Friday, March 26, 2010

Success and Logic of Racial Vengeance

With the tea party rhetoric and angry white right in full force, it's worth remembering that opposition to minority targeted social programs shouldn't be construed as necessarily being racist. 

But I think that it is definitely the case for some people.  I think that a good deal of racism actually logically follows from modern conservatism (although the deeper assumptions about human behavior are the real issue).

The basic premise is this: if everyone can succeed by getting cleaned up, getting to work on time, using their brain and moving ahead, why do minority communities have such higher rates of dysfunction?  The internal logic of that statement implies that minorities must have something wrong with them that predisposes them to make poor decisions while the rest of us are able to make good ones.

The key phrase is "if everyone can succeed", which implies that we are all on a level playing field - a core assumption of modern conservatism, steeped as it is in American exceptionalism, providence and all that Neo-Christian bullshit.  Thus they wave away the mountains of social research, psychology, economics, etc. as leftist propaganda because it interferes with their main premise.

Most interestingly, however, they ALL have a deep and abiding believe in contra-causal free will.  On the one hand, this provides a magic antidote to the problem posed by evidence of social determinism.  But on the other it would also seem to be incongruent with the obvious fact that economic disparities exist between groups.  For if we all have free will, and are not determined by social forces, then one would expect to find random occurrence of levels of prosperity across groups, as no cultural forces have explanatory power.

At this point I find their logic to break down, and I can't get my mind around its incoherence.  It would seem that "if everyone can succeed" but that obviously some don't, then there must be some reason why, and thus free will breaks down and either social determinism or racialism comes in.

Yet people don't really need to be rational or coherent.  People are entirely capable of holding multiple contradictory positions in their head at once.  My best guess is that conservative individualism meets social inequality and realizes that to survive it must place blame somewhere, but the only two options are either to embrace genetic racism or social determinism.  The former entails a decades old taboo, and the latter a break-down of their philosophical premise.

So what likely happens is a sort of a cognitive parlor game in which multiple positions are held simultaneously, yet must always be ready to be backed away from or leaned into - whichever the moment requires.

The progressive, of course, is not bound by contra-causal free will, and is thus able to embrace personal responsibility as existing within a framework of social determinism. So while even if "any one can succeed", they must first need to know how, and possess the minimum level of social and human capital that success requires.  Somewhat ironically, this progressive logic actually deflates the sense of frustration and desire for vengeance that might come from seeing people behaving badly, and then being forced as a society to help them out.  Yet for the conservative, there is no rationalization to be found in the incoherence of contra-causal free will, and thus frustrated and vengeance is fomented - both in the direct social costs of group dysfunction, as well the resulting progressive attempts to hold the conservative accountable.

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