"I agree, but some of his content will be a barrier for some people. I'm sure if the tone of the post was milder, most of the comments here would be supportive."
-- too typical a response
"Peppered throughout the post are cultural signs and signifiers that mark the author as an advocate for a fairly specific set of political and social beliefs."
-- completely irrelevant to assessing the facts of the case
As a white male, I'm very disappointed by how many in the HN community have responded to this story. The victim- and let me emphasize, this individual is a victim- has every right to feel and express any number of hostile feelings toward the perps involved and, furthermore, has the right to express his frustration at how racist behavior was openly exhibited in front of so many employees, with no consequences whatsoever. In fact, you have to wonder why none of his white colleagues stood up and objected to some of the more colorful remarks made in the presence of others. Is it really that difficult to understand why he might perceive all the whites in his office as a$$holes? His story isn't merely an indictment of a few managers, but of a culture (and yes, a white culture) that absolutely tolerated racism both at an individual and collective level. These incidents didn't only occur behind a closed door. Is or was this culture present in only one SF company?
After what this individual was subjected to, you have to be incredibly small minded to feel offended by the fact that his language reveals frustration or antagonism toward whites.
By the way, I've also seen racism exhibited toward Asian immigrants- not the rockstar programmers matriculated in the US- but recent immigrants holding lower level positions. Let's not pretend that racism doesn't exist in SF by brushing off depictions of racism as a consequence of intrinsic racism on the part of the accuser.
> This tendency reaches its most florid manifestation in the "ideological bingo games". See for example "Skeptical Sexist Bingo", feminist bingo, libertarian troll bingo, anti-Zionist bingo, pro-Zionist bingo, and so on. If you Google for these you can find thousands, which is too bad because every single person who makes one of these is going to Hell.
That article is a waste of time. It rails against poor arguments and a lack of insight with... poor arguments and a lack of insight. For umpteen pages. For some reason we're supposed to hear out people who start an argument with "I'm not racist but..."
If you find yourself saying "I'm not racist but..." you shouldn't be trying to justify yourself and come up with reasons why the other person should hear you out. You should immediately stop and think about what you're saying, because chances are that you are a bigot, and all the argument in the world isn't going to change that.
The existence of those sorts of bingo cards is because these arguments come up over and over again. It's a useful tool to help deal with bigots.
That article is one in a series. Perhaps I was wrong and it is not clear or well-argued without the context of the broader series to draw from. It's a shame because it is actually painstaking in its argumentation and attention to nuance, and by far the most insightful series of its kind that I've ever read.
When you say "chances are you are a bigot" you may technically be correct in the sense that from a random population of "I'm not a racist but" statements, more than 50% of them are said by bigots (in fact, I would probably estimate this much higher, as bigots say it more frequently, in my experience). As for my-literal-self, and almost everyone who is reading these comments (well educated, left-leaning startup enthusiasts), I have significant other evidence that I have to weigh against that proposition (i.e. my recollection of my lifetime's past events and explicit knowledge of my views and beliefs), so if I were ever inclined to use such a phrase I wouldn't actually be making a bigoted statement. Unfortunately, some people who are less thoughtful and less capable of a nuanced understanding of argumentation would immediately turn off their brains and assume whatever this counterfactual self said next was bigoted. People like that have bad rhetorical hygiene and arguing with them should be avoided if you don't want to contract memetically transmitted diseases.
Saying that bingo cards are a "useful tool" is doing a disservice to the word tool. They are, if not actively harmful, merely a form of entertainment, and no more a tool than Star Trek VI.
> "it is actually painstaking in its argumentation and attention to nuance"
No it's not. It doesn't follow anything through to a conclusion, it just berates people who attack strawmen, or who dismiss others' arguments out of hand, whether that dismissal is warranted or not.
Just taking the "I'm not racist but.." argument on that post: are you really saying that there is no other way to phrase your argument? It's guaranteed to cause a reaction in everybody with an opinion on the issue and it's somehow their fault for not giving your argument proper attention or missing a nuance somewhere?
And then you complain about bad rhetorical hygiene. State your case in a way that your audience can understand and engage with it, and you'll get a better response.
What conclusion were you looking for exactly? It was an empirical recounting of events, peppered with an analysis of why the events are so frustrating for the author. Did you expect The Essay That Ends Racism?
The existance and popularity of bingo cards can tell you how common certain responses are. It is also an attempt to draw your attention to how common the response are, and to mock common responses that fit a mould.
So yes, the existance of bingo cards helps back up the claim that this is "classic derailment".
I'm not really sure what that article is saying, maybe "Placeholder / bingo card arguments make it hard to have a rational intellegent debate/conversation". Which is technically true, it does make it hard to have an intelligent conversation.
However, in the vast majority of conversations about topics like this, the debate is not intelligent. The same old tied tropes and clichés come out. Many different people have commented "But he's racist too!" (on a recent post about gender at a tech conference many people dismissed the author for being angry).
I'm too cynical to even manage disappointment, sorry. HN is... well, it's very white. I'm not so much talking about the people who comment here, but for the most part we're discussing companies founded and run by white people, funded by all-white venture capital organisations, with a largely-white employee base. Given that, it's sadly not surprising that many commenters here have really fucked up views on racism because there's no reason why they wouldn't. It's not like there's even any way to tell 99% of the time because the subject hardly ever comes up.
To me it is a faith-induced form of ignorance - that because you have mastered one of the tiny, tiny subsets of all the world's technical knowledge, you believe yourself to have similar ability in other realms of knowledge as well. Morality and ability become one and the same, especially after the conditioning of hundreds or thousands of pissing matches in which you attempt to prove the same point, over and over: "I'm right and you're wrong." Logic becomes one's drug, because it lets you win and be powerful. Other flaws don't matter because you can avoid those discussions(if you're a white, straight cis male).
But really, it's relatively easy to find people who know a lot of things and can work through deep logic. "Big-picture" judgment and perspective is a lot harder to come by.
Regardless of how pissed off he may have been, you don't fight racism with more racism. All that does is exacerbate the situation and hurt your credibility. Calling someone a dumbwhite* might feel good but does nothing for your cause.
I've always believed the correct response to racism is to educate. Educate his coworkers on the origin and significance of his necklace and why they shouldn't equate the way he dresses with being a thug. And in this case, where it is systemic and tolerated, appeal to a higher authority such as HR and the court system.
It's not his responsibility to "fight racism", it's the responsibility of his employers to provide a non-racist workplace. Your "correct response" is of course ideal, but imagine how draining it would be for someone to attempt to change an corporate culture 200+ people. It's unfair to expect that from an someone whose only wants to not have to endure severe racism at their 9-5.
Sure, only when it's your boss being racist, you don't have many other options than shut up or get fired. French white man here, apalled by 70% (yah, i did the math) of that whole thread. I don't care being called a colonialist because that's true, my country was a colonial empire, so was the UK, and so is the US now, with 200 years of history to catch up (irak anybody?). Laws against racism might be enforces, one day, in the US, who knows. It even happenned in moste European countries.
This guy did the right thing : stand up and talk. Obviously he cares more about telling "the world" than being patted on the shoulder. In other words, he somewhat did it the "black panthers" way, and as much as I like Martin Luther King and gandi, i don't believe you gain rights without fighting. For real.
Why that reaction of mine ? Cause it remembers me an episode of my youth, when i xas living with my Commando father (yeah, like your marines) in africa, and was the only white guy who stood up for a Malgache girl who was being bashed by a bunch of white guys, everyday on our way to school. I got beaten in front of the whole bus for about 15 minutes by the bunch of white racists guys. The driver, a black guy from Cameroon came to me the next day, and told me that he was glad i had to loose some teeth, because otherwise he would have lost his job.
The employee in the hostile work environment doesn't say that he said "Dumbwhite" - it's an internal response and doesn't indicate that he's fighting racism with racism. Objectively based on the incident presented, it's a simple statement of fact that the co-worker, is dumb, white and a .
It's not the job of members of minority groups to educate members of majority groups on their culture. People who aren't members of minority cultures should make an effort to self-educate and work against the grain of systemic discrimination.
Regardless of where he said it, "dumbwhite*" is a phrase with racist intent. Objectively based, "fucking black people" is just a reference to people with a dark skin color but in the context of the English language we all know what it means.
I agree it's not his job to educate, and he shouldn't have to. But in reality, most racists are not going to educate themselves. If they did, they probably wouldn't be racists. So if he actually wants to see a positive change and stop Steve from making racist comments, his best bet is to try and educate Steve himself.
This article might just do that. The article itself already talks about how Steve was completely dismissing everything he had to say. But in written form with a semi-anonymous target, the article will likely filter back to the company and to Steve. In written form, the author gets to say everything he wants to say and why. If Steve reads it, in all likelihood he will dismiss it, but it may also provide a nugget around which he may start to see what he was doing.
There are several definitions of racist talk, one is essentially "making references to someone's race and implying everyone in that group is the same (in some attribute)". Lots of people like this definition because it's nice and simple and it means black people in the USA can be racist to white people if they say things like "Dumbwhite".
There's another definition, which is talk that's designed to maintain & reinforce the institutionalised power structure among races. Right now, if modern USA life was a video game, "white male" would be an easier difficulty level than "black male". There are statistically less problems for the "white male" group. Racist talk is talk that re-enforced that imbalance. This definition is harder for some people to accept because it means that you need to look at yourself and think about what power imbalances you might be benefiting from, and it means you can't just do s/white/black/g and make it just as racist.
So no, it's more racist to say "dumbblack" than "dumbwhite"
A significant part of what you're missing is that the function of the actions of the racist manager is to rob the author of political power. Racism works in some pretty subtle subtle ways - by painting the author as 'that aggressive black guy', the manager has already clipped his wings.
You may have also missed this line: After years of arguments with white men (and white women), watching white men (and white women) move away from me when I start to talk about oppression (i.e. what life as a poor black queer is like), I know when to pick and chose my battles
Can you not see just how exhausting it would be to have to constantly explain and justify yourself?
I tend to agree with you regarding the relevance of the author's politics to the kernel of the story, but that relevance and the author's overall credibility is an elephant gleefully pooping all over the room, so we might as well not ignore it.