Tired of Arguing About Politics, Race, or Social Policy?

This week, Alabama voters boosted the morale of many when the majority  elected an honorable Democrat to the U.S. Senate. But this win for decency and progress doesn’t lessen the friction between people of conflicting views– particularly when they hold tightly to their side of the spectrum or cling to either extreme. In fact, this kind of strife may run through your own family or social circle.

With holiday gatherings looming, you may be especially eager to build bridges instead of walls. But it’s also important to set limits rather than letting bulldozers run rampant. So how does one achieve that deft balance?

I was recently tested on this when I received a thought-provoking comment on my recent post, “Where do You Really Stand in the Wake of Charlottesville?” I’d explored how to think about racism and question white nationalism. “Your Local Plumber” weighed in with support for white nationalism. “Plumber” writes:

There is no “hate speech exception” to the First Amendment so that’s not a valid argument.

I’m a Jew and had no problem with the Alt-Right’s lawful, peaceful march. There’s a larger message at work that has nothing to do with a few dorks with swastikas who were probably government plants.

All the violence at Charlottesville was initiated by antifa and ghetto thugs with the corrupt government’s approval. Police did nothing except unlawfully end the assembly. The corpulent young woman was NOT hit by the car and died of an apparent heart attack.

While immigrants have made contributions, it was Whites who primarily founded and built America. English Whites ended the global slave trade. There is NOTHING for Whites to feel guilty about.

Ordinary Whites are realizing that in order to survive they will have to embrace their own racial self-interests FIRST. It’s an unnatural feeling but when the other choice is extinction, we’ll get used to it.

How would you respond? Taking a cue from David Brooks’ recent column, on meeting entrenched ideas with love, here is my response—and my attempt to set limits but also build bridges. 

Dear Local Plumber,

Thank you for your comment and giving me the opportunity to learn more about your stance, and to correct an error in my post.

To your first point, I did more research, corrected my wording, and added this link. Still, the first amendment does not require us to grant a podium, microphone, or a listening ear to hateful speech.

To your point that “White” people needn’t feel guilty for the sins of their ancestors—I also heartily agree. We are each only responsible for our own sins.

To your point that you are “a Jew” who “had no problem with the Alt-Right’s lawful, peaceful march,” I too have no problem with lawful, peaceful marches. Unfortunately, waving swastikas, carrying flaming torches, and shouting about white supremacy–those are not peaceful endeavors. And even if you are “a Jew,” this does not grant you special powers to excuse anti-Semitic behavior, as if, “Well, a Jew says it’s okay to shout Jews will not replace us! so I guess it must be okay.” No, it is not okay. Those marchers may have the right to speak it, but others have the right to stand against such insults and threats, which have no place in civilized society.

As for your other points, including theories about “government plants,” reports that defy photographic evidence, or rumors that conflict with Heather Heyer’s official autopsy report, these ideas are not fact-based and come from sources that are intent on pushing specific ideologies or conspiracies. You may see your sources as reputable, honorable, and trustworthy, but fact-checking websites point out their lies, and critical thinking protects me from being fooled. So we’ll just have to agree to disagree on those points. And yes, some hate crimes do turn out to be hoaxes, but the vast majority of hate crimes are perpetrated by people looking to oppress or intimidate others.

As for glorifying “Whites” as the founders and builders of this country, I prefer to use a wide lens to look at the whole story.

What’s the whole story? Think about it: Those “founders and builders” were wealthy white men, many of whom did great things, but they also created laws that forced Native Americans onto Reservations and prevented them, as well as women, poor white men, and “non-white” people, from having the same legal rights and access to property, education, and opportunity. These laws and systems have kept wealthy white men in powerful positions — just look at photos to see who largely populates Congress, Wall Street, and the heads of Fortune 500 companies, Hollywood agencies, and media outlets.

So naturally, these guys claim credit for driving American success. But consider this: Who has done the actual hard labor of those successes? The poor and middle class—all of them natives or immigrants from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Central and South America. Without these men and women doing the farming, mining, building, teaching, nursing, and working in factories, service industries, institutions, military, and businesses, this country would be nothing. Let’s give credit where credit is due—and acknowledge that all stripes and classes of immigrants and natives have contributed to making this country great.

If you are worried about the oppression of “Ordinary Whites,” this is indeed a frightening thought. But instead of falling prey to conspiracy theorists and promoters of “racial self-interest” and fighting for your kind, what if you fought against oppression instead? In fact, doesn’t your survival depend on living in harmony with others? Because when oppression is systematized, the tide does turn and then you become “the other” –and you’re toast. In other words, your oppression of others can ultimately lead to your own extinction. And that tide is turning now. As women and people of color rise against their oppression, the White Nationalist movement is fueled by the fear of a backlash in the form of their own oppression. But this oppression won’t happen if we all band together to fight oppression in all its forms. I subscribe to this idea: No one is free when others are oppressed.

What does that look like, a free society without oppression? That society embraces all groups, and promotes every individual’s ability to thrive, and to vote. It is democracy in action. This American value also involves opening one’s heart with love, generosity, and acceptance, rather than contracting it in fear, distrust, or hatred. Tall order, perhaps, but if you want to try it, there is much long-standing support in this country for that endeavor. See here and here.

You may be convinced that you’re better off fighting for racial self-interest. I’ve determined that it’s in my best interest to cultivate peace and goodwill toward all. And that’s the kind of country I want to live in. How about you?

With warm wishes, whichever way you roll.

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