What do we mean by “civility”?

What do we mean by “civility” in the context of “racism” and how to deal with racism and racists?

I’ll begin by stating my own views as clearly as I can. I won’t try to define civility outside of that context or use any dictionary definition. I’ll just state my own feelings about it and about the “problem”, and there is a big one, in my view.

It’s that we all have different opinions of what “civility” is.

I vehemently disagree that being “nice” to racists is “civil”. In my opinion it is extremely uncivil, and encourages them to think that racism is “just another point of view as valid as any other”.

Well, it’s not. It’s the most fucking uncivil thing in the world. Far more uncivil by fucking orders of magnitude than my use of the work fucking.

And imo racists deserve nothing more than being utterly condemned for their racism… shunned and ostracized and marginalized and insulted and made to feel small and turned into pariahs until they realize, no… until they “feel”… the wrongness of their attitude. And by now most here probably know that I have no problem with telling racists to go fuck themselves.

What most probably don’t know is that it is also my opinion that Armando has been far, far too nice, too restrained and too “civil” on these subjects.


Racism is not a “problem” only for Docudharma per se, it’s a “problem” that exists in the larger society, – and it’s not a “theoretical” problem.

It’s a real life bleeding and dying problem for far too many people.

There seems to be, no – there IS – a widespread desire and longing here for, as many people here have expressed it “peace” and “not fighting with each other” – for “civility”, a shorthand term those who have expressed those desires have used.

The rationalization of most who’ve expressed this desire is that in their view “being civil” by that definition of civil will result in more inclusiveness and less people feeling ostracized or condemned – which they view as a “bad thing” – and that “not being civil” will drive people away by making them feel unwanted.

The rationalization is aimed at not shunning or marginalizing or ostracizing racists out of “concern” for their “feelings”, and out of concern that some of this community might leave it because they are uncomfortable with “incivility”, as they term it.

The inseparable flip side of that rationalization in my view is that it encourages people  to think that racism is “just another point of view as valid as any other”, and removes any pressure or motivation for them to learn that racism is plain flat out wrong and evil, or change or stop.

In other words, in my view, that rationalization accepts that people who suffer from racism,  a set much, much larger than the set of racists, should continue suffering racism and their continued marginalization in the interest of not marginalizing and possibly losing a much smaller set of people who think that the much larger group is somehow inferior to them or less human, and in effect allowing to feel marginalized and excluding the larger group of people who suffer from racism by in effect and for all intents and purposes condoning racism.

That rationalization is racist…



These are my thoughts and opinions. I am not going to comment in this thread beyond a “tip jar”. (well… I tried…) But I will read every comment. Have at me.

107 comments

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    • Edger on December 1, 2007 at 4:59 pm
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    • Armando on December 1, 2007 at 5:18 pm

    Obviously OVERT DELIBERATE racism deserves no consideration whatsoever.

    But most of what we deal with HERE is the racism that is ingrained in all of us through the racist culture and society we exist in.

    My biggest complaint is the notion that we can come to any situation and put all that aside and be “neutral” in our interactions.

    I will be discussig that issue, I hope, with Night Owl today.

    Because, beyond the personal invective we hurled at each other, and I hope we are past that, I have a serious serious serious disagreement with the idea he has conveyed on that subject.

    • plf515 on December 1, 2007 at 5:46 pm

    First, let’s all accept that Edger and I (and, I hope, all of you) agree that racism is disgusting.  We might disagree on exactly what is, or isn’t racism, but let’s take some obvious case and say “David Duke is repellent”.

    Now, what do I mean by being civil to Duke (or anyone with those views)?  Do I mean saying “That’s fine, David, you believe what you believe, and I’ll believe what I believe, and we’ll all get along just fine.”?

    No, I do not.

    I mean pointing out to them why their views are repellent and un American.  But I mean doing that without cursing at them; but, rather, calmly showing them that they are total fucking shmucks who do a lot of harm and no good whatsoever.

    OK, that wasn’t civil, but it wasn’t addressed at anyone here.

    Why do I advocate this?

    Several reasons.  First, although I posited David Duke showing up here, so far as I know, no one on this site has said anything like that.  The comments that started all this were more subtle, not as clear.  They could have been due to miscommunication.  A civil response allows that to be cleared up.  It might even just lead to the poster saying “I was being sarcastic!”.

    Second, not everyone who makes racist comments is a racist.

    Third, presuming the person really is David Duke’s alter ego, how might we reach him and teach him?  Might David Duke learn?  I don’t know.  But others have.  I don’t think anyone learns by being yelled at.  So, if our goal is to change the world, and if we agree that changing a person’s racist views is a good thing, then civility not only is more polite, it’s  more effective.

    • Robyn on December 1, 2007 at 7:36 pm

    I pretty much thought we were talking about being respectful of others as we talk about racism.  For some reason, that’s a totally different thing to me.

    It shouldn’t be a witch hunt to find out who is pure and who is not.  I don’t believe people should have to prove they are not racists to gain respect.  People should start with the respect any human being deserves.  

  1. What would be the point of name-calling?

    Had he not already called himself the worst there is?

    If you want to claim hurling obscenities at racists or Republicans or liberals or imaginary races is being civil, then you should consider writing your own dictionary so you can be understood.

    Socrates thought the worst thing you could do to anyone was to misinform them even has he drank a big cup of hemlock. Got some real baddies on the internet by that logic.  

    If you tell the truth, there is no need to yell.

    If you lie, yelling won’t make the lie true but it may discourage truthtellers.

    You can get more with a little kindness and a gun, then just kindness alone.  – Al Capone

    Best,  Terry

  2. This diary presumes that ‘the fights’ were purely, 100%, between those fighting against racism and those fighting for more racism.

    Rather than what it was: someone behaving very, very badly, in the way that many in the blogworld have expected him to behave given past tirades.

    So, sure, I totally agree and get behind making a ruckus or whatever else has to happen to thwart racism.  Another entirely different issue is that this blog should not tolerate an abusive mean individual.

    • Metta on December 1, 2007 at 10:58 pm

    ostracized and ridiculed for admitting that I have had inherent racist thoughts, feelings, and perhaps have made racist comments,  I doubt I would have said anything.  The context that I felt comfortable discussing my feelings was not the highly charged diary where there was name calling and yelling.  It was a conversation that started out civil.  That’s not to say it didn’t delve into more difficult feelings and emotions but the approach was a tone in which one could feel comfortable exploring this topic.  Maybe true learning (Change?) is a bit like the grieving process; steps and stages.

    I think it’s most difficult for those of us who consider ourselves liberal, progressive, democrats to accept our cultural biases, certain pre-judgments, or ethnocentric views as potentially problematic.  It seemed to me that I wanted to jump ahead of the curve and forego the painful growth process that self examination can be and just be a “WE’RE ALL ONE” believer.  It takes courage, support and maturity to get there, not just slogans, demonstrations, and boycotts.  I wish I knew in my young adulthood what I am coming to know now.

  3. Here is an interesting piece of research on real racial attitudes in South Carolina and Alabama as reflected in referenda on interracial marriage.

    The bottom line from the study: in 1998 in South Carolina 40 percent of whites opposed interracial marriage. In the year 2000 in Alabama the number was 49 percent.

    Such depressing numbers help to explain the Rovian strategy of assembling a primitive, practically medieval, rock-solid base of credulous gun-totin’, SUV-drivin’, Bible-thumpin’, Rapture-awaitin’, ignorance-embracin’, global-warming-denyin’, evolution-dismissin’, science-rejectin’, contraception-and-abortion-rights-opposin’, tolerance-refusin’, gay-bashin’, Constitution-shreddin’, civil rights-denyin’, Bill-of-Rights-ignorin’, anti-race-mixin’, Confederate-flag-displayin’, Fox-News-believin’, Rush-Limbaugh-admirin’, foreigner-despisin’, Muslim-demonizin’, militia-joinin’, perpetual-war-lovin’, torture-approvin’, war-and-oil-profit-cheerin’, robber-baron-servin’, Fuehrer-enablin’ social conservatives.

    Such hard core Republican zombies are of course more prevalent in the Deep South than in the rest of the country, but they form an important, reliable Republican voting bloc in rural and exurban areas in the Midwest and West. Nationwide these credulous zombies comprise the iconic 30 percenters, the irreducible Republican base.

    There really is no point in catering to them, pandering to them, reasoning with them, or trying to be civil to them–unless one runs for public office as a Republican. Ridicule them. Laugh at them. When presented the chance, point out their prejudice and ignorance. Ask them about their last KKK or militia meeting. Expose their offensive biases in public meetings. Don’t let their Limbaugh-induced lies go unchallenged at a dinner party or cocktail reception. And be sure to vote to cancel out one of them and election time.

    But treating classical racists/fascists with civility? No thanks. Like you, Edger, I’d rather not be a “good German.” We’re way past the time for civility.

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