REDNECK PLANET: In Redneck Nation, Michael Graham wrote that during the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the left castigated the South for its obsession with race, and then, rather than moving towards a color-blind society as Martin Luther King had rightly demanded, became race and double-standard-obsessed itself.
In a recent Tech Central Station piece, Lee Harris writes that the philosophy contained in the late Edward Said’s Orientalism, a book which became the intellectuals’ guidebook on the Middle East, is itself a strain of racism:
Orientalism is sophistry; but one that worked quite well as an ideology, as sophistries so often do. Because the West could not see the East from the East’s point of view, it could not judge the actions of Easterners by our own ethical standards.
Now there are two ways to take this. One is defensible, and it means that no one in the West has the right to interfere with the ethical standards that the Easterners chose for themselves, when they are on their own lands and around their own hearths. The other is madness, and it means that we are not permitted to judge the actions of the Easterners even when these actions are directed toward us; and even when they are clearly meant to harm us.
Does it need to be pointed out that such an ideology dehumanizes the very people whose interests it is supposed to be defending? If we exempt a group of people, like the Palestinians and the Arabs, from normal ethical demands we make on Europeans, Americans, and the Asians, are we respecting their culture, or pitying them for having such a rotten one? To say that we must apply a whole new set of ethical rules to the Arabs implies that they are not fit to be judged by ours. Furthermore, to fail even to bring our ethical standards to their attention, is to imply very strongly that they could not appreciate these standards if we did.
Thus Orientalism is racism turned to the advantage of the group that is being discriminated against. You cannot judge us the way you judge yourselves; therefore, you must lower the standards for us — and continue to lower it until we tell you to stop.
As Harris writes, “To refuse to allow others to rise to your standard because you believe that they are inherently inferior to you is simple racism; but to refuse to demand that others rise to your standard for the same reason is also racism — just a tad less blatant, and far more cruel.”
(Found via The New Criterion’s Stefan Beck. Be sure to read Beck’s comments on Harris’s article.)