These generalisations of international scope are the bread and butter of social scientists who, because they are studying vast groups of human beings, cannot run properly controlled experiments. It would breach their subjects’ human rights! Instead, social scientists, take the crudest, summative national statistics and use them to create pleasingly coherent theories, narratives that fit the figures neatly, if not the situation. Then they impose these stories on the disparate behaviours of their communities, dismissing any contradictions as isolated anomalies.
This lack of detailed, nuanced data makes their theories more secure (surprisingly.) Activists expect resistance and denial not because their ideas are flawed, but because the majority are conditioned by false consciousness. Most people hold the unconscious assumptions of a systematically unjust society, and they do not want to give them up, because they benefit from them. All white people can carry a brooding hatred of black people without even being aware of it and thus without demonstrating it, like an a-symptomatic virus in the blood. The bias in society, as shown in nationwide statistics, proves they are all complicit and can be shouted at.
Yet this is the very thought process that leads to prejudice and discrimination. Assumptions are being made about individuals’ motivations, attitudes and actions, based on their perceived skin colour or sexual orientation or gender. and they are being condemned and dismissed on the strength of those assumptions, accused of denying the rights and respect due to us all as individuals.
My experience of human beings is that they cannot be neatly categorised in these ways. Definitions, labels, are abstract ideals or ways of organising thought. Nobody manifests them in totality or to the exclusion of other, contradictory influences and ideas. Our minds and behaviours are full of conflict, tension and inconsistencies. At most we have tendencies, habitudes, not reliable, completely predictable behaviours.
Activists are appealing to the principle that we all deserve to be treated equally as individuals, acknowledging that we have far more in common than our differences. If they deny this depth and dimension to other people, on what grounds can they claim to be treated unjustly themselves? They are enabling white supremacist racism by accepting the principle of racial difference.
Social commentators will go to contorted lengths to explain this away. Robin DiAngelo mentions, in White Fragility (1), that there is no such thing as reverse racism. Actually, I would agree with her: It’s all the same racism. Any prejudice against any individual based on perceived race is the same: it opens the door to discrimination and oppression.
- 2018, London: Penguin, p20