We ended Part 2 with citations from Shelby Steele’s Shame demonstrating the fundamental flaw of white people believing that beating their breasts in apology for white privilege is going to elevate status, achievement level, or quality of life for black people. In parallel with reflecting on Shelby, my thoughts regarding the ineffectiveness of mea culpa white apologia have also been crystallized by reading another penetrating book, titled Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody.
While Steele’s Shame might be considered an extended meta-narrative representative of black conservatism, Cynical Theories is more academic in tone and penned by two white seemingly odd politico-cultural bedfellows. Helen Pluckrose is editor of Areo Magazine, lives in England, is is self-described as being on exile from the humanities. James Lindsay is a mathematician with a background in physics, the founder of New Discourses, and lives in Tennessee. If you check out their respective hyper-links, the commonalities that led to their pairing become more obvious. At the risk of over-labelling people, you might consider them to be evolved liberals leaning toward elements of conservatism.
Much as Steele, Pluckrose and Lindsay point out that the early forms of postmodernism in the latter part of the 20th century were plagued by ultimate meaninglessness, lack of direction, and a narrative and agenda slanted toward deconstructing, disrupting, and problematizing without providing any resources for rebuilding. This parallels Steele’s criticism that black nationalism principally offered the empty consolation of racial grandiosity, a kind of black supremacy fueled by white apologists. In Steele’s words: “It had no idea how to guide us toward success in a modern society that was capitalistic and intensely competitive. To its credit, it wanted black to be a source of pride, but it had no real social capital to offer, no hard utilitarian knowledge of how we might achieve the concrete success in the actual world that would give substance to pride.” Black privilege built on reparations from white privilege is a shaky edifice, a form of building socialistic castles in capitalistic sand.
The Most Dangerous Place To Be, an article in Lindsay’s New Discourses, should be a wake-up call regarding the pitfalls of mea culpa white apologia, and its ephemeral nature. Here is a key excerpt from that article:
“Forfeiting the traditional view that it is better to defeat one’s opponent by reason than by violence may yet have dire consequences for such people. The most ruthless, radical fringes of all great revolutions have drawn much of their initial support from more peaceful, moderate parties. They have also been unvaryingly efficient at eliminating their erstwhile allies once their purpose has been served. The English Independents ditched the Presbyterians, the French Jacobins guillotined the Girondins, the Russian Bolsheviks sent the Mensheviks to the gulag. To the immediate right of the extreme Left is often the most dangerous place to be. There are many liberal members of the American upper-middle class who would do well to remember that today.”