Deliberate (and deliberately offensive) racism should be moderatable. It is Being a Jerk

A poster on this board made a post that the mods themselves note is apparently racist. Said poster has not only attempted to give any other possible meaning, but flat out says they know they’d be banned if they said it directly. However, that same note says that the poster has not broken any rules.

I say this is a problem. Being deliberately racist is Being a Jerk, which is against the rules. Just like being deliberately misogynistic or deliberately homophobic. The fact that the OP used weasel words to not say it directly shouldn’t matter, either. “I’m not touching you” posts of this type never escape moderator scrutiny. The poster clearly indicated that they believed they’d be banned for the sentiment they posted, and past history backs up that, had they said it directly, they’d have been modded.

There’s also a moral issue here: we presumably all believe racism is wrong. Does that not mean that we all have a responsibility to try and mitigate it when we have the power to do so? The reason I am writing this right now is that I have the power to address this, thus I have a moral obligation to try. I would argue that the SDMB has an obligation to deal with hateful actions that occur on its boards, and that mods who say they are against racism have the responsibility to try and deal with it in general as far as they can.

There’s also the appearance issue, which has historically also been an important consideration. There was this whole push to remove the appearance of misogyny, because that made women feel unwelcome, like the board is an old man’s club. Why should that apply only to women? Should someone who is black feel welcome here knowing that such clear and intentional racism against them explicitly will not be dealt with? Doesn’t that create the appearance of an old white people’s club? And doesn’t modding other lesser issues (e.g. political jabs) make it seem like racism is less important?

I’m not even necessarily arguing for any particular punishment here. I’m arguing that someone who knowingly slips in a racist crack like that, especially outside of any actual debate on racial issues, should be moderated in some way, to let them know that what they said is not acceptable on the SDMB, just like the vast, vast majority of spaces with civility rules. Surely all of the people in charge believe that racism is morally wrong and undesirable on this board.

You guys moderate things you personally think are jerkish all the time, even if there isn’t an explicit rule. This, IMO, should be one of those times. “Ain’t no rule” is rarely the best argument.

I don’t like writing these things, because I know that they tend to create some sort of storm. But (1) I believe have the moral obligation I stated above to try and (2) I don’t believe it’s better to have a negative peace than to resolve an underlying problem. (3) I think this is a big enough problem that discussion among the board is required, not just PMs.

I know some would prefer my post be shorter, but the shorter versions would all make assumptions or, worse, likely make people defensive, which I don’t think is productive here.

I wrote this in a note about another post in the same thread:

The essential question here (and, I think, in all moderation calls) is threefold:

  1. Is there any harm to keeping this post unmoderated?
  2. If so, is there any benefit to keeping this post unmoderated?
  3. If so, does the benefit outweigh the harm?

For this post:

  1. Yeah, the harm is that folks who don’t like this sort of oblique rules-skirting racism will be turned off of the board when they see it’s considered acceptable to act like this.
  2. No, there’s no benefit. This isn’t the kind of post that engenders productive discussion.
  3. n/a

Hi there. It seems my O.P. within the Will Smith thread has launched a much more important and nuanced conversation.

No doubt, stating I’m not a racist is a bit like someone screaming, " I’m not crazy !! "
If you’re not crazy, why are you screaming it?

Since nature abhors a vacuum and almost nothing is known about anyone here by anyone here, allow me to dive in a bit.

It’d be hilarious IMHO to be labeled a racist. My children aren’t the same race as me and they are not some illusionary extension of my inner racist defensive mechanism. They’re real and not white like I am. Chew on that for a moment.

Why did I say I thought I’d likely get banned? Because unlike 20+ years ago, free speech here has become a very different heavily filtered commodity.

I really enjoy being a Doper but last time I checked, free speech was more important.

The reason that the person who assaulted another person wasn’t escorted from the room is because the Producer of record is also an Africa-American. The optics in the control room truck, in the building, in the industry, would have been atrocious.

We all look out for our own. It’s human nature and I’m not sure that’s a definition of racism. It’s just human nature. I’m quite sensitive to attacks on Asian-Americans because my children are Asian-Americans and so it hits closer to home than it may for others not in this position.

I think that the Producer was looking out for his own and did not demand immediately that Security within the building escort the assaulter from the premises. Plain and simple. Completely understandable.

I wasn’t trying to be oblique. And while YMMV, I sure wasn’t trying to be a jerk. I was just trying to avoid disciplinary action on what wasn’t actionable from where I was sitting and typing.

Nothing more nefarious than that.


Without commenting on your personal beliefs, it’s important to note that “my children aren’t the same race as me” is not the same as “I am not racist.”

But more importantly, “you said something racist” isn’t even necessarily the same thing as “you are racist.”

One kneejerk defense mechanism that we have, when confronted with the idea that we said something racist, is to say, “but I’m not a racist!” Maybe not, but we all have prejudices. Racism is what happens when we make the mistake - deliberately or not - of allowing our prejudices to dictate what we say or do. That’s what you did.

Your post made it clear you knew your notions were inappropriate for this community, and you went ahead and stated them anyway. Putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make it kosher.

A good move would’ve been to keep it to yourself. A better move would’ve been to have a good, long thought about what you correctly identified - that this community which you really enjoy being a part of considers your beliefs unacceptable.

I would like to refute this, but (checks forum) we are in ATMB, and that would be off topic. But i think

  1. if that’s what you meant, you should have said it in the thread.
  2. if you think you shouldn’t have said it, because it’s a racist comment, then you shouldn’t have said it, even in the weird oblique way you said it.

There is some implicit tension between free speech banning bigoted arguments. (Using “bigoted” to encompass racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.) Every community needs to decide where they stand on this. I don’t moderate the areas where it is usually relevant, but feel that “don’t be a jerk” should outweigh “open discussion” in the forums i do moderate (IMHO, Cafe Society, MPSIMS, QZ, site feedback).

Free speech has nothing to do with a private messageboard. If it’s important to you to be able to say, without consequence, whatever you want in any venue you want–to scream obscenities in a bookstore, to recite baseball statistics during a play, to ask the cashier at the grocery store about their bowel movements–that’s a really peculiar take on free speech.

And if that’s not important to you, what a bizarre non sequitur of a sentence that was.

Others have addressed the silliness of your “My kids aren’t white, therefore it’s silly to label me a racist” argument, so I won’t bother.

So basically, “I can’t be racist against Black people because my kids are half Asian.”


I think you (Cartooniverse) may have been better served putting your assertion into a question, because the way you put it seemed extremely racist to me (“Just look at the producer…wink wink”). If you have said something like, “Do you think that the producer being Black affected how he handled this confrontation between two Black men?”, I don’t think it would have raised as many eyebrows.

In any case, they asked Smith to leave and he refused, so you’re even wrong on the facts.

If you can say that plainly here, why couldn’t you just say it as plainly in the original thread? Same message board, same rules about racist posts apply. You’re no more protected here than you were over there.

Yes you were. There is nothing more oblique than the way you phrased that post.

Quoted for agreement.

The weasel words, if anything, make it worse; in two fashions. For one thing, the poster’s declaring a clear intention to circumvent board rules. For another, the only explanation I could come up with for the post is even worse than the one given by the poster in this thread; so the appearance issue is made worse by the weasel words.

Rather than address the specific incident causing offence which people seem to be re-hashing here, I’m going to stick to discussing the actual suggestion made by the OP.

Has racism ever been given a pass here? Does this board have a problem with nurturing of racism?
The answer to my rhetorical questions of course a resounding no. People who post racist stuff get hammered.

I somewhat agree with Cartooniverse’s observation that : “… unlike 20+ years ago, free speech here has become a very different heavily filtered commodity.

LHD says “Free speech has nothing to do with a private messageboard”. Which is an interesting way to put it, because while free speech does not have to be a principle of a private messageboard, it can be, so LHD’s statement is in a sense quite, quite wrong. The question isn’t whether this private messageboard has to grant free speech, it’s whether we want it to on the basis it’s a good general principle.

Personally one of the reasons I became a habitue of this place was because it had an interesting free thought vibe, in which you could say what you liked but if it was stupid or counterfactual or horrid you would get your ass kicked from here to Mars by the community. I think it was a good system. If you said something controversial you weren’t sanctioned by The Authorities or shut down, you instead had the opportunity to defend your view - successfully or otherwise. But being unable to do so would result in you feeling the community’s scorn or wrath, typically in a highly effective fashion.

BigT says someone who “slips in a racist crack like that, [ . . . ] should be moderated in some way, to let them know that what they said is not acceptable on the SDMB.” Why is that required? Why do we need mods to say what people who slip in racist cracks get told by the community anyway? Are we really such children that we need the mods to do this for us?

Subtly, it amounts to a move away from a general principle by which comments are considered (and judged) on their merits to a principle by which comments are put in certain boxes by rote.

It would amount to a dumbing down of this place, an insult to the community’s talent for stepping up and putting those who deserve it into their place, and a backward step.

Agree with Princhester.

I would put it another way: is it not permitted on these boards to suggest that a public figure had a race-based motive for a decision?

Ultimately, that seems to be the concern that led Cartooniverse to approach the issue in the way he did.

That’s silly. You can say that the producer thought “I can’t kick him out, he’s a black guy.” but you can also—equally-validly—say that the producer thought “I have to kick him out, he hit a black guy.”

Except there is absolutely no evidence of this at all beyond, “He’s Black.”

Cartooniverse saw a Black guy and immediately assumed that is all the explanation needed, even though the facts actually show that he’s completely wrong.

We’ve got 2 different discussions going here:

-Can we have conversations about whether or how race is a factor in public events (or whatever)
-Can posters use snide innuendo and racist dogwhistles instead of actual arguments

I would say yes to the first and no to the second. The second should be modded, harshly.

There should be no place for racism on this board.

I would like to nominate the term “free speech” as the most vague and mis-applied phrase of the 21st century.

If White people can’t call Black people incompetent at their job BECAUSE of their race, then racism has lost all meaning.

But what if the rules about race-based discussions have got to the point where there is a chilling effect, so posters feel they can’t comment expressly on race-based issues?

Then people will move to other message boards or venues that allow for “frank discussions” on why certain races can’t be trusted to do their jobs.