Reader Jones (who is ethnically East Asian) comments:
Something is bothering me.
The stuff people on the left have been saying has me disturbed. Not for any dramatic reason. I just don’t understand where they’re coming from. To me they almost seem mentally ill. For the most part, I suppose, it’s the inability to take any sort of enlargened perspective — the commitment to play your part in fighting it out, without any regard whatsoever for the greater good.
The thing is: all the people doing this stuff are white. OK, not every last one of them, but huge numbers of them.
This bothers me because I don’t understand how either side can see this as essentially a race issue. Shouldn’t all the people of the same race be on one side, then? I mean, this is only really a problem for the alt-right types — if you’re working on behalf of the white race, why are virtually all of your enemies also . . . white?
But never mind. I still concede that the intensity of rhetoric from progressives seems nutty. And I can’t figure out where they get it from.
But I’ve had an idea. Why am I, a non-white person, having to show up and tell tons of white people to stop castigating people just for being white? Part of it is that I am more keenly concerned about the underlying stupidity of this as political strategy, because it’s actually going to affect me.
But that goes to the deeper question, why for them it’s just a matter of saying the right things and making some perfunctory gestures.
They need some answer to the question: why me? Why, in a profoundly unequal society, have I been elevated above all these other people? Our moral psychology doesn’t let us just enjoy this kind of situation. And, increasingly, meritocracy doesn’t nearly suffice to justify the disparities.
They need an absolution of guilt. They need there to be a moral code, so they can perform the appropriate rites and make themselves pure. Without it, there’s no metric at all that allows them to say — even to themselves — whether they’re good people. And there’s a lot of evidence against it. Like those homeless people you keep passing on the street.
The shrill protestations of commitment to the code just speak to how steep the dropoff is. Because behind it, in our society, there is nothing but a moral vacuum.
My point is, this is about ways to distinguish white people from white people. Ways that they can say they are superior to those people they left behind in their hometowns, that they really deserve a better fate than those people. And it’s not inherently sinister — it starts, for most, with the earnest desire to actually do something morally valuable with the privileged position you’ve acquired.
Guilt is not necessarily a bad thing. But it’s increasingly been cut loose from any sensible moral outlook.