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Friday Ephemera

How Dare You Not Feel Oppressed

When questioned, some Hispanic students took responsibility for their own shortcomings and successes, citing the importance of hard work, rather than blaming “white privilege.” 

A sociology professor is not happy about this:

Maria Isabel Ayala interviewed 50 Latino(a) students at Midwestern University, and was dismayed to find that they attribute their success to hard work and self-reliance while shunning affirmative action.

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By failing to pretend that they’re oppressed at every turn, crushingly and invisibly, the Hispanic students are, we’re told, perpetuating “colourblind racism.” Which is to say, by choosing not to become irresponsible and neurotic, and instead getting a grip on their lives, they are now the villains of the drama. Or put another way, “I’ll tell you what to feel, you uppity brownling.”

And this is a dynamic that we’ve seen many times - a kind of poisonous counsel, in which responsibility is anathema, something to be displaced, along with any hope of practical improvement. And so you have to wonder what happens to any stoicism, any sense of proportion, any self-possession. Habitually displacing responsibility for every disappointment or failure, and cultivating resentment of those deemed “privileged,” who are allegedly oppressing you (by working harder, or being thinner, or smarter, or just being white), doesn’t seem like the best possible coping skill for life in general:

“I only got a ‘C’ on my maths test. Maybe I should have studied more.”

“Studying won’t help. It’s because of white supremacy.”

“I feel awkward and unattractive because I’m 300lbs. And my chest hurts.”

“Don’t let the patriarchy body-shame you. Fat is beautiful.”

And variations thereof

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As Clam notes in the comments, “Professor Ayala makes a living selling victimhood to minority kids. She’s scared she might one day run out of customers.” Indeed. And the above does, I think, reveal the difference between the students’ best interests and the professor’s own. A professor who delights in categorising students as “dark-skinned,” “medium-skinned” and so forth.

It’s also curious how the “lived experience” of minority students - to which, we’re told, we must always and forever defer - only seems to count when the experience being lived is one of feeling oppressed, or claiming to feel oppressed, however implausibly. When minority students say that they aren’t being crushed by some hallucinatory “white privilege,” and say that “affirmative action” is condescending to them and unfair to others, then their “lived experience” is promptly deemed irrelevant or unacceptable.

And if, as Professor Ayala implies, hard work and aptitude are relatively unimportant compared to “institutional racism” and “white privilege,” it’s also worth pondering how Professor Ayala got her own degrees, and her own job. If attributing one’s success to effort and dedication is a bad thing, an unwoke mistake, to what does she attribute her own?