Thursday, July 18, 2019

Hi it's Stupid: Racism

From Safely Endangered.

Hi, it's Stupid to say getting everybody to call the president a racist isn't such a big achievement. I mean, I'm very glad the House Democratic Caucus has been able to build some unity out of all being on the same page, the hierarchy and the Squad, and voted to censure him for his wicked attacks on the Squad leaders, and that NPR has started boldly referring to his "racist tweets", but there came a point for me where I got uncomfortable, when newsperson Chris Cuomo hopped on the train:

That I actually did have a problem with, as I said. Cuomo's idea, so very TV news, is that you ought to be able to trap the criminal into a confession so that everybody can condemn him, with the implication that this is the way to extirpate racism from our society, one shunned individual at a time, which is not the case. Racist individuals aren't the problem!

The systemic properties of our society that keep reproducing racism in each generation are the problem, and the way to fix it is exactly the opposite of scapegoating particular cases, even where they're as egregious and harmful as Donald Trump: it's recognizing the pervasiveness of it, and its extent, even unto Joe Biden (who also memorably said recently that he "didn't have a racist bone in his body") and you and me, throughout the white world in particular but not only that, and enabled genetically in everybody, in the human propensity for implicit bias, which I wrote about during the 2016 campaign:
Everybody is, in a very precise sense, a racist and a sexist. It's not how we think, it's how we process when we're not particularly thinking, or beneath the thinking, invisible. It's not a bad thing, in that precise sense, it's just who we are and how we evolved as a species, but it's very inappropriate for the communities into which we've evolved over the past hundred thousand years, and it's a problem to be overcome.
People need to work to overcome their implicit bias. Kids need to spend time in proximity with kids who are different so that they can learn how superficial the differences are, adults need to ask themselves all the time, "Am I doing this? Am I favoring person A over person B for reasons I'd be ashamed of if I were aware of them?" Trying to teach ourselves to use inclusive language, what the wingers call "political correctness", is important too.
Somebody who's doing the necessary work of not being a racist never says, "I am not a racist," because they know how much work it is.
So that if Cuomo's fantasy Trump were to really say such a thing, far from making us shun him, it should encourage us to spend more time with him. Not that he ever would, but people with similar worldviews and more mental flexibility might, and we'd be better off if they did.

Another way of looking at it, which got some play on NPR this morning, rises above the neuropsychology of it to the social aspect, and sounds quite different, but comes down to the same thing in the long run: Ibram X. Kendi asking that we not use "racist" as a category of person, as an identity, because it's not who you are but stuff you do, and thoughts you have:

Nobody is essentially a racist, Kendi said in the interview (which you ought to listen to) but there is essentially racist behavior, and that's what needs to stop. Senator Warren caught that very nicely:

Trump is the worst, but lovely white (and Asian) Manhattan liberals are contributing to it too, in fighting proposals to integrate our specialized schools or replace Rikers Island with borough jails (which is a big reason for the current hostility to Bill de Blasio in the city, I'm sorry to say). I'm not innocent either, scheming years ago to get my kids into "gifted" classes that I knew would be whiter than the alternative (there was at least one very good school in the zone that didn't have gifted classes, and I should have known about it). Chris Cuomo's not catechizing any of us, just saying.

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