In our last two posts we examined how political correctness can pressure individuals to self-censor their speech, whether in person or on the Internet, out of fear of ridicule, ostracism, or actual punishment by the enforcers of politically correct “right think”. This tendency to not speak out has been dubbed the spiral of silence. We looked at the cases of two police officers who lost their jobs, in the aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, MO, because of comments they had made.
After Ferguson, once again we’re hearing cries for a “conversation about race.” A truly productive conversation is not going to happen in the current atmosphere, in light of the spiral of silence. Why not? Because political correctness poisons the well. Any comment perceived to be politically incorrect, in this context, will immediately result in accusations of racism. How, then, can there be any real dialogue?
Here’s what a conversation about race does not look like:
A bunch of like-minded people get together to lecture and browbeat the white mayor of Ferguson who had the guts to show up. So, any group of aggrieved “persons of color” joined by any group of liberal/progressive white people (full of white guilt and anxious to cleanse their souls of the original sin of racism) talking to each other and agreeing with each other about what’s wrong with people who either aren’t there or who are sitting there but swirling round and round in the spiral of silence.
Any conversation in which it is claimed as fact that all whites are privileged and that the “system” is designed to keep them that way; that no “person of color” can be racist; or that no white person has any right to state or even believe that he or she has ever been oppressed or victimized and, therefore, that no white person can possibly understand how black people feel. In which case, what’s the point of a conversation?
Any conversation that consists of progressives (white, or any other color) lecturing and tongue-lashing those with whom they disagree.
Any discussion where any criticism whatsoever of “persons of color” or the culture of “communities of color” immediately elicits cries of racism.
Any conversation wherein comments are recorded so that if any comments are not politically correct, the speakers will soon find themselves ostracized on You Tube or in the media, with their employers being petitioned to fire them, or their schools being contacted and told to expel them, or citizens being instructed to boycott their businesses.
Any discussion focused upon out-of-context, misused, meaningless, mis-characterized, or misapplied statistics that purport to prove that some races of human beings need to be more equal than others, at least until somebody decides, if they ever do, that “social justice” has been achieved, whatever that is.
Any conversation that is based upon the notion that if someone perceives offense where none is given or intended, there is, nevertheless, offense given because the offender is simply oblivious to his own racism. This probably includes any discussion wherein the words microaggression or microinvalidation are uttered. Imaginary slights are just that–imaginary. They are not real. Reify all you like. They’re still not real.
We should hope to get to a point where people are assumed to be honest actors. Innocent until proven guilty, not the other way around. If someone says that he intended no offense, then he didn’t. To assume otherwise is poisonous to any real conversation. So we can exclude as productive any conversation in which some are immediately assumed to be racist by virtue of the color of their skin. This, in itself, is racist. Stereotyping is supposed to be what we want to get beyond.
In a recent op-ed, focused upon starting “the conversation” on race, the authors, both educators, wrote about how we need to grab hold of this “teachable moment.” This raises a number of questions.
Who is to be taught and who decides who “needs” to learn?
Who will do the teaching?
What exactly will be taught?
The authors believe that we need to “begin to dismantle racism.” Haven’t we begun yet? I thought we did.
One hundred and fifty years ago we began. Actually, long before that, when German immigrants, among others, swelled the ranks of abolitionists. And then later, when hundreds of thousands of whites gave their lives so that blacks could be freed from slavery. And then later, when whites joined with blacks to march for freedom and civil rights for all.
Consider these statements from the article:
The solution starts with dialogue. If someone wants to work through these cultural differences, begin to dismantle racism, and deal with delicate issues that impact us all, it begins with engaging in healthy conversations. However, all people of all colors in our city need to be engaged. Courageous conversations about systemic racism, becoming allies, meeting unique needs are a necessity and should be done collectively. An ever-sensitive nerve in the hearts of the black community has openly surfaced again.
The author seems to presuppose that everyone in the dialogue recognizes that racism is “systemic” and that it’s not even begun to be dismantled. Is a healthy conversation one in which conclusions are already made for everyone else? To date, there’s not one shred of evidence that race played any part whatsoever in the shooting death of Michael Brown.
“All people … need to be engaged?” What about the right to not speak? The right to not participate? The right to disagree with the entire premise of the “conversation” to be had?
Are we to assume that those who disagree with these authors must be taught to agree with them, during this “teachable moment?” Sounds like it to me.
In this …case, where participant awareness, understanding and empathy needs [sic] to be developed, teachers and leaders can ask questions that are designed to cause in-depth inquiry.
Forgive me for wondering exactly who these authors assume must develop “awareness, understanding and empathy,” as if it’s a given that some in the conversation are already known to lack “awareness, understanding, and empathy.”
Don’t forget: Everyone needs to participate.
All white citizens will now report for mandatory reprogramming.
Are these authors remotely aware of how they come across? One seems upset that school children are not being put through a similar Neo-Inquisition!
Here’s another article in a similar vein, that speaks about how psychologists can help in the conversation:
Change can start with our willingness to talk honestly with each other and to have difficult dialogues regarding race relations and the persistence of racial bias in this country.
One has to wonder if the person who wrote that sentence believes that racial bias runs both ways. Who needs to “change?” One may be forgiven for doubting that everyone will be able to talk “honestly” with those whose minds are already made up. Here’s more:
Psychologists have done extensive research on how stereotypes affect our assumptions about other people, particularly how members of majority groups perceive members of minority groups.
Ah, yes. Particularly, psychologists have studied how “majority groups” make assumptions and form stereotypes about “minority groups”. Why have they not studied the reverse? Might that be evidence of a serious bias on their part?
It’s amusing to read their suggested solutions, most of which include hiring or giving grant money to psychologists and “social science experts” to study, train, teach, research, analyze data, and write more papers in order to continue to grow the grievance industry, which depends upon these “experts” finding more “proof” that justifies giving them ever more of the taxpayers’ money.
If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
How can there be any real dialogue in this atmosphere?
The spiral of silence: Can anyone truly blame others for self-censoring? For not joining in “conversations on race” where, if they choose the wrong word or say something that inadvertently offends someone who has an admittedly “ever-sensitive nerve,“ then they may find themselves the objects of a witch hunt?
Interestingly enough, the spiral of silence includes black people, particularly conservative ones, who can be as fearful as any other citizen to say that which it is politically incorrect to say. Kevin Jackson, who found himself personally attacked for speaking out, wrote:
The reason many blacks do not speak their mind around other blacks is fear. They are not strong enough to say what needs to be said to the thuggish black Liberals who have been brainwashed into this “hate whitey” mindset. It takes guts to stand up for what you know is right. The true sellouts are those blacks who witness this insanity like Ferguson, and say nothing; go with the flow.
Researchers who study the spiral of silence cite fear of ostracism and ridicule as reasons why people holding minority views or unpopular views keep silent. Fear of being labeled a racist doubtless causes many to stay silent instead of joining these conversations about race.
Ostracism and ridicule, even being called names, pale in comparison to what sometimes happens to those who do not conform to “right think”, which is almost invariably progressive think.
Disagree openly and the enforcers may find you, out you, excoriate you, and then try to punish you, if they can. You might lose your job. You might lose a scholarship or be expelled from school.You might lose the pension you earned over your entire career. You might lose your business, or at least see your profits diminished. All because you dared to exercise your right of free speech and disagree with the enforcers.
It’s beyond Orwellian, and it’s only going to get worse unless something changes, and soon.