Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Is there anti-white racism?

 Is there anti-white racism? Some have argued that there can't be anti-white racism because whites are privileged in society as a whole.

I have never understood this. We don't just live in society as a whole. we live in subgroups, and within some subgroups, whites can be discriminated against. 

23 comments:

Jim S. said...

A friend of mine was pushed off a bridge in Honolulu. The locals yelled "Haole!" right before they did, which is their derogatory term for anyone not Polynesian (although in my experience it was used primarily against whites). My friend fell twelve feet into a stream, cracked his head and shattered his wrist on a rock. I wrote a ukulele song at the time called "I'm Just One More White Man in Waikiki".

Jim S. said...

And the Manchester sex trafficking case involved white teenage girls being kidnapped by British Pakistanis and forced into prostitution for years.

Mortal said...

I would say that the Nation of Islam, which said (Says? Are they still around?) that all whites were devils, was anti-white racist.

Chad Handley said...

I think this idea gets blown out of proportion and/or promoted by people who don't understand it. The idea behind it is that racism is essentially a statement or a usage of power. What the above posts have been describing is essentially bigotry, which is just hating people who are different. Yes, of course, people of color can be and too often are bigots. But racism is not just bigotry, it's bigotry + the power to negatively affect the lives of the people you are bigoted against on a wide scale.

It was always described to me thusly: say it was a popular opinion among blacks that white people were dishonest. How much would that belief affect the life of a typical white person? It might affect them in their interpersonal relationships with black people, but it wouldn't generally interfere with them getting a job or a mortgage. It wouldn't affect their relationship with the police or with the justice system. What black people believe about white people makes little to no difference to the life of the average white person. Because negative stereotypes blacks have of whites amounts to just bigotry, and bigotry by itself has relatively few social consequences.

Now, I don't even have to ask you to imagine the reverse situation, because you live in it. What white people believe about black people still severely affects black lives across a range of issues: employment, the criminal justice system, etc. That's racism - where bigotry actually limits the aspirations and potentially controls the lives of the people who are the victims of bigotry.

This is just a terminological difference that is misunderstood because people use the terms bigotry and racism as if they were synonyms. But in the academic/political circles where this idea originated, racism means something very different to mere bigotry. What most people mean by racism is just bigotry, which is why they are confused at the idea that blacks can't be racist. But once the power relation inherent to the concept of racism is cleared up, so is the confusion.

Legion of Logic said...

Chad: "But once the power relation inherent to the concept of racism is cleared up, so is the confusion."

This becomes less clear in sub-groups, for example one white guy who lives and works in a black neighborhood and all the blacks think white people are dishonest. Who experiences more problems then? What white privilege would he experience?

I recall a school trip my senior year where I was an idiot and I got separated from my group and couldn't find the hotel we were at. At one point I found myself literally the only non-black person in sight. I lost count of how many "white boy" comments I received, not all accompanied by laughter (also not comforting), and there were entire groups that stopped what they were doing to simply stare as I passed. I assure you, statistical societal privilege on a national scale was availing me little at that point.

So, in that situation, who had the power? What is the difference between mass bigotry and racism linked to power? I don't find that line to be clear at all, and frankly I think that's where left-wing analysis of oppression usually falls apart - it's not about groups, it's about individuals who may or may not experience something on average. The former actually promotes bigotry because it stereotypes based on which boxes are checked off - he's a black man, therefore he experiences oppression. He's a white man, therefore he is privileged in his life.
Both are often not true, and both are ignored at the group level. Treating people as individuals rather than members still allows analysis of statistical anomalies, while also avoiding the stereotyping and the bigotry that results.

Mortal said...

But racism is not just bigotry, it's bigotry + the power to negatively affect the lives of the people you are bigoted against on a wide scale.

By that definition, you can't accuse "white, trailer trash" of ever being racist, even if they hate and fear all minorities, because they have next to zero power in our society.

If you're bigoted on the basic of race, then that's racism - by definition. If you're bigoted for some other reason (say, party affiliation), that's just bigotry.

Chad Handley said...

"This becomes less clear in sub-groups, for example one white guy who lives and works in a black neighborhood and all the blacks think white people are dishonest. Who experiences more problems then? What white privilege would he experience?"

The institutions that surround them would still be dominated by anti-black racism. If the white person has a problem and calls the police, or has to take the black people in his neighborhood to court, or competes with his black neighbors for a job, he would still have the advantage. There are of course areas in our country where blacks outnumber whites, but the institutions of power that have the most control over their lives are still dominated by whites.

Now, could blacks be racist in some African country where all the institutions of power are in the hands of black people? Very possibly, but even in that situation, many African countries are dominated by exterior forces (world bank, IMF, etc) that are predominantly controlled by whites. But yes, it is possible, under this technical definition of racism, for blacks to be racist - just not in this country.

"
I recall a school trip my senior year where I was an idiot and I got separated from my group and couldn't find the hotel we were at. At one point I found myself literally the only non-black person in sight. I lost count of how many "white boy" comments I received, not all accompanied by laughter (also not comforting), and there were entire groups that stopped what they were doing to simply stare as I passed. I assure you, statistical societal privilege on a national scale was availing me little at that point.

So, in that situation, who had the power?"

Socially, institutionally, you did. If the police were called, if the case went to court, the institutions that have power over your lives and their lives would be stacked in your favor. The police officer would probably be white, the judge would probably be white, a majority of jurors would probably be white, and the reporter who framed the case for the media would probably be white. What those white people think about black people would affect the outcome of the case and public perception of it. What black people think of whites wouldn't affect you, legally or institutionally.

Chad Handley said...

"By that definition, you can't accuse "white, trailer trash" of ever being racist, even if they hate and fear all minorities, because they have next to zero power in our society."

They are racist by virtue of participating in and perpetuating racism. And they do have power over and against black people, even some black people who are economically superior to them. If you're an upper-middle class black man in Alabama accused of raping a trailer trash white woman, that white woman is still favored INSTITUTIONALLY. That case would be decided more on the basis of what white people believe about black male sexuality than it would about what black people think of white female sexuality.

"If you're bigoted on the basic of race, then that's racism - by definition. If you're bigoted for some other reason (say, party affiliation), that's just bigotry."

This is a semantic issue. Think about it like the dispute between theists and atheists over the definition of atheism. Some say it means denial of belief in God, some people think it means a lack of belief in Gods. We may never agree on how the term should be used, but every speaker can be clear about what he means.

What many academics on race who say blacks can't be racist mean by racism is bigotry + power. You can use the word as a synonym for bigotry if you want to, as long as you understand that's not the way the word is being used by people who subscribe to the "black people can't be racist" theory. If all you mean by racism is bigotry, or race-based bigotry, then the academic would agree with you that, by that common usage of the term, black people can be racist. They would still insist that by their more technical definition of the term, black people (in contemporary America, at least) can't be racist.

Mortal said...

but every speaker can be clear about what he means

Good, we can agree on that. And to be perfectly clear about what I mean, I am not using the term as a synonym for bigotry. Bigotry on some basis other than race is not racism. Bigotry on the basis of race is.

Think of it in terms of a Venn diagram with 2 circles, one completely inside the other. Racism is a subset of bigotry - as is sexism, ageism, anti-Catholicism, or antisemitism (and sadly, many other such isms). And just as both men and women can be sexist, so can both black and white people. Power has nothing to do with it.

Mortal said...

Left out 2 words. I should have written "so can both black and white people be racist."

Chad Handley said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chad Handley said...

Let me try to explain the reason why I think this terminological distinction arose.

When academics study the issue of bigotry, the see disproportionate effects depending on the perpetrator and the victim.

When a white person in contemporary America engages in an act of anti-black bigotry, he is participating in and perpetuating a system that oppresses black people.

When a black person engages in an act of anti-white bigotry, he is NOT participating in or perpetuating a system that oppresses white people.

That makes those two acts which are very similar on an individual level vastly different on a social and institutional level. So much so that it justifies, in academic circles, treating the two incidences as distinct phenomena, which in turn justifies using distinct terminology to refer to them.

Those academics chose to use the term racism to draw out and make distinct the disproportionate effects of anti-black bigotry in contemporary America.

Now, granted, you might not use the term that way. You might think it was a mistake and/or confusing to use the term racism to point this out, as opposed to using some other word (and here I would agree with you.) But you can't just decide that your definition and usage is the only legitimate one. This terminological distinction was motivated and justified by the phenomena itself. It wasn't just invented to make white people feel bad or make black people feel morally superior. (Far from it, it actually makes it the case that a person is racist by an accident of birth. A white person may be born into a country where he cannot be racist, and a black person may be born into a country where he can. It has less nothing to do with the character of any individual person and everything to do with the institutions that dominate the culture where he lives.)

Chad Handley said...

Sorry, Mortal, I misread your last post. I retract the last two paragraphs of my 10:06 post. I was in a hurry and skimmed your response on a phone and only really got the last paragraph. My apologies.

Victor Reppert said...

Academic definitions don't necessarily take precedence over popular definitions. Use in the linguistic community, academic or not, determines legitimate meaning.

I think there is a legitimate distinction that the academics are drawing, but reserving the term racism for this kind of structurally supported bias is linguistic mistake.

Mortal said...

The issue can indeed be confusing. Dorothy Day frequently wrote about systemic, or structural, sin in our society. By that, she was not implying that every individual who participates in such is personally sinning. But just as we see God redeeming both individuals and nations in the Old Testament, nations as well as individuals can sin.

The United States of America is clearly guilty of the structural (or societal) sin of racism, but not all its citizens are, even if you personally benefit from an unjust system.

Another example: Entities such as Walmart are guilty of structural sin, in not paying a fair wage and reasonable benefits to its employees, by driving smaller stores out of business, by destroying countless Main Streets across the country. But a customer of that store (or one like it) may not personally be sinning by buying something there. (He likely is, however, if an alternative exists and he can afford to take his business there. But there is no moral obligation to boycott Walmart.)

What Chad is focused on is the societal sin of racism, which indeed requires power to exist. But anyone can be guilty of the personal sin of racism (which is what I was focused on), regardless of whether you have any power or not.

Chad Handley said...

Academic definitions don't necessarily take precedence over popular definitions. Use in the linguistic community, academic or not, determines legitimate meaning.

I don't agree with that at all. You think the way our linguistic community tends to define God, as an old white guy with a beard sitting on a throne, determines the "legitimate meaning" of the term God? Same question for terms like soul, evolution, etc. The folk usage of some terms can be very far from the mark; it doesn't make sense to determine "legitimate meaning" by counting heads.

"I think there is a legitimate distinction that the academics are drawing, but reserving the term racism for this kind of structurally supported bias is linguistic mistake."

I think it was a mistake inasmuch as it generates confusion and bad will. (As I said, lots of people take it to mean white people are inherently more immoral and black people inherently more moral in terms of race, which is obviously false.) I don't think academics are universal in preferring this usage. But when you hear a person say "black people can't be racist," this is probably the usage of racist they are referring to. (Though I've heard lots of people unknowingly use this to mean black people can't suffer from anti-white bigotry at all, and I think those people are just parroting a claim they don't understand.)

Chad Handley said...

"What Chad is focused on is the societal sin of racism, which indeed requires power to exist. But anyone can be guilty of the personal sin of racism (which is what I was focused on), regardless of whether you have any power or not."

Agreed, I think our difference is purely semantic. By your definition of racism, I agree blacks can be racist. By my (or the "academic") definition of racism, you'd probably agree black people (in past and contemporary America) cannot.

I think it would be less confusing to say that contemporary White Americans can be INSTITUTIONALLY racist, but contemporary Black Americans cannot. (Though I've heard some race studies professors say that Black Americans can be racist, but only against other Blacks, inasmuch as they can by their actions participate in and perpetuate a system that oppresses Black people.)

Victor Reppert said...

In the area of academia where I come from, we just add subscripts to terms to distinguish which we mean. Thus, blacks can be racist sub 1 but not racist sub 2. Though I can imagine counter-racist institutions being developed which may result in white people being unjustly discriminated against. There are housing loan officers, for example, who justify using deceit on behalf of minority customers in order to get them a mortgage, since they think the system as a whole is stacked against minorities.

oozzielionel said...

What happens to this when a black person assumes a position of authority or identifies with a group in authority and so exercises power?

Legion of Logic said...

For the sake of getting a message across, it seems far more productive to use adjectives to describe what we are talking about, rather than nouns. "Blacks cannot be institutionally racist in the United States" is a far cry from what people hear with "Blacks cannot be racist in the United States". If anything, the latter creates more animosity.

William said...

I think that the more extreme elements of the left take a historically-summed attitude toward racism, where past institutions like slavery are averaged into the mix of current day prejudices. So by that logic (with which I disagree FWIW) anti-white prejudice as a problem is swamped in quantity by the more traditional kinds.

Chad Handley said...

"For the sake of getting a message across, it seems far more productive to use adjectives to describe what we are talking about, rather than nouns. "Blacks cannot be institutionally racist in the United States" is a far cry from what people hear with "Blacks cannot be racist in the United States". If anything, the latter creates more animosity."

I don't disagree, but keep in mind: for some academics, creating controversy is the point. It's not even entirely an ignoble point, IMO. Creating controversy is a good way to get people to pay attention.

(For instance, contrary to popular opinion, I think Colin Kaepernick's protest is spectacularly effective. You can't even talk about NFL football these days without talking about Black Lives Matter, which is a win for Black Lives Matter.)

Legion of Logic said...

Any press is good press, eh?

I'd be curious for a good analysis of the effects on opinions when BLM shuts down major highways and impacts hundreds, if not thousands, of lives with a protest. A net gain, or a net loss? Seems there is an obvious answer, but perhaps all those people trying to get to work or get home to their children or needing to get to a hospital or even a bathroom become appreciative of BLM protesters who prevent them from doing so.

Every opinion on the NFL thing that I've heard has been 100 percent negative, but that would be expected in a largely conservative area.