Why Calling People Racist Doesn’t Actually Help Anything

Once you get into an argument with a conservative, it’s really, really difficult to stop.

Do they realize how dated their thinking is? Do they realize how selfish they sound? Do they realize they’re being racist AF?

But before you say any of these thoughts out loud, hold your horses. It’s really easy (and probably accurate) to call your conservative relative racist, but it’s really not going to solve anything, explained Arlie Hochschild, a sociologist at the University of California, Berkeley, to NY Mag.

Hochschild lived in Lake Charles, Louisiana, for five years in order to write Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, her book that delves deeper into the lives of the people who support Trump.

“The word racist is one of the country’s most powerful triggers,” Hochschild said to NY Mag about her research.

And even if whoever you’re talking to is kind of racist, that doesn’t mean they’re going to appreciate you calling them that. I mean, you’d be mad if somebody called you racist too, wouldn’t you? And when you get mad at someone, you don’t want to listen to their opinion, right?

In fact, calling someone names and/or insulting them, is probably the worst way to get someone to see your perspective, as Science of Us pointed out after Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment.

It goes both ways, too. Do you want to give the angry, Confederate flag waving dude your time if he’s calling you a “freeloader” or telling you to “get a job?” If anything, you’ll yell some shit about how you work at a lucrative start-up in NYC and that it’s way better than his farming gig. And then you’ll both be at a stand-off, and neither of you will hear each other’s perspective or concerns.

But it’s not just in-person where this shit happens, it’s the same as all the people who proudly unfriended all Trump-supporters during the election. Yes, it’s easy to hate these people. But if we keep shutting out the other side, we’re equally guilty of “living in a bubble” and being misinformed about all of the issues that aren’t our own.

And I’m not innocent either, I definitely told one (or a few) people that their vote for Trump proved that they’re a little bit racist even if they didn’t realize it. But are those people going to say to themselves, “Gee, Ashley really had a point, I’m a racist asshole!” No, they’re not. They’re going to say “fuck that feminazi bitch, can’t wait to build a wall and keep her people out.”

Next time you get into an argument with a conservative person (which is bound to continually happen throughout the next four years), hold your tongue before your use the R-word.

Benjamin Bergen, author of What the F: What Swearing Reveals About Our Language, Our Brains, and Ourselves, explained to NY Mag that using “people first” language could help. Instead of calling Sally racist, tell her that her actions or words are racist. But honestly, since the word “racist” invokes such anger in white people, it may be better to avoid it altogether and find other ways to communicate your opinion–calmly.


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