Joseph L. Graves and do Americans today believe that content of character is more important than skin color?

After quick read of “Black Darwin”: Joseph L. Graves’ Call to Justice I start have more doubts if Americans still believes in words of Martin Luther King Jr, that content of their character is more important that they skin color? Belowe ther is few incohirent thoughts about that.

While I have problem with Martin Luther King, due to many immorality in his private life, that can’t be accepted in life of normal Christian, even less in the case of the Christian leader as him, I agree 100% with his words about what is true standard for the man: their character. As such, calling someone “Black Darwin” is something that I wouldn’t say. I probably don’t mind if someone was called “American Dawrin” since places when we live have much more deeper impact on our character, than our skin color.

In this article mentioned above, there is few things that sounds odd to me, like “I struggled as an undergraduate, in part because of a lack of advising, and certainly because there were no African American role models in the science departments.” Lack of role models is a thing that I can realate, but it isn’t because of peopels skin. It is simply because it is hard to find people that can guide you in the right direction. Short signeds, unjustified optymism, arogance and things like that make role models hard to find, not how they look. I have see no problem with make person with look different than mine my role models and lack of such statement from Joseph L. Graves, at least I don’t find them, are strange. Like he still can’t overcome thinking that how someone looks is less important that how your character is.

My current expirience with people from different parts of the world is that the best thing that you can do, is to don’t caring about all this American’s nonsense of “being inclusive”, just treat them like any other person. And if issue of they look come out, don’t pretend that they look as “anyone else here”, when this is not true. And it seems to me, that Americans still have problem with doing just that, which goes back to Martin Luther King’s words.

Would I get allong with Jospeh Graves? I have a doubts, because Americans when they have a “just cause” can be extremly hard to live with. You agree with them 100% or you are evil. Not wrong, evil. My way or highway to hell. Such arogant people are find everywhere in the world, but at this moment, Americans seems to me to be especialy prone to this vice. (Maybe I just biased because of my expirience?) And in the end of the article Graves writes “In the final chapter of my book, I outline a path towards social justice that all people of goodwill can get behind”, I hear in my head “Oh, here we go again”. I don’t know how this path looks like, but I already know problems with such claims. Many people claims that their path to “better world” can be accepted be “any good person”. And I know that for 99% if I find such path requiring for me acceptence of abortion as moraly neutral, I will be out in few millisecons. Which can only mean that I’m not a “good person”. Whatever, I don’t care about these opinions.

Many Americans still have a dream that one day people will be judged by their character instead of their skin color. We’ve made big strides, but we aren’t all the way there yet.

If you are in the majority, what you describe is probably true. When you are in the majority you don’t have to worry as much about discrimination. Segregation was a vivid memory for Graves’ family.

It is easy to see why university would be intimidating for a black student in that era, especially when you have no one to turn to that understands the added pressure of being a black student in that environment.

  • Ignorance” in the Collins Dictionary, is defined as:
    1. the condition or quality of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, education, etc.
    2. unawareness (of)
  • In a sense, all human beings are ignorant: none of us knows everything, few of us know much, and most of us know very little, and yet human beings manage to survive which, I suppose, is a good thing.
  • That said, ignorance prevents understanding. How can I understand something if I don’t know anything about it or am unaware of it.
  • You and I can say about each other, “You are ignorant” and be describing each other accurately, and neither of us insulting the other.
  • In your post, I see some indications of ignorance.
  • I am certainly not an expert on many things, but I am 74 years old, and I suspect that I have lived through more experiences and seen more things in the U.S., definitely, and possibly in the world than you. So I am moved by your “ignorance” to share a few experiences. Whether or not my words make a difference to you, remains to be seen.
  • I was born in the largest city of the State of Oklahoma, in 1948. Until I was 12, I lived in a very diverse neighborhood: poor, white, some Native Americans, some Mexican-Americans, … and no Blacks.
  • The first time I went to school with a Black child was when I moved to Nevada and was 12 years old.
  • In Oklahoma City, the majority of Blacks lived in an area everybody in my neighborhood called “N***** Town”.
  • When my mother took me downtown to the big stores, there were no shopping centers or malls, like today. There were commonly two, maybe three toilets; if there were three, one would be for “White Women”, one for “White Men”, and the third would be for “Colored Only”. If there were only two, then one would be for “Whites” and the other would be for “Colored Only.”
  • Public drinking fountains were either for “Whites” or “Colored”.
  • If there was a lunch counter in the store, there would be two sections: one for “Whites” and one for “Coloreds”.
  • Fortunately, I moved from Oklahoma to Nevada before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and the first efforts to integrate public schools and buildings.
  • My mother’s family lived in Tulsa, the second-largest city in Oklahoma. Tulsa was the city in which the Tulsa Race Massacre occurred over 18 hours from May 31 to June 1, 1921, when a white mob attacked residents, homes and businesses in the predominantly Black Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The event remains one of the worst incidents of racial violence in U.S. history, and, for a period, remained one of the least-known.
  • My point? My point is that there is much that you do not know about being Black in the U.S.
    You may want to be a little slower to share your ignorance.

Joseph Graves was born in 1955. This picture is from 1957:


The picture is of Elizabeth Eckford who was brave enough to attend a public university in Arkansas after the Supreme Court ruled that segregation at public universities was unconstitutional.

Here’s an excerpt from the wiki page for Joseph Graves:


I’m sure, as one distant from and never having experienced U.S. culture and history, and likely never having experienced life as a member of a visible minority within a culture that had worked very hard to oppress that minority, Graves’s concerns would make little or no sense to you. Your judgement of Graves’s concern about lack of role models who looked like him, demonstrates you are most likely a member of the dominant culture where you live and have never been in a position where you experienced or you loved and trusted someone who experienced the kind of cultural differences Graves is describing.

You are misjudging a valuable opportunity for edificatoin.


So you response is that I must be part of dominate culture where I live, so my voice isn’t worth listening? And no comments about calling someone “Black Darwin” may sounds as racists slur?

If you recognize this as evil, don’t you have a problem with calling someone “Black Darwin”? I have.

Three people response to my question. Two have profile pictures and from them I see that they would be classified as “white”. I hate that USA culture force me to say that you can be “white American” and “black American” or something like that, but it is hard to avoid. And both lecture me that I’m ignorant of living condition of people with darker skin in US and say very little about I actually said.

If you don’t see irony in this, you should look twice.

About me being from dominant culture where I live. I know from watching talk by Daryl Davis, that his friend from KKK call people protesting against they rally a “white n***” (from what I know he left the KKK for good, which is great news) and you can be called „Black face of white supremacy” for standing for “wrong” political side (I’m biased, since I like Larry Elder and I very dislike gov. Newsom). So basically I know, that in USA you can be call anything and “This proves my point”, but I will wait for some substantive argument.

Nobody is actually saying that. What others tried to say is that perhaps because you’re a member of dominant culture where you live and you never experienced US culture directly (if this is wrong, then just say it) you may not be fully aware of extent of discrimination that non-White people face in America (and other ethnically diverse countries).
When Dr Graves was complaining about lack of role models, what he really wanted was representation as there was no one else who looked like him, which that alone must have been daunting.

No, this is not a racist slur.
From the article The moniker “Black Darwin” was bestowed on me by African American undergraduates when I used to teach at UC Irvine because of my work championing evolutionary thinking in the curriculum
First of all “Black” in itself isn’t necessarily racist, unless said with intention to be so
Second, it was bestowed on him by his Black students, do you think they were being racist?

If you have direct experience of it, or perhaps have done research on, then tell us about it.


While I don’t think Graves is anywhere near Darwin I don’t see the point in taking issue with others referring to him as black Darwin. Though I’ve not seen a picture of Graves I imagine if anyone was to see him they would recognize he was black , and other than being told you won a Darwin Award, for the most part it seems a positive term. It’s just s positive comparison on their work and highlighting his race.

I don’t know the entirety of your post. I skimmed it.

I am curious what is it about King you don’t like?

As for Graves though if he does not mind being called the Black Darwin, and those who are saying it does not mean it negatively, then for everyone involved it’s positive and does not matter what those outside of it feels really. Is it weird? Sure. It’s a little weird. I obviously would not see a black guy whose a great scientist and think to call them “ black Darwin “. But it seems those involved thought of it and they all knew it was coming from a place of admiration and so I don’t think it’s connected to anything negative. But if it offends you, then by all means don’t call him that.

Context is the best way to understand how words are being used and part of the context is the relationship between the ones doing the talking.

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It’s easy to feel like this, when you don’t understand the culture you’re criticisizing and are called out on it.
That is, however, not what I said.

I am white, of European descent and middle class, and have been raised a racist in a racist culture. I am part of the dominant, historically oppressing group. Nothing here to deny or defend. It’s a fact.

I have always also been blessed with friends, teachers, coworkers, authors, etc, who have challenged my assumptions and wrong thinking. This process has gone on nearly all of my life and will probably continue to the end.

As someone who has experienced U.S. culture and spent my time dealing with it, I’ve learned that I cannot speak for the experience of someone like Joseph Graves. I must let him speak for himself. However, I have also observed what he talked about with students of my own, and friends, who have echoed his sentiments in different contexts. So, I have some
observational experience in my life that confirm what he says, even if I my own experiences have been different.

I understand how you might think this. Since it was coming from his fellow Black students, it was not a racist or demeaning comment. They were claiming greatness for a fellow Black person, equivalent to Darwin’s in a time when there was nearly no recognition of Black Success outside the Black communities. It is a commonly-used, historical construction used by Blacks in the U.S. to indicate a recognition of greatness and claiming it for their own group. I am uncomfortable using terms like this, because of my own race and what it could mean to others having those words come out of my mouth, but I will allow myself to be guided by the people who coined it, in how best to use (or avoid) it.


I think you bring up some really good points that are worth discussing. I’m in two classes this semester with Richard Tapia, a mathematician on the National Academy of Sciences. One is a graduate level optimization theory class, while the other is called “Losing the Precious Few” which talks about minorities in STEM fields (why are there so few blacks and browns in STEM, and why does this seem to be getting worse).

I think most Americans would agree that people shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin, and that jobs, awards, etc should be character and merit based. With that in mind, there are still some Americans who are racist; I used to think that just because I wasn’t racist or didn’t see racism all the time that people didn’t experience racism, or it was so rare it wasn’t worth talking about anymore. There were some studies that changed my mind (though it’s certainly gotten better). One sent out job applications where the only difference was whether the names “sounded” black and those got fewer calls. Obviously if there are challenges like this that some people or some groups face, it’s unfair.

It’s a good point when you ask “what does being black/white/brown” have to do with excellence? Perhaps for some groups, who were told they “weren’t smart enough,” it makes sense why they would adopt a label like “black Darwin.” I do wonder if this is helpful; does this just further the narrative that all researchers are white unless specified? Regardless, we do this all the time. I’ve heard many people say Brad Paisley to be a “Eddie Van Halen on Cornbread” because he’s a talented country guitarist. Maybe the way we should interpret someone being considered a “black Darwin” is “he/she’s a great evolutionary biologist and they’re black.”

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More than a little reminiscent of the excellent movie we watched last week, Hidden Figures.

Well it is rather obvious that character is what is important. But character is revealed over time rather than immediately obvious, and the fear is that we find out a person’s character a bit too late.

One of the complicating factors is culture, where there is some correlation not so much to skin color but to the racial characteristics of appearance as well as speech (which has been a measure of socio-economic class especially in some countries such as England). Culture is often more visible than character and can often be difficult for people to unentangle from character. Though often in times past the people who are caught/seen doing wrong is often more a matter of lacking the cleverness needed to hide their wrongdoing – if not a matter of people simply not turning a blind eye as they do with others.

And then there is the pattern seeking behavior of human beings which is the origin of superstition. We tend to assume causal connection between things seen together. And in that way the things which are most easily observed becomes a means of judgment of the things which are not so easily observed.

Clearly. But “Black” or “African-American” and “white” are labels that relate to a socio-cultural identification, not just a pigmentation level. Identifying as a Black American and experiencing life as a Black American is not simply a matter of slapping a label on one’s physical appearance. There are mountains of evidence that Black Americans have very different experiences in America than white Americans, because of systemic racism. And for the record, that fact is not up for debate on this forum.

This may work on an individual, person to person level, but it is not how American society works. Pretending like everyone is treated the same regardless of their race or ethnicity is just living in denial.


Black Darwin is a compliment. Darwin was a great scientific mind. The attribution of Black Darwin is saying he is one of the best Black scientists in the world.

It’s also not at all offensive in the US to call someone white or Black. They are just standard racial categories and people use those designations to describe themselves all the time.


We Americans hate it too. It is an unfortunate legacy of our national heritage. Centuries of slavery was followed by a century of segregation and denial of basic rights based on skin color. We can not understand the present without also understanding that past.


One of the apparently most silly parts is that I think if you’re part minority, you’re considered that minority–not mixed, or anything else.


Isn’t “mixed race” a thing now?

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