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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

How liberals become liberals

A friend recently pointed out that whenever people he knows criticize Obama's policies, they tend to preface their statements with, "He's a nice guy, but..." This friend has also observed that whenever people would criticize Bush, they never felt the need for such a preface.

It's indicative of the way some people take great pains to prove they're not racist.

It has been my impression over the years that the people who do this the most are those least comfortable around blacks, who find them the most alien. And they try to make up for it by awkwardly trying to show they don't feel this way.

I was watching a track meet on TV once with two white people, a man and a woman. When the black sprinter Allyson Felix came on, the woman said, "Oh, she's really beautiful." The man then chimed in, "Yes, she's really beautiful." I knew these two well enough to know that neither had ever dated a black person, though both had had plenty of opportunity to do so.

I wanted to say, if you find black people so attractive, how come you never dated one? (I held my tongue because I didn't want to start a fight.) Maybe I should have said, it's okay if you don't find black people attractive -- no one can help whom they're attracted to, it's a purely involuntary response. But saying that would have just provoked a torrent of offended denial, so it's probably better I said nothing. (Some whites who don't find blacks attractive -- just like some homosexual men who don't find women attractive -- feel obliged to pretend otherwise; both perceived obligations are indictments of our culture.)

Both of these people are, not coincidentally, liberals.

The kind of awkward dance some white people do around blacks does not sit well with black people, either. I have a black friend who once described to me a white guy he knew. This guy would talk with a normal (non)accent around white people, but whenever he would talk to my friend, he would say something like, "What's on tap for the weekend, my man?" My black friend felt nothing but contempt for this guy.

My daughter has noted the same thing at her high school, which is mostly white. Certain white students will start to talk in what they think is a black accent whenever they're around the small handful of black students at the school. I asked my daughter how the black students reacted to this. My daughter said, "Oh you can tell, they don't like it."

(These white students are future liberals.)

When I was in my twenties I dated a couple of (lighter-skinned) black women. But I don't believe that black people should be judged by a different standard. And if I see an average difference in crime rates, or IQ, or athletic ability, or a double standard in political stances, I don't pretend it doesn't exist. (I guess this makes me the racist.)

The friend I referred to at the beginning of this post, who had noticed the way white people will often preface their criticisms of Obama, had a longtime black girlfriend. He is more honest about racial matters than most, and solidly in the conservative camp. I have another white friend, a former basketball player, who had a longtime black girlfriend (and several black guys in his wedding party). He, too, is now disgusted by the hypocrisy and double standard about racial matters in this country.

I can't help but notice a correlation. And I can't help but suspect that it's the people who are instinctively most uncomfortable around blacks who make up for this by becoming liberals.


Anonymous said...

IME, those who make the biggest scene about being "against racism" are the ones who notice race the most in the first place. Most educated people are against racism, but don't tend to be as neurotic about it as liberals are. I don't tend to think of race unless it specifically comes up in conversation. Surely that's more helpful to non-whites than a white person who goes on about it all the time?

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --

That said, I have to admit, I always notice race, and whenever I'm talking to a black person, especially someone I've just met, it's never that far from my consciousness. I think this is truer of more people than admit it.

I'm even always conscious of the fact that I'm talking to an Asian, though my guard may not be up quite as high -- and I'm half-Asian.