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Sun Aug 27, 2017, 11:32 AM

"Everyone is a little bit racist" -- a proposed scale of racism

(an article from my blog)

ďEveryone is a little bit racist.Ē

You may have heard that quote. I am quoting it because I believe itís true. There is no dividing people into two groups, one racist and one not. Itís a spectrum, and what matters is not what feelings or assumptions you start with, but what behavior you end with. Letís look at some sample points on this spectrum ó some levels of racism:

Level 0: innocent. This is where small children start out ó unaware that race is a problem. Maybe itís possible to maintain this into adulthood in circumstances of major social isolation, but I donít think Iíve ever personally seen an example of that.

Level 1: responsible. We are all liable to sometimes forming snap judgments based on first impressions, and race is often a factor that plays into this. But we can compensate for this by taking a moment for a second thought, to double-check our initial thoughtless reaction and make sure weíre being fair-minded. This may not sound very impressive, but for most adults, this is about the best you can expect. People in this category may be ďalliesĒ of minorities, or not.

Level 2: in denial. This is probably where the majority of people fit, on most days. This is where you land if you react to prejudicial snap judgments by rationalizing them instead of reconsidering. Frequently accompanied by the idea that racism is largely historical, or confined to a few extremists ó that itís a distant external problem. Racism at this level isnít going to burn crosses, but it can produce frequent calls to the police about ďsuspiciousĒ characters, or some extra strictness from the police themselves. This mild racism can be enough to make a big difference in how difficult it is for some people to land a job or rent a place to live. So even though the acts committed by any one individual seem minor and excusable, they can add up to a large negative impact on the lives of minority citizens.

Level 3: asshole. This level is for people who sometimes show active racist behaviors, such as taunts and trolling and harrassment with racial epithets. Generally these are people who are habitually unpleasant or obnoxious in other ways as well, or who have long lists of people whose lives they disapprove of. Most often, such people are still in vigorous denial about racism, despite having numerous examples readily visible in the mirror.

Level 4: deplorable. Finally, we come to those who have adopted racism as a guiding philosophy, and who actively evangelize it as an ideology: the Nazis, Klansmen, Neo-Confederates, and other racial separatists. Many are fanatical True Believers, and as such, are capable of horrific violence for their cause.

Again, the point is not that people are divided into groups, who fit one label or another. Any one person can and does slide up and down this scale, plus or minus a space over the course of a day, or larger shifts over months or years as they are exposed to different ideas.

And note that oneís position on this scale may have very little to do with the intensity or severity of their prejudices, particularly in the middle part of the scale. Some can have major race-based fears and handle them well, and others might have minor ones but handle them badly.

The most important factor for affecting how a person moves forward or backward in their behavior is probably the social expectations of the people around them.

But donít take this to mean that the way to make someone act better is by lecturing them. If you really want to bring someone to see another point of view, itís important to listen to them more than you talk to them, and let them express the feelings or anxieties or bad experiences they may be carrying on the subject. And when you do speak, you want to be offering them an option, rather than making a demand.

Because when social pressure comes in a hostile form, itíll probably have the opposite of the desired effect. If you do listen to people at level 2 or 3 talk about race, one thing that often comes up is how much they dislike and resent hearing the word ďracismĒ brought up as a belligerent finger-pointing accusation.

I donít personally know whoís doing this kind of accusing, but some of my friends see it happen, and they affirm that yeah, it ainít helping. Maybe that behavior arises from having one foot in the responsible level and the other in the denial level, so you want to project and externalize the problem. Thatís just my guess, I canít say.

As for the level 4 deplorables, I donít think thereís much point in listening to them or engaging with them. Theyíve created a fantasy world where they believe each otherís made-up stories, so thatís all youíre likely to hear. Theyíve embraced evil, and there arenít really very many of them, so socially, we can just write them off.

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Reply "Everyone is a little bit racist" -- a proposed scale of racism (Original post)
paulkienitz Aug 2017 OP
Cary Aug 2017 #1
Juliusseizure Aug 2017 #2
paulkienitz Aug 2017 #3

Response to paulkienitz (Original post)

Sun Aug 27, 2017, 11:45 AM

1. I think this plays into the neo-Nazi and KKK narrative

There is no spectrum. There is only the here and now.

I have made mistakes. That doesn't make me any more or less racist. It just makes me human.

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Response to paulkienitz (Original post)

Sun Aug 27, 2017, 07:22 PM

2. Every emotion/attitude is on a spectrum

Agree racism is on a spectrum and appreciate your thoughtful thoughts. I'm not sure if its based on a scientific source- always appreciate that - and the categories and descriptions may be off.

But it's important to acknowledge that certainly not all Trump Supporters are Level 4. Most may be 2 1/2 or 3. Have no idea.

Both sides make mistakes in assuming extreme views on the other side. Once emotions get carried away, it leads to dangerous snap judgments. That's where we are, and Trump is the no. 1 most divisive influence here. That's just another reason he needs to be gone.

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Response to Juliusseizure (Reply #2)

Mon Aug 28, 2017, 12:10 PM

3. agree most Trump supporters are 2 or 3

and there are probably a lot of 2 democrats as well, who we have to be diplomatic with at campaign time so we don't egregiously alienate them.

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