Dogwhistles and Karens: A Kinder, Gentler, Sadism

When talking about prejudice, for the most part, one must have explicit and gory stories or evidence of maltreatment for people to take it seriously. Luckily, I have that. Yet, it doesn’t cover the overwhelming majority of the inhumanity I have endured. Most of the overt bullying was “circus monkey” bullying for which my bullies had plausible deniability and would shan’t claim they engaged in any mistreatment of me but indeed thought I was talented and popular. As an adult, the prejudice gets even less overt.

            “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Ni**er, ni**er, ni**er.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘ni**er’-that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.… ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Ni**er, ni**er.'”

            That is an infamous quote by the most evil genius in the history of American politics about tied with Roy Cohn in both morals and tactics: Lee Atwater. It eerily describes the transition from adolescent to adult prejudice. From Regina to Karen. It ceases to be overt and becomes much more qualified by pretext. Of course, my physical bullies used pretext, too, but it’s hard to justify urinating on anyone for any reason. Even supporters of capital punishment would likely oppose that for a serial killer. 

            The pretexts of adults are more sophisticated as are their tactics. To continue the analogy of race, adolescence is the 1950s while adulthood is the 1990s. The open violence of Jim Crow to the polite venom of the HOA and PTA. From ropes and Model Ts to the police and SUVs. By the 1990s, there were no racists anymore, just concerned parents worried about the thugs and crime in the poor neighborhoods they don’t want their children going to. Of course, the suburbanites with Nickelodeon-addicted kids on Ritalin were extremely racist. 

            By adulthood, no one calls you a “retard”. Yet, you make people “uncomfortable” or you’re “disruptive” or even they’ll abuse the term “creep”. People have a right to be comfortable, of course, and making someone uncomfortable, semantically, sounds very disturbing so they’ll turn an innocent interaction or minor social mistake into a non-sexual #metoo scandal or the foreshadowing in a true crime episode and turn you into a monster. 

            There is no real way to stop them. Try to stick around them or protest and they’ll get the authorities involved so you’d better submit and leave. Being an autistic adult is being in a sundown town. Get out or they’re calling the police or HR or the Dean of Students. Yeah, I have a lengthy conduct record from the College of Charleston and virtually all of it is about not leaving when I’m not wanted in a platonic situation. It is impossible for me to express how much I truly despise the office of the Dean of Students there for treating me like a sex creep for platonic incidents where I was the ultimate victim. That school is a sundown town. There also isn’t much due process or weighing both sides. It’s a kangaroo court.

            There are lots of solutions to this. For me, personally, I want the college to clear my record, course exempt me for my remaining four gen-eds, and let me graduate and do what I want to do which is study psychology at MUSC. Dr. Gwynette supports me and wants to teach me. I attempted an ADA lawsuit to this end but my lawyer didn’t know anything about the ADA and while I have the legal background to argue it, myself, I was unwilling to spend the $400 to file in federal court. I don’t drink, do drugs, do tobacco, and I am saving my virginity for marriage. Me getting in trouble for platonic harassment is insane. They’re criminally facilitating a hostile environment in contravention of the ADA.

            As far as the broader issue. The focus should not be on reducing use of the “R” word or overt acts but on inclusion and social integration. There are no punitive measures our institutions can take to make sly cruelty illegal and if there could be that level of surveillance would be so dystopian I would oppose it. No, this has to be mostly a cultural and social change achieved through positive measures. Diversion programs for mental health issues would be a step in ensuring official trouble is avoided in these instances even if the victim unfairly remains the accused. Still, there are ways to end the reign of the Karens and to have a more inclusive culture.

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