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The Right to Be Racist


You may know that I don't particularly espouse the idea of rights, as in, I do not believe that we even have the "right" to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness, unless we collectively grant these rights to each other. We have some disputes about the "right" to bear arms, or the "right" to say whatever we like, even if it is untrue or aggravating. In general, here in America, we tend to let people be the dicks that they are. The few laws that we have that try to make people be more decent to each other are hotly contested. Now this whole question of the "right" to be racist is in the news, because of Rand Paul and John Stossel. Other intellectuals are stepping forward, trying to make a case for it.

I don't know if I'm up to it. I know that the vast majority of you won't even care to entertain the ideas on the other side, because the American collective consciousness is so strongly rooted in the 1960's reaction to centuries of racism. But our collective consciousness, and unconscious, are evolving. Nothing remains the same.

The truth is that no matter what the law says, the individual has the unalienable right to think whatever they think about others. No law, at this point, can stop us from thinking horrible things. The laws we have are oriented at making us BEHAVE in civilized ways. The part of the Civil Rights act that is currently so contentious has to do with forcing business owners to admit patrons regardless of their race or creed. It seems very American to do so, the racist business owner being the bad guy, and the wrong-color patrons being the ones who have been done wrong. It is the fact of our history. But can we see more sides to this? Can we envision a future that is not in reaction to that past? Or is it too close, still? Can we imagine a situation in which a business owner caters to a particular group and does not want to admit others, when that owner is not a bad and evil person?

It blows me away how the media and a great number of regular people easily sway to accusations like racism. The emotional reaction precludes rational thought. We need to be able to have a discussion about our laws, our culture, and our choices. I'm not saying that today I want to change the law. I am saying that until we are able to consider such questions with calm, we will find no clarity on the matter. Boiling blood clouds communication. Calm down, people. Imagine that there might be a legitimate point on the other side, and see if you can hear it. Think about it for a while. And instead of calling someone a racist, try talking with them. These people who get dismissed with false accusations are the leaders of our future, waiting for our collective consciousness to catch up.

Do you see that there is a difference between saying that business owners can be whatever kind of pigs they are in their own place of business, and being a racist? Do you see that there is space between those two statements? That is all I hope for.

The truth is that we are all racist deep down. Every single person on this planet is wired, deep down, to recognize those who are "different" by sight, sound and smell, and to treat them with defensiveness and suspicion. This is instinctive, and while we deny it on the intellectual level, and force ourselves to behave as if we don't feel it, it operates in all of us. Those of us who have trained ourselves to respond to all people with apparently equal respect are, to at least some degree, acting. We are acting civilized, and some of our neofrontal cortices are indeed civilized. But our limbic systems never will be.

Comments

ngakmafaery
May. 23rd, 2010 01:20 am (UTC)
...yeah, I can be a dick or nice guy and think/feel whatever I want, but behaviours and actions are different...some of the stuff I as a jerk/homophobe/racist/antisemitic/whatever/ might want to do is not legal, or just not nice, and that part has to be controlled, but me thinking jerk stuff, while unwholesome and only going to make me more of a narrow jerk, is not forbidden by anybody except some religions or advisors...
liveonearth
May. 23rd, 2010 04:27 am (UTC)
Ah yes this is an interesting point, that we become what we think about. So rather than attempting to repress the actions of active bigots, might our collective efforts be better placed at preventing the development of bigots? A stitch in time saves nine, they say. Perhaps the best method we could possibly have for making our society more peaceful and egalitarian would have more to do with elementary schools than police forces....

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