Racism In Progressive Society: A Short Example From the Sporting World and Why We Need More Communicative Action

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A few weeks ago on 12 February 2018, NBA head coach Gregg Popovich candidly stated that, in the United States, “we live in a racist country”. As someone who studies both sports and society, this was—of course—fairly obvious. Yet, it was not obvious in the sense that Mr. Popovich may have meant it to be. While he might compare the current state of the United States to “the fall of Rome”, the road to that trajectory was paved by the 44th President of the United States of America, Mr. Barack Obama. Indeed, the racism goes much deeper than the surface level change in the White House which Mr. Popovich seems to allude to.

This kind of racism was clear on 8 Februrary 2018 when House Minority Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D of California) uttered these words regarding her six-year old grandson speaking with regard to his Guatemalan friend “Antonio”:

This was such a proud day for me because when my grandson blew out the candles on his cake, they said, ‘Did you make a wish?’… He said, ‘I wish I had brown skin and brown eyes like Antonio.’ So beautiful, so beautiful. The beauty is in the mix.

To me, as an American, the odd veiled form of racism contained in the above statement made me cringe; indeed it made me embarrassed to be an American. It was uncouth to say the least. Yet, sadly, this kind of veiled racism—disguised with the rhetoric of “tolerance”—is, sadly, everywhere in American society. It is this tendency to blindly subscribe to “tolerance” without actually believing it which has made so many Americans into what they should never be and, indeed, what they claim to fight against. Many Americans have become—unwittingly—racists, sexists, and bigots. It is a twisted and remarkable story.

I was reading an article for a graduate seminar last week and was struck by a passage written by the author, Ellis P. Monk, Jr. In his 2015 article “The Cost of Color: Skin Color, Discrimination, and Health among African-Americans”, the author has this to say:


I find that medium-tone blacks actually perceive significantly less discrimination from other blacks due to their skin color than both the very lightest-skinned and very darkest-skinned blacks (both self-rated and interviewer-rated skin color measures produce this result, although I only present the self-rated skin color findings in table 4). Moreover, I find that both very light-skinned and very dark-skinned blacks report significant amounts of discrimination due to their skin shade within the black population (table 4, models 3 and 5).

Monk (2015: 422)


As I read this passage I was repulsed. How was it, I wondered, that in 2018 we were discussing something as banal as gradations in human skin color? I found it to be the epitome of racism; indeed, I thought to myself that 100 years from now (if the world still exists, of course) sociologists will look back at our era and comment on how backward—and indeed racist—our society really was.

It is my hope that, as individuals, we will be able to get over our collective hyper-sensitivity to all that is different and which has poisoned our society due to the emphasis on identity politics. The signs of this kind of hyper-sensitivity—which encourages division over unity—are visible all over the town I currently live in, from a sticker on a trash can which reads “this oppresses women” (how a rubbish receptacle can oppress an entire gender I will never know) to a ludicrous poster in the window of a local bar. I would never have thought that all races, religions, countries of origin, sexual orientations, and genders would not be welcome at a bar—until, of course, I saw this particular poster. Acting as if the default—that is, inclusion—is not actually the default, that it is somehow an exception, is not doing a service to wider society. Indeed, this kind of absurd virtue signaling only serves to further divides within society by erecting boundaries where there are none and–in turn–furthers the other-izing of marginalized populations.



A Few Absurd Images From Around the Town I Live In. Images Courtesy Of the Author.


I, for one, see the Besiktas ultra group Carsi as one example of how football fans can collectively poke fun at the small absurdities we see around us every day in order to combat these divisions. We cannot deal with a social problem like racism by further concretizing our differences; quite the contrary, we can only move forward and truly “progress” by abandoning the neo-fascistic ideology of modern progressivism which tends to concretize marginal identities in the name of “oppression”. That is why Carsi’s banners—which address social problems through humor—are so refreshing. During a match in 2009, the fan group acknowledged Michael Jackson’s death with a banner in the stadium which read: Rest in Peace Michael Jackson, the Great Besiktas Fan Who Lived Half His Life Black and Half His Life White [note: Besiktas’ colors are black and white].



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Carsi’s ability to shed light on social problems through humor with banners like “Carsi is against nuclear weapons”, “Carsi is against racism”, “Carsi is against terrorism”, or even “Carsi is against itself” allows for at least a semblance of communicative action (in the Habermasian sense) in Turkish society; this is how the group has become such a successful social movement. Unfortunately in American society, there is currently little dialogue since the real racists are hiding behind a neo-fascistic form of progressive ideology which only serves to mask a dangerous tendency to “other” everyone, whether they agree or (especially) if they disagree with the dominant strains of thought.


A Marginal Sociologist on Strange Bedfellows: The Sad State of Academia in the United States and Korean Unification at the Winter Olympics as Examples of What a World Without Empathy Will Look Like

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After another savage graduate seminar I came home. I had wanted to grade some student papers yet, after three hours of enduring the rabid anti-intellectualism of my peers, it seemed that I had little left in the tank. For the sake of my students I decided to hold off on the grading; I care much more about them than I do about my own work. They are the ones paying thousands of dollars for an education, after all.

It has become more and more exhausting to deal with the savage wrath of my fellow students for daring to offer an opinion that deviates from their form of one-dimensional, progressive, and ultimately neo-fascistic thought. Some days it feels like I am living in a novel set in a dystopian future. Unfortunately, however, this is no novel. And this is no dystopian future; this is my life.

In class the discussion focused on qualitative interviewing, an important component of any true sociological study. The student in charge of presentations decided to show us an interview he was involved with, conducted during the 2018 Women’s March on Washington D.C. following the election of U.S. President Donald Trump. The interview was predictably a train-wreck; it was as if the interviewers had searched for someone who would fit the bill of their preconceived notions of an “ignorant Donald Trump supporter”. Needless to say, it was hardly sociological but wholly ideological. When the professor and students started noting how the respondent’s derogatory comments towards women reflected his own “sexism” and “position of power as a white man”, I had to object.

I offered that while the gender differential played a role, could it also be that the man was upset at being made a caricature? Could it be that the entire exchange just exemplified the toxic environment that identity politics has created? After all, the man knew full well that the interviewer—being a female from the university—had a certain political view that could only be diametrically opposed to his own just like she knew she was conducting the interview for that very same reason? Secondly, could it be that this white male had no “power” at all in this interview, seeing as how the female interviewer was imbued by the power of being connected to the University (especially after the interviewer mocked the man by asking “where did you go to college”, likely knowing full well that the man would respond “nowhere”, as he did)? Furthermore, isn’t the point of interviewing to establish rapport with your interview subjects, rather than insult them? Wasn’t that why I was wasting three hours of my life sitting in an indoctrination chamber, to learn how to conduct interviews? Of course, due to the fact that I dared object to the one dimensional thought prevalent in the room, I was predictably savaged. No one could even offer a single constructive comment and I was left counting the minutes until I could escape what, at that point, felt like a prison cell. At that moment, it felt like not a single seed of intellectual curiosity existed in that room.

At home all I wanted to do was escape from the world for a few hours. I wanted to forget just how alone my “peers” had made me feel. Predictably, I turned to sports for succor. The first story I read was about the return of the XFL. As I read through, I caught the following sentence “Given [the owner of the proposed new league, Professional Wrestling mogul Vince] McMahon’s closeness with the current presidential administration, and that administration’s public stance on players protesting during the national anthem, players also might want to watch out to make sure this isn’t just some thinly veiled political propaganda vehicle”. Clearly, it is impossible to escape from the (over)politicization of American society that is so clearly dividing people along the stupidest of lines! The next story I found regarded the decision of North and South Korea to field a unified women’s ice hockey team in the upcoming Winter Olympics. The headline, “an illusion of unity” had caught my eye.

Indeed, the unification of the Koreas—for these Olympic games—had long seemed, to me, like a glorified political stunt. In typically technocratic language, the author describes well the rehearsed nature of this faux unity:


“The Olympics is more than just a global sporting event,” Kim Jae-youl, the executive vice president of the local organizing committee, told me in an office at the committee’s headquarters in Seoul last year, delivering the line with a lilt, as if it were from scripture. “The Olympics is the occasion where people put aside differences and come together to celebrate the greatest festival on earth.”



A Unified Korea In The Olympics? Image Courtesy Of:


Clearly, the powers-that-be at the Olympic committee see this as a feel-good story which they believe will provide a story line amenable to globalist sensibilities in order to increase revenue. It seems as if—in the modern world—people are more concerned with making money, even if it means playing political games at the expense of people who truly suffer from the issues the technocrats are claiming to save them from. In many ways, this is a situation echoed by the state of contemporary ethnography in modern sociology and anthropology.

Ethnographer Bryan C. Taylor advocates post-modern analysis because it “restores to public consciousness marginalized cultural voices that relativize and challenge dominant narratives” (Taylor:67). While this is certainly a laudable goal, ethnographers should instead be careful to not re-create the colonialist forms of discourse that Maria Cristina Gonzalez criticizes. Gonzalez argues that colonialist ethnographies “were written in order to justify, legitimize, and perpetuate the colonization of those about whom the texts were written. Colonization implied cultural conquest” (Gonzalez:78). In this context, the “marginalized cultural voices” Taylor invokes become owned by the ethnographer. Gonzalez defines colonialist ethnography as “one that is written primarily to serve the interests of agents who have taken upon themselves the privilege of owning the voices of others” (Gonzalez:80). Paul Stoller’s prologue to Sensuous Scholarship points out just how the “rational” and detached nature of academic text tend to re-enforce the subjugation of “marginalized voices”. In Stoller’s words: “their [Foucault and Butler’s] bloodless language reinforces the very principle the critique—the separation of mind and body, which, as we have seen, regulates and subjugates the very bodies they would liberate” (Stoller:xv). Herein lies the danger: If modern social scientists aim to give voice to marginalized voices—without becoming detached from the human sensory experience—they must be careful that, in attempting to approach their subjects in a less “rational” manner, they do not replicate the pitfalls of colonialist ethnographers who sought to “own” the voices of others.

I personally saw just how dangerous this can be in the experiences of the ethnographers interviewed by the authors of one of the texts my professor gave me. Since a majority of the ethnographers interviewed were Americans pursuing research either in the global South or within marginalized communities in the United States, there was a quasi-neo-colonialist dynamic inherent in their work to begin with. In some cases, some of these ethnographers—in detailing their struggles—seemed to making value judgements on cultures very different than their own; in a sense they were viewing their research subjects—and locations—through a colonialist lens. Examples stemmed from an ethnographer who resented “sticking out” in Sub-Saharan Africa as a white American female to another who thought she was being “discriminated against” for having to use the female entrance to a mosque because she was . . . female. The ethnographer further denigrated the situation, resenting the presence of toys and children in the mosque. The ethnographer’s reaction seemed to come from a neo-colonialist perspective; she wanted the other culture to resemble her own and, because it doesn’t, she took it as a personal slight. Yet some knowledge of Muslim culture would have made her recognize that men and women have separate entrances to Mosques; since often women come with their children the women’s section tends to have many toys in order to amuse visiting children while their mothers pray.

It is in contexts like these that researchers should remember that—as French Sociologist Pierre Bourdieu pointed out—it is the researcher who has the power to define what constitutes “knowledge”. In order to not become “post-colonial neo-colonialists”, for lack of a better term, researchers should recognize the problems that bringing themselves into the research can have, especially in cross-cultural contexts. It can risk making the research less about the subjects and more about the (often Western) researchers, and that risks taking ownership of others’ voices. Similarly, by viewing the cultures they study through their own cultural lenses, they risk “regulating and subjugating the very bodies” that some researchers, ostensibly, claim to “liberate”. If researchers judge non-Western cultural contexts in terms of the West, are they not—in effect—“justifying” and “legitimizing” the colonialist enterprise which, in the modern world, is called globalization?

Of course, my rhetorical question will likely fall on deaf ears. But could it matter? After my day in class, it was all to clear to me that—unfortunately—the scholars who once sought to “liberate” people had become petty fascists, unable to even engage in any sort of intellectual debate. The neo-Marxism within academia has produced fascists. And that is most certainly a problem for academics in the United States. Once the researcher’s aim becomes re-making the cultures they research into a version of the Western culture they come from, they destroy that culture. And that is the same process that is evident in the article I read on Korean unification and the Olympics. While many in the West—such as, evidently, South Korea’s Olympic committee—might think that unification is the ultimate goal, wouldn’t they be better of talking to South Koreans and North Koreans? The article in question does a good job at pointing out how many North Korean immigrants to South Korea feel alienated and discriminated against in South Korea. In fact, many even consider going back! At one point, the author even gives these damning statistics:


Numerous studies have shown that as many as half of North Korean defectors experience depression after arriving in South Korea, and a 2015 survey by Korea Hana Foundation found that about 20 percent of refugees had had suicidal thoughts in the preceding 12 months — nearly three times the percentage of South Korea’s general population. Even more striking is that some aid organizations estimate that as many as 25 percent of North Korean refugees in the South consider going back […] In 1994, surveys found that about 92 percent of South Koreans wanted to see unification with the North; by 2007, that had dropped by nearly 30 percentage points, and a government survey in 2011 showed that only 9 percent of 19- to 29-year-old South Koreans are “very interested” in a unified Korea.


What, then, can this tell us? Is it that a unified Korea is a dream? If so, is it an impossible dream? Or is it a dream that the technocrats believe can be realized through the social engineering of modern social scientists and the global culture industry, of which the Olympics are a part, without ever acknowledging social reality on the ground?

Personally, I would say—especially after seeing the fascism of my fellow students—that all dreams of social engineering should be abandoned (after all, they should have been abandoned long ago; weren’t the previous examples of social engineering in the USSR and Nazi Germany enough to show that societies cannot be built by technocratic bureaucrats?). Instead, societies should be left to develop organically. If the Koreas eventually decide to unify, let them do so on their own terms. Clearly at this point the cost of accommodating impoverished North Koreans is too much for South Koreans who—judging by the low percentage of young South Koreans supporting unification cited above—are more concerned with their pocketbooks than they are with unifying with their “brothers” and “sisters” north of the border. This is the divide between visions of the future which vacillate between the utopic and dystopic and . . . real life. Nations, countries, and societies cannot be willed into existence by technocratic and bureaucratic elites according to their own relative concepts of “social justice” and “progress”. Instead, they should be left to develop at their own pace, according to their own desires. Life is hard enough as it is, and we—as both social scientists and individuals—would do well to avoid social engineering.

The next day I visited the local police department for a meeting related to my research for a class project. It was there that, once again, I saw first hand just how dangerous the divisiveness in modern society has become. No, all police are certainly not racists, as the progressive mindset has one believe. Rather, most are just regular people looking to make their communities as livable as they can be. Does this mean that racist police do not exist? No, it doesn’t either—police are people, and all types of people exist in the world. Understanding that would be the first step towards a true kind of progress, rather than the “progress” that academics continually express their desire for.  The police officers told me that it was alienation—a need to belong—which drives the youth to become members of gangs. As the officers were explaining the process to me, I couldn’t help but let my mind wander: it is the same kind of alienation—the same kind of intense need to belong—which drives academics to seek a community in the arms of identity politics. In that respect, then, there is little difference between a graduate student caught in the throes of identity politics and an impoverished young African-American pursuing gang membership. Both look to find somewhere to belong in the alienating world we live in; both do not realize the dangers that membership will have.

After the meeting I am still thinking about the intense need to belong in the modern world. A colleague of mine tells me she doesn’t go on Facebook anymore, because no one posts anything “fun”. It is all about political debate (debate is a generous term here) now, and it just furthers people’s alienation from one another. In the future—if no one has any connection to their fellow humans that extends beyond their “smart” phones, then what will we have? We will have a world without empathy, and that will be a dark future. My friend told me a story recently: She dropped her purse when disembarking from her car; while helping her mother with the door her hands were full and her purse just fell. At the time, she didn’t notice it and went into a restaurant for dinner. When she noticed that the purse was gone, she ran back outside into the parking lot. There, she found a curbside flower seller holding her purse. He had caught a man emptying the money out of the purse and chased him off; then he returned the purse to my friend, the rightful owner. Such cognizance of humanity—of the need to help, rather than stifle—our fellow human can only be furthered by empathy. In a future world, where people’s heads are buried in “smart” phones as they seek “communities” in the digital world in order to escape the fractured worlds—divided along the lines of identity politics—of their “reality”, there will be fewer people to stop the thieves.

Yes, the seeds of a world without empathy are what I saw in the classroom; it is what we see in relations between South Koreans and North Koreans, who base the value of their fellow men and women in economic terms; and it is what we see in the battles being fought on social media daily. This attack on empathy is furthered by globalist news outlets like the Huffington Post, who attack anything that could possibly bring people together in mutual empathy; in their most recent interactive segment “I am an American”, they offer many options for readers to identify as: one can be a Simon and Garfunkel fan, a Game Warden, a Game of Thrones Addict, a Gaimanite [Author’s Note: I do not know what this even means], a Gay Person of Color, a Gay Woman, a Humanist, Senegalese, or even a Dynamo. The one thing a person can not be is, just, “An American”. In fact, the option does not exist. Such is the poisoning nature of identity politics.



According to the Globalist Logic of the Huffington Post, You Can Be Anything You Want to be…Except American. Image Courtesy Of:


My mind goes back to class. Our professor had given us a reading in which some of the writers implied that 9/11 was an inside job so as to “take away our freedoms”. That such armchair conspiracy theorizing has no place in an educational setting goes without saying; that it is a disgusting form of indoctrination should also be obvious. As sociologists our job should be to unify—and not divide—society. But the situation in classrooms also hits on something much deeper, and fear mongering like the “Doomsday Clock” should not stop us from addressing the problems in our societies. From all that I have experienced, it is—more than ever—clear what the issues are. It is political correctness and identity politics that will divide us and take away our freedoms. This is what we all must know, and this is what we all must resist.



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