The Corner

Whitewashing The Blackout

From a reader:

Mr. Goldberg:

I think you are whitewashing the problem of racial insults imbedded in our common speech. Take “whitewash” for example—it implies deceitful concealment of wrongdoing. That is a negative and disrespectful slur on white people. Or how about “lily white”—it implies exclusive and disdainful racial whiteness, but there is no such hurtful comparable term for other races. Why is the reference to insane asylum workers, “men in white coats”, hung on white people? The factual correctness of a reference is no defense for other terms perceived as racial, so just because insane asylum workers really do wear white coats doesn’t make any difference. Or how about that familiar phrase, “white trash”—there is no “black trash” or “brown trash” or “yellow (or red) trash”. Why is “trash” consigned only to white people. Or “white elephant”, meaning a phony deal or proposition—why does the white race get this association? A “white lie” is a small lie, but a lie nevertheless. No other race gets a lie named after them.

There are many other such “white” putdowns, but nobody cares. As I said, it’s just a whitewash to overlook these unfair references.

Me: I’m really hoping this guy isn’t serious. 

Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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