Non-threatening minority is non-threatening

Posted on by vandal and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

I hear this term thrown around casually in movie reviews, to describe Obama, in blogs, etc.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pEQbZCRoJM

It’s a weird term, why is it said? You’ll never hear “non-threatening white person” because I suppose it is by default that white people are not threatening anything. When the term is used to whom is the minority non-threatening? White people, right? Even though a threatening mexican is just as violent to other mexicans as whites. But white people are assumed to be more afraid, the non-threatening is for them.

It seems to insult whatever minority, that they are less of one because they are non-threatening, that if they were truly black or hispanic they would at least be a bit threatening.

I just find the term odd. Mainly because the term is used to vaguely insult and accuse of racism, yet it’s kinda slightly racist itself. 

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12 Responses to Non-threatening minority is non-threatening

  1. Pastabagel says:

    The threat is not one of violence, the threat is political. The threat is always directed towards white people because they still dominate economically and politically. Anyone wishing to equalize or more “fairly” distribute power inherently threatens the established power. If you think in terms of race, that established power would be white.

    The real question is whether the threat is justified, and who perceives it to be so. In other words, are other black public figures considered “threatening” because their anger towards the establishment is justified, or are they considered “threatening” because it isn’t justified? And who makes this call?

    • kataclysm says:

      The real question is whether the threat is justified, and who perceives it to be so.

      I think this is a great point, but I think that later in this paragraph you conflate perceived anger with perceived threat. A good deal of an individual’s perceived threat level to an entrenched power structure derives from that individual’s credibility as a threat. And being extremely angry can be part of that (at the very least, anger is a powerful motivator for revolutionary action), but the larger part is derived from other traits: charisma, resources, intelligence, in short: how big a power base the threatening agent has or could easily attain. In fact, I would argue that perceived anger towards the majority can undermine a minority individual’s credibility, and thereby help neutralize them as a threat to entrenched power structures.

      The perceived threat doesn’t have to be justified in terms of history or eye-for-an-eye or anything of that nature in order to remain threatening: economic and political domination exist as ends in themselves. Fairness doesn’t come into it, justified anger doesn’t come into it. A threat merely needs to be credible. In the eyes of entrenched power, power is the only justification that is needed, so any agent who appears possibly capable of disrupting the normal imbalance of power becomes a threat.

      Possibly the only way that “non-threatening” minorities become “non-threatening” is to completely buy into the system, accept a lower ranking in general so that they as individuals might be able to ascend another rung or two in the hierarchy. Anyone who doesn’t do that becomes a “threatening” minority — the level of threat will then depend on the individual. In terms of race-based perceived threat: The crazy homeless black guy who yells about violence isn’t that big of a threat. In fact, he helps reinforce the current power structure — he doesn’t have any power (unless you meet him in a back alley and he’s armed, but if you’re in the power elite you aren’t slumming in back alleys with crazy homeless guys), and he wants to kill whitey, thereby “proving” that it would be a Bad Thing if people like him had more power. The Tea Partiers don’t care a lot about him. They are more scared of black politicians, some of whom are angry, all of whom are perceived as huge threats — they have a power base, they have credibility.

    • vandal says:

      See I’m not sure I’d say it’s based on political power. Like the article linked by you, Obama is seen as non threatening though black/half black with political power. Meanwhile most black/hispanic comedians wouldn’t be described as non threatening though they lack political power.

      Really I think it’s based on how seemingly appeasing whatever minority is towards whites. Which is a bit odd. As if not going out of your way to fight white people or be somewhat offensive means your trying to please white people. Maybe Wayne Brady just didn’t give enough of a damn to bother pissing off white people. Is it not possible Obama just doesn’t care to offend anyone as a politician, not just whites? Why are the actions of minorities implied to be centered around whites?

      • CubaLibre says:

        “As if not going out of your way to fight white people or be somewhat offensive means your trying to please white people.”

        If you believe 1. that whites enjoy a power monopoly in this country, and 2. that power ought to be shared equally (or rather proportionally), then the above follows. If those premises are true, you have a duty to fight the status quo, which means taking your share of power away from whites, which by necessity means appearing as a threat to them: no one likes to lose dominance. You might, of course, disagree with the premises.

        Complacency with or apathy about the status quo means you serve the dominant power at your own expense. You’re an Uncle Tom.

        “Why are the actions of minorities implied to be centered around whites?”

        They have to be. That’s what white privilege is: the ability to bend all situations to center around us, so completely and effortlessly that we don’t have to think about the fact that we’re doing it. We have to think about it so little that we might even think we aren’t doing it. Minorities don’t have the luxury of entertaining that illusion: they have to deal with it every day.

      • philtrum says:

        As if not going out of your way to fight white people or be somewhat offensive means your trying to please white people.

        The term “non-threatening black” is used when talking about relations between black people and white people (or Latinos and white people, or…) and it’s about white people’s reaction, not black people’s actions or intentions. Some white people are extremely easily threatened.

        Think of a different phrase: “annoying blog post”. Are annoying blog posts intended to annoy people? Maybe. If they weren’t written to be annoying, are they then not annoying? No; what makes them annoying is the fact that people read them and are annoyed.

  2. oneswellfoop says:

    “Non-threatening” is an obvious modifier, because the term “minority” is used interchangeably with ethnic or political groups that are “outside the majority” or “opposed to the majority”, therefore threatening to the majority. These terms are binary and don’t fit in populations that have three-or-more ethnic groups with none of them having dominance, as the United States will inevitably become (but not until elements of the current “majority” thoroughly tear it down, IMO). If a Ruling Class can claim to be representative of a majority, it is so much easier to get things done. But any minority member must be proven “non-threatening” to be allowed into the ‘club’.

  3. operator says:

    You’ll never hear “non-threatening white person” because I suppose it is by default that white people are not threatening anything.

    White people are never threatening – therefore, you all should never threaten them.*

    White supremacists? Lynch mobs? Just a few bad apples.

    (* or else)

    • philtrum says:

      Not even a few bad apples. The KKK, lynch mobs, etc., generally imagined (and continue to imagine) their acts as self-defense.

      It’s important to distinguish between a racist statement and a statement about racism.

  4. vandal says:

    Hmm, I’m changing my mind a bit on the usage but not in the way a lot of you are saying. Just that I think a minority can be called non-threatening even if they only threaten their own race, actually especially then.

    Really, I just find it narcissistic? That a black or hispanic is either in a binary state of threatening or non to white people, rather than any other kind of person. As if they’re only ever reacting to white people with any word or action they say or do.

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