Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Idiots, Racists, and Sexists, Oh My!

Today, I have a topic ripe for the flaming. I am not a person to pick sides of an argument until I have sufficient data. To the surprise of many people, I believe racism and sexism to be such under-evidenced arguments. Perhaps it is there and I am merely ignorant of it, but I would expect better arguments during discussions and newscasts if that were the case. Do not confuse me with saying that racism or sexism is not bad, of course, or that it does not exist at all, but that I have not yet decided if they are hugely prevalent issues that we need to take a stand against--or, at least, in the way we are currently doing it. The media seems to portray these issues as being systemic and integrated into the very fabric of our modern lives. I am simply not yet convinced. Since it is widely discussed and proclaimed, I can honestly say I am intrigued, I am listening, and I am open to believing this is the case, but I need much more data than what is being presented.

When we talk about racism and sexism, I can almost assuredly state that the first thing that comes to your mind is whites hating blacks and men demeaning women. Does this not already indicate racism and sexism toward the white male though? The stigma is astounding and few seem to realize that racism and sexism goes both ways. In trying to discuss these issues, I am often immediately confronted with, "What do you know? You're a white male! I'm going to trust what the black female is saying!" Granted, the black female is going to have a lot more experience being treated unfairly by white male racists and sexists, but is this statement not glaringly obviously racist and sexist? In fact, it is downright infuriating that my opinions, logic, insights, ideas, and my person are so easily demeaned as useless simply because I am a white male. So I can say without a doubt, yes, sexism and racism exist. I feel it and know it every time I try to have a decent discussion regarding the topic. Even mentioning that the white male is discriminated against raises angst and hatred from non white-males. This is clearly discrimination.

Of course, I should get back to the discrimination against blacks and females, however, since they are the ones often touted as being held down in America and I am not an advocate against white male discrimination. I am an American by birth, but I am not the patriotic American that thinks we are the greatest country in the world and that we can do no wrong. We probably do some things alright, and there are many things we fail miserably at. I reserve judgement on whether or not racism and sexism is a problem in America. Obviously it exists to some extent in the same way idiots exist, but we do have a non-white president for goodness' sake and a female was a viable candidate as well. These things are not proof that such things are not a problem, of course, but they certainly are cause for an eyebrow raise or two when hearing that white men are keeping the blacks and women down. In fact, much of what is complained about is subconscious behaviors that we are supposedly not aware of.

For instance, there is a quiz one can take that will determine if we have a bias towards blacks or whites. In this test, we simply click one of two buttons if an image or word fits a particular category. One button will be for anything good or white and the other button will be for anything bad or black. Most everyone is very efficient at this including black people. As soon as we switch up the roles, however, and make one button white/bad and the other good/black, people have a much slower reaction time including blacks as well. This is to indicate that our brains are hardwired subconsciously to correlate blacks with bad and whites with good and this supposedly reveals our racist tendencies and how we even corrupt the minds of black people to see the same.

Apart from jumping straight to racism without considering other alternatives such as white being associated with happy things like weddings and black being associated with sad things like funerals, would this form of racism really tell us anything? If we say that it is true, that this is revelation of racism, does it change our day to day actions toward black people? I know for me, I have not recently defamed a black person, denied them a job, spit on them, or called them names. Whatever subconscious associations I have with the color black or black people, it has not caused me to do them any unjust harm. Perhaps there is harm being done that I am subconsciously unaware of, however. It is quite possible that whenever I see a black person I turn away and do not look at them. Or, perhaps, I stare too long. Maybe my eye twitches or I clear my throat funny. As simple as these things sound, if this happened to me every time I walked by someone of a different race, I would probably become fairly self-conscious. And yet, it may not be well known that the white male has been called racist for so many such things that I do sometimes fear what to do with my eyes when I am near a black person. Not because I am racist by any means, but because I am afraid someone will get the wrong impression if I do something characteristic of a racist white male. Racism thus affects me adversely, but racism against the white male rather than the black or female. I am not making an argument for coddling the white male, the poor little creatures, but rather to show contrast that is quite often ignored.

Despite the white male racism, I continue on with my life and I continue working with people of a multitude of ethnicities. I work with Chinese people, Mexicans, Germans, Indians, Vietnamese, French, and Russian people. I treat them all with respect, I welcome them heartily when they visit, I help them when I have the opportunity, I treat them fairly as if any other person, and I often take them out for dinners, movies, and games. If I have subconscious racist attitudes that I am not aware of, I have an extremely hard time believing that they are causing some undue harm. And the same goes toward women. I work with many women. Some of them I respect more than certain men. Some women I do not respect nearly as much as other men or other women. As far as I know, I base my opinions entirely on capability and personality. But what of personality do I prefer? Perhaps my preferences are an indication of sexism, right? I do not like overly pushy women which might mean that I prefer submissive women and this is a culturally-bred preference because white man has been trying to keep women down for ages. Perhaps, but then again I do not like pushy men either. For it to be a construct of sexism, it would have to apply only to women.

But now, when it comes to sex and lust, we really have a problem. I am not going to lie, I am just as turned on by a sexy lady as the next man. But is this due to sexism? Do I think women are inferior and this drives my sexual desire for them? Does my sexual desire and enjoyment of less raiment indication that I think they are nothing but sex objects? Well, let us contrast this with similar questions. Does my desire to whistle when I see a bird indicate that I think birds are nothing but whistles? Does my desire to give raspberries to my children indicate that I think they are nothing but bellies to be used? Of course not. I can certainly be turned on and enjoy the beauty of the female body without thinking they are worth nothing else. And because most men share in this enjoyment of the female body, it is no wonder that it is used to sell things. If men liked whistling as much as they liked sex, we would see birds doing a lot of whistling all over packaging and in video games. I do not particularly see these things as sexism. This is not, of course, to say that some men do not see women as anything but sex objects. I am positive that some men do. The question, of course, is whether this is a pervasive problem in the world that we must be up in arms about.

There are all kinds of jerks and idiots in the world. It would be intellectual suicide to think that some sexist or racist people do not exist just as we know that many people exist who suck at driving, cheat on taxes, steal from banks, and other such things. There are a lot of bad people. People sometimes flip me off as they drive and it is hugely more prevalent in certain areas. Should we band together to fight the finger? Perhaps, and perhaps not. Considering all the evils in the world, the question is whether or not racism and sexism deserve their own share of the spotlight here in America. And, of course, whether or not that spotlight should shine on blacks and females as opposed to whites and males or any other race or even transgender. I see racism just as much as I see unkindness, selfishness, and idiocy. These things will likely never disappear. I simply do not see my own personal burden as one worthy of fighting against with up-in-arms passion any more than I ought to fight against people who cut me off in traffic. As a whole, I do fight for politeness and kindness with passion but without the arms which are anything but polite and kind.

Perhaps there is a case for women and blacks, though, of which I continue to reserve judgement as to whether or not this is the case. I am not black nor female so I do not feel the personal sting that they feel but I do not see it occurring in my immediate vicinity which I would certainly be sensitive to. From my own experiences, I see white males as being more discriminated against than blacks and females in my area. This is not to say it does not exist and that it is not a problem, but that I cannot see it to know for whatever reason. Perhaps it happens more in back alleys or something. I simply need more data to know if this is true. The data that I do get, unfortunately, is riddled with interpretation. As of 2010, in Ferguson, Missouri where an unarmed black teen, Michael Brown, was shot by a white police officer, the population was 29.3% white and 67.4% black. And yet, people will point to the police force and express disdain for there being only 3 black officers among 50 white officers. This, of course, is interpreted as racism. Perhaps it is. I really do not know since the statistics do not speak for themselves even though many people do. It is quite possible that few black people apply to become police officers. Or, of those that do, perhaps they have ties with criminal activity when a background check is done. These kinds of statistics need to be researched before a conclusion can be made. Making the conclusion without it is itself racist and sexist against the white male. It is condemning all the white officers of racism without truly knowing. This is unfair and is damaging to their careers.

Also in Ferguson, it indicated that 86% of traffic stops were for black people. We might expect it to be only 67.4% to be representative of the population. Yet it further expresses that 93% of arrests due to traffic stops were for the black people. Is this racism, or does this indicate that truly more black people are found to have reason to be arrested? If 93% of arrests are for black people, then we would be out of our pattern-matching mind to focus equally on those rarely ever arrested. This might indicate profiling, but this must be seen in the light of a cost vs benefit analysis. If 90% of white drivers at midnight have warrants for murder, I see no problem with profiling and stopping someone for driving while white. The 10% will be inconvenienced, sure, but it does not cause them harm. Meanwhile, the 90% can be stopped from committing more atrocities. The statistics might very well indicate that the black culture is skewed toward violence, criminal activity, and disrespect for authority. If this is true, then it makes perfect sense why fewer black people would join the police force. They just might be ostracized by their friends and family for joining up with the "oppressive man." 

In truth, it could be that the black population is so racist against the white population that they are unwilling to work with the white police force and instead continue to do antisocial behavior and intimidate them. There is likely a reason that Ferguson police forces came in full riot gear and tanks when the black residence started assembling due to the killing of the black teen: the black community is notoriously violent and anti-cop. This is quite clear given the amount of looting that occurred and the fact that they started assembling, chanting, and hating before they even knew the specifics of the case and indicted the officer without a trial. The jury themselves did not indict Officer Darrel Wilson, but this is itself taken as racism. If we do not trust our system, then let us focus on fixing the system which would be more effective than looting the Ferguson's stores. If we do trust our system, then we should be ashamed of ourselves for accusing an innocent police officer.

All these stories, whether innocent or guilty, are anecdotal evidence which does not immediately equate to racism or that it is a prevalent issue. It is still very unclear from these facts and yet many people make a clear-cut decision on it. We must go further. Even if the black population is indeed criminally charged and even racist against whites, we must ask ourselves why they are this way. Is it because white men oppressed them? Is it because of their enslaved or segregated heritage? Most likely, yes, this is how it all started. But we must follow up these questions with whether or not it is continuing today. Even if they were affected by racism in years past which had repercussions up until today, this does not equate to racism today. White males may have put them into their predicament, but it may very well be that they are keeping themselves in it. Perhaps white males can help with that and perhaps they cannot. Perhaps what they need is a new Martin Luther King Jr to tell them to stop looting, thugging, and being so criminally active. Perhaps they need white men to come in and give them a hug. I have no idea what is needed or what the true problem really is. I am simply hesitant to say it is racism without more information. The data either points to black culture being notoriously violent or toward unfair charges based on race. It is impossible to know which is which and perhaps which came first if both are true.

In my discussions with people regarding these things, I am often ousted as racist or sexist for being so blind or unwilling to see the facts. Such emotional appeals are understandable when people are stressed, but the fact that I know first-hand that they are falsely accusing at least one person, myself, it makes for a case that perhaps many others are just as falsely accused due to emotion. I cannot imagine that a black person saying the things I say would be accused of racism and thus I must conclude it is because I am white that the accusations come. I must conclude that, yet again, I am experiencing racism myself. The same goes with sexism. I generally only speak about these things with proponents of the feminist movement who have already made up their mind that sexism is a big deal and thus, to them, my arguments are absurd and indicate I must be a misogynist. Looking back over the course of my life, however, I am quite certain that I treat women just as respectfully as I treat men and I have never tried to rule over them as inferior. I may find them attractive, and this is certainly due to my heterosexual nature, but that does not mean that I believe they are merely sex objects as explained previously.

When discussing misogyny, cat-calling often comes up. Women indicate that they cannot go for a walk or go anywhere without people cat-calling them. First, let me express my disdain for such behavior. It is childish, rude, and abhorrent. I am embarrassed that such men exist, and I think they need to be educated to stop such terrible behavior. But the question arises, is it sexism? Do the cat-calls originate from a feeling of superiority that men are better than women or that women are nothing but sex objects? While I may not see women as merely sex objects, for me indeed only women are potential sexual partners. There will be no chance of me cat-calling a man. By nature of this, if I were to take up the adolescent behavior of cat-calling, I would only do it toward women. This would look much like picking out one sex over another to be demeaning to and would thus look like sexism, but it really simply derives from what is sexually pleasing to me. If we want to relate it back to the birds, it would be like me chanting something stupid every time I heard birds whistle simply because I really like the sound of birds whistling. If a bird did not whistle or sounded like it was dying when it did, I would likely not utilize my stupid-chant any more than a man would cat-call a woman who was unattractive to them. So are they really cat-calling because women are nothing but sex objects, or are they calling because they like what they see? Or is there a difference? There is clearly a difference between liking what one sees and believing that that is all something or someone is good for. I see cat-calling as equivalent to giving someone the finger. It is rude, childish, demeans the person, and expresses disdain. But it is only for that one person getting the finger or the one person being cat-called.

Without further data, I cannot guarantee that cat-calling stems from misogyny. It might simply stem from idiocy and a culture of idiocy where men do not think far enough ahead to consider how their actions might make a person feel by vocally announcing their pleasure with a view. While I will not excuse their behavior and claim it is a woman's fault for the way she dresses, I can pretty much guarantee that the cat-calling will significantly decrease if they dress in moo-moos stuffed with pillows and they will significantly increase if they walk around in a leaf and pasties. Similarly, if you drive around cutting people off, one will receive more middle fingers. The amount of cat-calling is thus directly tied to the perceived beauty or sexiness by the idiot doing the calling and less about the social status of women in general. Again, seeing women in this way does not indicate that is all they are good for, but it is entirely biologically wired in to desire women for sex. Being natural or biological, of course, does not make it good, but it still will not stop. What we do with that desire is where the stupid meets the road. In order to know if this multitude of men who do the cat-calling are indeed sexist and not simply stupid, one would have to look at their interactions with other women and whether or not they are treated fairly. If they are merely sex objects, then they would likely hinder them from jobs, promotions, pay, etc.

And this is seemingly proven as well, right? I have heard many statistics of this being the case. Or, at least, that fewer women are in positions of power, fewer women are promoted, and fewer women are hired. As I mentioned with regard to racism, of course, this could have a lot to do with other things. Women happen to be the only ones capable of giving birth to children in our present day and age. And many women want and desire to be a caretaker of children and of a house like a happy fairy tale dream. That being the case, it may very well be that fewer women apply. We would need to see more statistics that clearly indicate a opportunities between men and a women where all qualifications are equal and the man is significantly chosen over the woman. Or, even more clear, would be that the women were slightly more qualified and still the men are chosen. But these statistics do not exists. All we see are statistics that indicate that men and women are not equally represented based upon the population which could have many reasons such as a significant portion of women desiring to stay at home with children. This non-representation of the population is true for many things that we do not question such as men being more likely to commit murder or rape. Just because more men are in jail for murder does not mean that misandry is prevalent and men are being falsely arrested. It simply means that men murder more. Likely, it is due to testosterone. That does not excuse it, but it gives an explanation and enables clarity that it is not sexism driving the misrepresentation of females in murder and rape accounts.

We cannot take the correlations of representation and draw conclusions about them as is so often done to fight the white male. The human mind and culture is far too complex to imagine that all things should be representative. These are merely data points in a much larger picture and we need far many more points of data before we draw a conclusion. I am sure that many women feel they are discriminated against. I, as a white male, feel very discriminated against as explained in this article. Women may feel it more, of course, but I currently have no data to support that theory. Without more evidence, I cannot believe it is true simply because many women feel it to be true. It is quite possible that women are experiencing their own culture of anti-man propaganda where they feel the need to fight against the man wherever they get a chance. I see this kind of behavior fairly regularly which makes me think it is more likely.

Again, I am not trying to make a sob-story case for the white male. I understand that we have been and potentially still are more privileged. I simply do not know the possible extent to it. If it is as huge an issue as the media is making it out to be and not simply trying to gain viewership by promoting controversial discussions, then the data needs to be a lot more clear and the arguments a lot better laid out. I am interested in knowing the truth of the matter and I will wait for it to arise while being conscious of the potential and logging it in the back of my mind. Meanwhile, I see many other issues as being more pressing: lack of education in society, superstitions overriding science causing harm to others, degraded feelings of belonging to the society causing anti-social and destructive behavior, income gap making it difficult for the poor of any race or sex to thrive, women being beaten, killed, stoned, hanged, and having their noses cut off in Muslim countries, and so on. There is some heavy stuff going on right now. Cat-calls and shootings of fleeing felons are the least of my worries unless more data surfaces to indicate the harm being done. We all suffer injustices at times. Some more than others. The question is whether or not the burden is too tough and whether or not it surpasses the burdens of others that we ought to focus on one over another. Racism, sexism, and idiocy certainly exist in all directions and in all cultures. I am most concerned with developing respect and kindness as a whole which will not be uplifted with bra-burning nor looting and will indeed encompass fairness for all sexes and races. If we focus our attention on love, the smaller issues will take care of themselves while we muster our forces to fight for the civil rights and liberty for the rest of human kind.