When a person who is making an argument based on a certain category realizes that the argument doesn't work for this category, the person may try to save the argument by simply switching out the targeted category for another category – one which may make the argument sound more reasonable. This switcheroo isn't necessarily calculated: While it can be more or less calculated, it can also be purely instinctual. Either way, it may in some cases produce an argument which is actually valid and isn't harmful to anyone... Yet, in other cases, it may hide bigotry and discrimination under a thin facade of seeming seasonable.
In each individual case, this process happens happens on the micro level: It's a single person who for whatever reason or number of reasons is making a shift in their argument. Yet, for a person who lives in a context where they face systemic discrimination, each such case may become a part of the problem. A person who belong to one vulnerable minority may end up getting accused of all sorts of things.
Example: Eric's alleged crimes
Eric is an ordinary guy in most ways, key difference being that he happens to have darker skin than is usual in the area where he lives. During one single week, the following incidents happens...
- As Eric is sitting on a park bench feeding some ducks and taking some photos of them, a woman named Karen happens to find him offensive. At first she doesn't know why, and for a moment she worries about being racist. Then she decides that off course the problem is with him rather than with her. The thing she really hates is pedophiles, not people who's skin is darker than hers. His presence upsets her, which she concludes must mean he's a pedophile. Thus she walks up to him and starts accusing him of being a pedophile who's on the hunt for innocent children. She demands that he turn over his ID card and smart-phone to her for inspection. As he gets defensive and points out that there aren't even any children in the park, she storms off in a huff. Afterwards she warn others about the suspected pedophile.
- As Eric visits a store, the cashier looks suspiciously at him. Following him around with hr eyes, quite obviously being alert to him trying to steal something. This store has recently had a lot of problems with theft, and this cashier is suspicious of everyone regardless of skin-color or whatever – but Eric doesn't know that, and feels targeted.
- Visiting another store, the security guard mutters to himself about not wanting any “thugs” in his mall. He expects Eric to be a thug, a criminal. Why? Because his own intuition tells him so, that's why. He don't consider it to be about skin-color at all. It's his job to watch out for criminals, so of course his intuition serves him well. He's not keeping any statistics over who he suspects. But if he did, he might be surprised to learn that everything else being equal then he's much more likely to suspect a person simply for having darker skin and/or for being male. He doesn't know that this mall happens to have quite a few fair-skinned female shoplifters, since he has thus far failed to catch any of them.
- Eric and Amy meet each other for the first time at some general gathering. Finding each other likable and attractive, they decide to go out on a date. Amy happens to be a fair-skinnned woman, and also happens to be younger than Eric. One of her friend doesn't like that she's dating outside of her “race”, but realizes that it wouldn't be polite to say so. Thus he uses the strategy of making a huge deal out of the age difference instead. Amy decides to go on the date anyway, but during the date she isn't nearly as cheerful as she would have been if she hadn't been scolded for going.
- A few days later, Eric talks with a friend who feels creeped out by the age difference. Knowing that Amy is an adult and that it's not really his place to complain about age differences between consenting adults, he instead go on a rant about racism and how “mixed-race” couples and their children have everything stacked against them. In one of his counter arguments, Eric happens to mention two of Amy's past relationships, each of which having been much longer than the only sexual relationship Eric ever been in. The friend latches to to this, arguing that this must means that Amy is much more sexually experienced than Eric is. Eric agrees, but thinks it's a good thing. The friend then start arguing that it's not healthy to date someone who's at a different level of sexual experience then oneself. This argument is entirely honest, in the sense that this is how Eric's friend is actually feeling at the moment. However, he has never ever had this thought or feeling before: The conviction that everyone in a relationship must me at the same level of experience is entirely new to him, and the next day he may very well have forgotten all about this newfound opinion of his.
- As Karen hears the rumor that Eric is now dating a younger woman, Karen comes to the sudden “realization” that Amy is “actually” underage. Karen has never met Amy, but having already “realized” that Eric is a pedophile she now puts two and two together. The logic is undeniable as far as she's concerned, so she feels confident and justified in informing people that Amy is an underage girl who have a fake ID. When she tells the security guard who has already “realized” that Eric is a “thug”, they together reach the conclusion that Eric was the one who provided her with the fake ID. And probably provided her with other things as well... perhaps drugs and johns. As Karen and the guard starts spreading the baseless rumor they just created about Amy being a sex-worker, they feel confident that their rumor-mongering is in Amy's best interest: They imagine Amy to be Eric's victim, and imagine themselves to be her upcoming savior and rescuer.
- When Amy tries to buy a beer, the bartender accuse her of using a fake ID. She manages to persuade him by proving that she has graduated from University. Then he tells her about the rumor he has heard about her, the rumor that she got drugs and fake ID from the thug she just started dating. This reminds her of the sad conversation Eric told her about - the one where his friend warned him about “mixed race” relationships and how a lot of people will try to harm her. She assumes that the rumor originate from people's racist bigotry, and also assume that the rumor was a calculated lie to unfairly harm her and Eric.
- Amy's conversation with the bartender, including Amy's conclusion about racist bigotry, is later retold to Karen – who draws the conclusion that Amy has been manipulated and perhaps outright brainwashed by the thug. If Amy was in her right mind, Karen argues, Amy would realize that Karen is a concerned citizen who only have the best of intentions.