Friday, February 07, 2014

Is "Hater" the New "Racist"?

As many of you know, I follow a vast menu of news and blog sites on a daily basis; some present a pretty liberal perspective while others extremely conservative in their outlook. Some of these are print media while others are video or radio. As a radical non-partisan centrist, I am looking for commonality of thought and where we diverge. One thing that seems to be popping up increasing is the use of the word "hater". It seems that whenever a conservative makes a comment that a liberal doesn't agree with or seems contradictory to their argument, they almost immediately label the perceived offender as a "hater", and almost as quickly, the conservative begins backtracking as fast as they can while trying to defend (albeit almost apologetically) their remarks. Which brings me to my first observation, has the term "hater" become the new "racist"?

It used to be that someone was a racist if they, for whatever reason, didn't like another race (sometimes equally applied to ethnic groups). Perhaps surprisingly, the term didn't always carry the negative connotation that we think of now. There was actually a time were being a "racist" was something many were actually proud of; it meant they were proud of their own race or particular ethnic group. Since whites were the largest group in America, it was most often attributed them, but it could just as equally be applied to others too. In fact, it's not uncommon to hear its usage in other parts of the world with some sense of pride.
Over time, however, the liberal Left adopted the term for anyone not agreeing with their position on a given social issue. I suppose that this was because most of the social issues were directed toward or referenced specific minority racial groups. Reinforced by the media, the conservatives were put on the defensive every time the term was used. Eventually, however, it's overuse began to numb the public to its intended meaning. The shock has largely lost its awe.

What was needed, therefore, was a new term that was simple and carried an especially negative connotation, and so, it now appears that the word "hater" has become fashionable among the Left. Every time a conservative takes a position against, let's say gay rights, immediately they are labeled a "hater" without much consideration to their original comment or their reason for taking the position they did. From the Left's point of view, a conservative opposes gay rights...ergo...they are a "hater". See? Clean and simple.

Of course, all is fair in love and war, and apparently in political lexicology. During the late 1970's through the early 1990's as you may remember, the term "liberal" was used by the Right (often with the colorfully descriptive "bleeding heart" epitaph generally attached) as a verbal stand in for someone being "anti-American" or "Commie" (again, with colorful epitaphs like "pinko" and "fag" added for emphasis). Liberals were just as quick to verbally back pedal in defense of their position. I recall writing an article for our once great newspaper (March 29, 1998) defending the use of the term "liberal" as being actually a good thing in that it meant open minded and implied a willingness to examine carefully all sides of an issue while conservative meant nothing more than a desire to proceed slowly; that change wasn't always an improvement, not the backwards thinking Neanderthal it does now. Interesting how terms change their meaning over time isn't it?

I think if we're to understand each other, we need to change the tone of the discussion. We need to use less threatening and inflammatory words. Name calling really should be left on the playground don't you think? We need to at least acknowledge the other person's position. It doesn't mean we agree with it, or even that we accept it. What we are doing, however, is acknowledging their right to their opinion (however wrong we believe it is) as part of the political and civil discourse we desperately need in this country---indeed, the world---if we're to get out of this morass. So, let's drop the "hater" label and simply agree to disagree. Who knows, perhaps we'll find out that we may actually agree on the core issues. And if you don't agree, well maybe you're just a fat puddin' head!


WindDragon said...

I wonder what the world would be like with no labels on people? Not sure that its possible. Good job Paul nice article

Spin Around the World said...

Hello there, Sir Hosse!

I can't agree with you more that we need to take more care with the words that we use and how we use them. As one writer to another, I'd hope that we'd agree that the terms and semantics that we use have a material reality that at times can be 'mightier than swords,' at other times sillier than salty sassafras.

That said, I'd probably have an even more radical notion than what you propose. As thinkers, citizens, and human beings, we ought to be willing to engage in an ongoing dialog about the meaning of the terms that we employ. We need a national discussion about our predilection to use bullshit terms instead of being willing to grapple with social reality.

'Racist' and 'racism' are my current favorite examples, but discussions of 'middle-class' and other similarly little understood and vague non-sequiturs are not far behind. Let's just look for a moment at the whole concept of 'race.' Is it like with dogs, in that a German Shepherd is not altogether similar to a chihuahua?

Probably, most people would accept that even the furthest apart human beings, who are almost certainly not going to be the ones whom the deployers of 'race' think of, are much closer together than even mildly different breeds of dogs. Almost certainly as well, the notion of 'race' really implies something akin to sub-species, if one is speaking biologically. If one is merely making a social observation, what exactly does a social 'race' mean?

I highly recommend to your readers an interesting monograph by Dr. Joseph Graves, of North Carolina State University. I wrote about it here:

The Race Myth: Why We Pretend Race Exists in America thoroughly debunks even the slightest possibility that more than one human race exists, except if by race we mean culture, skin color, or geographical roots. If we merely mean culture, skin color, or geographic origin, why don't we use other terms? Why put into the conversation a word that implies biological differences that don't exist, that amount to less between 'races' than within them?

The real problem with calling others 'racist,' in such a view, or with seeing 'racism' as a social problem, is that it guarantees the result that its users say that they deplore. If separate 'races' really exist, how can they be equal? The whole premise of social equality absolutely necessitates that we abandon all usage of 'racial' thinking and terminology. But that's about as likely as abandoning 'nationalism,' another fatuous term, or its foolhardy cousin, 'patriotism.'

I agree with your conclusion. Calling others "haters" is about as useful as calling people "racist." How about we organize a conference on such things?