I'm not a racist but we shouldn't do anything about racism.

I'm writing another post about racism. I'm sorry if you're getting tired of the topic. As the discussions continue I figure things out, and as I figure them out I address them. 

Does the sentence in the title make sense?

Over time, including recently, I've come across a series of arguments that add up to that position. Four of us wrote a book about racism as an answer to what is essentially that position. 

One argument has to do with the existence of significant racism. The manifestation of this position that I've seen involves assuming that aggregate data are inherently invalid and that the only way to prove the significant existence of racism is to isolate individual cases. The problem is that where racism is concerned we've developed the Smokeless Gun and yet these people will only acknowledge that racism exists if they see smoke rising from a barrel, regardless of how many bullet-ridden corpses are on the ground in front of them.

A judge hears a case in which a Black defendant with no criminal record gets convicted; the defendant is sentenced to three years in prison. The next day another judge hears a case in the same courtroom in which a White defendant with no criminal record gets convicted of an identical crime; the defendant is sentenced to one year in prison. Is there specific evidence that the first judge was racist? Did that judge say anything about race? Probably not. Does that mean we shouldn't conclude that racism was involved?

At the end of a year, sentences in that courtroom average over double in length for Black defendants over White defendants when comparing similar crimes and defendants with similar criminal records. Is there racism in the courtroom?

Yes, but you can't prove it by looking at any given case. 

This is the logic used when discussing a lot of the recent cases of unarmed Black men being killed by police and denying that racism was involved. Did anyone in, say, the Eric Garner case talk about race during the arrest? No. Do statistics indicate that the number of unarmed Black suspects killed by police in a year is way out of proportion to the Black population? Yes, but you can't photograph smoke coming out of any given gun barrel. 

In other words, according to this argument, aggregate data can be ignored. Trends don't count; they're entirely coincidental. By extension, this means that all polls and all statistical analysis of any kind is inherently invalid. I don't know of too many scientists or mathematicians who would agree about that; frankly, I don't know of too many businessmen who would agree about that. 

A second argument is that we shouldn't do anything about racism because everything we would do about racism has costs

Does this correction disadvantage or even inconvenience White people? Can't do that.
Does this correction have any limiting effects on law enforcement? Can't do that.
Does this correction cost any tax dollars? Can't do that. 
Does this correction mean increasing regulation or oversight? Can't do that.

Why should we assume that any of these factors outrank fighting racism in importance? Why does the unjust treatment of a very significant portion of America's population belong on the bottom of our list of priorities? I could make the case that reducing racism substantially would save America a great deal of money and, in fact, I have in previous posts, but I'll allow myself to talk like a liberal for a moment and say:

Who are you to decide that the racism suffered is of lesser importance?

The vast majority of people who hold this viewpoint have never experienced racism. The percentage of people who have experienced racism and hold this viewpoint is pretty tiny. I assume no one reading this thinks this is a coincidence, unless of course they never trust aggregate data. 

There's a third argument we sometimes hear, though this one often comes from people who don't make the first two. This one says that the problems you attribute to racism are actually due to something else. The fallacy here, and it's a big one, is that all problems have one major cause.

Racism and classism often affect the same people; it doesn't follow that we solve their problems by working on classism alone.

Racism and police brutality often affect the same people; it doesn't follow that we solve their problems by working on police brutality alone. 

This is precisely the problem with All Lives Matter. All Lives Matter says that police brutality in general is the problem, not racism. 

Bullshit. They're both problems. 

Like the classism argument, the message here is:

But we All have this problem, so you'll have to wait your turn.

There is no justification for putting this population at the back of the line or the bottom of the list, whether you're a liberal or not. If you don't belong to this population, chances are they've been waiting for longer than you have.

If people use these arguments, does that make them racists?

Maybe not. There is, I suppose, another possibility. They may not think that Black people are inferior or threatening or whatever. They may not hate Black people or even dislike Black people. They may simply be apathetic. They may think that the extra difficulties faced by Black people, whether or not they had anything to do with the political and social structure that both introduced those difficulties and somehow continues to preserve them, are irrelevant. Not their problem. What the problems of Black people do to their neighborhoods, their cities, their country, is not their concern. They're not obligated to be compassionate, they're not obligated to be bothered by injustice, they're not even obligated to be patriotic (though God knows a lot of them fake that one).

Yes, this is a patriotism issue, for a variety of reasons. How just a country they live in. How much the country lives up to its stated ideals, such as "with liberty and justice for all," "all men are created equal," and "inalienable rights." What this country's international reputation looks like. How strong a moral position this country brings to protests about human rights violations overseas. What violating these principles says to America's children.

And, ultimately, not just justice and ideology, but physical and financial health. What position would this country be in with a much smaller underclass? (Make no mistake that racism preserves an underclass.) Lower crime. Less government assistance necessary for poor people because there are fewer poor people. More customers making more money supporting American business. More qualified people that American businesses could hire. A larger tax base. 

It's not just an ethics and patriotism issue, it's also a religious issue. Brother's keeper. Love thy neighbor as thyself. Dealing fairly with others is absolutely a religious obligation. It doesn't matter which major Western religion you look at, content of that nature is awfully big in all of them. 

Maybe they're not racists. 

I don't think they would consider the alternative labels complimentary. 

Views: 530

Comment by Jonathan Wolfman on August 25, 2015 at 11:06am

On the air in early September, this one. The earlier one's on this coming Saturday and the following Wednesday.

Comment by Arthur James on August 25, 2015 at 11:06am


2- views.

3- I no tired.

4- hope you 

get vim and

vigor and pal


Who? comment.

He not entered

madness yet?


Comment by koshersalaami on August 25, 2015 at 11:07am

Hey, Arthur, this thing's only been up a couple of minutes.

Jon, thanks. I kind of figured you'd like this one. I figured out some things and pulled fewer punches. 

Comment by Arthur James on August 25, 2015 at 11:10am


Hi. Jon can Play

on Radio Ariel

and some calm

Adagio by Peter 

I. Tchaikovsky.


I just read and 

Play Safe. Hush.

Adagio lamento


Comment by James Mark Emmerling on August 25, 2015 at 11:13am

I like this alot: "this is a patriotism issue".

Patrotism: "love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it"

Comment by koshersalaami on August 25, 2015 at 11:18am

Exactly, James.

As I pointed out in a post a long time ago, I don't even remember which one, 
The Tuskeegee Airmen left a country that treated them awfully to fight in Europe, patriotically and with a great deal of distinction, got their medals, and came back to a country that still treated them like garbage. They sucked it up, they risked their lives and sacrificed for their country. Now you see White Americans who think that favoring Black kids for college admissions in order to help raise a population economically for the good of the country is too big a sacrifice. Comparatively, they should be ashamed. 

Comment by Veronica Corso on August 25, 2015 at 11:21am

Nice one,Kosh.

Comment by koshersalaami on August 25, 2015 at 11:24am

Thanks, Veronica. I'm now in the odd position of juggling three racism posts simultaneously. My last two are still active, one of them as of about two minutes ago. But the threads lead to each other. A conversation in the first inspired the second, then this one. 

Comment by Arthur James on August 25, 2015 at 11:34am


Comment by fred hallman on August 25, 2015 at 11:44am

I don't think that "racism" per se is as evident in the court as much as it is that the disparate economic situations and lack of cultural acquaintance with, the manipulation of our tragically malleable courts through the use and access to same financially of lawyers on the part of African-Americans or as I like to call them, poorer financially and culturally Americans period.


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