Yelling Fire (Yelling Racism)


I‘m sitting here relaxing after a enjoyable day with my family on Christmas.   I’ve written a number of things that I’ve put on the “shelf” for one reason or another and since it’s the day after Christmas and I’m feeling too lazy to read my blog and news feeds, I figure I’ll just grab one off the shelf for this particular blog entry.

The classic example of the abuse of free speech is generally the one about someone yelling fire in a crowded theatre when there is in fact no fire.  The issue is balancing the right of someone’s free speech against causing mayhem and panic as everyone rushes to the exits because they actually believe there’s a fire.  Such is the case when yelling racism.  There’s often lot of mayhem, panic and scurrying around that occurs at the mere mention of the word.

Now I’m not suggesting that there’s not an occasional “fire” in the theatre, but my thing is once you make the accusation, then what?  Well, if we all going to grab a hose and put it out, that’s all well and good.  But, if  we going to have to sit around having a pitched battle about whether a fire exists, then I’m really not interested, especially when I’m the one getting singed.    I’d rather spend the time constructing my own theatre as that’s the absolute best way to prevent “fires” of suspicious origins.

Personally, I don’t like to accuse anyone  being a racist mainly because there’s little that’s going to come out of it for me, at least there’s nothing that’s going to come out of it that I’m interested in having.   For example, let’s assume that my leveling that accusation at someone yields me a job that I was denied.  My issue then is why would I want to be working around someone I had to sue to force them to do the right thing?   It seems to me that situation is ripe for someone to try to jerk me at the first opportunity just to retaliate. So, why cause myself a bunch of angst and stress being around it when I could be expending my efforts on something else?

It’s not like I don’t believe in fighting for my rights and I’m certainly not absolving folks of racism or overlooking America’s racist past.  It’s just that I like to pick my battlefield because I know that a winning strategy starts with choosing where you’re going to fight.  If I’m on the other guy’s battlefield to start off with, then I’m starting off behind the eight ball at the outset.   Shaping the battlefield is the key to winning and you can’t do that begging for a spot on the other guy’s battlefield.  You need your own battlefield.

The solution for 99% of what folks feel to be racism is to remove themselves from those situations or insulate themselves  by creating options.   As a matter of fact, there’s plenty of history that shows that various ethnic groups did a number of things to insulate themselves from the tyranny they suffered at  the hands of other people.  This is normally done by mitigating the effects of racism on that group’s economic status by creating one’s own economic  base. African-Americans behaved similarly during the early portion of the last millennium by creating their own businesses and communities.  When whites wouldn’t insure us, we created our own insurance companies.  When they didn’t want to bury us, we created our own mortuary companies.  There were countless examples of these sorts of rational responses to the circumstances.  In the aftermath of the civil rights struggles, we lost knowledge of these sorts of things.

Creating an economic base doesn’t necessarily mean that one has to be an entrepreneur.  Living below one’s means is a great means of insulation as well.  There’s no slavery worst than the one created by living high on the hog thus increasing one’s reliance on a job and being forced to  work with folks who you’d prefer not to be around.  That sort of stress has ruined many.

In my view, our current struggle has been misdirected and is fraught with strategic error.  The error results in us directing the bulk of our efforts towards the least of our problems. We’ve defined our problem as one of injustice and all initiatives are directed towards resolving that.   This is an error of major proportions and the result is a massive misallocation of resources towards that end while real problems go unattended.

Our problem is power, or more precisely, the lack thereof. When one is oriented towards power, then he knows that obtaining justice is  made far simpler as power positions one to demand redress. When one is after power, then the orientation becomes one of what you can do, rather than what someone else can do for you or  even what they may be attempting to do to you.   I’m convinced that the route to power for African-Americans comes from a source not often considered that’s right in front of us.  We have to direct our resources towards addressing the various problems in our communities.  I’ve always felt that the any group who successfully addressed some of these issues would be among the most powerful group of people in America.

It’s necessary however that we arrive at a common definition of power as that means different things to different people.   I’ve got something on the shelf that I’ll dust off one day soon to talk about that.

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