AS268: Tommentary: Is BLM Trash? Is Ellen Racist?

It’s been so long since I’ve been able to do some Tommentarying! I’ve had so many great interviews lately, but today is a chance for me to get my thoughts out on a few issues buzzing around. Rubin has gone even further off the deep end in my opinion, with a climate change denier guest and then a trans woman who hates feminism and Black Lives Matter. I examine her claims and some of her points. Then I get a chance to address a comment which vehemently disagreed with me. I appreciate comments of disagreement and never want to be an echo chamber!

11 thoughts on “AS268: Tommentary: Is BLM Trash? Is Ellen Racist?”

  1. You really nailed the plausible deniability / “not politically correct” movement . Its just an excuse to try and silence people that disagree. By them calling what you say is shit, they are silencing you somehow. Its safe spaces for right wingers. That’s what the hilariously ironic part is.

  2. This was my comment on Dave’s initial climate change interview video.

    “Wow this guy starts right off the bat conflating scientific consensus with the opinion of scientists, (the eugenics issue) and you don’t even call him on it Dave. This is why you shouldn’t have people like this on without having someone with the scientific chops on as well to call them on their bullshit.”

    Following his video on who he’s supporting for president I unsubscribed. In the future I suspect the only video’s of his I’ll be watching are those where he interviews people who’s unchallenged opinion I’m interested in hearing.

  3. As far as having a new word for racially charged statements/jokes/photos that seem unintentional/borderline offensive, people in social justice movements have been using the word “problematic” for long enough that anti-PC people regularly mock its use.

    For instance: This image is problematic, because it contains themes of a white person using a black person as a means of conveyance, like some kind of beast of burden. That’s not to say the context of the joke isn’t also a theme in the image, but its presence doesn’t negate the racially problematic themes contained in the image.

  4. I don’t think Ellen’s photo is racists. What is Usain known for? Being fast as hell, he isn’t known for being black. She never said that he has to carry her because he is black. I wouldn’t call myself a SJW or a Rubinite, but I think the complainers were focusing on Usain’s race way too much. I agree with you Thomas, the intent is very important, and I believe she apologised enough for her possible mistake.

    1. I think it’s worth considering what it means to say that intent matters when discussing whether or not the image is racist.

      I agree that intent would be important if the question we were asking was “is Ellen racist?” or “did Ellen intend to make a racist thing?”

      If, however, we want to determine whether the image contains racist themes, the intent of the people who created the image becomes less important. It’s entirely possible to create a racist image or statement without meaning to.

      In 2009, there was a minor scandal about a cartoonist who conflated a story about an escaped chimp being shot and a stimulus bill that was unpopular with conservatives. The cartoon was an image of two police with smoking guns speaking over the body of a dead chimp saying “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” Ostensibly, the cartoon was a joke about how the bill was so bad, it must have been written by a monkey. Unfortunately for that cartoonist, there’s a long history of racist imagery in cartoons conveying black people as chimps and gorillas, and as the cartoon referred to police killing the “author” of the bill (i.e., President Obama), the cartoon contained some uncomfortable racist themes for anyone aware of that history.

      If we want to ask whether that cartoon was racist, we can’t just focus on the creator’s intent, because the creator may not be aware of racist themes being referenced in their work. Like this cartoonist, Ellen’s production team created an image with multiple messages. The intended message was a joke about someone being really fast and someone else taking advantage of that, but an unintentional message was about a white person exploiting a black person’s labor/body.

      Saying intent matters is essentially saying “nothing I do is racist because I don’t want to be racist.”

      1. “If, however, we want to determine whether the image contains racist themes, the intent of the people who created the image becomes less important. It’s entirely possible to create a racist image or statement without meaning to.”

        I agree, so does “not meaning to” absolve a person from justifiably being called a racist? If for example I drew a caricature of a black person, and they look like an ape am I a racist because I’m ignorant of the historic implications of blacks being perceived as closer relative to apes than humans? If I look at crime statistics, and think blacks are more inclined towards criminal activity than whites am I a racist because I’m unaware of the effects of poverty, and systemic racism?

        I suspect the majority of racism is just this type, and if that’s true how can we call anyone a racist unless we know they know better.

        1. I think it mostly depends on your criteria for reasonable doubt and your standards for characterizing people based on their actions.

          Personally, I think it’s usually a distraction to ask whether or not someone is racist following incidents like this. I can see how that can be an important question to ask in certain circumstances (e.g., is this political candidate a racist, and if so, can they be trusted to enact policies that don’t perpetuate systemic racism?). But, by focusing on parsing our suspicions about what’s “inside someone’s heart,” we ignore the more pertinent issue of whether the action/statement/image is harmful and/or perpetuates disenfranchisement of certain people.

          Rather than asking whether an action can be used as evidence of internal racist views and motivations in a particular person (which as you point out, we can never know with certainty), a more productive use of our time may be to focus on the action, examine what aspects of it might be racist/sexist/etc., and then figure out how to stop doing that.

          I agree that the majority of racism is likely the result of ignorance and misinformation, and that many people who act in ways that disenfranchise others wouldn’t consider themselves to be racists.

          Another aspect of this discussion that’s probably worth mentioning is that a component of privilege is having the luxury to be unaware of systematic inequality and the ways in which having a marginalized identity sucks. Being in the mainstream allows people to ignore the ways their actions can have harmful consequences for people with marginalized identities. Not only is focusing on whether particular people deserve to be called racist is another way to ignore the effects of racism, but I think it can be argued that remaining ignorant about racism, while information is freely available (i.e, online, in books, in person) is an act which perpetuates systemic racism.

  5. The whole discussion (here and elsewhere) about the Ellen photo is racist. You know how I can tell? Because if Ellen was photo-shopped on the back of a white guy, there would be no discussion at all—none. The whole discussion is based on Bolts’s race. A really, honest to god non-racist wouldn’t notice what color he was. Caring about race is racist.

    1. I think you’re right about one thing, if we removed race from the image, it wouldn’t be racist.

      Otherwise, we disagree. There’s a big difference between identifying a problem and creating a problem. When you suggest there wasn’t an issue until people made it an issue, what I’m hearing is “I wasn’t aware of an issue that didn’t effect me until you made me aware, so it’s clearly your fault.”

      Saying a non-racist would be colorblind is shockingly naive. It’s akin to saying a really good doctor wouldn’t have any sick patients. Refusing to acknowledge race in an attempt to avoid being “racist” is like a doctor refusing to diagnose their patients in order to avoid being a doctor with sick patients. Refusing to acknowledge race, like refusing to diagnose patients, doesn’t make the problems go away, and it keeps people from getting the help they need.

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