Critical thinking is generally viewed as important in assessing issues and contributing productively to discussions. So, why it is it so little deployed by some people, even those who are some of the most outspoken on current issues. So, in an effort to encourage people, not necessarily to agree, but at least to think critically about with what they disagree, I offer this discussion.
Although this blog may be informal and anecdotal, albeit subjective, I make every attempt to be truthful and accurate. I’ve observed that some people, even some very good, educated, and smart people who should know better, tend to conflate institutional racism with individual racism and tolerance with acceptance. This can lead to misunderstandings and acceptance of lies as fact. It can color one’s view of the world and alter how one acts in it.
This brings to mind the Michael Medved Show on KTTH 570AM of several weeks back. Michael’s guest was Professor Christopher Parker who occupies a very prestigious chair at the University of Washington. Parker has written a book entitled, Across the Great Divide (Princeton Press, 2013). I have not read the book, so I’ll not judge it directly. However, having heard the show, I do feel qualified to comment on the interview.
The first comment that comes to mind is, as an actual Tea Party member who has associated with other Tea Party members and has attended actual Tea Party meetings and events since early 2009, I was aghast at the ignorance, and I don’t use this as a pejorative, shown by such a stellar academic as Professor Parker, who sounds like a very intelligent, pleasant, and likable man. As an example, I’ll cite a comment he made regarding black members of the Tea Party. Professor Parker stated that blacks attending Tea Party rallies and events were paid to be there. If that statement wasn’t ludicrous enough, the professor cited his “source” as, a “friend” of his (he named the friend, but I can’t recall, and it isn’t relevant anyway), who told him that dubious little nugget of information.
Well, that would come as quite a surprise, not to mention a stunning insult, to my black conservative friends who support the Tea Party. During the show, the good professor also alluded to some blacks not being “authentically” black if they held Tea Party views. Although, to be fair, he did not extend this contempt to all blacks. Michael asked him about the views of a particular black intellectual (Shelby Steele or Thomas Sowell, I believe), and the professor did not question the man’s conservative positions.
To cite, “a friend of mine” (a political compatriot), by an academic of this caliber was astonishing. I waited for some elaboration, but none came. Perhaps I missed something. This alone went a long way to discredit a book I have not read, and now have no reason to except as yet another a source of liberal amusement.
Back to the original discussion. If some ignorant jerk expresses overt or even subtle bigotry or racism in some way toward an individual, this should not be taken as reflective of society in general. It is harmful to jump to such a conclusion. Not everyone will like or respect everyone—ever! If you get poor service at a restaurant or some loudmouth treats you with disrespect, or you get passed over for a job or promotion, is it right automatically to attribute that to your race, ethnicity, or whatever? I’d argue it is not. If you find evidence that this is the case, then go after the bastards with both guns blazing (oh sorry; for liberals I do mean that figuratively). Just don’t assume what may not be and does not serve you well.
Among other things, it puts you at a disadvantage in assessing any actual deficiencies you might have, which may be keeping you from excelling. It’s true that racism and bigotry do come in handy as a convenient excuse for failure, but it will not make you a better person. If you can honestly assess yourself as an individual and not as a victim of some group you, will be at a great advantage moving through the world. You will not give the bigots and racists power they do not deserve. In fact, you can look at that person’s bigotry and racism as their problem and not yours.