Judging Books By Covers

books and covers

There was a moment for me a year or so back when my world view started to significantly shift. I recommended a book to someone and was told they wouldn’t read it because it was by a straight white man and that I should be more interested in reading more diverse authors. By diverse they meant specifically in terms of identity rather than in terms of perspective, in fact I got the impression diversity of perspective was offensive to them, along with straight white men.

At the time I was a bit stunned. I had thought the person I was talking to was a progressive, liberal type; not a person I would expect to judge other people by their race, sexual orientation or sex. But there they were, doing it right in front of me, and I was supposed to be okay with it because they were discriminating against the “oppressor”, the “privileged”, the “normal”. Discriminating, as in being bigoted. I’ll read pretty much anything by pretty much anyone, ‘because ad hominem’ is not a good enough reason to me for me not to. Still I said nothing, because I could not quite believe what was happening. Then it happened again. And again. And again.

I used to laugh at the idea that things like “reverse racism” were a thing. Surely, progressive liberal folk, people who have fought for equal opportunities and meritocracy, know better than to brush entire groups aside in favour of others on the basis of nothing more than identity? We’ve fought against this, we’ve seen the damage it does. Surely, we are past this now?

Nope.

I’ve been staying quiet on topics like this for quite some time. I am, you see, guilty of committing the dreadful thought crime of believing that merit should always be the defining factor in judging the worth of a person, their ideas or their work, merit that is earned via equal opportunities. Not identity. That means everyone gets a shot, even the straight white men. Yet we are being increasingly told that identity trumps merit, along with the insane notion that it is diversity of identity rather than diversity of perspective, that is most important. In fact, diversity of perspective is to be purged. According to Woke Lefties we must all be infinitely, fluidly, divided by identity, yet dogmatically united in ideology; ideology we don’t get to decide or ask questions about, or else we’ll get called Nazis and cancelled.

I have seen this happen a number of times now to small time authors and artists. It hasn’t particularly effected the big guns you see, it mainly effects freelancers and those just getting by, because they can’t really fight back, which is a large part of why it is particularly cruel and repugnant. Asking questions, talking about personal experiences or feelings, even stating scientific facts, can now destroy the livelihoods of free thinking creatives. How liberal. There may be a blog or two on Cancel Culture here in future, because it honestly disgusts me and I have, in recent years, been lucky enough to gain a position in life that means I no longer want or need public approval to get by. I don’t care about being cancelled anymore, so I am free to speak.

The story of Gary Garrels is an example of Cancel Culture I came across a while ago and then I read this take on it from Eric Wayne and we got talking about it a bit. Garrels being cancelled seems to be very much viewed as acceptable because he is a) a white man; and b) refused to discriminate against an entire group based on their identity (white men). Therefore there has been little to no public fight back on his behalf in spite of his status. This, ladies and gentlemen, is straight up racism and sexism.

The Garrels case and Eric’s take on it reminded me very much of those book conversations, and how that scratched the surface of many of the other times I found myself performing mental gymnastics to remain okay with or ignore, views and behaviours that are actually abhorrent to me, because the people doing and saying those things were hiding their hateful and bigoted perspectives behind the mask of a progressive, liberal identity. Grudges and selfishness have nothing to do with fairness. We fight for equality for all, or we are not fighting for equality at all. Protecting one group in the name of equality is not justification for hating others; it means we find the fairest possible way to coexist.

I have many straight white male friends and I know for a fact that they do not think at all alike. If I put them all in a room together, this is a group I know would be very likely argue and have radically different perspectives on life, the universe and everything; rather than, as the Woke Left would seem to believe, being some kind of Jeremy Clarkson clone circle jerk. I say this as a bisexual, mixed-race, woman, who has quite the variety of friends, and who has never felt these particular straight white male ones could not, in some sense, relate to me fairly as a fellow human being, but with my own mind, distinct needs and lived experience. The same can no longer be said of many of the Woke Lefties I used to know, straight, white, male or otherwise.

Thanks to figures like Keira Bell, Allison Bailey, Abigail Shrier, and J.K. Rowling the Woke Left have of late been quite publically tying themselves in knots trying to justify misogyny, homophobia and child abuse, on top of racism and sexism, in the name of a cause that looks to be part cult, part mental illness, with all the scientific literacy and rigour of the Flat Earth Movement. A cause that would claim that people like me do not exist, are offensive and can be compared to clownfish, soppy feelings, and a neurotic attraction to pink sparkly things. People like me being adult human females. A topic for another day.

I believe this may be one of very few times I have mentioned I’m mixed-race or bi in public and I’m pretty sure the others have all been deleted. That would be because I generally don’t think it’s anyone’s business. In an ideal world it simply wouldn’t need to come up. But here we are, in a culture bent on rewarding people for claiming to be things rather than for actually doing them. How hollow.

I would be embarrassed to be exhibited or employed etc. purely because of some quality of my identity, rather than because of the quality of my work or the content of my character. I believe people should be given opportunities to prove themselves, then it’s up to them to actually do that. When it is enough to simply show up so a box can be ticked, or because you have such an unfair advantage as to make anyone else trying pointless, the reward loses all meaning; and when one group is oppressed in favour of and to aggrandise another, we have learned nothing from the past and are just repeating the same shitty mistakes, but with different shitty outcomes for different oppressed people.

I personally have been on the receiving end of serious racial abuse from white racists, for not being white. But I have also, shock horror, been on the receiving end of serious racial abuse from BAME racists, for being white. In all cases the problem was not caused by me or my Schrodinger’s whiteness, but nor was it caused by the race or ethnicity of my attackers. It’s not the colour of a person’s skin or some identity they claim that makes a person a bigot or not, it’s their behaviour. I’ll say that again for the people at the back: you cannot simply identify as a “Good Person” and then have all your actions viewed as good, or else. You have to actually, objectively, fucking well be good.

Anyone can attempt to be the oppressor of anyone else, and anyone claiming otherwise should be viewed with the utmost suspicion because they have either revealed their naivety or their intentions. I don’t care what a person tells me they are, I care what they show me they are. It may take a while, but I’ll see. People who seek to deceive and oppress others for their own gain show us, time and again, they are spiteful, dangerous and foul.

It’s disturbing how being inclusive, trying to be fair and trying to make up for lack of representation of some groups seems to be turning into oppression, prejudice and punishment of others. It is clear and damaging abuse of the spirit of these efforts and all that we fought to gain in the past. We should know better by now, we really should.

 

4 comments

  1. You covered so much in this post so eloquently, and I wholeheartedly agree with all of it.

    I think you hit on the crux of the issue in the beginning, some people are much more concerned with the appearance than the merit. I think there are more people that believe you should prove yourself than ‘look the part’ than otherwise, but the ‘Woke Left’ is so loud and obnoxious, I’m fairly certain most people just want them to shut up and let us live our lives. I don’t think there’s anything the government or political powers can do about that, I think the change has to come from within the people. Like you writing this post and individuals not being afraid to speak against the obvious hypocrisy.

    Honestly, I’m amazed we’ve come this far as humans. We’ve worked very hard to rise above our base instincts of Eat, Sleep, Sex.
    “People who seek to deceive and oppress others for their own gain show us, time and again, they are spiteful, dangerous and foul.” I’m just waiting for the woke left to eat themselves. It’s already started. That’s what happens when you lay so many mind traps around, eventually, they’ll trap themselves.

    In the meantime, I find comfort in realizing none of this is new. All of this has happened before.
    And in my immediate vicinity, when I go to the store or wherever, people are nice even though it feels like we’re all carrying around a weight, maybe even nicer than normal. I think a lot of people are just trying to ride this weird time out. I know I am! LOL

    • Yes, none of this is new, and yes, it is amazing we’ve come as far as we have. Watching how this pandemic is unfolding has been plenty of reason to reflect on that. A lot of people are just trying to ride these strange times out, for sure. That many people have become afraid to speak and that there have been real consequences for some really concerns me at this point, which is why I think talking more openly and honestly is becoming ever more important. Hopefully we can all ride this out and sanity will prevail!

  2. Yup, basically agree with everything you’ve said there – well done for speaking up on this. I’ve come across this myself and it’s troubling, at first I just thought it was silly but now it does worry me a bit. To suggest that a New York stockbroker will have the same experiences, skills and opinions as a Russian orthodox Christian bricklayer and an Australian round the world sailer just because they’re all white men is just daft. It plays to the same prejudices that says “Morgan Freeman must be exactly the same as a Kalahari bushman because all black people are the same”. It’s just bigotry, the people being slagged off differ, the arseholes are always the same. If someone said “I won’t read that, it’s by a black person” I’d think they were a small minded bigot, the same applies when the target is a straight white man. Ironically some of the worst offenders for spouting this kind of nonsense are straight white men (manbun and liberal arts degree optional!) Some of it, I’m sure, is people going after soft, acceptable targets because taking on real injustice is hard work, and some of it is people looking for an excuse to be unpleasant and get away with it (and some will be genuinely decent people who’ve just not stopped and thought about it). I want to hear about the thoughts and experiences of as many different people as possible, even the ones I don’t agree with, not just hear my own thoughts parroted back to me from a range of different looking faces. As you note it’s the smaller, less well known voices that are silenced, whilst the big players and world leaders (many of whom could use a dose of humility) carry on as before. Surely there’s time and space enough to offer a platform to everyone, making sure one group is heard shouldn’t mean silencing another. Mind you, I am a straight white man so I hope you didn’t read this comment!

    • “It’s just bigotry, the people being slagged off differ, the arseholes are always the same.” Exactly!

      Oh dear, I read your comment, how unwoke of me 😂

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