A Race Apart

MRH offers a short-answer essay, in the comments, on “otherness” and the reasoning behind political correctness:

Rightly or wrongly (I think increasingly wrongly) the default category in American society is white, Christian, and male. Anyone who isn’t white, Christian, or male is to some degree the “other.”
It’s easy, but a little dicey, for someone in a position of relative privilege to tell someone in another category to subsume their identity. Here’s an imperfect analogy: if someone told you that you should stop thinking of yourself as a Christian-American and just think of yourself as American, you might be a little offended. After all, your religion is important to you, and anyway, you don’t think that being Christian is incompatible with just being “American.”
Of course, no one’s likely to say that to you, because Christian-American sounds redundant to us, because Christian is part of the default category.

It’s an old argument, and it’s never made sense to me: American means “white,” so calling a black man “American” would imply his race away, and because his race is important to him, we must apply an adjective so that he can be fully black and fully American as an “African American.” And somehow that will dispel racism and bring us all together.
Whenever folks on MRH’s side of the ideological divide begin summarizing, for me, how I think of myself and when I might be offended, I can’t help but despair a bit at the gulf between worldviews. As a matter of fact, rare are the times that I think of myself as a “Christian-American.” When I think of my nationality, history, and general culture, I think of myself as “American”; when I think of my religion, intellectual disposition, and subculture, I think of myself as “Christian”; when I think of my race, I actually consider myself a mutt, but in the broad category of “white.”
Political correctness requires that we always refer to Americans of a certain range of ancestry as “African American,” as a short-hand blend of racial, national, and cultural descriptions. It’s a very limiting, even dehumanizing thing to do, not the least because it allows a political cadre to dictate what an entire race must believe when it comes to national politics and cultural proclivities.
The underlying premise of political correctness is that knowledge of a person’s race tells you something significant about everything else about that person. The alternative — the correct approach — is to assess people based on all available information and to be prepared to adjust. That includes an allowance for a particular race (or gender or religious group or orientation or whatever) to define itself, but with the understanding that a majority vote, as it were, isn’t definitive for dissenting individuals.
Thus, if black Americans persist in acknowledging a distinctive subculture, it is entirely appropriate to expect its manifestation in one whom you are just meeting, but it is also necessary to reevaluate. Race is easily observed, and there appears to be some degree of a sense of brotherhood among blacks, so it isn’t racist to expect certain views and behavior in accordance with the family, as it were. In deliberately merging that racial identity with their national identity, political correctness makes the familial definition the default, and those who differ on political or cultural matters become the “other among others.”
Political Correctness, in other words, looks at a conservative black man and says, “not really black” — sorry, “not really African American.” Such an approach only reinforces racial notions of otherhood. If somebody else is black and I am white, then the differences between us that I can profess to know are limited, because we’re only talking color. He is free to reveal himself to me, and vice versa. If somebody else is African American and I am American, then we enter our acquaintance within the framework of the Other that we are supposed to lament.
Actually, what we are supposed to do is to take that framework and give minorities an advantage and a sunny presumption — providing a wedge for their political masters. As Shelby Steele writes:

… there is an inherent contradiction in all this. When whites — especially today’s younger generation — proudly support Obama for his post-racialism, they unwittingly embrace race as their primary motivation. They think and act racially, not post-racially. The point is that a post-racial society is a bargainer’s ploy: It seduces whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation. A real post-racialist could not be bargained with and would not care about displaying or documenting his racial innocence. Such a person would evaluate Obama politically rather than culturally.

“Displaying or documenting racial innocence” is a way of describing political correctness, and its practitioners make tools of themselves and perpetuate that which they believe themselves to be erasing.
ADDENDUM:
I would repeat something that I’ve said previously, though: one positive result of an Obama presidency, apart from everything else, is his standing as a direct challenge to those who’ve sought to exclude “white” standards of respectability and erudition from the definition of the African American subculture. Should he fail to promote the right causes and push the right agendas, however, be prepared for race hucksters to change their tone and present him as an “Uncle Tom in Chief” who was packaged for white America.
Whether such a ploy will at last undermine their own claims to speak for the black community or will reposition Obama in the same category as Clarence Thomas, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice before him, we’ll have to wait and see. (I suspect he’ll play all sorts of political games to avoid the rift.) Whatever the case, there may be an opportunity, however, for cultural conservatives to promote their common principles with blacks once the Left’s racial manacles are broken.

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joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Since the African-American vote couldn’t have accounted for the margin of victory,the left’s drumbeat of a “racist America”is sounding a little flat right about now.
Obama didn’t get to the Presidency by “affirmative action”-rather a whole set of circumstances unrelated to race combined with a well-run campaign were responsible.
The dissatisfaction with the Bush administration was a starting point for a Democrat to take an upfront advantage of the situation.Hillary seemed the anointed one until Obama started posing a serious challenge.The Clinton campaign then adopted tactics that backfired on them,and by the time they got their ducks in a row,it was virtually all over.
Obama’s financing strategy may have been the key element.
The Republicans started with an uphill fight.McCain was the best choice,but the Palin selection,while appealing to the conservative base,alienated a lot of the swing voters,probably the vast majority in fact.
The “Bradley effect” of about 6 points just didn’t happen-its day is past thankfully-ironically the margin of victory was about the “same” six percent.
So,while race was on everyone’s mind,in the end it played a secondary or tertiary role to political issues and campaign financing/strategy.

Mike
Mike
12 years ago

Anyone who thinks racism is dead is sadly deluded. The trouble is most of it is “of color” racism. When was the last time you heard of a white killing or assaulting a black?
Now when was the last time you heard of a black killing or assaulting a white?
Yesterday, or maybe the day before?
Now look at “gay” marriage. Monday, a Bristol “couple”, Sedonio Rodrigues and Raymond Grenier go on trial in Superior Court for rectally romancing 4 pre-teen boys.
Yup, DCYF put 4 little boys in the foster care of this “couple” in the name of political corectness.
Golleeee-You put little boys into the hands of known sickos who live to get inside male rectums then you are SHOCKED-shocked I tell ya- that the kids show up with 5X size anuses.
Of course DCYF turning these kids over to the wolves will be the subject of many investigative reports on 10 and 12, documentaries, front page in depth Projo and Phoenix articles and hell to pay at DCYF where heads will roll.
Right?
LOL
http://www.eastbayri.com/detail/79667.html
Remember this story next time you hear some fool mince “gay marriage doesn’t hurt anybody”.

rhody
rhody
12 years ago

Thank you for the above moralizing, oh great role model of rect(um)-itude.
I take in the spirit of the reason occasionally spewed on TV by WWE heel managers.

Ken
Ken
12 years ago

Justin,
In Mark H. Zanger’s book “The American Ethnic Cookbook For Students” which he has documented 122 ethnic populations (100,000 or more people living in the U.S.A.) he points out that the only group that can rightfully be called “American” are native Indians because they did not immigrate to the U.S.A. All other ethnic groups are hyphenated Americans because they indeed immigrated to the U.S.A.
Zanger is adding more ethnic groups to his book and via web updates at http://www.ethnicook.com/
Of note, the U.S. Census Bureau does not classify ethnic groups by religion so it is interesting when you say; “As a matter of fact, rare are the times that I think of myself as a “Christian-American.” When I think of my nationality, history, and general culture, I think of myself as “American”; when I think of my religion, intellectual disposition, and subculture, I think of myself as “Christian”; when I think of my race, I actually consider myself a mutt, but in the broad category of “white.””
A not all inclusive list of ethnic groupings to add to “_________-American” can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ethnic_groups
You will note there is a ethnic group for “African-American” and many other ethnic groups preceded by “Afro-“ but no ethnic group for “Black-American” however there is an ethnic group for “White people” and for “Black British”, “Black Canadians” and “Black Indians”.
Mark H. Zanger has another book published called “The American History Cookbook” which documents the ethnic culinary habits of the U.S.A. from 1200 to present day.

Justin Katz
12 years ago

Native Indians didn’t immigrate here? Poppycock. They just did so long in advance of the Europeans.
The point is moot, though, because they immigrated to the continent, not the nation known as “the United States of America,” and none of those who arrived before or after the Revolution need hyphens.

mrh
mrh
12 years ago

I’d like to give your post a better response than this, but I’m going to have to plead “two three-week-old infants” as my excuse.
Basically, your summary of my argument over-simplifies, so of course it seems absurd. My point, of course, wasn’t that we must always refer to blacks as “African-Americans” and never as “Americans.” That would be stupid. I meant only the following:
– to pretend that race no longer matters, and “we’re all just ‘Americans’ is naive
– railing against political correctness is generally a waste of effort… the heart of “political correctness” boils down to (a) call people what they want to be called, (b) recognize the diversity of our society, and (c) don’t be a dick.

mrh
mrh
12 years ago

Also, commenter “Mike” is a real class act.

joe bernstein
joe bernstein
12 years ago

Maybe Mike doesn’t put things delicately,but the Bristol case is an abomination.
DCYF needs to be cleaned out ,starting with the people who arranged this placement and then didn’t get wise to what was going on for so long.
Is that sick little scumbag Steven Brown going to tell us the victims were consenting?The ACLU has pedophiles among its leadership-cases in point being Virginia and New York where serious felony convictions were obtained against ACLU LAWYERS.
There are racially motivated assaults by whites and nonwhites.Sometimes whites aren’t even involved.
It’s just that most people are way less concerned with race than when I was young.
Rhody-you don’t like Mike’s comments..I don’t think you much like mine either,or at any rate most of them.
I don’t think Mike was “moralizing” about the Bristol case because he wasn’t talking about a generalized concept,but a very real brutal and sickening incident which (hopefully not) could only be one of many ongoing now.

Ken
Ken
12 years ago

Justin,
“American Indians” can be found as nations, tribes, or bands of “Native Americans” who have “sovereignty or independence” from the government of the United States, and whose society and culture still flourish amidst a larger “immigrated American” (such as European, African, Asian, Middle Eastern) populace.
In New England Wampanoag and Narragansett have been recognized by the government of the United States as “indigenous Americans” (not immigrants).
Justin if you do not have a blood line to anyone of the “indigenous American Indians” including Natives of Alaska, you are considered an immigrant to the continent.
United States Public Law 103-150 The “Apology Resolution” passed by Congress and signed by President William J. Clinton; November 23, 1993 sent a letter of apology on the 100th anniversary of the January 17, 1893 overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, and to offer an apology to Native Hawaiians on behalf of the United States for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii.
There are about 4% of 100% Hawaiian native blood populations left living in the Islands of Hawaii waiting for official government of the United States “sovereignty or independence” recognition as afforded to “Native Alaskan” and “Native Americans”.

Mark Zanger
11 years ago

I found this discussion since my name is referenced. By way of information, the US Census is forbidden by law to enquire about religion, so ethno-religious groups like the Amish are not counted as such. Also the ethnic survey is a survey, so it takes what people say, and the estimates for even very large ethnic groups like German-Americans fluctuate widely from census to census. As someone who has worked on ethnicity a fair amount, I think the case for Native Americans being truly indigenous is based upon their collective achievements for 12-20,000 years prior to extensive international contacts. (By comparison, remember that the whole history of homo sapiens in Europe is only 40,000 years.) The people we now call Indians in a remarkably short period (unless or until archeology extends that period) populated all parts of two large continents, hunted large animals to extinction, domesticated several species of animals (dogs,llamas, guinea pigs, turkeys), mined and smelted metals, domesticated food plants now among the top ten staples (potatoes, maize, cassava, haricot beans), developed an excellent astronomy, saw the rise and fall of vast empires, and developed two or three hieroglyphic writing systems. When Cortez reached what is now Mexico City it was a larger city than Madrid. Their claim to be the aboriginal people and not fellow “immigrants” or “colonists” is indisputable. In my book I did not hyphenate Native Americans, but I also did not hyphenate ethnic or ethno-religious groups that originated in the US (Pennsylvania Dutch, Mormons, Black Muslims) and some founding stock groups (Scotch-Irish). This isn’t a right-left thing. I am pretty left-liberal, but my main guide on ethnicity was the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups edited by late neo-conservative Stephen Thernstrom (with Orlov and Handlin), a 1980s book that has dated but which I still… Read more »

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