racism & uncomfortable discussions

From: Miriam English (miriam@werple.net.au)
Date: Sat Aug 04 2001 - 22:19:19 MDT

At 11:09 AM 04/08/2001 -0700, Lee Corbin wrote:
>Miriam writes
> > I am disappointed that a racist thread has turned up on
> > the extropians list.
>I have said repeatedly that this should be looked upon as a
>welcome challenge to be met, but there has been no response to
>my statement. Of course, you don't mean "racist thread", you
>mean a discussion of racism. I repeat, if extropians simply
>cannot handle uncomfortable ideas, then how in the world can
>we ever hope that non-extropians should come to grips with
>cloning, uploading, immortality, or the Spike?

No, I actually meant racist postings.
Molloy and Lorrey didn't discuss racism. And it really has little to do
with uncomfortable ideas. If the discussion was about ways to solve the
problem of racial inequality, noting that many of the poorest segments of
society are predominantly black, then yes it would have been something
people would have felt uncomfortable about, but discussion may have been a
heck of a lot more profitable. But some of the puke that Lorrey and Molloy
came up with did not amount to discussion and it is no wonder it was
pounced upon by many here.

> > The denials of racism by some of the (plonked) individuals here
>Wow! First, do you know that "plonked" means that someone
>has engaged an automatic process by which (roughly speaking)
>a certain person's posts never even get to his mailbox?
>If this isn't a frightened tactic of self-censorship, then
>I don't know what is. (I hasten to add, that quite often
>experienced discussion list members employ plonking not to
>prevent their eyes from meeting disagreeable points of view,
>but rather because someone's posts over a great deal of time
>have shown themselves to be without content, or too long, or
>some other non-partisan cause.)

Well, they get filtered to my trash box. I just don't read my trash, and it
gets emptied from time to time, whereas all my other email gets preserved
(backed up on CDROM from time to time). But yes, I understand "plonk".

And no, it wasn't a "frightened tactic" at all. I found Lorrey's posts to
be of no use to me, and his aggressiveness was tainting my email
experience... I was almost coming to dread reading the list. Molloy didn't
seem to have anything worthwhile either. This list is very active, and I
found this a way to bring it back within manageable size. Both are
extremely frequent posters, and I get about 100 emails a day (mostly
computing & VR lists) without the extropians list. As someone else here
said: time is the most precious resource.

It took me a fair while for me to come to the decision to filter them out.
I didn't want to lose the possibility of useful thoughts from someone who
was just having a bad day... or a bad week.

I was considering starting a thread on plonking as I do consider it a
potentially dangerous thing to do. Being a tech nerd, I am very aware of
the dangers of positive feedback loops.

>Second, what that person said
>"I'm not racist. I can't help that blacks are stupid."
>is *not* necessarily absurd, as you claim. It may be entirely
>wrong; it may be a gross over-generalization; it may be so
>utterly an unqualified assertion that it absolutely demands
>refutation---but it's not absurd.

Oh, come on Lee. You don't seriously think that, surely. :-)
Of *course* it is absurd. The first statement, that he was not racist, is
clearly contradicted by the second, a racist statement if ever there was one.

>As Jerry Mitchell has written,
>we must very precisely face square-on those assertions with which
>we disagree, if we are not to simply paper them over, and let
>their inaccuracy fester.

Jerry Mitchell doesn't make a lot of sense if you ask me.
The words sound noble, that we face up to contrary opinions, but practical
considerations intrude. Endlessly debating racism as a potentially valid
viewpoint every time it reared its ugly head might be OK if we were already
immortal, but who has the time? You only need to show it is a mistake once
then move on. Avoid wrestling with a pig -- the pig enjoys it and you get
covered in mud.

>Evidently, you did not dismiss that
>person's claim out of hand, but tried to reason very closely
>(in a hopefully open-minded way, where your sincere desire for
>the truth did not display undue disdain on your part). Good for you.

:-) Well, after I got my hysterical laughter under control I tried to
reason with him. I probably would not have laughed so hard if he wasn't an
old friend and knew he could withstand my amusement. And I know I wouldn't
have tried so hard to reason with him if he hadn't been a friend. But I
don't think he ever saw the conflict in what he said. He remains a friend
to this day, and is an otherwise very smart person. He just has this weird
thing about race... like some other friends of mine who are religious.
[shakes head]


         - Miriam

Q. What is the similarity between an elephant and a grape?
A. They are both purple... except for the elephant.
Virtual Reality Association http://www.vr.org.au

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