Education, Politics
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When Racism is Disguised as Anti-Racism

When I started my graduate education at Portland State in 2015 after a long hiatus from academe, I attended an event titled, “Students of Color Speak Out.” The university president encouraged all students, staff and faculty to attend the event, organized in reaction to alleged racial tensions on campus. As a student of color and the gay son of refugee immigrants, the event’s premise interested me.

As I sat in the front, I listened to students detail their daily trauma of existing on a campus that was majority white. Students representing many ethnicities repeatedly shared feeling unsafe. I was confounded because their anecdotes spoke of an experience that sounded similar to those who lived in apartheid-era South Africa or Jim Crow Mississippi — not something I remotely recognized in ultra-progressive Portland. Still, I was sympathetic and recognized that my personal experiences may not be shared by others.

My optimism was challenged once I began to pick up on the theme connecting the speeches. It was the visibility of white students, or more broadly white people themselves, that made the activist students feel unsafe and unwelcome on campus. One speaker said she feared a white gunman would imminently massacre those in attendance. The language and tone of suspicion of others was jarring to the anti-racist activism I was familiar with in my undergraduate and high school days, which sought to unify diverse students through inclusion. In-between and during speeches, students sprinkled in various chants. What I heard was a siren’s song leading us to a culture of racial division and mistrust.

Looking at the event guidelines, I was surprised that white students were explicitly asked to remain silent. Several speakers demanded the president dedicate separate spaces along racial lines in the student union. He later agreed.

Even though the event was billed as a day of anti-racism, what I witnessed was, quite frankly, racism. Until that day, I’d never seen people overtly dehumanized and treated as racialized objects – amplified through the use of words like “bodies” to refer to people of color. I left the event wondering if the sum of my worth was on an identity I was born into.

Since continuing my education, I’ve come to quickly learn that on campuses today, racism no longer means what I understood it to be all my life. According to critical race theorists, who permeate academe and its administration, racism is not ethnic prejudice and discrimination but rather prejudice and institutional power. Because whites have institutionalized privilege, they say it is impossible for them to be victims of racism. In this worldview, I should be alarmed when prejudicial sentiment is hurled at some, but not all, of my peers.

I demurred.

On Tuesday, the student paper at Texas State University published an op-ed telling whites, “Your DNA is an abomination.” The opinion columnist opens by saying he has only met a dozen white people in his life that he would consider “decent.” The opinion columnist wrote: “Ontologically speaking, white death will mean liberation for all … accept this death as the first step toward defining yourself as something other than the oppressor.” He goes on to conclude: “Until then, remember this – I hate you because you shouldn’t exist. You are both the dominant apparatus on the planet and the void in which all other cultures, upon meeting you, die.”

The now-retracted op-ed has launched a national outcry against the paper and the university. The editor-in-chief apologized for its content and the university president condemned it as racist.

Those who are shocked that the author’s odious view made it to print underestimate the pervasiveness of radical social justice ideology in the academy. As I’ve witnessed in 2015 and have seen repeated countless times since then, the lack of any ideological counterpoise has created a vacuum where ideas have no mechanism or incentive for moderation.

In elementary school, I remember when I was taught a valuable lesson on race and identity. One of my teachers pulled out an illustration showing a variety of people engage in various occupations. “What do you see?” she asked us, pointing to a person with a stethoscope. I raised my hand and said: “a black man.” She told me to try again. “Doctor,” I eventually replied. She smiled with a nod. If that lesson was repeated again today, I’m not sure my second answer would be accepted.

 

Andy Ngo is a journalist and graduate student in political science at Portland State University.

44 Comments

  1. Vincent says

    A well-written piece with a poignant conclusion. The trouble with radical social justice ideology is that it leaches beyond academic absurdism and into reality. There is a need for the elite to propagate racism to justify their own abuse of power and indolence, and cow the working class. Privilege is primarily a class caste in which the whites (in the West) have a head-start due to demographics. It is increasingly difficult for an individual to receive compassion or justice for a wrong without their colour and that of their immediate oppressor stirring an unhelpful debate to obfuscate any objective penalty and reconciliation for the actual, local injury caused. All are victims and all are to blame is the logical conclusion of such fallacy.

  2. Uri Harris says

    Great article. That column seems like a new low. Although, as you suggest, it was the inevitable result of an increasingly radical ideological indoctrination.

  3. Steven says

    Impossible not to be utterly confused by the discussion on race and racism of today. Something is deeply wrong when you can loop back to the racial studies performed in the dark corners of the academic world in the 19th century, the tone of language and debate of the 1930’s politicians, and the practise of the 20th century apartheid politics of South Africa, and conclude they might not have been all that wrong. The only difference being the demands of today stems from the ‘oppressed’ rather than the ‘oppressive’.

    Take any foul statement. If a minority representative says it, it is considered a positive thing. If a majority representative says the very same thing, it is evil by default. The double standards of the modern social justice movement is baffling, and to be honest, very, very scary.

    • Opressor and opressed are meaningless words. Many if not all real opressors thought themselves as victims and hence oppressed.
      The Nazis believed they were the victims of the worlwide Jewry. The Russian proletarians thought they were the victims of the kulaks and so on.
      In the end all collectivists must define a group as the oppressive enemy.

      • Caligula says

        The student who wrote “Your DNA is an abomination” does seem to exhibit many of the classic tropes of racism, such as blaming one’s difficulties on some unimaginably evil “other.” Instead of, perhaps, looking at how one’s own efforts and shortcomings might have rather more to do with where one finds oneself.

        In any case, it should be apparent to all that one can’t very well have a dialog with someone who asserts that, really, it would be better if you did not exist. For what would one discuss, how and where and when one should die?

        • I totally agree. It is precisely the “problem” in the Middle East. Muslims don’t just want Jews to ‘give back’ Palestine, they want Jews to be eradicated. How do you peacefully solve THAT conundrum?? (For the record, I am a Roman Catholic, not at all Jewish. It just disgusts me that anyone, anywhere, should wish the death of another human being, let alone an entire population!)

    • Edward says

      The demands are coming from the supposedly “oppressed”, figment of imagination, while the “oppressor” is bending over backwards to make people comfortable even though it can clearly never be enough. As a white person who was raised to be extremely accepting, but not subservient, I find myself asking….”Why bother? No matter what I do I am going to be be hated by these people?”. It’s not a small number of people either as college campuses are pumping out millions of these brain washed psychos. Why should I not simply look after white people who are clearly being assaulted by a quasi intellectual zeitgeist within academia?

  4. Emblem14 says

    Everyone is well aware of the double-standard at work here – the reason it’s persisted and become such a common political tool is that we all accept the premise on some basic level.

    Chris Rock once had a routine about how different groups of people have different socially recognized “license” to criticize other groups, following the “punching up/down” formula. For example, fat women can be unfairly critical of skinny women, because everyone knows skinny women have more social capital. By allowing fat women to express resentment or hostility toward skinny women, we establish an emotional coping mechanism as a fair and harmless compensation for being socially disadvantaged. This only works in one direction of course; skinny women can’t criticize fat women because, given the underlying privilege differential, “that’s just mean”.

    I think most people recognize some version of this principle, and have participated in it. There’s a dynamic ratio between the shittiness of someone’s situation, and their “right to complain”, especially including the right to be obnoxious, gratuitous, grating and unfair in their complaints. It’s just something others have to tolerate as a courtesy to the aggrieved party.

    Obviously this loose social norm has been systematized in the employ of social justice ideology, (or for that matter any ideology rooted in grievance and victimhood) and it happens to be a great fit. It serves as an outlet for the rage and paranoia many ideologues feel at being victimized by their perceived oppressors. It gives them “license” to indulge in toxic, unproductive, but self-indulgent and emotionally satisfying rhetoric and behavior. And in a brilliant stroke, the objects of their ire can’t protest without being guilty of violating some inferred social contract of fairness and decency!

    The mistake was allowing this weird dynamic to take on the semblance of intellectual seriousness, as if it were some kind of credible epistemological argument, instead of, essentially, pandering to someone’s bullshit out of pity. It was able to mutate because of people’s understandable unwillingness to deconstruct the underlying phenomena for fear of appearing insensitive or hostile. Now it’s routinely used as a matter-of-fact excuse for all kinds of garbage and bullshit that is considered beyond the pale in any other power-directional configuration.

    Maybe we should start holding EVERYONE to a unifying standard – that you shouldn’t do and say things about other people that you wouldn’t want other people to do or say about you. What a novel concept! And to those who would whine “since I don’t have power, it’s harmless for me to express awful, indefensible things”, maybe the response should be “first, you’re not as powerless as you think, and second, thanks for warning us about you, asshole”.

    • Nailed it. Exactly my thoughts. We need to explain this to people more often.

    • Taupe Pope says

      I agree with you but pity isn’t enough to explain the fervent support that “punching up” enjoys in academe, media and mainstream politics.

      Liberalism falters badly when explaining racial and sexual differences in outcomes. In a way it carried this seed with the insistence on equal opportunity and the notion that hard work is all it takes to reach the top. Look at what happened to James Damore. SJWs’ narrative inspires more fervent belief than liberal rationalism.

      LIberalism offers no solutions to the bruised egos of the groups on the bottom. SocJus offers absolute explanations and action, sinecures and radicalism.

  5. We whites only have ourselves to blame for this madness, and the sooner we all understand it the better.

    In play is the state’s age-old strategy of divide and rule, whereby society is divided into a morally superior, now supposedly non-tribal, unprejudiced, “colour-blind” and xenophilic elite, on the one hand, and the morally inferior, naturally (evolved human nature being what it is) tribal, prejudiced, not colour-blind, but xenophobically-inclined masses, on the other, who must submit to the authority of and domination by their “moral superiors”, just as in medieval times, when the ideology on which this strategy was based was religious. Now it’s a racial ideology, facilitated by the understandable overreaction to Nazism and the Holocaust, which was to deny the importance – even the very reality – of race & to make a great virtue of denial.

    I elaborate further in my blog: http://philosopherkin.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/political-implications-of-evolutionary.html

    • Well first of all if anyone referred to themselves as color-blind they would be called a racist.
      Your working on the old paradigm, where the goal was to reach colorblindness, but in the way CRTs do they changed the definitions to suit their agenda and didn’t let the masses know.

  6. Fabio says

    I don’t know what is more telling about the sad intellectual atmosphere of the Universities. The near-genocidal argument published in the student’s newspaper, or its bizarre use of the word “ontologically”

  7. Thank you Andy, great piece.
    What’s even worse is that there is something so much more malevolent at work here than just inappropriate expression of dissatisfaction.
    The deliberate stoking of discontent of the unsuspecting vulnerable ‘under privileged’ by academia & the media for the express purposes of disunity & anarchy at the cost of improved conditions.
    Exploitation of suffering is merely the vehicle to drive totalitarianism.

    • “Exploitation of suffering is merely the vehicle to drive totalitarianism.”

      That is the best quotable line I’ve read in a while. I will put it to liberal use. Thanks!

  8. Well written piece, Andy. At the core of the Critical Theory school of thought is the mantra of “Judge us blindly and treat us equal” while at the same time judging on skin color gender themselves. You gave examples of white versus black but the same goes for male versus female. The most recent national election is a pointed example with many who decried the allegation that President Obama was elected in 2008 (and 2012) because of people voting for him simply because he was black in turn demanding votes for Secretary Clinton solely because of her chromosome makeup. It is a serious flaw in the belief when you begin to take a position that “discrimination is bad except when…”

  9. AC Harper says

    If this foolishness continues I’d guess that the next ‘race’ to be demonised will be those who are ‘not brown enough’, and then the ‘not black enough’ and so on.

    • whatever says

      to ac harper: it’s already happening. asian-heritage student applicants are being discriminated against by Harvard in it’s admission policies.

      • wombat says

        Asians are basically considered honorary whites in the realms of social justice.

        And the “not brown enough” thing is already real, I’ve seen people get called “white passing” (which is viewed as a racist thing to be by social justice), for not being brown enough,

  10. Also, don’t forget the Kafkaesque trap the Social Justice (aka SocJus) crowd will place on you if you speak out on CRT or the emerging victim paradigm being put forth. They will say you have White Fragility, fear of losing your place in society ect…. All the while you will see gleeful headlines
    about how whites will be the minority by mid century. Somehow excoriating whites for noticing while shouting down their majority privilege. This is truly stuff the communist did. I read The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and the parallels are erie.

    I’m not saying whites will be put in the gulag or anything nutty like that what i’m saying is the kafka academes wordplay has a very similar feel. Where there’s no way to disprove the absurdness of it. That’s probably why thousands upon thousands were put in soviet mental institutions during the communist regime (after they stopped mass slaughtering people) because it literally drove them crazy.

  11. If these naive students weren’t brainwashed by their professors, these displays of totally divorced from reality outrage simply wouldn’t exist. What’s happening in academia and the wider culture isn’t a rational, proportional reaction to existent inequity. It’s more like the result of a giant lab experiment in which people are given labels such as ‘victims/oppressed,’ given a level of fear based deference they’ve never experienced before in their young lives and then facing no legitimate or effective response to their illusions. This regressive liberalism a canvas for the psychologist to explore, not the sociologist.

  12. TroyGale says

    This is what happens when you teach your children to be something other than an American first. Hyphenated Americans are anything but Americans. It is also the result of not teaching your children to love their neighbors. Between loss of God in our society, and ridiculous exultation of a person’s race and self, this stupidity will only continue to worsen. Sadly for people who are not Caucasian, this is detrimental, because as an American, I like Dr. King, look at the content of a man’s character first. If you don’t like me because I’m White, then that is your loss, not mine. Life will be very hard for these people of color, it will suck to be them. Too bad, you reap what you sow in life, if you are angry, be angry at yourself for making yourself a victim of your own prejudices.

  13. TBlakely says

    The first steps in any genocide is to demonize and dehumanize your targeted group.

    • I wish more people would pay attention to just how dehumanizing the language of the left is for whites. “There’s no such thing as white identity” = whites are not human. “There’s no such thing as white culture” = whites are not human. “The nuclear family perpetuates white supremacism” = the nuclear family perpetuates white people. “Abolish whiteness” = genocide of whites. Anywhere the left uses the word “whiteness,” it can be substituted accurately with the words “white people.” Can anyone imagine what life will be like for the children being born now, who will grow up into a world where they are a minority and where this kind of rhetoric has been ramping up for decades? Society will not even see them as human beings. It will see them as instantiations of “whiteness” that are uniquely dangerous and monstrous in world history. This is why the alt-right grows and will continue growing unless the left stops its insanity.

  14. David says

    “The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. My good is my good and your good is yours. What one gains another loses. Even an inanimate object is what it is by excluding all other objects from the space it occupies; if it expands, it does so by thrusting other objects aside or by absorbing them. A self does the same. With beasts the absorption takes the form of eating; for us, it means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger. ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition'”

    Screwtape…. and today’s Social Justice Warriors.

  15. mikesigman says

    If blacks and Hispanics were succeeding economically and academically as well as Asians do, there wouldn’t be this constant effort to play “victim to whites”. Victimhood isn’t going to bring the success they need … the question is whether blacks and Hispanics can generate the effort and success that it takes to succeed. I used to be hopeful and optimistic, but I’m gradually losing that hope.

  16. Dan Tracy says

    Identify politics and racial bean counting is dehumanizing and demeaning.
    My wife moved to the U.S. from Brazil some 20 years ago and was quickly upset when it came to filing out applications that requested one’s race to be identified.

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  18. Roamer46 says

    “racism no longer means what I understood it to be all my life. According to critical race theorists, who permeate academe and its administration, racism is not ethnic prejudice and discrimination but rather prejudice and institutional power.”

    Strange…back in the olden days, “racist” meant a person who held an irrational belief that one race was inferior or superior to another. Under that definition, to observe, for example, that black men excel at basketball is a rational observation based on demonstrable fact. It is not racist, though it is racial. But to refuse to be seen by a black doctor because of a deeply held belief that blacks are incapable of being good doctors would be racist.

    What the author seems to call racism–ethnic prejudice and discrimination–is simply racial prejudice and discrimination. But one can have very rational reasons for holding racial prejudices and discriminating. Bad experiences with a particular race might lead one to mistrust members of that race categorically, for example. But this is rational racial prejudice, not racism.

    The critical race theorists’ version strikes me as mere racial prejudice, at best, but gibberish/delusion is closer to the mark. Go to trailer parks and report back on how much white institutional power you see.

    • Carl Grover says

      I want to comment on your “doctor” analogy. This is true, yet, it is ok to say “support black businesses”. That’s the hypocrisy. Also, this is gray area, as would it then not be misogynistic to say “I want a male doctor”, as a male, or any other situation? Will we get to a point where it will be misandry for a woman to avoid a male gynecologist?

  19. A University event titled “Students of Color Speak out”? We need a World event titled “The Species Human Speak out” If we do not quit focusing on differences and start focusing what unites all of us in genus Homo Sapiens (which is Latin for wise man), and our responsibility to care for each other and the only habitable planet we know of; then race, political affiliation, gender, religion, won’t matter. Nature will sort us as a species (95% of all species that ever existed have went extinct, regardless of if it was a brown or white dodo bird) If you are 50, when you were born the population of planet earth was 3.4 Billion, now it is 7.6 Billion. It took all of known human history until 1804 to hit 1 Billion. Most of us are a mix of many “races” regardless of our “color”, don’t think so?….try an Ancestry DNA test. Evil has always walked the planet, whether if was Hitler (white) or Pol Pot (not white) or those who ravaged Rwanda. When I was young, one of my Uncles who chased Nazis around North Africa during WW2 told me that there were two things you never found in a foxhole, an atheist or a racist. “When the chips are down the person next to you is kin, no matter the color their skin”. Ask a black combat vet if they hate “white” people.

  20. Dale Liston says

    Disguised? When and where are they disguising it? It seems pretty blatant and in your face.

  21. I’m a bit obsessed with the NFL protests, so I had to point out how this applies:

    “The language and tone of suspicion of others was jarring to the anti-racist activism I was familiar with in my undergraduate and high school days, which sought to unify diverse students through inclusion.”

    Note how the NFL protests also do not seek to unify diverse people through inclusion.

    “What I heard was a siren’s song leading us to a culture of racial division and mistrust.”

    Note how “racial division and mistrust” are the precise results of the NFL protests. That is their true purpose.

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  23. Weldon says

    “Until that day, I’d never seen people overtly dehumanized and treated as racialized objects – amplified through the use of words like ‘bodies’ to refer to people of color.”

    While the prevalence of anti-white racism is obviously problematic, it is a non-starter with these activists and academics. They reject the premise, they don’t care, and they will use such complaints to reinforce their own arguments, which are specious but have currency with large swaths of the uncritical public.

    Better to go after them for their reductive and dehumanizing treatment of people of color. It’s not purely a conceptual problem. Their language and actions have a profoundly degrading and segregationist impact on people who aren’t white. Many times this is out of ignorance, but often it is intentional and strategic – you can’t build political power without a shared need, and like the military-industrial complex some of these people are more interested in maintaining and worsening that need than fixing the problems. White people (as a group) don’t suffer for this, non-white people do.

    Whether it is out of callousness, ignorance, or outright sabotage (not to mention performing hate crimes to “stir the pot”), by their own standards it is the impact that matters, not the measure of intent. And by those standards these anti-racists are not merely “racist,” they are in fact agents of white supremacy and should be treated as such. Make them answer for that instead.

    • Weldon says

      That would have been better stated as “Make them answer for that as well.”

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  25. As a brown guy, I have had almost the exact same thoughts. Its crazy how people have tried to redefine what racism mean. Thank you for this article, it’s good to know in not the only person who sees this happening

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