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Monday, February 12, 2018


I saw a t-shirt the other day. "You don't have to be a racist, sexist, homophobic hater. You can just be quiet." Okay, fine, but how much do we consider the meanings of those terms? Do these words mean what we think they do? I wanted to tell the wearer, "I'm pretty sure you know how you feel about these things, but I'm not entirely sure how much you've thought about them."

If I say, "Science says that males and females have some fundamental differences that will give them differing roles. For instance, males cannot bear children and females cannot impregnate males. Thus, while males and females have equal value, they can have different roles." Does that make me a sexist? If you deny the statement, does that make you an irrationalist?

Let's say that we're both HR managers. Your first consideration in hiring is to give preference to minorities and I only consider qualifications and don't take race, ethnicity, skin color, or gender into consideration. Are you the racist or am I?

If a person holds to the view that a particular behavior is immoral, is it necessarily true that he or she is "homophobic" or is it merely true that he or she holds to a view that a particular behavior is immoral and may be concerned for the welfare of those who practice that behavior? (Hey, while we're at it, is "homophobic" a reference to a fear or a hatred? Seems like the word usage is ambiguous.)

Oh, I know one. Let's you and I consider NAMBLA -- the North American Man/Boy Love Association. (I gotta say it feels dirty just writing it out.) We agree that that is immoral.

"But wait," I protest, "didn't you just say that male-male sexual relationships are not immoral?"

"Yes," you counter, "but it's not about the male-male aspect; it's about the adult-child aspect."

Okay, so you're not homophobic. Got it. "Okay," I continue, "so you favor protecting children."

"Yes!" you assure me.

"And would you say that people that do not protect children are haters?"

"Absolutely!" you agree. (Isn't it nice to find agreement?)

"So, if I say that we should not allow abortion, you'd agree, right?"

"Oh, no," you'd counter, "that would make you a sexist."

"Hang on," I'd respond. "By your own words, those who are unwilling to protect children are haters, and you're advocating killing the most vulnerable of them. Doesn't that make you the hater?"

In all of this I've asked questions rather than make claims. In all of this I've asked us to think about it. Racist, sexist, homophobic, bigot, hater -- all terms we throw around as if we all know and understand them. I don't think we either know or understand them in common. I'm pretty sure we feel them, but thinking them through doesn't seem to be a real concern these days. I'm not at all sure that it's the best way to conduct a debate on a subject when we don't know what we're talking about.


Anonymous said...

I have a faint recollection of a CNN program almost a decade back about the recession that started in 2007. They laid a good deal of blame on the second President Bush's desire to be the president under whom minority home ownership rose dramatically, leading to policies which created the subprime loan crisis--and that pretty much brought the whole economy down.

Do you know the expression "The road to hell is paved with good intentions"?

Stan said...

To my readers (and not aimed at Anonymous above), there appears to be some confusion about this post. I did not suggest a position, an argument, or who's right and wrong. My point is not "Who is right?" My point is "Is anyone thinking about it?" My contention is not "I'm right" but "I don't think they are thinking about it." My conviction is that the primary "thought" put into these things is "If you disagree with me on this, you're a hater" and nothing more (including what "this" actually is). Telling me I'm wrong for my positions or "arguments" (in quotes because I didn't actually make any) misses the point entirely.

David said...

Anon- not seeing the connection between who's to blame for the economic crisis and whether or not people actually think about their positions rather than feel their positions.

Craig said...

It seems as though it’s more about weaponizing certain terms, than about actually taking to time to think things through. It’s as if it’s easier to simply label people and avoid thought out disagreement, than to actually be able to have respectful substantive disagreements.

Stan said...

Weaponizing terms. I like that. Seems to be the case. But I don't know if it's intentional (likely to some) or more accidental due to feeling rather than thinking about it.

Anonymous said...

David, I believe CNN's point was that it made President Bush *feel* good to be proactive in more people of color owning their own houses--but he didn't *think* about what the law of unintended consequences might then have in store for the nation.

Marshal Art said...

It's certainly far easier to negatively label and opponent than to engage in objective, honest and emotion-free debate about which position is closer to the truth.

David said...

I don't really think those two are linked. One topic is about"social justice" and the other economics. Sure, both were based on feelings but nobody that opposed his idea was called a hater or racist.

Craig said...


I’ve spent years in the affordable housing world, and studied this quite a bit, and your grossly oversimplifying the situation and ignoring the fact that most of the policy was implemented before Bush.

Anonymous said...

David, note that hiring preferences for minorities is explicitly brought up by Stan in this day's post. That reminded me of the CNN story about housing preferences for minorities, so that's the connection between my original comment and Stan's post.

Craig, there isn't much left in my brain's memory cells of a TV news special that aired 10 years ago, okay? Have pity on an old man!

Craig said...


I’m not sure how pointing out more accurate information isn’t taking pity on you. Perhaps not basing your comments on a partially remembered CNN show isn’t the best idea.