Interesting Comment

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It's very interesting to me that I could leave a comment on a left-of-center blog about race, a comment that's very sympathetic to a Marx-like perspective in critical race theory (here for those who want to see it in context), followed by a comment clarifying something that has virtually no value-laden component, only to have someone respond the following way:

Jeremy, I say what I’m about to say because I care.

The fact that you have a black wife fills me with dread. I wont go further because I don’t, as they say, “know you like that,” but let’s just say there’ll be a new family on my prayer-list tonight.

This is someone who has admitted in the past to be the sort of person who makes accusations about my views without actually reading what I said, which is particularly evil when the view being attributed to me is nothing at all like the view I'm actually defending. I'm not normally one to be upset when people pray for me, but I think I understand a little better now something of how gay people feel when Christians tell them they're praying for them to stop being gay.

So I'll say for the record right here: Those who would like to pray for me and Sam are very welcome to do so. We would genuinely appreciate it. Like all married couples, we do encounter difficulties in our relationship, and it's a real struggle dealing with three very active children five and under, two of them autistic. That doesn't make our life easy. But one things seems obvious to me, and that's that this person's prayers will likely be about nothing that actually goes on in our lives.

Before telling Sam of this comment and its context, I asked her, "if we were to list all of the problems we've had in our relationship and in our family, how far down the list do you think we'd have to go before we got to something related to race?" I was expecting maybe she'd say that it wouldn't be in the top 100 or that it wouldn't be in the top 500. She instead said something like, "I don't think it would be on it at all." Now maybe some ridiculously radical conspiracy theory about race is true, and interracial couples can have all sorts of devastating race-related problems in their relationship without ever knowing about them, but I think that's what it would take for us to be the sort of people whose relationship could justify the dread this commenter (who knows virtually nothing about us) has.

17 Comments

Wow, I read the posts and comments you linked to and I was a little shocked at the obtuseness of the people there. I've come across similar exchanges on Christian websites, and, to be honest, thought it was just a Christian thing (don't know why, it wasn't a logical thought).

The common factor bewteen these people seems to be a passionate belief on an issue that stands no contradiction in any particular and creates an us/them martyr mentality. This, combined with a need for an enemy in order to feel like they are actually doing something for their cause, creates a willingness to read motives and beliefs in someone who doesn't agree with everything they say. This means that even those who support their general position are alienated and any chance of learning and refining their position is completely ruled out.

I cynically predict that the only way you will overcome this is to involve someone in the discussion who is even more racist (in their eyes) than you and for you to speak against that "common enemy". They may not agree with all you say, but they may accept you as a co-freedom fighter for the cause - even if for a short time.

Fundamentalism does not lie only with the conservative.

Wow, Jeremy. I just finished reading all the comments on both threads. I admire your patience, but I have to wonder: why do you even bother continuing to participate in those discussions?

I agree with Ali's point above, too -- there is ridiculous pig-headed intolerance in some -- perhaps most -- proponents of every position. Just as the American conservative movement has successfully acquired terms like 'values' and 'morality', so have liberals managed to hold a grip on 'open-minded'. In my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, liberals are no more likely to be open-minded than conservatives are. (Neither, incidentally, do atheists seem to be more open-minded than theists.)

Reflection down these lines can get depressing.

Indeed, maybe I'm just in a cynical mood tonight, but this line from you made me stop and think:

I happen to be used to it from the intensity of debate in a Ph.D. program in philosophy, but most people who might happen to disagree with you would just write you off as someone held by a racial narrative that doesn’t match up with reality.

You're the exception, Jeremy. You know that, right? (I try to be the exception, too; it's difficult, of course, reliably to evaluate oneself.) Philosophers, like most people, are very bad at charitably interpreting their opponents. I guess philosophers are probably somewhat more open-minded than is the public at large, but not nearly so much so as most of them think. They enjoy a comparative advantage only because their competition is so atrocious.

Actually, I guess I can't think of a group that's more likely to do a good job here than philosophers; this also bodes ill for humanity.

What's funny to me is that the only place I've encountered similar things at the same level of vehemence is at the now-defunct (and now Google-erased) Little Geneva, which was pretty much a racist site disguising itself in a way that looked attractive to many Reformed Christians (and hence why I occasionally left comments there when they took conversations I was in elsewhere to their own site). Harry usually just insulted me at my first comment without usually responding to anything I said, and then he'd delete any further comments, particularly if I ever had anything substantive to say about his arguments or positions. At least the administrators of these anti-racist sites haven't engaged in that kind of behavior. It's just a couple commenters.

Jonathan, do you really think Merq is going to perceive the distinction between me and any view that a reasonable person would easily distinguish from mine? I'm not sure how extreme you want to go into racism. As far as I can tell, Merq wouldn't even try to distinguish my views from those. What's sad is that Merq can't blame this on an inability to make proper distinctions, because in this case it just seems like an unwillingness to think on a very basic level.

Jonathan, do you really think Merq is going to perceive the distinction between me and any view that a reasonable person would easily distinguish from mine?

I see no reason to be that charitable to him. I'm confused by the question, though; did I say something that suggested I did?

Oh, I guess not. That was a response to something Ali said. I read both of your comments at once when I had a brief time window to write a comment, and I must have lost track of which one of you said what. Sorry about that. That should have been addressed to her.

I wish (whoops, I guess I really don't) I knew how many times I've done, thought, or said something like what you describe. Ouch.

Now I'm worried. Do I write like a female? I am actually male. I know -it's the name. Perhaps a positive off-shoot of the spread of Islam will be the acceptance of Ali as a male name.

My comment was more sarcasm than seriously suggestive. I think you'd be suprised, however, how it would work.

Ali,

Now I'm remembering who you are. I did at one point know, but somehow I got you confused with someone else along the way. Sorry about that. The name is part of it.

Martin,

I doubt you've done anything quite like this. Did you look at the conversations? I just can't see you that insulting.

I’m just gonna be honest with you. While I appreciate you taking the time to write that long graf to clarify whatever point you were trying to make, I must admit that I had no interest in reading it, and no real interest in interacting with you. You strike me as disturingly similar to Unlisted in your faux-liberal “I know black people”ism

My goodness. Dude, I don't know how you do it. And you write about everything so you must get it from all sides.

That Unlisted person, if I remember correctly, was a Pat Buchanan type, not the sort who could by any stretch of the imagination be described as faux-liberal. Of course, I couldn't be justly accused of pretending to be liberal either.

I didn't know you had autistic children. I haven't looked at your wife's blog more than once or twice so perhaps she has talked more about that. But I'm sure that is difficult. I hope and pray that your family and friends are very supportive in dealing with that.

That you would refer to such a comment as "interesting" reveals something of your Christian character. Several other adjectives came much more readily to my mind.

For what it's worth, I did pray for you and your family when I read this. Absolutely appalling!

Okay, so maybe I am slow on the uptake, but what is up with that comment? Craziness right there, but when I looked at the context, it made no sense? What were they objecting too, that you said? What Marxist comment? Seems to me, you just said, "Blacks talk a little different, and there is now "white conspiracy" " or something to that effect (if I am wrong, please correct me, I of course am coming in the middle, so I don't really now what all was going on), and they just responded weird.

David, the Marxist bit doesn't come up in that discussion. What I was saying in that discussion is the sort of thing people on the radical left might be very happy with (not that there was anything explicitly Marxist about it). It's because it's friendly to a radical left viewpoint that it surprises me to see people who are very much on the left in race matters finding it problematic. But the truth is that it's nothing I said that's the problem. It's what this particular person wanted me to be saying that generated the ire. The only problem is that what I said doesn't really resemble that.

With regards to where race would be in a list of whatever issues we may have in our family (immediate and extended) I said that race isn't on the list period. My level of self awareness is not so low that I could fall victim to some stealth race issue. Race is an issue for people outside of our family as indicated by the comment that sparked this post.

Paul, I don't know if I write any more about autism than Jeremy does. I do mention the kids a bit more often than he does (I do spend most of my days trying to solve their problems, all hail Super Mom!). Yeah it's hard. Some days you laugh, some days you cry, some days you don't which to do and some days you take out your frustration on people who make silly comments like the one in the post. It's a lot like parenting a typical kid except when it's not.

Okay, well that is what I figured your point was, that this so called "liberal" person was un-liberal.

Un-liberal doesn't come close to it, although it includes that.

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