Dear Scared White People: I’m Sorry
I screwed up when I criticized the Princeton student.
Hey everyone, bros and otherwise.
I’d like to explain something. And I’d also like to apologize for something.
As background, the other day I wrote a quick note to the kid who said he wouldn’t apologize for his white male privilege. A lot of people read it, and said kind things about it. But there have also been some negative reactions.
Specifically, to my evaluation of his writing, and to my tone.
So, first, the explanation.
I want to explain why I brought up Tal’s grammar, spelling, and logic in the first place. It was not to demean.
It was to prove a point.
An editor that cares about a writer will not allow sloppy writing to be put out. Not at that level. That article was not Time-caliber. And Time knew it.
So Time, by publishing that article without bothering to edit it, showed that they were willing to throw a kid to the wolves to push a project that they were too scared to do themselves. Time used him. It is clear. And it is not forgivable. But it is also not uncommon.
I pointed this out because we need to be aware of the larger trend, which is:
There is a high demand for minorities that are willing to attack their own,
or deny that discrimination actually exists.
It might be harder to see in Tal’s case because he moves back and forth between minority and non-minority status depending on the argument he wants to make, so here’s a more obvious example: the market for Asian Americans who are willing to sell out is booming right now.
Think about the Asiana Flight 214 crash, and the Korean ferry disaster. And think about the fact that the media has been using Korean-American reporters to blame ‘Korean culture’ for both of these.
(Then think back to when that Italian cruise ship sank, and realize that nobody blamed Italian culture/language for that. Try running a search for ‘Costa Concordia+Italian culture’ and ‘Asiana+Korean Culture’, and compare the results. I wrote about this once. Not very nicely though: here, and here.)
Think about the fact that someone is actively recruiting for Asian Americans to publicly denounce affirmative action.
Again, this phenomenon — of using an ‘ethnic representative’ as a cover for a racist or sexist project — is not uncommon. The only thing uncommon about Time’s effort is how unsubtle it was.
So, women, and minorities of all persuasions: There is a market for you, if you’re willing to do this. Your market value depends on what ‘kind’ of minority you are, but rest assured that there is a job for you out there in this field. Limited fame and fortune await. But they won’t protect you when you are attacked.
We need to think about racism, and how it works. I admit that this is a hard topic.
For a lot of people, in particular many white people, this is a scary topic. They are afraid to think about racism because they are afraid it might change their life. They don’t want to hear about it. So they will take any opportunity to close their ears.
This brings me to my apology.
By bringing up Tal’s writing quality, I gave those people that opportunity.
I’ve seen a number of people that are avoiding the discussion, and instead attacking my ‘condescending’ tone, or saying that I was rude to talk about grammar. Or trying (and failing, though) to pick apart my grammar and prove me a hypocrite.
For those who are scared and are angry: If you don’t like my tone, or my method, or me, that is fine. I expected that some might not. But I didn’t realize that you would close your ears. I didn’t realize that you would let my missteps stop you from thinking.
So: I am sorry.
I am sorry for allowing you that escape route. I am sorry for denying you an opportunity to truly confront yourself, to truly think about what it means to be you, and what it means to live here. Because so many of us get to do that every day.
I am sorry for robbing you of a chance to no longer be afraid.
If I was a better writer, or thinker, I wouldn’t have let you down like that. I hope you have another chance soon.
In the meantime, I’ll be working on improving. I’m at @dexdigi if you want to talk.