Socio/Political and Historical analysis necessary for my peace of mind.

Category: Racism

Spotting and Proving Bigotry

Seems to me that many people simply do not understand how, in modern times, we go looking for bigoted societal norms. They are stuck in like this 1950’s style of racism/sexism/homophobia and fail to realize that, while these days people are less prone to explicitly endorsing bigoted ideologies, there are still other forces of bigotry at work. Those forces, are the ones that we actively need to fight against. Although lot of progress has been made to downsize the feelings of explicit superiority towards minorities expressed in a KKK type fashion… this is not the end of the struggle.

In the modern era, what most people do, is something called micro-aggressions, which is a more obtuse and subtle form of bigotry related to implicit biases. Currently, in social justice circles, this is where a lot of the fight is located. What we all need to do now, in modern times, is give ourselves the tools we need to avoid being modern bigots. We need a new ideology that lends us an understanding of what modern bigotry is, and how it is compared to this old-school bigotry responsible for slavery, segregation, imperialism, and genocide. I am going to attack this issue through racism, as this is the cultural lens I can communicate best in, but also understand that the explorations I lay out here can be quite easily applied to other forms of bigotry with minimum modification. So lets look at American Racism first, and hopefully, through this lens, we can begin to see strategies on attacking other marginalized issues in general.

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Social Forcing 101

I think this is something that people here, over the years have picked up on, but also still underestimate.

Social Forces, on a personal level, are nothing but an accumulation of individual experiences. Day to day experiences, can add up to a social force, or social pressure. Once we add up a bunch of similar experiences, we begin to feel the urge to conform towards whatever direction we are pushed.

You see one person’s opinion may not effect you much, but a bunch of peoples opinions will. Our urge to conform is very natural, and everyone has this urge. This urge is what makes us sociable. The urge to conform actually has a deep place in our moral systems. Yet we all know there are also dangers to this.

There is this rather famous sociology experiment on conformity (several actually, but one will do), where they put a person in a room filled with actors. This person is convinced to take a test. They put two lines on the screen, one line bigger than the other, and they ask everyone to say out loud if they think the lines are of equal length. Now factually the lines are obviously of different lengths…. but what the social scientist found was that, if the group of actors said the lines were equal, a majority of the test subjects agreed it was. Now, there is a heck of a lot more that went on in the experiment, but I could write a book on that – so lets just sum it up with that point.

Recently neuro-scientists have taken a stab at the experiment too… and what they found was startling. Of the people within the group who conformed and said the lines were equal, neuro image scanning revealed that it is not that they where lying persay, but that many of them actually believed they saw two equal lines. That, is the power of conformity. When enough people say do this or think this…. you will also find the urge to do or think that, and also think you are “right” to engage in that behavior of thought.

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Privilege: An Exploration of an Important Social Phenomenon

We must first begin with a statement of fact. There is no such thing as a meritocracy. It does not exist at this moment in time, anywhere in this world. What exists instead are systems of unfair hierarchies, that push people towards the top, and push others towards the bottoms – often in arbitrary ways. There is ample evidence of massive racial inequalities, gender inequalities, sexual orientation disparities, the existence of class systems that limit economic mobility, and the fact that entire countries work to ensure their socio-economic conditions stay on top at the expense of other weaker countries (Colonialism, Imperialism, Globalization, Post-Colonialism… and maybe Capitalism). With all those factors operating on this society, there is no real chance of any legit meritocracy forming (putting aside objections to the very idea that a meritocracy is a legitimate socio-economic structure to strive for).

Now, the trouble with this, that many have, is that there is no single person at the wheel, rather these social forces are all the quite natural outcomes of human behavior and environmental factors. If we wish to fix these disparities and promote justice and equality, we must identify where inequalities exist, and then work to mitigate their influences. To do this, one must be able to recognizing how these things function. For to be able to dismantle the mechanisms, gives us insight on how to fix the machinery.

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Context Independance

Have you ever read a quote that was taken out of context and used for a purpose that is in direct contradiction to the authors stated position? You know, have you ever been “quote mined*” or seen someone “quote mined” in such a blatant fashion that it is almost laughable?

*Quite mining, for those who do not know, is where someone cherry picks quotes that can be interpreted in a way that is usually either, contradictory to the authors purpose, or extrapolating to a conclusion that can not be logically connected to the authors original intent.

Ever took it upon yourself to look up the cited sources, only to find out that, like in the very next line, the original source is saying something that is the complete opposite of what it was made to say? (This is one of the primary reasons academic check primary sources) You ever had this experience? I actually have, quite a lot.

What this experience has taught me, despite the cardinal rule of “check the source,” is that context matters. Context matters… a lot. The context of a quote can change the entire meaning of the quote. Heck the context of a single word can dramatically change the meaning of the word! Dictionaries have different definitions for a reason! In language, we all know, or should know, that context matters. Context determines the meaning of words and phrases… and without context we can easily be lead to false conclusions about what someone is saying. Understanding context is a necessary skill. You can not analyze anything accurately when you avoid the context of what is written or said. This should be a trivial truism to anyone…. There really is no such thing in language that is “context independent”… because all language depends on context.

This lesson however, is quickly forgotten by most people when they attempt to analyze marginalized points of view. Something odd and fcked up happens to people when they first encounter minority view points on racism, sexism, homophobia, orientalism, Islamaphobia, Anti-American sentiments….etc.. people… just sort of forget that… yeah… context matters. Or maybe I should say, they do not forget that context matters, they simply fail to understand how to apply social, political, and historical context to a given situation.

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