The strange new prejudice of some liberals

Sam Smith – In the past few years liberal discussion of ethnicity has taken a curious turn. The traditional underlying principle of the war against prejudice has been the evil of  sweeping assumptions based on skin color or culture. Yet today the victims of this evil and their liberal supporters are increasingly using terms like “white privilege” or “white supremacy” to describe anyone of light skin color and their presumed feelings. Few seem to notice that if the same sort of language was used against blacks or latinos, it would be known as “racism.”

The origins of this trend may have some of its roots in what I have come to think of as “niche activism,” which is to say activism based on the presumed perfection of one’s cause combined with a lower impression of those not part of it. At its worst the others are condemned, which is considered an effective activist technique even if adds not one person to the cause and may further alienate many. The Internet, with its tendency to attract people to their own political and cultural coves, plays a role in this.

Another factor has been the increased role of academia in shaping people’s views of current issues. While in the 1960s there were plenty of college students involved in protests, their professors largely ignored the underlying issues and there certainly wasn’t a widely accepted academic analysis of the various causes of resistance.

Now there Is so much academic cultural analysis out on the streets that it is often mistakenly seen as an effective response to real life situations, say like the St Louis police department.

As the son of someone who worked in the New Deal and having covered and been active in the 1960s and the Great Society’s reaction to it, I am sometimes stunned not only be how passive liberalism has become but how little attention is paid to dealing with actual issues and building cross cultural alliances to deal with them.

Key to this in the past has been the blending of social and economic matters. I tell people that we have always had evangelical working class white guys; we just used to call them New Deal Democrats.  And that Roosevelt got more economic bills through in his first 100 days than liberals have done in the past 30 years.

Key to changing this is to cut back on analysis and organize around issues. Nothing changes people’s assumptions about others more strongly than to discover that they heartily agree on something.

And this is not just a cultural observation, it is also a mathematical one  If you are part of the 13% of the country that is black, you need the support of approximately three times your ethnic total to get anything done. Besides there are almost  twice as many low income whites as there are blacks, folks who probably don’t appreciate being accused of “white privilege.”

The secret Is to bring issue based activism to the front, especially issues that cut across cultural lines – how money is handled being a primary example. To bear in mind that the goal is not to condemn but to convert. To remember the best definition of a saint, namely a sinner who tries harder.

And, especially if you’re academic, not to oversimplify ethnic relations with broad theories but to examine and describe the complexities of ethnicity.  Bear in mind that liberals rarely speak of multi-ethnicity, even referring to their last bi-ethnic president as black even though he spent more time at Harvard Law School than he did with a black parent. In other words, even to liberals, Obama’s skin color was more important than his actual cultural background.

Through such means liberals can do better applying the principles they purport to support – emphasizing issues over analysis, conversion over condemnation, and celebrating our ethnic complexity rather than joining the misguided in oversimplified and false generalities.

 

 

Sam Smith – In the past few years liberal discussion of ethnicity has taken a curious turn. The traditional underlying principle of the war against prejudice has been the evil of  sweeping assumptions based on skin color or culture. Yet today the victims of this evil and their liberal supporters are increasingly using terms like “white privilege” or “white supremacy” to describe anyone of light skin color and their presumed feelings. Few seem to notice that if the same sort of language was used against blacks or latinos, it would be known as “racism.”

 

The origins of this trend may have some of its roots in what I have come to think of as “niche activism,” which is to say activism based on the presumed perfection of one’s cause combined with a lower impression of those not part of it. At its worst the others are condemned, which is considered an effective activist technique even if adds not one person to the cause and may further alienate many. The Internet, with its tendency to attract people to their own political and cultural coves, plays a role in this.

 

Another factor has been the increased role of academia in shaping people’s views of current issues. While in the 1960s there were plenty of college students involved in protests, their professors largely ignored the underlying issues and there certainly wasn’t a widely accepted academic analysis of the various causes of resistance.

 

Now there Is so much academic cultural analysis out on the streets that it is often mistakenly seen as an effective response to real life situations, say like the St Louis police department.

 

As the son of someone who worked in the New Deal and having covered and been active in the 1960s and the Great Society’s reaction to it, I am sometimes stunned not only be how passive liberalism has become but how little attention is paid to dealing with actual issues and building cross cultural alliances to deal with them.

 

Key to this in the past has been the blending of social and economic matters. I tell people that we have always had evangelical working class white guys; we just used to call them New Deal Democrats.  And that Roosevelt got more economic bills through in his first 100 days than liberals have done in the past 30 years.

Key to changing this is to cut back on analysis and organize around issues. Nothing changes people’s assumptions about others more strongly than to discover that they heartily agree on something.

 

And this is not just a cultural observation, it is also a mathematical one  If you are part of the 13% of the country that is black, you need the support of approximately three times your ethnic total to get anything done. Besides there are almost  twice as many low income whites as there are blacks, folks who probably don’t appreciate being accused of “white privilege.”

 

The secret Is to bring issue based activism to the front, especially issues that cut across cultural lines – how money is handled being a primary example. To bear in mind that the goal is not to condemn but to convert. To remember the best definition of a saint, namely a sinner who tries harder.

 

And, especially if you’re academic, not to oversimplify ethnic relations with broad theories but to examine and describe the complexities of ethnicity.  Bear in mind that liberals rarely speak of multi-ethnicity, even referring to their last bi-ethnic president as black even though he spent more time at Harvard Law School than he did with a black parent. In other words, even to liberals, Obama’s skin color was more important than his actual cultural background.

 

Through such means liberals can do better apply the principles they purport to support emphasizing issues over analysis, conversion over condemnation, and celebrating our ethnic complexity rather than joining the misguided in oversimplified and false generalities.

Advertisements

One thought on “The strange new prejudice of some liberals

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s