Fundamental Differences – Racism

My objective with this blog is to put myself inside the head of a person on the right and a person on the left to determine if a particular viewpoint is reasonable. Sometimes, I find that completely opposite positions on a subject are both reasonable.

Take abortion. If you put yourself in the head of someone who believes that life truly begins at conception, then aborting fetuses is akin to murdering babies. At the same time, if you truly believe that a fetus is just a collection of cells, then focusing on the ill effects of banning abortions makes a ton of sense.

Both sides take a reasonable position based on their viewpoint, and there is no provable fact that can establish whether one side is correct or not. (That being said, I wish a lot of partisans on both side were more reasonable when dealing with people who hold the opposite viewpoint. Calling a person a baby killer accomplishes nothing. A Christian woman who opposes abortion isn’t being a misogynist.)

Sometimes though, when I look at an issue from both sides, I just can’t get to a point where I see equal reasonableness. Take racism.

Most on the right pretty much operate on the principle that it isn’t okay to judge someone based solely on skin color. (Note that this is a pretty interesting statement. I definitely couldn’t have used “most” several decades ago.) Unfortunately, the left does not appear to operate on a similar principle as outlined in this post: https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/119667759/posts/564

Here’s how the blogger defines racism:

It means,  that everyone (but especially us white people) are socialized to be racist in many small ways. When I say that I’m racist here’s what it means: I get treated better in society compared to a nonwhite person of equal accomplishment because I am white.

To a person on the right, the way you fight racism is to stand against anyone you see who is judging a person based solely on skin color. To a person on the left, though, this is how you fight racism:

Your first reaction to being called out as racist (especially by people who experience it every day) shouldn’t be “—- you, no I’m not!” it should be “Did I just do or say something racist?”

(Note: I edited out the curse word that the post’s author used.)

Before anything else, let me compliment the author. I feel that, if we truly want to understand each other, it’s important to dig down to our fundamental differences, and the post’s author has illuminated one of them in a well-written and cogent manner.

That being said, here are the problems, in no particular order, that I had with the opinions being expressed by the post:

Individual Responsibility

As a person who leans right, I believe that, as an adult, no one can take responsibility for me. You cannot offend me; I can only choose to be offended. If my kids and I don’t eat, I should have worked harder or smarter to put bread on the table; it’s not your responsibility to take care of me.

The author of the post twists things so that I am responsible for how someone else feels. Take an exchange were two white strangers meet on a train:

“Where y’all from?” White Stranger #1 says.

“California.”

WS1 grins. “Where ’bouts? I’ve been to San Francisco. It was lovely. Those Victorian houses!”

Now let’s look at such an exchange again but make one of the strangers a Person of Color (POC):

“Where y’all from?” White Stranger #1 says.

The POC snarls. “That is so offensive! I’m from the United States, just like you!”

“Huh?”

Literally, asking a POC where they’re from is considered a microaggression, so where White Stranger #1 thinks to open a conversation with a typical statement, offense is created.

In the mind of the left, the fault for this offense lies completely with the WS1, meaning that the POC has no responsibility for the situation.

I’m sorry, but I just can’t buy that as reasonable. The POC has a choice to be reasonable or to take immediate offense at anything that can even possibly be considered a slight. Anytime you’re given a choice, you inherently, at the very least, share responsibility for the path the future takes.

No Special Consideration

The author’s post indicates a belief that the world owes “fairness” to oppressed people fairness. My belief is that the world does not owe me, or anyone else, anything. Not a living. Not food. Not happiness. Nothing.

Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player of all time. It’s not fair that he should be able to so easily beat me at  basketball. He should be made to play hobbled in order to be fair to me.

My child is smarter than a lot of other kids. That’s not fair to them. We should cause some kind of brain damage somehow so that she doesn’t have that advantage.

The truth is that everyone is a combination of strengths and weaknesses. What makes America great is that we all have the opportunity to capitalize on our strengths and work hard to overcome our weaknesses in order to achieve greatness.

Can a black man become President?

No, that’s impossible due to institutional racism, right?

Hey … wait a second …

The Definition Makes the Word “Racist” Meaningless

What’s the word used to describe someone like my White Stranger #1 above?

Racist.

What’s the word used to describe a KKK member who lynches a black person?

Racist.

By calling everyone a racist, the left has minimized the impact of the word. I’m a racist. You’re a racist. Everyone is a racist, including people of color.

If everyone is a racist, no one is. By the definition the post’s author gives, if you call me a racist, my response is, “So?”

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6 thoughts on “Fundamental Differences – Racism”

  1. This was interesting. As a Brit American politics is a complete mystery to me, and many of my countrymen, BOTH your political parties look right wing to us 😉

    So, I can see how you thought the other post was twisted but I suppose it’s just a difference in how a person interprets their responsibility to others.

    The way it comes across to me is that with right-leaning view, we are making the assumption that we are not going to offend anyone, by din’t of the fact that we do not intend to or perhaps we are so uber-confident that we are good people that we feel above judgement and qualified to judge. So the onus, for us, is that if we know what we do and say is fine, it is other people’s actions we should be policing – calling out others who are being racist when we see it happen, for example. Sounds logical.

    With left view, comes the idea that we may inadvertently offend someone, without even knowing it, because our background is different to theirs and they may well be sensitive about stuff that we would never have encountered and which probably wouldn’t even be on our radar. So the onus on that view is that we should be constantly putting ourselves in the other person’s place, trying to use our imagination to see the world their way and policing our own actions. Also sounds logical.

    The most effective course, is probably to do a bit of both. There’s always grey between the black and white the older I get, the more often I find that the compromise contains the answer.

    So there you go. Just some thoughts … they are bound to strike you and your readers as a bit odd but I thought I’d share them.

    Cheers

    MTM

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  2. Interesting thoughts. Something to consider if you are truly trying to get into the broad spectrum of interpretation (at your own risk). One fundamental thing that I think is missing from the stranger analogy (granted I didn’t read the entire post by the other blogger), is history of each person. On the surface level, yes it seems pretty unfair and imbalanced. To be objective, however, a POC most likely has those kind of questions posed to them constantly, especially if their dress is ‘different’. As a white male myself, I am rarely if ever asked that question, especially in my home state. Outside of it sure – I’m from Minnesota. Because of the likelihood a person of color gets that question a lot, WS1 may get the frustration of having to have asked that question again. Are they at fault or racist, certainly not, but I argue that the conversation isn’t complete or at least considering the following:

    WS1: Where y’all from?
    POC: Iowa
    WS1: Really?!? I would never have guessed. You don’t look like your from Iowa!

    See the difference?

    I also would assert that in a 1-1 situation, a POC wouldn’t respond like that. I could see that response if in a crowd of people they were singled out and asked that question, especially if there the only POC there.

    Context is important. No one is saying that if everyone is racist, then a POC couldn’t be successful. The argument is that it is more DIFFICULT for a person of color to achieve success in our country because white culture is institutionalized – meaning everything is tailored to liking of caucasian individuals. Would Obama have been president if he wasn’t half black, half white? Hard to say. I think, however, if you had a white person in the office, their origin of birth wouldn’t have been questioned as much. The media doesn’t help either; it portrays white people in a far better light than it does people of color. Think about it – a bunch of college students in a predominantly white neighborhood and are made up of predominantly white individuals trash a street after a game or in protest of something they don’t like. It’s portrayed as a protest or just ‘boys will be boys’ or ‘they got a little carried away’. If people of color do it – they’re rioting, they’re destroying a neighborhood, or they get criticized for violence never being the answer and yet we applaud a white president for bombing a military base. It’s the subtle nuances that we may not pick up on. Does that make us racist? No, not intentionally. I argue that once we do know and we don’t hold the outlets accountable for the same standards, that is skirting racism.

    I think a lot of times it’s a ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’. It what we do with that information after we do know that defines us. We don’t realize that we have a society based on a white view of what acceptable behavior is, what laws aught to followed. We will never know what it’s like to be racially profiled or have that question eating away at us everytime we go into a job interview or are waiting for service.

    I think the same can be said of the wealthy. They live in a completely different world than we do, so no I don’t believe they are all willfully ignorant of what the ‘real world’ is because they’ve only known their way of life. Just like we don’t understand how stacked the deck is against POCs.

    I’d also caution against a person to person analysis (MJ vs you) because, in my opinion, that logic is flawed because you’re focusing on ABILITY not racial differences. One could reasonably argue that there’s a strong likelihood that MJ could’ve made a lot more money if he was white, could have had more endorsements if he was white. It could arguably be also said that if he screws up, the repercussions from society would be more severe. Look at what happened with Kobe Bryant. If he were Larry Bird, do you think it would’ve received as much attention? Take everyday people. Rhetorical Scenario: Person gets shot. Person is white. Logical interpretation regardless of the ethnicity of individual is that it was the result of an accident, a dispute, or criminal violence. I argue that first assumption is – probably robbed or mugged or innocent bystander in some gang-related activity (also, the thought of gangs usually aren’t red-headed freckled white kids). Person shot is black – probably some drug-related dispute or gang-related activity. That’s the spin we’re given. Is it right? No. Does everyone think this? I would hope not. But that’s what are inclination is because we’re lead to believe that white people are safe and brown people are not. Immigrants are invading our country. Do we think it’s French people? English people? Canadians? Or do are they a group of individuals that speak Mexican Spanish or Arabic? Look at Sandy Hook compared to North Carolina, or the mosque in Canada.

    I’m sorry this got way too long. I just want to say that I’m not saying you are racist. I’m not saying you don’t have good points. You do. I’m saying that most things lack context. Again, I’m sorry. I won’t post something this large again.

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    1. Lots of stuff in your post. Doubt I’ll get to it all. Sorry.

      “Because of the likelihood a person of color gets that question a lot, WS1 may get the frustration of having to have asked that question again.”

      The point isn’t that someone might get legitimately frustrated at being asked a question. The point is that the question is viewed as racist. If that’s your definition of racist, then, imo, being a racist is completely meaningless. Not a negative thing in the least.

      Do you want the word “racist” to have a negative connotation or not?

      “The argument is that it is more DIFFICULT for a person of color to achieve success in our country because white culture is institutionalized – meaning everything is tailored to liking of caucasian (sic) individuals.”

      There will always be a dominate culture and people who don’t conform to that culture will always find it harder to fit in an succeed. Say I’m a hiring manager and a nicely dressed young man of a different race comes in for an interview. He’s polite. Shakes my hands. Meets my eyes. His equally qualified opposition is a young man of my race who came neither dressed nor prepared for the interview. Who am I going to hire? The one who conformed to my cultural standards, in this case the young man of the other race.

      Were both young men to interview at a tech startup or something where the culture is a lot different, the well-dressed young man might be the one who doesn’t fit in and, thus, is not hired.

      I’m not sure what any of this has to do with racism.

      “I think, however, if you had a white person in the office, their origin of birth wouldn’t have been questioned as much.”

      I’m sorry, but this is one of the most incredibly naive statements I’ve read in a while.

      The Republicans and Democrats are in a war for power. Any weapon that can be used against the other side will be. Race has nothing to do with it.

      “If people of color do it – they’re rioting, they’re destroying a neighborhood, or they get criticized for violence never being the answer and yet we applaud a white president for bombing a military base.”

      The “protesters” who got out of hand in your scenario are committing illegal acts. Assault. Property damage. And I couldn’t care less their color.

      The white president took an action he had the legal right to take.

      So if there’s a message to be learned from your scenario, maybe it’s:

      Legal = Good
      Illegal = Bad

      “I’d also caution against a person to person analysis (MJ vs you) because, in my opinion, that logic is flawed because you’re focusing on ABILITY not racial differences.”

      I refuse to believe that I am defined solely by my gender or my race or by any other attribute. I am a human being, full of wonderful abilities and complex flaws, all of which help and hinder my success in a million minor and not so minor ways.

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  3. Funny how Left and Right have, at least in some ways (e.g., assumptions one can make based on race), danced each other around to the opposite positions over the last few decades.

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