What is Good Corrective Action for Racist Behavior?
I just read about a white child who refused to stand in front of an African soccer player:
ITALY: A White Child Has Refused To Stand In Front Of An African Player! You won't believe why??
During a football match in Italy between AS Roma and Torino. A child did not want to stand next to an African player…
You can go read the kid’s reason if you want. Spoiler: it’s racist. So, what do you do with a racist kid? Typical liberal answer: you yell at him. Or, you deliver him to his parents who are expected to yell at him. (Note — some people say this article is false: see footnote.)
It reminds me of this article I read once that talks about how we should be meaner to racists. The most interesting part of the article, to me, was when the author, Erika Heidewald, argues that anti-racism must be tied to social capital. We must socially punish racists. Only thing is, a) this only works when you are part of the group already socially in power, and b) this leads to massive cookie-seeking behavior while keeping structural racism in place (see: current state of liberal culture.) In fact, I think tying “anti-racism” to social capital effectively got us in the situation we’re in now, which is, rich white men dominating young “liberal” tech culture in urban areas while and less rich white men espouse openly racist attitudes in less urban areas. At its worst, shaming racists is a form of scapegoating for those actually in power. They can turn the focus on the overt racists who aren’t in a position to do much, while solidifying the more subtle existing problematic structures.
Even Donald Trump is learning to say all the right things, because he’s starting to see how the game is played when you’re actually have power — but, I’m not writing about politics at the moment. But… because I can’t help myself… any large liberal outcry about the administration is likely to be planned and used as Jake Fuentes describes in his article. Liberal response has become so predictable, that conservatives can use it to their benefit. They will play the “PC” game when it suits them, and break the rules when they need a distraction. Mindless adhesion to the politically correct bottom line will serve conservative purposes. Any liberal argument that’s “we should keep doing what we were doing, only more” is probably misguided. Liberals need new ideas, new techniques, and new solutions.
But, back to that photo. What the hell you do with this kid?
Answer: the kid was never the problem.
As commenter Derrick Radebe noted:
Adults condone this racist child`s actions because the child in question should have been disallowed to take a picture if not prepared to do so while standing in front of the African player. I also blame the African player`s team mates for failing to take a stand in support of their team mate. Collectively they should have stated that without their team mate and a child in front of him, there will be no photo shoot @ all meaning a boycott!
The question shouldn’t be “why didn’t this kid want to stand in front of a black player?” but rather “why did all the other players for the team pose for this photo?” Because here’s the thing: if adults had lectured that kid on not being racist, he wouldn’t have learned a damn thing. He would have pouted, said the adults were being “mean” to him, and basically developed a persecution complex (sound familiar?) However, if those soccer players had refused to do a photo shoot, all the other kids would have been angry. “What are you doing?” they would have yelled at racist kid, “stop being such an asshole.” Then he would have learned. You learn far more from disappointing your peers than by being lectured. The adults would not be in an effective position to change the views of the child directly; they would have use their influence to motivate the other children to expel racism from their group.
So, how should the general pubic respond now? Interview those players. Ask them “why didn’t you stand up for your teammate?” You don’t even have to be mean about it (being mean to them will trigger sympathy for them) — just ask them. Why did you allow this photo shoot to continue? Are you OK with people treating your teammate this way because of his race? What message do you think this sends to black children? Chances are that his teammates didn’t even think about it. However, embarrass them on TV, and they’ll absolutely think about it next time. As will all the other soccer players who see any of these interviews.
Which brings me to Yiannopoulos. For all his loudness, Yiannopoulos is not the problem and was never the problem. Just ignore him, don’t waste your energy on him. You know who should be boycotted?
Bill Maher had Yiannopoulos on his show — presumably to show how “wrong” Yinnopoulos was — but in doing so, Maher gave a platform for racism. Those who give the platform are the ones who must be held accountable. There will always be some wingnut in the middle of nowhere espousing racist ideology; this will never go away. But, when you give that wingnut a platform — even a platform based on the theory of “proving it wrong” — you feed the beast. Ryan Holiday was the publicist for Tucker Max, and explains how trolls use negative attention to grow their base:
The key tactic of alternative or provocative figures is to leverage the size and platform of their “not-audience” (i.e. their haters in the mainstream) to attract attention and build an actual audience. Let’s say 9 out of 10 people who hear something Milo says will find it repulsive and juvenile. Because of that response rate, it’s going to be hard for someone like Milo to market himself through traditional channels. His potential audience is too spread out, and doesn’t have that much in common. He can’t advertise, he can’t find them one by one. It’s just not going to scale.
But let’s say he can acquire massive amounts of negative publicity by pissing off people in the media? Well now all of a sudden someone is absorbing the cost of this inefficient form of marketing for him. If a CNN story reaches 100,000 people, that’s 90,000 people all patting themselves on the back for how smart and decent they are. They’re just missing the fact that the 10,000 new people that just heard about Milo for the first time. The same goes for when you angrily share on Facebook some godawful thing one of these people has said. The vast majority of your friends rush to agree, but your younger cousin has a dark switch in his brain go on for the first time.
Loud liberal rage has become part of the system, and it is so predictable that it is being used to spread racist ideology. All the “being mean” to racists is doing is helping them find and group together with other racists. Stop it. The racists don’t like you, and they don’t care what you think of them because you’re not in their social group. Liberals are acting like adults lecturing children when they try to shame trolls into obedience; it won’t work.
Instead, they’re functionally rewarding trolls with attention, air time and social media time — rewarding trolls with the benefits that have been reaped from a technologically enabled liberal culture. It encourages the trolls. Stop allowing racists access to the benefits that come with a liberal society; cut them off. Many liberal ideas come from cities because large groups of people had to figure out how to live together. People who refuse to get along with other people shouldn’t get to dominate the airtime with their views. That’s not to say we should ignore the needs of rural folk — not at all. We just need to ignore anyone who is saying openly calling for the oppression of another group of people. In fact, our obsession with racism has made it so that more moderate conservatives will need to become racist to get airtime. But instead of focusing on the racists, we must focus on those within our own ranks who are enabling them.
Because, make no mistake, what Maher and those like him are doing is deeply self interested. Maher knew the Yiannopoulos show would be a big hit, he knew lots of people would tune in to see it. He got Yiannopoulos on his show for his own personal benefit, for his own publicity, and to make a loud, public display of how not racist he is. Bill Maher is a reprehensible cookie seeker who has furthered the racist agenda through his own selfish ambition. Yes, I’m sure the vast majority of his viewers thought Yiannopoulos was a total idiot, but there was undoubtedly some small percentage that liked him — some small percentage that would not otherwise have been exposed to him. And, that benefits Yiannopoulos far more than any negative publicity will hurt him.
If you want to think of an effective form of action, boycott Maher until he apologizes for putting Yinnopoulos on his show.
But… no one wants to boycott Maher. He’s one of us, a liberal, he’s funny, we like him. His show’s a good time, its part of our routine. And… this is where we get into the banality of evil. People like Maher, and they don’t want to speak against him when there’s a much more hatable person out there to direct their energy toward. However, it’s on the backs of these otherwise likable (or, at least non-objectionable) people that atrocity rides.
“The banality of evil” has been tossed around a bunch in liberal circles, and if you haven’t heard of it’s from a book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. The book was about the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a major organizer of the holocaust. According to Wikipedia:
The phrase [the banality of evil], in part, at least, the phrase refers to Eichmann’s deportment at the trial as the man displayed neither guilt for his actions nor hatred for those trying him, claiming he bore no responsibility because he was simply “doing his job” (“He did his duty…; he not only obeyed orders, he also obeyed the law.”)
Eichmann wasn’t some overt Jew hater, he was just a normal dude during his job. Had he lived in a different time, he would have lived an ordinary and unremarkable life. Similarly, Bill Maher isn’t a racist. He’s just a TV personality doing his typical TV personality thing. Interviewing controversial people is just what he does. But, he is functionally spreading racist ideology, and for that he must be held accountable.
People are usually unwilling to see their own role they play in the banality of evil. Liberals have been using this phrase to argue why people should resist the government (because the book was about a government worker, at its most superficial level, resisting the banality of evil appears to be about resisting the government) but liberals don’t see how their own behaviors are also part of the banality of evil.
Because the “banality of evil” isn’t just about how people “doing their jobs” or “government workers” condone atrocity — it’s about how all of us unthinkingly and reflexively perpetuate the systems we are in to intensify the social ills that permeate our society. Predictable liberal outrage has created a platform for racists. If you are an easily outraged liberal, you are helping spread racist ideology because they know how to use you.
At the end of the day, most liberal outrage is a fundamentally selfish thing. It generally tends to be about projecting how woke you are to your social group; it’s about trying to making yourself more liked, it’s not about changing the fabric of society. And, that’s all fine and well when it’s ethically neutral, but it’s not. Liberal outrage is ocean upon which troll culture floats, and we’ve just elected the biggest troll of all time.
You don’t engage with trolls. You don’t indulge them, you don’t educate them. You just ignore them. If you want to engage with anyone, you engage with your fellow liberals who are sharing “offensive” comments in the name of “justice” (but, really, for purposes of cookie seeking.) And, you don’t have to go too hard on them — this compulsion to shame other people is really a compulsion to make yourself look good, and it’s super toxic, but it’s also super human (we all want to be loved and accepted, after all.) Just, have a conversation with them. Explain, in your nice voice, how spreading these troll-like articles and loudly calling out bigots is giving the bigots a bigger platform. That, while troll-shaming may have been a reasonable strategy like 5 years ago, the times have changed and tactics need to change to keep up.
Liberals instinctively want to do more of the behaviors that feel good to them — more protests, more shaming, more LOUD — but, we’ve been doing these things for decades. If they were effective, shouldn’t they have been effective by now? Before moving forward, liberals really need to ask ourselves the question, why is what we’re doing failing?
Footnote: Some people have been contacting me saying the article is false/maybe he just wanted to stand near his friend/etc. Truth be told, I have no idea — this is why I include the links, you can go look at it for yourself. Even if this didn’t actually happen, you can still read my argument as a hypothetical case.
However, my life experience tells me this is absolutely the type of thing that could happen. And, that picture really happened even if the reasons stated in the article were false. And… frankly, the number of people who are contacting me to make up excuses for this kid is very concerning. Look, his name’s not associated anywhere with the image, and he won’t look like that in a few years. Nothing bad will happen to him if it’s a mistake.
However. If it’s not a mistake, and this was really some racist thing that happened, many people are functionally acting to erase it. They are demanding a level of veracity that’s impossible to provide in a “he said” type situation. Even if this case was false, there will be many other cases that are real but also impossible to verify, and they will get shut down the same way. Truth is, when I’m around other white people, they’ll sometimes say shit that is as racist as that kid supposedly said. However, if they get caught, they act all embarrassed and deny it, and pretend nothing was ever wrong. It’s impossible to ever call them out on it, because they’ll always have some “reason” to make their behavior excusable.
Maybe this story really was fake — but if it was, trust me, there’s another story out there just like it that was totally real. And, it will be impossible for me to find a certified, grade-A “real” story to make my case with because people aren’t stupid enough to get caught saying those things anymore.