Changing the racist mind after Trump

Question: How do we wipe out racism by making racists not be so racist?

Answer: We don't.

We do something else that actually works.

The expanding Trump-fueled conversation about racism

It has been absolutely fascinating to observe myriad conversations reacting to the Trump electoral win. All the usual suspects are engaged, but also, many others who had previously been little involved, or not at all involved, in the national political conversation, are saying things.

And along with this has come a certain amount of method or concern questioning. I won't call it trolling because only some of it is that, and "trolling" is one of those terms of art used in a not very artful world. Let's just say that people are questioning approaches in ways that are sometimes interesting.

Many people seem to think there is a way to communicate to those who hold opposing views that will make their views more entrenched, and a better way to communicate that will change their minds. This opinion is often based on very strongly held feelings but lack reference to any scientific study or valid body of data.

Communication experts are not as dogmatic, because communication is an academic field, a science (an artful science, perhaps) and therefore, complex. Communication experts know that, for the most part, people don't change their minds much, or if they do, not for very long. People's opinions on widely discussed issues do not alter in the face of argument, and when they appear to do so, it is often only a little, and only temporary.

Jodie Burchard-Risch was unhappy that Asma Mohamed Jama was speaking her native language, KiSwahili, to her family, while having dinner at Applebees. So, Jodie Burchard-Risch took her beer mug and slammed Asma Mohamed Jama across the head with it.   Minnesota nice is not what you think it is. Jodie Burchard-Risch was unhappy that Asma Mohamed Jama was speaking her native language, KiSwahili, to her family, while having dinner at Applebees. So, Jodie Burchard-Risch took her beer mug and slammed Asma Mohamed Jama across the head with it.
Minnesota nice is not what you think it is.

(I quickly add that people do change their minds completely, going into a process with dogmatically held beliefs, later leaving the process with nearly opposite beliefs. I've seen this happen may times in the evolutionary biology classroom. Go to any meeting of atheists, and you'll see it there too, people who were dogmatically religious who are not dogmatically not. Numerically, these people are rare. But, they do count.)

A few days ago I said something insulting to or about (can't remember the details, it happens so often) someone or some group that was spewing racist hogwash. I was mildly scolded (as often happens) for being so nasty. You catch more flies with honey. People are going to hear that sort of thing and not change their minds. You can't convince anybody of anything that way. And so on.

And yes, that scolding was half correct. A harsh approach will rarely change someone's mind. But, the obverse assumption, that being nice would change someone's mind, is almost nearly as incorrect.

Convincing someone was not my objective, and when it comes to racism, rarely is. Getting people who are deeply racist to become un-racist is nearly impossible. Changing those minds should not be the objective if one wants to be efficient (though efficiency is not always the goal, I quickly note).

There is a different goal, and that is to make people shut up.

"... go right into the zoo where you belong ..."

I have a story that I think is true. I am a trained anthropologist, and I've focused some of my work on racism, so I believe myself when I tell this story.

Act I: Once upon a time, closing in on 20 years ago, I moved from the Boston area to the Twin Cities. Before moving, I lived in that space between Harvard, MIT, and a half dozen other colleges, where most of the people one meets are progressive and liberal, and standard white American racism simply isn't something you encounter on a day to day basis, even if it is more common in other parts of the metro area or elsewhere in New England. Indeed, the majority of people I worked with on a day to day basis were not even white Americans, so it would take extra work to locate that sort of racism. A nice, safe, academic bubble.

Soon after moving to the Twin Cities, I ended up in a northern near-outer-ring suburb (we classify our suburbs by which ring they are in). The northern outer ring suburbs are working class, conservative (but often Democratic because of the Union presence), and a bit xenophobic. If you hear a story about something bad happening in the Twin Cities area -- something racist, or just plane Coen-Brothers-Fargo -- there is a good chance it happened somewhere between Fridley and Coon Rapids. This is where I lived for a while. Also, Falcon Heights, which is an odd mix of academic university people and white fear (google that city's name, you'll see).

So, I go to Target for the first time. Targets were everywhere in the Twin Cities but had not taken over the entire planet yet. A young white woman is greeting each customer in a friendly matter, a fitting attitude in Friendly Fridley, Minnesota (yes, that is the town's motto). Each customer had a few items (this was the fast lane) and she put them carefully in a bag, took the money, handed the bag graciously to each customer, and send them on their way with a "Goodaytcha" (a traditional Minnesota greeting, like Aloha or Chow).

Until the black customer came up in line. She did not speak, scowled instead of smiling, slammed his two or three items on the counter expecting him to bag them himself, and gave him nothing close to the time of the day. I was the next customer. I got the bagging, the greeting, the goodaytcha, all of it. That was my first observation of racism in the checkout line in Minnesota, and it turned out to not be a unique experience. This turned out to be how it was done most of the time in Friendly Fridley and many other northern suburb communities.

(I'm careful to get the geography right, because other parts of the Twin Cities are diametrically opposite in attitude.)

On another day. I'm just leaving a BP gas station, the one on Snelling and Larpenteur, just a few meters away from the exact location Philando Castile was murdered by a local cop.

As I'm heading for the door, the young woman who worked there came around the counter to do some stock related task or antother, so she's standing by the door, and I'm about to leave but holding back because I'm messing with the bag of items I just bought. At that moment, a man who had just exited a fairly fancy but rented car, wearing a three piece suit (the man, not the car), black, enters the establishment and asks directions.

"I'm looking for Como Zoo, I'm late for a conference," he said, in a medium-thick West African accent. "Can I please get directions?"

I was about to answer, but the girl beat me to it.

"Go right down that street," she said, pointing to Larpenteur Avenue. "Take a right at Hamline, go down a few blocks..."

At this point the man is starting back out the door, hearing the directions, in a hurry, but still listening.

"Then turn left where you see the sign, and head right into the zoo..."

At this point the door is about to close behind the man.

"... where you belong."

Because he's an ape, I remember thinking. She is telling this man, probably a doctor or scientist or something from a West African nation visiting us and giving a talk at the local zoo, which is often the venue for small conferences, that he is an ape.

The man stopped, holding the door open, almost said something, then instead, kept going and drove off.

The Decline of Overt Racism in the Twin Cites

None of that is unusual. I saw stuff like that all the time.

It might be a surprise to some that overt racism was widespread in the great state of Minnesota, which gave us Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone (I first met him, by the way, in Friendly Fridley itself!), Walter Mondale, and all that. I'll note that in the months after first moving here, the two things I heard again and again from others who had moved here a bit earlier were these: 1) Wow, people are really racist here, I had no idea; and 2) "Minnesota nice" ... it is not what you think it is.

Transgender CeCe McDonald and some friends were violently assaulted outside a Minneapolis bar.  CeCe had a knife, and defended herself from a beer-mug wielding assailant.  The attacker did not live, CeCe did hard time, but is now out, and telling people about her experiences. Transgender CeCe McDonald and some friends were violently assaulted outside a Minneapolis bar. CeCe had a knife, and defended herself from a beer-mug wielding assailant. The attacker did not live, CeCe did hard time, but is now out, and telling people about her experiences.

Act II: During this period of time, a large number of Hmong people had recently moved into the Twin Cities, many to the neighborhood I lived in for a year. Indeed, Hmong farmers grew food in my back yard, they kinda came with the house. Great efforts were made to make the Hmong feel welcome, though there was also plenty of racism. Then Somali people started to move into the area. Almost no effort was made to help them feel comfortable. Apparently, Asians are tolerable, Africans are not. Similarly, people from West Africa, mainly Liberia, were moving here, and it turns out there has long been a strong Mexican presence. I discovered that in some parts of the Twin Cities, anti-Mexican racism was clearly more rabid than anti-Black racism.

And things started to get worse and worse. Bullying in schools was becoming more dangerous. This was not likely related to racism, but was closely linked to intolerance, in this case of transgender and gay students. The CDC almost shut down the largest school district in the state. Take the most populous county in the state and combine it with a very rural county. Remove the major city (Minneapolis) and all the wealthy suburbs. What you've got left is traditionally white but with recent non-white immigrants, working class, conservative. That is the Anoka-Hennepin school district. The death rate from suicides, mainly caused by bullying supported by teachers and administrators, was so high that the school district became a point source of youth mortality, which set off alarms, and broght in the CDC.

Two African American women were severely beaten by a bunch of white dudes in a pickup. Transgender people were attacked, some killed. Other bad things happened, joining the intolerance against Somali people, other racist things, the suicides, all that, and ultimately seemed to create a backlash. Programs were implemented. Non profits formed from the blood of some of those who were killed. Government officials and agencies responded. The school districts got involved. There was a not very well organized but widespread push against racism and general intolerance.

Making intolerant remarks and acting in a racist manner went from being expected, normal, maybe even a form of local enterainment, to becoming not OK, frowned upon, disallowed, and in some contexts, punishable.

I believe that overt racism in the northern ring suburbs of the Twin Cities declined.

In one of many incidents, a Muslim girl was attacked at Northdale Middle School, Coon Rapids, for wearing a headscarf. In one of many incidents, a Muslim girl was attacked at Northdale Middle School, Coon Rapids, for wearing a headscarf.

Did this happen because people got less racist? No. It happened because racists learned the one thing that we can actually teach them, and that they can actually do.

They learned to shut the fuck up.

They learned to top being so overt.

This is important because overt racism normalizes racism. Overt racism provides a daily ongoing lesson for the young, growing up and trying to figure out how to act. Overt racism perpetuates racism. Racists shutting up attenuates the cultural transmission of racism.

Making racism not normal, making racists shut up in as many contexts as possible, slows down the spread of racism, and can lead to its decline, much more effectively than being nice to racists can ever hope to accomplish.

The rise of white supremacy, with Trump

Then Donald Trump gets elected. Act III.

maplegrovhighschooltrumpsupporterdoorI'm not going to argue about whether or not Donald Trump is some sort of leader of the American white supremacy movement. He has been cagy in what he has said, and rather than definitively repudiating the white supremacists, he appointed as "top advisor" one of the country's best known and most active white supremacists. His immigration policies are mainly directed at people not considered white by white supremacists, and that policy includes getting certain people on a registry, which is the first step in incarceration which is one step closer to elimination by some means or another. I assume that when Trump tries to throw people out of the country because of their ethnicity, he will encounter problems similar to those encountered by the Nazis in their efforts to get rid of undesirables. For example, you can't just expel people to another country. The other country can say no. In the end, the Trump administration will have to find a solution to that. What, I ask, will be Trump's final solution?

Within minutes, it seems, of Trump's victory, we had overt racism everywhere. In these places in Minnesota that had experienced serious intolerance, where this intolerance was just starting to be handled (making people shut up being the first step), we see the name "Donald Trump," the name "Hitler," the symbol of the swastika, and phrases like "whites only" or "fuck niggers" and "white America" scrawled on walls and doors and other things in schools, added to notebooks handed in to teachers, and so on.

Racism, rather than being pushed down and smothered, is being normalized, and those who would normally keep to themselves, and thus not be contaminating the up and coming generation, have found their voice.

maplegrovehighschooltrumpsupportertpIt is not time to be nice. It is not time to make reasonable, thoughtful, convincing, logical, nuanced, historically contextualized arguments. Well, sure, do that, we all love such things, that's why we watch the Rachel Maddow show. But when it comes to communicating with racists, don't bother. Just shout at them, and tell them to sit down and shut up.

The two images I'm showing here are from the a high school in the northwestern suburbs of the Twin Cities. From a farther Western suburb, I could show you a homework assignment with swastikas and "Trump" and "Hitler" written all over it, but I don't have permission to use the photo. White supremacists, racists, the other scum of the earth that always live among us are rearing their ugly heads and letting us know who they are. Even when they are violent, as they often are, we should not be violent against them. But we can make them shut up.

If people are allowed to place collective blame on white-skinned people for all the ills of the world, they shouldn't really be surprised when some of those white people express similar sentiments in reverse.
If the original racists in this equation are so thin-skinned they can't take the heat, maybe they could consider dropping all the "white privilege" nonsense.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 22 Nov 2016 #permalink

That was a reference to "deplorable" situations in one's life.

How apropos...

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 22 Nov 2016 #permalink

#1 Craig Thomas - in the spirit of this post
Shut the Fuck Up

By Walt Garage (not verified) on 22 Nov 2016 #permalink

Dr Laden, thank you for this article - insightful and depressing in equal measure I would say.

By David Griffiths (not verified) on 22 Nov 2016 #permalink

I think I understand what a racist is.

Do you extend this to sexism and homophobia?

What is the definition of sexism?

For example, do you consider it sexist to require a female to use the women's bathroom (I am referring to public restrooms)?

Or a male to use the men's bathroom?

I don't.

Some say that a person can change their sex by cosmetic surgery or even with a legal ruling.

I personally do not believe that a person's sex changes with any type of surgery we are currently capable of.

The legal hypo is more difficult - because I understand that some courts are actually allowing people to change the sex on their birth certificates and/or drivers licenses - even though there sex has not really changed - very troubling.

Given that - how can it be sexist to require a male to use the men's public restroom?

So - is my belief sexist?

And therefore should I shut the fuck up?

We could also have a similar conversation about the word "marriage".

In Minnesota, we passed a law to allow same sex marriage.

So in Minnesota the word marriage has been expanded to cover the relationship between any two people.

But this can be different for each state.

So consider a state which decides they don't like using the word "marriage" for same sex relationships (for whatever reason in my hypo).

What if that hypothetical state changed its laws to call all civil "marriage" actions "civil unions". So thereafter, in that state, any two people would apply for a civil union license rather than a "marriage" license, without regard to the sex of the two people (opposite sex or same sex).

This action would pass equal protection (in my opinion) and therefore not violate the supreme court ruling recently passed.

Civil unions/marriage is a state law creature.

Would there be any problem with this action?

Would it be homophobic?

It would be great if we could have a respectful conversation about the two issues I have raised - because I suspect we will be discussing them for many years to come.

RickA,

We could have a respectful conversation if you had in fact raised issues, but I don't get what it is you think you are talking about. I think maybe it falls into the category of circular reasoning, or maybe just foggy thinking.

1. If all bathrooms were unisex-- and many bathrooms are, and they work fine-- then there is no "issue". So, there is no underlying principle that validates your question.

2. If a State changes the name of civil "marriage" to civil "union", it would be profoundly silly and a waste of taxpayer money, because it would have to be explicitly stated in the law that for all purposes, Federal and Inter-State, the two words mean exactly the same thing.

#1 Craig Thomas

This isn't a fucking competition, some race to the bottom where whoever is being discriminated against most wins. Racism is bad, period, and one side being racist doesn't justify the other. So instead of saying that racist black people brought it on themselves, say that racism is bad, period, and when anybody is racist, tell them they are an idiot.

" personally do not believe that a person’s sex changes with any type of surgery we are currently capable of."

You've already shown yourself to be an idiot - no need to reinforce it.

"What if that hypothetical state changed its laws to call all civil “marriage” actions “civil unions”.

There is nothing that would provide people in civil unions the same benefits "marriage" provides, but plenty that would allow bigots like you to devise ways to discriminate them. Your proposal is designed simply to protect your mythical idea of "marriage".

"Would it be homophobic?"
That would likely be the motivation, yes. Coupled, of course, with a great deal of ignorance and general bigotry. Just what is expected from the right and "libertarians" who are incapable of anything resembling reasoned thought. But it was in your post, so...

Zebra #7:

Yes - if all public restrooms were in fact unisex than there is no issue. I agree.

However, not all public restrooms are unisex.

So this is an issue.

Do you think it is sex discrimination to make a man use the men's room?

Again - I am referring to a state which actually labels it public restrooms with a sex label (mens womens etc.). This is common.

I understand a state could remake all its public restrooms into unisex - but I don't think that is required by law or any court ruling (yet).

Do you think a female who has had gender reassignment surgery has their sex changed by the surgery?

Those are what I think are the issues (at least related to the bathroom issue).

Personally - I think sex is determined by your genes.

XY is male and XX is female.

If you are male - every cell in your body is XY (except spermatozoa, which are 50% X and 50% Y).

If you are female - every cell in your body is XX (except your eggs which are 100% X).

Surgery doesn't change that.

What are your thoughts on these issues?

dean #9:

Thank you for your thoughts.

Can you elaborate on how surgery changes a person's sex?

I don't understand your comment.

zebra #7:

On your second point:

2. If a State changes the name of civil “marriage” to civil “union”, it would be profoundly silly and a waste of taxpayer money, because it would have to be explicitly stated in the law that for all purposes, Federal and Inter-State, the two words mean exactly the same thing.

Sure - it could be silly and a waste of money.

However, that doesn't mean a state might not do this.

I rather expect one will do this - in light of the recent supreme court ruling.

I don't think a State would have to say boo about Federal law - that is up to the Feds to deal with.

But I agree that the terms would be equivalent - no doubt that is true.

However, a couple would still get a civil union license and it would leave it up to the churchs in that State as to whether they would allow a "marriage" or not. So religions do marry same sex couples and some don't.

I would say that the problem with "marriage" is that it provides specific benefits that are withheld from others solely on the basis of the contract that is specifically called "marriage". I have two friends (in case you wondered, male and female) who recently got married for the sole reason that it provided a number of benefits. One of those benefits was a much easier protection of the rights of both of them with respect to their son.

I think, also based on discussions I've had with homosexuals, that most homosexuals would have no problem whatsoever with something being called a "civil union" in general, and "marriage" only for heterosexual civil unions, if both provided equal protection/benefits. But they often don't.

RickA's points about gender identification showed a profound ignorance on the topic. In one way it is true that an operation does not change one's sex. If someone who considers herself to be female has her penis removed and replaced by a vagina, she has not changed her sex *in her view*. She's just become more "female". For some others, she will always remain a "male", despite having the physical attributes of a female, and very likely also the brain structure that is more similar to that of the average female. So, in neither case has she changed her sex...but there remain two different views of what that sex really is. And that can be a major problem and cause gender dysphoria...which is in essence a form of psychological abuse.

Marco:

In my hypo both same sex and opposite sex couples have all the same rights conferred by civil union. It is just that my hypo state changed the word for everybody - by a State responding to the Supreme court case.

I figured we might as well discuss this - as I believe one or more states are likely to do this.

I am glad you agree with me about sex changing surgery.

I understand that there are different views of what sex is.

However, given that reasonable minds can differ - do you think it is 100% sex discrimination for a state to still require that females use the female restroom and men the male restroom?

Personally - I cannot think of a legal theory which would find sex discrimination for treating a person according to their sex (at least as perceived by the group in charge of a state which think sex refers to XX vs XY).

I get that people feel that they were born into the wrong body and can experience gender dysphoria - but that is a separate issue to me than whether a state has the right to have a law which requires people to use the restroom of their actual sex and not their perceived gender.

The supreme court is going to rule on this - using Title IX - which explicitly is a sex discrimination law (not a gender discrimination law) - so I think this is a very interesting issue.

Greg: Soon after moving to the Twin Cities, I ended up in a northern near-outer-ring suburb (we classify our suburbs by which ring they are in). The northern outer ring suburbs are working class, conservative (but often Democratic because of the Union presence), and a bit xenophobic.

So, you ended up in the Outer Zone... Did you encounter any Longcoats?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0910812/

Yes, I'm being facetious. But IMO the situation depicted in Tin Man has some relevance to our current situation.

By Christopher Winter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

RickA #10,

Unless there is an underlying principle, which you haven't articulated so far, your argument is circular. You are really saying "men should use men's bathrooms because men should use men's bathrooms."

And saying "there are already men's bathrooms" is the same thing, in addition to being an is-ought fallacy; we could just remove the existing signs and they would become unisex bathrooms. So, your justification for not doing that is "we have men's bathrooms so that men will use men's bathrooms".

You have no starting point for your argument.

And it is absolutely racism-equivalent to base your suggestion on genetics. That should be obvious even to you.

RickA #12,

No, it must be explicit that for Federal and Interstate purposes the two terms are equivalent. Civil marriage is a right, so a State cannot materially deny it or its full faith and credit benefits to residents. Therefore, it must be clear that civil union in one State is equivalent to civil marriage in other States, and also confers exactly the same benefits on the Federal level.

So, it would be written as only a name change; it would have to say "this is exactly the same condition as what other people call civil marriage, but our documents will have a different word at the top."

This whole issue has been talked and litigated to death and is so over.

RickA - Are you aware that there are some people whose sex chromosomes are other than XY or XX? Or that there are some who are XY but, because they cannot respond to testosterone, are born with a totally female appearance? Or that there are even a very few people who are BOTH XY AND XX because of chimerism, i.e., fusion of two fertilized eggs after conception? These people exist. I suspect you wish that they did not because you want to believe that your deity put each of us, at conception, into Box A or Box B, and that that deity doesn't make mistakes (or show mercy for the unusual). You particularly would have to hate chimeric individuals, because they leave us with no choice but to admit either that one does not receive a soul at the moment of plasmogamy or that such people have two souls apiece! Trouble is, they do unquestionably exist. As a Repug recently said in another context: Suck it up, buttercup.

@Rick A -

Many, if not most, modern Westerners see gender as something different from and not necessarily congruent with the genitalia you were born with. This is not your view, but it is now a common view, based on actual human experience rather than theology or philosophy.

When you talk about gender re-assignment surgery, you are talking about it in a decontextualized way - you seem to think of it as a purely medical procedure, divorced from a person's own gender perception. Your view is incomplete.

You are welcome to you own opinions, of course - but if you refuse to accept a person's own gender identification, and concentrate on their genitals instead, you cannot expect to be listened to respectfully, since you are denying respect for the people you are talking about.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

What are your thoughts on these issues?

That you are a troll. The OP is about racism and dealing with racist behaviour. You are hammering away at diverting the conversation away from that. I won't speculate as to why, nor am I in a position to order you to stop or fuck off, but that's how I feel about your incessant trolling here.

@marco #13 - No, most gay and lesbian people would not now be satisfied with civil unions which had all the legal rights of marriage. That was tried, and no matter what anyone did, the two were unequal, and the rights of people in civil unions were routinely violated.

In our culture, the title of marriage has unique meanings and implications of centrality and stability which no other title can equal. The laws of marriage have changed dramatically over the last couple of hundred years, and who can marry and what their legal responsibilities are to each other have changed again and again over that time. Marriage today is very different in many ways to marriage a hundred years ago. But those central meanings and implications of stability and centrality have not changed, and gay and lesbian couples see that as their right, not to be denied to them because of other people's theologies.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

Edgar C

But those central meanings and implications of stability and centrality have not changed, and gay and lesbian couples see that as their right, not to be denied to them because of other people’s theologies.

I completely agree, but you are being trolled six ways from Sunday by RickA. Just be aware of it.

On Topic again: Yes, we need to re-establish that open racism is not acceptable behavior. What people think is less important than how they behave.

What I don't see much discussion of is dismantling the whole structure of racism we live in.

We've known for a long time that the whole modern hypothesis of races is based on 17th century notions of biology and theology. And we've known for a shorter (but significant) time that biology and anthropology have exploded those notions and proven them to be false.

Race is purely a made-up cultural thing, with no basis in biology. There are mountains of evidence, historical, anthropological and physical, to prove this.

And yet - even people who know these things, who know that we all came out of Africa a few tens of thousands of years ago and that humans descend through kin groups, not races - almost all of us still use the language of race in our daily lives and think of other people partly in terms of their assigned racial category.

I have been told that this is just handy shorthand, or that it's just a quick way to say important things - but no, it's not. It's racism in that it continues to support the whole framework of race in which we live.

It's very difficult to have these conversations and to talk about racist realities without using racial terms as if people really were "white" or "black" or "asian" - racism is so pervasive in our world and language that it's difficult to step back and notice how deeply embedded we all are in it. But, let's try.

I've started to use "assigned racial category" when a person's supposed racial category is important to a situation (unarmed men being shot by police is an example). It's awkward and cumbersome, but there's no good alternative I've found. And I try to identify groups or people by actual characteristics, not racial categories. But this takes work, I was raised here, and breaking out of this framework is not easy.

I'd like to see more discussion of the actual framework of race we all live in, the language of race that we are stuck with, and how to work our way out of this cage together.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

jane #18:

yes - I am aware.

I am also aware of XXY and XYY individuals.

Your right - I am absolutely ignoring these individuals, and just dealing with the vast number of XX and XY individuals.

This is not a religious issue to me - but one of pure biology.

People cannot change their sex by surgery - of any kind.

A simple blood test is sufficient to objectively determine a person's sex - so it doesn't matter how that person perceives themselves.

To me this is not about denying respect to a person.

The vast majority of people are either XX or XY and I was wondering if you think it is sexist for a state to label a public restroom WOMEN (or equally XX).

zebra points out all bathrooms could be converted to unisex - which is true. But my question is does a state HAVE to convert all bathrooms to unisex?

Personally, I don't think so.

@bbd #23 Yes, I know Rick's a troll. Sometimes I respond anyway, in case another reader could get a boost today from knowing that, although they are under attacks by these trolls, they are also supported and understood, and other LGBT people are out there trying to nullify the bad actions of people like Rick.

And there is also the possibility that Rick has his own identity issues, and is trolling as a way to prove to himself he's not really gay or bi or trans - that's so common. In which case, I'm talking to his better self, the self who wants to get rid of his theological chains.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

Edgar #19 said "When you talk about gender re-assignment surgery, you are talking about it in a decontextualized way – you seem to think of it as a purely medical procedure, divorced from a person’s own gender perception. Your view is incomplete."

I have to confess - I don't understand the term "gender". I always thought it referred to sex and there were only two genders.

Now I see facebook has 58 different genders.

All I know is sex discrimination is based on a person's sex - not their gender (whatever that has come to mean).

And sex doesn't change - no matter how a person perceives themselves - or what cosmetic surgery they undergo - or even their reasons for having the surgery performed.

So I look forward to seeing how the Supreme Court deals with this thorny issue.

Some people say only white people can be racist.

I disagree.

Anybody, of any race, can be racist.

Isn't affirmative action racist?

RickA #24,

Yes, based on your particular reasoning in fact, separate bathrooms based on genetic markers is probably discriminatory, and States could be required to go unisex. It's a classic compelling interest case, which you should know.

How is "XX Only" different from "Whites Only"?

And what compelling interest is served by that approach when the option of unisex exists?

Go ahead, show off your lawyer chops.

@rickA #24 You are side-stepping the whole difference between gender and genitalia because you can't honestly find any objection to women using women's rest rooms and men using men's rest rooms, no matter what gender they were assigned at birth. So go on and on about chromosomes if you want, it's clear to everyone else that you're dealing with bigger issues in your life than X or Y chromosomes. I wish you luck in achieving peace with yourself.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

Edgar Carpenter #23,

I can't begin to count the number of times I've said "there's no such thing as race", of course to no effect.

But I think it is reasonable to use a category like African-American (or even Black, if the context is clear) when it is understood as an ethnic group.

In the end though, reason is not going to prevail, because people are apes-- the woman Greg describes is in fact acting exactly like an ape, and the target of her screeching acted more like a "human". At least she didn't throw her feces...

zebra #28:

The compelling interest I would advocate is privacy.

If we just took down the men and womens signs and said unisex (say at an airport) - you would have multiple people of different sexes using the restroom at the same time.

I think quite a few people would object to this - based on a privacy concern.

Of course, a state could reconstruct all public restrooms to provide a large number of single occupant unisex restrooms - but the expense would be large.

I would argue that there is no compelling interest in making women and men share the same facilities simultaneously and in fact the state has a compelling interest in not forcing people of the opposite sex to share restrooms simultaneously.

Or else why did the custom evolve in the first place?

The bigger question is doesn't a state have a rational basis for requiring XX to use the womens room and XY to use the mens room?

Rational basis is a lower standard and probably the proper test for this case - which doesn't involve any sex discrimination, per se.

Edgar #29:

I think we agree.

There is no problem with women using the women's room and men using the men's room.

Our communication problem is probably related to what you mean by "women" and "men".

I don't think you mean the same thing I do when you use those terms.

I use the term women for XX and men for XY.

@30 Zebra - yes, African-American is not the same as Black. But I try to avoid using Black or White or whatever without qualifications no matter what the context these days.

We have not always lived in this framework of race, and that gives me hope that we can get out of it.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

Why is RickA so desperate not to talk about racism and how to deal with it?

I mean we all know he's a fucking troll but this is ridiculous.

@rickA #32 Oh, Rick! You've never seen an X or Y chromosome in person, but you've seen and interacted with men and women who were Trans if you live anywhere but a very small town. You didn't know that they were Trans because they are men and women - Trans refers to how they got there, not who they are now.

And if you think you can reliably guess a person's chromosomal makeup from their appearance - no, you can't.

There have been many instances recently of women with XX chromosomes being ejected from women's restrooms by zealous anti-Trans men because these women didn't look
"womanly" enough.

Men like you, Rick, who think in stereotypes, don't do your homework, and ignore the real world.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

BBD #34:

I don't think there is much to say about Greg's post.

Of course you can tell racists to shut the fuck up.

Done.

I found the question of extending the metaphor to sexism and homophobia much more interesting.

If you don't, than don't engage.

Edgar #35:

Which public restroom a person uses has always operated on the honor system.

I see no reason to change that.

I also don't care how people perceive themselves.

But would you agree that how I choose to perceive another is up to me?

A woman who has had surgery to look like a man and dresses like a man and takes hormones to develop male secondary sexual characteristics is still a woman - don't you agree?

A person's sex cannot change, no matter how they perceive themselves, or dress or look - do you agree?

A woman who had a radical hysterectomy is still a woman - no matter how they dress - do you agree?

A eunuch is still a male - no matter how they dress - do you agree?

Live and let live, I say.

But XX and XY are reality (for the vast majority of course) - are they not?

How someone feels is something else altogether.

I am truly interested in your thoughts on this topic.

I found the question of extending the metaphor to sexism and homophobia much more interesting.

There's no 'metaphor'. You are simply changing the topic by force.

To paraphrase from Greg's OP (with which I am in agreement):

This is important because overt trolling normalizes misinformation. Overt trolling provides a daily ongoing lesson for the young, growing up and trying to figure out how to act. Overt trolling perpetuates misinformation. Trolls shutting up attenuates the cultural transmission of misinformation.

Making trolling not normal, making trolls shut up in as many contexts as possible, slows down the spread of misinformation, and can lead to its decline, much more effectively than being nice to trolls can ever hope to accomplish.

And just look at what trolling can put in the White House. Or in Downing St.

"A woman who has had surgery to look like a man and dresses like a man and takes hormones to develop male secondary sexual characteristics is still a woman – don’t you agree?"

No, why would they (unless they wanted to be a bigoted asshole)?

Oh, now I see the reason for your question.

dean #39:

How can I be a bigoted asshole when I perceive the person as being what sex they actually are in reality?

I really find this topic fascinating.

Remember - we are not talking about how this person perceives themselves.

But how I perceive them.

Or do you think one person's view of reality trumps (sorry) the other 8 billion people's view of reality?

Remember – we are not talking about how this person perceives themselves.

But how I perceive them.

It always comes back to the supremacy of your opinion, doesn't it, RickA?

Which, given what you are, is unfortunate for others.

@ bigoted RickA

People cannot change their sex by surgery – of any kind

Actually, yes they do. If you use sex as the organ and not the gender.
Your position is actually funny. For as long as history was recorded, the consensus view was, if it has a penis, it is a boy. You are now arguing the exact opposite.

Your counter-examples are not that good. In all civilisations with eunuchs, these people were actually not considered male anymore, post-operation. Eunuchs were at best part of a special caste, at worse outcasts, but in all cases less of a man.
In many cultures, women who are not able to procreate anymore are often not considered "full" women, either.

Actually, simple question to check the honesty of your position:
Assuming you are male and hetero, I guess you won't have any issue sleeping with a woman-to-man trans person?
After all, by your argument, he is still a woman.

I also don’t care how people perceive themselves.

Well, in this case, why should we care about you?

By Helianthus (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

"Or do you think one person’s view of reality trumps (sorry) the other 8 billion people’s view of reality?"

Is he really asserting that the other 8 billion people in the world would side with him on this issue? He's not really that stupid is he?

Edgar #33,

"we have not always lived in this framework of race"

Dude, I know you mean well but... yes, we have, always, because we are apes, and every one of us is born with the potential to revert to those group identity behavioral modalities. Not to do so is a struggle, even for those who strive for spiritual advancement. Society acts accordingly.

There has never been a time, in my understanding of human history, when this was not the case. Care to offer a counterexample?

RickA #31,

I always give you a chance, and you always blow it.

"Privacy" is not a "compelling interest", for the purposes of examining constitutional issues. Any lawyer would know that.

Privacy is a right (for individuals), and the government would need a compelling interest to violate that right. That's how it works, and any lawyer would know that.

As for how you "perceive" people... that's just wacky, since you don't have a DNA test to tell you that even a drag queen with absolutely no surgical or hormonal intervention is actually a male. Do you have some kind of drag-dar that the rest of us lack?

@zebra #44 The current framework of race we live under is historically recent - it started development in the 1600s. This wikipedia entry covers a lot of it's development https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historical_race_concepts

Yes, people have always distinguished between us and them - but modern races have not always existed.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

#40 RickA - but, honey, you don't perceive people by their genetic makeup. You can't see their genetic makeup. You treat women as women and men as men - but some of those people don't have the genetic characteristics you think they do. And it doesn't matter.

So you have backed yourself into a corner, and in a Trumpish way you are just doubling down and getting louder - but that doesn't change the fact that you are just blowing smoke out of your assh0le, and your actual perception of other people is based on what they look like and how they act, not on genetic information you don't have.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

I think what Edgar is saying is that some people are dishonest and actively try to mislead you as to their genetic reality.
Not sure what the point of bringing such outliers into Rick's conversation is - unless it's to prove that post-modern wafflers tend to share a serious problem with basic logic.
Notice he would rather use some ridiculous 3-word concoction instead of the word "race" when referring to somebody's race?

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

@48 Craig - no, as you know, what I'm saying is that one's genetic code is not necessarily connected to one's gender. Trans men and women are just men and women - how they got to their present gender is irrelevant to anyone but themselves and those who are close to them. Whether you approve of that or not has no bearing on its reality.

And if you are still clinging to the 19th century beliefs in race, so are most Americans. A huge minority of Americans don't think evolution happens, either. And some still believe that the earth is the center of the universe.

Are you RickA's brother? Fellow congregant at his church? You sound like your minds move in lockstep.

By Edgar Carpenter (not verified) on 23 Nov 2016 #permalink

Edgar, I think we are violently disagreeing on something we agree on. If civil unions would confer the exact same benefits as "marriage", no one would really care what it is called.

RickA's insistence on the genetic make-up to be the deciding parameter as to which bathroom a person should use is interesting, as he at the same time seems to suggest it would cause privacy concerns when you have unisex bathrooms.

So, to RickA it's no privacy problem that a person with a penis is in the same bathroom as a person with a vagina as long as both have XX chromosomes, but is *is* a privacy problem when one has XY chromosomes, and the other XX chromosomes.

And to also get back to the topic: what race is Barack Obama, and why?

Edgar #46,

Yes, I understand that the word itself has varied in application over time. But as you said yourself in #49, people believe in all kinds of nonsense. Why? Well, that's an easy one; it's a matter of group identity. That particular aspect of our apeness is one which, in my experience, even those who claim to understand evolution tend to deny or downplay.

Although xenophobia, group identity, etc, have probably always been a human feature, it simply isn't true that any useful definition of racism would allow us to extend racism, so defined, broadly.

Edgar is correct. Modern American racism, as distinct from other times and places, is a product of fairly recent history. I would not say it existed in 1600, but it certainly started to develop in the 17th century, and it certainly has roots that predate 1600 in Europe.

American racism is distinct from other things we might easily identify as racism, and racism in any given culture will generally be found to have complex historical underpinnings that are important.

Here's the thing. You can probably find something like racism, or more exactly, something that you can call racism, in most places in the world. However, you can't lay out the salient facts of American racism and find those things everywhere in the world. I'm referring here to the racist view of what categories there are, what a category is, how the categories come to be, and several different types of meaning assigned to the categories.

For instance, in American racism, criminality is a key feature of our racist construction, even if that specific meaning is not apparent in every racist act. The dominant culture is the victim, the subdominant category are the criminals.

There are "in group" associations in other cultures where that is reversed, or very hard to find.

In American racism, almost everybody agrees about the dominance of a given race, if they regard races as existing and having a dominance thing. This is a very deep and nearly intractable aspect. Even the subdominant groups regard themselves as lesser. Liberal thinking, which seeks to eschew racism, does not necessarily question the hierarchy, but rather, tries to make the hierarchy fair. American racism works this way. Subdominant groups interact with dominant groups as subdominant groups, not as alternate dominant groups, most of the time.

That is often not a feature of racism in other areas. Often, each group believes themselves to be dominant. (No, black nationalism or black power groups in the US do not falsify this. In social phenomenon, you will ALWAYS find falsification if a single case is assumed to falsify a pattern. But that isn't how things work when looking at culture and society, only physics.)

Here's the thing: When we speak of racism in this kind of conversation, we are usually using the term as shorthand for "racism here and now" which means, at least, the present century and Western, often the present decade and American.

When we then interrogate culture and society across all time and space to be species wide, we have to recalibrate that. The term "racism" applied at that level ceases to be useful in a conversation about white check out clerks dissing black immigrants, or Hmong farmers tilling the soil in white academic's back yards in a Saint Paul suburb.

Greg,

Nice discourse, but I am being misunderstood I think.

I am not equating the group identity concept with racism. I am saying that your check-out clerk's "USA specific racism" exists, is internalized, and maintained, because it is a way to establish and maintain membership in her group. Likewise, as Edgar points out, rejection of Evolution and other science, and acceptance of origin myths, and so on.

So, your original point about changing racist's mind being really hard is correct, but not because there is something compelling about racism on an individual level. It's because he and she don't want to be rejected by their peers.

It may be that racism in particular is more appealing to those for whom group identity is most important, but as I said, we are all capable of being swayed in whatever direction the group leads. The more we mature and develop spiritually, of course, the less that is the case.

That is often not a feature of racism in other areas. Often, each group believes themselves to be dominant.

Might we not rather call this tribalism? My understanding of the term 'racism' is that superiority of the dominant group is automatically assumed and that the supposed inferiority of other groups is the core definition of the racist outlook.

In this respect, 'American' racism is identical to the colonial mindset underpinning white British racism even today.

BBD,

Some points:

1. "Tribalism" carries its own baggage of the colonial era. You or I might understand a nuanced interpretation, but it is one of those terms easily employed in aid of the very thing we are arguing against.

2. "Asians are better at math" is an example of racism, as I understand it, because it attributes a universal characteristic to a group otherwise identified primarily by appearance. So no, inferiority is not always an element.

3. Dominance is the issue. I refer you again to Authoritarian Personality. Try reading Altemeyer.

http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

Racism perhaps works better with more Authoritarian individuals because it is simple. But it isn't "innate"; if it were, we wouldn't have that filthy miscegenation going on all the time.

However, the potential for Authoritarian behavior is innate, much as many otherwise educated and intelligent people would like to deny it. When chimps commit genocide, it isn't because they think the other group is "inferior", it is because following their aggressive leader without question has been a successful evolutionary strategy.

3. Dominance is the issue. I refer you again to Authoritarian Personality. Try reading Altemeyer.

That's what I said:

" My understanding of the term ‘racism’ is that superiority of the dominant group is automatically assumed and that the supposed inferiority of other groups is the core definition of the racist outlook. "

So not sure what you are driving at?

I agree that tribalism is a loaded term but unsure how else to characterise the mutual antipathy between groups where each believes itself to be superior.

BBD

See my point #2.

2. “Asians are better at math” is an example of racism, as I understand it, because it attributes a universal characteristic to a group otherwise identified primarily by appearance. So no, inferiority is not always an element.

There is *no way* you can make a point out of this as it can be expressed from within a viewpoint that Asians are inferior to whitey. Sweeping generalisations about supposed ethnic characteristics usually are.

It would be a racial stereotype, but is that sufficient to be racism? After all, even Hitler wasn't racist because he thought Aryans were the best and most advanced humans on the planet, but because he thought Jews, Slavs, Asiatics, Blacks, um, did I leave anyone out there?, were less than human *and wanted them removed*.

How could he "love them" and "want them to be removed" at the same time?

By Brainstorms (not verified) on 28 Nov 2016 #permalink