The problem with debates over social issues online

One of the major problems with these social discussions online is that people tend to misrepresent each other. So from an ongoing discussion on Enns’s blog we have some of these bizarre responses.

First off, bizarre comments from Enns himself that I’m utterly baffled by here. While I respect most of what Enns says, and he even has a lot of whacky stuff to say, these comments are wayward for even him. In response to a comment I made about why whites are always accused of being the racists, he comments…

That may be true, but whites are the dominant culture.

I respond with the following–please keep in mind, my response is based on the understanding that Enns is labeling all white folks as part of a single culture simply based on white skin color.

Whites though have a variety of different cultures. To say that “whites are the dominant culture” is a little bit of a racial stereotype. That’s like saying all blacks have one culture. Asians have a variety of cultures as well (with a variety of different religions/philosophical sects–religion scholars debate whether they are religions or not). Russian culture is not the same as English culture. Mediterranean culture is not the same as mainstream white American culture either. And in places in Africa such as Nigeria, the dominant culture is black. In Jamaica, same thing. I’m not trying to say whites should be excused from their racism because others might also be subconsciously racist, I’m saying as everyone (red, yellow, black, white) is part of the human race, all are going to be subjected to fallen sinfulness.

Enns himself is white so it seems bizarre of me to accuse him of making a racist statement and as a white man myself, it may even seem odd of me to make this statement. Enns replies:

Nice try 🙂

I point out that I have studied topics related to cultural studies (religious studies and history) so I am quite familiar what goes into making a culture. I can testify that skin color is not a component of making a culture. Enns’s profession is Biblical studies and he always talks about on his blog how we must read the Bible in the context of the culture. If skin color=culture, then I’m not entirely certain if we can really trust the hermeneutic of Enns. Any way, Enns goes on to say,

From North Korea?

I’m not entirely certain whether this is a complement, an insult, or an additional add-on about my comments on the diversity of Asians. First off, I do know Asians personally (and mixed Asians) so I have some familiarity with Asian culture. To be honest though, Asia studies were not my strength so if this is an additional add-on then it is rather bizarre. If it is an insult, Enns is forgiven as I’m certain I insulted him with the comment that led to this. If it is a complement for me being more culturally aware than most Americans, thanks. I’m absolutely certain that people who have come from abroad are vastly more culturally aware than Americans nowadays. I mean seriously, when Americans think that all Muslims do is drop bombs on other people when the opposite is true, then well Americans are hopeless. No, I am an American. My diplomas from Arizona State University just came in the mail (though it is in reality just a statement, one will have to take me at my word). Any way, my point is that my skin color does not make me a part of the white culture. My point is that if I stated that Asians, black people, and Mexicans are all “the culture” (whether dominant, minority, or not) they would take that as racial stereotyping at best and racism at worst. Skin color does not dictate one’s culture. What about different musical cultures? The heavy metal culture is mostly white but there are black people and many Mexicans who are a part of this musical culture. What about rap music? Mostly black but Eminem is a white rapper. What about sports cultures? Hockey has a bunch of white people in it but there are black people who enjoy hockey. Football culture is much more diverse. Chess consists of white people, Jews, black people, Mexicans, Arabs (who for some reason are classified as white when Jews get a race of their own–shouldn’t they both just simply be considered “Semitic”?), etc.

Okay, next bizarre statement belongs to Andrew Dowling. When making the assertion that black people are not the only people to suffer persecution and violent persecution at that, I pointed out that Catholics in England have suffered religious persecution. He unleashed with his favorite statement of all.

Completely apples and oranges. You’re talking about the post Reformation wars that happened centuries ago and don’t affect anyone nowadays. There is no such thing as anti-Catholic persecution in 2015 England, and there hasn’t been for quite a long while (not to mention, you can’t even tell someone is Protestant or Catholic by looking at them).

Yes, this happened centuries ago but first off, as an Anglican (albeit more Catholic in my Anglican orientation) I share tremendous guilt about what happened to the Catholics in England. That is a stain that all Anglicans have to live with. History cannot be simply erased. Yes, Catholics were also violent to the state at the time. However, Malcolm X was also an advocate of violence. Yes, this does not happen in England any more. The Anglican Church in America does not persecute Catholics but rather acknowledges them as a branch of the True Church, but it did happen in the past. 2015 South Carolina is not the same as Post-Reformation England though. There were no black people in America. So I’m not certain entirely what “apples and oranges” mean but I think that to compare the different persecutions is far more like comparing apples with apples and I think people with reason would agree. But I digress. Perhaps Dowling is right. Perhaps it is apples and oranges since black people are not a culture but an ethnicity and Catholicism is a religion. This though is the only difference I can see between the two situations. Someone please inform me if I’ve missed something.

Then there was someone attempting to frame the statement of “all lives matter” as “whitewashing” or “whitesplaining”. I defended this statement as neither nor but acknowledging everyone as part of humanity. Someone replied to me,

“All Lives Matter” is like going to the funeral of a grieving family and stating “I too have experienced great loss! Many people in the world have suffered too!” It’s extremely inappropriate because it’s not the topic of the conversation and implies all ethnic groups are experiencing discrimination roughly equally at this time. Which is untrue.

This is a little bit of an ironic statement. I was not saying “Go to a funeral and say ‘All lives matter!'” But I digress, just yesterday, I was watching CNN and there was a mixed gathering of white and black folk praying for those who lost loved ones yesterday. There were a couple of black folk holding up a sign saying “All lives matter”. Are they then being “extremely inappropriate because it’s not the topic of the conversation and implies all ethnic groups are experiencing discrimination roughly equally at this time”? That can be the only explanation! Interestingly enough, that prayer gathering also further fortifies (and proves!) my point that culture extends beyond skin color and to say that “white people are the dominant culture” when white people aren’t even a culture is completely and utterly bizarre comment from Enns.

Which is why social discussions on the internet usually lead into total chaos. People seem to do far more babbling these days in social discussions than genuine listening. Peace and quiet I’m certain is all the folks who have lost loved ones at the recent South Carolina shooting want rather than people arguing and bantering on and on about racial discrimination.

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About newenglandsun

A student. Male. Passionate. Easily offended. Child-like wonderer. Growing in faith, messing up daily.
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3 Responses to The problem with debates over social issues online

  1. Lovie says:

    If I contemicamud I could thank you enough for this, I’d be lying.

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