Interview with a racist who doesn't think he's racist


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2016/12/22/interview-with-a-racist-who-do.html


#2

A lot like every Trump supporter I’ve spoken to.


#3

Well, we’ve successfully made racism a bad thing.

What we haven’t done a great job of is telling people exactly what racism is.

And in a post-Truth society, racism can be apparently whatever you decide you want it to be.


#4

So…like…every racist.


#5

What are we supposed to do? Every deplorable in my facebook feed insists that Obama is the biggest racist of them all. Where do you go next when dealing with people like that?


#6

Unfriend them on Facebook. That’s my first step.


#7

Every anti-Islamic Trump supporter I’ve talked to says the same thing: they insist they aren’t racist.

Their logic is simple: in their eyes, since Islam is a religion, and Muslims are just people following it, they aren’t a race. They’re people who’ve chosen a belief system.

Therefore, they can feel comfortable saying that it’s good and right to want to kick Muslims out of the USA and that they’re all degenerate horrible people who should be murdered en masse, because that’s not a racist thing to say.


#8

Some people want to have it both ways. Again and again I’ve talked to people who say homosexuality is “wrong” because it’s what their religion tells them but they get upset when told that’s bigotry.

Actually I don’t think they see it as a bad thing; their real problem is they believe bigotry and racism are acceptable and think that belief makes them the “real” persecuted minority.


#10

This is absolutely the case. I’ve known plenty of people (including immediate family) who deeply dislike people who are gay, black, and of religions other than theirs, but who feel that this isn’t an issue, it’s just the way things are, due to their religion/culture. To them it’s just common sense that some people are Just Not Right, and if expressing that gets them in trouble, well, clearly they’re the ones who are the victims, because they’re on the True And Right Path, etc. etc.


#13

Where do you go next when dealing with people like that?

You, don’t… because you can’t. Their racism is calcified.


#15

I dunno your local deplorables, but here’s my general process.

First, find out if they’re willing to engage or if they just want to perform their conservatism. Maybe about 80% of the time, people who say things like that are just parroting a line and haven’t really thought about what it means and aren’t interested in examining it. Don’t waste your time there. Reply with whatever you want, or just unfriend them, or whatever - none of it matters, it’s all stagecraft at that point. Their goal is essentially to say “I don’t like Obama!”, and you can’t exactly argue against their feelings. “Okay, I think he’s probably the best president since Eisenhower!” is a perfectly reasonable response.

About 20% of the time you’ll get someone willing to seriously engage. This is where you can spend your effort. It will require a lot of patience and a lot of compassion, and you won’t get much out of it, but sometimes you can chip away at the wall they’ve built around their ideology a little bit. It’s important that you trust the person is seriously engaging - family, friends, people you have some history with, those people might engage you. Randos on Facebook probably won’t. They might just waste your time.

Once you’ve got the wheat from the chaff, the first point is to find a common ground to start from. Most of the effort here is finding out where you actually disagree because even most deplorables followed some chain of sensible-seeming logic to get where they are, they just have been mislead and misinformed and so wind up doing damage to themselves and everyone around them. Metaphorically, they’re sick, and you’ve gotta properly diagnose them before you can cure them.

Once you’ve got a point of agreement, it’s just about pressing for specifics and asking a lot of questions.

1: "Obama is the biggest racist of them all!"
2: "What would you say is bad about being a racist?"
1: "It’s just hating people for no reason!"
2: "Yeah, that’s a pretty bad thing about racism. So do you think some people somewhere hate Obama just because he’s black?"
1: "I dunno! Not me, though!"
2: "Okay, what has Obama done that you don’t like?"
1: "He hates white people!"
2: “I’m not so sure there. What gives you that idea?”
…etc…

You might get side-tracked or go down unexpected rabbit-holes, but by engaging them in conversation you’ve done the real work there. You’ve made them think about what they are saying. That alone chinks the armor. You may never see them say that Obama isn’t racist, but maybe next time the chorus goes up, they don’t participate as stridently.

That’s success!

It’s small and it’s personal and it takes a lot of time and effort, but that’s the only way it really happens. You can’t change people, all you can do is give people a bit of a push in the direction of changing themselves.


#16

At first I thought, well, this gentleman is simply inarticulate and perhaps not very bright… then the interview played out and… omg what a racist moron.

More like born and inbred. And on the dole no less… face. palm.


#17

I’ve talked to several enthusiastic Trump supporters (or enthusiastic Hillary/Obama haters, which is more or less the same thing) who’ll insist that their guy is anything but racist, is a good friend to gay people, and is ‘draining the swamp’. When you point out with specific examples why he’s quite a racist, is working to destroy life for gay people, and is doing the exact opposite of draining any swamps, they say it’s all media lies, and you’re just a cuck, and they start in with saying “kek!” and “red pill” and things.

In five years they’ll all look back and say “wow, holy crap, I was a stupid troll back then. I took all of my 4chan rage and pvp-gaming aggression and funneled it into the dumbest thing ever, because we had a troll for president who was actively encouraging trolls.”


#18

Yeah, that guy comes off as . . . Trump and Co. In fact, he’s a little more tolerant than most Trumpsters because he doesn’t immediately start accusing Syrian refugees of being the real racists. It’s useful to see such a clear, very straightforward, racist being racist.

I grew up in the Deep South. I was exposed to racism and more racism before I noticed that my fellow humans came in different colors and creeds. Based on what I’ve experienced, it’s unusual for people to stop being racist. Sadly, people, in their own homes, continue to be racist even if their peers, their church, and society at large say it’s wrong. However, our institutions, rules, laws, education, etc. can and, at least in my opinion, absolutely should be as non-racist as possible. Change happens, slowly and with enormous effort but while the Deep South is still a racist place it’s less racist than it was when I was a kid.

Reducing racism in our public life isn’t easy but it’s such a toxic brew (try naming wars that don’t have racist roots) that it’s worth getting it right, even if it means showing love toward guys like the awful racist in this video. There’s a tiny, tiny kernel of truth in that guy’s ranting . . . he does say that certain individual non-white people are okay. That’s a start, I guess. I’d say to him “Why do you judge people you have not met? I don’t agree with your sense of entitlement at all but I don’t judge all white people based on you.” It’s a long haul, maybe the guy never gets any better but, as hard as it is to change people’s minds, it’s worth trying . . . because trying is the right thing to do, judging him as an individual is the right thing to do.


#19

If that path leads them away from me, I’m all for it!

so a Trump supporter essentially. “I don’t like socialism! We should get rid of it!” “Okay, that means you would lose your benefits then.” “What?! I’m not supposed to be affected, just those people!!”


#20

Yeah, at that point, they’ve basically stopped seriously engaging. There’s some angles you can try to see if they want to get back on track (“Come on, man, “kek!” isn’t a real response and you know it. Are you done seriously talking about this, then?”), but at that point, because they’ve abandoned the prerequisite for your conversation, you can also just stop talking with them. They know they’re being trolls at that point, and the failure to actually engage will stick with them. That’s the itty-bitty chink in the armor. That’s what helps these people to do what they should’ve been doing this whole time: looking at their opinions critically.


#21

The EDL’s leaders say they are opposed to racism and that the EDL is a “multi-ethnic, multi-religious movement and we are proud of that”

“We have both Angles and Saxons in our membership!”

(OK, I added that last part.)


#22

I was thinking more about the part where he talks about the Hammarabi Code and compares it to our Declaration of Independence.

The Hammurabi Code has built in to it the idea that there are different classes of people (superiors, commoners, and slaves) whereas the Declaration of Independence starts out with the all men are created equal being self evident.

Well, it isn’t self evident and both are fictions of their time.

The last paragraph in the excerpt you linked to says it better than I can:

Most sociopolitical hierarchies lack a logical or biological basis – they are nothing but the perpetuation of chance events supported by myths. That is one good reason to study history. If the division into blacks and whites or Brahmins and Shudras was grounded in biological realities – that is, if Brahmins really had better brains than Shudras – biology would be sufficient for understanding human society. Since the biological distinctions between different groups of Homo sapiens are, in fact, negligible, biology can’t explain the intricacies of Indian society or American racial dynamics. We can only understand those phenomena by studying the events, circumstances, and power relations that transformed figments of imagination into cruel – and very real – social structures.

BTW, it’s an excellent book (I’m about half way through). It’s super interesting to me to think about what the world would be like today if there were still more than one species of humans.

Edit: I missed the last part of your comment. He doesn’t question if racism is a bad thing and that’s not what I meant to suggest. It’s more about how all of these social structures exist only in our imaginations and there are reasons they come about and it isn’t always 100% bad. For the first quarter of the book, he basically suggests that we would be better off if we hadn’t developed agriculture. It’s a really good book.


#24

This is the key-- racism was much worse in the deep South a couple generations ago because it was institutionalized, and blatantly so. To bring back race-oriented laws like these guys want is big step towards bringing back all kinds of violence and inequality, even for those he might say are acceptable Britons regardless of their ethnicity.


#26

I’m butchering the saying, but it’s something like ‘don’t pick fights with stupid people, they’ll drag you down to their level and stomp all over you with experience’.

I’m also starting to think this racism resurgence is a bit like this ‘it’s ok to dress up like the SS/Nazis on haloween’ thing that seems to be making inroads because them young people are a few generations removed and have just been told ‘it’s bad’ without experiencing it first hand.