Since my state is home to several expensive universities, including Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design, there is never a shortage of privileged, self-flagellating white kids in Halloween-like clothing, willing to march behind any leftwing Pied Piper who rolls into town.
--Rocco DiPippo, The Autonomist
The more politically correct an organisation, the more likely it is to be staffed at the top exclusively by self-flagellating white liberals.
--Ron Liddle's "Law of Corporate Bigotry"
Leftwing race activist (and self-flagellating white male) Tim Wise is a piece of work.
--David Horowitz and John Perazzo, Front Page Magazine
Do white people who work against racism and whiteness, and who object to their trained adoption of common white habits and tendencies, hate themselves?
Are they really “flagellating” themselves when they do that?
Last week, a one-time commenter named Wesley left a comment here that I want to address in this post, because he used a term commonly flung at people like me, “self-flagellate.” Actually, the more common form of that term, as used by white people who object to other whites who object to racism, is “self-flagellating.”
Wesley commented on a recent post in which I pointed out the white-framed racial dynamics of a television commercial. The post included my acknowledgment that people sometimes don’t enjoy watching television with me because I can’t resist pointing such things out.
Wesley responded in part,
It amazes me that people have absolutely nothing better to do than to search for underlying "racist" motifs in advertising. Advertising has to be as broad and clear as possible so as to garner viewer retention. I get that you enjoy cultural self-loathing and the stereotypical white obsession with "awareness", but you're finding connections where there are none. . . .
I can imagine why people don't like watching television with you. It's not because they're ignorant white racists, it's purely because most people do not enjoy the company of those who racially self-flagellate at every opportunity. Especially if they're doing it to with the interest of taking [a] righteous stance at every possible opportunity.
You represent one of the worst kinds of modern man. The well-off "Awareness Crusader". I'm sorry, that was somewhat childish of me. The hordes of you people just get to me.
Wesley’s entire comment contains many parts I’d like to answer. However, I didn’t reply because (1) I doubted that Wesley would return to read the comment (those who leave such comments, usually under “Anonymous,” usually perform one-time drive bys), and (2) because I’ve been thinking of replying in a post instead. My response has narrowed to a focus on this one term he used, because I see it so often -- "self-flagellating white people."
I think this term has become a cliché among those who object to anti-racist white people. In fact, a Google search for “self-flagellating white” brings up 6,750 results.
But it’s really a nonsense term, isn’t it? At least by my way of thinking. But then, not by theirs.
Here’s what I think is the crucial difference in our ways of thinking.
Those who describe white anti-racists as “self-flagellating white people” basically see no separation between a white person and his or her whiteness. I, on the other hand, do make a distinction between myself (or, my self) and my being placed into the category of “white.”
To describe a white person who objects to common white tendencies as "self-flagellating" is to see his or her objections to whiteness as objections to his or her self. Objecting to racism, and thus to whiteness, is thereby characterized as the absurdity of beating up oneself. The supposition here, which I and others consider false, is that whiteness is inherent to a person -- and along with that, that white people are inherently different, and of course, “superior,” to other people.
But I do not consider myself "self-flagellating"; I would say that I’m actually the opposite. I'm against whiteness, including what it's done to me. The U.S. functions in part under the auspices of a 400-year-old system of whiteness, which categorizes me as white. Whiteness is not something intrinsic to me.
And so, to wake up to how I’ve been categorized within an artificial racial hierarchy, and then to work against its ongoing abuses, is not to “self-flagellate.” It's instead of way of freeing myself into becoming a more conscious (or yes, Wesley, "aware"), and thus fuller, human being.
Being categorized as "white" has rendered me delusional -- about how the world really works, about how I really got to where I am, and about how others got to where they are. Being categorized as "white" also holds back my full development as a human being, in part by withering my understanding of and empathy for others, because I’m falsely led to see them as fundamentally, intrinsically different from myself.
Waking up to that, and working against it, and doing what I can to work against the systemic racial abuses of others, is not a way of flagellating my self.
It’s a way of freeing my self.