Race Traitor

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Eugene Volokh has a good post about my wife. I'm not sure why he keeps referring to her as "he", though.

I think he's a little too unwilling to focus on how many black conservatives have been convinced by real arguments that liberal policies are worse for black people than conservative policies are. But his point about those not convinced by such arguments that they aren't race traitors still stands. I particularly like his last paragraph. Some people, even if they wrongly think Republicans and conservative policies are anti-black, might still put aside identity politics and concern themselves more with issues that aren't as self-focused.

It hadn't occurred to me until this afternoon that the term 'race traitor' originally arose in the context of white racists calling white liberals race traitors when they sought to promote liberal social policies with the goal of greater equality. Now it's being used to refer to black people who think conservative policies promote greater equality. Some say the charge is appropriate because this time the policies don't promote greater equality. I think that's wrong, because I think conservative policies do have better effects racially speaking (and I think it's demonstrable that liberal policies that were supposed to promote equality had mixed results, e.g. the mass expansion of welfare to include most black urbanites, thus creating generations of dependency). But two things even apart from that strike me as inappropriate about the traitor metaphor.

First, isn't a traitor someone who knowingly and deliberately betrays their people? It doesn't seem right to call me a traitor if I'm bamboozled into doing something that turns out to harm some group I belong to. The Baltar of the original Battlestar Galactica was a traitor. He colluded with the Cylons to betray his people, and he did so knowing what he was doing and accepting it with full consent. The story was entirely implausible, because they gave no sense at all of why a human being would do such a thing, but he was clearly a traitor. The Baltar of the new Battlestar Galactica is entirely different. While he's far from a moral paragon, you can understand how he ends up doing what he does, and he's really anything but a traitor. He was originally manipulated by a Cylon agent who masqueraded as a human woman to get into his life so she could steal the codes for the defense network he'd designed. He's done other things that, from his perspective, have inadvertently helped the Cylons, but he isn't doing it as a traitor. He's not betraying his people. He's doing things he shouldn't do, things with bad consequences for his people, but he's not doing it for the sake of betraying his people, as would be required if he were really a traitor. For the same reasons, I just can't see it apt to call someone a traitor for honestly and unwittingly accepting views that turn out to harm one's own people, views one believes to be best for one's people.

The other thing that bothers me about this is that traitor-language implies a war. It implies an enemy. I can't see how those who want to promote racial reconciliation would want to see those who disagree on the best solutions to racial problems as enemies at war. That makes me think that anyone who talks this way is simply not interested in racial reconciliation at all but in simply in fighting. Those who have other goals than merely fighting for its own sake, in good Hatfield and McCoy fashion, should stop using language that implies a war.

2 Comments

One of the problems of this Black liberal/conservative or Democrat/Republican race traiter issue is the lack of identification of what it is that is being betrayed. To call someone a traiter you have to demonstrate what they are guilty of betraying. Race isn't an answer in this case since to betray the "Black" race you would have to define what was being betrayed. What are legitimate definitions of being "Black" and how are they being betrayed versus what are social constructs that served someone's private or even public agenda that has no legitimate authenticity within this context.

It is easy to find Boogiemen. One could effectively argue that Black supporters of abortion are race traitors because as a proportion of populations in the U.S., Black abortion rates are higher than whites, so those Blacks could be accused of supporting a form of genocide that effectively limits their population growth.

As a Christian, one of the most frustrating aspects for me of dealing with the public sphere is the lack of consistency in definition, argument, and application of even basic logic. When Satan offered Jesus all of the kingdoms of this world, it was because they were controlled by the Father of Lies. So, we should not be surprised that those who live and hold power in those kingdoms (racial kingdoms included) are less than honest and honorable.

Grace and peace.

I think you can find illegitimate things being betrayed. If the sense of eternal victimhood that some peddle gets challenged, as Bill Cosby did not too long ago, then a sense of racial betrayal ends up taking place, but that turns out to be something attached to being black that shouldn't be.

At the same time, I think there are things someone could do that really would count as being a traitor to one's race. If two racial groups were at war, and someone from Group A sold a whole bunch of A people into slavery under the B people, then that seems to me to constitute being a race traitor.

I think the abortion argument won't fly, at least if my complain in the post is correct. It will apply only if the person supports abortion does so in order to harm black people. If abortion is viewed as a good killing for whatever reason (perhaps to focus on the children who are wanted) or if it's viewed as bad but a legally necessary right (the most common pro-choice view), then it's not deliberate race betrayal. It's more of an unconscious manipulation (by other people, by social forces, or by some combination of the two)to do something that turns out to be bad. In the same way that supporting affirmative action isn't betraying black people if it turns out to be harmful, neither is supporting abortion rights.

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