Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dangerous Dialogue

We are told, incessantly, that we should have a dialogue about race. Indeed we should. I have been seeking just such a dialogue for years. But finding a dialogue partner of another race, particularly a black person, is exceedingly difficult.

It isn't too hard to fathom the reason. A recent article in the Philadelphia Magazine (I think) entitled "Being White in Philadelphia" is illustrative of the problem. The article explored race relations from the white perspective. It was pretty mild overall. For example, after leaving her phone in a lab, a college student e-mailed her fellow students asking if any had taken it or seen who did. Most responded that they did not, but a black student was offended as she thought she was being accused of stealing.

Granted the article was a monologue and not a dialogue, but it created quite a firestorm. Philadelphia Mayor Nutter wrote a lengthy condemnation that included a threat to curtail a constitutionally protected freedom.

More recently a white basketball analyst, (Gottlieb?) surrounded by four black analysts, quipped that he was offering the "white perspective" when it was his turn to chime in. The Twittersphere erupted and naturally called for his head. To his immense credit, Charles Barkely defended Gottlieb and said that none of the black analysts were offended by Gottlieb's joke. Even so, Gottlieb issued an apology.

So we want dialogue, do we? You first.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Arguments That I Hate

If you are a conservative willing to engage with a liberal progressive, you have probably had a conversation structured much like the following:

LP: I think we should pass a law to help the Fill In The Blank People.

C: I disagree for reasons A, B, C, and D.

LP, ignoring reasons A, B, C, and D: Why do you hate the Fill In The Blank People?

Some variation on this argument, if you can call it that, happens with such regularity that I am beginning to wonder if there is any point in discussion or debate with people who ignore your reasoning and instead focus on imagined psychological or character flaws that lead to your mean spirited point of view. Members of the political left tend to see themselves as such thoroughly decent people, yet many are able to subscribe the most vile of motives to others with no evidence whatsoever. Is there anything at all decent about such behavior?

More Bully Crap

I recently had a conversation with a local gay activist. He is actively involved with trying to help kids who are being taunted for their perceived sexual orientation or other sexual traits or differences. And then we got to talking about same sex marriage. As far as he is concerned, opponents of same sex marriage are no different morally than racists who would deny the right to marry interracially. I am not exaggerating - in his mind there is no such thing as a benign difference of opinion on the matter. Same sex marriage opponents are simply bigots, end of story.

Alert Free Racine readers will no doubt have already spotted the irony/hypocrisy. On the one hand, said activist demonstrates a remarkable sensitivity towards victims of verbal bullying, if they are gay or perceived to be gay. But if one believes that marriage is and should remain an institution between a man and a woman, then all bets are off and you are free to bully them all you like and call them bigots.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Cost of Racial Overreaction

I have been enjoying the reaction to an commentary in the New York Times called "The Good Racist People." Here is what happened: Actor Forrest Whitiker, a black man, was accused of shoplifting in a New York deli. He was not actually shoplifting. The commentary more or less took the entire New York metropolitan area to task for being racists. Instapundit has some reaction and links to more.

I had a similar incident about fifteen years ago. I was selling jewelry and I mistakenly accused a black woman of stealing. There was a miscommunication between me and the person working with me. I thought my coworker was indicating to me that the wrongly accused was holding some jewelry. When she began to walk away, I confronted her in a firm but polite manner about the jewelry. Moments later I was informed that my coworker was referring to another lady still at our display. I immediately and profusely apologized and explained that it was a miscommunication etc... I thought that was the end of that. However, the lady complained to the management of the institution that was hosting us. It was processed evidently as racial mistreatment by the lady. I explained as best I could to management that race had nothing to do with it, that it was a miscommunication, that I was not a racist etc.... In the end I agreed to submit a written apology to the woman, which I did. And despite several previous incident free jewelry sales at the institution, I was never invited back.

My takeaway. Incidents such as the above are very empowering for the supposedly mistreated minority. In my case, an innocent mistake was transformed into a racial incident that caused me to lose a valuable business connection. She got me back and then some. Good for her. Good for her? Inflating a minor incident into a major racial mistreatment has its costs, unfortunately, for members of either race. If it is assumed that minor disputes with a member of a different race are infected with overt or unconscious racial animus, it makes interaction between members of different races a far more dangerous proposition. Or, to use econospeak, the cost of relations between members of different races is potentially greater. Easy, colorblind, less defensive interactions are made more difficult. Who does that help?

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Progressiphobes Anonymous

It is hard to have a character flaw nowadays. Once upon a time, you might have been considered a jerk with a nasty temper. Now you have intermittent explosive disorder. You were a fat slob who couldn't push the plate away. Now you have the disease of obesity. You were a lazy pos who wouldn't bother to look for a job. Now you are an internet addict. And so on.

There is a long and I think accelerating trend toward the diseasification of character flaws. Whether intended or not, the trend does tend to absolve individuals of some of their responsibility for their problems. As such, it socializes the problem, ie, it demands a collective response. So naturally, I am suspicious and I suspect the left, if not the cause of the trend,  is at least supportive of it.

One notable exception to the trend. Several decades ago, psychiatrists famously removed homosexuality as a disorder from their bible of psychiatric disorders. The push has been on ever since to "normalize" the behavior and/or orientation. For the hypersensitive, I am not claiming here that that decision was wrong, only that it runs counter to the trend. But for those who think the psychiatrists were right the first time, well, congratulations, you have homophobia.

A cynic might look at the evidence and observe that the only remaining character flaws are possessed by conservatives who oppose the progressive agenda. Though they sound like psychiatric disorders, the terms homophobia and now Islamaphobia are slurs used by the left to marginalize or destroy dissenting points of view. And various slurs are attached to the opponents of the feminist, black activist, and environmentalist agendas.

I admit it. I fear the progressive agenda in all its forms. I am a progressiphobe. Perhaps their is a twelve step program for my disorder.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Transparency in Government

Transparency in government is usually a good thing. Being transparently full of crap, well..... not so much.

The City of Racine has just passed an ordinance concerning signage in businesses. "If you drive around town, you will see a lot of businesses with an inordinate amount of signs in their windows. We didn't have any regulations, so people were plastering things in their windows" says associate planner Jill Johanneck in this Journal Times article. "It is not only unsightly, it also raises some safety concerns" continues Johanneck. "If the police are called to an address and they can't see what is going on, it can cause some hazards."

But not all clutter is equally dangerous, apparently. Neon paint or paper and hand drawn lettering is apparently now a no no. But what of other clutter? My own store window is full of enticing products but is apparently exempt from the ordinance. The public safety issues, however, if there really were any, would be identical.

I would agree that some signage is ugly and unprofessional, but then again, so are some bureaucrats. Not every problem has an easy legislative solution.

On the other hand, maybe the public safety issue is legitimate. In that case, every business or home should have an unobstructed view convenient for public safety viewing. Of course from a public safety perspective the area could be rather small and be surrounded by garish blinking hand written neon signage.

Let's call it the Public Employee Examination Portal.