Monday, 14 April 2008

How Fighting "Racism" Fails Us

Imagine that you are a psychiatrist. A patient comes to your office, referred after losing his job because he called several people the "N" word at work. Do you have to show him that he is a "racist" or that he has engaged in "racism" before you can begin treating him, or is it sufficient to know that he has engaged in acts of color-aroused antagonism that have caused him to lose his job?

Would it be helpful to start treatment by trying to convince the patient that he has engaged in "racism"? Or would it be far quicker, more positive and more useful to identify and discuss his specific acts of color-aroused antagonism and discuss how these specific acts have have hurt his employability, discussing the ideation and emotion that led to these acts? Can you see the difference? Which approach would lead to the greatest scientific consensus and quickest clinical success?

Even if the clients readily acknowledges the specific acts, and that they were color-aroused and antagonistic, will you be able to convince him that his acts are "racist" and that he is a "racist"? Is it necessary or useful to do so before treating his specific behavior patterns?

We Black people would be strategically advantaged if we simply stopped trying to argue that people were "racist" and instead argued that they had engaged in antagonistic color-aroused behavior. We need to make it clear that ALL antagonistic color-aroused behavior is unacceptable, whether it is committed by a "racist", constitutes "racism" or not. Acts of antagonistic color-aroused behavior are much easier to prove than it is to prove what someone "is".

WE have hurt ourselves by insisting that we need to prove that someone "is a racist" before they can be removed from a position of public responsibility. We have hurt ourselves by insisting that we need to prove that a policy "is racist" before it can be overturned. When we take to the airwaves, we should simply say that an act or policy is color-aroused and antagonistic, which is far easier to demonstrate than it is to demonstrate that a policy or act is part of an international pattern of systemic color-aroused denigration, subjugation and exploitation of Black people.

When I was in law school, my professor told me never to exaggerate the burden of proof, because it only made my job harder when it came time to meet the burden. Black people determine what the burden of proof is in the public square. We need to clarify the burden of proof that we observe and we need to declare much earlier that we have met our burden of proof. This would enable us build consensus more expeditiously and to act with more certainty.

We Blacks have a lot of control over this. When we go to the media about an act of color-aroused antagonism, do we call the act "racist" and start an argument that cannot be resolved to anyone's satisfaction. Or do we state that which is obvious to everyone: the act is color-aroused and antagonistic and therefore is out of bounds.

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