In the comments section of a recent post of neo's there was an interesting exchange between Occam's Beard and gcotharn (scroll about a quarter of the way down). Both had gone to lefty sites trying to illustrate the illogic of many racism charges by accusing good liberals there of being racist on the flimsiest of evidence. But instead of the light dawning, the accused protested solely on the basis of being a good person. These were, significantly, people who had demonstrated logical abilities in other conversations. Why then were they unable to even consider making a logical argument against the charge, instead reverting to character defense?
The more I thought about it, the more revealing this became. Most people think of "racist" as a fairly objective term. The line may vary from person to person, but the idea that a charge of racism must be founded on some actual evidence of treating one race differently seems rather obvious. One refutes the charge or admits to it on the basis of tangible evidence. Put this baldly, it would seem silly to use any other meaning of "racist."
Yet I admit I understand it, at least in its milder forms. Perhaps it is left over from my days as a liberal, but it seems to me mere politeness to take a bit of extra consideration with anyone who might have historical or cultural reasons to be a bit touchy. We adjust our speech much as we would adjust our physical contact for a person with a sunburn. In my recent exchange with Elisheva I chose my words carefully, not because I did not want to look antisemitic, but because I did not want to give unintentional offense. People who don't make this adjustment are seen as rather boorish. "Never speak of a rope in the family of one who has been hanged."
Most people don't mind in the least treating all others with extra consideration around selected topics. It just seems kind. But most of us also have defenses that cause us to resist someone presuming on that kindness. We capitulate over small things, yet reach a point where we consider others' demands that we change to be a boorishness of their own. We set limits on what others can demand of us in extra consideration. We refuse to be held hostage by a person who takes more favors than deserved.
But how if we believed the other person's deserts were unlimited? How can I deny the request of one who saved my very life? Or, I betrayed her years ago and will now do whatever she asks to make it up. We might then feel that the failure to meet a demand was indeed a want of goodness on our part. Imagine if we did not have the defense of limit-setting and proportion, or had voluntarily relinquished it? The objective standards of what would be acceptable social interaction would then not apply. If people cut in line or took more than their share we would no longer stop them.
Put another way, if the police in your town protected you in great danger and saved your life, you might acquiesce in any ticket they wrote on you, even if you weren't speeding. If a fire had wiped out many of the merchants on the street but spared your shop, you might intentionally not notice their cheating you, even if the fire was not your fault.
Progressives may have convinced themselves that the victim claims of numerous groups are so unlimited that any accusation must be acknowledged as fair in its own way.