My right-leaning internet acquaintances and I have been spending a lot of time fighting the misconceptions about white people, men, and Western nations that are out there. Many – and I’m not just talking about so-called “social justice warriors” but perfectly average people – believe that the history of the white European race consists mostly of genocide, slavery, and general oppression, that these actions are central to white history, or that the atrocities white people have committed are unique to the race. There is a tendency to ignore what white people have done to further the cause of liberty and uphold the worth of the individual around the world, not to mention the innovations of white people which have improved our lives over the past few centuries.* And then there is a tendency to think that some groups have it easy just because of their race, gender, etc.
I think it comes mostly out of a desire to see some group of people – white people, males, heterosexuals, Christians, the rich – as oppressors. I wouldn’t go as far as to say most people enjoy being victimized, but a lot of people enjoy playing the victim. A lot of people also enjoy being allies of supposed victims. There are other factors – genuine bigotry, generalization from a negative experience with the “oppressor” group, indoctrination in school – but I think that’s the biggest problem.
Why, I sometimes find myself asking, do we dedicate time and energy to explaining that white people have been slaves and non-white people have had slaves, that not all indigenous people lived in peace and harmony before the white colonists came along, that most white men don’t get everything handed to them on a silver platter, that first-world women aren’t oppressed by some vast evil patriarchy, etc? Why put the effort into telling people about this, for example? Why put the effort into telling people the inconvenient truth (inconvenient for America-bashers, that is) about American slavery? Why put the effort into telling people that it’s highly unlikely 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted on college campuses? Is it a waste of time when we could be talking about the economy and national security?
I don’t think so. Actually, I think it’s of fundamental importance that we expose the basic truth to the misinformed: the White Man is not the enemy, and being a member of a group that is dominant or perceived as dominant in a society doesn’t mean you have something to apologize for. Because what do people think when they think all the White Man has is what he, or an ancestor somewhere along the line, has stolen from others?
His wealth must be redistributed; he must do his part to correct those injustices. What do people conclude when they think the USA was founded on genocide and slavery and our history is largely one of hatred and oppression? Our country isn’t legitimate; we don’t deserve to defend our borders, to preserve our national identity, and to advance our own interests around the globe. So it’s quite necessary to fight the ridiculous notions many people have about our “oppressive” society and the place the White Man or some other dominant – or supposedly dominant – group has in it. Let’s keep it up, shall we?
*This isn’t to say that white people are the only ones who have been innovators, but that white people have done an awful lot for technology, medicine, and all fields of intellectual inquiry.