This is why Progressives hate America …
Painting is mostly done in the new protein wisdom pub, and the new floors will soon be laid. The reclaimed Russian Pine coffee table we ordered back in September should ship soon, which will allow me to move our old leather chair and loveseat down into the room, which is going to ape the style and coziness of an Irish pub, only without all the shamrocks. Instead we’ll have a coin-operated pool table, a dart board, and maybe even a shuffle board table.
Today, I put up the first two of my original US movie 1-sheets, which I’ll be using to decorate the walls of the space. Luckily, I was able to find these two highly in-demand titles rolled (most 1-sheets prior to the mid-80s were issued machine folded, with a few overruns kept back and stored flat; rolled posters from this era are highly sought after) and I’ve had them placed in archival frames, along with a mint rolled half-sheet of The Bad News Bears. I only have 2 half sheets, BNB and The Seven-ups. Here are the first two on the wall, measuring about 28″ x 42″ framed:
I have a few others I’ve collected that speak to my love of a particular type of movie from a particular era: still folded are a number of cult films and 70s favorites, such as Billy Jack (you knew I’d have that one!), Serpico (another gimme), Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Stepford Wives, Death Wish, Mr Majestyk, Hard Times, The Mechanic, Play Misty for Me, Every Which Way But Loose, Heaven’s Gate, Busting, The Hunter, Carny, Magic, Nashville, Night Moves, Altered States, It’s Alive, Hardcore, Three Days of the Condor, The Marathon Man, Dirty Mary Crazy Larry, Coma, The Longest Yard, Cisco Pike, Outland, Black Gunn, Prince of the City, Supercops, Vigilante Force, Catch-22, Machine Gun McCain, Seconds, and My Bodyguard. Most of these, I’m proud to say, are investor-grade pieces in Excellent/Very Fine to Near Mint condition. Rolled, I’ve picked up Angel Heart, Miller’s Crossing, Sorcerer, To Live and Die in LA, the pictured Warriors and The Thing, and Escape from New York. Additional titles — Alien, Straw Dogs, The French Connection, The Conversation, Midnight Cowboy [X-rated litho], and Day of the Locust — have all been linen-backed. The linen-backing process de-acifies the paper, smooths out the folds, and makes folded posters suitable for display (some people like the folded posters to remain folded; for me, it depends on the poster: if the image has a black background or a lot of black to it, linen-backing — along with minor touch ups to the fold lines — creates a crisper display image when framed, and the process will guarantee the paper doesn’t disintegrate. It can be a pricey process, but fortunately I’ve been able to find estate sales that have sold original linen-backed 1-sheets at far below market value.
I’ll probably have a few of the folded posters linen backed (Serpico, Death Wish, and a few more iconic posters), and I’m still looking for a nice Exorcist one-sheet, along with Two Lane Blacktop and Vanishing Point.
When more go up I’ll share the photos.
Also, for those of you who’ve asked, I’ll begin posting a few photos of the house as it comes together. We’ve been able to get a decent amount done, but because of the unexpected financial outlay for my Mom’s funeral and the legal fees paid to the lawyers to make sure my brother doesn’t live comfortably off my mother’s late-life misery, we’re a bit behind where we wanted to be at this point.
Here are the chairs, rug, and mirror we have in our living room. We’re combining mid-century modern with rustic and industrial, which is a nice blend of styles that fits my wife’s and my tastes perfectly. The chairs are from Joybird (as is the sofa, not pictured). The coffee table (and matching end tables) we found on clearance at a Furniture Row store, at a price that would have made Wal-Mart blanch. The rug is a wool piece that looks like river stones. Unfortunately, the puppies have often mistaken it for that, and have had little compunction about leaving a remnant for us. On the plus side, though, Walking on it is like getting a foot massage:
And here’s the great room, off the kitchen. The sofa and loveseat come from Joybird.com; the reclaimed wood and zinc table is 5’x5′ and I love it. I did have to add my own seal so that spills and such wouldn’t damage the patina, and as a result the table is a bit more amber than when we originally purchased it; still, it’s beginning to fade back to its original hue — and in a pinch, I can sleep on the thing:
The egg chair interior is done in cowhide and goes with the ottoman, both in distressed black (which looks like aged deep brown). We found the chair at the sole Restoration Hardware outlet in the state, where a woman literally tried to pull Satchel off of it in order to buy it out from under us. Satch, as you know, is a wrestler and uses his weight well. She lost. And we got it at about 1/5 of the original retail price.
Seriously. It’s like being hugged by a Guernsey.
update: Speaking of wrestling, I leave this afternoon to drive up to Bennett — about 100 miles — for tomorrow morning’s Regional Championships. Satchel has to weigh-in between 6-8, after which we’ll be spending the night in a Best Western. My wife won’t be home from New York until later this evening so she’ll be heading up tomorrow morning, leaving at the leisurely time of around 6:15 a.m.
Since Districts, when Satch placed second, he’s looked like an entirely different wrestler. His confidence came back, his focus has been there, and he’s been ultra-aggressive in practice. Last night he dominated a good kid who outweighed him by 17 lbs. The night before he beat a kid 3 lbs heavier — who hasn’t lost this year in Metro tournaments — 25-0, teching him in the first period. The other kids in the group who were to rotate in were fighting among themselves, trying to get out of wrestling him. He then called out our 12 and older former champ, who outweighs him by 10 lbs, and wrestled him to a 4-4 tie.
This is what we’ve been waiting for all year. It remains to be seen if he carries it over into the tournament; he tends to be less physically dominating when he doesn’t know his opponent. He is reluctant to “hurt” other kids, particularly those with whom he’s not terribly familiar. We’ve been trying to tell him that it’s part of wrestling and that it’s okay. If that message sticks, and he comes out aggressive, imposing his will, and moving around at the speed with which he’s capable, I think he’ll make it to States.
He just can’t be flat and expect to win against this level of competition. That he’s been that way most of the season and still medaled in every tournament is a testament to just how good he is and just how really good he can be.
As an adopted son myself, I completely identify with the sentiments expressed by Kevin Williamson in his NRO note to House Republicans: that they eschewed the wide-ranging wishes of the public because they feared backlash in a couple of seats (yes, we’re looking at you, Rep Ellmers and Walorski) further proves to me that politics is all about protecting incumbency and has nothing whatever to do with principle. The US government as designed has lost its way, an inevitability, really, once politicians began using the Constitution as a kind of glorified Chinese menu, picking and choosing items from individual articles and clauses in order to create a personalized buffet plate of comfort-food relativism and legal revisionism.
There’s no need for me to (yet again) go into the faulty and incoherent linguistic assumptions that allow this to continue (and that are still defended, sometimes doggedly and to the point of utter psychosis, by those on the right who may make their living off of the continued acceptance of institutionalized interpretive theft); suffice to say, that without an insistence upon originalism, the Constitution is at best reduced to an occasional inconvenience for ambitious politicians.
Instead, I’ll note only this: I have long described myself as “reluctantly” pro-choice — which means pro-choice with a number of restrictions, my imperfect (admittedly) way of trying to balance viable human life with a woman’s control over her own body.
As Williamson points out, only 17% of those who even call themselves pro-choice support the latest “civil right” pressed by Obama and the remnants of the Sanger eugenicist movement, as it’s merged with the establishment feminist movement — that civil right being the “right” to wait until the last minute to decide if the living being in utero lives or dies.
What used to be a question of viability is now an assertion that “viability makes no difference, this is about individual autonomy and choice” — with the obvious oversight that the pre-born child, whose life is certainly viable outside the womb but whose inability to crawl out on his or her own when they sense the biological mother harboring them is ready to grant license to some disinterested doctor to jam a scissor blade into their skulls, has no choice at all in the matter.
The radicalism of people like Obama, or the nouveau eugenicists like the execrable Amanda Marcotte, who somehow speaks for a slew of equally willing murderers, has moved me closer and closer to the pro-life camp. I can’t quite get there yet: I still believe viability is the “reasonable” compromise in the balance of liberty issues that rub against each other at the nexus of women’s rights to have final say over their own bodies and the rights of living humans to be brought to term once they’ve reached the point where they are capable of living outside some dithering, inconvenienced woman who believes them disposable, often merely to maintain some kind of lifestyle they feel entitled to (remember: adoption is always an option).
A baby at 5 months, as I know personally from looking at ultrasounds of my own two children, are quite alive and quite human. The reluctance to protect them — even from ostensibly pro-life Republicans — from the twisted propaganda campaigns they fear the left will level against their re-election bids, is the height of cravenness.
Were it me, and were there a party ready to take on the task? Tar and feathers might send an appropriate message.
As many of you regular readers know, the fledgling “OUTLAW” movement began here quite some time ago, and in a way pre-figured the TEA Party movement that grew dominant in its stead. The reasons these two movements coalesced at the same time was a recognition — to some incontrovertibly distilled, to others a kind of nagging sense — namely, that our party system was a kind of perversion, a pretend, televised and media “covered” puppet show intended to convince us that an adversarial system of government still existed in this country, that the separation of powers remained intact, that there was a reason to contribute to one party over the other, or support one party’s lust for power and control over that of the lesser of two evils.
In truth, the two parties are no different, with the exception of a few issues pertaining to their core constituencies, which are no longer represented by voters by rather by big monied interests, be they unions or the US Chamber of Commerce and its desire for cheap labor.
All the rest is sound and fury, with “colleagues” launching bombast during business hours, then retiring together for drinks at Georgetown bars on the taxpayer tab.
For those of us unfortunate enough to see this with some clarity before it was acceptable to make the case, the road toward educating “our” individual sides has been treacherous, particularly on the right, where back-biting, jockeying for position as the “sensible,” “adult,” “nuanced,” and pragmatic wing of the political commentariat class, particular among “new media”-types whose goals appear to be to consolidate “new media” under their control, becoming in a sense the “editors” for the party and the explicators and apologists of its failings (often surreally presented as achievements), has had the practical (and intentional, in some cases) effect of weakening the more conservative and classical liberal voices that before Obama’s rise had been crucial to the new media message. This is done, as they might justify it, to keep the party from alienating the “moderates” and “independents” — that morass of politically disengaged, sound-bite consuming sometimes voters who are said to swing elections in a country that continues to poll at conservative in temperament and policy desires.
But rather than appeal to those types — who the numbers tell us must cross party lines (and were previously the “Reagan Democrats”), and who won landslide elections for the GOP that the middle-dwellers chased by Bush I, Dole, McCain, and Romney could never deliver — the establishment GOP actively admits, in its leadership, that their goal is to use the power of name recognition, billionaire crony fundraising, incumbency, and (in certain cases, even Democrat voters scared into believing a vote for a conservative is a vote for the return of lynching).
They are, in effect, Big Government progressives, and the only real difference between the Marxist / Fabian progressives on the left is, to borrow a well-worn punchline, haggling over a price.
Unfortunately, OUTLAW failed — mocked as it was by some on the right who, it turns out, were also actively willing to sabotage certain voices that for years had proven incredibly valuable to classical liberalism / minarchist libertarianism / constitutional conservatism, be it in the FISA fights, or reversing the Miers nomination, or creating an intellectual ground game meant to expose and suss out the institutionalized kernel assumptions pushed by the left and unwittingly adopted by the status quo right, putting in place the conditions under which the country must of necessity track leftward, taking with it the idea of “conservative,” which now sits somewhere a bit left of center, when applied to “severely conservative” Romney, or Jeb Bush, or John McCain — a revelation that should suggest to anyone with any intellectual honesty (above and beyond the rah-rah party loyalty that seems only to be about winning elections, which wins are then protected by actions that allow them to resist being cast as the “extremists”: governing like statist Democrats, with the caveat that they are comfortable with losing more slowly.
So it’s time to up the ante a bit, in my opinion. Time to rename our OUTLAW and TEA Party movement to express what it is we truly believe needs to happen to return the country to a federalist, representative republic. And my suggestion — which will be immediately rejected by the button-downed Beltway dwellers who continue to believe their “nuanced” approach effective (it isn’t, it hasn’t been, and it won’t be) — is to redefine the grass roots as the TAR AND FEATHER Party.
The demands are simple: keep your campaign promises and represent the wishes of your constituencies or else we, the people, look to depose you, to recall you, to run you out of the unctuous, self-serving cesspool of DC on a rail, covered with the ignomy of a chicken suit applied by those who tire of your lies, capitulations, and complete rejection of your constituencies’ interests once you pass the local election stage.’
Attached to your departing attire will be a bill of particulars naming your various offenses against those you are elected to represent.
The Article V movement is a serious component of this new “party” — because by aggressively pushing it we can let US Senators know that their states are watching them and ready to recall them for failure to recognize the interests of those states through actions of the state legislatures.
The time has come to symbolically pitch and befowl those career ruling elites (and lying upstarts who are elected on a false pose) whose lies, deceit, greed, and self-interest serve only to enrich themselves and make our futures — and the futures of our families — bleak.
Bitching and moaning and trying to bypass the gatekeepers of the “grown-up” new media, who have become appendages of the party, in many ways, isn’t working. In fact, encouraging us to do so is part of the program to sustain the appearance of dueling parties, and as a result keep the campaign contributions flowing.
It’s all an elaborate dance. A ruse. Jonathan Gruber is not some individual flunky who let the Democrat’s cynicism and distaste for the “masses” out of the bag. He is the very EMBLEM of the federal government and its mindset.
They are all Grubers. And we are the uneducated, silly dupes they believe they can roll right over.
Next time they try it, we should be ready with the stuff of ruining expensive suits and $500 wingtips. These are largely doddering old “gentlemen” and gentrified women. Taking them down a notch or two is what might finally convince them that there’s a lot more of us than there are of them, and that “we, the people” are granted the role of self-governance.
Plus, the spectacle of chicken suits!
Hell: we could turn it into a reality show.
Verdict? Turns out that it’s okay now to note, with near certainty, that no, the Lightbringer is not such a good man, after all.
If anybody needs me, I’ll be hanging out back in 2008-9, when I tried to make the case and warn against what was coming. It was lonely back there for a while, but these days it seems like lots of folks are finding their way to a past they railed against at the time.
… then clearly I can offer a thumbnail of Obama’s SOTU without having watched it. So, here’t goes: “It doesn’t matter that the latest Congressional elections went to the GOP, giving them the Senate and expanding their representation in both the House and in every conceivable local political measurable. The fact is, I won the presidency. Which under my reading makes me a king of sorts.
“Therefore, I’m going to do as I please, and those of you who dared vote to bring in more obstructionist Republican politicians — some of them teabaggers — to quell my lameduck aspirations, well, you can all sod off. You matter not a jot. Or a tittle. I’m in the last stages of a societal remake, and I’ll be damned if some teary orange bitch like John Boehner is going to stop me, much less a turkey-necked opportunist like Mitch McConnell.
“Besides. You’re probably all racists, anyway — and American policy can’t be driven by racism. That’s not who we are. So, ipso facto, you people can’t be allowed to drive policy.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, my pen, my phone, and I will be out banging balls at the range until it’s time for me to veto something, or it’s time for me to dismiss the next Islamist attack as not at all indicative of Islam. But make no mistake: if and when the GOP does what I want, when I want it, I’m happy to work with them. On their efforts to validate me. Because me.”
The left simply can’t let some heroism exist, particularly when it is offered in defense of country. That, to them, is merely jingoistic, racist, macho gun-nuttery — of the kind that allows them to sit in their salons and their martini bars and piss on the very people who keep them free so that they can continue belching out distorted narratives and outright falsehoods as a way to cover for their own cowardice: which is to say, by turning real sacrifice into a wingnut caricature, they are able to elevate their own rejection of that sacrifice into a self-servingly “brave” stance against the established status quo, the idea that soldiers protect their freedoms. In that way, they redefine heroism (“look at the brave and controversial dissent I offer from the comfort of my den, where my Apple Pro Book often sits! Aren’t I edgy?”) to cover for their own moral, intellectual, and even physical cowardice.
This observation aside, it’s worth noting the extent they’ll go to to bring down those who they recognize they could never ever on their best days even approach in terms of human worth.
So allow me to say this here and now: fuck the bloated ostentatious cravenness of Michael Moore and Seth Rogen; fuck the faculty lounge recriminations of fey metrosexuals and gentrified, soft, city gals pretending to write nuanced counter narratives instead of the intentionally misleading alternate histories they’re hoping will stick like goat heads to the fabric of American lore; and fuck Jesse Ventura, too.
If you need so badly to try to pull yourself up on the back of a dead SEAL whose very dumps you aren’t fit to smear yourselves with, you’re doing life wrong.
I only have 2 episodes of “Bar Rescue” on the DVR, but if Obama goes longer than we all hope he will, I’m covered: I have yesterday’s “Castle” and at least one “Love it or List it” in the queue.
So. God Bless America. And I guess He can go ahead and bless Canada, too, in this very limited case.
There’s that “necessarily skyrocket” chicken, coming home to roost. CNS News:
Even as gasoline prices plummeted and the overall energy price index calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics declined, electricity prices bucked the trend in the United States in 2014.
Data released today by the BLS indicates that the electricity price indexes hit all-time highs for the month of December and for the year. 2014 was the most-expensive year ever for electricity in the United States.
The annual price index for electricity, published by BLS today, was 208.020. That was up from 200.750 in 2013.
The seasonally adjusted electricity price index for the month of December was 210.151, according to the BLS. That sets an all-time record for the seasonally adjusted monthly electricity price index. The previous high was 209.341 in March of this year. In December 2013, the seasonally adjusted electricity price index was 203.740.
The average price for a kilowatt hour of electricity in the United States was 13.5 cents in December. That is the highest average price for KWH of electricity in the month of December since the BLS started recording the December monthly price for a KWH in 1978. In December 2013, the average price for a KWH was 13.1 cents.
It is, naturally, important to remember, as Obama pats himself on the back for falling oil and gas prices this evening — the single factor keeping our economy from complete stagnation, which is a result of the private sector push for US energy independence (see, for instance, the success of fracking in Colorado, my home state) and OPEC’s attempts to undermine that success by artificially keeping prices low to lower profitability margins on our energy production — that everything good about our economy is happening in spite of Obama, whose politicized and regressive EPA has gone after coal, leading to the record highs in electricity prices, and has announced it will now go after methane, the end result of which will be to try, along with OPEC, to cripple the booming private energy business in the US.
Or, to put in more bluntly, it is important to remember that Obama is a big fat Marxist liar and an opportunistic egoist.
Not that you didn’t already know that. Just thought I’d put a bit of an exclamation point on that before the State of the Union propaganda push this evening.
Don’t mention it.
It’s become something of a tradition for me to re-post this essay on MLK day, given that it was first written and published back in 1996 in response to an essay in the University of Denver’s Clarion newspaper that laid out, unwittingly I suspect (but in the clear language of the multiculturalist’s faux-emotionalist assault on individual sovereignty and its elevation of social Balkinazation as a matter of civic pride and, indeed, intellectual nuance, tolerance, and enlightenment, to a form of talismanic righteousness, so complete has the left’s tribal propaganda taken route), the trajectory of leftist thought — designed to foster a PC culture in which identity groups create and then are given providence over their own historical narratives, with any outliers considered inauthentic or delusional (suffering from false consciousness). When protein wisdom started in late 2001, I added a few tweaks to bring the piece up to date and place it in the context of the 911 attacks.
Now, nearly 20-years after the original was written for a mostly academic audience, the argument herein, in my opinion, holds firm — and is perhaps even more relevant today than back when I wrote it as a kind of “teachable moment” intended to problematize the ethnic and racials studies cant that had become so pervasive as to hold the position of found truth: the melting pot was a racist attempt to rob peoples of their heritage; whereas the “quilt” or the “salad” bowl was meant to promote feel-good notions of co-existence that simultaneously and incrementally eschewed assimilation.
So here it is again. The left has no desire to learn from it, naturally. And many on the right would just as soon I shut up. Which is fine. So long as they have to admit, to themselves at least, that by marginalizing me for these past number of Obamayears, they’ve attempted to silence a voice that only sought to aid them structurally (rather than superficially, with “political strategy” and “long-view” pragmatism that can’t help but to implode under its own pretentious and ponderous weight) in the battle against leftist that is taking place, primarily, in the arena of language, interpretation theory, and narrative privileging.
From 1996 (and subsequently reprinted and re-posted here as an occasional to mark Dr King’s birthday): “There’s no such thing as race (and it’s a good thing, too)” — appended to which are a couple of rejoinders offered over the years to critics of the piece:
In many different contexts, people have continued to identify the Other by reference to phenotypical features (especially skin colour) which therefore serve as indicative of a significant difference. Moreover, they have continued to use the idea of “race” to label that difference. As a result, certain sorts of social relations are defined as “race relations,” as social relations between people of different “races.” Indeed, states legislate to regulate “race relations,” with the result that the reality of race� is apparently legitimated in law (Guillaumin 1980). Thus the idea of “race” has continued to be used in common-sense discourse to identify the Other in many societies, but largely without the sanction of science (R. Miles, Racism, 1989, 1995).
In a widely noticed racial identity case in Louisiana, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, remarking that “the very concept of racial classification of individuals is scientifically unsupportable,” ruled that Mrs. Susie Phipps, “who had always thought she was white, had lived as white, and had twice married as white,” was not in fact white because her parents, who had provided the racial information on her birth certificate, had classified her as “colored.” “Individual racial designations are purely social and cultural perceptions,” the court said; the relevant question, then, was not whether those “subjective perceptions” correctly registered some biological fact about Phipps but whether they had been “correctly recorded” at the time the birth certificate was issued. Since in the court’s judgment they had been, Susie Phipps and her fellow appellants remained “colored” (W. Benn Michaels, Our America: Nativism, Modernism, and Pluralism, 1995).
IN THE WAKE of the 9/11 terror attacks, many Americans felt, some of them for the very first time, a strange and welcomed emotion—a fillip of unabashed patriotic zeal. And, seizing upon this feeling, they chose (however temporary the change, but given the extraordinary nature of the circumstances), to privilege their common national identity over the more fashionable multiculturalist mandate that it’s somehow wiser to “celebrate our differences”– a weak, bumper-sticker formulation of a much stronger ideological position (that of radical egalitarianism) that for years now has been insinuating itself into education and public policy.
BUT IN A recent spate of news and commentary—be it pundits questioning the ethics of “racial” profiling, or the fallout over the racial makeup of a commemorative statue, or Brooklyn borough president Marty Markowitz’s announcement that he was taking down a portrait of George Washington (“an old white man,” as Markowitz put it) that hangs in his office to replace it with a portrait of color—we’ve been reminded yet again that we as a country are not nearly through grappling with racial issues. And today, on the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., our minds can’t help but (re)turn to ideas of race relations, if only to gauge how far we’ve come in the thirty-four years since Dr. King’s assasination. As one university newspaper columnist put it, on King’s birthday, we should be doing nothing if not striving to “learn the culture behind the color.”
AND THERE’S REALLY nothing surprising in this challenge; after all, “learning the culture behind the color” merely echoes (however simplistically) the widespread challenge of many contemporary race theorists who would prefer us to think of “race” as “culture”—as a phenomenon born out of a variety of complex social convergences—and not as a product of any essential* (biological) difference.* That is, contemporary racial theory remains committed to the idea of racial identity, even as it strives to proceed without the appeal to biology that once gave racial identity its primary force.
SO, WHAT DOES it mean to redescribe “race” as “culture”? The force behind this transition from race as something essential into race as something socially constructed is our skepticism over racial difference being somehow biologically determinable. That is, once science (in the mid-1930s) gave up the idea that black blood, say, differs from white blood, it was forced to give up the idea of essentialism that traditional racialists relied upon to separate the races (those familiar with American history are here reminded of the “one drop rule,” a legal statute committed to the idea that black blood made a difference to the intrinsic identity of the person who “carried” that blood in his/her veins).
TODAY, HOWEVER, we recognize that there is no such thing as “black blood” or “white blood,” and so in order to account for our perceivable differences—in order, that is, to continue the project of racial identification—race theorists have sought to turn the essentialist project of racial identification into the anti-essentialist project of racial construction. In short, the “racial” has become the “cultural,” and the “cultural” has become the supposedly anti-essentialist foundation for group identity.
THE QUESTION, then, is this: if “race” is now “culture,” and “culture” is an anti-essentialistic social construct, how can we account for our “differences”? Clearly, pigmentation is not full proof; after all, many of those who think of themselves as black don’t “look black,” just as many of those who think of themselves as white may not “look white” (historically, this failure of perception to secure racial identity manifests itself in this country in the 19th and early-20th-century phenomenon of “passing”). Which would suggest that the answer, if it is the aim to continue the project of racial identity, must rest elsewhere—with the constructionist’s notion of culture.
BUT IF CULTURE IS DEFINED as the set of beliefs and practices adopted or performed by a specific group of people, then the idea of using “culture” as a means of determining race is equally problematic. Under such conditions, all that is required to adopt a particular racial identity is to believe in the things that “they” believe in, to practice the things that “they” practice. Which means that once we stop believing those beliefs or practicing those practices, we’ve ceased to belong to that culture, ceased to belong to that race.
BUT SURELY shedding your racial identity can’t be as simple as removing a hat—which means that something else must underlie claims for racial identity, something other than either the essentialist’s appeal to biology or the anti-essentialist’s appeal to practices and beliefs. This “something else” or “something other,” the argument goes, is “heritage”—defined as a cultural tradition or body of knowledge handed down from prior generations.
AS WITH “culture,” however, staking racial identity claims on heritage proves just as delicate and dubious a maneuver. Because a cultural tradition or body of knowledge can be handed down, presumably, to anybody (through education, for instance), then the real claim offered here is that the particular heritage in question must already somehow belong to the person who receives it if indeed it is to count, in a meaningful way, as her/his heritage. Which is only to say that in order to know which heritage is yours, you must first know who you are.
BUT WHAT IS IT that allows you to know who you are, and so to decide which history—which heritage—is yours? If, for instance, you are a black child adopted into a white family, what is it that makes you “black”? If the answer is heritage, then your identity presumably depends upon which heritage your adopted parents choose to teach you, or which you choose, ultimately, to teach yourself. But how does your learning your black heritage (assuming this is what you choose to do) count as your having learned your “true” heritage? That is, what is it that makes a particular heritage yours to learn to begin with?
ONE ANSWER commonly offered by race and identity theorists is the idea of group “memory”—the charge being that to “remember” a particular past, rather than simply to learn about a particular past, is what makes that past your past. But how do you go about “remembering” something you’ve never actually experienced? That is, how do your “memories” of a non-experienced past come to count as memories at all? And more importantly, what is it that differentiates your “memories” of a particular past from someone else’s “knowledge” of a particular past? Can a young Jewish boy really “remember” the Holocaust any better than a ninety-year old German woman who worked around the camps? Can a young black girl really “remember” slavery? (Do modern-day Texans really “remember” the Alamo?) Or is what’s happening here simply a matter of your remembering having learned a pre-chosen history in order to claim it as your own?
THE POINT of all this being that to think of race as somehow socially constructed is to think of race, ultimately, as something essentially essential. Because what makes your memories yours, what makes your heritage yours, and what makes your culture yours is your insistence, ultimately, that it is yours by right, yours by birth, yours by essence. And so race, as it turns out, is either an essence or an illusion. Those who believe race to be an essence (say, the KKK, who base their ideas on bad science) have no need for a project of qualifying race as a social construct; and those who believe race to be non-essential have no grounds, theoretically, for promoting racial identity other than that same bad science (which, it turns out, underlies the constructivist argument), or else their social concern that we somehow need to continue the project of racial identity, for whatever the political reasons.
AND PERHAPS they are right. But maybe it’s time to seize on the lessons learned in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks; that is, maybe it’s time we put aside our differences in order to construct a singular American identity. After all, we are each individuals, which is what makes us, ultimately, a nation.
*written in commemoration of MLK Day and posted January 2002
update: A few commenters have questioned the notion that there is no scientific evidence for “race,” noting that allele distribution, etc., supplies the data for a scientific exploration of racial categorization, and rehabilitates “race” from the perspective of the hard sciences.
But there is a problem with such assertions, which tend to redefine race for the express purpose of saving it as a category. In this way, they are no different than the social constructionists I discuss in the essay proper, who likewise try to empty race of its signification in order to bend it to their will.
What follows is my response to Steve Sailer, whom I debated on this very question several years back: