Racist is not something you are. Racism is something you do.


There’s a fallacy that commonly emerges when people talk about prejudiced, bigoted or oppressive language. It is the idea that racism is something only practised by racists; homophobia something only practised by homophobes, transphobia only something practised by transphobes etc etc.

There is an obvious and banal point attached to this, which is that pretty much every one of us harbours some stereotyped or prejudiced thinking of one sort or other, often unknowingly. We can all resort to a choice of word or turn of phrase, or hold an opinion or belief which we had thought entirely inoffensive until someone comes along and points out why it might be derogatory or degrading to others. The decent thing to do under those circumstances is apologise, learn and move on.

There is another consequence of the fallacy which is much more insidious, because its effect is to prevent people taking responsibility for their own words and actions.

Example one. Earlier this week the Telegraph’s Emma Barnett wrote a piece about the three London schoolgirls who have apparently run off to join Islamic State. Making similar arguments to those of Grace Dent in the Independent and Mary Dejevsky in the Guardian, Barnett argued that the three girls should be considered willing agents rather than innocent victims, and points to the benevolent sexism implied in our gender-based reaction to this case, asking how different our reactions would be if these were boys.

Now for the record, I agree with this up to a point. I think our reactions and responses should be informed not by the gender or religion of these young people, but by the only relevant factor – they are children. This, however, is not the issue. In her opening remarks, Barnett said they: “by now are probably shacked up with a hipster jihadi, locked in their homes and expected to crack on with popping out a few kids to populate the Caliphate.” Along with a couple of other phrases in her piece, several readers and writers suggested that this kind of writing plays on and contributes to lazy stereotypes about Muslim women, that far from treating them as adults and free agents it instead dehumanized and degraded them, and that her argument as a whole leaned on assumptions about the evils of Muslims which would not have been applied had the girls been white / non-Muslim. In short, they suggested that her article was Islamophobic or racist.

Is this fair? Possibly, possibly not, but it is certainly within the bounds of legitimate critique. It is the sort of point that all writers and commentators should be expected to absorb and consider, whether or not we ultimately decide to agree.

Barnett’s reaction, however, was deeply revealing and extremely ill-judged. In a follow-up piece entitled “Racists are alive and well in Britain – but I’m not one of them” she protested vigorously at the suggestion she may be racist, pointing instead at the examples of the Chelsea fans who had blocked a black man’s access to a Paris subway train or the (ex-) UKIP councillor who had been exposed by a TV documentary explaining how she felt uncomfortable around “negroes.”

Let’s be clear about this. If one is accused of racism, it is never, ever a defence to point to someone else being more racist and saying “well at least I’m not doing that.” Remember, the UKIP councillor who talked about feeling uncomfortable around “negroes” had, just a breath before, insisted that she could not be racist because she quite liked an Asian couple who ran the local shop. I’d hazard a guess that at least some of those Chelsea fans, the ones who sang “we’re racist and we like it like that” would, if given a sober moment to explain, claim that they aren’t really racist, they didn’t really mean it, they were just joking, it is not like they were beating up anyone or lynching people the way real racists do. And so on, down the line.

As a good working rule, racist is not something one is, racism is something one does. Most of the time the question of whether someone *is* a racist is an abstracted, philosophical irrelevance. One does not need to delve into Aristotelean or existentialist philosophy and ponder whether the individual has an essence beyond behaviour. Most of the time it is simply irrelevant.

I think the most crystal clear illustration of this principle came a week or two earlier, in the aftermath of the now notorious open letter published in the Observer, in which 130 prominent academics, journalists and activists condemned supposed infringements of free speech by allies of trans people and sex workers within campus feminism.

In the ensuing furore, one of the signatories, Professor Mary Beard wrote a blogpost which included the following section:

“I feel confident that I am not a transphobe or whorephobe as accused and could provide references to that effect (though I realise that prejudices are not best perceived by those who hold them)! More fundamentally, I think there is something very weird going on if me and Peter Tatchell (never mind the other 130 people) are held up as the enemy of the SW and trans community when (whatever the micro arguments are) we are on the same damned side.”

The huge flaw here is in thinking that the complaints were about the individuals, their personalities or moral worth, rather than the specific action of signing a letter. To be blunt, for someone in that position to be worrying about whether or not they are, deep down in the essence of their being, a transphobe or whorephobe strikes me as sollipsistic if not downright narcissistic. Frankly I don’t care much either way. What I do care about is that someone who was (indeed is) liked and admired has added her or his name to a letter which served to malign and misrepresent trans people, sex workers and their allies, which provided immense succour and encouragement to some actively hateful ideologues and had the effect of condemning and vilifying legitimate protest and political engagement. The reason why, of all the signatories, it was Peter Tatchell and Mary Beard who found themselves on the receiving end of so much anger, argument and hostility was precisely because nobody who knows anything about them thinks for a moment they are whorephobes and transphobes. The anger was precisely because we thought we were on ‘the same damned side.’ The detractors were not angry about who they are, but about what they did.

We have all learned to laugh at the expression “I’m not racist but…” It inevitably precedes an irredeemably racist statement. The most dangerous of all such constructions, however, is not “I’m not racist but…” it is “I’m not racist so…” That phrase (or logic) usually continues like this: “I’m not racist so what I said or did can’t have been racist.” That is not only logically flawed, it is the worst kind of moral escapology trick.

There is a flipside to this. If we expect people to account for themselves on the basis of what they say and do rather than the ethereal quality of their character, then when we criticise people, we should do likewise. I honestly don’t know how many of Mary Beard’s critics literally said “you are a transphobe and a whorephobe”, and I do not know how many of Emma Barnett’s critics literally said “You are a racist” but I would suggest that any such accusations are misguided. Whether or not they are true (again, an abstract and largely irrelevant philosophical issue) they are politically and practically counter-productive.

By way of personal example, it is no secret that there are some people within feminism who despise me and everything I stand for and believe in. Fair enough, that goes with the territory. I am, reasonably often, called a misogynist. Beyond the natural human sting of insult, it has no impact on me whatsoever. It doesn’t challenge my ideas, it doesn’t have any traction on my work or thinking. It is also sufficiently far-removed from my own sense of self that I can easily just brush it off as being wrong. By contrast, when someone tells me something I have written is misogynistic (a much rarer occurrence, for the record) I sit up and take notice. I fret and worry and examine my heart, I ask trusted friends, and I read and re-read the offending section until I decide whether I could have written (or argued, or thought) the point differently. Of course I don’t always agree with and accept the criticism, but I entirely accept that just because I don’t think of myself as a misogynist, doesn’t mean that I might not have written or said something misogynistic.

Often, angry insults hurled across the blogosphere and social media are not really intended for constructive engagement. Sometimes calling people rude names is an end in itself, and there is a place for that too. However with those whom we would like to consider friends, allies and like-minds, it is important to remember that it is not who we are that matters in political engagement, it is what we do.

Comments

  1. Darren Ball says

    It would have been better if the articles had said it’s awful that this has happened to these girls, and then questioned (probably in a completely different article) why we don’t similarly fret about teenage boys heading off too. It seems like a rush to the bottom of equality: equally distributed misery (I think that was Churchill’s phrase).

  2. picklefactory says

    A point made insistently and repeatedly by folks like Crommunist (Ian Cromwell) and Ta-Nehisi Coates in a North American context in a way that had a great and hopefully lasting effect on my thought processes a couple years ago. Should see if I can dig up a few pertinent links.

  3. says

    …Barnett argued that the three girls should be considered willing agents rather than innocent victims…

    Holy fucking shit, I can’t believe ANYONE would say that about minors induced to join any army. They’re MINORS, ferfucksake, which means (legally at least) they’re automatically considered not competent to make such big life choices as joining an army and participating in acts of war. We don’t even allow minors to join our own army, let alone someone else’s.

    When WW-II histories get to the part where Hitler sent children to fight his (losing) war, it’s never treated as “standard procedure;” it’s treated as yet another insane appalling action that made Hitler the Face of Pure Evil. (And wasn’t it treated as a war crime back then?)

    And does anyone remember all the outrage in the West about African warlords using child-soldiers?

    …asking how different our reactions would be if these were boys.

    I’m pretty sure that people who would call girls “willing agents” would most likely say the same about boys in the same instance (with the possible exception of the more unhinged and irresponsible MRAs). I think we should instead be asking how different our reactions would be if the force they were joining weren’t Muslim.

  4. JT says

    RB

    I know enough minors that could easily kick your ass. My daughters boyfriend is 6’5 280lbs and is 17yrs old. Minor doenst even come close to describing him. Oh and by the way, his intellect matches his frame.

  5. says

    JT @4: So what? Are religious, cultural, racial and ethnic bigotries really different enough that your point matters?

    JT@5: Again, so what? I was talking about the legal status of minors, and the fact that we generally do not consider them competent to engage in acts of war; and in fact civilized societies are expected to treat minors as noncombatants and PROTECT them from the evils of war. Not sure why your stupid-assed bluster about your kid’s boyfriend’s size matters here.

  6. 123454321 says

    RB, Why is that you always get everything so wrong, or at least try to twist the argument in your favour? It’s like you are purposefully trying to entice a reaction!

    Anyway, in answer to this:

    “I’m pretty sure that people who would call girls “willing agents” would most likely say the same about boys..”

    I doubt it, but the main question to ask with regards to perception of equality is this: would three boys ever be perceived as being innocent victims? Me thinks not.

  7. JT says

    @6 It matters what you quantify things as. I like that, civilized. You are ample proof that some in our culture dont quite meet that standard.

    @7 Then call them bigots unless they are specifically pointing out the colour.

    The problem with not being accurate is that people who throw these terms out are ignorant themselves and usually just trying to get something to stick on others so as not to have to engage in discourse. In my opinion it has become fashionable to call someone racist or phobic, almost to the point it has lost all sense.

  8. Anne Fenwick says

    I think the best response for her, assuming she’s convinced her opinion isn’t influenced by race, is to show that she takes a similar line towards girls of all races, and preferably demonstrate that if she can. Then we can argue about the right things, e.g. The girls may have set off as free agents, but they’re likely to lose all right to change their mind and even the ability to have any control over the details of their life. I consider that a horrifying and unacceptable situation for a girl/woman of any race. Some people apparently don’t. No doubt we disapprove of each other, but the accusations of racism are no better than shut-downs unless we can actually point to someone’s inconsistencies.

  9. says

    …would three boys ever be perceived as being innocent victims?

    I’m quite sure they would, by the rather large number of people who see no good reason why their boys would join a group like ISIL based solely on “information” they got from a jihadi web-page.

    If the boys clearly made their decision based on emotion, lies, immature grasp of world affairs, and/or the vicissitudes of that form of psychosis known as “puberty,” then yes, they would indeed be seen as innocent victims of calculated deception; just like boys induced to get hooked on heroin or join a street gang or loony cult. If you really knew what you were talking about, you would know that this sort of thing has happened before, and yes, both the boys and the girls were seen as innocent victims.

  10. says

    The problem with not being accurate…

    There’s nothing “inaccurate” about noting that religious/cultural bigotry isn’t really all that different from racism, and is driven by the same flawed tribalistic human thought process, with the same consequences. Nor is it “inaccurate” to note that racism and other forms of bigotry tend to mix a lot, because racists tend to equate physical attributes like skin color with religious/cultural attributes.

    Nor is it “inaccurate” to note that most of the people bitching about “Islam is not a race” are basically nitpicking and splitting hairs to avoid larger matters.

  11. says

    Also, numbers-boy, the boys who are forcibly recruited by African warlords to be child-soldiers are indeed seen as innocent victims. How much world news did you have to ignore not to see that happening?

  12. Ally Fogg says

    RagingBee

    I think it is way off beam to compare these kids to child soldiers in Africa. Nobody came to these girls’ doors, abducted them and forced them to join IS at the point of a gun.

    I agree that they are children and shouldn’t be afforded full adult responsibility for their actions (and I would certainly say the same about boys of the same age) but it does appear that whatever radicalisation they went through was entirely of their own volition.

    I think a better analogy would be Elliott Roger immersing himself in hate-filled manosphere red pill sites by choice, and allowing himself to be convinced by it.

    (and yes, I realise he was slightly older, but he was also vulnerable through ASD and mental health issues, which kind of balances it out)

  13. says

    Yes, the African child-soldiers are a bad analogy. Instead, try sexual predators grooming and luring victims through the Internet — something we’re told is rather similar to the grooming and luring done by jihadi sites. In those cases, boys and girls alike tend to be seen as innocent victims, despite both going to see the predators “of their own volition.”

  14. Ally Fogg says

    Not even convinced about that, RB.

    As far as I’m aware, nobody has suggested that IS volunteers are spending hundreds of hours on the internet personally befriending and psychologically manipulating young girls from London.

    Is there any suggestion there was any direct, person-to-person contact between men (or women) from IS and these girls? Were they chosen and singled out, gradually befriended, broken down, convinced, misled etc etc etc in any way that is comparable to a predatory paedophile grooming a child?

    If so, it would change my opinion a bit, but as far as I’m aware, nobody has suggested such a thing. The assumption is that they just read all the stuff available online and decided they liked it and agreed with it, isn’t it?

    Which still makes me think the best analogy might be Elliott Roger.

  15. says

    Were they chosen and singled out, gradually befriended, broken down, convinced, misled etc etc etc in any way that is comparable to a predatory paedophile grooming a child?

    From what I’ve heard so far, yes, there was at least some of that. The reports I’ve heard (from NPR) spoke of rather slickly done web-sites appealing to emotions as well as to political or religious opinions, and of email correspondences over time encouraging teens to go and join ISIL. And the culmination, of course, was an adult arranging all the travel details and leading them to get on those flights to Turkey.

  16. Ally Fogg says

    I’m really not sure. I read articles like this one:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-jihadi-girls-who-went-to-syria-werent-just-radicalised-by-isis–they-were-groomed-10069109.html

    …. which I think is the kind of thing you’re talking about, and I don’t find it very convincing. For starters, we don’t actually know as yet anything about these three girls, it is all generalisations about the kind of thing that ISIS do to recruit girls, but also it entirely dodges the question of how such girls come to be visiting those websites in the first place, how they come to be talking to ISIS recruiters online etc.

    The difference with paedophile grooming is that it is perfectly natural and normal and reasonable for teenagers to be chatting, flirting, engaging with others online and understandable how that engagement can be manipulated by an abuser.

    I find it much harder to understand why a teenage girl is innocently browsing glossy ISIS websites to watch beheading videos.

    The bottom line is that the groomed child is not setting out knowingly to do harm to others, not deliberately setting out to be part of something that is horrendously repulsive by any functioning moral compass.

    It seems to me that while we don’t really know what happened, Occam’s Razor here points to the girls knowing full well what they were doing, who with and why.

    Sure, there was someone at the other end willing to exploit their idiocy, immaturity and whatever ugly ideology they had latched onto, but I don’t think that makes them victims.

  17. JT says

    There’s nothing “inaccurate” about noting that religious/cultural bigotry isn’t really all that different from racism, and is driven by the same flawed tribalistic human thought process, with the same consequences.(RB)

    You are aware that ISIS idea’s are religious based, right? You know, in the same way that the Westboro Baptists are. Im thinking you need to get out more often. Oh, and by the way, trashing either would still be bigotry and not racism. But being that youre not ignorant, you know that.

  18. StillGjenganger says

    This is a deeply flawed doctrine, Ally. There is a whole family of words that have similar meanings here – islamophobic, racist, misogynist, ‘whorephobic’, … They imply that something is not only insulting or offensive, not only harmful to vulnerable people and good politics, but vile, evil, irrational and pathological. They are the exact equivalent of saying that something is directly inspired by the devil – such things can not be explained or justified in any way and it is the clear duty of all right-thinking people to root them out. And these words are applied, as you say, to any act that is seen as contrary to the political interests or self-image of a politically favoured group.

    Now, if you are a true believer, the idea that anything you have done might actually be inspired by the devil is a real risk that requires the most careful self-scrutiny – and the most wide-ranging reparations should it prove to be true. If you are dedicated to progressive politics you might well agree that nothing that could possibly damage the cause of (e.g.) trans people has any right to exist and police yourself accordingly. You, Ally, seem to have made that choice, and in your case I honour you for it.

    But using such immensely heavy condemnation as a routine political argument has some unavoidable consequences. Whatever you say, you cannot condemn an act as racist without also condemning the person committing it. We know that the devil a wily tempter and easy to succumb to, but the fact that you have done his work is still a moral failing that should be a cause for deep shame. And if the shame and repentance is not forthcoming, all right-thinking people will clearly unite to excommunicate you as someone who choses to serve the devil.

    Even within the movement the result is that legitimate arguments are made unsayable and useful debates are made impossible. The letter of Mary Beard and Peter Tatchell form an excellent example. It seems to be a good and important question whether excluding certain arguments from public debate (to the extent you control it) and putting certain debaters beyond the pale is a fruitful way to proceed. It would certainly seem worth discussing who does and who does not merit this rather drastic treatment. I offer no opinion on the point, unprogressive as I am. But branding otherwise respected progressives as – at best – transphobic fellow-travellers for offering their argument is not debate. It is simply a notice to conform to orthodoxy or face excommunication. As for using similar tactics against people who have not chosen to be progressive, that is simply using the (real and extensive) cultural power of the progressive movement to impose your orthodoxy on non-believers.

  19. NYC atheist says

    Would boys be seen as victims in this case?

    I can’t speak to what would happen on your side of the pond; but here in the states, if they were white, yes.

  20. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    There is a whole family of words that have similar meanings here – islamophobic, racist, misogynist, ‘whorephobic’, … They imply that something is not only insulting or offensive, not only harmful to vulnerable people and good politics,

    All true…

    but vile, evil, irrational and pathological. They are the exact equivalent of saying that something is directly inspired by the devil

    Utter, arrant nonsense. A hyperbolic projection bears no resemblance to anything I have written or believe.

    Whatever you say, you cannot condemn an act as racist without also condemning the person committing it.

    Well “condemn!” is a strong word. I’d say you can’t condemn an act as racist without also criticising the person committing it. That is true.

    And what is the alternative? That we welcome all the good types of racism? Cheer on the good homophobia? Applaud the ethically motivated transphobia?

    No ta.

  21. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 23
    OK, ‘directly inspired by the devil’ is a simile – much as I personally think that the function of protecting orthodoxy and excluding heretics is quite similar. But ‘vile, evil, irrational, pathological’ is part of the emotional load of words like ‘racist’, ‘homophobic’ etc. That is why those words are so totally effective at banishing the wrong opinions. Once some proposal is judged as e.g. ‘transphobic’ is does not matter if seen in isolation it might have some justification, it does not matter if the proponents have a legitimate point, or if they are sincere and well-meaning. Either they recant or they have sided with the enemy. A system where anything that is not pro-trans is ‘transphobic’ makes debate impossible – deliberately.

    What might be the alternative? Well, consider militant atheists, for an example. Many militant atheists clearly have a strong emotional reaction against any kind of religion. They feel personally offended that anybody can believe in this nonsense, they go out of their way to give offense, they deny legitimacy to their opponents, they wish to eradicate religion from the surface of the planet. You could certainly argue that they suffer some kind of phobia, even in the technical sense – but I would not call them ‘theophobic’ even so. I think there is a case for getting them to keep their venom out of public debate and to stop using offensive insults as a substitute for arguments – much as we do not let people get away with comparing coloured people to monkeys. As a Christian, I disagree with them. But it is perfectly legitimate to want to reduce the role of religion in public policy, to point out the errors and weird foibles that can indeed be found in religion, and to promote measures that (some) religious people may find deeply offensive – from drawings of the prophet to female bishops or gay marriage. Some of their proposal are wrong, and even illiberal, in my opinion, but that does not mean that they can not legitimately be held, or argued.

    Why not treat potentially racist or transphobic moves as I would treat atheism? Condemn poison words (and those who use them) for what they are – that would still hit a lot of radfems. As for proposals, discuss them on their merits. If something hurts the life chances of transsexuals, just say so, and argue it out whether this alone is enough to condemn it – even transsexuals may sometimes lose an argument in favour of other strong claims. And if someone of hitherto impeccable credentials like Peter Tatchell argues that some particular tactic is bad – even if transsexuals favour it – consider what he is saying before you chose to reject it.

  22. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    “But ‘vile, evil, irrational, pathological’ is part of the emotional load of words like ‘racist’, ‘homophobic’ etc.”

    No, this is a projection or a strawman.

    Something can be a teensy weensy wee bit racist or homophobic. Take for example someone looking at a flamboyant pink shirt and saying “it’s a bit gay, isn’t it.”

    Is that homophobic? Marginally, yes. Is the statement, or the person who says it, “vile, evil, pathological”? No, of course not.

    Judging something to be homophobic, racist, transphobic or whatever is, obviously, a negative assessment. It assumes that to be bigoted in such a way is a bad thing. But it makes no claim as to degree of ‘wrongness.’

    Once some proposal is judged as e.g. ‘transphobic’ is does not matter if seen in isolation it might have some justification

    Transphobia is an irrational and oppressive fear, stigmatisation or subjection of trans people. It is not justified, by definition. When we debate or argue whether or not something is transphobic (which is a perfectly legitimate, indeed essential process) usually what we are arguing about is whether or not the statement or act is justified, as well as whether it is oppressive, irrational etc. If it has indeed been “judged” to be transphobic, then a consensus has been reached that it was not justified.

    Some of their proposal are wrong, and even illiberal, in my opinion, but that does not mean that they can not legitimately be held, or argued.

    What do you mean by ‘legitimately’?

    It seems to me that what you are asking for is for people to be able to speak or act in racist, homophobic or transphobic ways without having the messy inconvenience or embarrassment of someone pointing out that they are being racist, homophobic or transphobic. Why should they have that privilege?

    And if someone of hitherto impeccable credentials like Peter Tatchell argues that some particular tactic is bad – even if transsexuals favour it – consider what he is saying before you chose to reject it.

    You seriously think that Tatchell’s critics on this issue didn’t and haven’t considered the issues?

    What became luminously apparent in the ensuing debate was that it was Tatchell who hadn’t considered the issue, didn’t know the facts of the cases he was condemning and had not considered the implications of the letter. The hilarious thing was he admitted afterwards that he had personally joined pickets on campuses against appearances by transphobic feminists. In other words, he had personally attended the exact types of protests that he signed a letter to condemn.

    Here’s a good example of the level of consideration given to the issues from the other side

    http://paper-bird.net/2015/02/19/hypocrisy-and-free-speech/

  23. Holms says

    #4
    Islam is not a race of people. You could be bigoted against it but not racist.

    I don’t see how that is a meaningful distinction. It is entirely possible for a personal prejudice against islam to result in behavior that resembles racism so closely that we may as well just call it racism, even if the motivation is religion rather than race. Think of the ‘random’ luggage searches at airports, which are massively skewed towards anyone that looks sufficiently middle-eastern, from actual middle-easterners to olive-skinned greeks. Think of the abuse directed at ‘muslims’ that turn out to be sikhs, or atheists, or even christians, simply because they look brown and beardy.

    If the end result is mistreatment along racial lines, it’s racism.

  24. david says

    if me and Peter Tatchell … are held up as the enemy” Professor Mary Beard, who appears (via google) to be a Cambridge scholar in English classics. Really?

  25. mildlymagnificent says

    Whatever you say, you cannot condemn an act as racist without also condemning the person committing it.

    This is silly. The most important thing at issue when normally decent, kind people say things that are marginally, or overtly, racist, sexist, misogynist, whatever, the first thing to look at is the person and their culture.

    If the language and the forms of expression are inherently racist or bigoted, then an individual who uses them without thinking much about them is not an irredeemably evil scumbag who should be banished from decent society forever. Most people who are told that certain expressions are unacceptable because they denigrate a group or who are amazed to discover the nasty origins of expressions because they’ve never thought about their meaning at all. (The classic example here is complaining about being “gypped” in a transaction. It’s actually a slur against the honesty of gypsy/romany people.)

    Usually people say, Oh really? Hadn’t thought of that/ that’s what we always said in my family/ some version of either or both of these. And then go on to reconsider their use of those words/expressions now that they know the meaning, its unacceptability and its implications. It’s when people dig their heels in and say that those words are what they really think, or they don’t care about the effects on the affected groups that you can say anything about their attitudes.

    Above all else, our language and our culture is steeped in sexism and racism and other …-isms. (Age would be the one that tends to pass unnoticed most often I’d think.) Anyone who thinks that they’re immune to or that they’ve risen above these effects is kidding themselves. Whenever they’re brought to our attention, we need to consider such comments or criticisms thoughtfully. We should apologise if any immediate offence was caused and, either publicly or privately, commit to doing better in future.

  26. StillGjenganger says

    @Mildly 28
    True, but does not really change the issue. What you are saying is that ignorance and growing up in a bad culture are valid excuses – but only provided you immediately repent and vow to sin no more. The taint is in you, you just have the chance of rooting it out before condemnation strikes (as it were). The final result is that if some group claims to be deeply offended by anything (words like (computer) ‘slave disk’ or ‘chairman’, choosing ‘non-white’ or ‘black’ where only ‘Person of Colour’ will do, the Zwarte Piet of Dutch Santa celebrations, the ‘Vagina Monologues’, because they imply that all women have vaginas, …) the point may not be argued. The claim is by definition right, and anyone disputing it is not merely rude, but “an irredeemably evil scumbag who should be banished from decent society forever“.

    It is all very well that

    Whenever they’re brought to our attention, we need to consider such comments or criticisms thoughtfully. We should apologise if any immediate offence was caused and, either publicly or privately, commit to doing better in future.

    but in actual practice the principle is not used to protect against offensive behaviour in general, but to enthrone a particular ideology and freeze out those who disagree. If you doubt that statement, I invite you to consider the many people who are genuinely and deeply offended by drawings of their prophet, the work of Anita Sarkeesian. or the use of words like ‘sky pixie’ or ‘flying spaghetti monster”.

  27. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    I invite you to consider the many people who are genuinely and deeply offended by drawings of their prophet, the work of Anita Sarkeesian. or the use of words like ‘sky pixie’ or ‘flying spaghetti monster”.

    Such reactions only have the power we are prepared to grant them.

    If I talk about a Sky Pixie and offend some Christian somewhere, you know what? I don’t care. If I laugh at a gamer-gator’s ridiculous whiny persecution complex and he objects, I don’t care. Why? Because I think his complaint is ridiculous.

    In the case of TERFs, it is quite clear that a lot of the most unpleasant and bigoted of them do not care about being called transphobic, indeed they actively court it and revel in it.

    Telling someone that they have said or done something transphobic only has any power if the other person wants to not be transphobic, if they recognise that transhobia is a phenomenon and they want to avoid it. In which case, engaging with them as to whether what they have said or done is (or could be) transphobic is a constructive process.

  28. StillGjenganger says

    @Ally 30,25

    if they recognise that transhobia is a phenomenon and they want to avoid it. […] engaging with them as to whether what they have said or done is (or could be) transphobic is a constructive process.

    As you use them, words like ‘transphobic’ are effectively group-speak for progressives. And as long as the discussion is limited to the in-group it can indeed be perfectly constructive. If you share the underlying ideology and subscribe to the group decision-making you will presumably agree with the conclusions. You would certainly pay attention if the people you look to for agreement and legitimacy think you are being transphobic. I still think it has its costs, though. The binary choice between ‘good’ and ‘transphobic’ makes nuanced considerations difficult. It can be easier to deem someone transphobic on a technicality than to engage with an idea that puts your certainties under question, and any suspicion of transphobia comes with an accusation of betraying the group norms, and an implied threat of exclusion.

    Such reactions only have the power we are prepared to grant them

    Here I disagree. The effect of words like ‘transphobic’ or ‘racist’ is not limited to card-carrying progressives. A phrase like “Inveterate wanderer of the capitalist road” might only work inside the Chinese Communist Party, since nobody else would understand what it meant. But ‘racist’, ‘transphobic’ et al. have a generally accepted meaning across society , i.e. something nasty, rooted in an irrational or pathological state of mind, unworthy of the consideration of decent people – and people react accordingly when accused. If people are happy to be called transphobic it is likely because they glory in the insults of their enemies as a badge of honour, not (with the exception of a few Chelsea fans and neo-nazis) because accept that they are suffering from irrational hatred.
    If it is the general opinion in your community (as evidenced by the words people use) that your opinions are disgusting, sick, and unworthy of a decent human being, that does hit both your self-esteem, and your chance of influencing arguments. The only way you can opt out is to retire from the community, either stay silent at home, or stick to Fox News and no-platform ‘liberals’ as unworthy human beings in turn. Progressives are perfectly aware of this, which is why there is such a heavy emphasis on using minority-friendly terms. But, like the article you link to says about Peter Tatchell, the tactics are apparently perfectly aceptable – as long as you are sure that you yourself will be pressing the trigger, not catching the bullets.

    What do you mean by ‘legitimately’?
    It seems to me that what you are asking for is for people to be able to speak or act in racist, homophobic or transphobic ways without having the messy inconvenience or embarrassment of someone pointing out that they are being racist, homophobic or transphobic. Why should they have that privilege?

    I am asking for the wide-spread right to present your opoinions in debate in neutral terms that do not pre-determine that you are wrong, and to argue them with an initial presumption that all sides deserve a hearing, and that no one group gets to decide that only what they say goes. Do you really think that is a privilege? If so, who gets to decide who should be privileged and who should not?

  29. StillGjenganger says

    Such reactions only have the power we are prepared to grant them

    Sorry, I probably misunderstood you. You did not mean “being called transphobic or racist only affects us if we choose to feel it is correct” did you? You meant “I do not have to give a shit if my actions hurt other people”. If so you are quite right. I do not have to give a shit either, if my actions hurt transsexuals or gays, or irritatingly outspoken feminists. It is just that by temperament I would prefer a society where people tried to avoid causing unnecessary hurt, and where different groups applied some mutual disarmament to achieve it. Might you be interested in something like that, or would it be an unacceptable limitation on your fight for the things you believe in?

  30. says

    …it entirely dodges the question of how such girls come to be visiting those websites in the first place…

    That’s pretty easy: lots of young Muslims in the West feel alienated both from their new country (thanks in large part to racial, religious and anti-immigrant bigotry), and from their cultural roots; and as a result, they tend to seek out information, and a window, into just about anything pertaining to the culture from which they were born. People have a general tendency to seek out such things, and we always have. Immigrants almost always try to keep in touch with their respective “old countries,” one way or another; and young people trying to grow up, and form personal identities, in a society where they don’t feel either fully welcome or fully rooted, are even more prone to this than the rest of us. This is what makes them look at sites that at least pretend to be about Islamic identity, and this is what makes teens especially vulnerable to the sort of grooming that Islamist cult recruiters clearly practice. It’s really not that hard to understand — unless of course you’re TRYING to ascribe malice to a bunch of immature kids.

    It seems to me that while we don’t really know what happened, Occam’s Razor here points to the girls knowing full well what they were doing, who with and why.

    Occam’s Razor tells you that teenagers are fully capable of understanding both a complex political situation and their own feelings and limitations? I think you’re grossly misunderstanding Occam’s Razor.

    I find it much harder to understand why a teenage girl is innocently browsing glossy ISIS websites to watch beheading videos.

    First, because they’re Muslim, and they’re in a society that is alien to them, and that treats them as aliens, and possibly as enemies; so we really can’t blame them for not fully internalizing that society’s values, superior to Islamism though they may be. And second, because those sites strongly appeal to a growing teen’s sense of unfairness and injustice, and there’s plenty of injustices currently being committed by Europeans and Americans (not to mention Russians) against the people such teens would identify as “their people,” and the Islamist groomers know how to use that sense of injustice and grievance to bring teens to their side.

    You are aware that ISIS idea’s are religious based, right?

    Are YOU aware of the recent history of that region? There’s far more going there than religious thinking, and only an idiot would think that the entirety of ISIL’s thoughts and actions are derived from religion. Islam is partly to blame for what ISIL are doing, but it’s not the only contributing factor, by a long shot.

  31. sonofrojblake says

    @RagingBee, 3:

    I can’t believe ANYONE would say [that the three girls should be considered willing agents ] about minors induced to join any army.

    Begging the question. It is far from clear that they’ve been “induced” to any meaningful extent, and the “organisation” they’re joining doesn’t really fit the word “army”, either. They were willing agents inasmuch as what they’ve done required them to voluntarily take independent action (including but not limited to committing criminal acts including the theft and use of a passport belonging to someone else). While they are, as you screech, MINORS, they’re well above what UK law recognises as the age of criminal responsibility for their illegal actions. Put simply, while the law doesn’t allow them to do grown-up stuff, it very much does see them as old enough to know the difference between right and wrong and take responsibility when they do wrong. It is inconceivable that people in their position don’t know perfectly well the sort of people they’re signing up to support. Apart from anything else, Daesh have been very successful in disseminating their message that they’re a bunch of barbarian scum who’ll burn a man alive and then distribute a video of the event.

  32. sonofrojblake says

    @StillGjenganger:

    I am asking for the wide-spread right to present your opoinions in debate in neutral terms that do not pre-determine that you are wrong

    You’re asking to argue in another language, then – possibly not one that exists. Marain, perhaps?

    Meanwhile, as a Christian, you might (in your mind) “legitimately” hold factually incorrect views on homosexuality, evolution or abortion. You might attempt to “legitimately” discuss these things in terms you regard as “neutral” – referring perhaps to a just-fertilised blastocyst as a “baby”, or whatever. But they’re not neutral. They don’t refer to things that are up for debate, they refer to verifiable facts about objective reality. Gay people are humans with a full set of human rights just like everyone else, just-fertilised blastocysts are not, and both of them got here by the processes of evolution by natural selection.

    Your problem arises because the objective-reality-based terms used to talk about these thing do, indeed, often pre-determine that your position as a Christian is wrong. You see that as an indication that those terms are not “neutral”. There is an alternative explanation.

  33. says

    It is far from clear that they’ve been “induced” to any meaningful extent, and the “organisation” they’re joining doesn’t really fit the word “army”, either.

    Your “use” of “scare” quotes is astound”ding.” Also, first you say “It is far from clear…” and then you try to pretend it’s totally clear that these kids are fully cognizant and criminally liable. You’re being as hypocritical as you are wrong on both counts.

  34. StillGjenganger says

    @ sonofrojblake 35
    It does not really matter whether you, I or neither of us are right. There is no such think as objectively neutral language, that people can agree on regardless of ideological starting point. If you want to debate something you need to negotiate some language that all parties can work with, and that can therefore work as a neutral ‘medium of exchange’. Otherwise you stop arguing and leave it to who shouts loudest, or shoots straightest.

    Your examples perfectly show that according to your worldview most alternatives are objectively and obviously wrong. So says you. So says the leaders of ISIS – the worldview they propose is just different. So: You wanna talk? Then stop insisting that your personal dogma must be taken as granted by both sides. You don’t wanna talk? Stop wasting your breath, then.

  35. says

    Racist is not something you are. Racism is something you do.

    This is kind of a false dichotomy. Generally speaking, racist is what certain people are judged to be, if racism is what they’re consistently observed doing.

  36. sonofrojblake says

    @Raging Bee:

    you try to pretend it’s totally clear that these kids are fully cognizant and criminally liable

    Ah, no, sorry. It’s not (and I didn’t say it was) provable that they’re fully cognizant. It’s just unreasonable to the point of silliness to pretend they might not be. Occam’s Razor. These are not home-schooled hicks from some rural hole in Pakistan. They are (or rather were) pupils at an officially adjudged “Outstanding” co-educational academy school in the capital of England.

    As for criminally liable, that’s a matter of objectively observable fact, rather than something that’s up for debate.

    On the subject of objectively observable fact:
    @StillGjenganger

    There is no such think as objectively neutral language

    Then why were you demanding the right to use it?

    Your examples perfectly show that according to your worldview most alternatives are objectively and obviously wrong

    And your response indicates that you think the human status of gay people and evolution by natural selection are things whose reality depends on your worldview. If you can’t agree on facts about the universe outside your head, any debate is pointless.

  37. sonofrojblake says

    @ 38: It’s a useful dichotomy, though, because it offers the chance for apology and change, assuming the difference is understood.

    Tell me something I said sounded racist, and I’ll be apologetic and contrite. I’ll look back at what I said, try to understand how it was racist, and try not to do it again. No promises, I’m human, but I don’t want to say racist (or sexist, or ableist, or whatever) things if I can avoid it. That’s because I know that “that sounded racist” isn’t a judgement on me as a person, on its own.

    Tell me I am a racist, however, and I’m more likely to simply tell you to fuck off, because I know I’m not.

    And if you have any interest whatsoever in making there be less racism, it’s as well to educate people as to the difference, and to tell them “that thing you said was racist”, rather than “you are a racist”, and reassure them that we all make mistakes and they can correct it. Reasonable people will respond positively to the correction. Unreasonable people are probably lost in any case, so no harm in trying.

    On the other hand, if you’re in the game of predictably upsetting people, predictably making them defensive, and even maybe getting them to double down and reinforce their erroneous views, then fine, don’t bother to make the distinction. Trolls gonna be trolls, on both sides.

  38. StillGjenganger says

    @SonOfRojBlake.
    I was saying that in order to debate something you needed a language agreed by both sides that did not prejudge the outcome of the argument. Not that it was demonstrably objective. Not that it had to follow my personal doctrine (unlike you). Do try to read what I am saying, it makes the discussion so much more interesting.

    For the rest, reality does not depend on your worldview – but your personal idea of reality does. You seem to believe that you have some kind of privileged line to reality, so that reality is always exactly what you and your friends think it is – because, well because you are right and everyone else is wrong. Sounds remarkably like some Muslims I could think of.

    Anyway, I shall not try to educate you about the difference between verifiable facts (‘gay people are human and zebrafish are not’), value judgements (‘gay people deserve respect, paedophile priests do not’), and principles for organising society (‘gay couples must be regulated in the exact same way as heterosexual couples’).

    The one thing I agree with you about is that debate between us is pointless.

  39. says

    Ah, no, sorry. It’s not (and I didn’t say it was) provable that they’re fully cognizant. It’s just unreasonable to the point of silliness to pretend they might not be. Occam’s Razor.

    Do you even know what the phrase “Occam’s Razor” means? Here’s a hint: it does NOT mean “whatever is most easily comprehensible to you.” Nor does it mean that teens can, or should, be considered as responsible or competent as adults. Do you really think “Occam’s Razor” refutes the idea that teenagers are not fully mature and can make disastrous mistakes? “Occam’s Razor” is about simplicity, and growing up is far from simple.

    These are not home-schooled hicks from some rural hole in Pakistan. They are (or rather were) pupils at an officially adjudged “Outstanding” co-educational academy school in the capital of England.

    That doesn’t matter all that much — they’re still teenagers, they’re still dealing with puberty, and their brains, and personalities, are still not fully formed. I spent my teens in a pretty good school too, with plenty of good parental and social support, and I was getting a good start on political and social awareness — but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would have been able to resist the lure of some foreign cause, especially if I had been a teenager transplanted to a totally different society that I didn’t understand, and that didn’t seem to understand me or my family’s background/identity. (Another factor you seem to forget is that today’s kids are exposed to new information media, such as the Internet, that my generation never even dreamed of back then. A teen who is less inured to new media than we are is just all the more susceptible to manipulation.)

    Even the most educated teen, male or female, can fall prey to unrealistic romantic or violent fantasies, especially when they get even a hint that their parents, or their parents’ values, are less than fully capable of dealing with the world they see around them.

  40. Holms says

    This is kind of a false dichotomy. Generally speaking, racist is what certain people are judged to be, if racism is what they’re consistently observed doing.

    Yes, but the point is the behavoir doesn’t arise from some card-carrying racist, or some characteristic innate to some people but not to others, which is the way plenty of people try to deflect accusations of ‘-isms.

  41. Holms says

    Hit post too soon… above was at #38 Raging Bee

    #39 sonofrojblake
    As for criminally liable, that’s a matter of objectively observable fact, rather than something that’s up for debate.

    Except that they are MINORS and therefore not liable by definition.

  42. sonofrojblake says

    @Raging Bee: I invoke Occam’s Razor because the simplest interpretation of these girls’ position and education is that it was similar in most respects to the other people around them. Any interpretation where they are, for some reason, forgiveable on the basis of being entirely ignorant of what Daesh do or represent requires one to fabricate additional confounding factors such as their isolation from commonly-available sources of information – like your entirely unsupported comment about them being “less inured to new media than we are [and] just all the more susceptible to manipulation”. Totally without any foundation in evidence.

    It is FAR more likely that they are a good deal MORE inured to new media than I am for instance. I’d bet folding money that they’ve seen Daesh beheading and burning videos, for instance, which is more than I have. I’ve no evidence they have, obviously – but which is more likely? Be honest with yourself.

    I’ve not suggested that they’re not confused, contrary, hormonal or actively rebellious as any teen might be.

    But to “resist the lure of some foreign cause” doesn’t require them to be perfectly sane and rational. If that foreign cause was fighting FGM in Tanzania, I’d applaud them, while shaking my head at their touching naivety. If it was saving street children in Brazil, similarly. But this particular foreign cause is rather different. It has deliberately and explicitly publicised itself with videos of beheadings and burning alive of its captives. All it takes to “resist the lure” of that is some glimmer of common humanity. The utter failure of these girls’ parents and school to inculcate in them any spark of decency says a little about them, but as much as anyone needs to know about the three who’ve gone.

  43. says

    I invoke Occam’s Razor because the simplest interpretation of these girls’ position and education is that it was similar in most respects to the other people around them.

    “Most respects,” yes, but not all. Humans really aren’t that simple, which is why all this “Occam’s Razor” talk is bullshit.

    All it takes to “resist the lure” of that is some glimmer of common humanity.

    If they’re seeing their own people brutalized and impoverished by an ongoing war waged by Americans, and subject to bigotry by other white Europeans, then maybe that “common humanity” would be a bit harder to see than you or I might expect.

    Seriously, NPR did a rather extensive item about this incident, and the idea of teens being seduced and groomed by manipulative jihadis is really not as unusual or far-fetched as you seem to think. It’s the sort of thing organized religion and loony authoritarian cults do all the time, with or without the Web. We don’t ascribe “malice” to kids who get attracted to loony cults (even when they’re over 18), so why should we ascribe malice to these kids? The law needs to bring them back to their parents, if that’s still possible; but it doesn’t need to treat them as monsters or murderers.

  44. says

    I invoke Occam’s Razor because the simplest interpretation of these girls’ position…

    Yeah, a lot of people treat kids the “simple” way, which is to refuse to admit they’re not that simple. It doesn’t normally go well, and kids deserve better treatment from adults than the simplest available answer.

  45. Holms says

    #45
    Pop quiz: what is the age of criminal responsibility in the UK? Hands up, no shouting out children.

    Fine, not zero responsiblity according to UK law, merely reduced responsibility until adulthood. Not sure that that makes much point, given that it is still a matter of legal fact that non-adults are not fully responsible.

  46. sonofrojblake says

    If they’re seeing their own people brutalized and impoverished by an ongoing war waged by Americans

    The British people are not being brutalised and impoverished by the Americans (at least, not any more than usual). That’s “their own people”. Or are you telling me these Muslims aren’t actually British? That they don’t identify as citizens of the country of their birth, which was taking care of their health and education for free and which, should they ever need it, would be there for them with a social security system to ensure they are never, what was that word, impoverished? In which case, fuck ’em, let ’em go.

    Not sure that that makes much point, given that it is still a matter of legal fact that non-adults are not fully responsible

    Oh do fuck off. You were wrong, you clearly hate to admit it. “Not fully responsible”? Tell that to the killer of James Bulger. They were held pretty responsible, even though they were a good deal younger than these Islamist shits.

  47. Holms says

    Oh shit, an Internet Tuff Guy! It says right there that they aren’t considered adults and get reduced treatment for everything. What’s the defining difference if not reduced competence?

  48. sonofrojblake says

    The “defining difference” is that your exact words were

    hey are MINORS and therefore not liable by definition

    And I made you look foolish by linking, immediately, to the UK government website that says, and I quote: “Children between 10 and 17 can be arrested and taken to court if they commit a crime.” Which, unless you don’t read English, shows they ARE “liable by definition”. Yes, they are not treated by the courts and penal system as adults, duh. But no, they don’t get a free pass. There’s no “not liable by definition” unless they’re under TEN.

    The point is – the law protects these girls from others by making it illegal to, e.g., have sex with them or sell them cigarettes or alcohol, BUT once past the age of ten the law expects them to know the difference between right and wrong and take responsibility for their own actions. Just being MINORS (sic) doesn’t let them do whatever they want without consequence or liability.

  49. Holms says

    You made me look foolish… by ignoring the salient point of what I said? Revise ‘no responsibility’ to ‘reduced responsibility’ and the point wrt your conversation with RB remains that it is not necessarily the simplest interpretation that the teens were fully aware of the consequences of their actions; the possibility that they were induced or conned remains entirely plausible.

  50. says

    The British people are not being brutalised and impoverished by the Americans…

    I’m not talking about British people, I’m talking about the people of the countries from which the immigrant families came. If your reading comprehension is THAT bad, maybe you should take a break from this debate.

  51. says

    Tell that to the killer of James Bulger. They were held pretty responsible, even though they were a good deal younger than these Islamist shits.

    Actually, no, they were NOT held fully responsible as adults would be. That was the initial decision, supported by right-wing politicians appealing to mob anger — but it was hugely controversial, and after several appeals in both UK and international courts, their draconian sentences were shortened. Citation here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_James_Bulger

  52. sonofrojblake says

    @Holms, 53:

    Revise ‘no responsibility’ to ‘reduced responsibility’

    You mean, revise “wrong” to “not wrong”? Sure. If I revise what you originally said, which was wrong, to something you DIDN’T say which is not wrong, then yeah, you’re er… not wrong. Do you usually win arguments like that?

    @RagingBee, 54:

    I’m not talking about British people

    Oh, I’m sorry, you seem to be in the wrong argument. We were talking about the three BRITISH schoolgirls who have travelled from BRITAIN where they were born to their BRITISH parents, on BRITISH passports (one of them stolen from her BRITISH sister).

    Now suddenly you want to talk about people who aren’t British? Other people? Or you want to somehow imply for your own reasons that these girls, despite being native English speakers born in Britain holding British passports attending British state school are somehow foreigners? UKIP, much? This has nothing to do with my reading comprehension and everything to do with your racist implication that someone with brown skin isn’t British.

    @55:
    I said, quote: “They were held pretty responsible”.
    You said: “Actually, no, they were NOT held fully responsible as adults would be.”

    You disagreed with something I hadn’t said. Your method of disagreeing with this statement was to point out that their sentences were shortened – i.e. not quashed. They stayed incarcerated for eight years. You seem to be making my point for me. They WERE held pretty responsible. They were locked up for the rest of their childhoods. Not as responsible as adults would have been, no, but, as I did point out, they were (screech it) MINORS, but over the age of criminal responsibility. So they get punished, because the law expects them to know what they did was wrong.

    The three British girls we’re talking about were a good deal older than that of course. Their level of culpability for their own actions, while not at full adult level, is reasonable far more.

  53. Holms says

    In which sonofrojblake ignores the content of the argument being made to score petty internet points.

  54. says

    Oh, I’m sorry, you seem to be in the wrong argument. We were talking about the three BRITISH schoolgirls who have travelled from BRITAIN where they were born to their BRITISH parents…

    They were the children of IMMIGRANTS, you fucking moron, and they were part of an ethnic group that is subject to a good deal of bigotry from other BRITISH people in the nation they were supposed to call their own (BRITAIN). If you can’t see this simple, uncontroversial fact without flipping out, then there’s no point in talking to you. Fuck off to bed.

  55. says

    …the UK government website that says, and I quote: “Children between 10 and 17 can be arrested and taken to court if they commit a crime.”

    “Arrested and taken to court” is not the same thing as “held fully liable as adults.”

  56. sonofrojblake says

    @Holms: There is no content to your argument. You started from a false premise and built from there.

    @Raging Bee: since we’ve descended to the level of sweary name-calling:

    “Arrested and taken to court” is not the same thing as “held fully liable as adults.”

    You keep banging on about this as though I’ve ever said they were “fully liable as adults”. Do please, in your next post, either:
    (a) point out in which post here I said they were fully liable as adults – just the post number will do OR
    (b) admit you’re just making that shit up and you know you’re wrong.

    (Note: doing anything other than (a) is effectively doing (b), just to save you some time).

    They were the children of IMMIGRANTS, you fucking moron

    Thank you Mr. Griffin, I did know that. And because of that fact we’re just supposed to assume they’re violent jihadis, yes? Despite there being over two million (shouty caps) IMMIGRANTS (/shouty caps) like them in this country who don’t go round supporting terrorists and in fact just live their lives in peace like the rest of us? Racist, much?

  57. Holms says

    Are you aware that rewording ‘no liability’ to ‘partial liability’ or similar does not materially change the argument? Never mind, it’s clear you are ignoring the point being made to focus on the petty point-scoring shittiness.

  58. Adiabat says

    In the ensuing furore, one of the signatories, Professor Mary Beard wrote a blogpost which included the following section:

    And after the section you quote she describes the effect the harassment she’s received has had on her. I’m not sure why, instead of denouncing the harassment she’s received, you instead try to justify it in the next paragraph, as though it’s some kind of ‘righteous harassment’ that’s somehow different from the other harassment women receive on the internet.

  59. collinmerenoff says

    @28. It’s possible that “denigrate” is a slur against black people.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Oddly I am reminded of this post by Ally Fogg*. It is actions which show if someone is a racist, it is also actions which show if someone is a Christian. Various on the right struggle with this. There was an invented fury about a pastoral letter Church of England bishops sent recently. Some, it seems, want to maintain a false divide, claiming that faith alone matters, and that deeds are irrelevant. Like the person claiming they are not racist, they just say racist things. Part of the problem here is we have an established church, people think they belong to the group called “christian” because they attend a coffee morning, or a service at Christmas. They rarely have faith, even more rarely have deeds, but are in some ineffable way Christian. […]

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