Earlier today, the New York Times announced that it had hired Sarah Jeong to join its editorial board, and — like clockwork — controversial old tweets promptly surfaced. In them, Jeong expressed some rather interesting views of “[dumba** f***ing] white people,” musing about how much joy she gets “out of being cruel to old white men” and how “white men are [bullsh**].” For good measure she also compared white people to “groveling goblins” and questioned why they’re “genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun.” In a statement, Jeong expressed her regret and explained that she was engaging in “counter-trolling” designed to mimic the language of racists who harassed her online.
The Times is standing by its hire. Good. It’s time to end termination-by-Twitter and debate bad ideas head-on. (As for whether the Times and other elite outlets will display the same fortitude when a conservative is the target of online outrage, I’ll believe it when I see it.)
But it’s one thing to argue that Jeong should be given a chance to prove herself at the Times, and another entirely to justify the content of the tweets themselves. Yet that’s what part of left-wing Twitter did.
The argument isn’t just that the tweets were satire. Rather, numerous liberals took on the very notion that anti-white racism exists, or matters at all. These tweets are representative of the idea:
A lot of people on the internet today confusing the expressive way anti-racists and minorities talk about "white people" with actual race-based hatred, for some unfathomable reason
— Zack Beauchamp (@zackbeauchamp) August 2, 2018
Dear white people:
1. Racism is abt the powerful keeping down the powerless
2. We (generally) are the powerful
3. "White ppl" isn't a slur
4. "Fag" and the N word are slurs, because they subordinate
5. Your moral equivalence is nonsense
6. "Reverse racism" isn't a thing
— David S. Joachim (@davidjoachim) August 2, 2018
It's almost like some of them been treated terribly by white people their whole lives, and have a legitimate reason to be upset with the way white society has turned a blind eye to it. Gosh, what a stretch.
— Patrick Klepek (@patrickklepek) August 2, 2018
These comments echo ideas that have existed for some time. Essentially, they’re tied to the notion that anti-white rhetoric and ideas can’t be “racism” because such rhetoric is justified and/or not connected to power.
But this argument confuses the gravity of an offense with the existence of the offense. A powerless person’s hate may not harm the powerful, but it is still hate. A powerless person’s hate may even be grounded in specific experiences, but it is still hate. The essence of bigotry is to look at the color of a person’s skin and, on that basis alone, make malignant judgments about his character or worth.
Moreover, it is simply false to excuse anti-white racism on the grounds that people of color lack power. There are certainly many millions of vulnerable and marginalized individuals in this nation, and they are disproportionately (though not entirely) black and brown. But when anti-white sentiment is embedded in the New York Times editorial board, it’s no longer “powerless” in any meaningful sense. Similarly, when it reaches the heights of government, the academy, or the bestseller lists, it’s no longer remotely “powerless.”
None of this should be taken as an argument that power doesn’t matter. Of course it does. Power matters. And so does purpose. That’s why no one should compare Jeong’s comments to the racism you see on Stormfront or to the racism we saw on display in Charlottesville last year. Racism married to violence or violent intent is categorically different from the anti-white racism you see in certain quarters of the elite identity-politics Left. Similarly, racism married to state policies — especially state policies of the relatively recent American past, which continue to have malignant effects on poor and disadvantaged Americans — is categorically different from the anti-white racism that exists in parts of the academy or in segments of American media.
Are we really so far gone that we can’t condemn taking ‘joy’ in being ‘cruel’ to another person on the basis of their race?
The threat of anti-white racism (except in rare cases) isn’t violence. It’s not systematic oppression. There’s no realistic scenario where “the tables are turned” and black Americans visit on white Americans a reverse version of the worst aspects of American history. The problem with anti-white racism is that it runs directly counter to efforts to unify in spite of that history. It runs counter to efforts to elevate American culture. And, yes, it can and does create individual injustice in those instances where anti-white racism manifests itself in more than just tweets and academic journals.
Finally, to indulge at all the notion that injustice, even systematic injustice, can excuse or legitimize hatred against a class or group of Americans is to open Pandora’s Box. I’ve seen it argued across the breadth of the Web that anti-white sentiment is a legitimate and understandable response to the actions of white people and “white” power structures. But think about this argument. Veterans of our Middle Eastern wars have seen jihadist horrors on a scale that most Americans can’t comprehend. Is it a legitimate response for a veteran to go on a Twitter screed about “canceling” Arabs or calling them “groveling goblins”? Should a white victim of a black criminal draw conclusions about black people more generally? Even if he can point to disproportionate levels of violent crime?
Of course not. A healthy society urges people to reject unhealthy temptations to generalize, and instead urges that we treat our fellow citizens with a degree of grace and to judge them based on their individual actions. Any categorical hatred or disgust stands directly against this virtue. So, yes, anti-white racism is real, and Americans can and should reject it while still keeping in mind matters of gravity and proportion.
Are we really so far gone that we can’t condemn taking “joy” in being “cruel” to another person on the basis of their race? It’s time to understand a fundamental truth: The denigration of human beings — yes, including white human beings — works its own harm.