Anti-white racism: a product of academic negligence

The media and police response to the recent abduction and torture of a white mentally disabled man by four black men and women in Chicago exposes a sickness within Western culture, and as humanities scholars we are all absolutely responsible for the spawning of this sickness.

Despite the fact that the perpetrators live streamed the torture on Facebook, clearly articulating their racial and political motivation (the assailants can clearly be heard chanting Fuck Trump! and Fuck white people!, as well as forcing their victim to proclaim is love of black people), some mainstream media in the US refused to label this attack as racist or racially motivated.

As many astute critics have asked, would journalists be so generous if the scenario were reversed with whites torturing a black victim, disabled or otherwise? 

What this question foregrounds is a recent revision of the term racism such that it has come to be re-defined as a product of prejudice plus power. In other words, if you are not white you don’t have social or political power and therefore you can only be guilty of prejudice not racism.

The implication of this redefinition of black people as victimized and white people as victimizers is that it incentivizes black-on-white violence insofar as such violence is characterized as just punishment, and it indicates to potential perpetrators that the consequences for such violence are negligible, and thus worth the personal cost. 

So how did we as a society, get here? Many commentators have rightly pointed to the media and their recent history of race baiting, and biased reporting of the Trump-Clinton election race. I would like to nominate another candidate , one that has helped to shape a generation of journalists and media personalities into uncritical ideologues: humanities scholars.

Let me elaborate by way of a personal anecdote.

Last year I was tutoring a social justice/film course, which largely attracted third year students already steeped in the teachings of gender studies, postcolonial studies, queer theory, critical race and whiteness, and so on. It may be worth mentioning that the majority of these students were white.

In the final class I put forward the following hypothetical to my students:

Two Mexican men approach a white man and explicitly and clearly state “We are going to beat you up because you are white and we do not like white people.” The two Mexicans proceed to brutally beat up the white man. Is this racism?

The response was an eery precursor of what has played out in the media these last few days.

Of a class of around twenty people, one person said yes, this is a dictionary definition of racism. The assailants clearly articulate their motivation as their prejudice against a race different from their own, and therefore the act of violence is racist.

While most opted out of the ensuing debate, two students staunchly defended their position that while this is clearly prejudiced behavior, it certainly wasn’t racism because racism can only be performed by white people. Why? Racism is prejudice + power and non-white people don’t have power.

Given that the non-whites in this scenario clearly had physical power to overwhelm another individual, power in numbers, and the social power to freely make and act upon independent decisions, I must presume that my students meant political power.

When pressed to justify their position they insisted that the redefinition of the term racism is a necessary means by which society must counter the historical oppression of non-whites, temporarily giving non-whites more power within society such that the pendulum can swing back the other way and we can achieve racial equality. No one could tell me who would arbitrate such a process so as to prevent the pendulum from swinging too far in the other direction. 

The fact that the eventual emergence of black oppression of white people hardly seemed a danger to them indicates a belief that they are invested in an unsolvable problem; that whites will always have privilege.

No one seemed to have a problem with the fact that affirmative action conferring additional power to non-white people would preclude acts of violence against white individuals, even if white victims of this power led their life in a manner that sought to atone for the white guilt inherited from their forebears. In other words, there was no reward or protection for those white people that devoted their entire lives to the project of social equality and the elimination of white privilege. 

Nor did my students seem to be able to process the implications of their position, which completely eliminated any incentive for white people to ascribe to the project of racial equality.

Also articulated was the factually incorrect claim that white people had for all time conquered and subjected all non-white people throughout the world. I would like to remind you dear reader, that many of these individuals are students of post-colonialism which is almost exclusively concerned with the study of history. I will leave others better versed in the history of humanity to demonstrate how oppression is not the exclusive heritage of white man. 

Ultimately, what ensued within that class room is a demonstration of ideological indoctrination. With every question that I posed which contested the logic of a claim, these two students engaged in rhetorical acrobatics to maintain the plausibility of that claim, rather than allowing themselves to question their beliefs. 

At least they engaged. The silent students, the ones that refused to engage one way or the other are the ones that trouble me most. They trouble me because they have learnt the same material but they appear incapable of using, questioning or debating it.

These are the opinion makers and thought leaders that we are releasing into society. They are being taught what to think instead of how to think, and when we as educators refuse to challenge them, or give them decent grades for ideas and arguments that are logically untenable, and when we don’t challenge our colleagues that seek to indoctrinate these youth, then we are culpable when our societies turn from reason to violence.


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