Polite racists in denial

Been watching the news lately (I know, I know, I should find another hobby) …

If you’re white, you benefit from racist power structures and racist forms of social organization. And you’ve most likely internalized the underlying racist assumptions to the point where you feel threatened or defensive whenever anyone questions them or makes them explicit. That’s what #WhitePrivilege is. It doesn’t necessarily make you a sheet-wearing, cross-burning caricature, but to the extent that you don’t question or work to dislodge those power structures, you’re helping to perpetuate systemic racism. And that, whether you like it or not, makes you guilty of racism yourself. It’s not surprising at all that a lot of white folks react to this so viscerally, and want to project their discomfort onto others by complaining about activists stirring up racial conflict. But part of being a committed anti-racist is owning your own racism — and doing what you can to overcome it.

Owning your privilege: Saturday morning on the Tweeter

[View the story “Owning your privilege – a teachable moment with @neville_park, @madhatressTO, and @c_9” on Storify]

[View the story “Owning your privilege – a teachable moment with @neville_park, @madhatressTO, and @c_9” on Storify]via Owning your privilege – a teachable moment with @neville_park, @madhatressTO, and @c_9 (with tweets) · sol_chrom · Storify.

http://storify.com/sol_chrom/owning-your-privilege-a-teachable-moment-with-nevi

Sometimes it happens right in front of you in real time. Not saying I’m always the quickest learner, but even a clueless old white guy can occasionally recognize a worthwhile lesson. Especially when the cybersphere is roiled by questions of privilege, sexism and condescension.

Another mass shooting in America? Not like there’s anything new here

Copy_3_of_gun_show_074

I don’t mean to sound jaded about it, but really, what is there to learn here? What new insights can be gained from any of this?

These things happen with such depressing regularity that they’re almost part of the background noise. We can go on about the Second Amendment, and the intent of its framers, and the context within which it was drafted. We can go on about the extent to which lobby groups like the National Rifle Association have captured America’s legislative institutions and defined cultural parameters. We can go on about how weapons have become tied to a warped notion of patriotism. We can go on about the uniquely American mixture of religion, rugged individualism, paranoia, violence, racism, patriarchy, wilful ignorance, and deliberate cultivation of stupidity, wedded to easy access to firearms … 

… but really, what the hell’s the point? What useful question is going to emerge from that? What lessons are going to come from this that haven’t already issued from the last time, or the time before that, or the time before that … 

America is Krazy Glued to its gun culture. There is nothing we can do about it. There is nothing they can do about it either. We can laugh, uneasily, at the “God Guts and Guns” and “From My Cold Dead Hands” memes, and mock morans like Walt Wawra, but change America’s fascination with firearms? Forget it.

Sandbag the border. Contain the stupidity and don’t let it spread. And offer asylum to any sane Americans who want to escape.

Related posts:

 

Robert Reich (We the People, and the New American Civil War)

But now most of us exist in our own political bubbles, left and right. I live in Berkeley, California ??? a blue city in a blue state ??? and rarely stumble across anyone who isn???t a liberal Democrat (the biggest battles here are between the moderate left and the far-left). The TV has hundreds of channels so I can pick what I want to watch and who I want to hear. And everything I read online confirms everything I believe, thanks in part to Google???s convenient algorithms.

So when Americans get upset about politics these days we tend to stew in our own juices, without benefit of anyone we know well and with whom we disagree ??? and this makes it almost impossible for us to understand the other side.

Not for a minute would I suggest there are any lessons for Canada in any of this.

So this guy makes a joke about Obama … | #uspoli

… but insists that he’s not a racist. Just because he passes along a joke suggesting “the president’s white mother fornicated with dogs, not just black men.”

Guy’s a senior U.S. federal judge, mind. 

When I saw his picture this morning, first thing that came to mind was:

“Add trucker cap = instant NASCAR fan.”

What the hey.

Ignore the trolls, or engage? Mudwrestling with pigs and other dilemmas for 2012 | #cdnpoli

Every now and then you want to pause and re-evaluate. Is this working? What am I trying to do here? Is this the best way to go about it? Is it producing the results I want?

Now seems as good a time as any. Last night on FB, I offered this:

Aspiration for 2012: win back the words, reclaim the public sphere, raise the tone of civic discourse, make citizenship something to which we can all rededicate ourselves with pride. In other words, carry on being an insufferably sanctimonious wanker.

While I’m not worried about the sanctimonious wanker thing, I’m curious about the larger picture. It’s sometimes helpful to cast off the intellectual equivalent of yellow-wax buildup and go back to first principles. Going through the reasoning will, I hope, help clarify some things.

In brief, I’ve tried, in this little corner at least, to avoid engaging directly with people whose sole purpose seems to be filling cyberspace with specious bullshit. It’s an arbitrary, personal judgment on my part, naturally, but there’s a clear difference between honest disagreement and empty sophistry. Until now, my attitude toward the latter has been “don’t bother. You’re wasting your time and energy,” or “paying attention to them just gives them the validation they’re looking for,” or “don’t get into a pissing match with a skunk,” or perhaps most vividly, “never get into a mud-wrestling fight with a pig. You’ll ruin your clothes, and the pig will just enjoy it.”

Then I saw this.

So while there’s much to be said for the “don’t engage” approach, @wicary’s elegant scalpel work is a pretty eloquent argument for the opposite tack. And in truth, it feeds into the larger project of reclaiming public conversation. There’s a persuasive case for not letting this kind of nonsense go unchallenged; lies, astroturf, propaganda and manufactured controversies have to be addressed, because if not, they’ll just keep being propagated and amplified and eventually they’ll come to dominate the conversation

Again, it goes back to fundamental critical-thinking skills. Who’s advancing this storyline? Whose interests are being served? Does it make sense? Do the underlying assumptions hold up in the face of the evidence? Why is this narrative being advanced? What else is going on? Is it meant to draw attention away from anything else? 

As always, the first question has to be: what are we trying to accomplish? It can’t be to make the other side shut up, because a., that’s never going to happen, and b., we don’t want to give them an excuse to whine about censorship and act like victims. 

No. Ultimately it has to be about reclaiming the discursive turf, about re-framing the way we approach issues of public policy and what kind of society we want, and about not letting the noise machine and echo chamber hijack the conversation and / or drown everything else out. 

It’s a long and exhausting undertaking. No illusions here; it takes a lot of time and energy going through things over and over again, especially when they’re things that ought to be obvious, and when the other side’s devoted so many resources to its own insidious and calculated framing. We’re facing a disciplined, focused campaign that’s willing to advance untruths, to smear, to misdirect, to take things out of context, and to drag the conversation into the gutter every day if that’s what it takes. The buffoonish antics of some of its mouthpieces haven’t made it any less effective.

Strong arguments both ways, and thus far I haven’t found either way definitive. What say you, internets?

Related posts:

A sickening new low in police brutality

Texas woman sues police department after she was arrested — and forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh

BY Nina Mandell
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, October 9th 2011, 1:14 PM

A ride in a sheriff's car was made even worse by the officer's radio choice for one Texas woman.

Dylan Lynch/Getty

A ride in a sheriff’s car was made even worse by the officer’s radio choice for one Texas woman.

Rush Limbaugh was amused by the suit.

Ethan Miller/Getty

Rush Limbaugh was amused by the suit.

A Texas woman is suing her local police department after she says she was arrested for no reason – and forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh.

In a lawsuit filed last week over the Oct. 4, 2010 incident, Bridgett Nickerson Boyd said her trouble began when she noticed her engine steaming and pulled over to the side of the highway, the Houston Chronicle reported. As she was pulling over, sheriff’s deputy Mark Goad pulled behind her – and then arrested her for driving on the shoulder.

To make a bad day even worse, her heart began racing dangerously fast and she had to go to the hospital, according to the report. Goad followed her there – and then rearrested her once she was treated.

The final straw came when he then put her in the back of his car and cranked up the conservative talk show host – who was making “derogatory comments about black people” all the way to jail, Boyd charged.

All of the charges against her were almost immediately dismissed by a magistrate.

Boyd’s attorney said she tried to get the sheriff’s department to take action – but when they refused, she filed suit alleging defamation, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“The taxpayers pay money for crime prevention,” Boyd’s lawyer told the paper. “I don’t think she was committing any crime.”

The talk show king himself got word of the lawsuit and addressed it on his radio show last week, seemingly amused by the whole incident.

“This woman doesn’t know how lucky she is.  What a great opportunity she had, forced to listen.  Derogatory comments about black people?  We don’t make derogatory comments about black people.  We make derogatory comments about liberals,” he said, chuckling.  “According to her Facebook page, Bridgett Nickerson Boyd’s favorite TV shows are Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow.  No surprise there.  I don’t know about Jerry Springer.  He’s not mentioned.  Wouldn’t doubt it, though.”

What was it they were blasting at Noriega? David Bowie? Bruce Cockburn? Billy Idol? He should consider himself lucky.

A sickening new low in police brutality

Texas woman sues police department after she was arrested — and forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh

BY Nina Mandell

DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER

Sunday, October 9th 2011, 1:14 PM

A ride in a sheriff's car was made even worse by the officer's radio choice for one Texas woman.

Dylan Lynch/Getty

A ride in a sheriff’s car was made even worse by the officer’s radio choice for one Texas woman.

Rush Limbaugh was amused by the suit.

Ethan Miller/Getty

Rush Limbaugh was amused by the suit.

A Texas woman is suing her local police department after she says she was arrested for no reason ??? and forced to listen to Rush Limbaugh.

In a lawsuit filed last week over the Oct. 4, 2010 incident, Bridgett Nickerson Boyd said her trouble began when she noticed her engine steaming and pulled over to the side of the highway, the Houston Chronicle reported. As she was pulling over, sheriff’s deputy Mark Goad pulled behind her ??? and then arrested her for driving on the shoulder.

To make a bad day even worse, her heart began racing dangerously fast and she had to go to the hospital, according to the report. Goad followed her there ??? and then rearrested her once she was treated.

The final straw came when he then put her in the back of his car and cranked up the conservative talk show host ??? who was making “derogatory comments about black people” all the way to jail, Boyd charged.

All of the charges against her were almost immediately dismissed by a magistrate.

Boyd’s attorney said she tried to get the sheriff’s department to take action ??? but when they refused, she filed suit alleging defamation, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution, assault and battery and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

“The taxpayers pay money for crime prevention,” Boyd’s lawyer told the paper. “I don’t think she was committing any crime.”

The talk show king himself got word of the lawsuit and addressed it on his radio show last week, seemingly amused by the whole incident.

“This woman doesn’t know how lucky she is.  What a great opportunity she had, forced to listen.  Derogatory comments about black people?  We don’t make derogatory comments about black people.  We make derogatory comments about liberals,” he said, chuckling.  “According to her Facebook page, Bridgett Nickerson Boyd’s favorite TV shows are Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow.  No surprise there.  I don’t know about Jerry Springer.  He’s not mentioned.  Wouldn’t doubt it, though.”

 

What was it they were blasting at Noriega? David Bowie? Bruce Cockburn? Billy Idol? He should consider himself lucky.