Tuesday, March 14, 2017

White Guilt

So it should come as no surprise to anyone, considering I've ranted about it before, but I'm not much of a fan of identity politics. The idea that we can simply define people by the group or category they're in is.... well.... dumb. Don't get me wrong, categorizing things can be useful. Saying an animal is a dog gives us some basic information, but it isn't the whole picture. Because I'm not a fan of identity ploitics you better believe I'm not a fan of the Lifeline Expedition.

Why? Because it isn't just identity politics, it's white guilt. There is this toxic idea that every white person has shamefully benefited from slavery, that we all owe every person of color an apology, and it's just wrong on so many levels.

The most immediate reasoning behind its abhorrence, atleast to me, is how strongly it resembles the idea of original sin. That might have a bit to do with my catholic upbringing though. The idea that a sin, in this case a transgression against secular morality, can be so vile it stains an entire group in perpetuity and not just those who commited the sin is senseless. How do you make up for a sin you aren't personally guilty of? If a transgression is so great it condemns such a vast group, can it even be absolved so long as one person remains impure? If it is a sin that cannot be absolved, then what exactly is the point of castigating yourself to remove the stain?

Then there is a more personal level. I'm of Irish descent, in fact I have an ancestor who fought as a soldier in the much venerated Irish Brigade, and none of my ancestors owned slaves or directly benefited from the slave trade, though a few did suffer indentured servitude here in America. To put this in context, the Irish Brigade suffered the third worst combat losses due to death out of any Union Army group, and was decimated and disbanded before being reformed to continue the fight for liberty. The Irish Brigade has continued it's service to the ideals of liberty even in to the modern day, through two world wars, as the Fighting 69th, which secured Route Irish in Iraq, one of the main supply routes responsible for logistical support of allied forces during the war there.

Needless to say I am pretty proud to have a connection to such fine, brave men. I don't think the sacrifices they made in Antietam, Gettysburg, Appomattox or Chancellorsville can be overstated. If there was a stain it was washed away in sacred blood. The legacy of African slavery in the western world is a horrifying one, but it is also a story of the struggle of people of conscience to right a wrong,  of men and women of many races fighting for the common humanity of man to be recognized, and that is what irks me about groups like the Lifeline Expedition.

 They ascribe an evil to many, with no regard for the fact it is an evil that was dead long before they were born, that some have the names of people who fought that evil in their famil tree. Why? Mainly because in an age of identity politics where your ideas are measured by what group you come from, if you aren't a "victim" you need to at least be an ally to victims. You need to show off your virtue through public self flagellation which, ironically enough, just makes the situation worse by promoting a reductivist narrative. When you vilify an entire group because of their ancestors, it creates a backlash, it makes people feel attacked, and it kills discourse.

All because someone wanted to reduce people to labels.

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