This one’s all in the metadata. A few days ago, Oliver Willis posted an immigration-related item on his blog entitled Immigration” and “Racism.”
Who are these mysterious racists Oliver calls “they”? Oliver doesn’t specifically say, but he links to a single post by Jeff Harrell describing Jeff’s experiences at the immigration protests in Washington, D.C. Now, anyone who’s read Jeff at anything beyond an eighth-grade comprehension level knows that Jeff resonates to external stimuli like a car rolling over rumble strips. The result is often uncomfortable and hard to ignore. On top of that, Jeff tends to process his experiences by relating them, whereas most of us would decline to share those same feelings with others.
Jeff’s post reminded me of the time about ten years ago when the Million Man March came to D.C. I was working on the Hill at the time and our office closed for the day. I only lived a couple of blocks away, so instead of watching the event on TV I walked over to the Mall to check it out in person.
Did I feel uncomfortable, one of the few white men in a crowd of several thousand? Yes, but not for the reason you think. That crowd had gathered because they were supporters, to differing degrees, of Louis Farrakhan, a man whose own racist views are widely known. I was concerned that racism might be visited upon me, by any one of the crowd who took Farrakhan’s views to their natural conclusion. Fortunately, nothing happened and I made it home safe and with a deeper knowledge of numerology.
I think that’s similar to what happened to Jeff – he felt, correctly or not, that he might be harmed because of who he was or who he was not, due to his presence at a specific event. When surrounded by people of another identity group, who are highly excited about an issue they think divides you from them, it’s only natural to feel some degree of apprehension. Jeff felt it. It felt it. I’m sure black people feel it more often than Jeff or I ever do. I’m sure Oliver has felt it.
There’s no way it’s fair to call Jeff, or anyone else in the same situation, a racist for the feelings he describes. It’s nothing more than a debate tactic, and a pretty sinister one at that. It’s the lefty equivalent of standing in front of the abortion clinic, howling “baby killer!” at the sixteen-year-old girls running inside. It takes the debate out of the debate by classifying anyone who disagrees as not just differently viewed, but possessed of some deep character flaw. It’s not just that they have a different opinion – there’s something wrong with them.
The people who read Oliver on a regular basis eat it up. As for Oliver, either he doesn’t know any better, which is very sad, or he does know better and is doing it anyway, which is downright tragic. He’s serving up to his readers the intellectual equivalent of paint chips – and anyone who eats them gets dumber as a result.