The fallacy of fact

FactsA friend of mine had a discussion going on his Facebook page with a guy who took umbrage to my friend’s posting of a picture contrasting the way Roof the Racist was treated by the police and the way Robocop in McKinney treated an unarmed Black girl. My friend asked me to weigh in, and I did:

‘Facts’ are relative when used solely to support the all too common arguments of modern racism. Let me start by explaining the difference between historical and modern racism.

‘Historical’ racism holds that Blacks are biologically inferior to Whites and therefore the races should be segregated.  By contrast, ‘modern’ (AKA ‘symbolic’) racism holds that some Blacks are morally inferior to Whites, and as such, don’t hold to such traditional White American values as hard work and independence. Modern racism has four basic themes:

  1. Blacks no longer face much prejudice or discrimination,
  2. Blacks don’t progress because they don’t work hard enough;
  3. Blacks are demanding too much too fast, and
  4. Blacks have gotten more than they deserve.

This discussion is typical – a string of logical fallacies peppered with microaggressions — and it hits just about every one of those themes. It’s a view that is myopic, and, I would add, revisionist, racist, paternalistic, and condescending.

First, there are the microinvalidations: “I’m not saying racism doesn’t exist but,…” There is no ‘but.’ Try an ‘and’ and maybe we can have a real discussion. White people are always trying to discount racism and its legacy – slavery – by deciding that it just doesn’t matter anymore. That’s privilege. YOU decide it doesn’t matter, ergo, it doesn’t matter. You’re not saying racism doesn’t exist because you can’t say it doesn’t – at least you can’t say it honestly. And if you do say it – or rather, if you actually believe it – then White folks are not the “phantoms” to which you refer, but real, live people exercising privilege just by waking up in the morning.

Then, there are the one-sided ‘truths’, hasty generalizations, false dichotomies and all other manner of fallacious arguments using the random facts. Allow me to analyze just a few of your arguments…

“… black people themselves are scared of young black men. You can’t say it’s not true because I have been told that by especially older black people. Apparently, Jesse Jackson agrees with me because, the quote was from Jesse Jackson.” Hello argumentum ad verecundia, or the appeal to authority (Jackson) and anonymous authority (older Black people). Jesse Jackson is not an authority on Black people or Black issues, and he is not the defining voice of Black America. He is not the Black stamp of approval to your racist views. And anyone can say they’ve been told anything by anyone. Doesn’t make it universally true. I’ve been told by Black people, especially angry ones, that all White people are the devil. Apparently, Malcom X agreed with me. Does that make it true?

Let’s look at another of your statements: “Black people kill more black people in Chicago in one year than all of the events you mentioned combined. The problems are there because people in the black community will not tell their kids these things…” Cum hoc ergo propter hoc coupled with non sequitur.  Your premises:

  1. Black people kill Black people and…
  2. Black people don’t tell their kids that intelligence is good, out-of-wedlock babies are bad and the reason you won’t get a job is because you can’t pass a piss test, therefore…
  3. Inadequate parenting by some Black people leads to large-scale Black-on-Black crime.

Do you know how ridiculous that sounds? Says who? Based on what?  Correlations that imply causations, conclusions that don’t follow from the propositions. If it were that simple, if inadequate parenting led to murder, then White neighborhoods would have bloodbaths. Unless of course what you’re really saying is that Black people – as a race – are morally inferior, so the same set of causations will, by default, produce different conclusions if you’re White? Modern racism? Nailed it!

One more of your textbook racist arguments: “Having babies before you get an education and without being married is the quickest route to poverty. 70% of black kids are born out of wedlock and for that reason they start in a disadvantaged environment.”

Your premises:

  1. Black people kill Black people, and…
  2. Having babies out-of-wedlock and sans college degree leads to poverty, and..
  3. 70% of Black kids are born out-of-wedlock, therefore…
  4. If you’re Black and poor, you’re likely to kill other Black people.

First of all, that doesn’t follow even a little bit. It’s a stupid argument. Even if the cause/effect were valid, the conclusion is completely invalidated because of the sheer magnitude of other, more logical reasons for your conclusion. You’re employing timeworn racist tactics – expedient vision, convenient truth. There’s a whole bunch of other factors that you’re just not even factoring in. Revisionist history is a mark of privilege.

And given the fact that, among Millennials, ‘outside’ babies are the “new norm” I guess all of us – including White folks – better buckle up because it’s going to be a bloody, bumpy ride when all these illegitimate kids reach open carry age.

I’m not even going to deal with your comments about the pool party in Texas. Let me just say: Look at the video. The child was sitting down, the cop walked away to pull his gun on some other unarmed kids, came back to where she was STILL sitting (with one of those “mysterious white folks” you mention seemingly standing guard), to snatch her further to the ground and sit on her. I guess she wasn’t close enough to the dirt to suit him.

Oh, yes he did

n-wordIn a recent podcast interview, President Obama did something racists have done ad infinitum and rappers do ad nauseum. He said ‘nigger.’

Specifically, during an interview for a WTF With Marc Maron podcast, he said: “We’re not cured of it. And it’s not just a matter of it not being polite to say nigger in public. That’s not the measure of whether racism still exists or not.” He didn’t say ‘the n-word’. He didn’t say ‘racial slurs’. He said nigger. Oh, yes he did.

Not surprisingly, several Fox News pundits have weighed in, positing such scenarios as President Obama dropping the word during his State of the Union address — and confirming Point 1 of my 7 Points About Racism. The word is not the problem. Calling a Black person the word is a problem, but that’s not what he did. However, the word certainly gives them something to talk about instead of things like the all those heretofore unknown donations to Republican campaigns from the Council of Conservative Citizens.

They didn’t hear a single other word he said. These people go to extraordinary lengths to criticize President Obama. To the point of lunacy, actually. What they don’t see is just how stupid they sound. Arguments — good ones — are logical, and that makes them easy to build. When you have to work really hard by stringing together a bunch of random facts, cherry-picking history, ignoring what’s right in front of your face, focusing on the irrelevant and blowing it out of proportion, it’s probably time to check your inferences. As a writer, one thing I’ve learned is if a project is way too hard, if it just won’t come together at all, it’s usually time to reexamine the premise.

Personally, I’m glad he said it. It makes people uncomfortable. And that’s exactly what racism should be — uncomfortable. Unbearable is better, but that’s our reach state-of-being.

7 Points about racism (IMHO)

1. Racists are stupid.

The definition of stupid is, “lacking intelligence or common sense.” Not crazy, not depressed, not nostalgic, not misinformed. Stupid. Wily enough to string together random facts but lacking the intelligence to avoid non sequitur. Erudite enough to invoke history but obdurate enough to revise it. Accepting traditional ‘truths’ while lacking the common sense to know when they aren’t. You see facts and you ignore them. And what’s worse is you’re happy being stupid. Not willing to learn. And don’t kid yourself: racism is not the domain of the uneducated, the high school dropouts. Presidents, senators, CEOs, professors, doctors, lawyers — all can be and many are racist. Ignorance is a condition; stupidity is a choice. When White people appropriate Black culture for their own ends, they aren’t crazy or transracial. They are greedy, opportunistic and exploitive. When White people kill Black people just because they want to, they’re not crazy, depressed, or scared. They are evil. I hope they burn in hell right after they die in prison. I don’t forgive.

2. Racism is the American way.

This country was built on and by slavery, and this country is determined to protect that foundation. It isn’t changing because you (I’m not going to say ‘we’ to make you feel better) don’t want to change it. In fact, you institutionalized it. You advocate for it. You obfuscate it. You romanticize it. You deny it. You impotently despair of it. You give up on it. You accept it.

3. White privilege is the problem.

Look, I get it – privilege is good. It’s not something anyone alive asked for. And it’s not something easily relinquished. If Black folks had it, would we want to hold on to it? Absolutely. Would we pray about it and decide to give it up for your sake? Absolutely not. And our protestations about wanting to end racism while enjoying that privilege would be the same bullshit. Bottom line is this: White people created racism, White people have to end it. We can protest, educate, explain and define all day and it will do nothing but wear us down and make you feel a little better if you’re one of those who listens.

4. Black people can’t be racist.

We can be prejudiced, small-minded and pissed but not racist. Not because we’re better morally, but because racism is prejudice PLUS power. And, for the most part, we don’t wield the power.

5. When it comes to racism, there is no neutral.

Middle ground is slippery slope. The Confederate flag is a racist symbol. Old South weekend is a racist celebration. Stone Mountain is not a nice place for a cookout – it is racists carved in stone. Streets and bridges named after racist slaveowners are racist. “Logical” arguments that place the blame for our situation on our moral failings while ignoring the immoral history that created the situation are spurious, illogical – and racist. If the words “dixie” and/or “plantation” are in the name, the name is racist. Microaggressions? Racist. Conservative apologists? Racists.

6. White-on-black racism is the worst.

I know we aren’t the only ones who have been discriminated against. But NOBODY else has caught and continues to catch the hell we do. NOBODY else has been reduced to the level of subhuman. So, while I can appreciate what other races, genders and subjects of discrimination endure, don’t you dare bring that up to me until cops start killing you and dragging your children by the hair or White people blow and/or shoot up your churches and then blame YOU for bringing it on yourselves. I. Don’t. Want. To. Hear. About. What. You. Endure. Too.

7. Racism has a cure.

Racism didn’t create slavery; slavery created racism. It was an economical, political and societal construct engineered to justify, perpetuate and expand white privilege. And that means it CAN be undone. Not quickly, but eventually. I have some ideas about how and I’m starting work with some of the smartest people out there to do it. Stay tuned.