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Essay of the Week: The High Price of Stale Grievances by Coleman Hughes

They tried to get me to hate white people, but someone would always come along & spoil it. ~ Thelonious Monk (Monk’s Advice, 1960)

As against our gauzy national hopes, I will teach my boys to have profound doubts that friendship with white people is possible. ~ Ekow N. Yankah (New York Times, 2017)

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 can’t. 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. 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 P.T.S.D from racism, as the Grammy and Emmy award-winning artist Donald Glover recently claimed? Is ancestral suffering actually transmitted to descendants? If so, how? What exactly are 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—it’s easy to see that they are just metaphors. Yet many black intellectuals carry on as if they were literal truths.

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 own…”Why can’t these people work harder?” Let me see…for 300 years you ain’t had no job! So the reality is for 300 years you hold people in the bands…you refuse to give them rights. Then all of a sudden, you ‘free’ them and say, “You’re now individuals.”

Taken literally, Dyson’s 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 wasn’t speaking literally. His ‘you’ refers not to identifiable, living humans, but to groups of long-deceased individuals with whom he shares nothing in common except a location on 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 Dyson’s sanctimonious harangue, Peterson put his finger on this rhetorical sleight-of-hand: “Who is this ‘you’ that you’re 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 Peterson’s criticism of the concept of ‘white privilege’ with the finger-wagging rebuke: “You’re 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 it’s 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. In his #1 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 hasn’t 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 Award and a MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant.

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 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 to uphold colorblind standards ring hollow in view of America’s foundational plunder of ‘the black body,’ we are told. The ‘black body’? Such abstract claims are rarely met with the concrete question: to whose black body are you referring?

RTWT @ The High Price of Stale Grievances – Quillette   Published on June 5, 2018  comments 252

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • ghostsniper June 9, 2018, 6:56 PM

    This stuff will continue until the fuel of gov’t stolen money no longer exists.
    It’s that fuel that feeds the fires of so many discontents in the US.
    Like all fires, cut the fuel and the fire will go out.
    The parasites depend on it and the producers resent it and that produces friction – the catalyst for the flames or anger.
    No one likes to feel dependent and no one likes to be thieved.
    Neither one is free under the gov’t burden – all are slaves.

  • MMinLamesa June 10, 2018, 3:20 AM

    There was a time when I lived in inner city Denver, actually had bought my first home in the black part of town, 5 Points, that I probably had more black “friends” then any white person you’ll meet.

    The stories I could tell of the utter bullshit I would face as every last one, male or female, lied, stole or cheated me out of something. And not to get too racial here but looking back, these were not just things I experienced as a white man but this is the way they treated everyone, black, white or green. They could rationalize anything, believe me. They looked at EVERYTHING though skin color goggles.

    I know there are millions of fine, decent black folks in this country that are honest, hardworking and want little more than to live in peace, raise their children and enjoy the fruits of their labors. I know, I’ve met many. Some are even conservative.

    But that leaves 38 million n—–s who would just as soon spit on you if you were burning. My solution is self-segregation. I simply will not have anything to do with them. I’ve lived in small towns or outside of them for going 40 years that are bereft of anything more than, at most, an occasional sighting. I’d like to say that when I walk into a black-owned small business, I turn around and leave but you just don’t see much of those in the real world.

    Before I moved to w Texas, the last small town in CO where I lived was Canon City, an old KKK hub and believe me, the word was out that if you’re black, pass on through. I could walk the streets at any hour, as I can here, no graffiti, no home invasions, low or no crime, a very pleasant place.

    They’ve bought into the lies, fine, stew in it bitches. They, of course, aren’t the only ones as REgressives, in general, can’t bring themselves to admit they’ve won the birthplace lottery. Much easier to wear the mantle of a victim then get out in the world & get people on your side of the fence. My Tired Of Knee-Grow Bullshit Meter is pegged and has been for decades.

    And I’d be hard-pressed not to get physical with Michael Dyson if he were to try his fast-talking, finger-wagging crap to my face. I’ve met many a n—– who thinks the more words they can cram into a minute, the smarter they think they are.

  • walt reed June 10, 2018, 4:11 AM

    As a practical matter: If no Sub Saharan Black tribal people had been kidnapped and sold into slavery, by Arabs and other dominant Black Tribes, what would have been the result? How many Black ancestors would have died in Sub Saharan Africa of tribal warfare, disease, malnutrition, animal attacks, etc. How many US Blacks would not exist because previous generations did not survive?

  • MOTUS June 10, 2018, 5:50 AM

    Progressive Response “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.”

    Translation from Progbonics “Turnabout is fair play”

  • Old Codger June 10, 2018, 7:42 AM

    What has killed American black culture is NOT 300 years of slavery, but rather 70 years (5 generations in Knee-grow time) of Uncle Sugar handing out the freebies and creating double standards, which destroyed the black family and reducing it to a “victim class” for benefit and power of their natural enemies, the Democrat Party (history of which is too sordid and lengthy to recount here). Read generally economist Thomas Sowell’s comments on this phenomena.

    Destroyed their culture and innate human morality, but they got the “right to vote” for the worst political class and Party ever, right?

  • Ray Van Dune June 10, 2018, 7:50 AM

    At least 30 if not 40 years ago, a New Yorker cartoon featured two young men chatting at a cocktail party. One was black and as I recall drawn in a stylized fashion that said “black power radical” back then. The other, white, was drawn in another style that said “yuppie” or perhaps “earnest liberal” if the former term did not yet exist. The caption had the white guy saying “But surely, you must be mistaken… anyone who had been oppressing you for 200 years would have to be a lot older than me.”

    It struck me at the time as a tiny hopeful indication that we as a nation were on a course toward a healthy sanity. In retrospect I was incredibly foolish, and did not anticipate how so many others would see the need to adjust any course away from sanity. In the unlikely event that a similar cartoon got into the New Yorker today, it would certainly be a firing offense for someone, and cause outrage throughout the mainstream media.

  • Snakepit Kansas June 10, 2018, 4:35 PM

    The current black culture keeps them right where they are. They won the lottery by being born in the US, but cannot or will not exploit what is in front of them. Government is not going to ever save them and certainly not Democrats. Give them $100K in reparations each and see how much money any of them have a year later. Their leaders are con men like Jessie Jackson and Maxine Waters. They would shun anything in writing by Thomas Sowell, who is pure genius and has outlined how ANYONE can shed poverty through hard work, family values and delayed gratification. I had read much from Sowell long before even knowing he was black.

    I have not figured out why almost the entire continent of Africa has languished behind the rest of the world and has no hint of logical efforts to improve their situation. It appears a small portion of the population takes advantage of the rest, and they are stuck with it. Even in South Africa the blacks are wanting to evict the whites and take their land. Sure, give it to them and see what it turns into within a decade.