Questions You Can’t Ask
March 30, 2009 1 Comment
Steve Sailer asks if Indians just like memorizing stuff. As usual when reading Sailer, a little nagging voice went off in my head – call it my internal lefty conscience, bred sometime between 4th and 9th grade I suspect – saying “you can’t say that!”
Because you can’t say that one race or another ‘just likes’ doing X or even allow for the possibility. Right? That’s, um, racist or something.
When I was growing up there was a public-service ad campaign one one of the local TV channels about racism (which seemed to back to earlier times & was still in constant rotation, heightening the sense of unease because of the outdated fashions/slang). This TV station was always running weird, fuzzy, ’70s-vintage public service ad campaigns. In one of them, which I rather liked, a bunch of different soft-focus beautiful scenes were played over Italian mandolin music, and at the end some (I gather) Italian-American kid goes “I’m proud to be an Italian-American.” Which is hilarious to me now because I never would have suspected there had ever been any bad feelings towards Italian-Americans to correct in the first place had I not had to puzzle over why this ad was ever created. Another one in the same series had a kid being proud to be Chinese-American. (I don’t remember which other subgroups the creators of that ad series decided needed to be told to be proud about themselves.)
But the ad I’m recalling now was against racism and one of them puzzled, frightened & creeped the heck out of me every time it came on. It showed a little white kid walking with his grandfather (I think they may have been fishing), and the kid said something like, My friend so-and-so is lucky he can’t get sunburned because he’s black. And the grandfather said something like: that’s prejudiced! This scared the heck out of me because I had no idea what was “prejudiced” (a word I first heard on that ad, and had to look up in the dictionary) about what the kid said and couldn’t figure it out. My gosh, I’m just realizing now that I thought about it a lot! You know what else? I’m still not sure I know! So if some random, innocuous thing the kid had said touching on race was “prejudiced”, what was one allowed to say or observe? I had no idea!
I believe this confusing muddle is how a lot of white people learn about racial issues. (Perhaps that explains President Obama, but that’s a different topic.)
Now, I might be remembering the ad wrong, but the point is that’s how I ended up remembering and internalizing it. That’s what I got from it: some innocuous thing you say could turn out to be “prejudiced”, and that’s really really bad in a way that will make even your grandpa turn up his nose at you. So watch it! I’m afraid that most of the things we’re ‘taught’ as kids by well-meaning teachers, or self-anointed teachers, or even a few not-so-well-meaning teachers, on this subject are equally ill-posed, vague, and arbitrary.
That’s how the little voice got in my head that cries ‘you can’t say that!’ whenever I see a question such as posed by Sailer. You can’t say that one race/nationality likes X. All races/nationalities have all human properties equally-distributed. That’s what you have to say.
The truly ironic thing is that in this case the ‘correct’ idea is anti-diversity. If someone believes in ‘diversity’, they necessarily believe that some races/nationalities have statistically different properties, propensities, and tendencies than others – and so it’s perfectly fair to ask whether Indians like memorizing stuff. If that weren’t true there’d be no such thing as ‘diversity’ at all; at least, ‘diversity’ would be a pretty hollow/shallow notion that had only to do with different cuisines. Which can’t be right, because ‘diversity’ is so important. Right?
I don’t know whether I think Indians just like memorizing stuff more than other nationalities, but I do know that, contra my internal lefty conscience voice, it’s a perfectly fair question.