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I am not a fan of the concept of race - it has virtually no scientific basis, and the minor anatomical, genetic, and cultural differences that produce its perception form a seamless multi-dimensional continuum.  The most you know about a person by their "race" is where some of their family were thousands of years ago - hot/cold place, cloudy/sunny place, dry/wet place...not much else.  But in social groups, people's sense of self usually isn't informed by science, and however sophisticated their relationships are the fact is always present that superficial similarities promote interaction while superficial differences impede them.  This is the origin of the social concept of race that produces such irrational and counter-productive identities.  Nonetheless, they exist, and we will not eliminate them.  Qualify them, broaden the context of the perspective in which they are perceived, but they will always exist - same as superstition, egoism, and every other human fallacy.  So it makes no sense to concede anyone's identity to virulent, bigoted political forces.

I must admit I'm not totally beyond perceiving racial identity - I'm white.  It's not something that plays much of a role in my life other than granting me whatever comparative privileges are denied to other perceived racial groups, but as with any human my perception of race is one of the first things that goes through my mind when I'm in a crowd of people who are superficially but obviously different from me.  I am aware that it's pure fallacy, but the perception occurs nonetheless and is mutual: To be unexpectedly in a crowd of black people, the fact that I am white imposes itself on my awareness and on theirs, impinging irritating sparks of ancient and now-worthless instinct that once held a survival advantage: To be skittish when outnumbered by Others, and hostile when an Intruder is in your midst.  

Something similar, albeit to a much lesser degree, would occcur if I were suddenly surrounded by blond-haired, blue-eyed "Aryan" types (I'm part Southern Italian), only I wouldn't feel as white in that case as in the other - I'd feel slightly like a "person of color" for simply having dark hair, hazel eyes, and a somewhat stouter build than among the Nordic-descended.  I imagine something similar probably occurs with a light-skinned black person finding themselves in the company of darker-skinned African Americans, and perhaps even between blond-haired / blue-eyed body types depending on gradations thereof.  This is proof of both the fallacy of the identity, since it is so malleable depending on one's context, and of its superficiality, since the root characteristics are so trivial - pigmentation and, to a lesser extent, bone structure.

More problematic are the secondary consequences of this fallacy: Because people perceive there to be a division, a slight tendency occurs in their behavior - a slight aversion, that can produce insidious effects even in people vigilant against it.  With each minute interaction among multitudes of people, these tiny effects add up statistically to form a social barrier in fact, and that barrier feeds back into the original superficial perception.  As a result, social interaction between two perceived racial groups is not as smooth or expeditious as within them, leading to a degree of cultural divergence.  This divergence is not unbounded, because communication is still occurring, but differences in culturally-promoted attitude, belief, taste, and other behavioral traits will grow to reinforce and rationalize the otherwise meaningless barrier between them.  

Now you are dealing with something more concrete than the original trivia that created the division in the first place - now you have to deal with the self-reinforcing cultural qualities ascribed to racial membership (i.e., stereotypes).  Most people are not mavericks or leaders, and once an identity is formed they will not have much motivation to abandon, openly defy, or attempt to change it - if they differ in some way, then they won't go out of their way to conform either, but they accept that that part of themselves is "out of character" for the group in which they belong.  Most people will somewhat deprecate these traits in themselves, if only subtly in order to get along, but some will rationalize it by thinking this difference makes them a superior person to others in their identity group rather than simply rejecting the stereotype or the framework of such identities entirely.

I think of this because of the ongoing habit of ascribing "whiteness" to Republicans, which I personally find annoying and insulting because of my own membership in this racial group.  My annoyance is no more rational than racial perception itself, but it occurs nonetheless - it repulses me to have an identity my instincts tell me applies to me ascribed to idiots, lowlifes, and sociopaths.  And while some may react to a similar feeling by inappropriately condemning "whiteness" itself without rejecting the underlying concept of racial identity, I find it much more rational to simply call out the falsehood of negatively-defining a race.  It is one thing to note that the GOP is overwhelmingly white and associated with white supremacism, but quite another to then associate membership in that perverse organization or its constellation of social pathologies to the perceived quality of being white.

As I noted, we will not convince anyone to be better people by stigmatizing an instinctive identity, anymore than that has ever worked when applied to any other racial identity group.  Ascribing criminality to blackness certainly never helped black people, either when it was done to them by Southern whites or by opportunistic parasites who dress up the stereotype in the guise of entertainment, and it never helped anyone else either - degradation always spreads, it can never be contained.  So who and what exactly is served by convincing people that the Republican Party and its corrosive politics are a defining characteristic of white racial identity?  The obvious answer is the Republican Party, since it reinforces their own ploys and strategies, posturing themselves to represent the interests of a group whose people they betray as greatly as any other.  But why would anyone who isn't part of the GOP want to reinforce it?  Beyond that, the only answer I can come up with is that it serves the egos of white people who wish to feel superior to an ingroup by defining it negatively.  There is always a cheap thrill in chopping down everything around you to look taller yourself, but that's all it is.

Believing in some "-ess" quality of a racial group to which you belong can be positive, as long as you reject the contrapositive claim that non-members are not like that, but ultimately you're the one picking and choosing which is which and judging what is constructive vs. what is not.  If thinking your racial identity is defined by a strong commitment to family helps you be a better family member, have at it.  If believing that it demands high achievement makes you achieve, go for it.  But negatives are ultimately Pyrrhic even if they help some individuals be the opposite: You may excel because you wish to disprove something, but your attitude has consequences beyond you - it reinforces what weak and ordinary people perceive to be the definition of who they are.  If they are not excellent themselves, then excelling to disprove a negative will simply cause them to see what you do as a rejection of them rather than an attempt to inspire them, and they will react by wallowing in what you reject to rationalize their own pride.  These are subtle moral nuances, but they make all the difference in the world.

Race means nothing inherently, but mindful people have to be aware that people perceive race nonetheless - so what to do about this nonsense of holding up Republicans as archetypes of "whiteness"?  First of all, it makes no sense whatsoever even within the framework of a racial identity: Europeans and Canadians are overwhelmingly white, and they would sooner piss on a US Republican than vote for one.  The closest extranational society to exhibiting the values, intentions, and mores of the Republican Party would be Saudi Arabia (100% feudal/privatized government, religious fundamentalist theocracy, draconian "justice" system, extreme wealth disparity, berserk misogyny, etc.) and they're not white.  And while a mentality somewhat like theirs on a different level once controlled Germany for a decade, they were obliterated by the largest military alliance in human history - nearly all of which involved white people.  So if there are political characteristics associated with "whiteness," either the GOP is a radical outlier from them or their ostensibly white members are actually a race unto themselves.

And why not?  If we are going to play the game of believing that race implies politics, let's play it to the hilt and simply say that conservatives of European descent are a race unto themselves that differ from the broadly-defined category of "white."  Let's call them gray - like the Confederate and/or SS uniforms that once represented them.  I find inventing an entirely new race out of wholecloth to represent these pathologies a lot more palatable than tolerating a blood libel against a billion people.  And truth be told, we know Republicans have a certain "look" to them - something in the set of their faces, some predisposition to contempt or vapidity that you don't really find much in liberals of the same genetic background.  Of course, we could simply acknowledge that race is nonsense, but as I've noted, that's not really on the table for most people.  

Here are the stereotypes that apply to me:  

I can't (and won't) dance.
I love rock music.
I am a great admirer of Wes Anderson films.
I have never in my life been pulled over by a cop.  
I am a Trekkie, and generally a geek.
I'm usually wearing a polo shirt.
Rap annoys me.
Rhythm moves me a lot more than beat.
I prefer big boobs rather than big butts.
I am a great admirer of Tolkien literature.
I find it amusing to exaggerate my weaknesses rather than pretend to be tough.

Where exactly does the part about being an ignorant Know Nothing, bigot, bellicose jackass, violent sociopath, or greedy scumbag come into the picture?  How would they even be compatible?  The answer is they're not, because some of these stereotypes arise from the arbitrary and meaningless cultural (and perhaps anatomical) differences that arise between racial groups, as described earlier, while the part about political conservatism and racial bigotry being features of "whiteness" are just reactionary.  I may not have a lot of respect for the kind of people who are puppeteered by racial politics, but there's still no reason to concede whiteness to the unbridled pieces of Republican shit who claim it.  Who wants to see their identity group as something brutal, unfair, and unworthy?  Ironically, you get better results defining a nebulous identity positively and prodding people to live up to it than by defining it negatively and having only non-conformists defy it.  

Of course, that isn't to advocate the dangerous and socially radioactive concept of "white pride" - it is necessary that politically dominant racial identities self-deprecate and remain diffusive rather than being coherent.  To be a member in a power-based majority racial identity (even if not in numerical majority) must entail surrender of politicized membership to guarantee the state is not corrupted by politics caused, ultimately, by nothing more than trivial physical differences as described earlier.  In other words, white people don't get to have White Pride parades - or at least don't get to do so on a socially acceptable basis, even if the Constitutional right exists.  That's not "reverse racism," but simply a necessary balance - and one this country should be proud of, since so few others have come to understand the necessity of limiting overt racial identity in majorities.

For instance, while it is true that racism persists among white Americans, and many perceive the US to be a "white country," only the truly stupid and crass would admit it today - they have the social consciousness that overt racial identity tied to national political power is a Bad Thing.  This leap has not yet been made in most other countries: The political power of national identity is tied strongly to the racial identity of the majority race/ethnic group most places in the world, in many cases absolutely - such that no one who is not a member, even if they are born there, have full citizenship, and have known no other life, will be acknowledged as part of that nation.  High-level political experiments in immigration to countries like Germany (e.g., "multikulti") led more to balkanization than integration not because the immigrants were unwilling to change, but because dominant society simply does not have a catalyzing definition of German (or Italian or Irish) that transcends blood and superficial aesthetics.  We are fortunate to have one in this country, although the historical cost of creating it has been high.

So, simply put, "whiteness" should remain a vague background quality - at least while white privilege persists - but insofar as it is socially defined, it does not serve anyone to reinforce the attempts of Republicans to claim it.  And furthermore, I personally reject those attempts because I deny any meaningful kinship with people who are stupid enough, ugly enough, greedy enough, hateful enough, and degenerate enough to support politics like that.  An entire political subculture devoted to the creation and promotion of lies, to the subjugation of truth and death of honor, the endless fractionation and degradation of humanity, cowardly preying upon the weak, and making life hell before cruelly ending it has no kinship with me.  Mitt Romney is a fucking alien, and Barack Obama is my brother just as Elizabeth Warren is my sister.  But yeah, okay, I do like big boobs more than big butts, and I can't and won't dance.

On a lighter note (no pun intended)...  

Also cheeky:

9:21 AM PT: I'm disappointed and slightly disgusted at the the level of commentary this has sparked so far, but not surprised.    

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (4+ / 0-)

    "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

    by Troubadour on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 07:57:45 AM PDT

  •  "White people don't get white pride parades" (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's mighty white of you to say that. (sorry, couldn't resist)

    In the words of Rodney King - can't we all just get along? Without labels and assumptions about what defines our fellow human being?

    Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear. ~William E. Gladstone, 1866

    by absdoggy on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:10:04 AM PDT

    •  We have to appreciate how people react (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      on a much grainier level than the individual - within each individual are fractional reactions that don't quite rise to the level of causing an overt response, but averaged over millions, those fractional reactions produce high-level consequences.  We can no more be rid of labels than we can be rid of language, and we can no more be rid of identity than of symbolic thinking.  There are traps in human consciousness, and part of our evolution is discovering and defusing them before (or, sadly, after) we fall into them.

      "I'm going to rub your faces in things you try to avoid." - Muad'Dib

      by Troubadour on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:18:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  When I was a kid, On Mothers and Fathers day (6+ / 0-)

      I would ask, "When is it Kids' Day?"

      The inevitable answer would be "Every day is kids day."

      White People don't get White Pride Parades because every day to some is a white pride parade.

    •  Every parade is white pride parade nt (0+ / 0-)

      Snarka snarka snarka!

      by Hunter Huxley on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:55:54 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  We got pretty close here in Utah (0+ / 0-)

        July 24 is Pioneer Day here in Utah.

        It's the day when Mormons were finally out of the US and moved into what was then, Mexico.  Even back then, the Mexican government was corrupt and incompetent and did not ask the Mormons for visas or put up an adequate fence to keep them out.

        But back on topic; that was as close to a White Pride parade as you can get.

        But a few years back, the theme was "Welcoming Pioneers from Many Nations".  They want Polynesian and Latino Tithe Payers to feel that they are getting their money's worth.

  •  As someone who is white... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    costello7, Deep Texan, oortdust

    I see your point and I want to agree with you and say "Amen!", but it's very hard for me to feel anything but extreme cynicism about this topic when you see a lot of people in your race who otherwise don't have any hate in their hearts buy the bullshit that these people are selling. Seeing a very significant minority of white people actively working to take away the rights of other people to maintain some illusion of privilege doesn't help, either.

  •  As a Protestant When I Play Irish Music, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, WB Reeves

    as a Euro-American when I sit down with Natives or Blacks, it's a hard fact that this concept of race has left serious hurdles in front of them many of which persist to this day, and given me advantages over them that persist to this day. I just have to deal with that.

    The behavior of individual people among each other isn't the issue with race, it's the statistical tilting of the entire playing field of life we have to deal with. And we as whites or Christians can't call the whole thing off just because it brings inconvenience or discomfort to some of us who haven't been personally part of the problem.

    There may be no such scientific thing as a black race, but the political thing that's a black race defines a population whose median family wealth is smaller today compared to median white family wealth than it was the day Martin Luther King was shot, if I understand the figures correctly.

    There's no way to get at that or Natives' or other marginalized ethnic groups problems any time soon without dealing with the political and economic phenomenon of race and ethnicity.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 08:48:58 AM PDT

  •  It's really (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Troubadour, Deep Texan

    It's really about cultural differences at the end of the day; race just makes them easier to immediately identify. Everybody stereotypes even if they don't admit it. This is based in large part on our own experiences with different groups as well as how such groups are portrayed and presented in media. I've spent a large part of my life in the Bahamas; dealing with black people, if they are American blacks, Bahamian blacks, Jamaicans or Haitians, one tends to have certain expectations as soon as you identify from what group the person comes from (usually the moment they open their mouth, but sometimes it's clear just from features and dress). Same with white people - and because that's a tourist economy, it's even a specific subset of a group - people who travel. A French Canadian, for example, will tend to give me different expectations than a German. And even with the US, different regions will make me put me on my guard for certain things (the opposite is true - some groups tend to have very good reputations).
    At the end of the day, the challenge is to be able to see past the stereotypes and see people for what they are. But those stereotypes exist for a reason - sometimes being aware of them and finding ways to deflect or not be caught off guard by certain behavior can make an interaction go a lot more smoothly for everybody.

    Language professors HATE me!

    by Zornorph on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:15:37 AM PDT

  •  T&R for at least trying... (4+ / 0-)

    to tilt at this particular windmill... IMO, however, the issue is not so much the idea that "whiteness=republican"... but for the fact that for the last 50 years the Republican Party has equated themselves with whiteness and whiteness with being a "real american"... and since the election of President Obama that curve went from being linear to being exponential. The problem you detail here is similar to the stereotype pasted on Christians that if one professes belief he must be an evangelical and politically conservative (and yes; often there is a presumption of whiteness in that mix also)

    The problem in both instances is how do we avoid falling into the trap of defining people by stereotypes, presumptions and preconceived notions...

    Fear doesn't just breed incomprehension. It also breeds a spiteful, resentful hate of anyone and everyone who is in any way different from you.

    by awesumtenor on Tue Jul 03, 2012 at 09:52:41 AM PDT

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