Racist Ideology within Racial Terminology

“History has shown that even acknowledging that race has both a social and a scientific meaning cannot disconnect the concept from its typological and racist past (or present). Despite the best intentions of many scientists and scholars, race will always remain what Ashley Montagu once called a “trigger word; utter it and a whole series of emotionally conditioned responses follow.”41

“We are a genetically diverse species, and there is meaning in that diversity. But we as a species seem thus far unable to reliably distinguish between the scientific ramifications and the social meanings of human difference. Race is an historical, not a scientific, term. Yet, until the scourge of racism is eliminated from our lives and institutions, developing methods unburdened by racial ideology to study human difference will be an impossibility.”

A Short History of the Race Concept by Michael Yudell (p. 27)
from Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture

To merely speak of race is to inevitably and automatically elicit or even express a racist worldview, no matter your intentions (including for anti-racists). It has so far proven impossible to separate race and racism. The earliest use of race in relation to humans had a racist purpose. That purpose became built into the concept itself, built into our entire racially ordered society that justified that concept.

Study after study has demonstrated how common is racial bias and prejudice in our everyday thinking and behavior, not to mention the pervasiveness of structural racism. It is all around us and within us. We aren’t normally conscious of this. It is just what happens when you are enculturated in this kind of society and indoctrinated in this kind of political system. When a racial order has existed for centuries, it doesn’t disappear in a single generation (or two or three) just because we had a civil rights movement.

There are only two results that can come from speaking of race.

First, as I’m pointing out here, to use race (even if only with code words) is to evoke a racist worldview. With this first option, you don’t even need to speak of race directly in order to elicit the corollary racial bias and prejudice. It is already in place. You simply must not challenge it. The racism is in-built not just into the overt language of racism for the race-tinged terminology and the racial framing is always shifting (politicians, for example, have become talented in using dog-whistle politics, Reagan having been the master). That is where its power lies.

The second option is to speak as openly, clearly and bluntly as possible. No unquestioned assumptions. No code words. No political correctness, whether of the liberal or conservative variety. Like Rumplestiltskin, the power resides in knowing the name of something and stating it. This is why not speaking of race or speaking around race empowers rather than disempowers a racist worldview. The greatest fear of those most invested in a racial worldview is an open and honest discussion of race and racism. That fear must be confronted. We live in a world ruled by fear and ignoring it won’t make it go away.

I advocate for the second option. No more hiding behind words. Instead of using language to obfuscate, let us use language to communicate and discuss.

Shove it down! Ram it through!

Have you noticed how effectively conservatives use talking points? There has been plenty of videos analyzing the use of talking points by Fox News including management memos telling the hosts which talking points to use on any given day. It’s enough to make a person cynical, but it’s hard to become much more cynical at this point.

I was noting recently how some talking points are code words. Palin’s use of “real Americans” and “hockey mom” are code words for white Americans. The hockey mom was particularly interesting. First, it’s  sport that was originally popularized in Northern states which are predominantly white. Second, because of all the gear, it’s an expensive sport and so poor minority families couldn’t afford to pay for the gear.

There are tons of these talking points and code words. I’m sure people have written books analyzing them. I had one particular example in mind. I came across a discussion about health reform and a righwing commenter used the talking point about having the bill “shoved down our throat”. There are variations on it such as “rammed through”, but the phrasing doesn’t diverge much. It gets repeated by Republicans in Washington and it gets repeated on Fox News.

I was trying to find a specific video I had seen about it. Someone had put together a bunch of clips of this talking point. I can’t remember if the whole video was about Fox News, but at least part of it was. The video showed the Fox News reporters and hosts repeating the talking point over and over. Then the video showed a clip of Fox News version of a debate about health reform, but of course the debate only included conservatives. They invited some old people on to express their views and one old person repeated tha same talking point. Obviously, this old person had been watching a lot of Fox News and had picked up the phrase. That is how it works. Repeating a simple phrase enough times causes people to unconsciously take it in and start using it themselves. I’m sure that old person didn’t even know he was repeating a talking point. It’s the same principle as advertising. Repeat, repeat, repeat, and keep on repeating.

I think that particular video might have been from Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, but for the life of me I couldn’t find the video. I was surprised that I couldn’t even find much discussion about that particular talking point. I just found some references to it in forum discussions and whatnot. I thought that strange. I felt like I was going mad and was glad to find even slight mentions about the talking point. I’d think it would get more media attention, but the media is in the business of spreading talking points and not in the business of analyzing them.

I did finally find one video that refers to it and it was actually another video I had previously watched. It’s Bill Maher and he is on a roll in this video. Maher can be a very funny guy. In this video, he is in top form. He only briefly talks about it around the halfway point (4:40), but it’s hilarious.