Conflating Issues Doesn’t Help
Over at the Duke Chronicle there is an op-ed by a man named Bennett Carpenter entitled, “Free speech, Black lives, and white fragility“, on the topics of… all of that together. Benne, to use a shorter identifier, is thinking on free speech and the overdue discussion of racism in this country. Apparently not present on our dimension’s Earth over the last ten years Benne comes home with tales of an Earth where race has not been discussed nearly constantly in some venue, on cable news, the radio, or even online op-eds. As opposed to doing the typical fisking let me approach this in a different, perhaps gentler way. I promise not to bring up the irony of this guy going to Duke more than a few times.
The premise that there is such a thing as white fragility is absurd. There is an interesting disconnect in which white neighborhoods are expected to intermingle or accept guilt but people do not realize that many races and even sub-racial groups tend to cluster together: that’s why there’s a place called “Chinatown” in many a major city. Call it race or tribalism but the truth is that it is simple familiarity and a desire to belong. While I’ve never gone out looking for the source I heard once that the actors on the Planet of the Apes movies subconsciously stood around actors with similar monkey make up on.
It would be an interesting experiment to get together a thousand adults of varied races, split evenly male and female and also evenly among each group, and distribute to those thousand people robes of varying colors and see if they didn’t, on their own, begin to group together by robe color regardless of race or gender. If none of them were familiar with any other and all they had was a robe to connect them they might assume that this behavior is expected. When one is a stranger, one might assume physical common traits are a reason to at least momentarily group. It’s more instinct than anything else.
It is also worth noting that “race based stress” for white people may come across more vividly, and their tolerance for it appear to be less, because it is in fact a topic that has been ever-present over the last many moons. For example I am a big fan of pizza but if I were to have pizza every day for lunch over the course of ten years my tolerance for pizza outside of that would plummet to nothing. Fortunately I live in a sane world where I can choose my own lunch. Ask an adult the same question a hundred times a week and see how long it takes them to loathe the question. It isn’t a question of not being exposed to it enough, but rather too much. Especially when the narrative is often that the white people — regardless of guilt — should somehow have this overdue discussion on race. When you feel like this is being forced on you regularly and the ten-thousandth clown comes up with a new way to attempt to instill collective guilt, what else would happen?
Kevin Pollak is an actor, comedian, and impressionist. He’s probably most famous for the Usual Suspects and A Few Good Men. While Pollak and I are on different sides of many issues his humor is great, and his impressions are better. He does pitch-perfect renditions of many famous people but his Jack Nicholson is one of the best. He has a bit about meeting Jack whilst filming a Few Good Men and how, every day, his family and friends asked if ‘he’d shown Jack Nicholson his impression of Jack Nicholson. Pollak says, Like I want to be the five hundredth asshole to tell him, ‘This is how you sound!'” (For the Kasich supporters reading this: you see, EVERYONE does an impression of Jack Nicholson. He’s seen it before.)
If you have a dog and you’re not particularly nice, poke his snout every time he goes to sleep in a particular place. See how long it is before he tries finding a new place to sleep. Actually, don’t do this because it’s cruel and unusual, but the point is easy to see. Eventually the poking gets annoying. Try this one: Every time a woman driver does something you don’t like, tell your spouse how awful all women are. See how long she continues to do that thing you like. (If she is not doing that thing you like now, you have chosen poorly or acted poorly, but that’s another post.)
White supremacy doesn’t feel very painful to most white folk because, honestly, we don’t see it that often. Human minds recognize patterns and we can even introduce them where they don’t exist (hence, conspiracy theorists believing implausible or impossible things just because, despite evidence to the contrary), and when you’re always told about this boogeyman but it never actually snatches anyone it begins to seem like a topic that is just being used to hammer you for no good reason. Much like the old saw about the New York reporter/socialite that couldn’t believe Nixon won because she didn’t know anyone who would vote for the man, when you yourself aren’t racist or a white supremacist and you’ve never met one… it starts to sound like fiction.
I have, for the record, met racists and white supremacists. There’s no discussion needed, there’s no secret conspiracy. They will let you know what they believe right quick.
Further, the idea that there is a daily slaughter of people of color (how is that term not racist?) Is just as ignorant as those Benne wants to condemn, but the difference is, he’s building straw people to condemn first. It is tragic when a person interacts with the State (big S) and comes out dead but the vast majority of times this happens it has nothing to do with race. I am also confused by the continual capitalization of the word “black” whilst leaving white and brown out of the party, but perhaps that’s just a stylistic choice I missed the memo on.
Eric Garner’s death has nothing to do with free speech and everything to do with an overreaching police state and militarization of the police forces across our nation. This is a topic those of us with my sort of mindset have been sounding alarms on since well before there was a hashtag advocacy group called Black Lives Matter. When, in Texas, women are strip-searched by an overzealous police force on the side of a busy highway because a cop claims to have “smelled” marijuana, well, most anyone with any damn sense can see that is problematic. Or, when a police informant gives cops the wrong address and the SWAT teams kicks a door in on an innocent man — whose daughter is in the house — that’s a problem.
It’s especially a problem when that man shoots a police officer — because they did not identify themselves to him — and is then sentenced to death for murder. This isn’t some made up case. It happened in my state, and the man was in prison for nearly a decade before the case was thrown out. His name is Cory Maye and, surprise, he’s a black guy. Those of us that watched this case unfold, horrified by the poor way it was handled from start to end, feel like you grievance mongers might be a little late to the party. So showing up and telling us to talk about white supremacy is a certain level of obnoxious beyond a few dozen popped collars.
Free speech is more important than lives, by the way. If a person does not have liberty…well that’s a different post, too. But there’s also a strange glossing over of the actual problems people have had with these so-called anti-racist activists. It isn’t that they want to do away with racism. Very few people would argue that. It’s that many of them engage in speech-stifling behaviors that don’t actually improve race relations in any way. Instead they introduce bitterness.
When a mob of angry people scream in the face of the husband of a professor because she doesn’t think the university has any right to tell students how to dress for Halloween, that is not about free speech but harassment and mob action. While yes, the right to free speech is only guaranteed against the government, private citizens cannot stifle the rights of other private citizens. There’s a word for that when it happens but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.
It remains a murky free-speech area when it comes to a mass of people agitating for a person to lose their job for wrongthink. Perhaps there is no effective way to prevent it while holding free speech dear, but those who want to wield unemployment as a weapon need to consider two things: Any institution taking money from a state or federal program ought not be allowed to fire someone for exercising their free speech rights, and any weapon you use against your enemies can and will be used against you.
Attempting to define hate speech as a legal concept is equally dangerous footing. You see, there currently exist no actual prohibitions for hate speech. Incitement, yes, but that is narrowly defined as the Supreme Court has adopted a very narrow criteria for restricting speech. Harassment is also excepted from protection which is what many of these mobs are doing. They are harassing the “racist” targets (often men and women who either spoke clumsily or were misinterpreted) or their employer. Organized mob action to focus on a single person or entity could very easily be considered harassment but this, like all restrictions, must be governed on a case by case basis. “I can’t define it, but I know it when I see it.”
Another problem with the hate speech idea is the attempt to classify it as violence, a sin Benne is guilty of. Speech cannot be violent, and while you must act to speak by the definition of the word act, words are not actions. A link to a linguistic and language philosophy Wikipedia page doesn’t change the legal definition. Aside from the absurd idea that speech is action, defining any speech as violence cheapens the definition of the word at the expense of actual victims of violence.
In closing, this article is a bunch of hogwash. To insist that the government was built on white supremacy is to believe it hasn’t changed since it was initially built. To conflate vandalism with speech is an absurd exercise in the construction of straw men. When you misunderstand or misrepresent where people of an entire race come from then you are not bridging a divide but rather widening it.
College campuses have completed the infantilization of the participation trophy generation. Far from being the counter culture rebels of fifty years ago they are now insular children without understanding of the wider world or the people outside their so-called hallowed walls. It is both stunning and amusing how much they resemble the establishment party leaders that are so disconnected from the reality experienced by the common man or woman in this country.
Finally, it is also of note that many, if not all, of the recent hububs involving the police (Garner in NYC, Gray in B’More) or grievance mongering college students (Mizzou, Yale) have occurred in areas controlled by Democrats and lefists for a generation — and in some cases (B’More) by black leaders. Chicago is aiming to be the murder capital of the country this year but, like New Orleans, it is much more dangerous to young black men than to white men. Why is it that leftist leaders bring with them the destruction and death of minorities? How many conservative, libertarian, or moderate voices do you think exist in the decision making process at Yale?
Perhaps it’s not about white supremacy, but entitled liberals lording over the serfs.