The Only Cure for Racism

I know some people will be tempted to say “stop talking about it” but that is the only cry of racists who want to continue to pick their neighbourhoods, schools, spouses based on race while also saying race doesn’t matter. The same people who justify racism with racist assumptions e.g. “Maybe black people would be more successful if they weren’t so lazy”.

There are a lot of facts, case studies and events out there to demonstrate that racism is still alive and well but denial is far more powerful. If you present any of the above people have an uncanny ability to rationalize or minimize events and rebrand the world as a post-racial utopia. People who speak out against racism are labelled with terms like “social justice warrior” (sjw), which becomes a brand that makes other people want to avoid you at all costs. Even people who may be somewhat enlightened don’t want to be called a sjw, or politically correct, or a feminazi.

As I continue writing my fourth book, I am starting to generate ideas for the sixth. It may not be a novel, it may just be a short story. Whatever it ends up being, it is my own utopian creation. I thought of a world where the technology exists to actually transplant your mind into someone else’s body. It wouldn’t be a physical process, where the brain is transplanted, it would be more of a transference of your personality and thoughts into someone else’s body. This technology is quite common in sci-fi but I don’t think it has ever been used to examine how people of different races can experience daily life differently. Or at the very least, I can’t recall any works that have focused on this aspect of the switch.

If people will ignore reports, journal articles, newspaper articles, books, documentaries etc., then maybe personal experience is the only thing they will understand. If this project were to have any success it would have to last for a long period of time, at least three months. People who are reluctant to accept that prejudice and systemic racism against minorities is still rampant, are often quick to bring up examples of prejudice or perceived prejudice they have experienced. I don’t want these people to experience some name calling or some ignorant comments, and think they get the full picture.

Just like books or articles, it can be easy to derail an author’s argument by resorting to non sequiturs,  ad hominem or the ever popular straw man argument. For that reason, let’s make sure that there are no other excuses or reason for the different treatment. Let’s make sure that our new “black” subjects keep their faces clean shaven, their hair cut low and that they maintain a strict dress code when leaving their homes. Now, I realize this may not be fair. Afrocentric hairstyles such as braids should not be viewed as more threatening, but it is a sad fact that they are. Bears and casual clothing, when coupled with black skin, are also more unwelcome even in casual settings. Let’s not forget this great example of comedian Kamau Bell being told to leave a restaurant while he was speaking to his wife and her friends, who are all white. While Bell is speaking to his wife at an outside table of the restaurant an employee bangs on the window and mouths for him to leave. When confronted about this later she argues that she thought he was selling something, and that it wasn’t a “race thing”. Bell was with his wife and her friends just long enough to get introduced, before an employee is telling him to leave.

To be fair, the employee says a patron told her Bell was harassing customers, and that she was just responding to that. The question then, is why didn’t she at least step outside to see what was happening instead of knocking on a window and mouthing a command, which she says was “stop selling”. If the employee actually stepped outside and asked the group of women if Bell was bothering them, the situation would have been diffused quickly. Why was the employee so quick to tell Bell to leave? As expected, it doesn’t take long to find online discussion that defends the incident due to Bell’s clothing.

“Don’t forget that he was dressed quite poorly at the time too. Sweatpants, a well-worn hoodie, and a knit beanie.”

Ultimately, hairstyles and clothing present an easy target for derailing the observations about different treatment due to race.

Aside from the dress code and the strict rules concerning appearance, my experiment would also require a period of one week where the subjects remain home and where they are monitored (with their consent) to judge their behaviour. Why? To ensure the new “black” people getting sent out into the world are not acting like stereotypes. If someone feels the need to start talking or walking differently because their skin is different I wouldn’t want them to represent black people publicly. This one week probation period would also allow us to remove another aspect of possible derailment, stereotypical behaviour.

As a last condition, I would also want to ensure that the subjects are not informed of any of the different treatment they may receive. Otherwise the study could be accused of priming subjects to be more aware of or sensitive to certain words or actions. Of course, some subjects may have read about the alleged treatment they might get. Or they may have an exaggerated conception that they’ll be shot on sight by cops, and then interpret any better behaviour as proof that racism is dead. Either way, all realizations about different treatment must come purely from the subjects. If people truly believe race doesn’t matter and that no one (except the white ones) are judged for their skin colour, then their should be no hesitation to become a black person for three months.

I want the experiment to start with wealthy white people, who then become wealthy black people. They need to walk into an upscale store or building repeatedly, until they can no longer deny that they get more scrutiny because of their skin colour. They need to get pulled over more often by cops when driving their luxury car and realize that the random stops are not truly random. I want the rich white people to hang out with their rich white friends. I don’t want to warn them, but I want to see if they notice any different treatment.

When this test is done with the middle class they will have different experiences that are just as eye opening. They will apply for a job they are not qualified for, and then realize that affirmative action doesn’t get them a spot. Perhaps they can have men/women reject them sexually or romantically due to their skin colour. They can see someone cross the street when they approach or hold their purse tighter. Or a little more harmless, perhaps they can see the look of surprise they get when they say they like rock or metal (if they like those genres). People aren’t really shocked by white people liking rap music, but black people who like anything other than rap still get treated like unicorns in some circles. Of course this last example isn’t an example of harmful racism, but it is one that demonstrates how ignorance can still lead to minorities being treated differently. Even this simple fact is something that is often denied.

As I continued to flesh out the idea for my experiment, it sometimes struck me as being an extreme way to prove a point. However, when all other options are failing, what else can be done? If this is what needs to be done for a wake up call, then so be it.

Triggered a.k.a You Disagree With Me

Anyone who engages in any form of communication online is surely familiar with the term “triggered”. At the most basic level it is used to criticize people who care or get “worked up” about a certain issue. It is normally used by conservatives or the right-wing to shut down any discussion of a topic they don’t care about. If you are one of those people who doesn’t believe in the left/right classification, read the below excerpt from another one of my articles:

People love to say that they don’t like pigeonholing themselves as right or left wing, or that they don’t identify with the spectrum at all. They are a unique snowflake who isn’t like the rest of the sheep they look down on. This argument parallels the infamous “race is a social construct” argument. The fact that something is socially constructed does not mean its impact can be ignored or simply dismissed. Our use of hours and minutes to plan our day is a social construct that has developed over centuries, and the political spectrum is the same. Are you pro-life or pro-choice? Are you against social security or not? Are you a gun-control advocate or not? The answers to these questions will place you somewhere on the spectrum. The totality of your views about different political issues will see you land somewhere; left, right, center-right, center-left etc.

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Think that’s deterministic, rigid, stupid? Ok, then let me throw off another social construct. I no longer recognize myself as a black man. So a girl who only dates white guys will still be interested right? Cops who are more suspicious of black people will no longer feel the need to pull me over or frisk me, right?

Anyway…

Triggered isn’t just a word used to denote passion or concern for an issue. It has a negative connotation. It is applied to the “politically correct snowflakes” who get “offended by everything”.

I have touched on the double standards in what people choose to care about in previous articles, such as my articles on whitewashing v blackwashing and my article on how easy it is for minority inclusion in a film to be viewed as “forced” or “heavy-handed“.

If someone criticizes someone else for being “triggered”, it implies that the accuser doesn’t have any issues that he gets worked up about. The same person who calls someone a social justice warrior (SJW) or pc snowflake because they care about whitewashing is the same person who gets worked up when they see an example of “blackwashing”. The same person who shuts down a conversation about police brutality against black people will be the same person who gets “triggered” when they see a gay couple in a tv show or a black student union on a university campus.

Yes, some people are too sensitive and get worked up or “triggered” over something that is not real discrimination or a real issue. However, right-wing buzzwords like pc and sjw start to lose their meaning when people use the terms to describe everything ranging from protest against Trump’s Muslim ban to calling little people “vertically challenged”. Maybe some people only using the terms pc to describe the latter example but there are plenty of people who think anything that does not endorse their outright bigotry is politically correct. The problem is not the world around you. The world around you isn’t getting “too liberal”. It is catching up to modernity. Yes, you can no longer say all Muslims are terrorists or that Mexico doesn’t send its best without a lot of people disagreeing with you.

Minorities are now allowed to have groups for themselves, because they are MINORITIES. China doesn’t have Chinese student associations and the US doesn’t have white student unions. I doubt people who hate black student unions would get as worked up if they saw Polish student unions.

Yes, we now live in a world where there are more gay and interracial couples out there. Or maybe there aren’t more. Maybe we just have more who are willing to come out since it is no longer illegal in the US and they are less likely to face physical violence for it. Of course, they can still face rejection from friends and family. Or they can face disgust from people forced to see them represented on screen. I have literally seen someone on IMDB’s forums (RIP), complain about a three second kiss between two gay characters on The Walking Dead. I really wish I could still access the post, because the IMDB poster literally said homosexuality was being “forced down his throat”. Realize that the heavy-handed homosexuality this poster was complaining about was a three second kiss between two male characters. If that is heavy-handed homosexuality, are all the kisses and implied sex in The Walking Dead heavy-handed heterosexuality? Didn’t think so. For people who are bigoted, any inclusion of minorities on screen is too much. It becomes part of an “agenda”, is “forced” or “pc.” A two second gay kiss can be interpreted as an entire episode where the writers were trying to force them to sleep with a man at gunpoint.

We are now in a world that is more divided politically than ever. Not because the left discusses racism or discrimination too much. We listen to the right’s arguments, we pick them apart with facts. They hear our arguments, they don’t listen. They jump to straw man arguments, denial, racist assumptions etc. This is something I’ve experienced personally with comments on my articles, YouTube videos, tweets etc. Or something I have seen from the reactions people have to any liberal thoughts they come across online.

It is a toxic environment where both sides can start to drive each other to further extremes. Maybe the conservative who starts off a little disgruntled with minorities, because he thinks Black C students get all the good schools and jobs now, isn’t able to find the same support he used to find among his friends or co-workers. Then he turns to more conservative sites that fuel his ideas about the world. Like Dylan Roof, the Charleston church shooter, maybe he finds skewed statistics and narratives about Black Lives Matter orchestrating police killings. Then maybe he decides that if the majority of the world (from his point of view) doesn’t see the problem he sees, he’ll try to deal with it himself.