It’s sort of a fuzzy concept but so far as I can tell it basically means “the state of being more tolerant of others than I am comfortable with.” This is why it’s so widespread, I think, because pretty much every single American has a sliding scale of tolerance on which their own views are just?right, while everything to the right of them is bigotry and everything to the left of them is political correctness. Some people might quibble at this but it does correspond with the phenomenon of, say, a federal judge sending a ton of racist emails and then insisting that he’s not racist. Of course not! There are bigger racists out there, after all. Ironically, this sort of dodge is even more plausible during the Trump era, where the increased prevalence of violent white supremacy provides an easy, “Now that’s what racism is!” to people who want one. And even now after everything, there are a lot more Bret Stephenses and Ross Douthats in the world than there are Richard Spencers. Lots more people wanting to play the “but is he actually racist” game still. This is what the game is.

There is a reasonable argument to be made that the modern internet is a bad actor in all this, that its nature is to stir up conflict for clicks that should sometimes stay un-stirred, that it prioritizes the quick and easy over the difficult and right. This is all true! And yet, there is a lot of racism out there in the country and pointing it out angers people (mainly white people) who want to believe that things are basically good. There’s not an easy answer for this. FWIW my personal belief is to listen to other people and to try your best. Humility is your best friend in this as in everything else. It’s not steered me wrong.

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