March 17, 2005

Whiteness Studies and the White Guy Gap

UPDATED: Whiteness Studies and the White Guy Gap: A reader writes:

First, I'm a white guy and a Democrat. Protestant and heterosexual too. Now that that's out of the way, I wanted to say that your article sounds very much like the kind of talk I hear in American Studies, the field where I'm earning a Ph.D. at the University of XXX. No question about it, AStudies is a left-dominated milieu, with lots of the identity politics that you say is acceptable and much criticism of people like me. The thing that may surprise you is that your interpretation

Now, you say that white pride dare not speak its name, but another point of view is that the name need not be spoken--whiteness is normative, it is a default category that tries to pass itself off as universalist. But there is no doubt--on the left in the academy, white is seen as ethnic, it is seen as a racial identity. I do find, in your article and in similar statements, the suggestion that we white men should somehow be entitled not to be criticized for our authority and power. of NASCAR and voting Republican is identical to the left-wing take on those activities, save for the political perspective of course. American Studies folks, by and large, do see NASCAR as an ethnic pride rally for whites, and do see the dominance of Bush and the Republicans as an assertion of white male solidarity.

No, what I said was, "Now, white men are probably the most tolerant and forbearing of any American group—they've been raised to take it like a man—but they are also only human." In your Midwestern state, for example, whites likely pay over 90% of the taxes that support your university and your Ph.D. program. Yet, while ethnic groups who contribute far less to the upkeep of your university insist upon ethnic cheerleading for themselves in programs like "African-American Studies," whites are expected to pay to be derided in your program.

That's quite remarkable. The only way to explain it is that the liberal settlement that emerged from the civil rights era is based on the notion that whites are not an ethnic group with their own ethnic interests. Instead, they are just The Majority, and they can afford to subsidize Minorities, because the cost per individual member of The Majority is limited.

In the long run, the liberal arrangement is threatened by immigration, since The Majority, who is supposed to subsidize Minorities, won't be a majority forever, and the cost per individual member of the the former majority will soar.

But, obviously, the liberal dispensation is also headed for big trouble if whites are considered no longer to be just The Majority but are instead considered to be just another ethnic group.

Indeed, you should point out to your professors that they should be careful what they wish for. No recognized American ethnic group puts up with subsidizing being insulted, and if your department succeeds in getting whites to think of themselves as an ethnic group, then continued taxpayer funding for your department would be threatened.

On the other hand, your professors aren't quite that dim. Indeed, they sense that they can profit financially from raising white ethnic consciousness. See, the more white ethnic activism they elicit, the more they can claim that they must be subsidized by the state to squash it by indoctrinating in whites the belief that they are the Evil Ethnicity, and therefore must pay to be insulted. It's another political perpetual motion machine.

And I didn't find any reflection on the unearned skin privilege that whiteness brings, in addition to some of the inconveniences you mention. No, I haven't had a problem-free life. But there are lots of things I simply don't have to worry about because I'm a white man. My identity does open doors for me, and I can't see why acknowledging that equals self-abasement.

It's not "unearned." It was earned for you by the hard work and self-discipline of your ancestors and relatives, whom you should learn to appreciate. If, say, you inherit a valuable house in a nice, crime-free white neighborhood, it was earned for you by the law-abidingness of other whites, such as your parents and your neighbors. The world today is a better place because they sacrificed and invested to provide privileges for their descendents.

Back in 2002, I wrote in VDARE about the "Whiteness Studies Status Game:"

White anti-white racism is a broadly fashionable attitude that extends far beyond loonies like Harvard Professor Noel Ignatiev, author of "Abolish the White Race" and "How the Irish Became White." I don't believe I've ever seen it formally explained, although Tom Wolfe's novels show it in action.

The usual explanations of what drives whites like Ignatiev are "white guilt" or "self-loathing." But does Ignatiev appear as if he personally feels guilt or self-loathing?

No -- he sounds like he's having the time of his life arguing that you should feel guilt etc. He comes across as an arrogant, hostile jerk who thinks the world of himself.

He wants to feel that he's better than other whites and to rub their faces in it. The bad guys in his book are Irish Catholics and Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Ignatiev himself is neither.

And this is typical, in my experience: whites who proclaim their anti-white feelings don't really care much about blacks or other minorities, pro or con. What they care about is achieving social superiority over other whites by demonstrating their exquisite racial sensitivity and their aristocratic insouciance about any competitive threats posed by racial preferences.

To these whites, minorities are just useful pawns in the great game of clawing your way to the top of the white status heap. Which, when you come right down to it, is the only game in town.

Imagine some pathetic white pride activist grabbing your lapels and demanding,

"Did you know that Euro-Americans invented the airplane? [You nod.] Oh, you did? Well … did you know that Euro-Americans invented the golf cart? Huh? Huh, did you know you that?"

Well, duh, everybody knows -- whether or not they're crass enough to mention it -- that over the last 500 or 600 years, whites invented pretty much everything worth inventing. (And, of course, a lot that wasn’t.)

For his encyclopedic Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the 20th Century, Peter Watson interviewed 150 scholars from around the world about who was responsible for the great innovations. Watson recounted that

"…all of them—there were no exceptions—said the same thing. In the 20th century, in the modern world, there were no non-western ideas of note."

Maybe this is a little unfair to the Japanese, whose Just-in-Time manufacturing was hugely important. And to some nonwhites in the West who came up with good ideas like jazz. Overall, though, the dominance of whites is just so hugely apparent that it's in bad taste to talk about it.

Cheerleading for Euro-Americans seems as pointless as cheerleading for men would be. It's mildly interesting that a woman invented Liquid Paper whiteout fluid (namely, Bette NesmithPost-It Notes is not interesting—because we all know that men invent more or less everything.

Similarly, liberal whites definitely don't want to be seen as competing against minorities. They think it would look undignified to worry about unfair competition from affirmative action-boosted blacks, or illegal immigrants. Publicly favoring quotas shows the world that you don't care about being forced to meet higher standards than minorities. You and yours will hurdle any requirements with IQ points to spare. Graham, a secretary and the mother of Mike Nesmith of The Monkees). But the fact that a man invented

This white liberal mindset is much more condescending toward minorities than that of, say, Sam Francis—who takes minorities seriously and thus wants a level playing field. [More...]

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1 comment:

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