The Absurdity of ‘Racial Realism’
The mass shooter in Atlanta embodied the flawed logic that racial stereotypes reflect fact-based truths
Racism introduces absurdism into the human condition. Not only does racism express the absurdity of the racists, it generates absurdity in the victims.
— Chester Himes
Our nation is mourning the recent attacks on the Asian American community. On Tuesday, a man murdered eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors. This comes amidst the global pandemic where anti-Asian hate speech and violence are on the rise.
As we watch the coverage of this tragedy, many of us are privy to the absurdity of racism in America. This absurdity was even articulated by the man who carried out the killings. The mass shooter claimed the attack was not racially motivated, even though six of the eight victims were Asian American women. Cherokee County sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker told reporters that “he apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction, and sees these locations as something that allows him to go to these places, and it’s a temptation for him that he wanted to eliminate.”
Most of us will have a visceral response to that statement. It’s absurd in the conventional sense of the word — an insistence that what we all know to be obviously true isn’t. It’s gaslighting. But I also think there’s an element of “racial realism” in him that so many Americans subscribe to, even if most Americans would never do something as vile as he did.
Asian Women Are Not a ‘Temptation’
The Atlanta shootings were a culmination of centuries of hypersexualization of Asian women
“Racial realism” is the idea that when folks make what others consider to be racist statements, spread ideas, or do racist actions, they are merely seeing the world as it is. It has a kind of logic that says, “Well, doesn’t 2 + 2 = 4?” This line of thinking is harder to dispel than outright bigotry, because of its simplicity. Yet it’s too narrow to fully grasp the complete context; the equation of race and racism is more calculus than simple arithmetic. But it helps folks justify…