I’m afraid I am going to have to take back some of the nice things I said about 4chan. The first reason for this is that the posting of child pornography, that I had thought to be an occasional abberation, actually appears to be a daily event. While the moderators do their best to stamp it out when they find it the sheer volume of content on the site makes this almost impossible.
The second reason relates to the in-jokes that the site is famous for. Unfortunately one of these in-jokes basically boils down to this: whenever someone says something, ANYTHING, about black people it is a signal to all the trolls to come out from under the bridge and post as much offensive, racist content as possible. Now the fact that this happens is hardly surprising. But what annoys me is the degree to which it is an entrenched part of the culture of the site.
Now I am not saying that /b/ should stop. Far from it! I believe very strongly in free speech, and if the denizens of /b/ choose to express themselves in this way then that is their inalienable right as human beings.
Free speech doesn’t just mean the things you like.
But what has annoyed me is the amount of misinformation being bandied around as fact. Once again I am not suggesting that these individuals cease their shenanigans. But I do reckon it would be nice if they could at least edumacate themselves. That is, in theory, where I come in.
So, let’s talk about racism, specifically the reasons why racism makes absolutely no sense.
Proponents of racism sometimes ineffectually point to history. They say that the races have always hated one another, and that this will never change, so we might as well get used to it. There are a few problems with this.
1.1 Racism is, at MOST, only about 500 years old
I bet you didn’t know that ;) Yes friends while it is sadly true that some people have always despised those groups who were different from them, and have always derided and discriminated against these groups, the type of discrimination that was practised has changed over time. To cut a long story short in the past it was pretty much always either classism or jingoism.
If you look at the Romans there was no racism at all. But there was rampant oppression based upon class lines. If you were a slave then you were pretty much screwed. But if you ever got your freedom then everyone automatically treated you pretty well. In fact one of the reasons why Rome’s empire got so big is because when they conquered people they gave them citizenship, and all of the rights that came with it.
Jingoism is basically racism applied to a national context. The French hating the English and having weird stereotypes about them is one example of this. The English oppression of the Irish and Scottish and the weird stereotypes they created to entrench this position (e.g. the Irish are “crazy” and “stupid”, the Scottish are “violent” and “miserly”) are another example.
My point is simply that up until quite recently races weren’t considered important, and didn’t even really exist.
1.2 Historically speaking the definition of ‘race’ has been determined by political power
When the Irish came to America they were treated as if they were of a completely separate race to the European Americans who were already there. Just understand this: I’m not talking about people disliking the Irish. I’m talking about them being denied their human rights. I’m talking about how ‘interracial’ marriages between ‘Americans’ and ‘Irish’ were viewed as being completely disgusting by the standards of the time. Where does the stereotype of the Irish policeman come from? It comes from the fact that when they went to America no one would employ them, so they had to take the jobs nobody wanted. Watch ‘Gangs of New York’ for a tiny slice of this time.
Up until the 20th Century Jewish people were regarded as being ‘Non-White’. Don’t believe me? Look it up. Or better yet read ‘The Merchant of Venice”. This trend persisted until after the Holocaust, when anti-semitism finally started dying down.
So what do these two examples tell us? They show us quite clearly that the likelihood that a ‘race’ will be discriminated against is determined by that ‘race’s’ level of political power, or the lack of it.
2) ‘Stereotypes are accurate!’
Sadly I still hear people saying things like “stereotypes persist because they are accurate”. The only way to attack this idea is by pointing out that it just isn’t true.
2.1 It’s called ‘confirmation bias’.
What this means is that once someone has made up their mind about something they create a mental framework to process additional information. Unfortunately, the way our brains work is by grouping similar ideas together, and ignoring ideas that seem like they don’t fit. In general this works great because it streamlines learning. But in the case of stereotypes all it does it force us to notice things that support the stereotype, and ignore things that contradict it.
There is a vast amount of research to show how this works. Read ‘Blink’ or ‘Outliers’ both by Malcolm Gladwell to get an idea about some of it.
But also: just think about it. As you navigate away from this page is the image above, of an entirely black medical team, really going to change your own biases? Is it really going to dislodge the stereotype of African Americans as mostly gangsters from your mind?
Because, given that, no matter how you play with the data, the majority of African Americans in the US are NOT members of gangs, that stereotype makes no sense, and never did.
(continued on Page 2)