When I bring up tribalism as a predictable
consequence of persistent stress, anxiety and torment:
• I AM NOT SAYING
THAT BIGOTRY SHOULD BE ACCEPTED AND TOLERATED. I’m just saying that it’s no
less a part of the human dynamic than altruism. Every attempt at a utopia will
have times of crisis and a bigotry germ and every dystopia will have zones of
humaneness committed altruists. No academic social equation or deity devotion
will put an end to assholery.
• I believe that it can be mitigated if people with a
bigoted worldview are contronted with bias-challenging experiences – not in the
form of data, but through informal mundane encounters with the objects of bias.
being the key word. Often a lifelong bigot drops that mode of thinking after
getting to actually know someone who belongs to one of those scapegoated
identity groups. I’ve seen it happen. Check out Daryl Davis’ work. It’s a
• There’s biased thinking that forms assumptions about individuals
based on stereotypes, AKA bigotry – that never gets acted out against anyone. I’ve
seen it. And there’s bigotry that does get acted out. The biases are mostly
felt below conscious awareness which makes it easy to deny. Much less often
it’s very much a conscious thing with accompanying fashion statements and
manifestos proclaiming oneself among the elect in some form of One True
• Legislation that
addresses bigotry outlaws the acting out of bigoted feelings systemically and by
individuals, But legislation can’t prevent or outlaw bigoted feelings
or even bigoted speech unless the speech is a call to unlawful action.
• Acts of bigotry,
bullying and harrassment have to be pointed out and pushed back but at the same
time it’s strategically smart and morally decent to consider the poverty and
prolonged stress and torment that leads to tribalism. Those are the same
conditions that lead to stereotypes that germinate negative biases to begin
with. Isolated communities are only seen and felt on the outside when the noise
breaches the distance. The decent stuff is on the quieter side.
Then there’s the
ugly reality of easy reads like skin color or alien linguistics. When in need
of a scapegoat, that’ll do. There’s no doubt that centuries of slavery and
post-slavery racism created a situation where broken families and difficulty
envisioning positive outcomes are a given. How can widespread poverty and
cynicism not be an ongoing challenge when it was enforced by law and custom for
so long? But it’s not about eugenics.
Ghettoized communities breed crime. That
applies to every human ethnic brand despite the popular notion that it’s an
African-American thing. There’s no shortage of stereotypes of Jews but it’s not
generally known that a century ago (when my grandparents escaped enforced
ghettoization of the Russian Pale) poverty stricken Jewish neighborhoods in New
York’s Lower East Side and the boroughs were the breeding ground of gangs
including Murder Inc. in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The Shapiro Brothers ran
Williamsburg for a time and Dutch Schultz in the Bronx. Meyer Lansky and Louie
Lepke were part of the original Syndicate. Now predatory thugs run Wall St.
banks. We weren’t always physicists and folk singers.
Both sides of the ideological wars tend to
coddle bigots or the victims of bigotry. Like all other cultural memes
ideological ones are borrowed. These days the excesses of political correctness
culture has been weaponized and co-opted by other side so that the bigot class
now claims to be the real victim of bigotry. I say that all sides need to
punish inflictors of torment and bring relief – not with platitudes – but with
actually giving a shit about peoples’ struggles.
That means addressing the concerns of
Black Lives Matter with a deep seriousness. And also the black on black crime
that Fox News loves to bring up only as an alternative universe whenever a cop
kills an unarmed person of color. But it’s also a real world problem that not
only rips that community but provides a rationale for the racism of a
significant portion of Trump’s base.
It means not assuming every cop is thug because he’s a cop. In some
communities that’s a real challenge and I have no answers. I guess it involves
starting with a tone of voice or gesture and see how it plays. It’s all a
dance. In some circles it’s called diplomacy with the other option being war.
— Polar Levine, News Goo Dissection
© Polar Levine 2017 content should not be reproduced elsewhere without prior permission