Part 4—Infallibly right like him: This has been a Week That Was in American news.
Gaps of imagination have surfaced in the wake of the decision by the Staten Island grand jury:
In this morning’s New York Times, a letter writer from New York City calls the decision “unfathomable.”
In the letter directly above that letter, another writer, from California, fathoms their decision just fine.
Can you fathom the existence of people whose judgments about such a matter may actually differ from yours? Or do you traffic in the ancient belief that those who differ from you on such matters must be essentially Other?
Questions like these have come to mind in recent weeks as we’ve read Nicholas Kristof’s endless series of columns bearing this headline:
“When Whites Just Don’t Get It.”
Again and again, we’ve been struck by how deeply unwise those columns seem. Briefly, we’ll try to say why.
Last Sunday’s column bore this headline: “When Whites Just Don’t Get It, Part 5.” As Kristof lectured, he suggested that we hold a “national conversation” on race—a conversation which could be led by Bill Clinton and George Bush and of course by Oprah herself.
This tired suggestion struck us as insultingly lazy, unthoughtful. In yesterday’s Washington Post, E. J. Dionne seemed to roll his eyes at this familiar can of tripe, suggesting that these “national conversations” on race are tired, formulaic, unhelpful.
Everyone says the same things every time, says Dionne. In the process, nothing changes.
In our view, Kristof’s call for a national conversation is insultingly lazy, uncaring. A 6-year-old could have dreamed that up on his cookie break.
Even more insulting—even more unhelpful—is the way this amazingly pompous man has established himself as the self-appointed philosopher king of the “whites.”
For ourselves, we don’t want to belong to a tribe—or god help us, to a “race”—which has Kristof as a member. After his lazy call for our latest national conversation, this is the way our self-adoring king of the whites proceeded:
KRISTOF (11/30/14): This “When Whites Just Don’t Get It” series is a call for soul-searching. It’s very easy for whites to miss problems that aren’t our own; that’s a function not of being white but of being human. Three-quarters of whites have only white friends, according to one study, so we are often clueless.Kristof knows what “we whites” notice! He knows what “we whites” focus on. He even knows when we’re oblivious.
What we whites notice is blacks who have “made it”—including President Obama—so we focus on progress and are oblivious to the daily humiliations that African-Americans endure when treated as second-class citizens.
It’s certainly true that “whites” are often less than godlike in their various understandings and perceptions. Various “whites” will be uninformed, or under-informed, in a wide array of ways concerning a white range of topics.
As the sun god Kristof notes, this is part of being human. Because it’s part of being human, “blacks,” who are also less than godlike, will often fall short of pure perfection in their assessments too!
“Whites” and “blacks,” and everyone else, will always be seeing through glasses darkly. Everyone has something to learn from the perspectives of somebody else.
It’s true! Very often, “whites” don’t get something or other. Often, “blacks” fall short of perfections in such ways too.
But please note:
In the kingdom of Kristof, Nicholas Kristof always gets it.! There is no sign in Kristof’s work that there possibly could be some matter that he himself doesn’t get.
He quickly divides us into our “races,” then lectures one “race” alone. He helps this one race with its “soul searching,” seems to do none of his own.
His failure to note the limited of vision of all us Americans is a terrible, unhelpful thing. But the great god Kristof does it easily, just before he rattles all the tired, memorized statistics all readers have heard before.
We all have something more to learn, starting with the basic fact that we’re all in this together. But so what? Happily dividing the country by race, this great god lectures one “race” on what it doesn’t get.
He skips the possibility that some in the other “race” nay not get it either. Most disgustingly, he fails to ponder the millions of ways he himself, the great sun god, doesn’t get jack squat.
We’ve been increasingly disgusted by this man’s lazy work down through the years. We’ve been especially struck by the lazy ways he has lectured on public schools, a topic he seems to know nothing about.
There’s no reason why he should know something about public schools. But gods like Kristof don’t understand that they themselves “just don’t get it” in the same ways the rest of us struggle for wisdom and insight.
Instead, he repeats cant from “educational experts,” worthless piddle he’s memorized from the latest TED talk. In his latest series, he has taken to lecturing “whites” about all the things “we whites” should know.
We all need much more wisdom this week. Here’s the first act of wisdom we all can accomplish:
We can tell the sun god Kristof that it’s time to descend from his throne and join us rubes down here on the plain. He also might stop reflexively splitting his subjects into “blacks” and “whites.”
Predictable results: In comments to Sunday’s column, you will see many people who felt condescended to by Kristof.
They felt he was being condescending because he plainly was. The result of such condescension is obvious and predictable:
It drives people deeper into their camps, the last thing this nation needs.
That one letter writer will probably love the sun god's tired old lecture. Others will recoil and rebel. Does this lead to progress?