Are accusations of raicsm/sexism/bigotry abused?

Do people accuse other’s of racism to shut them up or shut down debate?

Are labels like racist being watered down by over-use?

…what do you think?

Counterquestions - are accusations of frivolous accusations of bigotry used to silence people and stifle debate? And is this more common than the opposite problem? Call it a false positive/false negative problem.

Given the absolute inundation of right-wing discourse with talk of “sjws” and “snowflakes” and how few real examples they just keep bringing up over and over again, and given that those handful of examples are not representative of the norm on college campuses, and given that college campuses aren’t even representative of the norm in the broader public… I’m gonna go with false negatives as the bigger problem currently, because you basically cannot bring up structural injustices (or even more specific examples of sexism/racism) online without getting at best “devil’s advocates” and at worst Gamergate-style shithead trolls up to your eyeballs. There’s a whole cottage industry of cunts like this on youtube like Sargon of Akkad; there is no equivalent mob of social justice scolds screaming racism at nothing.

A far bigger problem than people overusing these terms to water them down is people who amplify every example of overuse (or just invent them outright) in order to pretend that they’re already watered down/meaningless.

I know people who have used the N word to my face and still deny they are racist.

IMO, If anything, it isn’t called out enough.


Yes - not necessarily from over-use, but accusations of racism are being made in ever-increasingly ridiculous cases. See Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, etc.


Not in my experience.

That’s not a given - you would need some kind of hard data beyond anecdote.


Take a moment and compare and contrast these two statements you made. Can you spot the problem?

While I think racism and sexism should be called out MORE often, the problem is that (A) nobody wants to admit to being racist and (B) people have different definitions for how ‘racism’ or ‘sexism’ is defined.

First, literally everyone holds some level of racist/sexist ideas, even if only implicitly. But the rhetoric is such that if a person says something impolite or ignorant, we immediately jump to saying “This person is a racist,” which is synonymous with “evil.” The assumption that ‘racist = evil’ causes people to shut down and avoid critically examining their behavior. Since no one wants to admit to being racist and the rhetoric against accused racists is so vitriolic, we have big obstacles that prevent understanding and actually improving people’s behavior.

The second half is that many people assume that you are only ‘racist’ if you are ‘a racist,’ in the sense that racists are people who wear white hoods. Explicit, overt racism/sexism is their threshold. Another definition I’ve heard is that “racism” is only when the powerful group exercises their power over the minority group. (This definition implies it is impossible for anyone to be racist against white people.)

At the same time, there is another extreme that girl’s accusations of racism over practically any trivial thing. If a white person wear dreadlocks, that’s racism. If a white girl wears a Chinese dress, that’s racism. I once had someone tell me I was “racist” because I didn’t like the depiction of sexualized underage girls in Asian pop culture. I once had someone tell me I was a “bigot” because I remarked that a fictional character’s sexual orientation was not relevant to the plot of a story.

I want to be sympathetic, but it’s really hard when people hurl accusations of racism over the most inconsequential chickenshit. I suspect the problem would be easier to solve if we could come to some common consensus on what “racism” and “sexism” actually means.

I started a thread a while back asking for any examples of false accusations of racism causing significant harm – the only example that struck me as legitimate was something from the 70s or 80s, IIRC (quite a few offered examples of someone saying something that was actually racist and suffering consequences for it). I think the supposed threat of accusations of racism shutting down debates is massively overblown and largely fictional. It certainly doesn’t shut down any debates on this board, and in my experience, in real life and even on social media. It can lead to contentiousness, and occasionally such accusations are made in bad faith, but no more than any other false accusations, in my experience.

I think JB99 nailes it. Racism comes in varying degrees of severity. But some people treat DEFCON-5 racism as DEFCON-1 and some treat DEFCON-1 as DEFCON-5.

Well said.

I think that the big danger of racism/sexism accusations are not that they are false, but we are coming to a point where the low-hanging fruits are mostly agreed upon. For instance, there are very few people that would say “It’s OK to burn a cross on someone’s lawn.” or “Segregation was a good thing.” Where we’re at now though is looking at systemic problems and they are much harder to deal with. For instance, economic segregation. We know that schools right now are still largely segregated. Wealthier people who are overwhelmingly white live in neighborhoods with other wealthy people who are overwhelmingly white and send their kids to overwhelmingly white schools that are extremely high performing. People of color end up in far worse schools and end up with far fewer opportunities because of this. We KNOW this. It’s a complete fact. If though, you call this racist, you end up in a situation where you are telling people that in order to not be racist, they should live in poorer neighborhoods and send their children to schools that are lower performing. The response then becomes, “Why is wanting what is best for my child racist?” These are not people that intentionally want to oppress people of color. They probably have no problem associating with black people and might not even care if their children date black people. They may vote for black candidates and support black organizations. They still get painted with a brush of ‘racist’ though because they are perpetuating a class system largely based on race. That’s a hard pill to make someone swallow. The danger behind making them swallow that pill though is that they no longer respond to the term even for more egregious things. If you say “Moving to a white neighborhood with nice schools makes you racist.” it’s easy for them to dismiss that accusation. When you come back and say ‘Police targeting people of color is racist.’ it makes it easier for them to dismiss that accusation as well. It’s a very difficult line to tread.

I having trouble understand why you linked to that site. That article seems to be saying that “racism” is shutting down debate, not “accusations of racism”

Am I misunderstanding?

Also, I like this quote from that link:

Did you link to that site because you think they do, or because you think they don’t?

For what? That college campuses aren’t indicative of America at large? That the specific events of very specifically cherry-picked cases (and we know they’re not common events because we don’t keep hearing about new ones regularly - imagine if, every time you heard about police misconduct, it was always the same three cases from several years ago, rather than enough new ones to populate a rather massive omnibus thread)? That right-wing discourse is about “pwning the libs” and complaining about social justice? I didn’t imagine that would require a cite at this point, to be honest.

I work alongside minorities; in fact as a white person I am in the minority where I work. There are endless debates about what is and isn’t racist among my black coworkers. There is no consensus whatsoever, even over the use of the n word to a certain degree. In fact, there is a lot of pushback and derision against unfounded or very weak assertions of racism.

I think a major part of the problem is that people such as my coworkers, whom I have tremendous respect for, never engage in real discussion with the kinds of people that frequent this board. Mostly what you end up with is situations like this where mostly middle class white people, many if not most of whom have never had any legitimate interaction with minorities as a true equal, have conversations with other white people about how bad another class of white people are.

In many cases, yes. However, it’s important to know the difference between someone knowingly and maliciously filing a false report of racism (Tawana Brawley) versus someone who reported a misunderstanding as a racist attack.

It’s been said that the biggest obstacle to communication is the illusion that it has been accomplished. I really do believe that we need to sit down and LISTEN to each other. I mean REALLY LISTEN. Put aside all preconceived notions about ‘that other person’ and just LISTEN.

We need to remember that POC in North America have been getting the schitt end of the stick for the past 400 years. So many of them will be defensive; many will see racism even in places where none is intended. Just because you don’t mean to be racist doesn’t mean that you weren’t racist, and it doesn’t mean that you don’t benefit from racism.

Should POC be less touchy? That’s easy for the racially privileged to say. However, we tell people to ‘check their privilege’ for a reason, yanno? Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Many will be defensive, many will not. Many will be annoyed at the overly sensitive types. Many prefer the term black over POC.

You’re assumption is that we should cater to the most reactionary and sensitive portion of a group of people, but it’s almost as if you want to ignore the portion of the population that does not agree with that. That’s what listening is, it’s listenting to the concerns of the whole group, not the most reactionary and sensitive portions.

No. Because when in the entire history of the internet has that ever worked? Especially in a racist safe space, like this board. Racists are determined, I’ll give them that. It tends to have the exact opposite of a chilling effect on conversations.


That assumption is because it’s the only one that makes rational sense. The people who aren’t sensitive by definition do not care way, so obviously the sensitive people are the ones you need to be most concerned about.

I would also point out that you listening to a small group of black people who you know is not better than the liberal concepts which involve listening to wide groups of everyone. You have no way of knowing if the people you listen to are representative of the whole.

And then you’re acting like black people are the only other race that matters. POC means “people of color” and means all non-white people. Black people alone do not define what racism is, either.

If one of your black friends thinks POC and black mean the same thing, then, while they may have lived experiences, they clearly have a lack of knowledge on the subject.

I will freely admit that, due to where I live, I don’t know very many black people in real life. And, while I talk to a lot of people online, the majority of people I know never reveal their race.

What I do do is go to the experts. I read about what black people are saying. I read about what people of other races are saying. I look at the studies. I look at the people who are highly regarded on these issues.

What I would never do is just talk to my black few friends and present their opinions as “what black people think.”

One black friend I had in school loved it when the girls would touch his hair–but now I know that’s a no-no in the wider community.

Experts? On what? On what minorities think? Who the heck are these “experts?” Highly regarded by whom?

Instead it seems you pick some black people out of a hat, or perhaps whomever happens to be loudest on twitter, and do exactly that.