Culture / Race

Could We Please Stop Teaching That We’re All Equal?

At this point, it's doing more harm than good.

At this point, it’s doing more harm than good.

A Failure of Education

What we learned in school was that our society used to follow an illogical and wrong belief that one’s worth and behavior was based on their race. Some of us, like me, were taught that race itself isn’t really a thing. What we should have been learning is that race and racism were not mistaken ideas, but evil structures. We should have been taught to understand how race operates, how it’s inextricably tied to racism. Instead, we learned that we’re all equal.

It’s understandable that well-meaning people would want to tell kids that we’re all the same inside. The idea serves as a pretty convenient short-hand for a rebuke of racism. You know, a big “fuck you” to racist grandparents that tell their grandkids not to play with black kids. It’s a beautiful idea, that we’re all brothers and sisters together on the earth and we’re all just as good as each other. It’s a natural response to discrimination, and a powerful idea to inculcate kids with. The problem is that this idea is so beautiful and attractive, to everybody, that it’s started causing problems in the ongoing dialogue about racism.

We’re all the same, racism is bad” is the main takeaway from anti-racist education. While it was part of my education that race isn’t real, and many people I interact with believe this too, it seems like the intricacies of the statement were lost (I certainly didn’t get it until years later). After all, it’s so similar, on the surface, to “we’re all the same.” The fact that race doesn’t exist plays along well with it, but the realities of race as a system have nothing to do with the all-encompassing mantra that, at this point, should be retired. Not that it’s wrong! It’s absolutely true that we’re all the same, or at least true enough that we should believe it for the sake of cutting down on discrimination. It’s a good idea for kids to be taught this. But it should be the basis of anti-racist education, not the lesson.

"The Soiling of Old Glory"

“The Soiling of Old Glory”

We learned about slavery, and Jim Crow and the civil rights movement. we learned about MLK. His portrayal and story were very positive and (deservedly) inspirational. But again, this had the unintended effect of implying an end to racism, especially when the curriculum was so woefully truncated. I was lucky enough to go to a school with a compulsory ethnic studies class, but either they failed to go sufficiently hard, or I was a shittier 14-year-old than I remember, because it was just a big joke to us. We called it “‘feel bad about being white’ class.” Which it is, really, but we didn’t understand what “white” meant.

“We’re all the same” is the reason a racial system is wrong. It’s not that we discovered that race isn’t a real thing (though unfortunately we did have to do research to satisfy some people’s racist imaginations), and therefore “we’re all the same,” — race was invented. And all of the problems that come along with race were created and are maintained through countless means that we have to teach people to recognize. This is something educators understand, but are failing to teach.

Racism, like every social justice issue, is pretty difficult to make certain people understand. It relies on critique of ingrained systems, often questioning certain sacred ideas, like the concept of the traditional family, or the position of certain groups in the world. These ideas aren’t just a sore spot that will get you yelled at for poking; most people will never stop to consider why they are this way or if they should be. Some people will never get it, and others won’t want to get it, but this type of critical thinking should be the real goal of anti-racist education. Racism is an enemy that must be stamped out. This is the lesson we should be teaching our kids, not that we’re all equal. Because we aren’t, not yet. We should instill equality as a value, and show how to recognize and neutralize the enemies of that ideal.

Consequences of Inherent Equality

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As it stands now, “we’re all the same, racism is bad” is about as far as many people are willing to go. That’s where their education stopped and failed. I don’t mean that the education system should be churning out anti-racism soldiers, though yes it should, I mean that it’s actively producing closed-minded idiots who use these anti-racist ideas to speak against affirmative action and other specialized programs, to argue against laws and attitudes that combat hate speech, and, worst of all, to deny the continued existence of racism and implicitly support it. “We’re all the same” recognizes “white” first and foremost as an identity, when, in reality, the most relevant and important role of whiteness is being at the top and at the wheel of racism.

We’ve detailed several times how the white race is not only a race. It is the ruling caste. As a commenter on one of my articles put it,

“its obvious white people are the kings of the planet, thats why you fucktard college kids hate them so much”

Race is constructed in such a way that it’s impossible to separate white people from inequality, the struggles of minorities, racism, and any number of societal ills. They are in control, and even if they aren’t now (just in case you’d like to argue that), they were at one point, and the mechanisms put in place when they were are still there and still helping them out. It is impossible to discuss racism and ending it without being “racist against white people.” As I’ve said, anti-racist is a codeword for anti-white.

The “anti-racist” mantra we were taught is being applied to white people. This makes total sense, given the mantra’s wording. The mantra is logical, equitable, and positive. We should all believe in what it says. The harm comes from the way it was taught to us, and how we learned to apply it. It can be hard to tell when someone is a troll, disingenuously pulling out “racism is wrong, no matter who you’re targeting,” or genuinely upset that different standards are being applied to whites. But either way, it’s completely understandable that they would feel that way, when everything they’ve been taught is about equality and treating everyone the same.

Racism against whites is not at all as harmful as racism against minorities. That’s simply not how racism works. If there’s no system backing racism up, then how is it even a problem? Going beyond legit racism against whites, though, and this is the more important point, people are using “don’t be racist, don’t make generalized statements about a race” to shut down anti-racist discussion.

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The mantra is often directed at deconstructions of race and of the white race in particular. This is one of the more bewildering examples, especially since such essays generally make no judgments on actual white people and simply talk about true shit regarding power and how white people came to (and continue to) wield it. The main defense brought is “you’re talking about all white people, that’s racist. Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Whites are at the top of a power structure. This doesn’t mean they’re better, in some spiritual or natural way, just that they have more power, more influence, more wealth, etc. And this is by design. However, it also doesn’t mean that white people are bad. People complain that they’re “discriminated against” because they’re white, when really the attacks being made are attacks on power and the ruling race. The attack often only affects individuals to the degree that they identify with the white race (which is a dumb thing to do).

When it comes to individual attacks, people complain about hate crimes against minorities being given “priority” over hate crimes against whites. Racially motivated attacks on whites are obviously wrong, but so is a racially motivated attack on anybody. The real issue at hand when people yell about hate crimes is disempowerment. It’s a factor that makes the crime extra disturbing. A racial attack against whites, is, again, wrong, and based on shitty attitudes about race, but it doesn’t have that element of a disadvantaged person being pushed even further down. It’s essentially backlash for the wrongs done to minorities. It’s really sort of weird that we aren’t taught more thoroughly about this, given that hate crime legislation is based on the idea that white, straight, Christian, cis men are at the top of a hierarchy in which they face almost no real discrimination. Not that this idea is so palatable to people who complain about anti-white hate crimes, but they consistently demonstrate they don’t even understand it to this degree.

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Affirmative action and similar race-conscious programs are targeted as well, on the grounds that they don’t treat the races equally. Sometimes it’s that white people are disadvantaged by them, sometimes it’s that black people are being treated like invalids that can’t find their own job. Same with hate speech laws: either whites are complaining that they don’t get to whine about getting called “cracker” all the time, or that they don’t get to use the n-word when black people do, on top of getting to call them “cracker.”

Since the objective of anti-racist work is to give everyone the same opportunity and the same (fundamental, as opposed to legal) rights, education should start from a position that supports it. “Treat everyone the same” is incompatible with that sort of action. Most people who think like this are probably never going to support anti-racist activity. But by presenting a united front, a cohesive philosophy and set of objectives, we can push progress forward much more effectively than we have been.

The fact is, treating everyone the same isn’t how you solve racism. You can’t solve structural inequalities by not doing anything. Whites are going to be “under attack” for a long time, because an attack on racism is an attack on whiteness. No, it’s not “fair,” and it’s not “equal,” and we’re not “treating everyone the same,” but it’s right, and it is progress. That’s just how it is, and we need to start teaching people what it means to reach equality. We are not yet all equal, racism is bad and here’s how it works. This isn’t something we should be dumbing down.

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3 thoughts on “Could We Please Stop Teaching That We’re All Equal?

  1. Pingback: Happy Halloween: Chase Away the Evil Spirits of Tolerance! | Be Young & Shut Up

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