In response to the recent cavalcade of dubious pronouncements of racism, Ace wrote a good post yesterday on racial grievance-mongering as a form of connoisseurship:
What is the point of connoisseurship? Well, as a primary matter, to develop a refined, cultured, and sensitive palate for detecting the most subtle effects of a thing. The wine connoisseur trains himself to pick out “smoky notes” and “hints of blackberry” and wines that profited from “good ash in the soil.”
Of course connoisseurship is not restricted to the physical sense of taste; art connoisseurs are fond of saying things like “It’s the colors that aren’t present that really stand out!”
And connoisseurs of music are given to saying things as “What wonderful silences are in this piece, where you can simply enjoy the room’s tone, the vibrations and echoes in the walls themselves.”
The connoisseur is trained to sense things that no one else can sense, or, at least, no one but an elite cadre of dedicated Detectors of the Subtle and Sublime.
This is a pretty perfect way of thinking on the topic. There is no shortage of recent examples proving his point.
For instance, here’s Slate‘s Katy Waldman, writing in response to an essay in which it was suggested that quiet helps one think:
History is littered with instances of white men thoughtlessly asking (or forcing) people who are not white men to shut up. It just feels jarring to read a male author use the words of other male authors to extol the virtues of silence.
Interestingly, Waldman isn’t unique in her theory that asking for quiet is a not-so-secret form of racism. Remember Anil Dash’s reprehensible essay on movie theater behavior a few weeks back? Here’s how he described those of us who think it’s rude to use their phones or chit chat in a normal voice in theaters:
This happens because they are of a race/class that does not know how to behave. (These days, people say “acting ghetto” instead of “I don’t like black people and their culture”, or “white trash” instead of “I should be able to tell poor people how to act”.)
He tagged his post “imperialism” and “colonialism” because, you know, manners are racist and oppressive and classist and tools of the European overlords or something. And quiet? Jesus. Asking for quiet while trying to formulate your thoughts is no better than telling Rosa Parks to get to the back of the bus. Bigot.
Another fine example of connoisseurship was provided by my old friend Aura Bogado who had a sad after Miley Cyrus’ performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.
“Every time I see @
MileyCyrus slap that black woman’s butt, I think about the way that enslaved blacks were whipped for white entertainment,” Bogado solemnly tweeted. As I noted at the time, I actually feel a great deal of pity for Bogado. If this isn’t shtick—if she literally goes through her life looking for any little grievance to grab on to, to present to the world as a token of her oppression—I feel sadness. It must be a dreadful, dreadful way to go through life. The complete and utter lack of joy in her worldview must be miserable.
Then again, maybe her connoisseurship gives her a reason to get up in the morning. A purpose. Drive. Bogado certainly wouldn’t be alone in this regard. As Charles C. W. Cooke noted, Bogado wasn’t the only grievance merchant to latch on to Cyrus’ performance as a particularly pernicious bit of racism:
[Jody] Rosen went on to observe, apparently without irony, that “a doctoral dissertation could (and will) be written on the racial, class, and gender dynamics of Cyrus’s shtick.” But of course it will. Graduate liberal-arts schools, the only places in the country in which such preposterous nonsense can make it far enough past the hysterical laughter to gain any respect, are primarily devoted to teaching students to discover things that are not there.
“Discovering things that are not there.” Sounds like the perfect motto for the grievance industry.