Monday, July 24, 2017

It's a white thing: individualism

The target of this exercise—I mean of the podcast Seeing White but not just it—becomes clear in the episode called "Chenjerai's Challenge". The challenge comes from Chenjerai Kumanyika and it is simply this, as a white person trying to figure out what it means to talk about shite goodness, when was white ever good?

He kind of gives the game away after that by saying, "When was America ever great?" So it's just a partisan cheap shot. It's cheap because it equates "good" or "great" with "perfect". As I've noted before, this is a popular argument with five-year-old children. It shouldn't be acceptable from anyone over the age of seven.

That part isn't interesting. What is interesting is what is underneath it all. We've been told that race distinctions are artificial. That's not as profound as the people behind the show thing because all categories—animal, plant and mineral, for example—are artificial. And the people behind the podcast while pretending to want to discredit race categories, are very determined to keep using them.

Indeed, as we see above, the point seems to be to want to paint one race category, whiteness, as always and uniquely evil. Whiteness is artificial. On the other hand, you and me, as white people have something to answer for. How does that work?

Kumanyika says that he felt this need to think of his graduation from college as a victory for black people. And then he says that, even though he tries not to, he sees every crime committed by a black person as something he is a part of.

Okay, I get that. As a guy with a thoroughly French sounding name living in Canada, I sometimes feel like I am being called upon to explain Quebecois separatism. I have a sister and an uncle who go to extremes condemning all forms of Quebecois nationalism in an attempt to make it clear that none of this has anything to do with them. When I went to graduate school, a great aunt who had never spoken to me before contacted me ti congratulate me for being the first person in my family to do so. No one on the Irish side of the family did that or felt that.

And then our host John Biewen spells it out. This is "how whiteness works in a white-dominated society, that one of our privileges, one of our benefits, as members  of the white club is that we get to see ourselves, and to be seen, as individuals." Again, I get that.

But that also raises a question for me: Why not aspire to create a society where everyone gets to experience that?

For the purposes of the people behind the podcast, the answer is that they want to use whiteness  as a category to blame you for what happened and to make you pay. When I say "pay" I mean that literally as the issue is reparations and I say "you" and not "you and me" because, as a white Canadian, I'm not a target. That's weird, if you think about it, because if there is no such thing as white goodness, why not make every white person pay.

In any case, the reason Kumanyika doesn't want white people to be able to think of themselves as individuals is because that would give them the right "to release yourself as an individual from that." "That" here meaning culpability for the historical wrongs against blacks in America.

I'll stop here because this has to stop somewhere. Suffice to say, the podcast fails because it doesn't really want to succeed. The whole thing is an exercise in virtue signalling. As I've said before, I don't think virtue signalling is evil. It's a way we have of showing others that we're in their group. This podcast is a way of showing people you are one of them or, if you are not one of them but aspire to be, of learning how to be one of them.

That's ironic, don't you think?

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