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Yes… you are probably being racist… Yes YOU!

I took the last couple of weeks off of blogging. For one I had a dissertation chapter to finish. And second, I just wanted to do a little bit of enjoying Christmas. Now that both of those things are behind me I figured it was time to write another rant. And what better to write a rant about than jumping back into racism and the NFL national anthem protests… because you know… everyone loved it all the other times I’ve done it. *sigh*

So let’s talk about racism. And specifically why it is racist to be against people protesting by kneeling during the national anthem. But first a little back story.

Back in November, I wrote a post saying that if you’re bent out of shape about the anthem protest you should probably consider saluting the Confederate flag, since its history is probably more to your liking. It was relatively well received. An old wrestling friend of mine, Shane, reshared it and asked other people to check it out. Some people, as you might expect, took some level of offense to this. One person in particular was so offended that he has spent the better part of the last three months constantly sending me alt-right videos and blog postings by people with poor understanding of history, culture, statistics, law and MLKjr quotes to explain why I am wrong… both publicly and in personal messages. As far as he was concerned “the facts prove that systemic racism doesn’t exist.” Of course, his best piece of evidence for this was a report that he misunderstood and which actually says the opposite, but whatever. Anyway, this culminated with him commenting about how “I was wrong and Kaepernick protest isn’t about race and I’m the real racist for brining it up” on a facebook post yesterday. Now, as per the rule I set the last time I called someone out for what I considered a pretty racist Facebook argument, I won’t name this person by name… though my blog and my facebook are both public and the comments are there and it’s probably not hard to figure out. He’s welcome to out himself here… and he may very well do so… or he may just block me… just like the last guy. Either is fine.

Anyway, I’m not really here to talk about the existence or lack thereof of excess police brutality against minorities. I’ve done that before. We’ve run the numbers. And they are what they are. Go read the super long comment thread from my post about it two years ago if you care. Honestly, I don’t usually bother with them because, as I’ve pointed out before, it’s not like anyone who wants to argue against this actually cares about the facts anyway. No, instead I want to talk about what IS racism and why it’s problematic to be complaining about the protest even if systemic racism didn’t exist… which it does.

But before we do that… let’s make any alt-right ideologues who haven’t punted on this comfortable by insulting the politically correct SJW libtards first. So there’s this saying that the internet has gotten into that has annoyed me for quite a while now. People have gotten into saying “remember, People of Color can’t be racist and women can’t be sexist because racism and sexism require privilege and power.” That makes for a nice little meme but unfortunately it’s bullshit. Black people can be just as racist as white people. Women can be just as sexist as men. Not only against those in power, but even against those below them… or even in their same station. If I, as a black man, walk around saying “I hate all white people” that’s racist. If a woman says “I hate all men” that’s sexist. If I as a black man say “I hate all black people” that’s also racist. And I know, if you’re one of the people who like to share that meme, you’re thinking “no, that’s not racism. That’s just prejudice. Black people can absolutely be prejudice. Just not racist because that requires power and privilege and the white men have all of that.” Except power… in the sociocultural sense that the concept is referring to… is situational. Sure, on a mass level white men are more powerful and more privileged than any other group (even if I’m sure some are going to chime in here and say “no I’m not… it took me months after college to find a job”) but that doesn’t matter. I’m a teacher. In the classroom, I have both total power and privilege over my students. If I were decide to fail some because they were white, that would be racist. If I were the poorest, most underprivileged black man on the planet, but suddenly grabbed a gun and started shooting white people… that’s suddenly having a shit ton of power, and it’s sure as fuck racist. But neither is actually necessary. All that’s necessary for racism is showing prejudice based on race. I can be racially prejudiced without power or privilege. It’s just that if I have no power or no privilege, people generally don’t give a fuck. This matters for a very important reason that I will get to in a moment.

So here’s the thing with the meme. Its idea is in the right place. What it’s trying to do is detail the fact that racial (and sexual) tensions, at least in this country, are inherently linked to our specific history with slavery that has created a systemic power dynamic over the last five hundred years or so. And that’s true. Because the reason systemic racism and sexism are problems is that the sociocultural power structures that have been built up over history disproportionately affect those out of power so as to maintain and increase the privilege of those in power. BUT, the meme conflates systemic racism and individual racism in EXACTLY THE SAME WAY AS THE PEOPLE YOU ARE ARGUING WITH. The reason people use the “Black people can’t be racist” meme is that no one wants to be racist. It *feels* better to think of yourself as simply prejudiced… but that’s ok, because it’s not as bad as being racist. No one wants to be racist. Almost no one thinks of themselves as racist. Since most of us are taught that “racism” is bad, it feels better to justify your beliefs outside of the usage of the word. It feels better to say “well, I’m doing the moral thing…  but not the racist thing… that’s the other people. Not me. I’m perfect.” For the most part, even the KKK don’t think of themselves as racist. They think of themselves as loving their own race. With full apologies to Avenue Q, Everybody’s a Little Bit Racist. I mean, not me, of course… I’m prefect. ? But you know… everyone else.

And here’s why it matters. The idea that “racism” — that is, the word “racism” — is bad, allows you to move the stigma to the signifier… rather than concentrating on the concept. Maybe your behavior is bad. Maybe it’s not. But if you can tell yourself that it’s not “racist” then it’s easier to justify it for yourself. And when you get into a semantic argument about it you implicitly enforce the stigma over the word rather than the actions.

The reason this is a problem is that it works for both sides of the issue. An odd thing happens whenever I have a discussion around racism or sexism with my freshmen students at the school I teach at. I will inevitably get to some way in which one of the white male student’s rights are being infringed upon, at least in the mind of the middle class white college male. That student will then inevitably say “and that’s reverse racism” or “and that’s reverse sexism.” The simplest example is with the latter. Our school has a policy against overnight guests of the opposite sex in dorm rooms because *GASP* SEX MIGHT HAPPEN!!! Students will correctly point out that this is a dumb rule because “it allows gay students to have sex” and then add “and that’s reverse sexism.” Then I have to point out that… no… it’s not. There’s no such thing as reverse sexism. The reverse of sexism would be treating people fairly! At best it’s sexism. And it’s not really even that, because no… our conservative Catholic private university is not going out of it’s way to create an environment where gay people can have sex but not straight people. It just hasn’t occurred to them that it’s a problem. That said, the entire idea of restricting 18-year-olds from fucking in the name of Christian doctrine is inherently rooted in several millennia of gender roles being tied to religious ideology in order to systemically deprivilege women so that they can be forced into heteronormative monogamy and treated as male property in a marital contract. So yeah… it actually kinda is sexist. But … you know… way more complicated than the kid means when he first asked the question. Then the kid’s brain will explode and I have to have someone clean up the mess. But I just know that at least one or two of the students in the class will understand the greater point. Their mind will be opened and they will happily go out and fuck that night… in the name of equality! And that’s a good day.

But the reason the kid comes up with the term “reverse sexism” is that he has been taught that he isn’t allowed to use the term “sexism” to explain any inequality that does affect men. And the reason he uses the term “reverse racism” is that he has been taught that he is not allowed to use the term “racism” to reference any perceived inequality that affects white people. So in both cases, he had to invent his own term to express his outrage over his full tragic eighteen years of white upper middle-class frustration. And he never learned the greater endemic problems that caused any of his issues in the first place. Because he doesn’t fear the concepts. He fears the words. And when you try to win an argument over social justice with someone by teaching them that it’s all about the definition of the words, the lesson they learn is “ok, so defining the words is the way to win the argument” because they certainly aren’t going to learn “wait, maybe I’m an asshole who just doesn’t like black people or women.” And when you try to privilege the underprivileged (minorities, women, lgbtq+) by removing them from the definition and conflating active racism and sexism, racist and sexist behaviors, and systemic patriarchal or kyriarchal structures to claim that because you don’t fit one definition, you must not fit the others, you’ve now made the fight about definitions rather than concepts.

And that brings us back to the alt-right dude. Yes, I realize that alt-right dude totally didn’t get this deep into the article. But lets just pretend, So when I say that being upset about the flag protest is racist, a favorite tactic of the people who like to argue against me is to say “no, the flag protest isn’t about race. You’re the real racist for bringing race into it.” If you’ve read any of the comments on any of these blogs you’ll see that I never actually use the “no I can’t be racist. I’m black” retort (even though I could… you know, what with me being perfect and all ?). What I say instead is “do you realize that nothing sounds more racist than telling a black man who is complaining about racism that he’s the real racist.” It’s different. Because now I’m putting the focus on their actions. I’m not stupid. I know this won’t change their minds. But as I always say, the reason I argue with idiots on the internet isn’t to change the mind of the idiot. It’s for others who might be wandering by to say “oh, wait… this guy Mav is arguing with is an idiot racist sexist. I would like to not be an idiot racist sexist. Maybe I shall try to avoid being like that guy!”  And for the most part, that’s pretty effective. I’ve had people write me and thank me and that makes me feel good about myself… you know… “if I can save just one kid” and all that… and you know, bonus points if I can make the kid a better person and get him laid.

But alt-right dude has no idea that his behavior is racist or sexist. Because he knows “his heart is in the right place.” He gets to say “I don’t judge people by their color. So I’m not the racist. You’re the racist because you’re the one concerned with race. This is America. All people are equal.” And he can say it because… well, he sees it that way. One of the biggest problems with the way we treat Trump voters is that we treat them like they’re a bunch of idiots who are just mad because they think “the niggers and the faggots and the bitches are coming to take away their way of life.” But like… they’re not wrong. We totally do want to take it away. Because the biggest privilege of being white, male and straight in America isn’t having a better job with better pay. It’s not even not getting shot by the cops. The biggest privilege is being able to pretend that the underprivileged don’t exist.

Think of it this way. If systemic racism didn’t exist at all, then there is no harm in ignoring the protestors. Who would care. It would just be a bunch of ingrates not standing up. You know who else doesn’t stand for the national anthem during football games? Me. I mean, unless I have to go to the bathroom or get some chips or something. And the same with 99% of America. The not standing for the national anthem doesn’t affect alt-right heteronormative white dudes at all. It only bothers them because they know the protesters are specifically doing it because they don’t want them to.

That has always been the way of America. It has always been the way of culture in general. It’s almost impossible to change the minds of anyone who is aware that they are actively oppressing anyone else. The slaves can’t just tell a slave owner “hey, that’s wrong. Let the slaves go!” Because frankly, the slave owner has a pretty good deal going. Instead the slaves appeal to those who might feel bad about passively supporting the system. Cultural change happens through protests because those who are underprivileged disrupt the comfort of the privileged who would otherwise ignore them.

So, alt-right dude, when you say “you shouldn’t protest the flag because you are disrespecting the soldiers who made this country great” I get that this isn’t because you actively think that there’s anything wrong with black people. You don’t. And no… I’m not saying that you are responsible for the disparate power dynamic that allows you to have privilege in our cultural system. You’re not. At least not directly. What I’m saying is that when someone says “I am not standing to support an anthem that proclaims that this country is great when it is NOT GREAT for so many people who have skin like mine” any response of “no, you are being disrespectful to the people who made this country great for you” is racist. And when the person says “but it’s not great. Because racism” and your answer is “yes it is. Not stand up like I told you to” you are moving from passive support of the systemic racist structure to actively oppressing and trying to silence the voices of people because they do not have the luxury of ignoring race the same way you do. You are telling the niggers to behave and shut the fuck up and be happy with what the white man gave you.

And that… is fucking racist.

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30 comments for “Yes… you are probably being racist… Yes YOU!

  1. avatar
    January 5, 2018 at 4:54 pm

    Amen.
    *kneels with a Mexican flag draped over himself*

  2. avatar
    January 5, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    Usual fun typos. I’ll leave the finding of said typos as an exercise for the reader (or the writer).

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      I’ll proofread later. Posted it quickly because I had to go workout… which I am doing now.

  3. avatar
    January 5, 2018 at 5:17 pm

    Also, I don’t have the same rule as you. His name is fucking Lou Marconi and I am calling him out because his inane posts wasted at least 10 minutes of my life.

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 6:19 pm

      I certainly can’t control anyone else’s moral code. 🙂

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 6:48 pm

      The amazing thing is that it has become absolutely clear to me that he feels no concern about engaging in racist behavior, but he blows his lid if anyone points out that he is engaging in racist behavior (or calls him a racist). He is literally proving one of your points and doesn’t seem to understand that. He is so focused on avoiding the label “racist” that he is willing to double down on racist behavior to “ensure” that he isn’t given that label.

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 6:58 pm

      Yeah, he’s actually a pretty fascinating case study in that respect.

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 8:19 pm

      If I hadnt been watching the posts with Lou, I would have thought you had just met my parents.

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 8:32 pm

      hah!!!!

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      Man that whole series of posts and conversations changed my opinions on so many people

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 8:53 pm

      Shane Taylor: that’s actually kind of sad. Like I really DIDN’T want people to be mad at him. The reason I kept warning him was that I was trying to give him the benefit of the doubt and be like “dude, you are not coming off well here. You are being super racially offensive, and I’m trying to assume you don’t want that” But the fact that he doubled down on it and tried over and over again to basically say “no, you shut up… you don’t know racism I know racism and you’re the real racist” and then to misquote MLK repeatedly to justify systemic oppression… to the point of literally claiming that he knew more about MLK’s motivations than the man’s ACTUAL DAUGHTER. That was just some crazy shit!

      And that’s like the public stuff… on my posts…. that doesn’t even begin to touch the random shit that he’s texted me over the last three months because for some reason i’m in his life so much that it’s really important to prove to me specifically that racism doesn’t exist.

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 9:02 pm

      I’m not mad at him, it literally just seems like ingrained ignorance of the truth, which would be fine if one was willing to see and analyze different opinions objectively, but the inability to do that speaks to an inability to truly have an understanding of the issues. When that’s present, continuing the conversation is meaningless and that’s disappointing

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 9:09 pm

      Yeah… that’s another part of why I shut the conversation down on the other thread. I have no delusions that I will change his mind. As has been said repeatedly he doesn’t actually care if he is racist. He cares about being able to shout down people who call him that.

      That’s not super useful. What is useful is being able to show the folly in his line of thinking to those who are willing to listen or learn. And I felt like he’d been sufficiently dumbass to accomplish that. Engaging any further was just pointing out that he was being dumb for the sake of showing him to be dumb… it made far more sense to have a more meta conversation ABOUT what happened than it was to continue that one.

    • avatar
      January 5, 2018 at 9:22 pm

      Absolutely

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 4:11 am

      Well, that thread indisputably showed that he was thoroughly a racist.

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 6:54 am

      omg strauss, mine too. i think i got stupider just reading his posts & had to go drink whisky to restore my brain cells

  4. avatar
    January 6, 2018 at 8:03 am

    Interesting read. I was actually wondering what you thought about the idea that Black people couldn’t be racist or women couldn’t be sexist. One of the commentators on the progressive radio station I listen to would always say those things, and that just seems wrong to me, the idea of ascribing macro properties to micro processes, which is what I wrote my masters thesis on, but in science learning instead of sociology.

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 8:36 am

      yeah… I mean it’s demonstrably false. But it’s an idea that has gained traction. But it’s not really useful beyond trying to privilege through semantic segregation. There’s obviously a problem with the statements “death to all whites” or “death to all men.” So if someone were to say those things, they’ve be being actively racist/sexist. Trying to edge them out on a technicality of some semantic purity that [race/sex]ism can only be institutional and systemic is no better than trying to edge out the white guy who says constant racist things but says it’s ok because he “doesn’t see color and therefore only has good intentions”

      I’m not going to say there’s an equivalency. One problem is certainly far greater and more common than the other. But you can’t play by the rules of science and then replace them with rellgious fervor and platitudes when it suits you and not expect the other side to do the same thing.

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 2:06 pm

      I like to explain it with this analogy: compare a social institution like feudalism, in which one group of people are lords and others are serfs. If a serf gets angry and kills a lord, it could be a crime, but it would be absurd to call it “reverse feudalism” — for the serf is not in a position to set up such an institution. About the only way you could have something the would deserve to be labelled “reverse feudalism” would be if some serfs set up some community of their own, in the woods like Robin Hood, say, and then kidnapped some lords and, uh, lorded over them there in various ways, perhaps as a kind of retribution.

      The premise is that “racism” should be taken as a label for a social institution in which one group is on top and another on the bottom. (Mav refers to this as “systemic” racism). Since folks on the bottom of the current institutions don’t in normal circumstances have the power to actually constitute a comparable institution of “reverse racism”, that label basically makes no more sense than “reverse feudalism.”

      From this point of view, sure Mav could fail white students and a man like Ronald Taylor can go into the Wilkinsburg McDonalds with the aim of killing white people. These would be wrongs, but they would also just be individual actions, not part of any institutionalized system of social oppresion — so not “reverse racism.”

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 3:01 pm

      More or less. A couple of caveats. If the serfs build a merry men type system where they oppress the feudal lords that would still essentially be feudalism. Because it describes the system not the individuals. So it still wouldn’t really be reversed.

      Where it get cumbersome with racism (or sexism) is that the “power” refers more to the power structure than it does to the individual (which is why I said conflating then gets confusing).

      The easiest way to see it is probably with systemic sexism. We live is a system which specifically maintains its power structure in a way that generally lowers the station of women. But the same power structure also affect men. Usually this is in men’s benefit. But sometimes it’s not. For instance in a divorce we tend to side on awarding custody to the mother over the father. This is an aspect of a systemic enforcement of women as caregivers for children. But it still adversely affects men. Similarly the placement of women as the gatekeepers of sexuality forces men into a role of being the ones to pursue relationships. Stuff like that.

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      Chris Maverick there hasn’t been a recent study re: custody awards, but the extant one (from the 90s) shows that men are actually awarded custody _when they ask for it_ 70% of the time, and if they are denied custody and appeal, 50% are awarded it.

      women end up with primary custody more often almost entirely because MOST divorcing couples set up custody between themselves without a court involved, and because when it does go to court, a lot of men don’t ask.

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 4:33 pm

      She’s absolutely right. I wasn’t being super clear. I wasn’t trying to talk about the laws. I was talking about the culture. We— that is Americans — assume the child belongs to the mother. The same way we assume the boy asks for a date or sex or marriage and the girl says yes or no.

      Sorry. Was writing that quickly at a break in pub trivia championships.

  5. avatar
    January 6, 2018 at 11:01 am

    Well written. The anti NFL protest arguement that I was having trouble arguing against effectively could be summarized as “The national anthem is honoring the sacrifice of dead soldiers. How dare you dishonor them by kneeling?” I guess that is similar to saying “no, you are being disrespectful to the people who made this country great for you.”, but it is making the whole argument become emotionally charged with dead young people and widows and kids growing up without parents…

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 11:16 am

      I know you saw it before because you commented on it… but for anyone else who wanders by, I wrote about the counter to Dana’s point here before:

      1) This country is founded on protest and the flag doesn’t really mean that: http://www.chrismaverick.com/wp/2017/08/15/the-lie-of-the-anthem-and-the-flag/

      2) even if it did, compulsory salutation is meaningless and actually lessens the tribute of those who do want to stand for it: http://www.chrismaverick.com/wp/2017/11/03/seriously-just-salute-the-other-flag/

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 11:51 am

      I also like to point out to them that the U.S. Military hasn’t “defended our freedoms” since long before any of us were born. I know they like to SAY that, but it’s nonsense. The primary role of the U.S. military is to force the political will of the United States on other countries through show and use of arms. I mention that, if they consider what it is our military really does, they’ll see it’s not unlike simply marching into a country and forcing our version of “democracy” down their throats while, at the same time, protecting our foreign oil interests.

      They usually don’t like and/or understand that.

      So, what they’re saying is, “I don’t like that these men and women have the nerve to protest right in front of my rampant nationalism.”

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 12:36 pm

      the problem is that then you get into an argument about whether or not the US military actions in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, etc in regards to the war on terror are part of “defending our freedom” or not… they’ll argue that after the 9/11 attacks we needed to do that… and then suddenly you are in an argument about military force as a function of patriotism…. you know… what they wanted and specifically what you were trying to avoid.

  6. avatar
    January 6, 2018 at 11:55 am

    Your mother must be really proud of you. You were, quite obviously, well raised. You can thank her for me. ?

  7. avatar
    January 6, 2018 at 7:27 pm

    Disagreeing with someone ‘s opinion(thinking he was wrong for kneeling, or thinking a business has a right to serve whomever they like, or thinking anything else the internet wants to whine about is silly), is not , simply because their disagreement offends one or more people.

    Assumptions aside, the points made…

    Meh, never mind. I thought I cared, I don’t.

    Everyone is racist, the world sucks, kumbaya or whatever. Go you.

    • avatar
      January 6, 2018 at 7:48 pm

      You’re selectively reading. Anyone is welcome to their opinion. I’ve said that here. I said it in the other comment threads. What we disagree with is facts. This is actually similar to the argument you had where we had actual statisticians telling you that you were doing stats wrong.

      Everyone is welcome to opinions. You don’t get to say that professionals are wrong because their expert opinions don’t match with your uninformed ones. And you especially don’t get to do it when the evidence you are presenting yourself actually says the opposite of what you think it does.

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