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.

“It’s 2017”

I recently started working on part II of Alive, which continues my story of werewolves and racism. The first one followed my black protagonist, Mason, adapting to his new abilities and breaking off from a radical sect that wanted to use their power to wage war against the people that oppress them. The second part will lead to all out war between Mason and the radical sect, but also has more of a focus on Mason’s attempts to oversee the implementation of new policies that will empower his people. A key theme of the second book is that laws are not enough to change how people think, which reminded me of an oft-cited mantra.

“It’s (current year)”. This can be used by conservatives to shut down the talk of discrimination or by well-meaning liberals who think that the passage of time is enough to ensure equality. Whatever side it comes from, the sentence demonstrates a child-like naivete of how the world works.

When slavery was abolished, racism persisted. When Jim Crow was abolished, racism persisted. I wonder if people used to say “It’s 1970”. Laws may ban people from certain actions, or maybe even certain words, but laws can’t change what is in their minds. If someone holds the racial mindset of the 1950s near and dear to their heart, they will teach those values to their kids, and so on. Time itself is not a cure for racism. This is perfectly demonstrated by the current climate of right-wing backlash, where pretty much any comment or act that doesn’t endorse bigotry is labelled as “political correctness” or the work of “social justice warriors”. People are upset that they, and society as a whole, are being called out for bigotry now more than ever. Instead of adapting to changing times, it is easier to reminisce of times when you could say whatever you wanted without worrying about consequences or criticism. At worst, these people support bigotry. At best, they enable it. Yes, sometimes people do cry racism, misogny etc. where it does not exist, but I don’t believe that these instances account for the majority. I do believe that these instances get lumped in with all of the legimate ones, especially by people whose views are already intolerant. They get a smokescreen for hiding bigotry: “I’m not racist. I just hate it when these social justice warriors get offended by everything.”

I want to know what these people consider “everything”. Is it something as simple as Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or is it a case where another unarmed black man got killed?

The New Dirty Words

I have found myself spending more time on Facebook since Trump’s election. Not to peruse selfies, but to see what all my “friends” are saying about the election.  These “friends” could be someone I met just once, a former classmate or coworker, or someone I considered a close friend. With each status I come across I get more insight into how some of them really think. I have seen plenty that I like, and have also been disappointed from some of the truths these friends bring to the surface. Everyone has the right to free speech, so I am not judging them for making their voice heard. As a matter of fact, I like to have people’s thoughts on such a topic out in the open. I can now exercise my free speech to challenge some of the views presented.

There are certain words that appear repeatedly from Trump supporters; “political correctness”, “race baiters”, “identity politics”, “social justice warriors (sjws)”. I collectively like to refer to these as the right-wing buzzwords. 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?

The funny thing about people who reject labels such as “right-wing” is that they often do not hesitate to criticize “liberals”. In their own minds, they are just following common sense. It is the other side that is stuck in their ways and is blind to reason. I feel the same way sometimes. Trump was able to capitalize on a climate where people felt like their free speech was stifled. They wanted to say racist things without being labelled as racist. They wanted to say sexist things without “feminazis” labeling them as sexist or misogynist. These oppressed people then see a man who unapologetically calls Hispanics rapists, blacks lazy and calls to ban Muslims from the US. Their hero was born. No more of this “political correctness” or “race-baiting” that held them back.

The term political correctness originated in the 1980s, and was a term developed by conservatives to criticize policies that they viewed as being too accommodating for minorities. These policies included avoiding the use of certain words to describe minority groups and policies such as affirmative action are often lumped into this category too. Realize that the term was developed by conservatives. Now there are times that there may be genuine cases of people being too sensitive about a issue. However, I find that brandishing the term “political correctness” often allows people to defend bigotry. I have heard people rant about their empathy for minorities, but complain about sjws or race-baiters saying “everything” is racist. “Everything” is obviously a blanket term. It could include Madonna referring to her son as “dis nigga” or it could refer to Trump saying Mexico “doesn’t send its best“. Maybe prying would reveal the Trump example, or maybe someone would throw out something more harmless in order to avoid a debate.

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The right-wing buzzwords have become scarlet letters that no one wants to wear. Even people who may genuinely hold some enlightened views about minorities reject the terms and go out of their way not to be misconstrued as “politically correct”. Sometimes it isn’t about being pc or not, it is about being racist or not, about having empathy or not.

Tucker Max, an author and businessman who I follow, started a new project called The Mating Grounds. It was a podcast that helped to promote an upcoming book, and was designed to give men actionable dating advice that was devoid of the sociopathy offered by pick-up artists. One podcast in particular caught my attention and served as a great example of someone showing empathy, but also being wary of being labelled a sjw.

One caller asked for advice on dealing with a racist area (Arizona), where he was repeatedly rebuffed due to his race. Max was quick to advise that Arizona is one of America’s most racist states, demonstrating that he doesn’t embrace the right-wing narrative of a “post-racial” society. He acknowledges the historical and present racism in Arizona. Max was also quick to say that he wasn’t a “sjw” by any means.This fear of the right-wing buzzwords sends us all back to high school; we want to be one of the cool kids. We don’t want to be caught socializing with the losers, the pc horde and those sjws.

This brings up another feature of the right-wing buzzwords, and many political terms. They are all relative. Your own position dictates what you view as being liberal or conservative. There are many people that would condemn Max as a sjw or race-baiter for his comments about Arizona. Additionally, the podcast criticizes rape culture, and stresses the importance of empathy and female choice in dating. There are plenty of people who would consider that “feminazi propaganda” or the work of a “white knight”.

You can call me politically-correct, a sjw or as white knight. I am not ashamed of my views. My views mean more to me now more than ever, especially since people with clashing ones decided to elect Donald Trump as president.

Talking About Race Will Unite Us

…but it will divide us first.

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The Republican Convention wrapped up last night and I avoided it by all means necessary. However, I can’t help but coming across some news of it on articles or some clips on YouTube. My curiosity gets the better of me and I ended up clicking on some links. A pervasive theme of the sound bites is the idea that we need to be more united. The idea that the current administration has left us too divided. I did not watch the entirety of the speeches and context is key, so I can’t be sure if the statement is meant to criticize the discussion of racism by the Obama administration and other democratic politicians.

However, I have come across that argument being used to criticize the discussion of racism. This argument is more prevalent online than ever with the recent deaths of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. The subsequent shooting of police officers in Dallas also added fuel to the fire, with conservative outlets speculating that Black Lives Matter and the perpetrators are connected.

Many people want us to ignore the racism all around us, arguing that it is an illusion or that black people simply deserve to be killed by cops due their violent nature. Yes, blacks are responsible for a disproportionate amount of violent crimes. We also have a disproportionate unemployment rate. I can imagine someone saying “Get jobs then” and please consult this study as one example of persisting employment discrimination. I wonder how well American white people would be doing if they had the same unemployment rate we do and had the same racial biases against them. In my previous posts, I have included study after study analyzing the impact of racism on blacks. However, denial is strong and people argue that such statistics are only part of a liberal agenda. It seems that people are resistant now more than ever to discuss racism.

Hence, the argument that discussing it only divides us. They’re right, it does divide us. It brings anger and resentment to the surface. However,it also brings up ugly truths. The people using this argument are forgetting that a civil war brought us to where we are now. What we have now is not perfect but it is an improvement over 1861. What if Lincoln decided not to fight for the abolition of slavery because he didn’t want to “divide people”. At the time, only whites were considered citizens. Many of them were happy to keep things the way they were. There was no injustice being done, black people don’t need more rights, they’re property. Why couldn’t Lincoln stop race-baiting and just let peace exist, instead of dividing a united nation?

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Pictured Above: A “Race Baiter”

People may argue that the Civil War was about states rights. Yes, it was about the right of southern states, to continue slavery. Who knows how long slavery would have persisted if not for the civil war. Sometimes things have to get worse, before they get better. I am not condoning the shooting of police officers or violent resistance. I do support the discussion of racism and peaceful protests against a rising tide of  racism, such as police brutality that is increasingly inflicted on black people. I support the discussion of lingering racism at the individual and institutional level in many countries. I support the right to discuss discrimination without being dismissed as “politically correct” or a “social justice warrior”.