Wednesday, May 2, 2012

White America: It's Not 1950 Anymore

Not affirmative action.

Hey, White America. You had a great run. Along the way, you did your best to hang onto slavery, but eventually you had to give it up. After that, you tried to rule through Jim Crow laws and a few lynchings now and again. In 1955, Brown v. The Board of Education  took away your right to your own public schools. In 1964 and 1965, civil rights laws made you lose some of your last bastions, like the right to your own lunch counters and voting and such. Now African-Americans are still down but not out.

Indian life: great mesa, lousy town.

You did get your way pretty much with the Indians. They were killed off or swept aside into out-of-the-way reservations. Okay, they've made a minor comeback with casinos, but most of them are insignificant sideshows while the general Native Americans live in quiet desperation. In general, though, they're not part of your world.

My test scores are higher than your test scores.

Asians you could never get a handle on. They're clever, thrifty, with good family values and a penchant for education. They're quiet and hardworking, and while you weren't looking they got educated. Even new immigrants come ready to take your jobs in high tech, medicine and elsewhere. They're enough like you that, what the hell, whaddya gonna do?

Why do they keep buying up all the small businesses? Oh yeah, equal opportunity.

Even the "other" Asians, like the Pakistanis, get over on you by buying out Seven-Elevens, gas stations, convenience stores, liquor stores, and whatnot, and the Indians -- if they don't become doctors -- buy up all the motels across the country. They're darker than the East Asians, but by and large they're quiet and successful, so waddya gonna do?

Who hires undocumented workers? America does.

The Hispanics, though they did own the southwestern third of our country until we chased them out with a trumped-up war, have come back with a vengeance. They now have almost all of our unskilled jobs -- like Taco Bell, Burger King, and McDonald's -- including all the maid positions and landscaping and, of course, the entirety of the backbreaking farm and ranch work. They even dominate in meatpacking, construction, and probably a lot of our dockside work, too.

Truth is whites won't do this work anymore. Does that mean Hispanics are tougher?

Right now, the Hispanics are moving back to their homelands in droves because of the down economy. The handful of anti-immigration laws have taken their toll, as well. Even the fences have slowed them down a bit. When the economy gets better, however, they'll be back. Somebody's got to do the farm work, so eventually the harsh laws in Alabama and Georgia will be changed (they're hurting pretty bad there already). What isn't stated very often is that a lot of Hispanics have citizenship already, and even those that aren't have a couple of million kids who are citizens. One way or another, no matter what our panicked legislatures do, the Hispanics will be a growing segment of our population for the foreseeable future. After all, they have higher birthrates than you.

So you, dear White America, have a choice. You can thrash around, get mad, get even, pass laws, grumble, vote with the ever-shrinking Republicans -- you know, your people -- but there's really very little you can do. Oh, you could build little enclaves in Montana and Idaho and arm yourselves and wear camouflage, but that's not going to change a thing, except maybe give you Lyme disease.

I found this picture with this caption: "There are a lot of nice people in Montana."

Now, I didn't just decide to pick on you this morning out of the blue. And there is that little pesky thing I could have mentioned: I'm really quite white, too -- I burn easily and all that -- but I don't count myself among you, if only because I'm a liberal progressive who doesn't mind diversity. No, what motivated me to present this picture of your bleak, much browner, future was a Jonah Goldberg contribution to the Washington Post's "Five Myths" series. His was entitled "Top five cliches that liberals use to avoid real arguments," and it's a real doozy.

Besides the astounding fact that anyone takes Jonah Goldberg seriously or would even publish his work outside his native habitat, The National Review, there's the simple, blithering-idiot grandiosity of his pronouncements. But this isn't really about him, it's about one of his "myths."

In his article, which you can read at your peril here, his very first myth, or "cliche," is Diversity is strength. Goldberg makes the case:
Affirmative action used to be defended on the grounds that certain groups, particularly African Americans, are entitled to extra help because of the horrible legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism. Whatever objections opponents may raise to that claim, it’s a legitimate moral argument.
But that argument has been abandoned in recent years and replaced with a far less plausible and far more ideological claim: that enforced diversity is a permanent necessity. Lee Bollinger, the president of Columbia University, famously declared: “Diversity is not merely a desirable addition to a well-run education. It is as essential as the study of the Middle Ages, of international politics and of Shakespeare.”
  It’s a nice thought. But consider some of the great minds of human history, and it’s striking how few were educated in a diverse environment. Newton, Galileo and Einstein had little exposure to Asians or Africans. The genius of Aristotle, Socrates and Plato cannot be easily correlated with the number of non-Greeks with whom they chatted in the town square. If diversity is essential to education, let us get to work dismantling historically black and women’s colleges. When I visit campuses, it’s common to see black and white students eating, studying and socializing separately. This is rounding out everyone’s education?
Similarly, we’re constantly told that communities are strengthened by diversity, but liberal Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam has found the opposite. In a survey that included interviews with more than 30,000 people, Putnam discovered that as a community becomes more ethnically and socially varied, social trust and civic engagement plummet. Perhaps forced diversity makes sense, but liberals make little effort to prove it.
What Jonah Goldberg is doing here -- using rhetorical devices -- requires that I admit he has some native intelligence and what he perceives as skills, such as the organized ability to deceive, but there you are. He is using rhetorical tricks. First, he frames "diversity is strength" as a liberal cliche. Who says? Jonah Goldberg. Me, a liberal, not so much. I think of it as a reality, one to be proactively dealt with.

Oops, sorry, Jonah. I thought this was Birmingham, Alabama. Wrong, it's Birmingham, England.

Second, he's conflating affirmative action with diversity. They are not one and the same, and no amount of rhetorical slight of hand will change that. Affirmative action is a set of laws and regulations formulated to advance a set of policies for the betterment of a certain class of people. Diversity, on the other hand, is a fact of life. Nice try, Jonah.

Third, making the case that the ancient Greeks and other brainy Europeans of the past few hundred years didn't hang out with brown people while they were having their brainy attacks does not make a case against diversity. It only proves that Goldberg is capable of ignoring troubling facts such as the origin of western mathematics -- our counting system is composed of Arabic numerals, for chrissake, and the term "algebra" comes from the Arabic al-jebr meaning "reunion of broken parts." Jonah conveniently forgets that some of the great mathematical minds have been Indian, the Chinese invented gun powder and printing -- I could go on -- but that wouldn't make his case either.

This may be Greek to you, but it isn't.

I'll stipulate that a lot of people throughout history who made major contributions to our western civilization have been "white." Great. That has absolutely nothing to do with diversity.

My essential point is that the world is friggin' diverse. Get used to it.

No, a liberal's notion of diversity and what to do about it, one would hope, is that it's here and how we deal with it will greatly determine how we thrive as a nation and a world.

Jonah Goldberg's declaration that we break up into our little enclaves anyway, and his declaring that "my Greeks are better than your Turks," or whatever, doesn't do anything to advance his tribe, unless it's to prove that they're fraidy cats or, worse, an ever-shrinking band of blithering idiots, a rump Republican Party, if you will.

I feel for you, Jonah, I really do. And I feel for you, White America. Your safe, little world of Ozzie and Harriet and Wheaties and Wonder Bread in which you had the jobs and your wives stayed home and did the ironing is over. Over. Over. And so is the world where people of color will always be your servants. That's on it way out eventually, too.

I admit it: I thought this was America, too. Turns out it was just the Nelson family.

What's left? Reality. If this reality contains all manner of people not to your liking, so what? I, as a liberal, do in fact acknowledge one thing that resembles Jonah's cliches: we need to move forward as a diverse nation, and that means we all need education, we all need opportunity, we all need health care, we all need justice, we all need a place in this world. Is that affirmative enough for you?

If not, move to Montana or Idaho. But watch your back. They're coming to get you. And I'll be egging them on, and rooting for them, too. Why? Because, white as I am, they're my people. Whoa. I guess that makes me a liberal. Good for me.

1 comment:

  1. and when they're gone those "nonwhites" will have nothing to progress upon. welcome to Zimbabwe.