Saturday, June 16, 2007

On racism, etc.

Arthur Silber believes that I've gone "badly astray" in my previous essay, but, to be honest, I'm having trouble pinning down precisely why he disagrees with me.

Arthur says he doesn't disagree with my criticism of Madeline Smith Moore, he agrees that her conclusion and remedy—that whites are "by definition and innately racist"—is imprecise, inaccurate, and "obviously wrong".

He accurately points out that the basic thrust of my essay is that "I categorically refuse to feel the slightest bit of guilt and shame about who I am," but that is, of course, Moore's and his own fundamental complaint: That black people and gay people are oppressed—and wrongly so—because of who they are, not whom they might help or whom they might harm. If it's wrong, it's wrong, even if it is said, for whatever reason, by those "who have been made and are still made to feel guilty and ashamed about who they are from their very earliest memories, up to this very second." At the risk of being again criticized for belaboring the obvious, two wrongs don't make a right.

Arthur claims that I'm taking Moore's statements out of context and "in isolation". But these comments are not off-hand remarks, they form the conclusion of her essay. I have not in any way altered the meaning of her remarks by virtue of my citation, nor does Arthur claim I have done so.

Arthur claims that "Larry takes a great deal of time and attention to make a very delimited philosophic point." He's right there: That's what I do. I have no pretensions that I'm anything more than an amateur, minor writer.

Arthur goes on to say that "the much more complex and infinitely more significant cultural realities entirely elude [me]." Precisely what is eluding me? I spend the first half of my essay denouncing the prevalent racism, sexism and homophobia in Western society. (And I do so not to establish my condescending liberal bona fides but to head off obnoxious fuckwits such as Perezoso Xerxes.)

To be sure, I'm at a loss as to how to address the "political, social and cultural dynamics" underlying racism, etc. But, like I said, I'm a very minor writer.

Arthur segues in the same paragraph from my essay to how he is criticized, "[I]t was people 'like me' who made it so impossible for 'good liberals' to fight the good fight." I frankly resent the implication. There is nothing in my essay that even remotely deserves this comparison. I say only that Moore's proposed remedy, that white people accept their innate racist monstrousness—and consequential innate inferiority—is not helpful.

At no point do I ever criticize anyone for complaining about the victimization and oppression they have suffered, and for demanding rational justice. Such victimization and oppression is very real, and their complaints are entirely justified, and justice entirely deserved.

So, Arthur, precisely where have I gone astray here?

(Note: comments have been disabled for this post. This is between me and Arthur; I want neither your support nor your criticism. Feel free to comment on my original essay, but please stay on the substantive topic.)

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