By Ben Pensant
‘I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character’
Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963.
As any proponent of identity politics and cultural Marxism knows all too well, the above quote is a load of shit. Dreams are dangerous. Since joining the regressive left I’ve experienced a recurring one in which Jeremy Corbyn and I burst into the House Of Commons armed with Kalashnikovs and massacre the entire Conservative party and PLP wearing only our vests, underpants and matching black berets. Occasionally it climaxes with myself and the Labour leader whistling Ode To The Motherland and spooning each other on a pile of blood-soaked Tory corpses. Sometimes a naked John McDonnell patrols the back-benches stoving in the heads of still-breathing Blairites with the blunt end of the ceremonial mace. And one unforgettable version last September featured McDonnell wearing Theresa May’s head as a mask while myself and Jezza sliced the clothing from Tom Watson’s dead body with penknives before carving hammers, sickles and comedy penises into his enormous back. The point being, as happy as I and most Corbynites would be to carry out such brutality in the name of protecting Our Leader, the whining from the Tory press would be unbearable if they found out Her Majesty’s opposition had spent the afternoon murdering the entire British political class before mutilating, desecrating and drawing cocks on their corpses. They demonise Corbyn for praising dictators and religious fascists: can you imagine the outrage from the Murdoch empire if they found out as well as being a psychopathic killer he also owned the same hat as Che Guevera? We’d never hear the end of it.
Which is why Dr King should have really just let the people who know best decide what’s good for his four little children. As any good regressive leftist knows, only a simpleton would ignore the huge impact a person’s race – as well as their gender, religion, sexuality, political persuasion and opinion of Stewart Lee – has on the content of their character. To put it bluntly, Rosa Parks and Ben Elton didn’t fight the equality wars so that ethnic minorities could be judged by the same standards as everyone else. And even if they did – tough shit, things have changed. The day blacks, gays, Muslims, women and transgenders start being treated as autonomous human beings every bit as capable of independent thought as white liberals is the day we might as well all give up and join Ukip. We worked hard to hand these communities the victimhood we decided they wanted. We won’t give that up without a fight no matter how many gay chat-show hosts or black presidents you throw at us.
Which brings us to Lindy West who last week in The Guardian proved she’s au fait with the politics of identity in a blistering attack on the white, the privileged and the feathered. Titled ‘Jonathan Franzen’s lack of black friends is unsettling but it’s hardly surprising in white America’, West – the American writer known for campaigning against the twin evils of rape culture and weight loss – launches a blistering attack on the award-winning Pulitzer Prize nominated novelist for having the gall to admit to Slate magazine that he doesn’t have many black friends. West is typically uninterested in the many possible reasons for this un-PC oversight but her remedy is simple: go out and find some, duh. ‘Why don’t you take steps to cultivate some friendships with black people?’ she asks of Franzen, brilliantly reducing adult humans with brown skin to the status of cultigens to be tended and modified in order to make white people feel virtuous. And boy, is West virtuous. This is a lady so confident of her inherent virtuous-ness she spends her spare time campaigning against the public shaming of people who eat too much but has no qualms about publicly shaming someone she doesn’t know for having less black mates than her. Virtuous.
She begins her piece by admonishing the interviewer for asking if ‘in light of America’s weird year’ Franzen would ever write a book about race. The word ‘weird’ is, she writes, ‘a jarringly detached descriptor for a year of unrelenting xenophobia, white nationalism and state-sanctioned summary execution’ then berates Franzen for not questioning it and deciding that someone with more black friends would have done. Someone like Lindy West, obvs, whose horticultural flair for cultivating politically correct friendships has no doubt yielded a whole cabbage patch of ethnically diverse bezzies. Indeed, while anyone with half a brain knows it’s so not cool to culturally appropriate music, food or moustaches, Lindy is here to tell the world and his civil partner that it’s perfectly okay to culturally appropriate human beings.
Franzen’s crime – to think differently to West – is further compounded when he says something she agrees with but she has a go at him about it anyway. Discussing his reluctance to write black characters, he notes: ‘I’ve never been in love with a black woman…I write about characters and I have to love the character to write bout the character’. West is overjoyed about this as like most regressive leftists she believes firmly that white people shouldn’t comment on or write about race, despite the fact she is a white writer who in this very piece comments on and writes about race. But like her kindred spirit, Saudi-funded intellectual Nathan Lean – a man who recently chastised the non-Muslim Sam Harris for writing a book about Islam even though Lean himself has written a book and hundreds of articles about Islam – when you’re on the right side of an argument you can forget about little things like intellectual consistency and your basic goodness will see you through. So while she applauds Franzen for not writing about race issues (‘The boundary he senses there is a healthy one’ she muses, brilliantly ignoring centuries of literary tradition to tell writers they should create and respect boundaries instead of pushing and ignoring them), she goes one step further and shows how much faith she has in creativity and free speech by stating it would be wrong of him to do so anyway: ‘White people should stay in our lane…Jonathan Franzen should not write books about the black experience in America’. If only acclaimed writers like Richard Price and David Simon had stayed in their lanes before putting white privileged pen to paper we could have been such spared culturally imperialist trash as Clockers and The Wire.
Because as West is keen to remind us: there are rules and they need to be followed. By everyone. But mainly white people. And those annoying black people who start getting all uppity by thinking for themselves and not staying in the box – or rather, lane – that middle-class white liberals have kindly constructed for them. You know who I’m talking about: Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a bloody novel about them.
So let’s disregard Franzen’s admission that he feels embarrassed about his lack of black friends or that there could be a multitude of reasons why he doesn’t have any, West is too canny an operator to worry about the facts before accusing someone she doesn’t know of being a racist who cares more about football and winged beasts than ethnic minorities: ‘It’s particularly demoralising when compared to the tenderness with which he talks about bird conservation, his evening tennis routine or watching the NFL. In this interview he speaks with more warmth and familiarity about birds than he does about black people’. Staying one step ahead of the trolls she pre-empts the usual whining by back-tracking on this sentence immediately: ‘To be clear, I highly doubt that “less important than birds” is Franzen’s genuine take on systematic racism and Black Lives Matter’. Leaving us in no doubt how much she respects black people by equating them all with a militant group who deliberately misrepresent statistics, hold rallies where people sing songs about killing policeman and recently published a ‘list of demands’ which calls for all black criminals to be released from jail and the introduction of education and welfare systems which treat everyone who isn’t African American as second class citizens.
She cuts to the core of what Franzen really thinks with startling clarity: ‘I don’t know these people, Franzen is telling us. These are not my people. I know enough to be embarrassed yet don’t care enough to change’. Despite the fact that she fails to provide any evidence that Franzen believes this – or that he deliberately set out to have as few black friends as possible – it’s clear this must be the case because, well, West says so. Witness how he pussy-foots around the exact number by saying ‘not many’, as if this excuses his failure to hit the minimum black friend-quota deemed acceptable by contemporary white liberals. Though by now Franzen has dug himself such a racially problematic hole he’d be lucky to get out of it even if it turned out he was on first-name terms with the entire cast of Desmond’s.
And this is where West deals her fatal blow, bravely asserting that Franzen’s ‘blithe’ admission is ‘a direct hindrance to black upward mobility, black safety and black humanity’. Because no-one but the most deluded Republican could dispute that the grim statistics showing disproportionate numbers of young black men committing violent crime are less to do with socio-economic factors such as poverty and lack of education than they are with the fact that an ornithology-loving novelist doesn’t have many black friends. Based on such flawless logic, I hope for his sake Bill Oddie has plenty of black friends because if not it’s only a matter of time before Lindy exposes him as the Grand Goodie Wizard of KKK Cambridge.
Which I’m sure she will if it means proving to the world how ‘deeply segregated’ the USA is. Indeed, if West’s Best People Of 2015 Black Lives Matter had their way it would stay like that, as their recently published manifesto is virtually a love letter to segregation. Because any good liberal knows there are times when it’s necessary to promote segregation, such as when it’s done by a member of a group bestowed with that most valuable honour in the modern left-wing handbook – victimhood. Some may argue that segregation and victimhood were the last things Martin Luther King had in mind when he spoke of his ‘dream’. Well doctor, I’m awfully sorry but your dream will have to wait until privileged white males like Franzen learn that the best way to become a beacon of tolerance is not to treat people as equals but to collect ethnically diverse acquaintances like cub-scouts collect badges.
But this is not to say all hope is lost. In the same way post-Brexit SJWs brilliantly reclaimed hatred of the working-class from City bankers and the landed gentry, so West and her fellow regressives have reclaimed racism from knuckle-dragging bigots in Union Jack shorts. But with a simple twist – instead of fearing and despising people with different colour skin they patronise and dehumanise them (in the name of progress). Holding minorities to a different standard and indulging in the racism of low expectations has long been a cornerstone of liberal thinking and it’ll take more than Jonathan Franzen and his exotic pigeons to change that.
Needless to say, Lindy West has inspired me to confront my own shame at not having many black friends (though I know a few Muslims, the odd gay and loads of ginger-nuts). The obvious explanation for this is that I live in the north-east where the black population is around 0.5%. But Occam’s Razor be damned, it’s more likely to do with the fact that until recently I was a privileged white male who didn’t want black friends, like Jonathan Franzen but without the successful career and superior knowledge of Jamaican wildfowl. However, after wallowing in my shame for a few days and applying paper cuts to various sensitive parts of my anatomy I realised how much I envied Lindy for her bravery, her warmth, her smug sense of self-satisfaction. But mainly for her impressive collection of black friends. So I intend to fix this oversight once and for all over the next few weeks by visiting as many basketball games, Hip-Hop clubs and Afro-Carribbean hairdressers as possible. I look forward to meeting my soon-to-be best mates and I’m sure when they find out I’m befriending them purely because of their pigmentation I’ll get the reception I thoroughly deserve.
Increase the peace.