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Racism and Impunity

barry_king has a scorching assessment of what racism is in here. This is at the heart:

Racism is when you let impunity create a system where
[a group] is denied justice
permanently. Institutionally. Because
"that's the stuff we did/do/will do.
We do this. Because we can,
because nobody will punish us for doing so."

He links to a 2011 Daily Kos article by Hamden Rice, "Most of You Have No Idea What Martin Luther King Did." He says it wasn't about speeches or marches, but about standing up to white people--who, as he points out, were liable to engage in "random, terroristic, berserk behavior" with impunity.

And that brings us Ferguson and last night's protests and what they're all about--not letting random, terroristic, berserk behavior happen with impunity. The behavior still happens. You know this either because you've experienced it yourself, or because your friends have, or because you've been told. Part of the struggle to end it is to make sure, when it does happen, it doesn't happen with impunity.


( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 15th, 2014 01:55 pm (UTC)
-ism is when you let impunity create a system where [a group] is denied justice permanently. Institutionally. Because "that's the stuff we did/do/will do. We do this. Because we can,because nobody will punish us for doing so."

Am I familiar with this? Why, I do believe I am!

The mystery to me as an outsider is that US central government allows a member of the federation to behave in this self centred imperialist fashion and does precisely nothing visible to prevent it.

The puzzle is not that the barbarians are at the gate, but that they're inside, running the damn place!

Fall of the Roman Empire anyone?

Edited at 2014-08-15 04:13 pm (UTC)
Aug. 15th, 2014 04:44 pm (UTC)
It's good to have a higher authority to turn to when the lower authorities themselves are criminal--in this case, I believe it's the body politic, rising up, that have driven the authorities to act. And while I wish there was no racism and no police brutality, I must say I'm glad at least that when people rise up, as now, their cries can be answered.
(no subject) - cmcmck - Aug. 15th, 2014 04:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2014 03:15 pm (UTC)
It's fucking horrifying how many people out there have a "problem with race."

I just want to send them all to a barren moon somewhere.
Aug. 15th, 2014 04:47 pm (UTC)
It permeates everything, and you just have to fight it. The first step for the privileged is to become aware. It's ongoing. Everything is always ongoing. None of us can ever rest on any laurels. But that's okay--ongoingness is what it means to be alive, or part of it, anyway.
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 08:29 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 16th, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 15th, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC)
Aug. 15th, 2014 04:53 pm (UTC)
I'm taking to heart what plasticsturgeon said here about the importance of even just *saying* something. Just speaking up.

Edited at 2014-08-15 04:53 pm (UTC)
Aug. 15th, 2014 05:01 pm (UTC)
*nods, weeping*
Aug. 16th, 2014 12:39 am (UTC)
Aug. 15th, 2014 06:52 pm (UTC)
How is wrecking local businesses going to teach "the Man" a lesson? And how is attacking random white people who had nothing to do with the shooting doing anything save piling racism atop racism?
Aug. 15th, 2014 09:07 pm (UTC)
Oo! Oo! Pick me, Pick me. I want to answer that one.

It ain't.

It's bullshit. It's what happens when people without hope express their anger. It gets expressed directly to the nearest target. Because that's what people do.

It's like Hamas rockets into the void, or the zebra murders (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zebra_murders) one of which happened to a friend of my parents, and they never quite recovered from it.

It's totally evil, and there is no excuse for it.

The way evil works, see, is that people start to target people not because of the crimes they did, but because they are perceived to be part of the society that doesn't punish those crimes. It's a kind of reverse racism, sure. And it's equally unjust. And it's married, ideologically, to the racism that sparked the problem in the first place.

But the point, and I want to make it very clear that there is a point....

Is that it never would have happened without the atmosphere of injustice.

But when you point out the injustice of the oppressed in the face of injustice, you are not pointing out an equality. You are perfectly right in saying "this is wrong, and it shouldn't happen". But you're wrong when you say that "to be fair, all evil is equal."

Because some evil has a head start. And works from a position of power. You can't hold the powerful to the same rules as the powerless without sanctifying the injustice that keeps the powerful powerful over the powerless.

The fact is, the whole situation is tainted, and power and "doing the right thing" are now impossible. All we can hope for is that people back off from the situation and not take part in it anymore.
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 12:11 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 16th, 2014 07:34 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barry_king - Aug. 16th, 2014 03:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yamamanama - Aug. 16th, 2014 01:55 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 04:33 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 16th, 2014 12:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 01:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 16th, 2014 01:31 am (UTC)
It was laid open this time
Aug. 16th, 2014 06:39 am (UTC)
For sure.
Aug. 16th, 2014 01:12 pm (UTC)
Irom Sharmila the Manipuri political prisoner wrote a long over five thousand word article about the problems of Manipur her own struggle. Nobody wanted to publish because it told the truth if you want I can send you the original hand written pages which she had translated from meiteilon and signed off on each one with corrections by hand.

One of the relevant things here is she is campaigning against a law that grants absolute immunity from any accountablity to visiting paramilitaries for any action undertaken while in Manipur. They have a tough job to do I agree and they get absolute immunity for anything they do while they are there.

The other relevant thing she said which often Americans don't get let alone the rest of the world. When President Obama was elected the Norwegians gave him that year's Peace Prize. I think it was one of the most just awards the Nobel Committee had ever made. About 30 years ago while I was reading Classics at UCL we had an American on some kind of one year exchange programme from Cornel University I think he is now a History Professor at an Ivy League University. At the time Jesse Jackson was standing for the Democratic Nomination it would have been 86 or 87 as I recall. He let me into the discussion he and his liberal parents had about which way to vote. And they ended after furious anger as all political discussions have agreeing that a vote for Jesse Jackson was a vote for the Republicans. I presume I won't have to explain to Americans that Jesse Jackson was a black politician and what he was saying was even though none of them were racist if they put forward a black candidate for the Presidency then the all sane rational voters would vote for the opposition.

What Sharmila wrote to inspire her people was I'd have to fish it out from my archives but something like. And today in America a descendant of slaves, a black man whom previous generations had bought and sold like cattle today has become President of the United States. Let us not believe that we are nothing that we can do nothing. There has been no greater sign of hope for change than the election of President Obama. I am more than happy for Americans to continue to demand improvements in their own country. Even your enemies those who despise seem to want to live there. Because you are free. It's not just that you feel free to debate demand change criticize your leaders re-write your history. Even if the President of the United States turned up on your doorstep the more well mannered might start the conversation with Mr President but the attitude would still be. I pay my goddamn taxes you ain't better than me this is what I demand that you do. I don't want to live in America. I think it's obsessed with money and shallow illusions like money. But what you keep reminding Europeans and you have every right to is that previous generations sent their sons, whole regiments of black men you didn't end segregation till after WWII to die that government of the people by the people for the perish not from this earth.

If ever I see the siege of Helm's Deep in LOTR2 when all hope is fading and 150 elf archers turn up I think the Marines have landed yeehaw and you know they are gonna say. Retreat hell we just got here. Then I'd follow up pointy eared green skinned freaks overpaid oversexed overhere. But that's not racism not when you need help and you're too proud to beg.

Pity time has moved on no way would another democratic president order the invasion of a land locked small regime in south east asia just because they need help.
Aug. 16th, 2014 06:55 pm (UTC)
What Sharmila wrote to inspire her people was I'd have to fish it out from my archives but something like. And today in America a descendant of slaves, a black man whom previous generations had bought and sold like cattle today has become President of the United States.

Along which line of descent do you imagine Barack Obama was descended from slaves? His father was Kenyan -- I don't believe that any of the Kenyan tribes were caught up in the slave trade, and to the extent that they were it would have been the Arab slave trade. He's also descended from the Kenyan upper classes.

His mother, of course, was white.

So if Barack Obama's ancestors had anything to do with the slave trade, it would more likely have been as buyers, sellers or traders than of slaves.

The most you can really say is that Barack Obama kind of looks a little bit like some Black Americans who were slaves.
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 16th, 2014 07:12 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 07:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 06:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - asakiyume - Aug. 16th, 2014 07:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
Aug. 16th, 2014 07:28 pm (UTC)
Here is the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of the word:

The belief that all members of each race possess characteristics, abilities, or qualities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Note that this has absolutely nothing in common with the definition you cited, which is politically motivated and tendentious. If you follow the OED’s definition, racism is about what people believe and do, and it can be fought against and changed. If you follow the other definition, it is ‘permanent’ and ‘institutional’ and creates an open-ended system of grievances that can never be sufficiently atoned for — and it only applies one way. Hence the belief, for instance, that it is impossible for anyone but white people to be racist, which is (per the OED definition) a racist belief in itself.

I happen to think that racism as defined by the OED is a very great evil and ought to be fought against; and that we have a particular obligation to fight it when we discover it in ourselves. But subscribing to the other definition is racist by the first definition, because it identifies one particular racial group permanently and incurably as the Evil Oppressor, regardless of anyone’s actual behaviour. This is no different in substance from, for instance, the Protocols of the Elders of Zion blaming all evil in the world on the Jews. That, too, was racist; and no person of good will should have any part of it.
Aug. 16th, 2014 07:57 pm (UTC)
I don't want to speak for barry_king, and I'm not sure he'll come back to address your comment, but, speaking for myself, I took his words not as an attempt to actually define racism so much as to point to the results and talk about causes, kind of like in Princess Mononoke, where Ashitaka holds up his arm, with the demon curse swirling around it, and says, "This is what hatred looks like; this is what it does when it catches hold of you." Though maybe I'm wrong, and he does mean it as something like a dictionary definition.

I like the OED's definition; I find it perfectly accurate (which is presumptuous of me; it's not like the OED needs my approval).

I think we're united--all of us here on this page--in finding racism as defined by the OED abhorrent. And that's a great thing, and something we should celebrate: that we *don't* think that members of any race have inherent characteristics specific to that race, and especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior. In the past, there were people who gladly embraced that notion. None of us here do. That's a wonderful thing.

There's a lot in political and social discourse that rightly makes people angry, and angry in different directions, depending on their political bent, but let's take a moment to honor this solidarity we feel.
(no subject) - superversive - Aug. 16th, 2014 08:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - jordan179 - Aug. 16th, 2014 08:21 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - barry_king - Aug. 17th, 2014 12:31 am (UTC) - Expand
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