The debate was supposed to be about Maxine Beneba Clarke's poem on the Haiti earthquake. If you remember, Clarke imagines in the poem that God and Jesus must be white men to have visited such disaster on brown people. She imagines the "pale trinity" feeling good about crushing the Haitians with an earthquake, and other brown peoples with tsunamis, lava and hurricanes.
To me the poem is clearly hostile to whites. It conjures up images of white powers maliciously visiting acts of evil upon others. But my leftist commenter, "anon contrarian" (AC), just couldn't see this at all:
AC: I think the poem in question is an entirely reasonable and 'human' response to a disaster
Me: No, it's a poem that clearly vilifies whites. Just like many other poems by Maxine Clarke, on many different themes.
AC: No, in reality I challenge you to find a word in there that 'vilifies' anybody, without relying on the tortured logic of somebody with a persecution complex.
Challenged to find a word? Surely, the whole poem vilifies whites by suggesting that they would enjoy inflicting terrible disasters on other people? In what way is this a "tortured logic"?
AC also argued that Maxine Clarke's poem wasn't significant as it would only be read by a few thousand people. I replied that it was significant because the underlying ideas were held widely on the left, "including the idea that whites are uniquely guilty of racist oppression of others".
This is a key concept in "whiteness studies" courses being taught on many campuses. The idea is that whites invented race as a social construct in order to gain an unearned privilege over others. Racism therefore becomes tied to the idea of white oppressors and non-white victims. Whites are assumed to be dominant and the goal for progressives is to deconstruct whiteness. Whites who object are assumed to be motivated by a desire to uphold "white supremacy".
This is standard fare on the left. But AC is in full denial mode:
Me: AC, you really think that there are no leftists who believe that white guys are bad and cause the suffering of others? Really?
AC: You're straw-manning the argument again. No leftist on earth pushes the line that only 'whites' are capable of evil, whilst everybody else is innocent.
I'm not sure that AC really understands what's going on here. Whites are held to be uniquely evil and everybody else innocent in the particular way I described above. It was whites who supposedly invented race and racism to gain privilege at the expense of the non-white other. It is therefore whiteness which needs to be deconstructed and disallowed in order to create justice and equality. It is therefore whites who are jumped on as defenders of "supremacy" if they happen to defend their own ethnicity.
What happens if you take this left-wing politics especially seriously? You become anti-white to a radical degree. Consider, for instance, the views of Professor Robert Jensen:
White people can be human sometimes, but only if we turn our backs on being white: We can be human, or we can be white.
Are you likely to hear such a thing said by a professor about non-white races? If Professor Jensen had said it, for instance, about Asians, would he still be a professor at the University of Texas?
Here's another choice comment from Professor Jensen:
White Americans are mean and uncaring, morally bankrupt and ethically flawed, because white supremacy has taken a huge toll on white people's capacity to be fully human.
In the professor's mind whites exist in a condition of white supremacy. That's our identity and collective purpose. It makes us less than human.
Again, how often do you hear such things said about other groups?
I'm not suggesting that most leftists would take the underlying ideas as far as the radical formulations uttered by Professor Jensen. But they do mostly share the underlying ideas.
Which brings me to the final point. AC reacted in the following way when I described leftists as categorising whites as dominant and non-whites as victimised:
Me: whites are the ones to be categorised as privileged, dominant; non-whites as historically victimised
AC: In what way are whites 'victimised'? I mean, seriously. Is it like jews in the holocaust, kulaks under Stalin, Catholics in Belfast, Aboriginals in the early years of white settlement? ... It's like a kind of victim-envy here.
My complaint was that leftists always make whites out to be the oppressors. AC interprets this as me preferring the role of victim; he queries how whites could be victims.
It's another odd question to ask. Of course whites have been victims at times throughout history. There were Australian soldiers and nurses who were victims of Japanese atrocities during WWII. There were Russians who were victims during the Tatar yoke. There were south-eastern Europeans who were victims during the rule of the Ottomans. There were many thousands of whites who were the victims of the Barbary corsairs.
But, most of all, whites are the victims of leftist (and liberal) politics. Not in the sense of suffering violent persecution, but in having our group existence delegitimised. If whiteness is a false and oppressive category, harmful to others and productive of injustice and inequality, then it must be cut down so that it no longer casts an influence on society.
And so Jennifer Clarke, who teaches at the Australian National University, can write an article titled 'White' Privilege in which she describes Australia as a "regionally anomalous white enclave run largely by white people to our own advantage", in which anti-discrimination laws should be applied more effectively so that "a majority of Australians would no longer be of northern European ethnic heritage".
It's a program of "getting rid of" the group thought to be responsible for social ills, not via violent pogroms, but by demographic change.
Even at a personal level, it's a kind of low-level persecution to go through life being held responsible for the ills of the world and being portrayed negatively as a privileged oppressor. It's particularly problematic for young people who have little choice but to accept what is put before them at school and at university.
We can do better, but this means making a clean break with the underlying assumptions of leftism.