There was a time I didn’t know about carpetbaggers. Being born abroad and rather innocent, the term seemed cool to me. I pictured a hobo carrying his little bag on a stick, over the ridge.
Of course, I was completely wrong, at least in a USA context.
Carpetbaggers — as I’m sure most of you know — were northerners who went south to make a fortune off the beaten populace and the despoiled land after the Civil War. With the former fighters of the region subdued and controlled by punitive laws, and with the wealth of the region destroyed, it was easy for any northerner johnny-come-lately to make money.
I’m not judging, nor do I attempt to judge the right and wrong of the American Civil War. As in most civil wars, there was no right, a whole lot of wrongs, and even if the emancipation was a good result of it, it caused suffering and injustice all the way up to the present day.
Yeah, what I’m saying is “the thing could have been better handled” but certainly not by me or anyone human, because it was one of those messes humans get into and where there’s no clean solution.
No. I just wanted to note that when the government takes sides, when the government raises some people and lowers others as a matter of being members of a group, there are going to be carpetbaggers. There’s going to be exploitation.
In our current world, as part of a… less physical civil war, the government has stepped in, to raise some people above others by reason of historical injustice and historical redress.
Yeah, I know it was supposed to be a temporary measure, and overcome temporary prejudice, and make everyone equal and give them a fresh start.
That’s not the way things work in government. Whatever is instituted stays around, festers, and becomes ever more complicated.
So it has been with affirmative action. There are government set-asides for practically every category of humans under the sun, and more interestingly, the idea of affirmative action has percolated through the culture, even to those companies that aren’t involved with the government, and therefore don’t need to keep strict proportions amid their employees.
And yes, if anyone wonders, this idea of the government saying you have to have x number of this type of humans and y number of this type of humans is a very bad one.
It is bad for the companies because sometimes the best-qualified applicant isn’t the one you have to hire. More importantly, though, it is very bad for the people thus singled out, and hired, and thus consigned to a special category.
I’ve dealt with this before on my own blog, and I won’t recapitulate the whole story here, but when I first came to the U.S. I fell in with a group of minority people who viewed everything that happened to them as a sign of discrimination. This was easy, because, given my accent and the fact when younger I tanned darker, people treated me very strangely, including my first boss who was convinced I was both Mexican and illegal. (No, don’t ask. He thought Portugal was a city in Mexico.)
For a while with everything that went wrong, everything I failed at, I thought it was “the man” keeping me down. But after a couple of years I realized that even if that were true, it was not the way to deal with the situation. I realized that even if people were discriminating against me, to accept that as an excuse only guaranteed they won, and I’d never succeed.
Instead, I decided to treat it all as though it were my fault alone, and therefore only I could deal with it.
After that, I was not only more successful but a lot happier.
Do people still discriminate against me? Sure. But people discriminate for the stupidest things. I’m sure my husband who is from New England, and whose ancestors fought in the American War of Independence, gets discriminated against just as much because he’s short or because he prefers informal clothing, as I do for being (sometimes, depending on the person) identifiable as Latin.
All I can do to counter it is do the best work I can do and be the best I can be – and it is enough.
We are now more than a generation since equal civil rights were enshrined – restored? – as the law of the land. There shouldn’t be anyone who needs a hand up by virtue of belonging to a special group.
What the continued preferences do is enshrine the idea that some people are perpetually inferior and always need a hand up. This is a dangerous preconception to set up because sooner or later compassion fatigue sets in, and then anger.
Until then, it’s corrupting society at all levels.
One of my colleagues on a panel, in a conference with me, recently said that she had taught at Clarion West, the premier writing conference, in its one franchise, and had been told you can’t have women and minorities in stories and give them defects of character. The “diversity” characters have to be perfect and perfect victims.
This is, of course, profoundly racist, a throwback to the noble savage, and a belief that people who tan, or women, are not fully human and not capable of human flaws.
I don’t know if it’s worse or just tragically comic that this has now started generating (heck, has probably always generated) carpetbaggers, willing to get rich off the conquered territory and willing to lie and scheme their way to power and prominence.
Rachel Dolezal, Shaun King, and yeah, Ward Churchill and Elizabeth Warren are such carpetbaggers, and you know where they get prominent there are hundreds more hiding in the weave of society, pretending to be something they’re not, to take advantage of those who have to hand them something for nothing (and their chicks for free) for the sake of their claiming “minority” and “victim.”
Still worse than that is that in my field one can craft an edgy and interesting persona, particularly if one lives far away, and get all the acclaim and awards because people think that some groups should be eternally receivers of largesse, as the poor things can’t do it themselves. At least I hope that some of these personas are crafted. Otherwise, the “gay Muslim” is plain insane.
This corrupts the field and elevates to prominence works that have barely grade school competence.
In fact, it corrupts all fields and all enterprises. People elevated beyond their achievements are resentful and think they’re being deliberately being kept down – see Michelle Obama’s reaction to Harvard – while those around them feel put upon and not a little angry.
Progressives complain of the president being “divisive.” But their policies of giving unearned benefits to people, on the basis of presumed past discrimination against long-dead ancestors, are what in fact do cause divisiveness and hatred.
It creates social justice carpetbaggers, multiplying like maggots on the body politic. And it makes a mockery of our land’s idea of equal rights before the law — be they to liberty or to the pursuit of happiness.
There is only one way to fight carpetbaggers and to heal the country: equality for all under the law. People and their works judged by themselves, and not offenses against long-dead ancestors.
The assumption that all people are capable of the full range of humanity, whatever their skin color, sex or orientation, the good along with the bad.
And a willingness to see people as individuals again.