“Ofey” (Richard Feynman) on “the blacks”

Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988) was a famous theoretical physicist, Nobel Prize winner, and sexist. Feynman thought for himself and rebelled against social convention, tradition, and “The Man”. However, Feynman was also a white male professor, and his position with its associated privileges makes him “The Man” relative to those with fewer privileges.

In his amusing autobiography, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!, chapter But Is It Art?, Feyman writes:

So I decided to sell my drawings. However, I didn’t want people to buy my drawings because the professor of physics isn’t supposed to be able to draw, isn’t that wonderful, so I made up a false name. My friend Dudley Wright suggested “Au Fait,” which means “It is done” in French. I spelled it O-f-e-y, which turned out to be a name the blacks used for “whitey.” But after all, I was whitey, so it was all right.

While Feynman recognizes that he is “whitey”—which suggests a greater sophistication than that of many white liberals today—his usage of the objectifying and homogenizing term “the blacks” reveals his racial insularity in the context of the United States. He received his Bachelor’s degree, PhD, and professorships before laws against racial segregation were passed in the 1960s. There is no doubt that Feynman was an exceptionally brilliant individual, but he was also a beneficiary of institutional racism and white privilege.

Racism victim, Asian, must appear in court. Racist aggressor, white, not charged.

In Asian Teen in Keswick Fights Back Against Racist Bully, Maysie predicted:

And finally, here are my dumbass predictions of the future:

1. The white racist bully will not be criminally charged

2. The charges will not be dropped against the young man

York school board stands down, reinstates bullied student (Globe and Mail, May 4, 2009):

The 15-year-old will return to Keswick High School this morning with the suspension removed from his academic record and his upcoming expulsion hearing cancelled, the boy’s father said Monday.

The turnabout began Monday when the student and his parents were invited to a hastily convened reconciliation session with his antagonist and that boy’s parents. At that meeting, the white student apologized for directing a racial slur at the 15-year-old and for punching him in the mouth. The 15-year-old apologized for breaking his classmate’s nose.

[…]

The boy still faces a charge of assault causing bodily harm even though his opponent’s parents have twice called York Regional Police asking that the charges be dropped. Mr. Koven said once charges have been laid, however, it’s up to the Crown to determine whether to proceed or not, which probably won’t be decided until a first court appearance on May 13.

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Institutional racism and white privilege run Keswick, Ontario.

Korean boy can only watch as others go to school (Globe and Mail, May 2, 2009):

Earlier this week, the boy’s father received a couriered letter from the York Region District School Board. It said the school’s principal, Catherine McGinley, was recommending the discipline committee mete out the harshest possible punishment when it meets on May 13. She asked that the 15-year-old be expelled not just from Keswick High, but from all schools in York region.

“It was horrible. It was a big shock,” the boy’s father said.

Yesterday afternoon, spokesman Ross Virgo said the board meant to retract that letter, that it was sent in error and that its contents were no longer valid. He said the case is being investigated further, and that the recommendation of expulsion is no longer in effect.

But no one had told the boy’s family, who were still mulling over the letter’s devastating implications late yesterday.

They said that they feel as though some combination of forces is trying to run them out of this rural, mostly white town, particularly in light of attacks on Asian fishermen in the nearby Lake Simcoe area in 2007.

[…]

His father said the school doesn’t seem to understand the impact of the racial comment. Afterward, a vice-principal asked his son why a Korean was upset about being called Chinese.

“Probably they don’t realize how much it hurts when someone makes a racist comment,” his father said. “My son said, ‘I felt all the way down, like I am nothing, on the floor. Like they’re the master and I’m the slave.’

His father said he will continue to fight for his son.

Maybe they’re trying to force me to move to another area, I don’t know … I’m not going to give up. If I give up, no other Asian can ever come here and feel safe.


Related post:

Americans of Color elected Obama. White Americans elected McCain.

Most White Americans voted for John McCain, while most Asian Americans, Latin@ Americans, Black Americans, and Other Americans voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.

White Americans, 43% for Obama, 55% for McCain, and 2% for Other. Black Americans, 95% for Obama, 4% for McCain, and 1% for Other. Latino Americans, 67% for Obama, 31% for McCain, and 2% for Other. Asian Americans, 62% for Obama, 35% for McCain, and 3% for Other. Other Americans, 66% for Obama, 31% for McCain, and 3% for Other.

Some White Americans claim that Black Americans voted for Obama because he is black. That is, some White Americans think that non-white people have a “tribal” mentality and that they align with whoever looks the most like them. However, if we consider the fact that most White Americans voted for the white person, and that most Asian Americans, Latin@ Americans, Black Americans, and Other Americans voted for the black person, this hypothesis fails. A better explanation is that Barack Obama was the best presidential candidate, but most White Americans have a “tribal” mentality and aligned with the person who looks the most like them.

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