Friday, January 13, 2017

Racism and Other Evils

 Since the presidential election, I have come to a point of mental rest and clarity: I am now convinced that the great division in our country today is simply between Good and Evil. After you weed out all the chaff and the noise, all the accidental aspects of specific issues, there remains one clear and simple fact: On one side are hatred, rage, racism, chauvinism selfishness, greed, violence, xenophobia, deliberate lies, deception and ignorance. On the other side are hope, compassion, acceptance, courage and goodwill. By and large, those who elected Donald Trump are on the bad side, and - yes, I’ll simply call a spade a spade - liberals are forever the good guys.

Flawed as we all may be, the political Right is immeasurably more evil than liberals are. The latter may often be incompetent, lazy, they may compromise their ethics and run for cover.

But just look at what drives the Paul Ryans, the Republicans, the Sean Hannitys and others at Fox News, etc: For starters, they are going to deprive 20 to 30 million people of their health insurance - most of them precisely those who already live at the edge of poverty and homelessness. They are going to cut the already precarious safety net that enables half the US population to survive in a reasonably civilized fashion. The country’s half which is already struggling to make it, already experiencing a DECLINING LIFE EXPECTANCY. The dozens of millions who will fall even further behind. Repeal of Obamacare will cause many thousands of deaths. The vicious Republican attack is targeting the working class, the poor, people of color, women - in sum the most vulnerable people.

There is a concomitant rise and acceptance of foul and hateful speech and thought, including racism. Even some of the respectable members of my upscale health spa utter blatantly racist views. Here is an example:

I am a gregarious fellow, so I chat with a lot of the guys at my club, even the conservatives. By and large, people are friendly. We agree to disagree. It’s never come to blows (yet). The other day, a conservative friend - let’s call him Bob - and I were once again arguing over politics, Trump, economics, race, etc.

By now, even Bob has learned that it is no longer acceptable to attribute behavioral differences between the races to genetic causation. Nowadays, even staunch conservatives reluctantly pay lip service to the truth that racial differences in economic achievement, crime, intelligence and scholastic performance are due to NURTURE, NOT NATURE. At least that much political correctness is now generally accepted (apart from loons like Dylann Roof, the KKK and the Nazi Party).

So now the fallback position of many educated racists is that black poverty, crime, and other problems are caused by a dysfunctional CULTURE. That’s how these Alt-Right types hope to get off the hook. They continue to blame the victim, and at the same time maintain that they do not view African-Americans as “inherently” inferior. The inferiority is in black culture.

As Bob said: “No one HAS to be poor. ANYONE willing to put their shoulder to the wheel can make something of himself!”

I contested this of course, and we exchanged the worn-out platitudes: He, the usual, individualistic, bankrupt Horatio Alger mythology (it’s all up to individual effort and hard work, blah blah); me the standard sociological rebuttal, pointing out the inter-generational reproduction of inequality, the importance of background, race, networks, luck, connections and all the rest.

I said to him: “You see, Bob, whenever I see a homeless person at a stoplight, I give him a couple of dollars...”

“Big mistake,” he interrupted, “he’ll just spend it on booze or drugs...”

“That’s idiotic,” I replied, and then continued: “ And you know why I feel compelled to give these people some money? It’s because every time, I think ‘There but for the grace of God, go I... or YOU, for that matter.”

“Nonsense,” he retorted, “we worked, we got our PhDs, we made something of ourselves. That homeless guy has no one to blame but himself...”

And so on and on.

A bit later, we were back on race. I reminded Bob of the obscene fact that 40% of all prisoners in America are black. This is when Bob revealed that he is still a true racist, still believing in NATURE, not nurture. Here is what he said:

“Look, Tom, when you come across a cocker spaniel, you are not afraid to stroke it, right? But you would be a fool to approach a strange rottweiler or doberman, wouldn’t you? It’s the same with races...”

I was aghast. I said: “So you DO believe in innate racial traits?”

Bob pushed on:

“Be honest, Tom. When you go to the emergency room for a medical procedure, and the doctor enters the room and he is black, don’t tell me you don’t cringe...”

I was stunned. My answer:

“I don’t believe that I would. But IF I did - momentarily - it would only prove that I have been contaminated by the racist culture; that I have, maybe subconsciously, bought into the bullshit that successful black professionals are the product of affirmative action, and less qualified...”

“Damn right they are, and that includes Obama!”

By now, I wanted to get away, so I said: “Look Bob, you are plain wrong. There is institutional racism, there is discrimination in housing, in hiring, there are the widespread attitudes like those which you just expressed, there are innumerable factors which perpetuate racial inequality, and they have nothing to do with a “dysfunctional” black culture or innate biological traits...But I sound like a broken record. I’ll just say this: We have to take care of EVERYONE. Your way, the Trump way, isn’t going to work. All people are people. It’s the family of man. They are all the same as you. That’s all there is to it.”
© Tom Kando 2017;All Rights Reserved
  leave comment here