When I discuss racism, I devote most of my time to exploring it in its modern context. This usually manifests itself as systemic practices that result in de facto racism (that is, having the same effect as intentional racism), or as subconscious ideas that amount to the same thing as active prejudice. These kinds of commentaries intentionally neglect the kind of violent or hateful acts that we associate with ‘classical’ racism, because I do not wish to become fixated on a phenomenon that is very cognitively available but far less common.
However, from time to time I feel it necessary to remind you (and myself) that this kind of white-hooded cross-burning racism is still alive and well:
Two Lower Mainland men who police say are in a neo-Nazi group are facing assault charges in connection with disturbing attacks on minorities. The B.C. Hate Crime Team announced the charges against Robertson De Chazal, 25, and Shawn MacDonald, 39, at a news conference in Vancouver Friday. The team, a joint RCMP-municipal police unit, conducted reviews of four assault files dating back to 2008 and unearthed new evidence that led to the charges against De Chazal and MacDonald, who police say are linked to an international hate group called Blood and Honour.
Now, in the interest of fairness I should point out that most Blood and Honour members are non-violent. That doesn’t make them not racist (and I’m sure they’d agree with the label, if not the sentiment attached to it). However, one doesn’t adopt a neo-Nazi stance without the implied expectation that violence will be the result. Nazism was race chauvinism applied through the use of force, and while it’s possible to convince yourself that you’re not worshipping an inherently violent doctrine, I stand among the legion of the unconvinced.
This act doesn’t represent two wayward members of B&H “goin’ rogue” and operating outside the ideology, it’s an example of what happens when you actually take their nonsense seriously. It’s like the Glenn Beck devotees who wonder agape as yet another fan gets caught in an assassination attempt – it’s not that they took things too far, it’s that they were actually listening.
There are also a number of readers from Europe who take times like this to smugly assert that racism is a North American problem. It isn’t:
An Italian gunman killed two street sellers from Senegal and wounded three other people in an apparently racially-motivated shooting spree in the city of Florence before committing suicide, according to police. Gianluca Casseri, 50, who Italian officials described as a right-wing extremist, parked his car in the crowded Dalmazia square at lunch time on Tuesday, got out and started shooting with a large pistol, witnesses said. Two Senegalese men were killed and one was seriously injured. After the shooting, he drove away and opened fire again about two hours later in the central San Lorenzo market.
Racism is not a historical or regional problem – it is a cognitive and psychological one. Because we are all human, and we all have equally stupid brains, it is a problem we all have to learn to deal with. Luckily, there are solutions. Solutions that don’t involve firearms or worshipping Hitler.
Like this article? Follow me on Twitter! I’ll be back to posts of normal length in the new year.
I have to admit, I am very lucky. I grew up in Pittsburgh, PA in a thoroughly integrated neighborhood. As a kid I had both black and white kids as playmates, we would play at each other’s homes and our parents all knew each other well. That is why I have never been able to understand the motivation behind racism. Then again, I’m very secure in the knowledge of who I am, and I’m comfortable in my own skin. I think that racism is a product of not generic fear, but fear of the self. When you know who you are and are ok with it, the fact that the next guy doesn’t look like you becomes irrelevant. (Disclosure: I am a 46 year old white male.)
Well said! A deep insecurity is at the core of racism. This also translates to homophobic people as well.
I try and try and try to understand the racist mind, harboring some secret hope that I could craft just the right argument or turn of phrase or magical incantation, and, with a clearly, boldly stated, “Shazam! you cracker asshole!”* any racist (or homophobe or sexist, etc.) would hear it and just say, “Wow. I feel so dumb. You are totally right that people are fundamentally equal. I’ve been a complete jerk.” But I’m quite sure that I will never understand a worldview based on hatred and fear, and that the human race will continue to baffled, sadden and infuriate me.
*I’m sure that the imagined phrase would more profound.
Was thinking… if it seems like I’m making light of your post, I’m not. I just deal with such depressing, intractable problems with humor. It keeps me from shooting myself.
I don’t like racist slurs, but I laughed in spite of myself. Now I feel guilty, too.
I’ve always had a hard time understanding racism, myself. That may be because no one ever even brought up the concept of race to me as a kid (I was a white kid who spent a significant amount of time growing up in black ghettos, being babysat by Arab families, and was friends with a couple Hispanics, so it wasn’t due to lack of exposure to other races). The first time my mother had to explain race to me was when I was about ten because the guy she was dating was some French guy who turned out to be… a little bit racist, and used a bunch of slurs in front of me that I’d never heard before. I found it confusing and stupid. I guess I was lucky, and I really just feel pity for those who were raised to believe in such an outmoded concept as race.
Why has the modern skeptical movement become choked with pomo / critical theory, which was previously well known in earlier days for being based on very tenuous reasoning?
What happened to the days of Intellectual Impostures?
Oh, boyo, are you in for it this time. I hope whatever is left of your remains get fed to the pigs. (We might as well get some us out of a thing like you.)
You mean you understood what he said? I understood the quoted bit.
Care to answer my question Julian?
First off, you choking and a movement choking are very different things. Try not to project.
Do you mean “postmodernism and critical theory”? They are, after all, two different things, albeit related, and only one is in play in what you quote.
A blatant appeal to popularity? Do you actually call yourself a skeptic?
Actually, the problems with postmodernism have generally been problems of reasoning based on little to no data. It is, after all, easy to do what you’re doing here: spouting off with no basis in reality.
Reform. If you pay attention to the bit you quoted or to the actual posts presented on this blog, instead of to your general unease about feeling left behind by the skeptical movement, you’ll find that this is a discussion rooted in data. This is far more appropriate to skepticism than your unfounded, ignorant sneering.
I’d rather say “appeal to expertise” because the skeptics movement used to have more real experts in it.
Well, that’s not what that wording suggests, but if you say so. So you’re telling me the skeptic movement used to have more experts on race and racism? Or are you saying the experts it did have should have opined on a topic outside their expertise?
Nah I meant it had more experts on why critical theory and/or pomo are crap.
I think Crommunist is saying that too many North Americans and Europeans think of racism against brown people as a phenomenon manifested solely through violent crimes explicitly motivated by racism, the use of racist slurs, and the enforcement of explicitly racist laws by the government. However, they don’t think of racism against brown people as the subconscious biases against brown people that all of us learn from our culture. They think, “I’m not racist against black people because I don’t use the word ‘nigger’.” They don’t think, “Do I harbor some racism against black men because I don’t stop to consider the way that I, a white man, perceive the accents, expressions, attire and physiognomy of stereotypical black men before I conclude that black men are more sexist towards women than white men?” They don’t think, “Do I harbor some racism against black people because I, an Asian woman, am having a loud conversation in a laboratory that I share with two black women about how ugly black hair is, and I’m not stopping to ask myself why I think black hair is ugly in the first place?”
I really, really dislike postmodernism, but I also dislike trolls. I would have written about this phenomenon differently than Crommunist did. Whatever. I still don’t think that his is an unreasonable hypothesis. For starters, the validity of the hypothesis that racism against brown people isn’t exclusively expressed through racist slurs, crimes and laws isn’t contingent on the validity of “postmodernism” or “critical theory”. Alas, this seems to be a difficult concept for every troll who’s ever popped up on a thread about racism against brown people or sexism against women to whine about “postmodernism”, “groupthink”, “sheeple”, the tyranny of “political correctness” and how much Better and More Totally Awesome life was before the U.S.
Civil WarCivil Rights Movement to grasp.
Are you sure about that? I mean what is actually going on with the nutters who go round killing people because they’re ‘different’? Let’s even allow that some people have got it into their thick skulls that some other people are ‘inferior’. Still, why go around killing them at random? Are these really ordinary stupid humans or are they humans with exceptional mental illnesses?
Something tells me there’s an awful lot more blood than honor in that organization. The blood isn’t necessarily actual blood shed (as you say, most members don’t actually go out starting sh**), but it’s there in virtual form. Also it may not be difficult to exceed the level of honor in the organization to begin with.
Well said! I couldn’t believe the number of people here in the States who just couldn’t seem to grasp that point when rep. Giffords was shot.