Monday, August 13, 2018

Racist Racist Racist Racist Racist!!

I'm confident enough in my sexuality that I don't feel obliged to project a particularly masculine image. I'm not constantly self-monitoring to avoid sissy-ish statements or behavior, because I know what I am, and don't need to prove otherwise. I find it strange how many people miss the irony of working to not seem gay, as many guys do. Machismo strikes me as a comic display of obvious sexual insecurity. With nothing to hide, I've cast aside behavioral filters, which paradoxically makes many guys suspect I'm gay. Oddly, no woman (including new acquaintances) ever, to my knowledge, has.

Similarly, I feel comfortable with people of different races. I don't occupy myself with trying not to seem racist, because I know my inclinations are benign. Liberals often dislike how I talk about race (here are some previous postings on the topic), because I eschew the normal filtering. Spotting my inattention to norms, I seem like I might be juuuust a little bit racist. Yet I've never heard anything like that from black or brown people.

(Yes, I realize it's not a perfect analogy. It's nonetheless useful.)

President Trump is a racist. President Trump is a racist. President Trump is a racist. President Trump is a racist.

I'm guessing you've heard this. It's repeated again and again. In some cases, it's a conscious attempt to stave off normalization; to keep calling it out and to try to remain sensitized. But in most cases, it's like feebly re-striking wet matches. The saying of these words should change something, so, when they don't, we grow confused and try again and again, falling into a loop. Did you know that President Trump is a racist?

Why do we say these words in the first place? Well, that's simply what we do! When we spot racist language or behavior, we call it out, like spraying cleaner on a countertop stain. Stimulus...reaction. We're doing a job; getting it done. Having performed the pattern matching, we speak the words. We're fighting the good fight, with a righteous feeling of being on the right side. You're a racist! Once uttered, the words enter into a higher ledger. That's what we do with racists. We announce them. We label them with our words.

And if their racism continues, well, we keep announcing. We keep flicking those matches until something happens. Ideally, they'll lose their job (i.e. their ability to feed and support themselves and their families). That's how it's supposed to go. You say the racist thing, I perform the pattern matching and utter the words, and you crawl up and die, because that's what happens to racists. If the process fails to complete, I grow confused. President Trump is a racist. President Trump is a racist. President Trump is a racist. President Trump is a racist.

I don't think it's very deep. I think it's people behaving like computers, rotely matching inputs to outputs, and getting stuck in loops when the correct result fails to ensue.

I'd like to propose a radical change. What if we simply let racists be racists, given that 1. racists are going to be racists whether we let them or not, and 2. we're all somewhat racist - in fact, nothing feels more racist to me than people who find my Jewishness absolutely delightful, or else something so potentially touchy that they feel compelled to very politely never ever mention it, though it evidently remains the top-most thing on their minds. As I once wrote:
As a member of five or six minority groups, myself, I find myself cringing whenever I see groups to which I belong depicted or discussed with anxious care and glossy patina. What awful thing, after all, are they so carefully dancing around?!?"
The pattern matching procedure never really worked. Context is everything. An Italian drinking buddy calling me a Jew bastard feels fine to me, while being indulgently asked whether it's ok if there's pork in my soup by a hyper-woke waiter who's studied my nose shape and feels compelled to diligently respect my stark Otherness in her glorious rainbow feels icky.

And it's okay. The world intrinsically feels icky, regardless, and always will. In fact, nothing could possibly feel ickier than high-handed sanctimonious attempts to cleanse public sentiment.

What if we let racists live and work among us, in peace? What if we tolerate their free use of language as part of that same glorious rainbow? And what if we club them over the head with the full weight of the legal system if they ever ever act on it by discriminating - i.e. doing actual harm? What if you can be a racist, think like a racist, talk like a racist, but we prevent you from acting on it? Conveniently, we have a legal system, with lots of preexisting legislation, to handle exactly that.

I understand it feels insufficient. I understand the drive to purge all the ickyness, and I understand that some believe it can be purged by screaming "icky!!!" really loudly and waiting for it to be "cleaned up" (in ways that are poorly considered, because, really, why waste thought and consideration on icky people?).

Most of all, what if we recognize that much of the preoccupation with racism is actually projecting insecurities about one's own inclinations; an overcompensating effort to flamboyantly signal one's position on the correct side of things?

No comments:

Blog Archive