Sunday, May 4, 2014

Why do WHITE MEN have any right to give their WHITE MAN opinions about non-WHITE MAN issues?

Matt Walsh writes:

Hey, propagators of Identity Politics.

Let’s talk about this:

“You’re a [specific demographic category] so you can’t have an opinion about [whatever contentious issue]!”

Here’s the thing about that statement. It’s bigoted, cowardly, foolish, and small-minded. Man, for someone who doesn't like it when Liberal Secular Progressives use words like bigoted and racist, you sure are a fan of using them yourself.

So let’s stop saying it, OK?

Please, continue to debate and discuss and argue, but this is not an argument. It’s the opposite of an argument. It’s a rhetorical black hole that sucks all of the intelligence and purpose out of a conversation, leaving only some dried up shell of a pointless back and forth where we are reduced to competing over who can sob the loudest and play the highest quantity of Victim Cards™.

It’s revolting, really.

“Your opinion doesn’t matter because you’re a ____!”

Of course, we all know that the blank is only ever filled in with “white man.” It is assuredly not socially acceptable to tell any group, other than white men, that their opinions don’t count.

“White Men shouldn’t talk about _____.”

Don’t you hear yourself? Do you know how stupid that sounds? How frivolous? How bigoted?

This is bigotry of the worst sort – so extreme that it bars an entire group of human beings from participating in a conversation, merely based on the boxes they check on a census form.

Yup, definitely the worst sort of bigotry. Much worse than enslaving people, lynching people, raping people, forcibly sterilizing people, refusing hospital service to people, segregating people in the worst neighborhoods, barring people from better quality schools, barring people from higher paying jobs, propagating ideas about a group of people being less intelligent/uglier/less virtuous/less than human, or literally restricting people from all available means of making their voices publicly heard. Yes, telling white men that they *shouldn't* talk about ____ is without a doubt THE WORST thing that has ever happened to a group of people, ever.

Bigotry so naked, so blatant, that it completely disregards another person’s point of view because of physical and physiological factors out of their control.

Enough, already.

Defend your concepts, if you can. Make your point. Argue your position. Defeat your opponents on the Battlefield of Ideas. Be ruthless, if you want. Be aggressive and unrelenting. I’m fine with that. I respect it. I like it.

But if this is all you’ve got — this “wahhh, you’re a white man talking about non-white man things” garbage — then go home and let the big boys and girls speak. Come back when you have something constructive to contribute. 

You don’t need me to illustrate this, I know. Still, I feel compelled to give you some real life examples, if only because I’ve been fielding an inordinate number of these sorts of comments in the past week. That’s probably due to the fact that, in the last 10 days of so, I’ve written about affirmative action, Donald Sterling, abortion, and feminism. I’ve given my opinion on these topics — or rather my WHITE MAN opinion, from my WHITE MAN brain, which produces WHITE MAN ideas, based on my WHITE MAN experiences.

And we all know that the universal WHITE MAN experience is that of wealth, privilege, and luxury. Just ask this kid:

This would be a GREAT point.... if privilege equaled wealth. But it does not. Wealth is only one dimension of privilege, and one can have privilege of various sorts without being remotely wealthy. (For example, the privilege of being able to proclaim things like, "private businesses should have the right to discriminate" without having to consider the degrading, life-altering consequences that one might personally have to endure.)

By the way, good work. Pitting poor whites against people of color has had a very interesting role in American history.

Here is only a small sample based on a cursory search through my blog and Facebook comment section, and my email inbox.  Riiiight. Like I didn't see you begging your readers for a screen shot of one of the comments below (which had been deleted) so that you could add it to your trove of the Most Extreme Comments That Can Later Be Used As Representative Samples. From Sterling to abortion to feminism to affirmative action policies, this is how many of you in the Identity Police Squad chose to respond to my points:

 It’s hard to take seriously the blog of a white male when it comes to racial issues in the same way it was difficult to take seriously your blog on feminism, since you have never been a woman… You’re posts are narrow minded and don’t allow for thoughtful conversation.

-One Crazy Adoption Story

Matt… is nothing more than an angry, privileged, cis-gendered white man who has an incredibly slanted view of the world.


Note: this person is not saying you can't express your opinions. This person is saying that you are angry and have a slanted view of the world. (Arguably correct.)

Explain this to me. Why do you think that you – a MAN – have any place commenting on this issue?


Sorry, men have no place giving opinions about feminism.


I am white also and my experience with being discriminated against is the same as yours…zero


Note: this person is not saying that you can't express your opinions. This person is saying that, as a white person, you have not had the experience of racial discrimination that people of color have had. (Arguably correct.)

I think you definitely don’t know what feminism actually is… And, as a white man you really have no right to comment on the reproductive rights of women.


I have to say that I really take offense to a man making any comments at all about feminism.


Another white man with opinions on things he shouldn’t be speaking on.


All from a white person perspective. It kills me the denial you are in. Let’s continue to make excuses. Have no idea what’s it like to be a minority in this country. Lol wow.


Note: this person is not saying that you can't express your opinions. This person is saying that your views reflect the perspective of a white person and that you lack understanding of what it is like to be a person of color. (Arguably correct.)

Frankly, I’m tired of hearing this topic discussed by privileged white men.


Note: this person is not saying that you can't express your opinions. This person is saying that he is saturated, to the point of exhaustion, with the views of white men on that particular topic.

Shut up, man. No really, MAN. YOU. ARE. A. MAN. How could you have ANY idea about reproductive issues?


Instead of a law against abortion how bout a law against white men rambling on about abortion?


Why do you think that you, as a privileged white Christian male, have any right even talk about a topic like this?


Nice, another White Christian Man who thinks he should talk about women’s issues. Awesome!


Sometimes the Identity Politics bigots will take the short hand approach and simply point out my race or gender, without adding any kind of context at all:

This is written by a man obviously!


Says a man.


Shut up. You’re a white man. That’s all.


It comes in handy, actually.

If ever I suffer from the delusion that maybe I’m a black woman, or a Latino man, or a Chinese transvestite, or an orange kangaroo, all I need do is check my comment section.

“Nope, says here I’m a white man. Whew. Thanks, guys!”

Sometimes the Identity Politics bigots are a little more open about their bigotry: Wow, going for the twice-in-sentence use of the word bigot now. Impressive!

Matt Walsh, u are a stupid, priveledged, out of touch, honky, broke ass, racists, bigoted, money worshipping, white penis from hell. Are u located in Florida or Texas?? Do u have any followers that aren’t tea sucking old white men or their useless housewives??


Matt I hope you realize that your a racist white male bigot piece of sh*t who should shut about about everything and die of cancer. :)


I shouldn’t have to explain what’s wrong with this “logic,” but I will. I want it to be clear that I’m not fed up with it because it hurts my White Man Feelings and makes me shed Privileged White Christian Tears; I’m fed up with it because it’s just so incredibly dumb.

And as we all know from children, saying you have a problem with something because it is soo dumb never means that you are just upset about not getting your way all of the time.

The whole thing is built on an infinite tower of false premises speaking of things that sound so incredibly dumb, but for brevity’s sake, we’ll look at only the two of them:

False Premise #1: You need to be a member of an Approved Victim Group in order to objectively evaluate a topic relating to an Approved Victim Group. Enough with the TMs! It was not even funny the first time. (Somehow I have suddenly become more offended by your writing style than the content, haha.)

Alright, here’s the problem:

If a personal and emotional tie to an issue makes you more likely to ascertain and identify the truth in it, then our court system needs to be drastically reworked. Most people would consider it a grave injustice if a man was on trial for murder and the prosecution stacked the jury box with the families of murder victims. Or if someone was charged with vehicle theft and his fate was to be decided by a jury of people who just had their car stolen last week.

Actually this is a great example. But in order to see how it sheds light on who currently "has a voice" in this country, it is necessary to set aside the unrealistic hypothetical (jury full of family members) and consider what actually occurs in the courtroom. It is a reality in our justice system that there are imbalances in the way that juries are chosen; in particular, people of color get kicked off of juries much more easily, and non-white defendants all too often find themselves facing a jury stacked with white people. (And then, so coincidentally, people of color find themselves convicted of the same crimes at higher rates than their white counterparts.)

Is it a "grave injustice" to suggest that white people have too much input into how people of color are treated by the criminal justice system? Is it "bigoted" to propose that people of color should have the same opportunity to serve on juries and bring their own perspectives to the decision-making process? Is it even unreasonable to suggest that a person of the same racial/ethnic/socioeconomic background as the defendant might have something to add to the deliberation in the way of more detailed knowledge about certain circumstances the defendant might have faced (e.g. how well police officers tend to follow constitutional/legal procedure when they are dealing with young, black men)?

What many of your detractors are saying is that they are already very familiar with white people's perspectives and are growing tired of hearing mostly or only white people's perspectives. Historically, white men have physically barred other people from positions where their voices might be prominently heard, and to this day, we have disparities in key institutionalized roles where particular views have influence and/or consequence, such as political leadership, religious leadership, scientific leadership, "hard news" reporting, and jury membership, to name a few. When your detractors say, "Ugh, not another white man opinion," what they are saying (using the jury metaphor) is: "Ugh, not another white person on the jury. Let's get a couple people of color on this jury!"

You may think this attitude is "bigoted" but you must admit that no one is silencing you. Your blog continues, lots of people read it, advertisers use it, and you make money off of it. You are not being harmed, and your views are reaching lots and lots of people. The worst that happens to you is that people disagree with you or say mean things to you. If you can't even handle some unkind words by the notoriously passionate population of people who comment on blogs, then I can't even imagine how you would deal with your voice being actually silenced by the mechanisms that have been employed against women, people of color, poor people, etc.

We understand that, in many cases, emotional closeness to a subject is more likely to bias you than some degree of emotional detachment might. In the Justice System, we don’t lock people away (or at least we shouldn’t) based on feelings. We don’t (or at least we shouldn’t) find them guilty with our emotions. We find them guilty (or at least we should) with facts and evidence. Your assumption here is that being white/male = emotional detachment. In fact, if you read any of your own blog posts about race, or any of your white readers' comments on these issues, it is clear that white/male people have their fair share of emotional investment in these topics. (Also portraying women and minorities as emotional in contrast to the rational, emotionless white man has a long history in American public discourse; sometimes it is interesting to think about the historical legacies that your arguments are unintentionally drawing upon.)

In any case, the reason why one might want to give particular consideration to, say, the views of a black person on an issue concerning black people, has nothing to do with emotion or subjectivity. It has to do with the knowledge a person will have by virtue of being in a certain position. For instance, I would most certainly give more weight to a homeless person's description of what being homeless is like than I would to someone who has never been homeless. Not because the homeless person has more "emotional attachment" to the issue, but simply because the homeless person has so much more detailed, first-hand knowledge.

AND, one can even value the first-hand knowledge of people intimately involved with an issue at the same time that one looks at statistics and other facts. These are not mutually exclusive.

Similarly, if the topic at hand is whether abortion should be legal, or whether affirmative action should exist, or whether racist NBA owners should be treated like Hitler Incarnate, what we need to do is find the truth. And we find the truth largely with logic, with reason, with facts, with evidence – not solely with our feelings, however earnest and sincere. I’m not saying that emotions have no role, and I’m certainly not arguing for the reverse where women have no say in an abortion conversation, and black people have no say in an affirmative action conversation.  Oh, well, thank you, in your infinite wisdom and authority, for clarifying that women have some say about women's issues and black people have some say in racial issues. Very benevolent of you.

I think personal experience can give someone a valuable insight and add an important dimension to the debate, but personal experience is, by no means, a trump card. And it is, by no means, the most important factor in a discussion of this nature.  Yes. There is, once again, statistics and research, but you don't have much regard for those either. You go with whatever you feel to be true. Without any access to first-hand knowledge, and without reference to other empirical evidence, that is where your understanding falls short, and that is what makes your arguments less convincing for some people.

The victim’s family will be heard from in the trial, as they should be. The judge will take them into account during sentencing, and the jury might be swayed by their story. But only a maniac would think that the victim’s family should BE the judge and jury. That is a recipe for tyranny, and any hope of objectivity will be obliterated, by design.

When I took to Twitter to ponder why people think that white men can’t have opinions on ‘race issues’ and ‘women’s issues,’ I got this reply:

You can. You just don't know what it's like. Your authority on those subjects are NIL.

What better way to perfectly encapsulate the Identity Politics mindset? You have to ‘know what it’s like’ in order to be an ‘authority’ on a subject. Therefore, a woman who’s had an abortion is a greater authority on the reasons why abortion should be legal than, say, a biologist or a doctor or a constitutional scholar.

Actually, the woman above is right. You have no authority on these subjects. No one has authority on these subjects. That is why we should all listen to each other and learn from one another - especially allowing more room for voices that have typically been silenced. However, the very fact that you continue to frame this issue as a question of authority (who does or does not have authority to speak on these topics) shows that you approach these things using the language and conceptual tools of the powers-that-be. It is entirely possible to learn from research and statistics and personal experiences, and to understand how different personal experiences provide different kinds of and different amounts of knowledge about issues and how certain experiences may necessarily be limited, without turning it into a game of who can validly give voice to an all-ecompassing experience, such that other voices are not necessary?

Whoever can claim the closest emotional connection automatically gets to be right. It’s that simple. Nope. I don't think you understand at all.

It’s that stupid.

Can you imagine if the Identity Police existed back in Aristotle’s day? He was a privileged man, so I suppose his insights were invalid.  Yes, and this is a great example, because the social and historical dimensions of race and gender in Aristotle's day were exactly the same as today!

“Hey Aristotle, shut up with your Ethics, man. You don’t know what it’s like!”  How did you get here, and what does it have to do with anything you've been talking about?

False Premise #2: White men have never been, never could be, and never will be victims of discrimination and prejudice, and they’ve all been propped up by the phantom hand of ‘privilege.’

There’s really no need to dissect this nonsense, mainly because, as we’ve already established, it doesn’t matter. It’s not true, but even if it were true, that wouldn’t make a white man’s views any less worthy of consideration.

In any case, the premise is self defeating. It contradicts itself. You’re being prejudiced against white men by saying they can’t have an opinion about a subject, and then justifying the prejudice by claiming that they’ve never felt prejudice. The minute you play that card, you lose it — even though you never really had it. It depends on how you understand the word "prejudice." As the word is commonly used today, it refers to a fundamentally unequal social relationship. It refers to the ideological dimension of an institutionalized system of oppression and inequality. It refers to all the attitudes and beliefs that support structures that place certain people, based on physical characteristics they have no control over, at the bottom rungs of society, and limits their full participation in society. Social context makes all the difference. When a woman tells you, Matt Walsh, that you can't have an opinion about women's issues, you are still free to continue blogging and making money off of it (as you have been). Heck, you can even make her comment the subject of one of the blog posts that you financially benefit from. She has not limited you in any way. However, women, people of color, etc. have actually been physically barred from speaking publicly and sharing their experiences. And, although those physical constraints have mainly (if only symbolically) been removed today, when you, Matt Walsh, are contributing to the general consensus that women can't handle certain kinds of work, or that affirmative action is bigotry, you are lending real, vocal support to actual, physically-existing mechanisms that disadvantage people based on gender or race. So, your words, based on the existing institutional structures that they support, can have real negative consequences in a way that the woman telling you "you shouldn't talk about this" cannot.

OK, this is getting confusing. Well, if it's confusing you, that would be a good time for you to stop talking for a minute and listen to what other people have to say.

The point is: all people have been discriminated against in some way or another, and we’ve all felt prejudice in some way or another. Only some of us, however, have studied an issue like abortion for well over a decade, read mounds of literature about it, formed our thoughts and ideas very carefully, written about it many times, and meditated on it seriously, only to be told that none of it counts because we don’t have a vagina.

That’s a form of prejudice I have felt, along with the form I feel whenever I mention in a post that I’m Catholic and then get bombarded with people bitterly mocking my faith, making jokes about pedophilia, and telling me I’m going to burn in hell. Considering that my faith is more important to me than anything on the planet, this is bigotry that strikes right at the core of my being.

Once again, there is a big difference between experiencing criticism or ridicule and experiencing prejudice/bigotry. Both might end up making a person feel pretty icky, but only the latter is backed up by and entwined in a context of institutionalized social stratification - a whole host of mechanisms, built in to the fabric of society, that severely limit certain people's lives and mobility based on the (often unspoken or sometimes unconscious) premise that those people are not as "worthy" or somehow inherently less than everyone else. That is why, in the fullest meaning of the word "prejudice" only certain people, by virtue of their social position, are capable of experiencing prejudice. The more generic sense of the term (a non-specificed bias of any kind toward any group of people or person) is universal, yes, but not as insidious as the type of prejudice that has societal force behind it and the capability of limiting a person or group's wellbeing emotionally and materially.

There is a difference between a slave telling her master, "You are cruel and violent," and the master saying to the slave, "You are more like a wild animal than a human being." And both of these situations are entirely different from a scenario with two people who are not subject to any forces of domination, with no broader structure of inequality shaping their relationship, telling each other "I don't like you." If you can't distinguish among these situations and comprehend how social context matters... I don't know if I can help you..

Or the kind I feel whenever someone wishes cancer on me, or tells me to kill myself, or just generally goes to great lengths to viciously insult me, my family, my appearance, my religion, my education, and my beliefs. This happens on a daily basis, and I dare say that, in fact, I’ve had more cancer and suicide wishes thrown at me than the vast majority of everyone reading this — black, white, male, or female.
I’m not really complaining. This comes with the territory, and I know I could escape these attacks if I just learned to shut up and go with the flow. But that’s not ever going to happen, and so the attacks will never stop. Yeah, people on the internet say rotten things under the cover anonymity. You chose to write a blog and enable comments, thus exposing yourself purposely to the craziness of the internet. None of the people who make these comments have any capability of giving you cancer or changing your beliefs or altering the course of your life in any way. They're not going to deny you jobs or housing or educational opportunities based on personal characteristics that you can't change. This is not equivalent to racial prejudice or gender discrimination. This is you knowingly jumping in to the rough-and-tumble of the internet. (And by the way, financially gaining from it.)

I get it. I’m prepared.

I only bring this up so that you’ll understand that bigotry and prejudice take many forms. It’s quite possible that I have not experienced the sort of prejudice you’ve experienced, and it’s just as possible that you have not experienced the sort that I’ve experienced. I guess that makes us ‘even,’ and so our ideological disagreements will, tragically, have to be settled with reason and logic, not emotionalism and self-victimization. See, this is where it would be helpful for you to pay some attention, have some regard, for the experiences of people of different colors and genders. Then you would understand that your experiences of "prejudice" are not at all equivalent to theirs, and you are in no way even. When you have been detained at the airport for 4 hours, roughed up by the police for no reason, been subject to constant sexual comments in public, or grown up in a broken, resource-less community with no hope of escape... then we can start to talk about "even."

And really, if you would like to make things even, would it not be better to focus on combating all the things that hold other people down, rather than obsessing over your own injuries and woes?

The notion of White Man Privilege™ seriously please. stop. with. the. TMs. has already been masterfully handled by this white dude at Princeton of course; no one better to give the definitive answer on privilege than a white dude at one of the most elite college in America, so I don’t think I need to extrapolate much further. I’ll only augment his points by urging you to think twice before you inform a stranger about the supposed advantages he’s enjoyed. How did strangers come in to this?

For all you know, he could be like that boy pictured above, and maybe he grew up in a place like this:

I think we've been through this. Privilege isn't an all-or-nothing phenomenon, and it is not equivalent to wealth.

A wealthy black guy is still far more likely to be followed by a security guard in a jewelry store than any kind of white guy, poor or rich.

And maybe he came from somewhere like Eastern Kentucky, or anywhere in the Appalachian region, where most of the people are very, very poor and very, very white.

Or maybe he’s Jewish and his ancestors suffered through the holocaust.

Or maybe he’s a survivor of abuse, and neglect, and hardships you can’t possibly fathom. None of these things relate to privilege, which is a manifestation of social structure.

Or maybe he struggles with things — deeper things — mental and emotional and spiritual afflictions that would make you crumble into a little ball if you had to carry the weight for even one second. See above about relevance.

Just because you recognize that certain people have particular kinds of privilege and other people don't, that does not mean you cannot have compassion on the former, even sympathize with many of the pains and hardships they endure. 


Or maybe not.

Do you know? Do you know these things before you postulate about his ‘privilege’?

It makes it all the more disgusting that this ‘privilege’ idiocy frequently oozes out of college campuses, where, so often, college students living the high life on daddy’s dime or, crushing student debt go around preaching to people in the real world and college is a fantasy world? about how easy our white man lives must be. Some of these presumptuous loudmouths have never even paid a bill or worked a job, and there they stand, telling the rest of us about our privilege.  Oh I see. So, you're upset about people with a certain kind of privilege (wealth, education) making all sorts of assertions about you and your life, and you seem to think they don't have any right to talk about these things because they have not been in your shoes  - they have never experienced life as a working/middle class person, and so somehow that makes it harder for you to take them seriously. This is not at all in complete contradiction to all of your previous arguments....

See how easy it is to start making judgements about entire groups of people and telling them they shouldn't be talking about a particular issue?  Oh no, only Liberals do that...

But maybe it was so easy for you to do the very thing you criticize because deep down you understand. Somewhere, from a class perspective, you understand that a wealthy person's thoughts about poor/working/middle class people should be considered differently than a poor/working/middle class person's opinion.

I should also mention that, obviously, white men are sometimes the ones saying that white men shouldn’t talk about ‘reproductive rights’ and ‘racial issues.’ I think these pitiful types devolve into such a sorry state through a potent mixture of self-hatred and white guilt — but mainly cowardice. They’re more than happy to display their empathy by refusing to form an opinion about the most pressing cultural issues of our time. And if they get a woman pregnant, they’re more than happy to ‘leave the decision up to her,’ which is a really nice way of saying that they’re more than happy to ‘put the entire burden of the situation on her shoulders, so that they can carry on living like immature little boys and still sleep well at night.’

It’s gross.

The whole thing is just gross.

Yeah, when people say, "we should be quiet for a minute and listen to other people's perspectives" it's just soo gross!!  We should all talk really loudly and ignore what everyone else has to say.

So, let’s stop it, OK?

But, then, it’s easy for me to say that. I’m a white man.

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