Mely (coffeeandink) wrote,
Mely
coffeeandink

How to Suppress Discussions of Racism

This post is now archived at http://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/435419.html. Please update your links.

In the tradition of How to Suppress Women's Writing

How to Suppress Discussions of Racism

Tired of discussions of racism in literature, television, and film? Worn out from the unexpected criticism of your leisure pursuits? Exhausted by the effort of having to respond to each new argument carefully and conscientiously?

We can help!

We'll teach you how to suppress discussion of racism in six easy steps. Soon suppressing dissent will be so easy you can do it in your sleep!

Especially designed for your online needs!

Maybe you've tried a guide before and found it spoke only about face-to-face arguments. Or maybe you're new to the online world and baffled by this chaotic new medium. This guide is just for you! Whether you're a baby troll or an experienced flame warrior, we can teach the best way to make your online environment a safe, friendly, colorblind place. Soon the World Wide Web will be your home away from home — and like your home, it will be full of only the people you want to see.

It's easy!

Just follow the steps below in order.

How to use "How to suppress discussions of racism"

Each step consists of a brief description in bold and further explanation in regular type. Important terms and key phrases are also bolded.

*!* We've also included some special tips for advanced study. They'll be prefaced by the *!* symbol and outlined with a black border. If you find these steps confusing, don't worry! They're just extra help for difficult situations. You can skip them entirely and still suppress most discussions of racism you encounter.


Introduction
Our goal is to show you a few simple techniques you can use to suppress the discussion of racism. As you read, keep in mind that your goal is not to learn or to educate, to listen or be listened to, to increase your understanding of difficult issues, or to exchange opinions and communicate with other people. Your goal is to make discussions of race so difficult and unrewarding that not only your opponent but any witnesses to your argument will never want to discuss race in public again.

Let's get started!

1. Control what your audience sees.

Successful suppression starts with the choices you make before you even begin to write. Don't allow your opponent to set the terms of the discussion. Make sure your account is not just the first but the only story your readers get to hear. The last thing you want is for them to judge your opponent's words for themselves.



  1. Don't link to your opponent's argument.
    Many of your readers won't even realize they haven't read the original post, just your response to it.

  2. If you have linked to the opponent, all isn't lost. So many people never bother to click on links that you're reasonably safe as long as you don't quote your opponent's words in context.

  3. If anyone asks you for a link, obfuscate: tell them everyone's talking about it, there are too many examples for you to cite, they can find the background themselves via Google. Remember: you're not responsible for backing up what you say, other people are.


If you've made the mistake of linking to and/or quoting from your opponent, don't worry! The rest of our guide can still help you out.

2. Attack the person, not the argument.
Personal attacks end the discussion before it even starts! If you can accuse your opponent of "paranoia," "white guilt," "internalized racism," "whining," "overreacting," "paternalism," "condescension," "being obsessed with race," "bitching about racism at the drop of a hat," or "taking things too personally," you don't need to bother addressing the content of their remarks. This will save you time and energy you can then devote to happier pursuits.



*!* Personal attacks are sometimes called "ad hominem attacks." "Ad hominem" is Latin. You can safely accuse anyone who uses the phrase of displaying "class prejudice," "academic bullying," or "using fancy phrases to disguise the fact you don't have an argument."


3. Argue against straw men
A "straw man argument" occurs when you misrepresent your opponent's position so that it's easier to refute.

Remember: Responding to what your opponent says should always be a last resort. To do so requires the extra effort of reading someone else's words and considering the implications of unfamiliar or uncomfortable thoughts. The discussion will go much faster if you just assume your opponent has said what you want to argue about and respond to that instead.



Here are some straw men you can use almost any time someone mentions race or criticizes racial representation in a book/film/TV show/comic book:


  1. "Do you want to censor an artist's vision?"
  2. "Please, like a movie/book/comic book is going to turn people racist or make white people want to enslave black people again?"
  3. "According to you, the director/writer/artist sat down and decided to oppress people of color!"
  4. "You want people to boycott art unless it's politically correct."
  5. "You think people shouldn't enjoy art if it has racist elements."
  6. "You think art isn't any good if it's racist."
  7. "You think anyone who disagrees with you is a racist."


4. Deflect attention away from the specific criticism.
Remember, your goal is to avoid having to focus on what your opponent has actually said. We've compiled a list of helpful phrases that deflect attention away from specific discussion of racism. You can use them to respond to almost any discussion of racism, regardless of the content.



We recommend you mix and match responses; arguing is more fun when there's some variety involved. Be careful not to use all the responses at once, or else your opponent may notice that you are contradicting yourself.


  1. "Why are you complaining about racism instead of sexism/homophobia/ageism/classism/genocide/world hunger?"
  2. "I'm [a member of an oppressed group] and I'm not offended."
  3. "My friend is [a member of an oppressed group] and he/she is not offended."
  4. "Why aren't you talking about the white people in the book/film/comic book/TV show?"
  5. "It's just a book/film/comic book/TV show!"


5. Racism, however ugly, is better than the alternative.

Sometimes, even when you do your best, your opponent is so persistent that you are forced to discuss racism. Don't worry: it's not your fault and soon it won't be your problem.

In most of these cases, you can rely on a few handy responses that define racism in a way that benefits you, prove that racism is better than the measures that would have to be taken against it, or otherwise misdirect your opponent's attention.


  1. "Pointing out racism just makes it harder for us to achieve a colorblind society. You shouldn't judge people based on their race."
  2. "Focusing so much on race just shows that you're racist yourself."
  3. "Minorities can be racist too, you know!"
  4. "Even if it's not the best representation of minority characters, it's better than having no minority characters at all, isn't it?"
  5. "You'd rather have boringly flawless and politically correct minority characters?"
  6. "Everyone knows it's bad to be racist now, so why make people feel defensive and ashamed by pointing incidents out?"
  7. "Maybe it's racist, but what about reverse racism?"




*!* Because individuals are innocent until proven guilty, your opponent needs to prove that the writer/director/artist consciously and intentionally insulted people of color. Showing a long-term pattern of racial discrimination in literature/film/TV/comics/society/culture/law doesn't prove that this instance is doing any harm.




6. Prove your opponent has mistaken some other quality for racism.

In the worst-case scenario, you may need to respond to specific points in your opponent's argument. In these cases, familiarity with the book/film/TV show/comic book in question will help you customize your response to best effect.

Warning: Not all of the responses below will be applicable to all situations. Make sure that you only use responses appropriate for the current argument.


  1. "Since everyone knows those are racist stereotypes, no one takes them seriously anymore and they can't do any harm. You're just missing the joke/clever subversion of the stereotype."

  2. "It could be just a coincidence that this character fits an objectionable racial stereotype."

  3. "It's not racist, it's just one character's point of view!"

    If your opponent objects to this, see 3a. Any attempt to question why this character has been chosen or how the narrative is structured should be countered firmly with "Go write your own book/movie/comic book/TV show then!"

  4. "It's not racist, interesting things only happen to white people!"

    Because people of color have been oppressed, it's necessary to make protagonists powerful people, i.e. white. People of color have led lives too depressing, constricted, or painful to make for good fiction. Audiences come to art for escape, not to see the underdogs win or the powerless gain power or characters grow during the course of the film; and escape is, of course, incompatible with protagonists of color.

  5. "It's not racist, it's historically accurate!"

    You do not need to be familiar with the historical era in question. Your opponent probably doesn't know any more about the era than you do.

  6. "It's not racist, it's a fantasy!"

    Once a work of entertainment incorporates fantastical elements, it is no longer influenced by, reflective of, or capable of commenting on the real world.

  7. "It's not racist, those people really are like that!"

    If pressed, say that you've observed this behavior yourself. Your opponent can't prove you haven't.

  8. "It's not racist, look how the white characters are treated!"

    When in doubt, always emphasize the impact on white characters. If the characters of color are unreal in their stupidity, fecklessness, cowardice, or violence, you can point out that the white characters are equally unreal in their bravery, intelligence, wit, and compassion. Since all the characters are unrealistic, your opponent shouldn't single out the portrait of the characters of color for special opprobrium.



Review


  1. Control what your audience sees.
  2. Attack the person, not the argument.
  3. Argue against straw men.
  4. Deflect attention away from the specific criticism.
  5. Racism, however ugly, is better than the alternative.
  6. Prove your opponent has mistaken some other quality for racism.



That's it! With these six easy steps, you can make any discussion of racism so frustrating that your opponent will never bring up the subject again.

Try it out today!

[International Blog Against Racism Week]


[eta, 7/20/06: Since a few people have asked: You may link to or quote from the piece without asking. Reproducing the entire piece is fine as long you credit it, link back to this post (http://coffeeandink.dreamwidth.org/435419.html), and do not in any way charge for it (e.g., it's not okay to include it in a zine and charge people a cover price. Printing it out and putting it up on your wall or forwarding it to friends is fine. If you do want to include it in a zine or other publication, email me with the details and we'll work something out). You don't need to tell me about the link, although it makes me happy when people do, and it makes me really happy when people also include to a link to the list of International Blog Against Racism Week posts.]
Tags: ibarw