Tag Archives: racism

Cold Temperatures and Spunky Daughters

Author Gary Moreau, aka Avam Hale in fiction

My two daughters, now 14 and 16 years old, live with their mother in Charlotte, North Carolina. They came to visit over the holidays, however, and, as always it was delightful to see them both, despite the frigid temperatures that have engulfed much of the northern US over the last week or so.

Because of the cold temperatures, we decided that shopping would be more appropriate than skiing or ice-skating on their first day here in Michigan. They both had a couple of gift cards that they received as gifts and were eager to spend them, so the plan came together splendidly.

Before leaving home, however, my oldest daughter and I had the following exchange:

“Dad, can I have some money for shopping?”

“I just gave you a gift card. And I know you have others. Why can’t you use them?”

“That’s true, but I have to buy some warmer clothes. And it was your choice to move to Michigan when you moved back from China so it seems only fair that you buy me some warmer clothes given that I’ve only come to Michigan to visit you. Doesn’t quite seem fair that I’d have to spend my gift money on clothes that I don’t really need in North Carolina.”

It was not an atypical conversation. My daughter is brilliant, clever, articulate, and very, very quick on her feet. She would make a first class litigator some day.

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I was, therefore, in no way offended by the conversation. And while I’d like to think I don’t always give in, I thought it was a worthy performance, as it were, and I gave her a modest amount of money to buy some warmer clothes. Frankly, while I try to teach my daughters to be thoughtful, considerate, and respectful of others, particularly their elders, I was rather proud of her spunk.

My Chinese wife, however, while she showed no reaction at the time, was, I would find out later, aghast. She wasn’t angered by the conversation. The parent/child relationship is very special in Chinese culture and my wife wouldn’t presume to insert herself. She was, however, at a total loss to understand my daughter’s logic. She could not fathom a Chinese child ever saying such a thing to his or her own father. It wasn’t so much disrespectful in the Chinese worldview as it was simply beyond comprehension.

Filial piety is at the heart of Confucian obligation and Chinese culture. Aging parents, it is assumed in China, will live with their adult child. While the concept of Chinese obligation does not extend to holding a door open for a stranger or acknowledging a queue, it would be unthinkable for most Chinese to even consider putting a parent in a senior or assisted living home.

Having expressed her bewilderment that evening as we got ready for bed, my wife did not expect an explanation, and I long ago stopped feeling obligated to provide one in such circumstances. In the Chinese worldview many things just are and don’t warrant an explanation. And, in fact, they are often baffled that Americans spend so much time and effort in a futile attempt to explain the inexplicable and largely unimportant.

This, frankly, is one of the ways in which I think Americans and the Chinese can learn from each other. They’re right that we spend far too much time and effort on things that really aren’t all that important. And, as a result, we sometimes fall short on the stuff that really does matter.

On the other hand, it is our scrappy American curiosity and mental agility that has made the US the center of the technology universe. And while it is that same quality that has spawned the legal quagmire that we often find ourselves drowning in as a nation, the ability to articulate and defend your position is one of the most important life skills to have in the shrinking, integrated, and complex world of the 21st Century.

The ability to both project and defend your position is, in fact, increasingly important in the world of commerce and technology, particularly now that functional distinctions are disappearing and collaboration is the hallmark of most successful ventures of every stripe. We all have to sell in a world of ideas and apps. The ability to execute in isolation is rarely enough.

Collaboration, in fact, is essential to just about every profession today, including diplomacy. And, I believe, is the larger lesson that we can take from this little side story of filial piety—or not—into 2018.

When it comes to political leadership, power is really of secondary importance. How a government comes to power is subordinate to how it uses that power. And how it uses that power is typically defined by perceived obligation. As the men or women in power, on whose behalf do the political leaders of a country exercise their power?

Obligation, however, is itself a duality. On the other side of obligation is mutual obligation, or what might be more accurately described as deference. And, of course, deference is likewise a duality. I can defer to you because you have a gun to my head or because I, for whatever reason, choose to.

When the three components of politics and diplomacy—power, obligation, and deference—are in balance, there is peace and the world at least has the opportunity to progress, although there may be other influences (such as the ability to present/defend your ideas) as to how far the world progresses how quickly. When there is imbalance, however, progress stalls, and can, in fact, turn into destruction. (Think North Korea, Syria, Afghanistan—plenty of options.)

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If we define a society in terms of its common governance, we all want to belong to a society in which the three elements of power, obligation, and deference are in relative balance. We might say that it is the most balanced state that best allows the energy of the society to be applied toward collective advancement.

When there is an imbalance, on the other hand, society does not progress because, as is true of all ecosystems in the universe, its energy is consumed with correcting the imbalance. As in the larger universe, balance is the ideal state which all energy seeks.

Of all forms of governance that have existed over the course of history, it can be legitimately argued that American democracy has achieved a relatively high level of balance, which, in turn, allowed its social energy, shaped and directed by strong values of opportunity and achievement, to forge the American Century, from which the US emerged as the lone superpower, the world’s largest economy, and the primary architect of digital commerce and social media.

That is not to say that imbalance did not occur over the last two and one-half centuries. Those periods of imbalance, however, were largely, but by no means completely, corrected. While the Civil War, for example, helped to correct the imbalance resulting from the slave trade, it clearly didn’t abolish slavery per se. It was an important inflection point, to be sure, but it was a nudge in the end. Racism was not eradicated and continues to absorb much of our collective energy in non-productive and destructive ways.

Technology, which has impacted the world in so many ways, has, more than anything else, empowered a heightened awareness of imbalances between power, obligation, and deference around the world. Women, the LGBTQ community, the physically and mentally challenged, the uneducated, and the poor, have always been enslaved, to varying degrees, by the Western white male oligopoly of the modern era. And technology, more than anything else, has made that reality more transparent.

Technology has, however, also raised the stakes of the imbalance. The gap between the advantaged and the disadvantaged has grown much wider, and the impact of that gap far more significant.

Consider, for example, in a strictly material way, what it meant to be enslaved in ancient Egypt or the early 19th Century South. There were huge differences in the quality and dignity of life, of course, but nobody had access to modern medicine, indoor plumbing, electricity, or efficient transportation. While the powerful lived in beautiful palaces and manor homes, the fundamental differences were not as great as the difference between the world’s poorest and most oppressed people today and the uber-billionaires who, quite literally, live in a parallel dimension of privacy and privilege.

This fundamental shift, largely caused by technology, has profound implications for governance in today’s inter-connected world. The more advanced an ecosystem is, the more it relies on balance, and the easier it is for that balance to be lost.

All of which leads me to wonder what 2018 will bring. Will we work collaboratively to instill a sense of global balance that just may save the planet and allow the collective “we” to enjoy peace and prosperity? Or will we fall back on traditional norms of power, obligation, and deference, that have historically divided and selectively oppressed us?

If we can learn from each other, as I hope both my wife and daughter can, I am personally optimistic. I am still out forty bucks, but that’s a small price to pay for so much food for thought.

You may contact the author at gary@gmoreau.com
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Sexism, Racism, & Hypocrisy

Gary Moreau
Gary Moreau

Thanks to the incredibly disgusting 2016 US presidential election, issues of racism and sexism have taken center stage in the public debate. And rightfully so. On the racism side, however, the indignation is almost exclusively limited to racism against African Americans and Latinos.

This past week, however, Michael Luo, a New York Times editor born in the US, recounted the story of a woman who yelled, “Go back to China…go back to your f—ing country” while he, his family, and friends, were walking on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Was this woman an outlier – a tourist from flyover country, perhaps – or the face of a problem that seldom gets discussed by the media or the political establishment?

Let me start by saying that my Chinese wife and I have lived in the state of Michigan for almost four months now and walk daily. Never have we encountered such a blatant verbal assault.

But this is the Midwest, not New York City. While the fellow walkers we encounter on our daily stroll inevitably greet us, and motorists inevitably wave us through an intersection ahead of them, those behaviors can be reflective of manners rather than a lack of prejudice.

I have frequently noted that my 9 years of living and working in China taught me more about the plight of African Americans in the US than had decades of trying to understand the African American perspective through the lens of an American Caucasian male living in the US. Not because I ever felt any racist venom from any Chinese person. I was a foreigner, for sure; but it was never a racist judgment. I was just peculiar.

I did, however, frequently witness racism toward the Chinese from fellow Americans and Westerners. It was seldom blatant. They weren’t yelling epithets like the woman on the Upper East Side. They weren’t even making overtly racist remarks. The well educated and successful – the kind of Westerner you are likely to find in China – are too subtle for that.

The racism from the Western side was there, nonetheless. If there was a mistake or discrepancy between my Chinese company and any Western company, the assumption was that the Chinese had made a mistake. ‘They’ had screwed up. Without exception, the Chinese were assumed to be at fault.

Often, of course, that wasn’t the case. But the political damage had been done. My Chinese colleagues stood no chance of defending themselves with the truth. And, of course, it snowballed from there. Once you convince yourself that someone is prone to screwing up, you will inevitably rush to judgment when issues arise.

“Ism’s”, unfortunately, are whatever we define them as. In recent days sexism is getting all the press. This, of course, is a result of the audio recordings recently uncovered of Donald Trump and Billy Bush sharing a bus exchange while en route to a soap opera set where Trump was to make a cameo appearance.

I won’t attempt to defend Trump’s words. I have two teenage daughters and have to admit that while I’ve heard some pretty raunchy banter in my 62-years, it would never occur to me to utter anything even remotely close to what Trump said.

What I find hypocritical, however, is the public indignation being voiced over the issue. If you watch the talking heads voicing the greatest indignation over the issue, including the television news anchors and correspondents, there is little question that virtually ALL of them fall on the right side of the spectrum of what might be called ‘good looking.’ Most have benefited to some extent from the same attitudes regarding superficial appearance that are at the heart of Trump’s remarks. His were raunchier, for sure. And there is a big difference between values and behavior. If he really does what he claimed to do, he shouldn’t be walking the streets.

And that’s not to say that the beautiful people who bring us the news aren’t talented, of course. Or that they don’t work extremely hard for the success they have achieved. But not everything is mutually exclusive.

That’s not a criticism of the way things are so much as a criticism of hypocrisy. Hillary Clinton was right; we’re all prejudice in one way or another. Without exception. It is, I would submit, part of our DNA. Perhaps it stems from a constant search for safety, food, or just the good life. But no one is immune. And those who benefit from discrimination should be careful about proclaiming that it has no place in a civilized society.

I don’t have any scientific polls to support my position, mind you, (there are no ‘scientific’ polls, by the way) but I have eyes. The people who have the least in American society today are often a. not ‘pretty’ by public standards of the time, b. overweight, or c. short.

There are many exceptions, of course. But as Vinnie Antonelli, played by Steve Martin, in My Blue Heaven, famously noted, “The truth is still the truth.”

China is no different, to an extent. If you see a woman sweeping the street by hand she will likely be short and dark-skinned. If you go to a fancy restaurant in Beijing or Shanghai the woman who seats you will likely be close to six feet in height, slender, light skinned, and stunningly beautiful. Just the luck of the draw? I don’t think so.

The difference between the Chinese and the American approach to such issues, I believe, is merely one of hypocrisy. The Chinese are very open about what they believe. No restaurant owner would deny that a woman has to look a certain way before they would be hired to serve as a hostess.

In the US, unfortunately, the restaurant owner or journalist might change the topic by launching into an indignant tirade attacking the questioner.

So, which is the most enlightened?

Hypocrisy is never noble, no matter how indignant or offended the hypocritical.

Contact: You may reach the author at understandingchina@yahoo.com






Out for a Walk

Giddy with the clean air we have found in our new home in Michigan, my Chinese wife and I go for a walk every day. It is often a time for her to ask questions or for me to distill my observations regarding the differences between China and the US.

As is often the case throughout the US, but a certainty in the Midwest, whenever we come face to face with a vehicle entering or exiting a parking lot, or even turning at a neighborhood street corner, the driver always waves us through. It doesn’t matter if there is a zebra stripe or not.

It took my wife a while to get comfortable with this and that created some confusion with the drivers at first, not knowing if we were going to go or balk. The hesitation, of course, came from the fact that the whole concept of voluntarily yielding to pedestrians is totally foreign to her. Even though Chinese traffic laws require vehicles to yield to pedestrians under all circumstances, no one does, and no Chinese pedestrian or cyclist would ever assume they would.

She’s learned to accept that the gesture is sincere, but she runs across just to be safe. I inevitably chuckle to myself, having had the shoe on the other foot of foreignness while living in China for nine years.

For me, the most striking difference in perspective that has surfaced during these walks, however, is that she insists on walking directly behind me. Not far behind, mind you. It’s more like she’s drafting me in the way NASCAR drivers do. And, in fact, she claims that’s why she does it. She doesn’t have to watch where she’s going. She just watches me.

I’ll admit it makes me very self-conscious. My prior wife was constantly complaining that I walked in front of her intentionally, out of disrespect. I, probably like most husbands accused of this violation, felt like I was getting setup. I noted that even when I cut my walking speed by a significant amount the gap between us would remain constant. Mathematically speaking, therefore, she was causing me to walk in front. (Of course I never got anywhere with that argument.)

I’ve explained to Lisa on many occasions that this style of walking is embarrassing to me as Americans view it as degrading to women. It suggests that I, the male, am proclaiming my dominance. I can just hear every woman driving by saying to herself, “Look at that old white scumbag with his pretty little Chinese wife tagging along obediently behind him. What a pig.”

Well, Lisa just doesn’t get it. And like wives everywhere, she continues to do what she wants to do. And I’ve given up.

On a recent walk, however, she said to me, “I see people walking their dogs and the dog is always walking in front. If I got a leash to put around your neck would Americans think it’s alright for you to walk in front?”

Of course I laughed out loud. Being with someone unfamiliar with your culture is sometimes akin to being with your small child. But don’t take that as offensive; the Chinese got plenty of laughs out of me, too.

“Well, you do raise a point. I suppose a leash would change the dynamics of the situation. It would definitely change what the women driving by are thinking. I’m not sure I wouldn’t prefer they think of me as an arrogant chauvinist, however.”

I guess the moral of the story is that you have to be careful in your judgment where two different cultures are involved. It’s easy to read too much into things. We tend to see the issues only through our own lens and not a multi-cultural lens.

I was reminded of that again today when I read a piece online about a big international flap about a piece that ran in the inflight magazine of Air China, the flagship state-owned carrier of China. The piece was about visiting London and overall it was meant to present a glowing picture, encouraging their Chinese passengers to visit, and buy a ticket from them, of course.

Always the pragmatists, however, the author added one line about safety. That’s always the number one concern of Chinese traveling abroad, both because they are relatively new to foreign travel, and because there are plenty of places in the world where the Chinese are openly discriminated against.

So the article added one short note suggesting that London was generally a very safe city but you should be wary when visiting ‘these’ ethnic neighborhoods, and women should not go out alone at night. I won’t tell you what the ethnic neighborhoods were because it doesn’t matter.

The comment, of course, brought howls of indignation about the racist nature of the article and demands for an immediate apology from Air China, if not the Chinese government itself, and the immediate removal of the offending magazine from all aircraft.

The howls, of course, then lit up Chinese social media with protests of “There go the foreigners again, telling us what to do.” For the most part, however, the reaction was one of confusion. They just didn’t get all the fuss.

The Chinese are very pragmatic about ethnicity, as they are about most things. Being pragmatic, however, is different than being racist if the latter, as it almost always does, implies an assumption of relative inferiority.

And as proof of the pragmatic explanation, it cuts both ways. The Chinese police and security forces openly profile. But not in the way people in the US would assume that would work.

I frequently traveled on the Beijing subway and there was often a group of security police who roamed the subways and randomly picked people out of the crowd to check their identification by scanning it into a hand held device connected to some central database. I probably passed by one hundred of these makeshift checkpoints, if not more. And never once was I pulled out of line. Never once, in fact, did I see a single foreigner stopped. And never once did I see a woman stopped. They knew exactly the group of people they were looking for.

Never once, by the way, did I see a single person being checked complain. And if you think that’s because China is a Big Brother state and everyone is petrified of the police you’ve never been there. I’ve seen many Chinese arguing with police in the harshest of tones.

I would bet that if you surveyed the Chinese population you would find that an overwhelming majority support police profiling. To them, it just makes sense.

And in fact, statistically speaking, it does. It’s abhorrent only when it is accompanied by prejudice, as it often is in the West.

So I don’t condone the Air China article. I honestly don’t know if the author was prejudicial or not. And I do reject all forms of prejudice.

But I do accept that not every culture looks at things the same way. If we truly want to embrace diversity we must accept alternative worldviews and not jump to judgment every time someone seems to violate our own.

And in the vein of pragmatism I thought the best post I saw on Chinese social media was the writer who suggested that Air China simply stop offering English translations of its articles in the magazine.

Or put a leash on your man when you go walking in case you want to fall in behind and not be judged for it.

Contact: You may contact the author at understandingchina@yahoo.com

What the Chinese Taught Me About Racism

So what can a privileged Caucasian American male add to the debate over race relations in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world? I can share what I’ve learned from the Chinese.

During the protests in Ferguson, Missouri over a white policeman’s killing of an unarmed black teenager and the grand jury’s decision not to prosecute, people of all ethnicities took to the streets in an attempt to force a more meaningful discussion on racism and its implications.

As usual, the discussion didn’t seem to get very far. And then I read an article on CNN by John Blake that I think went a long way to explaining why. The article was entitled, The New Threat: ‘Racism without racists’, a term used by a Duke University Sociologist and the title of a book written by Eduardo Bonilla-Salva.

An example: In a famous experiment psychologists showed people a picture of two white men fighting – one with a knife and the other unarmed. They then showed participants a second picture of a white man with a knife fighting an unarmed black man. When they subsequently asked the participants to identify who was holding the knife most participants correctly identified the man with the knife in the first picture. In the second picture, however, most participants – black and white alike – incorrectly identified the black man as the one holding the knife.

So why can’t we have a meaningful public dialogue on this issue? According to Blake it’s because we’re speaking a different language. Many white people, he notes, say, “I don’t see color” and that “Justice should be colorblind.” If the grand jury made the decision not to indict the officer then that was the right decision and there’s no issue of racism.

But there is racial bias. In another study professors from the University of Chicago and MIT, according to the CNN article, sent 5,000 fictitious resumes in response to 1,300 help wanted ads. They were identical except for the name. Some were given names typical of Anglo-Americans while others were given names more frequently associated with African-Americans. And the ones given the Anglican names were called for interviews at a 50% higher rate.

There are only a few hundred thousand ex-patriates living in China today; with a population of 1.4 billion people. And not one Chinese person has every said, “I don’t see color; I don’t see your foreignness.” I am a foreigner and that is what I am referred to as – to my face. I have round eyes and a big nose and children in particular are not afraid to stare at me because of it.

But not once in my time here have I ever been harassed in any way simply because I am a foreigner. Not once has a policeman in a public place asked to see my identification or asked me why I was there. Not once have I been made to feel like a victim of suspicion. Not once!

If, however, I walk into a shop I know with 100% confidence that the shopkeeper will charge me a higher price than he or she would charge a Chinese person. Not once, on the other hand, has a Chinese person approached me and started a conversation in Chinese.


There is no pretend. A Chinese person and I can talk openly and freely about our differences because neither of us sees being different as being bad. We are who we are.

We’re all biased. We can’t help it. When I see an older Chinese woman approaching a queue I am quietly standing in I immediately brace myself to prevent her from cutting in front of me. And many times she will try. But sometimes she won’t.

Business hosts inevitably assume that I will want to dine in a Western restaurant. I don’t.

Waitresses will inevitably bring me a fork and spoon without my asking. I don’t need them.

At any tourist spot, a big nose is a magnet for trinket sellers. But when I say, in Mandarin, ‘get lost’ they immediately back off, no offense taken. In their mind I’ve merely cleared up the ambiguity.

Likewise, tourists visiting Beijing automatically assume that no one speaks English. Many are fluent.

Many will interpret a kind gesture of aid to be the precursor to a trick. Sometimes it is. Often it’s not.

The point is that when we talk about being Chinese and being a foreigner we talk in the same language. We don’t pretend that differences don’t exist.

The Chinese will be the first to volunteer that they will never field a world class football team. Their culture doesn’t lend itself to team sports. They are better at diving, gymnastics, and track and field.

Behaviors can reinforce biases, of course, and the Chinese realize this. The government has a massive educational campaign underway to teach people how they will be expected to behave when traveling abroad. Wait in line. Don’t spit. Don’t urinate on the side of the road. Cover your mouth when you sneeze. Etc. (Spitting and sneezing, by the way, are issues of traditional Chinese perceptions of health, not civility.)

It’s not judgmental. It’s very matter of fact. It’s an informative dialogue.

Mr. Blake is right. We need to stop believing we don’t see color, or ethnicity, or wealth, or beauty. We see all of these things. We can’t help it.

But we can talk about it. And if we talk candidly and openly perhaps then we can develop a common language and finally make some progress on the issue.

Most Chinese will candidly tell you that it will be a long time before the Chinese football team competes for the World Cup.  It's just not how they're wired.  But it's not judgmental.  For now, it just is what it is.
Most Chinese will candidly tell you that it will be a long time before the Chinese football team competes for the World Cup. It’s just not how they’re wired. But it’s not judgmental. For now, it just is what it is.

Note: The author also writes novels under the pen name of Avam Hale. You can find them in the Amazon Kindle store and they can be read on any mobile device loaded with the free Kindle App, available for all operating systemsCopyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Copyright © 2015 Glassmaker in China

Notice:  The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity.  They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.

Ferguson & Staten Island: Can We Learn From The Chinese?

When I moved to China seven years ago I was candidly perplexed by the whole state of race relations in the United States. As a then-53 year-old white male I knew I had the benefit of viewing the issues of race and gender from the most advantageous and privileged position, but I, like many others I knew, really wanted to understand the obvious discontent among so many in the African-American community. I accepted as fact that racism still existed but struggled to understand why.

After just a short time in China, however, I understood. I got it.

Not because of how the Chinese treated me. I am and always will be a foreigner in China. But that is different than being a victim of racism. The Chinese, to their credit, aren’t culturally inclined to make racist distinctions. You are Chinese or you are not Chinese; but you are not smart or ignorant; honest or dishonest; good or evil; civilized or uncivilized, simply because of how you look, who your ancestors were, or how much money you have.

I got it because of how I saw other Westerners act toward the Chinese for whom I have gained such deep respect.

Most of the events and behaviors I am referring to were not openly hostile or malicious. They were not overt expressions of ill will or cruel intent. In fact, they were often actions that were entirely unintentional.

There was, nonetheless, an obvious pattern of presumption that began to emerge. And it was often negative. Whether it had to do with civility, competency, honesty, or morality, there was all too often an apparent presumption of Western superiority and it often flowed from an unwillingness to understand Chinese behavior through a Chinese cultural lens.

My father often advised, “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked in his shoes.” And yet I see it every day. I see foreigners passing judgment without any recognition that they are the foreigners.   They are the ones wearing the foreign shoes. “We are guests in their country,” I often want to yell at the Westerner angry at some less fortunate and perhaps less educated Chinese person doing something they find offensive. Or not doing exactly what they want them to do simply because they don’t understand our foreign language – no matter how loudly we speak it.

I finally realized that it is this lack of openness to cultural context that is really at the heart of racism, bigotry, and discrimination. What is discrimination, after all, but presumption acted upon – presumption expressed through behavior?

Over time, simple presumptions become ingrained in a worldview that hardens into intolerance and inflexibility. And that, of course, leads to frustration, which only reinforces the presumption and the negative behavior it inevitably leads to. The negative presumption continues, and the offending party can’t understand why.

And now there is Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island, New York. Many believe recent events will start a healthy dialogue about race relations in America. It is a dialogue we should have. But, I fear, a dialogue we won’t have.

And here’s why. As a 60 year-old white man I feel – for right or for wrong – that any discussion about race relations in America is off limits to me. It’s a no-win discussion. I’m not entitled to any opinion other than self-condemnation.

And because many white Americans really don’t get it. It’s not that they don’t want to. Or even that they’re afraid to. They just don’t.

And both are true, in my humble opinion, because we’re looking for racism in all the wrong places. We’re looking for it on the sidewalks of dark streets. We’re looking for it in the statistics of who is killing who and whether or not white policemen really felt threatened enough that they were justified in using lethal force against unarmed black men. We’re looking for it in college admissions and relevant but largely unhelpful statistics on the gender and ethnic makeup of the high tech workplace.

And we look in these places because we’re deductive reasoners. Cause and effect. We want to explain everything. This is what’s happening and I know the reason why. And if I’m right you must be wrong.   Right and wrong cannot occupy the same place on the linear path of deductive logic.

In this case, however, I think it’s too late for deductive logic. I think we should take a page from the Chinese and look at the issue more holistically, more inductively. The yin and yang of black and white relations, if you’ll excuse the exaggerated metaphor, is out of balance. The facts are the facts. Racism exists. And white people are afraid to talk about it.

And how would my Chinese colleagues go about resolving this problem?

I suspect they would start with a cup of tea. And they would avoid inflammatory words and judgments of guilt. They would spend little effort trying to reach agreement and would devote their energies toward establishing, over time, relationships of mutual obligation. Obligation does not require homogeneity of culture or appearance. It doesn’t even require agreement.

It does, however, require trust. And trust cannot be established by one party or the other. It can only be established concurrently, through a mutual effort to stand down; to make ourselves vulnerable; to leave our judgments, however justified deductively, behind us. In short, to set our deductive fascination with process and all of the cause and effect, fault, and blame that come with it, aside.

In the end what the Chinese have taught me is that we don’t have to overcome our differences. We must merely view them through the lens of mutual obligation and the respect for cultural context that it ultimately requires.

We’re not going to have the deductive dialogue that everyone knows is overdue. Let’s stop trying. African-Americans know what they know. White Americans can’t know what they don’t know. And that’s okay; IF, and it’s a big if, we work, first and foremost, on building our relationship rather than debating the cause and effect of how we got to where we are.

For better race relations we need to stand back from the brink of deductive reasoning and understand that there is no 'same'; there is only trust.
For better race relations we need to stand back from the brink of deductive reasoning and understand that there is no deductive reason; there is only trust.

One last thing. As you head out to begin your holiday shopping I ask that you look at my novel, available in the Amazon Kindle store on all of Amazon’s websites worldwide. My pen name is Avam Hale. Whatever else it is or isn’t, I promise it is thought-provoking. You can read a couple of chapters for free or borrow it from the Kindle library if you’re a member. And if you don’t have a Kindle there is a free Kindle App available for every smart phone or tablet. You can even gift it to others. (And if you liked it, or even if you didn’t, please write a short review. E-publishing takes clicks and you can’t get clicks without reviews – lots of them.)


Copyright © 2014 Glassmaker in China

Notice: The views expressed in this post are strictly those of the writer acting in a personal capacity. They are not in any way endorsed or sanctioned by his employer or any other individual with which he may be personally or professionally affiliated.