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Perceiving ignorance and habit as hate (Warning: "Bad language")

Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up?Posts: 16,688
(Real story)
When I was 8, I made a drawing of kids from different races. I made a stick drawing with round eyes and wrote "White". Then I made a similar one but with oval-shaped eyes and wrote "Chinese". Then I drew one more, colouring in most of the face, and wrote the equivalent of "Nigger" (this wasn't in English).
I showed this to my brother, who pointed out that "Nigger" was a bad word and I'd better replace it with "Black". I didn't know that before then.
Was I racist at the age of 8, only to suddenly stop being that day? No, I simply didn't know the implications around one word.

(A similar real story)
Alice goes on TV as a guest in a talk show. At some point she used the word "nigger" to refer to black people. This begins an outburst of people all over the internet saying how racist she is and calling her every name under the sun. Alice explains that she just used the word without thinking, because people in the area where she lives just use it without any ill will. Some people comment on this saying "Then everyone where Alice lives should stop being racist".
Supposing Alice is telling the truth, is Alice racist? No, she simply used a word out of habit, not realising that people outside her neighbourhood would attribute unintended implications to it.

(Hypothetical story)
Bob makes a new friend at work, Ahmed, who is Muslim. One day Bob invites Ahmed out for lunch with his family. During lunch, he asks everyone at the table, including Ahmed, if they'd like bacon with their food. Ahmed politely reminds Bob that eating bacon is against his religion.
Bob did know about that. Is Bob a Muslim hater? No, he's simply absent minded and acted the same way he's used to acting.

(Real story, and the one that inspired this post)
Tim watches a film where a man and woman fight. The woman totally kicks the man's arse. Tim jokingly makes a comment on Twitter saying "If she had a dick, it would be bigger than his". Cue people badgering Tim about being transphobic.
Did Tim think "Oh, how much I hate transgendered people, let's make that clear through my commentary on the film"? No. He simply made an ill-advised comment following social conventions. If he's guilty of anything, it's following such conventions without thinking about it. Hardly a hateful act.

I've seen this kind of thing happening all over the place. Like it or not, society was much less accepting of deviations from the norm in the past and effects of this remain in everyday use for many people. While it's a good idea to question everything you're used to thinking or doing (and I'll be the first one to tell people to do that), most people don't question every habit of theirs and may end up saying something that could be offensive to someone without meaning any offence.
While there will be times when someone is being purposefully offensive, I believe that in all of the above examples it's plainly obvious that each person isn't guilty of anything more than failing to examine their words before they used them, and had no hateful feelings for everyone.

Apparently, this doesn't matter to some people. Perhaps on purpose, or (I suspect) they have been victims of hateful attacks or comments and as a result they view anything potentially offensive as hateful. But this is no excuse for attacking someone who obviously didn't intend anything like this. By all means point out their mistake and ask them not to do it again (as Ahmed did in the hypothetical example) but verbally attacking them is severely out of order, and makes you the unsympathetic party.

I realise the above was more of a rant, but I'd like to offer an opinion which seems to be contrary to many people's and see what everyone here thinks.

Comments

  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    I totally understand, accept and agree with where you are coming from with this one. Sometimes the person getting offended on behalf of others is the one that often causes a genuine problem, rather than someone making a potential accidental error. Of course people should point out where they perceive errors to be, though I disagree that every situation must mean that there was both intent and malice behind it.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up? Posts: 16,688
    It's not always someone getting offended on behalf of others. In the last incident I described (perhaps other ones too) most of the flaming seems to have from actual trans women. That doesn't make it any more justified though.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    An adult using the term "nigger" to describe a black person could most charitably be described as completely fucking clueless; it stretches the limits of credulity to accept a person using it is ignorant of its etymology.

    Twitter is like the Guardian's comment section when it comes to political issues: an open sewer. I wouldn't pay the slightest attention to it or the shrill offence seekers on it.

    To accuse Tim of being "transphobic" is laughable. Tim's biggest crime is his lack of wit. That being said, I don't think these "activists" know the harm they do to the cause when they flag stuff like this. It makes them look ridiculous and belittles the acts or real hated towards transgendered people.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    You have brought up many things in you post and I'd like to address some of them here. The following is all just my opinion but hopefully you find something useful in it.

    First things first, ignorance and habit are very closely linked to hate! Habit is not an excuse, in fact its possible that xenophobia is a learned behaviour. Is it your assertion that casual racism is less racist, as it is a habit?

    Upon reading your post, my mental image of you is that of a 13-16 year old white male. I could very well be wrong in this and apologies if I am, please correct me. Why I believe this is you is that your view point is very much that of the patriarchal caucasian hegemony. From this view point it would be understandably difficult to navigate the nuanced minefields that are racism, sexism and LGBTQ-ism.

    The "ignorance" you speak of in the situation is that from a position of power, have you ever considered that while you at 8 were blissfully ignorant of the impact of a word like nigger your black counterpart at 8 would not be. Your ignorance is your privilege! That privilege is not to be waved as banner to defend your behaviour. If a child takes a chocolate bar from a shop but is unaware it is wrong to take things that are not yours have the still stolen? Also side point - at 8 where would you have picked up a word like that? Is/was casual racism a part of your home life?

    In your heavily weighted hypothetical story, Bob is a not islamaphobic, he is a bad friend though, if I was have a friend over for lunch the very least I would do would be to take in consideration the dietary requirements of my guest.

    I don't really have any thoughts about the transphobic example as I am not really away of the intricacies of the lifestyle, other than when making a joke I'd always consider audience, and that CptCoatHanger is right, its a piss poor joke.

    Thankfully we live in times with growing diversity and people are becoming more tolerant but don't kid yourself hate exists, deep entrenched hate. It has learnt to adapt to the social and political climate and use coded language ,there are examples all around e.g. Tea party/BNP/UKIP/EDL. We should always look to educate the ignorant and stand up to those who would victimize the voiceless.

    Regardless of the situation we should treat one another with compassion, but this is an emotional issues and a people may react emotionally, stay mindful of that.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up? Posts: 16,688
    So you see no difference between someone who hates people of a certain group and someone who only said something insensitive without thinking about it or without knowing and regret it when they realise? They're both evil and deserve your hate?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    No! I thought I had made that clear.
    "We should always look to educate the ignorant and stand up to those who would victimize the voiceless." Ignorance should be educated and no people should be treated with hate.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up? Posts: 16,688
    No! I thought I had made that clear.
    "We should always look to educate the ignorant and stand up to those who would victimize the voiceless." Ignorance should be educated and no people should be treated with hate.
    Well, that's exactly what I'm saying. My "beef" is with people who treat cases that are obviously because of ignorance by saying what an awful person whoever made the comment is.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    "Regardless of the situation we should treat one another with compassion, but this is an emotional issues and a people may react emotionally, stay mindful of that."
    When you reacted on an emotional level its more immediate than a logical and reasoned response and thus more likely to be uncouth.
    Also if respect and patience is what is expected from those groups correcting ignorance should respect and patience not also be extended to them?
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    shortdarkandhandsome,

    This is of course an emotive subject to you and you raise some interesting points that I perhaps hadn't considered before. However, I'm not quite sure you are addressing the point that Indrid made in the first place, I thought this might be because of the assumption that Indrid was a white teenager.

    I understand where you are coming from, but the personal example given in the original post was an 8 year old. I doubt there is much excuse for an adult to be using the word "nigger" but an 8 year old who knows nothing better?
    Ignorance should be educated and no people should be treated with hate
    I agree 100%, if someone is ignorant to something that can cause a problem then teach them. You say that no people should be treated with hate, but an ignorance as to - for example - the dietry requirements of another religion is hardly hate filled?
    If a child takes a chocolate bar from a shop but is unaware it is wrong to take things that are not yours have the still stolen?
    Of course it is still theft, much as using the word nigger is hurtful. However, in the case of a young child stealing without realising it is wrong, you dont chuck them straight in jail. Much as you don't jail an 8 year old for making what could be considered to be a racist comment.

    I do think that you've proved the point Indrid was trying to make, in that you've come in here all hot headed and addressed an issue at length, just not the specific issue Indrid was talking about. Namely that there is a difference between ignorance and someone purposefully using words in a manner intended to cause harm or distress.
  • Former MemberFormer Member Posts: 1,876,324 The Mix Honorary Guru
    " First things first, ignorance and habit are very closely linked to hate!" - Ignorance and habit do not exist in a different realm from hate. Hate is not a binary thing were you are x or y. Treating it as a binary issue can be comforting to some as it alleviates the need to analyse ones own behaviours. I felt from the first post that this was not clear and it needed to be addressed.

    Now onto the things you brought up.

    " You say that no people should be treated with hate, but an ignorance as to - for example - the dietry requirements of another religion is hardly hate filled?"

    I agree, in fact I did say - "Bob is a not islamaphobic" and the he just inconsiderate.

    "Much as you don't jail an 8 year old for making what could be considered to be a racist comment" - of course not that would be ridiculous, the legal age of criminal responsibility in this country is 10 and I was just using the example as heavily exaggerated point. The point of which you seemed to grasp, offence can still be caused by a child.

    To your final point, while I would not consider my post hot headed, it did get of topic. If you read my later posts I feel I address the question.
  • Indrid ColdIndrid Cold Warming up? Posts: 16,688
    I get the impression you think we're disagreeing on something, but I'm not sure what you think that is.

    Consideration requires conscious thought, and when people have gone through the same actions or thoughts several times it stops being conscious after a while. Even a person hell-bent on changing their habits will slip up once in a while.

    Either for this reason or another, anyone can make the mistake of treating someone else unfairly. Either that is a person causing offence without meaning to, or someone "flaming" a person who didn't mean to cause offence. The important thing is what one does after they realise their mistake, isn't it? And at the very least they should apologise -whichever one they are.
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