BY EFFIE DEANS
The language of race has become very strange indeed. Take the following statements:
- Black Lives Matter Is not racist but praiseworthy
- White Lives Matter Is racist, far right and gets you sacked
- All Lives matter Is likewise racist
- White Lives Don’t matter Is not racist and gets you promoted
This is to put language through the looking glass. Words mean what we want them to mean and the use of language becomes inconsistent and illogical. But how did this happen?
Take the statement. “White lives don’t matter. As white lives.” The qualification “as white lives” is supposed to change the meaning of the previous statement. But if someone said “Black lives don’t matter. As black lives” there would be immediate fury. It could be that these statements are trying to say it is not the characteristic of being white or black that makes a life matter. But this is the equivalent of saying “All lives matter”.
The problem with a statement like “White lives don’t matter. As white lives” is that it is unclear. So too is the statement “Abolish whiteness”. How am I supposed to do this? If I set out to abolish yellowness I might for instance try to find all the bananas in the world and paint them red, but even if I succeeded, I would still find that part of a rainbow was yellow. So how would I abolish whiteness. I clearly can’t abolish a colour that occurs in nature, e.g. snow, not unless I tried to turn snow yellow. But what about trying to abolish whiteness as a race?
How could I abolish white people? I could do this in two ways. I could set out like Herod to slaughter all the innocents. The problem with this is that I would have to go to somewhere like Poland where nearly 100% of the population is white and try to repeat what was tried there between 1939 and 1945. This might abolish whiteness in Poland, but there is a word for such an endeavour.
How else could I abolish whiteness? I could strive to achieve a situation where every white person gave birth to a non-white child. If enough people from all over the world ignored race completely in their choice of partner, then eventually there would be no racial distinctions at all nor indeed would there be national distinctions. There would simply be the human race. There are some attractions to this idea. It would make wars less likely. There might develop a universal language, but the trouble is that everything about human nature that we actually know suggests that it isn’t what human beings want. Why else did we historically develop countries that were mostly monocultural? It suggests people choose to live with those who are linguistically and culturally similar. If there were not the case, there would be no countries today.
So how are we to abolish whiteness and if we did so, would we be allowed to abolish blackness too?
Earlier in the week I read about a cartoon character that was mixed race which was played by a white actor. This is now forbidden. Only a black person can play a mixed-race character. What this means is that a person with a white father and a black mother is considered to be black. From this it follows that while whiteness can be abolished by white and black people having black children, blackness cannot.
Abolishing whiteness therefore is not about achieving equality. It is about encouraging white societies to be ever more mixed race in order that eventually they cease to exist. But this abolitionism must require the cooperation of these societies otherwise how could it happen without force? Does it happen by making the concept that “white lives don’t matter. As white lives” intellectually acceptable and indeed praiseworthy while if the words black or brown were substituted, we would all be fired?
The problem we have is that the study of race in modern universities is not about equality. This is because the foundation of modern studies of race is the idea that only white people can be racist.
This idea has never been proved and is in fact counterintuitive. But much of modern academia consists in statements that cannot be proved. Subjects like Postcolonialism are full of statements that can neither be proved by logic nor by experience. But if a statement can neither be proved by reason or experience, it must have been made up. Eventually these statements that are made up are treated as being the truth. We thus end up with a variety of counterintuitive statements that we must believe such as “Men can become women”, “Men can marry men”, “Black people cannot be racist” and “Black lives matter, but white lives don’t”.
These statements do not result from clear thinking. Rather they result from unclear thinking, unreadable books and subjects where there is only ever one correct answer one goody (e.g. women, black people, transgender people) and one baddy (men, white people, non-transgender people).
It means that there is always a fundamental inconsistency in the thinking. A white actor must never play Othello, but a black actor may play Hamlet.
This would not matter much if this inconsistency were limited to acting, but it extends to everything.
The unforgivable sin of racism gets a white person fired, but gets a black person promoted. Black people have no fear of being called a racist because of either their actions or their words, because they have been told that no matter what they say, or do it is impossible for them to be racist.
This of course is a racist ideology, but it is the foundation of modern thinking on race. This is why a Cambridge academic feels she can say anything. It is also one of the reasons why some black people feel they can do anything. You can kill three white gay people, but no one will call you either homophobic or racist. But if a white person killed three black gay people that would be the first thing that was said.
You cannot achieve equality from inequality.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.