously we need to tackle the issue regardless, but it’s important to realize that’s a contributing factor.

    I agree that interracial marriages can help, and I’m the product of one myself. But at the same time I don’t think interracial marriages should be forced. I know you’re not saying they should be, but some people might think it’s a good idea to at least force it through social pressure. But if someone doesn’t like/want to be with their spouse for whatever reason, it increases the chances of abuse, so that’s certainly a potential downside of making people feel pressured to date/marry outside their own race if they don’t want to.

    Sci fi and fantasy really do normalize interracial marriages by a lot, though, both directly and indirectly. A lot of people are fascinated by characters that are interracial, interspecies, or some other cross between groups featured in the story. Like, even if the story didn’t have much time to delve into couples like that, people will make all kinds of OCs (original characters) or fanfics that feature such unions. And much of that interest is genuine, rather than stemming primarily from SJWness. So scifi and fantasy really do seem like great ways to show that interracial marriage is a good thing.

    As far as using fiction to battle racism, grappling with conflict and hardship have always been big themes in my writing, which means that prejudices, both racial and otherwise, get tackled often in my story worlds. I’ve always wanted to figure out the intricacies of human interaction in an effort to make the world a better place.

    But over the last few years, watching the more rabid SJWs and cancel culture honestly kind of discouraged and scared me from wanting to address racial issues much. Like, 99.9% of my stories are set in universes where our world doesn’t exist, which means our real life races don’t exist in my stories either. Not really even in the sense of being ‘coded’ as such. But that’s not necessarily enough to keep people from taking things out of context, and it was sort of frustrating to realize that a severe cancellation could crop up no matter how careful I was. Even if I adhered to their list of dos and don’ts well enough to avoid cancellation, there’s still the fact that my writing would start to revolve around avoiding the woke crowd’s wrath, and even just trying to do that while planning some of my stories took the life out of them.

    Lately that’s been frustrating enough for me to reach a tipping point, though. I’m still going to employ a reasonable amount of caution, but if I love a story and feel like it could make a positive impact, I don’t want to hide it from the world just because a subset of people online might hate it. I’ll take people’s criticism into consideration, but I don’t have much patience for those that demand immediate agreement and obedience.

    To me it’s not just about growing a spine, though. It’s also been figuring out some strategies that will help me draw healthy boundaries with readers while also addressing their concerns. A lot of cancel culture is really shooting itself in the foot, though. I mean, I’ve always actually enjoyed discussing social issues and how to solve them. But in spite of the fact that they’re trying to get people to speak out more for ‘social justice’, they’re making people like me want to say less. That’s a pretty big red flag in terms of their approach.

    • Travis Perry says:

      Yeah, I can fairly say I’m not an expert in how to combat cancel culture. I essentially ignore cancel culture–but also am a small fish that the cancel culture types don’t pay much attention to. It’s easy for me to say “ignore cancel culture” because overall, few people care what I have to say. That would certainly change if I were better-known.

      If I come up with better answers on cancel culture, I’ll let you know…

      Thanks for sharing your other thoughts, by the way.

What do you think?