I think he's been hanging out on Reddit again.
May 15, 2016 7:50 PM   Subscribe

My brother in law, whom I used to like, posted something fairly racist on Facebook today, on the topic of white privilege. I'm looking for suggestions on how to respond to him that would be educational while not making him completely tune me out.

For reference, he's a mid 40s white guy making good money working in IT. He reveres George Carlin as unto a god, and I've been trying for about an hour to find some kind of pithy Carlin quote that would make him think harder about what he wrote, but no dice.

Suggestions? He probably won't read (or will dismiss) anything long and earnest. I'm looking for more of a meme-type image response that I can pair with a short comment that makes clear that what he wrote was offensive.
posted by anastasiav to Society & Culture (10 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Respectfully, this is a losing battle. There is no pithy meme that will produce your desired effect ("think harder"). You will only harden his resolve and ultimately make things worse for yourself. If you really want change, you will need entirely different tactics.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 8:02 PM on May 15, 2016 [20 favorites]

Response by poster: I should clarify that there will certainly be an in person conversation with him about this the next time I see him -- if only to make clear that, whatever his views are, saying them in front of my son is not ok and will result in denial of access to his nephew.

What I'm really looking for here is a way to say "Dude, this is not ok" but paired with with either a spoonful of sugar or some thoughtful words from someone he really respects. I think that public pushback about these kind of statements is important, if only because silence is commonly assumed to equal consent. I'm keenly aware that no pithy meme will instantly change his mind.
posted by anastasiav at 8:11 PM on May 15, 2016 [4 favorites]

I think it's hard to respond to this without knowing exactly what he posted. However, "Well, that ignores centuries of unequal access to resources, though" might work as a general "Hey, what you just said was stupid, but I don't want to get into a flamewar" response. I think in these situations, a straightforward response of your own words works better, because you're owning what you're saying.
posted by lazuli at 8:13 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is what made it real to me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wkJOcpapKGI
posted by kimota at 8:14 PM on May 15, 2016 [28 favorites]

Response by poster: Kimota, that's perfect. Thank you very much.
posted by anastasiav at 8:24 PM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

Comedy is such a great way to trigger this kind of reflection and thinking with a spoonful of sugar. Definitely take that route if he's into it!

Along those lines, I think this short bit from Aamer Rahman just totally nails it. If I had never encountered these ideas before, it would surely cause a lightbulb to go off somewhere in my brain. (And in fact it's being shown and studied in college courses)
posted by naju at 9:14 PM on May 15, 2016 [13 favorites]

George Carlin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dcr8dm9Prkk
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:49 AM on May 16, 2016

Best answer: It's not short and pithy, but I've had success with bringing some nerd types around by pointing them to John Scalzi's essay about Straight White Male being the lowest difficult setting there is.

Usually, I'll post it with a comment like: "You know, being white and male is basically easy mode," which might be pithy enough to resonate a little.
posted by sparklemotion at 8:38 AM on May 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

So I have struggled with this also, because the way a LOT of people present this (including Louis CK above) is in a way that implies I (meaning a white male) is responsible for current (and especially past) inequities and that I should somehow repent or seek absolution for my (alleged) sins, regardless of whether or not I am actually racist or bigotted.

The next thing to decide is whether or not you want to change minds and gain allies and understanding or be right. Being right is really satisfying but it only serves to ossify positions and provide resentments. If you want to change minds, it is exhausting, hard work with little immediate payoff and also requires you to look at positions you may hold dear and form a large part of your identity with a critical eye and a willingness to change or modify your own positions and understandings. Being pithy and clever can often be at odds with long term success in changing hearts and minds, and Scalzi also has a great essay on the failure mode of clever, which is asshole. This shit is hard for both sides.

So this is how i have come to think of it-What being 'white' actually means in a neutral way is being visibly part of the dominant culture, and this most certainly has large benefits. In the same way being part of the popular clique in high school sure makes your life easier (or harder if not in it). This situation is NOT unique to white males in the USA and yes there is individual nuances to each dominant culture and how it relates to out groups within it but it seems to be a common thread. It appears in ALL cultures throughout history (and probably predates civilization itself) so far as I know.

This can provide the distance and perspective needed to be able to see that it isn't a personal attack on individuals and taking this attitude yourself can let you talk about without accusition or 'white guilt'. John Scalzi's essay on this is much better than Loius CK's from this perspective. Also see J.Smooth's youtube video on how saying something racist doesn't actually mean you are racist.
posted by bartonlong at 9:52 AM on May 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

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