Labeling Someone Racist Will Make You Lose An Argument
Over the last year, America has felt more like two separate countries than it ever has before in my lifetime.
Americans, regardless of the side of the country they're on, have been forced to reveal themselves for who they truly are.
The positive side of this is, we are all living in a more authentic country. While we may not like what we see, we do see it, and we see it much more clearly.
There's something to be said for that because it gives every individual the chance to choose what side of history they want to be on.
However, as human beings who are controlled by our egos, we like to believe the way we do things is the only right way to do them.
If by nothing else, our country is united by this human flaw.
The information bubble that so many have blamed for the outcome of the 2016 election could be our own egos, which shape our experiences, the news outlets we choose to listen to and the people we surround ourselves with.
Our egos also give us the righteous sense that what we've chosen is objectively right, while everyone else is objectively wrong.
And this has led to a lot of name-calling and unfair labeling on both sides of the aisle.
But if the goal is to reach an understanding of one another, then this labeling needs to stop.
Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, did five years of field work that led her to write her book, "Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right."
While interviewing her more conservative subjects as a liberal progressive, Hochschild told New York Magazine,
I was acutely aware of the fragility of the ground rules I was trying to set, to promise them no judgments, so that they would be honest with me.
The result of her ability to restrain herself from judgement is a New York Times bestseller that's been described as one of the best books to read if you want to understand the 2016 election.
Hochschild also said her subjects avoided the topic of race, but that when it was finally brought up, they jumped at the subject with the impulsive reply of, "No, I'm not racist."
As a liberal, my reaction to that sort of answer would be a sarcastic, "Oh, right 'cause if you have to say it, you know it's true."
But the fact of the matter is, the kind of defensiveness the subjects in Hochschild's book displayed doesn't exactly lead to an open dialogue between the warring factions of the right and left.
This doesn't mean we shouldn't call out or recognize racist groups like the alt-right for what they are.
What it means is, when talking with your uncle over a holiday meal, you shouldn't call him something that offends him, even if his politics disgust you.
To get someone to open up to your world-view, it will take some opening up on your part.
To better understand why you should be more open-minded with people who don't share your values, let's use an example.
Say you have to take a driving class because you got a DUI one night.
You aren't proud of it. In fact, you're not sure what the experience means to you yet.
You've never been one to drink and drive, but the first time you did, you got pulled over and spent the night in jail.
Does this mean you might have a drinking problem? You're almost too ashamed to ask the question aloud.
Now, imagine the teacher walks into the room, points directly at you and calls you a stupid, selfish alcoholic.
What's the likelihood that following this incident, you'll ever examine your drinking habits in an open way?
What's the likelihood that you would ever be able to rise above the way she insulted you?
Depending on the strength of your ego, little to none.
You can't help someone see things from your point of view by attacking them. That much is true.
And as you know, this country is still very raw.
Our nation has almost been thrown off its axis, and it's quite literally existing in two separate realities.
So, perhaps the way to best understand one another is to reserve our judgement and to quite simply hear one another out.
That, I think, might lead to a bit more progress.