“Liberals are the real racists!” has been around forever. The appropriate response is to laugh in their faces and not give a single quantum of credence to the assertion.
Yes, but what do you do? Because calling a relative or friend a racist pretty much ends the relationship in most cases. I mean look at what happened in yesterday’s hearing when Ms. Tlaib just suggested a fellow member was having a black staffer in order not to appear racist, and Meadows threw a tantrum and everybody had to tell him, “No you’re a good boy.” And then to her, “Tell him you’re a good boy.” I suppose it’s a matter of style in relationships, akin to how you break up or maintain them. Do you just ghost, and let the relationship starve in a slow death? Or do you pull the trigger and end it quickly?
I think there’s got to be another option to just calling somebody a racist. I think it has to relate to a sort of Socratic method. But I have not figured out how to do it yet.
If they’re a racist, call them a racist, acknowledge they’re a racist. If you don’t want to tell them to their face, that’s up to you, but don’t defend them as not a racist if they really are. If you defend a racist by trying to protect them people who call them a racist you become part of the problem not the solution. If you don’t want to go to dinner and then call them racist, I can see that. I have issues with my family, not my friends because if they’re racist, they’re not a friend to me, but there is no way I am going to set my family loose and watch them do that stuff in silence, but that doesn’t mean every time we see a movie I tear into them.
It’s a balance, but it’s easier to act like using the word racist is somehow worst than experiencing racism when you don’t actually experience racism. It is one of the most mind boggling things I see, this extra protection around racists while watching people who experience that racism as if it’s somehow not as bad.
I’ve had some limited success in approaching it by saying “That [behavior/attitude/statement] is racist.” Small but potentially important distinction, in terms of direct conversations.
Now, is someone who behaves/believes/says racist things in fact a racist? In practice, yes. But if you want to reach someone, attacking their identity (they almost certainly do not consider themselves “a racist”) isn’t a great tack.
I had an epiphany in the wake of the Cohen public hearing yesterday: I’ve been thinking of this all wrong. In a post-truth world, the GOP are the true progressive party,embracing the new world order, while the Dems are the true conservative party, clinging to Truth and Justice and the American Way as some kind of old fashioned lifeboat…
I understand this. And I think we’ve had this discussion before in various forms. But when it comes to my parents I don’t only have to think of me. I have to think of my son, who has a relationship with his grandparents. He knows they are wrong in supporting Trump, even if their excuse is they didn’t like Hillary Clinton and that’s why they voted for him. He’s–meaning my son–solid. But he still needs a relationship with them.
Perhaps this is hypocritical. If my son were to turn out to be gay, or transgender, or neutral, and they were to be bigots about that, I’d certainly cut them out of my life. No question.
But they do not see themselves as racists. They just don’t see it. They “have many black friends” and my mother works for free health clinics that help minorities. She is much more active than I am in that regard. She supported Trump but has a total disconnect. She sees it as saving babies. And doesn’t call me a baby killer because I support the right of choice.
So telling her she is a racist would end our relationship and create ripples through the whole family. It’s not as simple as saying, “You voted for Trump, you’re racist.”
So, again, I have to think there is another way. A way of tugging on the line, the way you hook a fish. You can throw dynamite in the water and kill them all and destroy the meat. Or you can hook and pull by degrees. I have to think there’s a way to do that without losing your family.
I respect this. I’m a white guy whose only experience with bigotry was Polish jokes and being called a fag because I was in theater. Which is absolutely nothing. So I freely admit that I’m asking questions in an arena where I don’t understand the brutality. But I’m asking.
Very well put, @Adam_B. I learned that I needed to adopt this in conversations in my relationships with the women in my life. You never say things that label your partner as such-and-such, you talk about the behavior and you talk about it in terms of it being from your perspective. If you say, “You are this,” there isn’t any room to change or even argue. If you say, “You’re acting like this to me,” then there is.
I didn’t even think of applying it to these issues. You’ve kind of opened my eyes. And it’s so obvious.
That’s because we continue to view “racism” as an on/off all or nothing, “you are a good person, no problems at all, purer than snow” versus “you are a bad person who cannot hold any office or any job or keep any relationship or friendship”, which is insane. We don’t treat any other form of bad or horrible human behavior that way: we treat murder much worse than assault, etc.
We need to view racial bias in a proportional way. A lot of people in this country have racist attitudes, but that doesn’t mean every one of those people is a full blown race-hater who dehumanizes and wants to brutalize people of color. Very few of us are 100% pure without any racial assumptions or ignorance or privilege at all. Almost all of us need to do better.
And when faced with obvious or apparent racism in life we need to look at it proportionally: almost everyone who is comfortable with Trump as President either has at least somewhat racist views or is comfortable with those views, but that doesn’t mean every single one of those people is a full blown Illinois Nazi.
One way to look at it is in tiers. My view is the most common type of racism in the US is racial ignorance, where the different experience of minority groups is just ignored or disregarded, and assumptions are made that white culture/history is “American” culture/history. That’s widespread but in my view much more dealable than the more severe tiers.
The next tier in my view is racial prejudice which goes beyond ignorance to actual bias. Not every voter who is racially ignorant is also racially prejudiced.
And the worst tier is what I think of as racial hatred, where the prejudice has metastasized into an actual desire to harm, oppress, segregate, etc. Not every racially ignorant person is prejudiced and not every prejudiced person is full of overt hate.
When talking with friends and family who have racist views, I think you have to take these distinctions into consideration. Specifically I think talking about “ignorance” (or “inexperience” if you want to be diplomatic) and “prejudice” is more effective than talking about “racism”.
This issue makes me crazy because we seem perfectly capable of grasping nuance on things like degrees of crime, degrees of assault, degrees of theft, etc., and yet on the topic of racism it’s “PERFECT” vs “EVIL!!!”, which is just not how humans work.
This is an excellent post, @Sharpe, and I agree with most of what you say. The problem is in implementation.
Perhaps, but the problem, again, it is how you say what you say, taking into account how the person hears it.
Here is a fairly domestic way of putting it, for an example. Of late when I have a disagreement with my girlfriend–let’s say about keeping the kitchen clean–I get accused of ‘mansplaining’ what keeping the kitchen clean means. Even when I’m the one holding the sponge. Now I may very well be doing that, but I’m probably not, but saying I’m not might just compound it. I know you understand this given your background. Denying an accusation sometimes confirms it in the mind of the accuser. In this case, I’m just disagreeing. What her using that term means to me now, however, is that it becomes harder and harder to have a reasonable discussion. Because I worry, “Am I mansplaining?” Which is tantamount to, “Am I even allowed to disagree?”
That is, of course, ridiculous. But people hear what they hear.
So calling somebody a racist is not going to be useful. Even if the person they voted for, or even campaigned for, is clearly racist. They believe they have their reasons and blah blah blah. We all justify our choices. But pointing out different facts would help. Maybe.
Which further leads me to despair. Since Trump has waged a war on facts. So, I don’t know.
I think it’s a matter of remaining calm in personal relationships with regard to politics. “When he said ________, what do you think he meant?” for instance. I’m not sure that will work, but it certainly may lead to a more constructive conversation.
I’m going to do something here that is also highly unusual here, America, and actually ask you to consider this from the other side. How much harm do you think this faux ignorance actually causes, this one that we’re going to put at the bottom of the tier and not take seriosly.
Ex. I am going to allow some ignorant person to claim that there is this made up thing called white culture, allow them to believe that everything around them, because all they see is white faces, can be called white culture. This allows them to believe that the music they listen to has no contributors other than white people which we know is not true. We can continue to let them believe that we put a white man on the moon and ignore the fact that there were non-whites behind this… allow them to spend their entire life ignoring contributions from any other race so they can wrap up their white culture in a made up blanket to protect it… and what harm did they do. They erased history. They made people invisible. They downplayed their value as humans and as a result, millions of generations grow up not knowing about these contributors. It’s one of the reasons why during Black History month some group decided to focus on the KKK, the white perspective, again, and didn’t talk about a single black person, with a name, with a voice, a purpose. It’s the reason why something like the Green Book existed, but the biggest focus on it, is again, the white perspective.
It’s a lot of harm, lasting harm. There is no such thing as a little racism coming from someone who thinks and does racist acts but isn’t really racist so it’s such a small no big deal we can softball it. Again, that perspective…
If you allow people to believe in the inferior, their kids don’t get opportunities, no considerations for advance programs or advance schools. They’re ignored at the back of the class. They’re denied jobs because of “minor” racism but no they don’t want to kill them.
A lifetime, more than a lifetime, generations before and after, of being erased, ignored and overlooked, treated less than, told you can never be… tell me, how minor again is that?
It is not minor. It is egregious.
But I’m thinking about how we move the needle. As you said so well when we talked earlier about reaching across the table. It’s not the same thing, but it’s similar.
We talked about this when I brought up my folks learning to accept gay marriage because they met my gay friends. The challenge is, how do we do it? Because I don’t think blunt force trauma is going to work.
We already tried it your way. We have Trump and Nazis marching in the street, in political parties. Years, decades of very minor disturbances compared to the gross neglect and horrific treatment of other groups… and now the racists are being called exactly what they are and people want to go back to what we were doing before.
These people waited in the dark until they thought it was okay to finally reveal what they really thought after years of being quiet about it. They’re surprised every time they get push back and these aren’t people born during Civil Rights.
They’re ignorant because they choose to be, and when you make that choice, it’s a choice you should not be able to hide behind.
Racism is not minor. It only be viewed as such by people who really think the line is a rope around a tree as “real” racism which ignores the prison populations, the millions of opportunities lost due to nothing other than being born in one group or another, and the fact that to this very day, there is so much effort, so much angst trying to protect the oppressors and so little consideration for those that are being oppressed by those exact same people.
“I am tired of people saying, ‘I’m gonna vote the same way as bigots, but I don’t share the ideology of bigots.’ Well, you share the action and the agenda of bigots. We need to hold that accountable.”
I think there are people who can be taught or somehow brought around to ideas that they previously would expound against. I think many people have changed in regards to how they look upon the LGBT world. I think with race many people simply don’t understand that certain beliefs and actions are detrimental to others of a different race or ethnicity. They have never looked at them from that side before. Look at how conservatives are reacting to the #MeToo movement. But make it personal, show them how people they know are effected, now their sons and daughters are effected, and many do change.
Calling them names will do nothing but alienate them.
But of course not all people are rational enough to evolve when they see obvious inequities. They are your true racists, the true ignorant of the world. Nothing will make them see the light.
As liberals do people ever hold their nose and vote for what they consider the lesser of two evils? Are they willing to accept something they don’t like because, in their opinion, it is better than the alternative?
Should those on the right allowed that same option?
After all if everyone saw things the same way there would only be one political party. And I don’t see right now that either party is in full agreement with even the members of their own party.
@Nesrie, there’s a difference between saying there are lesser and greater degrees of racism and saying certain degrees are “minor”.
We have to be willing to make distinctions, without giving up the fight. For example, I fully agree with you that racial ignorance is a serious problem. Where I draw a distinction is I think people with that attitude can be approached more effectively than people who have gone further into overt prejudice or even further into overt hatred.
That doesn’t mean giving those people a pass or ignoring the racial problems. But it does mean approaching things differently. For example, tacking out ignorance by pointing that other people might see it differently. That’s going to have a greater chance of getting through than just shutting someone off completely.
I understand these issues are incredibly tough. For me, the issue I struggle with is how to deal with people who have political attitudes that I consider seriously problematic in non-political interactions. For example, in my boardgaming group we keep the peace by prohibiting political talk at the gatherings, but some right wing types still do, and I ignore them, but you know, I also avoid playing with them, but I don’t confront them either. Or when I deal with people in various jobs who have political attitudes that bother the hell out of me, how do I deal with that? Mostly I just ignore it and try to minimize contact but am I going to stop doing business with every Rush Limbaugh fan I meet? And yet, when someone does quote Rush or whatever during an interaction, it bothers the fuck out of me.
America in 2019 sucks, and there are no easy answers.
I think you think, and others here, don’t believe these people, these people, can and have already caused lasting harm. You might believe that having some scream in your face, nigger, with spittle dripping off their lips and striking your skin is far more harmful than the person who shrugs and says people like you don’t get into this school, or the person who wrote a complaint about bad service because the person was not white and doesn’t complain about the people doing the same job and offering the same service because they’re white somehow isn’t as bad.
You would be wrong if you think that. The tiki torch wielding assholes might be horrifying to look at, the other shit is far more harmful.There is nothing lower tier about subtle, lifetime of consequences racism. And it is racism, no matter how much you like that person.
Actually, I disagree. I was pretty aggressive last time around.
I have to say that here you’re wrong. I value most of what you say in any thread, Nesrie, but I won’t accept that.
I know they’ve caused lasting harm. I understand that casual racism (I hate the word “casual”) causes lasting harm. But short of eradicating them (not an option, obviously), how do we change their minds, bring others in, and continue the progress we saw a few years ago. How do we do it? If I tell a Trump voter she is racist, she’s just more likely to become entrenched.
So how do we do what you suggested above? How do we “reach across the table” to those who can be swayed? Do we just point over at our relatives and say, “Don’t be like them. They’re racist.”?
There has to be some nuance. I mean, we’re seeing how sledgehammer diplomacy works right now, in the real world. It doesn’t. So what do we employ to save our democracy?
I mean not allowing anyone who’s registered as a Republican in the last 50 years to vote would be a good start.