[personal profile] wingedbeast
A couple weeks ago, my brother posted this on Facebook.

Wanna know how to fix racism? Stop talking about it. - Morgan Freeman

I did a quick Snopes check and verified that, yes, Morgan Freeman did say that as he spoke out against Black History Month. Still, my response was as follows.

With all due respect to Morgan Freeman, bullshit.

Facebook isn't really the place for in-depth conversation. It's the place for one person to state one position and other people to react. (In this case, 94 variations on "like", one comment of "Amen", and my aforementioned response which got one like.) So, to make a case against what looks like a tide of support for the "Stop talking about it" method, here's why we have to talk about it.

Let's start with the most obvious. If the people who want to fix racism stop talking about it, the people who are still talking about it don't want to fix it. These people include the Alt-Right, the KKK, the Neonazis, etc. They might avoid the specific word "racist", but they announce themselves in all but that name. They're eager to show you that their views are expressly focused on race, which one's best and which ones are inferior.

Under this "stop talking about it" strategy, now they're leading the conversation on racism. And, they're leading it without any push-back. Remember, we're busy trying to fix it by not talking about it. That means that the only people talking about it don't agree with us on the basic idea that white supremacy is wrong.

Still, who, besides fellow white supremacists, would take them seriously? Well, the children who grow up in a world where the only people who talk about racism are the racists would take them seriously. They're not getting the push-back and, if any of them figure the basic moral and intellectual failings out on their own, they're not going to push back on their friends taking this seriously, because they're going to join us in this "stop talking about it" strategy.

This leads into the next point, which may seem, at first, hyperbolic. Does this dedication to not talking about racism go as far as rewriting our history in order to avoid acknowledging racism in America's past?

Because, people are already doing that. When New Orleans took down four monuments, two to Confederate Generals, one to the Confederate President, and one with a plaque explicitly identifying it as a memorial to a victory for white supremacy, one side of the national conversation rewrote the reality in front of our faces. No longer were these put up in a context of white supremacy, with the intent of intimidating people of color and their allies. Instead, they were remembrances of those who died for the Confederacy, regardless of cause. Or they were there to remember slavery as an evil. Or they were merely history that is being erased by these monuments being taken down.

In order to avoid talking about racism, we have to go along with that. At the very least, we have to not push back against it as others put a shine on the turd that is our history of racism. We can't even acknowledge the still extant stench, because that would be talking about it.

And, let's talk about that metaphorical stench. It represents a myriad of injuries, large and small, dealt on a daily basis, today. Those injuries don't require "hate in the heart" of those inflicting the injuries.

Sure, you can think of the shooting of a twelve year old child for the grave crime of carrying a toy as the result of such hate, but it doesn't have to be. On a regular basis, black people are over-estimated in their age, size, physical strength, and offensive intent. And, by the example I just sited, you can know that kills.

If we're not allowed to talk about it, we're not allowed to even start the discussion on how to correct this.

And, that doesn't begin and end with the personal bias of an individual. For decades, American television and movies have had a bias wherein "white man" was default and there needed to be a reason for a character to be a person of color or a woman. This dealt injury in the effect of limiting career options as well as restricting persons of color to roles of stereotype, stereotypes that were then reinforced in the public minds.

If someone was of a mind to push back against this pattern, thus giving more open access to various roles, that person has to go against the biases already in place without even discussing them. When Gods of Egypt came under fire for an Egyptian culture movie cast entirely in white actors, the response came that a big budget movie needs big name celebrities and action stars, if only so that the producers can get behind it. It's worth noting that's a real consideration to be factored and a real limitation on the careers of non-white actors.

None of that goes away if it's not discussed. In fact, it remains because nobody's allowed to discuss the issue even long enough even to acknowledge its existence.

Then we have the effect. The reinforcement of stereotypes that reinforce biases that cause injuries up to and including being killed by police. None of that goes away, so the biases remain even though they don't reflect reality.

Oh, and we're not even discussing the end-result of disproportionate response by police, disproportionate arrest, disproportionately harsh sentencing, etc.

When identical resumes are sent out, one with a name that indicates the applicant is black and one with a more "neutral" or "white" name, the black applicant, despite the identical resume, gets fewer callbacks. That's less career opportunity for the effort. And, at the same time, the "don't talk about it" method keeps us from countering the effects of that, because, of course, Affirmative Action requires that we acknowledge that reality, first, by talking about it.

In effect, what we have is a litany of injuries done to people who, by this method, are now disallowed from even acknowledging that they are, in the slightest, injured. How does this fix racism?

Well, the idea doesn't come completely out of nowhere. There is a response that people can have, to the feeling of being attacked or accused of a wrong, when such topics as racism are discussed. They can dig into their position, entrench themselves on the "racism" side, even as they claim not to be racist. The "don't talk about it" method would leave them without the defensive entrenchment that increases the antipathy.

The problem comes in with the fact that there are still injuries being done. That turd that's been polished still stinks. Even in an imaginary world where there are no Richard Spencers or David Dukes to stump for the obvious racism, the injuries we see still remain. It's just that they happen without people being racist for a definition of racist that requires explicit hatred. If racism is fixed by all the same injuries happening on the same basis without people feeling hate in their heart, what value is that fix?

I can see the temptation to this method. Regardless of who you are in America, you're at least partially on the wrong side of this conversation, the one who has done wrong that reinforces injuries done to another. It might be something as simple as using "gyped" as the word for someone not living up to their end of an agreement. It's small, but it's a part of something larger. I know I've been on the wrong side of this. That's not a fun place to be.

Because the things that I can do to do harm are so small, it feels like just doing a right thing or just avoiding doing a wrong thing can be a monumental task which I am powerless to accomplish. And, when I fail, or when my failure is pointed out, it can feel like an attack that strikes an instinctive need to defend.

At the same time, there's the issue of people you spot who are definitely on the wrong side and who you have little to no chance of convincing. These are your friends, your family, your collegues, etc. And, what's your choice? Have the conversation only to have them defensively entrench themselves in racism, while claiming that they're not racist or do nothing and allow them to believe that their ignorance really is wisdom? How much do you sacrifice, from making a scene in a family function to alienating your boss, in the name of accomplishing precisely nothing?

Neither side of this conversation is particularly pleasant. On the one hand, you feel under attack with the accusation that you're going around metaphorically stabbing people. On the other hand, you feel like people are attacking you for simply asking them not to stab people.

I wish I could say that it was worth it, every single time someone says or does something that reinforces racial bias, to have that conversation. I don't know that's true or not true.

I do know that, as a society, we have to have this conversation out in the open.

It won't be easy. We have, even the most willing to take the instruction and adjust, a myriad of defensive strategies that wind up being defenses against... well... reality.

But, it has to happen. It has to happen because that's how we fix racism. We identify the wrong, bit by bit. We get less wrong. We get less wrong because the previous wrong thing was identified, deconstructed, and a better option was presented via the method of talking about it. Then, the next generation can do the same. We have to talk about it or it will never be fixed, even though "fixed", in full, is something that might, still, take until some future generation to achieve.

The alternative isn't going to make racism go away, but give it the power of invisibility. And, that's already part of the problem that needs fixing.

Date: 2017-06-02 06:07 pm (UTC)
dragoness_e: Raven strolling (Raven strolling)
From: [personal profile] dragoness_e
I can attest to one of the effects of Hollywood "white-washing": I had no idea, until I drove out there about a decade ago, that California Bay Area was other than lily white. On TV, the streets of San Francisco are all white, all the time. In reality... the Bay area is a Pacific Rim city. It is America's Shanghai, where people of every race found in the Pacific rim mingle in a great port city. Silicon Valley isn't white; it's Indian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and just about every other flavor of Asian-American you can imagine. There's Hispanic-Americans whose ancestors have been here longer than mine have (people forget the Spanish settled California first), and a few black and white people, too. Also Greeks, Lebanese, and anyone else whose ancestors or they themselves ever immigrated. White Anglo-Saxon-type Americans are a small minority in the Bay.

It was a culture shock living there for a year, but a fun one. Sadly, Hollywood, TV, and even IT industry coverage does not show the richness and diversity of the area--the media leaves one with the image of white people only and everywhere.

As for the "'black' names with the same qualifications get fewer callbacks than 'white' names", one interim solution is to send blind resumes to the people deciding who gets a callback. (Blind == initials or numbers for names, no gender). I believe that some companies actually do that. (Considering that blind resumes were proposed as a method of solving discrimination in hiring back in 1949, by Robert Heinlein in the short story "Delilah and the Space Rigger"....)
Edited Date: 2017-06-02 06:12 pm (UTC)



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