Here’s a shocking story. A student, active in white racial politics, gets cross because he sees a black student filming him. He knocks the smartphone out of the black student’s hand and then posts on Facebook: “I wish I’d actually not been a good law abiding citizen & whupped the black sass out of the bastard”.
The same student had earlier boasted of reducing a waitress to “black tears” after refusing to tip her. Yet, curiously, he has a following in the media and even in politics.
Actually, I just played a little trick on you. I swapped the colors. The student in question is Ntokozo Qwabe, whom I wrote about in this column a while back as the chap who wanted to tear down a statue of Cecil Rhodes in Oxford.
He is now back in Cape Town and evidently as charmless as ever. The actual words of his Facebook post were that he wished he had “whipped the white apartheid settler colonial entitlement out of the bastard.” It was the “white tears” of a waitress that he had enjoyed.
Do you feel any differently when the story is flipped? I hope not. Most people will have responded in the same way to both versions: with disgust at the student’s behavior. But there are a few who insist on seeing the episode, as they see everything, through the prism of imagined hierarchies of victimhood.
Such people come in all colors, and are disproportionately concentrated in universities: You generally have to be educated to be that dumb.
Oddly, the people most obsessed with making everything racial often call themselves anti-racists. This is because anti-racism has become the highest card in the leftist deck.
A couple of weeks back, Britain had its own Black Lives Matter protest. It wasn’t about police brutality or racism, but about airport expansion. A handful of narcissistic idiots disrupted traffic at London City Airport in the name of black people on grounds that, er, climate change affects black people. All but one of the protesters (you’ve probably already guessed this) were white.
Where does it come from, this obsession with race? At first, it was a laudable reaction against institutionalized discrimination. There are plenty of people alive who still remember segregation and apartheid.
So unjust were those systems that a measure of over-reaction was inevitable. If a dose of political correctness is the price we pay for the end of Jim Crow and the overthrow of South Africa’s race laws, I’d say it’s worth paying.
But Qwabe wasn’t born when the Boers handed power away. On every measure, the world is less polarized by race than it has ever been. In South Africa, as in the United States, attitudes as well as laws have been transformed. Racial violence is at an all-time low. People are happier to live in mixed neighborhoods, more approving of interracial marriages.
If, like the dolts at the London City Airport protest, you insist on seeing global inequality as a form of racism, then there is even better news. Sub-Saharan Africa was the world’s fastest-growing region last year and, throughout the millennium, has seen its economy expand by around 5 percent a year, as previously protectionist states join the global trading order.
In other words, our obsession with race is no longer proportionate. It is less a response to external events than a state of mind, a determination to divide the world into visible exploiters and victims. And, of course, there will always be victims: innocent men shot by cops, say.
But here’s the thing. The victims, like the perpetrators, are individuals. They are not representatives of a category. Eric Garner, the man choked to death selling cigarettes in New York, was a victim of inexcusably heavy-handed policing. Micah Johnson, the Dallas gunman, was a man who had lost his mental bearings. Ntokozo Qwabe is a rude and spoilt youngster. None of them are representative of anything except themselves.
The original anti-racists struggled for a world where we’d be judged, not by the color of our skins, but by the content of our characters. They wanted the right to be treated the same. How odd that their heirs today want the right to be treated differently.