Sunday, March 04, 2012

Random Thought on Listening to Randall Kennedy

It is no more racism that black Americans organized to protest against discrimination against blacks than it is racism that gay Americans organize to protest against discrimination against gays. If you are in a group that is discriminated against, it seems fairly natural to join with others in that group to protest against the discrimination. On the other hand, it is great that a lot of people who are not black and who are not gay have joined in the protests against discrimination.

I praise the people who participated in the bus boycotts during the civil rights movement because they did the right thing in protesting actively and pacifically against injustice. I would hope Americans of all races would share that approbation.

I wonder whether anyone who has been raised in America is totally without racist views and/or perceptions. While I think we should all oppose racism, perhaps we should be careful about the way we judge people who have racist views. Our negative judgments should be calibrated according to the degree of the views held, the willingness of their holder to countenance his/her own views, and the degree to which that person acts inappropriately the captive of inappropriate views.

Is there an argument for reparations for black Americans. If so, it is based on slavery, slavery by another name (the involuntary slavery imposed by the Southern legal system on innocent blacks for generations after  Emancipation of the slaves), the economic exploitation of the sharecropping system, Jim Crow, and a continuing pattern of racially motivated racial discrimination against blacks. For those who themselves and whose ancestors have undergone centuries of one or another form of such injustice, all of it should count. For someone like Barack Obama, whose upper class African father came briefly to the United States to attend college, whose mother was white, who was largely raised by his white grandparents, and who grew up in Hawaii where Jim Crow was not so bad, maybe not much of the historical injustice should count.

Prejudice is a mind killer! Prejudice keeps one from analysis fully based on evidence, all too often substituting false beliefs for facts. Indeed, I suspect that prejudice may often lead to habitual behavior rather than thoughtful analysis. As a result of such impacts, prejudice all to often leads to conclusions that would have been better made without prejudice, or which would have been better made through a conscious effort to identify sources of bias and counteract them. 

No comments: