Friday, October 07, 2016

Pride and Power

325 days until the start of class.

I recently encountered a meme on Facebook that compared the Wikipedia entries for Black Pride, Gay Pride, and Asian Pride with that for White Pride. While the first three were presented in substantially positive terms, the last was presented in negative terms linking it to white supremacy and racism. Nothing else was included in this account, yet it seemed to wish to present the case that there was an illegitimate distinction being made between the four different "pride" movements - that it was wrong to consider the first three legitimate and the fourth illegitimate. Either all were legitimate, or all were illegitimate.

That implication ignores a significant difference between the first three groups on the one hand, and the fourth group on the other. That relevant difference is power. Up to and including the present, in North American and European culture, the latter group had political, economic, and social power, and the first three groups did not. The fourth group - white people (and, in particular, white males) have used this power to go so far as to justify chattel slavery and genocide against members of other groups, as well as the colonization of their lands.

While some people might actually see equating these four groups as being an example of establishing moral equivalency - either all four pride movements are legitimate or none of them are - I do not think that the fact is lost on members of the "white pride" movement that a major consequence of this would be to help protect and preserve "white power".

Claiming that the four types of pride movement are equivalent (ignoring the differences in their quantities of economic, social, and political power) serves to protect "white power" by disrupting and undermining the formation of groups that would challenge this power in the name of their former (and current) victims. It would have the effect of weakening those organizations and, in doing so, help to keep these various forms of power in the hands of white people longer. At the same time, it promotes "white power" by giving a cloak of legitimacy to the idea of white people, under the banner of "white pride", getting together for that purpose. What appears to be a step towards equivalence in a purely theoretical or ideal universe is quite the opposite in the real world - a way of protecting and preserving a power difference between white males and other groups.

If this analysis has any merit, then it implies that we would have reason to revisit any of these "pride" movements if it were to become the case that they acquire the ability to combine their pride movement with economic or political power. It suggests that, at that time, we may have reason to view the pride movement in question in the same light under which we currently view "white pride", and to see "white pride" as a legitimate way for white people to politically organize to combat real discrimination against them.

Recently, I listened to a podcast from the London School of Economics on The Decline of the West in the New Asian Century?. It describes a possible future where "Asian power" continues to grow and replace white, male European power. - and it takes little imagination to imagine what that world will be like if we add to it a measure of "asian pride".

I find no difficulty in imagining a future world where Asians have accumulated much of the globe's economic and political power, and hold onto it by showing favoritism towards other Asians. It would be a world in which white people live in an impoverished and politically impotent state (because Asians have accumulated the economic and political power), with no hope of getting out of this situation since "Asian pride" means a preference for doing business with other Asians, appointing Asians to positions of political authority and responsibility.

This gives us a reason to ask what "Asia Pride" will mean in a world where China and other Asian countries have reached a point of political and economic dominance. We can imagine a world in which, once wealth and power flows into Asian hands, it remains in Asian hands because of racial and cultural preferences. This would be a world in which white people live in an impoverished state and remain in an impoverished state because Asian people refuse to provide them with economic and political opportunities and repeatedly show preferences for fellow Asians.

We have reason to ask what the situation might be in a future world that combines "Asian power" with "Asian pride" in the same way that "white power" and "white pride" has worked in the past few centuries. It gives a bit of realism to asking the question, "Are we treating blacks, Asians, homosexuals, women, atheists, etc., the way that we would want to be treated if we were in their position and they were in ours?"

If the account that I have given above has any merit, in that possible future world, "Asian pride" would be as much of a problem as "white pride" is today. It will become a slogan that actually aims to promote and encourage these racial preferences for Asians by those who have political and economic power - a pattern of discrimination that would work at the disadvantage of white people. In that world, there would be reason to denigrate "Asian pride" as a movement, and reason for a "white pride" movement as a way for white people to politically unite and to demand some share of that economic and political power.

However, that imaginary potential world is not the world we live in today. The world in which we live in today is one in which there are many and strong reasons to denigrate and discourage any notion of "white pride" (because of the seriously destructively implications of combining 'white pride' with 'white power'), and with encouraging others who have been the traditional victims of 'white power' to organize for their political, economic, and social self-defense in the face of 'white power'.

While we are in this world, we have reason to establish a moral precedent for governing the way that a group with power treats those who are, at the moment, out of power. We have reason to point out the destructive nature of the combination of pride with power. We have reason to condemn pride when it is combined with power as a way of preventing these abuses, and with supporting pride among those who lack power as a way of decreasing their economic, political, and social vulnerability.

We should not pretend that, in our current situation, black pride, gay pride, Asian pride, and the like are equivalent to white pride. They are only equivalent in a world where black power, gay power, and Asian power are also equivalent to white power - and that is not the world we live in today.

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