Modern racism is very adaptive and clandestine, and contrary to popular thought is not being obliterated, for the same reason many strains of bacteria have become resistant to standard antibiotics. Modern culture embarked down a path of enlightenment with human rights but since that path still allowed a racism tributary--because enlightenment allows alternatives and does not bully--resistant racism fought for its survival and slowly became more privatized.
Racism used to be more openly professed due to its nationalistic roots. Nationalism originally professed pride and dignity across hereditary us-groups, so openly claiming racist arguments was supported by many scientists and social thinkers. Now the very science that "proved" scientific racism has disproved it many times over--as has philosophy--but that just means the modern racist defers to personal belief rather than public "fact." This move was key.
What I see happening in modern culture is this: Public racism is scorned, and private racism is condoned using some false argument like personal liberty.
It is this all-too-common scenario that brings the privatization of racism into my mind: Multiple people are talking, griping about how they could not believe so-and-so was making open racist comments. Read that sentence again because it says a lot: They were griping about how so-and-so made open racist comments. Apparently they were less bothered by the existence of the racist ideals than they were about how they were expressed openly in a public sphere. I have heard this more than once and wonder if anyone understands what the complaint really means. This is what I mean by the privatization of racism; it has now become more deplorable to say racist things publicly than to think them privately.
When cultures focus on community, tradition, government, religion, and other inherently collective ideals, they pave a path for where the people's moral and ethical attention will be pulled. What was great about Thoreau was that he knew he was not autonomous or that his respite was permanent, but that he needed a break from the world to be able to see it clearly and write about it. His solution is still available and practical to us, however in modern times that premise is met with absurd and scornful responses as people do not understand the value (or the feasibility) of getting away from the society that gives form to their economics, futures, and organizations. (No, that is not what your vacation is about. Thoreau was not on a vacation.) I am not saying we all need to live like Hobos, but I am saying that Thoreau saw how public values infiltrated private values, and disapproved of it.
Racism of course is not unique in its progressive privatization. Many socially uncomfortable topics are left to the annals of a safe "us" group to talk about them, but I find this destructive on a large scale. But how, you may ask, when we are not actively or directly insulting the objectified group? Ah, I get it. So choosing to be secretive about racism (or any -ism) is a more practical and humane solution. Did not know conspiring was a virtue.
It may sound like I am proposing an honesty-program, where those with racist thoughts walk up to the objectified group and "respect" them through telling them to their face. That telling them they are sub-human is a sign of respect... No, what I am asking is that each of us just look in the mirror and talk to the person looking back as if they are the objectified group. Tape a note to the mirror if you need a script for each group. This directly attacks the privatization of racism through making us see ourselves for what we truly believe, because one of the big reasons we separate private beliefs/actions from public beliefs/actions is because we convince ourselves that the public version of ourselves is just as valid. This compartmentalization is merely another form of confirmation bias.
If we want to see our ugliness, then looking at how we are/may be confirmation biased is a great start. The problem is that implicit within confirmation bias is a lack of entering conflict and self-reflection; we just non-confrontationally confirm our biases then move on. There is no self-reflection or judgment, just self-movement. This is why the privatization of our racism goes undetected. To break that cycle, we do not need to be open with the objects with our racism, yet open with ourselves about what we truly believe. Only then will there we no difference between our private self and public self.
The whole incentive for privatizing racism is to maintain comfortable, unfounded, and phobic thoughts. Unfortunately, we cannot observe, judge, or reconcile these thoughts when we dilute ourselves with platitudes, cliche's, and social niceties, which is why they are some of the primary tools of privatized (modern) racism. This is also why a modern racist can passionately claim that racism has no place in the public sphere.
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