"He who controls the language controls the masses."
--Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals (1971)
It's kind of a neat trick when you think about it.
When Amy Coney Barret used the term, "sexual preference," during her Supreme Court nomination hearings, a term that was perfectly acceptable five minutes earlier, the leftist mavens of language changed it in real time so that it could used as a political weapon against her.
That same year, the Oxford Dictionary decided to change the definition of bigot from someone who is intolerant towards people who hold different opinions to someone who actually holds those opinions.
And just like that, the target of bigotry becomes the bigot, if you will.
This all means that if you are a leftist and there are racist things you want to say, but you don't want to be called a racist, you now have two choices:
- Don't be a racist.
- Change the definition of racist so that it does not include you.
Guess which one they went with.
Once freed up, like a teenager whose parents go away for the weekend, they've gone wild, staining the carpets, ripping up the upholstery, and driving the car into the pool.
Unfortunately, it was your car.
A perfect example of this comes from our old friend, Umair Haque, whom we last encountered going on a racist Twitter tirade.
He had so much fun that before temporarily suspending his twitter account, he wrote a piece for his own website explaining how not only was he not a racist, but it was quite impossible for him to be one:
Does White America Understand What Racism Really Is?
I think we all know his answer.
His piece hits on every excuse, rationalization, fantasy, and historical illiteracy I've come across. Even one of his followers thought so:
I stopped reading after the first three paragraphs so I could write this tweet. I'm sorry, it's just that I've consumed content like this so many times there's no more value to derive from it.
This is the piece to read if you truly want to not only understand the argument, but understand how to counter it. Haque is lost, he is likely too filled with rage, bitterness, and self-loathing to ever be convinced, but there are people who are persuadable, or who have been cowed into silence but might gain the confidence to push back if adequately informed.
So let's begin our journey into madness.
After a brief introduction regarding his tweet storm, he gets right to it:
Me saying "eff off white people, you brutalised and enslaved the world for centuries and you still haven't made amends" is not racism.
I'm glad he pointed out that blaming all white people for things other white people who are long dead did is not racism because I probably would have missed that.
"It is a fact," he says, having apparently not clicked through his own links.
One of these was a Vox article titled, "500 years of European colonialism, in one animated map."
Interesting title. Cool animated map. He probably should have examined the map more closely because it tells quite a different story than the one he's trying to pass off as "fact."
While Europe was arguably more successful at colonialism, it was not for a lack of trying on the part of the others. Even Vox notes,
...for most of history, countries loved to conquer land and subjugate the people living there.
That included non-Europeans, of course.
The Japanese empire was pretty huge in 1938.
Yes it was, and included Korea and large parts of China, an occupation that by all accounts was particularly brutal, including forcing hundreds of thousands of Korean women to be sex slaves during World War II.
But I understand Asians are white-adjacent now, so...
Along those same lines, the Vox story never says one word about "white" people, only European. Of course, Spain and Portugal were huge players in the colonization game, having even began its modern era with the sponsorship of Christopher Columbus, a fact Haque seems to ignore as it is inconvenient to his narrative.
He's using an old trick in which anyone of Hispanic or Portuguese descent is redefined as white whenever it is convenient, which anyone who remembers the Trayvon Martin shooting can attest to.
And then there's the Ottoman Empire which was no small potatoes either, unless we're classifying Turks as white now, too.
The fact is, there was a lot of colonizing going on throughout human history and by no means were all of the colonizers white, not by a long shot, not even close.
Back to Haque.
That is why today, the poor parts of the world are almost all not white, and the rich parts of the world are nearly all white. The world we live in reflects the sordid and grim history of our civilization, which is one of violence rooted in supremacy.
This is a similar argument Vox made, although without the racial overtones.
Daron Acemoglu, Simon Johnson, and James A. Robinson have proposed that colonialism created a "reversal of fortunes" in economic terms. Previously rich peoples became poor when colonized, while previously poor peoples ended up comparatively wealthier. And both, by and large, remain so today.
The problem with this is it's not true. It doesn't even make sense on its face.
As a general rule, poor people do not conquer rich people. Rich people have power and resources, poor people do not.
A lot of research has been done in this area reconstructing per-capita GDP of various civilizations over time. It is not without controversy, and we should not expect precision, but we don't need precision because the numbers really aren't close.
In 1500 as colonization began in the New World, Europe's per-capita GDP was twice that of Latin America. When the UK colonized India, their per-capita GDP was about 8 times the size. When France colonized Africa, it's per-capita GDP was 7 times higher. Spain's exceeded Mexico's by 50%, Japan's exceeded China's by nearly the same amount, and likewise, Portugal over Brazil.
Colonialism was neither a good nor desirable thing, but conquering other countries was not a uniquely white thing, far from it. Europe might have excelled at it, but that was because they were already comparatively rich and powerful at the time.
The notion that these effects linger doesn't hold up under scrutiny. Korea, which had been colonized by Japan now ranks above both Spain and Portugal in average per-capita income.
Yes, he dismisses that with the qualifier, "the poor parts of the world are almost all not white," but that's a bigger cheat than he wants you to know as we'll see in a moment, and racializing it is, yes, racist.
Back to our friend.
If you are born white, you have a far, far greater chance of all the following things than if you are born anything else in the world today. Life expectancy, money, savings, clean water, three square meals a day, sanitation, medicine. That is the kind of legacy I'm talking about.
This, from the Pakistani author jetting about the world and living in London.
It's not whiteness, it's countries with free markets, the rule of law, democratic institutions, and the recognition of individual rights.
As a matter of per-person income, Singapore (a former colony) ranks 12th in the world, Japan 27th, and South Korea (mentioned earlier) 29th.
It does not matter what color you are, it matters where you were born. it's not a white" lottery," as he put it, it's a geographical lottery. If you're born into a free-market economy, you're good.
We can see that right here in America. The highest average per-person income in Africa is found in tiny Equatorial Guinea and barely exceeds $6,500. The average income of an African-American is three times that.
And Equatorial Guinea is an outlier, go to numbers 2 and 3 in Africa, Egypt and Nigeria, and the gap widens to over 6 and 10 times respectively.
That is the legacy of a long history of slavery and racism and hate. And when I say amends, maybe there is a starting point right there.
That didn't age well in the last five seconds.
He then goes on to attempt to dismantle counter arguments.
One, that other empires also enslaved people, like Greeks and Persians and Mongols. So what? We don't live in the aftermath of those civilizations, and saying that they enslaved people too, so what, is just two wrongs make a right.
This is a pure straw man argument. Nobody said slavery was okay because other people did it. They said slavery was not unique to white people.
As for the aftermath, see above.
The second was that some white people didn't benefit from slavery and conquest. I don't know about that. Even the poorest parts of the white world — like Eastern Europe — are still much richer than much of Africa and Asia.
Which, as we just discovered, was true before European colonization. It's not about being white.
Three, that I'm overgeneralizing, because not all white people owned slaves or conquered distant lands. So what? Maybe your great-grandparents didn't own slaves or conquer Peru. But if you were white, presumably, they lived in the part of society that benefited, in some way, from slave labor.
We know slave labor was a huge economic benefit due to the South using it's mighty industrial capacity to crush the northern states and emerge victorious...
Wait, that's not right.
Slavery is not only morally repugnant, it's really bad economics. First, in purely economic terms, it's not "free labor" as is so often sloppily claimed, it's subsistence labor, which was not all that uncommon throughout most of human history.
Second, having a huge enslaved population, with little prospect for advancement or incentive to excel or innovate or participate in a consumer culture is a horrible economic drag and a waste of human potential. There might me some short-term benefit, but slavery is an economic malignancy.
We are all the victims of that legacy.
He says as much, although he means it in a different way.
And I'm not trying to shame you or blame you. I'm trying to, if anything, do the opposite. To point out a simple fact. We are all victims of the hatred of the past. All of us. Even white people.
Yes, we are all victims, but he wants only one set of victims to "make amends."
The history of the world is a bloody, messy, thing. Haque's attempt to paint it with the broad brush of white supremacy completely collapses upon closer examination.
And now we get to the good part.
"I'm not a racist!"
When I say "white people," you will note that I never say "race." I say "social group."
See, it's not race. He's just saying white people. Totally different.
I could see how people could be confused.
Why is that? Because when we talk about racism, it is really only something white people can do.
And there it is.
Racism is something only white people can do.
Well, that is convenient.
The explanation that's often offered is something like this: they have all the power. It's not a bad one. I can't call the cops on a white person over nothing and wreck their life — my chances aren't good — but a white person very much can on a minority, and the chances are pretty good indeed. It happens every day. Remember George Floyd? Remember all the other Black people we've seen be…killed…in the open…for no reason? Just for existing? See how it doesn't happen to white people?
Excellent point, but for the whole not-being-true part.
Unarmed white people get shot, too, at no lesser a rate than their overall participation in crime would suggest. A quarter to a third of unarmed black people are shot by black police officers, and often even though they were "unarmed" they were not always harmless. The whole thing is vastly more complicated than the cartoon caricature people like Haque would like you to believe.
I believe police brutality is a real issue precisely because it is a violation of trust and has such deadly consequences. BLM had an opportunity to make common cause with people like me, but they made it clear they have a different agenda when they rejected the notion that "all lives matter."
But there is an even deeper reason that racism is something, really, that belongs to white people. It's so simple it hides in plain sight. Whiteness is something white people invented. In America, white people are constructed as "Caucasian." Do they all come from the mountains of the Caucasus? Of course not. You see how ridiculous the idea of "race" really is.
I'd critique this part but I have no idea what he's talking about here. It's like trying to have a conversation with a 90-year-old cat lady. Sometimes it's just best to smile and nod.
And watch where you step.
That is all what racism really is. White people invented it, and it's about whiteness, in those ancient and strange terms
We minorities cannot be racists.
If I was to say "brown people are the master race," even that wouldn't be racism.
So, you see, Haque can make whatever general assumptions about white people he wants, or anyone really. He can engage in whatever unhinged racist tirade that strikes his fancy, but he's not a racist because:
- He's Pakistani so he can't be.
- He's not talking about race, he's talking about whiteness which is a social construct which is totally different so stop being so sensitive all the time.
One other point he makes:
Racism is the expression of white privilege.
Let me say it again. We minorities do not enjoy any white privilege. We do not enjoy any form of privilege compared to white people. Not economic, not cultural, not social. Not having any privilege to claim, there is nothing that we can express that can reasonably be seen as racist.
I consider this the worst of this particular brand of not-racist racism.
This oppressor-oppressed paradigm, this power construct, and the utter hopelessness it conveys, the defeatism, the victimhood, is toxic, and again, this comes from a guy who studied neuroscience at McGill University in Canada and got his MBA from the London School of Economics.
We should all be so oppressed.
I'm sad that I have to write this.
I'm sad that I had to read it.
There is a real desperation that comes through in this. He wants so very badly to believe that he is not full of racist hate rage, so determined to prove he is a good person, that the piece reads more like he's trying to convince himself and not his readers.
It's full of things leftists like to believe, but have no basis in facts, includes straw man arguments when it serves him, and carves himself out of any definition of "racist."
But me — or anyone like me — saying things like "white Americans as a social group are pretty backwards — the majority still voted for Trump!" isn't racism. What is it? A fact. It isn't a pretty fact. It's an ugly fact.
He literally believes his racist statements are fact. He's "punching up" as he puts it, against white supremacy and white privilege so it can't be racist.
Hey, facts aren't racist, right?
He's the victim, remember? He has a follow-up piece in Medium regarding this whole "eff-off white people" episode titled:
The Day the Fascist Snowflakes Came to Cancel a Black Lady and a Brown Dude
They're the snowflakes, says the guy who can't stop writing about what a victim he is.
This is how leftists believe they can say the things they say and not be racist. This is how someone like Umair Haque, a contributor to the online Harvard Business Review and author of two published books, believes he has carte blanche to look down his nose at white people who work with their hands and dismiss them as "backwards" because they voted for someone who contributors to The Harvard Business Review disagree with politically.
They have placed the entire subject in a context that absolves them from the start.
It's a get-out-of-jail-free card. It's a pardon you get ahead of the crime.
They should be careful what they wish for.
Umair Haque's father is Pakistani economist Nadeem Haque. His is the product of being among the elite of Pakistan, a country that only 50 years ago perpetrated what has come to be known as "The Bangladeshi Genocide:"
During the nine-month-long Bangladesh War for Liberation, members of the Pakistani military and supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami killed between 200,000 and 3,000,000 people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 Bengali women, according to Bangladeshi and Indian sources, in a systematic campaign of genocidal rape. The actions against women were supported by Jamaat-e-Islami religious leaders, who declared that Bengali women were gonimoter maal (Bengali for "public property").
Is this something Haque needs to "make amends for?" I'll note the United States did not have totally clean hands in this, either. Shall we make amends to each other?
There is no end this, to hold the people of today responsible for the infinite sins of their forbears will only lead to division and anarchy.
I wonder sometimes if that's what they want, maybe not people like Umair Haque, he might just be a useful idiot, but the people who convinced him that all of global history is one long brutal enslavement of black and brown people at the hands of white supremacists.
It's a lie, and it needs to be called a lie each and every time it's told, or we are all in big trouble, no matter our race, ethnicity, gender identity or preferred pronouns, if we keep fighting these phantoms from eons past fabricated to keep us at each other's throats, we will destroy the world's greatest champion of liberty and freedom.
And there are other countries that would be all too happy to take advantage of the chaos and take our place.