Tag Archives: Racism

This Election Marks The End Of America’s Racial Détente

Thought-provoking article by David Marcus in The Federalist, arguing that America has always been deeply divided on race, and at best there was a détente, never a consensus. And this election has shattered that.

There is a misconception that political correctness was responsible for the breakdown of the racial détente. This is incorrect. Political correctness, as loose a term as it is, was the means by which we continually renegotiated the terms of the deal. After all, the primary rules for whites had exactly to do with what was acceptable to say.

Privilege theory and the concept of systemic racism dealt the death blow to the détente. In embracing these theories, minorities and progressives broke their essential rule, which was to not run around calling everyone a racist. As these theories took hold, every white person became a racist who must confess that racism and actively make amends. Yet if the white woman who teaches gender studies at Barnard with the Ben Shahn drawings in her office is a racist, what chance do the rest of have?

Within the past few years, as privilege theory took hold, many whites began to think that no matter what they did they would be called racist, because, in fact, that was happening. Previously there were rules. They shifted at times, but if adhered to they largely protected one from the charge of racism.

It’s worth reading in its entirety even if you don’t agree with his conclusions. America is a racially-divided nation for reasons going back to that nation’s early history in a way that’s sometimes difficult for Europeans to comprehend. But many of the academic theories that arose in that American context have crossed the Atlantic.

One thing that makes it hard to have constructive conversations with those who aren’t steeped in academic theory is that there is no longer a consensus on what the word “racist” even means. Does it mean individual bigotry towards members of races other than your own? Or does it refer to structures of power that put minorities at a disadvantage? Or does it mean both?

The worlds of left-academia and activism have redefined the word to take exclusively the second of those meanings. That’s fine within closed spaces where everyone shares the same assumptions and definitions. But when people move outside those spaces into the wider world that doesn’t share those assumptions, it’s easy for people to end up talking past one another. It also means that appalling bigots like Arthur Chu and Bahar Mustafa can deny accusation of racism because “You can’t be racist against white people”. See also the frightening rise of anti-Semitism on the left, justified because Jews are defined as “privileged”.

The liberal-left needs to continue opposing racism and sexism that blights lives, divides communities, and keeps people from fulfilling their potential. But it also needs to recognise that the current iteration of identity politics has failed with disastrous consequences, and something smarter needs to take its place.

At the moment a lot of people are still in shock over the election result, they’re hurt, angry and justifiably afraid. It’s still too early to be too aggressive in calling out those who double down on identity politics. Give them the time and space to figure why things have gone wrong for themselves.

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Jackie Walker is the #AllLivesMatter of the Left

Padraig Reidy has had enough of Momentum chair Jackie Walker constant dog-whistle antisemitism, and concludes her supporters in Labour have a question to answer.

Like a not-as-clever-as-she-thinks-he-is white woman posting an “All Lives Matter” meme, or a whinging Men’s Rights Activist demanding to know when is International Men’s Day. Walker, with her ignorant complaint about Holocaust Memorial Day has revealed something about herself: there is no reason to question the phrase Black Lives Matter unless you have a problem with black people. There is no reason to complain about the idea of International Women’s Day unless you have a problem with women. And there is no real reason to question the validity of Holocaust Memorial Day unless your problem is with the people who suffered most during the Holocaust.

I wonder how much of this nonsense is the endgame of the Top Trumps style “Oppression Olympics” that has taken hold of the middle-class left. Where you divide the world into “Priviledged” and “Oppressed”, and move Jews and gay men into the “Privileged” column because a tiny number of them are wealthy and powerful, you end up legitimising dangerous bigotries.

Many German Jews were wealthy and successful in pre-war Germany. That didn’t stop the Nazis loading them into cattle trucks and sending them to the death camps. This is why “It’s not racist if you’re not as oppressed as X” in dangerous.

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Goodbye Nero

So Twitter have finally had enough and banned the notorious troll Milo Yiannopoulos, @Nero for his part in egging on the racist harassers of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones. Much of Twitter erupted in cheers. His 300,000-strong alt-right fanbase cried foul.

Let’s get one thing straight. Yiannopoulos deserved to be perma-banned from Twitter. He’s repeatedly and flagrantly violated Twitter’s Terms of Service, not just sailing close to the line but driving a coach and horses through the spirit of the rules.

Kicking him off Twitter is probably a net gain for free speech. That’s because the fear of being the centre of a witch hunt has a silencing effect. The mob is as an effective censor as the bureaucrat with the red pencil, and as with all censors, the goal is for force people to self-censor, to make whatever things the censors don’t like become unsayable. And it’s all based on power.

Yes, it’s too little, too late. And it does look as though Twitter only acted because the latest ugly eruption involved a celebrity. Twitter does need to be consistent and transparent in the way it enforces its own rules, and needs to devote enough resources to do the job properly, things which are not currently happening. Making a public example of Yiannopoulos just looks like a quick-and-dirty fix, and a very political one at that. Especially when by no means are all of the awful, abusive people on Twitter on the right.

Twitter has had a problem with trolls and mobbings for years, and it goes back long before movements like GamerGate or the rise of the alt-right. Go back a few years and it was parts of the so-called progressive left who were leading the witch hunts and harassing people who said or did anything they didn’t like. The worst parts of social-justice call-out culture were a frightening thing, and one false move could put anyone in their crosshairs. That had the effect of legitimising the tactics that Yiannopoulos and his ilk would later use in the service of right-wing causes. One you claim there are no bad tactics, only bad targets, you hand a terrible weapon to your enemies.

Twitter does need a rethink about what it’s for and what it does best. At its best it’s a great conversation space that’s most effective for interaction with your peers rather than the unequal relationship between celebrities and ordinary people. And because it’s far more mainstream it breaks down when subsets of people try to import the values of subcultures that developed places like 4chan or Tumblr which become toxic outside of those spaces.

(Given the subject, comments are closed on this post)

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Ken Livingstone and the Anti-Semitism of the Left

This is the state of British politics in 2016

Anti-Semitism is of course no laughing matter, and the Labour Party have done the right thing and suspended him. But Livingstone and his apologists have doubled down and insist he’s done nothing wrong.

If you make no distinction between a nation’s government, its people, and those worldwide who share the same ethnicity, you are a racist. It really is that simple. Trying to deflect the issue by pointing out all the horribly racist things Boris Johnson has said in the past just doesn’t wash. That’s classic “whatabouterty”; as my mother always said, two wrongs don’t make a right.

When the left have adopted a form of radical identity politics in which everyone is classed as either “Privileged” or “Oppressed” on the basis of their ethnicity, gender and sexuality, it’s hard not to see a connection with the rise of anti-Semitism, something that always used to be associated with the far right. Jews, like Gay Men, have been moved out of the “Oppressed” category because a minority of them have become wealthy and successful, and some very old and very dangerous bigotries have been allowed to come back to life.

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Phil Anselmo and Racist Idiocy

There is very good piece in Metal Hammer on why Phil Anselmo’s ‘White Power’ outburst shouldn’t be ignored. Plenty of metal fans are quite disgusted with this, and as the Metal Hammer piece notes, it’s not an isolated incident; he’s got past form for this sort of thing. He really ought ton have know better and not be such an idiot.

I wouldn’t blame any concert promoters for refusing to work with him or festival organisers who’d rather not have him on the bill. Getting dropped from a festival or two might concentrate his mind. Like Eric Clapton’s infamous endorsement of Enoch Powell in the 70s, he deserves to have this haunt him for years.

I guess I’m lucky that none of my biggest musical heroes have said or done indefensible things while off their heads on drink or drugs. There are one of two people for whom the less I know about their socio-political views the better. And no, I’m not going to mention any names.

The cultural climate is such that the metal world needs to go into damage limitation mode at the moment. The worst-case scenario would be an outbreak of ignorant thinkpieces by the usual suspects who have little understanding of metal subculture using Anselmo’s drunken idiocy to denouce metal itself as inherently racist. That would be followed by the inevitable defensive reaction from knuckle-dragging idiots screeching “SJWs are attackig metal”.  The metal world can really do without an equivalent of the toxicity surrounding Gamergate.

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#StandWithAhmed

AhmedTwitter is ablaze again. This time it’s about the story of Ahmed the 14 year old Texan schoolboy arrested for taking a home-made clock into school. The whole thing is a perfect storm of small-town xenophobia and the idiotic “zero tolerance” policies so beloved of small-minded petty authoritarians.

Of course they knew it wasn’t a bomb. You can tell they knew it wasn’t a bomb by the simple fact they didn’t evacuate the school. As was pointed out on Twitter, there’s a strong element of humiliating the irritating smart kid who won’t conform. You wonder why bullying of “geeks” is endemic in American schools? It’s because whole educational cultures from administrators down encourage it.

A educational establishment that stifles the enthusiasm of the next generation of scientists and engineers isn’t going to produce a community with a thriving technology industry. I can’t imagine any startup or existing business wanting to open a new regional office wanting to invest in Irving, Texas. It’s a town that gives the impression it only wants to turn out insurance salesmen.

Not that racism isn’t still a major factor when the town’s mayor is a noxious bigot and is loudly defending the school’s actions in order to play to his racist base. And in The Great Venn Diagram Of Life, “Small-minded petty authoritarian” and “Racist bigot” have a significant overlap.

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Birth Defects of a Nation

Great piece by Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian on the terrible Charleston massacre.

Race and guns are the birth defects of the American republic, their distorting presence visible in the US constitution itself. The very first article of that founding document spelled out its view that those “bound to service for a term of years” – slaves – would count as “three fifths of all other Persons”. Meanwhile, the second amendment enshrines “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”.

It’s a sad fact that any attempt to tighten laws on guns is a lost cause in America, such is the cultural and political power of the gun lobby. Not even the terrible massacre of children at Sandy Hook could shift the Overton Window. The gun lobby considers that dead children are an acceptable price to pay for the right to bear arms in the same way that road accidents are an acceptable price for personal mobility.

The differemce is that it’s impossible to imagine any motor industry successfully lobbying against every single proposal to improve road safety in quite the same way as the NRA opposes every measure to make it marginally more difficult for would-be killers to get hold of guns.

And when it comes to race, it’s notable that Republican politicians refuse to name what happened at Charleston as a race-hate crime. It’s as if they think racists are an important voting bloc…

Addendum: Some background on the “3/5ths of a person” in the quoted part of the linked piece. I know Wikipedia isn’t a completely unbiased source, especially for controversial subjects, but it’s a starting point. Not that anything invalidates Freedland’s central point about the structural racism that goes back to America’s early history.

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Culture Wars Battle of the Week

Bahar MustafaThis week’s social media outrage is all about Bahar Mustafa, the Diversity Officer for the Student Union of Goldsmiths College in London. First there was some controversy surrounding a diversity event from which white men were excluded, which quite probably got blown up out of all proportion. Then there were some allegedly offensive posts on Twitter using the #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag.

Now it’s all over the media, and she could end up losing her job.

Her defence of her behaviour isn’t helping.

She then defended her position on camera, saying ethnic minority women cannot be racist as they “do not stand to gain” from inequality.

Now I know that the American-originated Critical Race Theory redefines racism as “prejudice plus power”. But that not what the word means in common everyday usage in the wider world. Not only that, Britain’s laws on racial discrimination use the older and more widely understood definition.

But she added the uses of hashtags such as “kill all white men” on her personal account were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

Ah yes, the old “It’s just banter” defence. That worked so well when used by racist footballers. My own use of social media follows the principle “Never say on Twitter what you can’t justify to your employer or your mum”. That would have been good advice for Bahar Mustafa, or indeed anyone in a highly visible public position.

At this point it would be easy to paint Bahar Mustafa as a bad actor in the same vein as Lutfur Rahman or Benjanun Sriduangkaew. But a more charitable explanation might be that she simply lacks the self-awareness to realise how her remarks could be interpreted outside the self-referential bubble of academic leftism.

If there is a genuine need for so-called “safe spaces” for minorities at Goldsmiths College, then surely it ought to possible to articulate the reasons for them without using risible canards that play into the hands of white racism.

On the other hand you do wonder whether the middle-class identity politics that constantly casts white men rather than the wealthy elites as the villains actually achieves much when it comes to tackling serious structural inequality. When taken out of academia into the real world, it certainly won’t be terribly effective at winning over the traditional working-class vote that progressive forces need if they are ever to win elections and form governments.

Still, calls for Bahar Mustafa to be prosecuted are utterly ridiculous. As to whether she gets to keep her job is a matter for her employer, Goldsmiths College Student’s Union, not a mob of random people on the internet with virtual torches and pitchforks.

And nobody deserves death threats, no matter who they offend.

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Is Lovecraft’s racism central to the horror?

I had an interesting if brief discussion on Twitter with feminist writer and activist Laurie Penny about H. P. Lovecraft. Despite his reactionary and misanthropic world-view, she’s a big fan and stated that his massive racism and sexism are an intrinsic part of the horror.

You don’t have to read much Lovecraft to recognise that his work is shot through with racism. It’s not just having a cat called “Nigger Boy”; stories like the iconic “Call of Cthulhu” are filled with awful racial stereotypes, and a primal fear of miscegenation lies at the heart of “The Shadow Over Innsmouth“.

Yet almost all Lovecraft fans I know are left-leaning in their politics and strongly anti-racist. This may just be a reflection of the sorts of people I hang out with online, but I can’t think of many HPL fans with robustly right-wing views. Certainly I’ve seen no evidence of hordes of Lovecraft fans who embrace his racism and sexism in the manner of a noisy faction of Robert Heinlein fanboys.

What are your feelings about Lovecraft? Do you or people you know find his racism too much to stomach? Are there hordes of ultra-reactionary Deep Ones that embrace his values who I’m blissfully unaware of?

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There is more than enough great guitar-shredding hard rock in the world that isn’t made by racist, sexist assholes. Therefore there is absolutely no reason why anyone ever needs to listen to the music of Ted Nugent.

Posted on by Tim Hall | Comments Off