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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

liveonearth
May. 23rd, 2010 04:24 am (UTC)
rambling
Food for thought indeed. I wish that our society were better at the fulfillment of "rights" after we have named and even legislated them. People discriminate against each other based on all manner of bias and impression. If we do not discriminate, we may find ourselves wishing that we had. When I'm a practicing physician, I will provide my services to people who are willing and able to pay for them. That is a form of discrimination: against the poor, and by extension, against minorities and homeless, who are by and larger poorer than whites and people with homes. ...So I'm a bigot? I don't care? Maybe not. The deeper we dig into issues like this, the muddier it gets at the bottom of the hole. I wish that there were a firmer definition out there for what is inhuman treatment...because I think it's happening a lot these days.

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