The Proof of the Message is in its Suppression

It’s difficult for white people to challenge the accusations levelled against them by these particular activists of colour. It might occur to you that they are highly talented, well-educated and successful people, that Afua Hirsch admits her friend with the boob rash “wields enormous power in the TV industry”, and that, therefore, their complaints sound more like annoyances than life-limiting examples of oppression. You might think, “Hell is other people”: they are tiresome whatever your racial heritage. But such scepticism feels shameful, something to be suppressed. 

This isn’t because we want to congratulate ourselves on our politically correct virtue, as Right-wing commentators often claim. It’s because to deny people the validity of their own experiences goes against our core humanist principles. We are a species cursed with a sentience that is individual and isolated, but blessed by a capacity for empathy that allows us to reach across the chasm between us. (or possibly, blessed by isolation – the resilience it allows us – and cursed by empathy.) Central to that empathy is a recognition that other people live as vividly and intensely as we do ourselves. It is our duty to trust and believe them, unless we have concrete and/or systematic evidence to the contrary. This is especially true on the matters of interior experience, because, of course everyone is the ultimate authority on their own experience.

As the primary purpose of language is communication of self, rather than factual truth, we have the capacity to lie, so it is also our duty to be as straight and honest as possible, not just with others, but with ourselves as well. Lying too frequently is existentially damaging: we start to lose our identities. 

All this means that racial justice activists have an easy time establishing their arguments, no matter how vociferously attacked by the right. Liberal Humanists are eager to accept them as a statement of their own values. 

Ironically, though, if people are receptive to your narrative of oppression, they undermine it! If everyone accepts and respects you and your truth, how are you being discriminated against? Perhaps this is why Racial Justice activists get so exasperated by their allies.

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