I try to stay apolitical in my writing for the simple fact that it is very hard to have any ideological position these days without hacking off half the world. I like to joke that if most of my neighbors knew what I really thought about the shape of our culture these days, they would have already burned my house to the ground. Unfortunately, I happen to live in Olympia, home of Evergreen University, which is my wife’s alma mater for her masters degree. To hear her tell it, and granted she finished up 20 years ago, Evergreen was a great education. Open dialog and debate were welcomed and her professors sound like sources of more than education. They sound like sources of wisdom.
In the past few days, Evergreen University has made the national news. My take on it is that they had a long-standing policy of allowing a day in which white people were encouraged not to attend, presumably out of respect for everyone else. First off, in what universe is this policy not racist? Why is racism only considered racism if it comes from a white point of view? Racism exists everywhere, in every flavor, and from the perspective of every population. Mexicans look down on El Salvadorans. Russians look down on Ukrainians, and so on… Ad infinitum. Some level of racism is pure human nature. It’s probably fairly easy to argue that racism is tribalism, which had a significant role in prehistoric survival. What the heck is this white privilege that keeps being shot out like cannon fire? Is anyone imagining that white people do not have to work for a living like everyone else? Sure, there are examples from any race of people who happen to be fortunate enough to inherit money, and it’s even possible that there more white examples than any others, but it works in the opposite direction just as well.
I once worked for the US Forest Service, and I was told in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to continue to work for the agency, I’d better hope that no one of any other ethnicity applied for the job, or I would be out. Guess what happened? There’s your white privilege. There was a lesbian in the front office who could tell as many loud jokes about male genitalia as she wanted without any consequence, but as white guy, even giving a female employee a hug (that she initiated) was grounds for dismissal. White privilege, I guess. We have institutionalized the blank slate to a degree that many would find astounding.
My wife loves her genealogy. She encouraged me to take a DNA test to see what I have in my background. In all honesty, I was hoping for a confirmation of the childhood rumors of Native American ties. I was hoping for some African DNA. At the very minimum, I could have happily created a scandal at the next family reunion in the deep South. I got nothin’. I’m as white European as they come. I was actually disappointed. From a certain point of view this makes the furthest from a racist that a so-called child of white privilege could be. For others, I am the ultimate racist for even noticing the difference.
So, apparently the Evergreen professor in the news, Bret Weinstein, a name implying one of the most horrifying examples of racism in history, although even noticing his name would subject me to racist accusations, has apparently spoken out against the policy of keeping white people off campus for a day. The resulting protest has been either mind blowing or an example of the most illogical thought in my lifetime.
The protesters apparently want this guy fired for racism when his position is patently anti-racist. Unless you buy into the concept that the only racism is that which comes from a white (preferably male) perspective… The only way to make his position racist is to believe wholeheartedly that white racism is universal and any other form of racism does not exist. The protesters blocked the campus police from even checking on his well-being, and even more amazingly, the president of the college has told his campus police to stand down, to accede to the demands of these students who could not logically find their way out of a wet paper bag. Again, my house could be burned to the ground for even espousing these opinions.
What have we come to?
I can only speak for myself. I grew up in the South, which many automatically associate with racism, but I am not racist. On an individual basis, everyone is the same. I may regard a man of Mexican decent as one the finest people I have ever met. (Hi Arturo!). I may worry about the recent health crisis of my Asian friends. (Hi As-Soon!). I may regard some of my high school football buddies as great examples of superlative humanity. (Hi Wayne!). I may regard a Puerto Rican high school friend as the most beautiful girl ever, but then I’m also a sexist, right?
The point is there is no longer any room for judgement. Even if my friend from Mexican descent was a member of a violent gang, rather than one of the most respectable people I’ve ever met, I’d still be a racist for using the word Mexican. Even if my friend As-Soon, and her husband Mike, and her children James, Jonathan, and Jennifer, were working as hard as they can to assimilate into American culture because of the opportunities they have found here, I’d be a racist for even noticing that they are Asian, no matter how high my regard for them stands. My friend Wayne, who I could not help but notice has African ancestry, would not be the slightest bit offended by the fact that I noticed, because he is afforded the respect of a human being, not an African American human being, not a black human being, just a fellow human being. Even noticing a difference is now tagged with a Hitlerian level of disdain.
The logic escapes me. My current mental metaphor is that the progressives, the left, the anti-Trump-election rhetoric, is spoken from inside of a particularly limited balloon. Of course the balloon is blue on the outside, mirrored on the inside to clearly reflect the thinking that is going on without any outside perspective, and the only view outwards is through the cardboard tube at the center of a roll of paper towels, which as we all know, is the pinnacle of environmental destruction, and the biggest blind spot imaginable.
Anyone who knows how to get both sides talking with some semblance of intelligence, mutual respect, and common sense, please speak up.