Of course, those who appeal to historical racism for this purpose gingerly sidestep the fact that Chinese-Americans were also lynched in the 19th century, japanese-Americans were legally barred from owning land in the early 20th, and over 100,000 Japanese-Americans were forcibly interned during World War. When called upon to justify the fact that we make asians work harder than whites and blacks to get into college, progressives appeal to principles like diversity and inclusion—goals which may indeed be defensible in some form. But there are good reasons to believe that these lofty principles are in fact anchored to an unthinking, reflexive bias towards blacks. In one study, participants were asked to decide between two similarly qualified hypothetical college applicants—a black student with a higher gpa, and a white student with a tougher course load. Participants chose the black applicant, citing the importance of gpa. But when researchers switched the resumes so that the white student had the higher gpa and the black student had the tougher course load, participants still chose the black applicant, this time citing the importance of taking tougher classes.
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The rihanna incident; the dyson-Peterson debate; the coates comment—the thread running through all three examples is that modern-day blacks are permitted to employ language and behavior for which holder whites would be condemned. And wherever these racial double-standards show themselves, appeals to historical oppression, and to a metaphorical we, follow close behind. After all, it is argued, how can Dyson and coates be expected to abide by a so-called politics of respectability in a country that routinely humiliates and subjugates them. Indeed, all demands winter to uphold colorblind standards ring hollow in view of Americas foundational plunder of the black body, we are told. Such abstract claims are rarely met with the concrete question: to whose black body are you referring? * * by itself, the fact that black progressives like dyson and coates play by a different set of rules would not amount to a great societal injustice. But the biases of the chattering classes dont stay put; they seep out into the general populace, setting the boundaries of polite conversation, and coloring the political landscape in which laws are crafted. Consider, for starters, the fact that racial double-standards have been enshrined in our college admissions system. A 2009 study by Princeton sociologist Thomas Espenshade found that Asians and whites had to score 450 and 310 sat points higher than blacks, respectively, to have the same odds of being admitted into elite universities. Although its possible to justify this double-standard without referencing historical oppression—for instance, by arguing that the benefits of increased ethnic diversity on campuses outweigh the costs incurred by whites and Asians—in practice, most defenses of Affirmative action use the history of white racism.
New York times bestseller, between the world and me, coates explained that the policemen and firemen who died on 9/11 were not human to me, but menaces of nature. 1 This, it turned out, was because a friend of coates had been killed by a black cop a few months earlier. In his recent essay collection, he doubled down on this pitiless sentiment: When 9/11 happened, i wanted nothing to do with any kind of patriotism, with the broad national ceremony of mourning. I had no sympathy for the firefighters, and something bordering on hatred for the police officers who had died. 2 meanwhile, new York times columnist Bari weiss—a young Jewish woman—was recently raked over the coals for tweeting, Immigrants: They get the job done, in praise of the Olympic ice-skater Mirai nagasu, a second-generation Japanese-American. Accused of othering an American citizen, weiss came under so much fire that The Atlantic ran two separate pieces defending her. That The Atlantic saw it necessary to vigorously defend Weiss, but hasnt had to lift a finger to defend coates, whom they employ, evidences the racial double-standard at play. From a white writer, an innocuous tweet provokes histrionic invective. From a black writer, repeated expressions of unapologetic contempt for public servants who died trying to save the lives of others on September 11 are met with fawning praise from leftwing periodicals, plus a national book database award and a macArthur Genius Grant.
His you refers not to identifiable, living humans, but presentation to groups of long-deceased individuals with whom he shares nothing in common except a location on essays the color wheel. But by appropriating a grievance whose rightful owners died long ago, and by slipping between the metaphorical and the literal, dyson was able to portray himself as a member of an abstract oppressed class and Peterson as a member of an abstract oppressor class. In his reply, barely audible over Dysons sanctimonious harangue, peterson put his finger on this rhetorical sleight-of-hand: Who is this you that youre referring to? Many black progressives use the myth of collective, intergenerational transfers of suffering to exempt themselves from the rules of civil discourse. Dyson, for instance, responded to petersons criticism of the concept of white privilege with the finger-wagging rebuke: youre a mean, mad white man! Despite hurling this racialized insult, dyson will likely face no consequences. The question naturally arises—what would have happened to peterson if he had called Dyson a mean, mad black man? I think its fair to say that Peterson would have received something less pleasant than the round of applause with which Dyson was rewarded. The celebrated journalist ta-nehisi coates provides another example of the lower ethical standard to which black writers are held.
One such intellectual is Michael Eric Dyson, who recently shared the stage with Michelle goldberg in a debate against Jordan Peterson and Stephen Fry. Though the debate was ostensibly about political correctness, it ranged everywhere from Marxism to white privilege. Around halfway through the debate, dyson said : If you have benefitted from 300 years of holding people in servitude, thinking that you did it all on your ownWhy cant these people work harder? Let me seefor 300 years you aint had no job! So the reality is for 300 years you hold people in the bandsyou refuse to give them rights. Then all of a sudden, you free them and say, youre now individuals. Taken literally, dysons claims make no sense. No person has ever suffered 300 years of joblessness because no person has ever lived for 300 years. Of course, dyson wasnt speaking literally.
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The underlying logic of using the past to justify racial double-standards in the present is rarely interrogated. What do slavery and Jim Crow have to do with modern-day blacks, who experienced neither? Do all black people have. T.S.D from racism, as the Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist Donald Glover recently claimed? Is ancestral suffering actually transmitted to descendants? What exactly are wallpaper historical ties made of? We often speak and think in metaphors.
For instance, life can have ups and downs and highs and lows, despite the fact that our joys and sorrows do not literally pull our bodies along a vertical axis. Similarly, modern-day black intellectuals often say things like, we were brought here against our will, despite the fact that they have never seen a slave ship in their lives, let alone been on one. When metaphors are made explicit—i. E., emotions are vertical, groups are individuals —its easy to see that they are just metaphors. Yet many black intellectuals carry on as if they were literal truths.
One thing, however, is clear. If the races were reversed—if a black musician had been fired in order to achieve an all- white aesthetic—it would have made front page headlines. It would have been seen as an unambiguous moral infraction. The usual suspects would be outraged, calling for this event to be viewed in the context of the long history of slavery and Jim Crow in this country, and their reaction would widely be seen as justified. Public-shaming would be in order and heartfelt apologies would be made.
Mtv might even enact anti-bias trainings as a corrective. Though the question seems naïve to some, it is in fact perfectly valid to ask why black people can get away with behavior that white people cant. The progressive response to this question invariably contains some reference to history: blacks were taken from their homeland in chains, forced to work as chattel for 250 years, and then subjected to redlining, segregation, and lynchings for another century. In the face of such a brutal past, many would argue, it is simply ignorant to complain about what modern-day blacks can get away with. Yet there we were—young black men born decades after anything that could rightly be called oppression had ended—benefitting from a social license bequeathed to us by a history that we have only experienced through textbooks and folklore. And my white hispanic friend (who could have had a tougher life than all of us, for all i know) paid the price.
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In the fall of 2016, i was hired to play in Rihannas back-up business band at the mtv video music Awards. To my pleasant surprise, several of my friends had also gotten the call. We felt that this would be the gig of a lifetime: beautiful music, primetime tv, plus, if we were lucky, a chance to schmooze with celebrities backstage. But as the date approached, i learned that one of my friends had been fired and replaced. He was a white hispanic, and Rihannas artistic team had decided to go for thesis an all-black aesthetic—aside from Rihannas steady guitarist, there would be no non-blacks on stage. Though I was disappointed on my friends behalf, i didnt consider his firing as unjust at the time—and maybe it wasnt. Is it unethical for an artist to curate the racial composition of a racially-themed performance? My personal bias leads me to favor artistic freedom, but as a society, we have yet to answer this question definitively.
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