Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Doug Muder

“The Weekly Sift” is a little bit like my own blog, in that each post is a short essay trying to make sense of something — in this "Sift" blog most often political subjects.  He describes it as “the political blog for people who don’t have time for political blogs”.  “The Weekly Sift is written by Doug Muder, a 50-something ex-mathematician who lives in Nashua, NH.”  He has another blog that considers religious issues.  He’s a contributing editor and columnist for UU World.  I try not to hold that against him — with mixed success.  At least he’s on the humanist side.

He once worked for “The Mitre Corporation, an American not-for-profit organization based in Bedford, Massachusetts, and McLean, Virginia. It manages Federally Funded Research and Development Centers supporting several U.S. government agencies.”  (Wikipedia)  His wife still works there.  I expect there are a lot of nervous people around MITRE at present. but it doesn’t seem to show up in Muder’s writing. 

Muder’s first post for 4/17 (he sometimes does more than one) is at https://weeklysift.com/2017/04/17/racism-hot-and-cold/  It contains as Exhibit A the vid clip of Sean Spicer “being racist” with a black female reporter named April Ryan.  Muder’s premise is that conservatives simply don’t have any words or concepts for what liberals call “implicit racism”, that is, the unconscious but probably paleobiologically developed assumption about what a person “is,” based on contact, interaction and observation.  He suggests that Spicer was not consciously thinking, “I’d better put this mammy in her place,” but rather shading over into a dangerously slanted attitude because of what he — below thinking — feels is her true nature as a round, dark, mother-aged person.  The same as the impulse that causes small town business owners to watch me closely because I'm old and dress shabbily and therefore might shoplift.

I suspect that Spicer is not around black people very much and that the black women he knows “act white,” are thin, pale, accent-less, and — what the heck do I call black faces with features like the whites we consider “beautiful,” meaning not fat or wide or hooked or slanted?  What’s the implicit term?  Our minds work like Central Casting and many of the faces we know who are not our inner circle are likely to be types from movies.  

They are “stereo” types.  Dictionary.com defines “stereo- as a combining form borrowed from Greek, where it meant “solid”, used with reference to hardness, solidity, three-dimensionality in the formation of compound words: stereochemistry; stereogram; stereoscope.

Muder suggests that “implicit racism” is not the same as outright hatred that fuels murder (which certainly exists) but rather there is a spectrum of hatreds that could be considered from simple unwarranted assumptions  (“white men can’t jump”) to KKK lynchings.  Liberals want to push it to the diluted side so they can talk about it.  Extreme Militant ignorants on the subject of racism want to go to justification of murder or at least deportation.  This “temperature” idea smacks of Home Security danger levels being color-coded or  Smoky Bear signage levels of fire danger.

Where I am, the racist problem is not black/white but rather red/white.  It’s more complicated in part because historical virtue is on the indigenous side -- to liberals -- and in part because there are few television series except maybe Longmire or a Hillerman mystery that portray real people.  We are in direct competition for resources like water.  There is always an invisible legal boundary between red and white about governance, entitlement, and missionary assumptions plus raw land ownership.

“Hot” here is direct bar fights (with Latinos complicating issues; there are almost no blacks or Asians.)  Whites seem to insist that drugs are characteristic of dark people.  The code is “gangs.”  If one starts to talk about local drugs, the terms immediately go to “rez gangs.”  (This is a psych phenom known as “deflecting” or displacing.)  The assumption is that there are no gangs off the rez, therefore no drugs.

People here from all sides interact with “Other” people daily with every degree of racism, from vague distrust to dueling knives.  The context, personality, and other factors that distribute their convictions are not media images but reality, rooted in the way they are treated by the “Other.”

Educated and freedom-defending people here will say denigrating things about whites if they are Indian or Indians if they're white.  When I’m stupid or troublesome enough to object, I get the defensive reaction, “But that’s the way they really ARE !!”  Often it can’t be argued down because it is based on experience.  And quite truly, there are a lot of Native American people who show up drunk and quarrelsome, or push some ersatz Earth Spirituality, or attack whites for their “implicit racism” by reinforcing the stereotype the whites already had, for the pure pleasure of the “militant ignorance,” and excuse to tangle, because what do they have to lose?

And there are a lot of white people who come with their big bellies and expensive clothes, sneering, into issues that they try to resolve with domination and their control of money, ownership, government roles.  What do they have to lose?

Currently, the UUA is plagued with some minority people who have gotten the idea that they are not just equal but should morally  claim entitlement to offices that — like Trump — they really can’t manage.  (The older Blackfeet would say they had gotten the “Big Head.”  Inflated.)  One of those women on the rez, who had assumed she would know how to do her rather complex job because she had earned certificates and been on committees, confided to me in an unguarded moment,  “This job is just too hard.  I can’t figure it out.”  She hadn’t known that, didn’t even know whom to ask for help and did not want to face the contempt that would come from racism.  Glacier County finances are a shambles because of this kind of thing happening, and the problem is framed in terms of race.  But it’s really a failure of the education system, which can wave tribal people on by because they are “only Indians.”

This is far beyond needing terms for implicit prejudice, esp when racism itself is so stigmatized among liberals, so much seen as evil and deliberate.  What has to happen is exposure to each other that creates a new image.  In fact, some books and movies do that.  Sidney Poitier made tolerance real, but then — of course — Cosby undid it all.  Because underneath racism is always SEX of the most powerful and brute kind — also implicit.  Jimmy Carter explained but we just made fun of him.

In the end we come to the same place that I almost always end up when I try to interact with white liberals (even though I am one), which is that they are so often naive and inexperienced.  Maybe that’s the only kind of people who can stay tolerant and upbeat because they are protected and oblivious.  I’m no longer tolerant and upbeat.  A few years teaching seventh grade taught me reality.  No one has more cutting implicit stereotypes nor more willingness to throw them in one’s face than seventh graders who think they are of a different race.  They’re hot.  In a lot of different ways.

No comments: