Making Fun Of White People Online, And Getting A Pass
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
August 15, 2018
How Re-Defining Racism Has Become A Tool of Division
Sarah Jeong, a technology writer recently hired by the New York Times, came under fire yesterday after a batch of her old Tweets were unearthed by an anonymous Twitter user. The dust-up over Jeong's posts offers perplexing and disturbing insight into the leading edge of "post-racial" thought that's shaping America's next generation: a growing number of people who are ostensibly dedicated to fighting for the equal treatment of others apparently believe that hating white people is not only acceptable, but even justified.
Below is a sampling of Jeong's Twitter gems:
“White people have stopped breeding. you’ll all go extinct soon. that was my plan all along.”
“White people marking up the internet with their opinions like dogs pissing on fire hydrants.”
“Are white people genetically disposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.”
The New York Times refused to dismiss Jeong for her inflammatory rants because she had frequently been the victim of online trolling and harassment and understandably “responded to that harassment by imitating the rhetoric of her harassers.” Although Jeong apologized for her incendiary Tweets (a gesture that seems to have worked out a lot better for her than it did for Roseanne Barr), her defenders have gone the other direction and taken post- racial discourse to a whole new level. Vox, Reason,and other left-leaning news and opinion sites that have been staunch advocates of civil liberties claimed that since Jeong’s posts were clearly satirical and hyperbolic, they couldn’t possibly be considered offensive. Rather, her Tweets merely intended to “capture the way that many whites still act in clueless and/or racist ways.” Vox went further by arguing that Jeong’s posts weren’t racist because they were directed toward people who “continue to benefit (even unknowingly)” from a “power structure that favors white people.”
In other words, people who have been historically disenfranchised are now deemed incapable of making racist barbs (especially if the insults are made in jest). This unilateral re-defining of racism has effectively made prejudice acceptable, and even noble, when practiced by a person of color.
Wordplay can be fun and clever, but here’s what The New York Times, Vox, Reason, and others attempting to rationalize Jeong’s statements, are missing: hate, by any other name and for any purpose, is still hate. And hate is not practiced in a vacuum. These post-racial enthusiasts need to consider very carefully the message they are sending to our children.
It wasn’t cool for white kids to torment black kids fifty years ago, and the reverse is NOT cool now. Twenty-five percent of all relationships today are inter-racial, and many have created families. My partner happens to be white, and our son is bi-racial. When he hears or reads that “white people suck” and looks at his white mother, I wonder what thoughts go through his mind? How do I explain to a 9-year old who has no concept of “privilege” or “power structure” that it’s okay if people say horrible things about his white mother, but it’s racist if they say the same things about his mother of color?
One also can’t help but wonder if Ms. Jeong has any white friends or colleagues at the New York Times, or anywhere else. Are they exempt from subhuman goblin status? Are they expected to assume that Jeong’s “eliminationist” rhetoric is intended for other white people (i.e.those employed elsewhere or not running in her circle)? Who gets to decide which white people “suck” and which ones don’t? And how does a white person know when an insult is being delivered just for kicks, and not actually intended to humiliate?
The irony is that Martin Luther King, Jr., who decades ago spearheaded the drive for tolerance that would birth the Civil Rights Movement and galvanize today’s post-racial enthusiasts, walked a much different path than those who are re-defining racism today. As King sat in a Birmingham jail, he was unquestionably aware of white privilege and the power structure. But resentment of privilege and power didn’t inspire him to dream of a world in which white people would be exterminated or made to feel horrible about themselves, because he understood that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
King didn’t dream of a world in which the oppressed would one day rise up to torment their oppressors; he dreamed of a world in which the “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners [would] be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” King understood what too many today have clearly forgotten: hate begets hate.
No sane or reasonable person will argue that white people haven’t unfairly benefited from privilege and power for centuries. But tit-for-tat hatred won’t heal the wounds wrought by these inequities; love and forgiveness are the only salve that will help us all move forward and build a better world.
It’s easy to get caught up in the kind of divisive name-calling that turns our social and political discourse into a kindergarten classroom run amok, but it’s time for us all to step up and act like the adults we are. It’s time to rise above this nonsense and reject the legitimization of hatred in the form of re-branded racism.
Disrespecting others based on their skin color needs to end now — without exception, without rationalization, and without qualification. Otherwise, we all lose. And it’s game over for humanity.
Is this really how we want this game to end?
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn't leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I'd still be in prison.”
-- Nelson Mandela