“On a second front, the distinction between belief and behavior, between prejudice and discrimination, came under growing assault. The key moment here was the rapid acceptance of the concept of “institutional racism,” hailed by many as a great analytic advance, when, in fact, the only advance was in an ideological agenda. Institutional racism referred to the structural inequalities between racial and/or ethnic groups, in short, to the consequences of behavioral discrimination. These were said to be independent of individual attitudes, indeed, to have a self-perpetuating institutional life of their own. Attitudes were asserted to be irrelevant to the existence of institutional racism.”
From the entry “Race (Racism)” by Pierre L Van den Berghe in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology, 2007 Bolded part is mine.
Another day, another idiot on Twatter, but this time, and showing that mainstream liberal press is scraping the bottom of the barrel, this idiot is a New York Times hire.
[Protip: Don’t hire social media addicts or people whose identity revolves around social media.]
You probably already know the bare facts so I won’t bother with the details. Google up “Sarah Jeong tweets” otherwise.
Racism has suffered a serious case of verbicide since at least the 70s, which is not to say that the thing being described doesn’t or can’t exist, just that the language used to describe has lost almost any solid foundation. For that reason, it’s pretty much a waste of time to try to argue about the racist nature of this or that unless it’s self-evident stuff. And this post is about pretty self-evident stuff.
So, was Sarah Jeong being racist? Well, she was, first of all, being retarded —as the members of her Woke generation are wont to do— which unfortunately is a curse more dangerous and harder to cure than racism, and which would (should) also disqualify her for any important role in the NYT. I don’t believe she has enough intellectual consistency or even mental focus to actually be racist in any meaningful sense of the word. Just watch this:
That’s just dumb. I can’t take this seriously.
Something that I have to admit has disappointed me is to discover how astoundingly mediocre, or even just plain dumb, these controversy-spawning danger-hair weirdos really are. I wasn’t expecting Bond villain levels of intelligence here, and I am not someone who believes these people are into some sort of long-term plot, but damn, I wasn’t expecting something so bad. The thought that these somehow have managed to have millions of people scared shitless due to their moral and mediatic influence is both horrifying and quite funny.
Her animus-ridden tweets aren’t even intelligent or amusing (the best one is that one about whites pissing opinions like dogs,) and there is not a single shred of creativity in there that could, at the very least, and if disgust for white devils is not a problem (the same white devils that saved her homeland, Worst Korea, from becoming a complete Communist
hellhole Utopia,) justify her hiring.
Still, this has been an interesting episode because, theoretically, it would have been easy to handle. She apologizes in the usual empty way that politicians apologize (“I’m sorry if I offended anybody, I won’t do it ever again, blablabla”, “I was being edgy and those where different times blabla”) and the NYT either keeps her or kicks her out after an equally bland letter
glossing over explaining the situation. I’m fine with either really. Meanwhile, the Commentariat class, seeing that they have a possible shitfest of even-horizon danger levels on their hands, simply ignore it as it had never happened.
That’s, for example, what happened a few days ago when a YouTuber got punched at, of all places, GenCon. The aggressor was one of those “Punch a Nazi and I believe 80% of the population are Nazis” guys. The usually very loquacious progressive commentators have ignored the event, which is what is usually done when you are embarrassed about the behavior of a member of your group but you don’t want to rock the boat. Not very ethical perhaps if you want to be idealistic, and we all do it from time to time, but at least it’s better than trying to actively defend the nutjob.
But not this time. Ranking among great ideas like Disney hiring the guy obsessed with pedophile humor, some journos have decided that, sure, why not defend the lady who admits getting a kick out of the suffering of old people and compares white people to dogs or gloats over their coming extinction. Smart move! Surely people won’t remember this or hold a grudge over it!
They could have kept silent. Internet’s attention span is quite short (lives ruined there, not so much.) But no, they had to defend her (the honor of a lady can’t be left sullied, I guess,) justify her. Rationalize what she said as normal, as if her words didn’t mean what everybody sees they mean. I mean, the only way I could deny the meaning of her word would be downplaying the intention, arguing that she is simply too simple to understand the implications of what she says, like a kid who goes around saying tits, shit, and fuck because cool grownups say it.
But, no, the defense, naturally, has been the usual: you can’t be really racist against white devils because they have power, unlike minorities… or something. By the way, I find this obsession about trying to prove the racist status of something infuriating and puerile, as if the only way discourse could be objectionable or dangerous is if you can attach such a label.
Anyway, it’s not a very astute or even meaningful argument, but it’s the standard things to rattle off if a POCWOC character does something uncomfortably close to people’s natural, unsophisticated definition of racism, like beating the shit out of someone caucasian-looking while screaming “Die, you white piece of shit!!!!!1” Sure, it’s a nasty thing to do, but it’s not really racist you see, there’s a subtle academic difference. Half your brain may be spilling out as you die, but you can congratulate yourself knowing that you are NOT dying because of racism and that the intellectual prestige of the Racism concept is intact!
And like most of the concepts the thralls of the Wokening learned from Tumblr or their Introduction to Sociology class, there is some truth to the basic argument, to the idea that there can be (not that there is) a power disparity that makes racist language or behavior more or less relevant (i.e. dangerous or worthy of social condemnation) depending on the context, the source, or the target. An extreme and quite self-evident example: a German soldier guarding a concentration camp saying “I hope these Jews die” is not the same as one of said Jews saying “I hope these Germans die.” An Arab billionaire mocking the migrant workers/slaves that clean his gold-inlaid toilets is probably worse than the same servants shitting on his boss’ race. All else being equal and all that.
For a similar reason, a Western nation going Full Nazi may be a worse or a more terrifying prospect than some third-world country ripping itself apart in genocidal or tribal wars. Because the former are powerful, important, and relevant, the latter not so much. Of course, no progressive is ever going to say that out loud because they aren’t going to admit other nations are less important, but they implicitly understand and accept the argument I just made. USA or Europe (and whites) are worth fighting and arguing for, over, and against, not the Congo.
Some readers will have already seen the problem with this reasoning when that logic is applied to Jeong’s racial aspersions: she is not a concentration camp inmate or someone cleaning toilets. She isn’t some imported chinawoman who built the railroads either; she is someone who is peeing on our faces and telling us it’s raining (second 42)
Sarah Jeong is not a powerless individual, in fact, she is way more powerful than most of her critics, even if her power is of the The-Emperor-is-Naked variety. Her whole defense clings to an aura of sanctity bestowed by her “”Asian”” heritage and the alleged “historical” oppression of “people like her,” kinda like the reverse of the damn-by-association-to-the-closest-Nazi argument their class usually uses.
However, she is Korean so it’s not like there’s a long list of America-to-Korean list of grievances or examples of colonial exploitation. In fact, if it were not for the USA, she would be starving in the Glorius Unified Worker’s Republic of Great Korea. But it doesn’t matter; she is a woman, she is not-white-looking; she looks exotic. That’s enough.
She is pretty much what her defenders claim the critics are. She is powerful, her racist opinions are institutionalized, and she is privileged. Point by point:
1. A power differential means being able to effect changes in others but not otherwise (or a higher chance of accomplishing that,) or being able to do things others wouldn’t. The police can order you to do something, but you can’t order them around. That’s power.
Jeong has said things that would have gotten anybody else into a lot of trouble, especially if the target of her comments had been different. She can mock whites because of their race, but whites can’t do a similar thing. That’s power, and it’s “racial” or, to use their lingo, socially-constructed around “race” because it’s based on the nebulous cultural, sociopolitical presumption that she is “Asian” (as “”””Asian””” as the “”””Oxford Men”””) and lacking real animus or ability to really harm white devils although, as I said, she is Korean, not some poor Chinese immigrant. She is certainly no coolie. Therefore, at least regarding the problem at hand, she is more powerful than whites since she has a freedom to behave (immorally) that whites don’t have (and shouldn’t, nobody should… Or everybody should.) A license to being a dick, basically.
She also works as a speaker, commentator, writer of opinions (that others must follow,) and now an editor in a very influential newspaper. That’s power since she is now part of the closest thing modern Western societies have to a priesthood or Brahmin class.
2.Now that I have shown she is powerful and that such power is racialized, is her racism… institutionalized? Well, the meaning of that expression is… eh, who knows really. Like White Privilege, Social Construction, and so on, it may have meant something a long, long time ago, but now not anymore. In practical terms, institutional racism just means “miasmatic racism,” and it’s the racial-sensitive equivalent of people looking for satanic influences in video games or in hand gestures made by pop singers. It’s an excuse to talk about “subtle, almost invisible” forms of racism that don’t even require intention, animus, goal, approval, hatred, conscience, or even having a brainstem. But you are still guilty of them… somehow.
As I said, the words may have meant something a long time ago, but now it’s just a justification for the continued existence of a huge anti-racism industry that needs the problem to be alive and kicking. Still, a more literal but not totally incorrect reading would be: racism approved or tolerated by the institutions, as a written or unwritten rule that doesn’t require conscious enforcing or is just taken for granted, and that it’s not a function of individuals taking the mater in their own hands. For example, a Twitter mob may be racist and powerful, but it’s not institutionalized. Twitter or Facebook higher-ups messing with you, banning you, shadow-banning, etc., as a matter of policy or corporate policy, that’s closer to what institutional power may mean.
Since Jeong has been able to get the relevant institutions (the NY Times and other journalists) to defend her comments as normal, not worthy of surprise, or unimportant, as something we (the offended) have to put up with or that we simply don’t understand because we are oh-so-dumb, when extremely milder comments (from and to different people) would mark you as a pariah in need of exterminatus, I can say that the brand of casual racism that she enjoys has become somewhat normal, institutionalized, or whatever adjective you prefer to use. Again, the justifications made by her white knights have not been that, for some unique or exceptional reason, she is not morally wrong for what she said, but that it’s not even abnormal, that this is just how “social justice woke-types talk” and it’s a perfectly reasonable form of anti-racism.
Some would derail my argument with moronic references to “institutional power” in the “hands of (implied::all) whites,” a power that is magically and instantaneously transmitted from white to white like quantic AIDS whether they are white trash hobos or millionaire WASPs, which is the sort of insanity that, outside of politics, is judged as a symptom of paranoid schizophrenia but in politics makes you a subtle, astute sociocultural commentator. Power and institutional power is, or should be, judged locally or by the closest or most powerful entity that can harm/control you or that you can call for aid. For example, I may be white, but I don’t enjoy whatever wages of whiteness I’m supposedly enjoying because, well, I’m not even American.
The relevant institutions, in this case, is the NY Times and those that may jump into the fray or may have an interest and the ability to effect a change. Power gradients, if you want to bother with such things, have to be judged according to the relevant institutions for the relevant conflict, not imaginary phantoms or cosmic malevolent entities like the Patriarchy or Whiteness. Either you can point and explain using normal language who and how holds power, or you are full of shit. I, for example, can do that: The NY Times and good chunks of the Media are the Man here, and the Man agrees with Sarah, and if you don’t agree with them, you are not gonna get published. That’s power. Institutional Power, at least for now, is on her side, not her critics (who may hold it in other areas for all I know but not here.)
3. Racism is prejudice + power, or some people say. A quite dumb statement, although a de-dumbified one could be something like “Racism, if it’s prejudice plus power, becomes worse,” which is reasonable enough. After all, some racist dude who can’t actually do anything and is just screeching impotently is quite a comical sight and certainly not frightening.
Others say “prejudice + privilege.” Or that you can’t judge racism because of your privilege. Whatever, it’s not like they understand or makes fine distinctions between the concepts they use. It’s pretty much all goodies vs. baddies.
Now, she and the collective identity she hides behind are indeed powerful/useful, but are they privileged? After all, it’s usually argued that Whites’ privilege means they can’t or shouldn’t talk about these things and that, basically, they should just shut up.
Yes, she is privileged, in all the meaning of the word. From the vulgar one, where privilege simply means “well-to-do” since she went to Berkley and Harvard Law School, and I assume that’s expensive, to the correct etymological sense of the word: Privilege , from privus lex, or private law, and advantageous law given to an individual or group to do (or not) some things compared to the common people, who can’t.
Is she being judged by a set of “laws” different than those of the commons? Yes. Is the exempt of some forms of social disapproval? Not by 90% of the population who basically despise her now, but certainly from the relevant and powerful institutions at play. Therefore, she enjoys a privilege, backed by institutional power and justified by an ideology, with a right (and obligation according to the unwritten rules of the Woke Church) to racist aspersions (although I assume she will watch out more from now on, even privileges are not limitless) which makes her a modern aristocrat, not a poor oppressed immigrant worker nobody listens to and who is merely lashing out against her evil landlord in the only way she can (ignorant, churlish, dumb, and badly-written racist generalizations,) something that would, under conditions that she clearly doesn’t meet, make her behavior less objectionable or even understandable.
Personally, one thing I found fascinating is how casual this race-baiting feels to me. I can’t really take it that seriously, which is why I presume some of her defenders described comments like those as “performative.” “Guys, fuck those whites, am I right, am I right? wink wink” is how it sometimes looks like to be fair. But that doesn’t really make it morally neutral, because how do you distinguish the posers from the real ones, and if they are impossible to distinguish, what does it matter if they are merely “performing.” Besides, it’s clearly not just a performance for the in-group, it’s clearly hostile as Cathy Young remembers:
The logic of white-bashing as an acceptable response to white privilege ultimately leads to the unspeakable obscenity of sneering at the plight of Otto Warmbier, the American college student who was arrested in North Korea for allegedly stealing a propaganda poster, sentenced to 15 years in labor camps, and brought home comatose after a year and a half in captivity. A Huffington Post blogger’s commentary on Warmbier’s imprisonment was titled, “North Korea Proves Your White Male Privilege Is Not Universal.” The victim-blaming continued even after 22-year-old Warmbier was declared dead.
And isn’t the Woke idea of oppression pretty much based on the belief that this is how things start, from casual jokes to, eventually, slavery, genocide, and all that stuff we whites do when we are bored? And, finally, what sort of demented subculture rewards casual, almost automatic, displays of racial hatred anyway?