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May 9, 2006

Making My Case So Well

-- by Dave Johnson

I'd like to bring everyone's attention to a comment left by one of our regular "conservative" visitors, at the post Rallying the Base, in which I wrote, "Republicans are down in the polls, so blatant racism is used to remind them who they are for and who they are against."

Here's the comment, judge for yourself whether it makes my point:

Wow...your racism-Detecto-matic must be set to "hypersensitive"...why is it racism to point out that in large measure, the refugees from New Orleans brought their city's high crime rate with them when the moved to Houston?

Would you rather the matter not be discussed because the cold truth (Blacks commit crimes in numbers that are WAY disproportionate to their percentage of the population) makes liberals uncomfortable?

First, I'm "hypersensitive" to think Rush was talking about Black people. Rush was oh-so-careful not to say he meant Black people when he talked about "New Orleans refugees." That's what's known as a "code word." Republicans are so good at using code words, but so-called "conservatives" sure are good at picking up the message that is being sent, no?

And then, of course, comes the racist argument that Black people are different, are criminals, etc. But I was just being a typical "hypersensitive" liberal to think this was about race. It must be a conspiracy theory to think it was about race...

Posted by Dave Johnson at May 9, 2006 12:35 PM

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Comments

Wow is right! What do you call this kind of comment? Note the anger and antagonism with which it begins -- you're a hypersensitive "racism-detecto-maniac." That's right up there with "Islamofacist" which is another term being thrown around.

Then the writer goes on to patiently explain that, no, bigotry is based on COLD TRUTH! That bigotry is NOT bigotry but, get ready for this one, COLD TRUTH! It's a safe bet, too, that this person has no idea that there's anything wrong with this kind of logic. That's the kind of thinking we're up against.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2006 2:05 PM

That's what's known as a "code word." Republicans are so good at using code words, but so-called "conservatives" sure are good at picking up the message that is being sent, no?

Well trained, aren't they?

Posted by: Molly Bloom [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2006 6:00 PM

Yes, the right uses code words and, yes, they are an effective means of communication to the base.

That said, you fall into the trap of responding simply by claiming racism: "And then, of course, comes the racist argument that Black people are different, are criminals, etc."

Sorry, but this is the wrong response. Let us review for a moment. The commenter made a factual allegation: "Blacks commit crimes in numbers that are WAY disproportionate to their percentage of the population."

Now, it seems to me that there are basically 3 responses one can have to this factual claim:
1. You can agree that it shows that blacks have criminal natures.
2. You can deny the factual truth of the statement (i.e. blacks do not commit crimes disproportionately)
3. You can admit the truth of the statement, but claim it is the result of non-racial factors.

The first is obviously racist. The next two are not. What the commenter is doing is daring you to make an argument in favor of either of the latter two. If you can't, then the first conclusion is, by default, correct. And if it is factually true that blacks have criminal natures then there is nothing morallly wrong with saying it and being a racist. Q.E.D.

Personally, I think that it is a combination of factors. I think that the numbers are skewed because blacks are disproportionately arrested, charged, and convicted for the same behavior as whites. On top of that, I think that there are many non-racial, cultural reasons that there is more criminal activity in black communities (e.g. disproportionate lack of education, inferiority of economic opportunities, lack of identification with political leaders and law enforcement officials, to name a few). But to ignore the obvious (there sure are a lot of black people in prison) makes liberals look like fools.

The point is that simply crying "racist, racist!" plays into these guys hands. They are able to say "See? 'the cold truth makes liberals uncomfortable?' They are afraid to discuss the issue openly because they don't believe their own arguments. So why should you listen to them?"

Unfortunately, this is a compelling argument for many. Instead of calling names, liberals need to do a better job of making arguments.

Posted by: space [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2006 7:43 PM

4) I can see the forest - obvious racists are obviously racists. The bigger picture is that the Republicans are out there making the claim. What's to argue IN the claim? I don't bother to argue with people who are claiming that Black people are inferior. They say stuff. It's just stuff.

Posted by: Dave Johnson [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2006 8:16 PM

What's to argue IN the claim? I don't bother to argue with people who are claiming that Black people are inferior.

Again, I disagree with that strategy. The purpose of challenging the factual basis of racist statements -- and not merely labelling them -- is not to convince the person you are arguing with. It is to keep the ideas from spreading to others who may be following the debate. Refusing to make an argument isn't going to convince anybody of anything.

Take Holocaust deniers. It is not enough to call them anti-Semitic. We must affirmatively prove that it did exist. Now, it may be maddening to have to make that argument. But that's life. There are ignorant people out there who think, "Maybe it happened, maybe it didn't. I can imagine a universe where the Holocaust never happened. What's the evidence?" If only one side is presenting evidence, it is like the Swiftboaters attacking Kerry with no response.

My problem with the typical liberal response to racism is that assumes that biological differences between races is some objective impossibility. That is ridiculous. There is no law of physics that says that it is impossible for black people to be more biologically prone to violence or theft.

What makes racism truly objectionable and insidious isn't that people can conceive of differences between races, it is that people WANT to believe in racial superiority/inferiority and do so even when the evidence contradicts that view. Moreover, real racism is about dehumanizing other people, not about racial tendencies.

To see this, look at JIm Crow laws. Even if all the worst stereotypes of black people were true (e.g. less intelligent, less hard-working, more criminally prone) it STILL wouldn't have justified the Jim Crow laws.

After all, who refuses to share a waterfountain or ride on a bus with someone who is dumb? Who refuses to sell property to someone who is lazy? Who bans inter-marriage between criminals and law-abiding citizens? These laws were never directed at the alleged negative characteristics of black people. They were directed at black people as black people. The smartest, most hard-working and law-abiding black person was still not allowed to cross the color lines.

Now, I am not for a minute claiming that blacks are inherently inferior. Merely that the possibility is not objectively IMPOSSIBLE (similarly black superiority is not objectively impossible.) Claiming otherwise only makes liberals sound silly, defensive, and afraid of the argument.

Posted by: space [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 9, 2006 10:44 PM

I am new here and I posted to that poster just now. It is pretty twisted that someone just buys into that statement, which has absolutely no valid basis in fact. The only reason to think that the influx of thousands of Katrina survivors to a city the size of Houston has caused the crime rate to go up with absolutely no data showing this is rank bigotry.

Posted by: JPark [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 14, 2006 5:29 PM

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