Den of the Cyphered Wolf

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yes Everybody is A Little Bit Racist But That Doesn't Make It Alright

America had a stupid reaction to Hilary Clinton's "deplorables" comment. Most of the press wanted to stay far the hell away from actually confronting its content in favor of focusing on strategy and fall out everybody else well...

But  the New York Times ran an article by J.D. Vance explains why everybody is upset in a not crazy insane way and talking his article seems like a good way to address the matter.

He starts out by saying things I fundamentally agree with. Everybody is a little bit racist or at least tribalistic and judgemental (including myself).

We are most concerned about the wellbeing of ourselves and or people we can identify as being similar to ourselves. We view ourselves, our traits, views and the circumstances that inform all that as the default and believe any variation to be out of the ordinary rather than just a variation.

And yet despite all of that people are fundamentally decent.  

People are complicated and people are neither bad nor good they are just people.

But, here is the rub,  we aren't just talking about a person. We're talking about people and the thing about people is that they shape and are shaped by culture, social institutions, and social forces around them.

As a Black man in America, I've just gotten used to the idea that there is a certain amount of racism I'm just going to have to tolerate if I don't want to just write the whole damn country and most of the people in it off. While I fear racism I also fear what my anger at perceived racism could turn me into.

That being said, racism, sexism homophobia, and Islamaphobia have and can lead to people, not a person but people making horrifying macro-decisions. And on aggregate, there is no such thing as that stuff being harmless because it contributes to an environment that excuses or at least desensitizes people to those larger macro-decisions.

The "deplorables" comment was meant as a wake-up call, a way to acknowledge both societal and individual flaws, to recognize imperfection and if not fix it at least ponder its consequences, to at least entertain the question am I a little bit racist and if I am what does it mean. Is that racism hurting people and if so how?

Sure it was a naked political move in the hope that one of the obvious answers to that question is supporting a candidate for president who would make decisions based on that which would hurt people. But still.

Governments, specifically governments that are representative democracies, are made up of people elected into office by other people to enact policies they support.

The hard truth is that while Donald Trump is a racist, he is one racist in a vast ocean of racists. He could have only gotten this far, won the Republican nomination if a sizable portion of the country was alright ignoring the prospect of  an overt bigot in the white house or at the very least didn't understand what bigotry was when they saw it.

And that isn't on Donald Trump.

That's on his supporters.

Let me say it again. Either Donald Trump's supporters are fine supporting a bigot for the office of President of the United States of America, one of the most powerful posts in the world or they don't understand what racism is.

Either of those things is something that deserves to be called out or at least commented on.

Is it insulting and divisive?

Yes. Yes it is.   But it's also the truth. You can make the argument that they aren't voting in favor of Donald Trump BECAUSE of his racism but that doesn't change the fact that they are still voting for a racist candidate.

The word racist is more than an insult. It actually represents a concept. And the fact that being associated with that concept is stigmatizing doesn't change the fact that Trumps supporters have willingly associated themselves with a racist candidate and the overt more devout racists who also support him.

While that can be used as a moral judgment against them it is also a statement of fact.

Through that support, they are turning a blind eye to and excusing the racism of the rest of the Trump camp. That can have real consequences.

For the sake my argument I will limit myself to governmental consequences such as fairness in the appropriations process, government accountability in instances when policies are demonstrably disenfranchising minority groups and the defense of civil rights protections (which in many cases Trump's rhetoric already ignores), though there is a litany of other cultural ones.

I find that infuriating.

When discussing racism or any injustice really one of the hardest things to confront is societal complicity.

"Why don't we all do something?"

By not doing something, tacit approval is given, the message is sent that even if deemed unfavorable bigotry, that again can have real consequences, is acceptable.

In that complicity, lies the original sins of my country. Slavery and the Native American genocide, It was not just the deeds of evil men but willful blindness of  the country as a whole that allowed such horrors to triumph as they benefited from them.

That can not be ignored.  Both domestically and internationally the government is too powerful an institution to ignore how the policies it enacts at the behest of its people can negatively impact lives.

That being said I don't expect John and Jane Smith to join the revolution. People have lives and jobs.

But what I do expect is a little awareness and empathy. A desire to limit how much WORSE our actions could make others lives. One of easiest ways to do that is to take that into account when voting for leaders.

It is a sin to let people who don't off the hook in the same way I feel it is a sin to let the founders off the hook for slavery, Jackson off the hook for the Trail of Tears, FDR of the hook for internment,  or even Clinton herself off the hook for mass incarceration. And all of the people who supported all of that. It is a sin to let my country off the hook. We have too much wealth, power and influence not to take responsibility for the harm we do and have done and still can do.

We need to have the race conversation. And it needs to be a conversation. One side can't just get defensive.

How does race, gender, religion, sexual orientation and identity in general affect the way Americans interact with each other and the institutions that surround them? Finding truth is going to involve something I see rarely happen. How do these things affect how people perceive and are perceived by the world around them? The answers we find have to be deeper that racism is bad, I'm not bad, so I can't be racist.

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