Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Catching up (1): Individualism is racist?

Catching up with some must-reads from my blogging hiatus.

As reported by Eugene Volokh on May 17, the Seattle Public Schools' website identifies the following among various forms of racism:

Cultural Racism:
Those aspects of society that overtly and covertly attribute value and normality to white people and Whiteness, and devalue, stereotype, and label people of color as “other”, different, less than, or render them invisible. Examples of these norms include defining white skin tones as nude or flesh colored, having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, defining one form of English as standard, and identifying only Whites as great writers or composers.

I think there is some validity to the criticism of the use of "flesh-colored" to mean the color of "white" flesh. But "a future time orientation" (a phrase that baffled many Volokh readers, and which apparently means an ethos that stresses achievement and progress as well as planning forward)? And "individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology"? Personally, I think "racism" is a pretty good description for the belief that some people, by dint of their race or ethnicity, are forever bound to "collective ideologies" and ill-suited for individualism, or for "future-oriented" progress and achievement -- or for proper English.

As for the "racism" of "identifying only White as great writers or composers," it depends on the context. I concur with Eugene, who writes:

I should say that assuming that only Whites can be great writers or composers is of course indeed racism; but providing a list of the greatest composers and writers that consists only of whites may be perfectly legitimate, depending on your criteria (which could be entirely fair, though not indisputable, criteria) of greatness.

The real racism here comes from the pseudo-multiculturalists who put racial labels on values and ideas.


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