Comedian Bill Maher’s liberal self-identification never precludes him from lambasting his progressive brethren when he perceives actions deleterious to leftist philosophy and goals. Such was the case during the rant segment of his January 27th HBO show in which he excoriated liberals for obsessively policing the language and demanding apologies for perceived slights and other “microagressions” — actions the comic argues aided Donald Trump’s ascension to power.
Social justice warriors accused actor Chris Hemsworth of cultural appropriation after he dressed as a Native American at a Lone Ranger themed party last New Years. Maher’s typically sarcastic yet on point take: “Cultural appropriation. That’s the idea that white people shouldn’t adopt things from other ethnic groups. How dare you mix and match cultures to produce something new. Where do you think you are? Some kind of a melting pot?”
That someone of a multiracial background like me dares reference a white guy’s stance on this matter is what “critical race theorists” decry as “centering whiteness.” That is asinine.
My favorite is the “white privilege” accusation to which white/black multiracial Americans are not immune. A few years ago at a conference on the mixed-race experience at Cornell University the overarching concern of the “Half White vs. Minority Mixes” workshop was whether being half-white made you more privileged than a minority mixed person. One attendee wrote: “It generally turned into an accusation by minority mixes that half whites do not truly understand the minority experience because we have a certain amount of white privilege afforded to us.”
We all know from whence comes the philosophy of redistribution of wealth. Can we not say that the practice of browbeating individuals of partial European heritage into admitting they enjoy some degree of “white privilege” is but a pitiable variation on that theme?
What some people cannot manifest for themselves by doing the internal work and practices necessary for spiritual growth, they feel they have carte blanche to appropriate from others and redistribute to themselves by utilizing pathetic guilt-trips.
Individual self-identification as something other than the physical body, other than a racial group member is seemingly not the main emphasis of the contemporary Abrahamic religions. Ironically, the more ancient and esoteric forms of each – Gnostic Christianity, Kabbalah Judaism and Sufism, Islam’s mystical sect from which emerged literary greats Kahlil Gibran and the poet Rumi, as well as India’s Vedanta – conclude that while we are not our bodies, we have assumed these forms for a reason. Our life’s goal is to find that reason and not rail against “the other,” the reason we remain enmeshed in ignorance.
What makes America the greatest country on the planet is the religious freedom one enjoys — sans party-political influence. Contemplatives, though, speak warily of the new administration conceivably being influenced by proponents of Dominion Theology, an ideology that seeks the dawning of a nation governed solely by rigid Christian understandings of biblical law. Others point to Liberation Theology and denounce it as using “Marxist concepts” while proponents maintain it is a movement attempting to interpret Scripture through the plight of the poor.
Religion, socioeconomic and racial identity politics are inextricably blended in America, however, and while Trump’s election has stoked fears of a resurgent strain of white supremacy, there doesn’t seem to be evidence of that — notwithstanding the ongoing consternation regarding alt-right and neo-Nazism. Consider that former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard David Duke received merely 3% of the vote in last year’s senatorial open primary in Louisiana. That is, 97% of the voters in that Deep South, Bible Belt state told an avowed and reviled racist to hit the road and not come back.
Maher completed his tirade by further admonishing the left for being so involved in attempting to police thought as well as language that “a madman talked his way into the White House.”
While I voted Libertarian in 2016, I’m not persuaded that President Trump is a madman. He just demonstrates certain personality proclivities that bear watching over time.
Self-realized multiracial Americans, however, personify the melting pot metaphor that gives agita to racists of all colors and political persuasions, and that trumps spurious considerations of privilege every day of the week. Drop the mic, yo!
Charles Michael Byrd, a freelance opinion writer whose pieces deal with racial identity politics and religion, is of white, black and Cherokee heritage. He lives in Queens, N.Y.