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Thursday, January 09, 2014

There's an article in the NYT today that exemplifies my exasperated sense that white Americans, whether they are conservative or liberal or "left", seem unconscious of their vulnerable moral positions as they pronounce on the rest of the world.

The article http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/05/does-immigration-mean-france-is-over/?ref=opinion is written by a man who is apparently a specialist in the philosophy of history. This is bad news for his students, as he seems blithely unaware of social science methods since Compte's day. Instead, he takes his pronunciamentos as evidence, along with what he has heard from taxi cab drivers and read in Le Monde's Weekend ideas section.

I won't go into the shot at Derrida, except to say that it follows the NYT line, which is that Derrida is outre, a barely known figure in France. Now, this is the kind of thing we have easy measurements for. Look up the number of articles concerning Derrida in, say, the Persee or Cairn base of academic journals. Citations, quoi. I get 2753 citations for Derrida on Cairn, and, for the most famous analytic philosopher in France that I can think of, Jacques Bouveresse, I get 421 results. I don't care if you think Derrida is a mystagogue or a genius, he is 'worked' on as much as any major philosopher of the past in France - say Sartre, who gets 5200 hits.

Smith, like many a good American academic, takes racism to be a thing of sentiments. I think that racism is certainly a thing of sentiments, but it is also a thing of structures. Without taking into account its double aspect, you will simply not understand it. 

Myself, I think that the US governing elite has spent a lot of admirable energy fighting racist sentiments - while at the same time reinforcing and aggravating racist structures. The result is that the US, structurally, is the most racist county  in the developed world. From the penitentiary apartheid that was white America's response to the fall of Jim Crow - is it one out of six black males that have been processed through an American jail, or is the percentage higher? - to elevated rates of child mortality and in general shitty healthcare doled out to the minority population to wealth and education disparities that are entrenched to preserve white privilege, the US is no country from which to launch any moral crusade. To exhaust my bile here, this is true even of condemning Israel. The latest boycott called for by the ASA might have had some weight if the ASA, while the US was ravaging Iraq to the tune, now, of some 450000 dead and 2 million refugees, had called for a boycott of the US. Nary a boycott have I heard of. Rather, these righteous Americanos, much like their mirror image, the neo-cons, seem unconsciously certain that the US is a beacon, a city on the hill. 

Smith is right that french attitudes are often very racist, but when the american writer indicates how racial profiling by French police show how 'racist' the society is compared to america's, I think I'm dreaming. Are you kiddin' me? Because one judge in NYC slapped the hand of the cops when it came to hassling black people, the US is not suddenly a beacon of pc attitude. It is a bottomless pit of racist shit.

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