Clive Crook expands on the liberal condescension meme. Hmm. I'm always amazed at how being black completely colors my perception. All the working class people I've ever known and loved were Democrats. I bet there are Latinos who've had a similar experience. That is my bias, which I freely admit. It means that while I've felt some liberal condescension from the that blacks are defined as victims of racism, I've also felt it in the view that blacks are defined by a culture of failure and pathology. What both views share is a basic lack of respect for a group's humanity, for the variety of their experience, for the complexity, beauty and baseness of their lives. Condescension is ignorance, no? Or rather ignorance spoken with the confidence of a knowledge of people who you don't really know.
I've always thought the What's The Matter With Kansas thesis to be condescending, but that's because as black person, I know what is to be subject to stick-figure, crude algebraic analysis. Of course because such condescension comes from conservatives, nobody calls it that. But really, what was the "welfare queen" trope but condescension to poor black women? What was the "silent majority" notion but condescension to the apparently voluble and un-American minority? What is the idea that everything from food stamps to Pell grants represent some sort of reparations but condescension to blacks? Lets push it forward--What is the notion that John Kerry's wind-surfing reflects on his manliness but a sort of macho condescension? Conservative bloggers have been in quite a lather over alleged liberal sneering toward Sarah Palin. But if Palin's sneering toward "community organizers" wasn't condescension, then the word has no meaning.
What we have is a kind of bullying--ugly demagoguery in the robe of righteous principle. The fact of the matter is that the problem isn't whether liberals or conservatives condescend, it's who they condescend to. This is a numbers game--there are simply more white people then blacks, thus the market for righteous outrage and umbrage is bigger in white America. Ditto for the gays. This is why we can agree that the Manhattanite who disses NASCAR having never seen it is condescending. But the exurban church-goer--armed with no evidence--who says two men marrying is an abomination is "traditional." This despite the fact that both views are ultimately rooted in ignorance, and ultimately seek to employ that ignorance to define someone else. Condescension happens, no doubt. But it's a lazy, weak, and ultimately dishonest, thinking that sees the white working class (to the extent that such a thing exists) only as targets of condescension, and everyone else as authors of victimology.
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