In my judgment, the article uses sloppy concepts. I'm trained as a moral philosopher, so I pay attention to concepts a lot. On a most charitable reading, the article could be using the concept of respect to mean what Stephen Darwall suggested is esteem or admiration respect. This is the kind of respect we show when we think that someone's position or deeds are awesome. But it is contrasted with moral respect, which is the kind of respect we must show everyone simply because they are human. Richard Sennett, long before Darwall, suggested a third kind of respect -- close to the esteem based one, because it is contingent: this is respect we show someone as deference to their authority. Here, the person's deeds or beliefs aren't awesome, the person's role is authoritative. But this respect is not moral respect.
In the context of democratic politics, arguing about civility, neither respect as esteem nor respect as deference to authority make any sense. They are selective, contingent forms of respect that could never function as a setting for public reason and respect between equals. Only moral respect can do that.
But the article eschews a moral concept of respect by making respect contingent on a position and severing its connection to persons. Hence my criticism. The article is confused about respect and is for that reason not at all convincing.
Right now, people are outraged and really scared. I am outraged too. So people cast about trying to find ways to rationalize reactive attitudes and behavior. This is wrong. My outrage and fear do not justify my being reactive to the point of withholding basic moral respect for another human being. My job is to be decent and to stay critical precisely by not losing sight of what ought to be. My job is to respect the person as I confront their position. That is civility.
What you say about self-confrontation seems right to me -- as a comment about form. The least we owe others and ourselves is to be accountable to ourselves before we become reactive with others. But I disagree with the denigration of kindness. It's very popular these days for people to say that being polite, kind, or nice is either stupid or even immoral. When these comments are made, I think that they do not use genuine concepts of politeness, kindness, or niceness. I turn to writers and artists to see what these really look like.
Politeness implies remembering that we are all sharing the city -- the polis- together. That's all. But that's a lot. I means acting in a way that shares the city. This seems right to me. For one, it provides a principled form of confrontation: if someone I meet is acting in a way that does not share the city, out of politeness, I should confront them with their lack of equity. So it would be truly polite of me to talk to a snob or a racist and to tell them that their views have no place in a democracy.
Kindness implies remembering that we are all vulnerably human. That's a lot. The logical extension of kindness is conscience of human rights or of human capabilities. It also implies a relational ethics of compassion. Is compassion avoidance or in some way objectionable? Absolutely not. It's a condition of sharing the world with others. Without compassion, we can't put ourselves in another's place and care about the life they have to live from their standpoint. And if we can't do that, we can't share the world equally. Once again, kindness seems a requisite of being democratic.
Lastly, niceness. If any concept seems out of place in the context of White Supremacy, it is niceness. I'm quite sympathetic to what you say. But I don't want to give the Man ownership of a word that I identify with people I love and some of the best interactions among people, including children and the elderly. The word "nice" can mean pleasant or agreeable, but it can also mean fine and subtle. It derives from the Latin and connotes a form of unknowing. I take this to be significant. Truly nice people display a particularly moral form of ignorance. They ignore all the reasons we might have in life to kick back against the world and each other. Rather, they choose to ignore these and to be social.
But when I think of it like that, niceness seems pretty important now. We should be remembering how to be social.
And let's use a little psychology. People who are fueled by reactive and inegalitarian thinking are frequently dealing -- poorly -- with real insecurity as a person. Actually, it is niceness that they need, even if they don't want it. They need their brains to be shifted down a state and to see that the world isn't an insecure war of forces. Once again, niceness seems not only nice but crucial.
Thank you very much for challenging me to state these things.