A “Copernican revolution” happens when the appearance of occupying a special location is shown to be a mere effect of perspective. Our case is not special; it only appears so because it is necessarily the vantage point of our observations.
When we argue about how meaningful talk about “racism” is, we tend to get bogged down in terminology, i.e. whether one can find a natural definition of “racism” that will do all the work people are giving it. That’s not the main point. When I say “there’s no such thing as racism”, it’s a shorthand, like Mencius Moldbug’s candidate for the “Red Pill”, “America is a communist country”. Moldbug immediately admitted that there are possible meanings of his statement that are false, and similarly “there’s no such thing as racism” has meanings that are false. However, what people usually mean when they affirm the existence of something called “racism” is also false, and realizing this jolts one’s perspective, rather like realizing that America is in some sense a communist country.
Anthropology, certainly in the popular mind, and from what I have seen even as a discipline, is built on two principles. First, aboriginal cultures have constructed beautiful ways of life that command our respect. Aspects that seem silly or arbitrary to us, that were once dismissed as evolutionary holdovers, on close analysis perform useful functions. Second, Western culture is built on white men’s hatred of “the Other”; most features of our social world are ultimately about white men oppressing these Others.
So here’s the Copernican insight: White people are just like aboriginal savages, and Christianity is just like any other religion. Of course, this must be qualified. They have their idiosyncrasies, just as it’s certainly not true that the universe is exactly homogeneous. However, sameness should be our starting point. Now, one often sees that the tribes anthropologists study have ingroup-outgroup consciousness, distinct gender roles, regulation of female sexuality, religiously inspired taboos, discouragement of out-marriage, mythically-grounded tribal pride, territoriality, and so forth. Anthropologists have no trouble identifying the psychological and social functions these things serve. It is unsurprising that many tribes evolve to manifest them, and that these tribes should try to preserve such adaptive features. Yet, when social scientists see the same things in white Christian societies, they attribute it to “hatred of the Other”, i.e. “racism”, “sexism”, and “intolerance”. This hatred is a psychological force which only white Christians are presumed to feel, making them oddly unique among the peoples of the Earth. This uniqueness is not explained, and given that social science is mostly done in historically white Christian societies, a perspective effect is certainly plausible.
Let us suppose as a first-order simplification, that there is “no such thing as racism”, by which I mean white Christians are psychologically and socially the same as other people. They experience only the same environmental, psychological, and social forces as other peoples experience. When we see an African tribe and a group of suburban American whites doing the analogous thing, the default assumption should be that they’re doing it for the analogous reason or cause. And indeed, one finds that white gentile behavior matches the patterns seen among other peoples. The hypothesis of a special seething hatred of Otherness found only in white Christians in fact brings no explanatory benefit. We can explain or predict white Christian behavior just as well without it. Attributing a distinct malevolence to our people doesn’t seem to be demanded by the record.
Notice this is a modest claim. I haven’t claimed that Western civilization and its people are in any sense just as good as aboriginals or oriental civilizations. We may perhaps have more of the traits of aggression and corruption that tend to be found among the peoples of mankind. Perhaps we have less empathy or spirituality or whatever values the student of human societies esteems. However, these are matters of quantity, not basic qualitative differences, and anyway such value judgment rankings are arguably out of place in a scientific study of peoples.
That’s what a racist like myself means when I say “there’s no such thing as racism”. We’re basically just like other peoples.
Filed under: Uncategorized |