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Why Anger About the Race Card is Just Ignorance of Poker

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Politics | October 5, 2015 |

By Steven Lloyd Wilson | Politics | October 5, 2015 |

Any time race comes up in any political or social situation, someone will accuse someone else of playing the race card.

Inevitably, this accusation is based on a belief that racism is not a systematic problem, that it is only a culture of political correctness and liberal entitlement that keeps the problem of race alive, and that pretty much any instance of “playing the race card” is if anything, reverse racism by left-wing cynics trying to burn down America.

I loathe it when these someones rant about others playing the race card. I mean, first of all because they’re assholes and they’re wrong, but mostly because they do not understand that their metaphor actually supports the exact opposite of their point. Because despite a cultural reverence on the right for the hallowed image of cowboys smoking cigars, shooting whiskey, and playing cards, apparently none of them know how games of cards even work in the first place.

See, and I really shouldn’t have to explain it in such simple terms, one does not make up their own cards. When you play cards, you are dealt those cards. If you use the metaphor of the race card in the first place, you are conceding that the player who plays it had no choice about having that card. That card had to have been designed in the game being played and then dealt to a player. The player is literally the least to blame in the entire metaphor for that card being played. There are systematic forces of dealer and design that put that card in the game in the first place and that specific player’s hand in the end. If anything, “playing the race card” is a better metaphor for systematic forces out of one’s control that make race an issue.

So anyone who gets pissed about the race card being played is like someone getting mad that a poker player puts down a wildcard. Are you really saying that having received said card without one’s own control, one should just make a poker hand with four cards instead? If you don’t like that card being played, don’t put it in the deck.

I mean, denying racism exists is ignorant, but acting like you have no idea how cards work is just stupid. The next time someone bemoans the playing of the race card, there is only one appropriate reaction.


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Steven Lloyd Wilson is the sci-fi and history editor. You can email him here or follow him on Twitter.