A Quick Question About Racism

This time in a week, my office won’t be my bedroom but will be my balcony, or a local restaurant, or… my bedroom (I’m staying in a studio flat and would put money on having exactly the same set-up as I do now, except with a closer bathroom). I was going to write a post just gloating about that, but then I went on Tumblr…

I’ve been treating the site gingerly since Uncle Rick posted about Blood of Olympus spoilers, so I glanced down the page as edgy as Hermione when she realised the Basilisk was in the pipes and saw this:

Racism on Tumblr

It might have been just me and a couple of inspirational billboard writers who thought this, but I was aware from a pretty young age that racism is learnt. One is not born as racist any more than one is born believing in God or born thinking Saturday night TV is occasionally contrived. When we first spill out into the world, we have no concept of anything. Then we are taught things that the people raising us think. We learn theism or racism or TV opinions as we grow, either by believing other people or thinking about things then coming to our own conclusions. Then we say what we think to our sprogs or students or blog readers.

That’s probably how most ideals have survived. You know, Mr Caveman Sr. realised that fire is useful but hurts if touched, and he taught Mr Caveman Jr., who taught Miss Cavewoman. Over the street, Mr and Mrs Cave were learning the same thing and told Baby Cave Kid as well.

Haha, baby cavepeople. (Alternatively, as Jacki pointed out, Ms or Mrs or even Miss Cavewoman may have discovered fire. I bet it was Village Idiot Caveperson who twigged that it hurt. Unfortunately – or luckily for this analogy – we may never know.)

My point is, lots of us are taught racism. I was. Most of us are taught sexism as well (hey, I wrote about this last week!). My parents were raised disliking Germans because their parents sat through the Blitz. Back when slavery and colonialism was a thing, most white people were raised to consider all non-white people to be inferior. Most non-white people were then raised to think that all white people were racists, and back then they were almost definitely right.

But it’s 2014, snowflakes. We’ve all been raised in part by racist, sexist, homophobic people – and we’ve also been taught by intelligent people that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid. Some of us have weighed up the evidence and concluded, independently, that racism, sexism and homophobia (plus all the other -isms) is fucking stupid.

So is the above Tumblr post actually just as racist, narrow-minded and indifferently ignorant towards white people as some white people are towards non-white people? Does anyone else get really upset by any mention of new book spoilers? Should I just stop using social media completely if it continues to find new ways to piss me off?

Well, I know the answer to one of those questions at least!

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2 thoughts on “A Quick Question About Racism

  1. First up … may I commend you on your self-referential ability in including the phrase ‘indifferent ignorance’ within your blog. Smart 🙂

    But, secondly, I counter this with the fact that you have been hoisted with your own petard!! Please tell me how you know (beyond all reasonable doubt) that it was Mr Caveman who realised fire was useful but could hurt, then taught his son, who then taught his daughter? Plausibly, Mrs Cave(wo)man could’ve discovered fire. And I would go so far as to say that, potentially, the division of labour at those times, was less divisive, though I’m not an anthropologist (who I think actually make a lot of guesses, maybe based in fact, but, nonetheless, still guesses as to how our ancestors lived – who can say for certain!) and thus either of them could’ve discovered fire and its uses/hazards.
    Anyway, consider yourself admonished!!

    But other than that – yes, wholeheartedly agree with all of this. Bad ‘isms’ are fucking stupid. And yes, that original tumblr post is terribly sad … isn’t it supposed to be innocent until proven guilty? So, not racist, until shown to be so? And by saying ‘this isn’t being mean or generalising’ actually means “I am generalising and tarring all white people with the same brush and actually being racist” (though I would agree it’s not ‘mean’ just bloody-mindedly stupid). And how is it a defence mechanism? A defence against what? That if I say something horrible about a group of people (ie be racist’) before they say something horrible about my group of people, that means when they’re horrible they’re just being exactly what I said they’d be, therefore I’m right to be this way because I know they’re bad people and racists? Admittedly, I can see the logic in that thinking. It’s completely warped, and will just bring about a perpetual cycle of ‘ist’ behaviour, but I can actually see why people would say things like that … because they haven’t thought beyond their learned ‘isms’.
    (*shakes head*)

    Weirdly (or is it?), my parents have become more ‘ist’ as they’ve grown older. Is this a common thing … or am I just unlucky that my lot haven’t grown more tolerant in their dotage? There’s probably a reason for this. Maybe if you are quite a negative person – and I think you have to be, in order to be ‘ist’ – when negative things happen it reinforces their ‘ist’ outlook. It doesn’t suit to be proven wrong so the good things are overlooked. So if you’re racist and someone from a different ethnicity does something nice, it’s forgotten because imagine the soul-searching required to appreciate that not all people from the same ethnic background (or any other quantifiable sector of society?) are the same in terms of any ‘ist’, ‘ism’ or any other feature, quality, trait, attitude, quirk or somesuch.

    I recall going on holiday to Wales as a youngster (probably still before teenagerdom) and my mum was quite outspoken in her irritation that the people in the post office/corner shop were talking Welsh, which she took to mean they were talking about her and it was incredibly rude not to speak English. Needless to say, she hasn’t been on many foreign holidays other than to places where English or American is the native language (and even then, there’s apparently plenty wrong with the American language, not to mention the Americans themselves … and for clarification, this is not my view, it’s hers!!).
    But even then, I couldn’t really fathom why she would think that … after all, it’s Wales, a little Welsh village, they speak Welsh, so why would they HAVE to speak English just because she was there? And why assume they would be talking about her? And even if you’re completely right on those points … does it really require a loud and mildly offensive outburst?
    I guess that from an early age, I wasn’t really ‘ist’.

    And it saddens me, how many people use social media to perpetrate their ‘isms’ – just posting inherently (or ignorantly indifferent) racist slogans …. ‘keep Britain British’ and that kind of thing. I have a friend who is stupidly racist when it suits, yet hates homophobia as she has a gay friend … but can’t see how ridiculous that is. It makes no difference what ‘ist’ it is … they’re all wrong. If it’s wrong to make homophobic comments, why is it okay to direct your vitriol against another sector of society by virtue of their skin colour, ethnic background or whatever? And please don’t think that I agree with you!! I delete your posts, i ask facebook not to show me such posts in future, I block the page that you’ve shared (this is actually one of the few good things about facebook). and you’ll hopefully note when you say these kinds of things to me, directly or in group conversations, I usually proffer a challenge to your thinking (sometimes a whimper of a challenge depending how big the group is and the general sentiments therein … gotta choose your battles).

    On occasion, I really do believe we’re doomed as a species! There are too many intolerant people. And that will be our downfall.
    But fight the good fight comrades, take arms against the sea of tyranny. For those of us who have children, teach them well. Let them not become Muppet Kid and T-Shirt Boy 😛

    Oh, and for the record, I don’t get upset at the mention of new book spoilers (is that ‘new book’ spoilers or new ‘book-spoilers?) … primarily as I don’t read a great deal.
    And no, you should not stop using social media, regardless of how much pissing off it does. It can be a highly effective tool in the dissemination of anti-ism propaganda – is that too militant? Ok, it can be a highly effective tool in the fight against ‘isms’ or the refutation of ‘ist’ comments and generalised indifferent ignorance!

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    1. You know what, when I was writing the post I debated the whole Mr/Mrs Caveperson thing, and I decided that hardly anyone reads this so I should stop worrying and get on with it. Next time I’ll bow to my inner… whatever it is in my brain that worries about everything! I’m also really proud that I fit ‘indifferent ignorance’ in – I’m trying to do it more so I can claim this blog has a theme other than MCR and dogs.

      It’s interesting how logical illogical isms can be… in your mum’s mind, being upset about those Welsh people made perfect sense, and your friend probably doesn’t equate homophobia and racism as equally ignorant. I suppose it’s a similar thing when people experience positive things about people they dislike… they aren’t looking for good stuff, they just look for bad stuff. Reminds me of when a teacher told us about his racist grandfather, who hated black people “except Dave down the road, because I know Dave and Dave is nice.” People think things through, but not enough that they lose the ism!

      I think it’s ‘new-book spoilers’ although I’m not completely sure. But yes, I am avoiding a lot of social media and doing my best to pick my battles. Still, we have to pick them, or Muppet Kid, T-Shirt Boy, Racist Tumblr Users 1 and 2, and Book Spoiler Idiots will continue and kill us all.

      If the static doesn’t get us first.

      (Not sorry; I miss making MCR jokes.)

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