Saturday, September 09, 2006

Why stunning?

Time magazine reports on an academic survey on race as follows:

The survey is packed with fascinating findings, some surprising (a stunning proportion of whites - 77% - say their race has a distinct culture which should be preserved).

Why should we be surprised? Isn't it normal for people to feel an affinity with their own particular tradition?

The answer, as this survey demonstrates, is yes but we are supposed to reply no for political purposes.

Whites aren't supposed to identify with their own ethnic tradition as we are supposed to behave according to liberal political principles. According to these principles we are human because we can self-determine who we are. This means that important forms of self-identity which we can't determine for ourselves, like race and ethnicity, are seen negatively as oppressive, backward impediments to be overthrown.

Furthermore, to identify positively with your own particular communal tradition is thought to impose a restriction on the ability of "the other" to choose without limitation: it is frowned on as a "discrimination" in which one will gets preferential treatment denied to another.

Whites generally get the drift of such politics and pay lip-service to them, but nonetheless continue to have a normal, healthy affinity with their own communal tradition.

It would be better, of course, if more of us learnt to challenge the political assumptions which force this affinity underground. The liberal principles which force this evasion are, after all, ultimately arbitrary: there is no compelling reason to reject a form of self-identity simply because it is inherited rather than self-determined.

Nor is it unfair if the existence of a communal tradition requires some (minor) degree of discrimination if everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of a communal life of their own. Families, after all, impose a similar form of "discrimination" in which we give preferential treatment to some over others; a sound policy is not to therefore condemn families for requiring such discrimination, but to ensure that as many individuals as possible get the benefits of a supportive family life of their own.

1 comment:

  1. It would be interesting to find out which groups of whites were the most and least ethnocentric; and whether the sample was US wide or just Minnesota.

    I couldn't find the actual breakdown of data at the sociology department website. I spent some time in Wisconsin/Minnesota a few years back, very Scandanavian.