This blog grows out of my conviction that every aspect of our lives is sacred and is to be nurtured and celebrated as a good gift of God. Most of the posts will be the sorts of things you would expect from a historian and worldview teacher, but some are likely to be a bit surprising. Since God created all things good, including all aspects of human life, everything is interesting and important from the perspective of a biblical worldview. Everything under the Sun and under Heaven is thus fair game here. I hope you find it interesting and enjoyable.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Racism and Republicans

A friend of mine posted this article by Steve Schneider on Facebook. On one level it is hard to take it seriously: Eastwood’s admittedly bizarre performance at the RNC made no mention implicitly or explicitly about race that I could see. Schneider’s post falls into the familiar theme of accusing anyone who criticizes the President of racism and contributes to the ever increasing list of words and phrases that are now claimed to be code words for race (including cool, Chicago, golf, food stamps, experienced, kitchen cabinet, Obamacare, professor, and now empty chair, among others).

Why in the world would someone look at what Eastwood did and think it was racist? To me, that accusation looks like a cynical attempt to manipulate opinion in the Black community.

Then the answer hit me. As H. M. Tomlinson observed, we see things not as they are but as we are.

While some of the accusations of racism may in fact be cynical, some people genuinely see the world in racial terms, whether because of their education or their experience, and so they naturally assume that everyone else likewise has race as a primary element of their thoughts, words, and actions.

But race is not at the center of everyone’s worldview. I rarely think in terms of racial categories; in fact, I rarely think of race at all. To people who think in racial categories, that statement would probably smack of “white privilege” and would be de facto evidence of a racist attitude. Or the argument could be framed in terms of subconscious racism. Or more simply, it could be argued that I’m lying.

My response? It ain’t necessarily so (to quote Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess”). I would simply ask if you have any evidence of racism beside your assumption that it must be there. If not, then maybe you should consider whether your assumptions about how other people think are correct. Just because race is central to your mental framework doesn’t mean it is to mine. Or to Eastwood’s.

This whole situation is a fine example of postmodernism at work. The postmodernist argues that truth either doesn’t exist or can’t be known, and therefore all viewpoints are equally valid. So from Schneider’s perspective, Eastwood was a racist. From Eastwood’s perspective, he wasn’t. This means that both sides can yell at each other and feel perfectly justified and righteous in their anger, and the rest of us are free to accept whichever side confirms our political position. It’s a win-win—everyone can have the moral high ground while holding the other side in contempt.

It is also a great example of the problem with postmodernism. Both perspectives cannot be true. If you claim Eastwood’s a racist, prove it by what he said or did, not by the intellectual construct you superimpose on his performance. If you can’t, take him at his word that he’s criticizing the president’s policies because he thinks they didn’t work, not because of racism.

The Golden Rule says we are to do onto others what we would have them do onto us. That means that unless you want people to attribute the worst motives to you, don’t do it to them. And if you want people to take your words and arguments at face value, do the same for them.

That’s a lesson people on all sides of the political spectrum need to learn.