Culture Wars: The Conservative Need to Identify Minorities as Inherent Threats

Last week it was revealed that BP (yes that BP) fired one of their executives for being black and female and daring to not attempt to dress like a white person (whatever that means).  Don’t believe me?  Check out these alleged statements by BP:

“‘You intimidate and make your colleagues uncomfortable by wearing ethnic clothing and ethnic hairstyles” (‘Dashikis,’ ‘twists,’ ‘braids/cornrows’). 

“If you insist on wearing ethnic clothing/hairstyles-you should only do so during ‘culture day,’ black history month or special diversity events/days.'”

“‘If you are going to wear ethnic clothing, you should alert people in advance that you will be wearing something ethnic …’

and to add insult to injury:

“‘We didn’t take any action against the contractor who placed the noose in the Cherry Point refinery because we weren’t really sure the rope that was placed there was meant to harass or intimidate employees … sometimes refinery employees practice tying knots and since there aren’t that many black employees at the refinery and the knot in the rope was not tied like a noose knot, we don’t believe it symbolized racial hatred or violence…'”

Or you could look at the SPLC-designated hate group, the Pacific Family Institute’s recent actions taken against the new California Law protecting the right of transgender individuals to use the restroom of their preferred (true) gender:

“It is our position that the intrusion of a biological male into a restroom for teenage girls is inherently intimidating and harassing.”

Or the all too common “gay panic defense” used to justify violence against an LGBT person because they were perceived to be “hitting on” or “harassing” the perpetrator.  (Something that played heavily into the trial for the murder of gay student Lawrence King.)

The common theme in all these is that the minorities that were targeted were all billed as being threats solely due to their minority status.  Notice that BP and the PFI use ‘intimidating’ and ‘harassing’ over ‘distracting,’ and that the gay panic defense makes little effort to excuse any actions that may have been irresponsibly taken in the name of self-defense.  It’s not enough for them to even share blame.  BP won’t use ‘distracting’ because that puts some of the onus on the coworkers to not be distracted.  PFI is only interested in looking out for the rights of cis-gendered students notably telling Good As You founder Jeremy Hooper that it isn’t up to them to find a better solution to California’s trans-inclusive law.  And self-defense, by nature removes any onus for more responsibility from the perpetrators of vicious anti-gay crimes.

To conservatives these aren’t issues lacking nuance, depth, understanding, or empathy.  They’re issues on which they are Right and the minorities are Wrong.  They don’t want to foster that understanding, they want said minorities to hide, leave, or die.  There is no coexistence, there is a side that must win and a side that must lose.  But let’s assume BP calls Evans ‘distracting,’ that the PFI uses the same adjective for trans students, and that the ‘gay panic defense’ is less about assigning blame to the LGBT individual and more about admitting that both sides may have acted rashly.  Better, right?

Nope.

Those are still code words, words used to target minorities and justify bigotry.  Distracting still makes Evans a problem solely because she is a black woman.  Distracting still calls transgender individuals an object of derision because they are transgender.  The gay panic defense still assigns inherent blame to conduct that would be perfectly acceptable from a heterosexual just because the person is LGBT.

If you’re thinking that code words have become a point of focus for me, you’re right.  Because once you accept that extreme groups like the KKK, or people like Scott Lively who thinks that gays were responsible for the holocaust, are insane and detrimental to society (and American society largely has), what you’re left with are the more insidious parts of bigotry and those are much harder to mete out.  It’s easy to say that the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Act ended racism in America, and that Marriage Equality and Anti-Discrimination laws make things just peachy for LGBT individuals, but that’s only true in a very narrowly viewed legal sense.  (Just ask minorities how voting laws are treating them.)  It’s much harder to identify and expose code words and laws that are designed to subtly target minorities and understand why “gee I’m surprised (black athlete) is so articulate” is such a loaded statement.  So the saying goes in engineering, ‘the first 95% of something is the easiest, it’s the last 5% where the hard work is done.’  That’s where we are.

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About Alex

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