Steven wrote the following:
I have no idea how to communicate "perspective" to someone who lacks any at all. I try to explain it this way: most white people do not think to themselves, "wow, I'm really glad my grandfather and his brother weren't lynched and their store looted then burned to the ground. Could you imagine the hole I'd have to dig myself out of if my parents and I all had to start from nothing?" No conservative white people likely ever think this. But the start we have makes a huge difference, in most cases by not having had something happen to us or earlier generations of our families.
When people experience difficulties in their lives, they can have a very difficult time seeing themselves as privileged. It's very difficult for most majority people to wrap their minds around how much worse their lives would be if they were a minority.
Whether the distraction is "lazy 'inner city' people" or affirmative action or something else, the result remains the same: people who have far more in common with each other than with the uber-rich remain at each others' throats, thereby accomplishing nothing to get rid of the fundamental economic injustices inflicted on most of us.I think that this is a very good summary of the dynamics of race and privilege in the post civil rights era.
Steven's comment is also a good description for in-group and out-group dynamics more generally.
There is a sophisticated set of concepts that have been developed to discuss white racism (and its relationship to conservatism) in the post civil rights era.
Symbolic racism, dog whistle politics, white privilege, implicit bias, backstage racism, cyber racism, subtle and covert racism, micro-aggressions, realistic group conflict, etc. are a type of powerful shorthand that can be used to describe complex social phenomena.
Contemporary American conservatism is anti-intellectual, authoritarian, racist, white supremacist, cult-like, and hostile to empirical reality. Its media elites and political figures have carefully cultivated such values and beliefs for their own immediate and long-term political gains. As has been suggested elsewhere, the Republican Party and its white herrenvolk Tea Party base are useful idiots, a rich people's poor people's movement that advances the interests of the former over the latter.
Because conservatism and racism are the same thing in post civil rights America, the Republican Party is a de facto white identity organization, one that is dedicated to maintaining White Power and White Privilege.
This is rich and useful language: but what if we can reduce matters to even more simple terms?
The just-world phenomenon is a term referring to people's tendency to believe that the world is just and that people get what they deserve. Because people want to believe that the world is fair, they will look for ways to explain or rationalize away injustice - often by blaming the victim.
Those with this belief tend to think that when bad things happen to people, it is because these individuals are bad people or have done something to deserve their misfortune.
Conversely, this belief also leads people to think that when good things happen to people it is because those individuals are good and deserving of their happy fortune.The Markkula Center for Applied ethics develops the just world theory and its relationship to authoritarianism:
Zick Rubin of Harvard University and Letitia Anne Peplau of UCLA have conducted surveys to examine the characteristics of people with strong beliefs in a just world. They found that people who have a strong tendency to believe in a just world also tend to be more religious, more authoritarian, more conservative, more likely to admire political leaders and existing social institutions, and more likely to have negative attitudes toward underprivileged groups. To a lesser but still significant degree, the believers in a just world tend to "feel less of a need to engage in activities to change society or to alleviate plight of social victims."
Ironically, then, the belief in a just world may take the place of a genuine commitment to justice. For some people, it is simply easier to assume that forces beyond their control mete out justice. When that occurs, the result may be the abdication of personal responsibility, acquiescence in the face of suffering and misfortune, and indifference towards injustice. Taken to the extreme, indifference can result in the institutionalization of injustice.I wonder, could the meanness and hostility towards those who Republicans identity as "not normal", not "a real American", or "not real conservatives" simply be a function of the just world theory mixed with white privilege, racial chauvinism, and hostility towards any person they identify as the Other?
Black and brown Americans, the poor, and other marginalized groups know that the just world theory is a lie. Unfortunately, too many Americans are intentionally blind--and find comfort in their ignorance--to such truths.
Is it even possible to positively communicate with and reeducate those Americans, especially white conservatives, who have internalized the just world lie precisely because their in-group privilege has historically rested on creating an unjust world for others?