Sunday, August 18, 2019

Sorry, D00d, You Can't Be the Arbiter of Racism

I avoid describing myself as 'not a racist', because it's not my position to make that determination. I endeavor to avoid racist and misogynist behavior, but this is a choice that must be made on a continuing basis- in any given situation, am I acting in a manner which doesn't negatively impact people of color or women? I'd like to think that I have a pretty good track record, but a lot of self-assessment and examination of biases is involved... in other words, it involves work. The determination of whether or not I am acting in a racist fashion must be made by others, not myself. Now that I have that preamble out of the way, I've often joked that the surest indication that someone is a racist is that they say, "I am not a racist". That's usually the preface to a clause which contains racist content.

Why the verbose introductory paragraph? Well, a Trump staffer has appointed himself an arbiter of racism on the TV machine:

But let's be very clear, it did not start with Donald Trump. I recall it being argued that Mitt Romney was a racist. I recall it being argued that George W. Bush was a racist. This has been going on a long time and I maintain my point earlier, even though what was really laid out clear earlier in our conversation, it was amazing, the honesty. Because I am white, I am not supposed to have an opinion on this and I am supposed to "shut up." That's the ultimate goal here. I maintain my opinion, it is not effective. We ought to talk about the actual policies and actions and the default it seems on the left is that if you agree with the policies, yes. that may disproportionately impact the community of color, that's automatically racist.

It is not so. I am just simply arguing in the marketplace of political discourse, it absolutely...and I did not say I was worried about Democrats and Republicans. I am talking about people in the middle. People we need to engage in this discourse. Even when we use these labels really cause people to put filters up and not listen. I think it would be healthy for our overall discourse, particularly for this point in time when we had historic levels of polarization that we go to the heart of the issue and sets some of the labels aside.

If the use of these labels causes people to 'put filters up and not listen', it's safe to say that those people are comfortable with racist policies, that they are unwilling to entertain the notion that their actions contribute to systemic inequality. Racism works on a societal level: the 'redlining' of African-American neighborhoods, the difficulty with which borrowers of color get credit- these are racist policies which aren't as overt as a burning cross on a family's lawn. In his subsequent statement, the Trump staffer tries to deny his white privilege by changing the topic to class:

I would argue -- you tell me my growing up at a trailer park in northeast Texas, being the first person in my family to go to college, working two full time jobs to put myself through college and that's white privilege?

Even granting his family's poverty, the trailer park in which he grew up was safer than a prosperous black neighborhood. He was the first person in his family to go to college, but I'd bet actually folding money that he never received death threats for doing so. The white privilege that he denies is having a, as the SJWs would put it, 'safe space' in which he could learn and attain a higher status than his ancestors before them. There were not institutional forces arrayed to kill his ambitions before they could grow.

NPR media critic Eric Deggans articulated a point that I have often made, that people of color are the 'canaries in the coal mine' of a society- they are affected first by negative policies. By tolerating such policies as subprime lending or militarized policing which disproportionately affect people of color, you increase the possibility that these policies will be 'coming to a theater near you'. Listen to people of color, listen to women, listen to LGBTQ people, and religious minorities... the warnings they sound may someday save your own asses.

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