Monday, July 25, 2005

Pan-Whiteness and True Ethnic Pride. (No, I'm Not A Nazi. Just Read.)

Please bear with me.

I don't think whites, as whites, generally have much to be proud of in this country. I think all ethnic and racial concepts are social constructions that have virtually no intrinsic/genetic reality and in any respect, even if they did, have far less reality than, say, retardation (so even if blacks were, say, 99% as intelligent as whites on average that would say virtually nothing anyways given all the variables; but in any respect it's totally false). I've spent my time on forums peopled by advocates I very much agree with trying to critique anti-Semitism. I'm not anti-PC: I believe people have the right to be called whatever they wish. I'm pro-affirmative action. I love black radio. Frequent readers should see that give me a choice between a cracker and a brother and I'll pick a brother.

And, as I've said elsewhere:

"We now have a separate question: What should people do if they hear someone saying "gay" or "faggot", for example, even if they don't mean it "that way", either around a gay person who doesn't mind or around no gay person?I think the response is that just good faith isn't going to be fine, for a variety of reasons.

1) Minorities in this society have often learned deep accustomization and acculturation procedures whereby they don't challenge racism/homophobia/sexism even if it may bother them at a very basic level. They may repeatedly profess to be fine with it... largely because they know the consequences of not at least pretending to be "fine" with it. Tim Wise once listened to someone make a racist joke (he and others call it "white bonding", a demonstration that even if the conversation goes to anti-racist waters it's still all just white folks having a good ol' time), then said to the guy "Hey, you know what, I'm black." The guy of course recoiled. He then said, "Just kidding. But now that you know: you must hate white people." "What?!" "Because you think we're not just racists, but the type of racists that like to hear really racist jokes." Obviously one has to approach the subject with respect, ingenuity and tact (like Tim did), but I always feel that the risk for a very superficial challenging of prejudice is there when someone lets someone get away with using that type of language. We have to remember that we do not live in a society that has anything close to equity, which means even our best-minded behavior may not be enough.

2) Again, even assuming good faith, words have a history, a connotation, a psychological baggage beyond the user. Yes, intent is incredibly important, but very few would say it's wise for someone to go up to an aging soccer mom and say "Hey, you're old!", then profess loudly that by "old", one meant "young". People have to be careful and not use the "Oh, I didn't mean it" card to get out of everything. You are responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions, not simply your intent.

3) It's rather easy to profess good faith and a sort of token respect for diversity when it does not impinge upon one's preferred and expected way of living or cause any sort of harm. Sure, I like black people... never mind that I have no black friends and harbor all sorts of obviously ridiculous sentiments. Much different to be seriously anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-genderist, etc. Many times, upon questioning, people making racist jokes are just racist. That's it."

The notion of "white" as a unifying concept, compared to "black", is a fairly new one. Go back even to the 1920s and you see a massive nativist movement, discrimination against Italians ("wops" and "dagos") and Irish ("paddies") that resulted in the death of people like Italian anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti, and ludicrously racist statements about the Serbs or Bulgars or whatever Europeans you wanted to pick on. Go back a bit earlier and hatred against Germans and East European immigrants (as well as anti-Japanese and Chinese sentiment) abounded. In fact, in many respects the new nativism is far less dangerous than the old, largely due to the success of anti-racist and multicultural advocates.

At least Hitler recognized that not all whites were the same: he referred to the combined Aryan nation, a tribe of conquering horsemen who were the "master race". This is why he used the reversed swastika, a symbol of the sun god Surya. (The problem? A) Numerous other horse-using races, like the Turks and the Mongols, equally well conquered huge tracts. The Mongol Empire was actually an empire, not a loose collection of tribes in different backwoods areas of Eurasia. Genetics had nothing to do with it; to paraphrase Larry Gonick, it was equine technology. B) Like all conquering tribes, the Aryans subsumed captured tribes into their membership. That's why "Aryans" include both those on the Indian sub-continent and those in Germany.)

Why create the idea of "white", then? To create some sort of racist justification for slavery and mistreatment of blacks and to prevent the poor and weak of all races from banding together. Divide and conquer, baby.

So why do I propose "white pride?" Well, I don't really. I'm not proud of having white skin. In fact, all else being equal, I'd prefer to have Native American, black or Arabic-like skin.

But I am proud of my unique cultural heritage. I am proud that I am descended from French people living under English rule fighting for their national pride (as silly as that national struggle is now that Quebec is one of the two most dominant states in Canada; at some point, you have to realize that you've won). I am proud that my Mom fought for independence. And I know in retrospect that that activist background, that honest recognition, has made me leftist.

I also know that the fact that I knew my Mom was viewed as alien only because she spoke with an accent was a microcosm, a very small insight, into the experiences of blacks in this country, aliens to a society they were born into and know intimately. I knew the real value of respecting diversity and not dreading speaking to someone with an accent but being eagerly interested when doing so.

Further, I think that with an honest look at the unique ethnic heritage we all have, we would get the following benefits:

1) People would realize discrimination in this country is wrong, affected them personally and is as old as Columbus
2) Ridiculous racist garbage about how blacks have smaller cranial cavities or something would seem less appropriate now that people understood there wasn't a "white" race to counteract it
3) The notion of "race" would begin to disappear as people began to realize that the only thing that separates people is culture and that these other notions are laughable social constructions; and that further all these cultures can be embraced
4) Our American culture would stop being so ludicrously homogenized, and our food might stop sucking

As an aside: I've never understood why guys are racist. To deny ever wanting to have sexual experiences with black, Latino, Arab, Indian or Native American women seems to be so counter-productive.


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