Blank To The Bone


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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75 Responses

  1. Avatar Murali says:

    People often move from “some actions are ok even though they are X” to “There is nothing intrinsically wrong with X”. It is possibly a workable argument given certain additional premises that are also plausible at least superficially. Perhaps something like “if there was anything intrinsically wrong with X, then anything which was X would be wrong”. And then we would cash out intrinsic wrongness in particular ways which would make this turn out to be true.

    So, it is entirely understandable that a group of people whose policy preferences are considered racist on the slightest pretext but who nevertheless think those policies justified come to think that racism as such is not morally wrong.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Murali says:

      There is the whole intent and effect thing. Something might not be racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, or whatever in intent but it can be in effect.

      I don’t think Paul Ryan is a racist. He seems like a perfectly sincere and legitimate person with sincerely held beliefs. I think his policies would hurt minorities the most.

      The same is true for a lot of Bernie or Busters. Bernie’s core of supporters tend to be white, liberals, and between the ages of 18-44. Education level for Bernie supporters seems to be all over the map. Income level can be poverty wages to comfortably middle class. I think a lot of Bernie or Busters are unaware that they might have absorbed a lot o HRC hatred from their childhoods. They also seem unaware that their whiteness means they can survive a Trump presidency okay. Women and minorities might have different considerations. Plus I scorn the ones who talk about heightening the contradictions. There was also this interesting article from the Times:

      “The most powerful social identities and symbolic attachments in this year’s Democratic race have favored Mrs. Clinton, not Mr. Sanders. She has been a leading figure in the Democratic Party for decades, a role model for many women and a longtime ally of African-Americans and other minority groups. For many primary voters, that history constitutes a powerful bond, and their loyalties are propelling Mrs. Clinton to the nomination despite her limitations as a candidate.

      Mr. Sanders, on the other hand, is a sort of anti-Clinton — a political maverick from lily-white Vermont whose main claim to fame has been his insistence on calling himself an independent, a socialist, anything but a Democrat. That history has made him a convenient vessel for antipathy to Mrs. Clinton, the Democratic establishment and some of the party’s key constituencies. But it is a mistake to assume that voters who support Mr. Sanders because he is not Mrs. Clinton necessarily favor his left-leaning policy views.”

      Also in the article:

      “More detailed evidence casts further doubt on the notion that support for Mr. Sanders reflects a shift to the left in the policy preferences of Democrats. In a survey conducted for the American National Election Studies in late January, supporters of Mr. Sanders were more pessimistic than Mrs. Clinton’s supporters about “opportunity in America today for the average person to get ahead” and more likely to say that economic inequality had increased.

      However, they were less likely than Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to favor concrete policies that Mr. Sanders has offered as remedies for these ills, including a higher minimum wage, increasing government spending on health care and an expansion of government services financed by higher taxes. It is quite a stretch to view these people as the vanguard of a new, social-democratic-trending Democratic Party.”

      Is it possible that Sanders supporters unconsciously realize that they are no longer the dominant voice in the Democratic Party or on the Left in this country and that offends them?Report

      • Avatar Murali in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Intent is a slippery thing. For instance, I don’t consider myself a feminist. Why? Because while I do see gender equality as a desirable goal, I nevertheless think that there are some measures which are necessary to advance that goal which are nevertheless impermissible. For instance, I think lots of abortion in the third trimester is impermissible. I know that that as a result the goal of substantive parity between the genders is hindered. If my policy preferences were enacted, women will end up being saddled with unwanted children and be less able to pursue opportunities that would advance their own life prospects. Another source of gender inequality is that girls are socialised to prefer less remunerative jobs. I nevertheless think it impermissible (except in particularly extreme circumstances) to interfere with how parents raise their children. So, when I support those policies, I knowingly prevent many women from achieving parity in some respects with men. Given that I do this, I cannot in good conscience call myself a feminist. Do I however count as intending to keep women in unequal circumstances? Depending on how you cash out intent, that may very well be the case.

        Now, I myself understand that these consequences of my choices are somewhat regrettable (even if they are the lesser evil). But given what we know about moral psychology, most people are inclined to stop viewing the values they have to sacrifice as valuable. That helps them come to terms with supporting those policies. So, imagine someone who shares my policy preferences but is more prone to rationalising away the tensions. They might try to just deny that preferences are formed by socialisation and instead think that perhaps there is some biological component. The might deny that banning third trimester abortions in most cases really harms women. Or they acknowledge that harm and just believe that harm to women matters less or something similar.

        So, yes in spite of everything I find it difficult to blame people for being sexist or racist or homophobic because while there are clear reasoning errors going on, those errors are driven by basic features of our psychology in a way that makes it unreasonable to expect people to not succumb to them.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Murali says:

          Dude. Women who get abortions as a form of birth control don’t wait until the third trimester to do it.Report

          • Avatar Murali in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Ok, shelve the abortion example*. I am still not much of a feminist either way.

            *I can’t find statistics on this. All I do find is that only 4 doctors in the US perform this procedure, late term abortions are 1% of all abortions (90% are first trimester) and about 8% of late term abortions are performed because of birth defects of foetus. Of the remaining 92%, how many are done for birth control and how many are done to protect the mother’s health? Honest question: does anybody have any data they can point me to?

            Edit: This paper suggests that many women do use late term abortions as birth control, but defines late term as > 20 weeks and doesnt provide solid numbers


            • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Murali says:

              If you’re actually *serious* about thinking about this, you need to realize that when late term abortions are used as a form of ‘birth control’, it is almost *entirely* because anti-abortion laws have made it too hard to get them *earlier*.

              No one is waiting around *for fun*. Later abortions are harder. They are more time consuming. They have more risks. They also put pregnant women through a lot more of the problematic aspects of pregnancy like morning sickness and whatnot.

              No woman suddenly decides 7 months into a pregnancy that they don’t want a kid. And no woman decides on an abortion earlier and schedules it at 7 months. They decide on an abortion at three months, and then *cannot get one* until later.

              If you’re truly just against *late term* abortions, and have no problem with them earlier, you should be completely against almost all abortion regulations. Almost all of those are designed to delay and hinder women from getting abortions until they reach the point that they are no longer allowed to get abortions.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DavidTC says:

                “No woman suddenly decides 7 months into a pregnancy that they don’t want a kid. And no woman decides on an abortion earlier and schedules it at 7 months. They decide on an abortion at three months, and then *cannot get one* until later.”

                Assuming rationality. That’s a big assumption, and unwarranted.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kim says:

                Kim is correct, here. I’d also add that there are also rational reasons for a change-of-course.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to Will Truman says:

                It’s amusing how many people are still convinced that Trump’s the “Oooga Booga” Man.

                A good friend of mine was terrified as a child, looking at Reagan as POTUS. He looked at him, and realized that he could launch a nuclear strike. Now, with far more information at his fingertips, he worries the same about Hillary Rodham Clinton.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    This is a really good post.

    The problem is that a lot of things can be true. People can support a particular policy for non-racist reasons but the outcomes of that policy decision can still be heavily born out on minorities. The War on Drugs is a potential example. There are people who support the War on Drugs for racist reasons. There are also people who just happen to think that Heroin and Meth are dangers to society. Different ideological reasoning but same result in the end.

    I think a lot of the problems is that you can’t really view American history without doing a deep dive in how race and racism played such a promenient role in American history and the shaping of American policy. I do believe that there is such a thing as institutionalized and structural racism and plenty of people can participate and perpetuate institutional and structural racism without realizing it. This is how strong and pervasive it is.

    The New Yorker recently published an article about student activism and unrest at Oberlin:

    This passage struck out to me:

    “Such reports flummoxed many people who had always thought of themselves as devout liberals. Wasn’t free self-expression the whole point of social progressivism? Wasn’t liberal academe a way for ideas, good and bad, to be subjected to enlightened reason? Generations of professors and students imagined the university to be a temple for productive challenge and perpetually questioned certainties. Now, some feared, schools were being reimagined as safe spaces for coddled youths and the self-defined, untested truths that they held dear. Disorientingly, too, none of the disputes followed normal ideological divides: both the activists and their opponents were multicultural, educated, and true of heart. At some point, it seemed, the American left on campus stopped being able to hear itself think.”

    I am one of these liberals and still am. I roll my eyes at the students at Yale who want to take Chaucer and Wordsworth out of the study requirements for English lit. I don’t agree with the need for trigger warnings or an 8.25 an hour wage for activism. I also dislike the guy who is defending the anti-Semitic professor and am generally saddened by the woman who wants to leave Oberlin unchanged and just go back to her old neighborhood and old self.

    This occurred to me this morning though (copied verbatim from my facebook discussion):

    “What is interesting to me is that some of the most radical students seem to have been around both extreme poverty and privilege their entire life. A lot of them seem to have been scholarship students at elite institutions since kindergarten. It can’t be easy to live in poverty but be allowed access to the rich everyday. Perhaps their classmates were not allowed to come over to play because of the poverty and violence in the areas but they were allowed to go to very rich homes.”

    I am probably one of these bougie liberals. I am not a radical. Basically I wonder if good intentions have radicalized these students more. They were being offered a ticket in but the ticket keeps the system alive because it is only offered to a few. So they spend their days among the privileged and elite and then went home to their families and friends who were not give the ticket. That has to be an incredibly difficult thing to go through.

    I am not sure what the solution is.Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      “I don’t agree with the need for trigger warnings ”

      To be fair, you probably haven’t had to deal with someone unconsciously inflicting pain on other people due to seeing something on TV.

      Or someone screaming at the television because it reminds them of torture (altogether unnecessarily, I might add.Report

    • Avatar greginak in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Oh lord, that Oberilin piece. It was interesting but i’m sure will spark a lot of over heated reactions. Their disaffected college kids, it is easy to make to much of them at this stage in their lives. A few will end up teaching in Uni’s and have an experience like the theater prof mentioned where he felt like he was in The Crucible. They will go from being radical to wondering what’s wrong with the kids these days. Plenty of others will find themselves in the next few years and have the hard edge of their ideology ground down by the messy nuance of the real world.

      It also misses how many poor kids are really frickin glad to have the opportunity to get an education and a good job. Those stories aren’t very media worthy nowadays what with the griping about largely privileged kids at good schools getting attention for their worst complaints. Because some of the college protests have have had some good points, but they don’t get as many pixels.Report

  3. Avatar aaron david says:

    Good post Will.Report

  4. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    in my view, it can be defined extremely broadly to the point where we are all guilty and even very defensible policy qualifies, or we can define it narrowly and with a great moral weight.

    This is an excellent point, and one that doesn’t get brought up nearly enough in these discussions.

    It’s very much an ignore-at-your-own-risk concept, because conversations that ignore this point risk falling into one of two categories (if not both):

    A. Conversations where people assume there is little moral difference between what the other person means to say vs. what they are perceived by others as saying. (e.g.: That you would urge your daughter not to drink in excess at a great party for her own safety sounds to my ear like you would be happy to blame her for her own rape. You are no better then a MRM misogynist.)

    B. Conversations where people use the fact that prejudice in universal as a justification things that are not justifiable. (e.g.: Hey, everyone’s a little bit racist, so don’t criticize me for advocating that police treat blacks in a way that I would sue the police for, were they ever to treat me in a similar fashion.)Report

  5. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    Relevant, from Vox:

    If you ever find yourself wondering how it is that Clinton doesn’t manage to resist the temptation to accept paid speaking gigs even when she’s already rich and clearly gearing up for a presidential campaign, Foster is basically the reason. Where most politicians would be warned by staff to avoid even a slight appearance of impropriety, Clinton feels from experience that she’ll be slammed regardless of what she does, so she might as well let her own conscience be her guide star in terms of policy and cash whatever checks she’s offered.


  6. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    ” If your response to being called a racist no matter what you do is to become racist, that says something about you. It demonstrates to me that either (a) you really want to be a racist but are merely held back by social convention, or (b) you are cool being racist if it pisses the right people off.”

    Am I being racist? Or am I just not making an effort (or even a pretense) at thinking about whether someone a particular statement, or action, or sentiment might be similar to racism?

    Like, presumably you’d want me to think “hm, if I suggest that more stringent requirements on voter identification might solve a lot of concerns over the process, then people will point out that this will obviously have a strong impact on people who don’t have the time or the means to get that identification, so I should come prepared with facts about exactly how often voter fraud occurs, give some examples of elections where it mattered, and provide suggestions about policies that could also be enacted to make getting the required identification easier”.

    But maybe I think “everyone’s going to read the words ‘voter identification’ and consign me to the Cracker-Ass Racist file, and if they even bother to read the rest of my post it’ll be so they can find exactly what words to type into Google to find a Vox explainer or Slate piece about what a horrible motherfucker I am, so why go to the effort?”Report

    • Either seems fine, depending on the circumstance. But if your response is “Well if you’re going to call me a racist let me go on a thirty minute rant about black voters voting the public tit for them to suck off because they’re too lazy to work” well that’s on you is what I’m saying.Report

      • Avatar El Muneco in reply to Will Truman says:

        I’ve been thinking about this, and I’m afraid that the conclusion I’m drawn to is that now that we’ve sorted ourselves, we literally don’t care what people on the other side of the divide think.

        – X says something
        – Y responds aggressively/dismissively, starting with maximum moral opprobrium
        – X denies that Y’s position has any possible moral authority and doubles down

        The need for dog whistles is because you acknowledge that there’s a reason you can’t just say what you want to say out loud – that the other guy might have a point, or at least it’s important not to ruffle feathers unnecessarily because, well, because community. The whole “well, in that case I am a racist” thing isn’t just to piss off the liberals, it’s an explicit disavowal of community with them.

        I’m old school – back in the day I would have been a liberal R crossing the aisle on a regular basis. Of course, for tactical reasons that era is gone in politics. But I don’t see a whole lot of interest in that kind of thing in real life these days, either.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

      But you’d be wrong to think that. Because that isn’t want everyone is going to think or react with.Report

    • Avatar Jesse Ewiak in reply to DensityDuck says:

      If you come to me with a free voter ID law and expansion of hours for the DMV and relatively sane requirements for said free voter ID (ie. not the requirements that have led to multiple black people paying hundreds of dollars for various forms of identification), we can talk.

      If you pass a voter ID law and also close DMV offices in largely minority areas for ‘budgetary’ reasons at the same time, I’m going to assume you have an ulterior motive or three.Report

      • Avatar DavidTC in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        As David Brin keeps pointing out, how you can tell Republicans are using voter ID for the specific purpose of suppressing votes is that, when state Republicans add corporate regulations (Back when that was even *hypothetically* possible.), they kick and scream until such laws include *compliance assistance*. (Democrats wouldn’t oppose this, or even do it themselves, but it was generally *Republicans* that pushed for the thing.)

        E.g., if a state made a law saying that, I don’t know, a specific type of battery had to be disposed in a specific way, the Republicans would demand money for, at minimum, an education campaign explaining this, and usually have even more than that. They might even set up a system to subside it for a bit, and slowly back off, so the cost doesn’t have a huge impact and businesses can plan for it.

        There are exactly two types of onerous regulations that the Republicans not only seem to like, but don’t seem to want to help people comply with at all: Voter ID laws, and abortion clinic regulations.

        Hell, states actually had to be pushed by the courts to make the costs *less*, with the courts originally having to demand that states provide IDs for free! States weren’t even going to do that themselves. (At least at this point they’ve figured out they have to, at minimum, pretend to do that.)

        At this point (I.e., without the voting rights act), I think Democrats should give up voter ID as a lost cause, and flip entirely around and *require* that every single person get an ID. By law. For free. This would, quickly, result in changes to the law, because you can’t require people to produce documentation they literally cannot produce.

        I.e., it’s one thing for the government to say ‘You have not been able to prove who you are, so we refuse to issue you ID, go on your way without ID’, and it’s another thing for the government to say ‘We are required by law to issue you an ID, but, uh…hmmm, you don’t seem to have an evidence who you are…but we can’t *not* issue you ID…’

        There are obvious solutions to that (Neighbors, family, etc, can attest to it.), but with current voter ID laws, not including any sort of exceptions is a feature, not a bug. But with *mandatory* ID laws, it simply doesn’t work. They have to get *some* ID. They have to be *some* person.

        Hell, you can use half their voter ID nonsensical arguments against them. (‘You need ID to buy a beer or fly on a plane, but think you should be able to live in society without one?’)Report

    • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

      If people came with some decent “voter id” stuff that wasn’t blatantly designed to win the state for Romney (as stated on the record), I might be a bit more interested.

      If people came up with some decent stats on “here’s how bad it is” and “here’s how much it will cost to eliminate 1% of fraud”… then we could at least talk.

      I like statistics. But when your statistics are really just “this is good for republicans”… why should I listen?

      And if you don’t like the example, try it on again except make it hate crimes legislation.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kim says:

        guys the point is not to have a discussion about voter ID, that was just the example I picked of “presenting a well-rounded argument” versus “fuckit, you’ll see what I’m talking about and decide I’m wrong from the first sentence I write”Report

        • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

          When one side has something that is clearly bogus, it’s kinda futile to come up with arguments for it.
          Hate Crimes Legislation, Voter ID.

          These are NOT school vouchers, or Obamacare — things that are stalking horses for other, more nefarious ideas and people, but which can be defended on their own merits.Report

  7. Avatar Kazzy says:

    But we also have to be mindful of what the criticism actually is.

    “Hey, man, I think that thing you said might have been offensive.”
    “No. I just know Nancy in Accounting was really bothered by it and I don’t think she was alone and maybe that is something you want to think about a little bit.”

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

      @kazzy That’s meant to be factored in to “or whether it is racist and I need to re-evaluate the whole thing.” I suppose you could re-evaluate even if you determine that it’s not racist. If it’s something that is of trivial importance to you, for example, but is of important to Nancy even if you can’t quite get where she’s coming from on the matter. But even if it turns out you can’t, the trying was important.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

        But that still assumes it has been labeled as racist. While I won’t deny that certain folks (yes, predominantly on the left) are all too eager to label things racist, I also think certain folks (yes, predominantly on the right) are all too eager to label any criticism of their position as having the racist label applied.

        Again, in the example provided, the “critic” never said racist but the “criticized” heard it.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

            I sometimes think we just need all new ways of talking about this. Everything is coded or a dogwhistle or signaling. Some folks are deft enough to call other people racist without saying the word racist and the targets of those critiques are right to hear the implied claim (whether it is accurate obviously depends on the specifics). At the same time, sides are so fiercely drawn that anything other than absolute deference to the other is seen as an attack or defeat.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

              It’s worth keeping in mind that it was not conservatives who came up with the idea that you can be racist without being a racist, and that you can say racist things without having any thought or intent of racism, and that sufficiently-evil people might say dogwhistle things that seem utterly innocuous until you take into account who is saying them to whom.Report

              • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

                You can be racist while exclaiming that you “don’t see race”. We have the math behind those attitudes, and surveys aren’t generally fooled into showing people as more racist than they actually are (if nothing else, because MOST people try not to let it look like they’re racist).

                “you can say racist things without having any thought or intent of racism”
                … you can absolutely do this. North did it yesterday, and I called him on it. I expect people to make some amount of “stupid mistakes” — and to apologize for them. I’ll give you a decent amount of lattitude if your response is, “That’s racist? Um, how?”

                Dogwhistling is never about who says to whom. It’s about what’s being said under the surface, true… When Hillary Clinton talks about faith chains, she’s dogwhistling — because none of the rest of us knows bugfuck about what she’s talking about.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

      Why didn’t you lead off with Nancy in Accounting?

      Why isn’t Nancy telling me this herself (much less all these unknown and uncounted other people who maybe were offended?)

      Pretty much the first thing in all of our corporate training about offensive behavior is “the offended party should talk to the offender directly”. White-knighting is discouraged, precisely because it turns the situation from “hey, I am a specific person and your behavior made me feel bad for specific reasons”–a one-to-one personal relationship thing–into “we have defined a group of Nice People, and this group does not include you”.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

        My point is that feedback is often misconstrued, and sometimes intentionally so in order to put the provider on the defensive or to make martyrs of the recipient. This isn’t specific to claims of racism. Do you consider that point to be controversial, @densityduck ?

        “I’m not comfortable with how you spoke to Johnny about his homework tonight.”

        “Woh, four slices of pizza. Going for it, eh?”
        “YOU’RE SAYING I’M A FATASS?!?!”

        “Coke, eh? I’m more of a Pepsi fan.”

        • Avatar KenB in reply to Kazzy says:

          But sometimes that subtext is actually there. “Woh, four slices of pizza. Going for it, eh? [unspoken: you fatass]”. The silent accusation is hidden in softer language, either to avoid confrontation or to provide deniability.Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to KenB says:


            Agreed. None of this is absolute.

            Sometimes people say racist things and rightly get called out.
            Sometimes people say non-racist things and wrongly get called out.
            Sometimes people say things that warrant feedback and that feedback is well received.
            Sometimes people say things that warrant feedback and that feedback is not well received.
            I’d actually divide those last two to denote whether the feedback was constructive or not.

            What I’m arguing is that we are moving towards a point where the “non-racist but called racist” and “constructive feedback interpreted as an attack” are increasing in frequency and it is a bad thing.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

          “My point is that feedback is often misconstrued”

          If you start out with “hail Mary, full of grace”, do you think it’s such a stretch for your listener to expect “our Lord is with three” to come next?

          And we so often hear about how comedians just need to understand that if they tell a joke and it comes off badly, and someone gets triggered into some PTSD flashback, then that’s the comedian’s fault for being a bad communicator. And yet, here, now it’s on the listener to understand that when someone says “you did a racist thing” that is, somehow, some way, not at all the same thing as saying “you’re racist”.Report

          • Avatar Kim in reply to DensityDuck says:

            comedians just need to understand that if they tell a joke and it comes off badly, and someone gets triggered into some PTSD flashback, then that’s the comedian’s fault for being a bad communicator.

            It’s their fucking fault for fucking messing with people. I give you tons of grace if you didn’t mean it, but they meant that fucking door noise. They use it all the fucking time, and they know it drives him up the fucking wall (because he’s written rants about it, and they’ve read them).

            When people start talking about “trigger warnings” I think back to the guy who really does get flashbacks when listening to door noises on Television. You really gonna trigger warning that shit?Report

          • Avatar Kazzy in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Only that isn’t what I’m arguing, @densityduck .

            I’m arguing that sometimes someone says something like, “Hey, man, that bothered me,” and the other person says, “STOP CALLING ME A RACIST!” In that specific instance, I think the responsibility is on the latter person.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Kazzy says:

              “Only that isn’t what I’m arguing”

              You very clearly don’t *want* to be arguing it, but that is in fact what you’re arguing.Report

        • Avatar Gabriel Conroy in reply to Kazzy says:

          “Coke, eh? I’m more of a Pepsi fan.”

          To be fair, Pepsi is a lot better than Coke.Report