As Donald Trump’s orange-supremacy movement soars like the Hindenburg, racism and bigotry retake their places among the most urgent issues requiring our collective focus. So a recent Washington Post piece caught my eye.
The piece is entitled, “A black man went undercover online as a white supremacist. This is what he learned.” As the title suggests, an African American man (Theo Wilson) went undercover and burrowed into the cyber world of racists and rubes. The new generation apparently calls what he did “trolling,” which is not a bad thing if one is trolling trolls.
Having emerged from his fake-Nazi experience, Wilson has an interesting story to tell. He is more charitable than I am; asked whether racist rubes have any redeeming value, Wilson said yes — and they have questions that they’ve never had answered to their satisfaction:
I’m not as patient as Wilson is with this tripe (I’m with Charlie Pierce on this), so I thought I’d take a stab at answering racists’ questions. Here goes.
1. Why will they have less than their fathers’ generation?
Because since around 1980 the system has been rigged to pack wealth so high on the economic ladder that only a few can reach it. When greedy oligarchs canceled Keynesian economics, convincing Americans that supply rather than demand drives economic growth, they got policies installed that jammed all the money upward — where it would be hidden away or shipped overseas — rather than into the pockets of lower- and middle-income consumers who would spend it and thereby drive production, innovation, manufacturing, and cyclical wage growth.
In other words, we have decided as a nation that we will look the other way while the middle class gets fleeced. That’s why your life sucks and your kids’ lives will suck even worse. Did you read anything in that (accurate) explanation about race or ethnicity?
2. What’s the point of multiculturalism?
Um, the point of multiculturalism (meaning the existence of many cultures) is that many cultures exist. Holy hell.
Let’s flip the question: what’s the point of monoculturalism? If we’re going to get rid of all cultures but one, then we’re going to have to pick one, and guess what, Cletus — yours might not be it.
And do you really think that people like you will stop fighting about who is superior or who is entitled to privilege once we’ve narrowed it down to white Christians? Your monochromatic, monolithic utopia is a fever dream; once you’ve rid yourselves of brown people and gay people and Jewish people, you’ll find something new to get overwrought about — NASCAR white rubes will claim dominion over Monster-Truck white rubes and start agitating for Monster-Truck-rube genocide.
Which brings us to the point: the only alternative to multiculturalism is genocide, enslavement, or brutal oppression — the extermination of the human spirit if not the body; ridding the world of billions of living, breathing, beautiful human souls. That is the point.
3. Why can only black people say the “N” word?
For the same reason that only I’m allowed to call myself a fatass — and you’re not.
I rather like calling myself a fatass, and it’s none of your damn business if I do. Sometimes I use that term as a one-word noun, as in, “No, I will not walk 12 blocks to the ice-cream store, because I’m a fatass.” Other times, I use it as a two-word, adjective-noun combo, as in, “No, I will not walk my fat ass 12 blocks to the ice-cream store.”
Either way, it might seem an offensive term, but how I choose to use it in reference to myself is my business and mine alone. (And I happen to find it appealing; it’s pliable, utilitarian, crisp, pithy, and just a touch irreverent — or, as applied to one’s own person, self-deprecating.)
Sometimes this term sneaks past my lips (again, in reference only to myself) before I can catch it. I once told a lecture hall full of students, explaining the rules of larceny and lost property, “If there’s a twenty-dollar bill blowing down Capitol Avenue on a windy day, you won’t see my fat ass running after it.” That was good for a laugh, but it didn’t entitle students to say to me after class, “See you next week, fatass.”
So that’s how it works — if I call myself a fatass, I probably have some reason other than cruelty or disrespect or some impulse to cause stigmatic injury. On the other hand, if some iniquitous schmuck — let’s say Joe Arpaio — were to call me a fatass to my face, I’d slap that summer sausage out of his hooch hole and right into the next Cinco de Mayo.
4. How is racism not over when LeBron James and Oprah have huge bank accounts?
5. How is affirmative action anything other than reverse racism?
Racism results from a desire to make things wrong. Affirmative-action programs result from a desire to make things right. Motives matter, racists. Fix yours.
6. Why shouldn’t I be proud to be white if someone else is proud to be black?
I hear the same question about “gay pride,” and every time I do, I wonder — is this person trying to achieve the appearance of vacuity, or did he arrive there courtesy of the fates?
Here’s the thing: when somebody who is in a minority group — an African American person or a Muslim person or a gay person or a transgender person, just to name some — says “I am proud to be . . .,” that is not just an affirmation; it’s an answer. It is a response to being told for years and decades and centuries, you are less than, and you should be ashamed.
People in minority groups don’t run around saying “proud to be me” in a vacuum; it’s not gratuitous narcissism. A person who says “I’m proud to be black” means I am your equal. A person who says “I’m proud to be white” means I am better than you. You know — better than you people, who are stealing my history and my heritage. Sound familiar?
There is nothing even a little bit complicated about any of the answers provided here. So it’s not that racists can’t get it; it’s that they won’t get it. Cognitive impairment just happens sometimes, and it’s not a marker of bad character. Ignorance, on the other hand, is a choice, and it is indeed a marker of bad character. Racism embodies one of the great deadly sins: sloth — of the intellectual variety.
So these people — these racists — must get only what they deserve: scorn.