Openly condemning all forms of racial hatred?

Rebecca Trotter replied to my last post about anti-white hatred entitled “Racism has no color: an affront against political correctness.”

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OK, I’m going to push back at you a bit here. Imagine for a minute that in the past minority peoples had been forced to live in trees while white people were able to live in homes on the ground. Living in trees meant that it took more time and energy just to get to work, stores, entertainment and the like as they were all situated on the ground and climbing up and down trees is a lot of work. It also meant that the people living in trees had a significantly higher rate of skin cancer as they were closer to the sun. And occasionally, a child or even a whole house would fall out of the tree and die/be destroyed. The people living in the trees would also be stigmatized because, living in trees, they developed various ways of dealing with life which were foreign and distasteful to the ground dwellers.

Now, imagine that after several generations, society decided that they would no longer force people to live in trees. They weren’t going to help the people living in trees find and afford new homes on the ground, mind you. It was just that now, if a tree dweller could find a way to be successful enough, and was adventurous enough, they could join the white people living on the ground and enjoy the advantages of not having to climb up and down trees every time they needed to go somewhere or have their children and property endangered by gravity. As you can imagine, the migration out of the trees would probably be slow. For some time into the future the tree dwellers would continue to struggle to do well enough in life to actually get out of the trees. And some of them, particularly the youth, were angry about the state of their and their family’s lives. Now, the people who had always lived on the ground had their own problems. After all, living in a tree is hardly the only obstacle one can face in life. So while they agreed that having forced people to live in trees had been a bad idea and was no longer acceptable, they had their own problems and got tired of the grousing of the tree dwellers. After all, it wasn’t their fault that some people lived in trees. They weren’t responsible for creating the situation.

Imagine if a tree dweller said to a ground dweller, “living in a tree is destroying me and I can’t seem to find a way out! There are just so many obstacles to overcome and it’s all I can do to keep my family fed and safe and make it through each day. I hate living in a tree. It’s unfair that my people are living in trees while other people have always been able to live on the ground.” Do you really think that the tree dweller would be demanding a confession of guilt from the ground dweller? Or do you think that the tree dweller wants the ground dweller to hear of their struggle and have empathy? In this situation, would asking the ground dwelling people to help the tree dwellers overcome the problems that came with living in trees be a matter of asking them to carry the guilt of their fore-bearers who had created the unfair, harmful situation? Of course not! This idea that white people are being asked to carry guilt for what their forefathers did is a creation of the white imagination and not reality. What minorities want is for white people to stop dismissing and discounting their struggles and simply offer the same sort of empathy and assistance that any decent human being ought to offer to another who is struggling. They would like some acknowledgment from white people that being born a “ground dweller”, so to speak, means that there are certain struggles that we generally don’t have to deal with. What is being asked for is NOT guilt. What is being asked for is basic empathy and a willingness to do what we are able to do to help the “tree dwellers” move past the challenges which were left by our forefathers. Claiming that it’s about imputing guilt is a convenient way to wave off any sense of responsibility for our fellow man.

I also want to push back regarding your interaction with your Moroccan co-worker. Now, I agree that any act of bullying or violence, for whatever reason, is unacceptable. I would guess that your co-worker teaches her own children not to engage in such behaviors as well. However, I would also guess that your co-worker has personally witnessed, in a way that you have not, people who did not have the strength of spirit to deal with the obstacles and challenges that being a minority person entails. Not everyone has the character or strength of a saint. In real life, people do get to a place of bitterness, anger and despair that leads them to lash out at others. Particularly others who are, in their eyes, identified with the people who benefit from the way things are. (And whose children will witness and may repeat the bitterness their parents carry.) These people obviously cannot be given free reign to act on their anger and hatred. But no doubt your Moroccan co-worker is keenly aware of what brings a person to the point of doing that. And while I am certain she does not approve of people lashing out violently, no matter how downtrodden and angry they are, she does understand why it happens in a way that a person who has not seen it happen up close and personal do not. (And I’m not even getting into the way that when a white person behaves terribly, it is often ascribed to mental illness or getting caught up in crowd. Meanwhile a person of color behaving terribly is usually attributed to their culture and seen as a reflection of their community.)

On the other hand, the people who created this situation were not doing so because they had been pushed to the point of being crushed by the circumstances they were facing in life. They were doing so in order to maintain power and order. They were doing so out of convenience or because they did not feel the people they were pushing into untenable circumstances deserved any better. They did so because they did not want to risk having to do with less so that others could have what they needed. IOW, what drove people to create the situation of inequality is not really comparable in any way to what drive a person living on the losing end of their actions to lash out. And no doubt, for your Moroccan co-worker to hear the two situations painted as equivalent is offensive. A poor person who steals from their employer is still stealing and ought not do so, but their actions are not morally comparable to a dictator that steals his nations’ resources for his own benefit and leaves the people desperate and impoverished. And that, I believe, is why your co-worker responded so negatively.

Also, one of the things that I have become aware of is that we white people have an expectation that minority people would be sympathetic to and concerned about our negative experiences when it comes to race while we ourselves are frequently dismissive and skeptical of their negative experiences. It’s a bit like a sighted person complaining about the cost of prescription glasses to a blind person who, after all, can get by with sunglasses which don’t cost nearly as much. It just shows a lack of awareness on our part. I apologize if this sounds dismissive to you, but let me give you an illustration of how this plays out in real life. Here in the USA the practice of setting aside jobs, college admissions or scholarships for people of color is hugely controversial. White conservatives in particular consider it to be the ultimate hypocrisy as they see it as a form of reverse racism and aren’t we supposed to be getting rid of racism? So, let’s just accept the sake of discussion that they are completely right about this. Affirmative action (as this practice is called) is racism against white people and ought not be allowed in a society which is committed to equality for all people. And let’s just say, for the sake of our discussion, that this sentiment is widely shared by people of color as well. Even with all this being the case, it is quite likely that a white person condemning affirmative action to a person of color will be met with anger and hostility. Why?

The thing is that affirmative action is a form of discrimination that literally affects maybe 10,000 white people every year. And that’s a generous guess. The real number is probably much less than that. On the other hand, here in the USA, we have a situation where approximately 13% of drug users and drug dealers are African American, yet 60% of drug prisoners are African American. And that affects hundreds of thousands of African Americans each year.

Pot calling the kettle black.
Black people are much more affected by the War On Drug than white consumers.

And not only is the actual number of people affected by this racist system far, far larger than the number of people affected by affirmative action, because such a small percent of Americans are African American (12-14%), nearly every African American is affected by this racist system in some way. Plus, white people who lose out on a job or college admission due to affirmative action then have to find another job or school. Black people who are jailed for drug offenses not only lose their freedom for years on end, once they are out, they are virtually unemployable, have a hard time finding housing, can’t vote and in many places are unable to get any welfare benefits or educational assistance.

The end result is that white people are really, really upset by the racism of affirmative action, which affects almost no body, isn’t life destroying and isn’t widespread, yet the much bigger and more destructive racism of our “justice” system is hardly on most white people’s radar. In fact, when the problem is raised, most white people reflexively blame black people for the problem. Thus even a person of color who disagrees with affirmative action is likely to have much sympathy for white people who are harmed by it.

When white people insist that the discrimination they experience is a really, really big deal while simultaneously refusing to pour just as much energy and resources into fighting the much more devastating discrimination experienced by people of color, it will rub people of color the wrong way. To say the least. When we then try to get them to join us in being outraged over discrimination experienced by white people, well, let’s just say that we white people are lucky that bazooka’s are illegal.

The thing with “PC” is that while it is often poorly and foolishly executed, at it’s heart it is simply an attempt to get white people to move past our programmed self-centered views and show some consideration for and awareness of how our words, actions and attitude affect and appear to people of color. That’s it. We struggle with it because we have this idea that while our forebearers obviously left a mess that continues to affect minorities, we believe that we ourselves are unaffected. And that’s just not so. That we experience demands that something be done to fix the mess left behind as charges of guilt and object to being asked to consider the perspectives of the “other” as unreasonable whitewashing is evidence of the way that this pernicious evil practiced by those who went before us has caused us harm that we must also struggle to overcome.

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My answer follows.

Hi Rebecca.

Thanks for your long and thoughtful reply.

I really liked your metaphor about the tree-dwellers and ground-dwellers and think it is a great (albeit sad) description of the situation in America and other Western countries.
I think there are several things I’d like to say in response.

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1) I used “racism” as a synonym for “racial hatred” as this use is widespread in Europe, at least among common people.

I didn’t mean institutionalized racism.

What I was saying is that anti-white hatred is as real as any other kind of racial hatred and that it must be as firmly opposed.

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2) You say that white people are oblivious to the inequalities other races suffer from.

You further say that if a gruesome crime is committed by a “colored” individual, white folks tend to assume it is not just due to mental illness but to his being black.

I don’t know the situation in the US in 2015. If this is still the case, this is very saddening indeed.
In modern France, this attitude is no longer widespread among the younger generations.
The large majority certainly stands for equal rights regardless of skin color.
And if after a psychopathic crime someone were to say “You see! These Blacks are crazy!” he’d spawn disgust and disdain against him.

Unfortunately, this kind of attitude is still widespread towards Muslims, especially after the terrorist attacks against Charlie Hebdo. This is extremely unjust, preoccupying and revolting. Yet, this is not driven by feelings of racial superiority but by an ethnocentric conviction that our Western civilization is good whereas other cultures are savage and evil.

3) I completely agree there are laws in the US which are systematically very harmful to minorities.

The “war on drug” disgusts, horrifies and infuriates me. There’s absolutely no denial on my part that this wicked enterprise is massively ruining the life of young black men.

Overwhelming Racial Bias in Marijuana Arrets.
The prohibition of drugs has a terrible effect on the lives of countless young black persons.

Given all the financial interests related to this crusade, it’s perhaps never going to be abolished.

I find this monstrous and long for this evil to be undone.
I do believe, however, that my being white does not attribute me any kind of guilt, all the more so since I want it to cease as soon as possible.

I can’t honestly think of any kind of reasoning which would justify that alleged logical connection:

“Marc is white => Marc is partially responsible for the war on drugs destroying the lives of countless black persons”

I appreciate the fact you emphasized it’s not a question of feeling guilty but one of feeling empathy towards those who are still suffering  from the consequences of past abuses.

I do agree it is our moral duty as Christians and as human beings to act in an empathic way towards them.

4) Your analogy about stealing is an interesting one.

I certainly accept the fact that the moral culpability of members of a poor (and  formerly oppressed) ethnic minority who have to steal for surviving might be far lower than that of members of the dominant group engaging in the same type of activity.
However, this isn’t what I meant there.

I had in mind gratuitous crimes driven by sheer hatred.

As for example a gang of Arabs who wanted to rape a white woman after having screamed to the husband: “We’ll fuck your white whore!”.

It is my contention that from the standpoint of the victim and her suffering, this act is as heinous as the reverse situation where a white gang attempts to rape a black woman after having screamed “We’ll fuck your black whore!”

So, I think it’s perfectly in order to loudly say in the first case: “This is racial hatred. This is wrong. We need to reject that as well in order to build up a stable society. The past and present crimes of white institutions doesn’t justify in any way, shape or form this kind of heinous deeds.

and I could draw on French-speaking black rappers making these points.

5) Let me give you a personal analogy to drive this point home.
It does not involve races but another situation of institutionalized ethnic discrimination.

I’m a Germanic Frenchman coming from a region which has been historically bilingual French-German (I speak roughly half of the time in French and half of the time in German to my father).

France has always had a very repressive policy towards regions having a non-French culture (I documented this sad state of affairs here).

An intense propaganda has been carried out for convincing people that they ought to ONLY speak French to their children and that the languages spoken by their ancestors belong to the past.
Children speaking in dialect in the schoolyards were severely punished and oftentimes even beaten.
Any kind of administrative act and public meeting had to be performed in French.

People speaking in dialect or speaking in French with a strong accent were systematically mocked and even bullied by many (ethnic) French people.

Consequently, in my region, German has inexorably declined to such an extent that nowadays, people younger than I (I’m 30 years old) only speak French. It seems now doomed to disappear.

While modern Britain finances bilingual schools English/Welsh and does everything it can for allowing this language to survive, France of 2015 consistently refuses to compensate for the cultural genocides of the past by allowing bilingualism in private schools and administrations.
No, countless politicians hold fast to the dogma that French is the only tongue which ought to be used. Many of them still view dialects as a threat (which is disgustingly absurd since in many cases they’re spoken by less than 10% of the local population).

Now, does that situation mean that someone bullying a French person for defending French is less heinous than a French person bullying someone for defending a dialect?
It is true that in the second case, the misdeed is built upon a history of institutionalized discrimination.

Nevertheless, I firmly believe that both acts should be exposed and condemned.

I’m far from being a saint in that respect. A while ago, a Frenchman started an action against Anglicisms invading the French language.
This made me angry and I reacted with harsh words: “What? You destroyed the language of our ancestors and you dare to complain about your language being modified to a small extent by English influence?…”
He answered me that he’s for the preservation of all languages and has never endorsed French repression against dialects.

I then understood I had been  unjust while attacking him and saying he was responsible for the destruction of our tongue just by virtue of his being French and loving the French language.
So I went to him and sincerely apologized.

While being an activist defending dialects and combating current French policies, I now openly condemn any hateful assertion about French people coming from my fellow Lorrains and Alsatians (i.e. the inhabitants of my homeland.)

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6) To your mind, how does Jesus view the situation?

Suppose that a black and a white woman get (or got) gang-raped owing to their skin color.
Does he feel any less angry (or compassionate) in one case rather than in the other?

At the very least, I believe that His compassion is the same in both situations.

Jesus: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.  Jewish woman: certainly he doesn't mean the Romans?  Jewish man: I hope not.
Jesus preaching love towards our enemies. Has there been any progress during the last two thousand years in that respect?

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To conclude, I contend that:

a) racial hatred against white people truly exists and it has real physical consequences
b) acts driven by racial hatred should be called for what they are and firmly condemned no matter who the victims and perpetrators are
c) holding this position doesn’t amount to being a white supremacist.

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I hope we can have a nice conversation despite our fundamental disagreements about this particular problem. In many of the things I went into, I was not necessarily criticizing your personal views but was making general points.

We should keep in mind that I can’t automatically translate the current situation in France to America and you can’t automatically assume to know how things in Western Continental Europe look like.

(That’s not an accusation, just a remark. )

There are many historical and cultural concepts which greatly differ (for instance, Arabs tend to be much more often victims of discrimination than Blacks in France).

I do believe we should all strive for a society where ethnicity no longer plays any role in terms of advantages and hurdles for living one’s life. I’m convinced this demands fighting impartially hate towards innocent people who never asked to be born with their skin color.

I think that issues concerning the shape reparations should take and positive discrimination are very complex ones and I have not (yet) any firm position in that respect.

Cheers and blessings.

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