I didn’t want to do it. I said I wouldn’t. Hypertension runs in my family. But owing to a tweet by James Taranto, I was pulled inexorably into reading this perfectly atrocious piece in The Nation by Aura Bogado, who covers “racial justice, native rights and immigration.” (“Natives,” in this context, probably does not include most people who were born in the United States.) The title of her piece is “White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman.” I’ll give you a few seconds to guess what Ms. Bogado has concluded from the not-guilty verdict.
To wit: “This verdict is a crystal-clear illustration of the way white supremacy operates in America.”
One paragraph must unfortunately be quoted in full:
In the last few days, Latinos in particular have spoken up again about Zimmerman’s race, and the “white Hispanic” label especially, largely responding to social media users and mass media pundits who employed the term. Watching Zimmerman in the defense seat, his sister in the courtroom, and his mother on the stand, one can’t deny the skin color that informs their experience. They are not white. Yet Zimmerman’s apparent ideology—one that is suspicious of black men in his neighborhood, the “assholes who always get away—” is one that adheres to white supremacy. It was replicated in the courtroom by his defense, whose team tore away at Rachel Jeantel, questioning the young woman as if she was taking a Jim Crow–era literacy test. A defense that, during closing, cited slave-owning rapist Thomas Jefferson, played an animation for the jury based on erroneous assumptions, made racially coded accusations about Trayvon Martin emerging “out of the darkness,” and had the audacity to compare the case of the killing of an unarmed black teenager to siblings arguing over which one stole a cookie.
So, to give a precis of Ms. Abogado’s logic: George Zimmerman is not white, but insofar as he does bad things, those bad things are “white.” No true Hispanic would be so racist as to shoot a black person; he is merely acting according to white societal hypnosis. This is textbook Whiteness Studies, according to which White = Bad, and Not White = Good, so that insofar as Not White = Bad, the Bad =/= Not White. It’s a neat and internally consistent little word game that people in academia and journalism play with one another. (See “No True Scotsman.”)
In practice, the Whiteness Studies game works as follows: All bad things are labeled “white supremacy,” which is defined as a complete and total system of “white” bourgeois logic, law, custom, etc. This system is so pervasive that even when a non-white person does something ostensibly racist, he is only acting according to “white logic,” thus his or her racism is actually white racism. Much of this derives from the theories of the pseudoscientist Frances Cress Welsing, whose definition of racism was white supremacy. Again, word games.
Whiteness Studies works exactly the same way classical antisemitism works, and still does work. Jews are said to be controlling absolutely everything, including people’s consciousness. The Jew is responsible for everything bad, because everything bad is, to the antisemite, the definition of Jewishness. There is no way out of this logic, which is total and pitiless, once its initial premise has been granted. It is a conspiracy theory and thus immune to reason and argument. True white supremacists play this game too. They take everything wrong with society and say it’s the product of non-white values, forces, etc. In formulating her “theory” of “white supremacy,” then, Bogado, too, is operating according to white supremacist logic. Her theory–rather, its essential thought process — is not new. Today it’s called Whiteness Studies and gets people tenure and good salaries at universities. In 1933, in Leipzig or Frankfurt am Main, it would have been known as something else.