Systemic Racism

Outliers Can Not Be Used To Excuse Our Own Bias

There’s the thing people do on Facebook. They find lone outliers from an opposing group that actually agree with them, and share out those voices like it is their public permission slip to feel the way they do. I see it quite often in regards to race issues and with the stuff that happened this week, it seems to be a growing phenomena.

Progressives/Liberals talk a lot about systemic racism and how we need criminal justice reform. This is often done by spotlighting how black families – especially in poor neighborhoods – raise their kids with a completely different approach to law enforcement than white people do. So…OF COURSE…periodically I’ll see friend or family from the others side of the spectrum, share out a video of a black man saying he LOVES cops and has never had one problem when/if he gets pulled over. Nevermind that there is evidence supporting that fact that there does exist racial bias, this person who shares out this video wants to use this ONE PERSON as their excuse not to admit the system is racist, even if the evidence proves otherwise.

We – as a country – were going through a “We Love Michelle Obama” surge awhile back (I mean, aren’t we always?) and one of my conservative-voting FB contacts chose THAT MOMENT to share out a video of a black woman talking about why she hates Michelle Obama. This was that family member’s way of also not liking Michelle Obama and this lone voice allowed her to do it an not be racist because…LOOK! A black woman agrees with her!

It’s not always about race either…I recently saw a video shared out by a Christian family member of an “atheist” (the way the person spoke it was really hard to believe she was actually an atheist because I know a shit-ton of non-believers and none of them ever spoke like that) saying that forcing employees to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas” was against the first amendment and they believed that EVEN THOUGH THEY WERE AN ATHEIST. Conveniently this was shared out the same day I pointed out that Happy Holidays is more inclusive and why wouldn’t you want to include more people in your well-wishes?

So yeah…users on Facebook like to find the video of ONE person (usually from the cultural or racial group their views might offend) who supports their views and they do it as a way to support their lack of empathy or understanding of the group they disagree with. “Look! I don’t have to understand the importance of inclusive speech because this atheist agrees with me!”

I also saw this one time when someone shared out a Facebook status saying that – as a Mother of a child with mental handicaps – she was not offended by the use of the word “retarded” in casual language. I mean, is it that hard to NOT use a word that has documented negative impact? We have to find the outlier that gives us permission to keep using a word that upsets a large majority of our community?

And then – the occurrences this week that spawned me writing on this topic. There is historical and cultural evidence of white people dehumanizing black women via restrictions on their hair, TONS of evidence and TONS of current black female writers discussing this and yet…AND YET…I know people who find ONE YouTube video of ONE black woman who says, “Bill O’Reilly didn’t say anything racist!” to share out on Facebook so they’re not forced to have to face the fact that their own comments about hair might be racist.

I see it with liberals too. There’s this weird habit of finding those Change Of Heart Trump supporters who are now vocal against him and using that as an excuse to be crudely vocal agains the administration. Liberals also like to use Warren Buffet as their “business outlier” as proof they don’t have to listen to conservative economic policy because this rich guy agrees with them.

But lately – especially with race issues – I’m seeing it more and more with white people basically looking for videos of black people saying the things they want to say but can’t. And it’s making me a little stabby.

2 thoughts on “Outliers Can Not Be Used To Excuse Our Own Bias”

  1. Yup. It’s boils down to a couple of things for me (a) no one person is completely representative of any demographic, (b) internalized sexism/racism etc are a thing, and (c) localized optimization is also a thing. In other words, one (black, female, queer, etc) person doesn’t represent all (black, female, queer, etc) people, you can be (black, female, queer) and still believe (racist, sexist, homophobic, etc) things and you might be (black, female, queer, etc) and willing to behave as if your own demographic is (fill in the stereotypes) to collect social prestige for yourself.

    Absolutely none of that negates the fact that (racism, sexism, homophobia) exists and is at work.

  2. And this is why I try to be careful to preface statements about race and gender with, “Now this is just how *I* feel and does NOT give you carte blanche to say/think ___” whenever I’m speaking to someone who is not a member of that particular group. And anyone who thinks I can speak for ALL black people or ALL women or ALL atheists probably has some fucked-up ideas about that particular group anyway, and is just looking for an excuse to spout their misinformed opinion about them.

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