Tuesday, September 18, 2018


I am told that Ijeoma Oluo, who pops up now and again on the local NPR station's "Week In Review" show, defines racism as: "any prejudice against someone because of their race, when those views are reinforced by systems of power." The addition of "when those views are reinforced by systems of power," is somewhat important, because, for many people, it determines whether or not there is actual racism involved when the prejudice against someone is because they're White. Ms. Oluo is a proponent of a school that says since White people have "the power" in American society, a Native American with a prejudice against Whites is not racist. because of their lack of access to systems of power. The more common way of understanding it, at least in American society, is that they would be "reverse racist," working under an idea that racism has a natural direction, flowing from Whites and towards non-Whites.

My personal view simply drops the whole systems of power dynamic, and defines all prejudice against someone because of their race as racism. But still, not all racism is created equally. Where the systems of power come into play is in relevance. Anyone can be a racist, regardless of their access to systems of power. But without that access, no-one cares. Well, almost no-one. The American Right seems to have become just as brittle and hypersensitive to hints of racial animosity as the best of them. And I think that this is, in part, because the small faction of political America that can actually be described as racist and reactionary, has found a home on the Right.

Anti-White racism, whether it's relevant to Whites' life chances or not, plays into a racist fantasy of an uprising of vengeful non-Whites. The risk of such an uprising then becomes an argument for further oppression, since the potential for a bloody settling of scores (the "race war" that's always right around the corner, but never actually reality) must be defended against. And so oppressive institutions and habits can be decried as unwarranted transgressions in the past, but unfortunate necessities in the present. And for the few people who one could describe as genuinely malicious, it creates a "heads-they-win, tails-others-lose" scenario. Passivity and forgiveness in the face of oppression can be taken as acceptance, implicit or explicit; while anger and combativeness become justifications.

There are times when I understand that our current society is driven by a lesson of history that people often think has gone unlearned. If you view the colonization of the Americas as the model of what happens when one group of people moves into an area inhabited by another, persistent xenophobia makes a level of sense. If one presumes that had the Native Americans been as united in their opposition to the coming of Europeans as we understand modern xenophobes wish their groups would be, they would still own the continents and their resources, it may be rational to treat every refugee as a potential fraudster. It males sense to demand that others assimilate if you understand that, especially in North America, that the "New World" only turned out the way it did because the colonists, pioneers and settlers refused to assimilate to the cultures of the people they encountered.

And this seems like the world that we presently live in. One where supposed "systems of power" prompt the people who benefit from them to look to monocultures as less taxing than the alternatives, and therefore richer, especially when they are created by either expelling the undesirable from productive areas or forcing them to contribute more than they are remunerated. And so, perhaps, in anti-White racism, the White racist sees history mirrored back at them, only this time, they're the ones with a boot on their necks. And if the only freedom from oppression is freedom of oppression, the reflection serves their purposes, regardless of how distorted it is.

The only thing that will do in human "tribalism" is selection pressure (and even that is unlikely to be absolute). If, other things being roughly equal, societies made up of diverse members who are all free to share in the community's resources are contribute to its success manage visibly better than the alternatives, then those societies will out-compete and displace their neighbors. "Diversity," in this sense, is an adaptive advantage, rather than an obligation to be borne.

What stands in the way of this, for most societies, is a certain middling affluence. A demographic that can do as well as it feels that it can through oppressing other segments of its community will come to see diversity as a sacrifice, as the pie is not made any larger and the more equitable distribution of pieces means that those who held the largest must now make so with less. And while there are people for whom that appeals to an inner sense of justice, for those who, despite what they have, feel they are just getting by, sharing feels like a dangerous indulgence, especially when imposed on them from outside.

This where a Leftist of race relations enters the picture, in the idea that in a sufficiently wealthy (perhaps even post-scarcity) society, there would be no impulse to racism. And perhaps this is true, although I personally think that while sufficient resources may dampen the rise of racist sentiment, once the ship leave port, no amount of wealth will expunge such sentiments quickly. If the necessity of scarcity makes a virtue of exclusionism; the death of scarcity removes the need for the virtue, but virtues, once established, die hard.

But still, it's a goal worth working for; having enough affluence that success can be the only revenge necessary to exact. This would render moot the racist fantasy of racial warfare with its valiant defense against vengefulness.

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