Mouse rant blog vent mouse.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Collective responsibility

I love this quote from Atrios on Malkin's new book defending racial profiling and internment:

But, what can we say about people who advocate collective guilt based on ethnicty?

Isn't that the entire argument against "political correctness", educating white kids about their own privelige, and reparations? That libruls are making good white people feel needlessly guilty about racism and stuff? Hey, our grandparents owned slaves but we didn't, so why should we have to learn about it? That's the argument, if I recall.

Now, mind you, none of those things that are railed against are actually about making white people feel guilt for being white. "Political correctness" is the nasty word conservatives whip out when someone is being asked to explain himself when he said something racist. Teaching white kids about white privilege is for their own benefit, believe it or not. The "let them eat cake" attitude hasn't served the privileged so well in the past and I don't see how it's helpful now. Reparations are an idea that's being floated to help address the financial losses that have injured generations due to our government's acceptance of slavery. Contrary to popular belief, it's not a tax that would be wielded on white people to be given to black people. It would be from everyone's tax dollars, and as much as David Horowitz would like to pretend otherwise, black people pay taxes, too. None of these things were concocted in order to make white people feel guilty. That's just more racist arrogance to believe that everyone else obsesses so much about white people that they are willing to make laws just to make whites feel guilty. Whatever--no one cares that much about what keeps Trent Lott up at night.

All of which is a long way to say this: How is it that in the conservative mind, causing a few white people to have guilty feelings due to what their ancestors and/or themselves have done one of the worst things possible, but stripping others of their freedom, privacy, and property simply because they are the same race as people who've committed crimes acceptable, and even honorable? I remember all the screaming and yelling after the Oklahoma bombing when Clinton suggested that it might be aggravating the situation for talk show hosts to spew hatred day in and day out and a few people called for the investigation of the militia groups that educated the likes of Timothy McVeigh. It was wrong, conservatives said, to hold everyone in the militia groups responsible for what one of theirs did. Even suggesting that talk show hosts consider a respect for truth and reasonable rhetoric was outright censorship. But now that the terrorists are brown, it's okay to treat anyone who may have known they however we like.

33 Comments:

Blogger The News Writer said...

You raise good questions. Remember how much Janet Reno's Justice Department was raked through the coals for its actions ... OKC, Waco, those Montana dudes ... for what it's worth, and to inject a little humour here, after the Freemen and the Unabomber in Montana (which coincided with the mad cow frenzy in England) I once saw a bumper sticker that said: MONTANA. At least our cows are sane.

8/03/2004

 
Blogger Earnest said...

If you are wondering what happened to the position of power progressives once possessed, look no further than political correctness. People don't like being told what to think by the left any more than they like being told what to think by the right. Political correctness was an even more sinister attempt at squashing dissent than the boldfaced Republican version we've seen these past two years. Political correctness made it disagreeable to think or speak about topics, groups, and people without using majority-mandated language.

Consider this. The School of Social Work at Columbia University (my girlfriend is getting her Masters there) issues a handbook that includes a index of acceptable language for Social Work writing. That list includes euphemisms like "Person living with AIDS" in place of "AIDS patient." They both mean the same thing, one is longer and clunkier but preferrred because it "humanizes" the patient. This is fine in an academic setting, which was the original setting for political correctness, but once the concept seeps into the general public, you reach a point where you're telling people what to think and how to talk.

Is there anything wrong with teaching white kids about slavery, the failed policies of Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights movement? Certainly not. Expecting them to feel that those things merit reparations might be a little wrong. Buying textbooks which emphasize those historical events and trends with the intent of producing such a feeling might be more wrong. Having those feelings as a mandated outcome, enforced by by lowering a grade when the student has a different opinion on the subject probably definitely should be wrong. Where do you start, and where do you stop?

Should I be reviled for refusing to call myself an African American, opting for Black, instead? What about because I think that the once-mighty NAACP is quickly becoming a useless body? What about my agreeing with Bill Cosby's recent comments (which were no different from Chris Rock's)? Those aren't politically correct thoughts so of course I'd be abused by the Left for those notions-- that's the tolerant thing to do, right?

A little bit of education goes a long way, and, once educated, people tend to make the right choices. You don't need to call people "developmentally challenged" instead of handicapped for us to realize that those people are people who are capable of doing most of the things non-handicapped people are, that they can be kind, mean, funny, and rotten, too. Just educate people on the accomplishments and triumphs of those people, and you'll find most of your work will be done for you.

8/04/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't see how clunky and irritating political correctness from the left is more dangerous than the right's attempts to control dissent through arrest, physical intimidation, explicitly racist policy, and even financial intimidation. I'm sorry if I don't feel more sorry for a person who is told not to use racial slurs in the classroom than someone who is put in prison indefinitely for the color of his skin.

8/04/2004

 
Blogger Earnest said...

That you don't see the problem is precisely the problem. The argument in favor of policies that counteract institutionalized racism or sexism is that those forms of racism and sexism are as sinister as overt displays because they covertly reinforce racism and sexism while allowing the people who benefit to remain guilt-free. Well, the coercive nature of political correctness is similarly covert and allows its advocates to remain guilt-free about their role in trying to force people to think, believe, or speak a certain way.

8/05/2004

 
Blogger The News Writer said...

And here I thought "political correctness" was something the right wing made up to create something that looked "sinisted," sort of like the Catholic Church created "black magic" to justify the Inquisition.

It's not "seeping" out anywhere when social workers, ferchrissake, are being taught to be a little more sensitive to the people they are dealing with on a day to day basis.

8/05/2004

 
Blogger Earnest said...

Would you call a wheelchair-bound person handicapped or be ok with someone else calling such a person handicapped? If so, then I take back everything I've just said.

8/05/2004

 
Blogger Amanda said...

I agree that sometimes political correctness is used to reinforce racism, etc. But that kind of political correctness is the tool of the right--they decry racism and hire black people, but ONLY to work to make excuses for racist policy.
As for us liberals being oh-so-PC, yes, there are a few. But most--no way. I don't police myself and don't care if anyone else does much either. In fact, I think people should say what they mean--but when someone openly uses racial slurs, he/she should not complain when they receive social ostracism. Too bad.

8/05/2004

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These days, "political correctness" is a joke, a parody of itself, not actual rules that the public thinks it needs to follow. It simply doesn't exist in mainstream America.

In almost every conversation I've had, references to our overtly-politically correct society have been nothing more than red herrings. Calling someone on something they've said that's overtly racist or homophobic is not the same as being "politically correct," but that's what the Right is trying to do: make people who object to certain words or sentiments look like uptight censors, so they can get away with more and more offensive pronouncements.

Last time I checked, it wasn't called a "developmentally-challenged parking space."

8/05/2004

 
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