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Everyday Accidental Racism #5 – Confusing Being with Doing

July 29, 2016

Racists do not always fully appreciate why they shouldn’t be. After all, it’s always the fault of the minority that annoyed the racist in the first place. The minority started it, by being the thing that they supposedly did wrong.

The virulent racists of the world rarely criticise the appearance or fixed attributes of their despised racial groups. They may do in passing, such as calling someone darker “dirty”. But when asked why they dislike the group, the answer is always about behaviour: because they corrupt our culture, because they’re criminals, uncivilised, drug dealers, etc.

White power racists are some of the least rational people in the world, and yet because of the culture we live in, even they understand that it is unjustifiable to hate somewhat for what they are born, as opposed to the things they do; therefore, even though their particular racism most certainly is about the essence of each race, the arguments are framed to focus on actions.

The arguments about homosexuality are similar; people who disprove will hang on to the argument that homosexuality is manipulatable in some way, either through reparation or by avoidance of certain negative influences. To say that one is born gay makes the wish to change it far more socially unacceptable.

We (the Anglosphere and Western Europe) are obsessed with what people choose, versus what they don’t, and frame our arguments in Choice versus Lack of Choice to justify or criticise almost anything regarding identity and social issues. Anything that is bad must therefore be chosen.

Recently, a friend’s husband got wound up at the television because it featured a gender queer person. What was he hoping to achieve with his irritation – to eradicate the individuals identifying as such? He didn’t expect anything, of course. He just reacted to what he saw as, in common description, “taking the piss”.

Taking-the-piss is a doing-verb, not a being-verb. It describes an action, not a state of existence. A person is never in a perpetual state of taking-the-piss; one by turns takes-the-piss and ceases to take-the-piss. People currently taking-the-piss can be incited to desist, and in so doing spare us all the irritation of it.

The mistake my friend’s husband made was to instantly interpret an issue of being with an issue of doing. He did not, until taking a step back, appreciate that perceiving one’s own absence of gender is no choice. It can’t be a choice, because it is not a choice anyone in their right mind would make; our entire society is stacked against the concept, and deep down we all want a quiet life, shuffling into normality.

Only people who automatically don’t fit are forced to carve an identity out of it. That is why inherent characteristics like sexual orientation and race are such strong parts of “identity” – unfortunately, identity is forged out of division, adversity and negativity. Much as we may try to change it, the fact is we often feel closer to people who have encountered our problems, therefore align ourselves with those people as our proud identity.

This concept of pride certainly muddies the water. It makes it sound as though we think that out congenital characteristics make us superior, since pride is usually reserved for achievements. Being proud of something you simply are seems arrogant until you realise that the pride comes as a result of the life you have been forced to live, the choices you have been forced to make, the obstacles you have been forced to deal with, and overcoming these with your head held high.

That the gender queer person probably presented themselves with pride and dignity most likely rubbed the friend-hub up the wrong way because he immediately thought this person was a smug bugger, trying to be difficult by being all alternative.

That people who are different must be “trying to be difficult” is a common perception among prejudiced people of all kinds. When vegans won’t eat what you eat, they’re trying to be difficult. When Muslims want to face Mecca to pray, they’re trying to be difficult. When black people want to see more black role models, they’re trying to be difficult.

More like the opposite. People who encounter difficulty are trying to make things easier for themselves, as easy as they perceive the other side have it in any given situation.

We are all inclined to notice the privilege of the other side, to the extent that any difference in treatment, even if the same treatment would be inappropriate and unnecessary – say, making sure that every non-Muslim is able to face Mecca – we immediately think of it as preferential treatment. It doesn’t have to be something we covert or envy.

We imagine that equality is about treating everyone identically no matter their needs. The gender queer person is opting out of the system of gendering, and redefining his own life and language for himself. A person who feels as though their life has been guided by forces beyond their control may well feel annoyed at this, and think that if everyone is gendered by society, so too should the non-gendered.

It doesn’t matter to the thinker that, while most people feel neutrally towards the system of gender categorisation, the other group is antagonised by it. The difference in desire makes no difference to the thinker, because desire does not earn you special rights. The thinker has not grasped the fact that the person in question is inherently different to them in some way. It is beyond their full comprehension, because it involves systems or internal processes they will never experience.

Because the thinker does not see the inherent difference, not only can he not see the need for different treatment, but he also misreads tendency as choice. He interprets circumstances of restricted choice for circumstances of ultimate choice; in other words, he thinks that when a minority person attempts to invert a detail of the status quo – no matter how small-scale the operation – they are displaying too much power, as opposed to exerting a tiny amount of rebellious pressure against a much stronger force.

Once he mistakes lack of power for too much power, he sees any action by this actor as no longer fruitless, but an insidious threat. He then sees acts which are inevitable or unavoidable as malevolent.

The best example is that of immigration. The British person can imagine that the Romanian is different to them in some way he cannot define, because of factory-standard racism. Yet, there is a subtler, contradictory form of racism at work; he does not imagine that Romanians have an inherent differences, so he cannot sympathise with their actions.

In their case, the inherent difference is the economy of the society in which they live, which is beyond their individual control, and that is why they emigrate. Hard-up British people do not tend to emigrate, because there is no great promise of a better life in a richer land; so, they do not understand emigration for the sake of financial security. In each and every mind, whatever cannot be understood is irrational, unfair and potentially malevolent.

These sorts of racists never think that anger against immigrants for immigrating to Their Country is a sign of racism, because they see an action, and respond to that action. Everyone who acts is taking-the-piss. But habitual actions which occur inevitably – due to the nature of the individual involved and circumstances he cannot control – are still deemed taking-the-piss.

It is a form of racism because it is a point blank refusal to put oneself in the position of another group, principally because they are a separate group, and in this case a racial group. The mistake made with racism is that you have to dislike a racial group in general in order to be racist, and that you have to dislike them for their fixed heritage elements (colour, facial features, language, dialect, accent). I do not agree.

I think it is racist to temporarily object to any racial group for any irrational reason; to refuse to empathise with a certain group because it is more convenient to scapegoat them; and to use the language of culture and heritage criticise issues which have nothing to do with culture and heritage – and everything to do with circumstances that could trap anyone, regardless of their race and heritage.

If your economy was poor, or you came from a war-torn country, and you had children to feed or protect, and knew you could do it abroad (at some considerable social and emotional cost to yourself), wouldn’t you? Anyone who cannot honestly answer no to that question is at the very least hypocritical for judging immigrants for immigrating.

The hypocrisy itself automatically becomes racist when it is focused on a racial group. The need to have prior dislike, or disgust of that group cannot be taken as the only basis for racism, because it gives too many gravely racist people too much wriggle room. If racism is as blunt as “Urgh, black people,” then barely anyone is racist.

The set of behaviours we exhibit in our everyday lives does not support this notion. Nigel Farage is racist not because he hates immigrants, but because he would insensitively and insensibly force though policies that discriminate against them in order to (supposedly) advantage his own people.

The fact that he fell in love with a German does not absolve him of that responsibility. Indeed, it is nothing unique; the inconsistency and idiosyncrasy of racism is easily observable.

Racism does come in types, and he is a well-established one; another one of these people who thinks that he is leavening a playing field when he is actually making it more uneven. He is doing this out of perceived injustice informed by nothing of substance; he doesn’t fully understand international issues, and cares less (than I would consider to be moral) about what he does understand, compared to the items on his own nationalist agenda.

This is typical of those who yell at the TV because they think that people who experience different problems to themselves are taking-the-piss for attempting to adjust their own world to suit them, at small cost to others in society. Although there is much that we could afford to share, our resistance to it suggests a total unwillingness to engage with other perspectives.

But human interaction relies on looking at oneself from a new perspective. Attempting to understand where “the other side” is coming from is useful in work situations and particularly useful between couples – how often we have all heard women and men make ludicrous generalisations about each other.

If they spent less time blaming and more time trying to identify with the other side, these arguments would be cut short – it’s a question of willing to expend the energy to change yourself. Actually, in the long term, it’s a bargain of an exchange; in return for your short-term emotional effort, you become more relaxed around other groups of people, which saves you getting irrationally wound up about things which you cannot change.

You would perceive, instead, that these things need not change and perhaps ought not change; that the will of one is always to be balanced against the will of another, and that this equilibrium is the best result you can hope for. Such people are generally calmer, and less likely to do that bizarre thing where they get angry for other groups of people simply for being things which are unfamiliar.

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