Why capitalize “white”?

November 2, 2020 at 5:01 pm (By Amba) (, )

The Washington Post does it, and it drives me crazy.

Why? Why kowtow to the belief of white nationalists such as VDARE that “White” is an identity, a people?

Suppose it were an identity, what would define it? World domination?

European culture, you say? That’s pretty funny considering that European peoples fought each other tooth and nail from prehistory up through 1945 (and didn’t stop then). Here’s a list of European wars, starting only in 1112 BC. I literally don’t have the time to count them. You’ll be amazed.

You may argue, with reason, that Black people too descend from many diverse peoples and cultures—some of whom unquestionably fought each other as well. African people would have been harder to enslave had local enemies not captured and sold one another. Where there is a buyer, sellers appear. Europeans exploited traditional rivalries among Native Americans in similar ways.

Conflict and bids for dominance are a proud and shameful part of our common “human potential” (“one in 200 men are direct descendants of Genghis Khan“), but it’s a part that Europeans magnified to an unprecedented global scale, with a fevered drive to expand and exploit, more-advanced technologies for doing so, and a conviction of entitlement based on divinely bestowed superiority. In 2020, you still wanna base an identity on that? Basically, on “might makes right”?

Technology is only one field of achievement, the one that confers material power and enables its possessors, if so inclined, to overwhelm, expropriate, and even obliterate other peoples’ achievements. It’s far from Europeans’ only achievement, but technology of one kind—the technology of extraction, manufacture, and domination—is the only one in which they were inarguably superior. Technology has its wonders, but it’s a two-edged sword that eventually wounds its wielder. It makes life both better and worse. The balance sheet is a work in progress.

Ironically, “Black” is an identity Black people didn’t ask for. It was welded together out of diverse materials—genetic, linguistic, cultural—by slavery, discrimination, and a disdainful lack of discrimination in the other sense. Just as white police and passersby often can’t tell Black people apart, slave traders and owners couldn’t tell Black peoples apart—didn’t bother to.

But that capital letter is earned. It’s recognition and reparation. It’s Black Lives Matter in one letter. White people, meanwhile, need to retire from their implicit capital letter. What bad timing to make it explicit just as growing numbers are growing sick, really sick, of having the world on their shoulders and their knee on its neck. White people need to explore the freedom of being generic, of losing themselves in the crowd, of being among, not above. Capitalizing their name, meanwhile, is not placing Black people above white people. It’s shining a light.

Maybe a day will come when we can see and speak to each other as individuals with a whole palette of skin tones and a whole panoply of ancestries and influences. We’re just not there yet, but it’s a good place to be going.

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A rant about the phrase “most Americans”

January 21, 2020 at 7:40 pm (By Amba) (, , )

is live on The Compulsive Copyeditor:

“A new CNN poll shows that most Americans want the Senate to remove Trump from office (51 to 45 percent), most want to hear from the witnesses that Trump blocked from testifying in the House (69 percent), and most believe that he abused the power of the presidency (58 percent) and obstructed Congress (57 percent).”

~ Teresa Hanafin, “Fast Forward” (Boston Globe newsletter)

I’m sorry, but no matter where you stand on Trump, the Senate, impeachment, or CNN, 51 percent is NOT “MOST” Americans. It is, for all practical purposes, half.

Read the whole thing.

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Random Observations #3 (Updated)

May 3, 2013 at 7:54 pm (Icepick) (, , , , , )

So many things have changed since I was my daughter’s age.

  • There’s one fewer planet in our Solar System now.
  • There are a lot more planets known now, all outside our system.
  • When I was her age, we went to the Moon; these days we have to hitchhike rides to low Earth orbit from the remnant of our one-time mortal enemy.
  • Which means that all those planets are just that much farther away now.
  • The brontosaurus is no more, replaced by the more taxonomically correct apatosaurus.
  • The disposable diaper.
  • The mores and morals of the country.
  • The socio-economic and demographic structure of the country: we’re a lot more like a Third World country these days in so many ways.
  • Extremely powerful computers are so common that they’re hardly remarked upon anymore – except by people roughly my age and older. We remember when computers of any power were much less common than toasters, not more common than radios.

UPDATE: wj makes the following additional, excellent point in the comments:

I’d add ubiquitous cameras. It’s not just that everybody has a cell phone with a camera . . . and seems to use it constantly. It’s that cameras seem to be in every public space, and running most of the time. No doubt this is handy for police trying to track criminals. But it means that you have to get a long way into the country to have any chance of any privacy in your life.

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