What is to be done to counter pernicious race hustles?
A hustle is a racket or swindle. The hustler uses lies or deception for personal gain. He poses as an honest person but is anything but.
The classic example of a hustler is the pool shark. He engages a naïve and unskilled pool player in a game. At first he allows the novice to win in order to fool him into thinking he can easily beat the shark. Once duped, the now overly-confident novice throws down a large bet, only to lose it in a subsequent game when the shark shows his true colors as an expert pool player.
Hustlers hustle for two reasons: to enrich themselves and to gain power over others.
The Hustle Society
Every society is replete with hustles.
Politicians are among the most assiduous hustlers. For example, Hillary Clinton tells voters, “I have devoted my career to defend the rights of women and children.” That may be true, but it is also true that the political message is a cover for a career of self-enrichment through corrupt political deals. At the other end of the political spectrum are conservative preachers like Jimmy Swaggart who rail against sins such as adultery, while secretly practicing it themselves.
There are many Hillary Clintons and Jimmy Swaggarts in public life today.
In recent years, woke academic players have hijacked the university for their hustle. These players work almost exclusively in liberal studies disciplines. These intellectual hijackers are most likely to hang their professional hats in hyphenated studies departments such African American-Studies, Chicano-Studies, and Environmental-Studies. Professors in Gender and Culture Studies are often part of the gang too.
These academics claim to be devoted exclusively to bettering society by eliminating societal evils such as sexism and racism. But keen observers see a hustle at play. These social justice warriors can barely hide their outrage about their presumed oppression. What is the payoff for their hustle? The hustle helps them to assuage their personal anger at their real or imagined oppressed status. They get to occupy their comfortable and well-paid posts as academics, diversity deans, think-tank intellectuals and media talking heads.
It’s nice work if you can get it.
The Race Hustle
The race hustler is the hustler’s hustler. The Reverend Al Sharpton is a case in point.
Baptist minister Sharpton has made a career of creating national headline news out of cases in which black people have been presumed victims of racist-inspired white violence. These explosive charges have established Sharpton as a national media figure. Along the way, at least some of his cases have been exposed as fraudulent.
In 1987, Sharpton made Tawana Brawley the subject of a national controversy. Brawley, a black teenager, claimed to have been kidnapped and raped by four racist white men. Later a police investigation showed that the incident never happened.
Sharpton went on to create additional national scandals. He became a vocal advocate for a young black woman who leveled an accusation of a racist gang rape against a group of white boys at Duke University. That accusation also turned out to be a lie. But not before the accused boys had their reputations destroyed.
Sharpton never apologized for either of these false accusations.
According to Kathleen Parker, a Washington Post op-ed writer:
In nearly every high-profile case of late that involved a black alleged victim and a white alleged perpetrator, Sharpton has injected himself as arbiter. Where once he was a mere street activist, he is today a disruptive celebrity.
Sharpton’s tenuous attachment to the truth seems not to have slowed his hustling career. Today the national media describe him as a “civil rights leader” and during the Obama years he was a frequent visitor to the White House.
Not a bad payoff for a disingenuous hustler.
The Micro-aggression Hustle and Its Tipoffs
One of the contemporary hustles is the micro-aggression movement.
According to an instructional manual issued by the University of California, Los Angeles:
Microaggressions are the everyday verbal, nonverbal, and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.1
The micro-aggression hustle is now practiced widely in colleges and universities, civil society organizations, the media and elsewhere.
Examples of micro-aggression hustles include the following:
- Advocates decry micro-aggressions only when directed at their favored groups. In the UCLA example cited above, the only protected people are those from “marginalized groups.” That handy moniker has been weaponized to support biased social justice agendas. Only the social justice warriors get to decide who is or is not a marginalized person.
Is it possible to commit a micro-aggression against Jews? Mormons? White Christians? Political conservatives? Is it possible for a black person or Latino to commit a micro-aggression against people from these presumably “privileged” groups?
Bottom line: Micro-aggression advocates have different rules for different folks.
- To a rational person, many micro-aggressions appear illogical, odd, contrary to fact, against social custom or just plain weird.
For example, among the many offenses listed by the UCLA publication cited above, the following are presumed micro-aggressions:
Asking a person who is from a minority group, “Where are you from or where were you born?
“Being forced to choose Male or Female when completing basic forms.”
Being given “two options for relationship status: married or single.”
Stated opinions that are micro-aggressions include:
“I believe the most qualified person should get the job.”
“Gender plays no part in who we hire.”
“America is the land of opportunity”
“Everyone can succeed in this society, if they [sic] work hard enough.”
- Advocates of the micro-aggression movement are surprisingly harsh on violators. In the lingo used by advocates and enforcers, violators of micro-aggression norms are “perpetrators.” Advocates seem not to notice that this term is adopted from the field of criminal justice.
If the perpetrator asks a person with a foreign accent, “Where are you from?” is he a criminal? Does he need to be stopped by an agent of the state?
Should anti-micro-aggression advocates be the ones to censure perpetrators? Or should this be left to the discretion of the target of the presumed micro-aggression?
Advocates never consider the motives of the putative “perpetrator.” Should we really silence people who violate micro-aggression rules but are nevertheless well-intentioned?
- The micro-aggression movement poses as a social justice enterprise. But the moral outrage evidenced by its advocates makes the movement more akin to a religion. These advocates condemn violators of micro-aggression norms as ignorant, racist, or bigoted. At times they call violators white nationalists—-the insult du jour of those on the far left today. Advocates expect everyone to fall in line with their speech rules.
- Advocates are self-appointed. Normal decorum, as taught by parents, family members or religious leaders, does not apply. Although the advocate is appointed by no one, he acts as if he represents society as a whole. The advocate calling out the offense cannot be fired and no one is supervising him other than like-minded advocates.
- Advocates create a climate of fear. Millions of people have self-censored their ideas and opinions in order to avoid trouble.
Micro-aggression rules are, in effect, a set of regulations approved only by the micro-aggression crowd itself. Enforcement takes place not by laws, government regulators or police—-institutions that are subject to recall—-but by the mob.
So for example, Evergreen College Professor Bret Weinstein publicly stated his opinion that it is wrong that white (but not other) students be banned from campus for a day. That led a mob of students to “hunt down” the professor on campus. Campus police advised Weinstein to flee. But the damage had been done. It was no longer possible for Weinstein, a popular professor, to continue safely at the college.
The University of Toronto sent warning letters to psychologist Jordan Peterson for refusing to use odd new gender terms, rather than the ones that have been used for generations. Eventually, Peterson left the university.
Members of the armed services under President Obama were not permitted to say, “Islamic terrorist.”
Those who make and study immigration policy are not permitted to use the term “illegal alien” even though this term is enshrined in law.
- Advocates’ outrage at micro-aggressions is wildly disproportional to the presumed offense.
An Asian-American Gender Studies professor, on a panel on “Cultural Appropriation,” told her approving audience, “When I found out that the principal of my son’s school had organized a Hawaiian Shirt Day, well, of course I was outraged! I called the principal’s office immediately to complain.” The professor’s outrage was so obvious to her that she did not feel the need to explain the intensity of her emotional reaction to the audience. Apparently, using a cultural symbol without the permission of members of that culture is an offense.
- Advocates try to control vocabulary, that is, the words people use. Words shape thinking. We can only think about the things we can say. So when people are restrained in the words they use, they are restrained in their thinking. The ideas that people hold become limited.
- The micro-aggression movement is self-reinforcing. When it errs, it is not subject to correction and it can never change course. That is because anyone who opposes the ideas of the micro-aggression movement is labelled as a racist, sexist, white nationalist or other pejorative.
Fortunately, self-reinforcing ideologies tend to collapse with time as increasing numbers of observers gain the courage to point out that the emperor has no clothes.
A Sensible Course
Openly bigoted or racist speech and actions, as well as incitement to violence, deserve to be condemned. But no one has the right to shut down the free expression of ideas.
What is to be done to counter pernicious hustles?
First, recognize a hustle. Recognize self-serving and politically motivated attacks on free speech. Speak out against these attacks. Treat people as individuals, not as members of a group. Develop a thick skin. Consider others’ motives. Be less harsh with others whose motives are benign. Be more humble than certain about your own ideas. If you are angry with a person, group or cultural phenomenon, say so directly rather than level a charge of micro-aggressions. Resist the urge to self-censor out of fear. Restore the university and media as places for the free exchange of ideas.
Unmask hustles of every kind.
- Tool: Recognizing Microaggressions and the Messages They Send. [Handout]. Diversity in the Classroom, University of California, Los Angeles, Diversity and Faculty Development, 2014.