Friday, March 13, 2015

The R Hypothesis

I’m not sure how you would prove that the Republican Party is racist; and yet, despite the difficulties of verification, it makes for a strong theory.  Let’s just call this the R hypothesis.  It is a sickness of our times that R can be obvious yet socially deniable.

You might want to say that detachment from simple truth--the trickery of submerged racism--is just part of the “human condition”; but I believe there are feasible societies that could rise above such fundamental deceit.  In the future, it is possible that an enlighted culture will look back on us in dismay: “how could they have acted like that and deny it at the same time?”

It is hard enough to prove one person is racist (even if a definition can be agreed upon--another towering hurdle).  Racism can be conscious or unconscious, and virulent in both forms.  It is also possible to be aware of one’s own racism, and to actively work against such inculcated bias. This sort of positive awareness and remedial approach can arise from a formal, progressive education.  Given R, Republicans would attempt to warp, inhibit and replace such education.

What do you think?

(The basic mechanism by which the right approaches higher education:  (a) no government 'handouts' to subsidize college, (b) make colleges run for-profit like a business, (c) proceed to downsize according to dogmatic preferences and the needs of the 'free market').

On the other hand, there seem very few Republicans who will admit they are racist.  This means (given R) they are either unaware of their racism or just lying.  How could someone in either of these conditions even begin to mitigate their prejudice,as might someone who, in contrast, admits they have been molded by an encompassing culture of prejudice? 

Actually, when you toss R at Republicans, they tend to call you racist in return.  On the battlefield of rhetoric, a strong offense is often the best defense (in the Empire, violent metaphors concerning battlefields, etc, are readily applied).  On a deeper level, a psychological one, the defense mechanism of projection comes into play:

Projection is the misattribution of a person’s undesired thoughts, feelings or impulses onto another person ... Projection is used especially when the thoughts are considered unacceptable for the person to express, or they feel completely ill at ease with having them. For example, a spouse may be angry at their significant other for not listening, when in fact it is the angry spouse who does not listen. Projection is often the result of a lack of insight and acknowledgement of one’s own motivations and feelings.

I think the description above sums up a large part of the problem.  In a nutshell, it is simply too painful for Republicans to admit R, whether in themselves or as endemic in their Party.  Hence they retreat from awareness.  They lack “insight and acknowledgement” of their “own motivations and feelings.”

Part of the irony is that by hiding from such pain, you increase its power over time.  Again, I want to emphasize that racist behavior is not unavoidable: such two-faced cowardice is not necessary and I  condemn those who dismiss it as ‘human nature.’  Racists are culpable.  We can change and should.

What is the evidence for the R hypothesis?  I can’t even come close to a full account here.  Actually, I find it ridicuous to even argue it.  Logic isn't why racists hold onto racism and it isn't going to change their minds.  But maybe the following is helpful to some people in some ways.

You could start by looking at recent themes in political history:  Nixon’s Southern Strategy and Reagan’s “welfare queens.”  Currently, we’ve got a very white GOP, male-dominated, that refuses not only to cooperate but even to recognize the legitimacy of the first black President (Obama).  Recently, 47 Republican US Senators wrote a letter to Iranian extremists, saying that Obama’s policies were not theirs and could easily be overturned.  Obama’s birth certificate is still challenged.  He is still called a Muslim, despite his professed and clear Christianity.  He is constantly referred to as being in league with Arab terrorists.  And so on. 

Hateful stuff.  What is the explanation, given R?  Those who believe in white superiority cannot abide a black President--it creates too much internal conflict, too much cognitive dissonance.  If Obama is a decent leader, or even just as competent as the least white leader, it shatters the view of black inferiority.  Hence, to avoid painful acknowledgement, Republicans raise up walls of denial, bolstered by hate, and they engage in the psychological defense mechanism of projection.

It seems that the assumption of R leads to learned, plausible explanations for the invidious behavior of the right wing.

Foundationally, the Republican stronghold is the racist South and Midwest, where racial tensions are high and inequality is right before your eyes.  The town of Ferguson, Missouri is currently a flashpoint, due to the recent shooting of an unarmed black man. The resulting firestorm of media attention, and protest, points to our much larger national woes. 

Now let's consider the South.

The theme of ‘lazy blacks on welfare’ resonates with statements made by Southern secessionists right after the Civil War (of course, they were Democrats back then).  Amazingly, the GOP's anti-government, lazy-poor-people theme goes all the way back to the "aggression of the North" against the South.  Such is the endurance of the mental poison.  Such is the importance of studying history, not just business management in college.

When we ask questions like the following, we reflect on the past in manner similar to how the future will reflect on us:  "How could the antebellum South have possibly denied that black people were human?"

Today, Republicans control a huge block of the government.  Racist themes surge.  Power brings privilege.  Privilege allows spin.  Given R, if the Republicans gain more power, their insidious, virulent form of racism will spread.  Much seems to hinge, sadly enough, on monetary flows, not the level of ethical reasoning in the population.  

We all suffer from the negativity and rancor generated by R.  The evidence for R is overwhelming.  And yet society pushes to pretend that R isn’t true.  If we trumpeted R, we would deeply offend people all around us, ordinary people, perhaps even our next-door neighbors.  Indeed, as I mentioned above, all of us have been socialized in a racist culture; so it's not so much a matter of who is racist, as how a person deals with it.  

Welcome to the 'United' States, where truth can get you ostracized quick.

Yes, we citizens of the Empire live in a volatile tinderbox of social complications.  Let's hope it doesn't get as bad as the ideological chasm that preceded the Civil War.  As mentioned, that wound never healed. And, despite the progress made in the 60's, I fear its continued oozing.  If left unaddressed and therefore unhealed, it will lead to the demise of the 'United' States.


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