Through The Looking-Glass

Here’s a story that’s making a stir today: apparently one Rachel Dolezal, the leader of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is a white woman who has been passing herself off as black.

It’s been said* that “to learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.” I now offer you Pollack’s Principle of Privilege:

To learn where true privilege lies, simply see how people choose to identify themselves.

Once upon a time, people of mixed race did everything they could to “pass” as white. No longer. The mulatto Barack Obama ostentatiously identifies himself as black, while pallid Elizabeth Warren listed herself in the legal and academic community as a “Native American”.

Another sign of this inversion of privilege is that membership in groups considering themselves ‘oppressed’ is as tightly restricted as an exclusive country-club, and for the same reasons. No sooner had the news about Ms. Dolezal came out than she was denounced as a scurrilous pretender to victimhood. But people only defend what has value. In a right-side-up world, no sane person would ever bother fighting to keep others from seeking low status — but they will do whatever it takes to wall off their privileges against unqualified pretenders.

As I wrote in a similar context last fall:

To those with any sense of history, that this bickering is happening at all is actually a sign of tremendously luxurious social conditions: if we were grappling with the Black Death, or a sacking by the Mongols, we’d never get around to any of these things. Another sign of this is the curious inversion of status that characterizes the grievance culture: as is always the case in human affairs, it is a competition for status — but in this case the rules have been reversed so that the highest status within the grievance community is awarded to those who can demonstrate the lowest status in the broader culture. It is as if the grievance culture is a little ‘virtual machine’ running inside the Western cultural operating system; it is only the smooth functioning of the external OS — peace, prosperity, tolerance, etc. — that makes running the virtual grievance-culture ‘game platform’, with its amusingly inverted status polarities, possible at all.

In the end, of course, real power wins. When the ‘external OS’ that supports this platform stops running, natural inequalities will assert themselves, as they always do. And I think it’s safe to say, if I may extend the technical metaphor, that the machine is already ‘running hot’.

* Update, June 16th: commenter ‘Gerry’ has informed us that the quote about learning who rules over you, which I had originally attributed to Voltaire in this post, was not written by Voltaire at all, but by a neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom. I stand corrected.

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41 Comments

  1. JK says

    Figured as soon as I’d watched the noon (CST) news I could get ‘further’ here.
    __________

    Don’t know it’s of the same sort of thing but, a number of years ago Arkansas (and generally government) had a “tick box” added on paperwork forms adding to the Caucasian, Pacific-Islander etc a box labelled Other – and since that addition Arkansas number of Caucasians has dropped very noticeably while at “about the same time” our number of Others has spiked significantly.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink
  2. I checked “other” on official documents when I was young, holding a silly notion that the government had no business even asking that question, naively believing that the only thing they needed to know was that I was a born and bred American citizen. I didn’t really understand the motivations for setting up these methods for creating classes of Americans entitled to special government compensations based on race and ethnicity. All I can say is, “I’ve come a long, baby!”

    Malcolm, I am well aware you think it might be better to assist this Hindenburg of state to crash sooner rather than later, but judging by the gathering speed as we approach the tipping point, I remain doubtful any helping hand will be needed.

    Yes, we don’t need to wonder, “Who is John Galt?” anymore…

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  3. JK says

    (Well LB, I suppose I could’ve well been mixed-up when above I asserted Other was of fairly recent vintage.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Race_and_ethnicity_in_the_United_States_Census

    It could well be that in my years of gummit paperwork I just ticked off the “Obvious Box” never bothering with the available options.

    Still – I doubt I might’ve ever legitimately proclaimed, I coulda been Champeen of da Worl’!)

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 3:26 pm | Permalink
  4. Troy says

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/wrongskin-twitter-campaign-white-man-5872674

    The collapse cannot come soon enough as far a I am concerned.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 3:52 pm | Permalink
  5. On The Waterfront: “I could have been a contender.”

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 4:02 pm | Permalink
  6. Troy says

    To those with any sense of history, that this bickering is happening at all is actually a sign of tremendously luxurious social conditions: if we were grappling with the Black Death, or a sacking by the Mongols, we’d never get around to any of these things.

    This is why I don’t think change (read: the collapse of at some of this insanity) is going to happen very quickly. Americans live very comfortable lives. Looking at the 14th century with the 100 years war, the black death, and companies of brigands running amok through Europe, things can be insane for a long time before they get better. America is very wealthy and would have a long way to fall before there is some sort of recognition of reality.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 4:10 pm | Permalink
  7. Born in Bizzaro world:

    CHSN9teWIAAEzM4.jpg

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 4:16 pm | Permalink
  8. Troy says

    No Godfrey, I have heard of that becuase…well because I am not bloody insane. But still I am confused. If I called this dude a cracker, that wouldn’t be an epithet?

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 4:55 pm | Permalink
  9. Troy says

    I apologize in advance for my racial insensitivity but just as an intellectual exercise, would this guy’s proper racist epithet be a “crigger?”

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 4:59 pm | Permalink
  10. JK says

    Yeah well Henry, you see above my “fund” of knowledge where, if it ain’t military or electrical is, pretty damn woeful scanty.

    And Troy

    This is why I don’t think change … is going to happen very quickly. Americans live very comfortable lives.

    Here, as opposed to where above I dated Other I think maybe I can more reliably date to when I began shifting my “outlook on societal velocity” and perhaps not coincidentally near simultaneous – it occurred and is contained in this very site’s archives of 2007-8 and accelerating after our host got fine acquainted with the DE.

    Our host noticed somehow … I can’t quite recall the vehicle, we shared an amateur interest in Geology and “appreciated timescale” at about that pace Societally-speaking.

    Not so very long ago, this year I’m near certain, I communicated to our host I figured, “when our generation passes from the scene” we’ll have been the last to have known the taste of True Liberty.

    (Or words to that effect.)
    __________

    I can’t/don’t know whether it’ll be the decade of my decease or the one after somebody’ll record on their phone’s video The West’s Arab Spring but it’ll be lauded much the same using [probably] current tech.

    And some Gibbon will be along later to write the book.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  11. Troy says

    https://twitter.com/hashtag/WrongSkin?src=hash

    Maybe this guy is just a funny troll. My favorite:

    When you get facial surgery to correct your #WrongSkin it’s known as a “race-lift”

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 5:15 pm | Permalink
  12. JK says

    Appears Troy we cross-posted. Your most recent recalls to mind whether Pryor or Carlin (I think the latter) had some “discourse” on a little critter we in the South are quite familiar with; Chiggers.

    The *joke being ‘we must not call ’em chiggers as that’d be racist – better we call ’em chigroes.’

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 5:21 pm | Permalink
  13. I am a senior Ashkenazi, but I identify as a middle-aged WASP owner of a forest-green Ferrari.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 5:23 pm | Permalink
  14. Would it be wrong to tell this woman she has a nice tan?

    These days, it’s not easy being PC, ya know?

    6CbH-M_d.jpg

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink
  15. “Americans live very comfortable lives. Looking at the 14th century with the 100 years war, the black death, and companies of brigands running amok through Europe, things can be insane for a long time before they get better. America is very wealthy and would have a long way to fall before there is some sort of recognition of reality.”

    Theories abound that more complex societies can collapse faster than much poorer and less complex ones. Due to the inter-connected complex systems, as soon as a few fall apart, “civilized” society can quite quickly devolves to violence and survival of the fittest – witness natural disasters, rioting, a run on banks, etc. Much of modern society, to include our monetary system, relies on faith in the system.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 6:18 pm | Permalink
  16. JK says

    Where the hell is One-Eye?

    I’m needin’ me a heapin’ hepin’ of blissful.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:04 pm | Permalink
  17. JK says

    Theories abound that more complex societies can collapse faster than much poorer and less complex ones.

    http://www.grindtv.com/wildlife/man-steps-on-a-snake-while-busy-on-smartphone/#dEkYdGOrMJLrLVKD.97

    Unlike many women in the West, who have access to disposable tampons and pads, Saya relies on reusable sanitary cloths, which she must wash herself.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/article/33007032/what-its-like-to-be-on-your-period-and-in-a-disaster-zone

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink
  18. JK says

    Henry?

    Would it be wrong to tell this woman she has a nice tan?

    Maybe. I guess it depends, from this morning;

    http://abcnews.go.com/US/rachel-dolezal-civil-rights-advocate-questioned-race/story?id=31714836

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  19. …And yet American women find endless grievances and imaginary slights to rage about…

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:43 pm | Permalink
  20. the one eyed man says

    Where’s One Eye? About to light the coals for tonight’s barbecue.

    Barbecued ribs, a cold Lagunitas India Pale Ale, and cherry pie for dessert: it’s not only the key to longevity, but it’s about as blissful as you can get and still have your clothes on.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink
  21. JK says

    LB.

    That link you put up on your site .. what was it .. oh two days ago I see …

    Your comment, “American women find endless grievances and imaginary slights to rage about.”

    Could you [rather than, Might you] offer me some context?
    __________

    God this is getting to be plumb … well, I was gonna type “ridiculous” but – oh y’all naysayers – I’ll go rather with the word … farcical.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:55 pm | Permalink
  22. Which topic JK – the PC one, the nuke petition one or the transgender one?

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink
  23. JK says

    Thanks for making an appearance One-Eye.

    Though I’d be careful posting anything about cherry-pie as I know here in Arkansas the recipe’d call for water.

    Moonbeam finds out you’ll be in deep-dried shit.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:00 pm | Permalink
  24. JK says

    The Queer one LB, but just in the sense of it being “Pathogenic.”

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink
  25. JK, I was referring to your previous comment about the poor women dealing with ordinary biological issues in a disaster zone and here women complain about perceived slights, fabricated rape stories and other sundry nonsense.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:05 pm | Permalink
  26. http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2015/06/15145/

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  27. JK says

    LB’s post. As reference;

    http://libertybellediaries.com/2015/06/10/transgenderism-a-pathogenic-meme/

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink
  28. the one eyed man says

    JK:

    The cherry pie came from the local Whole Foods, and it is defuckinglicious.

    As for our Governor: sitting under the redwood tree in my back yard, with my faithful dog Jenny by my side, and San Francisco Bay down the hill from me – what could be more Californian than that?

    God bless America. It’s a great country.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:11 pm | Permalink
  29. JK says

    Whole Foods … what could be more Californian than that?

    Near enough to Hands Up – Don’t Shoot it probably don’t make no difference.

    Watch for snakes though.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 8:34 pm | Permalink
  30. Malcolm says

    Uncharacteristically off-topic for me, Peter, but speaking of bliss: the lovely Nina and I tied the knot thirty-three years ago today. Thank you for introducing us.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 9:28 pm | Permalink
  31. Troy says

    Theories abound that more complex societies can collapse faster than much poorer and less complex ones.

    This makes sense. And my spidey-sense tells me that this hyperconnected 24-7 society that we live in could crash very fast. But, like I said before, I think America is so wealthy that it is going to take something incredible to make a difference in people’s attitudes.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 9:29 pm | Permalink
  32. Troy says

    Happy Anniversary.

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 9:32 pm | Permalink
  33. Malcolm,

    I could note that you’ve been married one-third of a century, but I would be wrong. You have to wait until October 12.

    Happy Anniversary!

    Posted June 12, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Permalink
  34. the one eyed man says

    Happy anniversary, Mac! Best regards to Nina.

    Posted June 13, 2015 at 8:13 am | Permalink
  35. Belated Happy Anniversary wishes!

    Posted June 13, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink
  36. Would it be wrong to tell this woman she has a nice tan?”

    I’m still not sure …

    theo3.jpg

    Posted June 13, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink
  37. Gerry says

    You might want to stop using the quote “to learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” as it is not from Voltaire but actually a quote from Neo-Nazi Kevin Alfred Strom.

    Posted June 16, 2015 at 11:47 am | Permalink
  38. Malcolm says

    Gerry,

    It appears you are right. Amazing how these things propagate.

    Oh well, it’s still an insightful aphorism. I won’t stop quoting it, but I’ll stop misattributing it.

    Thanks.

    Posted June 16, 2015 at 12:40 pm | Permalink
  39. Shouldn’t it be “whom you are not allowed to criticise”?

    (Am I allowed to criticize incorrect grammar?)

    Posted June 16, 2015 at 7:35 pm | Permalink
  40. Malcolm says

    Yes, Henry, you are right too (corrected now). I’m starting to wish I’d never used that quote at all.

    Posted June 16, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink
  41. I just found this on the internet:

    “As Thomas Jefferson once said, ‘Never trust quotes you find on the internet’.”

    Posted June 17, 2015 at 12:51 am | Permalink