This article was written for white people.
In previous articles I’ve mentioned the rightwing lacking the linguistic tools to successfully combat the left in arguments on social issues. I’ve talked about the right following predictable patterns of being on the defense, of constantly being relegated to the point of only meekly defending a position and not having the capacity to create a narrative that takes the offense. Some of my fellow right-wingers have been the subject of my critique because of my not being able to see any effort to correct the problem and start the process of creating our own set of tools to combat the left on white-hot issues such as race. I realize that railing on against my own tribe for the purposes of identifying the problem is at first constructive, no matter how painful the expedition. But eventually my complaints themselves become stale and finally destructive. Not to mention, it’s easiest to criticize and not offer your own solution.
So I decided to at least attempt to create a counter narrative to one of biggest hot button issues out there.
Specifically how white people have no counter narrative when something or someone is called racist. What is racism? Who is a racist? The definition of modern racism is at best situational and volatile. At worst it’s like some kind of vague mist that you can’t really grab, but often find yourself enveloped in, lost, not sure how you got there, but your friends have long bailed out and you are on your own. What is it about racism that seems so baffling? Every white person I know is tense about it to the point that even if they sense something could go the route of race, poof, they disappear. I pondered my question for a few days and then slowly a definition came into being. It said, “If a white person mentions anything that remotely comes close to the subject of race and is in any number of vague situations, that white person will likely be called a racist.” It was a harsh, unforgiving definition that hadn’t changed since it was defined back in a harsh era that was more black and white than digital. The definition was old and vague and yet its punishment was harsh to the point of being binary. Racism is decided by a 1 or 0. There is no room for forgiveness. There is no room for interpretation, even though how anyone comes to that conclusion of racism is anything but set in stone. Our society defined racism and how to take care of it back in the pulp driven, authoritarian 1950’s.
In contrast there was in bright, digital colors the issue of sexuality. It was current, and dynamic and forgiving. If you were true of heart and everyone knew you were generally trying to understand the ever evolving landscape of sex and sexuality, you were usually forgiven and then given friendly instructions on what the current norms were and how you too could participate in the party, so to speak. As long as you are not hateful in heart and everyone could see that you were making a genuine effort to accommodate your gay friends or polyamorous neighbors, or transgender children all would be ok. Actually all would be wonderful, even rewarding. Sexuality is quickly becoming more and more positive and healthy for our society. We are actually becoming a more sophisticated country for accepting and embracing alternative versions of sexuality.
The contrast between sexuality and race couldn’t be starker. So what is it? Why is sexuality so much more forgiving in terms of an individual’s evolution and understanding in comparison to the same kind individual’s exploration on race. With race you are on your own and sometimes the slightest mistake, even innocent, could end with a person being shamed, or end with job loss or even violence. With sexuality, being shamed is a possibility, but the entire setting and expression of this social movement is much more forgiving and the undertone is more soft authoritarianism, versus race, it’s full on fascism.
Certainly it’s not that sexuality, particularly, being gay in that past was any less oppressive than being of a different ethnicity than the mainstream White Anglo Saxon Protestant. Not to take anything away from the race issue, but I would be so bold as to proclaim that having an orientation outside of the strict heterosexual ethos was in some ways more dangerous and more likely to end in jail, violence or gruesome death. This could be argued either way, but I think you get my point.
So what is the difference in the approach society takes in the two issues? More importantly how can we turn the expression of race, especially if you are white and want to express something positive about your own race, into something less condemning and more instructional like we have with sexuality?
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