White privilege, white guilt?
0 comment Tuesday, November 11, 2014 |
Selwyn Duke, always interesting, has a new piece up at American Thinker about 'cultural affirmative action.'
In a way, I prefer the old, overt affirmative action. While it was government-sanctioned discrimination, at least it was, in some measure, more honest than our cultural affirmative action. There is such a thing. It's when people in the market and media privilege others -- sometimes unconsciously -- based upon the latter's identification with a "victim group."
Probably a majority of Americans in some degree or other practice cultural affirmative action. They have the best of intentions, many feeling an obligation to right history's wrongs. And they point to continuing disparities disadvantaging blacks as a group. So they make an extra effort to be sensitive and maybe once in awhile the ones with power even let their thumb rest on the scale when it comes to redressing past grievances.''
Duke quotes a Financial Times piece by Christopher Caldwell about a new book, called Racial Paranoia:
''...In Racial Paranoia (Basic Books, $26/�15.99), the University of Pennsylvania anthropologist John L. Jackson Jr suggests that extravagant theories of white racism - from the widespread Aids rumour to Louis Farrakhan's allegation that the US actually blew up the levees to cause the deadly New Orleans floods during Hurricane Katrina - have their roots in the decorous language that mostly white leaders have invented for talking about race.
The US has not managed to eliminate racism, Mr Jackson thinks, but it has succeeded in eliminating racist talk. Remarks the slightest bit "insensitive" draw draconian punishment. White people, because they feel thoroughly oppressed by this regime, assume that it must be some kind of "gift" to minorities, especially blacks.
It is not. It is more like a torment. It renders the power structure more opaque to blacks than it has ever been, leaving what Mr Jackson calls a "scary disconnect between the specifics of what gets said and the hazy possibilities of what kinds of things are truly meant". If the historic enemies of your people suddenly began talking about you in what can fairly be called a secret code, how inclined would you be to trust in their protestations of generosity?''
Duke talks about how most politically correct people choose to lie to themselves rather than be faced with the uncomfortable choice of telling dangerous and unpopular truths, or feigning belief in them (and thus being hypocritical). It makes more sense to talk oneself into believing the platitudes on race, thus avoiding a real and painful examination of the issue.
Duke makes a lot of sense here, although I am not certain that I quite understand the point Christopher Caldwell is making in the quote above.
But if I understand Duke's idea of ''cultural affirmative action", I take it to mean the kind of extra consideration and leeway most well-intentioned people give to minorities. I've done it, and many if not most of you probably have, too.
Ever since the 60s and the Civil Rights revolution, and even before then, there was a perception that black people and other minorities, to a lesser extent, had it hard, and that they needed to be treated rather more charitably than fellow whites. These days, it's almost never condescension which motivates this kind of exaggerated politeness and saccharine niceness, but it's a genuine admiration on the part of many people who really do see minorities, particularly blacks, as being better than the rest of us in some ways, according to the trendy popular 'wisdom' of our day. Blacks, supposedly, have more style; they can dance. They are funnier. They are more expressive, whereas we are inhibited, stiff, and uptight. They have more verve and more hipness. And then there's the victimhood thing, which in our strange age is seen as an attractive quality; victimhood confers a kind of aura of nobility and worth to the victim. They are by definition good and innocent, and put-upon by evil people -- which in this context is us, or at least our racial brethren. Some people assuage their own sense of guilt by scolding and condemning their fellow whites so as to distance themselves and establish their own moral superiority. So pride and vanity play a part in this; it isn't all altruism or conspicuous generosity towards ones' lessers.
I think this exaggerated solicitude for minorities has roots in the idea that they really are in fact not our equals, but yet it's reassuring somehow to think that if only WE did more to 'help' them, their lives would be improved. The fact that they are not in every way our equals, economically or socially, is seen as our fault. So this in effect makes us feel that we have power over their circumstances; if we caused their ''plight'' then we can correct it also. We are again in a superior position. I wonder if liberals ever stop and think about it from that angle? I doubt it.
I can think of a number of cases when, as a liberal, I practiced this kind of 'affirmative action' towards blacks. When I had black employees under my supervision and authority, I tended to cut them more slack, and to be less likely to reprimand or 'crack down' on them. I wanted to be seen as a decent person and of course that meant leaning over backward to establish that I was not racist, but in fact their 'friend.' Was my leniency and preferential treatment appreciated? No; I was in fact taken advantage of because of it. I was viewed as something of a target, someone whose foolish good nature was to be exploited. I knew it and allowed it to happen because I was so indoctrinated.
Yet it took me years to acknowledge it.
Earlier, in the late 60s when I was a student, there were suddenly many black students in college because of outreach efforts, and many of them were not college material -- just as many of all races these days are not.
I had a black female classmate with a pronounced 'attitude' who constantly complained, loudly, that whites had everything easy, had everything handed to them, while Negroes (that was the accepted word then) had to struggle for everything. Whenever I got an A on a test, she would say it was because of my color, whereas her D's were because of her color. She asked, eventually, to cheat off my exam papers -- and, more fool me, I allowed her to. Why? Was it guilt? I really and truly did not feel guilty, and even less did I believe that anybody 'handed' everything to me; I knew I worked and studied for my A's, and I could see that she was not an A student; it wasn't ''prejudice'' that caused her low grades. But I suppose I felt sorry for her, because I knew she would have a tough time finishing college -- and maybe that is ''racism'' -- or is it realism?
But I was exhibiting racial bias when I let her cheat off my exam paper; I would never have let a white student do that. I was showing pro-black bias. And I'm not the only one to have done so. It's even more rife, this pro-minority bias, today than it was then.
When I hear the constant cries of racism, I find it ironic, because the most common form of racism exhibited by white people is the racial favoritism and altruism they show toward blacks. I have seen far more fawning over blacks than I have ever seen gratuitous unkindness toward blacks. I've witnessed far more white people, say, in retail settings, being excessively, fulsomely friendly towards blacks, while being indifferent or even rude toward their fellow whites. I've seen plenty of whites engaging in arguments with fellow whites over racial matters, and siding with minorities against their own fellow whites. This is the most common form of racial bias I see: anti-white, pro-minority racial bias. I see many whites who can scarcely say a good word about their fellow whites but who can only fawn over blacks and other minorities. It carries no social stigma to discriminate against fellow whites in favor of minorities, whereas any careless word to or about minorities risks considerable consequences. And the more 'multicultural' and open we are, the more social prestige accrues to us.
Why, then, do blacks and other minorities perceive so much rudeness and discrimination in their interactions with whites? How can it be that I see whites being ingratiating and smarmy towards minorities, while minorities claim that whitey is usually rude and insulting to them?
In my own personal experience, I've seen instances where the casual rudeness of a retail clerk, for example, is perceived subjectively as being racially motivated, even when it is utterly impersonal. I knew a woman who was convinced that a snooty clerk was condescending to her specifically because of her race, although there was no indication that race was a factor at all. As I tried to tell her: the offending woman was simply ill-mannered. We all encounter such people. But when you see the world completely through a racial prism, and imagine that every unpleasant thing that happens in life is due to ''racism'' then you will see racism everywhere. I think much, if not most, of the complaints of 'bias' and 'racism' are rooted in nothing more than the random rudeness we all have to deal with in our increasingly uncivil society. I wonder if blacks really believe that they and only they have to deal with incivility or casual rudeness? I think in their fantasies about ''white privilege'' they believe that whites truly have a red carpet laid out for them wherever they go, and that life is all smooth sailing for whites.
I think whites, too, have come to believe in the idea of 'white privilege' and they are forever overcompensating for this imagined privilege. Maybe when we are fully second- or third-class citizens (after blacks and Hispanics) in our own country will people feel that the 'playing field has been leveled.'
And those whites who are motivated by a feeling of pity because of the disparities between the races, as I was in my misguided youth, have to come to a realization as I did that life is inherently unfair, and that above all, we are not responsible for everybody. It is not in our power to be godlike and make everybody equal to everybody else. We can't remove all the obstacles that life puts in the paths of minorities; it is not possible for us to make things easy and comfortable for the entire world. The best we can do is to take care of ourselves and those nearest to us should they need help. We are not superhuman. People who truly believe in 'equality' as an ideal should recognize that we are at least equal in our lack of omnipotence. None of us can eliminate life's travails, and to acknowledge our common human limitations would be a first step towards getting over our liberal god complex.

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