Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

“Leon Marlensky” is a pseudonym for a former colleague of mine who prefers to remain nameless. Marlensky is an academic in the liberal arts who resents what he describes as the “faux radicalism” of his peers. The contemporary academy, he says, consists, not of radicals, but of apologists for the status quo, “reactionaries” in radicals’ clothing.  A self-described “lone leftist,” Marlensky shares his thoughts on the state of the nation and other things in this interview that I recently conducted with him.

Me: Thanks for taking this time to sit down with me Dr. Marlensky.

LM: The pleasure is mine, Jack.  But, as I’ve told you in the past, please call me Leon.  Titles, like “doctor,” are invidious social fictions that serve to inflate individual egos while perpetuating class hierarchies.

Me: That’s right. You did make a point about this the last time we spoke.

LM: In calling me Dr. Marlensky, or even Mr. Marlensky, you may as well be addressing me as Master Marlensky; each title serves the same overall purpose: the production of gross asymmetries of power.

Me: So, to be clear, you want to abolish all titles?

LM: That’s correct.  Titles are essential to the promotion of every species of oppression.  Take, for example, the titles “Mrs” and “Ms.” That we routinely employ them reflects the extent to which our cultural institutions are saturated with both misogyny and homophobia.  “Ms” at once reveals and reinforces the systemic degradation to which single women have traditionally been subjected in the West, while “Mrs.”—Mr’s—unveils the ugly reality that married women remain the virtual property of their husbands.

Yet these titles also are designed to relate to one another in such a way as to sustain and solidify our culture’s homophobia in that they privilege an arbitrarily heterosexist view of marriage.

Me: Wow.  But Leon, even the most vocal feminists and impassioned defenders of so-called “gay marriage” don’t ordinarily object to the use of titles in everyday life.

LM: So true.  But that is the point: they are just as much arch-conservative apologists for the power structure as those with whom they fight.  Our institutions embody and perpetuate our modes of thought, and our thought, in turn, is informed by our language.  Thus, whether we endorse oppression or liberation depends entirely upon the terms of our everyday discourses.

Me: Well, let’s get moving along.  I’d like to—

LM: I’m sorry, Jack, if I may tie this last point into a contemporary event that’s had the nation all abuzz the last few weeks.  I’m referring to the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin situation.

Me: Sure, go right ahead.

LM: From beginning to end, the coverage of this case has been drenched in the most virulent racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia. And it may come as a shock to you to hear me say that it is Trayvon Martin’s defenders who are the biggest culprits on these fronts, for it is their words that have served as the vehicles of these poisons.

Me: Oh, you’re referring to the not-so-subtle anti-white sentiments that they have promoted, right?

LM: Actually—no. Here’s what I’m talking about.

How often have you heard his defenders refer to Trayvon as a “young boy?”

Me: Too often!

LM: Exactly.  But “boy,” at least as it has historically been applied by whites to black males, is a racist epithet.  Trayvon’s defenders are no different from the most ardent proponents of Jim Crow in describing this six feet something young, black man as a “boy.”

That’s how the “pro-Trayvon” coverage has facilitated some of the country’s most hideous racism.  Inasmuch as his advocates insist that Trayvon was not a “thug” because he came from a “middle-class” family, they stand condemned of classism, for they imply that those on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder are more disposed to become criminals than those higher up.  They privilege the middle class above the lower and under classes.

Me: Ok.  How, though, are the pro-Trayvon forces “sexist” and “homophobic?”

LM: Well, had Zimmerman been a woman, it seems to me that we would be reacting quite differently to what had happened. But what we hear, if we really listen carefully, is that this was just a fight that didn’t need to have resulted in a shooting, much less a shooting death.  Boys will be boys, right?  On display here is the same raw chauvinism, the same hyper-masculinity that made much of the West and America in particular.  The champions of gender equality, if ever they are to be found, need to denounce, without qualification, this kind of unthinking.

Homophobia is also very much present in the coverage of the Zimmerman/Trayvon coverage. From what Trayvon’s friend, Rachel Jeantel, has said, Trayvon characterized Zimmerman as a “creepy ass cracker.”  This can be interpreted as a homophobic slur.  Indeed, according to Rachel, she and Trayvon both suspected that Zimmerman might be a “rapist.

So, just because they thought that Zimmerman may have been a homosexual, they assumed that he could have been a rapist.

I in no way mean to blame Trayvon or his friend for their homophobia, for they are merely regurgitating the homophobic stereotypes that they’ve been fed by the larger Eurocentric culture in which they’ve been raised. Still, it did play a role in this whole case.  Moreover, in the media’s refusal to mention this fact, it engages in the worst sort of intellectual gay-bashing.

Me: Well, Leon, we are about out of time—at least for now.  Thanks for being with me.  We will talk again.

LM: Thank you, Jack. I look forward to sharing my thoughts with you the next time around.

 

For years, Eric Holder has bellyached over the unwillingness of this “nation of cowards” to have an “honest” discussion over race.  The George Zimmerman verdict is the latest occasion that Holder has exploited for renewing his call on this score.

Though a loathsome man, he is correct about this much: Americans, of all races, are indeed unwilling to speak truthfully about this charged topic.

Of course, to a large degree, this unwillingness is due precisely to the bullying tactics of the Holders of the world—i.e. just those people who incessantly bemoan our dishonest treatment of all matters racial while castigating those who dare to speak honestly about race.  Still, when a person is right, he’s right: candid talk on race is long overdue.

In the spirit of straight shooting, then, I submit the following observations.

Blacks were enslaved in America, it is true.  Yet to know only this is to know next to nothing. It is like knowing that George Washington led a band of colonists that killed English soldiers without knowing anything else about the context in which this killing took place—i.e. the colonists were waging a war for independence that they felt was their last resort after other attempts at conciliation were tried and failed, etc.  More accurately, to know only that blacks were enslaved in America is like thinking that George Washington and the colonists were the only people in the history of the world to have ever killed!

An honest discussion of race must mention the stone cold fact that for millennia, well before the first white man ever stepped foot on the African continent, blacks were enslaving blacks.

An honest discussion of race must mention that there never could have been a Trans-Atlantic slave trade had it not been for, not just the cooperation of Africans, but their zealous participation in it.  Moreover, such was their zealotry that when whites—that’s right, whites!—tried abolishing the practice via the awesome power of the English empire in the 18th century, Africans resisted their efforts.

An honest discussion of race should mention that slavery was a universal practice up until—but only until—whites, white Christians, specifically, revolted against it (And it wasn’t just Africans, but Arabs and Asians as well, who fought mightily to keep alive their trade in human flesh).   In fact, it was the mass enslavement of the (white) Slavish that eventually gave rise to the very word “slave.”

An honest discussion of race should mention that for about 250 years, 1.5 million Europeans had been enslaved by (Northern) Africans.  Honesty demands that we mention as well that in early America, it was common practice for whites to be sold into slavery.  Furthermore, whites, not infrequently, children, would be abducted from the streets of England and made to endure passage to the New World aboard ships, and on voyages, that were in many respects comparable to, if not worse, than those suffered by Africans. The word “kidnap” actually stems from this practice of stealing young English kids—another tidbit that should be included in any honest discussion of race.

An honest discussion of race should mention that in the antebellum South, there were literally thousands of free blacks who owned slaves.

An honest discussion of race should mention that, materially speaking, the black minority in America has managed to achieve a standard of living far greater than that of blacks—or anyone else—living anywhere else in the world.

An honest discussion of race should mention that at only 13% of the American population, blacks contribute much more than any other group to the nation’s crime rate. When it is considered that it is a minority within this minority of 13%–namely, black males who are neither small children nor elderly—that perpetrate the bulk of this crime, an even more alarming picture comes into focus.

An honest discussion of race should mention that the Trayvon Martins of America are influenced by a degenerate black underclass subculture that has been romanticized by Gangsta’ Rap and Hip Hop while, at best, ignored by Eric Holder and his fellow “anti-racists.”  An honest discussion of race would consider that this culture of criminality and violence compels not just whites to “profile” young black males; it compels blacks to do the same—even if it is only in unguarded moments when blacks like Jesse Jackson confess to their fears of other blacks.

An honest discussion of race would take stock of the hypocrisy of advocating for a colossus of “affirmative action” programs for blacks while decrying “racial profiling,” or discrimination of any kind in which race plays a role.

An honest discussion of race would draw our attention to the obscene levels of black-on-black, as well as black-on-white, crime.  Regarding the latter, there can be no racial harmony when the members of one race repeatedly besiege those of another with violence.

These are just some of the things that should be included in any genuinely honest discussion of race in America.

 

 

George Zimmerman has been acquitted and justice has been done.

Yet the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman issue tells us much about the left’s agenda to “fundamentally transform” America.

First, in a fundamentally transformed America, only government agents will have the right to use firearms.  To repeat, it isn’t just that citizens will no longer be permitted to carry firearms; they will not even be permitted to own them.

The Martin shooting is just the latest nationally recognized shooting that the Second Amendment deniers have sought to exploit for the purpose of disarming law-abiding citizens. Potentially, the deniers promised to gain far more traction from this shooting than from, say, the shooting in Sandy Hook or that of Gabbie Giffords, for in both of these instances, the shooters in question did not own their guns legally.  Moreover, both the shooters and their victims were white.

Zimmerman, however, who was initially thought to be white, was licensed to own and carry his weapon.  Yet if it could be proven that he abused this right, and abused it by, of all things, hunting down and murdering a young black male, then both the Second Amendment and the American majority would reveal themselves to be no less deserving of condemnation for their recklessness—and their “racism.”  Better yet, the Zimmerman case could enable the deniers to forge an inseparable link in the popular imagination between the Second Amendment and white racism. 

In putting Zimmerman on trial, the deniers finally had their opportunity to try the old America.  In the leftist’s mind, the old America—the as-of-yet-to-be transformed America—consists of a bunch of John Wayne wannabe white guys, Bible thumpers who cling bitterly to their guns and religion and routinely deploy both to subjugate and oppress anyone and everyone who isn’t like them.

Ironically, though he looks more like one of the millions of “undocumented workers” who the Gang of Eight wants to call forth from “the shadows,” the brown-complexioned face of the multi-racial Zimmerman (who is white, Hispanic, and black) has been made into that of the old America.  The face of Trayvon Martin has become a proxy for the minority oppression that the old America has perennially perpetuated.

This brings us to a second point.

It isn’t just that the Second Amendment deniers are in cahoots with the agents of the Racism-Industrial-Complex (RIC).  Often, the two groups consist of the same people.  What little difference exists between the two lies in this: deniers use race to disarm law abiding Americans while RIC agents seek to disarm law abiding Americans, most of whom they know are white, because they want to advance their racial agenda.

Though he is a person of color, Zimmerman has been made into a symbol of white America—i.e. white oppression.  By hook or by crook—by “whichever means necessary,” violence, intimidation, humiliation, etc.—this is an America that must be relegated to the dustbin of history and replaced by a new land of the left’s imaginings.

And into what kind of new place will the old America be fundamentally transformed?

As was already noted, the citizens of the new America will not be permitted to defend themselves with guns.  However, if possible to imagine, it gets even worse.

The new America will be devoid of all institutional buffers—those “little platoons” as Edmund Burke referred to them—that lay in between the individual and the government.  We already see the extent to which, say, Obamacare is weakening the premiere buffer, religious institutions.  Our local neighborhoods are nearly as important as the latter, for it is from our communities that the identity and meaning of our lives is gotten—a fact to which Zimmerman serves as a standing testimony.

The neighborhood watch to which Zimmerman belonged is the penultimate emblem of the integrity, the health, of the community that its members sought to preserve.  From her beginnings and throughout her history, America achieved distinction as a liberty-loving nation precisely because her citizens relied less on government and more on contributing to and benefitting from their “little platoons.”

Far from showing that he was a “wannabe cop,” whatever this could mean, that Zimmerman voluntarily enlisted his time and energies into the service of protecting his community establishes his good citizenship.

In bringing the full weight of the government down upon his neck, it isn’t just Zimmerman’s whose head the fundamental transformers sever: it is that of America’s as well.  The long-standing American tradition of localism and limited government is now imperiled, for the persecution of Zimmerman can’t but make many an American think long and hard before involving themselves in local affairs, in helping out their fellows.

Zimmerman has been treated outrageously.  But so too has the America of which the fundamental transformers have taken hold.

 

Contemporary American racial politics have got to be more complicated than any other kind of politics.  In fact, they have got to be more complicated than astrophysics and neural brain surgery.

Even Americans for whom their country’s racial politics have become like a first language to them still have great difficulty in mastering it.  Outsiders aspiring to achieve fluency in America’s racial politics have nearly insuperable obstacles to surmount.

With an eye toward making “the text” of our racial politics at least somewhat less convoluted, I offer the following “cliff notes.”

First things first: “racism” is the worst thing with which to charge a white person.  To repeat, there is no conceivable catalogue of evils in which “racism” does not rank at the top (or bottom) of the list—for white people.  To put this point another way, although every American, of every race, loudly and proudly repudiates “racism,” by the latter they almost always mean white racism.

This brings us to the next note.

There is endless hand wringing over “equality,” “fairness,” and “justice,” it is true.  And “color blindness” is extolled as the premiere virtue.  In reality, though, whites and non-whites—especially blacks—are not regarded equally in America.  All talk of “white privilege” clashes violently with the fact that non-whites, especially blacks, just simply are not judged by the same standards as their white counterparts.  And, as this one example of “racism” illustrates, the double standards are glaring.

Not infrequently, at least nowadays, calls on the part of racial activists and their followers for justice or equality are ideological smokescreens designed to advance their own interests and/or the interests of the groups that they represent.  Such activists, regardless of their color, shout from the rooftops for “justice” for blacks and Hispanics, say.  However, for whites, particularly those whites who have been aggrieved in some way by non-whites, they are nowhere to be found.

Third, though it sounds counterintuitive, race in America is less a matter of skin tone and more a matter of ideology.  Actually, race is as much an ideological concept as any.

There is a narrative concerning American race relations that has become the official history. As it has achieved the status of dogma, it tolerates no competitors.  According to this narrative, for all practical purposes, “racism” begins in the United State with the enslavement of African blacks.  Notwithstanding their tireless attempts to repent of the oppression to which they’ve subjected blacks throughout the centuries, whites continue to fall prey to their delusions of racial “supremacy;” they cannot do enough to make amends.

Now, this narrative is false not entirely for what it says as for what it neglects to say.  Blacks had been enslaving one another for eons before the first white man stepped foot on the African continent—and they resisted European efforts to end the slave trade.  Had it not been for Africans there would have been no Trans-Atlantic slave trade, for it was Africans who sold their fellow Africans to the Europeans.  And what is true of Africans is no less true of America’s aboriginals who had been enslaving one another long before whites reached the Western hemisphere.

Of course, there are other critical facts that the official creed omits.  Blacks enslaved blacks in the antebellum South and blacks fought for the Confederacy.  Blacks have a far higher standard of living in modern America than most people, black white, or other, have living in any other place on Earth.  From their emancipation from the bonds of slavery to the destruction of Jim Crow and everything since then—including the election and reelection of a black president—blacks’ gains in America would never have been possible had it not been for the blood, sweat, and tears of whites.

Today, blacks are murdered and victimized by blacks to a vastly greater extent than they are victimized by whites (or the members of any other racial group).  And the overwhelming majority of interracial crime is black-on-white—not the other way round.

Still, those blacks like, say, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who resist the orthodox narrative are deemed “inauthentic”: Thomas and other blacks, you see, aren’t really black.

That race is ideological in contemporary America is as well borne out by the fact that the Hispanic-looking George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch member in Sanford, Florida who shot to death black teenager Trayvon Martin, is treated as an honorary white man—in spite of being a mixture of black, white, and Hispanic.

For over 20 years, Hispanic gangbangers in Los Angeles have been conducting what the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as a “campaign” of “ethnic cleansing” in black neighborhoods. This outrage has been met with deafening silence by the national media and the racial activists.  Thus, it is difficult not to think that had Zimmerman his mother’s Spanish surname, or had he been a gangbanger, as opposed to a community activist, we would never have heard of either him or Martin.

Racial politics in America is tricky business indeed.