We’re pretty good at recognizing explicit racism and bigotry when certain groups are targeted. We are pretty good at seeing racism against people of color, especially African-American/Black people. We see it pretty well when it’s pointed at Jews also. But sometimes it’s harder to see. A way to check is to change the subject of the discussion to a black man, or a Jew, and see if it sounds any alarm bells. Here’s one that I posted on Facebook yesterday:
I really do not like President Trump. I don’t know him personally, but I don’t like what I see on TV and on Twitter. I don’t like what I read, and I don’t like what I hear. He doesn’t seem like somebody I would want to spend much or any time with, and I’m sure if he worked in my department I would want little or nothing to do with him. I find him very self-centered, with a narcissistic personality disorder vibe. I don’t like his speech pattern, and an article from Vox in October 2016 sheds some light on how unusual it is. I don’t like many of his policies, but I am even more bothered by his unpredictability and the lack of clarity that he thrives on related to what his policies actually are. He generates a real visceral disgust in me, and I am looking forward to the day his presidency is over, whenever that may be. People clearly felt a similar disgust over Obama. It makes me think about the differences.
In the early days of this blog/diary/outlet (whatever it is), I wrote something about implicit bias. The post was titled “Am I biased?” and that serves as the basis for the title of today’s thoughts. My morning ride isn’t very long. I work about six miles from home and don’t hit much traffic on the way. In the past, my morning radio routine was remarkably predictable: NPR’s Morning Edition. Although I haven’t reduced my obsession with politics in the past year, it has taken a toll on me in ways that it hadn’t before, so I’ve spent more of my mornings listening to music, or even listening to the banter of morning radio on top 40 or rock stations. It’s a bit lighter (usually), and gets my day started on a better note. This morning was an NPR morning, and a story about the Cleveland Indians got me thinking.
Immigration is a hot topic today. The blending with racism and nationalism is hard for me to ignore, and it’s interesting to watch the rationalization that people use to avoid confronting their own racist views and implicit xenophobia. This kind of thing takes several forms, each revealing. On the whole, I’m pleased that people struggle to rationalize this, because it shows me that they see racism/xenophobia as a bad thing, and don’t want to think of themselves that way. I wrote about this earlier; the relevant quote was “I know that most people don’t want to be racist. I know that most people get angry when somebody calls them a racist. That’s good. It tells me that they and I share the belief that racism is bad. That makes me happy, and I’m glad we agree that being a racist is not a good thing to be.” But that doesn’t make it go away. We need more. We need to see it out in the open, so we can end it in ourselves if we truly do not want to be racist. Immigration and our views on this is a good place for this exercise, so let’s spend some time looking at a couple of issues, and what people have said about immigration policy that may reveal some not-so-kind, but correctable, views.
Trump said an awful thing. Although he denies it, several sources have confirmed that, in a closed-door meeting about immigration policy, he asked, “Why do we want all these people from ‘shithole countries’ coming here?” People went nuts, with good reason, but I think the focus has been wrong. This is cross-posted from my FaceBook, word for word (except this paragraph of introduction).
I have conflicting views, and I find that troubling. It’s not the first time it’s happened, and it certainly won’t be the last time it happens. My conflict has to do with crime rates and mass incarceration. I am against mass incarceration, but I like low crime rates, and, because the two are correlated, it makes me worry about a cause and effect relationship. Let’s delve deeper.
People aren’t perfect. We’re relatively safe when we idolize fictional characters, because they’re less likely to let us down, but when we idolize real people, we run the risk of being let down by their inevitable imperfection. From Bill O’Reilly to Christopher Columbus to Thomas Jefferson, people do unforgivable things, and we’re stuck trying to balance the good with the bad. What interests me is how people react when it happens.