The “CSA” is the mass of justifications and evasions that evolved to deflect attention from the damage done by slavery, the “Current Southern Apologia.” Learning to recognize splinters of these statements, integrated into complex arguments, is important to learning to cut a rhetorical problem at the root. For those who have been interested in the way I think about these things, here is an analysis of twenty-two words said last week:
In a discussion of race and slavery on another thread, a white guy posted: “I think black people think white people just snapped their fingers to make all our wealth, that there was no work involved.”
Ah. Good. This was a guy who was either asleep, or a snake. I was quickly able to see a way to trigger him into giving me more info. I said:
“No more than the percentage of white people who think that, given the same history, they would have done better or complained less.”
He immediately started complaining that
- I had no percentages, and that was therefore an unfair comment
- He was sure those white people were being ironic. Then followed by saying that they felt that if they had all the welfare, special programs and reverse discrimination aides, they would be millionaires.
This was great. An entire salad bar of possibilities.
- “Ironic” implies an opposite use to what is expected. Ummm…his clarification said that, no, they thought there really were enough advantages that given those advantages they would be millionaires. If you believe someone has an advantage, but they don’t out-perform you, what are you saying? Can you say “lesser initial capacity”? I knew you could.
- He wants percentages? But didn’t offer any. “I think black people” in common speech implies “the average black person…” Better than 51%, or that statement is meaningless. He didn’t say “some.” He didn’t say “I met” or “Sometimes I worry that too many…” all of which have flexibility.
- Does he think that “white people snapped their fingers and created wealth” is an intelligent or informed opinion? No? Then he is saying, at the very least: “in this arena, I believe the average black person is unintelligent and/or uninformed.”
Now, he is welcome to have that attitude, of course, but if you don’t NOTICE that’s his attitude, you’re missing the point. Now…since we can see that “black people are unintelligent and/or ignorant” as a general statement is only another step down that road, aren’t we at the point where the little Sambo Alert button goes “ding ding ding” yet?
At this point, The Question becomes your friend. “Given the same history, would white people have been as damaged, or complained as long?”
If he hems, haws, says it is an unfair or hypothetical question or starts talking about Jewish slavery in Egypt, “Irish slaves” or refuses to answer: YOU HAVE HIM. He is riding the pale horse, heading off on the “Nature” train.
If he fumbles out a “Ummm…Yeah…I guess…” YOU HAVE HIM. You know what he is afraid to say. At this point, you have a choice. But what you MUST NOT DO is try to “convince” him. Why? Because at the core, his position is not political, or scientific. It is A core existential “Faith” issue about the nature of the human soul. All his rhetoric will only be trying justify what he already feels. There may be additional scrambled brains, if he has a conflict on a belief level:
- Black people are not as intelligent as whites
- It is bad to be racist.
- Therefore, racism is something other than thinking whites are better than blacks.
Sure: they have black friends, like Will Smith, enjoyed Black Panther. So…they aren’t racist. Right?
Sure. Have fun with that. YOU WILL NOT CHANGE THEIR MINDS, because the problem isn’t in their minds, in that sense. It is in their souls. A different sense of the order of the universe. Doesn’t make ’em bad people. It DOES mean that they can’t and won’t watch your back in THIS particular battle.
Now, if they take the low road, and admit it, don’t get into conversations about race with them–if they were honest, it would devolve to shouting, if they are dishonest it will go nowhere.
(PAUSE: Definition of racist: “the differential attribution of capacity or worth based on race or ethnicity.” That is the definition I use here, and my logic chains rest on THAT definition. Whether you agree with that definition is another subject entirely.)
If they take the high road, if they SAY they believe in human equality, then all you have to do is examine the component parts of their argument and see if they align. For instance:
“I think black people think white people just snapped their fingers to make all our wealth, that there was no work involved.”
This statement is racist IF you believe it literally AND you think this dysfunction is something innate.
It is NOT racist if proceeded by a statement/thought like “350 years of slavery and white racism damaged the black community so badly that they can have a skewed view of what it takes to succeed. White people would be just as confused if the shoe was on the other foot.” If you like, you can also add “and black people would be just as self-servingly oblivious about what they did.” That’s fine.
That statement might be incorrect or correct (that’s another subject), but it isn’t “racist” IMO unless you are implying that whites would do better. Which leads me to mentioning that I was asked yesterday by another gentleman why it was necessary to add the prefix “Due to the legacy of slavery” to the discussion of dysfunction. Wasn’t it taken for granted? Hardly. It is the third rail of American politics, sometimes implied but almost never stated directly on the Right.
- Yes, our community has damage that only we can heal, like a hit-and-run victim must do their own rehab.
- But if you speak of the rehab without discussing the bus…
- The bus driver, their descendants and allies will try to pretend the bus doesn’t exist, and never did, and accuse you of “bus-ism” if you ask if anyone got the license plate.
The sad thing is that so many people fall for it. Black and white. Just five days ago I had this conversation with a black Conservative, and after he tried to avoid the question was forced to admit that, yes, he was afraid that white people were “stronger.”
The poison runs deep, and the rot goes all the way to the soul. Yes, we have to talk about this stuff until we undo the result of 350 years of denial. When I stop being able to quote weekly repetitions of the same toxic belief patterns, THEN I will discuss stopping the discussion. Playing the “Race Card”? sure. But black people wouldn’t be able to play it, if white people hadn’t dealt it from the bottom of the deck.
Want to avoid guilt, shame, or blame about that? Simply believe human beings are equal, and love them anyway. Which you can do if you see them as connected to you…and love yourself. See how this all connects?
Once you get clarity on which side of the fence they are on (and it is safest, by far, to assume no one is right on the middle. They lean one way or the other; ALWAYS. If you don’t assume this, you’ll get shanked, I promise you)
- So…Look at the core faith assumption under the “scientific” arguments, and assume they are coming from one position or the other.
- To save yourself endless grief in cyclical arguments, never accept as truth “I don’t know”. Just…don’t. You may be being unfair to a tiny percentage of people, but you will also miss a LOT of troll-action.
- Don’t be confrontational or insulting. They have not attacked you unless they’ve hurt you. Did they trigger your fear, your anger? That is YOUR insecurity. On some level…you’re afraid they are correct. Check yourself.
- Don’t engage with racists about racism. Waste of time. I would say with no hesitation that over 60% of people are not racist, or are committed to not being racist. Most of us don’t want it. YOU ONLY HAVE TO GATHER THIS 60% TOGETHER. Don’t worry about the 20% of intractables. Just…gather and nurture your tribe.
- You do this by being both kind and strong. See racism as a disease of mind, a warping of human tribalism, an artifact of an earlier time. You don’t get angry if people are sick, do you?
- But racism can cause damage. Violence. No question–it is dangerous, when combined with emotional instability. Think of the “Incels”. Everyone has been ‘Friend Zoned”: wished that a friend found us romantically appealing. Only the childish and damaged think this is some evil on the part of the friend. Only the insecure, people filled with self-loathing and mindless anger, would actually commit violence out of that fear. But it happens. So…your anger at words is about your fear of what it might mean. Just as an “Incel” would only be angry if he doubted his ability to find a satisfactory mate, if you have NO lack of confidence in basic equality, then the only fear is that these words might trigger actions. That’s not bullshit, not fantasy. So…you must be strong enough to protect yourself, your family, and those who need your protection. That emotional, financial and sometimes physical strength is important for healthy adults to produce, because otherwise we cannot protect the weak…and cannot recruit those who will make political hay where they feel safe.
- Love yourself. Enough to trust your deepest nature. Human equality, the unity of the human soul is a reality. Enough to be willing to defend yourself against anyone who would harm you.
- Love one other person. At least. It is the fastest way to break out of your ego shell and see the connection.
- Understand history without guilt, blame, or shame. This problem is not “out there.” It is in our own hearts. Solve it for yourself, and you can extend that understanding to others.
- Find your tribe. Don’t argue with Trolls. Why talk with sleeping people? Let alone snakes. No, just have reasonable, rational, loving conversations with your tribe. Some sleepers will awake and join the discussion. We have more than 60%, if we can create an empowering vision of the future.
- Win with integrity. Remember that from the deepest level, this stuff isn’t about politics, or science. It is about core beliefs, what people FEEL about the world. The rest is how they justify it, or implement their view of reality. They are only BAD people if they take bad actions. The rest is the struggle to be good and decent human beings. Frankly I think that’s 80% of us.
Just my morning houghts, branching out from a small conversation. Do I know what this person really thinks and feels? No. But I know that if my intention is Triage; “who is on my side?” “who might be convinced?” “who are the honorable adversaries?” (and the term “honorable adversaries” is used to prevent yourself from going to “who are the knaves, fools and #$%% I’m gonna have to whup up on”, which is your fastest path to creating a verbal riot, in which those who MIGHT have become allies say: “Yuck! I’d rather stay on my side!”)
Remember. Let’s work backwards from my ultimate goals. To the degree that they align with yours, my thoughts may be useful.
1) Ultimate goal: to live a happy Life
2) Long term goal: to contribute to a more peaceful and loving and happy world.
4) Medium term goal: to help correct a perceived shift toward fear and intolerance, manifesting in violence and radicalized politics.
5) Short term goal. To share my thoughts on how to identify potential allies in personal and political life, and motivate you to take those actions in alignment with your values and intents.
Politically, the goal might be to get to 60%, NOT to convince the opponent of a damned thing. Let ’em go their way, or surgically dissect what they are saying to reveal the beliefs under the surface for people to see clearly. Trust that if the average person really sees the meaning of the arguments they use, they will be able to ask if those beliefs match who they want to be in the world.
Trust that most of us are good and decent, and WANT to believe in equality, even if they have their doubts. They are restless in the dream. And if they feel safe…if you don’t break their jaw when they drop their guard…
They can be tribe.