What is an 'ism?
Most things they call "racism" (like insults and insensitivity) are just attacks against folks making valid statistical observations (that may have involved race/gender) in order to try and shut discussions that they're losing down, or they're people being assholes back to people that were assholes to them first (they're personal attacks) and thus are not real racism/sexism/etc.
For there to be real racism, there needs to be a belief in the superiority of a race, the intent to harm a race, the power to impact (and not help) that group, and generally, for whatever stereotype being applied, to actually be wrong. Thus most of the cry-bully rebuts to counter-factuals are more bigoted than the source of the complaints.
The parable of the Boy who cried wolf, tries to teach us that overusing or misusing something (like a word, or cry), dilutes it's meaning and power. This is something the race or gender-hucksters (and their constituents) either don't understand, or care about. But we're starting to see the seeds of backlash and abject apathy.
What is not racism
Back in the early 80's, there was an article in the Cal. State Fullerton School Newspaper with a student complaining about racism. He was asian, and complained that while walking down the pathway (not paying attention), he bumped into another guy and knocked the other guys books and papers out of his hands (by accident), and made a mess. As he went to appologize, the guy yelled back, "Maybe if you opened your slant-eyes you wouldn't have run into me".
The Asian kid was shocked and complained about the racism inherent at school. So I penned an unpopular reply that explained that it probably wasn't racism, and assuming it was might be more bigoted than the slur itself.
Look, there's no doubt the response was a racially insensitive, offensive, over-reaction by someone with anger issues. But that's not synonymous with racism, that's synonymous with asshole (and those are not the same thing).
Racism (in common use) is when someone (or an institution) believes that:
- (a) races are fundamentally different
- (b) some are superior to others (usually their own)
- (c) and thus making generalizations about individuals or group, based on their race, is acceptable behavior
- (d) and for it to have any teeth, the believer has to have some power/influence, or be able to commit some action that causes harm to the other person. (This isn't required, but is what society usually has the biggest problem with: institutional abuse of power and persecution).
Q: What do we know from the incident?
A: That someone was pissed off because they had their stuff scattered (an unprovoked attack on their space, even if accidental) -- and their response was a counter-attack at the first thing they saw.
That's a douchey over-reaction to a provocation, and more so to be racially insensitive about it (and not give the other person the benefit of the doubt in bumping into you was accidental), but we really have little evidence the person was a racist (and that he thought ALL asians were blind because of their "slanty eye's" -- though he was playing to old stereotypes).
If we use our brains and hypothesize, "what would he have done 'if'", and imagine a black, women, obese person, gay-looking, tall/short, or other obviously distinguishing characteristic had done the same thing? I think the obvious answer is that douchebag would have yelled some equally offensive slur at them about, "black, bitch, fat, tall, fag" or other thing that let the person know, that he was displeased and took the attack on his space and time, very personally (and was reciprocating in kind). Which goes to show he's an asshole, not a racist. Assuming he was a racist, by ignoring all context of his attack, is kind-of as racist (or at least narcissistic/myopic) as the slur itself.
Sometimes a slur, is just a slur!
When I was a kid, I'd sometimes get beaten up for various reasons (chief among them was probably my razor sharp wit and willingness to share my opinions with those larger and dumber than me).
Often, after getting beaten up, I'd complain to my mom, and decry some racial slur they threw my way while beating on me: "he called me a towel-head, camel-jockey or sand-nigger" seemed popular for someone of my ethnic background and coloring... though WOP and beaner weren't uncommon for the ethnically confused.
My mom would say with the nurturing/caring concern of Nurse Ratched, 'it's not them, it's you'.
She would go on to elaborate, that if people don't like you, and you keep pissing them off, they will beat and insult you. But it's completely personal. They may or may not hate all towel-heads, but that attack, wasn't against all towel-heads, it was strictly an attack on you. So don't generalize and whine about things you don't know (like they're all racists), accept that they're assholes with anger issues, and you probably deserved it for provoking them with your words.
Ignoring the validity of the last part (since I still don't agree that snotty quips deserve bloody noses), she had a point.
There's an adage, "never attribute to malice that which can be more easily explained by stupidity/incompetence". Well, my variant of that, is, "never attribute to racism, that which is more easily explained by your own actions".
If we knee-jerk assume everything is racism (even insults directed at us as individuals because of OUR actions), then that's probably more a reflection on our biases/paranoia, than any reality. You have no real evidence that person secretly harbors superiority complex of whites, or inferiority complexes of whatever shade you are. There are a lot of jerks in life, there are very few real racists in America -- so Occam's Razor: that which is simplest and most likely, is the better conclusion to jump to.
So that stuck with me, and I shared it with others, to the annoyance of many who had a vested interest in perpetual victimhood and injustice. For a variant of that reply, in a later article, I got physical death threats (with someone looking up my home address and mailing me intimidation/warnings). People are so entrenched in their racial/gender/etc. victim mentality, that they see everything in the world as proof of their view.. And if you disagree with them on that, then you're some hate-filled bigot that goes to parties with bald-tattoo'd and sheet wearing compatriots (thus anything they say or do to you, is justified in their minds). They feel they get to do to you, what they imagine you want to do (or did to them) -- without every questioning whether the conclusions they're leaping to are the correct ones.
Generalizations and statistics aren't usually racism
When talking about gun control in the U.S., I often point out the truth about black and latino versus white and asian crime rates in the U.S.:
- 3/4ths of our murders are by blacks/latinos (with most being related to gang crime)
- Whites have higher gun ownership and lower murder rates
- Americas white crime and murder rates are significantly lower than most European countries.
- When you look geographically, most of the U.S.'s murders happen in a few democrat controlled cities (and only a subset of them).
Thus there's not a gun crime issue: it's not a widespread problem, and it doesn't cross geographic and demographic boundaries very much. America has a very specific problem with black and latino gang crime that drags our averages up, and that fools the gullible into somehow thinking they're less safe, just because two rival gangs are having shootout in a city, somewhere far far away.
The common reply of the small-minded is, "Oh, you're a racist". And then they mock and distract, without ever thinking deeper, and certainly not without asking to try to understand the key to understanding racism or any 'ism" -- which is intent. And that reflects on their bigotry more than mine.
I don't believe in race
I do NOT believe in race. It is a human construct.
- The furthest racial diversity (genetically) among humans is less than those among the two closest dog breeds -- there just isn't that much diversity in our gene pool.
- Superficial coloring and facial features just really don't matter much
- And the lines are so fuzzy as to what's "racial grouping", that I think it is all bullshit
There's some superficial differences in our genetics (diseases we tend to catch), but to me, almost all significant differences are either individual genetic differences (which has far more variability than race) or cultural differences (which are opt-in and not racial at all).
I like to point out I have more in common with a black computer nerd from the burbs of Orange County, than I have with some Iranian kid that grew up in the Ghetto of Detroit or the slums of Turkey, because culture means more than race. For the same reason, black and latino middle-class kids (or fresh immigrants) don't have the same problems with gangs/crime/murders or other cultural problems as the black and latino natives/2nd generation, unless they immerse themselves in those cultures. So it isn't race, it's culture, and what you take from a culture is a choice.
Most of all, racism is about intent.
Very important to understanding racism, is intent (and power). If someone is pointing statistically realities between group behaviors, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Even if it is a negative reality of the group. That's just called math, logic or reality. Where it's a problem is if you're doing it to hurt people (belittle the group), if it has no balance (you don't also see the good), or where you'll use that over-generalization to apply to units in the group (and use your power against them or the group).
We flipped the burden of proof, and responsibility. It's not about how butt hurt perpetual victims can be, but the guilt of a crime is based on the intent/actions of the perpetrator. One might be an accident or a misperception on the receivers side (and thus no guilt on the perps part), and the other was malice (and thus the recipients concerns were valid). We've bought into the politically-correct dumb-fuckery that we assume guilt based on unfounded (or weak founded) accusation, instead of using our brains and words (questions) to figure out if the complain is valid.
If I observe that asians are good at math, that's not racism (though it might hint at it). (Actually Oriental is more accurate term, since me/Iranian and Indian kids are also asians, and not usually who they're talking about when we say Asian -- but political-correctness has driven that common sense differentiation into the closet). Still, if my belief/comment hurts no one, and there doesn't appear to be malicious intent, assuming the worst, is a reflection on you more than intent. Use your words.
Q: Why do I think that?
A: Because of average test scores reflect it. That's not racism, that's statistics.
Q: Why do I think things are that way?
A: I think that's because tiger-Mom stereotypes exist (to a point), and their culture values education and opportunities, so they drive their kids to excel. On top of that, a writing system that requires a lot of memorization, may help stimulate other parts of the brain, and you tend to get better scores on average out of Asian kids than whites, blacks, or latinos. (E.g it can't be racism, because it's not about race -- as a white/brown kid raised in the same culture, will likely have similar results, with some individual variability). And I don't think "Asians" are superior or inferior overall, I just think it's math testing is a cultural anomaly, based mostly on effort. They also get pressured more often to play instruments (like the Piano or Stringed instruments), and buy a lot of white Toyota cars and gold iPhones. These are just mathematical observations.
None of that is racist. What matters more is intent and action.
If I'm a hiring manager, and are start hiring Asians more or less, because of that generalization, well then I'm a biased idiot (a bigot). As I mentioned above, the differences in individuals far, far outweighs any similarities in culture/race/tribe/etc., so I'd be dumb to do so. But if I have no power/influence, then there's no real harm, and any soft racism is something benign, hard to prove, and not something that society should worry about (or get butt-hurt over).
If the only reason I'm observing a mathematical/statistical variances of groups, is to help, then it probably isn't an 'ism. Or continuing my example, if the point of the observation is to help the other kids come up to the level of Asian (or figure out what we can learn/do better), and there's only positive intent, then this isn't butt-hurt-worthy. The same with saying we have a problem with black/latino gang crime, and we need to address that problem to save more of their lives (and increase their opportunities). This is not condescending, belittling, or denigrating (or racist), it is about the reality that I want black and latino kids to have, and take advantage of, the same opportunities that white and asian kids have.
Thus anyone accusing anyone of racism, is reading a lot into situations. They're saying they know what the other person means (usually without asking enough to find out), that they believe race matters more than a myriad of other factors, that they know why they're saying it, that their words have the intent and ability to cause direct harm (not just butt-hurt). That's a lot of assumptions -- and 99 out of 100 times, when I see someone making those assumptions, they have absolutely nowhere near the evidence they should have to jump to those conclusions. Thus, they're being a bigot by making them: making assumptions based on biases, partial information and stereotypes.
The same thing for sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and so on. Blocking all Muslims because of Islamic terrorism is wrong, but it's not xenophobia unless they have problems with cultures/races that aren't trying to kill them. So they might be mis-weighing the risks, or picking the wrong solutions (broad brushing), but words mean things, and xenophobia or even islamophobia isn't the right word. Disagreeing on abortion, birth control, or what the root cause and degree of salary imbalances are, isn't sexism -- it's disagreements over politics, religious beliefs or math. Get over yourselves, not every attack on a problem is an attack against a group or individual -- it's just disagreement on the cause and solution.
More often than not, the purpose of using crying "ism's" is to shut conversations down. What they're really saying, is that I don't like what you're saying, and I want to change the topic. And the subculture known as SJW's (social justice warriors), are usually the biggest crybullies of all; my experiences are, they have such a vested interest in seeing the entire world as groups of battling factions of injustice (that needs their condescending guiding-hand to steer it, or things won't be fair), thus they see and claim racism (or sexism, etc.) in nearly everything. Those discussions often collapse into Kafkatrapping, where all cries of innocence prove your guilt even more. "I suppose you're going to claim you can't be racist because you have 'black friends', or you can't be a homophobe because you have a 'gay cousin'".
Life can be fucking hard, but it's a lot harder, if you're ignorant enough to believe that everyone does everything because of racism/sexism (and denials are just proof of guilt, because they know more the authors on their intent, and they're too dumb to see how racist/sexist/condescending that world view is).
There is real racism in this country (and all countries): less here than almost anywhere else in the word. But we can't address the problems if we don't identify the real problems and keep calling everything racism. If we allow these bullshit racism charges to continue (or oversimplify everything) it only dilutes the real racism and will DESENSITIZE people to the terms and problem (and learn to ignore them). So let's care enough about the terms and the real problems to not abuse them. OK?
Written: 1997.05.26 Updated: 2015.12.20