Monday, April 9, 2012

Racist Racists and the Racism They Espouse

So, some moron rants some racism, and gets heaps of attention.  I really didn't know who John Derbyshire was until last week.  I am unimpressed.  I guess I am surprised this guy is getting so much attention, but I do think that it did produce at least one interesting post: What should you tell your children about John Derbyshire (and other racists). 

I am not posting all of it but here are some of the key lessons to be taught:
1) Among your fellow citizens are an unknown number who believe that certain human races are inherently inferior or superior than others. Most likely, these beliefs manifest in ideas that people of certain races are "just different," and that these differences just so happen to provide easy assumptions about the merit or quality of a person of one race or another.

(2) Americans are descended from people from every corner of the globe. The circumstances of their arrival vary widely, part of why their treatment and status once they arrived also varied.

(3) Your ancestry is cause for celebration no matter where your family's origins, but racists will take it to be a determinant of your personality, abilities, and worth as a human being.

(4) The default principle in everyday personal encounters is, that as a fellow citizen, with the same rights and obligations as yourself, any individual of one race is entitled to the same courtesies you would extend to any individual of another race. That is basic good manners and good citizenship. In some unusual circumstances, however -- e.g., racism -- some people will argue that equality must be "overridden" in the cause of, for example, "personal safety."

(5) Sometimes people will point out to you, "There are, for example, no black Fields Medal winners." Sometimes people say things like this because they want to discuss, say, the inherent inequalities in our education system that tilt the playing field against black students. Sometimes they say it because they want you to believe that black people are inherently worse at math. Both conversations are partially about race, but the latter is necessarily racist.

(6) As you go through life, you will experience an ever larger number of encounters with racists. Assuming your encounters are random -- for example, not restricted only to racist convicted murderers or to racist investment bankers -- the Law of Large Numbers will inevitably kick in. You will observe that the means -- the averages -- of many traits are not so different for racist and non-racist Americans. Some people argue that less-educated or poorer Americans are more likely to be racist. This appears to be false, and is sometimes informed by classism, which is not so different from racism.

(9) A small cohort of racists -- in my experience, around 0.5 percent -- is ferociously hostile to people of other races and will go to great lengths to inconvenience or harm them. A slightly larger cohort of racists may go along passively if the point-five percent take leadership in some event. They may do this out of a vague feeling that the minorities have it coming.

(10f) Do not settle in a district or municipality run by politicians who implement laws that promote racism.

(10g) Before voting for a racist politician, scrutinize his/her character much more carefully than you would a nonracist.

(13) In that pool of people who are racist, there are nonetheless many intelligent and well-socialized racists. (I'll use IWSR as an ad hoc abbreviation.) You should consciously seek opportunities to make friends with IWSRs. In addition to the ordinary pleasures of friendship, you will gain an opportunity to help your new friend expand his or her understanding of race and whether it really determines a person's innermost qualities.
(15) Fortunately, ISWRs are depleting in supply, as being openly racist in the U.S. becomes costlier and as Americans themselves become less racist. Moments such as the publication of and backlash against John Derbyshire's article are an opportunity to out one racist, and, more importantly, they are an opportunity to confront the racism that still exists in American society. Derbyshire, after all, has been writing this stuff unmolested for over a decade. Instead of focusing on why we reject his views now, maybe we should be considering why we tolerated them for so long.

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