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Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste 
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 Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste

Please use this thread for discussing Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste.



Mon Dec 21, 2020 3:04 pm
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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Brown Eyes versus Blue Eyes
In this section the author describes experiments teacher Jane Elliott did in a 3rd grade classroom in the late '60s. Blue eyed children were given additional privileges, taught to look down on Brown eyed children, etc. Then those roles were reversed.
Quote:
When the brown-eyed children were put on a pedestal and made dominant, Elliott told the network, she saw “little wonderful brown-eyed white people become vicious, ugly, nasty, discriminating, domineering people in the space of fifteen minutes.”

With the blue-eyed children scapegoated and subordinated, “I watched brilliant, blue-eyed, white Christian children become timid and frightened and angry and unable to learn in the space of fifteen minutes,” she said.

“If you do that with a whole group of people for a lifetime,” she said, “you change them psychologically. You convince those who are analogous to the brown-eyed people that they are superior, that they are perfect, that they have the right to rule, and you convince those who take the place of the blue-eyed students that they are less than. If you do that for a lifetime, what do you suppose that does to them?”
P. 169


That is interesting information and the immediate effects are surprising. However 3rd grade puts them at around 8 years old.
Is that too early for such manipulations?
Perhaps their reactions would be more honest and natural than older kids?
Do you think those kids understood the lessons and learned "the moral of the story?"

Jane Elliott is now an anti-racist activist. Here she asks college students a famous question.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYp5xkqTUjQ



Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:42 pm
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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Without doubt in my mind the experiment was unethical, and would be regardless of age. What if physical harm had happened to kids as a result of hatred toward them? Whatever insights the teacher thought the students would gain, this is something that a teacher would today be disciplined for or fired. It's hard to fathom why parents didn't try to stop it.

Prejudice rests on arbitrary markers. No need to prove that by going to this extreme.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
DWill wrote:
Without doubt in my mind the experiment was unethical, and would be regardless of age. What if physical harm had happened to kids as a result of hatred toward them? Whatever insights the teacher thought the students would gain, this is something that a teacher would today be disciplined for or fired. It's hard to fathom why parents didn't try to stop it.



Yes, it probably was unethical and would certainly never be tolerated today, in any community. In fact, Jane Elliott says in the video that had she known of the consequences that did follow the exercise, she would never have gone through with it. To this day you will hear arguments from both positions.

As an educator, I’ve thought about and discussed this experiment on many occasions, from my psychology classes in the 70’s and at a number of anti-racist workshops over the years. From these personal experiences, I’ve seen how a discussion of this exercise can help broaden a person’s perspective on the individual and societal damage racism can cause. And this experiment has been read and discussed by thousands over fifty years and in many countries.

I thought the video was very powerful. I haven’t hear Jane Elliott speak for many years.
For a more complete picture of the exercise (as she like to call it). The Smithsonian came out with a good article a few years ago:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science- ... -72754306/



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
My daughter went through an school exercise somewhat like the blue/brown eyes experiment when she was 12 / 13 years old. (Significantly older than the 3rd graders in the experiment above.) This was related to the German caste system, a holocaust education experiment. Some students were given German passports. Others were identified as Jewish. Others had fake passports: Jews posing as Aryan. There was conflict surrounding this - who would rat out the Jews, who would hold their tongue? At one point another teacher came in to remove a student from the class. Who would it be? The student returned with blue gauze over one eye. That eye had been injected with blue dye (a simulation obviously); evidently Dr. Josef Mengele experimented with this to determine if it was possible to fake Aryan heritage.

This was the only time I nearly marched into the school offices to raise a stink, "WTF is this about injecting dye into eyeballs!" However I resisted that urge, partly due to occasional intrusions by my mother into my own education.* I asked my daughter about this recently and she thought it was a worthwhile experience. It provided a very brief insight into 1/1000th of the terror that German Jews felt, something she remembers 20 years later. It takes a lot to engage the emotional system in learning, but perhaps at times it's worth the shock.

*Ahem...Regarding my mother's intrusions into my education, one example was Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. I wasn't allowed to read it for 7th grade English because it contained violence and curse words. She probably described it as vulgarity. I had to read The Red Pony by Steinbeck. So much for being one of the cool kids. Reputation killed. :? Hence my hesitation. :lol:



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
I asked my daughter about this recently and she thought it was a worthwhile experience. It provided a very brief insight into 1/1000th of the terror that German Jews felt, something she remembers 20 years later. It takes a lot to engage the emotional system in learning, but perhaps at times it's worth the shock.
Yeah, I find myself sympathetic to the idea of shocking people. I suspect the Blue Eyes/Brown Eyes exercise was at too young an age, but even the Stanford prison experiment (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford_ ... experiment) which used adults, has been questioned on ethical grounds (not to mention others have failed to "replicate" this attention-getting manipulation by "Zimbo the Great") (did you know there was a band called Stanford Prison Experiment? Neither did I. I love Wikipedia.)

LanDroid wrote:
*Ahem...Regarding my mother's intrusions into my education, one example was Of Mice and Men by Steinbeck. I wasn't allowed to read it for 7th grade English because it contained violence and curse words. She probably described it as vulgarity. I had to read The Red Pony by Steinbeck. So much for being one of the cool kids. Reputation killed. :? Hence my hesitation. :lol:
It seems to me this has great potential for being turned into a successful teaching tactic. Imagine a world in which reading is how the "cool kids" are defined. All about catching the right age groups with the right books, I suspect.



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Sat Mar 27, 2021 9:31 am
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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
CHAPTER TEN
Central Miscasting


In this chapter the author describes going to an international conference on caste in London 2017. Even in that "ultra-woke" environment, it seems the personal interactions were more revealing than the presentations. She approached one person from India, a geologist living in London.
Quote:
“According to the caste system,” he said, as if informing me of the status of someone he once knew, “I belong to the second upper caste. The warrior-soldier caste.” I looked at this man who was not much taller than I, small-boned, narrow-shouldered, gentle of face, self-effacingly modest in bearing and wondered on what planet would this man be seen as a natural-born warrior? Here was living proof of the miscasting of caste.

Even if you accept a caste structure, the arbitrary nature of it means the vast majority will be in the wrong category, living under random restrictions or perhaps enjoying privileges they do not deserve.
Quote:
He told me about the upper-caste woman in an office where he once worked. She would get up from her desk and walk the length of the office, down the hall and around the corner, to ask a Dalit to get her water.

“The jug was there next to her desk,” he said. “The Dalit had to come to where she was sitting and pour it for her. It was beneath her dignity to get the water herself from the desk beside her. This is the sickness of caste.”

Quote:
We had broken from the matrix and were convinced that we could see what others could not, and that others could see it, too, if they could awaken from their slumber.

We had defied our caste assignments: He was not a warrior or ruler. He was a geologist. I was not a domestic. I was an author. He had defied his caste from on high and I, from below, and we had met at this moment in London at our own Maginot Line of equality, standing on different sides of the same quest to understand the forces that had sought to define us but had failed.

  • Can a meritocracy exist in a caste system?
  • Can equal rights exist in a caste system?
  • If the dominant caste insists there is a meritocracy and equal rights, what does that say about awareness and truthfulness in that society?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Even being able to earn merit depends often on being placed in the right (higher) caste. You can't lose out to another person if you can't get in the game. The illusion subscribed to would be that the merit "naturally" distributes in a certain way, which happens to coincide with the higher caste. Those in a higher caste aren't likely to admit that caste placement is arbitrary. The placement is a reward for being the best people. It's kind of circular.

If there's a dominant caste, the question answers itself. Claims of a meritocracy will be false.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
Quote:
“According to the caste system,” he said, as if informing me of the status of someone he once knew, “I belong to the second upper caste. The warrior-soldier caste.” I looked at this man who was not much taller than I, small-boned, narrow-shouldered, gentle of face, self-effacingly modest in bearing and wondered on what planet would this man be seen as a natural-born warrior? Here was living proof of the miscasting of caste.

Even if you accept a caste structure, the arbitrary nature of it means the vast majority will be in the wrong category, living under random restrictions or perhaps enjoying privileges they do not deserve.

I am having some trouble with that assertion. A really solid caste system is based on learning a trade over time. The caste is responsible, in the way that the apprentice system was responsible in Middle Ages Europe, for making sure the individual knew how to do their assigned work. We have had, for example in the building trades in the Northeast, similar systems of keeping the trade within the family. It's part exclusion and part practical arrangement. To interpret it entirely as a matter of exclusion is to view the system from the vantage point of the marginalized. This may be justified from a justice perspective, but it obscures the vulnerability of a system which once was not arbitrary, and whose economic purpose can no longer function.

To criticize the geologist as unfit for war is quite silly. When the warrior caste was a functional part of the social structure, the hours of practice with a sword and spear and shield and bow, not to mention possibly managing horses to run a chariot properly, would have given him a strong advantage over an untrained but athletic man. One can argue that the naturally gifted should have been the ones to be trained, but who is going to create that system? Families who can afford weapons and armor, who can train their sons in the ways of valor and mutual support and strategy, those are going to be the ones who decide who gets trained.

Quote:
He told me about the upper-caste woman in an office where he once worked. She would get up from her desk and walk the length of the office, down the hall and around the corner, to ask a Dalit to get her water.
“The jug was there next to her desk,” he said. “The Dalit had to come to where she was sitting and pour it for her. It was beneath her dignity to get the water herself from the desk beside her. This is the sickness of caste.”

I love the story, but I also remember the arrogance of the Brahmin grad student in our department who would come into the grad student lounge and casually go through the wallet of a lower-caste student and remove the cash. Naturally we all hated him, and he never amounted to much as an economist, but it spoke volumes about what people in India had to put up with.

North Americans have trouble grokking the social expectations created by the practice of having servants. We do stuff for ourselves, or, as in the example of ironing shirts in grad school, it does not get done. Old World students were mildly put off by my wrinkled cotton shirts, since they were uniformly from families who would be ashamed to go out in shirts that were not ironed. Because that would mean you can't afford servants, and as one student explained to me many years later, even the servants have servants. For those who could afford an education in English, going out in clothes that had not been ironed would be unthinkably declasse.

LanDroid wrote:
[*] If the dominant caste insists there is a meritocracy and equal rights, what does that say about awareness and truthfulness in that society?[/list]
I am trying to follow this question with some care. It is, I think, the decisive question of our time. I am in the middle of the education system, and I can certainly see that some students start out with strong advantages over others. But what is the alternative to meritocracy? If a person is not able to get the work done, how does it really matter that their parents were stressed out and made bad choices, and they never really had a chance?

Sandel, at Harvard, has a book out that proposes deconstructing meritocracy. I am in no hurry to read it (Sandel does not have Haidt's flair, for example) but I feel I must get to it. I want to know what alternative he proposes.

The received wisdom about affirmative action is that if the student is properly supported, they can make it in a challenging college despite a disadvantaged background. But the flip side is that without that support, it is cruel to admit someone to a program they are not ready for. We are not talking about truly gifted individuals like Tara Westover of "Educated" but rather about smart but unprepared people more like J.D. Vance of "Hillbilly Elegy." So maybe Sandel, and others skeptical of the meritocracy, simply want better support. I would agree with that. Compensatory education, we used to call it. But I am waiting for the plan.



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Harry Marks wrote:
A really solid caste system is based on learning a trade over time.

Sounds like you're describing a system of guilds, not caste.
Harry Marks wrote:
To criticize the geologist as unfit for war is quite silly.

On the surface, yes. However she is actually criticizing the system that arbitrarily assigns everyone with certain surnames and/or everyone who lives in certain areas as members of the warrior caste. Obviously only a small subset would have warrior characteristics, but that does not matter, even your progeny will retain that designation.
Quote:
I also remember the arrogance of the Brahmin grad student in our department who would come into the grad student lounge and casually go through the wallet of a lower-caste student and remove the cash.

Super-annoying. Why wasn't the Brahmin arrested? I expect there would be no problem for the lower caste student while in the US, but perhaps a terrible backlash once he returned to India or an immediate threat to his relatives in India?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
CHAPTER ELEVEN
Dominant Group Status Threat and the Precarity of the Highest Rung


Quote:
In late 2015, two economists at Princeton University announced the startling revelation that the death rates of middle-aged white Americans, especially less-educated white Americans at midlife, had risen for the first time since 1950. The perplexing results of this study on mortality rates in the United States sounded alarms on the front pages of newspapers and at the top of news feeds across the nation.

The surge in early deaths among middle-aged white people went counter to the trends of every other ethnic group in America. Even historically marginalized black and Latino Americans had seen their mortality rates fall during the time period studied, from 1998 to 2013. The rise in the white death rate was at odds with prevailing trends in the rest of the Western world.

This is a complicated chapter, I suspect related to the book White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo (which I have not read). It posits an increase in white suicide and terminal illness related to the loss of a sense of white supremacy.
Quote:
In America, political scientists have given this malaise of insecurities a name: dominant group status threat. This phenomenon “is not the usual form of prejudice or stereotyping that involves looking down on outgroups who are perceived to be inferior,” writes Diana Mutz, a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania. “Instead, it is born of a sense that the outgroup is doing too well and thus, is a viable threat to one’s own dominant group status.”

Quote:
Working-class whites, the preeminent social economist Gunnar Myrdal wrote, “need the demarcations of caste more than upper class whites. They are the people likely to stress aggressively that no Negro can ever attain the status of even the lowest white.”

I remember our discussion of A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn in which he claims poor whites were purposely instilled with vicious racism to prevent them from cooperating with blacks to change the power structure. Is this still active? :hmm:



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Quote:
Some people from the groups that were said to be inherently inferior managed to make it into the mainstream, a few rising to the level of people in the dominant caste, one of them, in 2008, rising to the highest station in the land. This left some white working-class Americans in particular, those with the least education and the material security that it can confer, to face the question of whether the commodity that they could take for granted—their skin and ascribed race—might be losing value.

...In the zero-sum stakes of a caste system upheld by perceived scarcity, if a lower-caste person goes up a rung, an upper-caste person comes down. The elevation of others amounts to a demotion of oneself, thus equality feels like a demotion.
p.183

I gotta admit that personally I find it difficult to relate to these emotions, but I s'pose I understand them. I am definitely not upper class, but I don't feel these changes as a threat. Obviously this must be extremely serious for many who are dying too young. Can you relate to this decline in health, a loss of status, a threat from the majority becoming a minority at some point in the future?



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
Unconscious Bias: A Mutation in the Software
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Toward the end of the twentieth century, social scientists found new ways to measure what had transformed from overt racism to a slow boil of unspoken antagonisms that social scientists called unconscious bias. This was not the cross-burning, epithet-spewing biological racism of the pre-civil-rights era, but rather discriminatory behaviors based on subconscious prejudgments by people who professed and believed in equality.

We think things are getting better, and to some extent they are, but as Harry Marks pointed out white people with a criminal record are more employable than minorities with clean records.
Quote:
In his book Dying of Whiteness, Metzl told of the case of a forty-one-year-old white taxi driver who was suffering from an inflamed liver that threatened the man’s life. Because the Tennessee legislature had neither taken up the Affordable Care Act nor expanded Medicaid coverage, the man was not able to get the expensive, lifesaving treatment that would have been available to him had he lived just across the border in Kentucky. As he approached death, he stood by the conviction that he did not want the government involved. “No way I want my tax dollars paying for Mexicans or welfare queens,” the man told Metzl. “Ain’t no way I would ever support Obamacare or sign up for it. I would rather die.” And sadly, so he would.

Seems like a creepy twist on drained pool politics: "If they can have it, then no one can, not even me even if it kills me."



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Post Re: Caste: Part 4 - The Tentacles of Caste
LanDroid wrote:
Seems like a creepy twist on drained pool politics: "If they can have it, then no one can, not even me even if it kills me."

I suspect that this guy’s attitude is more libertarian than racist. I didn’t much like Obamacare (ACA) when it was first enacted either (though I support it now primarily because it protects those with pre-existing conditions). We see a similar backlash to other government policies, most recently a preference to be exposed to COVID (and possibly die) rather than have the government shut down certain businesses and enact various social distancing measures.

Not that race isn’t ever-present in such issues. Trump’s call to “Make America Great Again” is a kind of dog whistle to bring back a time when white superiority was more or less taken for granted. LanDroid mentioned the new law in Georgia that makes it illegal to give food and water to people waiting in line to vote. Several other laws were passed that would arguably disproportionately disenfranchise black voters. My question is this: Are Republicans in fact trying to make it more difficult for blacks to vote? Are they trying to reinforce the caste system? Or are they really concerned about the sanctity of elections, worried that some will cheat?

Maybe it doesn’t matter what the intention is if black voters are disproportionately disenfranchised by such laws. I like to think there’s room for some middle ground where we can enact some rules to ensure the integrity of an election while ensuring that no one is disenfranchised unfairly.

Regarding the tentacles of caste, in a recent NYTimes op-ed, Charles Blow talks about Tucker Carlson and "white replacement theory." This is the fear by some whites that they are gradually being replaced by blacks and other minorities. It's true, of course, that whites will eventually become a minority in America. Conservatives generally do seem unusually fearful of foreigners, but is this fear in itself racist? The Confederate flag is seen by many as much a symbol of southern rebellion, not hatred against blacks. It’s hard to tell sometimes where racism ends and distrust of government begins.


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