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Episode 164 — Not Racist If It’s True

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TV screenwriter/producer Javi Grillo-Marxuach (Lost, The Middleman) joins Andrew Ti today to discuss the topic of something not being racist if it’s true. Be sure to call us at (323) 389-RACE to ask if anything is racist.

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This is a good example of what I think is a common problem: people not understanding the difference between a generalization and a stereotype. I think it's pretty simple. A stereotype is when you OVERgeneralize. A generalization is not necessarily good or bad. But when you take it too far, that's when it becomes a stereotype, and it's wrong even if it is based on a generalization that is true. The ways people stereotype include, but are not limited to:


-Making a hasty generalization when you don't know what you're talking about (I heard black people like watermelon from a few other white people, so I'm going to just assume they do).


-Assuming the generalization applies to all members of the group (I read that criome is higher among black people, so I assume you're going to steal).


-Taking a reductionist view of a group and/or individuals based on a few broad generalizations. Bonus points when they're all about inane, shallow shit! (Oh, you're an accomplished professional dancer? It must be because you're black! All the years of dedicated practice and study mean nothing to me.)


A lot of people have trouble with this, but racists ESPECIALLY have a problem with this. Even if we could somehow demonstrate, 100%, that watermelon is statistically most popular among black people, it is still racist to make jokes like "of course you picked the watermelon, you're black!" But to a racist, it's like, "Hey, it's not racist because it's TRUE!"


On a related note, this is also why it's usually not the same thing when people make generalizations about the south being racist. Because what racists don't understand is, when we say "the south is racist," that doesn't mean we assume every single person we meet from the south is racist. But that is the way racists think, so they just assume everybody else does as well.


Oh, and for the specific situation the caller mentioned: OK, if you're intentionally making an ironic "ha ha, this is what a dumb racist would say" joke, I could see it maybe, MAYBE, qualifying as "not racist." But when that guy added on an "It's not racist if it's true" he pretty much eliminated all chances of not being racist. Unless he was taking it even further, but if that's the case he is so wack that no one should hang out with him ever, even if he's not racist.

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I think even if something is true it can be racist because the truth turns in generalisations, which is why it is important to think before you say or write something, especially if you know that the truth might not apply to everyone.

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