In a post yesterday, “Biting The Hand That Quotes You,” I took issue with one of James Taranto’s responses, in his “Best of the Web” Wall Street Journal column, to a piece by Jamelle Bouie on a Nation magazine blog. Bouie, you will recall (or learn when you read or re-read my earlier post) admitted that — “as an African-American” — he couldn’t understand recent polling data revealing that 58% of Millennials (18- to 24-year olds) believe that discrimination against whites is as big a problem as discrimination against minorities.
Aside from the one nit I picked, Taranto’s criticism was quite good, but he didn’t even swing at several slow pitches that should not go unchallenged. Consider the following excerpt from Bouie:
…. Discrimination against minorities takes many forms, and most are easy to identify. There’s the overt bigotry of day-to-day life, the subtle discrimination of laws and institutions (the arrest rate for black men, the predatory lending aimed at minority communities) and the miasma of racist ideas that flow through our culture and sit in our subconscious, ready to act.
These things might hinder white Americans in a spiritual sense, but it’s absurd to say that they have a material effect on the prospects of white people. If you are white in the United States, almost everyone in a position of power or influence looks like you. You won’t be questioned if you find yourself in a nice part of town, you won’t be the picture of criminality, and few people will ever question your right to take government help. Cops won’t give you a hard time as a matter of course, and no one will ask you to speak for white people as a whole. Sports fans won’t go apoplectic and shower you with racial slurs because you scored a goal. The list goes on.
Out of the “miasma” of this list of why whites don’t suffer discrimination, I’d like to single out only two.
1. Discrimination against whites isn’t discrimination (though it may hinder them “in a spiritual sense,” whatever that means) because whatever discrimination white individuals suffer does not have “a material effect on the prospects of white people” as a group.
The idea that racial discrimination against individuals doesn’t matter unless it is extensive enough to have “a material effect” on the racial group to which the individuals belong is both pervasive and obnoxious, and I’ve criticized it many times, such as here, responding to an NAACP attorney who had argued that “The University of Michigan is at least 80 percent white, so it isn’t credible to claim that it or its affirmative action policy discriminates against whites as a group”:
This argument, a foundation of the preference principle, has far more radical implications than is generally recognized, for it in effect redefines discrimination as something that applies only to groups. To say that preferences cannot be discriminatory because the University of Michigan is still 80% white is to say that discrimination against individuals doesn’t count, until and unless it is massive enough to affect the statistical representation of the racial or ethnic group to which they are said to belong. Do “civil rights” groups really want to go there?
2. Whites are never expected “to speak for white people as a whole.”
That’s because they are admitted to college or hired as individuals, not as race representatives or because something about their whiteness is thought to be necessary to expose to non-whites. Blacks are expected to speak for their race, insofar as they are, because their race provides a substantial part of the reason they were admitted to selective colleges with affirmative action. They are admitted in part — often in large part — precisely because of their race to provide race-based “diversity” to the non-minorities.
Bouie is entirely justified in resenting the burden of racial spokesman placed on black students, but he can’t consistently object to it unless he is willing to reject the “diversity”-justified racial preference that makes the imposition of that burden inescapable.