Faulty Dichotomies: Fort Hood and Reverse Racism | Dr. Jose Yulo | November 7, 2009 | Ignatius Insight
For neither Man nor Angel can discern
Hypocrisy, the only evil that walks
Invisible, except to God alone,
By his permissive will, through Heav'n and Earth. — John Milton
"By liberalism I mean false liberty of thought, or the exercise of thought upon matters, in which, from the constitution of the human mind, cannot be brought to any successful issue, and therefore is out of place" — Cardinal John Henry Newman
It is a mere twenty-four hours since the news broke on the attack by a gunman on an army base in Texas. With the appropriate reserve owed to an event of such severity, various media outlets were hesitant at first to speculate on the identity and ethnic origin of the assailant, not wanting to foment irrational fears and reactions.
The motivation behind the massacre still remains mysterious. What is intriguing, however, was the quickness with which some news organizations began the narrative of a soldier ridiculed because of his ethnicity, ultimately cracking and lashing out in a rage against his perceived persecution. Making matters more interesting was the possibility of the murders carried out because of post-traumatic stress, an unusual possibility to say the least since, by latest account, the attacker had not yet been deployed overseas and therefore had yet to experience the fire of combat.
Perhaps unknown to its various authors, the roots of this narrative run deep and parallel to the precedents set forth by certain philosophical schools in the last century. Paramount here is the dichotomous worldview ham-fistedly established by Marx and perennially finding converts among cultural elites. The dialectical clash between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie is often chameleon-like, assuming the suitable color and hue to fit the assigned socio-political context.
In the liberation theology of Paulo Freire, the paradigm of the oppressor and the oppressed takes form as the basis for the Brazilian's distillation of Socratic dialogue into "conscientization." In this third world setting, members of the latter class are made aware of their assigned status and encouraged to rebel, sometimes violently, against the former since, as Freire claims, rebellion is an "act of love."
Integral in this school of thought is the belief that group membership in the oppressed class, even removed by both time and current economic conditions, permits for a looser interpretation of moral norms, enabling a historically underprivileged group the license to "correct" their plights by means restricted only by their creativity.
Perhaps an example removed from the wages of war will be helpful.
In 1990, an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii wrote a letter to a school publication addressing the word "haole" as it was and is used in pidgin Hawaiian. The term literally denoted a foreigner, but as most who have visited or lived in Hawaii would know, it is more specifically focused on people of Caucasian descent. The student went on to describe how he had discovered the many negative associations to the term, relating to his own experiences within the island of Oahu, up to and including his being assaulted and beaten more than once simply for his ethnicity alone.
One would expect at a university a spirited letter or essay submitted to counter such claims, if only for the academic exercise they would involve. Such counterarguments did not come. Rather, what came in response surprised most observers. A faculty member in Hawaiian Studies wrote a letter to the same publication, seeking to build a case, if one can call it that, not against the nature of the word "haole," but against the student, a Caucasian male from Louisiana, who had the temerity to even suggest he was victimized because of his race.
The professor expounded that the student's forefathers had permanently afflicted "her" homeland with racism, disease and all manner of oppression. In her words he was a haole, and ought resign himself to his negative treatment by reason of this. If he found such status difficult to bear, the faculty member advised him to take one of the many flights off the island and "go back to Louisiana." Little is further known of the student who was involved in this case, though within three years, the lady teacher of Hawaiian Studies was awarded a full professorship by the university.
There are two noteworthy errors exhibited by the reasoning of faculty member in this case. Both are predictably caused by the faulty dichotomous worldview cited earlier.
First, the zeal with which students of this school of thought compartmentalize individuals into oppressor and oppressed camps allows for a generalization always tempting for the sociologist and liberation theologian alike. Namely, the assumption that since the student in question "belonged" to a historically privileged class, he must have ontologically enjoyed his lineage's perks and savored its depredations.
It is most ironic that this blanket perspective on race and culture is usually perpetrated by those who supposedly educate against such stereotype and prejudice. In short, the student in question may be a bad student, perhaps even a deplorable human being as well. Yet, the simple fact remains: he was not guilty of the crimes the professor cited. In a departure from ex post facto law, he was not guilty now from something he did legally then. Rather, he was guilty now for something someone else did a century before. It would appear that the teacher had loftier ambitions than professorship, assuming Yahweh's capacity of punishing the sons for the sins of the fathers.
Second, the professor's implied approval and sanctioning of the ills visited upon the student logically extended from a stilted perspective on the plight of the oppressed. Name-calling, ostracizing, and physical beatings were "expected" repercussions by those from oppressed groups, even if the oppression occurred to someone else a century before. It is almost pitiable, this lack of exposure to Augustinian lessons on man's free will. What is at work here however, is something more than blithe ignorance of medieval philosophy.
In allowing "the oppressed" to bend, if not to overtly break moral standards of behavior, the professor, and the would-be apologists for the Fort Hood shooter write a common chapter with a shared pen. They write, "some people, because of the group they belong to, cannot be blamed for acts of malevolence."
As the evidence has yielded so far, only one man has his bloody prints on the murder weapons in Texas. Instead of excusing such behavior, which is the ultimate wish and end of such prevarication, a most condescending form of patronization is produced. Who do societies claim are not responsible for their actions? The answers are fairly obvious: children and lunatics.
By asserting that certain segments of the population should be absolved of their freely chosen acts of mayhem, those who write this narrative do "the oppressed" a greater disservice than overt oppression: the rendering of convenient calibanization of human beings for the cause.
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Jose Yulo, Ed.D. teaches courses on philosophy, western civilization, United States history, and public speaking at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. He has a Doctorate in Education from the University of San Francisco, with an emphasis on the philosophy of education. He also holds a Master's degree in political communication from Emerson College in Boston, as well as a Bachelor's degree in the classical liberal arts from St. John's College in Annapolis, MD.
Originally from Manila in the Philippines, his research interests lie in Greek philosophy, the histories of Greek and Roman politics and warfare, and the literature of J. R. R. Tolkien. He has written several articles for IgnatiusInsight.com.
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