Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Liberal and Conservative Racism

First let's define racism again, and use The People's Institute definition:

Race prejudice + Power

This can be interpreted in several ways:

(Insert race that has power) with positive bias, or favoritism, toward (insert race)
(Insert race that has power) with negative bias, or disfavor toward (insert race)

The People's Institute definition is comprehensive. Any race can be racist-- the actionable element in acting racist is POWER.

If a black administrator has negative bias toward black citizens, then the black administrator is acting racist.

If a white professor has a negative bias against 'white people' then the professor is acting racist.

Racism is a problem of US culture including conservatives and liberals, blacks and whites, and all in-between-- it is a problem we must solve together


Common Conservative bias:

 there is no racism, or
 everyone is racist - skin color doesn't matter
 we all have equal opportunity

Common Liberal bias:

 non whites are victims
 non whites need my help
 non whites are just like me

Common bias toward black Americans shared by all in US culture

blacks are not as smart
blacks are more violent
black are criminals
blacks are poor
blacks use drugs
blacks don't take care of their families

Our cultural bias is rooted in: religious and scientific texts that have dictated one people better than an other; and inaccurate characterizations of racial or ethnic groups in media.

It is interesting to break racism toward black Americans out like this. Often times one political ideology blames the other for racism in the US. Indeed, each ideology has specific dogmas attached to it that perpetuate racism in our culture. The problem is, while we feel comfortable blaming each other, we do not feel comfortable being confronted with our own biases and racist actions.

In truth, we need each other to understand what the problem of racism is in US culture,and how we may change our actions to 'undo' racism.

The conversation has been happening for generations. It goes something like this: 

Liberals: "Black citizens are poor, under-educated, and discriminated against. They need our help."

Conservatives: "It is not our place to interfere in their lives. They need to improve themselves. If we help them, we hurt them."

Disfavored racial groups: "We need protection of equal justice under the law, and equal access to resources and opportunities. We are just like you- we want a secure job, and to raise our children."

There are a few things we are all doing that perpetuate racist actions, despite our best efforts to erase racism.

1. Erasing racism. 

Racism exists. Skin color shouldn't matter, but it does historically, and presently, in human culture. We are not all the same, and presuming so, erases the unique struggles/attributes of different groups.

Commonly, I hear people say, "racism is not a problem" or "everyone is racist." Racism is a problem, and only people in power can really take actions that effect people's lives.

Racism is part of historic teachings in religion, and 'science' (Darwinism) --and this is how it has come into our culture. 

Saying 'everyone is racist' diffuses responsibility to no specific thing, and the blame ends up on 'white people,' or 'black people.'

Perhaps it is time to insert Zimbardo's quote, again:
"Focusing on people as causes of evil then exonerates social structures and political decision making for contributing to underlying conditions that foster evil:
poverty, racism, sexism and elitism."-Philip Zimbardo

Parents pass the list of biases (above) through the years, to their children. 

Hiding, or trying to erase this racism, pushes the issue into a closet, where it wreaks havoc on us. People act out in anger and denial, and some form secret hate groups to vent the trauma passed onto them through their parents. All the while, we banish racism to 'history,' when really, generation after generation, we continue to fill our closets with more and more skeletons. 

It is far past time to face our racist skeletons in the closet, and it is easy, we simply need to clean the closet out and talk about what we find.

2. Demanding conformity and perfection 

 Racism was birthed from a human instinct to categorize people, group with people who resemble us, and to fear those who do not resemble us. These are base human instincts. Simple gestures like extending a smile and a conversation do a lot to diffuse tensions that may arise through these base animalistic instincts.

Beyond this, when black Americans, or other diverse cultural groups raise their voices to highlight bias against them, social elites (who have the power to ensure equal protection under the law, and equal access to resources and opportunities) make demands for conformity: 

If you adhere to our standards perfectly, then you will be eligible for equal access and opportunity....
If you dress like us, then we can accept you ...
If you act like us, then you will be accepted...
If you talk like us, then we can help you...

In an inherently multi-cultural country, built by immigrants, these demands only cause conflict, and compound social and economic problems. If we truly believe in equality for all, we must take the time and energy to provide for it.

3. Abandoning respect (blocking constructive communication)

We don't have to like each other, to respect each other. 

There are two pieces to ensuring respect:

1. Respect others space
This is a very conservative ideal. People's personal space should be respected, and one should enter an other's space with civil, considerate approach and permissions. We don't have to like other people, but that doesn't mean that those other people do not deserve human dignity in their own space. No one has a right to demand access to an other's space, for harm, or even with good intentions to 'help.'

2. Acknowledge the positive attributes of others
One thing that makes life on earth work is diversity- diversity of skill, diversity of passions, diversity of ideas -- it is what makes the world go 'round. One does not have to endorse someone's fashion, religion, or political philosophy to recognize their valuable contributions in other areas.

It is through respect that we are able to protect an individual's existence, and dignity, in a diverse world. It is through respect that we are able to share valuable ideas that contribute to the whole.

4. Giving too much or too little (power dynamics)

We are not responsible for one another, but to one another. 

Conservative and Liberal politics have taken the responsibility for defining 'non-white' people's problems. Defining an 'others' life by ones own perspective and values, takes the other's agency away.

Conservatives historically have 'given too little,' by denying the structural and legal racism imposed by texts that frame our culture (religious, 'scientific,' and legal).

Liberals have historically given too much, by assuming the role of solving others problems, victimizing disfavored racial groups with overreaching 'help,' and denying disfavored groups their own agency.

These two patterns are pointed out in political conversations about racism in the US. This is not new, but neither the liberal or conservative has respected the other, or disfavored racial groups, enough to listen actively. Each side refuses: to see the value in the others argument; or to factor in biases

Two main barriers are: pivoting to comfort -- that is taking actions focused on restoring comfort levels; and maintaining power. 

The result is: failure to change behavior that perpetuates racism in our culture. 

The tale tell tale sign of disfavoring racial groups to retain or gain comfort & power, is: 

Who benefits? In each case, it is the conservative or the liberal who are benefiting from their own 'diversity' or 'anti-racist' programs - by re-enforcing comfort needs; and retaining control over resources and wealth -- whether money/land/job titles/funding streams/ leadership etc. 

Who loses? Disfavored racial groups, as they are routinely denied access to opportunities/resources/wealth/power. 

"People don't need more programs and services, they need more power." -Diana Dunn, The People's Institute

5. Kumbaya Prescriptions

Let's face it we don't all love each other -- we don't even all like each other. But through civil and respectful actions, we can get along. 

We can't start with love, or peace. Getting people together to dance and sing in a circle is not going to solve issues of racism. This idea is just another way of trying to erase racism, instead of getting to know what racism is, and stopping actions that perpetuate racist behaviors.

It is through civil, authentic, respectful relationships, that we provide ourselves an environment for peace, and the opportunity for friendships and love. That means truly understanding actions that create racist structures, calling those actions out by name, and stopping actions that perpetuate racism.

We should not expect that gestures of love, or cries of peace, can be met before we treat each other with respect. 

Further reading:
Most liberal and conservative occupations in the US
How do Leaders Define Deliberation?