Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion

Dec 2013
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Beware of watermelons
#1
An anthropology article from 1956 used to get around more than it does now, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” Because my mother gave it to me to read when I was 13, of course what I remember most from it is that among the Nacirema, women with especially large breasts get paid to travel and display them. Nacirema was “American” spelled backwards—get it?—and the idea was to show how revealing, and even peculiar, our society is if described from a clinical distance.

These days, there is something else about the Nacirema—they have developed a new religion. That religion is antiracism. Of course, most consider antiracism a position, or evidence of morality. However, in 2015, among educated Americans especially, Antiracism—it seriously merits capitalization at this point—is now what any naïve, unbiased anthropologist would describe as a new and increasingly dominant religion. It is what we worship, as sincerely and fervently as many worship God and Jesus and, among most Blue State Americans, more so.

To someone today making sense of the Nacirema, the category of person who, roughly, reads The New York Times and The New Yorker and listens to NPR, would be a deeply religious person indeed, but as an Antiracist. This is good in some ways—better than most are in a position to realize. This is also bad in other ways—worse than most are in a position to realize.


Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion
 
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#2
One hearkens to one’s preacher to keep telling the truth—and also to make sure we hear it often, since many of its tenets are easy to drift away from, which leads us to the next evidence that Antiracism is now a religion. It is inherent to a religion that one is to accept certain suspensions of disbelief. Certain questions are not to be asked, or if asked, only politely—and the answer one gets, despite being somewhat half-cocked, is to be accepted as doing the job.

“Why is the Bible so self-contradictory?” Well, God works in mysterious ways—what’s key is that you believe. “Why does God allows such terrible things to happen?” Well, because we have free will … and it’s complicated but really, just have faith.

It stops there: beyond this first round, one is to classify the issues as uniquely “complicated.” They are “deep,” one says, looking off into the air for a sec in a reflective mode, implying that thinking about this stuff just always leads to more questions, in an infinitely questing Talmudic exploration one cannot expect to yield an actual conclusion.

Antiracism requires much of the same standpoint. For example, one is not to ask “Why are black people so upset about one white cop killing a black man when black men are at much more danger of being killed by one another?” Or, one might ask this, very politely—upon which the answers are flabby but further questions are unwelcome. A common answer is that black communities do protest black-on-black violence —but anyone knows that the outrage against white cops is much, much vaster.

Why? Is the answer “deep,” perhaps? Charles Blow, at least deigning to take the issue by the horns, answers that the black men are killing one another within a racist “structure.” That doesn’t explain why black activists consider the white cop a more appalling threat to a black man than various black men in his own neighborhood. But to push the point means you just don’t “get” it (you haven’t opened your heart to Jesus, perhaps?). Jamelle Bouie answers that there’s a difference between being killed by a fellow citizen and being killed by a figure of authority, but does that mean “It’s not as bad if we do it to ourselves”? Of course not! … but, but (roll of the eyes) “racist,” “doesn’t get it.”

One is not to question, and people can be quite explicit about that. For example, in the “Conversation” about race that we are so often told we need to have, the tacit idea is that black people will express their grievances and whites will agree—again, no questions, or at least not real ones. Here and there lip service is paid to the idea that the Conversation would not be such a one-way affair, but just as typical is the praise that a piece like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s elicits, openly saying that white people who object to any black claims about racism are intolerably mistaken and barely worth engagement (Eddo-Lodge now has a contract to expand the blog post into a book). Usefully representative is a letter that The New York Times chose to print, which was elicited by David Brooks’s piece on Coates’s book, in which a white person chides Brooks for deigning to even ask whether he is allowed to object to some of Coates’s claims.


Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion
 
Dec 2013
32,715
19,078
Beware of watermelons
#3
The Antiracism religion, then, has clergy, creed, and also even a conception of Original Sin. Note the current idea that the enlightened white person is to, I assume regularly (ritually?), “acknowledge” that they possess White Privilege. Classes, seminars, teach-ins are devoted to making whites understand the need for this. Nominally, this acknowledgment of White Privilege is couched as a prelude to activism, but in practice, the acknowledgment itself is treated as the main meal, as I have noted in this space. A typical presentation getting around lately is 11 Things White People Need to Realize About Race, where the purpose of the “acknowledgment” is couched as “moving the conversation forward.” A little vague, no? More conversation? About what? Why not actually say that the purpose is policy and legislation?

Because this isn’t what is actually on the Antiracists’ mind. The call for people to soberly “acknowledge” their White Privilege as a self-standing, totemic act is based on the same justification as acknowledging one’s fundamental sinfulness is as a Christian. One is born marked by original sin; to be white is to be born with the stain of unearned privilege.

The proper response to original sin is to embrace the teachings of Jesus, although one will remain always a sinner nevertheless. The proper response to White Privilege is to embrace the teachings of—well, you can fill in the name or substitute others—with the understanding that you will always harbor the Privilege nevertheless. Note that many embrace the idea of inculcating white kids with their responsibility to acknowledge Privilege from as early an age as possible, in sessions starting as early as elementary school. This, in the Naciremian sense, is Sunday school.



Antiracism, Our Flawed New Religion
 
Nov 2018
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Inner Space
#5
It is always harder to make the more straight-forward case for "Proracism".
I do find it interesting how much effort is made to change racism into so other argument that legitimizes the social inequity. If conservatives spent even a fraction of the time on recognizing the institutional problems with white advantage, they would be hesitant to promote rationalizations. Of course, even in the bad old days, there were arguments such as the inalienable "right to discriminate" or "southern tradition" that were violated efforts to deal with racism.

Each step in the process of dealing with inequality seems to provoke resentful reaction and excuse making by the typical reactionary personality that cannot confront a threat to the status quo, the idea that the status quo is oppressive, and that solutions demand change.
 
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#6
It is always harder to make the more straight-forward case for "Proracism".
I do find it interesting how much effort is made to change racism into so other argument that legitimizes the social inequity. If conservatives spent even a fraction of the time on recognizing the institutional problems with white advantage, they would be hesitant to promote rationalizations. Of course, even in the bad old days, there were arguments such as the inalienable "right to discriminate" or "southern tradition" that were violated efforts to deal with racism.

Each step in the process of dealing with inequality seems to provoke resentful reaction and excuse making by the typical reactionary personality that cannot confront a threat to the status quo, the idea that the status quo is oppressive, and that solutions demand change.
That's the truth.

Is this truly so hard to understand?

“Why are black people so upset about one white cop killing a black man when black men are at much more danger of being killed by one another?”

So the premise is that a black thug killing a black kid by accident in a gang-related drive-by is, or should be, considered on a par with two white cops driving up to a black kid playing with a toy gun in a park and shooting him before even talking to him?

And if a person doesn't see things that way, he or she is a Naciremian?

I'm a Naciremian.
 
Dec 2013
32,715
19,078
Beware of watermelons
#7
That's the truth.

Is this truly so hard to understand?

“Why are black people so upset about one white cop killing a black man when black men are at much more danger of being killed by one another?”

So the premise is that a black thug killing a black kid by accident in a gang-related drive-by is, or should be, considered on a par with two white cops driving up to a black kid playing with a toy gun in a park and shooting him before even talking to him?

And if a person doesn't see things that way, he or she is a Naciremian?

I'm a Naciremian.

A low priest, in your mind at least, right. Gotta love identity politics


The proper response to original sin is to embrace the teachings of Jesus, although one will remain always a sinner nevertheless. The proper response to White Privilege is to embrace the teachings of—well, you can fill in the name or substitute others—with the understanding that you will always harbor the Privilege nevertheless. Note that many embrace the idea of inculcating white kids with their responsibility to acknowledge Privilege from as early an age as possible, in sessions starting as early as elementary school. This, in the Naciremian sense, is Sunday school.
 
Dec 2013
32,715
19,078
Beware of watermelons
#8

Behind postmodernism’s “incredulity towards metanarratives” is a belief—promoted by Michel Foucault and others—that their influence is primarily connected with power and oppression. Thus, for instance, in the minds of many postmodernist thinkers, the Enlightenment’s exaltation of reason and universal human rights has simply been a tool for white, bourgeois, Western man to dominate others. The same critique is applied by many postmodernist disciples to academic standards in today’s Western schools.

The seeds of identity politics were further sown in the philosophical writings of Jacques Derrida (1930-2004). Pluckrose explains that, for Derrida, “the author of a test is not the authority on its meaning… the reader or listener makes their own equally valid meaning.” Thus, if a speaker says something that a listener interprets as “offensive,” that “offensive” feeling is considered valid, even if it misconstrues what the speaker intended to communicate. (This line of reasoning should be very familiar to anyone who follows the news.)

Derrida’s writings focused heavily on the supposedly oppressive nature of language. According to Derrida, meaning is constructed by oppositions, which always take the form of a positive and negative. The examples Pluckrose provides: “‘Man’ is positive and ‘woman’ negative... ‘Occident’ is positive and ‘Orient’ negative.”




Postmodernism: The Philosophy Behind ‘Identity Politics’
 
Oct 2010
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#9
A low priest, in your mind at least, right. Gotta love identity politics


The proper response to original sin is to embrace the teachings of Jesus, although one will remain always a sinner nevertheless. The proper response to White Privilege is to embrace the teachings of—well, you can fill in the name or substitute others—with the understanding that you will always harbor the Privilege nevertheless. Note that many embrace the idea of inculcating white kids with their responsibility to acknowledge Privilege from as early an age as possible, in sessions starting as early as elementary school. This, in the Naciremian sense, is Sunday school.
Fail.