Saturday, July 11, 2015

A better response to jaden @crazysexyhalsey

First, let me thank you for being a decent Twitterlocutor last night. You displayed no malice or other nastiness, you didn't scream "racist!" like an squid squirting obfuscating ink, and you didn't flounce off in a huff, blocking me.

That speaks well of you. You strike me as someone worth knowing. The other thing that speaks well of you is that you don't attend a university. Unless you want to train in a science-related subject, don't go. Those places will poison your very soul.

Second, after thinking it over last night I realized that I gave the wrong impression with regard to your experience in the world versus mine. I have no doubt that if you and I were to swap skins for a week, we'd both be surprised at how differently people treated us—surprised in good and bad ways.

It is absolutely true that because you and I have different complexions, we don't live in exactly the same country. It is also true that white people don't know what it's like to be a person of color in this country, and that racism isn't as bad as it was but it's still there.

I know what it's like to try to explain my experiences to people and have them blow me off. I have dysthymia, a mild but chronic form of depression, and trying to explain a mood disorder to someone who's never experienced mental illness is not only impossible, it's painful, because they just won't listen. WON'T.

So I apologize for giving the impression that I don't regard your experience as valid or that I can just sit there and tell you what your life is like. I hate it when people do that to me, so I should be more careful to not do it to others. Even on Twitter. :-)

Please let me explain what I was reacting to: the rhetorical framework of your assertions, which have their origins in the neo-Marxist fever swamps of university soft-science and humanities departments.

Here's the problem: During the Civil Rights era, the rhetoric was based on the following truths:
  • Race is purely cosmetic 
  • Race doesn't inform intelligence, talent, character, integrity, ability, worth, or personality. So there is no logical reason for anyone to be treated differently based on a superficial, cosmetic trait. 
  • The Declaration of Independence states explicitly that "all men are created equal" is the official base assumption on which this country is founded. However, people are NOT being treated equally, not by the law and certainly not by the culture. 
  • We as Americans need to live up to our stated standard of equality — to do otherwise is an offense to truth, to God our common Father, and to our own American ideals. 

The Civil Rights Activists invited white people to look inside themselves and consider whether the current state of race relations conformed to any standard of justice, fairness, or righteousness. Obviously, it did not, so most Americans came to realize that racial discrimination has no basis either in reality or morality. Hence the progress made since 1964: people changed their hearts and minds.

Unfortunately, such a change did not obliterate some of the more primitive tribal instincts, wherein "you may be equal but you're not my people," still holds sway. That's what you're experiencing, not the white belief that Africans are literally a lesser breed of humans and therefore should be treated with less respect and dignity. Or worse, the eugenics of the Progressive Era, wherein "lesser races" should be prevented from reproducing, thus to prevent the "mongrelization" of the human race. It's tribalism that informs racial animus today more than pseudo-scientific or culturally embedded nonsense about racial superiority.

That said.

The introduction of neo-Marxist "power structure" concepts into the discussion on race relations is NOT a good thing, even though you CAN accurately point to where power is held and maintained, and you CAN show how it breaks along racial lines.

The neo-Marxist preoccupation with power structures does not have as its goal the healing of racial divides nor the promotion of genuine equality or brotherhood among races. Instead, its purpose is to exploit the grievances of out-groups (racial, ethnic, religious, economic, linguistic) to defeat the current power structure (regardless of whether that's a good idea) so that the neo-Marxists can step into the power vacuum. Once there, they'll be just as oppressive toward their former allies as their putative enemies.

By regarding racism as a structural reality rather than a problem within the human heart, the solution stops being "how about treating everyone fairly, regardless of their appearance" and becomes "we have to bust up all the institutions and remove all the offending tribe (Whites) from their place."

Insisting that I have "white privilege" might be accurate in some ways but it doesn't lead toward a positive solution. Instead, it's most often employed in a type of Kafkatrapping, defined thusly:
the protagonist Josef K. is accused of crimes the nature of which are never actually specified, and enmeshed in a process designed to degrade, humiliate, and destroy him whether or not he has in fact committed any crime at all. The only way out of the trap is for him to acquiesce in his own destruction; indeed, forcing him to that point of acquiescence and the collapse of his will to live as a free human being seems to be the only point of the process, if it has one at all.
This is almost exactly the way the kafkatrap operates in religious and political argument. Real crimes – actual transgressions against flesh-and-blood individuals – are generally not specified. The aim of the kafkatrap is to produce a kind of free-floating guilt in the subject, a conviction of sinfulness that can be manipulated by the operator to make the subject say and do things that are convenient to the operator’s personal, political, or religious goals.
(Let me hasten to add that you don't seem to possess the kind of malice and sadism necessary to be a real Kafkatrapper — you're just using their language and some of their assumptions.)

My "white privilege" is not something I can control in any way. I didn't choose the conditions of my birth, I didn't set up the racial divide in this country, I don't use my "white privilege" to lord it over people of color, and what's more, there's nothing I can do to divest myself of this "white privilege."

It's guilt by existence, which I hope you can see is completely different from being guilty of thinking about race in a way that's contrary to reality or of harboring and refusing to reject racial stereotypes. I can change how I think about race; I cannot change my alleged "white privilege."

So right there I'm being put into a no-win situation, because the only way for me to escape my "white privilege" is to publicly and abjectly denounce myself and my "privilege" and a host of other things for which I am not responsible, including suspected "unconscious racism" which I am by-definition unaware of and therefore cannot control, assuming that it exists.

You should know that Freshmen Orientation in many colleges includes racial awareness sessions wherein white students are required to effectively denounce their own existence and "privilege" and to publicly confess their thoughtcrimes.

These "struggle sessions" were perfected in Mao's China, wherein people were humiliated until they confessed to crimes against the state. Other employers of "struggle sessions" are the leaders of creepy mind-control cults, wherein the "Cult of Confession," which keeps people afraid of their own very thoughts.

College campuses have not yet reached this level of mind control, but that's where they're heading. That's the trajectory. And so far there hasn't been anyone with the perspicacity or valor to call a stop to it.

So that's what sets me off about "structural racism" arguments and rhetoric: they're intended to exacerbate racial tension rather than heal rifts; to increase suspicion and animus instead of increasing understanding and empathy; to destroy existing institutions rather than reform them; to put the worst sort of people into power rather than encourage harmony among the races.

When you talk to me about my "white privilege," you're putting me on the defensive, because I can't control the structures that created said privilege. When you say "people of color can't be racist, only whites can," you're putting you and me on opposite sides of an unbridgeable chasm. How can we dialog across an abyss?

I am perfectly willing to listen to you tell me what your life is like. I am NOT particularly open to being told that my very existence is problematic.

You wouldn't like it either. If you want people to listen with the intent to understand, you have to make sure you don't alienate them first—the way I did when I seemed to deny that racism exists. :-)

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