You Sir, Have Offended My Honor

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Not to sweat myself, but it's worth re-reading the thread below on the Harry Connick Jr. and then looking at a few of the reaction. In fairness, to Australians the opinions run the gamut. But there's a very familiar strain of straw-manning, overreacting, changing the subject, and protesting too much. I don't think this is an Australian thing, or even a white thing, I think it's a human thing.

People want to be right. Moreover, taking offense is a kind of tribal ritual, even if you're only taking offense at other people taking offense. Thus a century ago, blacks weren't fighting for the rights of citizenship, they were actually fighting for the right to "ravage Southern white womanhood," and today gays aren't trying to secure marriage rights, they're forcing preachers to preside over gay marriages.

When you aren't the hero of the narrative, you simply change the narrative. No one says--"It's my intent to hurt you." It's usually more like--"Why are you making me hurt you." This is why "I found that offensive," quickly becomes "How dare you call me a racist!"


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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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