18 August 2017

Vanquishing Racism






"Woe to the vanquished!" Shouted Brennus as he threw his sword on the scales. He had just finished sacking Rome and was weighing out the 1,000 pounds of gold that the defending Romans would pay to ransom the remainder of the city. After a complaint that the scales were rigged, he threw his sword on the weights because, well, he could.

That was 390 BCE. The Romans took that motto to heart. By 51 BCE Julius Caesar was using the same phrase as he conquered and crushed all of Gaul, where the descendants of Brennus lived. Out of an estimated three million Gauls, Romans killed one million of them, and took another million into slavery.

When I was in Spain I saw a Roman triumphal arch that was placed there to celebrate the Romans conquering the land. I was confused as to why people would allow the arch to remain, celebrating someone else's conquest, so I asked about it. My friend said, "We are the Romans." That's how total the vanquishing was. The indigenous never fought for their independence, because they stopped existing.

Compare the annihilation practiced by the Romans against the Greeks and Chinese. Ancient China had warring kingdoms, but they all considered themselves Chinese and had a common language and culture, then Qin Shi Huang conquered them all and united them under one empire. Similarly, the ancient Greek city-states were usually in conflict (unless Persia was invading) until Phillip of Macedonia conquered them all and united them into one powerful nation. These conquests weren't annihilation, they were unification.

The kingdom of China went on to be invaded numerous times, most notably by Mongols and Manchus. Each time, the invaders were absorbed into Chinese culture. In other words, within a few generations the invading culture no longer existed. The advanced civilization of the Chinese, with its technology, wealth, history, arts, and literature was so desirable that everyone who observed it tried to emulate it. In other examples, the Chinese empire spread simply by absorbing willing neighboring states who wanted to be part of the civilized world.

When Phillip's son Alexander took his greek army and conquered the Persian (Achaemenid) Empire it was like the barbarian Mongols invading China. Alexander was an outsider conquering the civilized world. Pretty soon he started dressing and acting like a Persian, and after his death the invading army was absorbed into Persian culture. These examples were conversions.



America

Nowadays, America has the desirable culture and language, and most of the world is absorbing it. The soft power of Hollywood and Silicon Valley make America the most attractive place to be. But internally, the United States is a mess when it comes to dealing with race and the legacy of slavery. We just had a rough weekend where an innocent girl was killed for peacefully protesting against open and ugly racism.

I feel like we're sitting at a proverbial crossroads. Leading up to the 21st century the side of racial unity and equality was winning by conversion. The bulk of America's social power was directed at promoting the virtues of diversity and affirmative action. It is now socially unacceptable to hold openly racist views.


Then a series of things happened that changed the dynamic.
  1. Barack Obama was elected
  2. Social media became a thing
  3. Same-sex marriage was normalized
  4. Donald Trump was elected
These things are all related. Negative racial stereotypes actually went down in America from the 1960s to the 2000s. By 2010 and later, old fashioned racism saw a rise.

Obama being elected brought race into politics in a new way. It polarized, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. It took the people who were on a continuum of racial justice and pushed most people, already converted, to the side of unity; while others were pulled to the side of division. It also for the first time since the 1960s gave people a chance to vote on race relations. Consider that Obama's predecessor was a Republican, hotly reviled on the left, who was an outspoken supporter of racial justice. There was nowhere for racist votes to go until Barack Obama came along.

The Internet also polarized. Before the 1990s most people got their news from a few monolithic sources of popular culture. With the Internet, fringe groups could flourish and people gravitated to the news sources that fit their own biases. This was already happening to some extent, but the Internet allowed people to leave the mega-culture that was pushing for racial unity. Social media then allowed people with overtly racist attitudes to connect with each other easily. It only takes about 40 people sharing their views to give them the confidence to put on rallies and take action. Social media is what connected the disparate "patriot" groups who took over the wildlife refuge in Oregon last year. Social media, with its groomed list of friends, creates an echo chamber for outrage.

Throughout this same period, America experienced a new kind of cultural conversion. Around the time a majority of Americans became accepting of same-sex marriage, the US Supreme Court decided that it was a right nationwide. The language and tactics of the affirming side tried to mirror the civil rights movement, and indeed the issue continues to be presented by media as the next inevitable step to clear away oppression, and anyone opposing it would be treated the same as the social outcasts who clung to slavery. This added fuel to conservatives who then felt like they were fighting for their lives and decided to push hard on the rejecting side. This presentation by the media backfired, in my opinion, by causing a large number of marginal or un-opinionated Americans to feel abandoned by the megaculture and seek to undermine it, and in the process align themselves against racial unity along with the whole political agenda of the left, including healthcare and immigration.

This mix of political, racial, and sexual issues aligned with another trend. Political power has swung back and forth between the duopoly for the last hundred years. From the time of Taft until now there were only three times that a party held the White House for more than two terms. Likewise, in the last 20 mid-term elections, the US House of Representatives lost seats to the president's party 90% of the time. So the political winds were already blowing toward the Republicans when Trump took over the nomination, and he picked up votes as a rejection of popular culture, not all of which were about race, but the racist votes that had nowhere to go previously had a direct target. The rest of America felt sick, while Trump supporters cheered his subversion of the far left.

It is of critical importance that America address the issue of racism in America and eradicate it. That is why I'm writing, because the far left is screwing it up. They have given up on converting and they're now shouting, "Woe to the vanquished!" while they annihilate their political opponents.



Extremism

As liberal views become more extreme and militant, they become less effective at converting people to their side. Look no further than the horror story of liberalism run amok at Evergreen State College for an example, or the many cases of government-funded campuses defunding or banning people who criticize liberal ideals. In the name of spreading tolerance, there are frequent calls to shun anyone they perceive as intolerant. While holding signs against hate, they are filled with hate for the haters. While rightfully angry at the displays of intolerance in Charlottesville, people throughout the country are now seeking out confederate monuments to vandalize or destroy, sometimes while mocking the police officers trying to stop the mob. White nationalist marchers have already been identified, lost their jobs, and are getting credible death threats. The lawlessness of it does matter.

In the days after the 2016 election, Robby Soave wrote,

"...political correctness actually is a problem on college campuses, where the far-left has gained institutional power and used it to punish people for saying or thinking the wrong thing. And ever since Donald Trump became a serious threat to win the GOP presidential primaries... a lot of people, both on campus and off it, were furious about political-correctness-run-amok—so furious that they would give power to any man who stood in opposition to it.
"I have watched this play out on campus after campus. I have watched dissident student groups invite Milo Yiannopoulos to speak—not because they particularly agree with his views, but because he denounces censorship and undermines political correctness. I have watched students cheer his theatrics, his insulting behavior, and his narcissism solely because the enforcers of campus goodthink are outraged by it. It's not about his ideas, or policies. It's not even about him. It's about vengeance for social oppression."
It reminds me of this conversation:
Batman: I'm going to kill you!
Joker: You idiot! You made me, remember? You dropped me into that vat of chemicals...
Batman: You killed my parents... I made you; you made me first.
Not easy to untangle. The left's intolerance is increasing the intolerance on the right. "But the other side is wronger!"

Ideas of racial superiority need to be vanquished and annihilated through just laws and conversion, not by shaming, shunning, and acting lawlessly toward those holding onto the legacy of slavery.


Daryl Davis

This is Daryl.
Daryl converts, he doesn't vanquish.
Be like Daryl.
A wonderful example of this is Daryl Davis, a black man who convinced hundreds of KKK members to disavow their beliefs. Daryl was the son of a Foreign Service Officer and went around the world attending integrated international schools. He was oblivious of the racism in his home country until he came home at the age of 10 and found it very odd that people would hate him because of the color of skin. As an adult, he made it his hobby to seek out and befriend racists. He now has a collection of KKK memorabilia that were abandoned by his friends. He says,
“Give them a platform. You challenge them. But you don’t challenge them rudely or violently. You do it politely and intelligently. And when you do things that way chances are they will reciprocate and give you a platform.”
When I look at how the left are responding to racists, I see them one-upping each other on how mean they can be to anyone with even unconscious prejudice. Just this week, I've heard that you should talk to your family about racism, and if they're not on board with racial justice, shun them. I've heard that white people should shut up and stop talking about racism and let black people lead. I've heard that white people should raise their voices and if you're not outraged on social media, you're passivity is criminal. I've heard that we can't talk about any other cause for social justice unless we're also talking about racial equality in the United States. I've heard that the white nationalist marchers should have been tear gassed. I've heard that society should be intolerant of intolerance, otherwise we end up with Hitler. I've heard that the pinnacle of not being racist are those counter-protesters who violently opposed the marchers. The left are trying to vanquish the opponents, not the ideas.


Remembering the past

There is a nuanced debate about how to handle the memory of slavery and the Civil War. That is a legitimate debate, and listening to people's complaints doesn't mean that we have to honor the defenders of slavery.

A special committee at Princeton University investigated how to handle the legacy of Woodrow Wilson, who was president of the school before becoming president of the country. Princeton has a Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs that includes some great big portraits of him and plaques describing how great he was. But he was also quite racist. He segregated the already desegregated military and mentioned how slavery wasn't so bad because blacks were treated well. Students began demanding that his picture and name be removed from the school. The committee decided to keep the name of the school and honor his contributions, but also acknowledge in plaques and memory that he was a racist shithead.


If the left approaches the issue of legacy with a torch to anything that stinks of slavery, then the whole country will go up in flames. Statues of Thomas Jefferson have become the focal point of eradicating racism in several universities. Indeed, there is a contingent among the social justice crowd that wants to strike at the very legitimacy of America, of which George Washington is the real symbol. Washington owned over 300 slaves at Mt Vernon until the end of his life, although he freed them in his will. I'm not opposed to pressing reset on America, but I'm also not opposed to having a polite, rational debate over how to properly remember both the good and the bad. And I haven't even touched the Native American question yet.


Evangelize

There are a lot of good hearted people out there across America who don't consciously harbor any idea of racial superiority. However, there's an awful lot of unconscious biases that perpetuate injustice, in varying levels across pretty much every American of any color. We all need to work on becoming more enlightened to a positive bias towards black skin, but especially the mass of conservative, rural, and white folks who don't even interact with black people on a daily basis. Those who need it the most are being driven away by the antics on the far left. They are being driven away by the powerful popular culture that lumps racial equity in with a bunch of political ideologies that they don't want. Their way of life is being mocked. They don't want to be told that if they're not out there protesting, then they're part of the problem. That doesn't work. It drives them away to the other side. They are not even watching your social media tirade, if you can believe that.

So get out there and evangelize. First listen, befriend, look for the good, and then convert through enlightened conversation.

I'll end with one personal example. The cleaning guy at my work comes around at the end of every day and usually talks to the people still there. He is not a sympathizer of the torch-wielding racists, but he is somewhere in between them and your aunt who has little figurines of black kids selling watermelons for 5 cents ("It's okay, cause I bought them from a black man in New Orleans."). The cleaning guy is my friend and we talk about aliens and artificial intelligence. He says a lot of crazy things that I mostly let go. One day he casually mentioned that Africans are inferior, "you know, genetically." My mind made three snaps and went, 'Oh no you didn't!' I politely corrected him and by the time I was done he agreed that black people are not inferior, but have been subjected to media bias. I converted him.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic article. Evangelize, don't attack! Such a simple cause/effect thing happening here... and I have a feeling just about everybody has a "cleaning guy" that presents us with a daily choice to go with honesty and genuine connection (or even correction), or snap our fingers and shame, missing out any chance of conversion to a better way of thinking and being. Well written, and a great read!

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