New York Times ethicist Chuck Klosterman recently fielded a question about why, exactly, we were so pleased to see Donald Sterling stripped of his franchise rights by the NBA. Is it because he thinks in a racist manner, as his recorded comments revealed, or is it because he said those racist comments aloud? In the question of whether it is wrong for Sterling to have racist thoughts or merely wrong for him to speak them, Klosterman opts for both. It’s a carefully reasoned answer, as usual, but it declines to address a larger question—perhaps wisely. To wit: if we accept that racism is bad, is it only unethical to express or act upon racist ideas? Or are the very thoughts themselves immoral?
As white people, it’s our job to determine what is racist and what is not, since everyone else is biased. Fortunately racism is mostly over, so now it’s a matter of clearing up the fine points. For example: Bob Dylan is being investigated for inciting racial hatred in France as a result of comments he made in a Rolling Stone interview last year. But do the charges have any merit? Here’s some real talk from the man who wrote “Blowing in the Wind”:
If you’ve got slave master or Klan in your blood, blacks can sense that. That stuff lingers to this day. Just like Jews can sense Nazi blood and the Serbs can sense Croatian blood.
A Croatian community organization says Dylan’s remark was racist against Croats. But was it merely stupid?
On Friday we linked to a weird slideshow about wealthy Roma, pejoratively known as Gypsies—an Indo-European ethnic group that is the target of surprisingly open prejudice in Europe. America doesn’t really have a visible Roma population, so it’s hard to understand how hated they are overseas. How hated are they? When the European Union declared this the Decade of Roma Inclusion and gave Slovakia a billion Euros to fund Roma education and employment programs, popular opinion held that it was a ploy to get them out of western Europe by turning Slovakia into a Roma ghetto. See, by helping them you encourage them. That and other weirdly familiar tropes of racism applied to an instructively neutral ethnic group can be found in this long, uneven but ultimately rad Vice article by Aaron Lake Smith.
A new survey finds that white Americans A) love to take surveys as long as Wheel of Fortune isn’t on or about to be on and B) believe that anti-white racism is now a more serious problem in the United States than racism against blacks. By contrast, African-Americans—who are more likely to actually know some black people—reported that racial persecution is still, you know, the one thing in society that white people do not get to have more of. None of this is surprising—you can tell because it’s extremely depressing. Using the same powerful sense of victimhood that made 1968 the most important summer in American history, white people have taken a hard look at anti-black racism and decided that, since the 1950s, it has declined by two thirds. Over the same time, anti-white racism has nearly tripled. This is why you must never ask white people their opinion.
Canny invoker Ross Douthat cannily invokes Pat Buchanan in his New York Times column from Monday, in which he suggests that Harvard and other Ivy League institutions discriminate against working class, rural and conservative whites. This position is, of course, extremely popular with white racists, which is why Douthat chooses to open his column with something Buchanan did in 2000. When the former Nixon speechwriter spoke at Harvard in March of that year, he was greeted with jeers, accusations of bigotry, and pretty much every other expression of anger you can carry off in a pink polo shirt. Buchanan’s claim that contemporary America persecutes white Christians is laughable, but Douthat observes that it’s the same note currently sounded by Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and other vital elements of contemporary conservatism. One of those elements turns out to be Douthat himself, who gives us this third paragraph:
To liberals, these grievances seem at once noxious and ridiculous. (Is there any group with less to complain about, they often wonder, than white Christian Americans?) But to understand the country’s present polarization, it’s worth recognizing what Pat Buchanan got right.
And thus does an old myth smear itself with lipstick before trying on its new dress.