I raised this question tangentially in the comments to one of my recent posts. Here it is more plainly:
Which behavior is worse: 1) expressing racist views, i.e., that some people should be treated better or worse than others on the basis of race, or 2) abusing individuals, but not on the basis of race? (Stipulation: (1) and (2) are not necessarily correlated.)
13 thoughts on “Survey Question”
I’d say 2. I’ve seen many ultra PC people who are just not pleasant people to be around. I’d venture to say it’s that constant mental censoring that makes them paranoid and consequently mean. It starts with self righteousness, ie I am so tolerant and good that I must be better than other people who are racist homophobes. It then quickly progresses to imposing, ie when you are around me you must conform to what I consider PC. It’s a cycle that produces your SF mentality: we are better because we just are. Simple minded really, when you break it down into its components.
Both are bad.
The stipulation is not realistic.
Also, expressing racist views IS abusing individuals. Verbal abuse is abuse. Having to listen to someone’s bigotry is bad even when it is not direced at you — it presumes you share in the bigotry, which is offensive.
I think people who are ultra PC, the SF imposing kind, are really racists deep down. It may be cynical, but I’ve seen how the sausage is made. Prime example is affirmative action. Liberals believe all people are equal, but minorities cannot survive in a competitive environment without their help. Now that’s racism.
“It then quickly progresses to imposing, ie when you are around me you must conform to what I consider PC.”
If not wanting to hear offensive language is PC, then whatever. I tell my friends and any new acquaintances up front the first time I hear the “n” word or derogatory terms for women, gays, foreigners that I don’t appreciate that kind of language. Up front, mind you, the first time I hear it. So, perhaps I’m imposing, but it saves me the trouble of having to hear that shit. And I still have those same friends and acquaintances. They just shut up about some things when I’m around.
And I agree with Lex’s comments.
And I don’t, for example, support affirmative action.
Jonathon, sorry for the third entry, but I’ll add that until you’re on the receiving end of this kind of language, you may not realize how powerful it can be.–s
I’ve been on the receiving end of this language years ago… but if faced with the same today, I don’t think I would take offense at it. It’s a reflection of the person than the target. I take for granted that the US as a whole has largedly moved past blatant racism.
What I find more offensive is the subtle brain washed self righteousness that is PC today. It may be cynical, but I’ve been to the heart of the “diversity as religion” beast. I’ve had diversity oriented jobs in college. I’ve gone through the indoctrination for those jobs. One funny anecdote is the “training” I’ve been to. One guy asked, “what you’ve said is fine and good. But how will it help us do our jobs on a day to day basis?” To which the instructor gave some lame answer. We spent 3 weeks on intensive training gabbing on about how diversity is great. So anytime someone raises the PC tolerance flag, I view it with a cynical eye.
How do you choose between hate and abuse? The way I see it, “abuse” is an expression of hate and “hate” is the motivation behind the action. So which is worse? I would personally say that hate itself (whether it is racism, sexism or any other sort)is worse becuase it is the permanant condition of a person. The action of abuse may be tamed or corrected, but probably the motivation will remain.
I will add that, in the work place, 1 is definitely worse than 2 for the simple reason that the legal ramifications far outweight any other considerations.
On the other hand… if someone were to hurl this kind of language at my kid, I would probably be arrested for assault. Kids should not be exposed to this. In this situation I don’t see room for tolerance.
Morally speaking, I think #1 completely decoupled from #2 is not evil at all. People are *always* treating other people better or worse for fairly arbitrary reasons–common interests, age, what have you. Any number of groups of people–engineers, evangelicals, republicans–think they’re better than everyone else and/or treat members with respect they don’t give everyone else. So what? It’s unfair, sure, and if you’re in a position of authority that’s something to be careful about. But beyond that… hey, life’s unfair. People don’t treat each other all the same, for whatever reasons they don’t–race isn’t a particularly more evil reason to do it than any of the others.
Put another way, I don’t think racism is wrong at all. Some of its effects are wrong: oppression is wrong, hating people is wrong, treating people unfairly is wrong, insulting and hurting people is wrong… but if you ask me, those things are always wrong, regaurdless of the reasons given for them. Racism, by itself, is just a belief–a rather foolish one, sure, but it’s what you do that has moral value, not what you believe. It’s fine (if incorrect) to think some people are better than others; it’s wrong to mistreat the others because of that.
There was once this guy who posted a lot on a forum I visted, and I didn’t like him a lot, thinking he was sort of a spammer. When he came to talk to me, I was very rude to him and I hated him. In retrospect, I know that was wrong; even though my belief that he was damaging the forum was correct, I was still wrong to hate him. My belief caused me to hate, but it was the hatred–not the belief that caused it–that was wrong.
It’s wrong to hate people, but I don’t think your reasons why carry any moral value. If you can be a racist and still treat everyone kindly and civilly (and perhaps treat some a bit better), then I don’t think you’re in the wrong–at least, not morally speaking.
Willard Gaylin: “What You See is the Real You” (an essay in the Norton anthology we teach in freshman English)
One might even say the self-discipline required to treat people without condescension and with the humility that is always central to good manners reveals a certain virtue.
On the other hand, words are clues. And a man who uses vile words in anger at his wife or to berate his children is doing quite real damage. Someone whose words are full of hate is not, for instance, a good bet as a husband.
Surely some of this depends upon the context for the words and the context for the actions. Categorizing others is what a lively mind does, but the categories we choose says a lot about us.
Another liberal arts faculty anecdote: My oldest daughter’s best friend in grade school was Irish and Korean. At an English department party, the two were playing. A faculty wife asked which of the children was mine of the two. (I’m Anglo/German and my husband is Czech.) I said, well, the non-Asian one. She said, with some pride, “Ah, but I never notice such things.” She may have believed that showed her lack of prejudice, but part of admiring this child (and we still admire and like her, a friend of my daughter’s twenty years later) was admiring who she was – what heritages were combined in her attractive and pleasant and intelligent whole. Sure Strom Thurmond might have treated his daughter with gentle courtesy but his words stirred others to racist action. The whole thing is complicated. But I’m pretty sure willed blindness is not the answer.
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