Friday, February 15, 2013

Racism - An Equal Opportunity for All

      I have a dream that my four little children will one day live 
      in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their 
      skin but by the content of their character. 
                              - Martin Luther King

I've written elsewhere about the scientifically bankrupt notion of race and its enduring legacy of tribalistic bigotry.  Here, I want to emphasize that racism is not confined to whites, contrary to the racist propaganda put out by non-white racists.  As I see it, racism is the false presumption that knowing someone's race implies that you know something about their personality, morals, and capabilities.  Such an assumption is, in simple terms, pre-judging someone on the basis of their race, but race is not a definitive characteristic.  Distinguishing people on the basis of skin color is on the same level as seeking to distinguish people on the basis of their height, or their weight, or their preference for right- or left-handedness.  Skin color is just another superficial trait.

Race is an absurd concept based on meaningless differences among the members of the human species.  These differences evolved because of the environments in which various groups of people found themselves.  Only a fool would truly believe that hair color is some sort of infallible indicator of a person, so why is it that skin color would say anything definitive about a person?  Answer:  skin color says nothing definitive about a person!!  As indicated in the essay cited above, I'm not promoting some utopian vision that says everybody is the same - any simple examination of the variability in humans renders such a statement absurd.  People vary in terms of many of their traits:  height, weight, atheltic ability, intellectual ability, hair color, skin color, strength, rhythm, musical talent, and so on.  Certain groupings of people may differ, on the average, with regard to one or more of these traits.  But skin color, the most commonly-used indicator of a person's "race," says pretty much nothing at all about particular individuals.  If you want to assess an individual's talent playing a trombone, or capacity to do advanced mathematics, then skin color provides nothing in the way of useful information to help in that evaluation.  With time, science has dispelled the mythology of racism.

Our concept of "race" is simply another reflection of our atavistic tendency to tribalistic bigotry.  The challenge to us in America is to renounce the validity of discrimination (and other ill treatment, up to and including violence) against someone solely on the basis of race.  When I was in Vietnam in 1970, it was common for most American soldiers to refer to the Vietnamese as "gooks" or "slopes" or "dinks" - clearly pejorative terms quite comparable to the use of "nigger" when referring to black Americans.  What I noticed was that many of the angry young black soldiers who had grown up in city ghettos and who had experienced a lot of racism aimed directly at them were just as guilty of prejudice against the Vietnamese as the white people who had discriminated against them.  You might have thought they would be empathetic toward the Vietnamese and declined to use such pejorative terms, but that wasn't generally the case - they joined right in with the bigotry against the Vietnamese  The hypocrisy of that was evident to me then and it still is.  If a black person hates white people (or Asians, or whatever), that's racism - pure and simple - just as surely as the reverse is racism.

There can be no doubt that whites in America should be ashamed of the way blacks (and other non-white groups) have suffered simply for being black in the history of this country.  Even if we didn't actually own slaves or participate in segregation, we should be eager to do our part to make up for that by eliminating that now and in the future.  [We can't change the past.]  White Americans should want to repudiate racism as a morally and scientifically bankrupt viewpoint.  Unfortunately, many whites still are blinded by bigotry.  As it stands, unfortunately, racism is not exclusively limited to white Americans.  There are black Americans (and other non-whites) who have in common with their white counterparts the racist notion that you can judge a person simply by the color of their skin. Bigotry and prejudice are equal opportunity afflictions - they know no racial barriers.  So long as racism of any sort is considered acceptable, we as a nation will never get beyond racism to live the dream that a great American, Martin Luther King, imagined and worked so hard and sacrificed so much (including his life) to achieve.  It's shameful that an ignorant white man gunned down this great American, but MLK would be the first to renounce racism as a response to racism.  When you respond with hate for hate, violence for violence, and evil for evil, you reduce yourself to the very sort of person who is the target of your response.  You give up the moral high ground to wallow in the same filth as your opponent.

Racism needs to be eradicated as a valid viewpoint, no matter what the color of one's skin.  All such tribalism-based bigotry should be cast aside as ignorant, obsolete, and unproductive.  If we're ultimately to achieve real freedom and liberty for all people, the as yet unachieved ideal of the founding fathers of this nation, then racism is simply an ugly hangover from our ignorant past that must be overcome on the long road we must travel to make reality match our high principles.  It doesn't accomplish anything to give racial prejudice any validity in any of our lives.  The past is not a valid justification for racism.  Our future will only be free of racism if we all commit to eliminating it from our lives, now and forever.

Thoughts on the Crime of Rape

Rape is a monumentally detestable crime, perpetrated mostly by men on women (but not exclusively, for sure).  The misconception is widespread that rape is primarily a sexual act.  Although it almost always involves a sexual organ - almost always the penis - it has nothing to do with procreation, and little to do with sexual pleasure.  It's an act of violence, not sex.  Thus, the old argument that "Well, she was asking for it!" is a pathetic excuse for an excuse.  That's the excuse of a bully on the playground.  It has no basis in reality.  Only some sort of masochist would ask for physical, sexual abuse!  The reality is that the act is about forcing the rapist's will on someone else, about humiliating their victim - that's how the rapist gets off.  Many rapists are excited by the resistance of the victim, hoping to terrorize her/him - their sick egos feed off that fear.  For such, the terror they induce is their primary goal and the rapist may not even be able to have an erection without first inducing that naked fear.  The ones who rape their victims while they're unconscious (either after a beating or by drugs/alcohol) apparently are excited by the feeling of having "dominated" the victim.  And of course they're stimulated by the process of rendering their victim helplessly vulnerable to their sexual assault - more evidence that rape mostly an act of violence.  Rapists evidently need that feeling to be able to function.

The notion that some men are helplessly propelled into assault by their sexual attraction to their victims and simply can't resist that urge makes no sense to me.  Surely it doesn't apply to almost all of the men I've ever known.  Although I find many women attractive, it's not all that difficult to separate sex from a personal relationship.  I honor my relationship with my wife and wouldn't throw that away for mindless sexual gratification, ever!  Not for some sexual dalliance, and certainly never by an act of violence!  I respect the women with whom I interact and, while I continue to be a human being, it's that very humanity that makes repulsive the very idea of sexually assaulting a fellow human.  It's not only immoral to force one's will on others, but it speaks to a pathetic, deep-seated inferiority that's being compensated for by an act of dominance.  If you have confidence in yourself, respect for others comes naturally.  There's no need for someone secure in their own skin to dominate another person with physical (or mental) abuse.  To be a rapist is to have a pathology that may be difficult, if not impossible, to cure.

A few comments about statutory rape - societies often  decree that sexual intercourse should be limited to consenting adults.  In nature, a pubescent child is physically able to engage in sex and even bear children.  Even when the act is consented to by both parties, the implication is that when below the age of consent, that consent is not well-founded.  [Again, this typically involves an act perpetrated by a man on a woman, but not exclusively.]  I see this as a less heinous crime when both participants are below the age of consent.  That doesn't change the fact that it's still considered a crime, but the crime is far less hideous than when an older person is gaining "consent" from a person legally below the age of consent - it's a violation of trust and taking advantage of a young person's naivete that's inherently immoral.

Pedophilia and incest are also forms of rape/sexual assault.  Most decent humans are especially outraged when a child is raped.  Sometimes, we add the adjective "innocent" to "child" when we refer to this awful crime, but does that imply that an adult rape victim is somehow "guilty" of something and so is less deserving of our concerns?  No, we use the word "innocent" in this context because the child trusts adults to care for and protect them, not to abuse them!  Most grown-up victims have learned not to believe that everyone around them is worthy of trust.  I cringe at the very idea of a trusting young person being subjected to this criminal act.  I know something of this, as I was molested as a youth.  With time, I've come to understand the shame and humiliation I felt were misdirected - it wasn't my actions that were wrong!

That clergymen would be guilty of sexual abuse of the children in their care is so incomprehensible and contradictory, it boggles the imagination.  What possible excuse could these evil clergymen have to justify their abuse of a child's trust?  There can be no excuse for their depravity!  How could the church officials look the other way and allow these miserable bastards to continue their crime sprees?  There can be no good reason to protect pedophiles amongst the clergy!  They should be prosecuted as common criminals.  There can't be a place hot enough in the mythical hell for such to suffer appropriately for eternity!  The destruction they wreak on their victims simply can't be justified by any other acts of charity or benevolence they might have done.

In general, rapists are predators that deserve only to be removed from society permanently.

I'll close with a short comment about those who falsely accuse someone of rape - this is another detestable crime.  The inevitable harm done to the reputation of the accused by a false accusation of a horrible crime is very difficult to erase, even if it eventually comes to light that the accusation is unfounded.  On the scale of things, I grant that it's probably a lesser crime than rape itself, but no decent human being should ever impugn the character of another person without due cause.