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Post No.: 0516discrimination


Furrywisepuppy says:


There is no biological definition of ‘race’. According to one’s DNA, it’s statistically possible to be more genetically related to a random person who does not share the same ‘on-paper ethnicity’ as you than a random person who does. Hardly all genes code for skin colour or appearance. Humans are also one of the most homogenous species that we know of according to DNA and there were never ever any ‘pure races’. There are no hard and fast separations between different ethnicities of people (or breeds of dog, or breeds of domestic cat, or even between different Earthly species at the DNA level of analysis for that matter) due to the gradual nature of change in natural evolution. (Placing different organisms into different taxonomical categories or ‘boxes’ therefore isn’t always straightforward or clear-cut.) The present strong consensus is that all life on Earth today has roots to the same common ancestor.


The (simple version) biological definition of a different species is whether individuals from one group of organisms cannot interbreed with another group to produce offspring who can in turn have offspring of their own – and clearly humans of all ‘races’ can, hence all humans around today are from the same species. So ‘race’ is a social construct used to categorise people in order to serve political ends. It is made up. Yet racial discrimination is real and has huge historical and present socio-political consequences.


‘Racial gaslighting’ – like its romantic context equivalent – is about other people being dismissive when victims of racial discrimination and other racist incidents claim that they are victims of racism. Other people might say things like, “I don’t think that was racist” or, “Racism doesn’t exist anymore.” These racial gaslighters are in effect refusing to listen and may attempt to behave defensively by blaming the victims instead. The victims are then made to question their own perceptions and memories.


People born into privileged groups (of any kind) tend to naturally become defensive if they feel that their associated group is being accused of something, even though those victims of racism aren’t accusing those particular individual people of being racist. This defensiveness is therefore essentially evidence of these racial gaslighters stereotyping or homogenising their own group – by taking any criticism against other specific members of their own group as a criticism of themselves personally. For example, a white person might think ‘they’re criticising some other white people, and since I’m a white person too, they must be criticising me as well, hence I need to defend myself by defending those individuals’. This is equivalent to judging a specific member of another group according to one’s stereotype about their group as a whole. For example, by thinking ‘they’re Latino, and I’ve heard that Latino people are x, so they must be x too, hence it’s okay for me to treat them as if they are all x’.


Therefore if you are a member of an ethnic majority in a country and a member of an ethnic minority is criticising some members of the ethnic majority as being racist – understand that they’re not criticising you as an individual person (unless you’re subconsciously admitting that you’re racist as an individual too). You therefore don’t need to behave automatically defensively and dismissively. It’s about treating other people, and yourself, as individuals rather than according to the groups that they, or you, apparently belong to.


Sometimes it’s not due to being defensive but because the gaslighters are just blind to the abuse, which can often be subtle because they’re often ‘dog whistles’ (see Post No.: 0486). They don’t notice because they’re not daily or lifelong victims of such abuse themselves. Indeed, a one-off racist incident might genuinely be a misjudged comment or something innocent, but when it comes from the same people time and time again, then they’re clearly being racist. So when one of those incidents gets pointed out to a third-party then this third-party person is probably going to interpret it as just a misjudged comment or something innocent, but that’s only because they don’t get all of the other racist incidents pointed out to them so that they can spot the pattern. They’ll have to follow a discriminated person 24/7 so that the discriminated person can point out every single moment of racism or suspect moment they face to them.


But the problem is – whenever a third-party person from a privileged group is standing next to a person from an underprivileged group, there’ll be less discrimination exhibited because a racist is less likely to make racist comments or the like in front of independent third-party witnesses who might disapprove of that behaviour! It’s like sexual harassment, theft or any other immoral behaviour is less likely to happen if there are independent witnesses around – but it still happens behind their backs. And people are less likely to believe something if they didn’t witness it with their very own eyes or ears. This means that there are few opportunities for a discriminated person to say to a third-party person, “Hey, did you notice that racism from that other person?” And hardly all racist incidents are pointed out to third-parties whenever there is an opportunity to point them out anyway because it can either feel futile or the abused don’t want to come across as complainers.


People will behave more overtly in a racist manner within a group of other people who are all racists though. In these cases, these witnesses will deny that a victim of racial discrimination is a victim of racial discrimination simply because they’re racists themselves. They might not think their behaviour is unacceptable because they consider it normal within their immediate culture or cliques.


Experiencing discrimination is already a form of stress and all that entails if chronic; and not being listened to when one is trying to tell others about one’s experiences of discrimination just compounds this stress further. This stuff can lead to a vicious spiral – so lifelong experiences of racism leads to the victim experiencing unwarranted stress, which can lead to more susceptibility to illness, which can mean losing one’s job, which leads to losing sleep, which affects one’s mood, which can damage one’s relationships, which can lead to losing one’s home, and so forth. Thus it’s never just ‘something small’, and systemic problems like racial discrimination really need to be nipped in the bud.


And of course there’s the direct practical costs as well as the mental effects, such as being overlooked for jobs or promotions or receiving a lower standard of healthcare.


There are cries of, “Go back to where you came from” even towards those born and bred in the country they are currently standing in. And ad hoc rationalisations are generated that preserve people’s racist beliefs no matter the evidence presented before them, such as, “You’re an exception but everyone else of your type is y” if an outgroup member doesn’t fit their perceived stereotype of members of that outgroup. So if someone who holds a stereotype concerning a particular outgroup meets someone from that outgroup who doesn’t conform to that stereotype, such as a black person who swims, then they’ll use the rationalisation of ‘but you’re different and don’t count’. However, we’re all different in individual ways if so! Woof!


This attitude is applied to our own groups too – for instance, when members of our own city are disobeying pandemic lockdown rules by partying in large gatherings, we might conclude that ‘they’re not real citizens of our city’ and ‘perhaps they’ve come in from another city’. These kinds of biased rationalisations preserve the sense of our own ingroup’s moral or general superiority over others.


The result is that stereotypes and perceptions of outgroup or ingroup homogeneity are stubbornly resistant to change. Even when people encounter a group member who goes against that group’s supposed stereotype, people typically continue to maintain the notion of that stereotype via rationalisations.


At a racist football club, workplace or elsewhere, a foreign player or employee must perform exceptionally well in order to be accepted. Immigrants are regarded as foreign but will be deemed as ‘one of our own’ if they’re successful, such as if they’re gold medal-winning sportspeople who represented our country. It’s again the bias that one’s ingroup is associated with great things and any outgroup is associated with something less. But this bias does unfairly make it seem like ‘all immigrants are a waste of space’ and ‘all of our own people are useful and hardworking people’. This bias also means that immigrants or minority outgroups tend to be blamed as scapegoats for anything and everything that goes wrong or is considered wrong in one’s society or country. Due to these skewed perspectives, some people can be too stubborn to believe that immigrants can be net contributors to the national economy and treasury.


Some people end up thinking that their country is better off alone, or even that their people should be left ‘pure from genetic contamination’, because they think that they’re better than everyone else – but they suffer (more than most) from the ‘illusory superiority bias’. (Almost everyone is affected by this bias to some degree but racists are affected by it more than others.)


A lot of stereotypes were and are formed by slow-moving institutions like culture, politics, economics and law. Improving our knowledge and experience of outgroup members (education), mentally looking through the eyes or physically stepping into the shoes of an outgroup member to increase empathy with them, viewing intelligence, for instance, as malleable rather than fixed, thinking about outgroup variance and viewing counter-stereotypic imagery (such as a strong woman), and drawing upon positive methods of boosting one’s own self-esteem (bringing oneself up rather than putting others down) – are ways to decrease the tendency to stereotype and to in turn decrease discrimination.


Simply getting equal-status minority and majority groups together in pursuit of common goals, with a sense of ‘we’ rather than ‘us and them’, will help. (But the problem is in getting equal-status members – competition and unequal status can potentially increase rather than decrease prejudice.)


Occasionally, the desire of the minority group to have their identity specially recognised when the majority group is more ambivalent to having their own identity recognised can promote inter-group conflict and feelings of unfairness – one side might think ‘why do we need a specific African-American student union?’ while the other side might think ‘you whites questioning the need for this union is just another example of racism’. To bridge this divide, each side must recognise the differences in fuzzy perspective when balancing the sometimes opposed goals of multiculturalism and colour-indifference.


Sometimes a side might alternatively underestimate how favourably another side views them. A minority group member can reduce the chances of them being stereotyped by portraying positive categorical traits, emphasising common goals, common fates and other commonalities with the majority group, reminding majority group members of everyone’s shared values such as a sense of fairness, and praising people when they do behave fairly and without prejudice. It takes awareness – we are all subconsciously susceptible to using stereotypes and preconceptions, and it requires motivation and effort from both majority and minority members. The aim is to make anti-prejudice and anti-discrimination a cultural and social norm.


Now it is a laudable aim to teach that the colour of people’s skin doesn’t matter when we judge everyone. In an ideal world it doesn’t. However, real-world injustices have happened and do still happen and we cannot just deny them just because we think we’re being ‘colour-blind’. Equality laws exist nowadays but that doesn’t mean inequality has been eradicated – just like laws against stealing exist but that doesn’t mean that no one steals things and gets away with it every single day anymore. Discrimination exists and so we need to explicitly talk about race and prejudice. And we must somehow find our common grounds yet celebrate our differences.




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