Modern Melting Pot

What's new in racism.

Is Satoshi Kanazawa’s problem racial, sexual, or both

Self-love is more than skin deep

The personal motivations of those who make them are the most interesting things about racist choices.

 Because I am African American and blog at Psychology Today a friend wrote to tell me about another blogger, Satoshi Kanazawa.  Kanazawa, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, recently published an answer to his own question: "Why Are African American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?"

For his answer he grabbed some data which, according to him, "proves" scientifically, objectively and subjectively that his assumption is correct. 

I am basically a novelist and what is most interesting to a novelist is character motivation. Of all the things that this chubby-faced Japanese character could choose to write about, why did he choose this?

Okay, he's London-based so he is to some extent a racial outsider to the majority white population there; and he obsessively wishes to belong. The novelist would have to come up with an inciting scene to dramatize his motivation:

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  1. Is he married to a white woman and feels unworthy of her? (bedroom scene)
  2. Has he been rejected by many white women and so they are the unattainable objects of desire? (scene in a class room with many female students)
  3. In a world filled with white women he's like a frustrated look-but-don't-touch child in a candy store? (London Tube scene. The cameraperson could slip in the Freudian symbolism. . .subtle! subtle!)
  4. Does whiteness represent what he thinks that he is not? (scene in a faculty meeting)
  5. Does he think he is pleasing white people by what he says? (scene in a bar where he is attempting to chum-up)

There are other options but for my character, I would choose one of those above.

Okay, he's writing about African American women. If you learn about American race relations from a distance it is easy to assume that you'll get more acceptance from whites it you criticize blacks.

Outsiders fail to see how convoluted the relationship between white Americans and black Americans is. My fictional Kanazawa-think-alike is a scholar, a PhD, lecturing at a prestigious British university so he has probably read African American literature, which has been shaped to do nothing so much as confirm his notion that African-Americans themselves find themselves less physically attractive. (scene in the library)

(I have lived and been surrounded by African American life for 6 decades and have never seen the quantity of self-hate that African-American literature and American sociology and psychology books claim we have. I have noticed that we once blamed skin color and physical characteristics for blocking us from opportunities we wanted. "Mommy, I want to be white," has for me always been translated as "Mommy, I want to be in the world that being white would open up." 

My totally unscientific observation has been that teenage white girls with acne disparaged their appearance more than we ever did. They risk eating disorders because America, even at an early age, turns certain physical characteristics into commodities.

When the acne clears up a majority of the so-called teenage self-hatred stops. Since African Americans now have more opportunities our famous black self-hate fades and reveals what, to my novelist's brain, seems to be true. Black culture promotes an intense love of self, which includes love of how one looks.

Kanszawa, you should look at the photo of Michelle Obama on the cover of Vogue and ask yourself objectively, subjectively, and scientifically, how many white people think she is less attractive then our last . . . how many white First Ladies? Kanszawa, you can't get in with "them" (you know who) by criticizing us.

There is "scientific " polling data that says that despite the fact that we give them hell, they (you know who) like us more than any other non-white group in America, if that matters to you, Kanszawa. It is probably true because their love doesn't matter that much to us. Culturally we're a kinda of  "loving yourself is the greatest love" people.

And I'll tell you one thing, Kanszawa, you cannot get in with you know who by writing stuff like" after 9/11 the President should have ordered "US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our (my underlining) actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost." Wow! Kanszawa?)

Oh, I've gotten away from the novel I was plotting.  I noticed that Kanazawa changed the title to his blog post to: "Why Are African-American Women Rated Less Attractive Than Other Women, but Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?" What motivated Kanazawa to grab this additional piece of "scientific" data?

Oh, maybe in the novel this chubby-faced Japanese guy:

  1. Likes black men
  2. Wants to be like a black man (you know the stereotypes)

In the final scene I could have him go into a shower where a single black guy was naked. The story would be a tragedy if this one black guy confirmed the stereotype, but I'd probably have the black guy's physicality not confirm, and my character would leave the shower room to live happily ever after. I'd have him whistling James Brown's "wanna jump back and kiss myself. I'm super bad. Watch me dun-a-dun-a-dun-a-dun!"

 

George Davis is professor emeritus at Rutgers University. His latest book is Until We Got Here.

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