The World Before Racial Hypersensitivity
Imagine a world in which one can actually describe the human species concretely, as one finds it, without measuring every utterance against the ever-changing barometer of political correctness. Imagine a language that actually communicates positively, naturally, rather than forever masking itself in unnecessary, propagandized euphemism in order to avoid the ultimate progressive sin of “offending” someone’s indoctrinated sensitivity and delicateness. Imagine the freedom of describing Asian people as “yellow” without being accused of a hate crime.
So mired is the West in the phony neo-Marxist sensitivities of identity politics — i.e., of racial, sexual, and ethnic differences forged into weapons of cynical progressive demagoguery — that it has become difficult to remember or reconstruct how the human world might have looked before the smog of political correctness obscured our horizon. This civilizational memory loss is, in fact, part of the purpose of political correctness as a tool of social transformation, as it fosters the progressive illusion that there are no legitimate alternatives to “forward.”
For example, feminism interprets all history as misogynistic and systemically oppressive of women, such that any woman who does not self-identify as a feminist (i.e., a female neo-Marxist) is seen as weak, unenlightened, and suffering from false consciousness. But how, on this model, are we to make sense of the many famous examples of strong, intelligent women from the centuries before feminism redefined the sexes and diminished masculinity? Feminism conspires to erase those examples from our civilizational memory by means of ideological revisionism, redefining the peaks of human nature through the demeaning artifice of historical condescension.
To see how far we are from remembering nature’s true perspective, or being allowed to remember, consider that today most academic study of Jane Austen — nature’s antidote to feminist reductionism and hostility if ever there was one — begins from the absurd presupposition that Austen herself was a proto-feminist. We must believe this, you see, for otherwise Austen represents a profound, and ideologically unacceptable, counterargument to feminist historicism. (Among all the obvious evidence to the contrary, consider that feminism, like all neo-Marxist ideology, is utterly lacking in, and disdainful of, irony, whereas Austen was arguably the most subtle ironist since Socrates.)
Through many such historical contortions, progressives have made it difficult to imagine what an independent woman would look like at all, outside the perspective of feminist radicalism — which is exactly how the neo-Marxists like it.
Likewise on issues of race, history and old literature must always be presented from the neo-Marxist perspective, which is to say as examples of the social injustices or early social justice heroes of the ages before progressivism began to emancipate humanity from the “natural” or “naïve” point of view, in favor of the “scientific” social constructs of collectivist reformation.
So it is that we no longer even blink when we hear stories like this one, in which Alabama Republican Roy Moore is vilified as racist for expressing his Christian faith in this way:
We were torn apart in the Civil War — brother against brother, North against South, party against party. What changed? Now we have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting.
What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God.
To which an enlightened progressive at Slate responded with this:
Ironically, one way God could improve white Americans’ relationships with Native Americans and Americans of Asian ancestry is by coming down hard on people like Roy Moore who still refer to Native Americans and Americans of Asian ancestry by using racial terms that were already considered insulting and antiquated 50 years ago.
The problem with Moore’s wish for national unity, you see, is that he has the regressive audacity to say “reds” when he should say “Native Americans,” and “yellows” when he should say “Americans of Asian ancestry.” Those stupid Christians, stuck in a language that became “insulting and antiquated 50 years ago”! That is, a language that described things as they are in concrete reality, rather than according to balkanizing abstractions concocted by university professors influenced by Frankfurt School Marxism and intended to manufacture and perpetuate permanent grievance groups to be used as cannon fodder against white capitalist oppression.
I should note that the above example comes from an article by a conservative writer at PJ Media, who objects to the tone-deafness of the left’s criticism of Christians like Moore, but nevertheless concedes the point that terms such as “red” and “yellow” are now generally understood as racist. So you see, even in the context of defending one man’s use of politically incorrect language, conservatives fall prey to the indoctrinated apology reflex: “Yes, his language is now considered inappropriate, but a fair look at the context shows that Moore didn’t intend to say anything racist.”
Enough of that apology reflex, please. Not only did Moore not intend to say anything racist, he didn’t say anything racist. Not at all racist, not even a little racist, not even insensitive-on-modern-terms racist. But we are all so immersed in the progressive distortions of language (and hence of discourse and thought) that our own instinctive rejection of such absurdities tends to get bogged down in a maze of politicized nuance. Nature’s glory has faded into the smog.
Occasionally, however, chance can still provide us with a microcosmic glimpse of the natural — that is, “naïve” or depoliticized — perspective on human differences and the language that describes them. There are still far-flung corners of the Earth where one may find examples of the descriptions and self-descriptions that were normal before the left’s deadly “-isms” were superimposed on language, politics, and psychology to manipulate us into submission before the progressive faith’s version of salvation, i.e., the rejection of liberty, human nature, and the past.
Here, then, for those still receptive to Nature’s beauty, is a breath of linguistic fresh air.
At the Korean university where I teach, a student I know well recently asked me about a disorienting experience she had suffered at the coffee shop where she works part-time. A young black couple — not a common sight in Korea — visited the coffee shop, both dressed very fashionably. As they were leaving, my student, impressed by their looks and bearing, commented to her coworkers (in Korean, but this is a literal translation of her words), “That black couple looks sexy” — upon which a coworker immediately scolded her for her racial insensitivity. Black people, he explained, don’t like to be called words like “sexy,” because it is racially offensive (presumably on the grounds of being a stereotype of some sort, although I wouldn’t waste much time trying to figure that out).
When my student responded that she had not intended any insult, but rather a compliment about the couple’s appearance, she was browbeaten with the standard progressive-postmodern assault: Her intention was not important; what mattered was how the aggrieved identity group wished to be spoken of, and words like “sexy” (which in its adopted Korean verb form, “seksihada,” carries the sense of “to be cool”) are now, supposedly, offensive. (“When did ‘black is beautiful’ become an insult?” I wondered.)
I briefly explained to my distraught student (“Am I prejudiced?”) the birds and the bees of political correctness, and quickly guessed, correctly, that her holier-than-thou, hypersensitive coworker had spent some time abroad, where he had been schooled in the ever-evolving ways of social justice by Western acquaintances, probably university students indoctrinated every day in their classes.
My student herself is an English literature major, which means exactly the same thing in Korea that it means in most Western universities, namely regular saturation in neo-Marxist interpretative theory. Every modern novel taught here is selected for its social justice attitudinizing, and every classic novel is used as an object lesson in the social injustice of past societies — the precise method of teaching history and literature advocated by John Dewey a century ago, by the way. (Imagine the trauma I caused when I taught Brave New World last spring!) And yet she had managed to remain more or less oblivious to the practical manifestations of this social justice propaganda in her everyday life, at least with regard to race issues.
Having walked her through the quagmire of racial politics for a while, I tried to concretize the issue, and to see how much political correctness had seeped into her own perceptions without her realizing it, by asking her the following question:
“Imagine you heard me talking to another Western professor, and I said, ‘These days, most of my students are Asian of course, but back home, while the majority of my students were white, I did have a few yellow students, too.’ What do you think when you hear the word ‘yellow’ in that sentence?”
My student’s initial response, after pausing to think about it, was, “I don’t understand.”
“Well,” I explained, “does the word ‘yellow,’ used to describe Asian people, bother you?”
After another thoughtful pause, she answered, perplexed, “Why should it bother me?” — causing me a delight comparable to what a man might feel upon entering a quiet path in the woods after twenty years in prison. Here, suddenly, and contrary to all my normal expectations of the modern politicization of language, was Nature, pure and simple.
Why, indeed, should a young Korean woman be bothered by being designated “yellow”? True, an Asian person’s skin is rarely yellow in any precise sense, any more than a “white” person is perfectly white, or a black person really pitch black. These designations are simplifications and approximations of convenience, of course. But what makes them racist or insensitive? Not, as writers like that Slate critic quoted earlier would assume, some kind of historical impulse toward Marxist perfection, according to which normal descriptive words magically become “insulting and antiquated” by academic fiat.
On the contrary, what we are seeing here is the inherent parochialism and myopia of progressive pseudo-intellectualism, which childishly mistakes its own theoretical presuppositions for Necessity, and then summarily declares all non-compliant language obsolete and “false.”
It takes a special kind of cultish narrow-mindedness to imagine that descriptive language developed organically to serve an obvious and inescapable practical purpose — in this case a basic differentiation of races based on skin tones — can somehow become incorrect and immoral, whereas virtually useless and uninformative abstractions like “Americans of Asian descent” can somehow become correct and moral.
What impressed me most about my little field experiment was that my student — highly intelligent and well-exposed to social justice propaganda — was not only unoffended by the word “yellow,” but was instinctively unable to conceive of why anyone would be offended by it.
The voice of Nature had spoken — and its statement constituted a resounding “Oh, shut up!” to the phony sensitivity racket that seeks to manipulate us through theory-dependent reinterpretations of meaning.
The perspective that is actually false and naïve is the one that would deny that natural concreteness of genuine, pre-propagandized communication, and that mistakes its own dogmatic ideological narrowness for higher understanding, just as children believe the world began with them, and everything around them is as new as their first view of it.
By contrast, if a smart and open-minded young Korean, looking at the world without those progressive blinkers, thinks a black couple is sexy, she’s going to say so, and if you describe her as a yellow person, she’s going to say, “Yes, that’s right.”
There is a world of thought that is fading and almost lost today, one manifested in the communication of people who have not yet been degraded to the point of seeing themselves as nothing but vessels of political grievance and hypersensitivity. One comprised of souls striving for independence and individual meaning, rather than submitting to compliance and collective identity.
Our consolation, as we watch the last visible flickers of that lost world, is that it will always be there, however thoroughly obscured for the time being. Nature, contrary to the fundamental tenet of the progressive religious dogma, cannot be defeated or obliterated by socializing artifice — and that applies to human nature above all. At the moment, unfortunately, one may be more likely to find evidence of this consoling truth among yellow people than among whites or blacks, but such is life. We must take our signs of hope where we find them.
(This article originally appeared at American Thinker.)