"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

‘Racist'!– A Facile Term Expressing The Intolerance Of Those Who Use It

Despite the social, economic, and cultural complexity of America, we live in a simplistic world arbitrarily divided into broad categories. Race, gender, and ethnicity are its organizing markers; and formerly telling signifiers – intelligence, beauty, talent, ambition, innovativeness, and creativity – have become secondary add-ons.  Although lip-service is paid to individualism, America  has become a country of broad categories, and value and character are judged on one’s position relative to them.

Categorization by such markers, say some, is necessary in an unequal society. Although a mathematician’s gayness may be the least important feature of a his world of quarks, leptons, bosons, fermions; and sexual and electoral politics have no place in  in his hypothetical particle world of charginos, squarks, and sleptons, he is advised that a more personal advocacy of his true nature – homosexuality – would better serve him, his community, and his country.

The societal value of a gay mathematician is far more than just an ordinary one; and although turning his attention to such cultural and political matters might divert him from the abstract world of quantum mechanics, he has an obligation to do so.

Hillary Clinton, candidate for president (2016) ran as a woman.  It is time, she said, for a woman to accede to the highest office in the land.  In a society where women have, after only a few decades, risen to the top of academia, the professions, and business, this claim strikes millennial women as self-serving and entitling.  Yes, they say, it would be good to have a woman finally break the ranks, but we are not foolish enough to vote for a candidate on only  those grounds.
Yet the gender classification persists.  Look at me first as a woman, said Mrs. Clinton, and then as a politician, world leader, or Commander in Chief. 

Race became a problem for the United States as soon as the first slave set foot on American soil.  Thomas Jefferson understood this as he saw the demand for slaves decreasing in Virginia but their population increasing.  He knew that freed slaves, only a generation removed from tribal Africa, would never be assimilated by the majority white population.  He could not have been more right.  The abolition of slavery was only an important, necessary, and inevitable victory for civil rights, but it precipitated the racial hostilities and divisions that Jefferson envisaged.  Such problems persist today with seeming little hope of resolution.

The current insistent categorization by race, gender, and ethnicity has done more to set back the cause of racial harmony and integration than any other single action.  By focusing first on color – i.e. that color alone legitimizes an individual – race-centered movements such as Black Lives Matter have gained visibility and arrogated power.  Because Americans have been trained to think in racial terms, the real issues underlying black dysfunction and poor social indicators have been largely ignored.

Because they are black, demonstrators in Ferguson, Baltimore, and elsewhere have been given a free pass.

Worst of all, such demands are degrading and humiliating for black individuals who enjoy the same talents, ambitions, abilities, and intentions as whites but who are forced into a an enforced racial hegemony.

Even worse such broad categorization by race, gender, and ethnicity, has in many cases increased social divisiveness.  Many Americans are increasingly unhappy with an agenda which has clotured debate, marginalized those who challenge liberal assumptions, and given rise to a hostility and suspicion which had begun to abate before the clamor of insistent demands.

Perhaps worst of all, this enforced classification by race, gender, and ethnicity has encouraged bigotry.  For those who feel alienated by a progressive cabal which dismisses their claims to Biblical authority, traditional social and family values, the natural tendency is animosity, anger, and resentment.  Although they might have begun to accept blacks, women, gays, and Latinos into the mainstream of American society – as individuals who subscribe to majority norms and values – such tolerance has been set back by the culture of enforced identity.   Their attitudes are now far from generous and many Americans have been propelled back a decade or more into facile assumptions about black Americans, homosexuals, and even women.

At the same time, the term ‘bigot’ is applied to anyone who challenges received wisdom.   Larry Summers was forced out of the Presidency of Harvard because of his legitimate questions about female representation in academia.  College administrators are forced to step down because they challenge assumptions about sexual behavior and insist on a more impartial look at the underlying factors which produce sexual intimidation and violence.  Student leaders successfully demand the retraction of speaking engagements by political and social conservatives.  They are all bigots.

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Because many have insisted on the primacy of race, gender, and ethnicity, and by so doing confer an artificial, politically-motivated legitimacy; and because they have labeled anyone not agreeing with their agenda as a bigot, they have contributed far more to social disharmony than to real integration, respect, and acknowledgement of achievement.

The term 'racist' is used irresponsibly and wrongly, tarring all intellectual dissidents, questioners, and those with real hatred with the same brush.  A popular televangelist has recently spoken out about both homosexuality and Islam, views which come from his literal interpretation of the Bible, his particular reading of European history and the threat of the Saracens and Islam, and the fundamentalism of his followers.   His views might well be at the far end of the political spectrum and quite far from those of centrist America, but his statements are understandable, logical, and expected.  At worst he is a self-serving ignoramus, trapped in his own distorted view of history and religion; but a bigot? Hardly.

Those who question the moral legitimacy of gay marriage are not bigots. Those who challenge the black community and its refusal to accept responsibility for its actions are not racist, nor are those who see Islam as a violent religion based on its origins, its expansionism, and its current expressions of religious hegemony.  Those who reject many claims of feminism because they counter fundamental principles of Christianity are not sexist.

By calling anyone who opposes a particular political and social agenda a bigot, increases intolerance, and never decreases it.  Those who cry 'racism’ are the intolerant ones who contribute most to the corrosion of social harmony.

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