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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Uncle Salem's Flat

There are racists in the world.

This revelation should come as no surprise to anyone, be they Left or Right, progressive or conservative, spiritual or atheist. The only difference lies in where the line between "racist" and "not racist" lies for people, and whether they use the dictionary or a sociology 101 definition.

For some, racism comes when a member of one race looks down upon members of another race for no other reason than they believe them inferior in some way. For others, systemic power is all that is required; with that power, everyone of a particular race is racist, and without that power anyone of another cannot be racist at all.

But there's another particularly invasive and vicious form of racism that bothers me more than most, for reasons that I honestly can't put my finger on. Maybe it's my commitment to freedom of thought and speech that makes me susceptible to offense on this issue; maybe it's my strong opposition to groupthink and echo chambers. Whichever it is, I cannot stand it when people heap abuse on someone who believes something that isn't in complete lockstep with members of their identity group. This includes, but is not limited to:
  • Black people being called "Uncle Toms" or "Coons" for not buying into Black Lives Matter. 
  • Women having "internalized misogyny" for not being feminists. 
  • White people being called "race traitors" for dating black people or protecting civil rights. 
  • Gay people being called "self-hating" for not thinking all straight people are out to murder them. 
  • Asians being called "bananas" (yellow on the outside, white on the inside) for whatever reason (yes, I've seen that). 
Demographic groups are just that, demographics. They are not ideologically identical monoliths, and shouldn't be treated as such. They also shouldn't be infantilized for not believing what you believe they should believe. People have their own reasons and influences for believing what they do, just as you do, and they probably believe you are just as wrong as you think they are.

There's a phrase that is very fitting here, as much as it bothers me to quote something coined by one of George W Bush's speechwriters: "The soft bigotry of low expectations." Believing that you know better than someone else without knowing or experiencing the situation of their lives is a very subtle but invasive form of bigotry; couple that with expecting to believe certain things based on their race, and you get a disgusting form of collectivist racism that allows someone to dismiss someone else's point of view because they're "simple-minded" and "self-hating" and "don't know any better".

It's sickening and truly offensive and if you think this way, you're a bigot. But you probably don't think of yourself that way. You probably think yourself a good person. So good of a person that you're somehow better than the person who doesn't think the way you think they should. But you're not.

You're still an asshole to someone based on the circumstances of their birth. And that, I cannot abide. 

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