Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Race against Time

The comedian Louis C.K. does a great routine about white privilege, part of which talks about time travel.

He says:

I could get in a time machine and go to any time and it will be fucking awesome when I get there. That is exclusively a white privilege. Black people can't fuck with time machines. A black guy in a time machine and it's like, "Hey, nothing before 1980. I don't want to go."

Which may be funny, but is not strictly accurate.

Sure, Europe between the 16th and 18th centuries would be problematic, to say the least, and America up to the 1960s (or later), but while a black person earlier than that in Europe might be considered exotic because of their rarity, they would not be actively discriminated against. There are records of black people living in England that go back many centuries before the slave trade without evidence of discrimination.

And then again, if we assume the white person with a time machine is an English speaker, there are plenty of times and places where he would be unwelcome, liable to be pressed into slavery (it's never been just for black people), or shot on sight for being English.

Women, on the other hand, are stuffed. Doesn't matter what race they are, without some man to support them, they'd be considered property most times and places prior to the twentieth century.

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