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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Conversations with a liberal

Yesterday a liberal white woman said to me, "Oh, B.B. King died. He was one of my favorites!"

I asked her to name two of his songs besides "The Thrill is Gone." She was unable to name even one. I suggested that if he were really one of her favorites -- which would imply that she must have listened to him fairly frequently -- she ought to be able to name at least one song beside the one he was most famous for.

Why did she feel obliged to point out that King was one of her favorites if she almost never listened to his music? Did she think that this demonstrated how she was not racist? How sophisticated her musical tastes were?

There's something intrinsically dishonest going on here. This woman would never have seized upon the death of an old white musician to somehow prove her bona fides.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard this same woman -- who has no black friends -- volunteer that the black mayor of Baltimore, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, was "beautiful."

Again, this woman would never have felt obliged to point out that Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann were beautiful.

I'm not suggesting that B. B. King was not great, or that Rawlings-Blake does not have even features. I'm merely pointing out that there's something about using black people to prove your own virtue that is quintessentially liberal, and completely dishonest.


Mark Caplan said...

The same held true when Idi Amin died. My liberal friends said they'll profoundly miss their favorite human rights abuser. He looked so distinguished in all those medals.

John Craig said...

Mark --
Ha! He was actually one of my favorites too, if only for his amusement value.

Anonymous said...

How would your friend deal with Ben Carson?

John Craig said...

Anon --
I"m sure she'd consider him a "traitor" to his race, it never occurring to her that she is the same.

Anonymous said...

Why is she doing it? I think a lot of liberals are covering up a mean streak which they have some insight into and deny (because of shame) and they have to prove how much of a virtuous (or enlightened) person they really are.

Keeping the mask on is hard work so they have to continually delude themselves and others.

But you knew this.


John Craig said...

Andrew --
Why? Brainwashing, pure and simple. Some people are just susceptible to it.

And yes, the louder they protest, the more it seems that there's something inside them they're trying to cover up.

Steven said...

You totally nailed what she was doing in both instances, making a show of not being racist. it must have been really awkward for her when you called her on it! How did she handle it?

John Craig said...

Steven --
She said something to the effect of, "Oh, I'd recognize his songs if I heard them," and walked off.

Anonymous said...


John Craig said...

Anon --


Lucian Lafayette said...

The comment has been made before but I suspect that somewhere, deep down inside your liberal friend lurks a little bit of Lester Maddox which she has recently become aware of and which she is frantically trying to extinguish.

John Craig said...

Luke --
I think you're exactly right.

Remnant said...

In a way, this kind of over-the-top ostentatious condescending towards blacks (which I think many blacks recognize on sight for what it is), is itself a kind of racism, i.e. it is the heir to "White man's burden" and paternalistic, benign racism of an earlier age, in that -- in pointing out the banal -- it essentially assumes the inferiority of the group of which the individual being picked out is a (somewhat) exceptional member.

It's similar to how people will tend to excitedly talk about "how amazingly smart" some black guy is, but who is simply well above average for his group but nothing special in the grand scheme of things.

One smiles to think back on the heat Joe Biden took for calling Barack Obama "smart, clean and articulate". Oh yeah, Joe? And what, then, are you saying about blacks generally?

So in a complex psychological way, these people's reactions are being triggered by an earlier type of paternalistic racism that is now expressed in more self-effacing and obsequious ways. Picture the same type of "compliment" being paid in the manner of a Gore Vidal: "A yes, B.B. King, some type of blues minstrel, wasn't he? Very talented lad." The intention behind your liberal and Vidal would be very different, but the underlying prejudice triggering it would be quite similar. And obviously the effect of the statements are binary opposites.

To quote Samuel Johnson commenting on women preachers: "it is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."

John Craig said...

Remnant --
You're exactly right in your analysis of the condescension implicit in these kinds of comments. And you're right that black people see through it, and are annoyed by it. (I've heard them complain about such.)

I actually stole that "hind legs" comment in a post I wrote on April 12th:

Remnant said...

Ha! Awesome use of that quote. I missed it when you made that post.

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Thank you, if you were less polite I suppose you'd say "awesome thievery."

Remnant said...

I hope I didn't sound like I don't think you are a good swimmer!! Actually, your accomplishments are amazing! Seriously.

(Hopefully, I am not sounding too much like the liberal woman talking about B.B. King.) :)

John Craig said...

Remnant --
Thank you, I didn't take it that way at all……or that way.

Steven said...

" essentially assumes the inferiority of the group of which the individual being picked out is a (somewhat) exceptional member."

It did occur to me that her complimenting the black woman may indicate that she doesn't generally think black women are beautiful and so sees it as an opportunity to get liberal brownie points. 'oh look, I find this black woman beautiful...I've just said a black woman is accepting and non-racist I am'.

This is how I read her comment.


Remnant said...

To put a more positive spin on it (notwithstanding the condescension, which is obviously there), it undeniably represents an effort on the part of one party to make a connection with people with whom there is a rift or a perceived rift.

It basically is an implicit acknowledgement of all the baggage and historical bad blood between the groups, and says notwithstanding all of that baggage, I am reaching out to you in an act of goodwill.

So to that extent, it is an admirable trait.

When you say "good job" or "great effort" in response to your daughter's not-too-impressive drawing or your son's failed attempt to climb a tree, no one is going to say "you don't really mean it." Is there condescension and implicit superiority in the parent's praise? Yes, but sometimes condescension occurs for a reason (the term had a very different, much more positive nuance in the past) and superiority is a fact of life.

Condescension's earlier definition was "voluntary descent from one's rank or dignity in relations with an inferior." In an age when inequality was taken as a fact, this was not a bad thing. To condescend to someone essentially meant to treat them humanely NOTWITHSTANDING the difference in rank.

The secondary definition that has now taken over is "patronizing attitude or behavior" which is seen as bad in an age when everyone is deemed to be "equal". (And I would also note that "patronizing" has gone through a similar evolution from a positive to a negative term.)

Remnant said...

Rereading John's original post, I realize I went off on the related but tangential point of how white people speak with blacks. John's post was about whites advertising their virtue to OTHER whites, which is without a doubt obnoxious, preening, status jockeying and annoying. So much of liberalism is about _advertising_ your virtue, not being virtuous. (Per John's other post about white people shouting from the mountaintops [or penthouse-tops] about environmental protection before hopping onto their private jets.)

John Craig said...

Remnant --
I agree with everything you said in your first comment (of 12:03AM), but also with what you said in your second (of 12:30AM).

The one thing I'd add to your first comment is that while generally noblesse oblige is a good thing, it can also be used to SHOW that one is of the nobility.

I am more of a peasant by nature, thus have never been concerned with these things. But, I will say that the worm's eye view of the world is often the clearest one.

Shaun F said...

John - On the Idi Amin note - I actually had four custom made Idi Amin T-Shirts. It's a black T-Shirt with a photo of Idi from the Barbet Schroder 1974 documentary on the front and underneath it says "Boss". On the back it says "Over promising, under delivering." A young girl complimented me on the shirt, and I chastised her and cautioning her on what one appreciates. But I was being glib.

John Craig said...

Shaun --
Ha, very clever.

I used to love reading about his childishly savage behavior back in 1976/1977. I wasn't really politically aware back then, but I did nonetheless find it quite illuminating.