Racism

Charlottesville, Race, and the Mishnory Road

Many of those who would recoil in horror at racist notions find similar notions strangely beguiling when they are dressed up in more genteel language.

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"To oppose something is to maintain it," wrote Ursula K. Le Guin in her classic The Left Hand of Darkness, a sci-fi novel that anticipated our gender-bending age by nearly half a century. "To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road."

Those words seem especially apt now, after Charlottesville—because so many of those who oppose the white supremacists have fallen into the same trap as the white supremacists. They have embraced the same fallacy; they are caught in the same harmful patterns of thought.

Before discussing how this might be, a pre-emptive cringe: What follows is not meant to imply any sort of moral equivalence (let alone that of Donald Trump's awful "many sides" statement on Saturday). The man who pushes a pedestrian into oncoming traffic and the man who pushes a pedestrian out of a speeding car's way might both be engaged in the act of pushing a pedestrian—but the acts they commit are, morally speaking, vastly different.

So. The white supremacists who caused so much misery in Charlottesville drew anger and contempt from nearly everyone in the country. But much of the anger and contempt was reflexive, and it might help to step back and ask why. What precisely do they espouse that gives such great offense?

Racism, obviously. But what does that entail?

At its most basic, racism consists of denying a person his or her individuality. To be racist is to view members of one demographic cohort as essentially all alike within the group, and essentially all different from all other people outside that group. The racist believes the essence of a black man is his blackness, and the essence of a white woman is her whiteness, and those two essences are not merely distinct but discordant.

In fact (says the racist), the difference between those color-coded cohorts is so great that it overwhelms whatever differences might exist within the cohorts: Colin Powell, Ben Carson, Condoleezza Rice, Jean-Michel Basquiat—no matter how accomplished such individuals might be, they are still, in the end, just mud people. Untermenschen. N-words. And therefore, they have less intrinsic worth than some illiterate, swivel-eyed yahoo doing a 20-year stretch for raping his little sister. "I might be an illiterate, swivel-eyed rapist," the yahoo can tell himself, "but at least I'm better than them."

To all right-thinking people, this is lunacy.

But many of those who would recoil in horror at such notions when espoused by a gap-toothed moron wearing a Confederate flag find similar notions strangely beguiling when they are dressed up in more genteel language.

It is not a fresh new insight to note that many of those on the left—especially in academia—are consumed with the politics of identity, and that this obsession has led us to places that, in a different context, would have white supremacists nodding in approval: separate graduation ceremonies for black students at Harvard, separate housing for black students at UC-Davis, a blacks-only student orientation at the University of San Diego. These phenomena—and many more like them—are promoted as beneficial to minorities. But they also convey a message: The minorities need to be separate because they are different.

Now in those cases the difference is situational, not genetic: As victims of discrimination, blacks need different treatment, goes the reasoning. In theory, that might someday change—whereas the bigot thinks racial differences are immutable and eternal. But note the fallacy underlying even the modest situational assumption: "Everyone in this color-coded cohort shares certain key characteristics that matter more than their individual differences."

And the assumption starts to look less modest when the subject turns to diversity, a value so universally praised today that few dare question it. The premise behind diversity is that people can be sorted into distinct groups according to certain demographic characteristics—gender, color, ethnicity, etc.—and that those characteristics define them in ways that inevitably overwhelm whatever traits they might possess as individuals.

Moreover, this is the case not just because some people happened to have faced discrimination in the past; it is true of everyone, and always will be. Therefore, color-coding and sorting always will need to be used to determine the correct demographic composition of juries, boardrooms, freshman classes, and so on. Within the framework of diversity, an approach that is procedurally fair to all the individuals involved (such as a color-blind admissions process) nevertheless can be unfair—depending upon its effect on particular groups.

This is not the racism of the bigot, with his hate-filled heart and his need to feel superior to others. But it does entail a racial essentialism, a focus on demographic categories rather than individual identities, that the bigot would find familiar.

And maybe that is still necessary to an extent. When a pedestrian has been pushed into traffic, you don't want to outlaw all pedestrian-pushing while he is still in the path of the fast-moving car. But (to mix metaphors), we also should ask how long it's necessary to stay on the path to Mishnory. How long can we fight negative racial essentialism with positive racial essentialism?

At some point, we need to find a different goal, and walk a different road.

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  1. “This is not the racism of the bigot, with his hate-filled heart and his need to feel superior to others.”

    Correct. It is the racism of the elite, with their love-filled heart and their need to assuage their guilt over slavery.

    1. And control the masses.

    2. the elite, with their love-filled heart

      They have to sign for it and if they don’t return it in time, they lose their deposit.

  2. I have learned nothing from this vapid article. The equivalency is razor-thin, as the author himself reluctantly suggests in his penultimate paragraph.

    1. AntiFa exhibit characteristics of a collectivist hate group. The only difference is that the target of their hate. Nazis are prone to believe in a Jewish conspiracy to keep them down. Communists are prone to believe in a White Patriarchy conspiracy to keep them down.

      There’s a plausible hypothesis that the ongoing torrent of hate against white people in media/academia/entertainment has pushed more into the ranks of the alt-right than otherwise would have happened.

      But I think this is a mistake. You don’t fight collectivism with counter-collectivism. You fight it by promoting individualism.

      1. Individualism is not for the anti-racist, diversity driven, multi-cult progressives, i.e., a good portion of the Reason staff now a days.

      2. Generally Communists think there is a Jewish conspiracy to keep them down.
        Everyone keeps forgetting that Nazis are socialists.
        It’s not an accident that the alt-right has a lot in common with progressives. They both derive their ideology from collectivist ideas of group solidarity. Socialism is group solidarity among members of the same class. Identity politics is group solidarity among members of the same identity group. The alt-right is really more like a splinter group of progressives who think that white people need their own identity group. But they are basically buy into the basic premise of the left- that people of the same race/ethnicity/gender need to band together to fight for their group’s position in society.

    2. I thought this article was well written and insightful. And I love the Ursula Le Guin reference. Great book.

      1. Yep, out of the hundreds of SF novels I’ve read “The Left Hand of Darkness” is easily in the top ten.

        Fun fact, Ursula K LeGuin and Philip K Dick were in the same year at Berkeley High School.

        1. It’s one of my earliest favorites. I probably went looking for her stuff around the time Lathe of Heaven aired on PBS so I was around 11.

          1. Remember enjoying The Lathe of Heaven too which is an homage to PKD.
            Haven’t seen the PBS production though.

  3. Those words seem especially apt now, after Charlottesville?because so many of those who oppose the white supremacists have fallen into the same trap as the white supremacists. They have embraced the same fallacy; they are caught in the same harmful patterns of thought.

    Out of curiosity, does this also to apply to the gaggle of news outlets jawing about this?

    1. Spark, out of curiosity, does it apply to you?

      1. Beats me. Maybe it’s applying to everyone all the way down.

  4. That was one of the best written things I have read in a while.Thank You.

  5. At its most basic, racism consists of denying a person his or her individuality.

    Exactly, just what the lefties, the media, the SJWs, and the progs want.

    1. Like Mao did.

  6. Colin Powell, Ben Carson, Condoleezza Rice, Jean-Michel Basquiat?no matter how accomplished such individuals might be, they are still, in the end, just mud people. Untermenschen. N-words.

    Colin Powell was an Untermensch and a Nazi?

    1. Colin Powell was an Untermensch and a Nazi?

      I believe the phrase you’re looking for is “Uncle Tom.”

    2. interestingly enough all those listed are not only hated by Nazi’s but also by the black community and most of the media

      1. But not nearly as much as Thomas Sowell, Clarence Thomas, and Walter Williams are hated by Nazis, the “leadership” of the black community, and the virtually all of the media.

  7. The latest kick is identifying people by “personality type”.

  8. This is not the racism of the bigot,

    True.

    It’s even worse.

  9. Untermenschen.

    Whoa! Watch your language. Just say U-word and we all know what you mean.

  10. This is… not a good argument. Racism is about dividing people up into “types”, yes, but it’s also about power and violence. Neo-nazis and neo-confederates pose a direct threat to life and limb in a way that “diversity” initiatives do not. A moment of reflection should make it clear why this sort of equivocation is not only facile but dangerous.

    1. Neo-Marxist claptrap. Remind me who has institutional power? Who controls the HR department at Google? What has been the media consensus? The Donald does not have control over them. Neo-Nazis are so fringe it’s astonishing that they had the balls to show their inbred faces.

      Your perception of power dynamics are at odds with reality. The most dangerous thing about any of these ideas is the creeping socialism that will result from the pressure of the Social Justice Cult.

      1. So on one side of the equation we have “institutional power”, “media consensus”, “creeping socialism”, and of course the almighty power of Human Resources…

        …and other the other side we have the neo-nazis literally murdering someone in the street.

        Yup, definitely both perfectly symmetrical causes for concern!

        1. We also have, year after year, black people being many times more likely to commit inter-racial crimes of violence against whites then the reverse.

          IIRC, in 2014, it was about TEN (10) TIMES MORE LIKELY.

          Where are black folk most apt to be aggressed upon, assaulted, battered, beaten, maimed, murdered, robbed, and shot?

          WHERE THERE ARE LARGE CONGREGATIONS OF OTHER BLACKS.

        2. The Nazis didn’t fuck up Germany by initially killing Jews. They did it in a similar manner as Google’s HR department. You squelch the voices and create group-think. Once you have that going for you, then you can exterminate all the Jews.

          Geeze, a little history goes a long way.

        3. Yeah we’re all in imminent danger of getting run over by neo nazis now.

        4. Wow. This comment actually made me furious. But, then again, ignorance spoken with authority always does.

          Communism, the progressive ideal, killed 180 million people in the last century. But let’s worry about a group so small that the progs can produce double their numbers to counter protest.

    2. Many white supremacists would agree to a “white only” schools in exchange for blacks getting their own schools. There would be zero need for violence. Exclusion can be achieved with no bloodshed at all, as the other side has proven.

      Violence and hate are two distinct things. The Westboro people who chant “God hates fags” near military funerals (which even draws a frown from conservatives) are engaging in some violent language and the protesters might have violent ends in mind, but they’re not actually violent. Same thing for BLM people who might chants “cops are pigs”.

      Ethnic purism and exclusionary nationalism are nothing new. People forget that imperial Japan were borderline Asian Aryans. America has an UGLY past with white racism, so white nationalism will hit home harder. But in practice, there’s no real difference between a present day alt-right and Japanese radicals chanting “it’s ok to rape Korean women” and a black gang member shooting at Latino rivals.

      In any case, the days when KKK can ride into town on horseback and terrorize innocent people are pretty much over.

    3. Many white supremacists would agree to a “white only” schools in exchange for blacks getting their own schools. There would be zero need for violence. Exclusion can be achieved with no bloodshed at all, as the other side has proven.

      Violence and hate are two distinct things. The Westboro people who chant “God hates fags” near military funerals (which even draws a frown from conservatives) are engaging in some violent language and the protesters might have violent ends in mind, but they’re not actually violent. Same thing for BLM people who might chants “cops are pigs”.

      Ethnic purism and exclusionary nationalism are nothing new. People forget that imperial Japan were borderline Asian Aryans. America has an UGLY past with white racism, so white nationalism will hit home harder. But in practice, there’s no real difference between a present day alt-right and Japanese radicals chanting “it’s ok to rape Korean women” and a black gang member shooting at Latino rivals.

      In any case, the days when KKK can ride into town on horseback and terrorize innocent people are pretty much over.

  11. And even without having to resort to racism we can still comfortably think ourselves the better of those “gap-toothed moron(s) wearing a Confederate flag.”

    1. Virtue signaling of the worst kind: by fake libertarians.

  12. Hypocritical much? Throughout the article you espouse the virtues of individualism over collectivism, but the entire premise of the article is based on all who oppose the removal of the statue are a racist/white supremacist. That is collectivism over individualism. I support Confederate memorabilia as a reminder that we live under a tyrannical Federal government that would rather kill their citizens than to allow them to leave the Union peacefully. Whether my view is right or wrong is debatable, but it is my view. I, as an individual, own it. To collectively group me with ignorant haters is not only insulting, it is entirely wrong.

    1. Also, “gap-toothed” is a genetic trait. So it’s pretty close to racism.

  13. Remember when we were gonna go to war with North Korea?

    1. Believe me, John McCain and his girlfriend Lindsey haven’t.

    2. God if it puts an end to this week I say for it.

      1. I said go for it

        1. This is what happens when you drink past your limit at lunch.

  14. It is so hard for you, isn’t it?

    So incredibly difficult.

    You could not simply say ‘Trump is right’, you had to, first loudly denounce him, making sure that all and sundry understood that this was a denouncing. Of Trump.

    And then you clothed yourself in ‘genteel language’ and flowery metaphor in the hopes that the slope browed low IQ morons who fancy themselves the ‘intellectual class’ would groom their gonadal areas, digitally evacuate their nasal passages and not find a reason to hurl excreta at your acceptance of the point of Donald J Trump.

    Because that is what you’ve done here, in expensive verbiage–you’ve just said both sides are bad.

    Just. Like. Trump.

    You can pick up your MAGA hat at the front desk.

    1. Most of Reason’s staff would be afraid that the hat had lice.

    2. It IS funny, though, isn’t it? Because by saying “free speech is legal, assault isn’t” and highlighting that racism is more nuanced than white nationalists, Reason is pretty much affirming Trump’s point.

      If I was president would found a better way to make my point than “many sides are to blame”, which is a bit too blunt for a sensitive situation. But as far as I can tell, his point stands. The domestic terrorist could very well be a lone wolf type. Yeah, this was hate group rally, but I’m not seeing any evidence that leadership level urged members to attack others.

      1. If I was president would found a better way to make my point than “many sides are to blame”, which is a bit too blunt for a sensitive situation. But as far as I can tell, his point stands.

        This is a real problem with Trump, though. He started with a kernel of something that had legitimacy, but then went full Archie Bunker with it.

        One needs to have at least enough political sense to know to start with “Nazis are awful and hateful and we don’t excuse them or what they stand for” and then gently move on to something like “but we need to acknowledge that violence is never an appropriate response to speech and that if the left wants to blame the right en masse then the left needs to also make some efforts to get their own house in order before throwing stones.”

        But Trump can’t nuance. He can only turn a situation into a pissing match where he can’t distinguish between defending non-violence and free speech and defending the Nazis. It just becomes a big “fuck you, liberals!” and he actively drives people away from whatever argument he is making, even when there is a nugget of legitimacy that deserves to be called attention to.

        1. S = C, this is exactly right, well done.

        2. Here, here! The article fails to acknowledge something basic; (to mix metaphors) that Trump has proved again that even a fucktard is right twice a day.

  15. The argument of the leftist establishment seems to be that if you are white, and especially a white male, you need to STFU because you can never appreciate the struggles of all these other ethnic/gender groups. This is a very effective strategy for shutting down any further discussion on pretty much any topic-never mind the fact that most of the people who use this argument themselves are often white, and usually very privileged too.

    1. As a white male I do not feel threatened by social justice activism on behalf of other races. That you are is kind of pathetic, really.

      1. I happen to be darker-skinned white and frequently mistaken for Arab or Hispanic. I am also one quarter Jewish, which though not a race, certainly puts me in the “other” category that would disqualify me from neo-Nazi membership. I have heard all this crap before when I was in college and it continues today. The reason for it is that all “other” groups are threatened by the white, racist, capitalist, imperialist power structure. So they need more power structure to protect them. They are not calling for equality of the races, they are calling for more power for themselves.

        1. Thank fully, since I’m white, I will just privilege the sh8t out of anyone that threatens me.

          Like when the peace loving antifa and BLM youths come rioting, I will reason with them to explain that my privilege is something I would like to work with them to understand.
          I have noticed that antifa and BLM are about as a peaceful as white nationalists and as knowledgeable so surely no harm shall come to me or my property.

          Just once, can one of you admit that antifa is just as dangerous, ignorant, and violent as racists white psychos?
          I know you can’t but they are the same thing.

          1. That was a question for Tony BTW

          2. I never even heard of antifa until a few months ago. I know next to nothing about them. But you going on about them and BLM when the story of the day is fucking Nazis is a bit, I dunno, fucking weird.

      2. As a non white male I kinda feel threatened by SJW crowd, given their penchant for violence and threats against free speech, and I don’t want my people associated with loons who don’t want Shakespeare taught in class because the author is white.

  16. As I told a friend yesterday, Antifa and the Left didn’t just happen to coincidentally be in Charlottesville over the weekend. They traveled there for the express purpose of getting into a fight. I mean, it’s one thing to be living in the area and grabbing a banner to take and go counterprotest. But it’s quite another thing to fly in from out of state just to punch someone in the nose.

    1. Yet only the Nazis murdered anyone.

      1. its not like the Antifa didn’t try, they just failed

        1. Big tony. Do you know that they are not National socialists(NAZIs). They are redneck bigots.

          The national socialists(NAZIs) were socialists with major nationalism which the KKK always cursed along with communism. How could your enemy be a socialist?

          Always glad to see the ignorance of the national socialist, the socialists, the communists and the redneck bigots on display. You are one of these socialists Tony. You are too ignorant to understand that.

          All 4 of these groups are equally repugnant and dangerous. You have no idea why. You will not even bother to learn why.
          That makes you painfully dumber because you come on this site with some curiosity obviously and still cannot comprehend one thing that is said here.

    2. That’s what happens when you have two groups of collectivists with different tribal identities. Tribal identity leads to conflict between tribal groups. You want a society where everyone spirals off into their own tribal group? It’s going to be a place with a lot of social conflict, where you pretty much end up being forced to stick with your tribe, because there will be so much conflict between tribes that you can no longer cross those lines. Go look at how this works out in other tribal societies – you can’t have a friend or lover from another tribe because members of your own tribe will throw you out. Look at Northern Ireland , where a Catholic couldn’t date a Protestant, without having bricks thrown through the window or getting shot at. Or look at Arab societies – if you’re a woman your family will stab you to death if you date a white person. Places that have a lot of tribalism are not pleasant, or free, places to live. They are oppressive societies, where the social consequences of breaking with one’s tribe is much, much worse than having SJWs yell at you on Twitter for saying racist shit.

      I’d much rather have social rules that tell people to be decent to one another , to treat one another as individuals regardless of race, even if that means racists feel like they can’t express themselves, than live in a place where people treat eachother like shit because they belong to the wrong identity group.

      1. Lovely sentiment.

        Only ONE tribe is being held to a standard.

        CNN anchors are comparing the antifa goons to WW II vets.

        If only one side is held to a standard, they will eventually stop giving a shit and become violent.

        And people like me will not give a damn, because the antifa goons brought it on themselves and their champions in the press deserve everything that happens to them.

  17. someone should post the Simpsons scene when Paul Anka and Lisa write “Just Don’t Look” (guarantee void in Tennessee) and all the giant adverts come-to-life die off…apt.

  18. Excellent post.
    Both the racism of the alt-right and the identity politics of the left are based on collectivist ideas. (The alt-right is effectively white identity politics, as others have noted.) Both ideologies are based on thinking that people operate as members of groups and should be treated as members of groups rather than individuals. Both sets of ideas run in direct opposition to the individualist moral philosophy upon which modern western civilization is founded.

    It is ironic that the alt-right attempts to claim the mantle of being the defenders of western liberal individualism, but does so by rejecting the intrinsic individuality of people from other races.

  19. I really enjoyed this article, thanks!


    Within the framework of diversity, an approach that is procedurally fair to all the individuals involved (such as a color-blind admissions process) nevertheless can be unfair?depending upon its effect on particular groups.

    This is a concept that appears alien these days. I truly believe in a color blind society, but there are those who are against being color blind because it might end up unfair to minorities which is…staggering. If it’s a fair process, but there are unfair ends, does it matter? The alternative is an unfair system which can only have unfair results.

  20. Well, the press is now happily comparing antifa goons to WW II vets.

    Bloodshed is going to happen. Cannot be avoided.

    1. Hellooo…. missing the story. Nazis, heard of them? THERE ALREADY WAS BLOODSHED.

      1. So, again, YOU are also comparing antifa goons to WW II vets…favorably.

        Tony — opposed to SOME fascists, but not all of them. Some fascists are cool.

        Mind you, ALL fascists should die.

        1. Their name literally means anti-fascist.

          Nazis are fascists. They’re kind of the prototype.

          1. made up names are still made up. Is it anti-fascist to be anti-1st Amendment? Nope, that’s a fascist thing. Perhaps you missed it Tony.

          2. Please tell me you aren’t one of those folk who trolled the ACLU for rightly backing the 1st Amendment rights of a bunch of idiots. Are you really afraid you can’t win the hearts and minds of the civilian population with a reasoned argument?

            1. I’m a big ACLU liberal. I was talking about the rights of Nazis to free speech when I was a preteen. The problem that’s actually being discussed by sane people is the problem of freaking Nazis.

      2. Tony, what would you do if you ever met a real neo Nazi? Not these booger eating busboys that play too many video games.

        Had a kid (wannabe soldier of fortune) on our logging crew in Idaho 30+ years ago. He ended up doing fed time for fucking around with real machine guns (50 cal) and he knew some of those Aryan Nation cats that were around in those days. I’ll guarantee if you and any of those man bunned maoista pussies in masks ran into one of those dudes you would have pissed your pants and run away crying like a little girl. Fortunately these guys usually end up in prison since they wouldn’t think twice about making filet ‘o antifa.

        When a few squads of those cats start goose stepping down main street I’ll get excited but not about some wannabe hard guys that couldn’t wipe the floor with some hipster douchebags that wouldn’t last 30 seconds in a bar fight. Until then I’ll just laugh at the collective pants shitting hysteria of leftoids and media doofuses over a few pimply keyboard commandos who like to talk smart on Storm Front. A threat that exists only in SJW and proggie hacks’ fever dreams.

        1. I don’t generally find right-wing morons intimidating.

  21. “in the end, just mud people. Untermenschen. N-words.”
    N-words, really? This is one thing that particularly bothers me about the whole “n-word” bullshit. If the word “nigger” is too far beyond the pale and “n-word” is perceived to be oddly more PC, how exactly is one more acceptable than the other? Think about in a real sense, is saying “that guy is such a nigger” more offensive than saying “that guy is such an n-word”? The meaning is exactly the same, it isn’t less hateful, nor less derogatory yet somehow it is perceived as being different because in any situation “n-word” is an acceptable way to refer to the word and yet oddly using the word itself in reference to itself is not. I suppose somehow somewhere someone might make the mistake that “n-word” refers to arbitrarily calling someone who isn’t a nazi and that somehow makes it better somehow somewhere.

  22. Three things I know for certain are, One) If we had no First Amendment or it was not a protected right the United States would be a far more segregated country today than it is. Two) If you truly oppose something (H##E, for instance) you don’t wright it in upper case big bold letters and pin it on your own chest surrounded by small print. Like Henry Ford once said “just spell the name right”. Three) The FIFTH COLUMN NEVER SLEEPS.

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