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Zer Netmouse
June 7th, 2009
06:14 pm

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Skip trying to prove you're not racist

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From:skzbrust
Date:June 7th, 2009 10:37 pm (UTC)
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"Partly because, well, we're just about all racist, really"

It is possible to define racism in such a way that anyone and/or everyone is racist. I cannot see how such a definition is useful for anything.

"It's real only because people believe in it, but you can say the same thing about the value of money. Both have a deep impact on how the world works despite the fact that their values are socially constructed."

Specious, Anne. The issue is not money, it is the effect of money (or, more precisely, class).

Here is a thought experiment: Suppose you could wave a magic wand and remove any and all prejudice based on race. At this point, how much of the misery caused by difference in race vanishes? Answer: All of it. Now, suppose you wave this same wand, and you remove any and all prejudice based on social class. How much of the misery caused by difference in social class vanishes? Answer: Very little.

Racial prejudice is based on ignorance; class consciousness is based on knowledge. Makes a difference.

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From:netmouse
Date:June 7th, 2009 11:03 pm (UTC)
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It is possible to define racism in such a way that anyone and/or everyone is racist. I cannot see how such a definition is useful for anything.

In some ways it is, and in some ways it isn't. *shrug* Which is largely why many people trying to make a difference on these issues in this community are often using other, not overloaded and triggery terms to move forward with. And part of why "Are you calling me racist?" is such a total derail. It's besides the point, and it's not useful. Is it more important to treasure that word as something that draws a line between you and the bad guys or to keep moving forward from where we are today?

"It's real only because people believe in it, but you can say the same thing about the value of money. Both have a deep impact on how the world works despite the fact that their values are socially constructed."

Specious, Anne. The issue is not money, it is the effect of money (or, more precisely, class).


The comparison is not one I made up. It is made repeatedly in the book Us and Them: Understanding Your Tribal Mind. It seems quite sound to me. Not a total parallel, just a useful illustrative example of something else with a similar sociological basis.

Your response about class is tangential to the point I was making, so I'm going to ignore it. The effects of class are not the same as the effects of giving money a value and then using it in exchange with one another in this thing we call trade. They interact with one another, of course, but your point doesn't disprove the analogy, it just takes it as an opportune moment to derail into another topic.

(your thought experiment also doesn't hold together for me - neither waving of the magic wand causes all that misery to vanish. Because removing prejudice does not remove entrenched social status, employment status, resource distribution and ownership, educational history, drug addictions and medical history, broken families, positions in and out of prison and jail, laws, etc.)
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From:cos
Date:June 8th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
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    It is possible to define racism in such a way that anyone and/or everyone is racist. I cannot see how such a definition is useful for anything.

I didn't see her point as being about the usefulness of this definition, but rather about the uselessness of focusing on it. So you may be agreeing. However, in a more general context, I can't think of a useful and true definition of racism that doesn't include most everyone at least a little bit.

    Specious, Anne. The issue is not money, it is the effect of money (or, more precisely, class).

Here I think you completely missed what she's saying, though in a somewhat understandable way: When the conversation is about racism, it's natural for class issues to come to mind. But that happens to be a coincidence. In this analogy, she's not talking about class, she really is talking about money. The value of money is socially constructed (and encoded into institutions and laws and whatnot), but that doesn't mean that the $10 bill in your pocket is worth no more than the paper it's printed on. Similarly, the existence of race is socially constructed rather than biologically real, but that doesn't mean race isn't real. It's as real as money.
From:sethb
Date:June 8th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
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If you define racism in a way that makes only some people racist, it's your definition that has that cause; how useful is that? I prefer to define actions (and beliefs) as racist; it doesn't matter (to the definition) who performs them or holds them. And it's the specific actions (perhaps as the results of specific beliefs) that actually affect people.

Very little misery is caused by prejudice based on social class. Economic class (and not prejudice based on it) causes misery. I'm prejudiced against people who are unnecessarily and unintentionally rude and impolite (which is low/lack of class). How much misery does that sort of prejudice cause?

If you can't afford the stuff you want and need, you're miserable. It doesn't matter whether someone looks down on you because of that (that's the prejudice part), it's the fact that you don't get it because you can't afford it.

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