Ok, so I went down the conservative rabbit hole with the news media. And then I went back to the liberal press to recover. What follows is an honest attempt to make sense of the divergence. Bear with me!
A great article in the Atlantic (January 2021 after the coup) ended with this story and the author’s observation about it:
Frum, the author, is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush and is no Trump supporter. Far from it. “Maybe it’s time to stop hating so many people,” the author, Frum, writes to conservatives.
But I am afraid we could say the same of the liberals; namely, that we hate people and call everything white supremacy that goes against liberal dogma. We treat people who don’t follow our woke standards as if they are irredeemable and worthless. That they will never amount to anything. There was even a Black woman who got cancelled from her job as a lead editor because when she was a teenager she said something racist in a tweet. It was 10 years ago and she apologized, but now she’s dirt.
At what point are ideas those of an individual? and when is racism an isolated individual incident?
It’s as though there were a net thrown over society, or at least our liberal minds, that abdicates responsibility for violence when it is committed by people of color. If it had been a white editor who had said something racist 10 years ago, she probably wouldn’t have had to take the fall. So I still see the Black woman as a victim of racism.
I reached out to a friend who is Asian to express concern and worry about the recent events, specifically, the shooting of 6 Asian women in Atlanta two days ago. Here’s what he wrote back:
“Most of the overt verbal discrimination I’ve experienced in my life has been from non-whites, possibly because of where I grew up (in a heavily Latino/Hispanic community in Los Angeles). I’ve also had two distant relatives killed in robberies (they owned small businesses in urban settings), also by other people of color. So, I found myself dismayed during the recent uprisings when many Asian owned businesses were destroyed and people dismissed the suffering as “it’s just property.””
Here there are people of color attacking fellow people of color and no white people involved. And yet we’re, as liberals, going to call that white supremacy?
Another friend who is Asian described how her Japanese friend was banned from gatherings with the family because my friend’s grandma, who was Korean, hated the Japanese. So there’s also intra-Asian conflict. And yet we’re, as liberals, going to call that white supremacy?
Maybe it’s supremacist thinking to say that the racist thinking of one country has set the tone for the whole world. People are calling homophobia white supremacy, too. And transphobia. And then it is redirected from its being a system, – that is, white supremacy is a racist system, – to white people. It is referred to as “white heteropatriarchy.” Straight white males are the problem, and not the system that privileges them.
White people who defend their integrity and humanity are “fragile.”
But white supremacy is indeed the problem.
Actually, let’s put it this way: Human nature is the problem, and white supremacy is the problem. Racism and group in-fighting and genocide have been going on as long as there have been people of differing ethnicities.
As white people we do need to do our homework and learn about our negative impacts on people of color as a group. We need to acknowledge that our racist thought structures have been adopted by other ethnicities and they fight out our prejudice and racism amongst themselves in this society. We are the dominants who are looked upon as individuals first and not as representatives of a race.
But it is also more complicated than that.
White people thrive in a world structured by what is called the “halo effect.” We are given the benefit of the doubt in professional settings, are more likely to be promoted, even when our performance is poor, and more likely to get away with crimes. Furthermore, the severity of a given crime has been set by whether or not whites commit it. The sentencing process is corrupt, and the bail system keeps more people of color in jail and, conversely, more whites out of jail. Jail has profoundly negative impacts on one’s psyche and has a morally corrosive impact on inmates.
We often think that we are above the law. We talk our way out of tickets. I even heard a story where a man asked the judge what the right answer was to the sentencing question after “getting the answer wrong” when he told the truth, and the judge told him what to say in order to get off the hook and not even pay a fine. The interaction took all of 30 seconds. If English wasn’t his first language or if he had been an immigrant, there’s no way he would have had the cultural capital to negotiate such a feat. The judge was more like, “Oh, you don’t belong here. Let me help you out of this mess.”
Justice is not blind.
But the opposite is also true. A man or woman who kills another person is guilty. No matter their skin color. People of color who kill fellow people of color are not just pawns, even if it is the structures of the system that make this more likely. When I was a teacher, I was super conscious of white female teachers and our potential racism perpetrated against Black boys. The impact of this, however, was that I just let them get away with everything. Not to do so felt racist. I wasn’t aware of how to get around the problem, so I was just super nice to all my students and then left the profession.
My gleaning from today’s reading is that we need to meet in the middle.
Conservatives need to see that they are responsible in part for the systemically racist outcomes of our society. It is not all individuality and roses and meritocracy.
And liberals need to see that all people are responsible for their actions. And that it is dehumanizing to people of color not to acknowledge this. People of color have agency, too.