Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Third Degree Racism

I think we do a terrible disservice when we slap labels on people for "who they are" rather than "what they've done." We see a Trump supporter with "Put the white back in the white house," we see Trump's tacit approval, and we see another person vote for Trump. That person must "be a racist". Not "they're acting in a racist way," not "they're tacitly supporting racism." Racism is part of the person's nature, worthy of shame and ridicule simply because they voted for Trump. Maybe in a technical sense it's true. The word "racism" has a subtler meaning among academics and the socially conscious. But most people don't have this understanding of the word by default. When you call someone a racist that implies, to them and to others, that you think they are as worthy of contempt as the people assaulting minorities.

We only hold people absolutely culpable when they knowingly, intentionally, and willfully kill someone. With 1st degree murder, there has to be evidence that the killing was intended while the killer had a cool head. These are the people who kill for pleasure or personal gain.

In 2nd degree murder, the willfulness and knowing are called into question. Drug use, fits of rage, etc. disconnect people from their better judgement and cause them to act in ways that go directly against their own will. They are culpable for allowing themselves to become impaired. We blame them for the murder, but we recognize that it's not on the same level as someone who spends a week plotting to kill someone.

3rd degree murder (manslaughter) generally means there was no intention or willfulness to kill, but a reasonable person in the same shoes would have been able to prevent it (that our legal system is built so heavily on what a "reasonable" person would do is a whole other can of worms).

Then there are other classifications for killing that aren't even called murder. They acknowledge that the killer is responsible for the death, but that there are other factors that mitigate both fault and responsibility. They may only be subject to civil penalties rather than criminal.

I wish we used this kind of categorization in our interactions with people. Trump voters are indeed racist, but to varying degrees. Varying enough that if we could measure people's Racism Quotient, there would surely be a significant overlap between Clinton's supporters and Trump's. The only way we will be able to win over the people we need is if we don't alienate them. The best way to alienate them is to display that their actions are unforgivable and forever label them as "racists", "white supremacists", etc.

No comments:

Post a Comment