Last year, continuing in Berkeley’s long, distinguished tradition of racial lunacy, members of the Queer Alliance Resource Center and bridges Multicultural Resource Center blocked Sather Gate as part of a protest demanding a different “safe space” for people of color and transgender individuals. Even if you can wrap your head around the moral obtuseness of a group of people of color fighting for spaces that are, by definition, isolationist, the ridiculousness of this protest takes another level when one examines the enemy it claims to be crusading against. Implicit in the need for a safe space is the claim that the rest of UC Berkeley is somehow “unsafe” for people of color and transgender people. Anybody who has spent a few minutes at this campus knows that this is an absurd assertion. People of color occupy the highest echelons of student government and academic faculty and are significantly overrepresented in the student body.
The few white individuals who get into power do so only after they have constructed paeans to racial diversity and gender inclusivity and thoroughly apologized for the atrocities brought about by their lack of skin pigmentation. The idea that there is a white hegemony united to suppress people of color is preposterous on its face. In fact, “white” is an umbrella term we use for a community that consists of people of German, Italian, British, Irish, Scottish descent. They have different cultures, traditions, histories, etc. These groups share almost nothing in common save for low levels of skin melanin.
The basis of the racial demagoguery visible at UC Berkeley is the belief that a person’s ideology and viewpoints are somehow caused by a person’s race or ethnicity. One of my most vivid experiences at UC Berkeley occurred on Election Night at Sproul when a hysterical Hillary supporter confronted me and asked me how I could be a “person of color and support the Klan.” There are very few persons braver than a liberal fighting an imaginary problem. The Ku Klux Klan, the symbol of the giant white conspiracy to suppress people of color, has a maximum of 8000 members, close to 0.002 percent of the total United States population, a significant chunk of which might well be FBI agents monitoring the Klan.
The prevalence of racial delusion has a corrosive effect on campus politics as well. How many ASUC candidates have announced their candidacies for elected office in the following manner: “Hi, I’m (insert name here). I’m running to represent the Latinx/Asian American/Indian American/African American/(insert ethnic group here) community.” What does that statement mean? How do the interests of the particular community that you are running to represent differ from those of the rest of the student body? Are they exactly the same? What policies does your representation entail? Would you favor your ethnic group over another? If a statement of ethnicity or race is sufficient to garner votes, we are moving dangerously close to a society that prioritizes identity over policy. One particular candidate for ASUC Senate has stated that she would like to “reshape Nixle alerts and the unnecessary attention they draw to race and gender, which encourages racist and transphobic remarks.” The boneheadedness of this position is hard to understate. It’s akin to saying, “Oh, there is an alleged rapist roaming around Berkeley but we’re not gonna tell you what he looks like because that might encourage racism and transphobia.” To be entirely fair to the ASUC candidates, they do often scribble down a list of platforms that are either inconsequential or impossible to achieve. If you honestly think an ASUC senator is going to solve the “mental health crisis” or “make housing affordable,” Charles Ponzi has an investment scheme that might interest you.
Race delusion is at its worst at UC Berkeley, but it is encouraged by a number of mainstream commentators, including some conservatives as well. Let’s take the recently concluded 2016 election as an example. How many times did you hear perfectly respectable commentators on television saying, “Hillary Clinton cannot win as much of the black vote as Obama because she isn’t black herself,” “Marco Rubio will definitely make inroads with Latinos because he is a part of their community,” “Tim Kaine spoke Spanish at his rally today. That should lock up the Hispanic vote for the Democrats,” and my personal favorite, “(Trump’s election) is a whitelash.” Identity politics has become so ingrained in our public discourse that one can state one’s identity and expect that to garner votes, instead of appealing to people’s political or economic interests.
I understand the special significance that race takes on in American society, given the history of slavery and Jim Crow laws, and I understand the need for sensitivity toward such issues. But that is no excuse for relegating the individuality of a person to his or her racial or ethnic identity. The division of society into preys and predators along racial lines is not something we should stand for as responsible adults capable of using arguments rather than epithets, reason instead of unfounded slander. If you claim to fight against racial prejudices — and I do admit that such biases do exist in some corners of such society — list the specific biases and what you plan to do about it. Don’t resort to throwing tags like “racist” with wanton disregard. Because if everything is racist, nothing is racist.
Rudra Reddy writes the Monday column on resisting indoctrination. Contact him at [email protected].