14 July 2012
racism for the new millennium.
I admit that I have actually wondered if I am 'racist' because I am not normally (sexually) attracted to most black women. So when I saw that Google predicted the question in its search, I was rightfully concerned—concerned mainly that was I becoming one of those people. And by 'those people' I mean the dumb fucks who consult Google (as if it's the Oracle at Delphi.com) with theoretical, existential, or obstetric questions such as, Is there really a God? Or, Can I abort my baby by doing somersaults?
Ever since iconoclasts like Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, and Charles Darwin started questioning the apparent motivations and processes of our world, we have been left in doubt as to whether we are actually qualified to speak in any authoritative sense about ourselves. For example, if I say believe in God, who's to say that my faith isn't just the product of the inherited resentment the downtrodden once felt toward their powerful masters, as Nietzsche suggests? If I get annoyed at my father for talking about the weather, coupons, and himself all the time, maybe I'm just pissed, as Freud contends, because he's standing in the way of a romantic relationship with my mother. If I am troubled by the crime and social discord in the world around me, maybe I just can't see, as Marx did, that this is all just the necessary consequence of entrenched systems of economic inequality? And of course, in the Darwinian vein, if I see the world as static and unchanging, maybe it's simply because the processes of adaptation and optimization are so slow and yet continuous that they elude direct human apprehension...
Whether or not you agree or disagree with any of these four men is irrelevant. Their most enduring contribution to our culture—a positive contribution, I would add—is the questioning of apparent truth. In other words, things are often not as they seem. There is a subterranean world which informs and determines much of what we see and do and think. So when I say that I am not attracted to certain races, maybe I'm saying something else too—something I don't even want to say, certainly not in polite society.
When I think to myself, 'I am not normally (sexually) attracted to dark-skinned black women,' at first I insist to myself that sexual attraction occurs on a pre-rational level. In other words, I am not in a position to argue with my lack of attraction. I can't be expected to say, 'Now, libido, you'd better start getting off on these dark-skinned black women (DSBW, hereafter) because it doesn't look very good to exclude them on the basis of their racial features!' Seriously. Does this kind of haranguing ever work? Can I make myself be sexually attracted to plankton or a llama merely by suggesting that it is offensive or hurtful to plankton or llamas not be a source of sexual titillation for me?
But on the other hand, is the lack of attraction to DSBW only the symptom of other deep-seated racist attitudes? It's entirely probable that a liberal white male, who generally thinks of himself as open-minded and fair, would hide troubling racist feelings, even from himself. Sometimes these squirreled-away sentiments come to light in spontaneous litmus tests: You, a white male, not physically prepossessing, are walking down a dark street late at night—and suddenly see a group of several young black men approaching from the other direction. They are quiet and don't seem to be engaged in any threatening behavior, but yet you feel anxiety. No—not anxiety—fear. Would you feel the same thing if they were white? Maybe you would. It's certainly not out of the realm of possibility, but nevertheless after the group passes by without incident, you suffer a bad conscience because of your fear. Why? What is your conscience covering up for?
This is an obvious and oft-cited incident of racial neurosis, but it is often revelatory of something not apparent to consciousness. There are counterarguments available, however: any packs of young men on deserted streets late at night draw out these instincts, not just black men; maybe it's just refracted guilt—you imagine, in an empathetic way, that if you were black you'd hate whites, so you extrapolate your psychology to the world; or maybe probability has persuaded you. Black men are statistically more likely to be aggressors in such situations. Is it racist if an attitude is informed by fact? (Another point of departure for reflection...)
Anyway, if I say that I am not normally sexually attracted to DSBW, maybe it is an oblique admission of my racist attitudes. Maybe I know that I can dress up this attitude in an argument of instinctual inevitability (or even aesthetics), and it won't be called into question very much. After all, aren't there lots of black women who aren't attracted to white men? (Then again, if they view a white man as a source of subjugation—both in terms of race and gender—then this is more understandable.)
Ever since Freudianism—whether you agree with the specifics of his theory or not—there has been a kind of fear about what our dreams reveal about us. Sure, I might have a dream about something mundane, but perhaps its symbols indicate in some way my degeneracy. It's the same way with other attitudes we hold. I am reluctant to say that I am not attracted to DSBW because I don't really know what I am saying or revealing.