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Racism Masked as Critical Theory
08/30/2002

While running errands, I heard Paul Harvey comment that universities are hiking tuition and complaining that they aren't receiving enough public money. He went on to describe some of the foolish courses that they think justify both government funds and tuition (e.g., "Thinking Queerly"). Now I come across this racist garbage, and I have to ask: how long until we stop funding this stuff?

Noel Ignatiev, a white guy with a lot of meaningless letters after his name, is the editor of "Race Traitor," a journal with the goal of "bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as 'the white race' is destroyed — not 'deconstructed' but destroyed." Sounds racist, yes? Well, it is. However, there's a whole lot of academic mumbojumbo that is specifically meant to make the theory too slippery to criticize. (Although, I took a stab at showing the complete and utter inanity of one of Ignatiev's influences, C.L.R. James, in an essay/book about Moby-Dick.)

Here's how the game works: The academics are essentially defining the elite as "white" and the "oppressed" as black. Purely and simply, this is racism because it defines what is properly a class distinction under the rubric of race. So, point to the Irish (indeed, Ignatiev wrote a book about them), as an example of how a minority group can overcome obstacles in Western society, and you're told that they were black but became white. Furthermore, because "whiteness" is the oppressor, this transition is inherently evil.

The game is partly revealed by such foolish examples as "to oppose monarchy does not mean killing the king; it means getting rid of crowns, thrones, royal titles, etc..." This glosses over the fact that the "big idea" of the critics is, keeping with their analogy, to define "anti-royalism" as "anti-Tudorism," for example. Thus, they may shift from the broad to the specific as convenient. To wit:

"Destroying the Tudors does not mean killing the actual people who are Tudors."

"So how do you propose to end royalism?"

"By deposing, killing if necessary, the Tudors."

If whiteness is merely the name given to oppression, why not just speak in terms of oppression? The answer manifests itself when the critical theory is used to buttress suggested ways of acting within the world. Although, every "oppressed" people has been included in the "black race" for theoretical purposes, when discussing who ought to benefit from affirmative action or reparations, conveniently, we go right back to skin color.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 01:47 PM EST