(an article from my blog)
Everyone is a little bit racist.
You may have heard that quote. I am quoting it because I believe its true. There is no dividing people into two groups, one racist and one not. Its a spectrum, and what matters is not what feelings or assumptions you start with, but what behavior you end with. Lets look at some sample points on this spectrum some levels of racism:
Level 0: innocent. This is where small children start out unaware that race is a problem. Maybe its possible to maintain this into adulthood in circumstances of major social isolation, but I dont think Ive ever personally seen an example of that.
Level 1: responsible. We are all liable to sometimes forming snap judgments based on first impressions, and race is often a factor that plays into this. But we can compensate for this by taking a moment for a second thought, to double-check our initial thoughtless reaction and make sure were being fair-minded. This may not sound very impressive, but for most adults, this is about the best you can expect. People in this category may be allies of minorities, or not.
Level 2: in denial. This is probably where the majority of people fit, on most days. This is where you land if you react to prejudicial snap judgments by rationalizing them instead of reconsidering. Frequently accompanied by the idea that racism is largely historical, or confined to a few extremists that its a distant external problem. Racism at this level isnt going to burn crosses, but it can produce frequent calls to the police about suspicious characters, or some extra strictness from the police themselves. This mild racism can be enough to make a big difference in how difficult it is for some people to land a job or rent a place to live. So even though the acts committed by any one individual seem minor and excusable, they can add up to a large negative impact on the lives of minority citizens.
Level 3: asshole. This level is for people who sometimes show active racist behaviors, such as taunts and trolling and harrassment with racial epithets. Generally these are people who are habitually unpleasant or obnoxious in other ways as well, or who have long lists of people whose lives they disapprove of. Most often, such people are still in vigorous denial about racism, despite having numerous examples readily visible in the mirror.
Level 4: deplorable. Finally, we come to those who have adopted racism as a guiding philosophy, and who actively evangelize it as an ideology: the Nazis, Klansmen, Neo-Confederates, and other racial separatists. Many are fanatical True Believers, and as such, are capable of horrific violence for their cause.
Again, the point is not that people are divided into groups, who fit one label or another. Any one person can and does slide up and down this scale, plus or minus a space over the course of a day, or larger shifts over months or years as they are exposed to different ideas.
And note that ones position on this scale may have very little to do with the intensity or severity of their prejudices, particularly in the middle part of the scale. Some can have major race-based fears and handle them well, and others might have minor ones but handle them badly.
The most important factor for affecting how a person moves forward or backward in their behavior is probably the social expectations of the people around them.
But dont take this to mean that the way to make someone act better is by lecturing them. If you really want to bring someone to see another point of view, its important to listen to them more than you talk to them, and let them express the feelings or anxieties or bad experiences they may be carrying on the subject. And when you do speak, you want to be offering them an option, rather than making a demand.
Because when social pressure comes in a hostile form, itll probably have the opposite of the desired effect. If you do listen to people at level 2 or 3 talk about race, one thing that often comes up is how much they dislike and resent hearing the word racism brought up as a belligerent finger-pointing accusation.
I dont personally know whos doing this kind of accusing, but some of my friends see it happen, and they affirm that yeah, it aint helping. Maybe that behavior arises from having one foot in the responsible level and the other in the denial level, so you want to project and externalize the problem. Thats just my guess, I cant say.
As for the level 4 deplorables, I dont think theres much point in listening to them or engaging with them. Theyve created a fantasy world where they believe each others made-up stories, so thats all youre likely to hear. Theyve embraced evil, and there arent really very many of them, so socially, we can just write them off.
I think Trump's habit of awful tweets is being driven by his craving for popularity. The same goes for a lot of the awful things he says out loud. As this article by Kevin Drum of Mother Jones points out, the intended audience is his fanbase -- it's just a nasty side effect that the rest of the world is horrified and offended, or that our overseas troops are endangered.
I think what Trump has done is found an audience that is willing to give him the cheers and praise he wants, and they're the people that nobody else wanted cheers from, so he's kind of got them monopolized. I'm talking about the racists and xenophobes and misogynists and other deplorables -- the sort of people who actually cheer for the destruction of the environment, just because they hate environmentalists; people who condone violence against women and applaud police brutality against minorities; people who despise diplomacy as an alternative to violence, and feel there should be no such thing as international law. Trump has found that by egging on the worst tendencies of America's worst citizens, in ways that few others are willing to stoop low enough to do, he can finally get that long-sought popularity. That he's pushing the country toward fascism in the process doesn't worry him at all... after all, if it did become fascist, that just neans he could have even bigger adoring crowds, and to him, that's the important matter at stake -- the one we should all be talking about first.
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About paulkienitzSoftware engineer who thinks a lot about the future. http://paulkienitz.net/future/
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