I know. This thread is continuing a trend. Hopefully it won’t be too redundant.
Anyway, I was having a conversation with a coworker who said that he couldn’t like a person who was anti-abortion. He didn’t qualify it by saying a vehement anti-abortion person. He just said anti-abortion, and then went on to call pro-life people every bad name in the book.
I told him that abortion was one of those areas where it isn’t black-and-white for me. In other words, I’m still working it through how I feel about it (hey, I’m young and opinions are meant to be changed). I think he was a little surprised, but that didn’t keep him from continuing his tirade. After a while, it got tiring. We share many of the same liberal views, but I also believe in tolerance and understanding. If an anti-abortion person had said the same things he had, that person would have been labeled as a bigot. And rightly so.
And then it occurred to me that I would feel exactly the same way if we were talking about racist/sexist/classist people. I would be able to maintain the basics of public decorum around them, but I could never really like them. At least I don’t think I would. Does that make me as narrow-minded as my friend? Or are -ist people somehow different from other kinds of people with controversial political views?
I second africanus’ point, and I always raise an eyebrow at how casually the term “racist” gets tossed around, as if the definition was obvious to all.
If one defines “racist” as advocating the murder or forced resettlement of other races, I can see where it would make one uncomfortable to be around such a person. People with less extreme views, but who hold them obsessively, might also be difficult to take (“Your train was late? It’s all the fault of them damn _____!”).
But how about people who are simply uncomfortable around other races, and tend to avoid their company? Or who harbor not-necessarily-negative stereotypes about other races (“Those black folks certainly have good rythym,” or “I’m looking for another Jewish accountant just like my last one”)? Or who have nothing negative to say about other races, but would prefer that their doctor or lawyer be of their own race?
I think “racism” (and to a lesser extent the other “-isms” monstro cited) often gets set up as an extremist straw man, because it’s comforting to think that intolerance can be readily disentangled from personal freedom of choice, and that “if we could only get rid of these ‘racists’”, we’d have our utopia before you know it.
I don’t have any personal litmus tests as far as whether I can like a person, but if they have contrary political views that keep interposing themselves (like “hating” a category that I fall into, or twisting any situation into a discussion of the Evil Conspiracy of the ______) then I’d be inclined to keep my distance.
Aren’t you reading too much into monstro’s post? She’s not saying that she can’t be friends with anyone who holds some negative stereotypes on other races. I assume she means simply that she can’t be friends with anyone who holds racist views, meaning unacceptably extremist views on various races (such as extermination, forced resettlement, segregation and the like).
I sure couldn’t be friends with such a person, if only because (s)he couldn’t be friends with me. I cannot see how anyone can call someone an “otherwise good person” who holds the majority of the world population in contempt. I don’t believe good deeds to persons of his/her own race make up for contempt to others. By the same token a mafia boss could be a good person because he was kind to his family.
I have been friendly to people who I believed held racist opinions. I actually have a friend who subscribes to some shady beliefs, and although they are only apparent during “joking around times”, I know she has them. She has even hurt my feelings with them. But because I believe she’s a good person deep down, I can forgive her.
I’m talking about someone who is a blatant, unapologetic racist. The kind of person who would refer to someone as a gook or a nigger or a spic or honkey, and would excuse hate crimes against them. The kind of person who believes in the inherent inferiority of others. The kind of person who believes in segregation and discrimination based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
These people may be nice and friendly, but even serial killers and rapist have friends.
Bugger! I had written a thoughtful, well-argued reply to the OP - but the hamsters ate it. Here’s the short version:
Tolerance of other people’s viewpoints should only go so far. There are moral absolutes and sometimes it is as simple as this is right and this is wrong.
Racists - by which I mean anyone who discriminates on the grounds of race - are wrong.
Sometimes it really is as simple as that.
Sorry if this seems rather blunt. But like I said, it’s the hamsters fault.
I can usually tolerate the presence of people with whom I have intense disagreements, but context is everything. If it were a situation where I could not argue and berate and contradict and interrupt and kibbitz and otherwise keep someone from airing their offensive political sentiments without being able to contribute a dissenting voice, the list would include “mentalism” (advocating the forced drugging or incarceration of someone they think is nutso, if said with apparent seriousness), child coercion (of the more robust variety, i.e., absolute control and punishment and abrogation of every vestige of autonomy), sexual double-standard (e.g., calling someone a slut for being sexually active and female), economic victim-blaming (disparaging the homeless or the poor as being of low character, etc), flag-waving jingoism (blind support for whatever asinine thing the USA is doing simply because it’s “our side”), stupid fundamentalist religious judgmentalisms (Rushdie committed sacrilege against the Koran and is therefore evil, people who oppose prayer in school are doing the devil’s work, etc), and just plain old generic “Worship of Normality” (there is a Right Way of doing things / thinking about things and of course we know what it is, let’s condemn everyone who dissents or who differs).
Heck, ultimately (over any protracted period or in the face of any really intense barrage of bullshit) I cannot tolerate for long the notion that I’m supposed to quietly allow someone to spew their stuff without responding, so ultimately everything goes on the list.
In contrast, I’m not sure there is any sentiment or opinion that I can’t stay in the room with and argue against, although the ones on the list above get me on my little soapbox pretty quickly. I think I’m fairly tolerant of people’s right to hold and express hideous perspectives because I love to argue Might be different if I had to watch them act according to their views, though. It’s one thing to have a verbal knock-down drag-out with a coworker over something like whether there’s “something wrong” with a person who does not believe in God and it’s something entirely different if I see a manager arranging for the dismissal of an employee for not believing in God.
I can’t understand people who are straight ticket voters.
When I say this, I mean people who vote straight ticket, every election, no matter what. They don’t even bother to learn the names of the candidates and what they stand for. They just go in and X the one little circle representing their party, and that’s it.
If you wanna vote straight ticket, that’s cool, but at least know WHO you are voting for, and where they stand on the issues!
I can’t see how you can’t. A five-percenter may think that whites are blue-eyed devils, the sub-human result of a genetic experiment gone wrong, but that doesn’t mean that she can’t be funny, honest, forthright, and polite. Her beliefs are not her behavior and as long as she respects the standards of polite society I have no reason to shun her. I may tell her that her views are objectional and that they do her little credit and that it would be best if she shut the hell up about it, but I can’t see refusing to associate with her simply for her belief.
You err when you use the example of the mafia don. Nothing in the OP implied that the person holding the objectionable view was murdering, raping, stealing, intimidating, or even insulting another person directly, or doing so via an intermediary, things which seem to pretty much be required in the mafia don job description. The OP was asking about political views, not actions, and the mafia don comparison is way off the mark because of that.
But doesn’t being racist, in the strong sense of the word, imply that the person does insult a group of persons directly by holding that a human being is of lesser worth merely by the fact of belonging to a different ‘race’? If it is factually possible to be a racist and not insult another person of a different race directly, I may reconsider. You seem to assume a far too broad definition of being racist. I prefer to reserve that word to a very small selection of society. If my usage doesn’t fit the dictionary definition, that’s fine. Then I only mean that I couldn’t be friends with a specific, extreme type of racist.
I’m not talking about someone who acts on his beliefs in illegal ways. I do think however, that the definition of racist includes being outspoken about it. Someone who really beliefs that it would be best if a certain race didn’t exist, or at the very least wasn’t around in the country. I couldn’t be friends with someone, even if he didn’t extend his views to me, for the reason that I find such an extreme view as distasteful as someone who enjoys torture. And frankly I would always suspect him of being more congenial to those persons who would prefer not to have the likes of me around.
I am friendly with people who have some views I find questionable, including views with respect to what is called the multi-cultural society. That’s not a problem with me: I like a debate, even if I cannot convince the other person. I couldn’t be friendly with people who have such extreme views that they would be aptly characterized as being racist. Could you be friends with someone who professed to be completely anti-American and sympathetic to Al-Qaeda, without ever having done any illegal act?
I forgot to add: rereading the OP, it seems to be stated in a different manner than I first read it. I though we were only talking about being friends, which I think I am allowed to choose on my own private criteria. Maybe I was led off track by this talk about being a nice person.
However, the OP seems to speak about tolerating views in discussion, and about someone who seems to hold persons of the opposite view by definition in contempt. That makes it more a moral issue: should you allow your discussion partner to hold certain views? It doesn’t matter whether he is nice: discussion partners deserve a certain amount of respect, even if they are not nice persons.
I guess it boils down to this: I’ll give the same respect as I receive. If a person is not so racist that he will not speak to me in a normal manner, I can provide him the same respect. But if I find that the person is disrespectful of my friends or family, I feel I owe it to them to make my dissent known. And if push comes to shove, I think I owe it to those I hold dear to avoid a conversation with someone who cannot talk about them in a polite way.
Not sure how to put it, but “My country is perfect and has never done anything wrong and anyone who says otherwise is unpatriotic” really rubs me the wrong way. You have to be denser than lead to truly believe this.
You may be right on target. If a person acts in every way as a tolerent (for lack of a better word) person does, except for expressing prejudicial views in carefully chosen company, then I may be out of bounds for calling the person a racist. Maybe that is who the word “prejudiced” is for! Definately something for me to think about.
Maybe it helps if you personalize the racial discussion…
I’m sure we all have relatives from an older generation whose racial views aren’t quite up to par. My father was born in 1939 and my mother in 1941. They certainly aren’t up to KKK status, and I’ve brought friends over who were black or indian, and they were pretty friendly. However, being from an older generation, my parents tend to casually throw around terms like “Spics,” “Japs” or even “Queers” without thinking. I don’t think they’d do so in public, but they easily let it slip around me.
I make it a point to tell them that such terms are undignified, and they really need to work on not using them. My gut tells me that they won’t; it’s a combination of age and training that would keep them from doing so. I wouldn’t define my parents as racist; just older. But they’re still my parents, and that doesn’t stop me from having a relationship with them.
One time I had the most unpleasant encounter with this guy. I went to his house; he was totally frickin hot and he wanted to lay me.
But before he did he insisted on going on about how English Canada was evilevilevilevilevil and how Quebec was for the Quebecois only. (Me: “Excuse me, you’re a recent German immigrant!” I never said his views were coherent.)
He was also this flaming neoliberal right-winger who was all about how medicare and subsidized higher education were evil and how things were much better in the US where they don’t have those; it wasn’t his positions so much as the out-and-out falsehoods he was telling to support them that it just drove me insane.
And even though physically he was just so fine, I could not get it up after all that. I made some excuse and got out of there.
It really doesn’t matter what political view, what I can’t tolerate is people not accepting that other political ideas than their own should be considered (although I would rather not have a conversation with Ann Coulter).