Friday, October 16, 2009


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.


Donna B. said...

This post makes me angry and despondent, for myself and for the majority of minorities, individually.

The confounding factor for all "minority" complaints today (not in the past, but today) is that membership in a group eliminates individual responsibility.

It is the abdication of individual responsibility that is the downfall of socialism, communism, Marxism, et al.

I live in a city that is 51% black and I've witnessed the abominable behavior of black Al Sharpton followers toward working class black people.

I forget what the current outrage was that brought Sharpton to our town, but I will never forget the airplane ride I shared with Sharpton and his "gang". I was one of two white passengers, though the crew was all white.

That the Sharpton group were less than courteous to the crew is not the point. It was their treatment of the black employees of the airport that made me nauseous.

One of Sharpton's "captains" was met by someone in a nice new car and she opened the trunk to reveal a similar mess of junk as mine would reveal.

I would have felt guilty to ask any porter of any race to clean and re-arrange my trunk in order to fit my luggage, but apparently the Sharpton "captain" nor his driver had any such feelings.

I watched this possibly minimum waged porter completely empty and re-arrange this trunk to fit the "captain's" luggage AND Sharpton's luggage. I did not know it was Sharpton's luggage until he approached the car and handed the porter $5 before he got in the car.

I had watched this porter work for at least 20 minutes to try to fit all the luggage into this trunk along with the junk that was already in it. He succeeded... and damn, that was worth a heckuva lot more than five bucks.

Anyway, my husband arrived to retrieve me and my luggage a few minutes after and could not quite understand why I wanted to tip the same porter $20 for putting one suitcase in my relatively clean trunk.

I despise Al Sharpton because of I have seen him be an ass.

Had a man of any color treated a porter of any color the same way, I'd describe him as an ass also.

The ultimate in racism is to think that blacks can't be asses because they are black. The ability to be an ass is a HUMAN attribute, not a white one.

jaed said...

I thought of the discussion you mention a day or so ago, while reading a thread about the recent Rush Limbaugh imbroglio. One charge made by commenters in that thread was that Rush had stated Sonia Sotomayor had made a racist statement. My understanding is that he based this remark on her comment to the effect that a Latina woman would make better judgments than a white man.

Now, one may disagree as to the virulence of the comment. (Personally, recognizing that such remarks don't cause anyone in academia to bat an eye, I worry more about academia than about Sotomayor personally; she's just going with the flow here.) Nonetheless, this is the attribution of superiority and inferiority to different persons, based on race. That is, as Janeane Garofolo might put it, "racism straight up".

And yet simply calling this statement what it is - racist - was enough to serve as a condemnation of Limbaugh. The commenters I'm thinking of presented no argument, no elaboration; they simply charged that Limbaugh had said Sotomayor said something racist. That in itself, seemingly, was enough.

And the only reason I can think of for this is that Sotomayor is per se immune to such a charge; therefore making it is a thought crime of sorts. I didn't ask whether this was because of Sotomayor's racial status, because she's a prominent and important person, or because she is politically liberal. My guess is that perhaps there were elements of all three.

Some people may be called racists, and some may not. It seems to have nothing to do with actual racism.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yes, the actual denotative meaning of racism has become irrelevant. The charge of racism seems to bear the meaning "politically unacceptable statement related to racial matters."

It is ironic that we keep hearing we need an honest dialogue about race, but that is actually the opposite of what is called for. Honest dialogue seems to be code for "dishonest monologue."

Gringo said...

Attorney General Holder is correct about a reticence to speak about, to discuss racial matters. With charlatans like Attorney General Holder in charge,precluding an honest discussion,the reticence will only increase.

I have had the race card played on me more than once too often. I see the best response as simply rolling my eyes, as denying it will only make things worse. I see no need to further relate the tales of how I came to that conclusion. I already have related some.

Responding to charges of racism, I am reminded of the old LBJ tale about someone running for county sheriff who said, "My opponent F#$&s hogs." An acquaintance asked him, "Why do you say that when you know full well he doesn't, never has and never will?" The reply came back,"Sure I know that. But I love to hear him deny it."

Most times these days playing the race card is simply a power play to get advantage.(Yes, there are legitimate and justified times to play the race card.)What makes it even more annoying is that it appears these days that self-righteous white liberals are playing the race card more than blacks are. AVI had a posting on that.