revisiting my thoughts on a productive racial dialogue



Freddie deBoer used to blog at, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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9 Responses

  1. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Newsweek recently had a cover story asking “Is Your Baby Racist?” ( is the link to the story… sadly, I can’t find a picture of the cover.)

    It strikes me that if we have reached the point in the conversation where the term “racist” can also apply to infants, the term could well be on the cusp of losing a great deal of accusatory power and closer to what you’re describing above.

    I hope.Report

  2. Thanks for this, Freddie. I don’t know how I missed it the first time around, but thanks for this.Report

  3. Avatar North says:

    Great post Freddie. One snark though:
    “(There’s something deeply creepy about all this, of course, and in certain situations this kind of thing offends my libertarian heart to its core. But that’s a discussion for another time.)”
    This had me reeling, you have a libertarian heart? I’d love to hear more. unless, that is, your libertarian heart used to belong to Jaybird and he’s not dead in a bus stop in Tucson and his heart is coldly pulsing on your mantle in which case never mind.

    To the substance of your post, I agree, and to that end the race warriors and hypersensitives are actually on the side of angels by watering down by endless pointless repetition, their accusations of racism. Though of course another step that would be required is reversing our liberal position that a person who acts in a racist manner is a racist and thus is beyond contempt.Report

  4. Avatar Jay Daniel says:

    Freddie — I think this is one of your better efforts. I would like to agree with pretty much everything you have suggested, but I have two, related sets of questions for you:
    1. What about actions that are ambiguously racist? The classic — and always politically salient — example is affirmative action. Is advocating against affirmative action a “racist action”? Don’t we need to know what the motives in one’s heart are? If not, why can opposition to affirmative action be racist for a white person, but not for a black person? If you believe opposition to affirmative action is not racist, replace it with opposition to gangsta rap, or preaching against the ills of the black ghetto.
    2. To what extent is the “racist” label helpful in the sense of productive public discourse if the term is used to describe actions without reference to motive? Why can’t we just say things like, “your proposed policies hurt black people.” If we think it is important — for either moral or purely historical reasons — to keep the term “racist” around, shouldn’t it be limited to undeniably discriminatory language or actions — basically those where intent is objectively demonstrated by the action? I’m thinking of anti-miscegenation policy (recent situation with Louisiana justice of the peace) and shouting racial epithets.

    My last observation — and it is far from original; it is in fact an old conservative trope, but it’s also relevant — if racism is discriminatory action, and we divorce it completely from intent or motive, then affirmative action must by definition involve racism when it involves discriminatory favoritism to a member of a certain race. Given the terms of your argument, why is this false?Report

  5. Avatar r4 ds karte says:

    I believe that sometimes we need to be silent…. It is true that some people use these accuses in bad way…. but it is also true that clap does not take place with one hand……..Report

  6. Avatar r4 ds karte says:

    I believe that sometimes we need to be silent…. It is true that some people use these accuses in bad way…. but it is also true that clap does not take place with one hand……..Report

  7. Avatar Trumwill says:

    I mostly agree, though I think that you need a way to differentiate between passive racism, the failure to recognize how one’s behavior disproportionately and unfairly impacts minorities, and active racism, not caring or suggesting that one’s policy preferences *should* benefit one’s own people and should completely disregard the effect it has on others not like oneself. Maybe a third category for people that truly want to harm people not like themselves.Report