Racial Sensitivity Through the Looking Glass
Racial sensitivity has placed us in a peculiar situation as a nation, in which thoughtless rudeness evidently is a bigger concern than actual violence. A recent set of events demonstrates this.
Imagine that a minority college student was bothered by white people loudly talking on their cell phones in the library. Now, imagine that the minority student posts comments on the web saying how rude these particular "whites" are, and imitating the whites with valley girl slang. Imagine the student was careful to say that she doesn't have a problem with all whites, just the ones who talk on cell phones in the library. Finally, imagine that this minority student then received death threats and insults so awful that the student dropped out of school.
Adjust the races a bit, and that exact fiasco occurred at UCLA earlier this year. A white UCLA student, Alexandra Wallace, posted a video on Youtube complaining about "hordes of Asians" talking on cell phones in the library. The reaction to her remarks was pure hysteria. Wallace dropped out of school rather than face the harassment and death threats that ensued.
When it was all said and done, the girl's remarks garnered national media attention, including a New York Times editorial. Contrast that with the attention given to the cruel murder of Hoang Nguyen, who was killed in a senseless "game" called the knock-out game, in which mostly black attackers attack mostly non-black victims. Contrast with a whole series of random, vicious attacks in San Francisco, leaving two dead: Tian Sheng Yu, 59 years old, was punched and killed by two blacks. Huan Chen , an 83-year-old man, was kicked and punched and eventually died. A 15-year-old was charged with attempted murder for throwing a 57-year-old Asian woman off of a railroad platform.
Alexandra Wallace was scorned throughout the nation for saying mean words. That contrast with the lack of outrage over violence against Asians by blacks will tell you all you need to know about the contemporary state of race relations and our national character. When an Asian is killed in a game, that's a local problem. When a white says mean things about Asians, that's national news, according to our multicultural elites. Take UCLA Vice Chancellor Robert Naples, who endorsed the climate of hate against Wallace with his official denunciation of her remarks. With the unctuousness of a car salesman, the Chancellor noted that, "A video posted on Youtube... making derogatory and stereotypical remarks toward a particular ethnic group has roiled our campus and caused a lot of pain."
The Vice Chancellor reacted as if Wallace had burned a cross. When university leadership responds with this cringing sensitivity, it's no wonder that some students will be deluded into thinking that words will always hurt them. Those who experienced "a lot of pain" from the video need to develop intestinal fortitude. Naples, a supposed leader, is inviting ethnic groups to claim emotional damage based on a few off-color remarks. People were "offended and outraged," he claimed. Well, people are outraged at the suffocating climate of PC double standards on college campuses. People are offended by victim mentalities. I'm offended and outraged by petulant whining about white racism. No one would know who Wallace was if not for the chancellor and the perpetual victims.
The chancellor should be ashamed of himself, as should anyone who thought that the video caused "pain." How many of those "outraged" knew about the 13 Asian students who were put in the emergency room when a black mob formed at South Philadelphia High School? Of course, words can be hurtful, but we've got to draw a line. Wallace's remarks can't be considered bullying; she has no power so she couldn't be abusing authority or intimidating anyone, and one ignorant video is not proof of a societal trend. What we saw in response to the video was an outburst of frenzied, thoughtless multicultural dogma. No campus religious group produces as much dogma as the left wing at American universities.
So why were some students "outraged"? Because students are indoctrinated into believing that victimhood is a state of enlightenment. Our universities are fostering Groupthink, not critical thinking. The Asian Pacific Coalition at UCLA is calling for a required class, for all students, on the UCLA "Principles of Community." So we have a campus ethnic interest group calling for re-education. Orwell would shudder at the thought.
Why would nominally educated people speak out about the video, but not about real violence? Because the race-obsessed multiculturalists are scared to death that racism might not be as big a problem as they think. That's because they refuse to acknowledge what really causes social problems. They want to pretend that social problems can be blamed on society, i.e. whites. They want to believe that one ditz with a laptop is proof that society needs to be restructured. They do not want to face the fact that it would take a revolution in personal responsibility to fix inequalities. Nor do they want to face facts about violence committed by favored minorities, such as the stunning violence committed by black mobs against white families at the Wisconsin state fair last week. Rather than address the root cause of the problems, or confront the worst forms of true racism, liberals instead fetishize incidents like Wallace's rant. But she is not part of a power structure. People only know who she is because left-wingers turned her into a celebrity. Indeed, her life could well be ruined because of the hypersensitivity of a few students and their university enablers.
We've reached the point where people can't make observations about the world around them without being labeled racist. Wallace described behavior that she thought was rude. She then boorishly imitated the foreign language used in that rude behavior. That is not racism.
If I went to a library in a non-English speaking country and spoke English -- loudly -- then I would expect people to criticize me, or even imitate me, if they had a sense of humor. If I later found out about those criticisms, I would not call them racist, neither would most people. But rationality and a sense of perspective are not attributes fostered in universities today. As a result, we know more about Alexandra Wallace than about Hoang Nguyen, and other true victims of real racism.
John Bennett (MA, University of Chicago, MAPSS '07) is a veteran, writer, and law student at Emory University living in Atlanta, GA.