“A Dialog About Race”

Jason Lewis had/has a liner in his promo reel. It goes a little something like…:

“Let’s have an intelligent conversation; Jason will talk, you listen”.

That’s what I think about when I hear most people who are calling for a “dialog about race” in this county.

Dialog.

I don’t know that that word means what they think it means.

———-

I don’t go to Jeff Fecke to take the cultural barometer of this nation. I go to Jeff Fecke for howlingly overwrought conclusions; I go looking for checks that his logic and knowledge can’t cash.

And he wrote a doozy the other day:

In general, if you ever find yourself saying, “I’m not a racist,” you’re a racist.

I rubbed my eyes, thinking perhaps it was the fatigue playing tricks on my eyes.

Alas, no:

The same holds true for a variety of hatreds, of course. “I’m not a sexist” is evidence one is sexist; “I’m not homophobic” proof that one hates gays. Those people who truly have no internalized misogyny, racism, or homophobia are few and far between, and those most likely to be good allies to those groups are also the most likely to be aware of their own shortcomings.

Apparently I’m a purple female rhinoceros who walks along the ceiling, having dislaimed each of those as well as affirming the power of gravity.

It’s easy to bag on Jeff Fecke for these kinds of “conclusions” – and it deserves bagging; it’s a simplistic, hamfisted answer to a very complex question. The problem is, this is a symptom (albeit a not-very-challenging one) of something that plagues nearly every attempt to have a “dialog” across ideological lines with the left, whether the issue is man-made global warming, gender, or race.

They frame the argument to not merely favor their side, but to paint disagreement as base, benighted and depraved.

Which makes for a fun rhetorical game (Fecke was reportedly a college-level debater, so one might suspect that’s the goal), but – and I say this as someone who’s been cut down to size for substituting “rhetorical games” for “communication” enough times to know better – it makes for lousy dialog, if indeed “dialog” is what you want.

And of course, “dialog” is not what most of the parties to this “discussion” want. They want it no more than Jason Lewis wants an even conversation – and at least Lewis’ liner is funny.

There’s nothing funny about the way the “dialog on race” is being framed.  No “dialog” exists while one side assumes the other is depraved until proven depraved.
———-

I’m going to start out with a very broad statement: “Isms” are part of the human condition. All people are conditioned to favor people who are like them, and to suspect people who are different from them, whether tangibly (skin color, language, accent, smell, dress) or subtly (class, education, geography). Many white people get uneasy around many black people, sure, but that’s an easy one. Middle-class white people get uneasy around mullet-headed bikers; New Yorkers sneer down their noses at Arklahoma accents; light-skinned blacks disdain darker blacks (or so said Spike Lee); farmers roll their eyes at people in suits and ties and clipped city accents and manners.

This is true across every culture on this planet.

In many of those cultures, that suspicion is codified in the language. In many languages, the word for “Human” varies, depending on how closely-related or situated the subject is to the speaker; for “humans” whose tribe is closer to that of the speaker, it’s a fairly benign or amiable term; the farther afield the subject, the less-benign and more derogatory the term will get.

To say “everyone’s a racist” is itself simplistic; it would be fairer and more accurate to say “we are all we-ists”; all of us, black or female or suburban or mentally ill or urban or atheist, are more comfortable around people who are like us.  And every single one of us practices “profiling”, whether you’re a black couple “profiling” some agressive drunk rednecks, or a Xhosa turning on a Bantu in anger, or Molly Priesmeyer “profiling” white males, or even the stereotypical white middle-class guy sizing up…anyone else.

What matters, of course, is how we deal with this bit of human programming.

So far, so good?

———-

Let’s take a moment and launch a pre-emptive strike on a liberal cliche or two. I’ll ask my conservative homies to indulge what might sound to some of them (mistakenly) like heresy.

The effects of racism didn’t end in 1865 – or 1964, for that matter.

And I’m not just talking about the racism of low expectations that is inherent in the welfare system to which so many Americans have been induced to addiction, a system that’s perpetuated any number of “isms” by making something that is completely counterintuitive to most humans – subsidizing poverty, in order to make misery and disenfranchisement a viable lifestyle. By subsidizing poverty to enable people to say in it for generation after generation, racism and classism and dozens of other corrosive “isms” are given an environment to see to their own permanence.

But most of us – the conservatives, at least – know about both of those already. But that’s a post-1964 mistake.

There’s one bit of racism that’s gone back 400 years, and is alive and well today – the devaluation of the black male. Black males – fathers – were sold off pretty much at will, as befitted what what considered property at the time. They were shipped around like cattle, worked to death, killed without the benefit of legal protection – it’s not a new story to anyone, is it? African-American society built on the matriarchal nature of many African societies, and became even more so; fathers were a transient thing.

During the Jim Crow years, of course, black men could be discriminated against, attacked, lynched with impunity. Worst of all,  we really haven’t learned much since the end of Jim Crow. Black men, to the welfare system, are pretty much expendable; “families” without fathers get better benefits. Add to that an educational system that systematically fails blacks, a welfare system more concerned with its own self-perpetuation than in helping people find the self-respect (as opposed to “self-esteem”) that it takes to break the cycle, and an urban popular culture that plays into the nihilistic devaluation of the African-American male…

…between all that, America doesn’t need to “invent HIV”, as Jeremiah Wright famously claimed, to screw up African-Americans. 

So we’ve established in advance; racism exists, and it’s a pretty normal, albeit lamentable, human condition.

———-

So you want a dialog about race?

OK. So in the next installment, let’s talk. Or at least I’ll give you, the audience, my monologue. You can respond any way you’d like.

Oh, yeah – Fecke’s wrong. If you say you’re not a racist, it means you’re not. Or you are. Or somewhere in between – somewhere in that immense continuum between “hating people who are different than you” and “not really recognizing differences at all”. All generalizations are false.

Except that one.

48 thoughts on ““A Dialog About Race”

  1. During the infamous “Dirt Worshipping Heathens” debacle I made a similar statement that everyone is racist. It’s just a natural tendency. As you observed, people are more comfortable with others that look like they do.
    Of course I’ve been branded a racist in the most miserable of terms.

  2. i liked the part that “We are all we-ists”. It’s a good statement, and i may start using it.

  3. He said ‘In general’ and he is spot on. For some reason, you guys read ‘alway’, ‘forever’ ‘all the time’, typical of your straw man factory (see, you killed another kitten).

    You can change the rules of the game in your new world order her at Shot in the Onion, but you’ll have to fight Websters to re-write the dictionary our side of your domain.

  4. He said ‘In general’ and he is spot on

    No, he said “in general”, which makes his statement hopelessly broad and implies that all he really wants is to frame the argument.

    You can change the rules of the game

    No “rules” being changed, merely stating facts. Your obfuscation, while symptomatic, really doesn’t help much.

  5. [Fecke] is spot on

    You’re been out in the garage, haven’t you?

    Isn’t it a bit early for that?

  6. Ah, the weekly wingnut “we’re not racists” affirmation.

    Maybe it’ll be true if you repeat it enough times?

  7. Hey flash, does the “if you deny it, it’s true” generalization work for other things too, or just to items designated by Jeff Fecke?

  8. It seems obvious that both angryclown and flash are racists. And homophobic sexists.

  9. The thing I notice is that judgements actually tell you much more about the judge than the judged. As alcoholics see alcoholism everywhere, racists (even if they deny it about themselves) see racism everywhere.

  10. ““generally, if you say you’re a centrist, you’re not””

    Never made the claim, I have always called myself a left leaning moderate which is why you call me a ‘good’ Democrat, well, Mitch does anyway.

    “”It seems obvious that both angryclown and flash are racists. And homophobic sexists.””

    Again, I may be, but I’d like to think I give everyone a fair shake regardless of their status, be it racial, gender, or sexual preference. Reality is it is actions that are the greater determining factor.

    That’s the difference between me and others, I don’t get bent out of shape. I let my actions speak for themselves.

    I know I try not to lump entire subsections of our society into some self perceived sterotype, like this for example:
    “”Black men, to the welfare system, are pretty much expendable; “families” without fathers get better benefits. Add to that an educational system that systematically fails blacks, a welfare system more concerned with its own self-perpetuation than in helping people find the self-respect (as opposed to “self-esteem”) that it takes to break the cycle, and an urban popular culture that plays into the nihilistic devaluation of the African-American male…”

    That statement is just flat out wrong. But without it, you wouldn’t be able to create the hate you all so desperately need to fire up the base. Fricken despicable!

    Got any more words you want to put in my mouth. “Your obfuscation, while symptomatic, really doesn’t help much.”

    You don’t want a dialog, you want a chest thumping cheer leading party. Good luck with that.

    Flash

  11. “Generally, if you say ‘Mitch is moving the goalposts’, it means ‘Flash is moving the goalposts'”!

    This game is FUN!

  12. I’m still trying to recover from being “RickRoll’D”. Was Flash the blonde?

  13. You don’t want a dialog, you want a chest thumping cheer leading party.

    No, I want a dialog free of rhetorical gamesmanship. I don’t really care how people want to interpret the revealed word of Fecke because – this is rather important – that’s not the subject.

    Race is.

  14. That statement is just flat out wrong.

    Actually, it’s the opinion of any number of black intellectuals who cross party lines. And for you to call it “whipping up hatred” is kind of ignorant, since I’m trying to meet the other side halfway.

    I’ll give you the benefit of a doubt, Flash; you didn’t really understand what I wrote, and your only real reflex is to close ranks with other leftybloggers, no matter how stupid they are.

  15. I spent Easter Sunday with my future father-in-law–who’s gay–his boyfriend, and my future niece–who’s half black. I did my best to try and hate ’em all, as I’m supposed to do by stereotypical dictate, but my future father-in-law just makes the best damned meals, and my future niece is about the cutest thing on the planet.

  16. flash said:

    “Again, I may be, but I’d like to think I give everyone a fair shake regardless of their status, be it racial, gender, or sexual preference. Reality is it is actions that are the greater determining factor.”

    So you think you can “deny” your racism (and homophobic sexism) with deeds, flash? I don’t know…a denial is a denial.

  17. ““”Black men, to the welfare system, are pretty much expendable; “families” without fathers get better benefits. Add to that an educational system that systematically fails blacks, a welfare system more concerned with its own self-perpetuation than in helping people find the self-respect (as opposed to “self-esteem”) that it takes to break the cycle, and an urban popular culture that plays into the nihilistic devaluation of the African-American male…”

    That statement is just flat out wrong. But without it, you wouldn’t be able to create the hate you all so desperately need to fire up the base. Fricken despicable!”

    Which part is flat out wrong? And why? And what part of any of that statement creates hate? And is it only wrong if a white guy says it? You are making the claim that the welfare system strongly encourages black men to be with their families? That the welfare system will pay more to a intact family? That the education system does not in fact fail blacks? And finally, hip hop culture is biased towards a traditional family, with legal jobs and not gang culture?

  18. Buzz,

    You’ve obviously been inspired to “chest thumping” and “cheerleading”.

  19. Cathcart prattled: “I spent Easter Sunday with my future father-in-law–who’s gay–his boyfriend, and my future niece–who’s half black. I did my best to try and hate ‘em all, as I’m supposed to do by stereotypical dictate, but my future father-in-law just makes the best damned meals, and my future niece is about the cutest thing on the planet.”

    That’s awesome, Cathcart. Did you get together with Kermit and his Chinese brother-in-law? Hope they build that light rail – sounds like you guys already have tokens!

  20. Oddly, Clown’s response it not much worse than the mainstream left’s approach to “dialog”.

  21. The scary part is that people like Flash, Fecke, and the now-famous Rev. Jeremiah Wright, not only say wild things about race, they apparently believe them and are dying to structure society as if their beliefs were absolute proven facts.

    The most chilling part of the Obama story wasn’t that his preacher made wild claims, but that Obama believes those wild claims are normal, mainstream, accepted facts by mainstream Black churches and by extension, by the people who attend those churches.

    If he’s right that there’s nothing controversial in Rev. Wright’s remarks (and I’m in no position to judge how the Black religious community thinks, so I’ll take his word for it), that should be a huge wake-up call for tolerant, peaceful, easy-going middle class White America. Not everybody believes in getting along. A significant part of the population believes as true fact the notion that you, personally, are out to get them. And they resent it.

    I don’t know how to have a conversation about race with people who hold fixed ideas so completely foreign to mine. Bring it, Mitch, I’m anxious to see how it goes.

    .

  22. Does angryclown find it easy to hate his friends and loved ones? That might explain his reducing the relationships of others to ‘tokens’. Then again, maybe he just likes to call other people racists. Generally, I mean.

  23. Did you get together with Kermit and his Chinese brother-in-law?
    You are a pathetic excuse for a human being, Clownie.

  24. Troy wondered: “Does angryclown find it easy to hate his friends and loved ones? ”

    Angryclown is about love, not hate. Angry love.

  25. And chain-yanking snark. Always with the chain-yanking snark.

    AC would call Jesus a donkey screwer if he thought it would get a rise out of someone.

  26. Angryclown likes Jesus. He prays to Jesus to give you all painful, swollen hemorrhoids.

  27. Hope they build that light rail – sounds like you guys already have tokens!

    Just remember, only leftists are allowed to utter racial phrases without recrimination. Because it is physically, socially and psychologically impossible for any leftist to be racist. Just remember, on another group blog some of us frequent, a leftist (who I believe was banned from SitD) had no compunction calling Michele Obama something that rhymes with “jigger switch”.

    But that wasn’t racist. He’ll claim he was just echoing the sentiments he KNEW our side was thinking. But that don’t fly. When a conservative makes the same excuse, the race pimps don’t let them get away with it.

    But it wasn’t racist. Really truly it wasn’t. Pinky swear. With a cherry and sprinkles on top.

  28. It’s not a racial smear when the target is a “typical white person”, is it? If it weren’t for double standards would Clownie have any standards?

  29. It’s confession time. I’m a bigot when it comes to clowns. I wouldn’t pick one up if I were driving a cab, and I sure as hell wouldn’t rent an apartment to one. If my daughter came home with one, she would be disowned. I just can’t shake this irrational prejudice.

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