Comment Of The Day: “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”

Frequent  commenter of distinction Ryan Harkins doesn’t exactly try to answer the”13th Question” ( “What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?”), but at least he advances the discussion by trying to define the problem, which is a whole lot more than anything we have heard from media pundits and elected officials over the last week, and they have fallen all over themselves trying be seen as allying with the right “side.”

This seems like a propitious place to raise this article from Foreign Affairs that readers Wesley49 has proposed for discussion. “I would love to hear the opinions and insights from this thread’s contributors in trying to answer your 13th Question,” he wrote. I have a lot of problems with the piece, which typifies, I think, the academic/scholarly equivocation around this issue, but I won’t pre-bias the discussion more than that.

Here is Ryan Harkins’ Comment of the Day —which has the added pleasure of some great quotes—on the post, “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”:

The problem with trying to end racism is that it runs aground the basic human impulse to “other” people who are different. It has been a practice of mankind from the beginning, and even our very best of societies will constantly struggle with the temptation to “other” the people who at the very least aren’t playing along.

“Othering” is to make someone an outcast from the group, and to place blame on them for the groups problems. Theologians have referred to it as scapegoating. If someone looks different, dresses different, acts different, talks different, there will be the temptation to mock that person, ostracize that person, and perhaps even blame that person for everything that is going wrong. Then, if you can destroy that person, then magically all the problems will go away.

“You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s those damned Republicans trying to horde all the wealth.” “You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s those damned Democrats who are trying socialize everything.” “You want to know what’s wrong with this nation? It’s all those hateful religious folk.” “… It’s all those LGBT people destroying family values.” “…It’s all those white supremacists trying to suppress minorities.” “…It’s all those anti-vaxers…” “…It’s those climate change deniers…” “…It’s those power hungry people who treat science like a religion…”

From this, I’ll make a nod to G.K. Chesterton, who reportedly submitted his shortest essay to The Times in a response to The Times posing the question, “What is wrong with the world today?” His answer was two words: “I am.”

One thing that we need to understand is that we all have the temptation (and we all probably commit the offense) to “other” people, especially people we dislike. Therefore, I will openly confess that I have this temptation, and I have indeed placed all of society’s blames on groups of people. Thus I am indeed what is wrong with our country, and the only way to fix it is to fix myself. I have some ideas of how that is to be accomplished. An external standard of behavior that I can compare my actions against, since I know that were I to make my own moral rules, I would find myself quite virtuous from the start with no need to change. Constant reflection on my behavior, my motivations, and how they help or hurt my efforts to conform to that moral standard. Taking time to consider my own faults before lashing out at someone else’s.

There’s a quote by St. Augustine that I’ve been trying to take to heart (not that I’m succeeding very well at it): “Try to acquire the virtues you believe lacking in your brothers. Then you will no longer see their defects, for you will no longer have them yourself.” In other words, most of the defects we see in other people are projections of our own faults, and if we focused on our own faults, we might find that the people around us did not actually have those faults we attributed to them, or at least not to the degree we thought. If, on the other hand, we still find defects in our brothers, we’ll at least have removed the log from our own eyes before we attempt to remove the splinter from theirs.

What is the solution to our racial problems? It has to be everyone taking person responsibility for their own lives and actions, and it has start at home. But outwardly, we should always remember that no policy, no law, no enforcement will ever remove the temptation to “other” people. It requires constant vigilance, and that constant vigilance must be first of all directed inward.

If I ever succeed, I’ll let you all know…

18 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: “Back To The 13th Question: Answer It, Stop Grandstanding, Or Shut Up”

  1. This is a great comment. Think about it, it requires me to look inward and change my own imperfections. On the other hand I have no clue how Mr Floyd, Mr Chauvin, or Mr Marshall should go about changing there own imperfections. Still, the first step on my own journey should be to acknowledge the “otherness” and be okay with its existence.

    • Well, Mr. Floyd is dead—that tends to make imperfections irrelevant. As for Chauvin, resolving not to do things that kill men under arrest would seem to be a rather easy resolution to make. The “others” I am biased against as “others” are primarily idiots. I don’t expect to get rid of that bias, and I’m not sure I want to.

      • One that a heck of a lot of people can do is stop backing their side when wrong. We’re loaded with it big time. Biden v. Trump: At this point neither are worthy yet millions will vote for one or the other.

        For Mr Chauvin in particular, and police in general: Stop killing unarmed people. Stop defending other officers who do.

        But then they’re not alone. BLM is unethical as heck. Hands up don’t shoot is a lie. So are many of their cases yet the treat them the same. In the long run it doesn’t help as it gives ammunition to your opponents.

        • The whole notion of a “side” makes that unrealistic. A side requires loyalty and support as ethical values. When groups are divided into “sides,” “otherizing” is inevitable.

          • I saw a video yesterday (part of one of Tucker Carlson’s broadcasts) of a BLM person demanding a white woman kneel and apologize for her white privilege, then pressing her when she struggled to find the right words. If asked, will you kneel and apologize for being white?

            • Steve,
              Yesterday, in Bethesda MD which is a wealthy suburb of DC hundreds of whites were sitting on the grass being led in an apology chant for being white. It has become a mental illness. None of these people should be allowed any type of power over others if they are that easily manipulated. These people have no more reason to apologize for being white as blacks have for being black.

              To answer your question, Hell no.

              • To answer the 13th question, though, I think that’s what they want, surrender by everyone who isn’t them. When you kneel, you are giving up. You are putting yourself at the other person’s mercy. You are saying you are defeated. Essentially they want us to self-conquer.

              • Yesterday, in Bethesda MD which is a wealthy suburb of DC hundreds of whites were sitting on the grass being led in an apology chant for being white. It has become a mental illness.

                And I am sure they were all wearing red MAGA hats. /sarc

            • I saw that video too, and wondered if it was a trolling/comedy exercise? The guy videoing referred to “our current president Donald Duck” at the end. Still a pretty nasty set up for the woman, though.

            • “…even our very best of societies will constantly struggle with the temptation to “other” the people who at the very least aren’t playing along…”
              Oh, like the people who are actively working to destroy our culture and our civilization? Like Antifa and BLM and their minions? Those people? Damn skippy! They have “othered” themselves as far as I’m concerned. One of the biggest problems we have is that we are too accepting, too uncritical, of ideas and ideologies that debase us and will eventually be the death of us and of Western civilization.
              Blind and unreasoned bias is one thing, but knowledgeable and rational discernment is essential to a responsible life, or a responsible society.
              Or we could just all join hands and sing, “Imagine.”

      • Thank you, Jack, for the COTD!

        Although I have to say, I always hate how I feel that my comments are incomplete. In this case, I know there is the very large concern of “Okay, I’ve looked at myself, and people are still doing bad things, so now what?” For that, I don’t have a very solid answer. I know that we have the areas we can personally control, and there are areas we can influence, but there are things over which we don’t really have control. I can (some days, with a great amount of Grace) control myself, what I do, what I say, and so on. And there are people and events I can influence through my actions and through my words. But I cannot control anyone else, and I certainly can’t make someone else self-reflective. But I can look at myself and my attitudes and try to correct those so that I can, hopefully, better influence people. Is that enough, to make ourselves the best we can be, so that maybe, just maybe, other people will be inspired to change their lives?

        It is hard, especially when the saying is true, that all that is needed for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. But we so often do nothing because we don’t know (or I certainly don’t know) what that something is that I should be doing. Leading a quiet life where I go to work every day, work hard, come home at night, and tend to my family doesn’t seem in itself to be something that challenges the evils that we’re facing. I just hope that maybe I’ll raise my girls to be kind people, and their kindness will rub off on someone else, and that will ripple out from there…

  2. So there is going to be an investigation of the Minneapolis PD.

    Will that include an investigation of the Police Union preventing unsuitable officers being fired?

  3. Well, I guess I’m guilty of othering people a lot and although I’m quite willing to listen to people with a different viewpoint than my own, I think the concept of being non-judgmental is fundamentally bankrupt. This is especially the case when I notice abhorrent behavior and deceptiveness. People need to be called out when they repeatedly engage in such speech and actions.

  4. We discriminate every day with people based on their ideas, beliefs and other behavioral factors. There is nothing wrong with that.

    A great deal of “othering” is self created through identity issues. I did not create feminists or the LGBTQ or other racially/ethnically denominated communities they did. Every organization to which I belong has open enrollment meaning anyone can join regardless of who they are. However, simply because they can join the larger group does not mean that I must profess my devotion to them or even invite them to hang out with me. Freedom of association is not a bad thing. Attributing beliefs, attitudes, or the perception of unjust benefits accruing to others of various groups instead of specific individuals is the othering to which you speak.

  5. All the enemies that we now face are internal. And the biggest enemies that we face are in our own minds.

    In few words: your post encapsulates a form of sickness. That sickness needs to be seen and confronted. Retreating away from the problem(s) using a camouflage of religious or spiritual values is not a sign of strength but rather a sign of capitulation.

    It will happen sooner or later — please *mark my words* on this — that the population that is directly under attack here (Whites, ‘whiteness’, European-Americans, the institutions that were created by that people, et cetera) get out from under the oppressive but sick *ideology* that Ryan expresses with unconscious eloquence.

    In contrast to that, as Rx, as antidote I present the following:

    Jonathan Bowden: “The greatest enemy that we have is raised in our own mind. The grammar of self-intolerance is what we have imposed and allowed others to impose upon us. Political correctness is a white European grammar, which we’ve been taught, and we’ve stumbled through the early phases of, and yet we’ve learned this grammar and the methodology that lies behind it very well.

    “We’ve learned it to such a degree that we can’t have an incorrect thought now, without a spasm of guilt that associates with it and goes along with it. Every time we think of a self-affirmative statement, it’s undercut immediately by the idea that there’s something wrong, or something queasy, or something quasi-genocidal, or something not quite right, or something morally ill about us if we have that thought. And this extends out beyond racial and ethnic questions to all other questions. To questions of gender, to questions of group identity and belonging, to questions of cultural affirmation, to questions of history.

    “Only when we are fit for power will we find the means to re-exercise it in our own societies. What is happening here and elsewhere in the West is the biggest test that Western people have faced for a very long period. In the past threats are always perceived as external. Another nation, another dictator, another aggressor, another imperial rivalry. In this filament of Empire, in the scramble for Africa at the end of the 19th century, and so on.

    “All the enemies that we now face are internal. And the biggest enemies that we face are in our own minds. The feeling that we shouldn’t say this, shouldn’t write this, shouldn’t speak this, shouldn’t think this. These are the biggest enemies that we have. We’re too riddled with post-Christian guilt. We’re too riddled with philo-Semitism. We’re too riddled with a sense of failure, funk, and futility in relation to the European, the Classical, and the High Middle Ages past. We’re too defensive. We’re not aggressive and assertive enough as a group.”

  6. This arises from our tribal, territorial instincts.

    Here is an example of tribal, territorial instincts.–2639402849.html

    Last month, Thuy from Canada was out feeding community cats when she noticed a new face — a little gray kitten who showed up by herself, hoping to get a share of the food.

    “I kept an eye out on the cats and realized she was alone and had no mother,” Thuy told Love Meow.

    The kitten tried to join the other cats but was quickly chased away. “She was chased from the back yard to the front porch by the other cats. That eventing, we heard crying at our front door, and it was her.”

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