Candace Owens, Black Lives Matter and liberal views of racism

There is a major issue highlighted in the social confusion arising from this lady that is not being addressed. One of the core challenges of  Black America intellectual debates is its unwillingness to follow the argument strictly.  Focussing on the apparent conclusion it accepts or discards an argument accordingly. This tends to lead to discussions that are dialogues of the deaf. There is an important point that Candace makes and which is by no means exclusive to her that Black America should really address.

 

Lets set aside the elementary issues: she is vulgar and small minded. To be conservative does not require being anti-Black. Gen Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were Republicans and in not in anyway anti-Black.

 

When she argues that Black people are  generally lost in a world of ‘victimhood’  she is referring to something that needs to be addressed. The argument is standard  among White liberals and is as follows: the condition of Black people in the US is as a result of decades of slavery and its after math and the residue of racist attitudes in the minds of uneducated White people.  This standard interpretation is not heard by the vast majority of Black people because what they hear is that the current situation ‘goes back to  slavery times’.  Black people do not believe they are the victims of their past rather that the past is hanging over them today.

 

To get a proper handle on this we need to go back to the immediate post WW2 era. In the aftermath of Nazi Germany and its cultural debris it became essential to identify those characteristics that enabled Nazism, but at the same time it was essential that whatever characteristics were identified they should be negatively correlated with US culture. Then arose the concept of the ‘authoritarian ‘ personality. This was a kind of person likely to succumb to acting out of obedience and would blindly ‘follow the leader’ whereas Americans were brought up to be independent and have their own opinions. Clearly nazism could not and would not take root in US, or shall we say the theory itself gave the US a clean bill of health despite its treatment of Black people and Native Americans. Addressing the issue of anti-semitism the intellectuals came up with  the concept of ‘prejudice’ as the driving force for racial hatred. Racism became a personalty disorder  diverting attention from economic exploitation and political oppression. Adorno  (Note 1) and a host of Jewish intellectual exiles from the Nazi Germany came up with this explanation for Nazism. They were highly motivated to condemn Germany and praise America, but in their haste to condemn Nazi Germany and to applaud US these theorists came up with a theory that damned Germany and gave US a clean bill of health. However  any clean bill of health  for the US would be challenged by reference to the treatment of Black people and Native Americans so additional theoretical addenda were required. Under Gordon Allport  we were given a view of US racism as  merely ‘prejudice’ brought about by ignorance, fear of the unknown and historical anxieties.

Allport  wrote: ‘It is only within the nexus of personality that we find the effective operation of historical, cultural and economic factors … for it is only individuals who can feel antagonism and practice discrimination.’ (Note 2)

 

Stanley Milgram who was a student of Allport sought to provide evidence  for the authoritarian personality by a series of obedience experiments which completely unwound the evidential  basis  of ‘the authoritarian personality’. With Milgram’s experiments in obedience it was found that many well brought up American citizens would behave no different than Nazi workers. The idea that US citizens were inoculated against Nazism by the independent nature of American culture swiftly died. However the idea that racism was a matter of personal psychology continued. Such a view renders Black complaints about racism as complaints about personal attitudes of White people. To the White conservative minded this smacks of playing a victim card (See  Note 3). The crucial point here is that this is a White argument.  Black Lives Matter do not see themselves suffering from  what Whites would call personal psychological attitudes. For Black lives Matters  personal attitudes don’t kill. Actions do.  So what we can clearly deduce is that this argument which Candace does not fully understand was given to her by her White mentors. When the White right heard her arguments they went wild to hear from the voice of a Black person what they had been saying and thinking privately. (Similar events happened with Malcolm Gladwell and Anthony Appiah which I have documented)  Sadly, the White conservatives  would be disappointed to learn that her script was ghost written. Behind this argument of Candace’s  is something which Black America needs to confront and shout from the balconies ..that it does not believe that people to day are dying because of something that happened over 150 years ago (this is the hidden implication of the liberal consensus)  but because of what is happening today. Sociologically speaking, the persistence today of racial disparity and racial oppression serves a present day purpose and must be challenged with present day means, and any suggestion that it is merely a matter of history or individual psychology rejected.

 

Black America needs to attend to these situations where Black voices play ventriloquist dummy to the views of White right wingers. In this case Candace  is not too clever, slightly vulgar  and cannot keep to the script so sooner or later she will embarass her handlers. Frankly, her views are so little embedded within any true conservative tradition other than cheap sound bites that she often veers away from true conservatism in her eagerness to score points against other Black people. However the views behind her statements  are often views held privately by many conservative Whites and Black America should use her example to challenge  and reject those views which conservative Whites  fondly attribute to Black Americans.

 

 

 

Notes

 

  1. Theodore W Adorno  et al ‘The Authoritarian Personality’
  2. G Allport ‘The Nature of Prejudice’ 1954
  3. Leah Gordon ‘From Power to Prejudice’