I sort of let this thread get away from me yesterday when I was dealing with all the other ones so catching up now:

Vic Carter says: “In regards to racism, I really do feel that people need to have the same starting point. If one person thinks it is racist to joke about racial stereotypes, but another feels that true racism has a tangible impact on something other than how people feel. It’s kind of hard to get anywhere.”

I actually have complicated feelings on that one… here there’s sort of a tension between activism and literary theory and cultural studies. In a sense, I guess I’d say both of your theoretical people are right. I am very much against policing language. It gets complicated and I have a lot to address so short form, expression of ideas (be they racist or not) goes a long way towards discourse and allowing thought to mutate. That includes negative expressions. “All In The Family” is a show about a bigot. There are constant racist jokes. It was done in jest, but they are still there. “Tarzan” is a book about the natural genetic intellectual superiority of the white man over other animals and races. It is entirely about colonialism and the superiority of whites. It is HELLA racist. But I also think it’s one of the most important books ever written and it’s been my mission over this last year to get people to start pushing it as a part of the literary canon. Yes these things have negative impacts, and they can also have positive impacts, but the dissection of texts (in the literary studies sense this means what you would probably call “media” i.e. books, TV, movies, internet, artwork, whatever) is important towards forwarding the continuing discourse of society. So it is just as important for Michael Richards to be able to say “nigger” as Chris Rock. That doesn’t mean either of them are above criticism for doing so.

Language is mutable and interpretive. You need no further proof of that than the disconnect between Vic’s definition of racism and other people’s, but it goes further. Derrida explains that it is so mutable that we as a people can’t even truly agree on what “green” means and when something stops being green and starts being blue or yellow. This happens between cultures and between individuals. So in an sense, true total understanding through conversation is impossible. We just try to make goal posts and get as close as we can.

Vic also says: “Treating black people like victims, TO ME, is racist. It denigrates them and disregards their own agency when it comes to solving the problems centered within their community.”

I agree there 100%. But that is also part of the systemic racism. That’s what I was trying to complain about in the other thread. The term doesn’t (or isn’t meant to… Derrida again) refer to the negative actions intentionally placed by society, it refers to the systemic inequality. So yes, the idea that blacks are necessarily victims is racist. As is the idea that Asians are necessarily intelligent, even though that would be a positive connotation.

Kevin Cooney says: “I don’t think that “systematic racism” us the phrase I would use. We have a Climate of Racism. And just like you can have unseasonably cold weather at a particular location and time and still have global warming, we can have a president that is black while still having a climate of racism.”

That’s probably also true. But limited. We use the word systemic because we are talking about the makeup of the system. Climate (even social climate) would be more specific. More along the lines of what Vic means, I think. Like… I dunno, I’d say there was a climate of racism at a Klan rally. But I’d even say there was a climate of racism that leads to the Sterling and Castile shootings. But systemic racism would include things less quantifiable than that. Far more passive… things like the inherent linkage between class and race that I did in my long comment about Marxism above.

Vic and Laura Valentine then had a conversation about numbers of which I don’t have much to add. She’s pretty much just 100% right. The reason “systemic” is agnostic to intent is because those subtleties need to be evaluated. Like Vic said, if there are 1000 police shootings in a year, even if all of them were black people that would be an insignificant portion of the populace. BUT as Laura said that’s not the point. The point is that the percentage that are black is statistically out of whack with the general populace makeup. BY A LOT. As is the percentage in prison. As is the percentage in poverty, and a bunch of other issues. So the question that is being evaluated is WHY are those percentages out of whack and what can we do about it. It isn’t really about “blame” so much as it is about correction.