Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

To Continue

I think I spotted your problem.

To follow up on the post below, we have this incident.

Basically, White Guy has a bike (from - I'm not kidding - L.L. Bean, making it the whitest bike in the history of white bikes).  White Guy lives in a city where black people live.  White Guy has his L.L. Bean bike stolen. White Guy makes assumption that Black Person stole his bike.  Liberal Friend tells White Guy to knock off the racial profiling.  White Guy decides he's tired of White Guilt, which in his mind seems to be anything that suggests one shouldn't lump all people of a race into one group.

Remember, racism is lumping all people into a group and then ascribing that group with characteristics that become universal for that group.  In this case, "Nuns didn't steal my bike, black people did."  Of course nuns didn't steal your bike, when has the Catholic clergy ever done anything illegal?  Of course, nuns live together in communal circumstances and barely recognize private property, but I'm sure they didn't steal your bike.  Not with all those blackety black black people around.

I remember once living in the People's Republic of Santa Monica, my car was broken into one night.  It was one of three separate times my car was broken into when I lived in LA.  (Once was outside Jake Tapper's apartment.  Dude owes me, still.)  Anyway, I became adept at shopping for the second cheapest car stereo in the store.

But that night, what they stole was my kit bag from practice.  And what was in that kit bag was my All-American rugby jersey.  That was pretty much irreplaceable.  I was furious.  I turned to my friend, Whiskey Pete (sort of his real name) and opined that I wanted to find a homeless person and beat the shit out of them.

He replied calmly but with a not so subtle hint of moral disappointment in me that he didn't think scapegoating was a valid solution to my problem.

Did a homeless person steal my kit bag?  Probably.  It was a bash and dash job just one block from the Third Street Promenade.  There were a bunch of homeless people in Santa Monica and a bag of clothes probably had some value to them.

But Pete was right.  There was no value or purpose in seeking to take out my anger on a group of people.  That's childish.  That's what a kid does before they learn to control their feelings.  Jimmy took my toy truck, so I'm going to hit Judy.  For the most part we outgrow that impulse, but my experience that chilly night in Santa Monica demonstrated to me that it always lies just below the surface.

Scapegoating a group, when you can't find the individual actually responsible, feels good on some level.  Not good as in "moral", but good as in "vindictive and emotionally satisfying".  Scapegoating is easy and glib.

So, to Mark Judge, I say, "I understand why your first thought was to blame all those black people for the theft of your bike.  You live in a city that's about 85% African American many of whom are poor, so yeah, it probably was a black person.  Or a nun.  One of those.  But that doesn't mean every black person is responsible for the theft of your bike.  Because you don't go there. Not because of 'white guilt' but because lumping people of a race into one group is called 'racism' and we don't do that in public anymore.

"Mark, I can think of three types of people who stole your L.L. Bean bike.  Poor people who wanted to sell it; drunk people who thought it would be funny to steal a bike; someone who really needed a bike to get somewhere quickly.  Maybe there's a fourth.  Maybe the individual was black; statistically speaking that person probably was.  But you live in DC.  Saying it was a black person isn't saying anything beyond, 'I live in DC and my bike was stolen.'"

When German nihilists steal your rug, that's not the fault of Germans - no matter if the rug really tied the room together.  A criminal or a drunk (or both) stole your bike.  That's the salient characteristic at play here.  And to point that out is not "white guilt", it's acknowledging that scapegoating might feel good in the moment, but it becomes corrosive when applied.  Ask the Jews.  Hell, ask African Americans.  Ask the people in the Twin Towers.

Treating individuals as individuals isn't "white guilt", it's the key to a harmonious and peaceful society.

And I still miss that jersey, too, damnit.

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