Found in 9 comments on Hacker News
twunde · 2020-06-03 · Original thread
Tangent: For anyone who wants to learn more about the history of instutional racism in the US, in particular the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, The Color of Law ( goes into detail about the history of red lining and how it was GOVERNMENT-supported. For those bothered by the curfews imposed across the US, I'd also recommend Sundown Towns (, which discusses how many metropolitan areas had unofficial but very much enforced curfews for minorities.
wpietri · 2020-02-03 · Original thread
And I should add that both these incidents were part of The Nadir:

For decades in the late 1800s and early 1900s, this sort of ethnic cleansing was common across the US, and it was part of the Nadir's broader pattern of rising white supremacy. Having never heard a peep about this in school, I was skeptical. But Loewen's "Sundown Towns" convinced me with its mix of document-driven, narrative, and data-driven history:

It's been a valuable reminder to me lately that progress in civil rights is less robust than it seems, and can go into retreat for decades if we let it.

wpietri · 2019-08-22 · Original thread
Exactly. I think it's reasonable (although perhaps naive) for people to have a sunny view of law enforcement. Especially when, like me, they're white men from middle-class backgrounds; I've never had a bad experience with law enforcement, despite having done some stupendously dumb-ass things.

But even though I'm predisposed to view cops favorably, the stuff with ICE is shocking to me. America has a big chunk of history [1] where ethnic cleansing was common and ignored or even supported by police [2]. It's hard for me not to see ICE's aggressive dehumanization of non-white migrants as a resurgence of that. So I'm not surprised that even at Palantir people are objecting.


[2] See, e.g.,

wpietri · 2019-01-06 · Original thread
If you are a non-white person, no, I would not say you have had your expectations set by experiencing white privilege.

You are welcome to empathize with white people. I often do. I am one. I empathize with that guy. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't acknowledge privilege.

If you can't fathom what this has to do with race, I'd suggest you haven't studied the topic enough. There is an ocean of history and rivers of current evidence that in America race drives a lot of this.

For example, you could go read Loewen's Sundown Towns, [1] which demonstrates that America had a major period of violent ethnic cleansing circa 1890-1930 known as the Nadir. That peaked with white people destroying America's most prosperous black district, firebombing it from the air and burning 35 blocks to the ground. [2]

You could go back from there and read about slavery and the civil war. You could read the various declarations of secession, where white people make clear they're willing to go to war because they believe black people are so inferior that they must forever be property. You could read the reports of the Freedmen's Bureau, and how even after the civil war there was endless violent aggression against black people.

Or you could go forward from the Nadir and read about Jim Crow. About white flight. About redlining. About racial exclusion covenants. Heck, right here in the Bay Area after WW II there was public debate over whether the peninsula should be declared whites only in its entirety.

From there you might read about the present. There too there's a ton of material. E.g., the classic resume study showing discrimination against black people. [3] And there are plenty of evocative books. E.g., Julie Lythcott-Haims's memoir Real American about growing up biracial. [4] Or Ijeoma Oluo's So You Want to Talk About Race. [5] And I don't think an understanding of American racial dynamics is complete without a look at white fragility. DiAngelo recently did a talk about her excellent book that's a good intro. [6]

I agree that America could be unique in the extent to which race matters historically and currently. But it's not like other countries don't have major issues with racial discrimination. Wikipedia has a very long list of ethnic cleansing campaigns, for example. [7] Congrats if your home country never had any of that, but that's not where you are now.

I also get why you might think discrimination was due to some correlative factor, like money. I used to think that too. But over time I came around. What changed was studying the history, looking at the evidence, and really listening to non-white people with empathy and an open mind.







wpietri · 2018-10-17 · Original thread
That seems part of a larger pattern.

The excellent book _Sundown Towns_ [1] pointed out something I had never noticed. People from suburbs and exurbs expect without question to be able to use big-city facilities. E.g., parks, libraries, and all manner of for- and non-profit organizations. But suburbs and exurbs often either restrict facilities to residents (as with parks) or don't have them at all (as with drug treatment centers, halfway houses, homeless support, hospitals).

That worked well enough for the suburbanites in the early decades of suburbanization; well-off people moved out of town and stopped paying for the central facilities. But as those communities become less homogeneous over the generations, they too started needing drug treatment, homeless support, etc. Except that the residents are very used to low taxes, so city managers don't have the money to fix things.

I get the desire for low taxes; who doesn't like as low a price as possible? But there's a toxic combination of penny-wise, pound-foolish thinking and pure IGMFY out there that seems so misguided to me. I don't have kids myself, but I still believe strongly in making things better for the next generation and the one after that.


wpietri · 2018-06-21 · Original thread
This is historically ignorant. I don't blame you personally, because the American education system is very bad at covering America's racist history. But you're still basing your estimation of "likely" not on real data, but on what you'd like to be true.

If you'd like to learn more, start with Loewen's "Sundown Towns", which describes how hundreds and possibly thousands of towns across the US were turned and kept white:

These were known as "sundown towns" because non-white people had to leave by sundown or face violence:

These came about not because there were never any black people, but because white people indulged in violent ethnic cleansing. This happened most prominently during the Nadir:

He proves this quite clearly through census data, where places that used to be racially mixed suddenly got white and then stayed that way for decades.

He doesn't give any specific Vermont examples, but Vermont had a prominent Klan presence in the 1920s:

Later, as suburbanization happened, white supremacy was maintained more subtly, through means such as racial covenants:

It's also not necessary for a lot of white people to be actively racist to preserve white supremacy. As is clear from Loewen's book, all it takes is a small number of people willing to be active (e.g., making threats, burning crosses) to drive off new black arrivals. The majority can be passively accepting of a racist system without lifting a finger.

But that doesn't mean they won't end up biased. White people who don't know many black people are more likely to be biased, and all-white towns produce people that are more likely to have racist views. (For more, see Loewen's Ch 11, "The effects of sundown towns on whites".)

wpietri · 2018-03-02 · Original thread
Twitter is definitely what you make of it. I have plenty of reasonable discussions with people of very different perspectives. It is definitely harder to do that than, say, on Facebook. But there's no other platform where you can find and interact with as many voices, from the globally famous down to entirely marginalized people.

That's not to say that they don't have a problem with hate, or that they shouldn't be working much harder on it. But I disagree that it's an essential property of the platform. Humans have a very long history of people of different perspectives hating each other even in person. For example, look at the Nadir:

In the US, after the Civil War, we had the Reconstruction, a period of significantly increased racial harmony. Many people of goodwill worked hard to integrate America, with a lot of African-Americans moving into white towns. But within decades the tide turned, leading to a wave of anti-black ethic cleansing that left many places all white for many decades. This is extensively documented in Loewen's Sundown Towns:

Nobody needed short messages or engagement metrics to do that.

wpietri · 2017-10-10 · Original thread
Wow, so many people all over the US with basically the same experience. For those interested in the history of this phenomenon, I strongly recommend the book "Sundown Towns":

My hazy understanding of American racism, which I now know to be wrong, was that it's always been getting better. Sure, slavery, but then the Civil War and an upward climb from there to the Civil Rights era and beyond. Except for the South, I thought.

It turns out the US had period after Reconstruction, know as the Nadir [1], when anti-black sentiment and action grew significantly. A wave of ethnic cleansing circa 1890-1920 led to a lot of all-white towns all over the country, ones where non-whites weren't allowed after dark. (Thus the title of the book.)

Chapter 11, "The Effect of Sundown Towns on Whites", talks a lot about how growing up in white-only areas leads white people to have enormously distorted perceptions of the dangers of black people. After reading that chapter, the RacistDoor phenomenon made a lot more sense to me.


wpietri · 2016-12-25 · Original thread
> I get that HN isn't a platform for political battling

He says after a lot of political battling.

What you conveniently ignore is the centuries of energetic anti-diversity work that you are alsoheir to. The culture you energetically defend treated women as something approaching property for millennia. America was founded by and for white men, many of whom owned black people as actual property. And not just the adults, but their children and their children's children, a situation maintained through pervasive brutality. We have slowly reduced these differentials, but there have been many ups and downs. (E.g., the Nadir, which erased many of the post-Civil-War gains for decades and which most Americans today were never told about. [1]) But we nave not yet even reached a level playing field.

You play a variety of tricks above. One is to confuse "normal" with "neutral" or "fair". Another is not to name the culture you mean, which people you mean; if you did, you'd sound like a Stormfront post. A third is to pretend that out groups are defined by out groups. Which is wrong; the racial boundaries in the US have always been drawn by white people, have varied greatly over time [2], and are mostly used as a means of control and exclusion [3]. And of course you construct a variety of straw men as you dance around racist slander, what with those unnamed people and their "cultural backwardness".

I doubt there's hope for you, of course. You're too busy doubling down on the darker parts of your cultural inheritance. But for those who are more open-minded, do me a favor and take the Implicit Association Test on race. (And a few more if you like while you're there.)

It made me realize that although I was consciously opposed to racism, I harbored unconscious racial bias. I've spent the last decade accepting and uprooting that, and studying the history and cultural effects of this pervasive cognitive bias. I don't feel particularly guilty about it; our brains develop all sorts of biases, and this one has been part of our culture for centuries. But I do feel responsible for erasing it in myself, and aim to help end it as a force in American history. Maybe others will feel that way too.



[3] See, e.g.,

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