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Race Debate: How Labels and Name-Calling Destroy Civilized Discourse
Lets Get Past the Name-Calling
Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Judge me not by the color of my skin, but by the content of my character”. What makes this quote so profound is the combination of simplicity and veracity. We Americans recently observed the day of remembrance for Dr. King and it really got me thinking...What would he think of the current state of affairs in our country as well as around the world? I have a feeling that he’d be disappointed over how little progress we’ve made in embracing his idea of racial equality. Race is the most polarizing issue in America and it’s not even close. Profiteers and demagogues see it as a hot commodity, and are weaponizing it. You disagree with someone’s opinion? No need to have productive discourse! Just file through your arsenal of insults and you win! We’ve heard all these silly labels ad nauseum: Snowflake, Xenophobe, supremacist, bigot, racist, fascist , and anything else you can think of. Many sanctimonious people on social media were quick to quote Dr. King , yet have no qualms about spewing the kind of invective he opposed.
A Nation Divided
I hate to sound pessimistic, but it's been a long time since we were this divided. The obvious disconnect is people of color vs white people or vice versa depending on your school of thought. You’re living a fantasy if you can’t see this writing on the wall. There is a belief on the side of many minority groups, that being born white affords you certain privileges not reserved for themselves. On the other hand, a large segment of the white population categorically denies and resents this notion. Now, who am I to tell someone that how they feel is wrong or even unfounded. What I will lament, however, is the name-calling utilized by both sides of this most pressing issue. As soon as you call someone “racist”, debate is stopped in its tracks. Am I saying there exists no white or black racists? No, but I am saying that not everyone who expresses sentiments on issues of race is a so called “racist” ,because your views happen to be contrary.
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” This quote is played out daily on television, talk radio, and any sort of forum that discusses substantive issues. That being said, we can be honest and admit we all have our own biases; but that doesn’t mean we can’t be educated or evolve on various issues, particularly ones that affect American citizens collectively. Doing your own research and thinking for yourself is paramount to broadening your view of the world and understanding other people. Groupthink, however, is dangerous for a society yearning for accord, because you’re allowing demagogues and people with their own agenda to become your agenda. Following the leader, can take you down a path of ignorance, which furthers the divide.
Can People Change?
It’s important to reiterate the fact that racial superiority is not an American construct. I felt it necessary to point this out, because there’s this notion that America is a bastion of racism and perhaps even pioneered this ignorant ideology. Ethnic nationalism is steeped in history; it’s no new phenomenon. Marcus Garvey spearheaded the “Back to Africa Movement”---Apartheid existed in South Africa---Adolf Hitler nearly followed through on his plan to create an “ideal” Aryan Nation---The Ottoman’s wiped out north of one million Armenians---and on and on...Now that we have that established ,lets revert back to the issues at home.
Believe or not, President Lincoln subscribed to the idea that free black slaves should not live amongst white Americans, and should therefore be deported to British colonies in the Caribbean! If Lincoln had tweeted that out in 2018, he’d be labeled a racist/bigot faster than you could blink. But the point is: he evolved on his position and signed the Emancipation Proclamation! This harkens back to my point that people do evolve on issues, particularly visceral ones. Malcolm X , who took a more militant approach in dealing with issues of race, evolved during his Hajj to Mecca; he witnessed Muslims of all colors and backgrounds carrying out their religious duty in unison, and when he came back Stateside , his approach was softened and it cost him his life!
Stuck In Our Ways
I recently read in a philosophy book , about the idea of the “Crab Mentality” which i think illustrates the problem facing the races. It refers to a live bucket of crabs, some of which could easily escape, but other crabs pull them back down so they can’t escape. Human behavior is a lot like a bucket of live crabs. Some have no desire to evolve on positions and will do everything in their power to stop you from doing so(i.e. Malcolm X) These are the people that need to be reached and listened too, as much as you want to ignore them. It's imperative to reach them because they’re the ones that often drive the narrative. Are some people impossibly stuck in their ways? The answer is yes, but we have to keep trying to help improve upon and rationalize their thoughts, no matter how ignorant and appalling they may be. Who’s we you ask? I would say fair-minded people who do their due diligence when it comes to social, economical, historical, and political research.
In summary, I will restate the idea that, “Name-calling is the ultimate debate killer”. Fostering good debate requires you to do research. Facts are irrefutable, and are a good weapon in changing people's outlook on the world. You can’t call facts a snowflake or a racist, so when faced with them, you’re forced to take a dispassionate objective step back and throw your labels and name-calling in the garbage where they belong. Once we start doing a better job at that, you’ll see the races start moving together, in my opinion.