Modern progressivism, like its progenitor, classical Marxism, views the world through a deeply distorted lens. They see all through the prism of the oppressor and oppressed, of the victimizer and victim. It is an ideology formed in identity and grievance politics and founded upon a rewrite of history. It is, in practice, a form of paternalistic racism, and the prime breeding ground for many of the ills it claims to oppose.
If you happen to be a member of one of the progressive's recognized victim classes and you refuse to embrace your victim status, then you become a traitor to whatever it is that defines you as a victim, be it your race, gender, etc. If you publicly criticize a member of a victim class, or for that matter should you tell a narrative that challenges a victim classification, then as sure as the sun rises each day, you are going to get the race card tossed at your head. Regardless of the merits of your criticism, regardless of the reality of your narrative, all is recast by progressives as racism. And today, we have three prime examples.
First up is Andy Sullivan. To give you the background, Instapundit started a caption contest for the below photo, taken from the White House Flickr Page.
This is not exactly the type of photo one would expect the White House to be publishing. It hardly shows the President being presidential, for lack of a better term. To me, it shows a President who is not exactly in love with his V.P. Indeed, Biden, who is a gaffe-o-matic when allowed to roam free before microphones, has seemingly been kept in a secret bunker, away from all media, for the past several months. Other people saw various things in this, ranging from how tired Obama looked to how much he resembled 007.
This is not a photo that was photoshopped by Prof. Reynolds. It is not a photo taken by anyone with an axe to grind with Obama. It is a photo published by the White House. But the mere republishing of this photo by Prof. Reynolds leads Andrew Sullivan to throw the race card. This from Mr. Sullivan:
Glenn Reynolds finds a photo in the White House Flickr basket and publishes it to, er, point out how bad the White House's p.r. is, or how blind they are to perceptions of Obama or some such thing. I tried to puzzle this one out and can just about see how an elusive photo of a tired Obama reacting to something unknowable might make him look tired or arrogant or something.
And then I realized why this photo immediately strikes some people are damning. Obama is a black man who looks as if he is condescending to a white man. That's political gold. . . .
Progressives have for decades been using unfounded charges of racism to silence any unwanted voices while ignoring sexism (Clinton, Palin), paternalistic racism (Ricci) and rabid reverse racism (Jeremiah Wright) in their own camp. At least until recently, it has been incredibly effective. That Mr. Sullivan makes such unfounded charges here merely marks him as one of the progressive camp. What makes this example particularly telling is that the racism Mr. Sullivan finds comes not from anything said by Prof. Reynolds, but rather arises explicitly from the imagination of Mr. Sullivan. Mr. Sullivan then projects his imagined racism onto Prof. Reynolds and those who innocently took part in this caption contest. Mr. Sullivan's immersion in the toxic world of identity politics is complete and his lack of intellectual integrity is palpable.
Another recent example of this toxic brand of identity politics comes from Armed Liberal at Winds Of Change:
Browsing the LA Weekly, I was scanning for a movie to go to this weekend, and saw this review of 'The Blind Side':
Another poor, massive, uneducated African-American teenager lumbers onto screens this month, two weeks after Precious and obviously timed as a pre-Thanksgiving-dinner lesson in the Golden Rule. But unlike the howling rage of Claireece Precious Jones, The Blind Side's Michael "Big Mike" Oher (Quinton Aaron) is mute, docile, and ever-grateful to the white folks who took him in.
Based on a true story recounted in Michael Lewis's 2006 book of the same name, Blind Side the movie peddles the most insidious kind of racism, one in which whiteys are virtuous saviors, coming to the rescue of African-Americans who become superfluous in narratives that are supposed to be about them. Steel magnolia Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock, frosted and thickly accented) welcomes the homeless Big Mike into her family's Memphis McMansion, later explaining to him how to play left tackle. In every scene, Oher is instructed, lectured, comforted, or petted like a big puppy; he is merely a cipher (Aaron has, at most, two pages of dialogue), the vehicle through which the kind-hearted but imperfect whites surrounding him are made saintlier. "Am I a good person?" Leigh Anne asks her husband non-rhetorically - as if every second in this film weren't devoted to canonizing her. - Melissa Anderson
And I was kinda annoyed at this.
Why? Well, for starters because the story is - as the reviewer notes - true. A white family did take in an essentially homeless black child, raise him, and see him succeed.
And so for Ms. Anderson, it's a story that can't be told. Or if it is told, it must be told through the lens of oppression and blind rage - or something.
Now, there are so many problem here that I'll freely admit that we won't address them all. But I want to focus on one, small issue.
And that is that the concept of 'truth' as enjoyed by someone like Ms. Anderson is a kind of cartoon; an Isaiah Berlin hedgehog, Hollywood 'high concept' kind of a thing where the essential truths are few and huge and relatively uncomplex. The story of race in her world in America is the story of oppression by whites of blacks and other people of color; repression that is physical, economic, cultural, and goes to the heart of the character of every non-white American. . . .
Do read the whole post.
And lastly, we have the Teaparty movement, a group fed up with the big spending and big government of not just Obama, but both parties. It is a group the left has, since its inception, attacked as racist. Most recently, we have Chris Matthews furthering that narrative with his outrageous description of the "teabaggers" as "all white." Hot Air has the video.
The race card has manifold purposes. Ultimately, it is meant to keep victim classes sacrosanct, since they are the alpha and omega of progressivism's power base. It is used as a tool in individual instances to circumvent argument and dispense with facts by simply delegitimizing and demonizing the target. Who can take anything Prof. Reynolds says as worthy of serious consideration, since he is obviously a racist with a hidden agenda? Should anyone ponder the post-racial themes of the movie Blind Side since, despite its origins in reality, the mere retelling of such a story is racist? Should anyone give consideration to the issues raised by the tea party movement, since they are an all white group animated by their racial animus towards a black president? All, we are told by progressives, are to be dismissed out of hand.
Identity politics is a virulent and distorting toxin in our society. This is 2010, and America has elected a black President. This is not 1952, and Democrats like Bull Connor are not using fire hoses on civil rights marchers in Alabama. Identity politics is, at this point, a purely political tool as damaging to the "victims" it purports to champion as it is to society as a whole. Much more on this topic in an older post here.
Update: Soccer Dad pointed out an article in USA today on Michael Oher, the subject of the book "Blind Side" referenced above. Here is a snippet:
Another pivotal moment occurred during his first Thanksgiving break, when Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy spotted Oher as they drove past a bus stop near the school. It was snowing. Oher, then 16, was dressed in a T-shirt and shorts.
Sean, then a volunteer assistant basketball coach at the school who had met Oher at the gym, says Leigh Anne grabbed the wheel. Next came a U-turn.
"She cried the second she met him, and it was over," Sean recalls.
The Tuohys took in Oher, allowing him a safety net in their home in upscale East Memphis two blocks from the school. For months he came and went as he pleased, and Leigh Anne worried when he didn't spend the night. They hired a tutor to address severe academic deficiencies, paid his tuition and gave him a wardrobe and other essentials. Sean says the generosity was not the result of any epiphany or even as much as a family meeting.
"We think God sent him to us," Sean says. "Earthly explanations don't make sense."
About a year later, Oher moved in permanently with the wealthy white family. Before Oher's senior year in high school, the Tuohys — with daughter Collins at Briarcrest and a younger son, Sean Jr. — became his legal guardians.
"They've got big hearts," Oher says. "To take somebody from my neighborhood into your house? Nobody does that. I don't think I'd even do that. I'd help you out, but with a daughter and with all the violence and drugs where I come from ... they didn't have to do that. I owe a lot to them."
Oher is within 15 credits of a college degree in criminal justice and he is expected to go in the first round of the NFL draft.
Update 2: And here is what TNOYF saw in the picture of Obama and Biden above. Heh. I think they are spot on myself.
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