Saturday, February 3, 2018

The Problem of "Hate Crime" and Individualism
image above is from here
[An earlier version of this has been deleted.]

An argument in opposition to First Amendment absolutists is that hate speech is antithetical to free speech: the first exists to prevent or silence the second. I agree. Speech acts seeking the continued oppression or destruction of marginalized or subordinated peoples are oppressive and destructive.

My issue in this post is with the terms such as "Hate Speech" and "Hate Crime". Specifically, what the terms imply about how we understand and act to end oppression.

A crucial tool of White Male Supremacy--the straight kind especially--is the use of individualism to misname structural and systemic problems. One key aspect of individualism, as you may well know, is that oppression is reduced to how people feel about each other in the interpersonal realm. So, if only we loved one another; if only we treated each other as we'd have ourselves treated; if only there was no more hate... then we'd have world peace, or lack of conflict, justice. The problem is presented as "prejudice" or "lack of empathy": emotional or psychological dysfunction, problems of upbringing. We were raised with the wrong values. We had bigoted parents. Even if discussed in a more social way, we hear the problem is "bias" and "intolerance". How watered down and drowned is the language that far more accurately describes the maintenance of oppression as essentially political?

It's not that hate isn't present; it's that it is sometimes in service to class-based subordination--and not always. To whatever absurd level whites fear Black hatred aimed up, any speech used to communicate that 'hate' is not a systemic or institutional problem in the least. Political translation: there is no such thing as Black supremacy in the West. The same with an alleged preponderance of "man-hating" by women, particularly feminists.

The co-called good Christian whites who operated Boarding Schools thought they were being loving, as do many white colonialist Christian proselytisers--however ineffectively. Historically, so-called better treatment or a belief in moral motive is one tool of white male supremacy. One way white male supremacy thrives is by giving an appearance of treating people better on the individual front. The perversely over-quoted passage by King about children holding hands. In such a linguistic and social world, we assume a problem is over--or getting better--if oppressors are treating the oppressed in less overtly subordinating ways. In fact, looking at the systemic problem of het husbands and boyfriends battering women, when he moves into a stage of being remorseful and sorrowful, that is the precursor to another period of physical and emotional violence.

Calling someone a threatening and racist name ought not be framed only or primarily as a hate crime. It is an act of white supremacist subordination and destruction, rarely prosecuted as criminal. Rape is also normal, not 'mean-spirited' in the sense that many men would argue they have great affection for the women they rape. Missed is the comprehension, let alone the alleviation, of the structural-political nature of rape. And in fact, their committed rape(s), self-perceived and self-named as "love-making" are not, strictly speaking, acts of 'hate' as much as they are acts of subordination. This is to say, men lovingly rape. That's only a contradiction in terms if we make emotional states a prerequisite to or component of oppressive acts.

Even terms like 'crime' are misleading. The State uses the term 'crime' as an excuse to arrest and kill oppressed people disproportionately. What the status quo has never adequately understood or appreciated is how 'criminal' the criminal justice system is. That is to say, the system is grievously attached to political and economic hierarchies and won't function otherwise. 'Crime' is a political term in service to the status quo. Routinely, what is considered 'criminal' is effectively 'by definition' in practice, 'regular everyday acts by Black people' that wouldn't be 'criminal' if whites did them. Rape and men's sexual violence against women is not even considered a hate crime!

Stopping sexual harassment and other forms of work site threat and violence is an endemic problem requiring a structural solution. Ending capitalism is part of that. Some call it a need for 'culture change' and I'd agree it is that too, but it is also and far more importantly a permanent political rearrangement. The solution is not only an end to the interpersonal abuse.

Even terms like 'misogyny' and 'homophobia' make it sound like hate, fear, and bigotry are the problem. The corporate media will now occasionally use the term 'misogyny' but avoid the term 'male supremacy.' That says it all. If 'white supremacy' replaces 'racism' as the term used by such media, we may be that much closer to eradicating it. Not that such media has any interest in moving that effort along.

The heinous problems before us are not individualistic, or necessarily hateful or criminal. I support using language that reflects the systemic, historic, structural nature of oppression as the foundation of law-making and efforts to radically change society.

From here:
One of the most striking things I read in the book was how your pre-teenage brothers didn’t complain that it was unfair police had harassed and abused them for doing absolutely nothing. You write, “By the time they hit puberty, neither will my brothers have expected that things could be another way.” They internalized the devaluation of their lives at such a young age. Can you talk a bit about other ways in which young black children receive this message?

For many marginalized communities, we are told from birth that our lives are valueless. We are told that we don’t deserve things. That poverty is our fault. That our parents’ addictions and prison and inability to feed us is our fault. So if you internalize that, if you internalize the ways in which the world has literally shoved you out, then of course as you get older, you’re not going to believe in yourself. And that translates into not being able to do the things that are the most important and most healthy. We have to talk about changing systems first. We live in a culture that wants to talk about individual first, that tells people they need to take personal responsibility for their hardships. Let’s not do that. Let’s change the system that creates the hardships. That’s the work of Black Lives Matter, that’s the work of #MeToo, #TimesUp, the Women’s March, so many other important organizations that have come together in the past few years. [emphasis mine] -- Co-founder of BLM, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, in an interview about her brand new book, When They Call You a Terrorist