The other day I was talking to a dude I went to high school with on Facebook. This is a white upper class kid, going to Cornell. We both commented on a friend’s post on the Cleveland shooting of a young black boy holding a toy gun. I stated how it was unjust that this cop took two seconds before unloading, especially in a state with legal open carry. I then made a statement on how this reflects the systemic oppression of black people by this country’s police force. My high school friend replied that this “systemic oppression was bull,” “There’s no universal directive for cops to kill black people,” and that I essentially had nothing of value to say on the matter. I replied, kinda angry at this point, on the numerous stories of white cop killings of black men and women and how this is not the case for whites, and then to cement my point I added that no one can ignore the 400 years of systemic oppression black people have faced, no directive but a strong correlation. Then he replied “sins of the father are not the sins of the son.” Like what the fuck is that? How do I respond to something like that? Isn’t that just some idiomatic bullshit? Like, I feel like I won’t change this moron’s mind, but I wish I knew what to say.
That kind of thing is what’s known as a thought terminating cliché. Feel free to point that out to him. Also feel free to point out that the sins of the father do quite often become the sins of the son, especially where being an asshole is concerned. Your upper-class white kid at Cornell is suffering from a world view that simply won’t allow him to believe in things like white privilege and systemic racism. He can’t believe in them, because to acknowledge their existence would shatter the delusions he maintains in order to justify his identity.
You see, this kid believes he deserves to go to Cornell. He earned it through his own hard work. Whatever wealth or high station his family holds is something they deserve too. Again, they earned it through their own hard work, and even if they didn’t, then they still deserve it because they are simply better than everyone else. The little shit believes these things to his very core. He has to, because the alternative would be unbearable.
If you want to win arguments like this, you have to understand what your opponent is really arguing about. This kid wasn’t defending systemic oppression. He was defending his own identity by denying systemic oppression. You can’t change his mind without destroying his entire world view, and he’s not going to let you do that on Facebook. That’s why people like him always start throwing up thought terminating clichés when their logic inevitably begins to fail. They’re trying to end the conversation and simultaneously quell their own cognitive dissonance. He’s essentially retreating from the argument. Take that as a win, move on with your day, and go do something more important, like trimming your fucking toenails.