TimB recently visited comments to once again chide me for linking up Stacy McCain. He and others probably also induced Patterico, whom I respect, to question whether Stacy is a racist based on a statement that people naturally feel revolted by miscegenation.Which is not actually what I said in 1996, and which (mis)interpretation has been the nub of an enormous, if understandable, misunderstanding.
Go back to yesterday's post, "Your Secret Racist Buddy," in which I made reference to a young woman's discussion of interracial relationships that I had summarized in that 1996 debate -- which, I must again emphasize, was an argument with a white separatist named Dennis Wheeler. That George Kalas, Gary Waltrip, Dana Greenblatt and I were arguing for inclusiveness ought to be your first clue that my remarks weren't aimed at justifying racism.
The young woman referenced in that discussion is a black friend of mine who in 1996 had recently returned to Georgia after living in New York. Asked about the state of race relations, North and South, she said it was about the same in both places, except that there was less acceptance of interracial relationships in the South. And she meant this chiefly in regard to the black community. (Her own father is white, and she had dated many white men.)
Notice that my friend's comment is juxtaposed with a passage from Kent Steffgen's book Bondage of the Free, a right-wing critique of the civil-rights movement published in 1966. In that passage, Steffgen talked about the high degree of residential segregation in New York City -- then as now, dominated by liberal politics -- as evidence that what was being attempted under LBJ's "Great Society" was unlikely to produce real improvements in racial harmony.
My friend had been to New York, so I asked her how things were up there, and her remark about interracial relationships struck me as curious:
Why should attitudes toward dating/marriage between the races be considered a litmus test of racial harmony?As I explained in a comment at Little Miss Attila's blog, my object in that 1996 e-mail debate was to isolate the white separatist Wheeler (and any of his ideological soulmates) on very narrow grounds. Fully comprehending the subtext of his argument, I didn't want Wheeler to win sympathizers on the basis of such a "litmus test."
In other words, just because someone had personal issues about interracial relationships, there was no need for them to endorse a white separatist political agenda. "The personal is the political" is an identity-politics slogan popularized by feminists, and we see how it not only leads to feminist nonsense, but to racialist nonsense and gay-rights nonsense. Here I was, in 1996, confronted with Dennis Wheeler's argument that all whites must adopt a Politics of Whiteness -- an evident fulfillment of Steffgen's 1966 prophecy:
Americans will be told, in effect, that they must make a choice between their own heritage and prejudice toward Negroes. That is the way the Communists have it rigged. Ten thousand interracial themes will not beat a path to brotherhood but into the moral sewers which, in turn, will open up a market for the advocation of pure race doctrines from coast to coast and border to border for the first time in U.S. history. (Emphasis added.)Steffgen's reference to "Communists" as instigating agents of such a development strikes us as bizarre in 2009, but that was written in 1966. Steffgen's perceived the likelihood of a Newtonian pendulum-swing reaction in racial politics, with militant advocacy of integration provoking a militant opposition. And who can say that Steffgen was not prophetic in this passage?
A Negro will appear in every advertisement and televised audience scene. The cast of characters in major Hollywood productions will conform to the 'racial balance' requirement of the Federal government.Anyone who pays attention to the content of media has noticed how the quest for "diversity" leads to a sort of tokenism, so that every detective show and hospital melodrama on TV -- and the commercials, too -- reflects the kind of "racial balance" considerations Steffgen described. The Associated Press, Feb. 15, 2005:
Somewhere there's an America that's full of neighborhoods where black and white kids play softball together, where biracial families e-mail photos online and where Asians and blacks dance in the same nightclub.So there is a signfiicant gap between the media portrayal of race and people's actual lives. And now let's look at that 1996 quote for which I've been relentlessly hounded:
That America is on your television.
In the idyllic world of TV commercials, Americans increasingly are living together side by side, regardless of race. The diverse images reflect a trend that has been quietly growing in the advertising industry for years: Racially mixed scenarios -- families, friendships, neighborhoods and party scenes -- are often used as a hip backdrop to sell products. . . .
But critics say such ads gloss over persistent and complicated racial realities. Though the proportion of ethnic minorities in America is growing, experts say, more than superficial interaction between groups is still relatively unusual. Most Americans overwhelmingly live and mingle with people from their own racial background.
Advertising, meanwhile, is creating a "carefully manufactured racial utopia, a narrative of colorblindness" says Charles Gallagher, a sociologist at Georgia State University in Atlanta.
Only about 7 percent of all marriages are interracial, according to Census data. About 80 percent of whites live in neighborhoods in which more than 95 percent of their neighbors also are white, and data show that most Americans have few close friends of another race, Gallagher said.
"The lens through which people learn about other races is absolutely through TV, not through human interaction and contact," he said. "Here, we're getting a lens of racial interaction that is far afield from reality." Ads make it seem that race doesn't matter, when real life would tell you something different, he added.
As Steffgen predicted, the media now force interracial images into the public mind and a number of perfectly rational people react to these images with an altogether natural revulsion.The key here is this: To what stimuli do these "perfectly rational people react"? To the media images!
It is the media's depiction of a "carefully manufactured racial utopia," in Professor Gallagher's phrase, which produces the "revulsion" I described -- repeat, "described," not "advocated" or "endorsed." And from there, I proceeded to describe a hypothetical scenario attempting to draw a line between "racism" (i.e., racial hatred or discrimination) and a mere personal preference:
The white person who does not mind transacting business with a black bank clerk may yet be averse to accepting the clerk as his sister-in-law, and THIS IS NOT RACISM, no matter what Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Washington tell us.A heckuva sentence to be compelled to defend, especially when it has been repeatedly plucked out of its context, having originated in a very lengthy argument with a white separatist. Given everything you now know, however, you likely perceive that sentence in a much different light.
What I was telling the readers of that e-mail list-server with the all-caps "THIS IS NOT RACISM" was to reject the guilt-trip that is constantly being laid on them by the agents of political correctness. Believe it or not, even in 2009, America is still a free country and you still have the right to your own opinion -- even unpopular opinions, and even opinions with which I may disagree. (Being opinionated by nature, I have learned to resist the temptation to turn every conversation into an argument.)
The white separatist Dennis Wheeler classifed me as one of those who "adopt a Libertarian view on race," which is fair enough, even though he obviously meant it as a pejorative.
The point is that I am weary -- and was obviously already weary in 1996 -- of the totalitiarian tendencies of political correctness, where ordinary Americans are made fearful of expressing their opinions because Big Brother Is Watching.
It strikes me as ironic that the Internet, which has been hailed as a liberating force of First Amendment freedom, has been hijacked by some people for the purposes of conducting a Star Court inquisition, so that I have been compelled to spend so much time explaining myself.
Now let my accusers explain themselves.
ADDENDUM: Let me add something that should be obvious to those who've followed these arguments going back to Charles Johnson's Sept. 12 attack on me -- I am a diligent student of history, popular culture, and political philosophy.
In 1996, a few months before this debate with Wheeler, I was awarded the George Washington Medal from the Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge for a series of columns about the National Standards for U.S. History. Research for that series led me into a study of Marxism, and I sometimes boast that I've read more Marx than have most Marxists.
"How do you tell a communist? Well, it's someone who reads Marx and Lenin. And how do you tell an anti-Communist? It's someone who understands Marx and Lenin."Before I studied communist philosophy, my conception of Marxism was superficial. To me, a Marxist was some old Russian guy in a general's uniform on the reviewing stand during a May Day parade in Red Square, or a bearded crackpot with a megaphone ranting about the bourgeosie, or a Third World guerrila in combat fatigues with an AK-47.
-- Ronald Reagan
Once I understood the philosophical basis of communism -- dialectical materialism, history as a series of Hegelian conflicts, etc. -- it affected my perception of politics and culture.
There are people who are, we might say, unconscious Marxists. They have been schooled in a particular worldview, taught to view the world through a prism of oppression, exploitation and alienation.
Baptized by immersion in such beliefs (which are nowadays widely promulgated in our educational institutions) these people are incapable of thinking outside the schematic system of categories that has been instilled in their minds. Confronted with a phenomenon that does not fit their schema -- e.g., a poor person who opposes socialism, a lesbian who rejects the dogma of the gay-rights movement -- these people must either ignore the obtrusive phenomenon, rationalize it, or attack and destroy it.
These unconscious Marxists are everywhere, including in the comment fields of conservative blogs. Wise men should not allow such ignorant trolls to go unrebuked.