Monday, March 17, 2008

Cartoon Denial


Here's another fun thread at Amps. I have a few things I'm dying to do a post on, but failing the time for that, here's a quick link to all the fun, where I've put a few comments in. Feel free to point out the error of my ways...

(To recap for those who haven't read the thread - what I mean by '6th best' is, from my example with fake numbers for purely illustrative purposes: Say african americans are 10% of the population (with whites being 90%) - I know the numbers are wrong, this is just to keep the math simple. In other words, anyone who complains about the numbers has just proved they totally missed the point. Back to the example. So say there are 5 jobs at a company. Ten people apply. By demographics, 1 is black, 9 are white. Only 5 can get a job there. But also, only a single white person of that ten can benefit from racism, and this only can be the white person who is 6th best and also can only happen where the african american is in the top 5. Because otherwise, even with no racism, 5 white people would get the 5 jobs. It is only where, but-for racism, the african american loses a position that one is opened up for a less qualified white person, the '6th best' white person' - and then only that single person passively benefits from the racism in the hiring decision.)

I want to be clear - I don't disagree with the general concept of the comic, that one could possibly passively benefit from racism as a white person. What bothers me about it is that it really does imply that passive racism benefits every white person - rather than just those on the margins - because it shows pretty much every phase of "Bob's" life as benefiting from passive racism - which means Bob is either the most marginal person in existence, seeing as he seems to be the '6th best' at everything he does, or passive racism must pretty much benefit every white person. Now, I realize the limitations of trying to convey in a comic of a six frames a general idea - and I'm not saying this was deliberate - but it is an inevitable consequence of illustrating this idea (passive racism benefits) in this manner, which was part of why I think it is a good idea to point out that it isn't everyone who potentially benefits, just those on the margins.

It was also interesting to note that no one wants to factor in Affirmative Action - agree with it or disagree with it, it is a reality out there in many places, and it certainly alters the equation about who benefits from passive racism, or whether anyone does in a given situation. Maybe at the very least, what it does is cancel out any latent passive racism.

What is also interesting is that so many people want to jump on what I said without ever addressing the original premise. It is like there is a deep aversion to admitting that many, perhaps most, white people are not only not racist, but don't even benefit from other people's racism.

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