Thursday, April 30, 2015

Whipping Out the R Word

If you call someone a Racist, you have already lost. It is good that the crazies are allowed to speak. It is perhaps even better if they are represented by, and (perhaps) listen to someone they trust. We moan about politicians being populist. It is very concerning when you can't find a party that doesn't occasionally make you bolt for the toilet bowl with the things they say. But isn't that the nature of systems which call on you to make one all encompassing decision, with one cross, that lasts 5ish years?

I heard a politician asked what he would be speaking to voters about as he canvassed. His response was that what he would hopefully be doing is listening. Xenophobia, tribalism, racism, homophobia, sexism etc. are not issues that have been conquered. They are increasingly less Politically Correct, but they have not been conquered. If there is no one who can express their sentiments then they get hidden, but not cured.

Calling someone racist to their face is highly unlikely to change their mind. I used to think that, given time, anyone with a semblance of intelligence would change their views. But many of these prejudices are not intellectual ones, and their fears are deeply set into their identities of themselves. They often don't see themselves as racist. They often feel a degree of righteousness in the pursuit of a noble cause. It may be that emotional intelligence is a more likely catalyst for the end of prejudice. Even there, we have so many competing emotions that it is no less of a jumble than our 'rational' arguments.

Something I have struggled with at times is presumed prejudice. When you are amongst people who assume you agree with them. You are 'like them', so they are in a safe space to speak freely. To release their craziness. And release they do. Then comes the awkward moment of whether to extract yourself from the situation. Presumably switching in to listening mode is a better bet. You don't want them to think you agree. Letting them know you don't, probably won't help. The biggest worry I often have is that other people there that don't agree, will assume my silence means I agree. Perhaps just accepting that you can't control people's assumptions is a better approach.

Racist people are like racist parties. In amongst the repellent stuff, they give voice to genuine concerns. Quite often the concerns are obstacles that can be met. Sometimes the racist stuff is just a fraction of what is going on, and if you give them their Bull Quota, the chance of engaging with them and moving forward is far higher than whipping out the R word and stopping things dead in their tracks.

Better a crazy with a clearly stated point


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