I am often disappointed in the volume and balance of comments on particular posts here. Yesterday, I was waiting for someone to defend the extreme reaction to Glenn Reynold’s unseemly tweet regarding the Charlotte riots, and was especially interested in hearing arguments why Mariners catcher Steve Clevenger’s blunt tweets were “racist” as so many headlines were calling them. Admittedly, I was waiting for such arguments because it would be so easy and fun to reduce them to rubble, but still: where are the people who want to stifle speech and opinion, and who believe that criticizing violent rioters and Black Lives Matter should be punished so severely? Clevenger has been docked about $28,000 for expressing an opinion on Twitter, and sportswriters, who get paid to opine, often cretinously, on the web every day, are cheering. I know defenders of speech and opinion suppression are out there, but they are mute, rationalizing, I think, that they are right but those brutes on Ethics Alarms are too primitive to understand.
At least many of the comments that the posts have spawned are of high quality and extremely thoughtful. This is the second Comment of the Day inspired by them, by Chris Bentley:
I was thinking about a particular topic as I drove home from work today, about why people, mostly people on the left, justify and rationalize the behavior of looters during riots. After reading Jack’s initial post regarding Instapundit, I went to read the linked Reason.com article, and then checked out the comments section. One person, with the screen name Krabapple, made the following comment:
“Yeah sorry I can’t take seriously moderation from a company that allows the hashtag #killallwhitepeople but not this.”
This sentiment ties in with the thoughts stirring around in my head as I drove: Why isn’t behavior like that, hashtagging a desire for white people to die, called out for the despicable behavior that it is? Aside from the obvious (and maddeningly stupid) idea that white people cannot be racially discriminated against because of “privilege” (which brings up a whole ‘nother set of issues), I believe it is because people who agree with this hashtag, or similar ones, are either 1) too ignorant/uneducated to understand how illogical and unethical double standards like this are; or, 2) educated, but have lowered the standards of acceptable conduct for certain groups of people. I understand how bias mixed with ignorance has blinded the first group into rationalizing away their behavior; I don’t understand why people in the second group can’t see that their behavior is deeply racist.
A similar argument is made by Derrick Green, of Project 21, in a video I came across on Youtube some months ago. One of the points he made, in a rebuttal to the accusation that voter ID laws were racist was, to put it simply, “Why are white people expected to be able to acquire IDs but blacks can’t?” It’s a point also perfectly encapsulated by Michael Gerson with the simple quote, “the soft bigotry of low expectations”, a quote that I feel doesn’t get NEARLY enough traction as it deserves.
When trying to identify whether or not I’m embracing lowered standards in a particular group (as a PE teacher, I’m constantly adjusting the difficulty levels of activities, and at times, recognizing that I have expectations that are too high/low for a certain age group) I ask myself, “would I expect class B to be able to accomplish this task?” And depending on the answer, I adjust. Simple enough. When trying to identify this in adult behavior though, I use myself and/or fictional adult children that I may have someday as the guide: Would I accept this behavior from myself and/or teenage/adult children of mine? In the end, the only people whose behavior I have some level of control over, and whom I can punish for failing to live up to expectations, are myself, and my (fictional, future) children. (When I picture them, they’re usually riding around on jet packs, seeing as how they’re in the future and all…)
When I see someone speed, I ask myself, “Would I accept that behavior out of myself? What about my kids?” I would accept speeding out of myself, but not necessarily out of my kids. However, getting into a fight with peers when provoked passed an acceptable limit is something I might accept more from my kids than I would from myself, as I expect a higher level of self-control with myself (which doesn’t make it right, and I would still make sure my kids knew that, and had a very serious talk with them, etc.).
So, the point is, the level to which I will justify, excuse, tolerate, or enable the behavior in a 3rd party is usually the “high point” of “bad behavior” that I would accept from myself and/or my kids. Golden Rule and all.
So when I see educated, “logical”, “reasonable”, “equality-minded” adults, rationalizing other grown adults’ bad behavior (looting stores in the midst of a protest/riot), I continuously think to myself, “Yes, the issue (killing of a black man at the hands of police, regardless of whether it was justified or not) that set this off can touch off already-frayed emotions; I get that. However, why do you (presumably) have standards for behavior for yourself, or your kids, standards that you look for in the general public all around you every day, that you don’t hold these looters to?”
And I truly believe it is rooted in a subtle racism. The thought that “‘those people’ can’t be expected to behave in the way that ‘I’ would, but it’s ok….I don’t expect them to.” Because they’re mad. I know I get mad, and when I do, I channel my anger in non-destructive ways, but, again…I don’t have that same expectation of maturity for ‘those people’. But I do want to shield them from scrutiny, because I see them as oppressed, and want to protect the oppressed, so I will lash out at those who point out the obvious wrongness of their action, but don’t understand the motivation. But I would still never act in such as way. And I would be mortified if my child did.”
Now, I know a lot of the preceding was built upon assumption, and straw-manning, but I would welcome others, anyone, especially those inclined to defend the behavior of the looters, to please explain to me how having lowered expectations for a groups of adult, capable people, engaging in obviously illegal actions, in spite of their being angry/upset/frustrated/mad, is not inherently racist….if you wouldn’t act in such a way yourself when similarly provoked.
Because, as a black man, for the life of me, I cannot look at this looting, this stomping on cars, this stopping traffic, and think anything other than “THIS is why there are people out there who still think so little of us. Because too many of use live down to that lowered expectation.”