Tuesday, November 06, 2007

How can it be both things?

Most readers will be aware of recent events at the University of Delaware. The 7000 students residing on campus were expected to attend diversity training based on the theory of "whiteness studies". The students were taught that all white Americans were, by definition, racists:

[a] racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality.

The training has been suspended for the time being. I thought it might be interesting, though, to read through the diversity training materials prepared by Dr Shakti Butler.

I've outlined previously the basic idea behind whiteness studies: that whiteness was invented to give some people an unearned privilege at the expense of oppressed people of colour.

Dr Butler's training materials hold faithfully to this idea for over ten pages. She defines race itself not in neutral terms but as "a specious classification of human beings created by Europeans (whites) ... for the purpose of establishing and maintaining privilege and power". She then gives us a potted history lesson intended to prove that:

a small group of colonial slave owners invented the "white race"

This is everything you'd expect from a whiteness theorist. What's surprising is the argument Dr Butler makes on the very next page. She supports her case with the research of Dr Frances Cress Welsing:

Dr Welsing analyzes the root causes of white supremacy. She demonstrates that the genes of white people are recessive compared to those of people of African descent. Thus, if whites and African-descended people mate and create children, the family tree will have more darker skin offspring.

Dr Welsing concludes that the virulence of white supremacy stems from white fear of genetic annihilation. In other words, if white/African sexual interrelationships become the norm rather than the statistical exception, in a few generations there will be no more white people. An historical analysis of the perverseness of white fear of intermarriage, from 1691 to the present, lends much credence to this perspective.

Dr Cress Welsing further asserts that white people keep this fear in their white closets. I agree.

Does Dr Butler not realise that she has contradicted her first, lengthy argument? We were supposed to believe that Europeans invented a fictitious category of race out of a lust for power and dominance. Now we are told that it is the biological reality of race which is the problem, and that Europeans are vulnerable because of recessive genes. Europeans have suddenly gone from inventing a fictitious category of race to hiding their unique problems of racial preservation.

How can you explain an academic advancing such irreconcilable arguments? Perhaps Dr Butler thought that adding on an argument with the aura of the physical sciences attached to it might bolster her case.

At any rate, it seems that Dr Butler doesn't really believe much of the guff that whiteness theorists rattle on with. The one idea that she really sticks to consistently is that of "white exceptionalism" - that whites are to be proved to be unique in acting against the proper norms held to by other groups.

This is weak ground for Dr Butler to occupy. What are we to make of the "anti-racism" of someone who picks out whites this way? Nor is it difficult to show that whites are not unique in the particular respects claimed by Dr Butler.


  1. "Does Dr Butler not realise that she has contradicted her first, lengthy argument?"

    She probably does, but even if she doesn't, it's far more important to her that we not realize it. That's why such assertions are always cloaked in pseudo-scholarly terms of sesquipedalian impenetrability.

  2. The liberal mind loves logical fallacies like a pig loves shit.

    For her it's all about the conclusions. The rest is just a string of unimportant words.