Are Cries of Racism Necessary? Or, Are We a Narcissistic Society?

Yesterday, on NPR, Juan Williams presented a story entitled “Is Race A Factor In Protests Of Obama Initiatives?”

I must admit, I had somewhat of a knee-jerk reaction to that story.  I have always been resistant to people bringing up accusations of -isms when criticizing the actions of others.  That holds true for racism, sexism, and naziism to name just a few.1

One comment of Williams’ that really stood out to me was when he said:

WILLIAMS: Well, there was an undercurrent, but in recent days the episode with Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina shouting out, You lie, as Obama was speaking to the joint session has really exacerbated that anxiety, and it’s led to this notion that there is disrespect, even condescension, in the way that Obama is being treated as compared to any other president of the United States.

I found myself thinking that this isn’t so much a disprespect directed at the President because he is black, but rather a further manifestation of what I believe we have been seeing ever since the “me” generation of the 70s.  Once we were told that WE were important, and that in a relativistic society *I* am the most important person in *my* life, it was only a matter of time until that level of narcissism pervaded every aspect of society.  We have been seeing it for years in talk radio and talking-head television shows when one person just shouts louder and louder, denying the other the basic right to be heard.  Why? Because what you have to say isn’t important because it gets in the way of what *I* want to say.

Rabbi Hirschfield, in his article “Why Joe (and Kanye and Serena) Won’t Apologize” from today’s Washington Post, points out that Wilson’s outburst is a symptom of something greater.

Over the past seven days, we have been treated to obnoxious outbursts by leading figures not only in politics, but in sports and pop culture as well. In addition to the heckle heard round the world issued by Rep. Wilson, there was the verbal attack launched by Serena Williams against a line judge at the U.S. Open, and the boorish behavior displayed by rapper and music producer Kanye West when he grabbed the microphone from award winner Taylor Swift at MTV’s Video Music Awards.

All of these stories are rooted in the same basic fact: speakers who think it’s all about them. And if it isn’t about them, they seem to think it must be about some other individual who is even more important than they are. Apparently though, it’s beyond any of the offenders’ ability to appreciate that civility is about all of us.

So while others were stunned, shocked, or outraged, I was not surprised by Wilson’s outburst, any more than I am surprised at the outbursts of any other public, or private, figure that chooses to elevate themselves over all others.  Look around.   We have been hearing reports of teens killing each other over sneakers. A cheerleader mom taking a “contract” out on her daughter’s rival.  Once we start seeing achieving our happiness as “all important” and achieving our goals in life as the most important aspect, it is little wonder we as a society start to devolve into a society of rudeness, and violence.  It is this propensity to devolve into violence then that has me concurring with Juan Williams when he says:

And it’s also then, I think, led to lots of discussion of whether or not there’s a greater chance of Obama being physically attacked, assaulted. This was heightened, of course, by people who were bringing guns to some of the August and other tea party events, you know, to express opposition to President Obama’s policies.

But let me be clear–I certainly believe there are some people who are opposed to Barrack Obama simply because of the color of his skin.  I cannot personally understand that, but I do know they exist.  But I think this cuts deeper.  It is my opinion that, when confronted with views in opposition to one’s own (either from the left, or the right) people have a tendency to view themselves as correct, and superior.  And once they step across that line, they believe they can justify any words, any action.

Perhaps I need to rethink my resistance to all charges of -isms.  If the Rabbi is right, then we do have a problem, and it is “Narcissism.”

1. Of course in instances where one wears a white sheet, a swastika, and so forth you will get no argument from me.  I am not blind!


5 thoughts on “Are Cries of Racism Necessary? Or, Are We a Narcissistic Society?

  1. Steve:

    Good broader issues. Of course, playing the “race card” is the modern equivalent of “one who raises his voice has just ceded the argument.”

    Last month, in a separate blog [one that caters tosupposedly “educated” individuals], I was accused of being a racist . . .

    . . . just because I pointed out some gaping, obvious, egregious flaws in the two main underlying premises of the current debate:

    – the flaws in comparing “cost per capita” for health care when the US has a much higher percentage of “elective” health care (including firearm volence and military helath care- an interesting discussion in and of itself!); and

    – the flaws in comparing “quality” of health care between systems based on benchmarks like “fairness” and “justice” (which the WHO report is heavily skewed toward; favoring “equal but dismal” over “unequal but innovative”)

    So, for pointing out that the very claim that helath care in the US is *both* more expensive and of lower quality, I was accused of being a racist.

    By the same people who, in the same thread, stated quite positively (with an actual “Take That!” coup de gras) that there was no evidence of vote/election fraud on the part of the left . . .

    The Point Is

    We used to be entitled to our own opinions, but not our own facts.

    With 70+ years of the “Progressive” [sic] movement dominating academia and the media, we are now apparently entitled to our own facts as well . . .

    . . . and tholse who do not share the premises of our own tribes’ cherished “isms” are no longer just misinformed, but EVIL.

    What, pray tell, are we to do with that?


  2. I find it interesting that many people who view items and incidents through a prism of racism (or any -ism), view most anything that occurs in that context, whether it was intended as such or not.

    As a white male, I’ve never dealt with racism or sexism. As a Jew, I’m very familiar with the world’s history of anti-semitism, culminating in the events of WWII and continuing to this day.

    No doubt, there are people in the world who hate Jews, just as certain people hate blacks, Hispancis, Asians, Muslims, Christians, athiests, women, etc. etc.

    Now, I can view every comment made against a Jew as being anti-semitic. But why worry about it? Are there people in the world happy that the creator of the largest Ponzi scheme in history was Jewish? I’m sure there are. But the fact is Madoff is, to paraphrase Jimmy Cannon “an embarrassment to his race – the human race.”

    Maybe I’m naive, but I just don’t see the racism in what Rep. Wilson did. Just as O’Bama may be under a greater microscope as the first black POTUS, I think all the actions and reactions to him will be equally examined. There were a lot of vicious comments made to and about Bush 43 – if he had been a minority, would we have considered those liberal commentators racist?

    The irony will be if we find our country is forced to censor itself in an effort to be more PC.

  3. Solomon:

    Great input- you nailed it! It’s called “Self Fullfilling Prophecy Through Sensitization.”

    Ever notice how you never noticed:
    1. How many pregnant women there were?
    2. How many people had a receding hairline?
    3. How many people drove the same kind of cool car you wanted?

    etc. until you yourself were pregnant/had a pregnatnt wife, receding hairline, or bought the cool car?

    Our expectations (“prism”) drive our perception of reality.

    Raise a kid to *believe* they are oppressed (by race, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.etc. etc.) and the “belief” will become their “reality.”

    This is so screechingly obvious that the numerous studies that prove it (over and over) no longer receive any funding . . .

    And yet.

    And yet we continue to want to believe that human nature doesn’t apply in “this one case;” the “one case” that we *want* to believe is true.

    When a good freind of mine discovered his homosexualtiy in high school, he said something that had me flummoxed until many many years later (when I myself believed that I was an
    “aggrieved minority”).

    His father (a homophobic, but loving, parent) confronted him: “Why do you want to be gay?”

    His answer (to his dad) was “It’s not a choice!”

    After about a year of being “out,” he made the comment that puzzled me. One night he confided that “being gay,” while not a choice per se, was a “very cool” thing to be. He was now a member of an oppressed minority! He had camraderie! He had a sense of belonging! He had a strong sense of communal identity, with people he could depend on to help him, protect him, find him jobs, etc. He had a sense of purpose and belonging that being a straight white male never gave him.

    I didn’t (couldn’t) understand his point at the time.

    Identity politics- of any color or orientation- is a powerful, self sustaining philosophical force of human nature.


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