Are You a Latent Racist?

The other day, I posted a link to this article (http://jezebel.com/5905291/a-complete-guide-to-hipster-racism) and some brief criticism of the content. One of my colleagues challenged me about my it, so I thought I would add a bit of color to my position.

My reaction to race-baiting articles such at the one I posted about is strong, because of how irresponsible and cynical they are. The accusation of racism is one of the worst ones you can receive as a white male in American society today, akin to being called a liar or a coward in the old American West. There’s practically no defense to it, and the label carries a tremendous stigma in modern society. The charge is frequently used as an argument-ender for people who haven’t an honest argument to make. E.g. “People who disagree with ObamaCare are just racists.”

Whenever I read pieces by white people freaking out about all the injustices done by white people to black people and how awful white people are, I can’t help but laugh at the utter folly of being racist against your own race as a reaction to racism. It’s silly and disingenuous and deserves ridicule and derision.

My colleague wrote:

In referencing “states’ rights,” I *think* the author is alluding to — albeit in a clumsy, context-lacking style — the rhetorical quality of “states’ rights” in racially sensitive debates throughout American history, beginning with the Civil War/slavery, climaxing with the 1960s Civil Rights movement, hitting a sensitive note in Mississippi during Reagan’s 1980 speech, and surfacing more recently in discussion of healthcare, immigration, etc.

Does that make sense? I agree that the article is bit awkward and irresponsibly written, although I think the mere fact that “states’ rights” can carry so much baggage for some folks yet very little for you speaks to the author’s point: so many facets of American society and public discourse carry racially sensitive undertones and implications.

Given the writer’s atrocious and immature style, I think he may be crediting her with a bit too much capability for nuance.

I think that as a society the only way we can get beyond racism is by not giving such phrases as “states’ rights” and “work ethic” the power to evoke pre-civil rights-era racist ideas. I actually have no idea why “work ethic” would mean anything racist, at all. I understand the putative issue with “States’ Rights” but strongly disagree that people should keep thinking of it in that context. I.e. Not every white person who believes in States’ Rights believes in slavery, to be blunt.

From a principled point of view, slavery is an obvious infringement on individual human rights. But that’s a Libertarian idea, and all Libertarians want the United States to turn into Somalia, if you believe the popular hype from those who don’t happen to know what Libertarianism is actually about.

States’ rights, in particular, is actually a very important constitutional principle. If we want to delve into the subtleties and nuances of how language can be used, let’s examine the idea that many on the left would cede tremendous power and authority to the Federal government, stripping away powers that are meant to be “reserved to the States” in the name of collectivist Marxism, at the most extreme. This can be achieved by keeping principles like “States’ Rights” as topics to avoid, lest you be branded a racist for using such a coded racist term.

Unfortunately, we have allowed Congress to run roughshod over the Tenth Amendment for decades, abusing the “commerce clause” to regulate all kinds of things that ought to be left to the States, or even better, left unregulated.

Anyway, now I’m getting a bit off track here.

Her item #4 is particularly galling.

4. “God, Don’t White People Suck?”
Okay, I get what you’re trying to do here—having some fun at the expense of the oppressors while setting yourself up as one of the “cool” white people—but mainly what you end up doing is implying that black people don’t like informative radio or TED talks. Stuff White People Like: having the best brains! Isn’t it great that we can make fun of ourselves while still reminding you that we’re better than you?

 

(The red text for emphasis is mine.)

Apparently, by poking a bit of fun at your own group with sites like www.stuffwhitepeoplelike.com you’re actually being racist? That she assumes a venal motive (acting superior to black people) really reflects more on her own latent(?) prejudices than on those of the people who made that site.

I guess my main objection is that by railing against white people as being a bunch of awful, latent racists, she’s really just exposing herself as one. I think if she sees racists hiding behind every “coded phrase” she just might be a racist herself.

3 thoughts on “Are You a Latent Racist?

  1. It’s odd how you equate being critical of your fore-bearers as well as the actions of some of today’s members of your own race with being racist against your own race. Sorry, but that’s a really silly false equivalency, which is, if you think about it, a watered-down way of calling her a n*****-lover.

    Look at it this way: If we, as people, were never criticized (not even by self-critique) and we never looked back at the things we regret or the mistakes we’ve made, how can we learn from the past? Some people don’t care. Some people don’t know enough to empathize. The most sinister, though, are those that despite knowing enough, lack the desire, for whatever reason (be it bias or an irrational sense of superiority), to truly empathize with an oppressed group.

    That being said, I see the logic in linking to stuffwhitepeoplelike.com, but I feel as though the author is grasping at straws to make a somewhat valid point. I think stuffwhitepeoplelike.com was very much the wrong target. I also think the text you quoted and highlighted from the article was questionable.

    As a black man, I criticize the actions of ill-behaved blacks all the time. For example, I hate rap culture for what it idealizes as well as how pervasive it can be to disadvantaged youth and I think that it should be done away with. Does that make me racist against my own race? No. I sometimes criticize the actions of members of another race, but even that is not racist. Not even if I criticize a significant number of people of a race different race than mine. To progress as a country I think white privilege and certain aspects of Islam (which is essentially the old testament) should be done away with. None of this constitutes racism– No one is saying “all blacks are ______” and “all white people are ______.” That, my friend, would truly be racist.

    Even you, Dave, should not be afraid to criticize the bad behavior of some blacks for fear of being called a racist. Much of the legitimate criticism white people have of certain blacks is warranted, but is lost in a lot imaginary sea of red-tape that people, who fear being called a racist, think is actually there. It’s strange, but it seems as though a lot of white people in America seem to think racism is a zero-sum game. It’s not.

    If you don’t want to be called a racist, don’t make generalizations about a race or be bigoted about things (don’t freak out– I am not implying you are a racist by writing this). It’s fine to make legitimate, respectful criticism of the actions of the individual perpetrators, but make sure you think it through before saying it so as to leave no doubt. Don’t use “some of my best friends are black,” regardless of whether it is true or not, as that phrase is stereotypically used as a shield against claims of racism.

    Even if you are called a racist, prove you aren’t by making your criticisms in a respectful manner. Stand by them and don’t back down. Make them understand your point of view. Some blacks (and this goes for all races of people, even white) are manipulative in that they will throw out the race card in a situation where race is irrelevant in order to get what they want. Do not fear it. Stay calm and rational. By doing so you will prove them to be assholes.

  2. To close my previous post, and to be fair to the author, I do think that a lot of white people in America are actually “latently” racist and don’t realize it. Just take a look at all these tweets.

    http://jezebel.com/5896408/
    http://chirpstory.com/li/6781
    http://youtube.com (look at the comments section of any video featuring a black person)

    In reality, it’s very hard to argue against this assertion, but again, being critical of these individuals as a white person (or a black person) does not constitute racism of any kind– Definitely not racism towards one’s own race.

    • Just to be clear, those tweets do not automatically make these individuals “bad people” though it does show a distinct lack of empathy which is a well-known marker for racist tendencies. They are simply (and I hate using this word) ignorant.

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