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November 2, 2017


'splainin' what I'm 'splainin'
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. Mundane 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 long-term work-in-progress.
•  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 Something-Or-Other.
•   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

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Polar Levine

working class college dropout who loves to learn, poke his biases and waste time looking around