Concocted Racism

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I'm at a loss. I thought I understood what the dominant liberal notion of racism was supposed to be. There's individual, attitudinal racism, where someone simply hates or wants to suppress people of other races. Then there's residual racism, where societal conditioning leaves us with negative attitudes toward people of other races or predominant cultural practices or preferences of other races. This can be so even if we recognize it and seek to overcome it. Finally, there's institutional racism, where societal practices ("the system") perpetuate a proportional disadvantage toward one race.

Well, a new kind of racism has appeared. It doesn't fit into any of those categories. Sam found this case mentioned at Tongue Tied. Somehow, saying that abortion is the #1 killer of African Americans (and showing a picture of a black baby) is racist. Not just that, but the picture of the baby is even the root of racism!

As far as I can tell, saying something is the #1 killer of African Americans is usually a way to point out a problem that harms African Americans in order to help solve the problem. Racists of the first category wouldn't do that, because they wouldn't care. The second category doesn't seem applicable here, because it's not as if there's an involuntary response to overcome. This is a voluntary action, pointing out a problem. So why is it racist to say that abortion is the #1 kiler of African Americans? It can't be the third category, because the thing that disproportionally affects African Americans is the abortion, not the attempt to point out the problem. Is it racist to say that African Americans have less representation in top government positions? Of course not. Saying it is supposed to be part of a remedy, not part of the institutional racism (though I think merely saying it is sort of a way to perpetuate it because it's thought of as having done one's duty).

The only thing I can think of is that abortion of African Americans is not being done by white people to black people (though the actual people doing the abortions are likely to be disproportionally white), and the assumption is that it's racist to point out something done by black people that negatively affects black people. If I can identify a problem that disproportionally affects black people, and I want to see how best to address that problem and remedy it, then how is it racist? It doesn't matter who's responsible for the disproportionate negative effect. If I want equality, I need to help remedy it and not ignore it. If it's racist to point out some action on the part of black people that has a negative effect on black people, that's not racist but the reverse!

Yet, nonsense though it is, I can see how it's political necessary to say such things in order to maintain the dominant liberal attitudes about race issues. After all, if the liberal mindset on race is correct, then racist practices, primarily perpetuated by white people who don't care, are the main reasons why full equality hasn't been reached. Yet black moderates, conservatives, and libertarians are telling a whole different story. If it turns out that they're right, and there's a extremely negative effect of black people's drawing attention to slight victimhood merely for the sake of feeling good about whitey feeling down without seeking solutions (i.e. victimology), then we can't have anyone mention it, because it starts to undermine the mainstream liberal narrative about race. If we start to see negative effects of racial separatist thought, not so much in terms of where people live but in terms of what's ok for black people to do and still be fully black and what's ok for black people to get away with merely because they're black, then that similarly is a threat. If not seeing school as "for us" has a significant impact on black kids' performance in school and on eventual development of the skills necessary to do well on college entrance exams (the same skills shown to be necessary in college, given the corelation between scores and college grades), then that negative effect must get buried. (John McWhorter, somewhat misleadingly I think, describes this phenomenon as part of an anti-intellectualist trend.)

So I see the reasons why those who want to place most of the blame on the white system will want to call anything racist if it puts any fault at all on black people,. but as I argued above it's ridiculous think that you have any decent sense of what racism is if you do so. By the way, for those who care about the numbers given in the article Tongue Tied links to, here they are:

Number of abortions in 2000: more than 850,000
Number of abortions of black people in 2000: 300,000
CDC's biggest killer of African Americans in 2000: heart disease at 77,674


Probably, those who designed and posted the posters are less concerned about race than they are about abortion, race is _their_ rhetorical weapon. It is possible that this is what Angela Lee is concerned about: the calculated use of race to address and complicate an issue where race isn't germane.

Or, what you have here is not "racism" in the proper political or moral sense, but "racism" in the rhetorical sense, much like "nazi" seldom actually means "National Socialist style Fascist" but more "I hate you and everything you stand for". Those who are bringing "racist" into the conversation are just using the handiest name in their arsenal of names to attack a position and group they disagree with.

I tend to think the first explanation is the more likely one.

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