Raymond M. Berger
Real Bullet Points

Marginalized Ectomorphs and Other Foolishness

We must not abandon the core value of universal standards.

As an ectomorph, I am here to call out the privilege of mesomorphs and endomorphs who have, for too long, occupied a position of power in society.1

We ectomorphs have been marginalized, discriminated against, shamed, stigmatized and assaulted by a meso- and endomorph-privileged society that has historically viewed ectomorphs as inherently inferior.

It is time to give voice to a new narrative of ectomorph empowerment. As ectomorphs, we are morally superior to those who have oppressed us. We understand the notion of justice better than meso- and endomorphs who have never walked in our narrow shoes. We invite our ecto-allies to join us in this long-delayed struggle for equity and social justice.

Enough of stereotypes of skinny weaklings; of the bullying of our children at school; of shaming at neighborhood gyms; of being last in line when being chosen for sports teams; of being the targets of assaults and the butt of skinny jokes; of being passed over for promotions at work in favor of our beefier colleagues. Enough!

Of course, all of this is nonsense.

Social Justice Warrior Claims

As absurd as this ecto-positive narrative seems, it is not much different from the real world claims of today’s social justice warriors who define themselves and others in terms of identity groups.

These warriors then claim that their favored groups should have special privileges. They apply rules differently to different groups. They claim favored status for those they like. They tell the world they are better than those in disfavored groups—-better able to make valid judgments, to empathize, to judge the correctness of others’ positions, to take a moral stance on social issues, to be fair and just, and to be in charge of what others may legitimately do or not do.

 

An example:

Upon her appointment to the US Supreme Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor opined that a “wise Latina” is better able than others (that is, white judges) to render socially just verdicts.2 Sotomayor might have explained that, unlike her white colleagues on the bench, as a minority, she has a deeper understanding of the downtrodden and can therefore rule more effectively than her privileged colleagues.

In the distorted language of today’s social justice warriors, Sotomayor’s claim was rooted in Standpoint Theory. Standpoint Theory posits that the individual’s perspectives are determined by his political and social experiences. In practice this has led to labeling the perspectives of individuals from “oppressed groups” as more valid than those of non-oppressed individuals. Presumably this is because oppressed individuals are “placed in a unique position to point to patterns of behavior that those immersed in the dominant group culture are unable to recognize.”3

But that may or may not be true in the individual case. And therein lies the problem.

The Standpoint claim is a tenet of what has become known as identity politics. Identity politics is the belief that the most important attribute of the individual is his group membership, that is, his race, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status. In practice, the list of valid identities grows ever larger as more and more societal groups clamor for victim status and a coveted claim for special privileges in the larger society.

At some point, the slicing and dicing of individuals into identity groups become absurd…..hence my absurd analogy of ectomorph identity and its attendant victim claims.

 

Legitimate and Illegitimate Claims

It may be true that minority individuals have experienced oppression that ectomorphs have not.

But the point is that the legitimacy of one’s arguments and claims cannot be judged based on group membership. It can only be based on the strengths of one’s arguments and individual history.

Thus, for example, conservative black commentator Coleman Hughes, arguing against reparations for blacks, noted that although he is black, he was raised in an affluent suburb. He grew up in a comfortable upper-middle class environment with a host of opportunities afforded to him as a result.4  It is inaccurate to lump all whites—-many of whom come from underprivileged backgrounds—-as more privileged than Hughes. To add confusion to the matter, who gets to define who is privileged and what constraints should be placed on a putative privileged individual?

Some months ago I attended a panel presentation on “cultural appropriation.” The panel consisted of university faculty members of various ethnic and racial minorities. One of the outrages that the panel members railed against was the phenomenon of white people who wear minority hairstyles. Beyond the shallowness of this offense, I was struck by something more sinister. A white man in the audience pointed out an inconsistency in the panelists’ claim: Black women often straighten their hair to emulate the hairstyles of white women, yet they were exempted from criticism by the panelists. That comment earned him a patronizing “call out” from a panel member.

The minority panelist, evidencing annoyance, told the gentleman,” I can educate you about why you feel uncomfortable with what we are saying. You feel uncomfortable because you are unaccustomed to having your white privilege challenged.”

In the field of rhetoric, the panelist’s argument would be described as “impugning the motive of the opponent.” It is an unfair strategy. But more concerning is what was implied by the panelist’s argument.

In effect, the panelist was arguing that different rules apply to different people. Further, it was she and her fellow identity warriors who were going to determine which rules apply to which people.

But here is something the panelist overlooked.

In today’s politically correct climate, her power to set the rules goes unchallenged. But social ethics inevitably change over time. Once the core American value of universal standards—-all rules are applied equally to everyone—-is breached, it can be breached again. But in a future time, the presenter may find herself in a group that is no longer favored. Having abandoned the principle of universal standards she will find herself vulnerable to precisely the sort of unfairness she rails against today.

 

 

That Which Unites Us

Minority claims and white guilt have conspired to create an identity politics movement that has captured the national narrative, first in academia and now in the wider society. (The far left feminist movement has also contributed to this narrative.)

In every society, groups that have been exploited have legitimate grievances and claims. But in assuaging those claims, we must not make the error of judging all members of a group as the same. Not all blacks have been disadvantaged and not all whites have been privileged. That idea should not be controversial.

Above all, we must not abandon the core value of universal standards.  Although universal standards and treating people as individuals have been honored more in the breach than in the observance, they are nevertheless the glue that holds society together. They are what we should aspire to.

If we don’t, our society is likely to come unglued.

 The author is a proud ectomorph who does not believe he is a victim.

 

Footnotes

 

  1. Ectomorphs are people with slight body frames. Mesomorphs and endomorphs are people with medium and stout body frames.
  2. Sotomayor’s ‘wise Latina’ comment a staple of her speeches. CNN Politics. June 8, 2009. Retrieved January 7, 2020 from:

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/06/05/sotomayor.speeches/index.html

  1. Wikipdeia entry, Standpoint Theory. Retrieved January 7, 2020 from:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Standpoint_theory

  1. Handa, S. In Defense of Coleman Hughes. National Review, June 21, 2019. Retrieved January 7, 2020 from:

https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/coleman-hughes-slavery-reparations-defense/

About the Author
The author is a life-long Zionist and advocate for Israel. He believes that a strong Jewish state is invaluable, not only to Jews, but to the world-wide cause of democracy and human rights. Dr. Berger earned a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has twenty-seven years of teaching experience. He has authored and co-authored three books as well as over 45 professional journal articles and book chapters. His parents were Holocaust survivors.
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