Journalists, like lawyers, are keen to certain words that when uttered tend to make a proposal untrue. All, every, only, never, none, and their derivatives are words that are passionately employed by so many people when stating their cases, but are almost never truly applicable. It is not an issue of intelligence. I hear very intelligent people say things that are patently untrue only because they used these all-inclusive words when making a point. It may seem like semantics but when bigotry and racism are invoked this attention to nuance is important.
In fact what makes bigotry work rhetorically is that this nuance is missing. A speaker who tries to bolster racist views among his audience doesn’t get anywhere by saying, “nearly all black people are criminals.” He must include them all. Which is nonsense. Likewise when young, white twenty-something protesting college students carry signs to protests that say “kill all the white people” we can assume that it doesn’t include the person holding the sign.
In case you need an example that proves the same point but without bringing race into it, look no further than campaign advertising. Republicans and Democrats paint each other in broad strokes during elections because they want you to pull for their team only and entirely.
Aside from the fact that there is no such thing as biological race; no race of people is monolithic, especially when it comes to their ideas. The generations of people who were trained by their parents and their social circles to shun people of certain races were engaged in a shortcut to thinking. The same is true with political parties. The Republicans don’t want their voters to try and see Democrats as reasonable on pretty much anything. The Democrats, it seems, don’t want their voters to even give a fair hearing to any Republican talking points. Nuance is not rewarded. It is mocked and ridiculed in the name of party unity.
I recently perused the official website for Black Lives Matter after hearing a debate about whether or not BLM was a Marxist organization. Spoiler alert: At least two of the three founding members say they are “trained Marxists.” In case you wonder why that is a problem just keep in mind that Communism has killed more people than abortion and Covid-19 put together.
But Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, a Princeton University professor and supporter of BLM pushed back.
“Regardless of whatever the professed politics of people may be who are prominent in the movement, they don’t represent its breadth,” Taylor said.
That is encouraging. Taylor made a nuanced distinction. Just because BLM was begun mostly by Marxist doesn’t have to mean the entire organization is tainted. Don’t get me wrong, one could be forgiven for believing Taylor to be a flaming hypocrite because during this year’s campaigning she routinely criticized Republicans, capitalists, corporate leaders et al. as racist because some of them supported Donald Trump. Apparently Taylor’s distinction of separating a person “prominent in the movement” from the movement itself goes away when talking about people with whom she disagrees. But at least she is capable of making the distinction sometimes.
But if the recent election has taught us anything it is that nuance, while endangered, is not dead. Not all Republicans supported Trump. In many instances people have openly admitted that they voted for Joe Biden but then voted mostly for Republicans down ballot. As such the Republicans gained seats and narrowed their minority in the House and will probably maintain control of the U.S. Senate when the two Georgia runoffs are settled.
Seeing each house of Congress represented by different parties is encouraging. In my opinion, horse trading is encouraged over the naked exercise of political power. It reminds me that my fellow Americans still, on some level, appreciate the nuance.