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Subject: Black People Can't Be Racist rss

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Eric "Shippy McShipperson" Mowrer
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This video perfectly illustrates everything that is wrong with identity politics today, IMO. Not just when talking about racism but all of the other -isms and identity group -phobias. Only two people (mainly my man Carl) in this room full of what looks like adult, educated people, had the balls to speak up with a little bit of common sense.

I give all of them serious props for being more or less respectful and polite to each other even though it was a highly frustrating and exasperating video for me personally to watch. Of course it didn't hurt that the non-black people fell all over themselves trying to get out of the way and lay low (smart move, if you ask me).

Basically, my biggest issue is that it's not enough to just shine a light on how racism (or any other -ism) is bad, but they have this need to completely re-define what language means in order to make their case of being the most oppressed, the most helpless, the most justified, etc, totally unassailable by anyone, including other identity groups who are also oppressed.

It's a shame, too, because I think there is an interesting conversation there (comparing and contrasting racism to institutionalized racism in the US). But because they insist on playing rhetorical games with re-defining language to suite their purposes, they lose me and a lot of other people. And again, I'm not just talking about Blacks and racism, I'm talking about homophobia. I'm talking about sexism. I'm talking about ableism. I'm even talking about stuff like agism and anti-millennialism (I'm perhaps most guilty of that one).

My second biggest issue is that because of their little echo-chamber safe space they've got there, they are totally convinced of the truthfulness of statements such as "Even the poorest uneducated white person in a trailer park has a better chance of getting a job than a college educated black person" (paraphrasing, those weren't the exact words). It's just not true in any sane universe. And the falseness of statements that are increasingly accepted as truth seems to be accelerating to me.

I'm sure I'll get a lot of replies about how I'm just another white man looking for reasons to hate on black people, but there are real world consequences of allowing this sort of widespread drift into lala-land take hold and become accepted as legitimate. For starters I don't think we will ever be able to solve racism or any other -ism if we have to follow a script that is so inherently flawed at its core. It has to be an intellectually honest discussion on both sides, not just the side that needs to change the most.

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I've not watch the video because I don't see how it's worth 30 minutes of my time, but what I can tell you is that getting hung up on definitions and getting 'lost' because we don't like other people's definitions without trying to understand is unwise. To see why this is not great, I don't have to talk about racism at all, but compare this to the good old discussion of gay marriage: How often did we all hear the argument about how the big deal was that the word was religious and sacred, and had a traditional meaning, and that there's no way in hell people would be OK with a redefinition? The argument about definitions was all a silly facade, and we are in the same boat now. Calling it marriage had plenty of good , useful reasons, just like redefining racism does.

If you asked me on the street today about what is my definition of racism, I'd pick one that allows anyone to be racist against any group, regardless of their privilege. However, this doesn't mean that picking a different definition is bad: I see the advantages of modifying said definition to discuss the most common cases, which take into account group status. There's just completely different consequences depending on said status. Therefore, taking an institutional-first view, in which racism is not something that is really about someone's willful, understood prejudices, but behaviors that help provide uneven outcomes, is far more useful when discussing race in America than the simpler definition. The alternative is to use a completely different world, as institutional racism is in itself not all we are discussing here: It has personal components too, so the concept that I describe would need a simple term regardless.

So does redefinition lose people? Sure, but the people that are lost by this were lost in the first place, as they have too thin a skin, and their horse is too high, to want to engage. A bit how the me too movement has been great at showing how fragile many males' egos are.

Now, is a lot of discussion regarding racism on the left vapid? of course it is. Discussing whether a college educated black man has better prospects than an uneducated white is not a matter of debates or slogans, but something that should be handled statistically, as data is all we've got.

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Jamie Hankins
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(Disclosure: I'm off to work very shortly and don't have time to watch the video so am relying mostly on Eric's description of the video.)

I also prefer the broader usage of 'racism' and prefer to simply qualify that term when I want to talk about something more specific like 'institutional racism'.

Yet, as unhelpful as the more precise definition can sometimes be, I can see the value in it. In a lot of discussions about 'racism', people aren't really talking about every random prejudice or particular act of discrimination and are genuinely more interested in cultural trends and behaviour norms that stack together to make a culture and/or system of prejudice and discrimination, so when an academic defines the word 'racism' to refer to this real-world usage, its not mere rhetoric.

It's also hardly the only word in the English language to have more than one meaning; most words have a variety of related but distinct meanings and there's no reason that 'racism' would be an exception.

ejmowrer wrote:
But because they insist on playing rhetorical games with re-defining language to suite their purposes, they lose me and a lot of other people. And again, I'm not just talking about Blacks and racism, I'm talking about homophobia. I'm talking about sexism. I'm talking about ableism. I'm even talking about stuff like agism and anti-millennialism (I'm perhaps most guilty of that one).


It's interesting that two of those terms have the direction of prejudice inbuilt. We don't tend to talk about 'prejudice regarding sexual orientation' but instead 'prejudice against same-sex relationships'. It's not that we necessarily believe that no one is prejudiced against or discriminatory towards straight people, just that we realise that this isn't a social and cultural problem in the way that it is for people that aren't straight. Racism in the US seems to be very similar in that it is a problem that simply doesn't affect white people in anything like the same way as it does people from other backgrounds.

ejmowrer wrote:
My second biggest issue is that because of their little echo-chamber safe space they've got there, they are totally convinced of the truthfulness of statements such as "Even the poorest uneducated white person in a trailer park has a better chance of getting a job than a college educated black person" (paraphrasing, those weren't the exact words). It's just not true in any sane universe. And the falseness of statements that are increasingly accepted as truth seems to be accelerating to me.


The more common position that I hear expressed is that being white is a privilege for all white people but that doesn't mean that white people can't be disadvantaged in other ways; if you're an elderly disabled lgbt person who also happens to be white, then you have to deal with a variety of prejudices that will disadvantage you... but being white isn't one of them.

A black middle-class man has some advantages that a white working class woman doesn't, but the opposite is true as well. We don't have to ignore the social impacts of socio-economic status or gender to acknowledge the social impact of race.
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True Blue Jon
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Saying any person can't be something is taking away power from that person.
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I did watch the video. It's not really different from any number of debates I've been present at in past.

OTOH Whenever one says X group of people can't do X, if other people can, then there needs to be some clear reason. E.g., Completely bald people cannot get a haircut, and blind people cannot see. So, at first glance, saying, "Black people cannot be racist," is an oversimplification taken at face value. I don't think the statement is intended to be taken simplistically at face value because the people in the video certainly admit that black people can do the same things that others (especially white people) can do that would in the latter case be racist. They even admitted that black people can perpetuate racism against black people which they have internalized.

So what are they saying then? As far as I can tell, the claim when examined is that black people and society have so internalized anti-black racism that in practice no black person is able to have the same social presumption of superiority which a specifically white person can, because that level of social privilege is simply not open to a black person.
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Under the paving stones, the beach
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hibikir wrote:
I've not watch the video because I don't see how it's worth 30 minutes of my time, but what I can tell you is that getting hung up on definitions and getting 'lost' because we don't like other people's definitions without trying to understand is unwise. To see why this is not great, I don't have to talk about racism at all, but compare this to the good old discussion of gay marriage: How often did we all hear the argument about how the big deal was that the word was religious and sacred, and had a traditional meaning, and that there's no way in hell people would be OK with a redefinition? The argument about definitions was all a silly facade, and we are in the same boat now. Calling it marriage had plenty of good , useful reasons, just like redefining racism does.


However, there's an obvious difference. Outside of the paranoid fantasies of homophobes, nobody was actually suggesting that "religious marriage" was no longer marriage.

That's the main issue I have with this particular definition. Using "prejudice + power" as a stipulative definition is reasonable. It's when people try to enforce it as an exclusionary definition I think we run into problems.

Generally I think we need a really good reason to change the definition fo a word from the common usage to a more academic one.

Because deliberately defining yourself against the common usage is a suspiciously effective way of gaining subcultural capital.
 
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of course they can,the issue is it the same type of racism .eg personal racism or institutional racism.
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Under the paving stones, the beach
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growlley wrote:
of course they can,the issue is it the same type of racism .eg personal racism or insitutional racism.


I like the Institute of Race Relations' more expansive definition on this.

Racism – the belief or ideology that ‘races’ have distinctive characteristics which gives some superiority over others. Also refers to discriminatory and abusive behaviour based on such a belief or ideology. In the UK, denying people access to good and services on the basis of their colour, nationality, ethnicity, religion etc is illegal and called racial discrimination. Institutional racism (a term coined by US Black Power leader Stokely Carmichael) occurs when a whole organisation’s procedures and policies disadvantage BME people. State racism refers to the way that racism can be enshrined in laws (such as immigration legislation), in procedures (such as police stops and searches) and programmes (such as those on political extremism).

It's a lot less pithy and isn't going to appeal to people looking for a snappy slogan. But it's a lot more nuanced.
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As much as I might have a theoretical beef with redefining words to suit an argument's needs, we right now have a President and herd of supporters for him who redefine reality to suit their needs. I think as long as that shit isn't toppled then trying to stop black rights activists from using those tools would be, well, racist?
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quozl wrote:
Saying any person can't be something is taking away power from that person.

I have met many, many black people in my life, from virtually all continents, who are remarkably non-racist. To say that "black people can't be racist" would be to detract from their achievement of character.

The ones I've known intimately have had to struggle against their racism just as much as I have. Except their challenge has been much greater than mine, because even while struggling against being racist, they've had to contend with issues arising from being victims of racism -- which has made their struggle far more difficult, and the achievement that much more admirable.

In the process they have acquired strengths which I, for one, do not have.
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Jamie Hankins
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bob_santafe wrote:
I have met many, many black people in my life, from virtually all continents, who are remarkably non-racist. To say that "black people can't be racist" would be to detract from their achievement of character.


I think that overstates the implications of what is essentially a semantic disagreement. That some black people are less racially prejudiced or discriminatory than others still holds true regardless of what we do or don't reserve the term 'racism' for.

The underlying matter of fact that seems to motivated disagreement over these purely semantic issue would be the degree to which racial prejudice and discrimination against the dominant ethnic group resembles and/or is equivalent to racial prejudice and discrimination against minority and marginalised ethnic groups. If one feels that there are significant social differences in the nature and operation of these two things, then describing them via different words makes some sense.

As I said before, I would personally prefer to use qualifying language to separate out culture-wide racism from more personal and isolated acts of prejudice and discrimination but that these two things have significant differences seems true regardless (and that seems to be the entirety of what is being communicated by the narrow definition of 'racism').
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Daniel Kearns
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Bigoted sure.

Racism requires an element of power and systemic oppression that black people don't have the strength to wield in the US.
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dkearns wrote:
Bigoted sure.

Racism requires an element of power and systemic oppression that black people don't have the strength to wield in the US.


No you are just defining the term to be how americans want it to be. You can still be rascist to some one without having any power over them.
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growlley wrote:
dkearns wrote:
Bigoted sure.

Racism requires an element of power and systemic oppression that black people don't have the strength to wield in the US.


No you are just defining the term to be how americans want it to be. You can still be rascist to some one without having any power over them.


Both positions seem to posit a 'one true definition' of the word 'racism', which seems false (just as it is for most words). The words meaning varies in both common and academic usage so it might just be one of those cases where people have to specify their usage as they go rather than expect to rely on a shared definition.
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Wight1984 wrote:
bob_santafe wrote:
I have met many, many black people in my life, from virtually all continents, who are remarkably non-racist. To say that "black people can't be racist" would be to detract from their achievement of character.


I think that overstates the implications of what is essentially a semantic disagreement. That some black people are less racially prejudiced or discriminatory than others still holds true regardless of what we do or don't reserve the term 'racism' for.

The underlying matter of fact that seems to motivated disagreement over these purely semantic issue would be the degree to which racial prejudice and discrimination against the dominant ethnic group resembles and/or is equivalent to racial prejudice and discrimination against minority and marginalised ethnic groups. If one feels that there are significant social differences in the nature and operation of these two things, then describing them via different words makes some sense.

It does. But to commandeer the word 'racism' obscures the social differences, and in my view ends up trivializing a word which has a less culture- and historically-bound meaning and which represents something which needs to be painstakingly & vigilantly combated, and eventually eliminated from the human landscape.

Racism is

1. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior;

or

2. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.


Wight1984 wrote:
As I said before, I would personally prefer to use qualifying language to separate out culture-wide racism from more personal and isolated acts of prejudice and discrimination but that these two things have significant differences seems true regardless (and that seems to be the entirety of what is being communicated by the narrow definition of 'racism').

I would as well. Most governments in the world today in which the population includes clearly identifiable minorities, have institutionalized practices of racism. Some not as vicious as others, of course; but it is what it is. It's a human disease, not a white disease, even though white racism remains, in the 21st century, a stubbornly persistent and particularly destructive feature of the landscape.
 
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I just feel like referencing Chris Rock's routine on this which ultimately is about the differences between classes within a race.

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bob_santafe wrote:
But to commandeer the word 'racism' obscures the social differences, and in my view ends up trivializing a word which has a less culture- and historically-bound meaning and which represents something which needs to be painstakingly & vigilantly combated, and eventually eliminated from the human landscape.


My experience is that people who prefer academic definitions of racism don't think of themselves as 'commandeering' the word; instead, they often consider themselves to be using the correct definition of the word. The wider sense of 'racism' often receives scorn similar to the attitude I have towards the wider sense of words like 'socialism' (i.e. terms that have been watered down and broadened in common use).

I'm not a scholar of the history of racism or social science in general but some brief look at the history of the word does seem to support that the modern sense of 'racism' as referring to any and all racial prejudices and discrimination doesn't reflect the various meaning and senses of the term since it's popular use starting in the 1940s.

While I'm not going to reject the usage of 'racism' to refer to racial prejudice and discrimination of any and all kinds, I'm not going to buy into the idea that this is the only 'correct' usage and that people who use other usages are trying to engage in some kind of deliberate and political manipulation of the debate. The kinds of definition that academics have crafted to capture the idea of racism seem to be genuine attempts to define and describe a real-life phenomenon and subject of study.

bob_santafe wrote:
1. Prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior;

or

2. The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.


The focus these definitions put on the a belief in racial superiority seem to illustrate the varying ways in which the term 'racism' is used; speaking for myself, I would say that this misunderstands most common versions of 'racism' (prejudice and stereotyping are common human behaviours and need not be rooted in any particular ideology, such as the notion of 'racial superiority'). It seems that the way I typically use the word 'racism' is actually wider than the way you use it (should we start arguing about which of us has the 'correct' usage?).

bob_santafe wrote:
It's a human disease, not a white disease


The definition doesn't make claims such as 'black people can't be racist', that's merely something that can be easily inferred about racism in the west given the demographics and power dynamics of western societies.
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dkearns wrote:
Bigoted sure.

Racism requires an element of power and systemic oppression that black people don't have the strength to wield in the US.


The subject of “black racism” too often is used in “whataboutism” as regards the systemic racism they face on every day life unfortunately
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Wight1984 wrote:
growlley wrote:
dkearns wrote:
Bigoted sure.

Racism requires an element of power and systemic oppression that black people don't have the strength to wield in the US.


No you are just defining the term to be how americans want it to be. You can still be rascist to some one without having any power over them.


Both positions seem to posit a 'one true definition' of the word 'racism', which seems false (just as it is for most words). The words meaning varies in both common and academic usage so it might just be one of those cases where people have to specify their usage as they go rather than expect to rely on a shared definition.


I don't agree that there is a semantic issue. Racism invokes the certainty of superiority and I don't see where that certainty or superiority comes from without power.
 
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dkearns wrote:

I don't agree that there is a semantic issue. Racism invokes the certainty of superiority and I don't see where that certainty or superiority comes from without power.


In that case surely it's impossible for any working class person to be racist because of their lack of structural power?
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dkearns wrote:
I don't agree that there is a semantic issue. Racism invokes the certainty of superiority and I don't see where that certainty or superiority comes from without power.


The bit in bold seems to be a semantic claim?
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:
dkearns wrote:

I don't agree that there is a semantic issue. Racism invokes the certainty of superiority and I don't see where that certainty or superiority comes from without power.


In that case surely it's impossible for any working class person to be racist because of their lack of structural power?


I think it's possible to have power in one respect and yet lack it in most respects. Welding structural power over another individual doesn't require you to be a very powerful person in a wider sense.
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Abiezer Coppe wrote:
dkearns wrote:

I don't agree that there is a semantic issue. Racism invokes the certainty of superiority and I don't see where that certainty or superiority comes from without power.


In that case surely it's impossible for any working class person to be racist because of their lack of structural power?

A working class (white) person can be racist by reinforcing that structural power.

For example, when white working class people attempt to prevent black people from living in their neighborhood by harassing them (up to and including violence against persons and property), and the law does nothing about it, the white working class people are reinforcing and participating in racist power without having much power themselves as individuals.
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Racism is little more than a mindset which can exist for an individual or a group. Power is needed to effectuate that mindset. However, power exists in degrees on a scale and can shift. Consequently, one can have a racist mindset without power (making them merely odious) or they can have vast power making them corrosive to the social order. Lot's of ground in the middle for personal abuse of power.
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I've never held to the notion that racism requires power. It just requires you to be prejudiced vs a group. You can be a minority and racist, it's not hard, it's actually pretty damn easy. I'd go so far as to say that you can be the bottom of the ladder, and hated by everyone, and that just makes it even easier to hate the world.

Power and institutions just amplify the effects, it doesn't change the mindset which anyone can have. We're pretty tribal creatures at heart and it's very easy to draw sides. Even in homogeneous groups people find new lines, IE regions within a country, cities, districts, down to class 2A vs 3B rivalries. We like to be part of teams and we like our team over other teams. The effect this has on those around us differs but I don't think we can move past this element, aside from recognizing it.
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