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November 02, 2005

Authenticity, Extremism, And Racism

Michael Steele's black opponents pelt him with Oreos, to symbolize he's an Uncle Tom traitor to his race.

"Party trumps race," they say.

If only.


"Party trumping race" would be a good thing. Indeed, that seems to be what Michael Steele is doing -- choosing a party, or philosophy (and thence a party) without viewing that choice through a racial prism.

It is generally a good thing when anything -- personality type, culture, philosophy, politics, even pop-music taste -- trumps race. Would anyone suppose that it's a good thing that there should be a Racially-Authentic Standard for beliefs, tastes, and aspiration?

Apparently some do. Those who pelt Steele with Oreos say "Party trumps Race," but they're lying, perhaps to themselves. For them, Race trumps everything else. After all, there are lots of people with similar views to Steele; they're not being pelted with Oreos, or being singled out as "inauthentic" or "traitors."

No, what bothers them about Steele is that he's bucking the Racially Correct identity-politics line. If he were white, they would barely care. Just another white Republican they don't like. It's his race, and his presumed betrayal of his racial brethren and their racial interests, that draws the ire.

Let's just note something quickly-- I could not call Naked Testicle Spiderman a "traitor to the white race" without being (justifiably) scorned. Were I even to suggest that white people owe fealty to their own racial interests -- the interests of the, for lack of a better word, Volk -- I'd be accused of quasi-Naziism.

And rightly so. Nazis talk in precisely that manner. You are to be white-- authentically white, buying all the "real" white beliefs and tastes and manners, and dedicated to advancing the white race -- or you are a traitor to the white race.

A sell-out.

I don't want to descend into needless vulgarity, but there's another pretty vicious term Nazis use when they see a white person cottoning a little too much to black folks for their liking. Nigger-lover. It's a doubly hateful word-- maybe triply; who can keep track?

Is there much difference between Nazis calling black-liking whites "Nigger-lovers" and black racial chauvanists calling Michael Steele an Uncle Tom and Oreo, apart from the use of the forbidden N-word? The charge is the same: You are a traitor to the race. You cravenly and inauthentically have chosen to tolerate or even like another race over your own.

The caveat here, as I've said before, is that blacks and other minorities get a little leeway here, due to legitimate past injustices and etc. History mitigates the sin of black racism, or black racial chauvanism. But just because a sin is mitigated and made less egregious does not make it tolerable or praiseworthy.

Which brings up the quite-bad disease, most frequently striking the young and intellectually secure, of "authenticity" of some form or another.

"Authenticity" is nothing of the sort. Truly authentic people do not have to strive for authenticity; they are authentic and true to themselves. "Authenticity" as it is commonly meant denotes an attempt to model one's personality, tastes, and beliefs upon an external standard.

And it's artificial as all get out. Attempting to emulate some sort of paragon of what you think you should be is an artifical subversion of your own personality in favor of someone else's. (Let's ignore, for the moment, the quite-praiseworthy drive for most of us to be better, morally and ethically and such, than our natural drives would dictate.)

Teenagers do a lot of this, of course, as far as trivial matters go. They try to figure out what the "cool" stuff to like is and adopt those tastes. And then, when the "cool" stuff changes, they change too. When they get to college, they dump N'Sync and will only listen to brooding, socially-concerned singer-songwriters.

Because they're "authentic."

Everyone does this to some extent, but the effects are pretty pernicious when the "authenticity" strived for is a racial model of propriety. College kids start liking music they didn't like when they were younger partly out of changing tastes, but partly to differentiate themselves from those younger, less mature, less hip, less educated. An important part of "authenticity" is the feeling of superiority to others it grants you -- you are authentic, others are not. You are therefore better.

The Saudi Arabian fatwa against the Western "polytheist" rules of soccer are expressly an attempt at artificial "authenticity" and rejection of The Other, The Inferior. The rules are changed in trivial and silly ways not because it makes the game play better, but so those playing it by the new, Islamically-correct rules can differentiate themselves from, and thereby show their cultural superiority to, the objects of their hatred. Westerners, Americans, and Jews, in ascending order of contempt.

Reasonable society recognizes such hateful nonesense for what it is when whites (especially white Christians, of course) practice it. Why is it so difficult to see that what is bad for whites to do must also be bad for blacks, Muslims, and other minorities to practice?

The quest for authenticity is simultaneously a quest for insularity, as the entire point of the exercise is to separate oneself from the inauthentic and the sell-outs and the corrupt and the nonbelievers.

And that leads to extremism. Because the more like-minded and insular a group is, the more dedicated the group is to promoting an ideal of racial, religious, or cultural authenticity, the more extremists gain in influence.

Few young Muslim men in search of an identity they can call their own want to hear an Imam suggesting that the way to beat the West is to adopt the good parts of it and improve upon them. Those seeking an identity want to hear they're already better, that anyone unlike them is not only inferior but perhaps actually evil if not demonic.

The more insular a group is, the more succeptible it is to extremist thought. You don't gain attention by saying reasonable things. You gain attention by saying quite unreasonable things. And you count on the group to shout down anyone who might point out what you're saying is hateful or absurd.

Thus the Vietnam Veterans Against the War suddenly found themselves in a meeting at which they discussed assassinating US Senators in favor of the war. What is insanity outside a very insular and passionate group becomes heroic and wise inside of it; those who counsel against such extremism are seen as cowards and fools and tools of The Enemy.

And so it goes. Committed black-power partisans, dedicated to the notion of black solidarity, revile a black politician in offensive terms of racial treachery.

Young Muslim men, searching for an ideology that will assuage their feelings of cultural inferiority, seek out the most radical Imams who preach the most absurd, hateful, and medieval rantings about Christians, Jews, and Muslims who are not sufficiently Muslim.

And, yes, po' white trash, also lacking in self-esteem, embrace a racist ideology that says no matter how ugly, mean-tempered, criminal-minded, violent, immoral, stupid, uneducated, or useless you might be, you're one of God's Holy Pale Chosen. You're white, and you're all right.

And how do you argue against it from the outside? In all cases, you're not merely arguing with a philosophy or ideology. You're arguing against the major source of a person's sense of self-worth, the thing that makes him feel superior to others who don't share his vaunted "authenticity."

You can convince people of a lot of things, but it's pretty hard to get them to give up anything that props up their egos.

A person can be convinced that a fact is wrong, but he can almost never be convinced that he, as a person, isn't as special or superior as he's come to believe.


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posted by Ace at 01:45 PM

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