Saturday, April 10, 2021

Opposite Game

Britain did something interesting in trying to assess racism.  It tried to look hard at data. We know what the result was: Britain is no longer a racist society, though it is a society that has racism. I don't know of any recent comprehensive report on America, but I have read a fair bit of the data, and my general impression is that something similar could be said here. 

Most of the racial conversation coming off the left, and some from the right and other points of the compass will make reference to needing to have an honest conversation about race. When that phrase is used, I can usually identify within ten seconds that the opposite is more true.  The speaker is seeking to avoid, not have, an honest conversation about race. This can most readily be assessed by looking at the misrepresentation of the positions of their opposition. If you cannot state your opponent's view accurately, then you are lying either to yourself or to us.

There is a more extreme version of this in the Middle East. There are a thousand oppressed peoples in the world that one could feel hurt for and resolve to help them out in some way. The Palestinians are not anywhere near the top of that list by any objective measure.  Therefore, anyone focusing on them as central victims is not trying to reduce oppression, but trying to avoid reducing oppression, by putting resources in unimportant areas. 

A good reminder to oneself is always Perhaps the opposite is also true.


random observer said...

Well spotted.

Related techniques that seem to get used a lot:

1. Keep talking about a problem, with ever increasingly aggressive comments about its pervasiveness and the need for action, while giving few or no examples. My employer is pretty center-left and was somewhat woke avant la lettre yet somehow has recently discovered its own systemic and structural [diff?] racism, and senior officers keep talking in generalities, holding town halls, citing interviews they've had with victims whose narratives were "raw and real" without giving a single example of description of an experience. The vagueness is a tactic.

2. Eliding cases that have quite different moral weight. An innocent African-American man pulled over for no reason other than color is in some ways more serious, albeit ultimately less deadly, than an armed African-American felon getting shot.The former has done nothing. His stopping is an offense against his basic right to move about his country. If he suffers violence, that's even worse.The latter might well not deserve his fate, or the officer might have acted wrongly, but the shot party has not done nothing to shape the outcome, nor is an innocent citizen.

Such is my weighing. For tactical purposes, the former scenario, if nonviolent, can still be lumped into the whole to radically increase the numbers, even be called "violence" for effect. This both inflates its seriousness and removes consideration of what is most genuinely wrong with it. Similarly, the violent felon can be lumped into the same category with the merely profiled citizen to imply he too is an innocent party.

The other one that gets me is "unarmed". This is not and never has been an unimportant consideration, but its not the only or always the most important one. In some of these cases, an unarmed man can still be a threat. That doesn't mean a police officer isn't being paid to take risks and to judge properly, it just means that "unarmed" shouldn't be a magic word.

I was in a twitter exchange last year in which a guy who kept using "unarmed" as an invocation seemed to think my similar use of "innocence" was meaningless. "Innocence has nothing to do with this", was one comment.

I found that illuminating.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

"...and removes consideration of what is most genuinely wrong with it." Very true. Your distinction is good overall.

I would also caution people to be alert to two things about use of the word "unarmed." Having worked with acute psychiatric emergencies my whole career, let me assure you that "unarmed" doesn't mean "defenseless." It also doesn't always mean "unarmed" in the real sense of the word. I have seen it used for dramatic effect about people with knives, hammers, or driving cars. I would call all of those armed.