Thursday, May 29, 2014

Is raising a child to be a racist harmful to the child?

A hypothetical situation: person X is raising their child. They're, by most measures, a good parent. They're protective of the child. They look after their child's education - reading, writing, history, etc. They cook them good meals, teach them good habits of cleanliness and exercise. They teach them good ethics, to treat people well, to be honest, to be fair. But in addition to all of this, they teach their child one more thing.

Namely, they teach them that latinos are what they call 'mud people' - filthy, genetically inferior, and looked down upon.

Now, here's the catch. They also teach their child that the 'mud people' may be dirty, may be inferior. But, they should still treat them with courtesy and fairness, the same way they treat everyone else. Be honest with them. Be considerate. If they want a job and said child is the employer, then hire them if they have competence. This dislike is largely personal, aesthetic. Not liking how latinos look. Not liking their language. Certainly never having one as a personal friend, etc.

With all this in mind, here is my question: did person X harm their child by instilling this belief/reaction in them?

Again, let's be clear on what this belief is. It's not 'a desire to harm latinos' either economically or physically. It is a personal distaste - they dislike them. They exclude them from personal friendship, even while treating them civilly, fairly and with respect in all interactions. Adhering to the letter of the law, even if they dislike these people. Likewise, I'm not asking for hypothetical situations where this belief/attitude could contingently lead to a poorer state of affairs for the child (say, not befriending latino Y who could have helped their business.) We can even say for the sake of argument that the child retains this belief and attitude their whole life, but lives a happy and successful life, etc.

Here's the problem with answering my question.

I think most people are going to be initially tempted to say yes, the child was harmed: imparting this desire or belief or attitude was a case of harm in and of itself. It doesn't really matter if the child never mistreats anyone professionally; racism is 'bad' and racist thoughts are 'bad' and therefore raising a child to think those thoughts, period, is bad and is harm.

Okay. Reasonable reply - I'd probably give that same reply myself! But, there's a price to pay there, intellectually.

If we're going to admit that some beliefs and attitudes are just 'harm' - that they are wrong and bad, even if they have no negative impact on a person's life, or the lives of those they deal with - then we have opened the door to a discussion about the harmfulness of having certain beliefs and desires, period, regardless of what impact these beliefs and desires otherwise have on our lives or the lives of others.

That would mean that when we're discussing whether a given belief or desire is disordered - sexual or otherwise - that it's a mistake to automatically look to effects as the deciding factor of whether such and such a belief/desire is disordered. Some things are just disordered - they are just 'harm' - period, end of story, effects be damned. Racism is wrong, even if racists can live quite fine lives and treat what they see as 'mud people' with a consistently even hand. That attitude of racial superiority and that other races are filthy inferiors is harm in and of itself. It is damage.

And so, too, can be various desires from same-sex sexual desire to otherwise.

Of course, someone can always say that no, the child was not harmed, that effects are all that matter. But the cost there is to argue that ingrained dislike of people because of their race isn't damage or harm - it's only when they act on it in the wrong ways that any problems surface.

4 comments:

malcolmthecynic said...

This is a really excellent point that articulates arguments for disordered desires a lot more clearly.

Acatus Bensley said...

Is this a subliminal jab at homosexuals? Also to be brutally honest teaching a child to be racist nowadays might actually benefit them. Statistics alone have even made the most strident social justice types abandon there beliefs that racial minorities are systematically oppressed. I've seen so many people who genuinely cared for racial minorities become what's considered racist because of statistics and facts. I hate to say it, but not being racist is a waste of time when minorities think they can treat you however they want and vote for people who've convinced them that they're entitled to tax dollars. For the thinking individual racism is an inevitability because certain races do certain things that are just plan detrimental to themselves and everyone around them. What's even worse is that they think they're the good guys. I'm not saying that teaching racism is good, but I am saying don't teach children to expect too much from minorities because they're socially engineered by, strangely enough, white people. Teaching traditional racism is harmful, but teaching what is considered racism nowadays isn't. Stereotypes don't come from anywhere, and telling him can't hurt him.

Crude said...

Is this a subliminal jab at homosexuals?

Not a jab at anyone really. It does have direct relevance to LGBT activists, but not just them.

I think the sort of racism I'm talking about in this post isn't the kind you're referring to, which is really... I don't know, "racism". "Awareness of facts."

Jeronimus said...

Journal of Issues in Nursing Vol 7, No. 1

Femicide, the killing of women, is also most often perpetrated by current or former husbands or boyfriends (Browne, 1993; Schnitzer & Runyan, 1995).

Among African American women between the ages of 15 and 44, femicide is the leading cause of premature death (Office of Justice Programs, 1998). Near fatal femicide of African American women also contributes to long term disabling injuries and conditions. Most often the men who kill or abuse these women are their intimate partners i.e., husbands, lovers, ex-husbands or ex-lovers (Bachman & Saltzman, 1995; Bailey, et al., 1997; Mercy & Saltzman, 1989). Therefore, “The National Black Women’s Health Project” has identified the battering of women as the number one health issue for African American women (Joseph, 1997).

According to WebMD

In 1998, Salber and Taliaferro reported that the spousal homicide rate among African Americans is 8.4 times more than for whites. The incidence of spousal homicide is 7.7 times higher in interracial marriages compared to intraracial marriages.