Photo by Kacper Szczechla on Unsplash

Speech has a lot to do with performance of status and group membership.

By 2015 and 2016 there was increasing social mobility across America. The gender wage gap was slowly closing and unemployment for all groups was down. People were doing increasingly well. But the problem is all people were doing increasingly well. White people were doing a bit better than people of color and men were doing a bit better than women, but they weren’t doing better by appreciable gaps. White men’s status then, was threatened. They were doing well, but not considerably better than everyone else. So the only way to defend their place in society, at the top of the pile, was to put everyone else down.

All of that might seem like genius and in actuality Trump and people around him have claimed he — unlike everyone else — actually is one. But no. The genius of it is not Trump’s and it’s barely even that of his more strategic aides. It’s organic re-engineering.

We as humans love to make sense of things. We love to find patterns. This is actually where the anthropological concept of “magic” comes from. If an idol is quite good at something we want to also become good at we will mimic everything they do even where it has nothing to do with their actual skill. We will often attribute things which are random or in error as by design or even divine intervention. This helps us order our world and in some cases there are actually patterns. Trump is not one of those cases. But we really want it to be. The candidacy and Presidency of Donald Trump gave rise to a concept or label in the media known as the “Trump whisperers.” These are people who go on air to translate, defend, and walk back Trump’s statements or tweets. This is really weird.

This is the issue. When we’re talking about “Political Correctness,” we’re talking about the wrong thing. The real name for Political Incorrectness is intolerance and the real name for Political Correctness is basic human decency.

Those of you who are male and reading this think back to a time when you were called out on sexism or even misogyny. For those of you who are white think back on a time when you were called out for racism. I bet you freaked, didn’t you? I will even go so far as to say that a few people reading this have equated being called out on intolerance with intolerance. So here’s the thing you need to understand. Racism and sexism is not the responsibility of minorities and women to solve. White people and men react very poorly to being called out for intolerant behavior. They often consider it an attack on their morality or person. And it is usually in this context when they come back with the “snowflake” accusation. But this is the problem. Acts of sexism and racism aren’t about hurting people’s feelings; they’re about systematically limiting access to society for certain individuals to the point that such individuals have inter-generational biological stress leading to shortened life-spans and poorer health and also excluding them from educational, employment, and leadership opportunities and so forth. But racists don’t don’t want to talk about racism for fear that their own racist feelings might get hurt.

  1. Everyone’s a little bit racist. This includes you, Mr. Woke Deconstructed-Coffee vegan hipster guy. So it is your responsibility to go out and educate yourself on how not to be racist and use your privilege to promote women and people of color. This is sometimes going to be dramatic like standing up for someone on a train or even physically shielding someone from the police and sometimes it’s going to be really simple like saying, “actually, we should return to what Anita just said. Anita, could you repeat that?” in a boardroom.
  2. Never ever EVER make literally any excuse EVER for racism or sexism. If a person behaves in a racist fashion demand consequences. If a person got away with sexual assault and it’s now being discovered, demand consequences. It’s not okay because they’re from your political party, it’s not okay because you really like his acting, it’s not okay because he was in medical school at the time, it’s not even okay because he is currently only 16 or 17 years old. That last is actually one of our biggest problems as white people in America. We’re not imposing enough discipline on our boys and we are letting them get away with not just juvenile mischief but actual serious violent crimes that lead to injury and death for others. It is not okay. We know what would happen of boys of color behaved like that because boys of color have been executed on the street because, basically, police felt like killing someone and knew they could get away with it. And then we excuse the police because they were supposedly “scared.” No. No excuses for racism or sexism or homophobia or anti-Semitism, or ageism or hate towards Muslims or anything else literally ever.
  3. Hold white men to the same standards that you hold women of color.
  4. Put women and people of color in leadership positions. A lot of you are going to say, “oh, but that’s just quotas or affirmative action.” Well okay but see number four. If you truly are trying to do things based on merit alone then black women would rule the world. It’s only because white men are consistently preferenced for managerial positions and political positions that so few women and people of color are seen in leadership positions. White men are not any better than minority groups and in fact women have been earning the majority of University degrees and the majority of doctoral degrees and have surpassed the number of men in University since the 1980s.
  5. Do not EVER pretend that “reverse racism” or “reverse sexism” are a thing. I know when I said that thing about women surpassing men at University a lot of guys went, “that proves discrimination against me!!” No, actually it doesn’t. I nearly lost my high school diploma because I took my friend who had been sexually assaulted to Planned Parenthood. Read that again. I was threatened with expulsion from my high school because I knew that a male classmate had raped my friend and the school was afraid that if I spoke out that white male student might suffer consequences for his actions. And if you read those articles I linked several of them point out that despite holding advanced degrees women still earn less. White men are consistently put at the head of the line for everything so if you as a white men are not earning what you think you should then that is likely what’s called, “relative deprivation,” meaning you are just not earning more than women and people of color and that’s why you’re mad. That’s racism and sexism.
  6. Do not pretend that the economy is the only problem and that it’s everyone’s problem. Economy is your problem and it’s your problem because only white men really have access to the entirety of the economy. Yes, the lack of legal protections and civil rights leads to numerous consequences for people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals and so forth which sometimes evidence themselves in economic form, but economic issues pale before everything else minority populations have to deal with. Fixing the economy fixes it for white men only. If you are fixing the economy and ignoring civil rights you are just creating a racial oligarchy.
  7. Think good and hard about “identity politics,” and what it truly means. One of the less visible or obvious racist or sexist statements I’ve heard floating about is, “I will vote for the best person for the job.” This is up there with “I’m colorblind.” Until we fix all the problems above we cannot ignore a candidate’s gender or race or background. We need female leadership and more ethnic diversity in political positions of power because white men are demonstrably poor at leading, because white men do not understand what it is their constituents need from them, and because white men more than any other group are easily seduced by promises of increased status. I can only think of one female authoritarian leader and it’s not for nothing that she became an authoritarian leader to take pressure off her husband who had by that point long been an authoritarian leader. It is possible for women and other minority individuals to fall into authoritarian traps, but because status is not as completely wed to their identity as it is for men they are more likely to avoid those traps than men. We are only going to get close to resolving our problems of racism and sexism once Congress and the White House and the Judiciary are at minimum half female and reflect our country’s cultural makeup.

Doctor of Palaeopathology, rage-prone optimist, stealth berserker, opera enthusiast, and insatiable consumer of academic journals.

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