Since the election, some fatalistic Washington conservative elites have accepted — and Obama operatives have rejoiced in — a supposedly new and non-white-male ethnic electorate: Americans will be categorized, and collectively so, on the basis of largely how they look and, to a lesser extent, how they sound. Republicans, then, better get with the new tribalism and remarket themselves to address the new minority monolith.
Accordingly, the enlightened and redeemable liberal elements of the otherwise now played-out old white majority, when combined with the new ethnic minorities, will result in a permanent progressive majority — one that rejects the archaic, if not toxic, racialist values that have been in the past so injurious to the idea of what the United States might have otherwise become. Just imagine a better world with no more required reading of white male Greeks, no more inordinate focus on Shakespeare’s Shylock, no need to suffer through Twain’s N-word or Tolkien’s stereotypical dark-skinned orcs — or indeed, the one-dimensional and boring world we inherited from a Jefferson, Madison, Melville, Lincoln, Grant, Edison, Bell, TR, Salk, Nimitz, and Ike.
You Are a Nobody without Your Tribe
Yet the new emphasis on tribe is not necessarily a liberal vision. It ignores all human individuality and assumes that friendships, marriages, and alliances will not dare trump racial and ethic solidarity. Ours is now instead a Galadriel’s mirror of the Balkans, of India’s castes, of Rwanda, but no longer of a multiracial melting-pot America, where our allegiances were to be political, economic, and cultural and not necessarily synonymous with how we looked. Obama’s identity politics would create a Frankenstein of patched-together victims, and yet he will rue that it is a different story to use such a creature for constructive purposes. Such monsters are quite valuable when running for office, but can turn on their masters when it is time to govern.
When I eat lunch with a Mexican-American childhood friend, I feel no greater affinity with the white waitress by reason of our shared appearance; in the new America am I to high-five the white stranger in the Selma Wal-Mart, by virtue that, out of hundreds there, we two alone look more alike? I am sorry; I just cannot accept that. I have far more in common with Steve Lara, my friend of 50 years, than a David Gergen or Chris Matthews.
Beneath all the pseudo-healing rhetoric, this is the divisive tool by which Barack Obama ran twice — the hyphenated African-, Latino-, gay-American re-election committees for Obama, the son who might have looked like Trayvon Martin, the people of color who had “the president’s back,” the nation of cowards, the country where we punish our ethnic enemies and fight against the police who all stereotype, in which Joseph Lowery tells us what particular race belongs in hell and Rev. Wright identifies whose chickens must come home to roost and the Rev. Jesse Jackson names the real segregationists who long for the Confederacy. Only in the hyper-racialist America can we take quite distinct Japanese, Filipino, Korean, and Chinese third-generation citizens and create from them the artificial rubric “Asian” in their shared antithesis to “white,” or take disparate Cubans and Mexicans and likewise reinvent them as identical Latinos, or take Jamaicans, Ethiopians, and American blacks and call them all “African-Americans” on the similar logic of not being something equally artificial like white — which I guess covers Americans who used to be Greeks, Irish, Armenians, Jews, Poles, and Danes.
Not Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but …
Some House Democrats are alleging that reservations voiced about a potential nomination of Susan Rice as secretary of State are both racist and sexist — and do not concern the fact that on five consecutive occasions she misled the nation about the nature of the Benghazi murders of four Americans (peddling an improbable story, which both the CIA and the president of the United States were, at least now and then, on record denying).
But stop and ponder the charges of prejudice. We have not seen a proverbial white male secretary of State since the inept Warren Christopher stepped down over a decade and a half ago. How could a sexist and racist country nominate and confirm a Madeleine Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, and Hillary Clinton as consecutive secretaries? Maybe such accusers confused State with the white-male-only office of attorney general? But no — there we have seen Janet Reno, Alberto Gonzales, and Eric Holder. I don’t recall these congresswomen alleging racism when white males in Congress tore into Alberto Gonzales and forced him to step down from the office of attorney general.
The New Wars
We talk about a war on women. But a majority of college graduates are now female. Most fathers know that it is easier for their college-educated daughters to find good jobs than it is for their sons. When I advised graduating seniors about professional schools, it was common knowledge that the white male, A-student from Tulare was out of luck, in a way my Asian, black, Latino, or white women students were not. Stranger still was the notion of affirmative action musical chairs (as in don’t dare leave your seat) — the white liberal guys that came up through the old-boy network were exempt from the ramifications of their own ideology.
If one truly believes in affirmative action, could not a white male, after, say, 20 years of tenure, step aside from a senior post to let someone of a different gender or race have a turn? Would that be to pay your fair share? Did you really build that professorship, that movie career, that law firm? Cannot a Chris Matthews at last call it quits and move over for those who did not have his contacts, power marriage, and insider pull? At some point in your life, haven’t you accrued enough privilege?
We Are All Minorities Now
Are there any minorities in California? In fact, everyone here is a minority. In my town, Latinos are the vast majority, as they are now in most San Joaquin Valley schools and colleges. Are they “overrepresented” here or at CSU Fresno? Should we have busing to achieve proportional “diversity” at the local grammar school two miles away that is 99% of one ethnic grouping?
Are Asians “overrepresented” at UC Berkeley — or are the 20% of the student body who are white males the ruling establishment? Are blacks “overrepresented” at the U.S. Postal Service, but “underrepresented” at the DMV? Such are the absurd questions that arise in a tribal society where one’s primary allegiances are not to universal values or collective traditions and customs, but are first pledged to those who look most like oneself.
So many wars Barack Obama has waged — young women against anti-abortionist old white men, Latinos against nativist old white men, blacks against racist old white men, Asians against stereotyping old white men. But, President Obama, will there still be enough oppressors from such a fading group for so many victims? Old white men are also apparently at war with young white men. And bad, right-wing old white men are also at war with good, liberal old white men? And also at war with old white (but good) gay men?
Again, are there enough conservative old white men to go around any more? If we lose half our oppressors by the nature of their gender, we are left with only 160 million or so suspect males. Then we must exempt another 30% as minority males (to the extent anyone is so easily stereotyped in an intermarried and integrated society).
Of the remaining 90 million potential oppressors, further subtract, say, forty percent who are exempt from the oppressor category due to their allegiance to liberal causes now epitomized by voting for Obama. That leaves only, say, 40 million.
Yet subtract another, say, 10 million for the good youth from the bad group, who may vote for a Republican now and then but nobly believe in climate change, gay marriage, abortion, and multiculturalism. Then there is another 3% for the even better gay adult males. We may now be down to the hard core of 20-30 million bad old white male problem-makers who need to “get over it” and give others “their turn.”
Yet are the 30 million straight, mature, politically incorrect white males enough to serve as the needed nativists, homophobes, polluters, misogynists, and racists, at least to justify the far greater number of millions of victims?
Remember that in the new tribal America, victims de facto cannot double as oppressors. Latinos cannot be really biased against blacks. Blacks cannot be cruel to gays. Asians cannot treat women unjustly. Women cannot be biased against Latinos. The Rev. Joseph Lowery and Rev. Wright cannot be racist when they express hatred for those who do not look like themselves. We are told only that Mormons, not blacks, voted against gay marriage in California.
Who Is Who?
Is the 20 year old who is one-quarter Mexican-American still a minority? And so, why is not the much-darker-to-the-eye, one-hundred percent Pakistani a victim–at least for purposes of affirmative action? The daughter of the Goldman Sachs financier counts as progress when she is enrolls at Yale Law School, in a way that the Bakersfield son of the Oklahoma diaspora would not?
So hard, this collective search of ours for victimhood. Elizabeth Warren is the ultimate expression of our anguished dilemma: when her gender did not quite land her onto the Harvard Law faculty, her self-referenced high cheek bones did — and her further assumption that she is a victim by assertion that she is a victim. In Warren’s case, we were to believe two things: she said she was liberal and Native American and — presto — she was; and second, therefore, all Native Americans are discriminated against and owed proper compensatory action — like being hired at Harvard in a manner her publications, or chance, or fate might otherwise not have ensured. I wager that those supposedly high cheek bones were worth five major scholarly books. Is she now the first Native-American woman in the Senate? If Ward Churchill said he was Native-American, he was, and he was deserving of special treatment. So was it blatant racial prejudice to fire him?
How surreal are all these Washington white talking heads pontificating on the black vote, the Latino bloc, and the Asian minority, as if their own gender (if female), politics (if liberal), or mea culpa confessionals (if conservative white male) exempt them from the logic of their own tribalism. Do I exaggerate? Read this snippet from a celebratory column in the Los Angeles Times from one Harold Meyerson about the new California Democratic congressional representatives:
There will be 38 Democrats and 15 Republicans representing California in Congress come January. Of those 38 Democrats, 18 are women, nine are Latinos, five are Asian Americans, three are African Americans, four are Jews and at least one is gay. Just 12 are white men.
Tribe is everything — not their age, background, family, record, or individual characteristics? One wonders who the gay congressperson represents — “just” gay people? The four Jews are always distinguishable as Jews — not as some who are ¾ Jewish or ¼ and confused with “just” white? Is that one gay person Jewish? Are there then possible twofers — Jewish women, an Asian-American gay? And who are those unfortunate “just 12 white men” — those who are not gay and have not one drop of Jewish, Latino, Asian American, or African-American blood? Are they good, bad, hard-working, lazy, heroic, tragic, or nothing much at all — or does the person matter nothing and they become blurs of “just white men.” And who does Meyerson rely on for such statistics — a national register of blood types where our DNA is catalogued? Do we consult Elizabeth Warren? Ward Churchill? And Meyerson himself — in his racial spoils system to come, what angle does he claim to avoid being “just” a white man?
Land of the Bad
If we are to live in a tribal society, at least get the narrative down to avoid embarrassing contradictions. America was a racist patriarchy of homophobic, intolerant nativists that exploited others — somehow to build the Hoover dam, invent electricity, create the largest economy in the world, provide a model for globalization, and craft the most inspired constitution in the history of civilization. Do Oaxacans flock to this terrible place on the theory that it is not necessarily any better than Mexico but that it belonged to their ancestors — in a way Oaxaca (where are they leaving from) did not?
Thus the dilemma: most in the world wish to emigrate to the one place that is held to be unfair and biased and in need of radical change. But if the United States begins to change and operate on the economic, political or cultural principles of Bolivia, Uganda, the Philippines, China, or Oaxaca, will millions still wish to come here, or will they prefer Uganda and Bolivia?
It is very American to find an “edge.” In the bad old days, that meant having an uncle who was in the butchers’ union, or a cousin in the fire department, or a granddad who gave money to Yale, or a sister who was married to the dean of the law school. So perhaps the world of Elizabeth Warren’s con is long overdue.
Only in America can we be all that we wish to be — by just declaring ourselves to be among the growing number of victims rather than among shrinking pool of oppressors.
Also read: We’re Doomed! Again!