The Goldberg variation

It seems to me that affirmative action need not be derived from essentialist claims about racial identity.  But's its convenient that some do, because then people who oppose affirmative action programs can claim their opponents are the real racists, because essentialism is a variety of racism (they claim).  One might call that the Goldberg variation, as you turn–speciously–the accusation of racism (or fascism, or whatever) around. That said, the following claim seems to me to be a Goldberg variation:

The conventions that govern America's racial discourse derive from the odious "one drop" rule. According to it, anyone with any admixture of black ancestry — one drop of black "blood" — is black. So, Connerly is an African American. One of his grandparents was of African descent, one was Irish, a third was Irish and American Indian, and the fourth was French Canadian. Two of the grandchildren of Connerly and his Irish wife have a Vietnamese mother. Are these grandchildren African Americans?

Will the superstitions surrounding race ever fade away? Not before governance is cleansed of the sort of race-based policies opposed by Connerly, who intimately knows the increasing absurdity of racial classifications and the folly of government preferences based on them.

In addition to the Goldberg element (and really, I think Goldberg's schtick is strongly reminiscent of George Will's), you have a kind of feigned and convenient skepticism: who's to say what race is anyway?  Who really counts as Black?  And any answer to that question will invite charges of racism.  See–if you answer Will's question, you're a racist.  But not him.  He's colorblind.


Had occasion to revisit this George Will piece arguing for the election of George Bush this morning.  Poor Jonah, he can't even build a weaker straw hominem than George Will:

THE CASE for electing George W. Bush begins with a mundane matter: A president fills several thousand policy-shaping positions in the executive branch. The two parties have very different talent pools from which the next administration will be staffed.

The Democratic pool swarms with people who share Al Gore's bossiness, his regulatory itch and his hubristic belief that clever people like them can wield government as creatively as Rodin did his chisel. The Republican pool is disposed to regard government as a blunt instrument. Which is to say, a Gore administration would have the mentality of Washington's Northwest quadrant; a Bush administration would have a West Texas attitude.

Congress's drunken sailor approach to the surplus makes the political case for Bush's tax cut: Leave the money in Washington, it will disappear like water into sand. The economic case for the cut is that Bush's advisers, who fortunately include some people capable of bearish thoughts, think the economy may need energizing sooner than many people think.


4 thoughts on “The Goldberg variation”

  1. Hi, just a general word of appreciation.

    Please keep up your good work. It’s very appreciated and entertaining.


  2. Thanks for pointing this out. This kind of argument has got to be the inspiration for Stephen Colbert’s “I don’t see race” shtick.

  3. Even after reading Will’s article, I’m curious to know what sort of “superstitions” “surround” race. Oh, I thought of one! That blue-blooded ivory tower elites can write intelligent, coherent opinions on issues of race.

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