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Response to Nuclear Unicorn (Reply #162)

Mon Mar 16, 2015, 04:31 PM

217. I truncated the spelling out of consideration for others

who might be in some way traumatized by seeing it spelled out in full. As someone who is the survivor of extreme trauma, I'm sensitive to how language can work to re-stimulate such trauma. That this is so, and that such precautions can be necessary, probably requires a leap of empathy for those who have never had those kinds of experiences. As it is, I'd rather err on the side of sensitivity and consideration for my readers, rather than smear particular words or images in someone's face, just to make a point, particularly since, as you say, I'm able to make that point without being so insensitive.

Interesting that you bring up the notion that "laws cannot make people good." Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. faced precisely this argument when he advocated for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But the idea of the law isn't necessarily to make "bad" people "good" (or more to the point, to make racists see the error of their ways). The point of the law is to enable people who have a history of being oppressed to live their lives with less repression. Somewhere I have a copy of King addressing this by saying, basically, "I don't care if the guy who owns the gas station I want to use is a racist. I just want to be able to use the rest room, and have my children use the rest room. I'll leave saving the racist's soul for some other day." Similarly, I'm less concerned about the state of mind of these racist frat members, than I am about other people at the university who have to deal with the fallout from their racist bullshit, who have to swim in the toxic environment to which these Bozos are so happy to contribute.

"The law cannot make someone NOT follow another person around screaming racist epithets." It sure as hell can, depending on the setting. And if it's in a workplace--as in the way I framed my question--the people who run the business can sure as the day is long tell that person to either shut the fuck up or find another job. Again, you have a problem with that?

So what's your alternative. Education? Consciousness raising? Group Therapy? How exactly is that supposed to work in the real world?

"Okay, people, listen up. Some of you have objected to Bob over there screaming racial and sexist and homophobic epithets at his co-workers (and let's up the ante some, and say he does it to customers as well). Now, I know we have a business to run and work to do, but let's drop everything for a couple of days or weeks or months so we can educate Bob on just how hurtful he's being." Really? Because we don't want in any way to inconvenience the racists and bigots among us?

"I am a person inherently born free...." I'm reminded of a line out of "Primary Colors"--"What a privileged life you must lead." "Only the law can diminish this..." Tell that to someone whose had their jaw broken during a gay bashing or a gang rape. Very many people suffer very many forms of oppression and violence, and do so in part precisely because of the circumstances of their birth--as women, people of color, LGBTs. etc. Maybe when your anarchist paradise arrives, things will change, but in the meantime we use the tools we have--and civil rights law is very definitely a tool I don't want to give up for the sake of some undefined, unrealized, and probably unattainable ideological goal. If it takes a law to push racism or sexism or homophobia back some, to give me and people like me more room to live free as I can, then hurray and hallelujah for the law!

In this instance you are being asked to endorse the fact that a couple of racist students were ejected from their school for discriminating against African Americans, and for laughing with delight at the thought of murdering someone whose skin tone doesn't match theirs. These are hardly "undefined standards." The standards seem to me to be crystal clear--you can't discriminate against people of color in a publicly funded university setting, at least not quite so brazenly. Clear enough so that these students have evidently decided not to press their case in court.

"I foresee much danger....in endorsing such things under such terms."

The danger--of racism, sexism, homophobia, classism--is already here. Millions live their lives suffering under that oppression. I hardly see how trying to make a public university setting less toxic to minority peoples, and less welcoming to out and out bigots, threatens any of us with the shackles of tyranny.

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LineLineLineLineLineLineLineLineLineLineReply I truncated the spelling out of consideration for others
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