Saturday, April 14, 2012

Prejudice - Controversy One: Framing

Controversy One:  Framing.  John Derbyshire is right about one thing: the division in this country is not white/nonwhite, but black/nonblack.  Though the prejudices and discomforts other groups experience have some reality, they are mostly hangers-on in the victim-of-bigotry biz.  They as much as admit that by continually comparing their struggles, whatever they are, to the Civil Rights movement.  It’s the gold standard.  Even conservatives do it when they complain about the MSM or the Academy.

We most often frame prejudice in white/nonwhite terms in our discussion.  That’s not crazy, but it fails to explain so much.  It may be our attachment to the illusion that being extra polite to nice minority or victim-people will eventually fix things culture-wide.  Understanding that there is more explanatory power in the black/nonblack framing gets us somewhere.  Jesse Jackson can talk about Rainbow Coalitions, because saying that is necessary to keep his job, both in terms of fund-raising and credibility among white Democrats.  But most black people don’t see it that way, and I think they are right.  They see the prejudices experienced by hispanics, jews, native peoples, and asians as only echoes of their own – and the discrimination against women or gays they see as qualitatively different as well as milder.  Additionally, they see those other victim groups viewing them with prejudice as well, heightening the divide.

Do the thought experiment:  There are hispanics, or gays, or women, etc etc who have experienced virtually no prejudice at all in their lives*, beyond the occasional insult and the implied insults of dominant culture. Others have experienced only moderate prejudice, and intermittent.  It is true that some members of these groups have experienced prejudice as extensive as anything that has happened to black people, but it's just less common. Nearly all black people have encountered significant prejudice more than a few times in their lives, even if the lines have generally fallen for them in pleasant places. There are white people who just immediately hate blacks on sight, and want no good to come to them.  Not many, but a few. I’ve met some.  You can also find hispanics, asians, and natives who just hate blacks on sight – but no so much each other.

Reverse the flow of prejudice and you see the same thing.  Are there gay people who hate all straights?  I don’t know any.  Native Americans do not hate all white people, however much they might resent history and have suspicions of outsiders.  You can find hispanic neighborhoods where some folks hate all anglos, but this is nearly always directed quite locally and regionally, against those of any difference who are coming into their territory.  It does not tend to generalise.  Yet you can find black people who have an immediate and visceral hatred for white people.  Not many, but a few.  I’ve met some.

Whoever you blame and however you want to proceed, black/nonblack is the divide to be ameliorated somehow.

*Female physical vulnerability is something different, and likely deserves its own discussion.


bs king said...

I think the biggest reason why discrimination against gays is seen as less is the lack of immediate recognition. When I've had the discussion about it in mixed minority company, that always comes up....women can't hide they're women, people can't hide their race, but gay people don't have to disclose (and must be fairly over the top for a total stranger to figure it out).

The retort to this that I've heard is that anti-gay prejudice touches places racial prejudice wouldn't...such as your immediate family rejecting you. There's also the choice debate that colors some views.

Texan99 said...

i'd never claim to have experienced discrimination as severe as that directed to most blacks in history -- nothing outright violent or hostile, for instance -- but the experience of being treated as not-exactly-a-real-human-being used to be omnipresent and still arises surprisingly often. I'm willing to slap down any individual that tries it on me.

What I'm not willing to do is let it excuse my being a complete ass to all men, as if each were individually responsible for his entire gender. And I don't have any patience for anyone else who starts that nonsense about any special-group grudge they're carrying, no matter how chapped they are about how they, their parents, or their grandparents were treated.

What's more, I completely decline to get into a more-wronged-than-thou contest with any afflicted interest group. If someone's being wronged in my presence, I do what I can to stop it, but I'm not interested in listening to stale, non-stop, competitive grievances.

karrde said...

Now that you say it, I realize what I've been thinking all along.

The problem is not white/non-white, but black/non-black.

Anyway, I do appreciate the knowledge that America is not a very racist nation.

Some experience on my part (working at an American branch of a Japanese-owned company) has shown me that Americans have less racism than some other parts of the world. I thank you for the confirmation that America is less racist than most other nations on earth.

Sam L. said...

How do we polish rocks? We use a tumbler. River rocks are rounded and the rough edges have been smoothed off by tumbling in the rushing water.

We still have plenty of rough edges, but we here have been tumbled with other rough rocks, and we are slowly getting smoother.